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Traveling with Two: SeaWorld, San Diego

January 4, 2013

I’m a travel optimist. Nothing will stop me from having a good trip. Not even a stomach bug, a coughing toddler, an infant growth spurt, a three-hour time difference, or  an impending blizzard–all challenges we faced on our first cross-country trip with two little ones.

Was I phased when our normally happy baby was fussy on the plane? You bet. Did I wish for death when my guts were trying to explode before the captain turned off the fasten seat belt sign? Perhaps. Was I frustrated when my babies melted down during dinner because it felt like midnight to their little internal clocks? Of course.

On the other hand, how fun was it to watch my toddler wave to and clap for dolphins, birds, and whales? Will it ever get old to hear her tell people that she saw “animals SPLASH”?! Or to watch her waddle like a penguin? Or to hear her ask to “ride the fish” (kiddie roller coaster) again and again? Or to see the baby smilingly happily as her daddy talked to her and pointed out animals from the comfort of her Baby Bjorn?

And it was pretty cool to see an arctic wolf casually walking around the San Diego Zoo. And it was pretty nice to pass the babies off to Mamaw and Papaw when the girls woke up early. And I loved having a beach instead of a back yard.

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See? Like I said–travel optimist!

As we were preparing for our trip, I had trouble finding travel tips for San Diego with a toddler and a baby, so I’ll write a few of my own. Keep in mind that our oldest is just over two and the baby is five months.

SeaWorld with a Toddler and a Baby

Get the pass. 

This trip was a Christmas gift from my parents (thanks, Mom and Dad!), and we knew the whole family (including my brother, a college student) would like the San Diego Zoo. Nate’s Christmas gift to me and the girls was to add SeaWorld into the mix. He purchased a pass that allowed us unlimited visits to SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo, and the Safari Park for seven consecutive days. This allowed us to come and go as we pleased. We went “home” for lunch and naps. We went back to the parks multiple days. Bonus: purchasing through ebates gives you cashback (ours was 2.5%)! If you haven’t signed up for ebates yet, I’ll send you my referral link. It’ll be a good deal for you and for me.

Prepare Your Kids

Did you know there is a live Shamu cam and penguin cam you can watch online? How fun is that?! The live feeds helped prepare and excite our little one for the animals she was going to see. And as I’m typing this, I have the penguin cam open. I’m watching the trainer feed the penguins. Cute!

Even if you’re not going to Sea World any time soon, this is a fun at-home activity.

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Winter

A lot of Sea World reviews bemoan the heat and lack of shade. With a December trip, the weather was quite nice. It was in the sixties during the day. The So Cal folks wore scarves and gloves. We wore short sleeves and sunglasses.

One evening it rained. We brought our stroller cover, but mostly went to the indoor or covered exhibits (polar bear, penguins, manta rays, etc) when it rained. Bonus: the lines were short and the park felt empty!

There was also a special Christmas exhibit. We visited the reindeer but decided to pass on the sledding area. We get enough snowy goodness here in the Midwest, why spend our vacation time in a man-made snow rink? Sorry, SeaWorld. We came to California to escape the snow.

Sesame Street Bay of Play

This kiddie area was a hit with the tot and Uncle Wade. I worried that introducing a kiddie roller coaster at bedtime would be disastrous,  but our girl loved “flying” with her daddy on Elmo’s Flying Fish ride. The uncle used the toddler as an excuse to spend twenty minutes climbing through a somewhat complex rope course. In the summer, it appears as though there’s a little splash park.  There are also a few other spinning rides for kids and parents with strong stomachs.

Shows

There’s a school of thought (which I totally understand) that suggests waiting until your kids are old enough to remember before seeking out (and paying for) big adventures and experiences. While it’s true that our two-year-old won’t have any actual memories from this trip, the experiences were valuable. She learned that an otter can be taught to wave, and whales can splash.  Dolphins jump really high, and sometimes people get to ride on their backs.  Sea lions growl like her dog (“Mommy, when I pick up Sofi, she growl too”), and Santa Claus is just as scary in California as he was back home in Indiana. All of that from the famously fun SeaWorld shows.

(For the record, the dolphin show was my favorite. The sea lion Christmas show was funny. We missed the domestic pets show. The whale show was okay. But it’s SeaWorld–you have to see the whales.)

