Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Toddler Fun Tuesday- Letter Identification with Cheerios

Check out more fun activities for your toddler here!

Several weeks ago we had an absolutely crazy week and I was desperately trying to find anything I could to keep the kids entertained. One afternoon they were grumpy and fighting and I searched our pantry to find something to keep them happy. I pulled together this game in a few minutes and it kept them both entertained for 20 minutes! I was surprised it was such a hit with both of them so I'm excited to share this simple activity with you.

I got them each a bowl of Cheerios. I love using Cheerios in our activities because they are cheap, easy to clean up (ie the dogs eat any that drop on the floor), and it's okay if Connor puts them in his mouth. Finding activities for him is challenging right now as he eats ANYTHING! I wrote letters on card stock and told them to make the letters with their Cheerios. Connor wasn't interested at first, but Grace was ready to start.

She was very focused on getting her Cheerios in a straight line. 

She was very proud of herself for finishing her A. We used this activity to work on her letter recognition. I had her do an A, which she already recognizes, a G for her name, and an L as that is the letter they were working on at preschool that week. Connor decided to participate about this time and happily placed Cheerios randomly around his paper saying "yay!" every time he placed one.

I made pages for each letter, numbers 1-10 and basic shapes. Grace has asked to play almost every day over the past couple of weeks and I'm really noticing progress in her letter recognition. I'm planning on getting the pages laminated soon so they will last a while. I love that it's an activity that works for multiple age groups. Sometimes the most basic activities are the most fun!

Have you done any fun activities with your kids lately? Please share! 

I was not compensated by Cheerios for this post in any way, I just love them and we always have them in our pantry!

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Dreaded Dentist Office

I suppose I must preface this post by saying I absolutely hate the dentist. I have a horrible history with them including two sets of braces, an awful wisdom teeth removal experience where I had 6 wisdom teeth removed while still wearing braces, and one of my worst childhood memories, actually having my teeth glued together, jaw shut while getting a permanent retainer. I had to sit there forever while they drilled them apart.

I am bound and determined that my kids have a better experience with their dentist growing up than I did. So despite any protests from them, I take them every 6 months. Funny what we make our children do that we are too scared to do ourselves right? We found a wonderful pediatric dentist in our town and headed off to their checkup last week. I see tons of pictures and blog posts with kids sitting nicely in the exam chair watching their movies happily. This is not at all how my kids act at the dentist office. Here is how our appointment went last week:

1:00: I check in while they run in to play in the waiting area. There's a climbing area, slide, and video games. All is right with the world.

1:15: Some tantrums ensue when their names are called and we force them to leave the paradise that is the waiting room. The hygienist promises them a movie and they happily follow her.

1:20: Despite promises of a movie, I cannot talk Grace into sitting in the exam chair. Connor happily plops down in it to watch "Finding Nemo" but starts to cry the moment it starts to lay back and rushes to me. I can't get him to sit in it again.

1:22: They are running behind so they apologize and give us some stuffed animals to let the kids practice brushing. You would have thought they gave them cake they were so happy.

1:22-1:24: 2 minutes of quiet happy brushing bliss!

1:24: Bliss ends when Connor decides to brush his own teeth with the large brush that is undoubtedly covered in germs. Despite my best efforts it ends up in his mouth about 10 times. I beg the hygienist for one that he can use that is his size and not covered in other kids' saliva. She works her magic and gets one out for him while I pry the large yellow one out of his hand. He screams until he gets his new one.

1:25-1:26: He quietly brushes his teeth and Grace continues to work on the alligator

1:27: He finds the only hole in the cabinet full of dental equipment next to us and quickly stuffs his brand new toothbrush into it. The hygienist retrieves it and throws it away apologizing. Any patience he had at this point is gone and I am apologizing as he tries to tear up their plants, wander into other exam spaces, and hit any button he can find.

1:30: Grace is now bored and has joined Connor in his quest to hit buttons and check out all of the equipment.

1:32: To my relief the dentist arrives and asks who will go first. Neither volunteers. Despite her protests, I grab Grace and sit her in my lap and force her head down so that the dentist can check her teeth and do the treatments. She screams, fights, and cries the entire time. I have no idea what Connor was doing during this, the poor hygienist took pity on me and watched him as he ran around.

1:34: The dentist is fast and states that her mouth looks great, crowded but no obvious cavities. Obviously she isn't going to let us do x-rays this time so we'll have to try at the next visit.

