Monday, May 31, 2021

A Day In Chicago


It's been a hot minute since we've stepped foot in this city we all love. We knew before visiting that some things were still closed and we were limited in what we could do anyway because we had the dog with us. However, things worked out well for us! Our main reason for visiting the city was to see friends, so we spent just enough time downtown to walk around and enjoy the empty streets. Then, Matt and the minis went to Lincoln Park Zoo, while Zeus and I went to hang out with friends. It was all perfect!

It was a bit of a shock to go from Iowa, where things have been wide open for a long time (Iowans like to pretend there is no pandemic happening) to Chicago, where the playgrounds aren't opened yet. The minis were disappointed because they had hoped to play at their favorite, Maggie Daly Park, but it was an exeprience to walk through Millennium Park and Grant Park with very few people around. 

Many things that can be touched are gated off from the public. We also learned that Millennium Park isn't pet friendly, so while the minis saw Cloud Gate (which was a must "because we see it every time we're here!"), Zeus and I walked up and down Michigan Avenue.

Harrison, pointing out the Harrison Hotel.

While still free, Lincoln Park Zoo requires reservations, masks, and a one way path through the zoo. Quite a few buildings aren't open to the public, but they were still able to view a great deal of the animals. All Museums (that are open, at least) are on a reservation system as well. 

We couldn't be in Chicago without getting Chicago style pizza. We had Lou Malnati's delivered to my friend's house and sat on the patio eating and chatting, with kids and dog. 

Welcome Back To Summer

Last summer, summer 2020, didn't feel like summer. There was no visit to the amusement park, no events or markets, no cookouts with friends and family, no swimming. Don't get me wrong, it was a fun summer because it was the "summer of puppy," but we were soooo happy to begin our summer this Memorial Day weekend in a more normal fashion. 

We went to Adventureland, we had a dinner with family, I went to a bridal shower and spent time with people I hadn't been able to in over a year! It feels refreshing and oh-so needed. Of course, since "normal" is back in, we're beginning June as we usually do: busy. Busy with birthday celebrations, dance rehearsals and recitals (three of them this year!), and swimming lessons. It's a bit much to get thrown back into, if I'm being completely honest. To have something going on every day in June might be exhausting, so I'm keeping our July open...more for my mental health than anything else. Overall though, it felt GOOD to be able to ring in the summer season as we have in the past.

It All Started With The Bookshelves

 It all started with the bookshelves in the daycare room. They were falling apart. In all fairness to these shelves, I bought them over four years ago for $20 at Target the day we moved into our house. That they've last this long is amazing. I was going to take them apart over the weekend, but I was feeling extra energized on Thursday. Not only did I reorganize 6 book cases filled with books and 2 tubs filled with board books, but I took apart the two bookshelves, cleaned, and reorganized the entire daycare room.

I thought our long weekend would be the perfect time to summer-ize the daycare and homeschool rooms, but apparently Thursdays are the day for that. The best part of this wasn't actually getting it all done, while also holding daycare (that part is just amazing in all honesty). No, the best part was the three hour nap time out of the littles. 

You ask, why?

Well, I too was surprised by the extra long naps, so I inquired about it when I woke them all up. Two girls responded, "the book shelves being gone made us tired." So, I did all of the work, they spent the morning watching my every move (while also playing, eating snacks, and asking questions here and there), and they were the ones who were exhausted. That one gave me a good laugh!

So, what needed to be changed around for summer? Well, first of all, more seating! Lots of kiddos here for summer, means we need more seats and plenty of table space for playing, sensory activities, etc. Defined centers were added, such as the play kitchen area, tools and building, a new (from the basement storage area) book cases with books that will be rotated every few weeks), and small play. While we were at it, we changed up the basement homeschool room as well. We took away a desk space, added a book shelf (also from the basement storage area) with new chapter books, and added in Legos and Polly Pockets. The idea is to give the bigger kids (ages 8 - 12) their own space to play and hang out this summer. 

I go through a big rearrange before each summer and fall, but this may take the cake. Doing the entire thing during daycare AND getting it all done successfully in one (unexpected) day!

