Chasing Fireflies

My kids recently had a friend over and stayed up late enough to go outside and catch lightning bugs with J. Sorry, fireflies. Apparently “lightning bugs” is a term of my youth, and not couth with my kids, ha.

Because we are typically pretty big sticklers about bedtime – I prefer happy well-rested kids, because it makes me a happier momma – they rarely get to stay up late enough in the summer for the fireflies to light up the skies (I mean, 10pm is past my bedtime). So when we had the opportunity to check out the super fun game Chasing Fireflies from Timberdoodle, we were all over it!

Although the game says it is for ages 4+, all four of my kiddos – aged 9 years, 7 years, 3.5 years, and 22 months – loved playing this game. It was so much fun to watch them run around, finding the blinking fireflies around the yard (and maybe they had some drippy ice cream to go with it).

They broke off in teams so they had to work together to find their colored fireflies: green or blue. And off they went!

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There are two jars of fireflies that come in the game Chasing Fireflies. A few of the fireflies had to have their batteries re-positioned to get them lighting up, but otherwise, they were flawless and well-loved straight out of the box. Sweet M even wanted to take a jar of blinking fireflies with him to bed! He sure does know how to re-create my childhood.

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It was also really nice to see my boys working together to chase down their fireflies, as opposed to knocking heads: I loved that this game has the ability to be as competitive or collaborative as one may want. And that as few as two people can play (or really, even just one kiddo would still delight in running about, chasing down the fireflies on their own!), or that larger groups of kids could play in teams.

Chasing Fireflies is top notch and I would recommend it over and over again for any preschool or elementary-aged kiddo! And I have four babes who all unanimously agree – which is saying a lot!

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*** I was given the game Chasing Fireflies from Timberdoodle in exchange for this review, but all thoughts and opinions are genuine, and mine alone. 

Florida Vacay Pt. 3

Soooo….

Let me continue.

Basically Florida was a blast. The water was warm, the sand was soft, and the weather was gorgeous.

To make it just that much better, Miss H had the amazing surprise of one of her oldest friends coming to visit for the weekend from Jacksonville! I mean, I loved it too because her momma is one of my dearest friends, but the surprise for H made it all the better.

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It’s one of the things I love most about kids. How they can go ages without seeing each other or speaking to one another and then they just pick up how they left off. Miss H and her friend M hadn’t seen each other since before we lived in Hawaii – eep! And they were knee deep in fun and giggles in pretty much minutes.

And it was so nice for me to have a friend to just chill out with and talk to. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so fortunate to have a husband that I so deeply adore and who is truly my best friend, but man! There are just some things a woman can relate to better. And having a friend who you don’t have to be guarded around or worry about judging you is kind of a magical thing.

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Miss H’s other epic surprise was….

SWIMMING WITH DOLPHINS.

Okay, before you judge me too hard, we had agreed long, long ago when we first moved to Hawaii that we would make this dream of hers happen. But time slipped away and it never happened, and I didn’t want her to be the person who grew up and still remembered how her parents promised to take her to a Broadway show in NYC and never did….err….swim with dolphins (I definitely don’t have any lingering thoughts over my own childhood, haha).

So, we made it happen.

And it was pretty epic. Both the experience and her reaction.

She loved the dolphins.

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But she was also pretty crushed. She deplored that they lived in an exhibit and were essentially circus animals, because she wanted them to be free as animals are meant to be. It was definitely hard for her animal-loving heart.

So I call it a win-win. We were able to carry out our promise and she was able to do something amazing, but she also was able to truly see the situation for what it was, and I find that to be pretty amazing for a 9-year-old.

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Over all, it was a fantastic week and a half and we definitely need to get back to a life of low key, lazy beach days. It’s just so good for our souls.

Florida Vacay Pt. 2

So I’m not going to lie, when people say things like “it’s not really a vacation with kids” I’ve never truly related to that. Like, for sure it’s different. In one scenario you are solely responsible for entertaining and keeping yourself alive, and in the other you are responsible for a lot of people.

