Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Beginning of the School Year....At Daycare

So, so many changes this time of year. All of the big kids went back to school (a few insisted that it wasn't going to happen and that they were just going to stay with me) and that left the littles and myself to settle into our "school year routine." It's definitely taken a few weeks to get into it again, but we managed it, all while doing some of their favorite things. I've learned from experience to take things slow these first few weeks and that has helped all of us transition nicely. While the littles favorite time of day is still when some of the bigs get home from school (or the bigs come to visit when picking up siblings), they seem to be enjoying all of the attention they get.

This fall, I don't have any babies. The age group is (nearly) two years old to an almost four year old. This has made planning activities much easier! I've also been pleased with a few of the things the littles picked up from the bigs over the summer. Everyone clears their own plates/bowls after snack and meal times and makes a beeline for the bathroom to wash hands and take a potty break. I witness some pretty cute stuff during the day, but nothing beats watching a not yet two year old clear her own plate. I'm so impressed (and sometimes horrified) at the things they pick up from each other.

Here's a look at what has kept us busy since school has started:

If a cartoon is watched, it's actually pretty easy to decide with young kids. It's always between Daniel Tiger, Curious George, or Moana. One morning the kids had the TV before school, so a few of the littles sat down to watch Curious George Boofest. When it was over, these were the options that popped up. The TV went off afterwards, but I found Netflix's suggestions quite humorous. 

The amount of shoes that were piled by the door during the summer makes these seem like nothing. I also have an organizer in my group, who likes to neatly place the shoes by the door. Not surprising, I haven't had any near trips since school began.

Three days into the school year and the littles were sad without the bigs. As I usually do, I tried my best to explain to them where they were (school) and we read our books about going to school. This year it wasn't making much of a difference, so to help them process things, we took a walk up the elementary school to pick up my minis. I'm grateful we only live a few houses away from the school, so we can easily do things like this!

Needless to say, my minis were surprised and thrilled to see us waiting for them when the bell rang and the littles were soooo excited to see school and greet the kids. After that walk up to school, I didn't notice anymore confusion about where the bigs went. I was soooo impressed with how well the kiddos followed directions and followed our safety rules while walking and on school grounds. Other parents and teachers were impressed with their capabilities. My favorite part of the afternoon was when a student walked out of school looking for her mom and passed by our group. Her eyes got huge and she said, "woah, you have a BIG family!" 

We have had so many dance parties and act like animal parties that I lost count. However, in recent days, things have gotten a bit more handsy, so we had to put new rules for dancing in place. We now have a scheduled dance time each day before lunch that involves phrases such as "hands and bodies to yourself," "no we can't spin and pull each other," and "stay away from the tile!" 

Lil Miss E started dance lessons. I have people watching time each  Monday for an hour.

Paper plate fishies.

Discussing their schools.

We celebrated Hubs 36th birthday. Daycare families were awesome with all of the schedule changes and early pick ups that happened those first few weeks. We had a lot of orientations, school things, and a variety of personal commitments that required daycare schedule changes. It's nice to be able to do those things and help them out when needed as well.

Colored wooden stars. I have a ton in storage that my minis made over the years. By sticking a magnet on the back of them, they served as our refrigerator magnets for a few years.

The kids got to help paint and color the trees and apples for our "apple orchard." The kids have had a great time the last couple of weeks playing apple orchard, "picking" the apples, and using the play cash register to check out. In October, this corner will become our pumpkin patch!

The newest daycare books have been read A LOT already.

The sensory bins are also a favorite. This have been around for three or four years now and going strong!

We've been making, um, music with our sound sensory bottles.

Getting into the school schedule has been okay.....except for bedtime. Sometimes bedtime is rough. Sometimes a mini will come out of the room with his foot wrapped in toilet paper and pretend he broke it. This has made for some long nights and early mornings at our house. We're finally getting a hang of this schedule four weeks into the school year.

I've come to the conclusion that my house will always be messy and sticky, even if I just cleaned it. In this case, I set my glasses down to rinse my face quickly and my glasses wound up with toothpaste and glue on them.

The littles love it when the bigs get home from school. There's hugs, squeals, and clapping happening when they walk through the door.

One of my favorite things from my days with the littles is the march up the stairs and into the nap room each day. They all carefully climb up the stairs and then walk into the daycare nap room, standing next to their pack n' play. They sweetly wait their turn, as I go around and put each child in their bed (giving hugs and kisses first, of course). Then I listen to them tell each other good night and it never fails, they always remind each other "no talking and stay laying down." It makes me smile every day!

The kids enthusiastically used the Dot Markers to decorate their leaves.

Apple scented play dough made with conditioner and corn starch.

As usual, one of my favorite things to do is set out and activity and watch the kids play. I love to hear what they come up with and how they interact with each other. Read more (and for an amusing set of pictures) here.

Now that we're in our groove and a ton of fun fall activities in the coming weeks, our days have been going quite smoothly.....or, as smooth as they can with 6 2-4 year olds!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Indiana Weekend Getaway Minus Kids!