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Love This Stage of Life

 I love this stage. They're still little enough they like to sit on the same couch with me and share a bowl of popcorn, with a few smartass comments from the (almost) teenager. They still love family movie nights and Sunday Family Fun Days. Yet they're old enough to enjoy the Friends Reunion and Cruella. We're no longer stuck beginning movie night at 5 p.m., so we can make a 7:30 bedtime. They're still young enough to want to see the newest animated movie, but also getting old enough to enjoy a scary movie. We can do longer hikes, but not too long (or there's A LOT of complaining). We can avoid meltdowns in meals or snacks are later than usual and we don't have to worry about nap times. 

I know many parents who say to enjoy the toddler years because it's a special time. It is and there is something so magical and fun about that time, but I'll miss these ages the most. The time in their lives where they're actually helpful with chores, want to spend time with mom and dad, and we can enjoy some of the same things. I wish these years could last, take their time in passing because I truly love it.

Friday, May 28, 2021

The Season of Goodbyes and Hellos


It's an emotional few weeks around here. Daycare gets to welcome back all of their older, school age friends for the summer. Those same kids who I potty trained, watched their first steps happen in our living room, listened to their laughter and gave them smooches through their tears. It's bittersweet to see them each summer. In the same breath, daycare says to goodbye to kids who will be home this summer and head to school in the fall. The goodbyes are just as bittersweet as the hellos. 

So if you see random tears in my eyes as I tell you about your child's day or I choose two bottles of wine instead of one this weekend or I need more than one (or two or three) cups of coffee, just assume I'm working through all the feels that come with the job. Every bit of it is rewarding, every bit of it is hard. 

New Daycare Milestone

Max, left in the red shirt. Playing at daycare, 2014.

It seems like such a short time ago when I put out the call for help with my daycare. I enlisted two wonderful teenagers, who stayed with me up until last year (ahem, the Covid year). I was lucky and they were amazing. But time moves on and I found myself thinking about new "daycare helpers" for this summer. This time I looked no further than my own (almost) thirteen year old, Max.

I offered him the part, listed out his duties and expectations, and discussed pay. He eagerly accepted...because where else is a thirteen year old going to earn money? Wednesday marked his first day "on the job," but in truth he's been in this role for years. Littles have always loved Max and he accepted it. Even when typical ten year old wouldn't want to have a two or three year old tagging around, asking for another push on the swing, Max did it. Willingly and lovingly.

I'm proud of this kid and his kind, gentle ways. He's grown up with a daycare in the house, so most of it comes naturally to him at this point. The craziest thing (for me, at least) is that Max is the now the same age that my first set of helpers came! How did that happen??

A certain furry black thing seems to think he's a "helper" too, but really he's the reason I shout, "no!"

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

A Visit To Indiana Dunes National Park

We've been doing all the outdoor things lately. By design since we have a dog we take everywhere with us. Our main reason for visiting Chicago was seeing friends, but we had Saturday to do whatever we wanted. It's been a few years since we visited Indiana Dunes National Park (read about that visit here). Last time, we step time at the State Park, but this time we hung out on the beach and hiked a trail on the sand dunes. 

It was a hot day, but getting there later in the afternoon meant we missed out on the hot sun high in the sky. The sand wasn't hot anymore, the cold water still felt wonderful, and the beach wasn't overly crowded. All things that made us happy!

This National Park has several different segments. We chose Kemil Beach and the nearby Dune Ridge Trail because both were dog friendly. I had really hoped to check out Mount Baldy, but we didn't make the time to go. We did check out the 1933 World's Fair Progress Homes, which were super cool to see!

I forgot how many cool rocks are on the beach!

The Dune Ridge Trail wasn't long at all, but hiking on the sand is a killer!

This National Park is an easy weekend trip for us, so I don't feel terrible about missing some things in the park. I'll admit, that last hike up and down sand dunes did me in. I was happy to relax at our hotel....even though I had a kid who couldn't stop talking and asking me question, after question. I guess that's one way to end a day exploring!

** While the city the National Park is in has options for stays and restaurants, we went to nearby Merrillville, IN (about 20 minutes away from the beach) for a larger selection of hotels and amenities. We were traveling with our large black lab and hotels in that area gave us many more choices for a better price. The Airbnb's we looked into seemed pricey (compared to what we paid in Texas and New Mexico). The National Park is around one hour from downtown Chicago, IL. We've often paired our vist to this park with a visit to the city.