Sunday, March 31, 2019

I'm A Pushover Daycare Provider These Days


One of our many picnic lunches with a movie. This began in December when I made it a mission to get all of our Christmas movies watched. The kids know they can get me with requests of PBS Kids or a Disney movie.

Know what I love most about breaks from school? It usually means I get to have past daycare kids come back. The same kiddos that were raised with my three. Sure the days are, well, insane, but they are amazing. There's something to be said about those friendships. Not only have the kids known each other all or most of their lives, but I've known them just as long. I can tell (or know beforehand) when something will upset them, I know their personalities, and they know those same things about me. Spending days and years together does that.

Much like other school breaks, I had a handful of kiddos back during this year's spring break. Now, for those of you who don't know this, kids are just generally worse for their mothers. They tend not to listen, get into trouble, scream, throw fits, argue. You (probably) know the drill. My kids are much the same. While that has gotten better as they age, it was very true when they were toddlers and preschoolers.

The day the kids realized playing with the water guns was no longer off limits (as long as everyone agreed to play). They were playing sniper tag.....I was unclear on the rules, but everyone was happy and laughing.

The days when my kids were a big part of the daycare were some of my most challenging times as a parent and daycare provider. I laugh now about the times when I had to call my mother-in-law to come pick up one of my kids because they were leading the latest rebellion at daycare and I couldn't take it anymore. This was back when Hubs was the one working the longest hours and I was the primary care giver (my how things have changed in that regard!).

I do have fond memories of those days though. I remember the fun times and also how strict I was with a lot of things (hello, TV time anyone?). I know I've loosened up over the years. Maybe it's been my kids getting older and I haven't been as stressed with them now that they're all in school full time. Maybe it's because I've just spent so many years with kids now that I'm pretty lax with, well, everything. Maybe it's my own long hours working that made me loosen my grip in otherwise tight places. Whatever it is, I know I'm not as strict as I once was. I didn't really think about how "loose" I've gotten until last week.

One of the littles came up to me and asked to do something. "Of course, go for it!" I replied, as I turned around and finished whatever it was that I was doing. I had four bigs looking at me, mouths opened.

"Why are you letting them do that?" one of them asked, as she eyeballed the little who was already onto the next best thing.

"Because they can..." I truly wasn't understanding why she was so confused. That's when my middle child spoke up.

"You NEVER let us do that mom!" All of the bigs agreed in unison. They then took the time to point out all of the things I let the kids do now that was a hard no when they were "little and here for daycare everyday...well, at the old house."

The more I think about, the more I see what they were saying. I find myself saying yes far more than I say no to random requests. I find myself laxer in our daily routines. You want to push lunch back because you're not ready to stop playing. Fine, request granted. I don't really do time outs anymore (although I'm lucky because I don't really have to with my group of kiddos) and we do "think about it" time now. I laughed at the end of last week when the kids requested yet another picnic in the living room lunch so they could watch PBS Kids and I said, "of course we can!" Picnic lunches were few and far between back in the early daycare days.

Moral of the story, I'm a pushover daycare provider these days who can be talked into picnic lunches, mud kitchens, new toys, desserts after lunch, and so much more. I do think my kids not being around all day every day and being much more independent (and much less demanding of me) has a lot to do with my newfound looseness. It's not just my daycare provider style that has changed either. My parenting style has definitely loosened up throughout the years as well.

I must say, I'm okay with both. Because I'm happy, daycare kids are happy, and my kids are happy. And at the end of the day, that's all that really matters.

The day I told the kids not to worry about cleaning up before lunch. That has only happened a few times, but enough to make the middle mini exclaim "what the heck?" and question my provider ways.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Winging Spring Break

Spring Break 2019 was extra long this year: my minis had a week and a half off! Despite not doing a big vacation this year, we made the most of the school break by doing a long weekend in the Windy City for St. Patrick's Day and days with friends. We were blessed with wonderful, mostly sunny days, so the kids got PLENTY of time playing in the backyard. For the most part, the kids created their own fun, but I did have a few planned activities.

We kicked off SB2019 Thursday afternoon with a dino egg dig (for the school aged kids only) and an awesome game of hide n' seek. The kids found some great hiding places....

As the weather warmed up (and the sun finally appeared), we went on a walk around the neighborhood. The backyard was still melting and quite muddy, so I gave it a few days to dry out before the kids ran all over.

We fit a lot in on our long weekend! Read about it here.

I took a recoup day on Monday. Although I spent much of the day doing laundry and cleaning. The middle mini begged to do a belated St. Patrick's celebration at daycare. I didn't want to go all out because I had kind of had enough of our friendly leprechauns (read about their Chicago adventure here), but I did make rainbow play dough and a rainbow fruit tray. Both were big hits.

My minis were thrilled to spend time with their daycare friends they've been raised with. It makes my heart happy to see them always pick back up right where they left off. For these two it's dressing up in interesting outfits (at least Elizabeth), packing up their dolls and gear, and then just kind of sitting around and talking. I love to be a witness to it all, but I have to act like I'm not paying attention to them or they'll get angry!

