Sunday, May 31, 2015

Week In Review: May 26 - May 28

Our 3 day daycare week started rainy, wet, and muddy. Meaning time spent inside, although the kids didn't seem to mind much and enjoyed our Little Lego Day and Play Doh Day. 
Here's a peak at our week:

Monday: a bandaged up and sprained foot. It didn't make getting around too difficult thankfully, but it did give me an excuse to put my feet up while I did activities with the kiddos. Harrison pretended to have a "hurt foot" too by wrapping his blanket around his leg, resting on the couch, and limping to the bathroom. This kid committed to his hurt foot routine for a solid 30 minutes before he found out he wouldn't be able to play outside with it. I didn't get the hurt foot act the rest of the week.

On Tuesday all of the kids that were at daycare were ages 3 or older, so we deemed it a Little Lego Day. The kids mostly put together the little figurines and built a couple of cars. It was a great activity for a rainy day and the building fun lasted all day long.

 Another great rainy day activity: Play Doh. Since it was just that type of day on Wednesday, we had a Play Doh Day. We didn't make our own play dough this time, but got out ALL of the Play Doh toys and accessories we have to make it an all day event. The kids loved it and had a great time! Play Doh seems to be one of those things that never get old. Some of our favorite sets are: the Birthday Cake Tower, the Frozen set, a Despicable Me setfarm animalspicnic set, and of course a few sets of accessories.

Thursday was a mix of Lego building and playing in the backyard (which was still a bit wet and muddy). We practiced making numbers and letters with Duplos. Two of the kids made "a giant water park." I love seeing their creativity and what they come up with to build.

 We got the new Ikea gym mat out and the kids practiced their tumbling...and Ninja fighting.

The big excitement for the week were our cup of caterpillars that will soon be butterflies!
Next week is the start of summer for daycare, when ALL of the kids are back for the summer! We've got a lot of fun things planned: a silly string fight and cookies (to celebrate the start of the summer), a Lemonade Stand Day, Safety Day, and more!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Weekend Planner

Welcome to our weekly post about what's going on in the Des Moines, Iowa area. We'll share what we'll be doing, great finds, restaurants to eat at, shops to drop some cash at, and just all the great things Des Moines has to offer families.
What We're Doing:
  • Yard Work and getting ready for the Birthday Bash--it's just one week away!
  • Fong's in Ankeny. We haven't had a spare moment to try it out, but it seems much more family friendly and has tons more seating than the downtown location.
Other Happenings:
  • Food Truck Throw Down at the Des Moines Social Club. This would be a great Saturday evening/night date!
  • Family story time at Barnes and Noble (Jordan Creek). 11 a.m. Saturday.
  • Looking for something sweet after story time? Head over to Scratch Cupcakery for a taste of their delicious summer flavors.
  • Barnstormers game. 7:05 Saturday.
  • Hiking at Brown's Woods. We went hiking there for the first time last weekend. It was not only a pretty hike, but it was only a 10 minute drive from our house! Great little hiking place.

Parenting Win....or Not

It was a chilly and rainy Saturday morning. A church near our house was having a garage sale and the kids and I went in support. As we were walking through the parking lot, I held the hands of my four and two year old. Our oldest was walking a few steps ahead of me just within arms reach. As we got closer to the doors, Max began to skip ahead. I yelled out a warning “Max stay with me please.”
Sure enough, as I said this, I see a small car sandwiched in between two giant vehicles. The woman driving the car didn't take a look before she turned the car on, threw it into reverse, and hit the gas pedal. My heart rate quickened as I yelled “MAX! MAX STOP!” He stopped. Directly behind the car. I leaped for the vehicle and slapped the back of the car as hard as I could, which caused the driver to slam on the breaks. It took Max a few seconds to realize what was happening and he let out a “oh, oops.” What the hell?? After all of the parking lot safety rules we've gone over, that's what he had to say to me? I wanted to wring his neck right there, but I saved that anger for the driver, who refused to leave her leather lined seat through our entire encounter. This confrontation didn't seem to faze my kids who apparently just expect this level of crazy from me.
When we got home I sent the younger two inside and brought Max to the end of our driveway. The day before someone had run over a squirrel right in front of our house. It was quite a gruesome sight. As my four year old said, “the head popped off and a giant bird carried it away.” Here we stood, just a few feet away from the flattened squirrel. This is perfect, I thought. I'm really going to drive my point home with this sight. From there I talked about how to always watch out for drivers, sometimes they're not paying attention, which is why it's so important for you to watch where you're going. Especially in parking lots. Max didn't say much. I was sure that this was traumatizing him, but in a good way, I convinced myself. I had another chance to really drive my point home when a deer ran out in front of our car later that day. It had an injured leg that swung as it ran by. The kids asked what happened to it and I replied “it must not have been watching where it was going and got hit by a car.” This is great. Great examples of why they needed to be careful. How could they not learn from all of this? I was patting myself on the back, thinking they would now finally understand the dangers.
A few days later, Max brought home a journal entry his teacher requested that I see. It was an entry about our weekend. It read:
On Saturday we went shopping and I got toys. You're not suppose to run in a parking lot. It is bad. Someday when I run out into the street after my ball, I'm going to end up like a dead squirrel. If I'm lucky, I'll just get a broken leg like a deer. It was a great weekend. The end.”
Not exactly the parenting win I was going for.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Best Summer Toys For Your Backyard

