Changes at Home + School

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Change has abounded for us this year. Big change and little change, making life more complicated, but also better in so many ways. I’m reading a fabulous book by my friend Kristen right now called Girl Meets Change and it could not be more timely. I’ll be sharing a full review when I finish it up, but I remember this quote from her from a blog post a while back that goes perfectly with the book as well as my life circumstances:

“The old thing may be familiar, but the new thing may be fantastic.” – Kristen Strong

That’s what I’m holding on to this week because this is happening:

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After four years of homeschool, our older boys are going to school for the first time (other than preschool). It is a big time of transition, but I am so thankful to say God has our whole family on the same page and we’re very excited for this new season! How big and handsome do they look in this pic?! This was taken at the school open house when they met their teachers and brought in all of their school supplies and I got a million papers to deal with!

There was a time when The Hubby and I knew God wanted us to move in this direction and the kids were less than excited about the idea. But God… He led us to a school we all fell in love with and we are so grateful. I know every school decision comes with its own challenges, but it also comes with new opportunities for adventure. Shopping for school supplies and planning lunches both count as adventures for Mom, right?!

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As we get ready for the first day on Wednesday of this week, I’m focusing on the joy of a God doing a new thing in our family! And it could not be more perfect that I have a post up today over on the Tommy Nelson blog about embracing the joy of back-to-school. It’s for anyone and everyone starting up the school year – homeschool, public school, private school. I hope it will be a blessing to you and your family! I know I will be praying these verses with and for my kids throughout the year.

The little guy, Double J, is only three and will still be home with me. He says we’re going to go on dates to the children’s museum when the boys are at school. He also says he is going to marry me. Cue the heart melting. I haven’t been home with just one kid since the summers when I was a teacher and Big J was super little, so this will be very interesting! I know we will have tons of fun.

And now I’m diving back in to figuring out schedules and lunches and all the things…pray for me.

Talk to me about your kids and school! When did/do they start? What grades? How can I pray for them and you this school year?

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Weekend Snapshots

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As I write this, The Hubby is taking his boards, that last test before his life as a “real” physician commences. It’s a ten-hour test. That sounds like torture, right?! Please pray for him during the home stretch this afternoon!

To give him a relaxing, QUIET weekend before his test, the boys and I went up to my parents and all sorts of fun was had!

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The cousins, Urkel style. We decided this needs to be recreated in twenty years.

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Grandma made a family-style dessert to die for. Eating it outside was a genius move because ICE CREAM AND CHOCOLATE EVERYWHERE. Messy and delicious go together well.

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I finished one book that I’ll tell you about tomorrow and started this green gem by Kristen Strong. It could not be more perfect for this season of life.

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My sister and I ran eleven miles Saturday morning which was great except for the humidity and heavy legs at the end. Go away, humidity. I rewarded myself with a maple bacon donut. No further explanation needed.

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Today is my sweet mom’s birthday, so us girls had pedicures and did some boutique shopping to celebrate! My last pedicure was for my sister’s wedding five years ago. My toes are happy right now. And my niece’s fingers and toes were so adorable.

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My oldest friend – as in the one I’ve been friends with the longest – is moving away from our hometown and I am absolutely thrilled for her! We got together this weekend to process and celebrate. Macarons were involved. I was a macaron virgin before this, but the salted caramel one (on the left) from C.H. Patisserie will have me coming back for more every time we visit. HEAVEN.

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Baby niece snuggles are just the best. That is all.

WS 8-3 8Last but not least, I am the mom who took her child to church Sunday night with a giant marker scribble in the middle of his shirt. According to him, “I look cool like this.”

There was lots of other fun and games, but this is our weekend in a nutshell! What were you up to this weekend?

I’m linking up with Weekend Snapshots over at Her Heartland Soul!

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These Kids Are Runners!

I’ve been a runner for just over three years now. The Hubby started running a few months before me. Running has changed so many things about our lives for the better and our boys have taken notice.

This spring, our nine-year-old, Big J, mentioned he would like to do a 5K. We looked at the calendar and picked out a race in our area for the end of July. Big J and I sat down with the Couch to 5K plan and made a training plan for him to check off for eight weeks.

