Tips for Traveling With Kids

20160805_173516It’s no secret that I am a paranoid parent. I like to have a plan. I like to have a handle on things. And I like to keep my kids safe by my side whenever possible. So when we decided to take our family to a foreign country to live for a month this summer it nearly sent my controlling, OCD nature into a stressed-out frenzy.

I did a lot of research before we went left and found tons and tons tips for traveling with kids. Here are a few things that put my mind at ease and helped all of us better enjoy our trip.

1. Tag them – The thought of losing my kids was probably the thing that made me the most anxious about our trip.

If you have ever been near the Trevi Fountain during the heat of July or August you’ll know it’s absolute chaos. There are swarms and swarms of people all trying to get to the center of the monument to toss a coin in over their shoulder. There are vendors thrusting goods in your face and groups snapping pics with giant selfie sticks. And everyone seems to be speaking a different language.

20160816_111909I didn’t know how I’d keep my kids from getting lost in places like that and felt really stressed about it until I stumbled across this idea. I tagged each of them on a regular basis. I ordered some of these wristbands and a couple of sharpie markers. I wrote some personal information on the back of the wristbands in Italian before strapping one onto each of them. They said: “Help I am lost. Please call my parents Travis and Natalie at XXXXXXXX.”

Then we practiced a couple of scenarios with our kids on what to do and who to talk to if they got separated from us. It wasn’t a perfect plan – luckily we never had to put it to the test – but it was a plan.

The wristbands seemed to last a few days before the writing blurred together or they started to fray. When that happened we’d strap on a new one. Luckily my kids LOVE wearing these type of bracelets. They always have contests whenever we go to the fun park or the school carnival, to see who can keep theirs on the longest. They wore them proudly and that made this mama sleep better at night.

2. Pack light – What does a month’s worth of luggage look like for a family of six?

20160719_112330No matter how light I thought I packed, it still seemed like a lot. Especially when we were towing it along cobblestone streets while looking for our apartment the first day.

My suggestion to anyone traveling with kids is TRAVEL LIGHTLY. Bring outfits that can mix and max. Bring jeans that you can wear a few times before washing. Only bring one swimsuit per person. Don’t bring towels or blankets. Bring two sets of pajamas per kid – then have them wear them several nights in a row. Take one jacket per person. Only bring one, maybe two pairs of shoes each. This will really reduce the amount you have to tote around.

One of my friends gave me the best advice when she gave me this tip. She told me that she has resigned herself to the fact that when she travels she and her family will be in the same few outfits in all their pictures. It’s worth it not having to worry about extra bags.

We had access to a washer and dryer where we were staying in Rome, so we only took a week worth of clothes for each person and it still felt like we had too much.

But I was proud of myself. I stuck to the bare essentials and rolled all of our clothing into gallon Ziploc bags. I usually pack WAY too much. I always think I need to have extras in case someone has an accident or someone spills gelato all over everything – which happened to us more than once. But in all honesty with the exception of someone having an accident, we didn’t change clothes while we were out sightseeing. So what if my baby girl is wearing her red sauce on her sleeves? At least we knew she liked it!

3. Fi20160726_184213nd Some Comfort Food – We were living in the pizza, pasta and panini capitol of the world. Luckily our kids have grown up eating Italian food so they were pretty good eaters.

But there was the occasional melt down where one or all of our kids were crying for a cheeseburger or fries. Thank heavens for McDonalds. We ate there several times. And although it probably nearly killed my husband to do so, it helped them feel like they were at home.

20160805_203944 4. Allow Electronics – Finally, we allowed our kids to use their electronics more than we ever would have at home.

We gave our kids Kindle Fires for Christmas. We got a really good deal when they were on sale for Black Friday last year. At home they can play on them for 30 minutes a day. We set the parental controls to automatically lock them out when they have reached their limit – unless they are reading.

But that 30-minute limit went right out the window on our trip. We let them use their electronics unlimited while traveling. They could watch movies, play games or read books for hours while we flew in airplanes or rode on trains and buses.

They were in heaven. Which made traveling even easier on all of us.

20160805_203959Like I said earlier, we didn’t want to pack a lot of extra things. So rather than bring a giant toy bag, we invested in our electronics. Right before the trip we bought some new games and videos that they played and watched over and over. They were new and exciting and definitely worth the extra money.

