My (Dis)Organized Life

I have struggled for years, my whole life really, to get organized. I tried lists, apps, calendars of all kinds. Mostly, I just remembered

For a while, the iPhone seemed to be the answer. There are tons of apps out there, many of them truly wonderful, that help people organize their days. They give reminders, coordinate between multiple people, and let you tier out and prioritize to-do lists. It seems like all of these apps work great for me for a month or so, and then I begin to struggle.

I have discovered in the last couple of years that I just can’t process the information unless I write it out by hand. Because of this, I’ve made the switch back to a paper planner.

I've made the switch back to a paper planner and my life is so much better!

Now, I’ve tried and failed at the paper planner thing before. My mother always used a paper planner, and I tried a few times when I was younger, but each time fizzled after a couple of weeks. I had good luck in college with the New York Public Library’s student planner, but now that I’m juggling my work schedule, my home schedule, my husband’s schedule, and the schedules of my two kids, it just doesn’t meet my needs anymore.

For 2016, after months of feeling like a top spinning out of control, I decided to purchase a bigger, heftier planner. I had a number of requirements:

  • Sturdy coils and cover that wouldn’t get bent up in a backpack, purse, or brief case
  • A monthly spread at the beginning of each month (you’d be surprised how many don’t have this)
  • Plenty of space to write appointments and to-do lists
  • A dedicated space for meal planning
  • A way to differentiate between work and home (part time work is great, but it adds a layer of complication)

And it had to be pretty. I knew I was going to spend a year looking at it, and I didn’t want something that just looked completely utilitarian.

I searched high and low. I looked in book stores and online. I bought one that I thought I liked, but I didn’t. Then, I stumbled across the Erin Condren Life Planner (ECLP). Initially, I was worried. It wasn’t cheap, but I got $10 off (affiliate link) and I got it on sale, so I justified the cost. I am so glad I did. It has made my life so much easier.

Erin Condren Flat Lay 2

I started off with an elaborate color code scheme, plans for how I was going to use each of the three boxes the vertical layout gave me, and definite ideas on how I was going to list out everything and get it all done right now.

What I realized, though, was that I needed to give myself permission to be flexible. The ECLP gave me all of the space I needed–it met all of the requirements I listed–but with all the rules I had set for myself starting out, I quickly felt overwhelmed and anxious. What I had to come to terms with is that it’s okay for one week to be color coded and one week to not be. It’s okay to skip a day. It’s okay to change the system from one week–even one day–to the next.

I had to give myself permission to be imperfect. I realized a few weeks in that part of what has caused me to fail so many times before at organization was that I didn’t allow myself to be flexible. I didn’t allow myself to experiment and try different things to see what worked and what didn’t.

I've made the switch back to a paper planner and my life is so much better!

Once I allowed myself to try different things, I started having fun with it, and if I’m having fun with something, I don’t want to quit. I’m on month 3 of using my Erin Condren Life Planner, and so far, it’s been just what I need. Some weeks are busy with lots of notes, others are not. Each week, I try something a little new, keep what works, and ditch the rest.


If you’re like me and you struggle to get yourself organized, if you feel like you’re going a million different directions, none of which are the right way, give this planner a try. It’s been a life-changer for me. No more missed appointments, forgotten after school activities, or skipped chores. I’ve even developed a reputation at work for being super organized, which I’m sure will make my mother chuckle.

I've made the switch back to a paper planner and my life is so much better!

In a future post, I’ll share with you why I ditched the To-Do list and why you should to, so stay tuned!

I got my first Erin Condren Life Planner on sale, and if you want to get $10 off your first Erin Condren Life Planner, be sure to sign in and order through my affiliate link.


Love this post? Don’t want to miss a thing? Click here to get Two Little Grasshoppers right in your inbox!

5 Reasons Why Pokémon GO is the Best Game of the Summer

Pokémon GO has hit St. Louis like a summer storm. Everywhere I go, people are walking around, phones up, chasing rare Pokémon. Parks are teeming with people, even when the weather is in the 90s. Some folks worry that Pokémon GO might pose safety risks or security risks, but here is why I think this game is one of the best things that’s happened this summer.

1. Pokémon GO is helping me get fit!

I have been just killing my step count since downloading Pokémon GO. I hate exercising, and I usually average 7k or so steps each day, but Monday I got over 11k, and Tuesday 12k. By noon yesterday, I had gotten 6k steps. All of this movement is a very good thing. It’s easy to rail against video games and blame them for the obesity epidemic that plagues the US, but Pokémon GO requires you to get up and get moving. Today, I might be sore, but that means I am moving my body!

5 reasons why Pokemon Go is the best game of the summer.

