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28 Free Things to do in Utah with Kids

One of the huge draws to moving to Utah was how much easier it was to have a fun family life for significantly less money than in Georgia. In Utah it seems like there are endless amounts of things to do that are either really cheap, or even better, FREE! We have a very long and extensive list of things that we want to do over the next few years, but since we're very motivated to pay off debt fast with this move, we're going to be tackling the long list of free things first. I'm also excited for what this will mean for the blog. One of the things I loved most when I first started writing was sharing the things we did as a family. We didn't do much the last few years because of cost restraints, but I'm excited to share more of our real family life over the next few years. 

1. Liberty Park: Liberty Park is the second largest park in Salt Lake. Has over 100 acres, and several playgrounds, exhibits, and even a splash pads for the hot summer days!

2. Wheeler Farm: Visiting the farm and seeing everything is free, but if your kids want to ride the wagon ($2 per person), or milk a cow ($1 each), then those are small affordable extras to do as well. 

3. Salt Lake City Library: Not only is the building beautiful, but they also have tons of fun activities for kids going on all year long. 

4. Clark Planetarium: The exhibits and everything are free, but watching the show in the theater costs extra.

5. This is The Place Heritage Park: Not free all year long, but offers free days twice a year. Check site for details. 

6. Utah Museum of Fine Art: Free the first Wednesday and third Saturday of each month. 

8. Temple Quarry Trail: Stroller friendly hike.

9. The Gateway: An open area shopping center that is not only fun to walk around, but there is a little splash area that kids love to play in during the summertime and there are events throughout the year. 

10. City Creek Center: Another outdoor shopping center, but they have a kids area to play, and you can help feed this fish every Saturday morning at 10am!

11. Temple Square: Home of all the Latter Day Saint church history. You can view all the museums and exhibits for free! 

12. Joseph Smith Memorial Building: A beautiful building on Temple Square!

13. Alpine Loop Scenic Byway: A must see drive through the fall. It's a 20 mile loop with the most beautiful autumn views!

14. Bean Life Science Museum: Aside from this being the place where Derek and I got engaged, we're excited to see the new one after all the renovations. 

15. BYU Museum of Palentology: Because what kid doesn't want to see dinosaurs? 

16. Hobble Creek Canyon Drive: Another beautiful drive to take with the kids during the fall.

17. Hill Aerospace Museum: We're an aviation family, naturally this is on our list. 

18. Fat Boys Factory: Makers of the FatBoy and Casco ice cream treats. The factory includes a retail malt shop and product sales. 11805 North 200 East, Richmond, Utah, 84333, 435-258-5219, www.fatboyicecream.com. Open Monday-Thursday noon-9pm, Friday-Saturday noon-10pm. Open one hour later during summer. 

19. Goldfish Factory: The Richmond production facility of this national cookie and cracker brand owned by the Campbell Soup Company is not open to the public, but it includes an outlet store that sells factory seconds. Believe me, a misaligned Mint Milano cookie tastes just as good as a perfectly formed one, and your kids won't be able to find a thing wrong with the Goldfish Crackers. Available products vary day to day. 1027 East 11600 North, Richmond, Utah, 84333, 435-258-3618

20. Great Salt Lake Nature Center: Lots of trails to walk along and view the great salt lake, and a new nature center was just built this year! All free!

21. Layton Duck Pond: Near our new neck of the woods, I'm excited to take the kids here to feed the ducks with our leftover bread each week!

22. High Adventure Park: Located in Ogden, I'm excited to take Jay here on some mother son dates before the weather gets too cold!

23. Cox Honey Land: See how honey is made and visit the gift shop for a little treat!

24. Bank Tour Layton: Another fun thing I'm excited to do with the kids! I know Jay will be fascinated to see the ins and outs of how banking works!

25. Spiral Jetty: A large spiral jetty created by an artist on the Great Salt Lake! You actually can walk onto the jetty, and I imagine this being breath taking around sunset in the summer!

26. Eccles 2002 Olympic Winter Games Museum: I'm a sucker for all things olympics, so I'm all over this!

27. Fifth Waters Hot Springs: This is probably for older kids that wouldn't mind doing a 5 mile out and back hike, but I went to these hot springs with some friends in college and it was so much fun! I'm sure this will be a date night for Derek and I until our kids are older. 

