Can I Love the Scale?

Ummmm . . . probably not.  I’m hoping I’ll like it a little more tomorrow.  Maybe just hating it less is more realistic.  Saturday morning is my weekly time to weigh and record my weekly weight, compare to the previous week, etc.

Lately, it’s usually been pretty disappointing . . . frustrating . . . depressing.

I’ve done a few things this week that I’m hoping will change the trajectory of my weight.  I’ve had some successes and some failures, but I have started moving more, drinking more water, and eating less junk.  I am hopeful that I will weigh slightly less tomorrow than I did last Saturday.  Regardless of the scale, I feel I am moving in the direction of improved health.

I’ve also started tracking my calories, exercise (including stretching) and water intake.  While I haven’t been perfect at it this week, I certainly improved over previous weeks.  I am definitely paying more attention to all of these things.  So, I decided to develop a tracker.  I guess I’m old school.  I still use a Franklin Classic planner.  In fact, I just bought a Franklin hole punch.  Old school, odd ball, dinosaur.  Don’t care.  I’ve used electronic planners, my phone, etc.  I find the Franklin works the best for me.  Anyway, I decided to put two trackers per sheet so I can cut them in half and put one in my planner for each day.  It’s basic – not pretty.

Here’s a snapshot of my journal page.  I’m also attaching it (two on one sheet) as a Word document, so you can edit however you like.  Fitness Journal

Stay tuned for updates on my progress!

Update:  I am down 2 lbs. since last Saturday.  My hard work paid off – but it really was hard work!

 

Christmas in August

I love Christmas-time.  I have been known to shop for Christmas presents in October. . . maybe even earlier.  I know, some people dread that time of year, but I really enjoy it.

That said – I do not enjoy how unorganized all of my Christmas decorations are!  Many years of collecting, packing and re-packing, and moving have resulted in boxes of ornaments wrapped in very old newspaper, in no particular order.

I like decorating, but last year, I had such a mess going on in the living room that it put a damper on the enjoyment!  We recently finished our basement (mostly) and I am finally trying to organize the unfinished, storage part of the basement.  I decided to get my Christmas decorations in order.

Our tradition is to buy a new ornament whenever we go on a trip, and one with the year on it each year.  After 10 years together, we have accumulated many ornaments!  I already had quite a few from when I was single.

When Christmas is over, I like to leave the tree up until New Years Day.  Then, I just seem to be in a mad dash to get everything put away.  While I’m decorating, and unpacking, I am thinking, when I put this all away, this time, I’m going to do a better job of keeping it neat and organized.  But when that time comes . . . nope.  Just as messy, maybe more so, as the year before.

So, about a week ago, I decided to finally get the situation under control.  I’m sure you’ve seen different ornament storage containers.  It would definitely be possible to devise my own.  But, I knew that was never going to happen – so I bought two.  They hold up to 112 ornaments, and I could use a third, even after putting some ornaments in a box to give away.  I might be a hoarder!  But, in my defense, we have a 9-foot tall artificial tree, and it takes a ton of ornaments.  Also, the spaces for each ornament are kind of small.  Fortunately, there was a way to expand them.  I did not actually fit 112 ornaments into each container.  But I did fit a bunch!

I found the ornament storage units on the Bed, Bath & Beyond website.  These “Real Simple Solutions” (I love that name!  The simple solutions are always the best.) boxes were perfect.  Easy to put together and easy to use.  I have received no compensation for this post!  I wish!

You can see all of the boxes and newspapers in the background. I needed these!
The directions were pretty straight-forward, and, as I mentioned, the boxes and dividers were easy to put together.
Small ornaments fit very well with the inserts used, as directed.
Adjusting the inserts makes it possible to store larger ornaments.

While it might seem strange to tackle the organization of Christmas decorations in August, somehow, with the stress of the holidays far away, it was pressure-free.  I feel I am on the way to finally getting my basement organized.

Cloth-Covered Corkboard for the Unskilled, Lazy DIY-er

Is DIY-er a word?  Probably not.  Oh well.

A year or so ago, I decided I really wanted a cloth covered bulletin board.  I had seen them in stores everywhere – until I wanted one.  Then, of course, I could not find one.