As soon as the weather is decent, we find ourselves spending majority of our days outside in the backyard. After a long, cold winter, the kids are always beyond excited to run around the backyard and play with the outside toys. Being a daycare provider, it should be of no surprise that we have a lot of different toys around our yard. Here are some of our favorite toys to play with for all age ranges:

0-18 Months

1.) Large play blanket.  This is great for babies to enjoy the outside, but not be directly on the grass.
2.) Net cover. This is great for keeping bugs away and off of infants, but still allowing them to enjoy the outdoors. This one can be used on strollers or Pack n' Plays in the yard.
3.) Little Tikes Snug n' Secure Swing.  These swings last a long time and hold up well in all kind of weather conditions.
4.) Play house.  The play house is the most favorite outside toys for all ages. As soon as babies can stand on their own, inside the playhouse is where they want to be.
5.) Picnic Table. The kids love having picnic lunches during the spring and summer.
6.) Cozy Coupe. Nothing beats seeing a bitty in a coupe cruisin' the backyard. Plus it's well worth the money when you see your seven year old still fighting to fit into it.
7.) Water table. I was shocked by how much the kids love this table. The kids love to add sea animals (check these out) to the water.
8.) Little Tikes Activity GardenThis is great for babies old enough to sit up on their own and lasts well beyond 18 months.
9.) Little Tikes Slide. It's a great first "big kid" slide.
10.) Baby's First Activity Center. Perfect for crawlers learning to explore.
11.) Small treehouse. Great for the next step up from the First Activity Center and great for little climbers.
12.) Cozy Coupe Tent. Babies/toddlers/kids of all ages LOVE to climb into anything to play. 

18 Months - 3 Years

1.) Cozy Coupe Gas Pump To go along with the Cozy Coupe. By now the little one has gotten into pretend play a bit and wants to do something more than just cruise in the Coupe. Add a gas pump to the mix and you'll be given hours of play time.
2.) Sandbox. It's not the start of summer until the littles have eaten a handful of sand. It's a beginning of nice weather tradition at daycare.
3.) Tee Ball Set. Great, long lasting set that the kids love.
4.) Teeter Totter. This is a perfect one to teach kiddos how to balance and work together.
5.) Sidewalk Chalk. Who are we kidding? Sidewalk chalk is great for all ages 1+! Even I love to color with the kiddos!
6.) Play Mower. The love to "mow" the grass and have mower races against each other!
7.) Wheelbarrow. I love this wheelbarrow from Little Tikes because it can't fit a child inside to be pushed around. This may or may not have been an issue with other toy wheelbarrows.
8.) Trampoline. I bought this for the living room this winter (it was a lifesaver), but the kids have loved it so much that it's now in the backyard for jumping. I'm not a fan of larger trampolines, so this one is just about perfect, especially for the younger kids.
9.) Basketball Hoop. I love that this set is adjustable and can last a lot longer than all of the other kids first basketball hoops out there.
10.) Ride on Toys. Any ride on toys are great, but the kids especially like ones that play music, beep, and have a storage space under the seat for random little toys and twigs.
11.) Climber. The next step up in climbers. At one time we didn't have a climber for the 18 month-3 years crowd, then I scored one for free on Craigslist. Now I see them as a vital part of outside time.
12.) Grill Play Set. My minis love to "grill" right along with dad. Our grill was even a Starbucks one afternoon last summer (according to the kids).
13.) Ball Pit. I was against ball pits for the longest time because I didn't want to deal with kids jumping in on top of other kids or the balls being thrown at one another. Once the kids got the ground rules down, our ball pits have been so much fun! Want something a bit bigger than this ball pit? Grab a small or medium size plastic pool, ball pit ball such as these, and you've got yourself an extra big and fun ball pit! 