1:35: I catch Connor and thank the hygienist profusely for watching him and assume the same position I had with Grace. He fights even harder than Grace did and seriously scratches up my arms (must cut his fingernails!) The dentist said his teeth are great, but are even more crowded than Grace's and all I can think about is the 2 sets of braces in our future, $$$$$$$.........

1:37: The torture is over. As soon as it is done they both give the dentist high fives like nothing had happened. They happily go and claim their prizes and tell the hygienist that it was and I quote "lots of fun!" I am sweating, have scratch marks on my arms, and feel like I had run a mile, but sure it was fun. I swear these kids!

I keep hoping it will get easier at the next visit! Please tell me it gets easier.......

Friday, September 26, 2014

Activities for Kids in Omaha: Visiting Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium with Toddlers

Disclosure: I received free tickets for my family to visit Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo to facilitate this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are 100% my own and honest. 
Visiting the Omaha Zoo with Kids: 5 Tips for Making the Most of your Trip

After a good night sleep following our drive up to Omaha, NE and our trip to the Omaha Children's Museum, we got up early to beat the crowds and give ourselves plenty of time at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. We arrived shortly after 9 and boy am I glad we got there early! We spent the next 6.5 hours exploring everything this amazing zoo has to offer. I will warn you that this post is very picture heavy. I took over 300 photos and spent forever sorting through them to choose the best ones to share here. 

We lucked out with gorgeous weather during our trip and actually ended up needing jackets for part of our morning. Our first stop was the Desert Dome. It is definitely the defining building in the zoo skyline! The world's largest indoor desert under the world's largest glazed geodesic dome features plant and animal life from three deserts around the world: the Namib Desert of southern Africa, the Red Center of Australia and the Sonoran Desert of the southwest United States. When you walk in to the desert area, it truly feels like you have traveled into the desert with amazing rock structures and animals in their natural habitats. This is the only place where we felt a little crowded as the path can be narrow at some points, but the kids were so excited to see all of the animals that they didn't mind. There are two things I loved about the Omaha zoo from the very start. First, all of the exhibits are made with kids in mind. With large glass viewing areas, kids can easily see the animals. Many zoos we've been to have small viewing areas with fences that make it difficult to see. My kids were able to see everything easily! The second is the focus on interactive activities for children. Throughout the zoo, staff were available to chat, interact with the kids, and show animal artifacts. In the desert dome, both kids got the chance to touch a kangaroo fur and armadillo skin.

Omaha Zoo Desert Dome

The only complaint we heard about the Desert Dome was from Grace when she said "too many snakes," and I have to agree there were a ton of snakes!

After leaving the Desert area, the rest of my family went downstairs to visit the Kingdoms of the Night exhibit, the world's largest nocturnal exhibit. Thank you to my friend Julie for letting me know that this exhibit features crocodiles and alligators swimming under the bridges. I have an insane fear of them (I'm seriously terrified) so I didn't want to go anywhere near that exhibit, but everyone else enjoyed themselves. And it was a huge deal for me to even look at the alligator pictured above to include it in the collage. He's so creepy!

We ventured back outside to see more animals and had a great time checking out the big cats and bears areas.

We even managed to stop in time for the sea lion training session. This was the only part of the zoo we were a little disappointed with. They fed the sea lions but didn't really do anything else with them. We would have loved to see more of their behaviors.

The kids had so much fun checking everything out. Connor insisted on walking almost the entire time while Grace enjoyed having daddy push her around.

My kids are both obsessed with trains so it was no surprise that when they saw the train pulling around the zoo, their goal was to find it! Papa purchased tickets for everyone and off we went on a lovely ride around the zoo. We heard about some of the zoo animals and learned about the new African Grasslands Project that will provide more than 28 acres of exhibit space for the animals native to Africa such as elephants, rhinos, cheetahs, zebras, and lions.

Near the train station, the kids spotted the carousel and loved getting to ride the beautiful animals.

