Christensen Family Staycation

Cole took the first week in July off so he could have some much-needed downtime (practically running a hotel takes its toll, I guess...). We decided to plan a few fun activities for the week with the kids--a "staycation" of sorts. Unfortunately, it was too FREAKING hot to do everything we wanted to do, but I think we packed in a fair amount of activities.

Sunday evening we were dying to escape our stuffy, uncomfortable house, so we decided to head for the hills. We figured it would be marginally cooler up one of the canyons, so we took a drive. We decided to take a walk around Silver Lake, which is one of our favorite spots. I think everyone else in the valley had the same idea, though, because it was as crowded as I'd ever seen! We still managed to enjoy our walk around the lake despite the crowds, and we even got to see a doe, several families of ducks, and two big moose! The boys had a fabulous time.

After we finished our walk, we weren't quite ready to head home. Cole suggested we drive over Guardsman Pass into Park City, which I've never done. It's a pretty amazing experience.

This is the view from Guardsman Pass. You could literally drive to the edge of the cliff--Kyle was FREAKING OUT about it (granted, Cole did his part to scare him as much as possible).

We took a nice drive down into Park City, then down Parley's Canyon to the valley again. It was a refreshing way to get out of the heat and enjoy our beautiful surroundings.

Monday we decided to head into SLC and visit some of the downtown sights. We ate lunch at the Gateway food court, where the boys were all scarily well-behaved. As a reward, we let them choose a quarter machine ride (and we actually put money in it!).

They chose Bob the Builder and Rolly, naturally
As we headed to the TRAX station, we passed the Clark Planetarium. Neither Cole nor I had ever been there, so we decided to check it out. We looked at all the exhibits around the building, which the boys enjoyed primarily because there were buttons to push and things to touch. They were too riled up to entertain any scientific explanations, so we decided the planetarium was probably something to save for when they're a little older.

feeling the "clouds"

They did have fun on Mars, though
We rode the train to the Museum of Church History and Art. The big boys were only mildly interested until we headed upstairs to the childrens' exhibit. There they got to play in a kitchen (Lucas would have stayed there all day if we let him--do we have a future chef on our hands?), "fish" on Nephi's boat, build a temple in Zarahemla, and tons of other fun activities. Matthew took a quick nap in Daddy's arms, which helped improve his disposition remarkably.

After dragging the boys away from the museum we walked over to Farr's Fresh Creamery for some ice cream. YUM.

Tuesday Cole and I went to my midterm ultrasound. Baby girl was still definitely a girl, everything looked and measured perfect, and we got a lot of great pictures of her (I'll include those in a separate post). I love having ultrasounds when I can both feel and see the baby move--it's really cool.

Baby girl's face--NOT an alien.
Wednesday we decided to have a low-key day. We spent time outside in the kiddie pool and running through the sprinklers.

Matthew was not a huge fan of the pool--
he spent most of his time playing in this car

But he did give it a chance when Cole put the water table inside
Thursday we didn't really make plans. We're not big 4th of July celebrators, and Cole's parents didn't have a BBQ this year, so we teamed up with Stephanie to figure out what to do. We ended up eating our weight in fried food at Sonic (this MIGHT become a new tradition), ate ice cream at Dairy Queen, caught a bit of the parade in Sandy and perused the booths at the festival there (just so we could say we did something festive), and finished the evening with air-popped popcorn and a movie.

Naughty baby, ever true to his nickname, dumped his popcorn on the floor and stomped on it.

Friday morning Cole gave the boys summer haircuts.

Yes, Matthew's popcorn is STILL on the floor
Then,we packed a lunch and headed to the Hogle Zoo. Much to my delight, the Cache Valley Cheese Mobile was at the zoo that day so we got free grilled cheese sandwiches and string cheese. YUMMM....I love cheese.

The animals were pretty active despite the heat, so we got to see everything we wanted to see. We also discovered they completely rearranged the big cats in the Asian Highlands and acquired a leopard in the less-than two weeks since we had been there last! Lucas was so tuckered out from our busy week that he crashed in the stroller before we finished at the zoo.

We all had a blast during our staycation! I think we might try to do it every summer so we get a chance to do and see all of the fun things in our area.


What I Made Monday: "Table Time" Activities

I have an acquaintance who wrote a post a few weeks ago about a part of their daily routine that she finds peaceful: Table Time. It was something that really stuck with me.

