Saturday, October 1, 2016

Guess Who's Back?

...back again. Hayley's back, tell a friend! But really! After almost a year since I last posted, here we go again. I sure have missed writing here, but this past year (and even in the months before that when I was rarely posting), I just wasn't in a place where I felt like I could write down what was going on in my life and I wasn't doing much with S and E that I felt were worth sharing.

Here we are on October 1st, my most recent post being last October 30th, and SO much has happened in our lives. In September we celebrated one year of having Joe home from his deployment. We are almost at the one year anniversary of living in the house we had just moved into two days prior to my last post. Skyler finished his first year of preschool, started his second and final year of preschool, and that sweet boy of mine will be in Kindergarten next year! It doesn't feel real, but I just got the first piece of mail about it, so it's happening whether I want it to or not!

I don't really know where I plan on taking the blog this time around. I loved it so much when I started the first time, but I had much more time to make cute crafts and activities, and I felt completely capable of posting almost everyday. This time around, I am very different. I don't have all that extra time anymore. Skyler hardly naps (and his brother tries not to - but I am not ready for that!), which was when I prepped activities. Having a four year old and (almost) two year old, our activities are a lot more simple. There are still a lot of things that are hard to cater to their 2.5 year age gap. I suppose my ultimate goal is to post once or twice a week, hopefully including a toddler activity with Emerson and a preschool activity with Skyler, or possibly a sibling post, mama post, or something else related to our life. This time around, there is a lot up in the air. 

I started this blog at a hard time in our lives. When I started Minne Mama in December 2013, we had found about my husband's upcoming deployment a few months before and had finally decided to have a second baby even knowing he would be missing out on a lot of time with not only Skyler but the first months of the new baby's life. In November, I had gone in to have my IUD removed and my doctor couldn't find it. She couldn't see it at all, and I was terrified. I had to wait an entire agonizing month of wanting to be pregnant so badly and feeling worried that the missing IUD was damaging my chances of even having another baby. The day that I started Minne Mama I had spent the morning having the IUD surgically removed and when I wrote that first post I was still feeling terrible both from the cocktail of medications I had been put on and the pain I was in. 

That day was hard, but I know we are so lucky. It took us only three months before I was able to get pregnant with Emerson. That hard day gave me the push I needed to start this blog. It was something I always wanted to try. Being a stay at home mom was my life goal and I was living it, but it was also nice to have a place to post all of the crafts and activities I loved doing with my son (and also keep all of it off of Facebook for those friends that I'm sure were not interested). I felt like even though I wasn't working as a teacher, at least I could have something to "show" for my time as a stay at home mom. 

I have always used this as my own outlet. I didn't really anticipate other people reading my posts, but it has been so much fun to talk with people who read the blog, and every time a friend of mine tells me about seeing Skyler's face pop up on their Pinterest feed, it fills me with so much joy. I have to be completely honest though, writing this is now for myself more than ever. Last week, I was having a little pity party for myself. I was looking through old blog posts and really missing it, and I was shocked when I didn't even recognize myself in those posts. I feel like I am a completely different person and mom now.

I didn't recognize it as it was happening. I blamed a lot of my stress throughout my husband's deployment on being a single parent/stay at home mom with two young kids and I really thought that when he came home it would be like this magical transformation back to the person I was before. If anything, this past year of having my husband back home has been harder than the year he was deployed. I had to admit to myself that I was not okay. I did not feel happy with myself and I couldn't find much joy in my life, even when I was with my family. I was drowning and I needed to accept that this was not something that could be changed with a magical homecoming. It took me several months even after Joe got home, after we moved, after Skyler started preschool, all of these huge changes in my life and my family's lives. I started talking to a therapist and she told me what I knew all along, I had been suffering through postpartum depression and anxiety. 

For a year and a half I played the part of happy mom and Army wife, and sometimes I actually felt that way, but it was rare. I tried as hard as I could for my family, but I spent a lot of time crying, having a lot of panic attacks, and finding ways to hide away by myself. I was cancelling plans, losing touch with friends, and truly lying to myself. When I talk about it now with people who spent time with me then, they tell me they had no idea I was going through it. I did a decent job of hiding it, but it's not something that should have to be hidden. I honestly didn't even plan on writing about this here, but now that I did, I see that maybe this is why I was missing my blog all along. It feels good writing it all out. I know I am not the only parent feeling this way and my experience is not uncommon. Did I ever think I would have depression? Absolutely not. But, it happened to me and I am happy I did something about it. 