Know Before You Go

The official SeaWorld policy is no outside food or drinks. However, all bags are searched at the entrance  and there was no objection to our snacks and water bottles. Parking was $15 per day. However, one evening we had my parents drop us off at the gate so we didn’t have to pay to park.

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Conclusion: the adults, the two-year-old, and the baby all enjoyed the fun of our winter trip to SeaWorld. If and when you go, I hope you do, too!

Next up: stories from the world-famous zoo!

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Merry Christmas!

December 23, 2012

It seems a little old school to write a Christmas letter. After all, if you really wanted to know about our year, you could see the highlights on the blog or facebook timeline. But I like writing! And you must be mildly curious about how our year has gone if you’ve made it this far. So why not post an official update?

Christmas Card 2012

The first half of 2012 included a few trips (cruise with my family, Florida with Nate’s family, Arizona with Nate’s work), playing with toddlers in the church nursery, hosting a small group, and spending lots of time focused on our first born. The turning point and highlight of our year was the arrival of our second daughter in July. With a birth weight of 9lbs 13oz, we never would have guessed she’d spend her first week of life in the NICU. But, sadly, the doctor’s suspected a lung infection and ordered a week’s worth of antibiotics. Since then, she’s given us a few scares (a small heart murmur and an iris cyst), but overall she’s healthy and whole. With lots of dark, curly hair, dark eyes, and an incredibly happy disposition, she’s nothing like her sister was at birth!

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Six weeks after our baby was born, our big girl turned two. They say that two is terrible. And, yes, we experience our fair share of whining, tantrums, and self-centered bossiness. On the other hand, we also have lots of giggling, dancing, singing, and snuggling. Our two-year-old is empathetic, teachable, smart, polite, joyful, and outgoing. We often get comments about how advanced she is verbally. Nate’s typical response is something like, “Have you met her parents? They talk a lot too.”

Several people have asked for an update on Daniel and Guatemala. We recently learned that our main connection to him (his former social worker) is moving back to the states.  However, we have a lead on a connection in his hometown who might be able to visit him, transfer money for his tuition, and keep us connected. Please pray that something works out soon! We hope to make a trip there with both girls next year.

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Nate continues to manage our apartments, fly a few times a week, and do real estate development/IT work for a local IHOP franchisee. We eat lunch together (most days), and he’s (usually) home before the girls wake up from their naps. He’s been known to take on diapers, laundry, baths, bedtime books, and nighttime prayers. He’s also exceptionally patient and capable when it comes to potty training. What can I say? He’s an amazing guy!

I have thoroughly embraced my SAHM job. However, I think “Stay-At-Home Mom” is a misnomer. We rarely stay home! We find something to do almost every day–play dates, the children’s museum, toddler science time, church open gym, walks, parks, errands. I’ve been blogging (obviously). I take and edit lots of pictures (also obvious?). It’s stereotypical. And that’s okay. Because when you have a newborn and a young toddler, some semblance of normal is welcome.

Our parents (and Nate’s grandparents) live nearby and provide us with babysitting for our weekly date nights. We’re still not sure who enjoys this time more—the parents, grandparents, or babies. Wade (my brother) and his fiancé (!) are in Terre Haute, too. Christy (Nate’s sister), Chris, and Claire are in Indy but come to Terre Haute often. Our girls are lucky to be surrounded by such wonderful family!

No update would be complete without mention of our friends. You definitely deserve credit and thanks for helping to make 2012 a wonderful year for our family. Thank you for your continued willingness to love, challenge, help, and encourage us!

Merry Christmas!

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Cooking with Kids at Christmas–Molasses Crinkle (Gingerbread) Cookies

December 21, 2012

It’s the last weekend for pre-Christmas baking! One Christmas goal for this year was to make gingerbread cookies. But we don’t do well with the waiting for the cookie dough to chill. (When it comes to baking, we’re instant gratification people.) So we made molasses crinkle cookies which, like real gingerbread, call for a good deal of ginger and molasses. So they count, right?

Here’s the recipe we use with ZERO better-for-you changes. It’s Christmas!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs butter or margarine softened
  • 2 tbs oil
  • 1/3 cup dark molasses
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla (or more if your little one is helping you pour)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbs cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • extra sugar for rolling

When it comes to spices, all of our measurements are approximate. I let the little one spoon and pour.