I attempted to order a custom-made one on Etsy, but I was told the seller couldn’t ship the size I wanted.  So I ordered one that was quite a bit smaller.  Also, when I received it, I discovered that it wasn’t a corkboard.  I can put small items under the ribbons, but tacks don’t stick.  So, I end up trying to shove large school announcements and such under the ribbons; it’s just a big old mess.

Since the whole idea of getting a bulletin board was to have a nice-looking space to post things and keep them neat, the mission was definitely not accomplished.

I was at my parents’ house recently, and learned that my Mom had this old corkboard that she wasn’t using.

A little worse for the wear, but perfect for what I had in mind . . . except one thing.  I wanted to just cover the corkboard and leave the frame exposed.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t remove the frame without damaging it.  So, I had to cover the whole thing, frame and all.

The board is 2′ X 3′.  I bought a yard of fabric, which was 56″ wide, for $8.  I bought lace instead of ribbon, because it was on sale.  I thought about padding, or quilting the board, but I decided against it.  I really had no idea what I was doing, so I decided to keep it simple.

The back of the board had a wire nailed to the frame for hanging.  I removed it, and saved it to re-attach later.

The material is not necessarily my top choice, but it was on sale, and the colors work with my home’s interior.  I first rather carelessly wrapped the board in the material just to see if it was going to work.

It seemed like what I wanted to do was going to work.  I had a lot of excess material, so I tacked everything down, and trimmed some of it away to make it easier to work with.

Then I started monkeying around with the lace ribbon.  As you can see, I started with tacking an “x”.

I added 4 more ribbons total.  If I did this again, I would arrange the ribbons a little differently.  Rather than bringing the ribbon all the way to the edge, I would include additional ribbon and make the middle triangles on the sides match the width of those above and below.  They look just a little off.  I measured to make sure the center of the “x” was in the center of the board, measured that the distance of the ribbon from the edges/corners, etc., was uniform.

Also, I used ribbon of different sizes.  I thought it would make it a little more interesting (plus, the lace pack that was on sale included multiple sizes).  I would use all the same size next time.

I got my husband’s staple gun and stapled the cloth to the frame in a few places in the back.  I then stapled the ends of the ribbons in the back and stapled where the ribbons criss-crossed in the front.

 

I bought these buttons – on sale, of course.  If I do this again, I will just use regular flat buttons and cover them with the extra material.  These buttons were a little too small, and with the raised loop in the back they stuck out too far.

I used regular scissors, and managed to cut off the loops without breaking the buttons.  I would probably use a more appropriate tool next time, because I did pinch my finger.

 

I hot-glued the buttons over the staples at each place where the lace criss-crossed.

I then flipped it over and stapled the cloth to additional spots on the frame.  But then, oh the horror!  I ran out of staples!  So, I hot-glued the cloth to the frame.  I also cut off more of the excess cloth.  If I really wanted to get fancy, I could have cleaned it up by applying a fabric finish to the back.  But, it’s just for my use, so I didn’t bother.

I hammered the nails for the wire back into the frame, and voila.  I was done.

As I mentioned, the side triangles are a little off.  But, I figured once I posted things to it, the flaws would not be noticeable.

And, I was right.  This crafty stuff is not my thing.  I just wanted a board that functions like a corkboard, but looks a little prettier.  I achieved that, so while I would do some things differently next time, I consider this project a success!

 

 

 

 

 

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Your Local Library May Have More to Offer Than You Realize

When was the last time you visited your local public library?  If someone had asked me that five years ago, I would have responded, “I have no idea.”

In August of 2012, I decided to try something new.  I began studying for the Series 7 and 66 exams to become a Financial Advisor.  I was 7 months pregnant and had a 2 1/2 year-old at home.  It was impossible to study at home, so I went to the local library.

We lived in a larger city then.  The library was just a few years old.  It was beautiful – it looked more like a museum than a library.  It even had a coffee shop.  I spent a lot of time in the coffee shop studying and eating cheese cake (I was eating for two, after all).

Other than talking to the owner of the coffee shop, I pretty much kept to myself.

