Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

The Easter Bunny came! Jo was excited that the bunny left chocolate & bubbles for her. Oliver was thrilled with the hard-boiled eggs and squirt animals.

After breakfast, we went outside to find the eggs that the bunny must have left behind on the way to our house. Oliver had the time of his life! Seriously, he wore that grin the entire time. He doesn't like candy all that much (he usually only takes a couple bites), but he was so proud of his hard work that he ate basically all of the contents of those eggs (Jo helped, too).

Happy Easter!



Saturday, April 19, 2014

Waveland Park Egg Hunt

We went to the Waveland Park egg hunt at Perkins Elementary School with the kids. It was such a cute set up. They had three areas for kids: under 3, 3-5, and 6-10.

The little kid section was full of pinwheels for the little ones to "find." I think there were only about 20 kids who did that hunt, including a handful of babies.


Oliver was really excited for the egg hunt, but it didn't go very well for him. Their hunt was pretty much dominated by the older kids in the group. Although they had a rule of 10 eggs per kid, most of the bigger kids left with sacks full, and Oliver got two eggs. 


 There's the set up for the 3-5 year olds. It's a really nice neighborhood activity.

We were eagerly awaiting the fire truck sirens to run into the park! Oliver talked about the 10 eggs he was going to find. He wanted to go up the steps, get an egg, and then slide down the slide to get an egg on the slide...

Once the siren rang out, Oliver went into the playground. He went for one egg, but another kid got it first. He went to pick up another egg, and a girl took it out of his hand. All of that happened in about 5 seconds. He just laid down on the ground and covered his eyes to try not to cry. I convinced him to get up to get more eggs. We found two that had been trampled and were partially open, but we never found any more eggs. The other kids were too quick. It was so sad. Oliver started to cry and told me he was supposed to get 10 eggs.

We wandered around, hoping to find an egg someone had missed, but it was picked clean. I heard a husband & wife talking, and he said, "I thought our kids were only supposed to get 10 eggs," and she said, "I don't think it really matters." I probably should have just kept my mouth shut, but I didn't. I said, "I think it does matter because now there are kids with only two." She looked at Oliver who was sniffling, and she seemed genuinely apologetic. I felt like a jerk because I didn't mean to ruin her fun at the hunt. It's just a fun little activity for kids, not worth being upset about. It just sucked seeing Oliver get completely left behind in the hunt when we went there for him to have a good time. A few minutes later, she came up to us and handed Oliver a couple of eggs. I was really grateful for her kindness, especially after I wasn't all that kind to her.

Joanna had a completely different experience at the egg hunt. She got to take her time and pick up eggs and open them before moving on. She also got a pinwheel!


Inside the eggs were random prizes. Jo won a $5 gift card to a natural grocery store! I think it's awesome, but I also laughed at the idea of a 9 year old opening up a prize like that. Some of the prizes were big toys! It was a little discouraging seeing some children leaving with 3 or 4 toys in addition to sacks full of candy, but I just kept reminding myself to keep it in perspective. Besides, our kids aren't old enough to figure out that those prizes were something they could have won.

They also gave us coupons for free tacos, a free ice cream cone, and a free mini-pizza. Really, it was a nice event. You could tell the organizers put a lot of work in: contacting local vendors, printing out flyers with rules, setting up egg-recycle bins for next year. I just think it could have been more enjoyable for little kids if the age groups were broken up a little better. A lot of our friends with kids Oliver's age went to hunts that were set up for 0-4 year olds, and I think that would have been a lot more fun for the kids. Oh well. Next year, he'll be 5, and I bet he'll be able to get 10 eggs!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Prospect Park

My parents came into town for a quick trip this weekend. They arrived Friday evening and left already on Sunday morning. It was really nice to see them and, of course, show them the house!

My mom and I wanted to take the kids to an egg hunt at Union Park. Time got away from us, and by the time we got the kids dressed and ready, we were really cutting it close to get to the hunt on time. We drove by the park without seeing it, so we decided just to give up on the idea and take the kids to another park to play.

We went to Prospect Park, which is right off of the Des Moines River. It's nicely forested, and a busy trail runs through the park, on the opposite side of the river from the playground. I really want to go back when everything's green!



There was a crew team or something in the water. It was a beautiful day for it.

The park is lovely, and I could see taking the family there for picnics. The only downside was the trash. It was overflowing from the trash cans, and some people had set their bags of trash around the pavilions and stuff. I guess park clean-up hasn't started yet for the season, but it really needed it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Jo + Cat

For a few days now, Jo's been playing her toy guitar and singing the same song over & over. It's really clever & cute:

                       

Yesterday, we finally figured out what she's singing: the into to "Peg + Cat!" Once we figured it out, it made her song that much funnier. She does such a good job! My favorite is how she takes the guitar and holds it at her side when she's done.

Here's the link to the YouTube video intro of "Peg + Cat":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhhI6gNPgJg

Oliver was about the same age when he started mimicking videos he watched. I think this age is just the funniest, cutest age ever (minus some of the tantrums, of course!).

Saturday, April 12, 2014

World's smallest bathroom (well, it's at least in the running...)

Before the woman who briefly lived here before us, a couple owned this house since the 60s. Our realtor told us how, as they got older, they no longer wanted to have to go downstairs (especially in the middle of the night) to use the restroom. So, they had a toilet added into the closet that sits above the full bathroom. That was the extent of this "bathroom:" simply a toilet in the closet, and a bare light bulb on the ceiling. No sink, no toilet paper holder, nothing. There's not even really any room to turn around.

Here it is:

I think the last owner didn't really know what to do with the room, either. She never added anything to it and might not have even used it. When we went and looked at the house, we were even asked, "What did you think of that weird toilet in the closet?"