I love seeing social skills develop. I love seeing how the various age groups learn to interact with each other more. Daycare's newest baby (that would be Andrew, but he's referred to as "our daycare baby" a lot) is incredibly sociable and LOVES getting attention from the other kids. Like when they're eating lunch. He can't seem to figure out why their mouths are moving but not talking to him. On this particular day, he made his way around the table to get everyone's attention. One little boy sweetly reached his hand down to Andrew (while he ate with his other one) and lightly gave Andrew high fives. Andrew was thrilled with the attention and the other little boy was so proud of himself for teaching the baby about high fives. I love witnessing little moments like this.

The kids spent 9+ hours a day in the backyard playing tag, hide n' seek, worm hunting, and getting muddy in the mud kitchen. No wonder everyone was in such great moods!

Someone doesn't want to admit she's too big for the Cozy Coupe...

After a week of nonstop play, the backyard is in rough shape. Fake grass here we come!

Inside we had sensory activities, the doll houses, figurines, and a baby taking in every movement the big kids made.

I came across Floof while in Chicago at Shedd Aquarium. I saw it and thought, let's give it a try. The kids loved it so much that I wound up buying another container off Amazon. 

The middle mini had a lot of requests for spring break, including a muffin tea party (done), a chocolate fountain (done), and a photo booth (done).

The only time I use this chocolate fountain is for the kids!

Our indoor playhouse made for the perfect photo booth one afternoon.

Friday of spring break I only had a few kids, so I was pretty lax on things. I managed to get a few things done (hello new projects for 2019!) while the kids kept busy with the art supplies. After they were done, I requested they put their pictures on the counter to dry, clean up the mess, then they could go outside. Later in the day, I glanced down at the counter and saw this gem (pictured below) from one of my kiddos who used to be a daycare little and is now a big. Sometimes it's great to hear how the kids really feel about daycare.

Elizabeth ended the week by coming up to me, setting up an obstacle course made of paper and told me I might hear jumping coming from her room Saturday morning when I'm trying to sleep. My response after the busy week: don't break anything and jump quietly.

My new mat is quite fitting for our house.

Monday was Peeps day: Peeps play dough and Peeps s'mores for afternoon snack. My house smelled like marshmallows and sugar the entire day!

The doll houses and figurines have been a highlight for the big kids who don't get to play with them a lot.

I got a surprise when I walked into the bathroom. Elizabeth had herself and a couple of her daycare friends in the bathroom "changing my Bitty Baby's diaper" while she talked on the phone (fake phone). I didn't think twice about using the other bathroom, then realized this was probably not a normal scene is other people's houses!

This year's Easter sensory bin: paper Easter basket grass, plastic butterflies and turtles, and colorful wooden eggs. The kids are incredibly confused by these eggs because "they don't open. Why don't they open? What happened to them?" Who knew I could turn their worlds upside down with eggs that aren't plastic and don't open?!!? Actually, I did as I grabbed them at Walmart. I guess I know kids pretty well at this point!

Unfortunately, the rain we got over the weekend left the backyard extra muddy and unplayable. Thankfully, we had the option to break out the driveway safety net and do sidewalk chalk in the driveway.

There was a lot of Lego playing and drawings over the past twelve days.

The kids asked to blow up balloons and have a balloon dance party. So we did.

The bigs spent some time outside using rocks on the side of the sidewalk chalk to make colorful chalk dust. The dust was used for unicorn food. It kept them busy all afternoon.
I didn't realize how often I ask, "what is on the floor? Is that poop or a (insert random object/leaf/toy here)?" until one of the bigs told me, "that's like the hundredth time you asked that today." Now, usually these things aren't poop, but obviously it's been poop enough times that it's important that I ask.

The minis ended spring break with Indian food in a living room picnic and I ended spring break with this much deserved beverage:

Friday, March 22, 2019

St. Patrick's Day Weekend In Chicago

A year ago as we drove back from our spring break destination on St. Patrick's Day (we were coming from sunny, warm Florida) I sat in the passenger side seat, looked at my husband, and said, "next year we're celebrating this day in Chicago." So we did. It was a quick weekend getaway to the Windy City since Hubs couldn't take time off work. We arrived in the city late Friday night, stayed at the always wonderful Hyatt Regency on the river so we could watch the river being dyed green from our hotel room (read about that here), and from there a whirlwind weekend progressed.

I was shocked by the amount of flooding we saw through Iowa and some of Illinois.

Their first viewing of Legally Blond thanks to the Kindle. Car treats, a movie, books, and sleeping kept the minis busy for our 5 1/2 hour drive.

The view of the river from our room. Our leprechauns surprised the minis in our room to watch the river dying with us. Read about both here and here.

The minis could hardly wait to see the green river! They woke up before 7 a.m. staring out the window, loudly asking when it was going to be green. When I informed them they had another two hours to wait they found other ways to entertain themselves. Like being dentists with the headboard reading lamps.

Next time we watch the river dying the minis requested we be on one of the party boats on the river. Ever since our first visit to the city a few years ago, they equate party boats with the Chicago River....and it's a bucket list item for all three.

