Minnesota Children’s Museum

While visiting with my cousin and her kids in the Twin Cities this week we headed to the Minnesota Children’s Museum. The main reason we wanted to visit is because they currently have a travelling Daniel Tiger exhibit. The kids and I love Daniel Tiger.

If you aren’t familiar with Daniel Tiger, you are probably familiar with the inspiration for the show – Mr. Rogers. Daniel Tiger is based on the Land of Make Believe from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. It has a lot of the same good life lessons that Mr. Rogers’ had, often with a helpful little song. I get some of my best parenting advice from that show.

The exhibit was packed full of things from the show, from instruments at Music Man Stan’s shop to the clothes the kids use for dress up at Daniel’s school. They even had a post office with letters for the characters. The kids could be Mr. McFeely and deliver the letters to each of the buildings.

It was like a dream come true for the kids. We spent about an hour in the room, letting them run and explore. They have Daniel Tiger books in O The Owl’s room, so you can curl up with a book in O’s reading nest or one of the chairs they have around the exhibit. Audrey loved being able to explore and play and read a book. It isn’t often you get a story while exploring.

We finally decided to leave the Daniel area and headed to a room with a fire station, hardware store, farmer’s market, taco truck, and post office to play in. Elliot found a wall of switches to play with, so he was pretty happy. There was also a fire truck to ride in. It was overrun with school groups, and it was hard to explore it all. The big kids were not excited to share with the little ones.

The museum is four stories, but we only made it to half of one story before Audrey was ready for bed. She got a little overwhelmed by all of the kids and asked to go home. I was also ready to go, as it was getting too crowded to watch over four kids under four with only two grown ups.

I can’t say enough wonderful things about the Daniel Tiger exhibit. It was well worth the price of admission (around $45 [including parking] for the kids and me). I wish it was a permanent exhibit, as I can see going to visit it again and again. I hope we continue to visit the museum as the kids grow. I’m sure we’ll be able to explore more of it each time we get there.

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Road Trip Update

We got back from our trip earlier tonight. We had a wonderful time in the Twin Cities, and I plan on telling you more about it soon (when I’ve had some sleep).

I did a good job preparing for the trip there, but did not do a great job thinking about the drive home.

When it came to snacks we were good for the drive up to Minnesota, but I totally forgot about snacks for the way home. The kids and I ended up eating cookies from a gas station for a treat. Gas station cookies aren’t very good. Elliot decided to “take it apart” instead of eat it, and now I hope that soaking his shirt in OxiClean will get all of the chocolate out of his shirt.20180419_1454272054893516.jpg

I let Elliot put diggers in his back pack, which is a great toy for him. I didn’t think about how playing with trucks would keep him from sleeping on the drive. He didn’t sleep on the drive there, yet I didn’t think to take them away until after he slept on the drive home. So he didn’t sleep in the car either way.

On a positive note, at the Children’s Museum yesterday I thought to clip Giraffe to Audrey with her mitten clip. It made the visit much less stressful for me.

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I love travelling, and I’m glad I went even if the kids didn’t sleep in the car. I am hoping to go on several trips this summer, and I will eventually remember things like snacks on the way home and not giving the 2-year-old his favorite toys to play with at nap time.

Do you have any travel tips for car trips with kids?

Missing Minnie

The kids and I went to visit my parents in Cedar Falls this week. It is a trip we try to make once a month. We do it so often it doesn’t take long to get ready. While the kids are eating breakfast I pack my bag, their bag, and get Audrey’s backpack ready for her. I put in the things I know she’ll want (Giraffe, Minnie, and a blanket), then she fills it with the books and toys she will want in the car. It is a system that works well. She fills the backpack, with help from Elliot, while I put our bags in the car.

We usually drive over nap time, but we left early this week. A winter storm was expected, and I wanted to get ahead of the weather. The roads were clear for the first forty-five minutes. After that we hit snow. I stopped to get a cup of coffee and to give Audrey a chance to use the potty before we headed into an hour-long stretch bereft of public restrooms.

It was snowing pretty heavily when we got back in the car. I quickly loaded up the kids while trying not to scald them with my big cup of coffee.  I buckled them in, sent a quick text to John to let him know where we were on our drive, and headed back into the snow.

When we got to Cedar Falls the kids ran into the house to play. It wasn’t until I was getting them ready for a nap when I discovered that Minnie was missing. I searched the car. I looked all around the living room. I had my mom search the car. I had my dad search the living room. No Minnie.

I told Audrey that I couldn’t find Minnie. She was shockingly fine with it and didn’t ask about Minnie for the rest of the trip. I was more upset than her. I called the gas station we stopped at. They did not have Minnie in their lost and found. I held out hope that she would turn up before we stopped there on our trip home.

Today on our drive home we stopped at the same gas station. They still didn’t have Minnie.

That is when Audrey started to realize Minnie was gone. She screamed and cried for her Minnie for the next 45 minutes of our drive. The remaining 15 minutes of our drive were quieter, with occasional cries for Minnie. I tried to bribe her; I told her we could go get her a new Minnie tomorrow. That didn’t help much. It was a loud and sad drive.

When we got home I went in to their room to unpack. There, in the middle of the floor, was Minnie. Audrey pulled her out when filling up the backpack with toys. I spent the past 72 hours freaking out about a stuffed toy that was safe at home.

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So now I’m going to make some tea and try to forget about the incredibly loud drive home. Have a lovely evening.

Toddlers in Kansas City

A few weeks ago my friend Kirsten and I did something incredibly terrifying. We went on a girls weekend with 2 1/2 year olds. It ended up being a really fun vacation. We will be planning another trip soon.