But our kids didn’t just use them when we were on the go, they used them in our Rome apartment. They played them a lot while their dad was working.

And as much as it goes against everything I would normally do, it was one of the best things for us.

I am sure there are many, many more worthwhile ideas that help parents enjoy vacationing with little kids, but most of all I would say that being patient and realizing that a family vacation is very different than a couples or solo vacation is key.

When we took the time to look at things through the eyes of our kids and help them learn about what we were doing and seeing we all benefited. It was so fun to watch them listen to a tour at the Colosseum or try to pretend they were tipping over the leaning tower of Pisa. I’ll never forget my four-year-old running through the streets of Pompeii pretending lava was going to come down.

Those were things I would never have experienced without having them along. We had an amazing time. Traveling with kids can be a great experience.


It Is Finished – The Naked Truth About Building A Tree House Update

DSC_0453I’m exhausted, my house is a mess, and I think I’ve only showered once in the past four days. But I couldn’t be more thrilled.

It is finished!

The tree house – aka the eyesore, thing, or as we have recently nicknamed it the Clemens Cabin – is done.

If you would have told me five months ago that it would take this long, involve several phone calls to the police and a couple of excited journalists, I would have laughed in your face.

All over a tree house?

Yes. All over a tree house.

DSC_0422But this tree house has taught me and my family more than we could have ever imagined.

We started out learning to budget and ended up learning how to compromise.

We learned how to work as a team, how to support one another. How to stand up for ourselves and what we know is right.

We learned that people might not have the same opinions as us. And that may cause us some discord – some major discord. But we also learned that many, many people love and support us.

DSC_0441I still can’t repay all of the people who helped us work on the tree house, watched our kids while we worked, and prayed for us that we could find a way to make it all happen for our family.

We wanted to teach our kids to measure, hammer and work. We ended up teaching them that we could do hard things … together.

Thank you to all of you who helped me laugh through all of the stress. Thank you to those who let me rant to you behind closed doors. Thank you all for helping me realize I was not absolutely crazy.

Last of all thank you to those friends and family who were willing to come over and hang out with us despite the pin-ups posted along our backyard border.

DSC_0192Thank heavens for freedom of speech, right? God bless America. And God bless that sexy lady wearing the stars-and-stripes  bikini who watched over us for several weeks. May I never see her or any of her friends again.

Now it’s time to PLAY!

If you missed the tree house saga, check out the following posts:

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Poisonous Plants – Know Before You Grow

Planting seeds. Just add that to the list of ways I am unintentionally risking my children’s lives.

Less than 24 hours after admiring how beautiful and mesmerizing my newly blooming Foxglove plants were I had decided rip them out and toss them in my green waste garbage can.

And I am sad about it.

I had grown the fantastic bell-shaped flowers from seed last year. After waiting for more than a year they finally bloomed magnificent. I picked them for their freckles – just like us. Our family members each have freckle-specked cheeks just like the insides of the beautiful Foxglove bells.

But shortly after posting a picture of my new blooming garden online a couple family members warned me that the flower might be poisonous.

So I took to the Internet and was sickened by what I found. Sure enough the foxglove plant is: HIGHLY TOXIC, MAY BE FATAL IF EATEN!

Apparently any part of the plant – leaves, seeds, roots, flowers – can be fatal if ingested. It can stop the heart. There are also cases of people having severe allergic reactions to simply touching the pollen.


Just add planting these in my front flowerbed to the list of mistakes I have made as a mother.

In my defense I pulled out the seed packet I bought at our local nursery to inspect it for warning labels. NONE. You would think that companies would have to put a warning on a poisonous plant.

I called the seed company to ask them why they didn’t have to warn people that the seeds they are purchasing develop into poisonous plants. The simple answer they gave me was because it isn’t the law to do so.

The lady I talked to said that ultimately it is the customer’s responsibility to research what they are purchasing and planting and the effects it may have. She said there are a lot of plants that if you eat them they are going to hurt you and that you have to teach your children not to put that type of stuff in their mouths.

She must have children that do exactly whatever she says. Mine, however, do not.

Kids will be kids.

I’m not going to lie I thought about keeping the flowers and teaching my children to stay away from them. But then I remembered what my oldest son did less than six months after we first moved to this home. He mixed himself up a plant drink from berries in our yard then lied about it when it burned his throat so bad he couldn’t eat. You can read all about that here.

