Wednesday, August 5, 2020

My Favorite Things August Edition


Our pandemic summer has been interesting. Hot, humid, a puppy, so many parks, day trips, days with daycare friends, a new car for said day trips, and getting ready for a school year unlike any other. It's been fun, overwhelming, exhausting, but overall happy. Usually we would be out and about, go, go, go and I would have plenty to share. Of course, we're living a pandemic life, slightly shelter, so my "new things" list is few, but what we have tried out I'm happily sharing.

** for those in Iowa, read to the bottom for a few Iowa specific ideas of treats to get (and where) and parks to visit

1.) I'm completely geeking out now that I know my three will be at home this school year and I get to do the 7th grade reading list with my oldest. There's classics such as The Miracle Worker, The Giver, and The Westing Game on the list. I absolutely cannot wait for the activities and writing assignments to go with these books.

2.) The joke is I got bored and bought a new car, but in reality we had been talking about it for almost a year. I just pulled the trigger one day and went with a Toyota Highlander. We had A LOT of considerations to take when deciding on a vehicle: gas mileage, AWD was a must, three rows, storage space, etc. I love my minivan and I wish it could cross off everything on the list, but alas, it does not. The Highlander doesn't have the space a Suburban or Yukon have, but it's half the price plus we got a great lease deal. We'll be installing a roof rack for our luggage when we get back to traveling.

3.) Disney + has some great documentaries. We've watched a lot of animal documentaries, nearly all of the National Geographic series, and one on the Inca's. Later this month we'll move onto the Smithsonian channel on CBS AllAccess.

4.) Crazy summer days call for ease whenever and wherever I can find it. I got a box of these Smucker's Hazelnut sandwiches and now we always have some in our freezer.

5.) Getting a new puppy means lots of training. He's been a really easy and good dog so far, but we needed a training class. Of course, we're in a pandemic, so puppy classes aren't quite the same. In person puppy classes limit how many can attend and quite honestly, I do enough during my days that I didn't want to go to puppy class, only to come home and have to teach my entire family what I learned. Instead, we opted for a virtual puppy kindergarten through Petco. It's not perfect, but our trainer has given us a lot of tips and tricks for our smart pup.

6.) A month later and we're in the middle of season 3 of Homeland. Still a great show, but a show I have to pay attention to when we watch it. Therefore, I don't get very far.

7.) Chewy.com has been a lifesaver for us. Dog food, toys, gates, treats, and everything else delivered right to our door. Prices are fair with a huge selection of products to choose from. I'm hooked. That said, I also really like our local dog store Bone A Patreat. I've placed a few orders for curbside pick up and have been extremely pleased with their selection for a small store.

8.) Our vegetables have been prosperous this year! We've been enjoying cucumbers and butter lettuce daily from our gardens, plus cucumbers from family and friends. It's perfect since my kids and daycare are currently on a cucumber kick and will eat up to four in one day! 
* we obviously would have had carrots too, if only I wasn't forced to pull them early due to a curious dog who liked to pull them out himself.


9.) As soon as I saw these mini s'mores pies I knew we had to make them at daycare. We took it up one and the kids made a solar oven to bake them in. Such a delicious activity!

10.) Speaking of solar, I stuck this solar balloon in my Amazon cart one day just to give it a try with the kids for their science day. Naturally, it was awesome. We bagged it up and keeping it to try again this fall (hopefully on a windy day).

11.) I've purchased many classic books over the year, but especially this school year. While I'm psyched for Max's 7th grade reading list (see #1), I've also gotten the kids to read the Sarah Plain and Tall book series, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Roald Dahl.

12.) Method cleaner is still my favorite cleaning product to wipe down counters and tables. Sadly, stores have been out and I'm missing it. I never realized how much I love this cleaner until I couldn't find it in stores!

13.) Check out Khan Academy for homeschooling or supplementle needs this school year. Admittedly, we haven't used it much yet, it looks promising and holds appropriate curriculum for all ages.


We've been to numerous parks since the pandemic began and go-to orders through delivery services or restaurants themselves. A few of our new faves to give a try:
  • Dolliver Memorial State Park
  • Palisades-Kepler State Park
  • Crapo Park (Burlington, Iowa; not a state park)
  • Tower Park Spraygrounds (Des Moines, Iowa)
  • Jitterbug coffee drink (Twisted Bean, Urbandale, Iowa)
  • Breakfast Nachos (University Library Cafe, Des Moines)
  • Bone A Patreat, curbside pick up
Playing in the creek at Dolliver

Monday, August 3, 2020

A Still Socially Distancing Weekend



We're still taking our social distancing pretty seriously, since both Matt and I come into contact with a lot of people through our jobs. Thankfully, we're not short on ideas to keep us busy! We went to one of our favorite hiking spots in central Iowa. Sadly, a lot of other people trying to social distance were there and it wound up being the most crowded hike we've taken. Possibly ever, with the exception of a trailhead for the Applachian Trail in the Smokies years ago. I had planned on spending a few hours at Ledges, playing and hiking in the creek, but since so many people had that idea too, we only spent about an hour and a half there.




The dog spend more time wet than he does dry! He's always in the middle of the kid's water activities during daycare days and we've been doing creek hikes on the weekends since it's hot outside.


We had issues getting pictures. The kids can't figure out how to keep looking at the camera as we call the dog's name (so he'll look at the camera). If they do manage to keep looking at the camera, I get faces that look like they belong on a toilet. The picture below captures the craziness, except the middle one is freaking out because I brushed a spider off of his shoulder and he freaked. Fun times.


The kids are thrilled because we have a dog who likes to climb: fallen trees, cliffs, hills, etc. I'm personally excited for mountain hiking in the future, when Zeus is older and can do longer hikes.

I took the picture to get the kids sliding down the rocks, but instead I got the dog peeing in the creek next to the kids, who were unaware of what was happening.




I can't believe I captured this face. Priceless.



Climbing and climbing up the ledges. 


Jumping over the creek.



We did get our favorite BBQ (Whatcha Smokin' BBQ in Luther, Iowa) to go and ate at home. We couldn't have eaten on the patio even if we wanted to-- Zeus was completely wiped out from hiking at Ledges. 


My parents took the kids for a few hours Saturday night for back to school online shopping. Hubs and I debated sitting on a patio for an hour or so, but ultimately, a nap won out for me and he watched a movie. We ordered a light dinner for delivery and chilled in a quiet house (with the dog). It was kind of nice. Zeus slept too. 

We picked kids up and went on a late night walk around the neighborhood. I wanted a dog that could keep us with us and had high energy and that's what we got! If anything he's made us all even more active than we already were. 
Elizabeth insisted on wearing a mask while we walked "to get used to it for school" (even though she'll be learning virtually this fall). Then, she needed to show off her new "boot high heels." Please notice her mask below her nose...she's one of those people. Head slap.

Sunday Slow Down was more of the same: cleaning, organizing, I did some writing, the kids played in the rain with the dog who is obsessed with rain and thunderstorms (he loves them), and we ended our day watching Selma. We've been having all the hard talks with our kids and have gotten in the Civil Rights movement. As a result, we currently have an Alabama trip completely planned out.



A series of Elizabeth pictures that gave me a glimpse of teenage Lil:




A movie, a sleeping dog, and writing daycare pandemic policies.