Thursday, June 30, 2016

Weekend Planner

What We're Doing:
  • ROAD TRIP!!! It's finally vacation time! All of those months of planning and talking are happening! Be sure to follow along on Instagram, Twitter, and/or Facebook. I'm not sure how often the blog will be updated while we're gone, but I'll be sure to share our experiences and my thoughts on social media.
Other Things To Do:
  • 4th of July weekend! Have a cook out with friends, go to a beach, watch fireworks, play with sparklers. Kids of all ages love this weekend
  • Go camping over the long weekend
  • Have a water balloon fight
  • See National Parks Adventure. We absolutely loved this documentary (the kids included). Check to see if it's playing near you.
  • Create a scavenger hunt for the kids. Make it outdoorsy or easy objects found in the city or simple things the kids can find in your backyard. Any way you do it, kids have a blast with this.
Happenings Around Central Iowa:
  • Ashworth/Greenwood Park spray pad. We tried it out last weekend and the kids gave it two thumbs up. Here's a video the middle mini took of him playing in the water
  • Family Summer Camp at Bass Pro Shop (Altoona, Iowa)
  • Fireworks at the Fairgrounds (Saturday)
  • Urbandale 4th of July carnival
  • All Iowa Bash (Valley Junction, Sunday July 3)
  • Live At The Creek concert series (Jordan Creek Amphitheater, Sunday July 3)
  • Music Under the Stars (West Capitol Grounds)

20 Must Haves For Summer

I love summer. It is by far my favorite season, plus we manage to have tons of fun and keep extra busy during the summer months! Here are 20 things that I can't live without this summer:

1.) Keens. The whole family got new Keens this summer in preparation for our waterfall hiking on summer vacation. I love these shoes: comfortable, supportive, and waterproof.

2.) Watermelon. You can never go wrong with watermelon in the summer. Not only does it help keep you hydrated in the hot afternoons, but it tastes delcious!

3.) Sunscreen and bug spray. These are a must for our long days playing outdoors.

4.) Beach towel. We love our oversize beach towels.

5.) Summer reads. My summer reads include Room, My Brilliant Friend (all four in the series), and travel books. The kids are keeping busy with National Park books, Goosebumps books, and the Harry Potter series.

6.) Slip n' slides. These are a true sign of summer fun!

7.) Old Navy flip flops. I've never stopped buying ON flip flops even though they kill my feet. They're still my fave footwear in the summer.

8.) Griller basket. We love our griller basket for grilling all of our summer veggies.

9.) Squirt guns. Nothing beats a fun squirt gun battle with your friends on a hot summer afternoon.

10.) Yellow nail polish. This just screams summer to me.

11.) Iced tea (unsweetened). The ultimate summer drink. Sun tea is the best, even my kids enjoy a few sips.

12.) Moonshine. In case you haven't figured it out from previous posts, I'm fairly excited for our upcoming vacation. One of our stops will be a Moonshine distillery. I've got high hopes for this place!

13.) Hiking shorts. I found these hiking shorts at and fell in love with them. I bought multiple pairs of all of our hiking adventures.

14.) Hair ties. My hair does not do well with the summer humidity. A messy, curly/frizzy bun is all there is in the summer.

15.) Ice packs. There's a lot of summer "owies" here. Ice packs and Band Aids heal all.

16.) Justin Timberlake's Can't Stop The Feeling. It's the perfect summer song.

17.) Maxi dresses. Long, flowy, and lightweight makes these the perfect summer dresses.

18.) Fishing poles. At the beginning of the summer, we spent a day fishing (during free fishing weekend). The oldest mini loved it and has inspired us to get a fishing license, which means all new fishing poles.

19.) Iced coffee. My favorite summer drink without the calories and sugars of the frappucino (also a favorite).

20.) Sparklers. I look at the 4th of July as a mind summer pick me up. Sparklers are a true sign of the middle of summer celebration.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Max's Birthday Weekend

The great thing about this past weekend was I got three days in a row off plus lots of family time. The only negative was it was a go, go, go type of weekend that started off rough. I took last Friday off to spend with family and get ready for the big party on Saturday (my grandpa's 80th birthday party). Instead we wound up celebrating the oldest mini's birthday once I realized we hardly had any other time to do it throughout the rest of the weekend (big mom oops there). We spent a few hours at the Blank Park Zoo on Friday. Unfortunately, most of the day was not so fun because of whiny and grouchy kids who suddenly forgot how to follow directions. I was not a very happy mama by the middle of the afternoon.