I had my daughter in October, we moved in January, and I took and passed the Series 7 exam in February.  On to the next exam.  We had moved to the country, a few miles from a small town.  I looked online at the hours of the small-town library and I was a little shocked.  It was closed on Sunday and Monday, and the other days, it was open from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM or 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM.  Bizzario.

I later found out that the libraries in the other small, nearby towns had alternating hours with our library.  Okay.  I usually studied several hours a day, so I drove 10 miles the other way, to a bigger town/small city that had a library that was open all day.  Again, I pretty much kept to myself.  The library was older, and not nearly as nice as the one in our old town.  No coffee shop, and only on-street parking, with a two-hour limit.  Total pain in the rear.  I’d usually go to a coffee shop, with a view of the Mississippi River when my two hours was up.

At some point, I started going to our tiny library to study when I could catch them open.  There was only one table, and it was right in the middle of the small room, so I was pretty conspicuous.  I ended up spending a good portion of my study time chatting with the librarian.  When she was on vacation, I got to know the substitute.  I would also eavesdrop on the conversations of the locals.  Well, I guess it’s not really eavesdropping when people are speaking at full-volume.  Talking quietly is not a rule at this library.

I rather enjoyed the time in the library.  It made me feel like I was beginning to be a part of our little town.

In chatting with the librarian, I learned about some really cool things that were available – FOR FREE.  Well, it’s not really free, since it’s made available through my tax dollars.  But, I’m paying the taxes anyway, so I may as well make the most of it.

Our little library has a handful of decent movies for grown-ups, and quite a few books and movies for the kids.  But, it is quite small, so the selection is limited.  But here is the beautiful thing – it’s part of a network.  I can log onto their website and order anything within their library network, which includes universities and, I’m told, can even extend way beyond our area.  I have yet to search for any movie or book and find that it’s not available to me.  I may have to wait a while if it’s a newer release.  But, once I have it – unless it’s something in high demand – I get it for three weeks, and can usually renew, and keep it for an additional three weeks.  Can you imagine – borrowing a moving for free for six weeks!?  It’s awesome.

I started watching “The Good Wife” last year.  When I got close to the end of a season, I would order the next one.  I would get an email that the next season was ready for me to pick up.  I watched them back to back, all for free.

In October, I stopped at the library to pick something up, on our way to “Boo at the Zoo”.  The librarian commented about my kids’ costumes.  I told her where we were going (a couple weeks before Halloween, our zoo has a weekend when kids wear their costumes and businesses set up stations where they give away candy and other goodies, etc.).  She told me that the library had a membership to the zoo that was available to borrow for a week.  What?!  Not only did we get into the zoo for free that day, I discovered that the library also has free passes to most of the local museums.  How cool!

I had heard about some libraries even offering cake pans.  I did a search and found that our network does not, but indeed some do.  I found this article about libraries in Maine:  Maine libraries write new chapter on lending.  Not only do they offer cake pans, but you can borrow American Girl Dolls and recreational gear, such as fishing poles and croquet sets.  Who knew?

Why not check it out?  You only have a little time to lose, and plenty to gain!

 

 

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Company Coming? Reduce the Stress.

I am the first to admit, my house is generally not company-ready.  In fact, it’s usually in a state that requires a lot of work to get it company-ready.

Still, I like having company.  In fact, sometimes I invite company to give me a reason to mop my floors.

Even so, in the past, I have found myself extremely stressed out the day company is coming.  Clean, clean, clean.  Try to stop the kids from fighting, and find something to keep them occupied.  Clean, clean, and clean some more.  Clean until 15 minutes before company arrives, change my clothes, slap on fresh deodorant, touch up my make-up and maybe brush my teeth.

There are some problems with this strategy.  If people show up even a little early, that’s a problem.  I’ve been caught in my “wife-beater” t-shirt.  I’ve had guests arrive while I’m still mopping.  I’ve answered the door breathless with those little plastic strap things for hanging your top sticking out of my sweater.  I’ve had to set the table after guests arrive (quite a few times).

It’s usually family or close friends, who really don’t care how clean my house is anyway.  But, I care.  I want the house to be presentable.  But, I also hate how flustered I can be when people arrive.