We decided to stay with friends Saturday night so we had to check out of our hotel before heading out. The Hyatt was amazing and let us keep our vehicle in their parking garage all day (even after check out). 

Up close with the river.

Our big outing for Saturday was Shedd Aquarium. While that was wonderful, our walk through the parks wound up being the most eventful. You see, when we decided to go to Chicago for St. Patrick's Day weekend, we knew ahead of time that we'd be skipping the parade. The parade can get a little crazy (although I have very fond memories of a naked man running through Grant Park being chased by the police--still one of my favorite St. Pat's memories) so we decided a museum would be best during that time. However, we also wanted to walk to Museum Campus from our hotel and that meant dealing with closed streets, sidewalks, and witnessing the parade set up. It took us a while to walk around all of the closures, but we made it (after a stop at Maggie Daly Park). It's amazing how warm 37 degrees can feel after a long winter!

Shedd Aquarium was one of the only museums in Chicago that we haven't been to. It wasn't one of my favorites when I was younger, so I wasn't sure how the minis would like it (which is why we've been putting it off). Turns out I didn't need to worry because the minis LOVED it!

The minis and I may have broken out into a rendition of Yellow Submarine as soon as we saw this.

I realized this was the minis first time seeing a dolphin! Elizabeth's face seeing them jump for the first time was priceless (below).

In case you were wondering about my maturity level: the only reason I took this picture is because my husband and I instantly looked at each other and noted that it looked like an we giggled and snapped the picture.

One of the big reasons the minis loved the Aquarium was how interactive it was. Each tank of fish and/or exhibit had tablets next to them. You could scroll through to identify each and every fish, plant, rock, etc. I truly feel as if they learned more here than at any other museum simply because of how simple each exhibit was.

By the end of our visit, everyone was tired.... 

But we had a ways to walk for our early dinner with friends. We walked through Grant Park, Millennium Park, visited The Bean (Cloud Gate), and down a few of our favorite streets before heading to Pizano's.

Our annual picture in The Bean.

After dinner we took the kids shopping on Michigan Avenue and Water Tower Place. We made one little girl cry because we wouldn't buy her a $115 doll at American Girl, but the hot chocolate afterwards made up for it (a little at least).

Everyone went to sleep quickly Saturday night. Even me, your classic night owl, could barely keep my eyes open. I slept until 9 a.m. Sunday morning and could have easily slept longer! Between not getting sleep the night before and a busy day, I was exhausted.

Sunday we dressed in our green and went to the greenest spot in Chicago: Garfield Conservatory. 

We came here for my friend's wedding and knew we had to bring the kids back some day because of the fun kids area!

How the photo shoots usually go (above) just so I can get a decent one (below).

My friend from high school, Deanna, not only let us stay with her but hung out with us all day. We had a great time!

We had had reservations to the Safehouse Saturday afternoon, but had to cancel them while at the Aquarium because I quickly realized we'd never make the 2 p.m. aquarium show and a 3:45 reservation off North Michigan Avenue (especially walking). The minis were extremely disappointed until I said we could go on Sunday before we left for home. 

I'm so glad we did because it was such a fun lunch! To give you a quick rundown, it's a spy themed interactive restaurant. We spent around 3 hours there eating, doing a scavenger hunt-type thing, and being secret agents. The boys had a great time with it, while Elizabeth was nervous the entire time. This just wasn't her thing, but she did say she really liked her mac and cheese, so that's a bonus!

Once our access was granted to the Safehouse (we had to gain "security access" from the front desk first), we had to come up with our special secret agent names.

We had Agent Curly Sue, Agent Shorty, Agent Aunt Becky (my favorite), Agent Dr. Pancake, Agent The Dad, Agent Fennex.

We got mustaches to wear, saw a magic show, special drinks, and a scavenger hunt that was so much fun!

The massive dessert Deanna got that fed all six of us....well, mostly the three youngest. I honestly can't believe they polished it off after our lunch!

My favorite moment at the restaurant was when Matt (Hubs) was poking around at the "spy things" and the waitress playfully caught him. Elizabeth put her hands up, shielding her eyes, and whispered/groaned, "oh my god, dad! Just stop!" I'm not sure if she was truly embarrassed or if she was worried about getting into trouble. Either way, she said this line A LOT in our 3 hour interactive lunch. I'm convinced Dad being a goof is a big reason she didn't enjoy the restaurant as much as the boys. She also didn't enjoy the lazers at the end and trying to find your way through the tunnel to the exit.

It should come as no surprise that our ride home was quiet and relaxing. We had dinner from a drive thru (as Elizabeth asked us in the middle of Illinois, "do you trust us to get McDonald's to eat mom?") and fell into bed when we got home at 10 p.m. Hubs had to work first thing Monday morning, but the minis and I took advantage of our planned day of rest. However, that quickly became a day of laundry, but that's the usual after any weekend getaway.

Of course, the minis have added more to their list of Things To Do In Chicago and have already asked when we're headed back.