Why did we travel with toddlers? We discussed doing it without any kids, but I’m the one who said we should bring the girls. It was selfish. I knew that John would be fine with both kids, but I also figured I would hear about how hard it was for the next week.

Other than not wanting to hear John complain, I was also genuinely excited to have Audrey and Sophia on our weekend.  They are close in age – only a few months apart, and I want them to grow up as friends. Kirsten is one of my oldest and dearest friends, and I love that we became moms at the same time. Our boys are even closer in age, Elliot is 3 weeks older than Bryan.

So how did we enjoy ourselves with tiny people? We kept them busy, visited kid friendly places, and threw in some fun for us that they would be tolerant of.

The first place we went was Fritz’s Kansas City. After a long drive for both families we thought the girls would be hungry and tired. Fritz’s was a great place to eat, because it is for kids. Model trains run along the ceiling and deliver your food to your table. There is a lot to look at, and it is a noisy place so fussy toddlers fit right in. The food is worse than most fast food, but the kids didn’t mind.

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This is where I learned that Audrey is scared of train rides.

After lunch we headed over to Wonderscope Children’s Museum. This museum is wonderful! We could have spent all day there. The museum is an old school, and each of the rooms  has different activities. Audrey loved the farm room, and would have spent hours in that room and been perfectly happy. Sophia felt the same way about the grocery store room. The gym is still a gym, with lots of toys to run and play on. The girls burnt off a lot of energy playing. We didn’t get to all of the rooms in the time we had slotted for the museum. We will be back, and next time we will plan on spending more time playing.

After running and playing at Wonderscope we headed to Overland Park to do something for the grown ups – we went to A Yarn Shop and More. Kirsten and I are both knitters, and we both wanted to pick up some vacation yarn. The yarn shop had a good selection, but the woman working was far from friendly. I don’t understand yarn shops where the staff isn’t friendly.

The girls were well behaved and excited about the yarn. I let Audrey pick out yarn for socks and I picked up some dishcloth cotton (I’m always running out now that I’m knitting for the YMCA Supportive Housing Campus). Audrey convinced me to buy her a Zebra hat kit, which wasn’t very hard to do. If you are a 2 year old excited about yarn I’ll make you whatever you ask for.

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Can I please have this yarn?

The fourth thing we did was head back to the hotel to swim. The girls were pretty exhausted by this point, but they enjoyed their 15 minutes in the cold pool.

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Sometimes you post an unflattering photo of your child because it is a better picture of your friend.

We stayed at an Embassy Suites, and it worked out great. They have a cocktail reception, so we had a light dinner of snacks (and margaritas for Kirsten and me). In the morning we took advantage of their breakfast buffet. Our suite had a door between the bedroom and living area. That made it easy for Kirsten and I to drink wine and knit into the wee hours of the morning (OK, it was 11, but that is really late for me). It also made it possible for Kirsten and Sophia to get up and going in the morning like they are used to (at 5:30, a full 2 1/2 hours before Audrey and I got up).

Our last stop on girls weekend was the Zoo. Kansas City has a wonderful zoo, we were there for hours and didn’t see it all. Kirsten and I got in a 4 mile walk and the girls loved seeing the animals. I think we will plan on staying longer the next time we go.

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I can’t wait to convince Kirsten to do another girls weekend. Where should we go next?

5 on Friday – Downtown Cedar Falls

I travel to Cedar Falls once a month. The kids and I (and John, if it’s a weekend) visit my parents. I love catching up with them, but also enjoy it when they babysit and I get to head downtown to enjoy the town. I don’t get a lot of time alone during the day, so handing off the kids to my parents for a few hours is really wonderful.

I love checking out the different spots downtown, but there are five places I adore.

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Vintage Iron Co. has all sorts of things for when you need to buy someone a gift but you aren’t entirely sure what they would like…fancy candles…decorative items….jewelry….this place has a lot of variety. I always go and look at their greeting cards. It’s hard to find good cards, so I stock up when I find them. I bought 10 cards the last time I was in. If I have ever given you a funny card, chances are I got it here.

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Do you find yourself watching the Pioneer Woman and thinking you wish you could dress like her without looking funny? If yes, Little Prairie Girl is the store for you. They have cute, flowing tops that don’t look dumb. Their prices are reasonable. and they have a wide (XS-3X) size selection. I have purchased a few items from the store and every time I wear one of them I get complements.20170304_135658.jpg

SingleSpeed Brewing is fun to visit if I’m hanging out downtown with John. They have decent beer, a cozy space, and bike art on the walls. I loved a poster there so much I tracked down the artist to buy a copy for John for Father’s Day.20170304_135055.jpgMontage is my favorite restaurant in Cedar Falls. Their Asian slaw is delicious and I would love to have their recipe. Ditto on their spicy whipped sweet potatoes. John and I went there for dinner the last time we were in Cedar Falls. We discussed just getting one of every side and skipping the entrees, not because they aren’t good (they are delicious), but because the sides are delectable.
image-20161108_133131-COLLAGEIf you follow me on Instagram you already know of my love of Cup of Joe. It is my #1 absolutely must visit place. It opened my senior year of high school, so it has been around for a long freaking time. I studied there in college. I caught up with friends when I visited town in my 20s and 30s. Now I visit to knit by myself for an hour or two before exploring town. I love it there. If I lived in Cedar Falls I would be there every day.

There are many more wonderful spots in downtown Cedar Falls to visit. It would be a great spot for a weekend girls trip. Start your morning at Cup of Joe, shop, have beer at Single Speed, then head to dinner at Montage in your new shirt from Prairie Girl.

What are your must visit spots in Cedar Falls?