lifestyle

shiny and new: minnesota children’s museum grand reopening.

my sneak peek fun for the grand re-opening of the Minnesota Children’s Museum was brought to you in exchange for a complimentary museum membership. all opinions are my own.

if any of you who read here follow me on instagram (you really should if you aren’t already, i’m much more prolific there when i have small babies than i am here), you will have seen some posts about the excitement that is the re-opening of the minnesota children’s museum. i’ve been lucky enough to get some sneak peek action of the shiny and new museum that is now open after months of being closed for major renovations. i mean, my kids have been lucky too, but i have been especially jacked about all the fun stuff they’ve done.

living in st. paul, we’ve been lucky to have the children’s museum just a 10-minute drive away, which makes it perfect for a spontaneous rainy day activity. we’ve been members thanks to my mother-in-law for over a year now, and i can’t say enough good things about this place. so when i heard they were going to completely revamp and update, i was very excited. and when i was contacted to become a play advocate for the museum as they went through the process, i was over the moon.

one of the fun things we got to do was act as testers for a couple exhibits before the museum was open to sneak peek crowds and the general public. i grabbed a girlfriend and her three girls (she’s a supermom) and the seven of us headed over to the museum on a thursday morning to play!

we were so excited that we’d be getting to check out the sprouts exhibit, which is the area for kids three and under (although big siblings are welcome too), since all of our kids are within that age range. the improvements were amazing. they have water tables, a big jungle gym with activity centers, a baby area with cushy mats for crawling, and the best part: a rest area with a microwave, high chairs, and little tables for when kiddos need to stop for a snack or a feeding.

everything was challenging enough for the older girls, but there were things for the littlest ones to do as well. Amelia especially loved the water tables and the little touch/feel/organize activities in the jungle gym. we would have been able to spend the entire time in sprouts if us moms hadn’t wanted to see a few other areas.

one area we didn’t get to see (and couldn’t make it to any of the sneak peek sessions to see yet) is the backyard, the green space at the museum. they have activity areas that are made to look like abstract animal habitats, with lots of green areas, and even a workspace where kids can dig around and get their hands dirty outside. now, we live in minnesota, so we only get to enjoy this exhibit for part of the year, but i’m so excited that the outdoor area is so interactive. there are some days that just feel like museum days, even when it’s nice out, so to have the ability to get some fresh air and still do some play-learning is amazing.

part of the reason that these updates are so exciting for me is that the museum really took to heart the idea that play is the work of childhood. they have looked at the research and thought of ways to make their play less prescribed and more open-ended. kids these days get eight less hours of play per week than they did 5-7 years ago, so we need all the opportunity to let them play and be kids that we can. and if they can learn and grow while they’re doing it? even better.

if you’re interested in learning more, you can visit the museum’s website to read about “powerful play” and get a play activation kit that includes temporary tattoos, window clings, play tips and more. local friends, use the hashtag #playmoreMN to share your fun play with the rest of the community!

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william: seven months old.

in the last update (you know, the one that was 6 weeks late, so really just posted for me to have a record that my child had a six month milestone…), i mentioned that William had made leaps and bounds from six to seven months, and you guys, i think i finally realized why he never sleeps.

our little homeboy has decided to pretty much learn everything with the span of four weeks. and the next four are probably not going to be much different. between six and seven months, William learned to pull to standing – on EVERYTHING. he learned to crawl. he learned how to stand up and yell in his crib before bedtime. the sheer brain and muscle power all of it takes is shocking. he’s pretty amazing, and i am in awe of him every single day. i mean, the sleep, as ALWAYS, could be better, but the exhaustion is so temporary that i am confident i will make it through this alive…most days.

here is what mister William was like between six and seven months:

William loves food. he loves it. he will eat anything (much like his sister), and in any form (very unlike his sister). she strictly loved purees until almost eight months, while he is very into gumming mushy veggies whenever he can. it’s so funny, because he has no teeth and it’s very hard for him to do, but he loves it! he is now eating rice cereal, prunes, carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, apples, pears, and some puffs. he’s also had a couple tastes of watermelon and is very into it. i’ve been making new purees as i think of it, and i’ll usually steam up some frozen peas/carrots until they’re soft enough for him to munch on. i love baby feeding!

i’m not going to talk about this much more, but let me just put this on the record here: William will be walking by eight and half months. that’s my prediction. my daughter was a crazy early walker at nine and half months, but i’m betting that he will have her beat. he seriously thinks he can walk already, so we’ve had a lot of faceplants happening around here. he loves getting walked around while hanging on to our fingers, and is pretty proficient at it, and while he likes crawling, you can tell that being upright is his jam. i’m not sure what it is about Mister Man and i that makes our children like this, but there has to be something to the combination of our genes where the children we make are kind of freakish with their motor skills. too bad they’ll all be too short to do any kind of athletic sport professionally…

i didn’t think it was possible, but somehow my happy baby boy is getting even more smiley by the day. he is very quick with a grin to anybody who smiles at him, and will reach his arms out to almost anyone and be totally fine in their arms. he likes to know that dad and i are nearby, and has very strong preferences about his favorite people (dad, amelia, the grandparents and his uncle mark), but is seriously so social and joyful! he’s starting to show more emotions with that too, like when Amelia cries or is upset, he will have sympathy tears quite often, and he also gets mad if you aren’t quick enough with getting the food from the bowl to his mouth. we lucked out in the mood department with this kid, let me tell you. he’s a lover, not a crier.

little william: your personality is bursting at the seams these days, and it’s so fun to see you grow into your own little person. time is moving way too fast for me, you are losing more of your baby-ness each day and growing up before my eyes. it’s exciting to watch, but also moving faster than i can handle! i know that with your sweetness, you’ll always stay my baby boy (even though dad is your favorite). thanks for still snuggling with me when you know i need a fix.

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william: six months old.

oh boy you guys. i am pretty dang tired (in my head, i always say “pretty dang” in Amelia’s voice…she says it with a cowboy voice and it’s the best!). six months brought a lot of great stuff to our lives, but sleep was not one of them. oooohhhhh no it was not one of them. if I had to sum it up, six months gaveth all the gross motor skills, and tooketh all the sleep.

let’s get to it, shall we? (keep in mind, William is now seven months old, and has made a lot of leaps and bounds, which i will talk about in his seven month update, which will hopefully be up over the weekend. at this point, the time to upload the pictures is what’s killing me with these updates, but it’s important for me to have these, so on i will march!)

here is what mister William was like between five and six months:

i don’t know what it is about my children, but they have this innate need to be on the go ALL THE TIME. if they are not constantly moving, they are not happy. this is the main way that Amelia and William are so much alike. the moving. it’s insane!

if my baby boy is not sleeping or eating (quickly), he is moving, or whining about wanting to move more. between five and six months he learned to sit by himself and push to sitting. and now that he’s learned that, all he wants to do is be able to crawl or stand up on things. as of six months, he’s close to the crawling, and i’m guessing the standing won’t be far behind. and this is all exciting! but when my kids are learning new skills, they don’t sleep well. and since he’s learning all the skills, there is not much sleep happening at night. i’ve been telling myself that it’s temporary, but that gets harder day by day.

one of my favorite parts of having a growing baby is the part where they start to eat solids. William is SO FUN to feed! he gets so jacked up to get the spoon to his mouth. so far he’s eaten rice cereal, homemade applesauce, prunes, and pureed sweet potatoes (yes, we feed our babies rice cereal. we also feed them homemade fruit and veggie purees. i sometimes let them suck on pickles. eventually we will let them eat things that contain sugar. if you have a problem with any of these things, you can email me at mindyabusiness@calmdown.com). we will be starting carrots, avocados, peas, and pears soon. we’re taking it slow because Amelia has had some gut issues in the past, so by the time we get to a few more foods he’ll almost be ready for cheerios and puffs!