Before going to the zoo, the minis played "going on vacation." They made their own minivan with little chairs and stools.

Max is obsessed with maps and reading them. 

The bird that followed me around.

It wound up being a really hot day. We had to pause for drinks.

After a VERY long and challenging day, I informed the boys I had had it with their bickering and behavior. I made them "talk their issues through" before bed so the rest of the weekend wasn't so rough. This picture was probably my favorite moment of the weekend. The boys suddenly got shy and timid with each other. I totally hid behind our other couch so I could snap this photo.

Saturday was our crazy day. Max chose brunch at Americana for his birthday meal...but they only do brunch on the weekends. We also had my grandpa's party to get to at noon. So Saturday morning started early with a walk downtown to the Des Moines Art Festival (my favorite festival in Des Moines). The festival didn't open until 11 a.m. so some of the vendors weren't open, but quite a few of them had opened up their tents and had already started to sell their pieces because they didn't want to mess with opening in the heat. Score for us because we basically got to enjoy the art in no crowd. Then we had the best brunch town and walked around the Festival again. 

The taco bar and mashed potato bar are favorites for these two.

The waitress heard it was Max's birthday and surprised him with a personal birthday cake with little toys all over it (completely free of charge!). This was already Max's favorite brunch place, but this just sealed the deal for him even more.

After brunch and a quick walk through the Sculpture Park, we raced to my grandpa's birthday party. It was great to see all of my cousins who I hardly see, but we all got to dance with our grandparents. It was a sweet afternoon spent with family. We spent the rest of the afternoon/evening with them and fit in good drinks, leftover food from the party, and a game of Cards Against Humanity (shoved into my grandparent's smallest bedroom in their house).

I could not love these two more.

Harrison dancing with Great Grandma. I loved watching this....and even more so when he asked her to dance again as we were cleaning up from the party.

Sunday morning started off a bit more laid back than Saturday. We had time to sleep until 8 a.m., eat breakfast, go to Starbucks for our caffeine kick, and then go to my grandparent's house for family pictures. Lauren (also known as the other half of The Kidsperts) did a fantastic job getting the photos done!

Lunch with Grandma Ann after pictures.

Sunday late afternoon we snuck away to pick up the house, prep for the daycare week, and take the kids to the newest spray park in Des Moines (see the video here). It was a fantastic weekend with family! Now we're just days away from our big summer vacation getaway!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

To My Oldest On Your 8th Birthday

Dear Max,

Today you turned eight. Eight years since you made me a mom and eight years of trial and error (I'll just apologize now and thank you for being the family guinea pig for our parenting). You make parenting fairly easy though. You exceed in school and all activities, have a clear sense of right and wrong, lead without knowing, show love and kindness to all, and have no problem just being you.

You love trying new things, going new places, and any sort of thrills and adventure. For your birthday, you wanted to ride the new (and please know that years from now, when you re-read this, it will no longer be new) Monster roller coaster at Adventureland. I know adults not brave enough to give that a whirl (me included in that). You're willing to try anything once, as long as it's your idea. If it's anyone else's you won't go for it.

2nd grade was a great school year for you. We received excellent reports from all of your teachers, you accept anyone and try to involve everyone, but you have your best friends who you're with constantly. You love to read non-fiction books, anything that teaches you about places, people, and history. You have shown great responsibility this school year. At the beginning of the school year, I gave you the task of safely walking you and your brother to and from school. You have taken the "job" seriously and even made a few new friends in the neighborhood. This has given you a ton of confidence and instant maturity.

You love Lego's, building and creating things, reading, writing short stories, music, dancing, Nerf guns, new clothes, Goosebumps, and dinosaurs. You love your new big bed (double) when we upgraded to bunk beds for you and your brother.

You've taken on a lot of responsibility in the last few months as you successfully help out with household chores. Thank you buddy for being such a great big brother and an amazing example for all of the younger kids around. You show nothing but love and kindness to all of the babies that have made their way into our house (daycare). You've been known to walk in the door from school, pick up the closest baby with outstretched arms and snuggle them on the couch. 

I love you so much! Thank you for being you! You make me so proud to be your mom. 



