Sunday, August 28, 2016

Lundy and Tahoe


A few weeks back we had our first vacation as a family of four! Over the past few years my parents have rented a cabin on lake Tahoe from some friends of theirs and this year we were able to join them. For many weeks prior we reminded them, "You remember we have two small children right? You know one of them doesn't sleep through the night, right? You know they are attention hogs, right?". Being the awesome Gaga and Grampy that they are though, they were excited to have us along and we were excited to get to spend the week with them!

We decided to split the nine hour drive into two days, you know, for sanity's-sake. About five hours in we stopped at Lundy lake, a spot that holds special meaning to my husband. At least six or seven of his childhood summers involved a trip to Lundy with his grandpa and uncle. It was fun to watch him remember and experience this beautiful place with our kids, even if it was for just one night.

Day two, more driving, and finally Tahoe! We were so excited and blessed to find out that our little cabin for the week had recently been upgraded with beautiful new floors. These are the things you get excited about when you have a crawling child who is an expert at finding every little crumb, so the lovely easy-to-clean laminate floors made my vacation a little easier.

Within an hour of arriving we were down by the water. Our cabin came equipped with new floors AND a private beach! Score! What a beautiful lake! The kids loved collecting rocks (or in LD's case, throwing them, but not far) and Squeaks had a blast on the nearby playground. Especially since it had a "twirly slide".

Over the next week, we enjoyed walks along the Truckee River, nature walks, good beer and food at a few local spots, live jazz on the beach, and the Truckee farmer's market. While vacationing with two small children isn't entirely a vacation, it was so fun to watch them experience new things and have so much fun they literally passed out (although Little Dude still didn't sleep through the night. Oh well.)

We had a wonderful time and look forward to making this a yearly trip.
Splitting the drive up into two days made things a lot easier. The kids both fell asleep just as we were leaving which made for an easy first hour. Squeaks got pampered with her own personal tray, movies on the iPad, and snacks. Little Dude held up about as well as you can expect a ten month old to. The drive home we did all in one day. By hour eight in the car I wanted to tuck and roll from the moving vehicle, but we did it! It was a fantastic first vacation as a family of four!
Our stop at Lundy Lake was only one night but it was well worth it to see my husband relive happy childhood memories. The spot where he and his grandpa and uncle would camp has since overgrown but the lake itself is just as beautiful and secluded as always. I tried to get a picture of all four of us together. I succeeded in a super cute photo of everyone except myself. Ha! I need longer arms. I can't bring myself to buy a selfie stick. Just the name bugs me much less the concept. So for now, I look weird and everyone else looks great. Two thumbs up.
We arrived at our Tahoe cabin mid day with plenty of time to walk down to our private beach. Squeaks loved walking with Gaga and Grampy and both kids had loads of fun sifting through the smooth piles of rocks on the lake shore. As a mom of little people I almost prefer these smooth rock beaches. No sand in diapers!...Don'tcha just hate it when sand gets in your diaper?! I know it makes me cranky. ;)
Our main event for the next day was a gorgeous walk along the Truckee River. Josh and my dad enjoyed some man time while my mom and I kept the kids and went exploring. We found literally the most perfect spot along the river with a little shallow spot for Squeaks to wade into the water. Little Dude and I relaxed on the shore...well, maybe not relaxed. He kept things interesting by occasionally attempting to go head first into the water. Most of the time though we enjoyed sitting in the grass watching groups of people rafting down the river. It was just perfect.
 There isn't an inch of this lake that isn't gorgeous. A nature walk the next day ended at the beach with our feet in the water. Little Dude fell asleep in his carrier on my back and slept the whole walk. He woke up super sweaty but happy. It was fun to watch Squeaks explore. She was very insistent that we were going to see monkeys and lions on our walk through the woods. She loved seeing the big pine cones, super tall trees, and elaborate spider webs.
The park just next to our private beach was a huge hit the entire trip. The picture on the left is proof of Squeaks first time swinging by her arms. She was very proud of herself and it gave her courage to attempt other "big-kid" obstacles on the playground (with Gaga spotting her). She felt very accomplished and grown up by the end of our stay. As she should. She played hard and slept like a rock every night. One happy kid.
 While in Tahoe we enjoyed some local breweries. Fifty/Fifty is one of Josh's and my dad's favorites. A little place in Truckee called Mellow Fellow was also very nice. Both super family friendly and relaxed. Little Dude even enjoyed a quick nap in his stroller while we sat and talked. 
Squeaks got her first purse while at the Truckee farmers market and also got to accompany a piano player on the sidewalk. His piano was covered in signatures and he let Squeaks add hers! She was very excited.
Little Dude and I got to enjoy some alone time at the beach for awhile too. He thought the small waves that the boats made were a little scary at first but soon he was splashing us both. A very sweet lady with her family offered to take our picture (bottom left). 
Our last day included a jazz concert on Kings beach. We enjoyed live music, fantastic people-watching, and a visit with our cousin Stephanie who lives in Tahoe (lucky lady). Squeaks made friends with a very sweet little girl and Little Dude sampled his first fist full of wet sand (and made multiple attempts to go back for seconds). Both kids loved the water and got plenty dirty. Fun had by all!