Ages 3+

1.) Soccer  and Other Sports Set. I love multi-sports set and giving the kids lessons on how to play each sport.
2.) Golf Set. I highly recommend explaining (and re-explaining) how to nicely swing the golf club and hit the ball. 
3.) Bounce House. I was very hesitant about this toy, but it's a favorite of most of the kids. Complete supervision is required at all times, but a lot less dangerous that I had imagined.
4.) Swing set. I was actually completely against getting this, however it was a great buy and the kids love it!
5.) Bow and Arrow. My six year old loved trying to shoot and aim at the target. Great hand eye coordination activity for older kids.
6.) Slip n' Slide. It may ruin your yard completely. Our rather shaded backyard is still destroyed from last summer's 4 hours of Slip n' Slide fun, but it's so worth it.
7.) Stomp Rocket. Be prepared to climb up on the roof or hop the neighbor's fence, but it's also a great way to teach about gravity....and who doesn't love stomping on something as hard as they can?
8.) Nerf Guns. I definitely recommend paying attention to the manufacturers recommended ages on these, but when used appropriately, can be way fun. Last summer, my oldest and a few neighborhood friends had a game of Nerf Gun Tag going.
9.) Water Guns. These are a lot of fun on a hot summer day. The kids love playing a game of Water Gun Tag in the yard.
10.) Hopper Balls. The kids love to have races across the yard.
11.) Rock Climber. This is massive, but great if you have a kid who likes to climb.
12.) Kick Ball Set. Another great activity to strength hand (or in this case feet) eye coordination in older kids. It's also hilarious to watch them figure out how to kick the ball and then remember to run the bases.
13.) Bean Bag Toss. Kids younger than 3 have thoroughly enjoyed this game too, but kids 3+ years really enjoy challenging each other to games and seeing how far they can toss the bags.
14.) Badminton Set. Yet another good game for hand eye coordination, plus the kids love it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend 2015

 May has been a crazy month for us, so we took advantage of the long weekend to get things done. Like cleaning bedrooms. I can now see the floor of the boy's bedroom, which was an impressive feat. I attempted to have them put their own clothes away, but that just led to more disorganization and confusion. It took a couple of hours, but their room is more put together than it has been in a month! We caught up on laundry, planned activities for summer, scrubbed floors, dusted, did yard work, and ran A LOT of errands. I still didn't get everything done I would have liked, but I feel like my house is somewhat more presentable than it was last week.

Thankfully we didn't spend the entire weekend cleaning and choring away. Hubs and I took advantage of the rainy nights to get caught up on movies, we went on a calming 3 mile hike Saturday evening, Hubs and Max finally got to go see "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (I'm jealous I didn't make it to the movie too but at least I got to stay home and take a nap with the two youngest minis), and we ended the weekend with a fabulous family photo shoot.

This photo was actually Max trying to take a picture of his toys he set up, but I laughed when I saw it. This picture captures my weekend: notice the pile of clean laundry I was in the mist of putting away, me working away on blogs, the bag of chips I didn't realize the minis had dragged out, and addresses on the table for the Birthday Bash invites I was filling out. This is me multi-tasking, trying to get as much done as I possibly can. When I first saw the picture I commented on me biting my lip. Max informed me "mom, you always do that when you're thinking hard." I never realized I did that!

 A quick dance party/"guitar" playing in the living room. It helps cleaning go smoother.

 Saturday evening we took a hike at Brown's Woods. It was our first time hiking there, so we were a bit unfamiliar with the trails and where they led. The woods were very pretty, despite all of the mosquitos around. A big bonus to hiking at Brown's Woods: it was barely a ten minute drive from our house!

 Errand running went as smoothly as possible with three minis in tow. The craziest venture was Costco at 4:35 Sunday afternoon. You could barely walk through the store! I couldn't get out of there fast enough.

 Our caterpillars for the Butterfly Garden came in the mail! We set them up and will spend the next few weeks watching them change during daycare. 

 I finally found a Diet Coke with my name...sort of. I crossed out the Y and replaced it with an N. Good enough.

Monday we spent doing some much needed yard work in preparation for the big Birthday Bash in less than 2 weeks now! Even though I got a lot done, I still don't feel as accomplished as I'd like. We still have a lot to get done before the party. My fingers are crossed that the rain stays away next weekend so we can get everything done.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Week In Review: May 18 - May 22

Yet another short week here at daycare thanks to school functions for the boys. We spent a lot of time outdoors, singing songs, reading books, and talking about summer. We also began talking a great deal about summer and the extra daycare kids around. I've found talking a lot about changes really helps the kids transitions and makes things much easier. We also spoke about all of the activities we'll be doing this summer and got some new ideas from the kids.
Here's a brief look at our week:

 I had the kids get creative with foam face shapes and foam stickers. First we spoke about how shapes can be used to make things. Then I had them use the foam shapes to create a face. Several of the kids did some really cool faces and a few of the kids were still too young to understand what they were doing....but they still had a great time putting the stickers on the faces!

 Our summer stuff has began arriving from Amazon! This year we're trying out the butterfly garden and possibly the Lady Bug Land again (as requested by the kids).

 Tuesday evening we had Max's Art Festival at school. We got to see all of the projects they've worked on all year (this year was a lot of pottery) and the coolest thing of all: the second floor of the school is always created into something. Last year was a jungle and this year was the Northwest Territory.

