Casey Krueger of Oconomowoc was lying in her bed one very early morning when she heard noises in her kitchen.
"It was about 5:30 in the morning, and it was still dark. I heard the door to the freezer open and close and I thought, 'Hmmm, something's going on. Maybe I should get up and check it out,'" she said.
Walking into the living room, she discovered her son, Owen, and daughter, Kelley, sitting together on a chair, each with open quarts of Culver's custard and a spoon.
"Oh, they knew they were busted. It was one of those mom moments when I couldn't be mad. They were partners in crime. Owen was mad knowing that I would take his goods away, and Kelley was feeling guilty for her crime," laughs Casey. "I could have yelled at them, but it really was funny. I took a photo instead. It's just kids being kids."
The mother of three, Grace, 12, Owen, 10, and Kelley, 7, is also a fifth grade teacher at Silver Lake Intermediate School in Oconomowoc. She knows a thing or two about what it means to be flexible and to sometimes choose her battles.
"You have to survive and sometimes it's better to laugh than to cry. You really have to find that balance and not be on one end of the extreme or another. Being on top of kids all the time promotes dishonesty and sneakiness," adds Casey.
Keeping it real
Casey was chatting with some friends about the exploding trend of posting photos on social media.
"We were noticing all the photos were showing how perfect everyone's lives were. What would happen if we also posted photos of when things aren't so perfect? So, I took a photo of my messy kitchen and that's how it all started," she explains.
In February, Casey created a Facebook page titled "Keeping It Real" and invited her friends and family to post "real-life" photos and stories about what their typical lives were really like.
"We all know our lives are far from perfect and yet this is all most people post in Facebook! Let's support one another by posting the 'real' truth! Go!" Casey challenged on her new page.
The photos of cluttered kitchens, messy mudrooms, loads of laundry and the hilarious stories behind the mayhem started pouring in and within a couple of weeks nearly 200 people had "liked" the "Keeping It Real" page.
Casey started to add inspirational quotes, blog entries and articles supporting the "keeping it real" philosophy. One of her posts included a quote from blogger Rachel Wolf:
"It's time we stop pretending we're anything other than who and what we are and seek connection instead of perfection in the messy realness of these lives we share. Because - as it turns out - there are more important things in life than a clean house."
Breaking the rules
Casey's friend Myndi Hoffmann joined in the "Keeping it Real" fun by posting a photo of a pile of dishes squirreled away in her oven. She wrote, "I hid dirty dishes in oven when I had an event last night. Anyone else ever do this? Also need to clean oven...never ending!"
The Oconomowoc mom of Brooke, 13, and Mara, 11, is also a preschool gym teacher at the YMCA at Pabst Farms, Elementary School Ministry Director at Our Savior's Lutheran Church and a Rodan + Fields consultant.
"I love the photos because we realize that we are not alone and we should support each other in our craziness," she said.
Myndi adds that her less-than-perfect housekeeping means she would rather spend quality time with her family than making sure everything is spotless.
"I make a conscious decision to choose them and say, 'dishes can wait — let's go play.' I'm proud of that. I want my girls to know that I'm not perfect and I make mistakes. We are a controlled mess together with God," she said.
And as the famous "Into the Woods" song lyrics state, "Careful the things you do. Children will hear and learn."
"I like when my mom acts silly and she can laugh at herself. It makes me feel good to sometimes forget about the rules and just go be with our family and have fun and not worry about what's not done at home," says Myndi's daughter, Mara.
Life's healthy mess
Kimberly Krueger also knows a thing or two about the significance of parents giving themselves a break.
The Mukwonago resident has three grandchildren and is mom to seven sons, a son-in-law and five daughters, ages 10 to 28 years old.
Kimberly became certified as a breakthrough coach in 2011 after teaching Love and Logic parenting classes for 10 years. She is also an author, motivational speaker and facilitates monthly "Coffee with Kim" workshops at Milwaukee Street Traders in Delafield.
"Parenting and life can get heavy. Keep it light and make the best of it and every once in a while it's ok to set the rules down and say, 'We're going to have fun today because I love you and that's a powerful and beautiful thing,'" she said.
Kimberly laughs when she describes a memory of one night at dinner with her kids.
"There were about 9-10 kids at the table and somebody threw food, which led to retaliation ant then a third kid throwing food. I was outnumbered. I knew stuff was going to go down and I decided, 'Ok, let's do this!' And we had a food fight," she reminisces.
"I knew it would be a mess, but I also knew there would be many helpers to clean it up. We had a good laugh and made a great memory. Sometimes laughing is a better choice than yelling."
As for Casey's "Keeping It Real" Facebook movement, she hopes others can benefit from getting a good laugh from sharing real slices of life.
"As women and parents we need to support and boost each other. I love that the "Keeping It Real" page has grown. Seeing all these real-life photos makes me feel good and I can relax because I realize that I'm not the only one," says Casey. "Sometimes you just have to let it go and have fun together as a family."■
Rebecca Seymour is a freelance writer and photojournalist and author of "Connecting With Wisconsin Wildlife." She lives in Oconomowoc with her husband and two young daughters.