Our days are not perfect. They weren't when I was writing the blog before either, but I felt a lot better then. I said to people after having Emerson that I thought I was a good mom until I had two kids, but I know now it is because I was already dealing with anxiety and depression. I talked to my wonderful therapist once a month for five months and when I felt like I had tried everything I could to be a calm and happy person, I saw a psychiatrist and started taking a tiny white pill once a day before I go to bed. With it, I can fall asleep at night instead of having racing thoughts keeping me awake, I don't cry several times a day, I don't have panic attacks, I have patience with my family and myself, the smile on my face is real and not forced, I talk to people more, I don't hide on the stairs with my heart racing as my child has a tantrum one room over, and I can easily say that I am happy every day and not just every once in awhile. I am not a perfect mom or wife. In fact, I felt like a failure three months ago when I started taking my medication, but the way I felt before and the way it was affecting my children was not something I could live with. I have noticed such a huge difference in myself and in my children since I started taking it. I knew I made the right decision when, my first day after starting the medication, I didn't feel like I was in a fog and my sweet four year old commented on how happy my face looked. I remember driving somewhere and looking around in awe of how beautiful everything looked, I literally felt like I was buzzing because it had been so long since I had just felt happy for no reason. Sometimes, your life is not what you expected it to be, but you just need to find the best way to live it in that moment. I don't think I will need to take my little white pill forever, but right now it is what holds me together and I am so thankful to feel more like myself. My day to day life is still not as easy as it once was, but it is manageable and that feels like a huge accomplishment.

Yikes, this post was a doozy! If you read it all, thanks for sticking with me. You are great and I love you for being here. I hope that I can keep up this page of mine and fill it with more fun activities for you to try with your kids. If it includes more posts like this one, I hope it can help some people who have felt this way. Either way, parenting is both incredibly challenging and the most wonderful thing imaginable, so we can get through all of these good and bad days together :)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Peek-a-BOO Ghost Match

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We are right in the middle of moving to a new house. With all of the craziness that comes with buying, selling, packing, and moving with two little ones, I haven't been making a lot of activities for Skyler and we have been relying more on finding new ways to play with all of our toys. That got a little harder when we started packing up as many toys as possible in preparation for our move. When trying to think of some simple activities we could do with what we still have at home, this match game came to mind.

We have been reading and playing a lot with the theme of Halloween and Skyler is very interested in ghosts lately. I decided to have a fun little number match and scavenger hunt. This could easily be done after Halloween with pumpkins for fall, ornaments for a Christmas tree, Easter eggs, etc.

I had already packed up all of our construction paper, contact paper, and other crafty items I usually use to make games for Skyler, but then I remembered we had our easel still. To make this craft game, I cut out one ghost shape and then traced and cut ten ghosts out of one piece of easel paper, then traced ten more onto a new piece.

I happened to make each one a different color, but this was definitely more of a number match for Skyler. If your little one is younger, you could use less numbers or just have it as a color match!

I hid the ten ghosts around our living room with pieces of tape and Skyler had so much fun running around and collecting his ghosts. I thought he would have to work a little harder to match the numbers, but he would look at it while he ran to the easel and by the time he made it there, he already knew exactly where to put it. I might have to go up to 15 or 20 on our next number match!

This face when he found the last one hiding behind the couch just makes me smile!

Even though I just used tape, we have been able to use the ghosts a few times! To make the game last longer, you could laminate or cover the ghosts in contact paper, or use velcro in place of tape.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Non-Edible Halloween Treat

Last year around Halloween, Skyler and I made play dough Halloween treats for his ECFE class. I used baby food jars and they were really cute. We were in class with the parents, so I just handed each of them a jar. This year in his preschool class, they put them in a bag and then send the bag home. I didn't want any bags getting dropped with glass jars in them, so I chose a more safe (and much less time consuming) way to package our play dough.

I have been wanting to make this awesome microwave play dough from Fun at Home with Kids since the first time I saw the video on their Facebook page, and I can't believe I waited almost six months to try it! When I heard Skyler's preschool was having a Halloween dress up and treat day (non-edible items allowed only), I jumped at the opportunity to make some fun homemade play dough "treats."

