Monday, September 5, 2016

In Celebration of Pool Moms and Dads

The passing of Labor Day weekend marks the end of another pool season.  
The past two summers most of our weekends have been spent at a local pool.  We've had many fun, hot days splashing around at the pool with our toddler, introducing her to the water.  We saw her become very brave as she waddled around the pool last year as a one-year-old, and then become a little not-so-brave this year.  Getting her head wet at the pool, which is pretty much inevitable, was a life shattering event for our little girl.  Despite all the meltdowns, sticky fingers from the daily pool treat, and trips home from the pool after realizing we forgot the "floating thing," our family enjoyed, for the most part, every hot summer minute at the pool.  

As swimming season is wrapping up, I can't help but reflect on my pool days - and take note of the different types of pool Moms and Dads  For example:

Playing in the Pool Moms:  This is the category I fall into.  Going to the pool is an aerobic exercise with a toddler.  This type of pool Mom is in the pool with their child the whole time, or chasing said toddler around the pool the whole day.  This type of Mom never wears make up to the pool as she is wearing silly swim goggles, diving for rings and jumping off the side of the pool ledge.  The "playing in the pool" Mom tends to attract the other children who have "sunbathing" moms.

Sunbathing Moms: The "sunbathing" Mom scopes out the best spot for getting a tan at the pool and sends the kids off to play.  The pool is their babysitter.  The "sunbathing" Mom usually has older kids who can fend for themselves.  Magazines, books and sunglasses are what makes up the pool bags of these Moms.

Pool Ledge Moms: The "pool ledge" Moms fall right between the "playing in the pool" Moms and "sunbathing" moms.  These Moms are very watchful of their kids, but don't really want to get into the pool and risk getting their hair wet, most days.  Children of "pool ledge" Moms tend to latch on to "playing in the pool" Moms.  

And finally .... Dads.

Dads are usually the kings of the pool, because let's be honest, most Dads would rather be on the golf course than spending a day chasing their kids around the pool.  The Dads that do go to the pool are the kings because they are the minority of the pool population.  They are also able to throw kids into the air and fall into the pool, aren't ashamed to do an awesome belly-flop or can opener off the diving board, and will definitely spend hours playing catch - all of which some Moms cannot, or will not, do.  All pool Moms look on fondly at the pool Dads, because on some days, it is a rare sight.  

As summer comes to a close, I celebrate all pool Moms and Dads for surviving another successful summer season of pool days with only a few minor sunburns, scraps from kids running too fast around the pool and tears from getting water on their head. Only another nine months until next pool season, so relax, and rest up!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Summer Roadtrip - Outer Banks, North Carolina

There have been many days this summer that I’ve had to do a double-take when looking at my desk calendar.  Surely it can’t already be August.  Where did the much anticipated warm summer months go?  While the hot, humid months are always a welcome change in the Midwest, I was particularly looking forward to this summer and spending some quality time with my quickly growing daughter.  Job changes, house projects and life quickly changed those well-meaning plans; however our little family was able to head out East to Outer Banks, North Carolina for seven glorious days of rest and relaxation on the beach.

My husband and I are well-versed in the art of road tripping.  We’ve been south, and all over the East Coast.  Driving to the Outer Banks should be no different than any of the other trips, right?  Totally wrong.  The 15ish hour trip ended up taking close to 18 to 20 hours due to construction, rain, and pit stops.  This could have been a recipe for disaster with our almost three-year-old, but thankfully she was a trooper.  We watched “Finding Nemo” and “Frozen” many, many times, colored, completed puzzles, made fun stuff out of playdough and screamed when going under, what seemed like, every single tunnel from here to the Outer Banks.  She even got a little reward for being such a good traveler: a dusty Elsa coffee mug from the bottom row of a gas station display.  Weird choice, but she had to have it.
Breakfast stop at Cracker Barrell
Once we finally pulled into our “green house” for the week, we couldn’t have been happier.  My entire family made the trip out East for the beach vacation.  We had a pool, fishing pier, and endless beach views in our backyard.  An added bonus, a couple times a day the ice cream trucks would drive by our house and beach area.

Most of our days were spent digging holes and sandcastles on the beach, chasing waves, or taking a quick dip in the, very chilly, pool.  We cooked many of our meals at home to help our toddler who was usually fighting off sleepiness by dinner time.  We did get a good sampling of fresh seafood at a couple restaurants with views of the Sound.

