Friday, July 31, 2015

Landscaping project: the backyard

Basketball Court/Cement Pad
First, we took advantage of a March Madness offer through Blueprint Basketball and purchased a Goalsetter system. Our goal was to have an adjustable in-ground hoop that our kids could play on from age 5-20 and would also withstand being a meeting place for (older) neighborhood kids. It's an investment for sure, but so far we've been really happy with it. Since the promotion came with free NCAA pole pads, we have some UNI Panther Pride going on as well.

We had a 20'x30' pad of cement poured behind our garage in early June. The goal for this piece was to have a place for kids to not only play basketball, but also ride their little toys, set up a kiddie pool, do side-walk chalk, drive remote-control cars, etc. that was in the backyard and not on or near the street.
Boys loved watching the skidloader work.
The dirt piles was the favorite hangout of the neighborhood for more than a week.
Ready for cement. They had to use cement buggies to fill it, but the grass grew back eventually.

Adam and his dad installed the Goalsetter (and it was HEAVY!)
Inaugural shot.
 Because of the grade of the lawn, we needed a retaining wall built at one end and decided to go ahead and finish it off with some landscaping around it. This is when it's handy to have 4 summers of landscaping experience from college. Adam was able to do the entire wall and surrounding landscape himself.

We did bullets around the outside and decided on rock on the lower level with mulch on the upper level.

Placing plants
 Here are the plants we chose, all purchased from Ground Effects:

Finished landscape
The dirt area behind the wall is currently seeded and growing grass nicely, although the boys, frankly, preferred the dirt pile.  It's a nice view from our kitchen window, has provided days of play in various forms, and has even seen a few neighborhood basketball game (even when our kids were in bed). Success!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sioux Falls Skyzone and Zoo

I took a day off work to spend the day in Sioux Falls with our family and my sister's family. We'd been wanting to check out SkyZone for a while and I liked the idea of going during "Toddler Time" which is for kids 6 and under.
SkyZone socks

I'm glad we went during Toddler Time since it took Cohen a while to warm up to the idea and it was nice to not be so crowded/intimidated. Ryan liked jumping in the foam pit the best. I would recommend this as a fun 1-hour activity to do with kids!

We picked up Happy Meals for the kids and headed to the mall to eat, then we headed to the zoo. It was pretty hot out but the kids enjoyed the animals that were out. Ryan acted as our map-reader and we were quite the crew with 5 kids in 4 strollers.

After a few hours at the zoo, we decided to stop at Dairy Queen. We were kind of aware it was CMN Miracle Treat Day but probably weren't prepared for how busy it was. There were people in line with huge coolers picking up 2 dozen blizzards at a time! We waited it out and all enjoyed our ice cream before the sleepy drive home.
A selfie and a side-eye

Collyns loves her blizzard (and other people's)
Messy boy.

We really had a fun day and hope our kids made some great summer memories!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Tooth Fairy Demands

After our 5-year-old received a $1 bill from the tooth fairy in exchange for his first tooth, he apparently had high expectations demands when the second one came out.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Old Friends

We had two fun opportunities this month to meet up with some of my old high school friends. Two different friends were back in the area visiting parents and it happened to be two different groups that could make the schedules work.

It's so fun to catch up with people that you don't see often, even if they do live in the area. We all have kids around similar ages, so it was great to see them play together and so fun to see how much many of them resemble their parents!

Catching fireflies

Moms (Heather Stef, Deanne, me, Becca) and kids

Silly kids! (and yes I am supporting Avonlea's head!!)

Snapchat from Aftin, me, Carissa, and Dorinda

Rides from Arvin

Enjoying the heat

Scavenger hunt
Walter was the "reader" on our team and he and Ryan figured out the clues. Cohen was the designated tag-a-long

Getting photo-bombed by one of the kids

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Vacation to Mahoney State Park

We had a fun vacation to Mahoney State Park with Adam's parents and brother's family. We stayed in one of the cabins near the waterpark. I will share quite a few pictures to give you a good idea of the activities available in case you are thinking about vacationing here.