He amazed us during those eight weeks. If you don’t know about the Couch to 5K plan, it starts with long intervals of walking and short intervals of running. As the weeks progress, you walk less and run more. Big J did some runs with The Hubby or I outside, but many of them were on the treadmill. He was so dedicated and got through every single training run, even during the week he went to camp.

Along the way, Little J, our seven-year-old, decided he wanted to try the one-mile race on the same morning. He did some treadmill walking and a few spontaneous runs during his big brother’s baseball practice, but no formal training.

On race day, the one-mile race was first and Little J had Daddy by his side. We really had no idea what to expect from him, but when they took off, I thought it might be a while before they made their way back.

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Imagine my surprise when we saw Little J headed towards the finish line less than ten minutes later!

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The Hubby was surprised as well because Little J ran the whole time and finished with a time of 9:50! He came in second!

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Little J says he can’t wait to do his next race to get better and get another medal. I love it.

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Big J’s 5K race started a half hour later and I had the privilege of running with him. We said a little prayer before we started – for strength, endurance, and a fun experience!

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Summer races in Nebraska are not my favorite. Even with an early start, the humidity was no fun and the sun was shining down pretty bright. All of this just makes it even more impressive that Big J only walked for a few seconds a couple times the whole race. And he’s just like his mama – talking most of the time.

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I peeled off at the end of the race to let him finish on his own, sprinting those last few minutes with cheers and pictures and an announcer calling his name, telling everyone a nine-year-old was coming in at 34:53!

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Yes, I cried. When both kids crossed the finish line. The perseverance and determination they showed through training and the race left us incredibly proud. We saw a new side of them. Running means so much to us and we could see how much our boys enjoyed this running experience. These kids are runners and are already thinking about what races they want to do next, maybe when it is a little cooler!

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Our boys also know the best way to celebrate after a great race. We teach them well.

Are your kids interested in running? Have they ever run a race?

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The Baseball Experiment

Our boys tried out several different sports and many of them have been through our local YMCA. They have an excellent fundamental program for many sports that allows kids to learn the basics of a particular sport before trying it in a team and game setting.

Big J has tried out soccer and basketball in this fundamental format and went on to play on a rec basketball team this year. We love the low-pressure opportunity to try out a sport before they commit a lot of time to it  – and it keeps them active!

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This summer, Big J decided to give baseball a try. For eight weeks, he has gone to clinic-style practices every Saturday morning, practicing the proper form for throwing and hitting and learning all about the fundamentals of America’s pastime.

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This past Saturday, they wrapped up the program with a scrimmage game that was both great for practice and hilarious to watch. When you have about twenty boys ranging from first grade to sixth grade who are just learning the game of baseball, the first time they play a real game is full of chaos and excitement. I loved it.

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This scrimmage game was also the first time the boys tried to hit a thrown pitch from the coach. Big J got a single on the second pitch and ran the bases hard each time a teammate got a hit! He also had some good fielding plays in the outfield.

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He really enjoyed his time playing baseball, so this experiment was a success! I think he makes a pretty handsome baseball player, don’t you?!

What sports do your kids play in the summer? Did they try any new ones this year?

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Summer Love at the Courts

I started taking tennis lessons at the age of five. Tennis was a huge part of my childhood, but not in an intense, competitive way. Sure, I did some tournaments here and there and played freshman tennis in high school, but tennis has mostly been for fun in my life. I still love playing and watching the game. This is my awesome parents and sister showing off our strong love for tennis…

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Yeah. We’re cool. We know it.

I never want to push any activity on my kids just because I love it, but the boys took an early interest in tennis and we signed them up for lessons through our local tennis association. We have a beautiful outdoor tennis complex not too far from our house where the boys have been taking lessons for three summers now.

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We spend two hours at the tennis courts two mornings a week for most of the summer. That might not sound like much fun for some people, but I just love being at those courts, watching our boys fall in love with a sport I adore so much. When Big J hit his first serve over the net AND in, I just about jumped out of my seat with excitement!

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While I love almost everything about our time at tennis, there is no shade and the sun can be brutal for those two hours. We’ve left the courts with extra pink skin more than once, but not this year. We go to tennis lessons armed with great sun protection from Banana Boat®!

