May 26, 2016

Mourning the End of an Era

The school year finishes today and Ella is officially done with kindergarten.

There have been a lot of great things about this school year, but frankly it has been somewhat of a difficult year for me.

I've always been someone who liked a schedule (so much so that when I was a child, my mom had to basically avoid ever HAVING a schedule because it made me so insane if we didn't follow it to the letter - as you can imagine, I was a delightful child to have), so I assumed that I'd love the structure of school.

Instead, I've been surprised by how sad it's been for me to have our family tied to a school schedule.

Even homeschool, which gives me a lot more flexibility than public school, still needed to be done on a daily basis.

Combine that with being back to a baby's two-a-day nap schedule for most of this year, weekly dance classes for the two older girls, and my increased workload, and suddenly our regular schedule seemed very tight.

Since Ella was born, I've enjoyed the leisurely schedule that being a stay-at-home mom with little kids allowed me.

We've done preschool co-ops and paid preschools is the past, but they were never more than twice a week and just for a few hours, so we still had a lot of free time.

In Texas, we went on four-mile walks with friends a few mornings a week. Jessica and I went out to lunch with our crew of little girls nearly every Friday while our husbands were in grad school in North Carolina. In London, we headed out on adventures nearly every day and I savored those free mornings where I could explore the city with my two little sidekicks.

We could wander over to the park or hit the library. Every morning seemed to stretch out with hours to read books together, meet up with friends, try a little craft project, or run errands.

If Ella did a few pages of her math book, great. If we skipped it? No big deal.

Now those days are gone. We have so much less ability to have spur-of-the-moment outings or long leisurely stretches of time. When someone asks if I want to get together, we almost always have to schedule at least a week out.

I've found myself looking at my friends who didn't yet have children in school and feeling so envious that they could go and do whatever they want, whenever they want.

Part of it, I'm sure, is that it's just really breaking my heart to see my girls grow up so quickly.

We're into the school part of our family life permanently now and we'll never go back to those days of little kids with no school schedule, and I think this has been the year for me to mourn that a little (or a lot).

I'm so happy that summer is finally here and we can enjoy a few months of more relaxed life, although the downside of summer is that we don't have Target or the library all to ourselves.

I'm determined to savor every unscheduled minute of it.

May 25, 2016

7 Places to Visit in Las Vegas with Children

Visiting Las Vegas with kids in tow? Try out these fun family-friendly spots in the city that never sleeps!

One of the big reasons we decided to move to Arizona is that we'd finally be close enough to drive to Las Vegas.

I love going up to visit my parents, and we spend a lot of time reading books on the couch, visiting the park in their neighborhood, swimming in their pool, or working on puzzles at the dining room table.

But occasionally we try to get out of the house, and these are our favorite places to visit. If you're visiting Las Vegas with kids, I highly recommend all of these!

Visiting Las Vegas with kids in tow? Try out these fun family-friendly spots in the city that never sleeps!

Discovery Children's Museum
We've been to a lot of children's museums all around the country, and this is one of the best. When I was a kid, we had a membership to the original version of this museum, but in the two decades since then, they've moved locations and really stepped up their game. My girls can stay happily here for HOURS. And at the end, the employees march through the whole place (all three floors) passing out instruments and everyone participates in a parade out the doors.

The Bellagio Conservatory 
They change out the exhibit every few months (this summer, it's an under-the-sea theme and it is spectacular). No matter what they do, though, it's always over the top gorgeous. Obviously, check out the fountain show (bonus points if you think of Ocean's Eleven while you watch) and the world's largest chocolate waterfall. And of course, you'll want to stop and get gelato at Cafe Gelato while you're there. I highly HIGHLY recommend the mango - I'm not usually one for fruit flavors (give me all the chocolate or salted caramel) but this one is ridiculous. The sandwiches are also incredible, plus their cinnamon rolls are hands-down the best cinnamon rolls I've ever had.

Visiting Las Vegas with kids in tow? Try out these fun family-friendly spots in the city that never sleeps!