Skyler and I followed the play dough recipe, adding yellow and red food coloring and pumpkin pie spice to make ours into little scented Jack-o-lanterns. Skyler is a great helper when we make play dough. He loves to measure, pour, mix, and especially knead the finished dough. This recipe is so simple and makes a great play dough to explore with! Skyler enjoyed playing with his Halloween cookie cutters while I put our treat bags together.  

All you need to make these non-edible Halloween treat bags are:

Orange microwave play dough (add the pumpkin pie spice for extra fun!)
Snack baggies
Black and green sharpies
(Optional) Stickers for a gift tag

I made the dough into sixteen little balls, stuck one ball in each snack bag, smashed it down into a puck and closed the bag. Then I drew a simple jack-o-lantern face and green stem on the bag. You could just leave it at that, but I had some cute stickers too, so I cut them into strips and wrote on the back as a gift tag.

From start to finish including making the play dough, this only took about half an hour and we doubled the play dough recipe, so we have a lot of dough to play with at home too! We had a lot of fun putting these together, and Skyler can't wait to give a bag to each of his friends at school!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Simple Bowling Game

Wow! I didn't think that after Emerson's arrival I would be taking such a long break. Being the single parent of a toddler (/preschooler) and newborn (/baby) is no joke, and while my boys make it as easy on me as possible, unfortunately I have not had time to create and blog as I would have liked! Even though I had many ideas, they just never ended up being written about, and although I would like to say that I have a bunch of stuff coming up soon, I'm not sure when I will be getting back to regular posting. I have been thinking about it more and more lately. I think the deployment has been a big part of my lack of motivation here, and it is very possible that Joe's homecoming will be just what I need to get back into it.

But...this bowling game! I am almost embarrassed to share, it is that simple. Skyler has absolutely loved this lately though! All you need to play is a chunky wood puzzle (we have done it with this Melissa & Doug Farm Wooden Chunky Puzzle, and also with the Melissa & Doug Vehicles Chunky Wooden Puzzle) with semi-smooth bottoms on the pieces and a ball (or ball and bat as Skyler preferred). A little hockey set would work to (We love this hockey stick and ball set!)

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We were playing in the living room during Emerson's nap one morning and as we were playing and talking I started to stand the puzzle pieces up. Skyler asked what I was doing and happened to have the ball and bat in his hands and voila! Our new favorite game was created. We have been playing frequently in our free time (not that we have had much of it lately, we are pretty much always out of the house! Soaking up as much of the sun as we can this summer.)

King of the bowling game!

And one more, because the tongue just makes me laugh! Every picture - tongue hanging out!

Depending on the puzzle you use (shapes, colors, etc.), you can easily make this more of a learning activity and not just a game by calling out "try to knock down the animal that says "moo" or "knock down the piece that is red." Or when several pieces come down, ask the child the question then. "Which animal sounds do those make?" or "What colors (shapes, animals) did you knock down?"

Little brother didn't get to play the bowling game, but we did have fun with blocks on the same day. He sure has changed a lot in the past seven months

We moved Emerson's crib into Skyler's room and they have been sleeping in the same room together since Sunday! First two days were not so good, but each day has gotten better! If I get it more organized/cute I may have to do another room post, since I love taking pictures of it (Like here, here, here, here, and here!) My favorite room in the house! We are taking up every single inch of our tiny space, but I just love our home.

Even though I haven't been posting here, I post frequently on Instagram. You can find me here

If you want more bowling fun, you can find our homemade bowling game here.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

He's Here!

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It has been a whirlwind of a week since the arrival of baby boy #2. Emerson Leo arrived very early in the morning on December 11, with daddy there via FaceTime for the entire labor and delivery. We have been home since Friday afternoon and are getting quickly back to our normal routine after taking a weekend to acclimate. Music class on Tuesday, a trip to Minneapolis on the train to see Santa Wednesday, and ECFE this morning! Skyler is such a proud big brother and it has been so fun to watch him interact with his baby brother. He loves to hold the baby while giving him a lots of hugs and kisses. He is so helpful with everything I do from changing to burping and soothing, he is such a doting brother and it makes me cry almost everyday, it is just so sweet! I am completely smitten with my little Emerson and have been enjoying a ton of new baby cuddles and smells. He is so yummy! Some favorite pictures from the past few days. 

