Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Visit to Birdwell Island: Adventures with Clifford The Big Red Dog

Back many years ago, when I was a volunteer at the Minnesota Children's Museum one of the special exhibits I remember was Clifford the Big Red Dog. Fast forward to today, and Clifford is back at the Minnesota Children's Museum! I was really excited to be able to take my girls on a little adventure to Birdwell Island to visit Clifford The Big Red Dog this time around. 

Tip: We made our trip to the MCM on a Friday night, which is a great time to explore the museum. I think I've mentioned it before, but it is worth saying again. A trip to the museum on a Friday or Saturday night, when the museum is open until 8pm, makes a great family date night. The crowds are smaller, so it's easier for the kids to explore.

As we explored the Adventures with Clifford The Big Red Dog exhibit, I took note of the signs next to the different play areas. For example, in the restaurant area there was a sign about working together. The signs were helpful for me to think about when talking to Miss A and Little J about their play.

The first area where the girls wanted to play was the restaurant. Miss A and Little J pretty naturally took different "jobs" at the restaurant. Miss A took my order, Little J cooked and Miss A took my money. Miss A really liked the money. She's working on counting to higher and higher numbers, so the play money was extra fun for her. As the girls played, I added in comments like, "I love to see you working together to get me my food."

Doesn't Miss A look excited to be a restaurant employee...
I promise she was actually enjoying herself :)
They continued working together as they were feeding Clifford, filling his bowl with giant dog bones, but I also talked to them about what a big job it is to take care of a dog and how you have to be really responsible.

Shortly after feeding Clifford, Miss A was distracted by the stage. No surprise there. The stage area had costumes, instruments and a big screen showing Clifford and some friends making music together. Miss A was quick to join in, and helped Little J find things too. We stayed in this area for the longest.

Before we left the girls had to check out Clifford's doghouse. Inside the doghouse there was paper, scissors and crayons to write letters and draw pictures that could be posted on a big board, delivered around the island or taken with for delivery. I loved the sign in this area because it encouraged being kind. The sign in the picture is hard to read but it says, "Creating special pictures and letters for loved ones can brighten a person's day. When you make another person feel better you are being kind." This reminded me so much of my dear friend Miss Heather, who sends me and my girls super fun mail all the time, so it really connected with me and Miss A (Little J was just excited to be drawing).

Overall, we really enjoyed our visit to Birdwell Island. You can read more about the Adventures with Clifford The Big Red Dog exhibit here!

Full disclosure, my family and I are provided with a free membership to the Minnesota Children's Museum in exchange for being a Smart Play Ambassador.  Of course, all opinions are completely my own.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Twosday Fifteen

Recent Reads
  1. Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. I heard this recommended on Pop Culture Happy Hour this spring, and heard the author do an interview on MPR so I was really excited for the book to come out. The format of the book was as a series of letters of recommendation. I had hoped to really love the book, but I just liked it. It was an easy read, and a good format for reading while feeding Baby C with short letters, but otherwise just ok. 
  2. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer. Heather has mentioned this book several time, and when I heard Julie Schumacher's interview she said she was reading it too, so I thought it would be a good one to check out. I really enjoyed this book. It follows a group of friends from their teenage years through middle age.
 Recent Listens

  1. One Bad Mother. I've totally been binging this podcast lately. Two moms talking about their genius moments and mommy fails. It makes me feel better to hear other people share their fails. Also, the podcast often sounds like a conversation between two friends (which I think it is) which makes it good company for naptime.
  2. Freakonomics Radio. The tagline for this podcast is "the hidden side of everything" and that's a pretty good description. The episode that led me to this podcast was How Much Does a Name Matter? Very fitting for me as I had been worrying about baby names for many months. 
Fruit I Can't Get Enough Of
  1. Apples. Specifically Honeycrisp apples (Go U of M!) These are my favorite apples and I'm so happy to see them well stocked in stores right now! Lots of apples around makes it so much easier for me to #makeonehealthydecision.
  2. Pomegranate. I love pomegranate on my salads. And anyone who knows me well knows that I am not a veggie lover, so having something I do like to add to my salads is super helpful. 
Someday they might all look at the camera, right?
Other Snacks I Can't Get Enough Of
  1. Almonds. Can someone explain to me why I thought I didn't like almonds? Crazy! I bought a trail mix with almonds in it recently, and realized not only do I not dislike almonds, but I really like almonds. And to think of all those Blue Diamond Almonds I gave to after HLS13!
  2. Pretzel Crisps. I love a good, crunchy snack and sometimes carrots just don't cut it. I have little self control with chips around, so pretzels are a good way for me to get a crunchy, salty snack without overindulging. 

