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50+ Summer Bucket List Ideas for Utah 2018

To be honest, I've been a little stressed out about having the kids home for the summer. It's been so nice, especially for Em to have the daily structure of preschool in her life everyday. I've been nervous about whether or not I can come up with enough engaging things to do, or things that will take up enough time in our days that we don't feel like we're stuck in the house twiddling our thumbs all summer. I spent about an hour last week coming up with all these summer bucket list ideas, and then I sat down and marked them all into my calendar so that we have a plan of when we're going to do everything. As of right now, I literally have everyday of summer break planned with something. Obviously if something else comes up that is more fun, or we get invited to do something with friends, we'll do that instead, but it's nice to know we have something to do everyday if nothing else.

  1. Hiking (post coming soon with 30+ stroller friendly hikes!)
  2. Drive-In Movies
  3. Mini Golfing
  4. Spiral Jetty at Sunset
  5. Teach Jay to Swim
  6. Lagoon
  7. Fishing
  8. DIY Popsicles: My friend Emily has tons of DIY Popsicles on her site.
  9. DIY Fruit Leather
  10. Nature Scavenger Hunt
  11. Various Toddler Friendly DIY Crafts
  12. Have a Picnic at the Temple
  13. Playground
  14. Fly Kites
  15. Visit a Shaved Ice Stand
  16. Hunt for Painted Rocks
  17. Clark Planetarium
  18. Cherry Hill Water Park
  19. Hogel Zoo
  20. This is The Place
  21. Treehouse Museum
  22. Tracy Aviary
  23. Bean Museum
  24. Thanksgiving Point ($2 Tuesdays in August!)
  25. St. George Children's Museum
  26. Dinosaur Discovery Site
  27. Star Gazing
  28. Camping
  29. Visit a National Park
  30. Swimming
  31. Cinemark Dollar Movies
  32. See a Parade
  33. Splash Pad
  34. Fireworks
  35. Antelope Island
  36. Bounce N Slide
  37. Run a 5k
  38. Visit a Soda Shop
  39. Make Smores
  40. Lake Day
  41. Library Story Time
  42. Alpine Slide
  43. Kids Bowl Free
  44. Water Balloons
  45. Ride Frontrunner to Salt Lake
  46. Make Freezer Jam
  47. See a Waterfall
  48. Golden Spike National Monument
  49. Take a Scenic Drive
  50. Play in Sprinklers
  51. Heber Railway Train
  52. Family Bike Ride
What are some things you're planning in your area this summer? I'd love some more inspiration and ideas, so let me know in the comments below!

Today is Em's Last Day of Preschool

It's hard to believe that today we're closing the door on Em's first year of the developmental preschool. She is officially on summer break, and Jay will soon be joining her in four more days. I didn't have high expectations going into the school year since we had our awful experience with being lied to several times when trying to get her enrolled in Georgia, but this experience has turned out to be above and beyond everything I could have ever expected. 

Em started off the school year pretty rough and cried hard every time I left, and would basically cry off and on the entire time until I came back two hours later. It was hard on her, and on me to be honest. There is nothing worse than leaving your kid somewhere, knowing that they're upset. It's heartbreaking on both ends really. 

After two weeks though, Em became obsessed with preschool and was excited to go back every chance she got. The weekends became dreaded days in our home because Em would beg and beg to go to school, and we would have to tell her over and over that she would have to wait until Monday. 

I was convinced that Em wouldn't learn that much just from going to preschool for two hours a day, but she has excelled so much in the last eight months. She can count to 10 easily, and I think if we worked on it over the summer, she would easily get to 20 (she knows all the numbers to 20, just mixes a couple up every so often). Thanks to school and Youtube Kids, she knows her colors extremely well. Over the last few weeks she has really mastered knowing all of her shapes, and the alphabet is the next thing she's really working on. She can also tell you what every animal is and what sound it makes. She's such a little champ. 

