Because I am a planner and because the easiest kind of planning is shopping, I have already begun filling the Easter baskets for the kids. This is mostly because I have a strict NO MORE CRAP rule when it comes to buying my kids presents and when we get to holidays like this sometimes all the good stuff sells out by the time I get around to shopping and I really dislike spending perfectly decent Starbucks money on junk.
You should also know that I use Easter as an excuse to refresh our supplies for playing outside in the summer, so this is a generous haul. I have hit Walmart and Target in the past week to scope out their summer aisles and so far I’m really no impressed. There’s the usual assortment of water guns and goggles but nothing very new or interesting. (Though I have yet to check out Costco and they almost always have something good in this category.) So! In an effort to STEP AWAY FROM THE AISLE OF TRINKETY JUNKY CRAP at Target, here’s what the bunny is bringing my kids come April 20.
The neighborhood pool opens on 4/19, so some new pool toys are probably in order for the season. We have dive sticks and noodles and buckets but some refreshing of pool toys each season always seems to be met with enthusiasm by everyone. We are starting the summer with two weeks of swimming lessons for the girls and we will be spending lots of time at the neighborhood pool and in College Station with my parents. Maybe we will even be lucky enough to make friends with a family that has a pool and they will invite us over! (That would be the trifecta of Pool Luck though, so I am not holding my breath.)
Swim Thru Rings, $20
I purchased these even though they used “THRU” instead of “THROUGH” on the package,which is so grating I can’t believe I even put it on my website. Anyway, these look fun, right? An adult can also swim through them so I think that’s nice. Claire’s favorite game in the whole world is Obstacle Course, wherein I tell her a series of things to do against a clock, so I think these will work great for a pool version this summer. They get good reviews.
I thought this was cool because the treasure chest floats. I could toss all the treasure around in the pool and the kids have to get it and put it back in the treasure chest, which sounds just a little bit more exciting than “bring it all back to the edge of the pool.” Claire is still really into pirates so this sounded good for her.
Everyone needs to refresh the sidewalk chalk for summer and the Easter Bunny is the perfect creature to deliver it.
You know what we have a lot of in Texas in the summer? Sunshine. UNLIMITED AMOUNTS OF BLISTERING SUNSHINE.
I think Emily got this for her kids and she put it on Instagram and I thought it was so cool! We have a lot of windows that get serious afternoon sun and this sounded fun.
I got three of these and I’m going to hang them in the kitchen window and every afternoon there will be a giant Rainbow Party. You’re all invited.
I have wanted one of these for years so I can tell just HOW HOT it is on the patio so I’m going to give it to the kids as an excuse to own it. Maybe we’ll do some science-like charting of temperatures through the day or something.
Water and Sand Table, $70 (too expensive, surely I can find something like this for cheaper)
I am not totally sold on this particular model, but I am considering a larger water table or at the very least a second small one. A water table has been a consistent hit with my kids for several summers and I think they’re GREAT. Super simple to set up, cleans up/dries out with the power of the sun. With the three mobile kids in the back yard our ONE water table seems a little small to expect my three kids to share nicely. I mean yes, I could MAKE them share it but maybe two separate water play areas would be a good idea. I am no way in hell filling one of these with sand though. Sand is a big NO at my house. (Messy. Expensive. MESSY.) Water only. I dig that this has an umbrella, though I question how many minutes it would stay in place before the children start using it as a sword. (3 minutes? Perhaps only 2?)
I loved this book as a kid and we don’t yet have our own copy.
Every year I struggle with what to put in the plastic eggs that isn’t candy. Candy is so easy to put in the eggs but by the time Easter gets here I’m SO DONE with candy and my kids certainly don’t need a new giant basket full of it. Candy, in large amounts, creates a TON of problems at my house and every year at Halloween, Christmas, and Easter it ends with me throwing a bunch of it away because OH MY GOSH I AM DONE WITH CANDY.
These don’t get the best reviews (people say they break, which, uh, they’re crayons) but for my purpose I think there’s WOW factor here. We color A LOT. I might hold back half of them for later in the summer after the first wave breaks apart.
Aaaaaand I’m still working on what else to put in the eggs. If I find anything amazing I will tell you.
1. I am writing this from My Room. Now that the girls are sharing a room I have a room All For Me. MINE! I have two desks in here. One has my computer and a BIG ASS MONITOR that gives me real estate for all the windows I require to properly use the internet, and the other one has my sewing machine. I mended a pair of shorts tonight with a hole in the pocket! And then I came over here and paid a bill! And now I am typing a blog post! And I didn’t have to clean up anyone’s abandoned art project or look at anyone’s dirty dishes on the breakfast room table to do any of it and THIS IS REALLY LIVING, GUYS.
There’s a jumble of bins in the corner and my heaps of fabric are stacked in the other corner but WHO CARES IT’S MY STUFF AND NOT TOYS! I have plans to make it more organized and functional but right now the part where this room has a door that I lock on my way out is totally the best thing about this place.
