Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Something always seems to get in the way of being able to check "nap in the hammock" off of our bucket list for the summer. Sam has fallen asleep in the hammock, but I've been too greedy about having a big chunk of 'nap time freedom' to slow down and nap in the hammock myself. Monday night Elsa was tired especially early so I put her pj's on and took her out to nurse and rock her to sleep, hammock style.

Then I asked PapaBear to wake me in a bit so I didn't sleep too long and risk Elsa not transferring to her bed OK.  It was so worth being groggy the rest of the evening from taking a nap at 6:30 at night to have that special snuggle time with my little girl!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Wrapping up our Summer Bucket List (and a give-a-way

Back on June 6th we made a bucket list for the summer based off of this post at Delia Creates. 

There were only a few things we didn't get to this summer which is pretty good considering how full our list was! A couple of ones I added as long shots were "Swim Underwater" and "Ride without Training wheels." Neither Sam nor Julia could swim when the summer began or really liked to put their face in the water so this was a big leap. But you know what? They DID IT! We signed up for an early time slot for lessons so they could spend the rest of the summer practicing their new skills. That move paid off big time because they were jumping off the diving board, going down big water slides, and having a blast in four different pools we visited this hot hot hot summer.

We weren't as proactive about helping Julia gain the confidence she needed to ditch the training wheels until last week. We put her old bike away and only left this one out - without training wheels. That way we HAD to help her so she could enjoy bike riding like her brother.

It only took two sessions and she was off! We have the perfect spot for learning - a slight slope to our big parking lot that the kids can ride down and get a little momentum before for making a big circle and coming back up.

Way to go Julia!!!

A couple of other things on our list for the summer happened to be attractions that the kind people at Explore Minnesota sent us promotional passes for.

Valley Fair was a big hit with our family even though we tend to avoid crowds like the plague.
We arrived at 9:30 so we could get a parking spot near the fence by the antique car ride. This came in very handy come lunch time because we could sit on the bumper of the van and eat our lunch without having to walk to the picnic grounds or bake in the middle of the parking lot.

They open the gates at 9:50 and we hustled to the Wild Thing (ride popular rides right away or at dinner time - otherwise the wait is OVER AN HOUR). Sam loved the Wild Thing (his very first coaster) but Julia and I were much happier on the bumper cars. See?
 I'll never forget her clutching my arm as we assended that first huge hill on the Wild Thing and saying, "WHAT WAS I THINKING!!!!"  (I was thinking the exact same thing!) Despite her instance that she was going to do all the roller coasters, that was her last. Sam road Wild thing again (in the first car no less!) as well as the Shock Wave and High Roller with Daddy.

It really helped to split up to keep everyone doing things they liked. Julia enjoyed Planet Snoopy rides while the boys waited in line for roller coasters. Julia was 48 inches exactly so she was always able to do the rides she wanted which was really nice. I've heard that it can be hard when one child isn't tall enough to go on rides with siblings. For example, Sam and Julia are riding with their 2nd cousins in the tug boat and, Jacob would have loved to do more of the bigger rides, but isn't 48 inches yet despite being 1 1/2 years older than Julia. We picked up a great tip for hot days from them...bring a spray bottle to spritz yourselves when you walking between rides. Felt great! Thanks for the suggestion Todd!

It got pretty hot out and there isn't much shade in Planet Snoopy so it was really nice to spend some time in the foam ball factory.  We all loved it in there! If we had a season pass which we totally would get if we lived closer, I could see us going to Valley Fair just for this part.

By this point in our day it was almost 1pm so we hopped on the train (there are two stations, one at the entrance of Valley Fair and one near the Foam Ball Factory) and rested while the train took us back to the park entrance. We spent about 30 minutes at the car eating and rehydrating before going back in to enjoy more rides. 

The kids drove the antique cars.

and then we got wet. very very wet. The Wave is a family ride
 that cooled us down for the next two hours while we dried out. I debated on whether I should dress for the water rides or dress for comfort/weather and in the end I'm glad I dressed for comfort. Of course I avoided a white T-shirt, but over all it was much nice to have a comfy sports bra on and not my thick swimming suit top.  PapaBear wore a quick drying T-shirt and his swim shorts, Sam wore shorts & a T shirt, and Julia wore a tankini with a t-shirt over the top and a quick dry water skirt.
This is what worked for us on a 85 degree day.

We didn't spend very much time at Soak City but we had fun while we were there. My favorite was the mini lazy river in the little kid's section. It was adorable! The rest of the waterpark was so packed we didn't bother with anything else besides the wave pool. I had no interest in waiting 30 minutes for a tube for the adult lazy river or an hour for one water slide.

One thing people always mention about Valley Fair is the food...specifically the price of food.
We were so busy having fun that the kids didn't even ask for anything until after 4pm! We bought them one thing each and it cost us $10. Ouch. We drank water and snacked on trail mix and Keifer I kept in a small cooler in our backpack. Since I'm nursing I try to keep my protein intake up so those two things kept me fueled for the day.

We came home happy, tired, and excited to see our little peanut who had spent the day with Grandma Gayle. It was the right decision to leave Elsa at home, though we did see lots of babies there. I wouldn't recommend bringing anyone who can't enjoy the rides. There just isn't enough shade for the little ones and who wants to sit in a stroller all day?

Speaking of strollers...This is my trick for providing extra shade when Elsa is in the stroller. I often carry our big umbrella with since it collapses so well and provides instant shade wherever we are. This time we were at the Minnesota Zoo on yet another hot and sunny Minnesota day. By putting the handle on the stroller tray the top of the umbrella rests on the top of the stroller canopy.

I hold onto the edges of the umbrella where you would grip the side of the handlebar. This way we can maneuver around and her chubby little legs don't get too much sun.  This is important because we always spend at least three hours looking at all the animals when we go.

Elsa is really starting to notice the different animals which gives us lots of opportunities to work on all the signs she's been learning this summer (another bucket list item checked off!)

 You never know what you are going to see when you go to the zoo. Most times we never see the moose but our zoo visit in June was the exception. I love that there is always something different to see!

In August it was the river otters that were a treat to see because they were so active.

The newer penguin exhibit didn't disappoint either.

The highlight of our summer trips to the zoo though was the Dinosaur Exhibit. Sam has loved dinosaurs for almost half of his life. A day doesn't go by without him playing with at least one of his plastic dinosaurs he's collected over the years. We loved walking through the exhibit and seeing life size moving dinosaurs!

The little play area at the end was pretty fun too!  If you go to the dinosaur exhibit you are given a discount on the monorail as well which for members means we road for only $1 a person. On a hot day, it was really nice to sit back and observe the animals from above in an air conditioned train car!

If you haven't been to see the Dinosaur Exhibit, now is your chance! I have two tickets to the Minnesota Zoo and the dinosaur exhibit to give away to one lucky local! 

How to enter:
Mandatory Entry: Become a public follower of my blog and leave a comment on this post about something fun you did this summer or something fun you wished you'd been able to do this summer. (There's always next year right?)

Bonus entries: (leave a comment for each entry) 

1 extra entry: tweet about the giveaway. I'm 4MamaBear on Twitter by the way.
2 extra entries: Write a blog post about your summer bucket list or something fun you did this summer.

I will pick a winner on Sunday at 8pm Central time. The tickets are good through September 3rd so please only enter if you are able to go by then.  Good luck!

Disclosure: I was given a couple of free passes to Valley Fair and the Minnesota Zoo. Since we are already Zoo members I decided to pass the tickets on to you! The opinions about the attractions I wrote about in this post, are mine and are not for part of the give-a-way!

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