But the Foxglove plant would stop my child’s heart – not simply irritate his throat.

How would I feel if something happened to one of my kids, or anyone else’s kids for that matter, and I knew this was a risk?

I carefully store my fertilizer, bug spray, harmful medications, household cleaners and other toxic materials up and away from little ones, how can I keep these toxic plants within arms reach?

I can’t.

So I’m going to rip them all out today.

And then I’ll probably cry.

I stopped by the local nursery last night to find a non-toxic replacement for the Foxglove. But I ended up stressed out walking down the shaded perennials aisles – wondering if any of theses plants were poisonous too.

I bought a couple of Hostas and that’s it.

I came across a helpful website in my research on Foxglove plants. From now on I’m going to check it out before planting or growing anything. I urge you to do the same.

If there are no laws about companies placing warning labels on harmful plants then it’s up to us to make sure we aren’t planting any.

My two youngest children and I each picked one of the Foxglove flowers yesterday and were admiring them up close. It makes me sick to think of what could have happened had one of them had eaten their flower.

From now on I’m going to know before I grow. Let’s hope I don’t accidentally plant any more poison.


Mad Scientist

science projectMy son signed up to do an unrequired, ungraded, extra science fair project this month.

He’s in the fourth grade. Fourth graders aren’t required to do a project. They save that special experience for the fifth and sixth graders. But they can sign up to do a project if they want.

So why…did…my…son…sign…up?

He’s a really smart kid and loves science, but sometimes he gets bored doing projects. He doesn’t like doing homework (what kid does?) and I have to keep on him to get his reading time in.

So when I found out he signed up to do something extra, something that would be incredibly time intensive, I was frustrated.

Not a great motherly response, I’ll admit, but it’s the truth. His father was thrilled and excited that his oldest wanted to learn more. I knew that this “science project” would be a hands-on mother-and-son project. And I don’t even really like science.

I helped him brainstorm projects that related to his fishing passion. He decided to test different fishhooks to see if they would dissolve.

He loved picking out different hooks at the store and concocting different liquids for them to sit in. We set up a tray and let them soak for several weeks.

That was the fun part.

Four weeks later it was time for the not-so-fun part. And I suddenly turned into a mad scientist.

There ended up being a mix-up with the project’s due date. I had a paper saying that the projects were due on Jan. 20. He had a paper that said Jan. 14. I thought we had plenty of time to work but then he came to me really late one night after I thought he was sleeping. He was stressed and anxious that he wasn’t going to be able to get everything done in time.

That’s when I reminded him that this project was his choice. (After reassuring him I’d help him get it done. That we were in this together.)

Of course he was right and we were out of time this week. We had to hustle and pull the project together last minute.

So we spent the better part of a Saturday afternoon and evening typing up his results. If you’ve ever seen my 9-year-old type, you would know that it is a difficult task. You would know that he absolutely hates it.

I took pity on him and helped him type. We had a bargain. I’d type a sentence then he’d type one. Then I’d type one, then he’d type one, etc. But it still took forever.

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I was frustrated with him. I was frustrated that it was taking so long. And I was frustrated that elementary school science projects had to be so scientific.

I think elementary school science fair projects are a joke. I think that they were created by teachers who don’t think moms have enough on their plate.

Because there is absolutely NO way that a traditional fourth grader could do all that is required of them for the project on their own. They are judged on typed reports, charts, graphs, illustrations, presentation boards, etc.

They haven’t ever typed a report that long. They haven’t ever set up a colorful giant tri-fold poster board. They haven’t ever set up a table in a word document. They haven’t created a bibliography. And this is just the paper portion.

Let’s talk about the experiment itself. They don’t know how to measure based on the metric system. They don’t know how to create things like “salt water.” They don’t know how to measure results.

It’s not their fault. They are just too young. They haven’t experienced any of this yet.

So let’s have them dive in and figure it all out while playing scientist and crafting an interesting experiment that they have to parade around the elementary school gym while answering difficult questions about their methods – all while in competition with one another.

Sounds fun to me.

I don’t know why teachers don’t let the kids dream up different experiments that they can perform together in class. Wouldn’t it be more fun for them to get to do the projects together? Who needs the detailed reports and tri-fold posters? Hands-on learning together sounds more ideal to me.

I should have taken the time to teach my son as we went. I should have calmly explained how to gather and type up his data. It would have been the perfect situation to nicely show him how a project is done.

