Little break...

It is 11:39 PM and I'm posting, which is unheard of because I've usually been asleep for 2 hours. Must mean we are on vacation:) I hear the sounds of too-loud laughing downstairs, that I hated to leave but was too tired to keep up. Larkyn is fast asleep in the room with me, having played and danced with the cousins she never sees. We are up late, all anticipating what tomorrow brings: the promise of the beach we all hold so close to our hearts. This is what I wait for all year long. Summer is finally here.

I'll post when things slow down and when my camera and mind are bursting with images I just can't keep to myself. Summer is here, and I'll talk to you soon...

27 months later...


Ways she cracks us up:  I read something recently that said "Having a toddler in the house is like having a sportscaster narrate your every move." YES.

Ways she "helps": Now that she can open the bathroom door, she appears every time she hears the water. She pulls up her stool and "helps" me wash my face/brush my teeth by putting her face directly between me and the water source.  She also loves to hand us items that are in front of us while we are (attempting to) eat dinner. She's actually sitting here now, suggesting letters I should type. "Here mommy, T. Mommy, H!"

Ways she really does help:  I love that she helps empty the dishwasher! Not having to bend over? Great. She just learned how to open the fridge to get her own snacks, which could be interesting.

New naughties:  Putting things down the laundry chute (my toothbrush, silverware) or into the vents (bye bye, trees for the train set!) And I have started putting her in her room when the crying-for-no-reason gets out of hand.

New faves:  Grapes...all day long, weekly Music Together classes (our first attempt at structure!), Yo Gabba Gabba anything, riding carousels, coloring, picking out her own shoes

New demands from the Princess: "Mommy all done bed." "Mommy get down." when I dare lay in bed 10 minutes later than she expects. "Mommy find it" when she loses her pacifier (at least once an hour).
Who invented Goldfish?  They deserve a Nobel Peace Prize.

Looking forward to her third big trip to the beach and to see our extended family in about a week!

Music Together review

Does the thought of story time make you break into a sweat because yours will be "that kid" who wants nothing to do with it and everything to do with running around or getting into "teacher space"?

Have you been looking for a way to get your toddler started with structured activities in a non-threatening way?

Hey, even if yours sits in your lap and follows expectations at story time, you will still love Music Together. Everyone will. 
My expectation of everything we try.

After several hellish attempts at story times and a disastrous go at Tumble Tots (don't advertise for 2 year olds if you aren't ready for them, Upper Arlington Parks and Rec), I was at a loss for what to do with my "active" toddler. Most structured activities do not start until age 3, so our choices were few. Lucky for me, I have an emergency phone line straight to my niece whenever these situations arise.
The reality of everything we have tried. Larkyn must be talking to Jeremiah. #trainwreck

After agreeing with me that toddlers need some special consideration to help them learn boundaries while still accommodating their exploration and short patience, she suggested a Music Together class. She was recently trained and hired to teach it in NYC. After looking up our closest location (only 3 miles away!) and seeing the reasonable cost ($95 for our location), I signed up with a friend and her daughter.

When the day finally arrived 2 weeks ago, I was so nervous!! It was going to be 45 minutes long, and I was bracing for it to end with her over my shoulder and both of us in tears. Signing up with my friend made all the difference, as we could commiserate together if things went down in flames.

The room was a nice, EMPTY room. Supplies were in sealed tubs up high, cabinets were locked, and I didn't have to worry about Larkyn rifling through all the tempting scarves and instruments. Next, the class wasn't overbooked. I am so used to going to story time and having to squeeze in between 74 yoga-pantsed nannies with their perfect charges sitting in their laps while I run around Duck Duck Goose-style after my own.

The teacher was welcoming and friendly, and began by telling us the philosophy of the class (AKA: the sweetest words my mama ears have ever heard)  Kids will do what kids will do. Grown ups do what I do.  If your child is in a corner laying down or running in circles, so be it. But instead of chasing them and insisting that they follow along, adults are to keep going along as if nothing is happening. Awesome.

Now I should remind you that I teach kindergarten, so singing songs and doing movements is not a big deal to me. The songs for the day were listed on a marker board so that we could keep track of where we were in the class. These are not your run-of-the-mill childrens songs, but are research-based, world music selections that are perfect for kids' voices and movement. You can read more about that here.