28. Splash Pads: Here's a list of 60 splash pads. One of them should be near you. 

Why I Started Changing My Own Oil

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias Inc, and it's advertiser, all thoughts and opinions are my own. #DotComDIY #CollectiveBias

Over the last few years I've been making a lot of changes to simplify our lives. A lot of this stems from the fact that we have a special needs child, and some things that seem like easy tasks for some people are huge burdens to us.

One of those things is getting the oil changed in my car. Most oil change places require you to get out of your car and wait in a waiting room while the oil is being changed. The transition from the car to a waiting room is a pretty hard one for Em, and it's very unpredictable if she's going to be content and happy, or have a huge meltdown while we're in there.

I found a place in town that lets you stay in your car for the oil change, but they also cost twice as much as anyone else in town, so it wasn't a very good long term option. A few months ago I remembered that one of my friends in college always changed my oil for me, and I figured if he could do it in our dorm parking lot, that I could easily do it myself at home. Even better, I realized I would never have to leave my house to get the things I needed since you can now get Pennzoil Platinum Full Synthetic oil on Walmart.com, and have it shipped directly to my house! You can also choose in-store pickup, or curbside pickup, which means you can pick the option that best fits your lifestyle! 

Pennzoil Platinum® Full Synthetic motor oil with with PurePlus® Technology keeps pistons up to 30% cleaner than required by the toughest industry standard and keeps your engine cleaner than any leading synthetic oil. This means that you can drive up to 550 more miles per year since it helps clear out all the sludge that's left behind from other oils. 

If you're in the market for making your life a little easier, here are the really easy, and basic steps you need for changing the oil in your car. As a disclaimer, this is not a complete guide, but the basics of what you need. Always check with your vehicles manufacturers for complete vehicle regulations concerning oil changes. 

Step 1: Place a plastic sheet and a tray under your car to catch any oil spillage.
Step 2: Unscrew the filter from the car and allow the excess oil to pour into the tray.
Step 3: Replace the old filter with a new one, and secure it to the vehicle.

Step 4: Pour the oil into the oil spout for your car. To avoid spills, use a funnel to make this easier.

Step 5: Use your car's dipstick to check the oil level. If the oil level is full, you're oil change is complete!

What things have you done to save time and money in your home? I love how much money I save by changing my own oil, and that I can order my Pennzoil Oil and everything I need from Walmart.com!

6 Struggles of Being the Child of a Mom Blogger

The other day as I was packing up my house and taking a thousand insta-stories to document the process, I realized that kids of mom bloggers deal with a lot of things that most kids have no idea about. This post is mostly me making fun of the ridiculous things that I normally do, but I'm assuming that so many other mom bloggers will totally be able to relate. 

1. The lights are never on: A large part of my job is photography based. Let's face it, more people are going to come over here if I have vibrant and bright photos from my DSLR camera instead of quick snaps from my iPhone. To be fair, sometimes I do post the iPhone pictures, but for the most part, it's all from my DSLR. This means that the lights are almost never on in our home since they mess with the quality of pictures. Natural light is always best for shooting and Jay often complains that he can't see and wants the lights on, but he constantly has to wait for my to finish getting my shot. 

2. You have to wait to eat your food: I do a lot of recipe posts over here and there have been many nights with crying children (and husband and wife) at the dinner table at 5:30pm with the lights off and me holding dinner hostage until I get the right shot. I've been able to speed this up over the years and get all the needed shots in under five minutes, but it can get intense. 

3. Going to five different stores in a week to get stuff for "mommy's work": A lot of my sponsored posts involve me purchasing products at stores, and then being reimbursed for the products in addition to my actual payment after I make the post. This means that during busy seasons (usually summer and winter holidays), I'm running from one store to the next, almost daily to get everything we need. It's fun the first couple times for the kids, but by round three, they're over it. 

4. Anything you say may be turned into a funny blog post or Facebook status: For example, see here, here, and here

5. You've grown up with a camera in your face: This is such a hard balance and for right now the kids have always been so good about letting me take pictures when I need to for certain projects and posts. But I know there is going to be a day when they openly opposed it, or don't want to be involved anymore, and it's something that I know I'll have to respect. That being said, these kids have seen a lot of the camera. 