Maybe because I’ve never been a partier or a drinker really, and don’t find that to be “fun” or even a little bit relaxing, being responsible for other humans doesn’t typically feel that tedious or as if it’s taking from the vacation. I genuinely enjoy being with my kiddos, as terribly crazy as they often are. And fortunately J does, too. I wouldn’t say we’d never do a totally kid-free vacation, because maybe some day, in the future, we will. Who knows? But for now, we enjoy having them with us, and we are super fortunate that we’ve built a relationship where neither of us feels underappreciated or whatever if we don’t have constant (or if we are being honest, like any) one on one time with each other.

All that said. This vacation was exhausting. Oh my gosh. It wasn’t even the kids, ha. I think it was my rotund stomach and the extreme sleepies of third trimester pregnancy. I was lucky enough to get several naps in, to sit on the beach or in the water and take a load off while J primarily care for the littles, but still. It was exhausting. But no more exhausting than if we’d been at home.

The kids were so happy to be on the beach. It’s really all that Sweet M and Bean remember, and they talk about it daily. Bean even squealed, “I love da beach!” while M inquired, “Shouldn’t we be living here always?” I told him I’m working on it. I’m not sure how many more years, or even months, of cold I can withstand. I thought I wasn’t bothered by cold and snow. And then we lived in Hawaii and I realized I was wrong. So, so, so very wrong.

There is a completely different sort of vibe and atmosphere to being near the water. Life is just more mellow and calm. Everyone is more chill. It’s the way life is supposed to be. Or at least mine anyway. I am not cut out for the hustle and bustle of busy life.

Anyway, here’s a bunch of photos of beach life. I’ll write later about H’s fun surprise. Well, both of them!

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Florida Vacay Pt. 1

We just got home for our last hurrah vacay before baby Fimito makes his appearance in a full short weeks (WHAT!?)

But our drive down is getting a post in itself. As well as our time there because I’m a busy lady and need to get some stuff done theoretically (but I’m also exhausted, so it’s nice to have an excuse to sit!).

Anyway, we decided to drive down and split the drive into two days, stopping at the McWane Science Center in Birmingham, which we get into for free with our Wonderlab pass – woot woot! And then traveled another hour or so south and stayed the night in Montgomery, before finishing an easy drive the next day to our destination in Panama City Beach.

We departed on a Sunday, and two days prior the air conditioning went out on the van. For serious. It needed something specific and they couldn’t get the part in until Wednesday (three days after we were set to depart) so we made the drive with no air conditioning. 35 weeks pregnant. With four kids. Yep, we are cray cray. I would not have been cut out for the Oregon Trail, that’s for sure!

But the kids were stellar. We left at around 6:30am, and made it to Birmingham at 1ish. And everyone was mostly happy and amenable. We stopped a few times to stretch and run around, but they’re mostly pros at this point, even though Bean is still not a fan of the car at all (she wasn’t such an agreeable traveler on our way back…).

I made J listen to all the Janet Lansbury under the sun with me. Literally hours. The whole way. He is such an amazing human, haha. Because he even actually listened. No ear plugs or anything, bahaha. And would stop it to ask questions or discuss things that we agreed with or had concerns about. I still marvel at what a good man I married sometimes.

The McWane Science Center was totally worth it. We spent about 3.5 hours there and definitely did not get through it all. It was so nice to get the kids out of the car for the afternoon and play. And they thoroughly enjoyed it.

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It’s all very hands on and fosters lots of thought and imagination. And they have a huge section for the under 6 crowd that the babies loved! (Although, I guess they’re toddlers +. I should stop calling them babies all ready).

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After that we loaded up again, let the kids enjoy some Wendy’s for dinner, where when asked what she would like Bean replied, “ketchup.” I turned around to look at her and she furrowed her little toddler eyebrows at me and sighed. Yes, she sighed. Pray for me, guys. And then said, “Chicken nuggets.”

And then we unloaded in Montgomery for the night, where we woke up to this sweetness before heading to PCB.

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To be continued…

 

Light Schooling through the Summer

Do you school year-round, or take the summer off?

I always like the idea of giving my kids long, “school”-free summers, but it’s never the reality.

Mostly because they thrive on some bit of structure (though obviously they spend most of their time in free play because I’m the world’s biggest advocate in that). And also, I want to make sure they retain the information they’re learning, and don’t slide back.

Now that Sweet M has officially joined the school bandwagon – by choice – I didn’t really do anything outside of lots and lots of reading with Miss H and Mr. B in their preschool years, I’ve really had to put some thought into what each one of them is doing because I have to prioritize our time with a family of soon-to-be five kids. But it’s worth it!