2. Pokémon GO is getting kids outside!

It’s summer. It’s hot. The Grasshopper would much rather be indoors reading a book or chilling in front of the TV than playing outside. Not so anymore. Now she begs me to go for walks in the afternoons. Instead of parking her butt on the couch or in her room, she wants to be outdoors, exploring. And she isn’t ignoring the natural world in favor of the game environment either. She’s started having fun spotting robins, sparrows, and the other critters we’ve got running around our neighborhood. She pretends they’re Tailow, Spearow, Rattata, and so forth. Even Cricket is getting into the action, jumping into the picture with the Pokémon we find.


5 reasons why Pokemon Go is the best game of the summer.

3. Pokémon GO brings people together.

There are a ton of people at my office playing Pokémon GO, people I wouldn’t normally talk to or interact with. It’s not hard to spot them if you’re in the know. They’re walking along, phones in hand, or pausing at the PokéStop conveniently located right in the middle of our office. It’s been fun striking up conversations with folks. These are people who I haven’t said more than a hello or good morning to before, but now we’re talking best places to find Pokémon, who’s caught what, and how sore everyone’s legs are. There’s even talk of us all joining the same team to take on a gym near our office, and every so often, someone will call out over the cubicle walls, “Hey, there’s a venonat in the conference room.” or “Pikachu just out the side door!”

5 reasons why Pokemon Go is the best game of the summer.

My coworkers and I are not unique. Everywhere I go on social media I find stories of people making new friends with this game. In the south where I grew up, it’s common to strike up a conversation with the people around you. In fact, it’s often considered rude not to make eye contact and say hello, even to strangers. Here in the midwest, the culture is a little different. Sure you talk to people you know, but not some rando. These days, folks are saying hi to each other, stopping to chat and exchange tips, and just generally being friendlier. We all need a little more of that right now.

4. Pokémon GO is getting teenagers excited!

Our neighborhood is full of families, so I’m used to seeing teens hanging out by the pool, walking the dog, and bumming around looking bored. What I’m not used to seeing is them running around with excited smiles on their faces. Pokémon GO seems to transcend the usual high school cliques, too. It’s not just the geeky kids playing. It’s everyone! It feels so good to see kids running around and just being kids. Childhood is so short, and seeing these teens, who are on the cusp of adulthood, giving up trying to act like adults and just have fun really does warm my heart.

5 reasons why Pokemon Go is the best game of the summer.

5. Organizations are using Pokémon GOo to encourage people to help out in their communities.

This is the biggest thing to me. People are out walking and there are organizations like this animal shelter are jumping on the chance to encourage people to volunteer to walk their dogs.

5 reasons why Pokemon Go is the best game of the summer.

A vet clinic got in on the Pokémon GO fun and encouraged people to stop by their office to get their pet spayed or neutered while visiting the PokéStop out front. Churches are opening their doors to Pokémon GO players and offering water, charging stations, and fellowship. I cannot, in my life, remember a time when a video game brought people together like this.

5 reasons why Pokemon Go is the best game of the summer

I’ve seen a fair bit of naysaying about Pokémon GO, but for us, this game has been fantastic. I’d encourage you all to give it a try. Soon you’ll be hooked, and your legs will be sore too!

Love this post? Don’t want to miss a thing? Click here to get Two Little Grasshoppers right in your inbox!

Best Splash Pads Around St. Louis

Our 5 favorite splash pads in the St. Louis area!

It has been crazy hot these last few weeks. It’s part of living in St. Louis. Terrible heat and humidity. But another part of living in St. Louis is that the city is filled with splash pads!

Let’s be honest, running through a sprinkler is one of the supreme joys of summer, and splash pads are like sprinklers only better! We try to go splashing at least once a week these days, and here’s our list of favorite splash pads around town. Of course, there are tons of splash pads here, so if I didn’t list your favorite, let me know what park it’s in and why you love it so much so we can check it out!

Jaycee Park

Jaycee Park is out in St. Charles, but it is worth the drive. St. Charles County is home to some gorgeous parks these days, and this one is no exception. The splash pad is actually a multi-part area with a more natural feel. The top section has a waterfall springing out of a rocky ledge onto the upper splash pad.

st louis splash pad jaycee park top

The water flows down a “creek” complete with stones to divert the water. Cricket loved making boats out of leaves and floating them down the creek. I remember doing that in the gutter when I was a kid. The JayCee splash pad creek is a much cleaner alternative!

st louis splash pad jaycee park creek

At the bottom of the creek is a lower splash pad. Both upper and lower splash pads have squirty fountains that spray at various intervals.

st louis splash pad jaycee park

Cricket loved the creek, and the fountains amused her, but after a little while she was ready to ditch the splash pad and hit the playground, which is one of the better playgrounds I’ve seen. It’s also designed to be accessible to children of all abilities (splash pad too!) and I love LOVE the focus on inclusive play!

