Tuesday, May 31, 2016

50 States in 50 Years

When I turned 30, I got serious about my life goals. Not necessarily serious goals such as financial or retirement, but fun goals, some simple, some not. One of my big goals was more road trips. We've accomplished this the last couple of years with numerous road trips: day trips around Iowa, fun weekend getaways, vacations, etc. This summer we're planning a big road trip to Smoky Mountain National Park. Along the way we'll be making stops in Memphis, North Carolina, and Kentucky. I decided now was as good of a time as any to create a new goal: visit all 50 states by the time I'm 50. 

The goal is supported by my 3 minis, who also adore road trips and visiting new places. I've got quite a bit of "work" to do, but with our summer road trip, I'll be able to cross 3 more states off of my list. The places I've visited include places I've spent a fair amount of time in site seeing. These do not include places I've driven through or airport layovers (or I'd have added several more to the list). We'll see where future adventures take us, but I've got my list, a minivan ready to be loaded up (admittedly with more things than we really need), and 13 years to accomplish my goal.

Places I've been to:
North Dakota
South Dakota

Still on my list:
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
Rhode Island
South Carolina
West Virginia

If you've got any must see and do things in the states I have yet to visit, please do share! 

Our official Road Trip t-shirts that we wear every vacation. Yes, I am THAT person.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Mom Fashions

Mom life isn't exactly fashionable. In a world where spit up is a perfume, anything white is guaranteed to have smudges the moment you put it on, necklaces are teething toys, sports bras hold up the mom boobs, and anything other than yoga pants is considered dressing up.

So, what's "in" for moms right now? Take a look:

The perfectly put together look. Dress, jewelry, high heels. What you don't see: it took nearly three hours to achieve this look thans to kids demanding oatmeal mid-shower, snot winding up on my first outfit requiring a last minute change, my necklace getting tangled in my hair as I ran after a child. Oh, and speaking of the hair. It needs cut and colored badly....but who has time for that???

The ready for a workout or a nap at anytime. Also known as The Daily. It's the go-to outfit of choice as it provides comfort, flexibility and can be acceptably worn to the grocery store when shit hits the fan about forgetting bananas. Yoga pants, sweat shirt, t-shirt, or tank tops, running shoes. All essentials for my day to day.

The "spa day." Really it was an activity to keep the kids busy and quiet. Now I have beautifully painted....feet and I'm ready for flip flop weather (and gaping eyes at the store).

The jammies look. More than likely lacking in sleep, sanity, and caffeine, pj's are sometimes the way to go.

The keep the kids happy outfit. "Your shirt looks like a cape!" This outfit comes in handy when I want to be "cool mom" because I look like a superhero. All moms have super powers so this is by far the most "mom outfit" to wear.

The can't quite finish the look. Those times when I've managed to get myself half ready, the kids ready, but part of me is still a mess. Glasses and wet hair are acceptable, right???

* All good photos were taken by Lauren Campbell Photography. No, that is not how I look in my pajamas and I rarely wear make up in my day to day life, but when a photographer offers to take the pics, you do it!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Week In Review: May 23 - May 27

It's been quite a while since I've written a Week In Review post. I stopped writing them for a couple of reasons: 1.) I had quite a few little littles throughout the school year and we just didn't do quite as much and 2.) This post can get incredibly time consuming as I re-account our week. However, with summer starting next week and quite a few big littles returning, it seems like a perfect time to bring back WIR because there's just too much fun stuff NOT to share! So, I'll begin by catching everyone up to what we've been up to and what we did this week.

This week was what I call a transition week. This was a week we said goodbye to one child and began a slightly different schedule for a few of the kiddos. We've been talking quite a bit for the last few weeks about the school kids coming back, how some kids won't be here, etc. I kept this week laid back and calm for both my sake and theirs (that really came in handy when they all developed colds and no one was on top of their game).

We've been trying to find activities that all of the kids can do (ages 1-4). We've been playing a lot with animals, stuffed animals, figurines, building Lego animals, etc. Last week we even went on a Bear Hunt. The kids immensely enjoy playing with the stuffed animals and setting up a zoo, then they "go to the zoo" with their play binoculars and a packed picnic of play food. Just by watching the "big kids" (and by big kids, I mean the 2-4 year olds), all of the younger kids have picked up animal names, sounds, and even what they eat. I'm constantly amazed and just how much kids can learn from each other (this can be both good and bad!).