 The kids (and myself) colored butterfly masks and began talking about the stages of becoming a butterfly. We read one of the kids favorite books: The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

 Max helped the kids with some puzzles one afternoon after school.

 Thursday we had Harrison's preschool graduation (and a lot more going on!). Read more on that here.

 Friday we had a Gardening Morning. The kids planted my flowers for me, decorated the pots with (Sharpie) markers, and got to paint on the sidewalk.

 The kids loved their veggie tray with their grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch! They were very reluctant to try the green mix, but found they loved the fresh green beans when they did try it.

We ended our week by playing in the backyard and eating popsicles. Great way to end the week!
Next week is another short, 3 day week at daycare. We'll be having a Little Lego Day (the kids will get to build with the smaller Legos instead of the duplos), a Play Dough Day, and a "free" day where we'll be doing  just a little bit of everything.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Very Busy Thursday

May has been an insanely busy month for us with end of the year school functions, meetings, and family have over taken our lives the past three weeks. Which means I haven't worked a full week at all in May. Sounds awesome that I've gotten so much time off, right??? days off have been spent go, go, and going. Last Thursday was no exception.

The most important part of our day: Big H graduated four year old preschool. They did a program, called each child up to the stage to receive their certificate, and ended the year with an ice cream party at Snookies. It was such a fun morning and I am so proud of how much he has grown this school year. Harrison was lucky to have amazing teachers who really worked with him. 

 How cute is that cap and gown??!!?

 Enjoying one last play time with school friends.

 We took Harrison and Elizabeth out for lunch to H's favorite restaurant: El Rodeo.

 Matt and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to pose in these cut outs.

 We had just enough time to finish lunch and then head to Max's school for his Olympics (Field Day). We had a great two hours watching the activities and chatting with other parents.

 After field day, we made our way to the Valley Junction Farmer's Market for delicious local food, fruits, and veggies. While we shopped we listened to local artists play music. It was the perfect night to go to the farmer's market. The best part: it wasn't crowded at all!

 Dancing with daddy.

 West Des Moines Public Works was at the farmer's market and had tons of free activities for the kids. Of course the minis favorite thing was climbing in and out of the "big work trucks" (according to Elizabeth).

I had just enough time to leave the farmer's market and make it to the last PTA meeting at Max's school. By the time we got home we were all beyond exhausted, but the day will be etched in our memories forever. I'm thankful for only one more crazy week left before summer vacation begins for the oldest mini....then it will be time for the summer craziness!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Notes From A Daycare Provider: Summer Vacation

Summer vacation is crazy busy around here. During the summer all of the school age kids come back to daycare. This gets interesting. I've got kids of all ages, sizes, and at different developmental stages. Remember last summer? I wrote a book on appropriate social behaviors with each other after an incredibly challenging morning with the kids that resulted in a daycare wide time out. Things get crazy. Like off the wall, exhausting, non-stop crazy.

Even through all of the craziness, summer is by far my most favorite time of the year with the kids.
Summers around here are referred to as: Summers of Fun. We do theme days, spend an insane amount of time outdoors, run through sprinklers, play in the mud, have picnics, and attempt to make the summer days unforgettable.  Sometimes it's tough to find activities that kids of all ages can participate in, but last summer we really found our knack with the themed days (check out Ice Cream Parlor and Bubble Day for examples). Not only did these keep all ages of kids entertained and learning, but it really enhanced all of the children's language skills, learning to share, listening, and the older children's leadership skills. If there was something they got bored with, I had the older kids lead (under my supervision of course) an activity or game.
So, why do I put myself in this exhausting position each summer? Because it's FUN and unbelievably rewarding. These extra kids that come back each summer are kids that I've watched grow up. I've changed their diapers, fretted about their skinned knees, potty trained them, helped them learn their colors, given them hugs and cuddles, and rejoiced in their accomplishments. I love having them as my Big Helpers during the days and I love being able to continue to watch them grow up. I love seeing the kid's relationships and bonds strengthen with each other as time goes on. I love seeing the excitement on the children's faces as I announce the day's theme or activity. I love seeing the older kids helping the younger kids with activities and I love seeing the younger kids look up to the older kids.
This summer I'm lucky enough to have found a helper for those crazy busy days. This should take away a lot of the craziness and pressure I feel on those extremely busy days when shit hits the fan (I'm speaking figuratively, not literally. Although I really hope I didn't just jinx myself). I'm very grateful for an extra set of eyes in, what I call our backyard, the danger zone. Where jump ropes are weapons, a swinging plastic golf club can knock someone out, swings can send a kid flying through the air, and the sand is a snack.
Welcome to our summer life. It is grand. Really it is. Maybe I'll let you borrow my rose colored glasses so you can see the magic I see during the summer. How will you be keeping your kiddos entertained this summer?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Weekend Planner