Thursday, February 27, 2014

Favorite Twin Cities Kid Spots: Cold Weather Edition

Last month Erin asked if anyone had questions for her to answer on her blog, so I asked about her favorite Twin Cities spots for kids.  We're always looking for new places to check out, and my work day is going to get a little shorter in a couple of weeks, giving Miss A, Little J and I even more time to explore.  I loved reading Erin's post (and the comments) and decided to do my own list of our favorite places in the Twin Cities to visit during the colder months (I'm planning to do another post this spring with our favorite warm weather spots).

This is by far my favorite place to take kids in the Twin Cities.  I volunteered at the MCM briefly in college, and loved it then, but I love it even more now with my own kids!  (This year I'm also a Smart Play Ambassador for the Minnesota Children's Museum, which I'm super excited about!  More to come on that soon.)  We are really close to the museum, so it's an easy spot for us to visit for even a couple of hours at a time.  My favorite times to visit are Friday and Saturday evening when the crowds are a little smaller.  You can see a few pictures from our last visit here when Creativity Jam was still going (I'm so excited that it will be back in May!).

This is also really close to our house, and free (there are boxes at the entrance to leave a donation, but everyone is welcome).  I've never been to the Minnesota Zoo, so I can't compare, but Como Zoo reminds me a lot of the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, where I spent many days as a kid (and teenager).  Como Zoo is just the right size for Miss A and Little J.  They're big enough now that we can go without a stroller, and explore for an hour or two before heading home.  The monkeys, big cats and bison are always big hits with my family.  In the winter, we all like the tropical rainforest area in the visitor's center... it's always nice and warm there!  

This is more of a warm weather thing, but Cafesjian's Carousel is also at Como Zoo.  My grandma loved carousels, and this is a fun one to ride when visiting the zoo.  Tickets are normally $2/person, but there is one day a month when rides are free (listed on their website).  

If you're home during the day, Lil' Explorer Thursday is every Thursday through the end of April from 10-noon.  We would go to this when I was home on maternity leave after Little J was born and it was a lot of fun!

3.  Public Libraries

Our favorite local library to visit is the Ramsey County Library- Roseville.  The Roseville library was recently remodeled, and it is amazing.  The children's area is separate from the rest of the library, and huge with many areas for kids to play.  I also love that the books are at just the right height for little ones to look through.  Plus there is a Dunn Bros attached to the library for times when Mommy needs a treat.
Roseville Library
There are also a number of libraries across the Twin Cities that have Smart Play Spots.  We've been to RCL- Maplewood and St. Paul- Rondo to check out Smart Play Spots, and the girls always enjoy the play areas.  The new Smart Play Spot in Woodbury is on our list of places to check out very soon!
Farmer's Market at the Maplewood Library

The MOA is not normally my favorite place, but Toddler Tuesdays are pretty great.  We've gone to these a few times when I have a day off work and the weather isn't great.  You can buy points for the rides for half price if you ask for the Toddler Tuesday discount (and the points don't expire, so sometimes I buy extra for weekend visits).  Kids also eat free at a bunch of the restaurants on Tuesdays, which is an added bonus.  We've been to play areas at a couple of other malls, but they aren't quite as exciting as the MOA.

5.  Sky Zone

This is another place to check out with little ones if you're home during the day.  The Sky Zone in Oakdale has Toddler Times on Tuesday and Friday mornings from 9:30 to 11 for $4/person.  Basically Sky Zone is a trampolines, trampolines and more trampolines.  I think there are different activities for older kids, but Miss A and Little J just run and jump, jump, jump!  The last time we went, Miss A really enjoyed the foam pit, though getting out was tough for her.  This has been the most fun when we can get a group of friends to go, because it's more fun to run and jump with friends. 

This is the perfect place to visit for storytime, followed by Bread and Chocolate (or one of the other great Grand Ave restaurants) for lunch.  There's baby storytime on Tuesday, preschool storytime on Wednesday and toddler storytime on Thursday, all from 10:30-11am.  There are a number of other fun events scheduled every month if you check their website.  It's also a great place to find fun gifts for little ones.  