The only drawback to this park is the lack of shade. There is a nice pavilion, but it’s small and by the time we got there, other parents had staked their claims on the benches there.

  • The Jaycee Park splash pad is open April through September, temperature permitting.
  • Map to Jaycee Park

Millennium Park

Millennium Park is a little less of a drive for us, and the playground is a favorite on winter days that are just warm enough to play outside because it gets full sun. This means you stay warmer and can play a little longer. It also means it tends to get blazing hot in the summer.

Our top 5 favorite splash pads in the St. Louis Area

The splash pad at Millennium Park is fully fenced in, and you let your kids into the area through a latched gate and watch from outside the fence. It’s nice that it’s fully contained like that, especially if you’ve got a runner. The splash pad is one of the larger ones in the area with lots of fountains and fun, but the sun is fierce, so we save this one for cloudier days.

Brendan’s Playground

Brendan’s Playground, located in Westhoff Park in O’Fallon, is another long drive if you don’t live in St. Charles County, but like Jaycee Park, it’s a fantastic playground. The splash pad is small, best for younger kids, but the playground next to it makes it worth the trek! Unfortunately for us, we’ve only made it out once this year and the splash pad was closed for repairs, so no splash pad pictures. But the kids had a ball playing on the bug-themed playground!

Brendans playground st charles mo

Like Jaycee, Brendan’s playground was designed to be accessible to all children, regardless of ability. The cities of St. Charles and O’Fallon are doing a fantastic job with designing playgrounds where everyone can play together!

Unfortunately, because it’s so new, trees haven’t had the chance to grow tall yet, so while there are several lovely picnic pavilions, there really isn’t any shade.



Creve Coeur Lake

Creve Coeur Lake is a huge park, and the upper park (on the bluffs above the lake) actually has two splash pads! This is an enormous park with multiple entrances and to reach both of these splash pads, enter the park from Dorsett Rd.

The smaller of the splash pads (located by Playground #3) can be found just behind Go Ape. This one is generally the less crowded of the splash pads, which is nice, and although it isn’t quite as exciting as the other one, we still had to drag the Grasshopper and Cricket away when it was time to go. This one is only open on weekends and holidays, but if you accidentally go during the week and find it closed, you can head on over to the other splash pad!

splash pad creve coeur lake go ape


The second splash pad (located at Playground #2 and the Branwood shelter) is our absolute favorite splash pad. It is shaded by huge trees that make it more comfortable for parents, and the splash pad itself is full of action. There is a bucket that dumps water on your head, fountains, and tons of space to run through the water. It’s also close enough to the slides that kids can move back and forth between water and playground. Slides when you’re wet? Awesome fun! The only drawback is that this one can get a little crowded. But, like I said, it’s one of the best, so there’s a reason people flock to it!

Creve Coeur Lake splash pad

Do you have a favorite splash pad in St. Louis or your own home town? What do you love about it?

Love this post? Don’t want to miss a thing? Click here to get Two Little Grasshoppers right in your inbox!

Caribbean Black Cake: A Christmas Cake Like No Other

It’s July, which has me thinking of Christmas, which has me thinking it’s time to start my fruitcake. And not just any fruitcake. Laurie Colwin’s Black Cake. Now technically, this isn’t her cake. It’s a traditional Black Cake is a Caribbean/African-style fruitcake served at Christmas time, but I first learned about this cake in Laurie Colwin’s book Home Cooking.

Bake a traditional caribbean Black Cake, a gorgeous desert for the Christmas table. A recipe in 3 parts: Pt 1 Marinating the Fruit



Last year, I made two of these cakes, and brought them along to the various holiday gatherings. My mother even took one of the cakes to a New Year’s Eve party, and one of her friends from Africa got a little misty-eyed. She told my mom it was just like her mother used to make back in Africa. I was glad to know this cake is the real deal!

black cake fruit cake

I admit, I derived a certain wicked glee out of bestowing fruitcake upon my friends. We all know the jokes about fruitcake, and Black Cake is a serious fruitcake, one that sticks with you. It must be served in small pieces because of its density, and its one that you must start in the spring or summer if it’s to be ready by Christmas. But it is worth it. It is so delicious.

black cake crumb

July is here, so it is time to begin this year’s Black Cakes. We begin by marinating the fruit. The fruit should marinate in alcohol for 3-6 months. Yes, months.