Monday, June 27, 2016

Week In Review: June 20 - June 23

It was a short week for daycare, due to a scheduled day off for me. Although it was a short week, it was jammed packed with building, games, activities, coloring, and a couple of theme days. Here is a brief look at the week, as I'm having difficulty keeping up with the pictures every time the kids create something new!

We broke out the Crystal Climbers for the first time since Christmas. The older kids have been getting pretty creative with their buildings (mostly space ships and rockets), while the younger kids pretend they are "food" for their dolls.

One of the daycare moms told me about the pie fights she had at her daycare when she was younger. This instantly peaked my interest and we held our first pie fight in the backyard. Kids two and older enjoyed throwing the pies (pie tins and Cool Whip, plus whatever Whipped Cream I had leftover in the refrigerator from playing Pie Face) while the kids younger than two picked up stray pie tins and licked them clean. All of the kids LOVED this activity!

This was my favorite part of the week, although you can barely see it as I sneaked the picture taking through the screen. The kids wanted a picnic lunch, so my daycare helper and I obliged. We were inside getting seconds and more water for the kids when we looked outside to see a few of the kids standing up and dancing while the other kids clapped their hands and chanted. We have no idea what we were doing, but when they saw us looking out the window they instantly stopped. I love little, innocent, and funny moments like this. This group of kiddos have known each other for so long now that they are incredibly close to one another. This is both amazing and a little frustrating (they treat each other like brothers and sisters. If you've ever had a sibling, you know why this is both good and bad).

The sprinkler in the front yard (because we've already managed to destroy the backyard). The big kids mastered jumping over the sprinkler ball without falling!

We celebrated the middle mini's birthday. Read more about his day here. I am loving all of the birthday cards the minis are making for each other this year.

Slime Day was a hit with everyone. Read more about our VERY interactive theme day here.

The big landscaping/outdoor project started and the kids had a blast watching all of the machinery coming in and out of the property! We had a truck drop off new rock, a skid loader destroying the terrace, and tons of workers digging, knocking down, and scraping....and the kids had a front row seat to it all! I'm so thankful we had some excellent workers here who took the time to tell the kids everything that they were doing and showed them their tools and equipment. 

Since we had minimal use of the yard, the kids spent an afternoon playing with the new Kinetic Foam Harrison got for his birthday. It is some pretty neat stuff and not at all messy. Definitely try it out for a hot summer afternoon (when mom just needs a break) or for a rainy day. I bought more of this stuff to have on hand for our just in case days.

There were a few fights this week. The oldest got upset about a Lego (??? Ok, so I'm still not sure), but I was able to diffuse each situation fairly easily. 

We ended our week with a Pasta Play Day in the kitchen. The kids consumed A LOT of pasta, ate spaghetti and meatballs for lunch, played restaurant (they took turned playing chef and ordering the food), and even sold each other bowls of pasta (for $20 a piece).

The craft of the week (spaghetti plates using a paper plate, cream colored yarn, brown construction paper cut into small circles, and glue) was not well received. I only convinced two kids to make a plate. The kids didn't want to because "we can't actually eat it." So next time we'll just skip the craft on this day!

Summer has been nothing less than extremely busy. I love that the older kids still enjoy all of the activities and even enjoy putting a new spin on things and showing the younger ones how to play. With the backyard out of commission for the next week (and the week after that is our vacation), we'll be doing some of our favorite things indoors: playing dress up with the dress up clothes, playing board games and the Find It game, painting, and more.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Slime Day

When we did our Edible Slime activity at the beginning of May, all of the kids requested a Slime Day for summer. Last week, we did our Slime theme day.

We started our morning mixing slime into the containers and then playing with them indoors (in the kitchen). It's always recommended to play with slime on tile or linoleum flooring for easy clean up (our basic slime recipe uses glue and will easily stick to carpet).

The highlight of the day was our slime pool. Using the edible slime recipe, I used an entire container of Metamucil to mix numerous colors of slime. Like last time, I mostly used Kool Aid packets to color the slime. Kool Aid powder gives the slime a very bright color, plus it smells pretty darn good too.

The kids slide through the slime pool, had a slime fight, and had a blast taste testing and playing catch with it. I was VERY happy to have this activity be outdoors because it saved a lot of clean up time! Also, the kids rinsed off easily in the little pool, except for their hair. That required a bit more scrubbing out (and a few kids left with slime still in their hair!).

The slime fight is for sure on our To Do List for next summer!