Monday, March 7, 2016

A Day Trip to Shedd Aquarium

Last Friday, two friends and I loaded up the minivan with three two-year-olds, their car seats, plenty of snacks, and way too many toy trains, and drove down to Chicago for a visit to the Shedd Aquarium. Growing up, we always took an annual trip to Shedd that I looked forward to every single year. As a kid, I remember the visits being almost magical and I was so excited to continue this tradition with Callum. 

If you're just here for a quick recap, be sure to scroll down to the bottom of this post and watch a video of the day.

This was Callum's second time at Shedd. The last time we were there, he was just over a year old and was still just a little too tiny to get much out of it. This time, I knew he would have a blast.

We left Milwaukee around 9:00 AM on Friday morning, and hit just a little bit of traffic. I always get a little nervous about the drive, but it really is a cinch. The boys got a little antsy towards the end, but it was nothing a sing-along couldn't solve. Parking was easy, too. There's a large lot just down the street from Shedd, and is reasonably priced (for Chicago) at $20 for the day. Since there's a large staircase leading up to the front door of the Shedd, there is a separate entrance designated for strollers and handicap accessibility. I will take advantage of this entrance for as long as possible. The lines are much shorter than the main entrance, making getting in a breeze.

The second we walked in to the aquarium, the boys went crazy. They were able to run right up to the tanks and get a first-hand look right inside. I spend lots of times at museums and zoos picking Callum up to look inside, so I very much appreciate it when he's able to see everything without me breaking my back.

The main floor of the Shedd features a number of smaller corridors, with the large Caribbean Reef tank in the center. The smaller sections definitely made it easier to let Callum roam around while still keeping a close eye on him. It's also the perfect set-up when you're with a group: Everyone can move around at their own pace, but you're never too far away from each other.

We spent a lot of time watching all the creatures in the large Caribbean Reef in the center of the main floor. The huge tank is home to stingrays, small sharks, eels, and a large sea turtle, Nickel. At certain times throughout the day, you can watch a diver feed the animals and listen to a presentation on the exhibit. We parked the strollers right in front for the dive, and we were able to watch while the boys enjoyed a snack.

The boys all-time favorite part of the visit was the Polar Play Zone on the bottom level. In the Play Zone, the boys were able to touch star fish and other sea creatures, pretend to be penguins in a giant play center (Check the video below to see Callum as a dancing penguin.), explore a submarine, and really just run like crazy. Toddler heaven.

My all-time favorite was the underwater viewing of the dolphins and the beluga whales. It was so peaceful watching the dolphins glide back and forth under the water. I could've stayed there all day, but unfortunately the boys had other plans.

The aquatic show is also a must-see at the Shedd. It can get quite crowded in the amphitheater, but I don't think there's a bad seat in the space. The show gives a ton of insight in to how the dolphins, and other animals at Shedd, are cared for and trained. The dolphins also have the chance to show off their jumping skills. The next time we go, I'll think we'll try to watch the last show of the day and avoid some of the school groups that are there earlier.

Our last stop of the day was a quiet stroll through the amphibian exhibit. It was totally empty except for us. This exhibit was also perfectly eye-level for the boys in the stroller. 

I'm not sure how, but we all managed to make it for more than four hours at the aquarium. Considering naps were skipped and there was lots of walking, the boys did a great job going with the flow and enjoying everything along the way. It just goes to show what a perfect place the Shedd is for the whole family. If you're a Milwaukee mom looking for a fun adventure to take with your kids, definitely make it a trip to Shedd. It will be a day both you and your kids will remember for a long time.

Thanks for an unbelievable day, Shedd! We'll definitely be back soon. Be sure to watch the video below to see the boys in their element at the Shedd. And, don't leave until you watch Callum dancing in a penguin suit around the 3:30 mark. Seriously. My crazy kid dancing in a penguin suit.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Friday Favorites {23}

Happy, happy, happy Friday! One short week until day light savings time. I am so excited to start getting so more daylight in the evening. Spring will be here before we know it. Thank goodness!

Any fun plans for the weekend? We've got a pretty low-key one over here and I'm definitely looking forward to it. My one goal is to catch up on a few Oscar movies that I have yet to see. What should we rent? I'm leaning towards 'Room.' I read the book and loved it.

Without any further ado, here are some things I'm loving this week. Check em out. We've got some good ones!

1. Today, I'm heading to Shedd Aquarium with two of my favorite moms and all of our boys. I have loved Shedd since I was a little kid, and I absolutely love taking Callum now. We were last there about a year and a half ago, and I think Callum is going to enjoy it so much more this time around. Stay tuned for a post on our trip!

Photos from our last trip to Shedd. Callum was so little!! #thosecheeks

2. My mom's birthday is tomorrow and Callum and I worked on something really special just for her: stepping stones for her garden. The project was surprisingly easy and I love the way they turned out. We used this tutorial. I got plates and Scrabble tiles from Goodwill. Callum loved smashing the plates with a hammer (between a towel so pieces didn't go everywhere, of course). Now, who knows how I can dispose of the extra concrete?

Callum calls my mom "Oma," hence Oma's Garden.

3. I got a couple new pairs of sunglasses from Sunglass Spot and I love them! If you're looking for a new pair, check them out. The glasses are super inexpensive, so I love getting my trendier sunglasses from there because you never know how long you'll like them. Plus, I lose or sit on so many pairs, that I hate spending too much money on them. Tell me: Are you on board with the cat eye's or not? I love them, but I feel sort of ridiculous wearing them. I need to just own them.