The District Splash Pad and Farmer's Market
This is one of my all-time favorite splash pads. Not only is it pretty much always shaded, because it's between two-story shopping buildings, it has lights strung above it, music playing, and - best of all - couches for parents to sit on. After years of sitting on hard benches in the blazing sun at splash pads, this is the best thing ever. They also have a farmer's market on Thursday afternoons and various concerts and movies throughout the year.  I've also heard that the splash pad and park at Town Square is really nice, so it's on my list to visit when we go back later this summer.

Ethel M Chocolate Factory
We've been going to this since I was a little girl - at this point, I've probably been at least 100 times. You can see various chocolates being made through the giant glass windows (sometimes there isn't much going on and sometimes you're rewarded with the most enormous slab of fudge you've ever seen in your life), plus you get a sample at the end. They also have a big cactus garden outside that's fun to wander through and at Christmas it is all lit up for the holidays.

The Container Park
We went here with all the grandkids a couple of summers ago, and it was just really fun. The whole place is built out of those giant shipping containers (much like the Boxpark in London), with fun little stores, great restaurants, and a lot of outdoor seating and a playground in the center. Some of the slides are really big, so they're fun for adults too. They also do movies and concerts on the stage there.

Las Vegas Natural History Museum
This is another one we went to a lot when I was growing up - it's not huge, but it's inexpensive and has lots of cool animals. Also, indoors which is what really counts in July and August in Las Vegas.

The High Roller
I've been on a couple of observation wheels (including the famous London Eye) and this one is by far my favorite. It really feels like a PARTY as you go up and around, and we had the best time dancing and singing in the pod, watching the lights in the city go on as the sun set, and listening to the amusing narrator tell jokes and point things out as we went around.

Other things on my list to do on future Vegas trips include the Shark ReefThe Secret Garden, the Lion Habitat Ranch (I didn't even know this existed until very recently) and Cowabunga Bay.

Even better, I always have at least one grandparent along to make it extra easy on me to galavant around with three children.

Visiting Las Vegas with kids in tow? Try out these fun family-friendly spots in the city that never sleeps!

May 24, 2016

Breaking My Rules

A perfect summer dress - thick enough to wear alone, plus pockets!

A perfect summer dress - thick enough to wear alone, plus pockets!

A perfect summer dress - thick enough to wear alone, plus pockets!

A perfect summer dress - thick enough to wear alone, plus pockets!

A perfect summer dress - thick enough to wear alone, plus pockets!

A perfect summer dress - thick enough to wear alone, plus pockets!

When I started doing most of my clothes shopping at ThredUp, I swore to myself that I wouldn't keep anything that wasn't ready to wear the moment it arrived.

It's so tempting for me to look at something I like and think, "if I just took in the sides a little, this would be perfect."

But I know how that ends up - the item sits in my closet for ages and I never fix it or I DO fix it and I hate it because my sewing combines my two worst qualities of perfectionism and speed (so I do it as quickly as possible and then can't overlook how poorly it turns out).

But when I ordered this dress, which is from Hannah Anderson's adult line, it was so ALMOST perfect that I couldn't bear to send it back.

I mean, it was the right length (hard to find in a dress!). The fabric was thick enough that it didn't require anything underneath. It had POCKETS. It even has an contrasted exposed zipper up the back.

Also, it was $10.49.

But it was just a leeeeeettle too big around the top.

I knew I didn't want to fix it myself because I didn't want to ruin it, so I took it into the dry cleaners' where I'd seen a little alteration desk in the past.

But then they told me that the person who did the alternations had just moved the day before (why did I procrastinate going in?!) and so I decided to take it with me to Mom 2.0 and ask Merrick's advice on it.

I figured if she could walk me through what I should actually do for it, I could do it myself, and I promised myself I'd take it slow and be very careful.

But then after I tried it on and she looked it over, she offered to just do it for me.

Well, that took me five seconds to accept (minus four seconds).

And then last week, she brought it back to me in Las Vegas and voila! Best sister ever.

But I'm still going to stick to my rules, because I'm fairly sure Merrick has better things to do than alter half ThredUp's inventory for me.

Dress (via ThredUp) • Shoes  Necklace • Rings (Set 1 and Set 2)
Bracelets • Clutch • Nail Polish

A perfect summer dress - thick enough to wear alone, plus pockets!


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