(Three) Fun Adventures Last Week
  1. Lunch date with Miss K at Sovereign Grounds. E was gone for part of last week, so it was really nice to meet up with a friend for lunch. I've never been to Sovereign Grounds before, but we will be visiting again! There was a great playroom area that kept the girls busy and gave me a chance to chat with a friend.
  2. Sky Zone Toddler Time. The girls and I got together with one of my teacher friends and her two daughters to jump, jump, jump on Friday morning. It's been a long time since we've visited, so it was a nice treat for the girls. Plus, we got to play with friends they haven't seen in awhile. We tried a picnic after, but it was pretty windy and cold, so we wrapped it up pretty quickly. 
  3. A family apple orchard and pumpkin patch visit. Miss A and Little J picked up a couple of big pumpkins to carve next weekend, we explored the apple trees a bit and, my favorite, got apple cider donuts!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fall Travel Wrap Up

Days Traveling: 8/10
States Visited: 4
Miles Traveled: >1,223
Beds Slept In: 6
Birthdays Celebrated: 4
Family Members Visited: 20

Wow! The numbers make me feel tired all over again. Our fall worked out that we visited my family and E's family consecutive weekends. Mix in work travel for E, and we haven't spent much time at home recently. I don't do a lot of weekend updates, but the past two weekends have been busy and full of family, so I wanted to record some of our adventures. 

Our first weekend was spent visiting my family in Wisconsin. We left for Wisconsin Saturday morning and got up early Monday morning to leave. My brother, SIL and little niece were there when we got to my mom's house. All 4 cousins together for the first time! 
Baby JR is only 2.5 months older than Baby C, but 2.5 months makes such a big difference in the first year. Playing with Baby JR just made me want time to slow down even more, because I know it's going to feel like 2 days before Baby C is that big.

Next fall these two will probably be causing trouble with the older two. It's going to be so fun to watch them grow up together!
Baby C also got to meet Papa (my stepdad), and great grandparents while we were at my mom's house.

On Sunday we visited with a high school friend of mine and her kids. It was so much fun to catch up. I hadn't seen her in over 2 years and we had SO much to catch up on. Around lunch we headed to my dad's house. Baby C got to take a little nap on Daddy. So sweet!
My stepmom fosters kittens for the Humane Society, and being my little animal lover, Little J was super excited to get to play with the eight kittens currently living there. She LOVED the kitties!

On Monday morning we woke up and took E to a work meeting in Rochester, Minnesota. The girls and I played at the library while he worked. We got home late Monday, got three nights in our own beds, then headed back on the road Thursday afternoon.

I picked up Miss A from preschool, E from work and we started our trip to Watertown, South Dakota, for work meetings for E. The girls and I played in the hotel pool while E worked. After he wrapped up on Friday, we went to Larchwood, Iowa. We had a free night hotel stay at the casino hotel, so we took advantage. The casino is just across the border from where E's family lives, so his dad, brother, SIL and kids came to hang out with us and take advantage of the hotel pool. 

On Saturday morning E, the girls and I spent a little more time in the pool, then packed up to visit E's grandma. She was happy to see the girls, and get to meet Baby C.
Later on Saturday we met up with E's oldest brother, Uncle M. E grew up on a farm, and Uncle M still farms. He took the girls for a couple of rounds in the combine. I think E really enjoyed showing the girls things he used to do when he was growing up.

Baby C didn't get to ride in the combine just yet, but she was happy to hang out in the car with

Miss A and Little J both thought the combine and semi were pretty cool. Especially when Daddy put them up in the semi full of soybeans.

Miss A thought the soybeans were tasty, even eating some out of her shoe when we got back in the car (weird). Little J and I were not so sure.

The air horn was also a big hit with Miss A. Little J was cold and tired by this point.