So although we don’t do full curriculum schooling over the summer, there is still some structured schooling going on. My kids call it “light schooling.”

So what are they all working on over the summer?

Miss H is officially doing spelling and math. She is such an avid and voracious reader, that I haven’t felt as compelled to do much with her in formal terms after she completed all of the All About Reading program (which seriously, I cannot rave enough about!). Her spelling, however, is just not there. And I know, I know, it takes time, and not everyone is going to win the spelling bee. But at 9, officially a 4th grader, even simple words are very kreatyv. But I will be honest, we’ve tried several different spelling programs and philosphies, and nothing yet has “clicked” for her. So I’m still searching.

For math we have really been enjoying Math Lessons for a Living Education. Again, we’ve tried several over the years, and this is the first that both she and Mr. B have both really enjoyed. We are also working on memorizing her times tables through 12. She isn’t as keen on that, but hey. There are some things you just gotta know.

We’re also doing a bit of geography with everyone, fun cooking from around the world, and lots and lots of reading literature.

Mr. B is working on reading and math primarily. He’s still working through All About Reading Level 1 with the enticing incentive that once he is reading fairly fluently and independently, he can finally download Minecraft. He’s taken a little longer to catch on to reading, and I am okay with that; everyone learns at their own pace. But I do know he’d be so much happier if he could read independently because he wants to, he just also doesn’t like things that are hard work.

He is also buzzing through the same math as Miss H, because math and science are really his strong points, and I want to keep him busy in things he loves, too. Obviously. I don’t want to ever crush his love of learning.

And Sweet M? He’s pretty much got his colors and shapes down like a pro, and he’s super interested in his letters, so I got him the Illustrated Alphabet book and big bananagrams and he’s having a lot of fun learning about recognizing letters and their sounds. I’m thinking may incorporate some number games as well, and maybe even these feelings flashcards, because he’s been having a hard time expressing and identifying his feelings at times. It’s been a pretty big year for him. But he really wants to “do school” like his big brother and sister, so I figure that isn’t in the too far off distance for him!

Miss H’s First Communion

I’m not going to go into the debacle of what was originally supposed to be Miss H’s first communion back in April. Let’s just say the world should be really happy that J and I are both super easy going individuals, haha.

So Miss H ended up receiving her first communion this past Sunday. And it was beautiful and emotional (for me), and a long time coming.

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I was baptized Catholic as an infant, but I wasn’t raised Catholic. I wasn’t really raised as anything, so it’s intriguing in some ways that it’s where I teetered back to.

I had the privilege of attending a Catholic high school, by choice, for two years before moving back to Indiana, although I did not remotely identify or practice as Catholic then. It wasn’t until I began my sophomore year of college, a little overwhelmed from the cards I’d been dealt that summer, that I really started to seek a quiet refuge in the idea of religion.

There are a lot of things I probably don’t agree with in the Catholic Church as a whole. I also genuinely do not care if my children grow to decide they want to be Buddhist or Atheist or whatever. It’s their journey, not mine. I’m happy to share with them how I came to this place, but it’s not my choice to decide what or how they believe. That’s up to them.

I was confirmed in the Catholic Church while I was living in England the year before J and I wed, and I knew if I was going to do marriage I wanted it to be a through the Church, for better or for worse. J was born and raised Catholic, and though he was not, and is not, very much a practicing Catholic, he has always whole heartedly supported my decisions and precarious faith.

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We gave H and B the choice to participate in religious education classes and whether or not they wanted to take the steps toward their first communion (B still has another year of classes before he is there) and both said yes. And they’ve both definitely enjoyed their classes more than actual mass, haha. Which I don’t blame them. The few Christmas masses I sat through as a kid I wasn’t particularly fond of. It wasn’t until I was an adult.

Anyway, H’s first communion came. The babies were wild so J ended up outside with them and missed the whole thing, which I know made her a little sad, and J, too. But that’s just life sometimes.

I cried. Because that’s what I do. And by cried I got teary-eyed because I very rarely truly cry. But she was beautiful and it was a beautiful moment and I’m so glad that for now, it’s the path she is choosing is right for her heart.