We've also been reading quite a bit. We've been reading We're Going On A Bear Hunt, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, The Lady With The Alligator Purse, Knuffle Bunny, and the Pinkalicious book series, pretty much every day, sometimes multiple times a day. Often times, the kids go in waves of what they play with. After a few months of being ignored much of the time, the books are now the "it" thing to do. The kids enjoy looking at books themselves and attempting to "read" the books to each other. I love hearing how they interpret books!

Singing the ABC's also happens multiple times a day as does shape identifying with the Magformers.

Here's some highlights from our week:

The little girl on the right, walking to center stage? She's mine and played an Indian girl in her class interpretation of What A Wonderful World. It was the sweetest program I've been too yet! I took the a day off this week to attend the program, her end of the year party, and then the boy's Art Festival at school. It was a busy day! By the end I was exhausted but incredibly proud.

 Three year old preschool completed and now she says she's all ready for four year old preschool!

She even got an ice cream party after her program!

Both boys were awarded for their art work. I wish I had a video of Harrison's face when the art teacher called his name; it was a look of shock and pride mixed together!

We've been ordering a lot from Amazon lately to stock up supplies for summer. One of my add on purchases were Spider Balls. I was intrigued. Turns out they were just melt away water beads. The kids enjoyed watching the green fade away, but then it took another 4 hours for the beads to expand. I was kind of irritated they weren't marketed as water beads, shoved them on top of the book shelf, and forgot about them. Until Friday. When I noticed they were still in the water (and fully expanded by that point) and added them to our slime. They didn't stay in the slime very well, but the kids still enjoyed playing with the two together.

The kids tried chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips Astronaut food. Only two kids liked it, the rest told me "yucky."

The caterpillars arrived this week! The kids are on edge waiting for the caterpillars to make their way to the top so they can become butterflies. I'm hoping that we won't be having any life and death discussions this time around when we release the butterflies....

We celebrated last days and the start of summer with chocolate chocolate chip cupcakes.

We took The Kidsperts weekly business meeting to our favorite Mexican restaurant for margaritas and queso dip. It was a very successful meeting.

I love how the kids all play together. From baby to big kid, they all do a very good job of playing together. The Waffle Blocks are one of my favorite toys for them to all play with because they're safe for everyone (and require some hand eye coordination work for the toddlers/preschoolers).

I'm really looking forward to summer to see what dynamic the older kids bring to daycare. Often times the little kids learn far more than I would imagine (again, both good and bad) and the older kids are old enough that they actually help with the little ones.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Weekend Planner

Memorial Day weekend 2014

What We're Doing:
  • We can't decide! There's talk of a quick road trip somewhere or just staying home and not doing much. Both options sound nice so we'll see what happens.
Other Happenings:

  • Check out your local pool
  • Invite friends and/or family over for a backyard BBQ. Break out a bounce house (if you have one) or get the kids a Bug Catching set to help them catch fireflies after dark.
  • Make s'mores or root beer floats
  • Check out drive in movie theaters in your area and give your children a fun experience from the past. Don't have one near you? Create your own in your backyard! We've done it once at daycare and the kids loved it (read more here)! Bring a TV outside, set up chairs, blankets, pillows, etc. Make snacks (or order a pizza) to bring to your personal drive in.

Happenings in Des Moines, Iowa:

  • All of the local pools open this weekend, as does Adventure Bay at Adventureland. Check out our Tour of Wading Pools for some great (and completely free!) options
  • Head to a movie at Flix Brewhouse for a movie on this rainy weekend that's predicted
  • CelebrAsian Festival
  • Historic Baseball Game at Living History Farms
  • High Trestle Trail Sunday Fundy Ride. If riding a bike isn't your thing, hop, skip, jump, walk, or jog the High Trestle Trail bridge (Madrid, Ia) for some awesome views!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