For Grace and I, the highlight of our trip was our visit to the new exhibit, Stingray Beach. For $4 ($3 for members), you get the chance to touch and interact with stingrays! The 80 foot long pool offers plenty of space for visitors to interact with the rays and we had no trouble finding room around the pool even on a busy Saturday. They offered food to purchase to feed the stingrays but we found that we didn't need it. The stingrays were so friendly (their stingers have been removed!) and seem to enjoy being touched. They swam to our hands repeatedly and even tried to suck on our fingers. Both kids loved watching the rays swim by and Grace hasn't stopped talking about petting the rays since. They have a small gift shop in this exhibit and both kids picked out a ray as a souvenir of their visit. Grace sleeps with hers every night!
Omaha Zoo Stingray Beach

After a quick lunch, we headed to the Red Barn to see the farm animals. This was a huge hit with the kids as they got to pet and brush the goats. We have been to multiple petting zoos and I have never seen such calm goats. Unlike most zoos that encourage you to feed the animals, Omaha's Zoo doesn't allow feeding so there are no aggressive goats trying to bite fingers. It made for such a pleasant experience for my little ones!

On our way back to the front to visit our last exhibits of the day, we noticed prairie dogs on the sides of the pathway. These little guys were far from shy and had no qualms in coming right up to us. They have obviously been fed by visitors before because one tried to climb right up into our stroller (he was disappointed to find we had no food)!  Grace wasn't a fan, but Connor thought it was the funniest thing he had ever seen and pointed at every one he saw.

Our next stop was the Berniece Grewcock Butterfly and Insect Pavilion. The kids loved looking for the butterflies and had fun finding species of all different colors. The highlight of this building was a friendly employee who was placing butterflies on kids' shoulders. Both of my kids loved this and stayed perfectly still so they wouldn't scare them away. One even landed on Connor's head for a couple of minutes but I wasn't quick enough to get a picture. We did end up hurrying through the insect pavilion because we were getting tired and my mom and I just don't like bugs too much! I'm sure older kids would be fascinated by all of the spiders and other bugs that were featured.

We were all so excited to visit the Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium. Grace enjoyed it, but Connor is obsessed with all things Finding Nemo right now so he absolutely adored every minute of it. The adults were pretty impressed too! We could have spent hours watching the fish, penguins, crabs, and sharks in their beautiful tanks. Connor would not leave the tank in the picture on the bottom left and ran from us several times trying to get back to it. He was convinced that Nemo and Dorie were there I guess! Just like the rest of the zoo, I loved that the aquarium featured ample viewing room for the kids. We never had trouble seeing anything despite the crowds. I wish our zoo had an aquarium!
Omaha Zoo Aquarium

 Our last stop of the day was the Lied Jungle. With monkeys and macaws in the trees and hippos below you, you feel like you've been transported into the rain forest. Unfortunately we were a bit rushed through this exhibit as we'd been at zoo the entire day and both kids were exhausted.
Omaha Zoo Lied Jungle

We were all tired by the end of our day but we had an amazing time. There is so much to see and do at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and I think we could have spent another full day there if we'd wanted to see everything. The zoo has recently been ranked the #1 Zoo in the world by TripAdvisor and I see why! It is truly an attraction that is worth making the trip for. I know we will be going back again in the next couple of years when the kids are a little older.

If you are planning a visit to the Omaha Zoo, make sure to read these tips to help you get the most out of your visit!

5 Tips for Visiting Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium with Toddlers

1. Give yourself plenty of time! You do not want to rush through everything and miss out. Plan to give yourself one full day at least. If you need to leave and come back to let your toddler rest or take a nap, you can get your hands stamped for re-entry that day.

2. There is a nursing room located in the first aid station if you want somewhere comfortable to breastfeed.

3. If you are a member of another zoo, check to see if your zoo participates in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums' Reciprocal program. You can get major discounts (50-100%) off of entry fees and ride tickets just by showing your home zoo membership card.

4. You are allowed to bring food and drink into the zoo with you. I always like to bring sippy cups for my kids and some snacks to give them when we take breaks. You could also bring your lunch and have a picnic.

5. Bring your stroller and/or carrier! You will be walking a lot and you don't want to be carrying around your little ones the entire time. Strollers are allowed in all of the exhibits except for the Butterfly and Insect Pavilion and Stingray Beach. Both offer stroller parking right outside the buildings. Some of the paths are narrow in the desert dome and jungle, but we never had problems fitting our Baby Jogger double (a side by side) through them. The zoo also has strollers available to rent.

For more information about Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium and to plan your visit, visit their website, Facebook, and Twitter now!

Thank you to Visit Omaha for providing our family with tickets to the Omaha Zoo. We had an amazing time!  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

"The Song" Movie #SeeTheSong

Disclosure: I received an appreciation certificate from Family Christian in exchange for this post. All opinions are 100% honest and my own.  