The classic fruitcake ingredients (mixed peel and glazed red cherries) are hard to find in the store this time of year, so it’s easiest to just order online. Last year, I ordered from, and was impressed by the quality and prompt service. I highly recommend this family owned company. They also sell all kinds of dried fruit, granola, and other snacks. (Note: This post is not sponsored or endorsed by them in any way. I just really like their products.)

Bake a traditional caribbean Black Cake, a gorgeous desert for the Christmas table. A recipe in 3 parts: Pt 1 Marinating the Fruit

You will need a bottle of dark rum, a bottle of Passover wine, and multiple pounds of fruit. I’ve listed my choices below: 1 lb each of prunes, raisins, black currants, mixed peel, and glazed red cherries. But you can really take this recipe and put your own spin on things. All raisins? Why not? Want to try it with dried apricots? Go for it! I’m a kitchen renegade, a believer in marching to the beat of your own whisk.

Start by mincing all of the fruit. This is the most labor intensive part of making the cake. If you have a food processor, use it! I discovered that the food processor works great for the cherries, mixed peel, and currants. It struggled with the raisins, but when I threw some rum in, it blended up well.

Bake a traditional caribbean Black Cake, a gorgeous desert for the Christmas table. A recipe in 3 parts: Pt 1 Marinating the Fruit

My particular food processor just couldn’t handle the prunes, so I had to chop those by hand. Lucky thing prunes are big, so there weren’t that many to chop.

Bake a traditional caribbean Black Cake, a gorgeous desert for the Christmas table. A recipe in 3 parts: Pt 1 Marinating the Fruit

Throw everything into the biggest bowl you have, and pour in the rum. I don’t know much about rum, but this one said it’s from Jamaica, so this is what I used. It was indeed dark!

Bake a traditional caribbean Black Cake, a gorgeous desert for the Christmas table. A recipe in 3 parts: Pt 1 Marinating the Fruit

Pour in the wine.

Bake a traditional caribbean Black Cake, a gorgeous desert for the Christmas table. A recipe in 3 parts: Pt 1 Marinating the Fruit

Then mix it all up. Seriously, Is there any way to make chopped dried fruit soaking in alcohol pretty? I don’t know. But take my word for it, despite the looks it smelled divine. Divinely boozey.

Bake a traditional caribbean Black Cake, a gorgeous desert for the Christmas table. A recipe in 3 parts: Pt 1 Marinating the Fruit

Dump all of this into a huge jar (gallon size is what I use), and put it in the back of your pantry. By the time the holiday season arrives, the fruit will be ready to bake into the cake.

Bake a traditional caribbean Black Cake, a gorgeous desert for the Christmas table. A recipe in 3 parts: Pt 1 Marinating the Fruit

Black Cake Part 1: Marinating the Fruit

  • Servings: Two 10 inch cakes
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

A Carribbean/African-style fruitcake perfect for Christmas parties and gift-giving


  • 1 pound raisins
  • 1 pound pitted prunes
  • 1 pound dried currants
  • 1 pound mixed peel
  • 1 pound glazed red cherries
  • 1 bottle passover wine (or similar)
  • 1 bottle rum (the darkest you can find)


  1. Chop all fruit extra fine and mix together in a large bowl.
  2. Add the wine and rum and stir until thoroughly mixed.
  3. Transfer fruit and alcohol mixture into a large, lidded container. A 1 gallon jar works well for this.
  4. Close the lid securely and allow to marinate for 3-6 months.


Amazon links are affiliate links. Purchasing items using these links helps support this blog.

Love this post? Don’t want to miss a thing? Click here to get Two Little Grasshoppers right in your inbox!

What’s Happening in the Garden? June Update

In June, the garden really starts rocking. See what warm weather veggies are taking off and which cool weather vegetable need to be taken out.

Our vegetable garden has really taken off in the last month, and the kids, especially Cricket, have had a ball taking care of it.

We had a few setbacks. Judy Hopps, the rabbit living under our deck, paid our tomatoes a visit one night and snipped off all the leaves.

Rabbit damage to garden Tomatoes

This was a hard blow because I grow paste tomatoes exclusively for canning my homemade pizza sauce at the end of the year, and most big box stores only sell slicing and cherry tomatoes. My husband called all over town to find a nursery that sells paste tomatoes and surprised me with them one afternoon after work. That’s love!

They new tomato plants are growing well. They’re getting tall and all of them have produced flowers.

garden tomato flowers

Some of them already have green tomatoes!

garden green tomatoes

We re-planted the strawberries this year to a different spot in hopes of containing their aggressive spreading a bit more easily. I hope the paper mulch I put down will keep them under better control. They got super invasive the last two years! We’ve already had a delicious round of berries, and we’re hoping the next crop comes in soon.