I will say that, just like the radio, there are some that you suffer through (or change the station) but most are fun and upbeat. They alternate between songs that are energetic and songs that are relaxing.

All songs have a movement component. It might be motions we do with the kids, might be dancing around with scarves, using the instrument tub (jackpot!), or using one specific instrument to explore rhythm. I personally LOVE when the instruments come out, because that lures my little fish back in if she is off doing her own thing. She is learning to sit in my lap for (very) short periods of time, putting instruments back when asked, and doing what the rest of the group is doing. This may not sound like much, but it is HUGE. This lays the foundation for preschool.

It is a challenge for us. She spends about 60% of the time doing what the group is doing and the rest is spent running back and forth with friends, crying for her binky, or asking for a snack. I try to avoid the snacks, but our instructor doesn't seem to mind if I slip a few goldfish in when times get rough. In other words, we are probably having the roughest time out of our groups of 7 kids and we still want to go back. She threw a huge fit this week and when I asked if we should leave, our teacher encouraged me to tough it out and then picked an engaging song to get Larkyn back from the dark side.

You receive a packet with information about the program, ideas for home extentions, a song book, and 2 CDs to help the kids remember the songs. There are 9 song cycles, so you can pick up the class any time you want and not have to worry about it being out of sequence or repeating (for another 9 semesters at least). 

She looks forward to going, and I think that she is honestly worn out about 3/4 of the way through. I am so happy to have found a place for us to work on skills and behavior without coming home with PTSD. Music Together is all over the world, so I encourage you to look up your closest location and sign up!

The halfway point

This is officially the fastest summer in my record book. We got out of school late and are going back earlier than anyone. Yes, I'm a little huffy about it. But we have really filled it up with items off our to-do list, and that list truly gets us up off the couch and out to explore our city and connect with friends.  I've pretty much covered all our activities here or on Instagram, so I won't recap those.

But here is our latest endeavor from this morning, along with what we still need to do...

On our list was to picnic at the Scioto Mile/Columbus Mile/Bicentennial Park, a recently revamped part of the city along the river that has lots of shaded benches, fountains, beautiful flowers, and great views of the city. Of course, my urban guru, Julie, chaperoned as we made our way through the city.

It was a million degrees out, so we went early (highly suggested!) and the sun was behind the buildings. There were lots of open bench swings and tables. Watch out for the bikers! They come out of nowhere and don't fancy two year olds wandering in front of them to smell the flowers.

This might be my favorite picture of the summer. It took all my might to have her wear that necklace. All morning, she said "Here you go, mommy. Necklace." and handed it back.

Cream cheese danish, strawberries and whipped cream, and Starbucks. Perfection. Only someone just wanted the icing off the top of the danish.
 Getting up close to the fish fountain and to the flowers...
Exhibit A of a biker almost wiping us out. They're like stealth drones!
My favorite outdoor flowers, hibiscus. Don't they remind you of the beach??

This was just one section of The Mile. We walked down to the Santa Maria, which I last visited in elementary school. It is kind of a bust (once I realized it was a replica and not the REAL thing when I was younger, the allure was gone). The other way has Milestone 226, which I have been dying to try, and fountains for the kids to play in. 

Other summer goals we have not completed...
  • Ride in a boat (this may have to be at Asia Quest at the zoo!)
  • Feed Christine's goats (next week!)
  • COSI (also next week)
  • Bounce at Buckeye Bounce
  • Swim with Hannah, with Heidi, with stitches put a kink in that. And also the fact that Larkyn hates pools where she can't stand up...
  • Try a new frozen yogurt place (Yogeez is on our radar--anyone tried?)
  • Farmer's Market
  • Go see Great Grandma and Great Grandpa Priest (going on Sunday)
  • American Girl store (Is this asking for trouble?)
  • Picnic at Highbanks 
  • Go to a festival
  • Hear live music
Some might not happen. We have done a few things that were not on our list and were just as fun. If you have any local suggestions, please let me know!

And then I met a rhino...

We have been making my dad cheesy little "gift certificates" for the past two birthdays to go to The Wilds. I was feeling a little bad that we hadn't fulfilled the promise yet, since we always said we'd go when it "cools down" in September. Well, the perfect weather lent itself to the big trip this weekend. My mom watched Larkyn, because there was no way on God's strip-mined Earth that she could handle the 90 minute drive + 2.5 hour safari.