6. Likewise, they see their mom walking around with a camera in front of their face all the time: Between my youtube channel and insta-stories, I'm sure my kids think I'm a psycho path. 

I wanna hear it fellow mom bloggers! What are funny things that are always going on in your house while you're getting your work done. For mom's who aren't bloggers, do any of these things happen in your house too? 

A Moving Q+A

Well it's official. Yesterday Derek drove the kids and I to the airport and as we pulled out of our driveway, I looked back and saw the first home we ever purchased for the last time. It was weird knowing that I would literally never see that house again. We're here in St. Anthony, ID with Derek's parents. Derek's brother is flying out to Georgia tomorrow, and then the two of them will start driving to Idaho on Saturday morning, with a tentative arrival of Tuesday morning. We've gotten a lot of questions about this move, so I figured I would answer most of them the best I can here. 

Why are you guys living in Idaho for a week+ before going to Utah?
We were originally going to rent a town home in an apartment complex, and move in the night that we flew in. I got cold feet and decided I didn't want to rent there, and we now have to wait a week before we can move into the single family home that we'll be living in. 

What are your plans for buying or building in the future?
We're pretty sure that we're going to be living in Utah longterm. Like the rest of our lives hopefully. Our plans are to rent for a year and scope out the areas we really want to live in, and then make a very conscious decision to buy or build after that. We ultimately need a one level house with the bedrooms on the main floor and preferably a finished basement, or a two-story house with a full bath and bedroom on the main floor. We want our next purchased home to be a long term solution for Em, so we're not going to rush into anything like we did when we were buying in Georgia. 

Where in Utah will you guys be living? 
Some people already know the exact town that we're going to be living in but out of respect to our family and internet privacy, we're just saying that we'll be living north of Salt Lake. 

Why were you guys so insistent on not living in Georgia?
Derek graduated from his MBA program in July and it's always been our plan to move again when he finished his MBA. We knew we wanted to be back in Utah or Idaho eventually to be closer to family again, so those were the two main places we were targeting in the job search. We played with the idea of moving to Texas for about 24 hours, thinking that it would be a good career stepping stone to eventually get us to Utah, but then Derek got the job offer for Utah the following day, and it's basically all history from there. 

Where will Derek be working?
He is in the aviation industry, so he'll be working for an aviation company that manufactures communication systems for military aircrafts. He works in pricing, telling government officials how much it will cost to purchase, repair or replace said communication systems. He's good at what he does, and he loves it. 

Are you going to homeschool your kids in Utah?
It's still to be determined. Right now the goal is to not homeschool. I have plans of sending Jay to kindergarten and Em to the special needs preschool and am anticipating it being a much better school situation then what we had in Georgia. I have been homeschooling Jay the last few weeks so that there isn't a gap in knowledge for him when he starts kindergarten the first week of October, and it's been going really well. He's working at first grade level for math and social studies, and Kinder level for ELA, Science, and Spanish and really loves it. It's going to be hard to let him go. 

Why did you purge everything you owned before this move?
It would have cost us well over $3,000 to move all our stuff to Utah and I knew I could replace all our furniture for well under that. We sold everything and made over $2,000, and I've already picked out all our new furniture, and we'll only have to cough out an extra $1,000 for it all. Which means we get to pocket more of Derek's signing bonus, and I'll have pretty rooms exactly how I want them. 

That's most of the questions I've gotten over the last few weeks! If there is anything else you want to know, let me know in the comments and I'd be more than happy to answer!

Modern Master Bedroom Design Ideas

When we moved into this house, our master bedroom was the first room we decorated. I thought I had a great grasp on the style and everything that I was looking for in the space, but then a few months later I realized that this room didn't really go with the modern decor that I was getting for the rest of the house. While the room was fine, and never a big enough issue that I wanted to change it all out, moving is the perfect time to get to do re-do when it comes to making up for poor design choices. Now that I know that modern is really what we're going for, I've scoured the internet for all the right pieces, and I'm confident that I'm going to love this room far more than what I put together for our current space. 

Formal Sitting Area Room Design

I'm at the point in preparation for this move where I'm planning the fun details of our new home in Utah. Since part of our move involves selling all our furniture here, and getting all new things when we get there, I've been scouring the internet for the right pieces, at affordable prices that will work well for our new home. 