But I was a crazy person. I was stressed that he wasn’t helping. I was stressed that he didn’t know what to do. And I was stressed that his three siblings were making a giant mess all over the place while I was working on the project with him.

There was weeping and wailing and some major complaining – by my son and myself. I am ashamed to say that it has not been one of my best parenting weeks.

Of course our printer didn’t have any ink (it never has ink when we need it) so we typed up all that we needed to print off, loaded it to my thumb drive, and made it to the copy store five minutes before it closed.

We cut out and glued on our illustrations, charts and results. And it turned out amazing.

It was frustrating, it was hard and I yelled at my son way more than I should have. But in the end we did it together. I told him that I was proud of his hard work. I told him I was sorry for losing my patience with him. I told him that I blew it and that I should have used this as a teaching opportunity, not a let’s-hurry-and-get-this-done activity.

Then I made sure to follow up by telling him that I’m OK with him not signing up for any extra projects … at least not for a while.

Monster Mess

yarn monsterWhy did I think it would be a good idea to make yarn monsters with a bunch of elementary school students?

It ended up being a monster headache.

Last week I was reminded that I signed up to help with two Valentine’s Day parties at the school. (I signed up last fall and completely forgot.)

So I scanned the Internet looking for easy, fun kid crafts. That’s when I found this craft.

I am sure I was swayed by how cute the little love monsters were. That, and I have a GIANT bag of yarn that takes up more than half of my basement craft closet.

How hard could it be? Wrap yarn around your fingers, tie it into a pom-pom body, glue eyes and antennas on and viola! Cute little monster guy.

It sounded so easy.

I had everything organized. I even had a back-up craft to do if the monsters were too easy. HA! We didn’t even touch the backup craft.

My first grader’s class was first. I had four groups of kids to help with and each group had 10 minutes to make their monsters.

What happened? All heck broke loose.

Kids were wrapping their fingers till the tips turned purple. Yard ends were getting tied into knots. Mini wiggle eyes were flying everywhere, and that was just after the first group.

I brought a glue gun because I thought that would make it easier and faster to glue the pieces on. But that meant I had five or six anxious six year olds all shoving eyes, antennas and accessories at me, anxious to have their monster glued together. I needed six sets of arms.

After the first group I decided to simplify things. Our monsters were going to be bald. No hair. That should solve things, right?

It made it a little simpler, but we still had monster pieces scattered all over the place. And I had a handful of girls who tucked random yarn scraps into their pockets so they could add hair to their creatures later.

If you are a school teacher of any sort you are probably laughing out loud right now because you realize how unrealistic and complicated this craft was.

I can’t tell you how fast a 10-minute rotation goes by when you have yarn flying in your face.

I ran out of time to glue pieces onto the monsters and had students set them in piles on the table. Those poor piles. They mixed and mingled until I could no longer tell what eyes and ears went to what puffs of yarn.

It was an hour filled with absolute chaos. I left that first-grade classroom needing some chocolate and a nap!

Then I realized I had to do it all over again the next day with my other son’s third-grade class.

Luckily most of them listened a little better and I didn’t have as many kids wrap their fingers ‘til they turned purple. But it still was crazy and I wished there were five of me.

Despite all the chaos, I loved how the monsters turned out. I only had a split second to take a picture of a few of them in the first grade.


We took two of them to the cemetery with us and gave one to Luca and one to our grandma Mae for Valentine’s Day.

If, and that’s a big IF, I decide to help with another school classroom craft I’m going to do something simple, something easy and something that doesn’t require me to glue tiny pieces onto a clump of yarn.

I should have stuck with what we were going to do as a backup craft – yarn wrapped valentine’s hearts – and made that our main craft. That would have been a hundred times easier. What was it? Check it out here. You make a heart-shaped yarn ball using a cardboard base. So cute. So easy.

I cut out over 50 cardboard hearts that we never got to use.

Anyone what to make some?

Reptile Rescue

Our new friend chilling in the grass at our nearby park.

Our new friend chilling in the grass at our nearby park.

What happens to our family when we take a Sunday stroll to the park to kill some boredom and get out some I’m-going-to-kill-my-brother energy? My oldest finds a shelled reptile meandering through the grassy field.

And all of a sudden the start to our summer turns into a turtle adventure.