I have a few things working against me.  I work full-time outside the home.  My husband is in charge of mowing and snow removal.  I’m in charge of the laundry for four people.  I usually start sorting on Wednesday nights.  It’s all I can do to get it all washed and put away before it’s time to start over again.  I’m always confused by that meme people post on facebook about the 2 minutes all of the laundry is done before the hamper starts filling up again.  Really?  The hampers are 1/4 full before I start load #2.  Oh well.  We always have clean underwear, even if we have to get it out of the laundry basket.

In addition, with two young children, it’s hard to do much of the cleaning in advance.  I can clean the toilets a couple of days ahead.  But, we have dark hardwood floors in the entry, kitchen and dining area.  They’re warm and pretty.  But, they show every footprint, every crumb.  So much can’t be done until the day, or at best, the night before.

I have managed to turn this around the last few months.  Admittedly, I have a few things working for me now.  My kids are a little older, and have started keeping more of their toys in their rooms.  My husband, who stays at home, has been better about keeping the house picked up on an ongoing basis. The last two holidays, I’ve even been able to set the table the night before.  My 4-year-old actually likes to mop.  She has a meticulous nature, and actually does a pretty good job.  It’s glorious.  I hope it lasts!

But, the single thing that I have done that I believe has made the biggest difference, is a new mindset.  While I used to constantly keep in mind what time people were due to arrive, I now set my deadline as one hour before.  This means, two hours before they arrive, I prioritize what is most important to finish in the next hour.  Some extra junk on the mudroom bench? So be it.  The laundry room floor only gets swept and not mopped?  Oh well.  The stove is less than pristine?  I’m cooking a meal – people expect that.

An hour before, I spend a little time getting myself ready and the kids changed if necessary.  That leaves me a solid 30 minutes to just sit and relax.  It may not seem like much, but it makes all the difference in the world.  When my guests arrive, I am more pleasant and ready to focus on them.  I’m ready to enjoy myself and the people I’ve invited over.

What are your tips for stress-free hosting?

 

 

 

 

5 Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas – Using Velcro

Elf on the ShelfThe prerequisite for anything Cookie, our elf, does is that it be quick, easy and new.  A couple of years ago, when I started doing Elf on the Shelf, I read a tip on a blog to cut the elf’s hands apart and apply Velcro, so you could put the hands back together if you want.  I would love to give credit to the blogger, but I don’t remember where I saw it.

I have been looking for new ideas this year, and thought that I really need to try this because I am running out of quick, easy and new ideas.  We have been finishing our basement, and I came across this Industrial Strength Velcro that my husband thought he lost.  He replaced it, and now I have this huge supply of Velcro at my disposal!

Elf on the ShelfIf you have done Elf on the Shelf, and left the hands sewn together, you know it can be difficult to manipulate the doll into different positions.  I started thinking that I could not only put the elf’s hands back together, but I could Velcro all sorts of things to her hands.  Now, the possibilities seem endless!  I imagine I will be posting more ideas once Cookie makes her first visit after Thanksgiving.  For now, I very quickly put together a few scenes with Cookie helping out around the house.

Cookie can help address invitations, thank you cards, and Christmas cards!

 

Elf on the Shelf
Cookie can make her own breakfast!

 

Cookie can scoop the kitty litter.
Cookie can scoop the kitty litter. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it. May as well be the elf!

 

Cookie can help with the planning.
Cookie can help with the planning. Having her put some stickers on the calendar would be a nice touch.
Cookie can help empty the dishwasher.
Cookie can help empty the dishwasher.

My kids are at an age when I would like them to start learning to help out more.  Maybe Cookie will set a good example this Christmas!

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10 Very Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas

Elf on the ShelfThis will be our third year doing Elf on the Shelf.  It has been great fun.  The kids love seeing what Cookie is up to.  I usually decorate the weekend after Thanksgiving, and that is when Cookie makes her first appearance.

For 11 months of the year, I fall asleep next to my son around 8:30, 40% of the time.  The other 60% of the time, I stay up too late working on blog-related stuff.  For the month that Cookie is expected to appear in a new place, I set the alarm on my phone so the kids won’t be disappointed.  I work outside the home, and the kids want my constant attention in the evening.  All of this is to preface the point that I am tired!  But, I can’t put Cookie in the same or a similar place because the kids get bored with that.

