Friday, July 29, 2016

The Problems Of Taking A Couples Trip

   How my house looks while packing.... disaster alert!

Hubs and I are getting away for a weekend to go to a friend's wedding in Chicago. Kids weren't invited so Hubs and I will be going alone while my parents are taking the kids for the weekend. I'm excited. I plan on sleeping in Saturday morning, taking a shower that isn't rushed, and doing things the kiddos may find boring. However, before I can get to my sleeping in we have to prepare and pack for the little getaway.

Packing for a getaway is tough anyway: making sure everyone has plenty of clothes, clean underwear, that special blankie or lovey, packing up the car in just the right way. However it becomes twice the work when we're headed to different places.

Not only do I have to pack up the kids and pack them separately, I have to pack up Hubs and I. Then I have to make sure they have everything for their weekend. How will the weather be in both locations? What activities will the kids be doing and what will we be doing? What shoes need packed? There's medical releases, emergency numbers and contacts to get together, making sure there's toiletries for everyone. There's not just one to-pack-list, but two. It can get a little exhausting.

This isn't the first time we've left the kids for a getaway (remember Vegas last fall, read about that kidless adventure here, here, and here). We've gotten pretty good at packing for all of us to be in separate locations, life is just a stressful jumble until everyone is packed and in their place. Hopefully the weekend getaway will unwind the stress....just in time to come home and unpack everyone.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Coffee Shop Day

If you follow my Instagram or The Kidsperts Facebook page at all, you've likely gathered the fact that I enjoy coffee. A lot. I'm obsessed with coffee mugs also (I'm a sucker for anything with a good saying). The kids seem to enjoy anything with the word Shop in it and like the smell of coffee brewing, so I decided on a Coffee Shop Day. Initially I had wanted to do this in the backyard and make a drive thru coffee shop with the Cozy Coupes but I decided to do the theme day indoors. 

First, we set up the toy area as a coffee shop/kitchen. 

The coffee that they used to pour into the cups was coffee beans. The kids filled cups and mugs, scooped, poured, and even tried to eat a bean or two "just to see how it tastes."

The big deal of the day: I let them use REAL coffee mugs, "the breakable kind. The kind that can hurt you." 

Super excited to get the coffee shop up and running!

In the kitchen was another sensory activity to scoop and pour: coffee grounds. The kids said it felt like sand but smelled better than sand.

Elsa, Ana, and baby Belle were the Shop's first costumers. They got coffee beans spilled all over them but they still had to pay full price.

The kids had muffins for breakfast and biscottis for a morning snack. They also got to take a sip of decaf coffee. This was a highlight of the morning! After trying it, they spoke among themselves about the flavor, texture, if they liked it or not, and what their parents order at Starbucks. I now know every parent's Bucks order!

They got creative and played Coffee Shop drive thru. They lined up little stools and chairs, took turns being the "driver" of their car, and pretended to be ordering from a drive thru. I love watching their creativity and imaginations take off. This is exactly why I love to do theme days. 

The kids colored coffee mugs (that I drew and they cut out). This was not the project I wanted them to do for the Art and Craft for the day, but it's what we had to go with. Originally I had wanted the kids to color white mugs with Sharpie markers. Then you bake them in the oven and the Sharpie's won't come off. That would have been a great souvenir to take home from Coffee Shop Day, BUT I could not find white or cream colored coffee mugs anywhere. I needed a dozen of them and couldn't find enough. I was really bummed I couldn't find enough but the kids didn't seem to mind coloring paper cut outs instead of actual mugs.

We haven't done a lot of theme days this summer because the kids haven't been that excited about them. They've really struggled with playing all together but it seemed to work out well on this theme day! Theme Days usually help the kids with socializing and learning how to behave in certain situations. 
Coffee beans are a great idea for a sensory activity and perfecting fine motor skills. The kids worked on pouring, pouring the beans just to the line (I had a line drawn into the cups so the kids knew how far they could fill them up), they counted beans, put them into groups, and more. If only every theme day could go as smoothly....

There was definitely a lot of clean up after, even during this theme day. Coffee beans got EVERYWHERE and had to be picked up multiple times throughout the day (we called it a bean dump, because the kids would pick them up and put them into coffee cups then pour the filled cups back into the bin) and coffee grounds ended up all over the floor, then on the bottom of feet, then onto the carpet. Luckily the grounds vacuumed up very easily!

Want to create your own coffee shop for your kids to play with? Here are some essentials:

Monday, July 25, 2016

31 Parks In One Weekend

"Every day is an adventure." No truer words have been spoken about our lives. I treat every day as if it were an adventure and because of that every day IS an adventure. Every day is a new day. Every day is a special day (or it can be, depending on what you make of every day).

