Room To Lounge

There is one room in our house that is in constant flux. The playroom. I’m ALWAYS in there cleaning, picking up toys, rearranging things to accommodate our (quickly) growing children. It seems like every few months the kids’ needs change, and thus, so does the playroom.

I’m so grateful we have a room to use just for the kids to play in. Especially since we don’t have a finished basement and our bedrooms are all upstairs, it’s nice for the kids to have a safe place on the main floor to play where I can keep close watch of them. I’m especially grateful for it this Summer because it has been too hot to play outside some days, like this ENTIRE WEEK. While it has been so hot, we’ve been having afternoon movie time. I turn the lights off, close the curtains, make a comfy pillow fort, grab some snacks and lay down and watch a movie, or two. This movie time is awesome because 1. it’s a cool distraction from outside and 2. both kids usually fall asleep!

I noticed that the rooms current layout was not very accommodating for movie time, or even just lounging, especially for us adults when we are in there. The room is large, but has two large picture windows and two large door openings. Our t.v. has been on the wall in the corner which made it tricky to comfortably place a sofa without it being in the center of the room. The t.v. placement was one of those decisions we made hastily when we first moved in, without really knowing where we would need/want it.

Here is a look at the previous layout. Basically the sofa was in the middle of the room, and the four corners were separate little play areas. I liked this layout while the kids were smaller, because they could both play with their own toys in separate corners. These days, they are more into the same toys and need more room to spread out and play.

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Since the room is somewhat long and narrow, I decided to split it in half and dedicate half to a ‘lounge’ area and half to the play area. This required moving the wall mounted t.v. and praying that the cable cord would reach to the new spot. Luckily it did with a little finesse.

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I moved all of our toy storage onto one wall and painted the old bookshelf a glossy white to make it look more like one unit. I got really lucky that it all fit nicely onto that one wall and then centered the t.v. above it.

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I also got lucky that our sofa/futon just barely fit along the back wall.  I wish I had a little more room for an end table or two, but I may end up finding a long narrow table to go behind it. I’m not too worried about it right now, because the futon will be replaced one of these days when the kids are older. Right now though, we are loving having a futon in this space for movie watching, naps, and when we have extra guests staying with us.

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I love that it feels cozy, but there is still plenty of room for the kids to get out their toys in this area. Lots of Duplo building goes on in this space. We had a hard time getting our tent out without moving things around before, and now there is plenty of room for it.

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Hollis did end up losing her painted house mural, but I promised I would fix up her little kitchen area as a compromise. The Ikea kitchen needed some paint touch-ups and while I was at it, I just ended up giving it a whole new farmhouse makeover. I still have a shelf to hang for her baby doll accessories and I let her pick some artwork to hang along the walls.

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Bowen is a big fan of the kitchen lately too. I have plans for a little tool/garage area for him on the opposite wall. He is getting a workbench for Christmas this year so I have a little time before I focus on that. I’m sure Hollis will enjoy it as well.

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I’m sure this room will change again, but so far I’m really happy with this new layout. The kids seem to be really happy with it too. It just feels so much bigger and more open. I love makeovers that just require a little furniture rearranging and minimal paint…and that are totally FREE!!

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Christmas 2016

I hope everyone had a merry Christmas! My toddler is super into the holidays this year and I have been taking a little time off from projects to spend as much time with my little munchkins as possible.  I always enjoy the holidays, but they are even more fun with little kids who believe in all the magic and stories you tell them!

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We visited the North Pole in Colorado back in July and while we were there we signed Hollis up to receive a letter from Santa. We didn’t do one for Bowen because he doesn’t really get it yet, but Hollis was so excited to get hers. I think I read it 40 times in the days leading up to Christmas.  It also helped with all of the threats I made to her that Santa wouldn’t bring her presents if she was naughty. She is so, so naughty these days (three-year olds, am I right?!),  I don’t know what I’m going to do the rest of the year when I can’t use Santa as leverage! We are definitely going to do Santa letters again next year (one for Bo too!) and as many years as they will let me.