[parents. of. the. year.]

little william: even though you keep me awake at night, you are worth it. and those smiles pretty much make up for anything you’ll ever do. watching you and your sister together is one of the great joys of my life, and i will never get tired of how you look at her. thank you for being so perfectly matched to our family.

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grandpa’s portuguese soup.

and she’s back at it again with the soups!

i have to tell you guys, this is one of those recipes i’m a bit embarrassed to even post. not because this soup is not delicious…it is. but it’s so mindlessly easy to make that it feels like i’m cheating by calling it a recipe. this is one of those soups that you make when you want something homemade, but you don’t want to have to go buy a bunch of ingredients that you won’t ever use again, or that are going to hike up your grocery bill. this is such a good thing to make if you’re looking for an inexpensive but filling recipe that everyone will like. you can just tell your kids that the kielbasa is hot dogs and call it hot dog soup, and you’re all good. (sidebar: in our house, we call breakfast sausage “breakfast hot dogs” so Amelia won’t question why she should eat them…)

 

the cabbage, potatoes and beans in this help to bulk it up and make it really filling, even though there aren’t that many ingredients. it freezes beautifully and makes a huge batch. this would be a great recipe to make if you need to bring a meal to a new mom…no dairy, not spicy, and it takes no time to throw together, plus you can keep half of it for your own dinner that night without having to double the recipe.

i know we’re headed out of soup season, and i really let you guys down in the soup arena this winter, so i’m going to make some of the more “springtime” soups in the cookbook here in the next couple months to make up for it. although it snowed here in minnesota today, so i guess it’s still kind of soup season here in a way. gross.

portuguese soup (makes a large batch without doubling)

  • 6 C. chicken stock or broth
  • 1 lb. smoked kielbasa sausage, diced
  • 1 lb. boiling potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 (15 oz.) can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 medium head of green cabbage, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 green pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

combine all ingredients in a large pot. bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. reduce heat; simmer until thick, stirring occasionally (about 2 hours).

vegetarian substitutes: 

  • use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth
  • omit the kielbasa (can also add another can of a different type of bean, like great northern to add more bulk)

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still here, still squawking, still ridiculous.

i know that this blog has turned into a baby book substitute for my poor second-born child (i’m sorry william, i promise i will get you a real baby book like your sister has), and for that i…well, i don’t know what. do i apologize? i don’t think anyone was made that i went MIA. do i feel bad? kind of, but only for myself for not making my creative outlet more of a focus during this crazy time. i guess i feel like i miss the people who i interact with on this blog, and so maybe that’s it. maybe i just say that i’ve missed you all, whoever you are that come here to read my ridiculous squawking about the important and unimportant goings-on in my head.

i really like that this is a place that i can let my weird sense of dry humor show, and where i can update my faraway friends and loved ones, and where i can showcase my love of good old-fashioned home cooking and strong cocktails. and maybe write a heartfelt essay or two along the way that resonates with a few of you. this blog is not a blog like blogs have become over the past three years. and it won’t ever be that kind of a blog. even if or when i get my editorial calendar back on track, it will never be belong in the shiny, curated part of the internet with everyone else’s stylized (although maybe a little homogenous) stuff. and i hope that might be a tiny reason why people still read my blog…because it’s just me. and if you like me for me, what more could i ask for?

i have a recipe post lined up for next week, and somewhere, way down deep inside of me, there is some inspiration that’s starting to bubble up through the sleep deprivation that is part and parcel of being a working mom of two little ones. so while the baby book posts will still be a big part of how this blog is happening, you’ll start to see more of me sprinkled throughout this space. and i hope you’ll be here for all of it.

[that got weirdly deep, and i didn’t think it would. that’s what happens when you give me a beer and let me type without thinking for a few minutes….]

well let’s give a quick update into what’s happening in my life besides the whole child-rearing gig, shall we?