You see, this pregnancy has been pretty hard on me. I've felt sick a lot longer than with any of my other pregnancies, I've had less energy...therefore, a LOT less has gotten done around the house and my kids have spent a lot more time watching Netflix while I rest. Not really an ideal situation at all. In addition, the boys seem to have activated the previously dormant "fighting gene" that I'm fairly certain all children carry...in other words, there has been a lot of squabbling over what should be insignificant things.

So, when I read the post about Table Time, it instantly struck a chord with me and I decided it was something to implement into our days. The next step was figuring out a way to make Table Time exciting and fun, because the boys only like to sit in one place when they're watching a movie (and sometimes, not even then). My idea was to create a special bag of activities reserved only for Table Time. I threw in some standby favorites (Play-Doh, crayons and coloring books) and decided to put together a few other items I'd been planning to make anyway.

FIRST: I got the idea for popsicle stick puzzles from here a year or so ago. I made some for the boys to take to church for a quiet activity, and since I still had a ton of popsicle sticks lying around I whipped some up to go in our Table Time bag. The boys have really been into Transformers: Rescue Bots lately (Thank you, Netflix) so I found some pictures of the Rescue Bots for to make into puzzles. And, since they would inevitably fight over the puzzles, I made a set for each boy.

I even had colored popsicle sticks! I'm so cool.
 In addition to the Rescue Bots puzzles, I made 10 other popsicle stick puzzles.

SECOND: I'd been saving leftover baby food jars and scouring Pinterest for ways to use them. I was so excited to find a tutorial for a matching game using the lids!


I covered the tops with cute paper...
and, because I'm a perfectionist, covered the sides with coordinating ribbon.
Of course, I had to make a cute container to store the game (thank goodness for leftover canning jars!)
Cole shook his head at the amount of effort I put into cutesy-ing everything up, because the boys won't really care...but I care, so it was worth it (plus, it wasn't THAT much effort).
THIRD: I made a popsicle matching game last year for the boys' church activities, but I figured it was an activity better suited to a table (since it needs a bit more space than a church pew provides). I made another set and (of course) a coordinating storage jar.

I'm hoping to have the boys do Table Time for an hour in the morning and in the afternoon. While they're occupied I'm planning to use the time for blogging/miscellaneous internet-ing (so I can sit with them at the table and interact with them), straightening up the kitchen, and preparing dinner.
I'm not really sure how to implement this idea with Matthew, though. He's still a little young for the concept, so if anyone has any ideas or suggestions to help with that I'd appreciate it.
Also, what are your favorite "table time" or "quiet time" activities for your kids?


What I Made Monday: With Liberty...

The summer after my freshman year of college, my family took a two-week, cross-country trip. We were coincidentally (or maybe not; my parents may have planned it that way) in New York for the 4th of July. We had the opportunity to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island that day. We visited the Statue of Liberty first; the only thing I remember about the Statue of Liberty is it's a lot smaller in person than it looks on TV. I was a little underwhelmed at the experience. I was surprised that Ellis Island had a much bigger impact on me.
Have you ever visited a place where you can sense that millions of people have been there before you--you can almost feel their presence? It might not sound like it makes sense, especially since, technically, everywhere we go on this earth should have that feeling. All I know is that when I walked through those halls, I could feel the people who had arrived there, waiting to be processed and allowed entrance to the country of their dreams. I could feel the excitement, the anxiety, the worry, the despair. It was a deeply profound experience for me--one I've never forgotten. It also made the Statue of Liberty, previously so unimpressive to me, more meaningful. After all, it was the first thing these travelers saw. It was literally a beacon of hope, a promise of freedom, to people who may never have experienced either thing before.
In middle school, we were required to memorize the poem "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus. It was written about the Statue of Liberty and is engraved on a plaque inside the statue.
"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows worldwide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
'Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!' cries she
With silent lips. 'Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost, to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!'"
I think this poem perfectly sums up the feelings I experienced at Ellis Island.
So, what does this have to do with crafting? The Wood Connection had this replica of the Statue of Liberty, and I bought it, thinking it was a cute, yet different idea for the 4th of July. It wasn't until I finished it that I realized the impact it had on me. Now, every time I look at it, I'm reminded of my experiences at Ellis Island and how proud I am to be a citizen of a country that promises "justice for all."
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