7.  Indoor Playgrounds

We've been to Eagles Nest in New Brighton, Lookout Ridge in Woodbury and Edinborough Park in Edina, but only visited each once.  Miss A tends to be a little timid, and doesn't really like the heights, unless someone will go with her. It's been about a year since our last visit, and Little J is quite a climber, so I think we'll have to make another trip soon.  I've also heard good things about Good Times Park in Eden Prairie.

8.  Family Days at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts

I don't know that I would normally take my kids to the MIA, but the Family Days are a great time to visit.  Family Day is once a month, and there's a theme with each day.  Last year Miss A and I went to Rock the Cradle at the MIA, and had a great time.  The Rock the Cradle event for this year is on Sunday, March 2 from 11-5.  I'm looking forward to going with the girls this weekend!

For local friends, where are your favorite places to play when the weather is cold?  I'd love any suggestions!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Twosday Eight: Entertainment

Netflix Shows I've Been Binging on Myself

  1. The West Wing. I recently finished rewatching the series, and it was really fun to see all of the people I had forgotten were on the show over the years. This was also my first time watching the series start to finish, in order. I've seen all of the episodes, but watching in order was fun.
  2. Friday Night Lights. I just started this series, and have never seen an episode before. I've read some positive comments on other blogs recently, so I thought it would be a good show to keep me company on the elliptical as we battle through the rest of winter.
Unrelated cute kid photo :)
Netflix Shows I've Been Binging with E
House of Cards. The first season was so good. Can't wait to start season 2. We've been watching a lot of the Winter Olympics, so we're trying to hold out to start season 2 until the Olympics are done.
The League.  So inappropriate, but so funny. I am frequently shocked by the things said on the show, but I kind of love it anyway.  

Netflix Shows We're Watching as a Family Miss A and Little J are Forcing Us to Watch
  1. My Little Pony. Miss A's current obsession of a TV show. What I love is that it's 22 minutes with no commercials involved.  A perfect amount of time to let Miss A wake up, get dressed and get ready to go!
  2. The Croods. Technically a movie, not a show, but this one we all actually enjoyed. We picked up a heart pizza and watched The Croods for Valentine's Day. A fun way to spend the night.
Shows I'm Excited to Start Again
  1. Parenthood. This is probably my favorite show on TV right now, even though basically every episode makes me cry. I love the Bravermans. I do not love the storyline with Julia and Joel right now though.
  2. Scandal. I agree with some recent criticism that some of the stories go a little too far, but I still love it. A great guilty pleasure.
Books I've Been Reading
  1. Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson.  This is the story of a hurricane that hit Galveston, Texas in 1900.  I have just started this, so I can't say much more about it.  I have read two other books by Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts, and I enjoyed both, so I have high hopes for Isaac's Storm as well.
  2. Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World by Stephen Glenn and Jane Nelsen.  This was recommended at a workshop I went to for school last week, and so far it's a good read.  
Blog Series' I'm Loving
How is this my Baby A?  She's so big!
  1. Moms Make It Work on My Life in Transition. I've been following Julia's blog since we were both expecting our first baby in early 2010 (and now we're both expecting Baby #3 this summer).  Julia's current series of guest posts features moms from around the country describing how they make their situation work.  It's been a nice mix of moms who work full time, part time and stay at home.  It's interesting to get a peek into what other moms are doing to make a variety of situations work for their families.  And it's all been really positive.  Go Moms!
  2. Twosday Posts. Started and inspired by Heather.  I also love to read Twoday posts by Mindy and Kelly.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Baby #3: 13-16 Weeks

I doubt that I'll keep up with weekly updates for this pregnancy, but I do plan to do updates ever few weeks.  Today I'm just over 16 weeks which seems like a good time to update what's been going on with Baby #3 and me.

16 Weeks! Please excuse the weird flash.
Due date: August 2, 2014

What I'm loving:  I am able to feel baby move sometimes!  The little kicks aren't very strong (yet), but there's definitely some movement in there.  It's also been really fun to follow along with Laura, Julia and Cassie's pregnancy updates (I borrowed this format from what I've been reading on Laura and Julia's blogs).

What I'm looking forward to:  We have our big ultrasound scheduled for the second week in March, and we're looking forward to getting a good look at baby.  I'm also really looking forward to spring.  It has to come soon, right?  This winter is really getting me down, and I can't wait to be able to be outside again!