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And her heart is so big and so full of love and goodness, I sometimes can’t believe she came from J and I. She is definitely proof that it is so much nature, and only a sliver of nurture, as much as we sometimes want to believe otherwise.

And I am so, so thankful, that God felt like we deserved Miss H in our lives, and that we are remotely good enough to be a part of her life’s journey, because she is truly one of the best people I know.

Another Kid is (Mostly) Potty Learned

I’ve talked about potty learning before. And the thing is, I’m not some kind of professional, or wizard, with lots of sage advice or tricks up my sleeve.

But also. It’s been really easy with all my kids thus far.

Miss H was kind of magical, I admit. We had no idea what we were doing and zero plans. J and I hadn’t even discussed potty learning. Like, it wasn’t even a thought in our minds. But she went every where we did, so naturally, she got super curious about the potty early on. At 14 months she was asking to sit on the potty, and by 16 months she was wearing chonies (underwear) pretty much full time during the day (nighttime is a different story).

Mr. B had zero interest in the potty so I assumed he’d be my kid in diapers until he was 3 and I wasn’t really that concerned because I just don’t have the time or energy to stress over those sorts of things. Like, whether he used the toilet on his own at 18 months or age 5 didn’t make a difference to me; either way I wouldn’t be changing his diapers in college. But low and behold, a little over a month before his second birthday he asked for chonies with airplanes while shopping one day. We bought them, he put them on at home, and that was that. Literally. I think he maybe had three accidents after that. Ever.

Sweet M was pretty much as easy, but we were in Hawaii and I was more hesitant to put him in chonies full time, even once he was very consistently using the potty, because omg. Traffic. Honolulu traffic is nothing like Midwest traffic and I really didn’t want accidents in the car seats because that’s a pain to clean out. (But I also wash their car seats way too frequently because – food. So I probably shouldn’t have worried.) Anyway, on his 2nd birthday I pulled the trigger, put him in chonies, told him no more diapers, and that was that. He had a very small handful of accidents that week, but none in the car. Though there were a few days when we’d have to pull over several times in a 30 minute span for him to go potty, but whatevs. It was short lived fun and that was that.

I figured Bean was going to be it then. She’d be the one in diapers forever. But just like all the others, she showed an early interest. And at 20 months, I haven’t pulled the trigger on no diapers at all, but she is naked or in chonies 90% of the time, and has approximately 0-2 accidents a day. Again, it’s more me than anything, I imagine. She’s pretty committed (there is definitely a thrill for her when she squeals “shi shi in the potty, Mommy!” as we are driving down the road), and most of the accidents occur in situations where she does tell me (because I don’t believe in taking a kid to the potty every x amount of minutes, because that’s too much work and I’m too lazy for that, haha), but we just don’t get to a toilet fast enough. Fortunately, it’s getting warm though so she can rock the t-shirt and chonies look, and it makes things easier. She’s been the most drawn out process of all of my kids, but even still, it’s been easy and stress free.

I figure most kids likely have the ability to be potty learned early on. I know it’s common place in many other countries. Again though, I’m not an expert.

Being present, being aware and alert, offering lots of opportunities where they can choose the potty, talking about the potty, reading about the potty, and not stressing or forcing it all seem to have been and currently be pretty important key components for all of my kiddos in potty learning.

And before you think I just have super easy, malleable kids, I assure you, I do not. Not one of them is “easy,” but damn, they’re all loveable and amazing. Bean’s current favorite two phrases are “I don’t like that” and “I don’t want that.” And she wears the same ratty dinosaur dress her Aunt Bucky bought her almost every single day by shrill-shrieking choice (it’s probably why I always call her my sweet, angel baby, haha). My kids are stubborn and opinionated, but they also like to be in charge. And having control where their potty learning is concerned makes them feel quite mighty, I infer.

Having us praise them every time they succeed, and not being upset or frustrated when they don’t quite make it, makes it a smooth-sailing, stress-free process.

And now that Bean is pretty much out of diapers (except on the playground, I am still mostly worried she is going to pee on the slide and ruin it for everyone, ha), I guess we will see how sweet Fimito decides to finish our potty learning easy streak.

Until then.

Constantly Playing Catch Up

This past year has really thrown me for a loop. I constantly feel like I’m playing catch up, and I’m always the person who had my essays written weeks before they were ever due. I read all the books for class the summer before classes even started. I had an entire years worth of birthday cards all ready written, addressed, and stamped, filed away for each month of the year for all of my friends and family.