Spring Square Foot Garden strawberries

Cricket discovered pickled okra this year, so she decided that we had to plant some of that. I’ve never grown okra before, so it should be interesting to see what comes up. I remember as a kid having to avoid the okra in my dad’s garden because of how spiny it is.

Square Foot Garden Okra


Check out this huge pepper!

garden pepper sweet sunset

I kid you not, this beauty is 10 inches long! It looks like a hot pepper, but it’s really sweet. It’s almost ready to harvest. Once it blushes, I’ll pick it. I can’t wait to taste it!

We also grew broccoli. Briefly. Until the caterpillars got into it. I have never been able to grow brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.). The worms here are just too bad.

broccoli caterpillars garden pest

I ended up just pulling it out, chopping it up, and composting it. At least it will give back to the garden in that way.

By far, our most exciting crop has been the sweet corn! I had always thought that it was impossible to grow corn in a small space, but I decided that since we had an empty bed due to crop rotation, that we could give it a try.

square foot garden corn

Since I planted it, it has really grown!

square foot garden corn 2

I had some problems with the stalks getting yellow, but a good dose of Miracle Grow vegetable fertilizer seems to have solved that!

I can’t wait to eat fresh, warm from the sun, sweet corn this year! It truly is a family favorite!

Of course, I’ve also included some plants for the butterflies. This is echinacea purpurea, a Missouri native I got last year at the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House plant sale.

garden echinacea pollinator

Echinacea (also called Coneflower according to my mother) is not only great for butterflies, but in the winter, the dried seed heads provide an important food source for hungry birds!

I love growing food for my family, and I love teaching the girls where their food comes from. This garden season has been the most fun yet!


Love this post? Don’t want to miss a thing? Click here to get Two Little Grasshoppers right in your inbox!

Because of the work I do for Monsanto, I got the chance to take home some of the vegetable plants and seeds in my garden. I was not asked to write this post and all opinions are my own.

Beat the Heat at the St. Louis Magic House

The Magic House in St. Louis is the perfect place to play in the summer. The Future Play exhibit runs until September 5.

The heat in St. Louis is no joke, and now that summer is here, we are looking for ways to cool off. One of our favorite places is The Magic House, the children’s museum here in St. Louis.

When St. Louisans rave about The Magic House, they are not joking. This place is amazing. There are two buildings with multiple floors, and an outside garden. We are still finding areas in the magic house that we didn’t know existed, and we’ve lived here for three years!

The Magic House is the perfect place to stay warm in the winter, dry in the rain, and, right now, escape the heat and humidity of the St. Louis summer.

A few weeks ago, the Grasshopper and I met up with my blogging friends Denise of stlMotherhood and Jen of And Hattie Makes Three to explore the newest exhibit, teamLab’s Future Play: Art + Technology, which is here until September 5th.


I liked the cool and the dark, but the Grasshopper loved the interactive hopscotch screen and seeing the spaceship she created fly across the giant screens.

Magic House STL Future Play


After we finished exploring FuturePlay, we had to head straight up the beanstalk to her favorite part of the magic house: the mystery room. Here, kids are challenged to solve the mystery of an art theft using logic, physical evidence, DNA evidence, and their powers of exploration. There are secret passages, duct-work to crawl through, and a slide. Some kids prefer sneaking (or thundering) through the ductwork and sliding over and over again, but the Grasshopper enjoys solving each piece of the mystery to find the art thief.

magic house mystery

Of course, there’s the Bubble Room, the Math Path, and the three story beanstalk to climb (Protip: If you’ve got a little one like Cricket who isn’t quite ready to tackle the beanstalk, but still wants to climb, head over to the Wonder Works area for a smaller version they can explore.)

Magic House Collage

By the time we had done all of that, we were ready to meet back up with all of our friends in the garden. Yeah, I know. Outside. The heat. But there’s a creek to play in! And seriously, who doesn’t love splashing in a creek. If you plan to do this, it might be a good idea to bring dry clothes to change into. And if you don’t plan to do this, and you end up doing it anyway like we did… Well, they’re only kids once!

magic house outdoor play garden

These are just the things we saw during the morning. It’s easy to spend an entire day at The Magic House and not see everything there is to see.

The Magic House is one of our favorite spots in St. Louis. Admission is $10 per person (free for kids under 1 year) and their hours right now are:

  • Mon-Thurs, and Sat: 9:30am – 5:30 pm
  • Fri: 9:30 am – 9:00 pm
  • Sun – 11:00 am – 5:30 pm

Today, I’m teaming up with And Hattie Makes Three and stlMotherhood to give away four free passes to The Magic House (a $40 value!) so you can escape the heat too! We’ve each got a set of passes, so three families will win! This post is sponsored by the Magic House, who provided the free tickets for you to win.