It was a wonderful week spent with family and we look forward to many more trips like this. Although traveling with little people can be quite challenging (packing our car with the required gear was like a game of Tetris), it's most definitely worth it. On to the next adventure!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Wise Choices Chart


Squeaks is most definitely not what you would call a difficult kid. In fact she's amazingly compliant and well behaved. She is two and a half though, and it has become helpful to have a visual aid when discussing behavior. 

As I searched for a tool, something to point to and discuss consequences, I wasn't unable to find many options that emphasized wisdom and not just goodness. There is, in my opinion, a difference between making wise choices and making good choices. I want my children to strive for Godly wisdom, not just being "good people". 

Any-who, couldn't find what I wanted, so I made it. Should there be other moms and dads that might find this useful, I'm sharing.

I laminated ours and we use a small clothespin with Squeaks name on it to keep her place on the chart. An "outstanding" day receives a special sticker (most of the time "good job" does too), and each step underneath has a consequence. Toy taken away, time out, etc. I shared this with a few friends on Facebook and one wise mamma added an extra bit of awesomeness by allowing her littles the chance to work their way back up the chart by helping others. Great display of God's grace and compassion.

Here's the PDF for you to print out (it's FREE). Enjoy!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Like The Wind


"Squeaks, you wanna go for a walk after dinner?"
"Ya!""

As we walk around our block, past our church, past other families on evening strolls, Squeaks is impatient to reach the point at which she is released from her stroller. 

"Can we race Daddy?" 
"Ya!"

As we approach the part of our walk where we can safely let her out, her feet start to kick, and if she wasn't buckled in, she would slide herself out from under the stroller tray keeping her in her seat. The stroller stops, Dad unbuckles her, and....SHE'S OFF!!

Like the wind! Curls bouncing, chubby little legs going as fast as she can will them, and sometimes, in times of need, need for extra speed, her arms fly behind her in an attempt to become more aerodynamic. Daddy follows close by, feigning inability to keep up.
"Out of my way Daddy!"

Little dude watches longingly from his stroller seat.
"Look how fast sister is!? Soon Little Man, soon."

She stops suddenly. "We're at a street Dad!" (The corner of the block is a good twenty yards away.)
"Not quite Love, but you can hold my hand."

Across the street and she's off again. Like the wind! Curls bouncing, chubby legs a blur. 

Another sudden stop. This time to inspect a spider web. No spider. He must be away visiting friends. Look! A yellow rose! *deep inhale* "Smells pretty."

And she's off! Wind in her hair, pink Converse pounding the sidewalk. 
Stop.
"Where are the wishes?" (Dandelions.)
"It must not be the season for wishes my Love."
Disappointed pause, then again, off like the wind!
But wait! There! A single wish in our yard!
We're home. Squeaks blows her wish, and like the wind, she's off to bath and bed time.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

You Wanna Play School?!