Summer Love at the Courts

Whether we’re headed to the tennis courts or the swimming pool, planning ahead is key! This definitely applies with sunscreen. Before heading to your family outing, consider how long you will be outside and how many times everyone will need to reapply. This even goes for activities in your own backyard!

Be sure to apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to you and your kids’ entire bodies 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating. One application of Banana Boat® Kids Tear-Free Sting-Free SPF 50 Sunscreen is usually good enough for us at the courts, but on extra sunny days, I reapply after an hour because they are so sweaty!

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Fair skin runs in our family, so I pay extra special attention to the face, ears, and back of the neck. The Banana Boat® Ultra Defense® Stick Sunscreen SPF 50 is great for quick, mess-free application for our whole family.

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I have lots of love for our summer court time, and even more so when we don’t leave the courts with skin burnt to a crisp by the summer sun! Now if I could just get out there to play tennis myself a little more!

What summer sports is your family involved in? Do you have great summer sports memories from growing up?

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Banana Boat® . The opinions and text are all mine.

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Summer is for S’mores!

I participated in a Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for OshKosh B’Gosh. I received an OshKosh B’Gosh gift card to facilitate my post and a promotional item to thank me for my participation.

Can I be honest with you? I’ve kind of always dreaded the arrival of summer. There have been parts of summer I’ve enjoyed – swimming, family vacations, no school – but I just wasn’t crazy about the heat and humidity and being out in it at all.

All of that has been changing this year. Maybe it’s me, but I think it has to do more with my kids. They’re growing up and we’re able to take off on adventures as a family more easily. We’ve been playing outside, exploring our city, staying up later, and I’m starting to think summer can be quite glorious.

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I think the most wonderful of all are the summer nights.
We’ve enjoyed have family play dates with friends in the evening so we can share the joy that is…

OshKosh Smores Supplies

S’MORES.

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We are blessed to have a beautiful fire pit and seating area in our backyard, the perfect location for the perfect yummy summer activity for a play date or sleepover!

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The combination of a warm fire, gooey treats, and kids is magical.

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It’s fun to have variety available when we make s’mores with guests! We mix it up with different chocolates – dark chocolate is my favorite, Big J loves peanut butter cups, and I’ll let you take a guess at the top choice of Little J…

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With all of the fun chocolate options, every kid can have a custom treat they will enjoy! We somehow ended up with one kiddo who just wants the roasted marshmallow by itself and one who wants all the parts of a s’more, but wants to eat them separately. I just don’t understand.

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S’mores and summer fun go hand-in-hand at our house and we love them both even more when we get to share them with friends!

We are also totally loving the new summer play clothes the boys picked out at our local OshKosh B’Gosh store this past week!

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I’ve always thought of overalls and denim when OshKosh B’Gosh was mentioned, but they are quickly becoming my go-to store for bright, fun summer looks for my boys. The boys were actually EXCITED to be shopping in the OshKosh B’Gosh store and that is a BIG DEAL!

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With sizes 0-12, we were able to shop for all three boys in one store and we had piles of tops and shorts they all loved. The deals at OshKosh B’Gosh were so great that we were able to get everything they wanted – ten tops and four pairs of shorts – for under $100!

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I can’t get the boys to wear anything excet their new OshKosh B’Gosh clothes and that’s fine with me! I love their bright colors, hand-drawn original designs, and great quality.

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I think these outfits match their personalities quite well, don’t you?! And Little J’s dino shirt (top right) glows in the dark, which is so perfect for an evening play date!

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I should probably mention that if you’re going to do s’mores for a play date, please allow some “burning off all that sugar” time. They’ll need it. Trust me.

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See what I mean?!

I love my boys. I love spending summer with them. And I know you will love the new summer styles from OshKosh B’Gosh as much as we do, especially with this great discount through July 13th!

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Find your local OshKosh B’Gosh store here, grab your kids, and enjoy finding them some fun new summer clothes together with 25% off your purchase of $30 or more! You can also use this deal online with the code SUMMER25 at checkout.

You can join in on the #HelloSummerFun action and be inspired with OshKosh B’Gosh on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

 

Your turn: talk to me about your favorite s’mores combination! We are always looking for new ideas!