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I have dreaded taking the kids to see Santa because of impending freak outs, and waiting in long lines with very small, impatient children. Hollis has never been up for it in the past anyways.  But when Brian’s uncle told us he was dressing up as Santa at the Fort Hays basketball game, we decided to brave it. I talked to Hollis about it for a couple of days prior, and she promised me that she would sit on his lap. When the time came, she was a little hesitant, but once she was on his lap, she was good to go. I think it really helped that Uncle Rich was our first Santa.  My little stoic man Bo just sat there and took everything in like a champ.

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We spread our Christmas across three days with four different celebrations. We got to spend time with lots of family and got spoiled with food and gifts. I usually spend lots of time stressing about what to get everyone and worrying about whether or not I got everyone equally awesome gifts. This year I took a different route and made some handmade gifts. It was a lot of fun creating things for people and doing my favorite thing, DIY/crafting. It’s not something I would do every year, but it was fun to do something a little different for a change. They were so much fun to make that I am hoping to make myself one, and when I do I will try to do a little tutorial on it.

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I still can’t believe that the holidays are already over, but I am looking forward to taking all the decorations down and putting things back in their normal place…like my coffee table I had to put the Christmas tree on this year to keep it away from my busy-body 10 month old! I have a long list of projects I want to get to this year and I can’t wait to get back in the groove and get started on them. Hope you all had a merry everything!

 

Fall (Cleaning) Is My Jam

So pumped that Fall is here. It is without a doubt my favorite time of year. The weather has been amazing and the kids and I have been enjoying trips to the park and the zoo here (which is free!). I love opening up the windows and airing out this old farm house before the temp drops and we have to close up everything and hibernate indoors.

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Fall for me is also when I go on a major cleaning/purging spree. Spring cleaning doesn’t really happen in my house, Fall cleaning is more my jam. I don’t know if it’s the crisp Fall weather that puts an extra spring in my step and motivates me to clean, or the thought of being trapped indoors all Winter. Whatever the reason, I feel a huge urge to get rid of old clothes, toys, decor and revamp all the rooms in the house. I like to just declutter and get a fresh start.

My plan of attack for purging is to go in each room of the house and pull out anything that isn’t working for me anymore or anything that has wandered into a room that belongs in another room. Once I go through each room, then I go through the closets and storage areas. I have learned that if I go through the stored items first, I end up keeping a lot of things I don’t really need. If I go through the rooms first, then I have a much clearer idea of what I need to hang on to and what I can let go of.

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I also go through every clothes closet and dresser to get rid of out of season things and anything that doesn’t fit or get worn often. I have been downsizing my stash of baby clothes the past week too. It is hard, but I’m trying to let go of some baby things (not everything) but I’m starting with the excess clothes. I try to sneak out toys and books that the kids no longer pay attention to. I have learned to put things in a tote and hold on to the tote for a month or two. If they don’t notice the items are missing, than I usually feel like it is safe to go ahead and donate them.

IMG_2667My favorite part of Fall cleaning is that each room also gets a mini makeover. Whether that is just swapping out throw pillows, rearranging the furniture, or giving it a fresh coat of paint. I just like to switch things up to try something new and keep from getting bored. Anyone else do Fall cleaning?…Just me?

Hollis Turns Three…

 

 

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This girl.

This girl keeps me on my toes. She’s funnier, smarter, and more beautiful than I could have ever imagined her being. She teaches me so much patience and mindfulness every day. I love that she loves dressing like a princess while walking around the house with her tools ‘fixing things like mom’. Brian and I constantly look at each other and shake our heads amazed at the things that come out of her mouth. She loves to have a good time and wants everyone around her to be having a good time too. She has only been a big sister for seven months and is already a pro at it. Bowen lights up when she walks into the room and I have no doubt they will be the very best of friends.

A couple of weeks ago Hollis turned three. (I am still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that my tiny baby is now a giant three year old.) This is the first year that she has really understood what her birthday is and been excited about it. She knew there would be a party, she knew there would be presents and most of all, she knew there would be cake. Cake is very important to this kid. She is undoubtedly my child.

This is also the first year that she had an opinion about the party theme. I was fully expecting a princess party or even Peppa Pig, but no. I asked her what kind of party she would like and she said a giraffe party. I offered other suggestions, great suggestions, but no. This is what I love most about my darling daughter. She knows what she wants. She wanted a giraffe party so she got a giraffe party.