Be sure to follow both And Hattie Makes Three and stlMotherhoodHattie Makes Three blogs about fashion, food (check out her recipe for Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread! OMG YUM!), and fun things to do in St. Louis with her adorable daughter Hattie. stlMotherhood writes about St. Louis happenings, minecraft, and kids crafts. She even has this awesome tutorial on how to make a pool noodle catapult because every home needs siege weapons, amIright?

{Thanks to all who entered! The giveaway is now closed, and the winners have been contacted.}


What are your kids’ favorite things to see and do at The Magic House? Do you have another spot you think we should explore? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

Love this post? Don’t want to miss a thing? Click here to get Two Little Grasshoppers right in your inbox!


Tick Season has Arrived, But It’s Going to be Okay.

Tick season has arrived in Missouri, and it is gross. Last week, my husband and I were snuggled on the couch while the kids were still asleep. I was reading a book on my Kindle, and he was watching a soccer game. It was very relaxed and peaceful until he said, “What’s that on your arm? A new mole?”

Spoiler alert: It was not a mole.

I looked down, and there, stuck to my arm, was a tick. It was about 1/8 of an inch across with 8 little legs, and it was feasting on, well, me! I may or may not have shrieked and flapped my arms, but the good news for me is that I knew how to remove the little beast, and I was able to get it off without causing more damage.

Aside from being completely disgusting, ticks carry a variety of different diseases, some of which can be quite serious and some of which are just plain weird. For example, did you know that bites from the Lone Star Tick can give you an allergy to beef and red meat? I know, technically not a disease, but completely freaky! Here are some of the diseases that ticks spread:

But here’s the deal: It’s spring. It’s beautiful, and I’m not going to let fear keep my family from enjoying the outdoors.

There’s a lot of mythology out there surrounding ticks and tick removal, so I’m here to give you guys accurate information so that you can feel empowered about getting outdoors and having a fun and safe spring. We had a mild winter here in Missouri, so this tick season is going to be a bad one. The information I’m sharing with you comes from the Missouri Department of Conservation, the CDC, and other locations. I will provide links to my sources so you can dig as deeply into this as you like.

What is a tick?

A tick is a member of the arachnid family, a cousin of the spider and scorpion. They’re small, anywhere from the size of a poppy seed to 1/8-1/4 inches across. They survive as a parasite, eating the blood of other animals.

Photo Courtesy of CDC Public Image Library
Photo Courtesy of CDC Public Image Library

When & where are ticks found?

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, ticks are most active in April-July. They like to live in brushy areas and tall grasses, and they hunt by climbing to the end of a leaf of grass blade and sticking a leg out in hopes of snagging it on a passing animal or human. They sense the carbon dioxide we breathe out and they follow that to find their prey. They like to hang out where prey is abundant, such as in the brush and tall weeds beside trails. But it’s not just hiking trails that harbor ticks. Last week, I didn’t venture from an urban area. My outdoor adventures were limited to playgrounds and the backyard. I still managed to pick up a tick from somewhere. They can be anywhere.

How do I avoid them?

You folks know that I usually prefer more natural products in my home and for my family, but I’m going to be real honest here and say that with ticks, I follow the recommendations of the CDC and Missouri Department of Conservation. Ticks are dangerous. They carry diseases that can have lifelong consequences. I’m not going to mess around with that!

First of all, you can avoid tick habitat.

  • Stay out of brushy areas
  • Don’t take shortcuts through tall grass
  • Walk in the center of trails

Use tick repellents. Always, ALWAYS follow the directions from the manufacturer. Always.

  • Permethrin – You can use this to treat your gear (shoes, hats, tents, backpacks, socks, pants, etc) to keep ticks away. This permethrin spray will last six weeks on your clothing and gear. It’s the kind my friend who is writing a hiking with kids book uses. Don’t apply this to skin and follow the directions for treating your gear. The important thing with this is that you need to plan ahead. Spray it and let it dry according to the manufacturers directions. When my friend led a hiking group yesterday, the folks who had treated their clothes had no ticks and all of the folks who did not had ticks inside their pants.
  • DEET – You read that right. DEET. 20-30% DEET applied to clothes and exposed skin will last several hours. There’s no need to apply this to skin that will be under clothing. Use only what you need, help your kids apply it, and wash it off when you come inside. I, personally prefer not to apply this to my face and have not had mosquito or tick bites on my face. Also remember that higher DEET percentage isn’t necessarily better. According to Consumer Reports, effectiveness tops out at 30%.
  • Natural insect repellents – There are a lot of insect repellents on the market including some nifty ankle bracelets that we used last year. I’ve used these in the past with good luck, although when I go hiking, I use them in combo with DEET sprayed on shoes and pant legs. In digging around, I found information about these to prevent mosquitos, but not a lot of info on using them to prevent ticks. With that in mind, for me, I’m most comfortable using the combination I mentioned above and re-applying every 30 minutes or so.