A quick intro to The Wilds, if you have never been. 90 minutes East of Columbus is Zanesville, which was, at one point, very oil rich and consequently stripped to the bones. There was nothing that could be done with the ruined land, so AEP donated the land to The Columbus Zoo. The ground was so infertile that the only vegetation that can thrive is similar to that of African grasslands. The zoo uses it to get some animals ready to bring to the zoo (ie: the giraffes), breed endangered species, and to provide sanctuary for the others. But it is also full of things to do if you are the adventurous type.

Overlooking the pastures from the place the buses depart. If you look closely, you can see one of the zipline outposts.
This is not your tacky "drive through" wild animal park. This place is MASSIVE (over 9,000 acres) and you truly feel like you might actually be in Africa, if not for all the people sitting around you in their OSU tee shirts.

  {Click on the pictures to see them nice and big! This size does them no justice!}

Your trip begins by parking in a lot, then a shuttle takes you up to the ticket/concession area. This is where the Zipliners start their crazy journey from the top of the hill. I'd actually like to do it one day!

Then, you board your choice of vehicle: air conditioned bus, open air bus (better choice if you want good pictures), there are truck tours, and private jeep tours.

Our bus. This is the first of two stops it makes for snacks, restrooms, etc. Right outside that fence was some action!
Your tour begins with an energetic tour guide who jokes about the pot holes. Only she is not joking. Maybe bring a donut seat if you value your tailbone.  The tour goes through many different pastures, so large that I lost count. Animals are separated so they don't...well, kill each other.  And here are the stars of the show...
Our guide just finished telling us we may or may not see rhinos in the distance because they are usually hiding.

Not only was it one, it was a MOM AND BABY!

They walked right beside me, but I freaked out and got out the phone to video (missing actual pics of them). Oops.
I looked past all the other normal looking camels, straight to this guy. Hilarious.

It is apparently not true that camels spit at people. It is actually vomit. Pucker up!

Przewalski's Wild Horse. The only true wild horse in the world, native to Asia. Look how her mane goes the full length of her back. She must use the Jennifer Aniston hair products.

One of the stops. The last of the zipline outposts in the valley, right on a catfish-filled pond.

The birthday boy and my "Safari wear"

While others walked down to the pond, we horse-watched. I think I've mentioned that we are horse people, so we knew something interesting would happen. These are all females, so obviously Sparkles offended Sassy.

Well hello, beautifuls. Can you spot all 3?

She just went for a swim, that's why she looks disheveled. Also, her brain is smaller than her eye.

There were several other animals that were way off in the distance, in enclosed areas, or were hiding for the day. But honestly, the rhinos were enough for me. Definitely worth the trip and cost, and you can do something different each time you go. One trip is by horseback, they have yerts where you can spend the night, fishing trips, a butterfly habitat, and a carnivore area. The carnivores were in hiding today, except for the cheetah. They don't seem to be the paparazzi-friendly animals like my BFF camels.

Happy birthday/Father's Day, dad! {don't think I didn't hear you end a phone call by saying "Hold on, I gotta tell my daughter how to drive a car...}

Hints if you are going:
  • The registration process is a little annoying if you do not do it a few days in advance. Within an 18 hour window, you can't book online (it tells you to call). Then you call, and they say they can't book over the phone. You have to take the chance of driving all that way and having to wait. Book online ASAP, even though it says "reservations not required".
  • Parking is $5. The tours vary, but ours was $30/person.
  • Bring your own snacks and drinks. You can't eat while the vehicle is moving, but can drink. There are 2 stops along the way where you could get out and eat. There are also concessions in 2 areas.
  • Do not use your phone GPS! You will lose the signal and your phone will die trying to find it. 
  • Fill your tank with gas before you go. I was mortified for a guy in the gift shop who had to have the rangers come fill his tank once he realized that the nearest gas station is 18 miles away.

5 on Friday

Linking up here
What a beautiful Friday, everyone!  Columbus at 80 degrees and no humidity is amazing. What else is in my top five this week?