Cravings/Aversions:  My biggest craving this week was for Gardetto's.  Chex Mix will do in a pinch.  Plus those are fun snacks to share with the girls, because they don't like the rye chips, which are my favorite part.  Much like my first 2 pregnancies, I'm having a hard time eating red meat.

How I'm feeling:  I'm feeling better overall, but still not great.  I still feel nauseous early in the morning, right before bed and randomly throughout the rest of the day.  I feel the best if I eat a lot of small meals throughout the day.  I'm surprised my students haven't commented on my eating yet.  I have a small snack between almost every class.  For much of my first trimester I was having a hard time drinking enough liquid, especially water, but that has also gotten a lot better.  I think staying hydrated has helped me feel better overall.

What I miss:  Eating normal.  If I eat too much in one sitting I start to feel really sick, so I am limiting what I eat at meals, no matter how tasty the food is.

Exercise:  I've been trying to keep up with cardio 3-4 times per week, although this past week I only managed 2 times.  We have an elliptical at home, so that has been my main source of cardio.  I'm so thankful for Netflix right now!  I also joined a nearby rec center with a track where I can run in this crazy cold weather.

Diet:  Improving.  So far in this pregnancy I've been relying on carbs to keep my tummy somewhat happy.  In recent weeks I've been adding in more of a variety.  Even veggies are starting to make their way in to my meals.

Differences between pregnancies:  I feel like I've been a lot more tired during this pregnancy, but I think that having 2 little ones to keep up with is probably a big part of that.  Also, I'm not a winter person to start with, and this winter has been ridiculously cold.  When I get home, I just want to curl up under a blanket!  Another difference is that while I feel sick much of the time, I haven't actually thrown up during this pregnancy (keeping my fingers crossed on that one!)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Recording the Little Years

Part of the reason I have this blog is to record our life during this time of having little ones around the house.  Miss A and Little J say some of the silliest and do some of the funniest things, and I'm sure the same will be true for Baby #3.  Sharing some of our stories and pictures here helps me keep a record of our lives.

I also try to keep physical records for each of the girls.  I've started to collect a few things for Baby #3 already (cards from sweet friends, ultrasound pics), so I've been thinking about what I need to get to keep track of our third little one and thought I'd share those ideas here.  (Reading through it now, I think it maybe sounds a little crazy, but it's working for me, and I plan do do each of the following things for Baby #3 too!)

1.  Baby Book
  • I found the baby book, My Baby Book: A Keepsake Journal for Baby's First Year, when I was pregnant with Miss A.  What I liked most about this book is that it really focuses on the events of baby's first year.  The only pages I needed to fill out after Miss A's first birthday were her first steps and first hair cut (that one actually hasn't happened yet, and she's close to 4!).  There's a page for each month of the first year with space for a photo, stats and memories from that month.  I posted monthly updates here, and used the same photos for Miss A's baby book.  I loved it so much that right after I found out I was expecting Little J, I ordered the same baby book (and plan to again!).  I know many people say they didn't do as well documenting their 2nd baby's early days, but this baby book really helped me keep up with Little J's first year too (she's also missing the first haircut page though).  
2.  Quote Book
  • This is another one I have for both girls.  My Quotable Kid is a journal for writing down the funny things little ones say.  Each page has a bubble for writing down what was said, as well as places for who they were talking to, where they were and when it happened.  I keep these in our living room so they are handy to write in whenever I hear something particularly cute.  E also adds to these books, which I think is extra fun to have stories from both of us.  
3.  Journal
  • While I love that our baby books end at the first year, I wanted some way to record future years too.  A friend mentioned that she keeps journals that she writes in on each birthday, so starting on Miss A and Little J's second birthdays, I started a journal where I write letters to the girls telling stories from their year.  I may add other things as the years go on, but for now that's the only time I write in the journal.  I also add a picture of just me, E and the birthday girl.
4.  Portfolio
  • Miss A and Little J both got the My Keepsake Portfolio for Christmas right after Little J was born, and these have been handy for catching all of the artwork that they bring home.  I try to date all of their artwork, and then file it in the portfolio.  My goal is to go through it at the end of each year and keep the best/my favorite 5-10 things, but I haven't quite gotten that far yet.  
5.  Box
  • Finally, I have a kind of catch all box for each of the girls.  The boxes we use are basic white boxes from Ikea.  They are filled with birthday cards, notes from Miss Heather, birthday invitations and other miscellaneous things that I don't know what else to do with.  Like the portfolios, I have plans to someday sort through everything I've tossed in the boxes, but for now there's still plenty of room.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The First Trimester, Round 3

