Thursday, August 16, 2018

The First Weekend of August

"Staying in is the new going out" is pretty much my Friday night motto for summer. I'm typically exhausted by Friday closing time, so it's an easy dinner, movie with a relax on the couch, and bedtimes. On this particular Friday night I made sure to go to bed at a decent hour because I had a super fun day planned with the minis. Cut to Saturday morning when they begged to stay home for the day.

I wasn't thrilled about it since I had purposefully woken up early to take Hubs to work and start our day adventuring. But I caved. We stayed home, they played, and I got book work done, articles written, papers signed, lesson planning for daycare, groceries ordered. You get the picture. While I'm happy the minis love our 'hood and asked to spend the day playing with their neighborhood friends, I made sure we got out and about on Sunday.

Friday night movie was my selection. I chose Three Men and a Baby. The minis LOVED it! Elizabeth was actually quite perturbed at the men and continued talking to the screen throughout the movie: "Oh my goodness! It's not that hard. Milk, like from moms or formula and a little applesauce if they're old enough. Geesh!" "Ugh! Pat her back already! Put her up on your shoulder and pat her back! She probably needs to poop!" She's got this down.

I had my coffee, grocery ordering, and my favorite episodes of New Girl. I had a window open to the backyard so I could hear the kids playing and a view through the dining room window. It was pretty great.

I did have some questions when I went outside after hearing a questionable conversation through the open window. I was convinced these two had trapped some kind of animal in the pool and were using the paddles to move it around. Luckily they didn't! They also had no idea that it was raining on them as they played.

Since the minis insisted on staying home, I insisted on getting take out from our favorite local Chinese spot for lunch. 

Sitting on the couch and cuddling. I can't say anything about it to them (such as, "oh how cute!") or they'll instantly get mad at me and stop with the cuddles.

Sunday we had a family lunch at my aunt's house, followed by a special open house to Jester Park's new Nature Lodge. Sunday was truly our Sunday Family Fun Day!

The minis have become expert corn shuckers this summer.

We haven't been out to Jester Park at all this year. I have been keeping tabs on all of the changes, but it was interesting to see for ourselves. This well marked sign will get you where you're looking to go once you get to the outside of the park. If you haven't been to Jester in a while, you'll definitely need the sign because it looks completely different!

This nature lodge is amazing! So many learning opportunities for kids, as well as plenty of recreational outdoor activities right at your fingertips. The Lodge reminded me a bit of Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge. There's already quite a few activities and events planned for fall at the Lodge that look really fun. The outdoor patio area is great for events.

My three (ages 6 - 10) really enjoyed the magnetic wall.

I was bummed to see that archery is for 12+ year olds. My kids love archery, but there's very few places that allow children to shoot too. We'll continue to go to Archery Field and Sports for that, but we'll definitely be trying out snowshoes this winter.

I feel some of these trail shirts calling our names. There were kids sizes available too!

It was a nice walk from the Lodge to the pond area, where there were free canoe rides (you had to paddle, which made Elizabeth nervous and she refused to go on the boat) and a pond study. Elizabeth and I chose to walk around the pond while the boys paddled around the pond.

The best family selfie we've ever managed!

The ONLY thing I didn't like about Jester Park's Nature Lodge is it's not well connected hiking trail wise to the rest of the park. I hope to see easy to take pathways to the bison and nature playscape. Yes, it could be fairly easy to walk alongside of the road, but not the safest route with kids. Regardless, we easily hoped in our car and drove to the playscape area so the kids could take a dip in the water (we were soooo hot on this 90+ degree day) and hike our favorite trail.

Dipping my feet in the water.

I can't wait to try out the new mini golf course here!

As we left the park sweating and sticky from being outdoors for several hours, I quickly looked up availability for the cabins at Jester Park. I can easily see us spending an enter weekend (or more) here enjoying the outdoor activities. Unfortunately, those cabins seem to be booked two years out! So it may be tent camping for us if we want to do something like that. I'm so excited to have so many great activities so close to home!

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

6 Easy Go-To Breakfasts For The School Year

Put away the cereal. I know it's tempting for a quick breakfast before school, especially when everyone has woken up late on a Monday morning. I've discovered cereal does nothing to keep kid's tummies full and their brain working throughout the school morning. In our house, cereal is for special occasions and weekends (if we have it in the house at all). Instead, we opt for breakfasts that pack protein and can get in a good mix (if not all) of the food groups before the school day even starts.

As a new school year looms, I'm putting away the cereal and breaking out my tried and true go-to breakfasts for my kids (and daycare kiddies). Here are six of my favorite breakfasts for those busy weekday mornings:

1.) Egg muffins. I've been making these for years for my kids. I love that they're so easy, plus you can add anything you'd like. Cheese, hashbrowns, veggies, etc. I can make 24 muffins in under an hour (prep plus cooking time) Sunday evening and have enough for one or two breakfasts throughout the week for five of us plus daycare kids.

2.) Muffins. Make these as healthy or unhealthy as you like. Our favorite are these chocolate chip muffins with added protein powder, but I also love a good berry muffin. I often pair these with yogurt in the morning for my kids. This combo tends to keep them full until lunchtime easily.

3.) Banana "cookies." The base of this cookie is bananas (literally) and oats mashed together. You can pretty much add anything you'd like to these cookies. Our go-to is bananas, oats, raspberries (washed, dried, and mashed into the banana and oats), a tbsp of protein powder (I've used chocolate and vanilla flavors and both are great), and Enjoy Life chocolate chips.

4.) Oatmeal. Packets of oatmeal are easily opened and heated, but of course those can contain a lot of sugar. I do always keep some on hand for the ease of things. However, I've also discovered some great overnight oatmeal recipes that are full of flavor and less on the sugary side of things.