To celebrate National Parks and Rec month, our local parks and rec department (Des Moines Parks and Recreation) created a Tour of Parks: 31 Parks in 31 Days for the residents of Des Moines. Participants had to visit as many parks as they could, take a photo and tag #tourdmparks, and be in the running to win prizes. When I first heard about the event I thought it sounded cool, our kind of thing actually, but I was much too preoccupied with our vacation to think about doing the challenge (read about our amazing vacation here). I even thought 'we'll just skip this one and do something on our own this fall.' I completely forgot about the park challenge. Besides, we had already done our own Tour of Parks and a Tour of Wading Pools.

Since our vacation ended, we've been in somewhat of a lull. I mean, how do you follow up life when you've climbed a mountain, slid down a waterfall, went a real bear hunt, and wore a fancy hat while visiting Churchill Downs? Yeah, those are all pretty tough to beat. As I was writing out our Weekend Planner for the blog for the week I realized I had no idea what we should do. At the same time, the "31 Parks In 31 Days" flashed across my Facebook newsfeed. Of course, that's what we should do! We were completely "behind." Some people had the entire list done in the first few days.

But we decided to give it a go....and we got all 31 parks visited in 45 hours! We began on Friday night (starting with the parks that were closest to us and the ones we knew) and finished early Sunday afternoon. 

All of the parks we had to visit.

Park 1: Waveland Trail Franklin Garden. This is actually near our house. I walk through numerous times per week on my evening walks on the bike path.

Park 2: Ashby Park Splash Pool. We got there just after 6 p.m. and they had already starting letting the water down. We were bummed because it was soooo hot out and we were looking forward to cooling off. We got a few splashes in and then we were off to the next stop.

Park 3: Beaverdale Park Shelter House. The shelter was in use so we didn't want to get too close....but apparently we did. People walked up to us not once, but twice and introduced themselves followed by "oh, I don't recognize you. Who are you?" The boys thought it was hilarious that people thought we were part of their party.

Park 4: Witmer Park Pond and Trail. It's been years since I had walked around this pond. My grandparents lived just a few blocks away and I remember playing at this park as a child. The minis were not happy with the heat as we walked around, but it helped that it was a quick walk.

Park 5: Union Park Rocket Slide. We love this park and for the first time ever it wasn't crowded! The minis played for a bit on the rocket playground, then we rode the carousel. The carousel is a must when visiting Union Park!

Park 6: 'Ding' Darling Shelter House. The playground nearby was great for younger kids!

Park 7: McHenry Park Overlook Shelter. The views from this park are spectacular! We love the spraygrounds at McHenry. As the minis ran through, they informed us that we hadn't taken them here yet this summer. Good thing we got around to it!

Park 8: Greenwood Park Rose Garden. It was so tranquil as we walked up to the Garden. Couples sitting quietly, having a conversation. Another couple walking hand in hand. A group of teens taking selfies with the roses in the background. Then the minis ran through. I mean, sprinted through the rose garden. Things weren't so quiet or peaceful anymore.

Park 9: Gray's Lake Park. We walked halfway around the trail then turned around. I freaked out and scared people walking by when a bug landed on me mid-picture. This was a our last park for the night. We all slept really well after our busy night!

I had hoped the minis would sleep in a bit Saturday morning but I was wrong! We did relax at home a bit before we walked out the front door into the humidity and heat. Our first stop was for bagels I've been dying to try from 5 Borough Bagels in Clive. The cinnamon raisin bagel (with blueberry cream cheese) and ice white chocolate raspberry mocha were great! We ate on the go as we made our way to the Southside parks.

Park 10: Easter Lake Spine Trail. We got a bit lost trying to find this trail. By the time we found the trail, the minis didn't want to get to out. I got out and walked the trail myself while Hubs and the minis waited in the car.

Park 11: Ewing Park Ashley Oakland Star Playground. This is our favorite park in all of Des Moines. Even Hubs and I got in on the playing.

"Hey watch this!" Hubs called to me....right before he nearly killed himself trying to get on the swing. I laughed.

Park 12: Evergreen Park Playground. The minis LOVED all of the climbing and turned it into an in-depth obstacle course.

Park 13: Principal Park. The minis thought we were headed to a baseball game. Instead we followed the trail by the river for a bit.

Park 14: Woodlawn Cemetery McHenry's Grave. Another one we had trouble finding (seriously, how many Block 12's can there be in one cemetery???). As we walked around the cemetery looking for the huge boulder/grave, we tried to convince the minis we heard zombies coming from behind graves. They didn't buy our stories but we gave ourselves a laugh.

We decided to take a break mid-afternoon. We grabbed Shang Yen take out (our fave Chinese place in DM) and rested at home for a couple of hours. We needed to get out of the heat for bit and home seemed like a very good choice. Then we were right back at it!

Park 15: Bright Grandview Golf Course Clubhouse. There were a lot of golf carts right up front. I wanted to get a unique view of the clubhouse and take the picture from one of the golf carts (with the Clubhouse in the background). Hubs wouldn't let me; he said I caused trouble. I like to think of it as creativeness. 