2. The weather has been glorious.
It has been 70 or 80 during the day and sunny and bright and breezy. We have been living outside and everyone has dirty feet and the clothes come in with sidewalk chalk on them and we have already spilled lots of bubbles. We are thinking about getting the water table out. SPRING IS COMING, GUYS. It has been totally AMAZING how the quality of my life has improved just because I can say this sentence, “GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY.”
Such a simple sentence! Only four words! LIFE CHANGING! The kids are sleeping better because they’re getting more activity, everyone is eating legit meals at mealtime because they’re hungry. (I had to wake Charlotte up at 8am for school today, which is UNHEARD of.)
This week Preston and I have been taking a walk after the girls get dropped at preschool and it’s really nice because we are already out of the house anyway and there is a nice neighborhood to cruise through over there. There is also a Starbucks one mile away and today I decided I was going to walk over there and reward myself with a fancy coffee but then I was mere YARDS from the door when I noticed that Preston’s blanket wasn’t in his stroller. Huh? Where’s the blanket?? What the heck?? I looked behind me and across a busy street and on a sidewalk was the blanket. And it couldn’t be just any old blanket, it was a blanket I had as a baby so I couldn’t just LEAVE it there and hope it was still lumped up on the sidewalk once I got my coffee. Sentimental blanket! No Starbucks for me today, since by the time I got the blanket Preston was pretty serious about wanting to get out of that stroller PRONTO and back in the car please-and-thank-you.
Anyway, sometimes I don’t do Starbucks and I just listen to my podcasts with my water (I learned about royal weddings in Westminster Abbey today and some them some notable shipwrecks). Preston falls asleep halfway through, and one hour and 3 or 4 miles later (I did say it was a walk) I am so happy and I have gotten some activity in and it even feels a little like being ALONE. It ‘s so great. My biggest hurdle/excuse for getting exercise is I really really hate the set up/take down cost in terms of time to go to the gym and with this I’m literally already in the parking lot with a stroller so WHY NOT WALK A LITTLE?
Sometimes if I have already had my coffee, I actually run a little. (I know, I know, I’m getting kind of crazy.)
3. Now that I have a desk again, and a big monitor, and a place to keep my aging Macbook (it’s from 2009) plugged in I can do like, PROJECTS now! I am tackling family photo books as my current project. The last one I did was 2008, or maybe 2009? I can’t remember. I have a lot of annual photo books to do. I am still using Blurb because it’s the only one without a page limit and my books are super fat because I take a crapton of pictures and I can’t be LIMITED after going through the effort to capture all those memories.
I am working on the 2014 one in what I feel is a very adult and responsible way: I am starting on it in 2014, filling it in after a few weeks with the previous month’s activities. It is so much easier this way than trying to track down all the photos from 2010. I also have a book started for 2013, 2012, and 2011 and I work on them as my attention span permits. We’ll see how this goes. I am hoping to get them finished and then wait for a giant sale to order.
4. I have three strollers. I have a single Maclaren and double BOB and a single BOB and last week I used all of them which was super satisfying. The BOBs are really hard for us to store (they are usually parked in the dining room) so sometimes I wonder if I really need BOTH of them. Well, I do.
5. My Walmart had the Easter candy out on Monday when we went shopping so of course we bought some and of course I proceeded to cram it all in my mouth over the next three days. Man, Easter candy is some kind of amazing, right? Easter is late this year (4/20) so that means we have a rare MAX EASTER CANDY CONSUMPTION WINDOW. It’s my favorite seasonal candy offering for sure. I have a thing for the Cadbury Creme Eggs and Chris adores the Mini Eggs. This year I discovered some Russell Stover Brownie Eggs and wooooo those are nice. Anyway, I went to a different grocery store yesterday under the pretext of getting real food but what I was actually after was more Easter candy. And…that store didn’t have any! IT WAS SO UPSETTING.
I am going back to Walmart today.
6. I always like to have a little cooking side project going on where I try to make something kind of ridiculous and out of the norm because well, that’s kind of fun for me and the girls like to help cook and then we get to eat something yummy. For a while I was making fancy layer cakes and then I was making all kinds of braised meats in my dutch oven over winter and I have decided that for summer I am going to figure out ice cream. I loooove ice cream and I have an ice cream maker (which I’ve never really used much) and I’m going to try a bunch of recipes this summer.
The good thing about an at-home ice cream experiment is that it never makes all that much in terms of quantity and with five people and a hot summer I think we could go through a batch of the stuff within a day or two of making it, which means there’s lots of room for lots of flavors and mix-ins between now and September.
7. I am a huge fan of Costco brand dishwasher detergent, which is a great value and does a super job. Last time I was there I picked up Costco brand dish soap (for using in the sink to wash things) and…it’s a no. It’s super soap-y smelling and it doesn’t rinse as well as Dawn and…after I use up this gallon (!) that’s not going to be a re-buy.