5.) Make ahead pancakes. These are easy to whip up, plus you can make a big batch ahead of time for the week or freeze to eat at a later time (and warm up in the microwave).

6.) Yogurt bar. This one is all about the toppings. If my kids ate just yogurt for breakfast they're starving within an hour. However, add some cut up bananas, berries, granola, Cheerios, chocolate chips to the mix and they've managed a pretty decent breakfast. Plus, they get to have fun with it. This requires a bit more time (so not a great option for those rushed mornings) as kids like to take forever to whip up their concoctions, but I do love this for school mornings.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Summer Week 10

July 30 - August 3

As soon as August 1st hit, I felt the craziness of summer weighing down on me. Not because it's been a really crazy summer, but because summer is coming to an end. The kids must be feeling it too because they suddenly started talking about everything we haven't done this summer yet. They even began planning Christmas break activities because they know there's not enough time to do everything they'd like! I had assumed the Bigs would be too big for some of our tried and true activities. They hadn't said anything about them all summer (plus I was having a pretty good time coming up with new activities for everyone) but now that our summer vacation is down to a matter of days, they MUST do them.

One of their favorites is slime. We hadn't made slime weekly as we have in the past, so we made up for it this week. We tried several new recipes and (my favorite) let the kids come up with their own. Here's a look at the last days of July and beginning of August:

My phone is now filled with slime recipes. I told the kids to find their five favorite and we'd make them. As you'll find out below, our favorite recipe involved Model Magic. So it's not the cheapest way to make slime, but gosh, it lasted a full two weeks and had the perfect amount of stretch to it.

Cicada catching is where it's at. But did you know that if you catch a live cicada and put in the butterfly net, that you're supposed to give it food and water??? The kids learned that one the hard way. Now the net is for all dead cicadas and cicada shells they find in the backyard. Live and learn I suppose.

Watching them catch live cicadas was my favorite part (until the kids realized they couldn't keep them alive easily). There was one fearless girl who the other kids put in charge of jumping up and touch the cicada's wings as it flew through the air. This caused the cicada to fall to the ground and the kids would snatch it up.

Christmas In July was a hit day! Read about our fun here.

I went on a toy ordering spree and the kids have had all new toys to play with. Our new forest friends (these and these) found a home in the sensory table. Although, the beans were almost instantly spooned up to be "food" in the kitchen area and the animals quickly found a new home with all of the other animal figurines.

So, the 10 year old swallowed a Lego piece. Yes, you read that correctly. The 10 YEAR OLD choked on a Lego piece he was trying to break apart (obviously you use your teeth, even though I've told all of the kids dozens of times not to do it this way because it's a choking hazard) and swallowed it. He did legitimately choke on the piece and I almost had to use the heimlich maneuver on him, but everything turned out okay. Minus the fact that he did this in front of all of the younger kids. Of course it would be one of mine that did something this spectacular during daycare.

The kids free read every afternoon right after lunch. Even the younger kids do it too. You can barely walk through the room at this point because nearly everyone insists on laying down to read their books. Even the littlest of littles.

Mom's night out for the week was to a local mall food court. This food court has amazing little restaurants that are all local. You can choose from pizza, Mediterranean food, classic Iowa comfort foods, Mexican, Vietnamese, or BBQ. It's delightful and highly recommended. I used it to get ideas for next summer's theme: celebrations from around the world (the oldest mini gets all of the credit for this idea).

The kids have been playing a lot of board games lately. Our What Should You Do? game provided lots of interesting answers that gave us plenty to talk about. The answer I got for this card was "D, none of the above. You should ask a lot of questions, then if they don't sound right, go tell somebody. Like, not a full stranger, but just someone you kind of know and you know that they're kind of okay." I felt like a failure in this moment, by the way.

I rarely buy Pop Tarts. Of course I bought some for our Elf spaghetti. Elizabeth was beyond excited that they were chocolate (she didn't know they existed before our Christmas in July day) and begged to eat one after dinner. By that time of night I'm usually too tired to put up much of a fight about it.

I'm not really sure what I had hoped to accomplish with our 50 States theme, other than getting the kids interested about the country we live in. These kids surpassed my hopes and learned all of their capitols, random facts about every state, and can identify quite a few states on the map.

The kids asked for a Wacky Wednesday. So we read the book, then went on a wacky scavenger hunt. They found a muddy foot print at the bottom on the sensory bin, a shoe hanging from a tree, pens on the walls, and (clean) underwear in the books! All ages really seemed to enjoy this one.

Find a foot print where a foot print doesn't belong. Hint: check the sensory table in the sensory corner. It took them most of the day to discover the foot print on the bottom of one of the yellow bins.

I gave the kids my phone to take pictures of what they found.

Slime making with Model Magic! I LOVED this recipe.

I have a group of little girls who LOVE to put on make up (mostly my daughter). I was not amused when I discovered my favorite lipstick had been destroyed. Seriously, what happened to it? I don't even want to know.

We got a new neighbor next door and, being the small world this is, the little girl that moved in knows several of the daycare kids from school! My rule is no neighbor kids over during daycare hours....but playing through the fence totally doesn't count. So far they've shared slime, a few small toys, and stories from school.

The kids asked for the pool AND the sprinkler at the same time. Done and done, especially on warm afternoons. 

Sliding into a pile of stuffed animals is pure joy. I love that they asked for all of the zoo stuffed animals in the backyard and instead of actually playing zoo with them, they used them as a cushion for the slide, the tire swing, the trapeze bar, etc. I love seeing what creative things they come up with on the daily!