The Outer Banks has many lighthouses throughout the area, so it was a must to stop in and visit one.  This was not very much fun for a toddler, so it was a quick trip since she wasn’t tall enough to climb to the top of the lighthouse.

One day we spent driving on the beach looking for wild horses.  We got to spot a few herds hanging out in between beach houses.  There are lots of rules about what you can and can’t do around the horses to keep them safe and preserve their environment.  It was an interesting experience seeing the horses, and the homes tucked away on the beach with only sand road access.  Despite the bumpy ride on the beach and over dunes, Miss A was able to get in a quick nap on our trip.

On our final full day in the Outer Banks, we were greeted with grey skies and rain showers, so we headed inland to the tiny North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island.  For a rainy day, this was a perfect short afternoon trip.  The Aquarium was under construction during our visit, but we still got to see some sharks, stingrays, and various other fish.

Vacations are always bittersweet for me, as I’m sad to see the week go by and usually don’t want to leave the rest, relaxation and beach, but also thankful to have had the time away from work with my family to make wonderful memories.

I’m not sure I would go back to the Outer Banks due to the lengthy travel time.  It was, however, definitely a beautiful area, with lots of pet-friendly, beautiful beaches, encouraging the laid-back lifestyle that I was in desperate need of.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Giving Back to Decatur Organizations

With JC’s job as a television meteorologist he is asked to participate in many events for various organizations every year.  From classroom visits, to clubs and fundraising events – the amount of time he dedicates to volunteering for these activities is pretty high.

When Anderson arrived a couple years ago the amount of events JC participated in went down.  We aren’t able to spend much time together of an evening, and even on the weekends at times, so the time we are together is precious.  JC is always honored to be asked to take part in the local events, so it is hard for him to pick and choose what he can and can't do.

The events that JC participates in, that also welcome family, are, of course, our favorites.  During the Fall season there are a couple of those events that we are able to participate in together.

In the past, I’ve shared our experience at the "Whiskers and Tails" gala for the Macon County Animal Foundation.  This is a great organization that does many events throughout the year for the animals in Macon County.  JC serves on the board of the Macon County Animal Foundation, so he helps out with different events throughout the year.  This year, he served as the auctioneer for the "Whiskers and Tails" gala.  Even though he was actually pretty nervous about taking on this new role, he did a great job and had fun doing it as well.

"Whiskers and Tails" event for the Macon County Animal Foundation.
Another fun event that I am also able to take part in is the “He Said/She Said” fundraising event for the Governor Ogelsby Mansion in Decatur.  This event is so different than any other gala event I’ve been able to experience, which is what makes it so memorable.

"He Said/She Said" event for the Governor Ogelsby Mansion.
The “He Said/She Said” event allows people to try five different courses of food, prepared by the Decatur Club chefs.  With each different course there is an accompanying beer and wine.  Each person votes on which drink is their favorite for each different course.  At the end of the night, the votes determine if beer or wine was the favorite overall alcoholic beverage of the night. 

A beerologist and winologist pick the beverages that go along with each course.  JC serves as the host, and has lots of fun joking around with the two experts.

This event is a great event because the participants get to try so many different types of drinks, as well as many different types of food.  This year a sweet and sour beer was on the menu.  It was not a fan favorite, nor one of my favorites.  My favorite course for the night was the appetizers/hors devours.  A sweet onion bruschetta and raspberry cheesecake puff were the selections for that course.

Not only does the “He Said/She Said” event, and others, allow for a fun, working night out for JC and me.  It also allows us to support some great organizations in the Decatur area, and meet new people.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

"Minnie" Moments of Halloween Fun

As the days and years go by it is sometimes hard to find the time to slow down and realize just how quickly life is passing by.  It seems like within the blink of an eye my little girl that has grown from a tiny seven pound baby, to now a healthy toddler with strong opinions and ideas of her own.

This was our third year dressing up for Halloween.  For our baby’s first Halloween she was dressed up as a sweet strawberry.  She was only a couple months old, so she had no idea what was going on; however she did decide that the puffy strawberry costume was not something she liked.  For Miss A’s second Halloween she dressed as a cute black cat.  It was a very simple, easy costume.  It was also the last costume that I had complete control over picking. 

This year, Anderson decided what she wanted to be.  It was no surprise for JC and me.  She chose Minnie Mouse as her costume.