She is also talking so much more. At her IEP meeting in January they told me from what they noticed she was only putting about 2-3 words together at a time, and at home over the last several weeks we've noticed that she's attempting bigger groupings of 4-5. She's even using big words like, "delicious", which I happen to think is the cutest thing ever. 

The physical changes that have taken place though are huge. She went into the school year barely sitting and now she crawls, pulls to stand, can go up and down stairs, walk in a gait trainer, push herself in a wheelchair, and most recently, she has learned to pedal a bike (although that wasn't really learned in preschool but still happened this year!) It's been amazing to see her going from relying on us for everything, to really becoming very independent. 

From a fine motor standpoint, Em can hold a pencil in a tripod grip, and has learned to feed herself with utensils very well. I remember in Georgia they were unwilling to teach eating with utensils to Em unless we sent her to school in the mornings for breakfast and were super condescending to us about the task, and here they naturally just taught her how to use them... I've mentioned how I have zero respect for the teacher in Georgia we were assigned to right? 

Overall, Em's first year of preschool was amazing. I feel like we were truly blessed to be able to find such a kind group of teachers and aids who really made Em feel like a million bucks in school each day, and they really helped to make the school year amazing for her. I have so much respect for special education teachers, and how they willingly dedicate their life to the upbringing of those with disabilities. It is such a hard job for me as a parent, and they go out and serve and love an entire classroom each day. Her teachers truly are angels, and I couldn't be more grateful for them. 

What's Next For Me With Running

It's been almost a month since I ran the Salt Lake Marathon, and I've spent the last several weeks spinning around different ideas of things that I want to do and accomplish over the next few months. Right after finishing, I thought that I was going to want to hit it hard with training again, and get in shape for a fall marathon, but to have the build up that I want for a fall race, I would have to start training hard again right now, and that didn't leave a lot of room for me to work on other goals that I want to hit.

Ever since I got my 2:01:57 at The Sun Half Marathon in February, getting sub two in the half marathon has been a huge goal for me to hit by the end of the year. I obviously couldn't really work on that goal while marathon training, and now that the marathon is out of the way, I have two races in the next few weeks where I'm going to try and make it happen. 

At the last minute I jumped in and registered for The Ogden Half Marathon this Saturday. This will be another PR attempt at the half marathon distance, and I'm hoping to get just a little bit closer to the sub two mark, if not hit it all together. It's expected to rain, which works in my favor because I would much rather run cold than run hot, so I'm actually looking forward to that. 

Then a few weeks later I have Drop 13 in June. Drop 13 is a completely downhill race, and should weather conditions work in my favor and not be too hot, I'm confident that I will get my sub two half marathon here once and for all. I've been looking forward to this race for months, and it will be fun to see how I measure up, and where my fitness is at after nine months of consistent training. I'm hoping for a big PR here. In my mind, I'm hitting sub two in Odgen, and want to try and get 1:50 at Drop 13. We'll see how that pans out. 

For the summer, I really want to cut back on the distance dramatically. I am not a summer runner by any means, and so I thought that this would be an awesome opportunity to work on my 5k time. I set a really big goal to get a sub 25 minute 5k. I don't have a race in mind, and don't have a plan made to accomplish this goal at all, but I'm hoping to train hard for it through July and August, and then jump into a race in September and see how it all comes together.

As far as my next marathon, I'm shooting for somewhere between February-April of 2019. I don't have the exact race picked out yet, but I feel like this will give me enough time to work through my shorter distance goals that I want to work on over the next few weeks, and then I can dedicate my beloved cold winter months to the marathon like I did this last year.  Recovering from the Marathon was a lot harder for me than I thought it would be, and I want to respect that recovery time by not rushing into another marathon right away. I really want to shave off 40 minutes on my marathon time the next time I attempt the distance, so when I find my perfect race, and training plan, I'll be sure to share the details when they unfold. 

My Go-To Running Products

If you follow me regularly over here, or on my instagram, you know that over the last six months, running has become a major part of my life again. There is something about the combination of me, and living in Utah that just draws me to running. I just love it here more than anywhere else we've ever lived, and I want it to continue to be a part of my life, big or small for as long as I can. 