Park 16: Grandview Park Sprayground. I never knew this park existed! The sprayground was very unique!

Park 17: Sheridan Park Shelter. The minis refused to leave the van so Hubs and I left it running when we got out to "play." Actually, the stops where not all of us got out worked out really well because the van stayed running and kept it cool.

Park 18: Sargent Park Creek Access. We didn't get down to explore the Creek but we did play at our favorite natural playground.

As we were getting out at Pocket Park #1 a train went by. The minis were fascinated.

Park 19: Pocket Park #1. The middle mini was thrilled by the black bear carving! There was also carved out chairs and a sofa.  

Park 20: Martin Luther King Jr. Park Walking Trail. We walked on the the park, where the oldest mini practiced his climbing skills. This kid is awesome at rock climbing.

Park 21: Redhead Park Historic Marker. Elizabeth got out to enjoy this one (the boys were getting into trouble for not listening). This was really interesting to learn about. 

Park 22: Crivaro Park Disc Golf Course. Matt tried to explain how to play disc golf to the minis. They were more interested in the playground. As soon as Matt was done talking, the oldest asked "okay, so can we go play now?" We didn't see anyone playing disc golf here but we did watch a few people playing when we were at Grandview Park (park 16 for us).

The minis loved all of the climbing involved in these parks! It's such a great way to grow their abilities and coordination.

Elizabeth brought her doll along for playing....and then didn't want to play with her. Hubs was left to take care of the doll.

Park 23: Pioneer Columbus Community Center. I would love to come back when the wading pool is open! It looks like fun!

Park 24: Macrae Park Downtown Overlook. This is a very pretty park with a great view of downtown Des Moines. We had to stand on the picnic table to be taller than the bushes behind us.

Park 25: Brody School Park the view of downtown. We couldn't seem to get a very good view of downtown, but the best was from the playground, where you can see just the top of the Principal building. 

We took a break from park-ing and went to dinner at Margaritas (just off of MLK). Don't let this restaurant in a little house confuse has wonderful food! The salsa was awesome, decent prices, and very kid/family friendly.

The youngest mini was in rare form during dinner. First she asked for ketchup on her beans. Later in the meal this happened: "hey dad guess what? My butt's sweaty. Ya know how I know? Cuz look" as she showed her tushy to the restaurant. She followed it up with "for real life, my butt is really sweaty." I. Died.

The boys were enthralled with a home improvement show on HGTV.

Sirius Radio kept us dancing and singing in between parks. After dinner, we went to our last park for the evening.

Park 26: Good Park Sprayground. We had this entire sprayground and park to ourselves! The minis had a blast running through the fountains (as did I).

Things got interesting when we left the park....the van wouldn't start! We sent an SOS and family came to the rescue. Hubs fixed the van (playing with the automatic doors isn't recommended as is not starting and stopping a minivan in 100 degree heat. The battery might have some issues) and we were ready to go for the next morning.

We began our Sunday with brunch at Star Bar. Then we went to our last five parks for the weekend.

Park 27: Rotary Riverwalk Park. The views of the capitol from this park are phenomenal! We usually walk the bridge and walk along the trail, but this time we just played at the park.

This girl learned how to pump her legs and swing herself this weekend!

We got some energy from Starbucks before hitting up our next park.

The minis have been getting the strawberry refreshers when we go to Starbucks.

Park 28: Western Gateway Park Water Runnel. We've played in these hundreds of times before. This weekend we got a show while we played. Crews were taking down the stage from 515 Alive. It was quite the ordeal to watch! We also happened upon thousands (literally a thousand people according to the news) playing Pokemon Go at the Sculpture Park.

Park 29: Trestle Trail Pond. I had no idea this even existed! We had a nice (and hot!) 1/2 mile walk on the trail to the pond. We saw Goldfinches, butterflies, toads, and grasshoppers. 

The official stop sign was buried in the mud.

Park 30: Westchester Park Space Net. I thought this park belonged to the church (it is directly behind a church on Aurora) so we've never played there before. The boys climbed right to the top of the net, jumped down, and climbed up again.

Park 31: Northwest Aquatic Center. Our last stop! We made this our last stop so we could relax in the cool water and treat ourselves to an afternoon of swimming. This worked out fantastic and was the perfect "treat" at the end of our adventure.

My refreshing treat for finishing the parks in one weekend.

All in all, it took us exactly 45 hours from start to finish to get to all of the parks. That includes sleeping times, eating times, and break times. I was pretty pleased with this time considering we did it with 3 kids in tow! Not only was the Tour of Parks a great way to get us out of our post-vacation lull, but it really got us into the community again (which this challenge was designed to do). We went to parks we had never been to; some we had never even heard of. My favorite part of the weekend was meeting other families who were also doing 31 Parks. I would totally do another park challenge of some sort....maybe 99 Parks? One in each county in Iowa? We'll see what we come up with for next summer!