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I scoured Pinterest for giraffe cake ideas and found two different cupcake designs that I really liked. I sent them to my mom to see what she thought. We both agreed that we liked the layout of one cake and the decorations on the other cake. So we mashed them together and ended up with this guy. My mom did all the work, I really just watched her while tending to a fussy baby. (Bowen was working of 4 of his 6 teeth that weekend…) She used a mix of chocolate and white cake. Then she made buttercream frosting that she colored orangey-yellow. And she made the spots out of salted caramel flavored candy melts. The nose and feet are Oreos.hollis-three

It was delicious. I think it turned out really cute and Hollis LOVED it!

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We celebrated at my parents house with family. We kept it simple with pizza and salad, and decorated with orange and green for a jungle/safari look.

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My aunt and my grandma also surprised everyone with these sweet giraffe party bags full of giraffe swag!

Happy third birthday sweet girl! I can’t wait to see what theme Hollis picks next year!

 

Road Trip Through Colorado (Pt. 2)

After spending a weekend in Colorado Springs for a family reunion, we headed to Black Canyon of the Gunnison. On the way we stopped and stretched our legs and had a mini picnic lunch with a beautiful view….and of course Hollis found some dirt to play in so she was stoked.

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So many beautiful places to pull over and stretch your legs and take pics. I can’t wait to hike some of these places when the kids are a little bigger.

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The next morning we woke up nice and early to drive the Million Dollar Highway. I’m so glad we went early because there was very little traffic which made the super steep drop-offs and winding road, slightly less terrifying. I’m glad I wasn’t driving because there was so much beautiful scenery to look at. I kept pointing things out to Brian while he was driving…luckily he ignored me and kept his eyes on the road. Fortunately there are many places to pull off and whip your camera out.

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File_000(2)The cutest town, Ouray is tucked away in the mountains. We drove through it because the kiddos were asleep, but we would have loved to get out and explore it. It looked like a fun town to stay in, so hopefully next time we can do that.

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Not a bad view to take in while nursing this little guy.

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We drove through Durango and then to Farmington, NM where we got a glimpse of Shiprock before heading to Four Corners.

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We got just close enough to Shiprock to take a few pics.

We were looking forward to the Four Corners Monument, but it was a little disappointing. It was super hot and there was zero shade to escape the afternoon sun. The only thing to do there is stand in line and have your picture taken on the monument. The people in line were friendly and took turns taking the pic of the people in line in front of them so it went fairly quickly. There are also little vendors selling souvenirs. The prices were reasonable, but each vendor pretty much sold the same things. We let Hollis pick out a necklace and bracelet and we picked out a bear carved out of stone for Bo. The biggest disappointment was that there was NO FOOD/DRINKS. There was one food truck there, but it was not open at 1:30pm while we were there.

File_002We kept moving towards Mesa Verde National Park. We had another impromptu picnic there and checked out the Cliff Palaces.  We would love to do the tour some day, but the kids were just too small to do it this time. There was more white-nuckle driving as we drove higher up and then down the mountain. We left just in time before it started to storm.

File_003IMG_1176 File_005At this point, the kids were getting really used to hotel life. We found that after a long day of driving we all did better with picking up dinner somewhere and eating it in our hotel room. The kids were able to wind down before bedtime and pretty much stay on their usual schedule. So while our night life was pretty low-key and boring, it definitely made for calmer, happier kids the next day.

IMG_1185File_008On our way back home, we stumbled upon my new favorite spot. We had spent most of the day driving already with no real opportunities to get out of the car and recharge. So when Bowen woke up hungry and Hollis started to get restless, we decided we better find somewhere to stop asap. Of course when you really need to stop, there is nowhere to stop. After searching for a place to pull off and feed the baby, with no real options, we decided to get off the highway and trek down a dirt road and see where it took us.

We ended up at a campground tucked away deep in the trees. Seriously, if you wanted to commit a crime and hideout somewhere, this is the place to disappear. We continued down this narrow dirt road, passed people horseback riding, and passed what we thought was a little stream to our right. We thought it would be a great spot for Hollis to get out and do her thing aka dig in the dirt. When we actually got closer to the spot, it opened up to this beautiful fishing spot.