When I started running long distance after high school I was a very minimal runner. Give me an ipod and a pair of shoes (and sometimes no shoes at all... I did 15 miles in a pair of socks once!), and I was good to go! Now that I'm getting older, wiser, tracking paces more, and trying to keep my body and skin as healthy as possible, there are a number of products that I rely on almost daily. I know a lot of people that follow me were interested in knowing what some of my favorite products for running are, so I thought I'd share them in a cohesive post over here so that they can be found all in one spot. 

Garmin Vivoactive HR: This was my big Christmas gift for 2017 and I love how versatile of a watch it is. You can use it for swimming, biking, running, and many more sports, and it has a huge battery life. I was going to get an apple watch but then saw that this watch can hold a battery for up to several weeks, and can be used in GPS mode for up to 30 hours, which far surpasses the battery of an apple watch. I also love that the bluetooth connects to my phone so I can see text messages on my wrist while I'm running!

Hoka One One Clifton: These have been my go to running shoes. They're heavily cushioned which I fine works well for my back, which is prone to injury. I feel like it really cushions the impact, and keeps me feeling strong. I'm in the market for a new pair and will likely get another pair of these Hoka One One Clifton's or try their Hupana line.

Hat: I'm at the age where I'm noticing sun spots and all the things on my skin. I got a hat to help keep my facial skin healthy, and I've been really liking this one so far. It comes in a ton of different colors, and is just a super inexpensive and great hat for running.

Sunglasses: I never thought I needed sunglasses for running until we moved here and I run towards the west every night after dinner. The sun seriously blinds me! These glasses are super inexpensive, don't bounce on my face, and are also polarized!

Gatorade Protien: These protein drinks are my favorite after I do a long run (usually 12+miles). They have 20 grams of protein and a ton of carbs to refuel glycogen stores after they've been depleted through a hard run or race. They're not ideal if your trying to cut weight or be a body builder, but are perfect for running recovery.

Bottle Caps: Below you'll see the water bottle I love, but I prefer a sports cap that you can push up and down, so these have been perfect to replace the cap that came with my Nathan Bottle that I love.

Nathan Bottle: I wanted this water bottle because it held 16oz and was a little bigger than typical hand held bottles. I also love that the zipper pocket is large enough to hold my phone  (iPhone SE probably wouldn't hold a larger newer model), and a couple energy gels.

BCAAs: I haven't used these much since I stopped Crossfit, but then my chiropractor who runs ultras mentioned that he used them in his water bottle while he did his training runs, and so I started using them again. They're awesome for recovery and to help reduce soreness.

Powerbar Gels: These are my running "GUs" of choice, or commonly referred to as energy gels. These particular ones have a combination of carbs and caffeine which work well to keep me going during long training runs and races.

Asics Socks: I used to not care about what socks I ran in until my seven year old socks from Target started giving me huge blisters. Then I bought these Asics ones a few months ago and there is no going back for me. They stay in place, are thick, but not too thick, and I don't get blisters anymore.

Foam Roller: I don't use this as much as I should, and I actually have it from when I did Crossfit, but this was crucial to marathon recovery for me. My hamstrings felt like death, and then after two weeks I finally used this and felt a million times better. Foam rollers are awesome for stretching out and massaging those worn out muscles.

Lacrosse Ball: I bought this from my chiropractor to roll out my hip and back muscles when I was injured a while back, but I've also found it works amazing for rolling out my feet. My arches have been giving me some problems lately and this has been amazing for that. Now if only my kids would stop stealing it to play with it.

Apple Ear Buds: I know everyone always wants to know what ear buds other people like, and I've honestly have always loved the ones that are from Apple that have come with our phones and iPods over the years. We have about 10 pairs floating through the house and they fit my ears perfectly. I realize that I'm in the minority though of people that love these.