How do I check for ticks?

It’s important to check for ticks as soon as you come indoors. Strip down and, in a well lit area, check everywhere for them. Use a mirror if you don’t have another adult to help you check your back. Ticks love to hide in all the little nooks and crannies on your body, so when I say look everywhere, I mean it. They can be tiny. I pulled some nymphs (the babies) off of my youngest last year that were no bigger than a poppy seed! So look closely and take your time. Ticks like to hide in ears, armpits, belly buttons, and in the hair.

Bathe or shower right away after coming in. This will wash ticks off of you and down the drain.

Don’t just toss your dirty clothes in the hamper. I can tell you from experience, there’s not a lot grosser than pulling your clothes out and finding a tick crawling around in there. Yuck! It’s like it’s invading your home or something. The CDC recommends that you tumble-dry your clothes on high heat for an hour. I usually just throw ours straight into the wash. I don’t even bring them in to the carpet. Just straight into the washer.

How do I remove a tick?

There are a lot of methods floating around about tick removal: put an ice cube on it, burn it with a hot match, heat the tip of an ice pick and burn it to make it let go, paint it with nail polish or cover it in grease to smother it. Don’t do these things. Seriously. Don’t.

When you remove a tick, you want to remove it immediately, not wait around for it to let go. The longer it is attached, the higher the chances of it passing along a tick-borne disease.

The CDC gives the proper way to remove a tick and all you need is a pair of fine tipped tweezers:

  1. Grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible. Don’t squish it with the tweezers because this can squash its body fluids into you! Gross and unsanitary.
  2. Pull upward gently, with even pressure. Don’t jerk it. Don’t twist it. Just gentle even pressure. You don’t want to risk breaking off mouth parts in your skin.
  3. Wash the bite carefully with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.
  4. Dispose of the tick properly. Don’t smash it with your fingers! Remember, it’s a little bag of disease and plague and nastiness. Crushing it spreads that around. Treat it like it’s a biohazard. The CDC link above gives some suggestions, but my preferred method of disposal is to drown it in alcohol then flush it down the toilet.



Ticks exist. They’re out there. They’re a fact of life. But you can still enjoy the outdoors safely. I hope this article has helped you know how to keep your family safe this tick season.

Here’s a quick list of the pages I used to research this article:

Missouri Department of Conservation’s Tick page

CDC’s Tick page – A good website if you want to try to identify what kind of tick bit you

Love this post? Don’t want to miss a thing? Click here to get Two Little Grasshoppers right in your inbox!

Hyperememsis Gravidarum Awareness Day 2016

I haven’t written much about Hyperemesis Gravidarum in a while. It’s hard for me to write about. It’s hard for me to remember. But I realized recently that even harder than remembering it is living through it, and right now there are women all over the world suffering from HG. So today I’m breaking my silence on HG and doing my part to spread the word about this disease.

For those who don’t know, Hyperemesis Gravidarum is a life threatening form of nausea and vomiting in pregnancy. Some folks might say that it’s like morning sickness, and I guess it is, if morning sickness lasted all day every day for months on end and caused you to vomit so much that it endangered your life. It’s awful. It’s ugly and brutal, and it kills mothers and babies. That’s why it’s important that we talk about it.

I’m a two-time survivor of HG, and you can read about my experience under the Hyperemesis Gravidarum category.

If you’re suffering from HG, you can check out my hyperemesis gravidarum protocol here. It might be useful to print this off to share with your doctor if you’re sick or to make notes for yourself on if you’re planning another pregnancy.

Recently, there’s been some buzz in the news about Zofran and the possibility that it has been linked to birth defects. One of the things I’m happiest to share is this study from UCLA that found no evidence that Zofran causes birth defects. This is huge! Zofran has saved the lives of many women with HG, and maintaining access to life-saving treatments is so important. I’ll share a post later with more about my experience with Zofran, but I thought it was important enough to get this life-saving news out as soon as possible. I didn’t want to wait to tell you all.

HG is terrible, but there are ways you can help.

You can participate in research studies. If you or a relative has had HG, you can check here to see if you qualify for the research UCLA is conducting to find out if there are genetic links with HG sufferers.

Click here to learn more about the study.

You can sign this petition asking lawmakers to support more study on HG.