I should say to start that this post is not very positive.  I wrote this throughout my first trimester which was not a very enjoyable time.  Don't get me wrong, I am extremely excited to be pregnant again.  I love my job as Mom, and I can't wait to have another baby in our family.  I know many people would love to be pregnant and feeling all that goes along with pregnancy, but I wanted to post my thoughts on the first trimester as it was happening (that I may or may not pull out when baby is older and I need her/him to take care of me).

So, remember back in December and January when I barely posted?  Yeah, turns out the first trimester with baby 3 is just as crazy as with babies 1 and 2.  I felt good for about the first week after finding out I was pregnant, then BAM!  Morning All day sickness and SO tired.

I don't think my sleepiness has been helped by the crazy cold winter we're having.  I want to be curled up under a blanket at all times.  Seriously, school was just cancelled for Monday due to the unprecedented cold.  I think the forecast is calling for a high of -13.  Not cool.

As far as food goes, most things are out for now.  There is very little that looks or sounds appealing.  When I do eat, I'm taking in a lot of carbs... bagels, crackers, breadsticks, pasta.  

Sweets are especially low on my list of things to eat.  I normally have no self control when it comes to holiday snacks, but as I was baking for Christmas this year, I wasn't able to eat a single cookie.  It was really sad (and proof to E of how sick I'm really feeling).  One sweet treat I have been loving is Coco Puffs.  I could eat Coco Puffs for every meal.  I bought a bag about the size of Little J yesterday.  Miss A is enjoying that craving with me.

I know that it's okay for me to give myself a break right now because I have a legit reason to be a little lazy, but I've also been experiencing some crazy Mommy guilt.  I was not very fun in the lead up to Christmas.  I have not had a lot of patience with Miss A and Little J.  Our house... is a crazy mess.

But, at almost 10 weeks now, I'm feeling a lot better (I thought I was feeling a lot better, then I went back to work and realized I still feel like I got hit by a truck most days).  I had a week and a half off for winter break, and I took advantage of that time to sleep in and take care of myself.  I spent a very large percentage of my time off in my pajamas, and the girls and for the most part the girls and I just chilled.

I'm trying to keep up with some sort of exercise, but 30 minutes on the elliptical is about as long as I can make it, and it's a slow 30 minutes.  I remember things being about the same during my first trimester when I was pregnant with Miss A, but I was able to do more after the fatigue lessened.  I'm hoping for the same this time.

The most frustrating part through this is that through most of this, nobody knows (for sure... most of my family suspects) that I'm pregnant.  Of course I told my mom, Heather and a few other close friends (we went to a small New Year's Eve party, so we decided to share the news instead of try to hide it).  Work is the worst.  I've been actively avoiding some of my closest work friends because I feel icky all the time.  Soon now though!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Big Sisters!!

We have a new favorite book at our house...

That's right, we'll be welcoming Baby #3 this summer!  We couldn't be more excited about the coming addition to our family!

I've been saving some thoughts on round three of the first trimester which I'll share soon.  In brief, I was sick and tired (which is why I haven't been blogging much this winter).

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Snapshot Four

Recently, Miss A has started a pre-nap routine of wanting to make her bed.  Her bed is full of stuff, all the time.  Miss A is very particular about where everything needs to go.

To make her bed, Miss A clears everything off.  Then it's my job to help her get each of her blankets back on her bed, and straight.  Next she gets her books, miscellaneous toys and stuffed animals arranged in the appropriate places.  One day last week, after everything was just right, Miss A called me back to take a picture of her with "her guys."  Lamby is her current favorite, in large part due to Doc McStuffins having a Lamby too.  Even my bison has made it's way into Miss A's bed.  Not sure exactly how that one happened.