Talking to Daddy on FaceTime

Leaving the hospital!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Feathered Turkey Play

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This simple feathered turkey contact paper play is a perfect last minute Thanksgiving activity. If you need some time for final preparations and are looking for something fun to occupy your little one, give this a try! All you need is colored construction paper (or you could draw the turkey shape onto a piece of white paper), contact paper, tape, and feathers (which could also be made out of paper). 

To make this fun activity for Skyler, I cut the turkey pieces out of construction paper, quickly used a glue stick to put him together and taped him straight onto our glass door. Then I taped the non-stick side of a small piece of contact paper over him, peeled off the backing to reveal the sticky side, and we were ready to play in just a few minutes!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids (Plus a Giveaway!)

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Between the snow that started earlier this week (and the extremely cold temps we will be having in Minnesota for the next several months) and the upcoming arrival of baby boy #2 any day now, I am more concerned about keeping Skyler well entertained and not plopping him down in front of a screen to pass the time. We love the occasional episode of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood and some educational iPad apps, but I want to make sure that I am still providing Skyler with a variety of learning activities at a time where we will be cooped up at home and with a new baby that will require a lot of attention. The timing could not be more perfect for the book I am reviewing today!

When I found out that Asia of Fun at Home with Kids was working on her first book, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it!! I have been a huge fan of Asia and her incredible blog since she started and have been so happy to get to know her since starting Minne-Mama. Her simple hands-on activities are appealing to kids of all ages and every single thing she posts is SO fun! Skyler and I frequently do the activities and crafts that she posts, and I have many of her other posts on my must-try list (my Pinterest is proof of that!) Well, the wait is over, the book is out and it is AMAZING!

Many of the activities I have been dying to try are included such as Moonsand, Baked Cotton Balls, Crystallizing Watercolors, Soap Foam, Dirt and Worms, and every single small world activity. You have got to check them all out - the coolest! 

Skyler and I have happily been going through and trying some activities from the book. I had everything for the following activities at home already which is one of my favorite things about this book. You can buy almost everything at the grocery store or superstore that you are probably stopping at at least once a week (if you don't have it stocked in your pantry already!)

We did two activities from the book on Monday when we had our first snowfall. We started with the recipe for Magic Expanding Paint and it was a HUGE hit with Skyler. He started off by making small dots, but after I mentioned the word "squeeze" he filled page after page with awesome puddles of paint. His favorite way to create was by making a circle with one color, filling the center with another color, and switching off until his page was full.

Seriously, this recipe was so quick to put together and we spent the next half hour talking, laughing, and creating some beautiful pieces of art! This activity is going to become very popular at our house - just look at the joy on Skyler's face!

We also tried Oobleck for the first time! Going along with our snowy morning, we kept with the Plain Oobleck from the book, and then Skyler added snowflake sequins to play with. I wasn't sure how this would go since Skyler is not really into slimy sensory play.

At first he touched it and said "I don't like this!" I sat and played with it, talking about how cool it was (seriously this stuff is incredible to touch - I have never felt anything like it!)

With some manipulation, the sequins started dropping down into the Oobleck, so I told Skyler we had to play peek-a-boo for them. That caught his attention, and my little man who is not a fan of gooey stuff was on a mission to find snowflakes! He still didn't love it, but it was a start. There were smiles :) I will definitely continue to use this activity with Skyler.

We also made the PomPom Shooter from the book which was a ton of fun! The next two up for us are the Flax Goo from the slimes section and the Banana Playdough. Both things we have all the ingredients for at home and I think Skyler will love them both!

I am planning on buying a stockpile of 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kidsto give as Christmas, birthday, and 'just because' gifts for everyone I know that has a child baby to school-aged. For an extra special gift to give, check out Asia's post for including the book with this DIY sensory kit!

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I could keep gushing about the book - how great it describes ways to manage messy play (something I thought I would avoid as a mom because I hate to make a mess!), how clearly labeled each activity is with any potential allergens, or the huge amount of variations included - but really, you have to check it out for yourself!

150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kidsis available worldwide and can be purchased through the following links. If you don't see a link for your country, email Asia at and she will be able to help you track one down! (

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
Barnes and Noble
From your local US bookstore
Book Depository
Fishpond AU

Asia has a super fun giveaway going on and you can enter here to win a handmade activity from the book (made by the author herself)! I would be thrilled to win any of her amazing creations!! Enter to win below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was asked by Asia to be a part of her online book tour and was given a copy of the book 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.