And now?

Shit. Now I’m throwing together lunches for my kids seconds before we are headed out the door, and I honestly don’t know they last time I sent a birthday card.

Sorry. For real. I wish I was more on top of it, but this past year has just knocked me on my butt.

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I don’t even really have a good excuse, other than we went from living the Aloha life where we had a flourishing community and my husband was actually home on the daily, to back to Midwest where M-F is spent parenting alone, and most of my time is spent alone with two adorable toddlers, and a sweet, surprise baby is on the way, and I’m really just tired. Like really tired. But I also don’t want to be so tired and behind that I miss it all because this is my dream.

Like really and truly. I am living my dream. So I don’t know how I can always be so behind and tired when I literally have everything I could ever want right here. Well, except maybe for my husband Monday through Friday because I actually super like him too.

I’m trying to make myself be more intentional. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the mundane of it all. Sometimes I forget to pause and breathe. That it’s okay if the laundry isn’t put away or that the floors don’t get vacuumed three times a day. Because lets be honest, my house doesn’t look any different when it all gets done as opposed to when it doesn’t (but I notice how good those baseboards look after I’ve washed them down. And there is some sweet satisfaction there).

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We finally have beautiful weather and so we are basically living outside these days, and it’s pretty glorious. I’m starting to feel energized and awake again. Although my three-year-old is testing every ounce of extreme patience I have, I definitely have more to give when we are living outdoors as opposed to being cooped up inside.

Three year olds. Lord help me. He is just a fabulous, wonderful, delightful little human. Who is also trying to see if can make me throw out all of my respectful and gentle parenting beliefs. I will say thus far, he hasn’t succeeded. Well, maybe other than the moment I told him I’d have to leave him at home alone if he couldn’t pull himself together and be kind to his sister the other day. It wasn’t a proud moment for sure, but also, I like to remind myself it could have been worse. I didn’t yell. I didn’t manhandle him. But I probably shouldn’t have threatened him with abandonment, but what else will he have to discuss in therapy one day otherwise?

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We’ve made so many plans this year that didn’t come into fruition, which is hard for me, as an avid planner. I’m also trying to learn to be better at “go with the flow.” J is so darn spontaneous, and I admire and also deplore that about him. I so badly want to be like that, but it’s also kind of maddening at times.

I feel like I’m on a constant quest to declutter and minimize, and I don’t even know how it’s possible when we went from comfortably living in 800 square feet a year ago to now being in nearly 2700 square feet, and I definitely feel more overwhelmed and swallowed up here than I did there. Like how? And why isn’t it possible to get rid of all. the. stuff?

And at the same time I feel like we need more space because I don’t even know where to put kids at this point.

Sweet M just started sleeping on his own this past week, and I put him in B’s room because I don’t want him sharing a room with Bean because she sleeps so darn well that I don’t want to mess it up. And H deserves her own space; she’s 9 and entering tweendom and I want her to have that space. But omg. Mr. B and Sweet M really do love each other, but they also butt heads and should not share a room. Fortunately M is young enough now that all of his toys are pretty much downstairs and his clothes are in Bean’s room, so basically he is just in there to sleep but there have been a lot of sad, “I don’t even have a bedroom!” moments from him and that’s a little gut-wrenching. Though again, I try to remind myself of how good they have it, and that lots of kids share bedrooms (myself having been included!) and it’s totally fine, if not actually beneficial for them in the long run.

But omg. Some days these things just seem so huge. And other days, of course, they don’t. Some days I laugh at how worried I get about such trivial things, and then I just blame pregnancy hormones. And exhaustion. And the deep fear of failing the only thing I’ve ever felt passionate about, which is mothering these sweet humans.

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I could say more right now. There is a million things running through my head and this is only the tip of the iceberg. But I knew I needed to sit down and at least start somewhere. For my own sanity. But all the tiny humans are asleep and there is a million other things I need to do right now: order scholastic books, do the dishes, put laundry away, vacuum, and pack lunches. And my bed time is in like 30 minutes so I need to go at the pace of Wonder Woman. Or a cheetah.

I wonder which is fastest when it comes to trying to catch up?

Every Thing Else is Extra

Our 5th baby is due in less than 9 weeks.