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Mary Poppins + The Rose

I received tickets to Mary Poppins from the Rose in exchange for this review. I was not compensated in any other way for this review and all opinions are 100% my own.

I wrote last month about my return to the world of musical theatre – watching, not acting – with the amazing musical, Once, at the Orpheum. Last Friday night, I had the pleasure of taking my boys along for a magical musical journey when we attended Mary Poppins at the Rose!

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The Rose is a performing arts theater in Omaha focused on enriching the lives of children and their families through live theater and arts education. They strive to make the arts accessible to all children, with shows for all ages and programs to provide tickets for low-income families. Each season at the Rose features seven shows, plus two premium shows such the one we attended last week!

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The actual theater building is magical on its own, with beautifully sculpted interiors, gorgeous decor, and a ceiling that changes from clouds to stars with fun lighting. Just being in the theater is an experience, but we were in for a bigger treat when our show began!

We’re big fans of Mary Poppins, but the stage musical varies a bit from the movie with which we’re so familiar. That wasn’t a concern at all because the songs we love so much – “Feed the Birds,” “Spoonful of Sugar,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” and more – were still there and the new ones were delightful as well!

The cast was all local actors and the talent was amazing! The boys were agreed on their favorite cast member – Michael – and song – “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” They were able to meet “Michael” afterwards and this gracious 11-year-old was kind enough to give them each an autograph on their kids’ programs!

My favorites were the same as my favorites in the movie. Bert was just as Bert should be – charming, fun, wise, and a great dancer. And I’ve always been a sucker for a great group dance number, so I was totally won over by “Step in Time.” I especially loved the tap and the boys loved the special effects that had Bert dancing on the ceiling!

Remember how I mentioned I cried during Once? I actually had tears in my eyes during several of the big group dance numbers at Mary Poppins! And they weren’t even sad songs! There is just something about seeing a group singing and dancing so well together that gets me all emotional. I’d call that a sign of a wonderful performance!

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The Rose has so many extra little things that make the night special for families. The kids received programs as they entered with a plot summary and tons of fun activities to go with the show! Little J was thankful for the free booster seat that helped him see better from his spot!

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Before the show and during intermission, kids are welcome to look down into the orchestra pit to watch the musicians prepare for the show.

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At intermission of the two premier shows, there are chocolate chips cookies, bottled water, and pop available for $1 each! It was the perfect little treat in between acts! And at the end of the show, actors are available for Q&A with the kids and autographs!

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Before we even went to Mary Poppins, our family had purchased a membership for next season and we are all so excited to use it! A family membership to the Rose is just $95 and includes 4 tickets to each of the seven regular season shows. With your membership, you also receive discounts on the two premium shows of the season and classes, member-only opportunities for backstage tours and show-themed family classes, and a free member day! This is an amazing deal for such great exposure to the arts for the whole family!

Mary Poppins runs Friday and Saturday nights, along with Saturday and Sunday afternoons through June 28th. Purchase your tickets now and take the whole family!

 

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Hands-on-Prints Books: Engaging Kids in Reading!

I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for Hands-on-Prints books. I received books to facilitate my review. This post contains affiliate links.

We are a book-loving household. We have books of all kinds coming out of our ears. I’ve really tried to trim down our selection over the years, but I can’t seem to stop adding to our collection when I find something that looks good!

The introduction of Kindles in to our home has helped slow the rapid growth of our stacks and stacks of books, but there is still nothing like holding a physical book in your hands, especially when it comes to children’s books.

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I’m thrilled to introduce a new series to you that will really engage your children in books through great content, wonderful illustrations, and their senses!

Hands On Prints Books

Christinia Cheung earned a Masters in Early Childhood Education and established a Montessori school that celebrates differences in personality, learning preferences and cultural backgrounds. Through these experiences, she was compelled to write her Hands-on-Prints books.

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This series of five books inspires simple and complex learning about the world, especially incorporating sight and touch to create an interactive visual experience for children. Hands-On-Prints books really are a unique set that my children and I are greatly enjoying!

Our family favorite is Around the World from A to Z!