We don't get to the movies much anymore with two young kids, but I recently saw a preview for a movie that I know we have to see. "The Song" will be released tomorrow, Friday 9/26 in theaters nationwide.

Inspired by the Song of Solomon, "The Song" is a romantic drama about love and finding meaning in our lives featuring amazing American music.

Aspiring singer—‐songwriter Jed King is struggling to catch a break and escape the long shadow of his famous father when he reluctantly agrees to a gig at a local vineyard harvest festival.  Jed meets the vineyard owner’s daughter, Rose, and a romance quickly blooms. Soon after their wedding, Jed writes Rose “The Song,” which becomes a breakout hit. Suddenly thrust into a life of stardom and a world of temptation, his life and marriage begin to fall apart.

Every couple struggles in one way or another and in conjunction with the film, many resources are available to help strengthen relationships. From a couple's kit and a devotional to a free date guide, couples in all stages of their relationships can find inspiration in Jed and Rose's journey.

I'm going to be finding a baby sitter soon so we can head to the theater to see "The Song."

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

$25 Cash Giveaway

Fall is officially here! We're enjoying the cooler weather and I've already started my Christmas shopping. I'm excited to be participating in a great giveaway hop and I figured I'd offer a prize that I know everyone can use. If you're ready to start your Christmas shopping or just want some extra spending money for yourself, enter to win $25 cash that will be sent via PayPal!

Welcome to the It's a Free for Fall Giveaway Hop, hosted by the Blogging Mamas Network.
The days are getting a bit cooler and Fall is just around the corner! We're celebrating the upcoming season with a fun giveaway hop. Each blogger in the hop has a prize for you worth at least $25, so don't forget to hop around to them all in the linky at the bottom of this post.


One Moments That Take My Breath Away reader will win $25 cash via PayPal!

How to Enter
This is a Rafflecopter giveaway.  Follow the instructions on the widget to enter. All current likes/follows count! Please contact me if you run into any technical difficulties with Rafflecopter.  The giveaway runs through Wednesday, October 8th at 11:59 PM CST! The winner will have 48 hours to respond to the notification email or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is open worldwide.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to hop around to the other blogs in the hop to enter to win tons of amazing prizes!

Paypal is in no way affiliated with this contest, the selection of the winner, or the prize distribution.

So Easy Being Green, Viva Veltoro, the Blogging Mamas Network, and the Free for Fall participating bloggers are not responsible for sponsors who do not fulfill prize obligations.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Activities for Kids in Omaha: Visiting the Omaha Children's Museum with Toddlers

Disclosure: I received free tickets for my family to visit the Omaha Children's Museum to facilitate this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are 100% my own and honest. 
Activities for Kids in Omaha: Visiting the Omaha Children's Museum with Toddlers

We haven't been on a vacation since before Grace was born. It's been WAY too long and I've been itching to get out of town. Mike wasn't too thrilled about taking the kids on a fancy vacation this year since we've been very focused on getting out of debt so I decided to check out kid friendly vacation spots near Kansas City. It didn't take more than a few minutes to decide that we needed to go to Omaha, Nebraska. Many of my friends have loved their visits and after reading about my friend Julie's experiences at the children's museum and Omaha zoo, my mind was made up! My parents were able to join us and we all made the short 3 hour drive to Omaha last Friday morning.

Our original plan was to visit the zoo Friday afternoon and head to the Children's Museum on Saturday. But we had a bit of a late start and didn't get into town until almost 2. With rain in the forecast for the rest of the day, we decided to head to the Children's Museum first and go to the zoo on Saturday (I'll post my review of the amazing zoo tomorrow!)

Since our kids have never been on a vacation before, they had no idea what to expect. They were sick of being in the car by the time we got into downtown Omaha. When we pulled into the Children's Museum parking lot, Grace excitedly said "Let's play there and see what happens!" After a quick stop by the front desk to get our stickers, we headed into the museum. Our first stop was the Charlie Campbell Science & Technology Center, or as our kids called it, the ball room. This area was impressive! Featuring "the museum's signature Super Gravitron, a massive ball machine with pneumatic, hydraulic and mechanical sections" this room could keep any kid entertained for hours. My kids aren't old enough to understand the truly amazing science behind this machine, but they loved throwing balls, pushing buttons and interacting with the various parts of the machine. 

