play dates for big kids

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we have lots of fun things to do with our little ones here in san luis obispo, ca.  the children’s museum, tons of parks and playgrounds, wednesday music time at boo boo records… just to name a few.  we took full advantage of these places when our kids were little, but somehow, SOMEHOW they got bigger!  and totally disobeyed me, because i told them to not get bigger.

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having big kids (11, 9 & 7) is super fun.  i’m out of the life saving stage and we can just go places easier (no potty training, strollers, naps to get home for).  while i so loved the infant and toddler stage (well, not all of the toddler stage), having kids in this sweet spot is awesome.  but finding fun things for them to do is a little harder around town.  well, not harder so much, just different than before.  getting out of the house to play looks a little different than it did 5 years ago.

i love featuring local spots and i’ve teamed up with Gymboree to share with you my favorite local playdate spots!  Gymboree believes that kids shouldn’t grow up too fast and there’s no better way than through play!  Gymboree has launched a playdate guide on Pinterest – the ultimate resource for parents – where you can search for your city and get recommendations of ideas for playdate spots for your family!

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i always think my kids would feel too old for a playground, but every time we get near one, they prove me wrong.  we have lots of great parks in SLO, but one of our favorites is Cuesta Park.  its close to our home and has lots of fun things to do beyond just the playground.  it is a great location for birthday parties or large gatherings – it has a HUGE grass field and lots of picnic tables – even event areas you can reserve if you’re fancy like that.  it also has a creek running through it which, get this, actually has water in it!  (for you non-californians, we’ve been in a severe drought.  water sightings can be rare.)  the kids love to run along the bridges and the creek bed.  there are trails all around and its nice and clean.

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ever since the kids were toddling around, we’ve gone down to the creek downtown.  when they were bitty, they would stand at the water’s edge and throw pebbles as far across as they could.  well, thats not much of a challenge to them at all anymore, but they still love to walk along the water’s edge and hop across the boulders to the other side.  as soon as we hop the creek, we generally walk over to the mission plaza and toss our pennies into the fountain there.  one boy may or may not climb on the sculptures there.  every.  single.  time.  the plaza hosts family friendly events frequently and in the summer there are free concerts!

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another must-stop spot is bubblegum alley.  its definitely a tourist draw, but my kids love it too.  i personally am grossed out by it, but i’m a giver ;)  be sure to get the good hubba bubba bubble gum rather than cheaping out with the sugar free stuff you have in your purse (like me).  they only chew it for a few minutes (the outtakes from gum chewing are pretty hilarious!) then stick their giant saliva filled globs on the wall to make their mark.

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we have always loved walking downtown as a family.  its a quick 1-mile walk from our house and we do it pretty often.  we almost always go to yogurt creations for frozen yogurt, because after all that walking we deserve a treat, right? ;)  there are several coffee shops we frequent in town, but our newest favorite is scout coffee.  their drinks are super yummy and they have amazing freshly baked goods.  but really truly, i go their for the atmosphere.  and to daydream about moving my family into the shop.  its that beautiful.  exposed brick, anthro wallpaper, industrial lighting… need i say more?  i bribe treat the kids to a steamer or hot chocolate while they read for a bit, and sometimes we even stay for a few hours doing school work.  doing school out of the house can be such a fun break for us!

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Gymboree sent me a gift card to share these fun outfits with you.  i have always been impressed by the quality of their clothing, ever since the kids were little, but i’ll be honest, they can get a little pricey for me.  however, i’ve been spending a lot of time on their website lately and have found that things rarely stay at full price.  when i ordered my kids’ outfits, everything (EVERYTHING) was 40% off, and today i looked and everything (yes EVERYTHING) is $14.99 and under!  that includes outer wear and shoes and fancy stuff – all at really amazing prices for great quality clothing.  as far as sizing goes, it was spot on for my kids – and i’m so thankful that they have clothing that goes up to size 12!

gracie’s outfit: shirt, similar vest, beanie, pants

lily’s outfit:  dress, vest, leggings

silas’ outfit:  shirt, flannel, vest, jeans, shoes

thanks to Gymboree for partnering on this!  at the end of the day, my kids declared it a “super fun day” and i am “the best mom ever”!  i can’t argue with that ;)

The Hardest Peace

Do you remember when Kara wrote here on my blog awhile back?  Her story is hard to hear.  Sometimes I selfishly plug my ears when I hear stories that are too hard to take in, too much to process.  Because I always put myself in their position, in the hard position.  And when I imagine myself there, I CAN’T DO IT.  I can’t see myself getting through the hard, the difficult.

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But Kara’s story of hard has been eye opening for me.  She’s doing it beautifully and honestly and gracefully.  Beyond the ways that she views her battle with stage 4 metastatic cancer is even more beautiful how she walks her children through it with a vision of heaven and filling them with her love (and KNOWING her love) before she goes.

I had the privilege of reading Kara’s book The Hardest Peace over the last couple weeks.  i am not a reader.  But this story had me longing for more, picking it up during breakfast and lunch to just sneak in a few more pages, excited to sit for the hour during swim practice 3 days a week because i knew i’d be able to read even more!  Not only is her story well-written, but i felt like i was learning lessons over and over – feelings of “yes!” and “I need to hear this”.  I also had several occasions in public where i was reaching for tissues or popping on my sunglasses to cover my teary eyes.  This is a beautiful love story – between Kara & her husband, between Kara & her children, and between Kara & Christ who is walking through the hard with her and teaching her a peace she would only know through this experience.

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I was reading Kara’s blog, Mundane Faithfulness, and trying to figure out a way to describe the book in a neat little package.  My words were failing me – “It’s a book about a mom with 4 kids who has cancer…” no, its so much more than that!  Then i found this paragraph that Kara just wrote after snuggling her youngest and whispering about heaven: “The hardest peace is to walk through and not around what is hard. But peace is present. It is so painfully present- I am able to imagine heaven with my baby with wonder and not bitterness. It’s beautiful really. I go to sleep thankful.”  

If you have a chance, pick up this book.  Then share it.  Also, head over to Kara’s blog and dig in.