I've known I wanted to homeschool my children since I was in high school. I started pinning homeschool related articles almost as soon as I found out Pinterest existed. And now it's beginning. Sorta.

Squeaks is only just two and a half. No matter how excited I am to start the homeschool process I don't want to rush her. Babies don't keep, as they say, and I don't want to organize her childhood away. No one said learning can't be fun though! Although we aren't on a structured homeschool plan yet, we work a little light learnin' in whenever we can. 

Reading together has always been at the top of our fun and educational activities list. This kid devours books. One of the many reasons I became an Usborne consultant. I already mentioned my personal rule for her reading habits, but we have really upped the bookage in the last few months. I'll read to her multiple times a day and Josh will read to her 20-30 minutes every night too. Her vocabulary amazes me.

In addition to reading, I've added a morning activity similar to what a preschool teacher would call "circle time". We gather at her "Day Board" and discuss the day of the week, month, year, season, that day's activity, her mood/emotions, and the letter of the alphabet we're focusing on (got ours from the Target dollar section). This all takes maybe ten minutes. Super simple, she enjoys erasing the previous days info and placing the magnets in their correct spots, and then she's off to play as she wishes.

Later on in the day we might add a worksheet or coloring page printed from the AWESOME Bible ABCs curriculum I found on The Crafty Classroom. For the worksheets I use these dry erase pockets so they can be reused over and over. Perfect since homeschooling can get a bit pricey in the printer ink department. Learning the proper way to hold a pen/pencil is going really well too, thanks to these pen control worksheets I found on Teachers Pay Teachers. I cut them up and laminated them (love my laminator!) so they're dry erase now! Squeaks likes using all the different colored dry erase markers. She also LOVES her Usborne Wipe-Clean books. They're supper sturdy, come with a dry erase pen, wipe clean with a tissue, and are fantastic for long car rides, waiting at restaurants, etc.
I got excited about her doing so well, which got her excited, which made that last little "a" a little crazy. Haha!
Games and other creative activities are fun to add too. Painting has been a favorite lately. We had loads of fun painting fireworks over Fourth of July, and cutting an apple in half (for the letter A) made for a fun stamping project.

As far as games, Squeaks LOVES playing Alphabet Erase. I write the whole alphabet, in all different colors, randomly on her dry-erase board (her easel is from Target and it's fantastic), give her a stack of alphabet flash cards, and hand her a q-tip. As she goes through the flash cards she has to find the matching letter on her board and then erase it with the q-tip. This works on color recognition, letter recognition, and fine motor skills all at ones! Woohoo! Another game I'm working on is Alphabet Fishing. Fish cut out on my Cricut with letters written on them and paperclips attached, a "fishing pole" (stick, string, and magnet), and a laundry basket "boat" are going to make for a good time! Haven't gotten to play this one yet with little brother crawling around ready to devour my alphabet fish, but the pieces are ready to go when we can get a good long nap out of him.

So you see, not a ton of structure yet, but we learn as we play. And I'm having a ton of fun preparing for the structured part. Laminating machines and sheet protectors just make my heart sing. What can I say!?

Sunday, August 14, 2016

As Of Yesterday...


We are officially exactly one month way from Little Dude's first birthday! 

Monthly pictures were not part of Squeaks plan for her day yesterday. She was not feelin' it. At all. I kinda made her do it anyway though. I just love these monthly pictures. Getting to compare them to months past and see how much my littles have grown. She warmed up to it near the end and finally gave me a smile. 
I've started planning LD's first birthday party. An "Everything That Moves" party fits him so well. Planes, trains, boats, trucks; if it moves he loves it!! I'm particularly proud of the invites I made (a skill, by the way, I am happy to share with others. Email for prices on custom invites, printables, thank you cards, etc.). Bold primary colors and decorations made by yours truly. It's gonna be a fun day! 
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