It’s hard to believe, but my Summer vacation is coming to an end and I’m heading back to work on Monday.  I’m by no means complaining of HAVING a summer vacation, I know how lucky I am to get this time off with my boys while still having a great job.  I will say that this has been my best summer since I started working at the district a little over three years ago.  The first summer I had off, Jake was just under one, and I was struggling with being a new mom that had to realize she couldn’t do all the things she wanted to do, while squeezing in two naps and changing a billion diapers.

Summer #2 was spent packing up our little apartment, dealing with the stress of escrow and not knowing if we’d be moving into our new home or back with my in-laws, and then trying to get everything unpacked and settled into our new home before going back to work.

Summer #3.  Oh boy.  One toddler who we were potty training, trying to wean off the binkie, and move into his own room, while also still adjusting to being a mommy of 2, which meant also nursing and changing diapers constantly.  Last summer was rough.

But summer #4.  It’s been glorious.  It still had the hints of my frustrations of not being quite so good at being a stay-at-home mom (huge props to you full time stay at home mommies, you’re my heroes), but I also had some super mom moments and I think I really prepared myself as much as I could to enjoy this time as much as I could.

One thing I learned from past summers is that I need to do stuff: staying home all day with two kiddos was going to drive me insane.  When a fellow mommy-wedding planner told me that she had already planned out her summer calendar, a huge light bulb lit up: THAT IS WHAT I NEED: I NEED A PLAN (I can see Jeff laughing right now…his over-planning and too-many lists wife, hehe).  So that’s what I did.  I tried to follow a general structure: planning in advance for hot days, I tried to plan outdoor activities in the mornings (walks/hikes, etc.), and some kind of in-home activity for the afternoons.  I also spread out all the home projects I wanted to do (cleaning baseboards, organizing the pantry, closets, and bathroom drawers, etc.).  I initially had planned these for the mornings that Jake was in preschool two days a week for the first three weeks, then realized that having a one year old still with me made those projects impossible to achieve.  BUT, keeping the kids up all day meant that nap time was GLORIOUS–if I played my cards right I could get both kids down at the same time for at least two hours.  Helloooooo productivity.

So, a few things that came in useful in planning my summer: my google calendar, the OC library events website, Plan A Day Out (this website is great, tons of events listed that you can search for by date/age/price, etc.), and having awesome neighbors and friends to meet up with.  Oh and obviously Pinterest.  I’ve been pinning a bunch of random “things to do with a toddler” so I finally went through those and picked a few.

So, for those that are still reading, ha, here’s a photo montage recap of our Summer:

Morning Stuff

On the Plan a Day Out website they had John Wayne Airport as an activity for kids to see planes land and take off.  This is something that I had thought of on my own before, but just didn’t really know the best spot to do this.  Apparently the top floor of the terminal 1 parking lot!  Unfortunately for us, that parking lot wasn’t open for parking when we went, and all the floors in between were full, which means we had to park on the bottom floor, and go up about three levels while carrying a backpack, a toddler, two toddler chairs, and making sure the older child made it up the stairs without stopping to stare at the stale gum on the walls and asking what that was.  Phew.  It was fun for about five minutes.  It was already HOT, and due to a wall that I had not counted on being there (but totally made sense), we couldn’t sit and see the airplanes, but instead had to stand on a column.  Overall a good outing, but things that would make it better next time: take the truck and hope the lot is open so we can put the chairs in the back of the truck and relax and watch the planes take off, and also plan something else to do in that area as well.  Like I said, it was entertaining for a little bit, but it took me longer to pack up and drive back and forth than the time we spent watching airplanes.  Irvine has tons to do, so next time I’ll piggy back with something else.  Also a heads up that there is a parking fee involved.

Day walks: I drive past a bunch of different trails all the time and I’m always curious about them, so one of my goals this summer was to try out some of those random trails.  I didn’t get to many of them….I’ll be honest, we checked out two of maybe five I had planned, but we did explore some!

Jake was at first very hesitant about going through this tunnel at the Oso Creek Trail, but he was SO PROUD of himself for doing it, it was pretty awesome.  I took water and snacks and we had a little picnic before we walked back to the car.  Sidenote: packing for a day out can be exhausting.  After I got back from my trip to Florida I just couldn’t get back into it.  It’s mentally exhausting to try and think of all the things you might need.  But essentially every time we went out to adventure I took water, snacks, extra clothes, binkies for the tired drive home, wipies, etc., etc., etc.

The OC Public Library had quite a few things going on at the different libraries, so I planned ahead for one at the Dana Point library: Dina Days!  To be honest it was way more academic than most of the little kids cared for, but I think Jake semi enjoyed it.  I invited some neighbors to come along and we did a hike by the beach before the event, and I packed a good picnic to have with the boys after it was over.  From the Dana Point library it was a super short drive to Lantern Bay Park which has a great view of the ocean, and plenty of shady areas to set out a blanket.

This was another library event: dance time story time!  A neighbor of our said they do the same dance moves every time, haha, so we only did this once.  I was so grateful my mom was with us so she could take care of Josh, who was less than amused by the book reading and dance moves.  We made pretty regular trips to the library to check out new books, and I just LOVE that Jake loves to read them all.  Josh on the other hand…prefers to eat them still.

Another random trip I planned was going to see the construction going on at the Laguna Hills Mall.  Or shall I say, Five Lagunas, formerly known as the Laguna Hills Mall?  For those that don’t know, Jake is a huge construction fan, so I thought this would be something easy that he’d enjoy.  I think Josh got a kick out of it too, and I was pretty grateful that the whole site had these little windows you could see through (although I had to carry Josh AND hold up Jake on my knee since he couldn’t quite reach the window).