Yes. He found a turtle – a yellow cooter house pet.

There we were just getting ready to leave when he walked ahead to go take a peek at the neighboring pond. He came charging back with something hard and round in his hand – the turtle.

Who leaves a turtle at a park? Who finds a turtle at a park? It was the craziest thing.

My oldest son holding the turtle.

My oldest son holding the turtle.

The boys begged me to keep it. That’s when I convinced them we could “rescue” it instead. I called the Ogden Nature Center, the local animal shelter and the Utah Reptile Rescue. But of course it was Sunday and none of them were open.

Not knowing anything about animals – especially turtles – I didn’t know if it was native to the nearby pond or if someone really did ditch it at the park. We ran across the street to our friends’ house and asked them if they had ever seen a turtle at the park or pond. When they said they hadn’t I made the crazy decision to take the turtle home.

The turtle, taking a ride in the bottom of our stroller.

The turtle, taking a ride in the bottom of our stroller.

And that’s how it ended up taking a ride in the bottom of the stroller. We walked it home, found a box for it and cut holes in the top. What on earth was I thinking? I guess I was just so happy it wasn’t a snake I took pity on the little thing.

I couldn’t bear to wonder if it would have died had we left it at the park. The thought of knowing we could try to save it propelled me forward.

We gave it some water – which it spilled all over the box – and a giant carrot and I crossed my fingers that I would be able to get a hold of someone to come “rescue” it in the morning.

First thing the next morning my boys were outside with the reptile. They took it for walks around the cul-de-sac, they chased it around our jungle back yard they paraded it around to everyone who came within a 50-foot radius of our house and they filled a plastic tub with water so it could swim around. They spent hours with that little guy.

Except for the moment that it nipped my oldest son’s pointer finger, they were having the time of their lives with it.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyone to take it. The nature center said it needed a special permit to take a pet. They suggested I call the wildlife rehabilitation center. That center told me they don’t deal with reptiles. It suggested I call the “Ogden Turtle Lady” Nita Vono. Who knew there was an Ogden Turtle Lady? Sadly, she never got back to me.

We were stuck with the turtle at least one more night. My boys were thrilled. I was less than thrilled.

That first night we left him in a cardboard box in our backyard while we went to a barbecue. We didn’t get home until late and I thought I’d take him some lettuce as a snack.

One slight problem. He was nowhere to be found.

The turtle was missing!!! Seriously? Had it crawled out of the box? Did a dog sneak into our backyard and nap it? Did an eagle soar down from the sky and snatch it away?

Where in the world did it go? I was panicking. I searched the whole back yard with my cell phone flashlight at 11 p.m. trying to find it. If you’ve seen our new back yard you’ll know it was literally like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Many of you know I HATE losing things. Especially when I know my children are going to freak out when they find out it’s gone. I was stressed out all night.

The next morning I told the boys I had some bad news … the turtle was gone. It escaped. They were absolutely fine with that. They didn’t care one bit about the little reptile they had rescued and spent hours playing with.

I on the other hand was not going to let it die in my back yard only to find it later while doing yard work. As soon as we ate breakfast we headed into the back yard on a turtle hunt – half of us were still in pajamas.

I found him within five minutes tucked under a wild rose bush on the side of my house. It really is a miracle that I found him.

This time we put him in a taller, sturdier box and I called the turtle lady and the reptile rescue again. Thank heavens Utah Reptile Rescue answered.

They said they’d come get the little guy. Actually they were kind of excited. The man I spoke with said that they don’t see very many turtles like that anymore. He said they were going to keep it with about 400 of their other reptiles.

He also told me that there aren’t any turtles in Utah that are native to ponds. So it had to have been dropped off and abandoned by someone. My neighbor said she heard a news story several months ago urging people to stop dropping off their unwanted animals at our local pond. Apparently our turtle’s owner didn’t hear that story.

So there you have it, we found a turtle, we lost a turtle and we spent two days caring for, loving and playing with the green little shelled guy. Although we did find out it actually was a female. And its diet consists of worms not carrots. We’re hoping she’s chilling at a new pond with some new friends. Maybe she’ll find a husband and have some cute little turtle babies – all because my oldest spotted her in the grassy field of the park down the street. What an adventure.

The turtle in its taller, sturdier box.

The turtle in its taller, sturdier box.