  • marriage is a whole different ballgame when there are two kids involved, but even through all the adjustments and general mayhem, i’m delighted to report that Mister Man and i are still very happily married. and what’s more, we will have been very happily married for five years as of june 1. in honor of this momentous occasion, we’ve decided to take a rather large, rather fun trip to the united kingdom in the fall, and it has been so much fun planning it out together! this will be our first trip to europe together, and my first time back since just after college, and i could not be more excited to take a trip, just my love and i, all the way across the pond. more on that as it comes together!
  • speaking of different ballgames…postpartum bodies are crazy. i won’t get into details, so as not to scare anyone off from having kids, but let’s just say that after baby number two, the snap back isn’t as snappy as it was with baby number one. i was in a big rut of eating ice cream every night, and dangerously close to the “eff it all” mentality, when i luckily was given the opportunity to do some nutrition and fitness coaching with katie over at belle fitness and nutrition. holy wow you guys. firstly, she is basically superwoman. she runs her own business, solo parents THREE children a lot of the time, and still has the best attitude around. secondly, she just gets how to help people fit good nutrition and fitness into their lives where they are. i don’t even have a gym membership, so she gave me some at home workouts, and they truly work (and i feel like i can make time for them, which is saying something). between her workouts and the nutrition program she works with, i’ve lost actual inches from my body in two months. i’m visibly slimming down, and it doesn’t feel like i’ve turned my life upside down to do it. because i wouldn’t have done it if it was too complicated. what i’m trying to say is, she’s amazing. if you’re in the market for a simple way to work good nutrition and fitness into your life, PLEASE check her out.
  • i’m drinking so much coffee these days you guys. like, i’m wondering when it qualifies as a problem. i’m walking a fine line between enjoying my daily coffee(s) and being fully dependent on them. i’m starting to justify the lattes at work by saying they are part of my daily protein intake, but we all know that it’s the espresso that i’m jonesing for. does anyone have experience in breaking a caffeine addiction while being sleep deprived that doesn’t involve actually giving up all caffeine? i’m not really going to do anything about it, but just in case i find myself getting worse…
  • i don’t know if any of you noticed that i have a second instagram now…in the absence of having the energy to write actual blog posts, i’ve been really into instagram and posting little micro-blog posts there. i’m also very into instagram stories. i mostly tell ridiculous stories about things my kids do to me, and every so often i can be pretty funny if you’re into that sort of thing. ANYWAY. if you read this blog, you’re cool and you already know that i’m halfway crunchy and into cooking from scratch, and natural cleaning products, and just generally being as much like laura ingalls as i can be. but my instagram is also a place where a lot of my irl contacts follow me, and i just find that the engagement for the crunchy stuff wasn’t there. i want people who like that sort of thing to be able to choose to see it and enjoy it if they want to. plus, i started posting a lot about essential oils, and i know that can trigger a lot of people because it’s gotten a bit crazy these days (and essential oil people can be a bit nutty if we’re being honest). so it all went into a separate account. all that being said, if you like that sort of thing (natural home and essential oil and simplified living), go ahead and follow me @withloveathome. also, a lot of people have asked so i’ll say it here: i’m not a big seller of essential oils, but i am a big fan of them, so if you ever have questions, or want me to order you some with my discount, or want to order them yourself, please don’t hesitate to ask.
  • i am an AUNTIE!!! our gorgeous niece, grace, arrived on april 21, and i am so excited to be an aunt i could just scream. it’s the weirdest feeling but there is something so cool about seeing your siblings have kids! Amelia is already obsessed with “baby grace”, and she and William are only six months apart, so i cannot wait to see how their relationship grows as they get older. i love my cousins so much, they are some of my best friends to this day, and i hope for the same for my kids.

thanks for being here and for giving me grace and for loving my silliness through it all. i love you all right back.

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