What!?

When I was this pregnant with our darling Miss H, I all ready had a full nursery set up, car seat installed in my car, a hefty gender neutral wardrobe washed and folded neatly into a pretty little dresser, boxes of diapers and wipes piled in the closets, tiny little baby towels and wash cloths folded neatly in the cupboard, and every sort of baby contraption you can imagine floating around my house.

Oh, how the tides have changed.

We admittedly got rid of nearly all of our baby stuff before we returned to the mainland last fall. Bean was nearly a year old and we were probably done having babies because it made sense and was practical (I mean, 4 kids probably isn’t practical as is), and although we both talked a lot about having one more (I told J I wanted 5 before we ever got married. He asked it we could start with just 1), we weren’t even sure how we could work it in timing-wise. We had so many plans, and J is always gone, and we kind of had the next few years laid out for ourselves and a sweet new human just didn’t seem to make the cut.

Until he did.

And honestly, it’s the best thing that could have happened. It was a surprise, but not that much of a surprise because, well, we do know how babies are made, even if neither of us ever learned that in middle school health class….

But the planning that has gone in for this darling Fimito is mostly nil. And not because we don’t care about or adore him just as much as that first babe, but the things that seemed so important with that first baby, we’ve learned with each kid isn’t so much so. (Yes, babies need diapers, but otherwise). Also, when you have four other busy, crazy kiddos to chase after, there isn’t a lot of time to sit and ponder and marvel at the tiny life growing within. Except at 2am when you’re awake with Charlie Horse cramps, praying this will be the last of them (the muscle spasms, that is.)

The gadgets and gear aren’t all that important, you learn. We have a crib, not even put together yet, for this babe. Maybe we will use it. Maybe we won’t. He doesn’t have a bedroom anyway, so it’s kind of moot. (Obvs he will be rooming with us for the foreseeable future). There is a car seat from Bean that needs to be washed, and maybe I will install it before we need to use it to take him to the pediatrician the first time. Maybe we won’t. We will see how it goes.

I’ve got a box of newborn cloth diapers to wash. And I did buy three newborn onesies for him and a sailboat gown (because J says if we didn’t have a fifth kid we could have had a sailboat. In the Midwest. He’s almost 50. He’s probably losing it, ha). But mostly, we shall wing it. It’s not like we can’t get things as needed. And who even knows what we will need?

Diapers, milk, a momma, papa, and a bunch of crazy siblings to love him and adore him is all ready in check. Everything else is extra.

Legoland!

So I knew we couldn’t venture to Florida and not do a theme park. It seems kind of sacrilegious or something.

The big kids really wanted to go to Universal for Harry Potter World, but I was steadfastly adamant that I would not go while pregnant because I wanted to ride the rides, or without J and someone else who could help with the toddlers who obviously couldn’t ride all the big rides we’d want to ride. Eventually we will get there, but this was just not the time.

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I kinda leaned toward Disney because I know it is so super toddler and pregnant-momma friendly, but I also suspect Disney will be in our future again for a longer duration since J typically attends a conference there each year.

Which landed us with Legoland. We’d been there once before and super loved it, but it wasn’t during water park season, so it sounded like a really fun and exciting adventure. Plus, we’d be going with M’s godmother and her two boys, so extra hands for riding the bigger rides that Sweet M and Bean couldn’t ride (or their pregnant momma!).

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It was a mega hit and I am so glad it’s the choice we made for this trip! It was low key enough to not be too stressful, but exciting enough to keep six kiddos under the age of 9 thoroughly engaged all day.

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She’s got the leg pop down…

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Also, it was Bean’s very first theme park so that was exciting. And she got there at opening and left at close and didn’t take a nap because she’s a wild party animal like that!

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All M wanted was to ride this ride. We did not have enough adult:child ratio and this awesome employee stepped up to the plate to be his riding buddy. I was so genuinely appreciative and thrilled that he made this sweet boy’s whole trip!

It was so much fun to spend the day with our dear friends and watch our little loves play in the water and ride rides until their hearts were content. And I super loved that Legoland had play areas all over the place and within lines of bigger rides, for the younger tykes who weren’t quite big enough for some rides. They had so much fun playing and never felt like they were missing out on the excitement and thrills that their big siblings were partaking.

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