IMG_1201These pictures really don’t show how secluded this little gem was. The whole spot was hiding behind a wall of trees. I was so happy to relax on a blanket and feed the baby while Hollis got to collect rocks in the water with dad.

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We had the place all to ourselves for a while. A friendly older couple showed up to fish and said this is their favorite fishing spot because it is so hidden and quiet. They were really sweet and let Hollis watch them catch a fish (which only took them less than five minutes to catch). We didn’t stay long after that because we didn’t want our little hooligans to scare away any fish for the nice couple.

The rest of our trip home was pretty uneventful. Just lots of driving. Lots and lots of driving. We broke up the driving with one more stay at a hotel so that we only had about 3 hours on our last leg home. Part of me really wanted to just keep driving and not stop, and if it was just Brian and I, that’s probably what we would have done. I’m glad we stopped and rested. The kids definitely appreciated it and it made life a lot easier when we did get home and transitioned back into our normal routine. I needed that rest just to unload everything out of the car and catch up the laundry!

I’m so glad we survived (and enjoyed) our first vacation as a family of four. Colorado was so beautiful and had so much to offer. I can’t wait to go back again!

 

 

 

 

 

Road Trip Through Colorado (pt. 1)

When you farm, taking vacations can be a little tricky. There is a small window to work with after wheat harvest and we do our best to take advantage of it. Brian’s family had a family reunion in Colorado Springs planned on a weekend in July and we decided to plan our little family vacation around it.

We headed to Colorado Springs on a Thursday. It’s about a six hour drive for us and we took our time getting there. We stopped whenever we felt like it and even took a long break to have dinner in Pueblo with a former colleague of Brian’s. We arrived at our hotel right a little after the kids usual bedtime…and you could tell they were done and ready for bed.

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Our road trip snack of choice was this yellow watermelon we picked up at  a farmer’s market.

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After getting to the hotel and turning the bathroom into a bottle washing station, I was so very ready for a ‘mom drink’.

Friday morning we woke up early for breakfast and to meet up with Brian’s family before heading to the North Pole  with everyone. I had never been before, but when I realized it was a retro Christmas theme park tucked away in the mountains, I was 100% on board! We thought Hollis, who is 2, would love all of the kitchy little kid rides, but she rode a whopping 1 and 1/2 (she skipped out early on one) rides. She loved driving the cars and hanging out with her cousins. Next time we go, I have no doubt she will love the rides and seeing Santa.

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After about four hours there, our kiddos were starting to meltdown and were ready for naptime. So Brian and I decided to drive through Garden of the Gods while they got a good nap in the car. We were a little bummed we couldn’t get out and explore because they were sleeping, but it started raining anyway so it worked out really well to just drive through it. When we reached the end, we snagged a great parking spot and were able to take turns getting out and taking pics. The next time we go I really want to get out and do some of the trails.

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We finished the day at the arcade and having dinner outdoors with the whole family. Saturday morning we woke up and headed to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. We thought by getting there early, we could beat some of the crowd. Apparently everyone else there thought the same thing. Even with the crowds, we were able to see everything we wanted to. The giraffes were by far our favorite exhibit. You can get right up to them and feed them and pet them. Giraffes are Hollis’ favorite animal so she was especially excited to get up close and see them.

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Zoo ‘tude.

 

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She was a little surprised at just how close the giraffes would get.

 

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After the zoo we were wiped out and headed back to the hotel to rest up before we met up with Brian’s family for BBQ and Bunco. I was a Bunco newbie, but I have to say I loved it and got really into it. I could have played it all night if I didn’t have little babes to put to bed. This was our last night with family and everyone woke up early and parted ways the next morning. Instead of heading home, we headed toward Black Canyon Nation Park…..but I will finish that up on another post!

 

 

 

Road Trippin'(with a toddler)

We are embarking on a road trip in a few weeks and I am so excited! Brian and I LOVE road trips. When we were dating, he traveled a lot for work and I would tag along with him on trips whenever possible. You really get to know a person when you are trapped in a car with them for hours on end. 🙂 We love driving so much we even road tripped on our honeymoon!

I love the flexibility of driving to our destination as opposed to flying. We can stop whenever we want to, or explore a different route, and take lots of pictures. I find it much more relaxing. Traveling with kids, however, has kind of changed everything. We have lost a little of the spontaneity from our trips. We have to schedule a few more stops and pack a lot more stuff, but I want our kids to love road trips as much as we do.