More than anything, you can talk about HG. So many mothers suffer in silence. I spent 12 weeks of my first pregnancy covering up how sick I was because I felt guilty for being a wimp about morning sickness. I’d never heard of HG, and learning that I had it and that it was real probably saved my life. Even many doctors don’t recognize HG as being real, so talking about this and spreading the word can save lives.

If you know someone who has HG, reach out to her. This disease is so isolating. Understand that she may not be up to hanging out, but knowing that you’re thinking of her can really help. So can helping with more mundane things like dishes, laundry, babysitting kids so she can rest, and meals for the family.

She may need help getting to the doctor’s office or the pharmacy. Let her know that resources like are out there. Keep an eye on her and if it seems like the treatment isn’t working, help advocate for her with medical professionals. I remember going into my 2nd round of HG prepared and ready to fight, but when I was in the thick of it, I just didn’t have it in me to correct the random doctors in the hospital who told me there was nothing wrong with me. Even the fiercest woman may need help standing up for herself when she is so desperately ill.

If you have Hyperemesis Gravidarum know that you are not alone.

I see you. I know your struggle. I remember. I stand with you. Please reach out to friends, family, HelpHer, facebook groups, and wherever you can find support. You are not suffering from this because you are weak. You are so, so strong even though it feels like you’re breaking apart at the seams. More than anything, you are not alone.

HG Awareness Day

Teaching My Girls About Body Image

Swimsuit season is coming up, and I’ve been thinking a lot about body image.

Two kids later, my body doesn’t look like it did when I was in my early 20s. Deep inside I have a core belief that this is fine and that I love my body. I am happy about the way I look. I love my stretch marks, and when my kids poke my squishy belly, I’m happy to tell them that’s where they grew.


But there’s this tiny voice in the back of my head complaining about the lack of thigh gap and that squishy belly and the stretch marks and everything else. I know and I believe in my heart of hearts that the voice is a liar. But it’s still a struggle.

I want my girls to not feel that struggle. I don’t want my girls to have to remind themselves that the voice lies. I want them to laugh at the voice. Or better yet, not even hear it.

So there are a few steps that I’m taking that I hope will help.

I make a point to look in the mirror and say that I like my body. “I love my tiger stripes! They remind me of when you were in my belly!” or “I like my legs. I felt so strong today when we went on that bike ride.” I want them to know that it’s okay to look in the mirror and like what they see, and I also want them to take pride in what their body can do. So I set the example.

I don’t talk about weight or weight loss around them. The only time we talk about weight is in terms of them growing. “Look how much you grew!” And realistically, that doesn’t come up except at the doctor’s office or in the locker room of the gym after swim lessons and they beg to step on it because it’s neat and they want to see if they’ve grown. Now, admittedly, I am trying to trim up my figure a bit, but when I talk about that, I talk about it in terms of Mommy wanting to get stronger so I can keep up with them on their bikes and scooters.

With food, we talk about putting healthy food into our bodies, not restricting calories.

I never, ever criticize my body in front of them. I don’t want them to think it’s okay to talk to themselves like that.

I don’t know if this will help them, but I hope it will. I hope I’m inoculating them early against what they will see in magazines. I want my girls to grow up loving themselves just as much as I love them.

Love this post? Don’t want to miss a thing? Click here to get Two Little Grasshoppers right in your inbox!

Silly Mirror self image confindence

A Garden for 2016

I’ve been delaying and delaying on working in my garden this year, and I don’t know why. For some reason, the thought of all the work fills me with dread. Working in the dirt and nurturing the plants always feels so healing but this year, I just can’t seem to motivate myself to get out there.

There’s tons of work that I need to do.

  • Make new soil for the square foot garden
  • Pull out last year’s dead tomatoes
  • Pull out the strawberries which are just completely out of control and taking over both big beds
  • Move the trellises to the other side of the beds to rest the soil
  • Pull out the chives with the really weird leave shape that volunteered last year
  • Put down weed cloth because weeds. Ugh.
  • Decide what (aside from the 6 tomatoes and 3 hot peppers I ordered) I will plant

And on and on and on.

Maybe I’m just overwhelmed. Maybe every time I start to get spring fever, the weather pulls a 180 on me and gets cold again.

Right now, my garden is not the lovely, bountiful vision that I had when I built it. Yeah, I know. It’s still practically winter, but last year it wasn’t so great either. Maybe I’m just fatigued by the whole thing. Maybe it’s that I’m the only one in the family who’s excited about the garden. (Although, I would like to point out that everyone in my family appreciates the tomato sauce I put up in the fall!) Who knows. All I know is that I need to get my rear in gear.