I have seen some great and creative ideas on Pinterest.  But, many of them just take too much time.  So, I decided to post some for other busy and tired Moms.

#1 Hug a Friend.  The easiest, and possibly the most boring.  You can pick just about anything here, and you can use it multiple times (picking a different doll, statue, finding a location that’s a little different, etc.) if you’re in a real time crunch or out of ideas.  And it’s all about love.  Who could ask for more?

Elf on the Shelf#2 Pick a Game, Any Game.  This is a game I bought for my kids at a garage sale.  It’s kind of like Pictionary, but with magnets.  I chose to make an angel, because I figured that was kind of in the Christmas theme.  This year, my kids are into matching games, so cookie may be found sitting with Barbie playing the matching card game.  The only disadvantage – if it’s a game they play with often, the kids may not be able to play with it all day if your rule is that they’re not to mess with the Elf.

cookie-9#3 Coffee or Tea?  My kids know that my husband and I need our morning coffee, so it was only natural that Cookie help out.

cookie-10-copy#4 Just Hanging Out.  I thought this turned out kind of cute, but my son woke up in the middle of the night and said there was a monster in his room.  Oops!  That was when he was 4; I don’t think he would react that way now.

Elf on the Shelf#5  Make a Copy.  This was super easy.  I was surprised how good the copy turned out.  I actually saved the print-out from 2 years ago.  Maybe I’ll scrapbook it.

Elf on the Shelf#6  Just Getting a Snack.  Obviously very easy.  It got a chuckle from several of my facebook friends, and the kids found it funny too.

Elf on the Shelf#7  An Article of Clothing.  My son loves to wear bow ties, so he got a kick out of this one.  Sorry the photo is blurry.  I took this before I had any idea I would be blogging!

Elf on the Shelf#8  Just taking the dinosaurs for a walk.  My kids loved this one.  I made the leashes out of pipe cleaners.  That was easy enough.  Getting Cookie to stand was the hard part.  The book is there to prop her up against the wall.  To stay in the theme, I used a book about dinosaurs!

Elf on the Shelf#9  Cookie was in the Self-Portrait Phase of Her Art Career.  I cannot draw, at all.  As you can see, there is an extra line where I messed up the drawing.  Still, even with my very limited artistic ability, it was good enough that the kids were amused.

Elf on the Shelf#10 More Food.  This is pretty simple, but I thought it was festive with the red and green M&Ms.  This was on Christmas Day, the first year we did Elf on the Shelf.  I figured the kids would be so distracted with wanting to open their gifts, that simple was okay.

Elf on the ShelfStay tuned for what I come up with this year.  I guarantee it will be easy, easy, easy!

 

 

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Does Gelatin Really Have Health Benefits?

gelatinWhen I thought of gelatin, I always just thought of JELL-O and gel caps.  I had heard it was made of animal bones, which I thought was kind of disgusting, but it wasn’t something I put a lot of thought into.

A few months ago, someone at work was telling me about the benefits of gelatin for joint damage and pain.  I have arthritis in my lower back from an injury.  I looked into it and found a study that showed gelatin had an “aspirin” effect on arthritis.  I can’t find the article now, but if you do a search of gelatin and arthritis you’ll find a long list of results.

I’m not a doctor, obviously.  I am only telling about my experience.  WebMD does list some potential side effects WebMD – Gelatin potential side effects.  Talk with your doctor before using gelatin as a supplement.

I decided to give it a try.  I bought Knox gelatin at Wal-Mart.  My co-worker told me to put a packet in my coffee every day for a couple of weeks, and then a few times a week.

It’s kind of gross if you don’t do it right.  Gelatin is not made of bones, but it is made of animal parts and contains collagen.  Obviously, you know that it causes food to gel.  You have to put it in very hot coffee (or another beverage) and stir quickly, pouring a little at a time.  Otherwise, you end up with a film of coffee colored gel in the bottom of your cup (try as I might, I still get that sometimes).

I am told there is higher quality gelatin out there, and it can certainly be found cheaper online.  One day I’ll probably do that, but I like the convenience of the packets.