11 Tips For A Stress Free Summer With Your Kids

The school year is a crazy time of year. At first parents are happy for the day to day break from their kids, then comes the insanity of trying to get the kids up, ready, and to school on time, then the amount of school functions a parent must attend becomes unbearable. It's about all parents can do to pull it together until summer vacation. The first few days of summer vacay are bliss. Then the reality of having your kids day in and day out hits you. You realize the enormity of the situation you are in. I won't lie, it can get rough. But it can also be tons of fun. Here's 11 tips that can help you have a smooth sailing summer with your kiddos:

1.) Remember sunscreen. I won't lecture you about the risks of skin cancer and such. Instead I'll leave you with: do you really want to have to deal with a child who is sunburned? Not me, that's for sure! Sunscreen comes in spray bottles, sticks, lotions, and more. I've fallen in love with Neutrogena Baby. Not only is it safe to use on the most delicate of skin (6+ months) but I love it for me too.

2.) Schedule school/sports/yearly physicals NOW. Those appointments fill up fast! Don't wait until August to think about the school or sports physical your child absolutely needs. You'll be out of luck. Book now and your doctor's office will thank you.

3.) Spend time outdoors and indoors. Yes, summer is a gorgeous time of year, but indoor time is just as important. Be sure to create your downtime in your fun summer days. Kids of all ages can and will get rundown and overly tired and no one wants to deal with an overly tired child! [I'm going to remind myself of this one frequently]

4.) Keep on a schedule. Keeping on the same "school schedule" is no fun at all, but keeping to a summer schedule or routine can be easier when the new school year rolls around. Even if bedtime is later and wake up time is later or a nap is added in to make up for lost sleep, keeping to the same-ish routine daily helps both kids and parents.

5.) Keep a First Aid kit and Band Aids easily accessible. Band Aids have magical powers. Plus, the First Aid kit comes in handy during the many summer time wipe outs on the cement or off the playground or the baseball to the arm. Also, keep an ice pack or two ready to go in the freezer.

6.) Have kids do school work/reading time/etc. daily. Even just 10 minutes a day can keep the kids fresh for fall. Our favorite work books have kids complete one or two pages a day (they take all of 5 - 10 minutes to complete) or you can make up your own math/word problems. We also love science kits and doing our own experiments. The older kids are past the point of naps, but we do 20-30 minutes of reading time every afternoon. This gets the kids to relax and take a break from running around and it keeps them on top of their reading. Win, win for all involved.

7.) Keep hydrated. This should go without saying, but make sure kids have access to water at all times in hot weather. On really hot days, we add in all you an eat watermelon, Gatorade and/or Pedialyte for the younger crowd. Avoid anything with sugar (juices, sodas, lemonades) as can dehydrate a child easily.

8.) Beware of over heating and/or heat rash. Having dealt with this with my oldest child, it's a very real and scary thing that can happen and should not be taken lightly. Obviously, with a heat rash, a child breaks out in a rash (usually red dots, but it can take on a variety of looks depending on the child). This can be the first sign of over heating. Immediately have a child remove any heavy clothing or remove all clothing (other than diaper/underwear). Get out of the heat and in air conditioning, in front of a fan, in a cool bath. Anything to bring the body temperature down. Signs of over heating include (but not limited to):
  • red face/body
  • excessive sweating or no sweat at all
  • acting lethargic
  • vomiting
  • headache
Call your pediatrician immediately if your child displays any of these symptoms. Heat stroke can happen at any age.

9.) Instead of popsicles, make fruit pops. Again, the sugar + heat can lead to dehydration. The kids and I love mixing up smoothies in the morning, putting them into popsicle molds, and enjoying them in the heat to the afternoon. Great way to cool off and help with hydration.

10.) Don't over schedule yourself or the kids. This is a tough one for me. There's so much FUN happening in the summer, no school to worry about getting to on time, and gorgeous weather that it's hard not to try to do anything and everything. Kids of all ages can become overly tired. Keep that in mind, stick to #4, and leave down time daily so the beginning of the school year doesn't feel like a vacation.