Hollis, who is 2 1/2, is quite familiar with long car rides. Since we moved out here to the farm, I try to visit my family back home in Kansas City about once a month (some months they visit us). The drive there is about 4 hours depending on traffic and how many times I have to stop. I have made the drive so often, that I have it down to a science. I can usually do it these days without any stops and our drive gets cut down to about 3 1/2 hours with traffic. Our road trip this summer is going to be about 8-10 hours of driving, so it will be a bit of an adjustment on our little ones. Here are some of my tips and tricks for making traveling easier with littles.

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  1. DVD Player. I know, I know, t.v. will rot your brain.  I don’t want my kids to rely on electronics to keep them entertained all the time, but sometimes it is a life saver. My toddler will watch a movie (or most of one) and then fall asleep. Sleeping kids on a road trip is like the holy grail. At the very least it usually allows me a quiet hour or two on our trip.
  2. Backseat Organizer. We were gifted one of these, and it has been really handy. Ours hangs on the back of the passenger seat and keeps things within reach of the me and Hollis. I can keep toys, books, snacks, drinks, dvds, wipes, diapers, etc. up off the floor and off the seats. It also keeps dirty feet off the back of my seats!
  3. Water Coloring Books. My daughter looooves these books. I think we have all the ones Melissa and Doug make. She loves that she can ‘paint’ and I love that there is no mess. The paint brush holds water inside and only shows up as ‘paint’ when applied to the pages of the book. When the pages dry, they erase and she can start all over again. I like these for the car bc they are a lot easier to maneuver than coloring books and crayons. She doesn’t need a hard surface to use it on and if she drops her paint brush, it’s no big deal because it’s just water.
  4. Wipes. Obviously these are a must. Messes happen, especially when toddlers are involved. I swear the harder I try to keep the car clean, the more messes we end up having.  I like to keep one of these universal wipes in the front seat in the console and one in the back where Hollis can reach them. I feel like I’m constantly reaching for these; to clean hands after stopping at a park, after using a rest stop bathroom (they never seem to have soap!), wiping sticky hands after a snack….the list goes on and on.
  5.  Cooler Tote. It does not matter how long of a drive we are going on, my child will ask for a snack. Sometimes we don’t even make it out of our driveway without her requesting something. Stopping for food can really add up on a trip as well as slow you down. I pack things like, apple juice, milk, water, string cheese, sandwiches, apple slices, and grapes to snack on. I like to keep some paper plates and utensils handy too so that we can stop at a park or wherever and eat. They are also really nice to have for when you get to the hotel or wherever you are staying.
  6. Treats. Snacks can make or break a road trip for me. I like to pack a lot of healthy options to keep us from stopping at every fast food joint we pass. BUT I also like to bring along a few treats that we don’t normally get to snack on. Sometimes sugar is totally necessary when you’re trying to stay awake to drive or stay awake to make sure your significant other stays awake to drive. It also makes a good bribe for when you do have to take the little ones in somewhere and need them to behave. I try to stick with things that are individually wrapped and that don’t melt too easily onto little toddler fingers.
  7. & 8. Magnetic Boards. This house board and this farm board are in my Amazon cart right now. I like to grab a couple of new toys for Hollis when we go on a long trip. I also like to hide a few toys she loves for a couple of weeks before our trip and then bring them along so they feel somewhat new to her. I let her help me pick out these magnet boards so she has something to look forward to playing with in the car. I like that the pieces are moveable, but stick to the board so everything stays together and we’re less likely to lose things in the seat.

My biggest tip to road tripping with little ones is be flexible. We like to look ahead on our route and take note of places really want to stop at, places we don’t mind missing if the kids are asleep, and also places that would be good to stop at if the kids need an extra break. It’s important for them to get out every couple of hours to stretch their legs and run off some energy. We like to stop at parks, but rest stops and deserted shopping malls (when it’s super hot or raining out) work too. Anywhere that we can play a game of tag or run around a bit are good. The best part of taking a road trip is that the journey there is just as much part of the vacation as the destination is. You can make it as fun as you want!