I used it inconsistently for several months.  Was it working?  I wasn’t sure, as my pain is pretty sporadic.  I wasn’t having a lot of pain, but maybe I wouldn’t anyway?

Then, I got lazy and didn’t use it at all for three or four weeks.

One Saturday, I was trying to get my son’s booster seat out of my husband’s car, and the pain was significant.  It was a familiar pain, but one I hadn’t felt in a while.  It took me an hour or two to remember that I had stopped taking the gelatin.  I had not had pain that severe while I had been taking it.  So, yes, I believe it does help my arthritis pain.

It offers some other benefits.  This study shows that some types of gelatin suppress the proliferation of human tumor cell lines in vitro – in other words, it potentially slows cancer growth:  Effect of gelatins on human cancer growth in vitro.

I have had several people tell me that they use it for hair and fingernail growth.  I don’t have a problem with thinning hair, so I haven’t noticed that.  But my fingernails are much stronger.

This article lists several other potential benefits to gelatin that I have not mentioned:  The (surprising) therapeutic effects of gelatin.

Buying Your Kid’s Birthday Cake Does Not Make You a Bad Mom

I fondly remember baking with my Mom when I was a kid.  Nothing fancy.  Cake from a mix.  Chocolate chip cookies.  But, once I left for college, and then became an adult, I pretty much never baked. What single woman wants high calorie treats sitting around?  Plus, just baking for yourself . . . I didn’t see a lot of joy coming from that.

When my son was three, we started baking cut-out sugar cookies.  What a pain.  In the beginning, I made the batter and icing from scratch.  I had no clue what I was doing.  I found it difficult to make batter that was the right consistency . . . not too gooey to cut out, but not too dry.  I enjoyed spending the time with him, but I still have not developed a passion for baking.  We now make our sugar cookies from a mix, and I buy the icing.  The fun thing for the kids is cutting them out and decorating them anyway.

Oddly enough, when I was single, I did enjoy cooking.  I had the time.  I could take hours preparing a meal on a weekend if I wanted.  I don’t really consider myself a very creative person overall, but I liked experimenting with cooking.  As a very amateur baker, there’s not a lot of experimenting for me.  I have too many things not turn out right to dare to monkey with ingredients.  Someone once explained to me that cooking is an art, but baking is a science.

My Mom took a cake decorating class when I was a kid, and she made us some great cakes.  She could even make roses from icing.  I remember her getting very frustrated when it wasn’t going well.  Besides getting the house and meal ready for our birthday parties, she would spend hours on the cake.  I still appreciate the time she put in, and the final result, probably more so now that I have kids.

For my daughter’s first birthday, I felt I needed to make her cake to show that I loved her – because putting the time in is required, right?  Plus, my Pinterest addiction at the time, made me feel inspired (or was it pressured?) to do it all better.

I decided to make cupcakes in the shape of a butterfly (an idea found on Pinterest, of course).  I decorated her room in butterflies and they make me think of her.  Here is the final result.

butterflyI thought it turned out pretty good.  But, it took quite a lot of time and energy.  Even with making the cupcakes from a mix and buying pre-colored frosting, this took me two days.  Frankly, they were a little dry.  The party was at our house, so I also had to get the house ready.  I was pretty worn out already when the party started.  Then there’s the clean-up.

The last couple of birthdays, I ordered the cakes from the grocery story.  My daughter’s most recent party was at a pizza place, with a giant “jungle” play area.

Here’s what I’ve learned.  I like baking with my kids, when we can make it easy, they can help, and how the final result looks doesn’t really matter.  As long as it tastes good, and they eat most of it, so I don’t end up consuming 8000 calories in a day, then it’s a success.  Baking from scratch is just not something I have the talent or patience for.

My kids love looking at the cakes on our regional grocery store chain’s website. When I was looking at cake tops to make my son a cake, he was a little too exasperated.  “I don’t want you to make it.” What?  I showed him photos of some of the cakes I had made in the past.  He was surprised.  “That looks really good.”  But, in truth, it was more fun spending the time looking at the website with them, and the cakes from the grocery store taste better.  My favorite comment from my daughter when looking at a cake –  “I want to eat it!”