Directions:

  1. Oven to 350.
  2. Combine ingredients. (I know the original recipe said to mix dry and wet ingredients separately, but we don’t bother with two bowls. Time is of the essence, and we REALLY don’t need one more thing to clean.)
  3. Roll dough into 1-1 1/2″ balls in sugar to coat. Place about 2″ apart on a greased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake for 12-14 minutes.
  5. Eat, store, make some more.

I let the toddler taste the molasses cup. I thought she’d hate it, but she licked it clean. And SHE reminded ME not to eat the batter once we added eggs: “No eat it! Make me sick. Make my belly hurt.”

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“Gingerbread” cookies done. Now on to the salt dough ornaments!

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Christmas Bucket List and Giveaway Winner

December 19, 2012

Thank you for the impressive response to the Elmer’s Craft It giveaway! I wish I could send a crafting set to each of you. Do you think Elmer’s would go for that? If not, maybe they’ll at least let me do this again in the future! It’s fun to give stuff away!

According to Random.org, out of the 86 entries(!), the giveaway winner is….comment #14–Erin “would  love to craft with the little guys” Fortune.  Congratulations! (Word to the wise–Erin took advantage of the multiple entry opportunities, and it worked!)

Again, a huge thank you to everyone who entered. Please continue to read, share, and comment! Why else would I blog if not for friends like you who faithfully stick with me?

Anyway, on to the Christmas content! Did you make a Christmas bucket list? We have a copy of ours on the refrigerator to help keep us on track.

So far we have:

  • Had friends over to playPlay date
  • Made graham cracker houses (Instead of gingerbread and icing use peanut butter, graham crackers, and dried fruit. It ain’t pretty, but it’s healthier!)Graham cracker house
  • Purchased gifts for another family for the Salvation Army Christmas Party
  • Colored a Christmas picture (or two. or twenty.)
  • Read the Getting Ready for Christmas book. (I think we’ll have more fun with this next year when our oldest is three.)
  • Made ornaments (These are out of borax. Instructions from Martha Stewart. Not surprisingly, Martha’s are way prettier.) 
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  • Attended a few local events (picture with Santa, reindeer at the museum, downtown festival)
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  • Read the Christmas story in the Bible
  • Made jello in our Christmas molds
  • Jello
  • Watched Elf
  • Played with our felt Christmas tree
  • Tree
  • Read through our collection of Christmas books
  • Danced to Christmas music
  • Wrapped a few gifts
  • Taken a few quality pictures of the girls

Girls2And in the few short days before Christmas, we’d still like to:

  1. Make star and hand print ornaments
  2. Drink hot cider
  3. Spend time with extended family (this weekend!)
  4. Look at Christmas lights in our pajamas (well, the girls will be wearing pajamas. But mom and dad? Probably not. Well, unless it’s “one of those days” in which I never make it out of my pajamas to begin with!)
  5. Post a Christmas letter/update (coming soon!)
  6. Talk about and play with our nativity set
  7. Bake gingerbread cookies

How about you? How are you doing on your bucket list?

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Snowman Ornaments (with Elmer’s Painters)

December 17, 2012

We used to go to story time at the library. But then our library did some remodeling and canceled our fun. So now we meet on Wednesdays for the best play dates ever.

Last week, Kera had us over, and she helped us make these cute snowman ornaments:

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The kids stuffed the clear ball ornaments with “snow” and picked out the pom poms for the ear muffs.

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The mommies drew on the faces (using Painters markers from the Elmer’s crafting kit) and handled the glue.

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Ours will make a great Christmas gift from the girls to their pun-loving grandparents!

Want to win two sets of Painters markers and other assorted goodies from Elmer’s? There’s still time! Enter here. Giveaway ends Wednesday.

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Easy No-Sew Felt Mail and Mailbox (with help from Elmer’s Craft it!)

December 14, 2012

Want to win the crafting kit I used to make this little no-sew gift? Check out yesterday’s post! Giveaway ends December 19, 2012.

Around here, we’re pretty obsessed with snail mail. In fact, my two-year-old and I practically fight over who gets to get it out and bring it inside. (She can be so childish sometimes.) So when I needed to come up with a project to make from my Craft it! kit, I decided it was time for my little one to have her own mailbox and letters.