4. I had not one, but two posts go up on MKE Moms Blog this week: Apps for Toddlers that Save the Day and Why Running Makes Me a Better Mom. Head on over and check them out!

5. Costco does it again! I was walking through the store this week, minding my own business, when one of Costco's amazing employees asked me if I wanted to sample some dark chocolate covered coconut chips. Is there a question?! you guys, they were more amazing than I could've imagined. They were like those really like coconut chips from Trader Joe's, but covered in chocolate. In the cart they went. If you're a coconut fiend like I am, find yourself some immediately!

Have a good weekend, everybody! If you're in the Milwaukee area and looking for something to do, check out one of these fun things going on in our wonderful city. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Day in the Life {2}

Tap, tap, tap. Is this thing on?

Hey, there. It's me, Megan. Remember me? I know it's been a long time, too long. Life has just been crazy busy lately, and I haven't been totally motivated to write about anything specific, so I thought a little break wouldn't hurt. And, you know what, I think it did me good. I feel like I have several fresh ideas rolling around, and I am looking forward to writing about them soon. Stay tuned.

In the mean time, I thought it would be fun to share a day in the life post. These are my all-time favorite posts to look back on. Callum changes so, so much in such a short period of time, that I so often just forget what a certain stage was like. These posts help me freeze frame this period.

So, here's what our day looked like last Thursday, February 25. I must say, this was a very, very busy day. Callum and I definitely get out of the house a lot, but this day was especially packed. I promise most of our days aren't quite this exciting.

5:45 - I woke up to Callum crying in his room, about an hour earlier than he should be up. He's definitely still tired since he didn't wake up happy. I head to his room and snuggle him back to sleep. He falls back asleep quickly, but unfortunately I don't.

So, I get up, make some coffee and watch some news. I also catch up on a few days in my Mom's One Line a Day diary. I love, love, love this journal, but I rarely write in it everyday. I tend to write three or four days at once.

7:30 - Callum's up and ready for breakfast! He loves to stand at the kitchen island and just chat away while he slowly, slowly eats. He also tends to eat his cereal with both his spoon and his hands. I guess it's just easier for him to get it in his mouth that way. :) He's also been inhaling cuties like crazy lately. 

8:30 - We're off to the gym. Any time we're driving in my car these days, we're listening to the soundtrack from the Sesame Street Live show we went to. Callum asks for it every single time I start the car. I actually don't mind it at all, and love to make Callum smile as I ridiculously sing along to it. 

A few weeks ago, I was driving around in the car by myself and it took me about 20 minutes to realize I was listening to Elmo and singing along. #momlife

I get in a run at the gym while Callum hangs out at the gym daycare. He loves it there! And I love that I can get my work out down right away in the morning. Here. Enjoy my first, and most likely last, gym selfie. Also, I had my pants on backwards the whole time I was at the gym. I thought I was really making progress on that mom tummy. Turns out, that extra room was actually for my butt. 

10:00 - After the gym, we headed to my friend, Abbey's house, for a playdate with her son, Otto. The boys had a great time playing with trains, planes, and cars, and I had a great time talking with Abbey over some coffee.  Love me some play dates.

1:30 - After a quick lunch (He was asking for more Rice Krispies, but I was able to distract him with some mac n cheese and veggies.), Callum's down for his nap and I get a little work done. Thankfully, Callum still naps in the afternoons for a good 1.5 - 2 hours. When his bedroom door is open, he can see me sitting in the dining room while he's laying in his bed. So, I get started at the computer, and he falls fast asleep. 

3:00 - With about an hour left before Matt gets home, I decided to pull out some markers and paper. Callum traced his hand, while getting more marker on the table than the paper. Thank goodness for washable markers!

3:30 - After coloring for a bit, we spent some time showering our new foster pup, Max, with some attention and cuddles. He's the all black one in the picture below. Max had a rough beginning in his life and is pretty scared of people. We've been basically forcing our love on him, and he is slowly, but surely, starting to warm up. We just have to show him how great being in a loving home can be!

I should've mentioned this earlier, since we stopped to do this many times during the day, but we've slowly started potty training. We're not forcing anything or taking Callum out of diapers yet, but I try to frequently ask Callum to sit on the potty, especially when we're at home. We've been doing the old one M&M for a No. 1 and two for a No. 2, and it seems to work really well. After we've been doing this for several weeks, Callum has actually started heading to the bathroom a couple times without us asking him if he has to go. Progress! In a few weeks, I hope to have him in diapers 100% of the time. Like I said, I'm not forcing it, so if it doesn't work out, we'll just wait a little longer.

4:00 - Matt gets home and we all head outside to play for a bit. And, here's where things get real exciting. Sweet Max managed to get out of the yard and we spent the next hour or so trying to convince him to come back. Since the poor guy is so scared of us, the last thing he wants to do is come to us when he's called. With the help of some neighbors and their dogs, we managed to safely bring him home. While we were Max-tracking, Callum played with our amazing neighbors. Such life savers!

5:30 - I had plans to meet my friend, Danielle, downtown for dinner and a drink, but we quickly changed our plans after I was stuck corralling Max back home. So, we went just down the street from my house to Hue for wine and pho. It was so great to catch up with Danielle and was the perfect opportunity to unwind after a crazy busy day.

8:00 - I got home to a quiet house. Everyone was fast asleep! After letting the dogs out one last time, I snuggle up with some Netflix and veg out until bed time.

Just recounting this day makes me remember how exhausting it was. But, it was a good one!