The butterfly cake was all my idea.  My daughter was only turning one, so she didn’t really even seem to notice the cake.  Now that my kids are older, they can choose their theme.  With my baking ability (I won’t even get into my feeble attempt at making cake pops), what I am capable of making perhaps limits their choices.  Last year, my daughter chose a Spiderman cake.  This year, it was “The Secret Life of Pets”.  I was pretty much stress free at my daughter’s last party.  She and I had put together favor bags ahead of time for the guests, we left a little early to pick up the cake and balloons, and the pizza place did the rest.  I could enjoy the time at the party with my kids and our guests.

Unless my kids insist that I make their cake or have their party at our home in the future, I think my days of birthday cake making and home hosted birthday parties are over.  For those who enjoy making beautiful cakes from scratch – more power to you.  I have talents, but that isn’t one of them.  It makes me grouchy and stressed out.  No one wants that.

 

 

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Eight Things Adventureland Has Taught Me

trainr-rideLike most kids, I loved amusement parks.  I went to a few, but the one we went to most regularly was Adventureland in Altoona, Iowa.  It was about a three hour drive from the home where I grew up.  We would usually meet my cousins from South Dakota, adding to the fun.  It was like kid heaven.  Once inside, you could ride all the rides you wanted . . . I remember having trouble sleeping the night before out of excitement

We would usually meet my cousins at the McDonald’s across the road.  My parents figured they would fill us up on less expensive food before we were tempted by all of the overpriced treats in the park.  That was just fine with me.  We didn’t go out to eat all that often, and almost never to McDonald’s because there wasn’t one near our house.  So, the stop at McDonald’s was a treat.  I could see the roller coasters through the McDonald’s windows, adding to the excitement.

I had returned once as an adult, before I had kids.  I took my nephew when he was about the age my son is now, because my brother’s family and I all lived fairly close to the park for a couple of years.  I remember thinking it hadn’t really changed much since I was a kid.

My husband grew up north of Altoona, actually quite a bit closer.  He, too had gone to the park fairly frequently as a kid.  The first time we went together, with our kids, was 2014.  When we entered, we both agreed, it was like stepping into a time warp.  The entrance seemed exactly the same.

1.  A 20-month-old cannot handle a hot amusement park after a three hour drive.

I live about 30 minutes from where I grew up, so it’s still nearly a three hour ride to the park.  The first time we went, my son was four and my daughter was under two.  My husband’s parents met us there.  We decided to drive up that morning.  Big mistake.  The kids were already crabby from the car ride when we arrived (as were we).  It was very hot that day, and the lines were long.  We didn’t get many rides in before my daughter started having tantrums while waiting in line.

We returned to the park in 2015 and 2016.  Both years, we stayed over the night before so we could be fresh when we arrived at the park.

2.  Sometimes it’s better to take a break.

Because we drove up that morning, we had booked a room for that night.  We knew being in the car for a total of six hours round trip would be too much for one day.  We left the park in the early afternoon and checked into our room to get cooled off physically and emotionally.

Admission to the park was not cheap, so we hated to waste the time away from the park.  However, the much needed break made the return in the late afternoon/early evening much more pleasant.

3.  There’s good and bad to camping at Adventureland’s campground. 

We bought a pop up camper in June of 2015.  We wanted to use it as much as possible that summer, and thought it would be fun to take it to Adventureland.

It is less expensive than staying at a hotel, so that is an obvious plus.  After working all day, driving three hours, and then setting up the pop-up, we were just a wee-bit cranky.

A plus – eating was less expensive.  My husband had planned ahead.  The camper has a small stove-top and we brought along a microwave, so we were able to bring our own food for the first night.

The campground is huge, with over 300 sites.  Many retired folks come to work at the park for the summer, and they stay in their campers.  The negative . . . the sites are very close together.

A huge benefit – our campsite was very near the entrance of the park.  It was a very easy walk, so we didn’t have to fight traffic.  We just walked right up to the entrance when they opened.  That was pretty awesome.  They also have a decent bathroom with a shower.  I took two showers while there, and there was no one else showering at those times, so that was great.  The downside – the bathroom did not have air conditioning and there was virtually no ventilation, it seemed.  It’s tough to feel refreshed, even after a shower, when the air is thick with steam and it’s 90 degrees.