 The Sunday before Halloween we headed out to our first Halloween event, “BOO at the Zoo.”  The annual event, held at Scovill Zoo in Decatur, is our favorite way to kick off the fun holiday.  We decided to go on a Sunday afternoon, rather than an evening, hoping that the crowd wouldn’t be too big yet.  Once we unloaded from the car, our very stubborn toddler decided she wasn’t in the mood to put on her costume; thus beginning the negotiations, and finally the threat of going home.  In a quick turn of events, she put on her costume and headed in to see all of her animal friends, and to ride the carousel and train (her favorite).  The past two summers we’ve purchased a zoo pass and visited the animals a couple times a month.  “BOO at the Zoo” is a fun way for all of us to bid farewell to a summer season.  Anderson’s favorite animal is the wolf, Tilly.  She made sure to blow kisses, and tell the wolf “love you,” before leaving.

Halloween night we got ready for our trick or treat fun with a Halloween themed meal of mummy fingers and brains (pigs in a blanket and macaroni and cheese).  Then our girl, who had grown very fond of wearing her costume, excitedly transformed into Minnie Mouse!  We headed out with her new personalized Halloween pumpkin treat bag to gather our tasty treats.

Anderson would knock on most of the doors we went to, and say “treat.”  Teaching manners is a big deal at our house, so we made sure Anderson told each person “thank you” before moving on to another house.  She really got into the whole process of the event by the end of the night and did not want to go home.
Once home we passed out some candy to other kids at our house, while Anderson snuck tootsie rolls (her favorite) out of our candy basket.  We enjoyed seeing some neighbors dressed up, and visiting others.

Passing out Halloween candy.

After turning our light off, all of us indulging in way to much candy, and stayed up way to late.  A happy little girl finally went to bed after reading a last Halloween book for the season, “Room on the Broom.”  

Looking back on past Halloween seasons it’s amazing to realize that we've now shared three Halloween holidays with our little girl.  Even though that makes me sad to watch her grow up so quickly, it is also so much fun to be able to share these new experiences with her and watch the excitement she has for each new event.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Falling Short with our Fall Bucket List

Where did Fall go?  It seems like yesterday I was mourning the closing of the pool and the end of Summer.  Now Halloween has passed us and with that, all of the fun Fall activities.

Fall is always a busy time for our family.  It is also one of my favorite seasons (a close second to summer).  In Central Illinois there are so many festivals, orchards and other activities to celebrate the leaves falling, temperatures dropping and all things pumpkin.

Every Fall season I have a mental list of all of the activities I want our family to do, and places I want to visit.  Usually we are able to make a decent dent in that list; however this year we fell far short of accomplishing even half of the bucket list items.

The few places that we were able to visit, Curtis Orchard in Champaign and the Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur, were great as always.  

This year was Anderson’s first visit to Curtis Orchard, but JC and I's second visit.  We visited Curtis Orchard a few years back.  You can read about our trip, as a couple, here.  She enjoyed playing on all of the playground equipment, and really enjoyed her first ride on a pony.  We also got to explore the pumpkin patch and pick out a few pumpkins to paint.  Since we were at an apple orchard, we had to take home some apple doughnuts.  Those were a big hit with our sweet little toddler, who also has a very sweet tooth.             

Before heading home we tried to take a picture in the oversized rocking chair.  Our very stubborn two-year-old is not a fan of having her picture taken, so this was the best we could get.

The Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur is always a fun time.  JC and I have been visiting the patch every year for the past 10 years now.  We had our first date at the pumpkin patch, so it is an annual visit for us.  Over the past 10 years The Great Pumpkin Patch has gotten even more animals, attractions and people!  There was a huge crowd when we went searching for our pumpkins on Columbus Day weekend, but we were still able to explore the mazes, pumpkin patches and even check out the little old school house.  You can read about  pre-baby fun at The Great Pumpkin Patch here, a trip to the patch with our dog, Wrigley, here, and our first visit with Miss A.

Even though our Fall bucket list check list didn’t end up having many checks on it this year, we were lucky enough to get to spend time with family, celebrate friends on their wedding days, and celebrate a sixth wedding anniversary for JC and me, as well as experiencing some adult fun in Decatur through some work/fun events JC took part in.  I’ll share the rest of our Halloween fun, and the Fall adult fun events soon. 

What is your favorite Fall activity or event?  

Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Truly Wonderful 2nd Birthday - Final Thoughts

Almost two months have passed since Anderson’s 2nd birthday, so it’s time to wrap up the birthday fun with final pictures and thoughts on the food, décor and fun at her pink and gold Minnie birthday party.  I had planned on spending more time describing the details, and the many hours that went into the planning and execution of Miss A’s 2nd birthday, but work, family and life have gotten in the way of finding time to share all of the celebration fun.  So here goes some final thoughts ...

A couple months before Anderson's 2nd birthday I spent some time searching sites to find a pink and gold Minnie invitation.  Luckily, Etsy had a great invitation that was exactly what I was looking for.  The invitations were pink and gold with Minnie Mouse heads, and also came with cupcake toppers and food display tags – all of which were items that I used to add to the pink and gold Minnie décor on the day of the party.

The weeks leading up to the party were spent creating pink and gold Minnie décorations.  Another easy, and fairly, quick project was decorating a number “2” in pink paper and ribbon to sit on the mantel.  It only took one episode of “Real Housewives of New York” to finish this project. 

As for the silly Styrofoam Minnie centerpieces, it took many episodes of Bravo reality shows to completely finish these lovely decorations.  I spray painted Styrofoam balls for hours, and then after drying would notice they had shriveled up to about half the size.  Our new neighbors probably re-thought the purchase of their house overhearing a conversation about the shriveling Styrofoam balls between JC and I.  After many coats of spray paint on those despised Styrofoam balls, and planters, and hot gluing my fingers together multiple times making ribbons, the final product was finally done.  As a reminder to myself that I can be crafty, and also patient, when needed, I kept the Minnie Mouse head centerpieces and have a couple displayed in Anderson’s new playroom.

Family members pitched in to help with the decorations for the celebration.  The pink and gold Minnie banner across the mantel (in the picture above) was made by Anderson's creative Mimi (my Mom)for our birthday girl.  My talented sister-in-law also made the "Welcome" sign for the celebration.  It is now displayed on the door leading into Anderson’s new play room. 

A Minnie Mouse head birthday cake, and Minnie -themed food, finished out the preparations for a very successful party.

The person the birthday party was all about, Miss A, was dressed in the cutest birthday outfit.  She had a pink and gold Minnie "2" shirt with glitter gold shorts.  She looked absolutely adorable and the outfit totally fit our little diva. 

Even though preparations for this 2nd birthday party were much more stressful due to other events going on the weekends leading up to the birthday, it was, in my opinion, an even better party than Miss A’s first.  Maybe because she could actually understand the party was for her.  Or maybe because of her excitement after seeing all of the Minnie decorations; whatever the reason was, Anderson’s 2nd birthday was a truly wonderful day to be her Mommy.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sending Minnie Thank You's

Living hours away from family and most friends, it is always a special and cherished occasion when we are all able to gather together.  There are only a few times a year when these occasions occur.  One of those times is Anderson’s birthday. 

Our loved ones take the time to make the few hour drive to Decatur to celebrate our sweet, silly girl, once a year, while also showering her with many presents.  Having so many family and friends celebrate Anderson with us is a very special moment.  

After the presents have been unwrapped, decorations have been packed away and the last piece of cake has been eaten, I make a priority to send a special, personalized “thank you” to all of our loved ones who shared our day with us.

For this year’s Thank You notes I decided to re-use a piece of the party décor.  The Minnie Mouse head garland was perfect for writing a special note to share our gratitude.  These Thank You notes were perfect because they were already made.  I didn’t have to spend any additional money on them, and they were personalized to go along with the theme of the party.  All of Miss A’s family and friends know she is obsessed with Minnie Mouse, so it is only appropriate she sent along her thanks on Minnie Mouse cards.

After writing the many “thank you’s” came the hard part, having a two year old try to write her name on the notes.  After a few notes, she lost interest, and Mom ended up signing the cards for her.  Forcing our very independent two-year-old to sign all of the notes was not a battle I was up to fighting. 

In today’s world, it may be easy to overlook a simple “thank you” note, or think that nobody cares about them anymore.  I may be old-fashioned, but I do think sending and receiving these notes is still important.  Teaching our children this simple etiquette standard is also a good skill to pass on.  I appreciate getting a note of thanks when I take time to attend a party and offer a gift.  Writing a “thank you” is a very simple and easy, yet heartfelt way to express gratitude to the people that make our lives so special.