We spent Saturday and Sunday nights with E's other brother, Uncle JD. On Sunday morning we went to church with Uncle JD and family, then headed back to Sioux Falls to play at Falls Park. I remember visiting the park with my grandma when I was younger, and I've been a few times with E, but I think this was the first visit for Miss A and Little J.

Climbing on the rocks was their favorite part of the park. The girls and I ended up back at the part Monday morning while E was in court, and that's all they wanted to do. They followed each other around singing the Buttercups song from Sofia the First, jumping from rock to rock. Such cuties!

So much fun, so much family, so much driving. We really enjoyed our visits, but I'm also really excited to be home!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Baby C: 2 Months

Another month with Baby C has flown by! She's getting bigger by the minute, and cuter too :)

Likes: Being swaddled (yes, Uncle B, she really does like it). Her pacifier. Eating her hands. Being carried in the Ergo. Being outside. Looking at trees.

Her arms being loose when she's trying to rest. Bright light when she's tired. Really, not many dislikes. So far she's a pretty chill baby.

Sleeping: Sleep is going pretty well, even when we mess with her schedule. Most nights she wakes up between 2-3 and then again 3 hours later. Most of the time she'll go back to sleep after her 5-6am wake up, but sometimes she thinks it's time to start the day. I usually disagree. She's given me a couple nights with 7-8 hour stretches of sleep, waking up at 5am for her first feeding. Those nights have been nice, but I'm okay with her continuing to wake up one other time. When Miss A started sleeping through the night I had to wake up and pump in the middle of the night. Feeding the baby sounds far better to me than pumping.

Baby C is still eating about every 3 hours. She's a good little nurser. At night E gives her a bottle before bed, and she will eat 4 to 5 ounces.

Milestones: Legitimate smiles! She's a little stingy with them, but we're seeing more and more all the time. My absolute favorite are big gummy baby smiles! Along with the smiles, she has started cooing. Adorable! Such sweet little conversations she has. She also found her hands and thinks they're extra tasty. Oh, and we took our first trip out of town to visit my family in Wisconsin. She was a trooper, making the 4 hour trip with no major meltdowns and charming everyone.

Stats: Just back from Baby C's 2 month check up (and shots... poor girl was not happy), and she is 13 pounds and 23.25 inches long. She is growing WAY TOO FAST!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ahhhh... 4.5 years old

Let's start with Miss A's thoughts on life at 4 1/2.

Favorite Show: Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony

Favorite Food: Peanut Butter & Jelly

Favorite Color: Lots of colors; all the colors except white

Favorite Game: Hide & seek, tag, monster, alligator, and the one Lilly has

Favorite Book: The Night Before Preschool

Favorite Toy: Froggy (new to her toy from our neighbor's garage sale)

Favorite Thing To Do: Watch cartoons, snuggle with Daddy, play with Mommy

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up: An artist

Having a four year old has been challenging for me so far. Granted, I was pregnant or had a newborn for these past six months, so my patience has been limited. Miss A and I are a lot alike, which also probably contributes to the challenges. Miss A is full of energy and opinions. She can be rather stubborn. She is still often the sweetest kid. She is a great big sister to Little J and now Baby C. Little J is her best friend (though she might not always admit it). They play together so well, at least most of the time. Baby C gets lots of hugs and kisses when we pick Miss A up from preschool. There's a bit of a sassy side that comes out sometimes too, that is not so nice to Little J. Or Mommy and Daddy.

I probably say this at every age she reaches, but 4 has seemed so much more grown up. While Miss A is still Daddy's girl, she is starting to get to the point where she chooses her friends over us. We're lucky to live on a block with lots of little girls to play with, and Miss A loves to run around with her friends. Watching her run around with the big kids makes her seem so much older. She also considers herself to be such a big kid now that she's in preschool. She is still pretty shy about going in to the room, but she seems to really enjoy going. Today she got to stay for Lunch Bunch, and she was so excited to eat lunch with her friends. Miss A also recently started her second season of soccer, and the difference a year has made (with very little practice at home) is amazing. She is much more focused, aggressive and skilled. So cool to see the development!