This weekend getaway was simply AMAZING!! The main reason for the trip was to see my favorite band, U2, play at Lucas Oil Stadium. I would have loved for it to be a slightly longer trip than it was, but we made the most of the time we did have! Prior obligations and needs kept us in Des Moines until late Saturday afternoon. 

Hair cuts for the girl and myself on Saturday. Hubs had to work. My hair appointment finished up just as he was getting off of work. We couldn't have timed it better. My parents took the minis for the weekend (they had their own amazing time), so Hubs and I easily left as soon as we were both ready.

My house got cleaned!!! Then the cats got all clingy and hid from us as we tried to leave. We're very fortunate to have someone who comes to take care of the cats while we're away and she knows all of their tricks: how to get them unstuck from the crawl space, feeding schedule, and attitudes. They did not do so well when we were gone this past summer out west, so I was a tad nervous to leave them for a couple of days. They did just fine though and didn't take their "you left us!" anger out on my carpet, floors, or bed.

Late afternoon and we were off in our rental vehicle. We were hoping for a Prius, but instead wound up with a sports car. Thank you Infiniti! While I would never buy this vehicle for every day use (um, Bluetooth didn't even come with the standard model. I'm used to my full loaded minivan), it was so much fun to drive!

Enjoying the sunroof without anyone shouting "please close it! There's too much wind on my face!" The backseat did seem oddly quiet to me.

We made a couple of stops along the way: one to the outlet center in Williamsburg, IA and another at a Kroger (somewhere in Illinois). This was my first time ever in a Kroger and I was amazed! I had such an easy time finding my nut free vegan snacks and I kinda stocked up. My husband was embarrassed for me and my enthusiastic grocery shopping at 11 p.m.

We spent the night in Champaigne, IL and drove the remaining two hours into Indianapolis Sunday morning. Our first stop in Indy was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The last time we took the kids to Indy, time didn't allow for a tour of the museum, so I wanted to be sure to stop. When we arrived at the museum, we were offered a tour on the speedway track (via bus) for only $20 per person, that also included the museum. Hubs and I were sold and spent the next hour and half learning the history of the Speedway and cars. This was one of my favorite tours we've ever been on! It was quick, full of information, plenty of photo ops, and just an all around good time. 

The curves on the track were brutal. I thought the bus might turn over as we slowly went around the curves of the track!

Matt kissed the bricks (I did not....ewww, germs), which is an Indy 500 tradition.

After our amazing race track tour, we checked into our hotel in downtown Indianapolis, then ventured around. If you're planning on going to an event or game at Lucas Oil Stadium, I highly recommend the Westin (or Marriot) in downtown Indy. Those two hotels are attached to a skywalk leading to the convention center which is directly across the street from the stadium. We chose to walk outdoors on the sidewalk because it was a gorgeous night.

I loved the vibe around downtown Indy. We briefly took in the downtown scene last year when we came with the kids, but this time we were able to enjoy it more. It reminds me of a cross between downtown Chicago and Des Moines, which means I really loved it! Hubs and I couldn't stop commenting on how much the minis would love it too.

Much like Chicago, it has one of my favorite pizza places: Giordano's. After an appetizer and side salads, we chose our own individual mini pizzas (he wanted meat, I went with veggies). Wonderfully filling and the perfect size.

The coolest thing I saw around Indy were electric cars you could rent. It's a lot like renting a bike in Chicago or Des Moines, but instead it's a small electric car. I didn't get to try it out (we were more than content with walking everywhere because of driving in the car earlier), but I'm interested in learning more about it.

Then it was concert time!!!! Seeing U2 in concert has been on my bucket list for years. I really wanted to see them at Soldier Field in Chicago back in June, but the concert was four days before we left for our big Montana/Wyoming trip. I couldn't quite convince Hubs to go then, plus the ticket prices were ridiculous. However, while we were on that big trip, I saw U2 announced more concert dates in several cities near us. We chose Indy because 1.) Going to Lucas Oil Stadium has been on Hubs bucket list since it was built. 2.) the date worked perfectly for us and, lastly, 3.) Ticket prices were not terrible at all. 

We chose General Admission tickets so we could get as close to the stage as possible. For arriving only an hour and a half before concert time, we got a pretty good spot! Plus, after Beck opened, people moved around and we wound up at the fifty yard line for the show. It couldn't have been better!

Waiting for the concert to begin was PERFECT for people watching.

Absolutely amazing show!

The concert ended just before midnight. Of course, we were too wound up to head straight to bed. Instead, we had a drink in our room, watched coverage of Hurricane Irma (we really know how to party, right??), and fell asleep by 2 a.m.....with our wake up call before 7 a.m. We were wiped and slightly sore from standing for 6 1/2 hours. We made the 8 hour drive home with plenty of coffee, Red Bull, and a U2 playlist. We had things to do Monday night, so our early wake up call and the power drive home was needed.

It took me a couple of days to recoup from this adventure, but it was completely worth it! We had an amazing, although short, getaway. Even though we've been to Indy (and driven through a few times on road trips), we definitely have plans to go back with the minis.....and we also have plans to see another U2 concert.