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Around the World from A to Z takes kids on a journey to explore the activities, famous landmarks, and cultures of countries. Rock climbing at Mt. Rushmore, martial arts at Mount Fuji, and snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef are just a few of the fun adventures highlighted in Around the World. My boys loved seeing what activity would be on the next page and finding the location on the map in the upper right corner of each page!

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Each page also features a raised, textured cursive letter of the alphabet for little hands to trace! Our oldest showed his younger brothers how to trace them correctly and I’ve caught them doing it over and over again. This book has so many things to get kids involved in learning! We are big fans!

Hands On Prints Chartres

Several years ago, The Hubby and I visited Europe and one of our stops along the way was in Chartres, France. We explored the gorgeous and incredibly unique cathedral in this town and were fascinated by the story of its construction. Because of that visit, this next book is a sentimental favorites. Geometry through Architecture: The Chartres Cathedral details all the ways shapes were used in the building, particularly as symbolism in the stained glass windows. I loved looking through this book with Big J and showing him our own pictures of the cathedral from our visit. He is his mother’s son – very interested in reading and history – so this was a great connection point for us!

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Other books in the Hands-On-Prints series include Nuts for Coconuts, A Persistent Vine, and Do I Have To? What If I Don’t Want To?

Hands-On-Prints books take children on adventures that develop their knowledge and a sense of discovery! I love how these books encourage kids to think outside of themselves and their normal circumstances. They truly do inspire the best in young learners!

Which Hands-On-Prints book would be most interesting to your child?

Leave a comment with your favorite to be entered to win! Giveaway ends Tuesday, May 26th at 9PM CST!

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Art Works for Your Kids!

Omaha has so many amazing things to offer for families! At the top of that list is the Joslyn Art Museum. Thanks to a grant starting last year, museum admission is now free, with the exception of the featured traveling exhibit.

We’ve always loved the Joslyn, but our love has grown with the addition of Art Works, a 1,500 square foot interactive space where kids can experience the visual arts!

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Art Works features nine stations where kids can paint, draw, build, and create art of all kinds! This permanent space offers new experiences with each visit as stations are updated to go along with current museum exhibits! During our latest visit, the focus was on Georgia O’Keeffe’s Flowers!

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The digital painting stations are a big hit with all of the kids!

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Double J would paint there with real brushes (and no mess) for hours – every mom’s dream! All of the boys enjoyed this, especially when they realized they could email me their creations, like this one:

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Isn’t that fun?! They were so proud of their masterpieces and my inbox filled up quickly!

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The portrait station is super fun! You can use the mirror to draw a self portrait or the transparent side to draw a portrait of a friend! Or just draw around the oval like Double J.

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I personally love the pottery station where kids can draw on vases with dry erase markers! It’s brilliant! The station has photographs of ancient pottery for inspiration. I think I enjoyed drawing on these vases as much as the kids did!

But the biggest hit with all of us was…

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…the stop motion animation station! Seriously – this was SO MUCH FUN! The station has two computers with two different backgrounds and tons of figurines to use.

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The boys were so creative once they figured out how to put together a movie. I love this exposure to an art form they wouldn’t normally experience! They were also able to send their finished videos to me by email so we can enjoy them over and over.

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I haven’t even touched on all of the great stations in Art Works – sketching, wooden building blocks, and lots more! We’ve been twice and will be going back frequently to create and explore. And remember – it’s FREE! If you live in the Omaha area or you’re visiting, make sure you take your kids to the Joslyn for all this interactive art fun!

What kind of art does your child enjoy? Which stations would they like at Art Works?

By the way, this is NOT a sponsored post and I was NOT asked to write this post by the Joslyn Art Museum – we just love it and I wanted to share it with you!

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Just One More Reason To Love Fall…

What could have been a burdensome afternoon of yard work before any sleet/snow possibly hits this week became just one more reason to love fall.

The Hubby did most of the hard work of clearing out dead branches and tall grasses, while I did some bagging, raking, and weed killing. The boys were actually quite helpful, but also spent much of the time collecting pine cones, climbing trees, and putting together a leaf pile to jump in.

And that leads me to these additions to my “Reasons to Love Fall” list…

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Oh fall…my crush on you just gets bigger every year. Please don’t ever leave.

What are your reasons for loving fall?

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