Seven Layer Side Salad

I come from a long line of bad salad makers. When it came to making salad to go with dinner growing up, both my mom, and my grandmother both resorted to throwing bagged lettuce on a plate and calling it good. When Derek and I got married, this was my go to method of salad preparation, and Derek went the last seven years with basically never once touching his salad. 

We've been doing the Six Sister's Stuff meal plans for about three weeks now, and I've been loving all the new easy recipes and inspiration we've been getting. It's really upping my side dish game each week. This seven layer salad is an easy weeknight side dish, and only takes a few minutes to make as long as you have some bacon and eggs prepped before hand. This salad is also responsible for teaching my kids that they like har boiled egg yolks (they used to only eat the whites), and ranch dressing. So all good thing have come from this. 

3 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
5 hard boiled eggs, chopped
8oz bacon, cooked and chooped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
6 green onions, chopped
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup frozen peas

In a large bowl (I used a nine inch pie plate), layer the lettuce, celery, eggs, bacon, cherry tomatoes, green onions, cheese, and peas. Serve with a salad dressing of your choosing. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to three days. 

A New Diagnosis: Sensory Processing Disorder

When we made the switch from Primary Children's Hospital to Shriner's a few month's back, it opened a lot of doors for us to not only get treatment for Em's hips, but it also allowed us to get physical therapy, and occupational therapy services at no cost to our family, which has been such a huge blessing. Em had occupational therapy through early intervention services when we were in Georgia, but when we moved here, she was only getting it a couple times a month at school, and the only things they really worked on in school were school skills like writing, cutting, etc...

Our PT at Primary Children's thought it would be a good idea to get an OT evaluation to look at some of the behavioral problems that Em was having, so once we made the switch to Shriner's we got her on the long waitlist for an eval. Her original appointment wasn't until June, but they had a cancelation and were able to get her in on Tuesday. 

We wanted to get her checked out because Em can go from happy, to irate in about 5 seconds, and it's hard to tell what is always setting her off. To us it seemed like random things like sitting in the car for too long, getting a diaper change, getting dressed, doing her hair, doing something she doesn't want to do... I'm explaining all of this to the OT and I feel like a loser because I'm sure she's going to tell me it's typical three-year-old behavior, but then she told me that all these things I was describing aligned with sensory processing disorder.

I feel like a lot of parents wouldn't be excited about a diagnosis like this, but honestly, it was such a relief. Mostly because it means that Derek and I aren't terrible parents with a miserable child, but that Em's brain cannot compute everyday tasks the same way as you or I can, and things that we think are so routine can make her feel off balance, threatened, or dysregulated, and cause her to flip out. This also means that since we know what it is, we can treat it through therapy and hopefully give her the tools she needs to cope with her feelings and make her life more manageable for her. 

Em's biggest sensory issues are touch and balance. Things like diaper changes, getting dressed, working in PT with the PT and not mom, having new people around trying to help her, being forced into new sitting or walking positions, these are all things that tell her body to kick in the "fight or flight" responses and cause her to have meltdowns. Likewise, with balance things, she's afraid of heights and gets scared when you try and change her on a changing table, or put her up on a slide, or spin her on playground equipment. She's a lot more sensitive to the sensation of going up and down, or moving fast.

And while there are things that she certainly does not like, she in some ways is also a sensory seeker. Things like playing with paint, playdough, and being messy with her hands are things that she craves doing, along with also swinging high and fast on our swings at home. (Which almost contradicts the above statement about heights.) There's so much to this that I don't fully understand, but I'm hoping better understanding just comes with more time. 

Another big thing that the OT wanted to work on was sleeping. She told us that it's hard to deal with the sensory processing issues when sleeping still isn't under control. She gave us very strict rules to turn off all the lights in the house after dinner to get Em's brain ready for bedtime. The Darkness is a cue that will help her know what's coming up. After dinner, under no circumstances is Em to see a screen of ANY kind. Just like adults need time off of devices before bed, Em needs it even more. We're told electronics need to be off about two hours before bed. After those two things are done, then it's mostly pajamas, diaper, prayer, story, and bed. I'm actually fairly shocked, but bedtime has been so much easier the last several nights since implementing all of these things together (instead of just putting her in a diaper and jammies and just plopping her in bed and saying peace out). Derek actually just turned to me as I was typing this and said, "She didn't scream once during bedtime tonight!" 