Bully Fish

darla_finding_nemo_by_digitalwideresource-d5ce49kWho knew pet fish could be bullies. And that those bullies could bring several members of our family to tears.

Dang fish.

After a couple of petless years, I caved and decided my boys could get some fish and aquatic frogs. Our last fish tragically died (you can read about that here) but it has been a couple of years so I thought maybe we could handle some new ones.

I promised my boys that once we moved we’d go pick out some pets.

Every morning they practically woke me up before dawn screaming, “Can we go to the pet store?”

It took a few days to find our fish tank and its equipment; meanwhile my boys thought they were going to die waiting. Last Friday we finally got to pick out their new pets.

Each of them picked out an African Dwarf Frog and then my two oldest boys picked out two fish each.

It took forever to choose! And of course we got the most unhelpful employee in the entire pet store. We asked him what fish would be compatible with the frogs. He told us pretty much any of them. But every time they chose one he’d shake his head and tell us that it wouldn’t work with the frogs.

Say what? After being shut down four or five times I was just about ready to whack that worker with a fish net.

They ended up with the most random fish — A black molly, a red swordtail, a zebra-striped tetra and a yellow-finned guppy.

We set all the animals up in the tank and they seemed to be doing great — until the next morning. The small guppy was barely swimming. He looked weak and tired and he wouldn’t eat anything.

By Sunday night he was dead. And it was tragic. My poor five-year-old sobbed and sobbed. Then my oldest cried too as he tried to comfort his devastated brother. The poor fish was floating belly up and gruesomely his tail had been torn off. That cute yellow tail!

Monday after school we headed straight to the pet store with the dead fish in a baggie. Luckily there is a 2-week guarantee and thankfully my son found an even “cooler” guppy to replace the poor first one.

I admit. The new fish was cool. It was yellow and black and had leopard spots on its tail and fins.

But sadly it didn’t make it either. Tuesday morning we found him sucked to the bottom of the filter. My oldest “saved” him by scraping him aside with our fish net but a minute later he was sucked back to it. He saved it from the filter once more but to no avail.

It was horrible. Once again my five-year-old was crying, begging me to save his fish.

I don’t know how to save a fish!? But I saw him kneeling by his bed praying for his fish. What was I supposed to do?

I got an old jar out and put the fish in it alone with some food. I hoped and prayed it would make a rebound but it swam slow circles around the jar while scraping his side across the glass. It didn’t look good.

By the afternoon it too was belly up. And we were pet store bound again for the third time in five days.

Thankfully, this time a different employee helped us. We told her about our two poor guppies and she said it sounded like one of the other fish was picking on the tiny guys – a bully in our tank!

We left the store with a different, larger fish this time. We loved the guppies but they couldn’t fend for themselves against our aggressor. Hopefully our new one can.

Now that the pet store employee mentioned it, I can totally see a bully in our midst. The flat-faced zebra-striped tetra! Shame on him.

He’s the biggest fish in the tank and he thinks that gives him the right to snap at all the others and push them around. He hogs the food and rules the roost. I’m sure he’s the one that ate the yellow guppy’s cute little yellow tail.

I’ve never wanted to slap something more in my entire life. I have to stop myself each time I go near the tank from whipping my hand into the water and smacking his flat finned face. Sometimes I’ll flick the glass where he’s swimming and send him scrambling.

I’m half tempted to set up a picture of Darla, the fish-killing niece on Finding Nemo, as the tank’s background. Maybe she could scare some mean out of him. He’s a bully and he’s got to stop.

I’ve never been more stressed about some silly fish in my entire life. It’s freaking me out. I worry that each day I’ll walk in to find another one dead. Then we’ll have more sorrow followed by another trip to the pet store.

Have you ever taken your kids to the pet store? For us it’s not a quick, easy trip.

Now I’ve just got to figure out how to get our three frogs to start eating before we lose one of them. We’ve tried pellets, flakes and now bloodworms. Hopefully they’ll start snatching up something. Because I don’t want to lose another pet and I definitely don’t want to make another trip to the pet store.

Hooking Something I Hate

July 088In the back of my fridge in a small white Styrofoam bowl sits something I absolutely detest – a muddy muck of worms.

The saddest part is I bought them myself.

Why would I buy something I hate? Because my 6-year-old son typed up a list of all the types of fish he wants to catch this year. Then he taped it on the back of his bedroom door. And up until I bought that nasty cup of night crawlers, we hadn’t been able to check off any of those fish types.