Grace visited this area multiple times during our time at the museum and enjoyed showing us how each of the tubes and buttons worked.

Connor decided it was time to explore the rest of the museum and dragged us all over to the Imagination Playground. This playground features different interactive areas for kids to discover and was the hit of the day for our kids. Grace was immediately drawn to the Children's Hospital. She had the chance to use play medical equipment to take care of a baby doll and give it a check up. When I asked her what her favorite part of the museum was, she said it was taking care of the babies. She's always been fascinated with doctors so this was the perfect exhibit for her.

While Grace played doctor, Connor happily ran between two areas, the Little Market and the OCM Engine House No. 1. He has always loved playing kitchen, but I was surprised by how much he loved shopping in the mini grocery store. He enjoyed getting to pick out various foods and it gave us a fun way to work on his vocabulary. He was excited to pick out "apples" and "nut utter" (peanut butter). He loved pushing the cart around, "checking out", and putting his cart away. He did at least 10 different "shopping trips" and didn't want to leave. Grandma decided to get him a shopping cart for Christmas after seeing just how much he loved the one at the museum!

When he wasn't shopping, he was playing in the Engine House water area. This area was a hit for both kids and Connor ended up soaked because he was having so much fun pouring water. Grace loved putting the fires out in the house using the hose.

I wish we would have had more time to explore the rest of the exhibit areas in the Imagination Playground but the kids were having so much fun that they didn't want to move on. We did get them to check out the farmhouse area for a second and Grace had fun playing house.

While Connor continued to shop and explore the water table, Grace decided to head upstairs and found the musical stairs endlessly amusing. It's hard not to smile when each step makes a different instrumental sound.

She was so excited when she realized that there was a train and a carousel upstairs. Papa had to run back downstairs since he didn't have exact change to pay for tickets, so she not so patiently waited and was thrilled when she finally got to ride.

After her rides, we decided it was time to call it a day. We were all tired and needed some rest before our big trip to the zoo the next day. 

I cannot say enough great things about the Omaha Children's Museum. Both kids absolutely loved it and it was so much fun to watch them explore. If we lived in Omaha, we'd definitely be buying a season pass! It was getting chilly the day we visited so we didn't get the chance to explore outside, but I'm hoping we can go back in the spring to check out Sandy’s Splish-Splash Garden.

If you are planning a trip to Omaha with small kids, be sure to check out the Omaha Children's Museum. 

5 tips for visiting the Omaha Children's Museum with Toddlers

1. Make sure your kids are wearing comfortable clothes. They will be climbing, playing, and exploring so don't put them in anything you don't want getting wet or wrinkled.

2. Give yourself at least 3 hours to see the whole museum. For older kids you might need longer. There is so much to see and do that you don't want to rush through it! 

3. If you need to nurse, give a bottle, or simply have some calm time, make sure to visit the museum's family room. It offers high chairs, boosters, a nursing room, a microwave and a sink. If you have forgotten diapers, the front desk offers them in various sizes. 

4. Bring exact cash for the train and the carousel! You can purchase tickets downstairs, but when your kids are waiting (not so patiently) it will be easier if you have exact change to purchase at the kiosk. 

5. If you are potty training, the bathroom on the first floor next to the light piano has small potties with handles to flush (instead of the auto flush that can scare little ones,) 

For more information about the Omaha Children's Museum and to plan your visit, check out their website and Facebook page now! 

Disclosure: I received free tickets for my family to visit the Omaha Children's Museum to facilitate this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are 100% my own and honest. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide Submissions 2014

Do you sell a product that would be a perfect holiday gift for moms, dads, or kids? If so, this post is for you! I am currently compiling a holiday gift guide for the 2014 holiday season to feature the perfect gifts for everyone on my reader's shopping lists. Your product and business will be promoted to thousands of readers and social media followers. All businesses that contribute to my gift guide will receive discounted sidebar advertising as well.

I'm open to products from Etsy shops, direct sales, small and large companies. It must be family friendly! If you would like your product(s) included, please email me at momentsthattake@gmail.com or fill out the form below.

Please note that full size products are required for submission, no samples will be accepted, The product features (and optional giveaways) will start to go live at the beginning of November and will be promoted throughout the holiday season on my blog and social media. The earlier you submit your product, the more promotion your business will receive.

If you are not interested in sending product, but would like a sponsored post promoting your company, please contact me for rates.

I look forward to working with you!


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