I'm going to be honest in that I don't know the full ins and outs of sensory processing disorder yet. I haven't taken the time to google and study it all, although I'm sure I will over time. Our main tasks for the next couple weeks are to continue with bedtime, and then keep a notebook of all the times that Em has a meltdown, and write down where we were, and what the circumstances were when it happened. We'll then give all this information to the OT who will weed through it all and tell us the tools that Derek and I need to know, so that we can help prevent those things in the future. 

Also because I know people will wonder... Yes, people with Autism can have sensory processing disorder, but you can have sensory processing disorder without having Autism (and I did ask the OT, and she was very confident to say Em doesn't have Autism). Just like Em has a lot of overlap with kids who have Cerebral Palsy, but doesn't actually have Cerebral Palsy. So Em's full list of diagnosis are: Holoprosencephaly, constipation, hip dysplasia, and sensory processing disorder. The good news is she's only three, so we have more time for the list to get longer. 

How We Do Screen Time In Our Home

This is a sponsored post in behalf of WebSafety, however, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make this space possible. 

At some point within the last year I found myself falling into this trap of lies, that it was okay for my kids to spend more time on media because I have a special needs child, or Em is grumpy, so here have a phone, or Jay is going outside to play and that's hard to do with Em, so she can have a little more screen time than Jay. These were lies that I found I was telling myself to avoid bigger issues in my life, like tantrums, meltdowns, and avoiding having to figure out how to make our lives more accessible to Em, instead of just pawning her off on a screen. I became dissatisfied when other special needs parents would tell me, "That's just how it is...", because despite the amount of time Em was spending on devices each day, I desperately wanted more for our lives.

The just a few days ago we took Em into the occupational therapist for the first time since we moved here, and she was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder. This shed so much light on a lot of the meltdowns we were experiencing at home, and the lack of sleep for three years, and one of the biggest things the therapist told us we could do over the next several weeks is to cut off all screens at least two hours before bed. Doing this over the last three nights has a made a dramatic improvement to how much faster Em falls asleep, and more sleep has translated into better behavior during the day.

While the media has been cut off after 5pm in our home, there are definitely times during the day when we still use it. I let the kids watch something on the television for about 20 minutes while they eat breakfast before school, because we've found that this is best way to get Em to eat breakfast, especially since this is a time of day that is already stressful for her, and then eating on top of that, we've found that watching something can take her mind off the other things stressing her out, and she can at least get a meal in before school.

In the afternoon when I need to get some e-mails and other work done for about an hour, I'll typically let Jay work through some educational apps on my phone, and I'll let Em watch some preschool shows like Daniel Tiger, or Team Umizoomi, and although they are shows, I can tell that she has learned a lot from them, which helps me have less guilt over the situation.

After I get my work done though, we head downstairs and will play with toys in the living room, or do bubbles or swings outside until it's time to make dinner, and then it's screens off for the rest of the night until the next day. It's not a perfect solution by any means. I know that a lot of other parents do a lot less screen time, but it's what works for our family right now and our particular needs.

Obviously my kids aren't old enough to be on social media, nor do they know how to use the computer on their own, but when they get older and start being more digitally independent, I 100% plan on using WebSafety to help keep my kids safe online.

WebSafety is an app for Android and Apple devices (including tablets), that monitors text messages and social media use, and allows you to see what photos your kids are posting and interacting with on apps like Facebook and Instagram. Should your child access something in those apps that you don't want them to see, it sends your phone a real time alert so that you can address the problem immediately with your child and talk to them about why that content is inappropriate.

At just $5.99/month WebSafety is the lower cost, most comprehensive tech to address smartphone usage for kids. For more information about WebSafety, visit their website, or download the app in the App Store.