You can have your hand stamped and leave the park and return as many times as you want during the day.  With our camper being so close, we could go back and take a rest whenever we wanted.  The campground also has a pool, so we took a break in the afternoon and took a dip.  The kids really enjoyed that, and it cooled us all off.

4.  While you may be able to get away with not following through after saying “Maybe later” to a 2-year-old in some settings, an amusement park is not one of them.

My daughter’s favorite ride is the hot air balloons.  She is the adventurous one.  Her older brother is more cautious – and he especially was when we went in 2015.  The hot air balloon ride looks harmless, but it actually goes pretty high, and as you’re going around, your seat swings out.  He tried it once, and didn’t care for it, but my daughter, who is three years younger, wanted to ride it over and over.

We decided that my husband would pick up a pizza for dinner, we would eat it in the camper, and then see how it went as far as heading back to the amusement park.  I had in my mind that my son and I would ride the log ride, as they were removing it from the park at the end of the summer and it was one of my favorite rides.  My daughter was too short for it.  As we were leaving the park to go eat, we passed the hot air balloon ride, and my daughter wanted to ride it again.  I replied “Maybe later.  We need to go eat dinner now.”

It had already been a long day, and my husband said he was done with the park.  I was trying to persuade my daughter to stay with Daddy in the camper and rest while my son and I went to ride the log rides.  To say this didn’t go over well would be an understatement.  She became hysterical, screaming “Maybe later!  Maybe later!”  We joke about it now, but at the time, I knew I was not going to get out of the hot air balloon ride.

So, I told my son, I would return and we would ride the log ride.

5.  Sometimes you have to rely on bribery and threats.

My daughter and I ended up taking three or four more rides.  Even so, when I told her it was time to go, she started having a fit.  I had told her I would buy her a toy, but when she started having a fit, I told her, no toy if she didn’t straighten up.  It worked like a charm and we bought this pink giraffe on the way out, as well as a toy for my son.

pink-giraffeSadly, when I returned to the camper, my son was sound asleep.  We didn’t ride the log ride, and when we returned in 2016, it was indeed gone.  Mom was the most heartbroken of all over that one.  Boo!

sleeping6.  I’m still a kid at heart, but I’m not looking forward to my kids wanting to ride the big roller coasters!

One of my favorite rides is the bumper cars.  My son has been tall enough to ride them the last two years, but my daughter has not.  That can be pretty tough for a 3-year-old to deal with  She handled it like a trooper, but a few months later, she still sometimes mentions that next year she will be tall enough to ride.  I sure hope so!

While I look forward to her being able to ride what she wants, I enjoy my kids riding the kiddie rides.  Like all things with kids though, I know that this will end and they will want to ride the big roller coasters eventually.  Even in my 20’s, that would have been just fine.  There’s a new roller coaster at Adventureland now, and it looks seriously daunting.  Frankly, at this stage in my life, I have no interest in it.  But, I know,  my husband or I will have to ride it at some point.  Ugh.  I hope he will be the one up for it.

7.  Going on a weekday makes more sense.

Why did it take three visits for me to figure this out?  I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes.  This year, we got a hotel room the night before and the night after.  Definitely the way to go.  The kids enjoyed the hotel pool, and there is plenty to do in the Des Moines area on the second day before heading back.  So far, we have gone to the Iowa Children’s Museum, Blank Park Zoo, and the State Capitol.

Unfortunately, everything is very crowded on the weekend, and the State Capitol building was closed on Sunday, so we just took photos of the outside and walked around the grounds (there are some pretty bizarre statues there).

It didn’t occur to me until the next week, when I was talking about it at work, that we really should go on a week day.  Duh.  I have quite a bit of flexibility in my job, so I could work a weekend leaving me with my days off during the week.  We’ll definitely have to give that a try next year.

8.  With all of the heat, tantrums, and trouble, I still hope we return every year.

This park brings back such great memories for me, and I love that the buildings haven’t changed in 40 years.  My kids love it so much, they talk about it all year long.  While we like to go new places every year, this is a nice constant to look forward to again and again.

 

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