Um, hellllllooooo Adventure Playground in Irvine!  I’ve heard a lot about this place and finally put it on the calendar.  We also invited the neighbors (and one of my awesome co-workers!) and most of them were able to join.  It’s big and muddy and CONTAINED.  I lost sight of Jake for a few minutes (rarely were Jake and Josh enjoying the same areas…) and my friend reminded me that the area was closed off and it was just a matter of locating the right construction truck to find him.  I think this place will be even more awesome for me when I can let both of the boys run off on their own and I don’t have to be looking after them constantly.  On this trip we again planned ahead and I packed a picnic lunch which we enjoyed with some friends on the lawn just outside the park.  Did I mention it’s free?  Just make sure to bring extra clothes for the ones that like the mud.

Afternoon, in-home Activities

Who doesn’t like paint time?  Once you realize they’re going to get paint everywhere anyway and just let them be, it’s not too bad :)  Obviously Josh was not a fan of painting on paper, and Jake just thought painting on oneself was way better too.

Thanks to those Pinterest boards, we tried a few different science experiments, like using food coloring on flowers.   This one took days and days and days for the dye to kinda sorta make it’s way through, but Jake seemed pretty excited to check the progress every day and would not let me throw the flowers away until they were REALLY dead.

What kid doesn’t love dinosaur fossils?!  This idea I copied from a friend who did a dinosaur theme for her daughter’s birthday, and had buckets with sand and fossils for the kids to dig through.  I decided to replicate this and try it at home.  I even found some mini-magnifying glasses to complete the look.  Um, I have a ton of those still if anyone wants them.  Disclaimer: many of these projects were fun and gave the boys (mostly Jake) something to do, but I’ll be honest: the time and effort to prepare for some of these was way more than the time it kept him entertained.  I think they were all still worth it since it gave us something to do and I do think he enjoyed them, but just wanted to give the full disclosure that these aren’t activities that took up a whole afternoon (or even a whole hour).

Another Pinterest find with mediocre execution: a home made obstacle course!  I used my phone and timed Jake so he could try to improve it, which got him to do it at least 2-3 more times, haha.  I will say, he got pretty good at going over and under the hallway obstacles, so practice DOES make perfect!

Milk, food dye, q-tips, and hand soap! Eventually this will be good to learn how mixing some colors makes new colors, but for now it was just fun to mix them all together and make reeeeeeeally green soapy milk…

Spending Time with Friends

One of my co-workers, that is also a great friend, just moved in to a new home with a pool and had us over quite a few times.  Jake hasn’t learned to swim yet, but he’s warming up to the idea!

Weekend exploring with daddy: The Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach has a great trail (part of which is pretty tropical and awesome), a great butterfly area, and some cool interactive features for kids.  We also hit up the Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary in the Modjeska Canyon, and I highly recommend checking out the Nature Center across the street from it: they have all sorts of little hands on activities for kids.  Most of them were a little too grown up for Jake, but I’d like to take him back in a year or two.

We got to walk around Laguna Beach with my mom on a Monday, and she treated them to a super over-priced ice cream which we all fully enjoyed.  Did I mention packing wipies for the day?  I know that’s a no-brainer for most mommies, but sooooo glad I had them that day.

We planned a lunch date to see my sister-cousin and Jake’s godmother (“Nina” is short for “madrina” which is godmother in Spanish), who works in LA by the airport.  Jake was missing her a lot, and I figured we had the time to make the drive on a week day.  Man did Nina go all out.  She took us to a place called The Proud Bird for lunch, and I can’t recommend this place enough.  The food was good (it’s almost like a food court so you can pick whatever you like), and the views of the planes landing and starting to take off were awesome, not to mention being able to see planes up close that were on display.

After lunch, Nina had a surprise for Jake:  Bruder has a location right down the street from her work, so we went there and Jake was beyond himself.  Bruder makes these awesome trucks that are pretty “real,” and Jake already had a couple of them, so he was in heaven.  They have a play room area where you can “check out” whatever car/truck you want, then return it and check out another one.  They obviously have a bunch of cars/trucks for sale, and some of them are discounted if they’re out of the box.  Nina couldn’t help herself and bought one toy for each boy.  Jake has taken ownership of both of them.  And Josh could care less, as long as he’s fed snacks constantly.

Our last week was spent with family and friends.  Above: we went to San Diego to welcome my cousin back, who had been at sea for the last four months.  The boys enjoyed being spoiled by everyone and seeing some big ships.  Jake got to see all sorts of trucks and fork lifts on base too, so he was pretty happy.

My friend Dana, who I went to college with, is a teacher so she’s off for the summer as well.  We met at Kidseum in Santa Ana, which is part of the Bowers Museum but is located in a separate building a couple blocks away.  It was $7 a person I think, which in my opinion was a little high for the size of the place, but the kids ran around and got to do a few crafty activities (supplies are included in the admission price), and then we went to the 4th Street food area and enjoyed some pizza and ice cream sandwiches from Chunk n Chip.  Yum.

Mommies, let’s be honest…this is the best part of our day.  See those sleeping angels?  That’s what kept mommy sane all summer.  I got to clean and organize, and blog, and watch The Hand Maids Tale, and even get a little work out in!  Speaking of which, I need to go get these boys up or they’ll sleep all day!

What was your favorite part of your Summer so far?  What activities do you love to do with your kids or friends?