1. Our Living area makeover is finally finished (for now). Let's do a before and after, shall we?
right after we moved in, May 2010, the days of "Holy crap, we just bought a house, let's use what we have"

Ta da! I am in love with the curtains (Threshold by Target) and the paint change. If it wasn't such a pain, I'd paint all the rooms gray and use different accent colors in each. It is a fabulous neutral if you are thinking of a change!
2. Since I'm now home for lunch every day (nap time is sacred around here and has been moved to noon), I have to be creative with my lunches. I've been making this salad quite a bit. 
Spinach, dried cranberries, Fuji apple, turkey bacon, feta, poppy seed dressing

My cost-cutting secret is getting the cranberries and nuts in bulk for dollars less!

3. Carousels, oh carousels. How my daughter loves you. She shoos my hands away from holding her, ensuring her plummet from the giant wooden animal, gets an ear-to-ear grin on her face while go up and down, and then it all whizzes to a slow, painful end to our fun. It is always a 5 minute encapsulation of a manic toddler episode and is a good time for all.

4. Matt, for giving this healthy-heart diet a chance, getting running shoes, clothes, and kicking that cholesterol's butt!  Proud of you!

5. PlumPaperDesigns has provided me with the perfect planner.  This is the one I plan to order in August and I am so excited!
Find it here.

Why Wednesday

Thanks to Taylor for helping me find a cohesive way to write about a million things that otherwise would still be bouncing around my thanks to Blogger for malfunctioning all day Wednesday...

Why isn't Sex and The City on its own channel 24/7?  It is a divine miracle that it is on for exactly the two hours when Larkyn naps, but I'm always sad when my time is up with those crazy broads.

Oh Samantha, who will you throw a drink at next?

Why is eating healthy 456 times harder than eating crappy? In the last 24 hours, I have dabbled in roasted chickpeas (barf), freezer low fat breakfast burritos (Delish, Jill!), assembly line yogurt parfaits (a favorite of mine, but now subbed with low fat granola and non-fat Greek yogurt). Oh and I just pulled oatmeal banana blueberry muffins out of the oven.  The extra time to assemble special ingredients isn't too bad right now because I am out of school (thank God!) and I know they are heart healthy for the husband. These are all a result of Matt's doctor alerting him to his cholesterol level, and if any of them turn out great, I'll post them.

I know, honey, you're pumped about eating from this board rather than the pepperoni stuffed bread and Reese's stuffed brownies. I know.

  Anything from "Would you like yogurt?" to "Do you want to go see your friends and play?" Basically anything that is not "Do you want to watch Yo Gabba Gabba?"
Hello friends! Would you like me to entertain your child for 22 glorious minutes?

Why is it so easy to crack a smile five seconds after the above, when she says something like "Tinky feet!" or shows me some new trick that amazes/appalls me.

Why was I missing out on dramatic mascara all this time? Maybe I just needed Eva to talk me into it.
Well, besides now needing to actually COMB my lashes, it's great.

Why don't blueberries taste like chocolate chips?
That includes you, 2 dozen funfetti cupcakes I made for Matt after he returned from the doctor and didn't need to fast anymore.

That's enough wondering for now. Time to go find a low-fat recipe that includes chocolate, before I get in the car and Cruella DeVille-it to DQ for a Blizzard.
That's for you, Kate.

Happy 4th!

Thank goodness for holidays or I'd have nothing to write about. Sometime soon, I will show you the final phase of our living/dining room makeover we completed this week. But today, it is just some holiday cheer to remind of what this day means (to me)...recognition of our veterans, gratefulness for our freedom, being with friends and family, and FUN!

Last year, Larkyn tolerated the parade by our house. It was about 100 degrees and she hated the noises. But this year, she was allll over the parade. It's a good thing we weren't in the front row or she would have been IN it.

Those became sunglasses #4 that she broke for me. Doesn't she look pleased with herself?

Last year, the Grand Marshal was Jeni. This year, it was Abby Johnston, our Olympian. I think she's looking at me, isn't she?
We love where we live! And apparently it is a "smart" choice too (could it be because this is home to all the professors of the largest university in America? Maybe?)  Larkyn and Declan don't care, they just like the pretty parade.

We came without a flag and this man gave her one because she narrated the whole parade to him ("See?  Dog.") Her favorite part was definitely the marching bands...
After the parade, Matt brought home bags and bags of cookout food and we had my parents over. Between the storms, he again demonstrated his impeccable burger skills, while I demonstrated how it is possible to mess up corn on the cob. I hope you were able to stop to enjoy this holiday with your loved ones and take a time out before summer is gone again!
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