11.) Have goals for the summer. Before summer begins, make a list of goals/things you want to do for the summer. Our goals for the summer range from reading the first 3 books in the Harry Potter series (my oldest) to going to our favorite swimming pool at least twice to vacations we want to take to places we want to hike. This ensures we're never bored and keeping our lifestyle active.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Mom and Minis Weekend

It was the minis and myself most of the weekend. Hubs had quite a few plans and things to get done this weekend, so the minis and I kept ourselves busy enjoying numerous activities around Des Moines. First of all, the weather was absolutely perfect. It's either been raining or too cold lately to enjoy the outdoors, but this weekend we got warm/hot days and cool nights. Everything was pretty much perfect all the way around.

Friday night the minis and I went to Members Night at our local zoo (Blank Park Zoo). We got to be some of the first people to engage in an all new interactive Curious George exhibit. While the minis and I played, Hubs picked up the rest of our furniture order. We finally have a completed living room with all new pieces. It's been much needed and much deserved!

The Curious George exhibit was very neat! We didn't spend a lot of time going through it but we're looking forward to exploring it throughout the summer on our numerous zoo visits.

One of our favorite parts about Members Night was that there were quite a few zoo keepers and workers on hand, spewing out facts about the animals. We learned that the flamingos were trying to mate, which means we saw the males spread their wings, make interesting calls, and march around their pond. It was actually pretty neat to see.

Max had fun mimicking the flamingos marching.

The minis got a late night dinner/treat from McDonald's on our way home.

On Saturday we took in the sights and sounds of the downtown farmer's market for the first time this year. It was incredibly crowded, and a bit nerve wrecking with the three minis in tow, but we still managed to grab our favorite grilled cheeses (yes, for breakfast), mini donuts, coffees, and walk around downtown.

If you're in or around Des Moines, Iowa, the downtown Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings is a MUST! All of the fresh fruits, veggies, herbs, spices, local businesses, farms, foods, and more all packed on Court Avenue with a few thousand people. This week the minis and I enjoyed grilled cheese sandwiches from one of our favorite vendors, Say Cheese, for breakfast. Then we walked around, met Lauren for pictures by the river, we walked the Riverwalk a bit, and then happily got out of the craziness of downtown. I've never been happier to see the suburbs than I was after spending a few hours in a crowd of people. We made a quick stop at the grocery store, then home for lunch, and naps (one of my favorite parts of the weekend).

We stopped by Cowles Commons for some piano playing and running around before we went home.

After naps on Saturday (because yes, I was in desperate need of a nap), we went to Union Park for our yearly spring ride on the carousel and playing on the rocket playground. The kids said the only thing that would have made it better was if the splash pad was open too.

It's not a party til somebody's crying. In this case it was Elizabeth....because we made her try a new food.

Crying because he apparently didn't want to ride on the carousel...even though it was his idea to ride it.

The night was gorgeous as we enjoyed a late night root beer float on our patio and catching lightening bugs in the yard (the first year the minis were terrified of them!).

They're catching lightening bug gear.

Sunday was our Family Fun Day. We slept until 8 a.m., had brunch at Americana, took a walk around the Sculpture Park, had family pictures taken, went for coffee at our favorite local coffee shop, ran through the sprinkler, and grilled the minis favorite steaks for dinner.

This was our first time enjoying Americana's impressive brunch buffet. I have wanted to try it for years, but was reluctant to take the minis because I wasn't sure how kid friendly it was. Hubs and I decided to bite the bullet and try it out. It's typically a bit more than we like to pay for brunch ($20-$30 for adults, $9 for kids), but it was so incredibly worth it! There was something for everyone and the kids definitely ate their share of food. We will for sure be going back to Americana for future brunches.

Elizabeth packed some food for her doll in her purse and made sure the doll ate while we did.

Max ate more than Hubs and I combined. He wanted to try a bit of everything: breakfast, salads, fruits, taco bar, grilled cheese station, and of course, dessert. My stomach hurt for him!

A walk around the Sculpture Park was in order after our big brunch. Elizabeth cradled her baby as we walked and pretended the baby was crying because "the sun is in her eyes."

After our picture sessions (with the one and only Lauren Campbell Photography, also known as the other half of Kidsperts), we enjoyed coffee at Grounds For Celebration.

Our run through the sprinkler and milk and Root Beer in beer glasses (I stupidly told the minis to "choose your glass" rather than choose your cup...oops!).

It's tough to beat a weekend like this one!