Now we can mark catfish off the list.

My oldest son loves fishing. He would go all day everyday if I took him. But sadly we rarely catch anything.

A couple of weeks ago I actually looked up the local fishing report before we decided where to go. It said that the Kaysville Ponds were a real hot spot for kids. A fish called a wiper was really hitting on bits of worm. WORM!

I had a serious dilemma. I could take my son to the closest pond, use our usual Power Bait and once again catch nothing. Or, I could face my fear and disgust and purchase a bunch of worms. Let me tell you, you don’t check off fish from my 6-year-old’s 2013 Fishing Goal List by sticking with Power Bait.

I did it. I walked into a gas station, went back to the small brown night crawler fridge and picked out a bowl of worm-infested dirt. I nearly gagged when my son opened it up. Those things were HUGE. And the smell! It almost did me in.

But I took a deep breath as my oldest closed the lid and proudly carried the case to the cashier. I still can’t believe I let those things in my van.

When we got to the pond I didn’t know how I was going to wriggle a worm on a hook. Let alone a bit of a worm. Somehow we were going to have to detach pieces from one of the long snake-like creepers.

Thank heavens my oldest doesn’t hate worms. I actually think he loves them. He grabbed one right off and started cutting off a piece with a knife. Then, I talked him through baiting it on the hook. I have seen my dad do this a bunch of times so I tried to describe it to him the best I could. July 089

Luckily I also happened to have a bag of marshmallows in our diaper bag leftover from our church snack pile. I put the marshmallow on, he put the worm bit on, and we cast our pole. Not five minutes went by before we already had our first fish. It was thrilling.  (Keep in mind we don’t catch fish very often.)

July 091We were fishing on a hill, which made things a little more difficult since I happened to bring my one-year-old along with his stroller, but we made do.

I hooked the fish, then grabbed my baby, ran up the hill buckled him in his stroller, ran back down the hill and helped my 6-year-old finish reeling in. We did this little dance three times before my four and one-year-olds had had enough and needed to leave.

Each of the yellow-bellied catfish we caught was tiny, yet beautiful. It was one of the funnest, wildest fishing trips we have been on. It all happened because I was willing to try something new. Something new that I thought I would hate.

We went back to the same spot a couple of days later and took my husband. We caught four catfish that night. I think we could have keep catching all night if we wanted to stay longer. It was the best.

And to think we almost missed out.

Don’t get me wrong, I still can’t believe I have a bowl full of worms in the back of my fridge. But deep down I think it both disgusts and excites me. Part of me sincerely hopes they last through a couple more fishing trips. There are more catfish to be caught.

Caring for worms

I have officially become grateful for something that I absolutely detest: worms.

I have pretty much hated worms my entire life. I don’t like that they slither out of the soil when it rains and sneak up onto my sidewalk. I don’t like that mischievous little boys toss them at undeserving little girls on the elementary school playground. I don’t like how I can’t figure them out. They don’t even have eyes!

I even hate the way it smells after it rains as the slimy things dry out in the sun. And no matter how much my boys beg, I refuse to take them fishing as bait.

Yet this spring my heart has been softened and I have started to change my mind about worms.  Without them, I wouldn’t be able to work in my garden. See, the juicy, wiggly guys keep my two crazy boys occupied while I weed, water and plant.

My children have become completely obsessed with digging for worms and I couldn’t be happier, as long as I don’t have to touch them. Normally if I spot one I’ll dangle it over the side of my shovel or rake, and then holler at one of the boys to come and get it.

They fight over who can grab it and then pick it up with their bare hands and rush it back to their bucket, bug cage or worm home they’ve created.

A couple of weeks ago my husband and I planted a bunch of tomatoes in our garden while the boys made worm soup. Disgusting? Yes. Creative? Maybe. Occupying? Definitely.

Is it horrible that I let worms babysit my boys while I work in the yard? I absolutely love gardening. I love raking, weeding and harvesting. Nothing calms me down or helps relieve my stress like pulling out some nasty weeds.

That is why I have become grateful for something I hate. Thank you, worms.

I’ll let my boys play with worms all they want if it gives them something fun to do while I work in the yard. I only have three rules: worms do not enter our home, they do not enter our mouths, and we wash our hands as soon as we are done playing with the slimy, nasty guys.

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