We drove down on Sunday afternoon (including a run through McDonald's for a frozen strawberry lemonade) and got settled into our room and grilled supper. It was tricky figuring out how to fit 6 coolers worth of food we all brought into the tiny fridge/freezer. We also found out that the fully furnished kitchen meant no bowls, measuring cups/spoons, and not enough cups or spoons for the "sleeps 8" they claimed. But, we made do throughout the week.  Since the living room was upstairs and also served as a bedroom, we found ourselves hanging out in the dining room a lot.
Grandpa reading books on the dining room floor.
The kids were up bright and early on Monday (5 of us in one room probably didn't help) and after breakfast we headed down to the Marina. They had a craft area where you could pick out a project to buy and then use the paints and brushes to finish it. Cohen painted some maracas and Ryan made a cool ping-pong ball cannon.

Adam rented a paddle boat and took the boys on a little ride around the pond. They also had fun feeding the geese. There wasn't much fishing to do here so we never ended up getting out the poles.

It was SO hot this day with a heat index over 100 that we didn't even think it would be safe to have the kids at the waterpark. So, instead naps were taken by the little ones and then we headed to the indoor (air conditioned) playground. TIP: This place was not open every day and in fact Monday night from 4-8 was the only time it was open during our trip. Also, you need to wear socks in it and we were all in sandals, but a quick trip back to the cabin fixed this quickly.
Giant indoor playground.
The playground consisted of padded obstacle course/tubes/slides/ropes/netting/ball pits. There were sections for the littler kids but Cohen found his way through may of the larger obstacles as well. Ryan got brave enough to go down the longest tube slide (in the very top right of the photo above) and Cohen loved jumping off things and trying the rope ladders. Ryan spent 2 hours running around here and it was definitely worth the $2 admission.

We grilled that night and attempted some s'mores (the cabins have little hokey shelter-house-type grill things outside them but no firepits).
Cohen's s'mores
The second night's sleep went a little better once we put Cohen on the floor on a mattress. With the 2 sets of bunk beds and a Pack and Play, this means we had 6 beds in our room, but whatever you have to do, right?

The next day the humidity had broken quite a bit so while Grandpa, Andy and Kim went on a horse-back ride (you have to be 7 or older) we checked out the playground on site. It was a pretty fun one and Cohen had a blast exploring all the slides.

Capri Sun break at the park
We headed to the waterpark after lunch. All the kids had a great time! Cohen went right down the slide (Ryan refused until he saw Cohen do it).Avonlea loved just splashing around the zero-depth part and being held in the pool or just hanging out on the towel. We brought the boys back at night when there were far fewer people and they really enjoyed the wave pool.

We played some bean bags and had fun just hanging out together.
Madie and Avonlea
Avonlea with Uncle Andy
The last day of our stay, it was raining most of the morning which made it difficult to plan (and figure out how to keep 4 kids and 6 adults entertained in a small space).
Bowl for a hat.
Finally after lunch it cleared up enough to go play the on-site mini-golf course! We decided the winner got first choice as to what leftover they wanted for supper. (Isn't the last day "clean up the fridge day" on every vacation?)
After this, Cohen gave up the club and we just let him play other holes by rolling it while we golfed the real hole.

Then, we drove to the observation tower and they climbed to the top to see the whole state park.

Since I had to work the next day (and we all needed a good night of sleep in our own rooms), we headed home after supper on Wednesday, but not without stopping for one last vacation treat.
We had fun making memories together as a family. I would recommend this State Park for a 3-4 day stay if you have smaller kids or I would plan a few excursions out into "town" or the nearby Outlets, restaurants, etc. We cooked 3 meals/day in our cabin which was really good food and saved us money but did take time/planning/prep. It was  hard to have enough to do when the weather wasn't cooperating (in my pre-mom days, I would have loved this time to read).  I think we would have loved to have access to a lake/fishing/sandy beach and a firepit would have been very nice. The cabins were adequate (we all knew we were going to be in close quarters since larger cabins weren't available) and if you are a clean-freak, these are not for you. But it definitely served its purpose and we were happy it was less than a 3-hour drive away. If you are thinking about vacationing at Mahoney State Park, feel free to leave a comment or question and I'd be happy to share our experiences!