Oh, Miss A, we love you... all of your sweet, sassy self!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Me at 7 Weeks Postpartum

So, I mentioned in my post about the first two weeks with Baby C that I hurt my neck at some point during labor and delivery.  It was difficult for me to stand up, sit up, and sometimes even hold Baby C for the first 8 days. Holding my camera to take pictures was really hard, which made me really sad. But, after 8 days, my neck pain went away completely. It was pretty much overnight that it got better. Because of the neck pain, I felt like my recovery was a lot slower than after Miss A and Little J were born, and that was really hard for me. Thankfully it was only 8 days. Everything else has seemed to heal pretty well, and besides getting a little less sleep than normal, I'm back to feeling pretty much like myself.

Around the 4 week mark I started getting really anxious to be active again. I tried a couple of workouts on our elliptical to see how I would feel, and then at 5 weeks postpartum I went on my first run.  It was really tough. I ended up running a super slow 2 miles.  When I got home I told E that my lungs hurt the most, but the next day wow were my legs sore. I went out again a couple days later and managed to do the same 2 mile route a little bit faster. Yay!

Now that I'm a little past the 7 week mark, I thought I would set some goals for myself, and share them here to hold myself accountable. With 3 little ones running around it's easy for me to find reasons to skip out on workouts, but also really important for my mental health to stay active.

I'm currently about 10 pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight. I was able to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight by 6 weeks with Miss A and 6 months with Little J, and I'd like to get back there again. I'm trying not to put a lot of pressure on myself to be at a certain weight right now, but I would like to get things more toned up, and have my clothes fit better. For now I'm not planning to restrict what I'm eating (besides maybe cutting back on the sugary treats), so my focus is really on activity.
So, my goals are to do 3-4 cardio workouts each week, and 1-2 weight workouts. I'd like to run as much as possible this fall, because I know that winter is on the way and I'll be stuck on the elliptical for many months. I look at our schedule for the week, and try to plan which days will be the best to run. I have met my cardio goal the past two weeks, with 3 runs each week, but I haven't done any weight workouts yet. I'll check back again in a few weeks to share my progress. I'm planning to treat myself to Stitch Fix if I consistently meet my goals.

Does anyone have good tips for staying motivated?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Twosday Fourteen

September Dates (with Baby C)
  1. Red Cow St. Paul. E and I took advantage of having family in town to sneak out for dinner. It was so nice to have a little quiet time to talk and enjoy a slow meal (and glass of wine). Baby C did her part by sleeping through dinner.
  2. Twins Game. E's boss gave him tickets to Sunday's game.  The seats were awesome, right behind home plate, and the weather was perfect. Baby C again did her part by sleeping through most of the game.  Also, there's a nursing room in the Guest Services area which happened to be right in our section. It was so nice to have a comfortable place to feed Baby C. 

Tasty Items I Ate at Red Cow

  1. 60/40 Burger.  This burger is 60 percent beef, 40 percent bacon, with bacon on top and so very good!  I was a little worried the bacon taste could be overwhelming, but it was just right.
  2. Mini Donuts with Ice Cream.  We didn't get mini donuts when we visited the state fair, so this more than made up for it.  Warm donuts with ice cream is an excellent combination!
Tasty Things I've Made at Home

  1. Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies from Katie at Running for Cupcakes. So good. The girls and I made these one afternoon and they were so tasty. After we started mixing I realized we didn't have any chocolate chips so we used mini M&Ms instead, and they worked great.  The only bad part is that I have no control when it comes to sugar, so I ate way too many.
  2. Bread & Chocolate's Fabulous Fudge Bars. Basically an oatmeal cookie, topped with a layer of fudge and more oatmeal.  
Goals for This Week
  1. Stop eating so many sweets (see above). With so many tasty treats around lately, I've found myself sneaking a bite or two of dessert way too many times during the day. I'm finding that the more tired I am, the more I crave sugar. This week I'm going to try to get that sugar from healthier choices, like fruit.
  2. Run 3 times. We have a couple of busy weekends ahead, so this may be a challenge, but I know I will feel a lot better if I make exercise a priority this week.

How I'm Keeping Things Organized Right Now
  1. My new Poppin planner. I saw Heather post about her white Poppin planner a couple of months ago, and decided to order a pink planner for myself. I love the layout of this planner (and it's pink).  There is a 2 page calendar for each month followed by 1 page with the week divided into days and 1 lined page for notes. I love that I can keep events, meal plan and my to do list all in the same place. It's awesome! And I just saw that it's on sale, only $8!
  2. Washi tape.  Lots and lots of washi tape :)