1. Claire is supposed to bring Valentine cups to school tomorrow for her contribution to the Valentine’s Day Party. Of course I went to Walmart at 7p the night before the party and there were no Valentine cups available. I bought a pack of red Solo cups and we put foam heart stickers on them. So now it’s going to look like I’m a Super! Fun! Crafty! Mom! when really I’m just forgetful and lazy. I wish I could somehow put this message on the cups, to lower expectations from her teachers for future events.
2. I am enjoying the Olympics this time around! I am particularly enjoying the figure skating a lot more than I usually do, but it does seem like everyone has chosen really WEIRD music, right? I feel like the music choices used to be SO MUCH MORE CONSERVATIVE. But I was hearing James Bond theme music and Santana and The Addams Family and something screechy-weird that won that Russian pairs team a set of Gold medals the other night. I feel like we did not hear pop music like this when I was a kid. Did we?
3. I finally read Me Before You and I really loved it even though I hated the ending even though I knew it was going to end that way. (It was the only way it COULD end! AND YET!) I read the Johnny Carson biography that his former lawyer wrote and I was glued to that, but in a totally different train-wreck kind of way.
4. I am addicted to Podcasts. I have only recently discovered them, which means I’ve been living under a rock for the past five years or so. But really, they are improving my quality of life SO MUCH. First of all, I got this amazing bluetooth set of earbuds for my birthday and I REALLY SUPER A LOT LOVE them. Miriel recommended it and I think Arwen has one too. (Mine is all white, no orange.)
They are very lightweight and the battery lasts a long time and I like the controls on them. What I have been doing lately is turning on a podcast on my iPad in the kitchen, putting these on with ONE earbud in so I can still hear the children, and then I walk around the house picking up after them all day but I get to listen to something entertaining and not MOM! MOM! I NEED SOME MORE CHEEZITS. WHEN CAN WE HAVE MORE CHEEZITS? Because really, if I had to listen to a never-ending chorus of that for one more stinking day I think I would have asked the United States if they want to record my children saying it so they can use it to extract information from terrorists. IT IS THAT ANNOYING.
I wear my sweet bluetooth earbuds to wash dishes or fold laundry or put the baby down for a nap and I can pause it with single button and change the volume and I HAVE LEARNED SO MUCH COOL STUFF, GUYS!
4. First of all, I discovered the Planet Money podcast, which is from NPR. It is so great. They take these everyday problems and relate them to economics and they talk about the history of economies and foreign economies and this sounds boring but it’s NOT! It’s part psychology, part politics, part sociology, part entertainment.
IT’S SO COOL. I have downloaded and listened to almost all of the archived episodes. My favorite ones include: LeBron James is Underpaid, Black Market Pharmacies and the Spam Empire Behind Them, How to Make It in the Food Truck Business, Mr Erb’s Amazon Empire (that one is particularly fascinating), The Invisible Plumbing of our Economy. (I will not be linking to these because that would take forever and I have three kids and I trust you know how to use Google and will find them if you want to.)
SO GREAT. HIGHLY RECOMMEND if you are the kind of person that enjoys money (spending and/or hoarding).
5. After I listened to all of those I moved on to Stuff You Missed In History Class. The first few weren’t GREAT but then I dug into the archives and I am SUPER hooked. I totally loved Building Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, Encephalitis Lethargica scared the bejeepers out of me, the Laura Ingalls Wilder The Long Winter episode made me feel like this winter isn’t so bad after all since we have central heat. Cannibalism at Jamestown also gave me similar feelings since we do have food. Food that isn’t PEOPLE.
These are all about 20 or 30 minutes stories about a single topic with one break in the middle for a sponsored ad, which isn’t so bad. LOVE these. Some of the topics aren’t for me and I skip over those, but the ones I have enjoyed I have found myself reading Wikipedia on later. Very fun stuff.
This is about all I’ve listened to so far. I have tried some other feeds but I haven’t really hit on anything else I dig. Is there anything you listen to on the regular that you want to tell me about?
6. My Valentine’s Day plans consist of binge-watching season two of House of Cards tomorrow night. (With Chris.) I find myself wondering when the episodes will hit Netflix. Midnight tonight? Or, 11 my time, which is 12 eastern? In that case, I might stay up! Or will they hit at noon tomorrow? Prime Time? A MYSTERY.
(UPDATE. I Googled it and all 13 episodes will drop at 3:01 am tomorrow.)
7. We just wrapped up chain-watching The Walking Dead and now I’m totally obsessed with survival skills and where we would seek refuge in case of Zombie Apocalypse and gosh we need to go buy some guns and ammo. It’s totally not real and will never happen but I AM THINKING THESE THINGS EVERY DAY. (We’d go hide at Costco and roll down those steel doors and lock ‘em up. Movies, TVs, places to sit and sleep, canned goods, diamonds, playgrounds, generators, linens, socks, clothes, books, tools, booze. ALL SET. Just BYO guns and I figure we could live comfortably in a Costco for a looooong time.)