When Andrew and I talked seriously about putting in an offer on the house, I asked him what we should do about that closet. Should we pull out the toilet and have the sewer line capped? He thought that would be silly, especially since we have little kids who might need to go potty in the middle of the night. He made sense, so I started brainstorming ideas for the water closet. I decided I didn't want the room to be an apology. "Yeah, we have a toilet in the closet. Weird, right?"

So, I decided to own it! Plus, with tiny spaces, you can do things you'd never even consider doing in a standard-sized room. I decided to try wall paper for the first time. I decided to hang pictures. I decided to add a mirror (a basic one that I brought up from the main bathroom downstairs. That room is a whole other story for another time). We got a towel ring and a toilet paper holder. Here is the finished bathroom:



Because of where the sewer line was, there was a big gap left behind the toilet. By big, I mean 10-11 inches!

So, I filled it will a shelf! I looked everywhere and finally found a floating shelf on Target.com that fit the dimensions of the space almost perfectly.


See something different in that picture? Yes indeed, I found a toilet tank sink! It is actually the coolest thing I've ever seen. I got it online from SinkPositive, and it's an eco-friendly sink. Instead of going into the toilet tank when you flush, the clean water from the line first goes through the faucet. You wash your hands with that clean water, and the used "gray water" then fills the toilet tank. So, the water automatically flows as soon as you flush the toilet. I took a video of it because I think it's so neat. At the time of the video, the bathroom wasn't yet completed.

                       

Finally, we replaced the bare bulb with a simple pull-chain light with a cover. We also swapped the bulb to a CFL so no tall people would burn their head stepping into our bathroom closet. Powder room. Water closet. WC. I don't know what to call this room.


One final look:

The room is simple, obviously. But I just think it now looks like a bathroom instead of a weird toilet in a closet. And that makes me happy :) I now consider our house to officially be a 1.5 bath!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt at Scheel's

We took the kids to Scheel's to check out the free Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt event they had on Monday. We were given clues that led us from station to station throughout the store. At each station, the kids had to complete a challenge to earn a prize (usually a plastic egg with a little surprise inside). At the first challenge station, the kids had to putt. I helped Jo hit it once, and then she picked it up and dropped it into the hole. She was probably wondering why we were making it so difficult with the putter.



There was a hopscotch station:

 There was a Bozo Buckets station:

Jo liked the prizes the best:

There was an egg balancing station. Oliver did a pretty good job with this! I helped Jo, and she enjoyed tipping it to watch the egg fall and break open.

And best of all there was...

The EASTER BUNNY! Jo was brave enough to give him a high five. Oliver went in for the hug!

BEHIND YOU!
                       

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Everything looks fun to a toddler, even building a patio.

I've been working on digging out a patio. With all of the dirt I've removed, I've filled all of the raised garden beds. I created an area for strawberries. Now, I'm scattering dirt between some sprouting spring flowers (Tulips? Daffodils? It's a surprise!). Jo decided to help spread some of the dirt by playing in it.


We're not ready for patio stones yet, but we decided to purchase them over the weekend because Home Depot had a sale on them: 88 cents each! They looked like a lot of fun to Jo.


She's kind of cute, and definitely funny to watch.
                       

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Earth Day at the Junction

No, it's not really Earth Day, but there was a free Earth Day event called "Earth Day at the Junction" today anyway. It was in Valley Junction, a few miles from our house.

Valley Junction is this cute little area of West Des Moines with funky, unique street shops that sell everything from fudge to costumes. The kids and I have been to Green Grounds Cafe with the Des Moines MOMS Club group. It appears to be just this tiny little coffee house that serves mostly natural & organic products (and fair trade coffee). When you walk back for seating, the place really opens up. It's huge! There's even a stage for events, and a little play area with toys for kids.

When we arrived in Valley Junction, we couldn't find the event. I'd just assumed it was on the street. As I drove down 5th Street, we finally spotted a single tent with bird handlers and owls. We pulled in by the tent and went to check out the owls. We saw a lot of people walking out of the nearby community center, so we decided to pop in there. That's where many of the Earth Day at the Junction vendors were!

At the very first station, Oliver got to make a bug puppet. The volunteers helped cut pieces and staple everything together, but Oliver got to make the eyes and decorate. 



I talked with a woman about home efficiency stuff, and Andrew went to check out some herbs. He got us a self-watering basil plant. Oliver got to make a guerrilla gardening seed bomb. He flattened out some earthen clay, filled it with compost and native seeds, and then they helped him roll it up into a ball. When it dries, it becomes fairly brittle. They told us that people take these and throw them on the ground near old, abandoned industrial sites. The idea is that the native grasses will start to grow there again.

When we finished up at the community center, we were directed to Green Grounds Cafe down the street. Apparently, there were more booths set up there. We walked in and spotted a fisheries station. He talked a bit about clean runoff water, and Oliver got to make a picture of a trout. They had a 3D trout, and Oliver spread paint on it, placed a piece of paper over it, and rubbed it to get the image of the fish on his paper. Jo was so excited about it, so she made a trout painting, too.


I enjoyed the Sierra Club booth. They gave me information on local parks, and they also told me about the weekly hikes they take starting in the spring (more information here). Both ladies at the booth insisted it's OK to bring little kids along on the hikes, so I think we're going to check it out one week soon! They also have a kite flying day on April 19, and I think that might be a big hit with our kiddos.

Our family had a great time at Earth Day at the Junction. It wasn't too grandiose, and the little activities were perfect for their age. In addition to what's pictured here, they also got a spin a wheel for a prize, and they got to plant marigolds in a cup to take home. It's no surprise that Jo liked planting with the dirt the best.