The house we are renting has four different levels. Yes, you read that right. When I told my mom her jaw about smacked the floor via Facetime and I had to reassure her that Derek and I did not win the lottery, we just happened to be renting the strangest split level house ever. 

When you walk in the front door, there is a small formal sitting area, the tiniest breakfast nook (which is also our only dinning room!), and then a very small kitchen. From there, you can walk up five stairs and be on the level with the master bedroom, another bedroom, and a full bath, or you can walk down five stairs and be at a family room, full bathroom, and another bedroom. If you're downstairs in the family room, you can then walk down another five stairs or so where you'll find another family room, and another bedroom. So we have four bedrooms, two living rooms, the worlds smallest dinning room and kitchen, and a formal sitting area. 

We're essentially going to pretend that the entire "basement", or lowest floor of the house doesn't even exist, and not bother with decorating or furnishing down there, but we are going to tackle the rest of the house the best we can. Today I'm going to share with you the design inspiration I came up with for the formal sitting area that is right when you walk in the front door. 

I wanted this space to be simple and modern with nice clean lines. But I also wanted it to be a space that portrayed what's most important to Derek and I. In this room we will have our temple gallery wall that I shared in our home tour here, and then we will have my Greg Olson painting of the sacred grove (seen here), hung in this room too. I'm so excited for this room and can't wait until it actually exists! 

He's a Completely New Kid + Big School Announcement for Jay!

I've been very open the last few years about the fears that I have with Jay, and whether or not he has anxiety, a mild form of Autism, or some sort of sensory processing disorder. There just always seemed to be something very off about him and it hurt as a mama to see him struggle with his surroundings all the time. 

Because of these concerns, I thought that he would do well with a half day preschool program instead of sending him to kindergarten. I was so nervous about the first day, but we spent the entire summer talking about preschool non-stop and about classroom behavior, and listening to his teacher. He was certainly well prepared, so the only thing left to do was hop in the car pool lane, send him out the car door, and pray he didn't crash and burn.  

After the first day he hopped into the car and talking 100 miles per hour said, "Mom, do you know what my favorite part was? I was doing a firetruck puzzle, and it was really hard, and then two friends came over and helped me, and we all did it together!" I was shocked. He loved preschool and wanted to go again the next day, and each day since then has been one happy report after another. 

Four days into preschool we took him into the doctor for his five year checkup. I was dreading it because... Know those kids at the doctors that kick, yell, scream, and don't do anything the doctor asks them to do? Yep, that's my kid. Except that it wasn't. They called Jay back and he walked over to the scale, took his shoes off and hopped on, after only being asked once. We went into our room, and the nurse asked him to go with her for his hearing and eye test and he went without complaint, did the tests without protest, and was acting like none of this was a big deal. Then... THEN... they pricked his finger for an iron check and he willingly gave his finger and didn't even flinch. He just looked up at the nurse while she was putting his bandaid on and said, "Hey, that hurt!" 

He's really thrived after having this independence each day. Each day he becomes more and more brave, and more and more confident with who he is as a person. The highlight of my life was being in the classroom when he did show and tell and he was completely thriving and loving being up there. It made my heart so happy. 

There have been a couple hiccups in preschool. He doesn't like going to Spanish and Music class with the new teachers that he is unfamiliar with, and lost school privileges for the day when he didn't participate and listen in those classes, but I think the consequences made him realize that he needs to have the same behavior for those teachers as he does for his classroom teachers, and we're fairly confident next week will go better. 

All this being said, when we move to Utah next month, preschool isn't really much of an option for Jay. He is Kindergarten age, and whatever few preschool options there are, since he is old enough to go to kindergarten, that is where the school system wants him. I've talked to several friends who have taught kindergarten that all seem fairly confident in Jay's ability to thrive in the kinder classroom (especially since it's a 1/2 program at the Utah public schools). So in 10 days, Jay will say goodbye to his first preschool class, have a 20ish day stint of being homeschooled with a kindergarten curriculum, and then will start Kindergarten in late September when we're settled into our new home in Utah. I'm excited for him and this next big step in his life, and I'm confident that he's ready for it. He will do great.