One tiny problem: I can’t make a mailbox. My brain just doesn’t work that way. I just don’t see how pieces and parts fit together. Thankfully, Nate’s handy, and his brain does work that way. So I turned over to him the cardboard and duct tape. A few minutes later, he came back with this:

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Awesome! It has a working “door” and a slot in back to slip in mail. Nate assures me it was “easy,” and it didn’t cost us a single penny!

I painted it green (Why green? Because we had green spray paint!) and then wrote “MAIL” in pencil on one side and our address on the other. Then I colored in the words with the awesome paint pens from the crafting kit. (The Painters are my absolute favorite part of the kit.) The finished mailbox is fun, right?

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On to the mail!

This part may have been easier with a sewing machine, but I try to avoid sewing. My project was completely no-sew.

For the envelopes, I used the basic pattern provided in this tutorial: No-Sew “Buttoned” felt envelope. But I left off the button–too much work.

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For the postcards, I was inspired by this post.

I cut out postcard-size rectangles using my X-ACTO knife and Self-Healing Mat (fun toys!).

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I then used my new scissors to cut out pieces of felt that were slightly larger than my cardboard pieces. Then I glued the felt on the cardboard and trimmed the excess. Easy.

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On the front of both envelopes and the postcards, I added pieces of velcro to where the stamps and addresses/names would go. (That way she can vary which names and stamps she uses.)

The next step was to make the actual stamps and address labels. I used the tracers provided in the crafting kit to make sweet little designs on the stamps. My little helper freehanded a few designs as well. I then added velcro.

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Stamp Designs1

For the names, I put some of the pretty tape from the crafting kit on small rectangles of felt. I then used the paint markers to write names on the tape/felt combination–Mommy, Daddy, Mamaw, Papaw, G-Ma, G-Pa, Sofi the Dog (What? Your dog doesn’t get snail mail?). To make these more durable, I laminated them. Clear packaging tape would also work. I then added velcro to the backs of these.

Velcro

Finally, I added a few pieces of heavy card stock to the envelopes. A few had notes from Mommy (“Hi, Baby! How are you? Have you been playing well with your sister today? I love you!”) and a few are blank because my little one LOVES to “write” (scribble) words/letters/notes/lists.

Was this project easy? Could I do it while nursing a baby, wrangling a toddler, or watching TV in the evening?  For the most part, yes. Although there were definitely a few things (hot glue! the X-Acto knife!) that required two hands and my full attention. All in all, I think it will make a great cheap and fun present for my little girl!

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Materials

From Elmer’s Craft it!

X-Acto knife

Decorative shape templates (Tracers)

Scissors

Ruler

Paint markers (Painters)

Designer tape

Other

Felt

Velcro

Hot glue

Spray paint

Cardboard

Duct tape

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Win a $150 Crafting Kit from Elmer’s Craft it!

December 13, 2012

It’s time for a giveaway!

The fine folks at Elmer’s have generously agreed to send two crafting kits–one for me and one for you!

Tomorrow I’ll show you what I made with my kit. In the meantime, here’s a peek at the goodies they sent:

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Want to win one of these fabulous kits valued at $150? Just leave a comment below. Don’t be shy! I love hearing that old and new friends are following the blog.

For extra entries, leave additional comments telling me that you like Elmer’s CraftIt, The Pipeline, and/or have shared the new blog page or giveaway with your friends. Each of these comments counts as one entry.

Giveaway ends December 19, 2012 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern.

Kit Includes:

FOAM AND DISPLAY BOARD:

•         9” x 12” Mini Bi-Fold Foam Board

X-ACTO:

•         Designer Series Gripster Craft Knife

•         Designer Series 12” Metal Ruler

•         Designer Series 12” X 12” Self Healing Mat

•         Designer Series 8” Scissors

•         Designer Series 5” Precision Tip Scissors

•         Designer Series Basic Shape Templates

•         Designer Series Decorative Shape Templates

PAINTERS:

•         Painters Bright Colors

•         Painters Sherbet Swirl

CRAFTBOND:

•         Dot Runner

•         Foam Mounting Tape

•         Thin Medium Glue Spots

•         All Purpose Glue Stick

•         Quick Dry Dual Tip Glue Pen

•         Elmer’s Designer Tape

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