Week Full of Fun

June has been a very full month for us so far, and last week we crammed in tons of fun activities both during the day and in the evening.

Evening Visit to Deanna Rose Farmstead:  On Tuesdays and Thursdays during the summer you can visit the farmstead in the evening between 5-8pm (for free just like during the day).  Activities like feeding the goats, fishing, and hayrides are not available during these hours, but you can still see all the animals, explore the gardens, and play on the playgrounds.  The general store and ice cream parlor were also open.  The night we were there the weather was absolutely perfect and I counted fewer than 20 people during the entire time we were there.  It was practically empty!  Much easier to appreciate the beauty at the farmstead without strollers and screaming children everywhere you turn!

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Blueberry Picking at The Berry Patch: This was our second year picking blueberries at The Berry Patch and I was pleasantly surprised by how many more berries ended up in Gretchen’s bucket than her mouth! ;)  She was a great helper, picking the blueberries close to the ground that others had missed.  The patch is open until 9pm so we decided to go after dinner.  There were only a few other families there and the field we were picking in wasn’t as muddy as we feared it might be after all the rain.  Lots of bugs but I remembered our bug spray for once.  We came home with about 7lbs of blueberries and made a pie and blueberry muffins to celebrate Fathers Day, yum!

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Craft and Draft at The K: Our 9th anniversary is next week and we decided to go to a Royals game to celebrate.  Hud had talked the new Craft and Draft area up so much we figured we should try it out.  We bought tickets with reserved seating and $20 credit towards food/drink for each of us.  The seats were comfortable, the view was great
(and covered so no rain on our heads!) and a waitress brought us all the food and drink we could stomach. The menu was gastro pub fare, nothing over $15 and the portions were generous.  I had street tacos and Tyler had the pork belly.  The Royals won, completing a 4 game sweet of the Brewers!

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Oceans of Fun: I believe the last time I visited OOF was the summer after I graduated from high school, so 13 years ago!  A few things had changed but many of the same slides and attractions are still there.  The park looked bright and clean for such an old water park, which was nice to see.  My friend Brie had some free passes so all we had to pay for was parking (which is $15 now! times have changed!)  We took our kiddos down to the new Splash Island area, which is basically a huge splash pad with shade.  Gretchen was a bigger fan of Coconut Cove, my favorite as a kid.  I was surprised to see that there are 4 areas well suited for little kids now. The two I mentioned plus Captain Kidd’s and Crocodile Isle. If we lived closer I might consider a season pass.

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Leawood Aquatic Center:  One of our summer fun list items was to try a new pool. We typically go to Blackbob Bay since we have a membership for the Olathe pools.  Several friends recommended we check out this pool so we decided to go as part of our Fathers Day festivities.  This pool has 3 separate areas for small kids, including a splash pad, zero depth pool with lots of floating animals and a whale slide, and another shallow pool with a little slide and fountains.  Gretchen said her favorite part was the “rock slide.”  We had a great time minus all the mosquito bites!  They were feisty today.

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JoCo Park Tour: Little Mill Creek Park North

Several friends had been raving about this park for a couple of months now and we were so excited to finally check it out.  It did not disappoint!  This is probably the newest playground in Johnson County, constructed in the last year.  It is a Landscape Structures playground, which seems to be the popular manufacturer of playground equipment in Johnson County.  You can also find their playground designs at Arrowhead Park, Antioch Park, Stagecoach Park (Olathe Community Center), Blackhoof Park, and the new playground at the KC Zoo.  A couple of elementary schools in JoCo have also installed these futuristic playground structures,including Mission Trail Elementary School in Leawood and Cottonwood Point Elementary in OP.  I’m going to add those to our list to check out as a family!

Excuse the dark pictures, we were at the park on a very cloudy day but fortunately only felt a couple of raindrops!  This spring has been so rainy!

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Little Mill Creek Park North

79th and Cottonwood, Lenexa KS

What we love about Little Mill Creek Park North:  This park offers some really unique playground equipment, including a big disc swing, modern merry go round, and a zip line.  Gretchen was not brave enough to ride the zip line but she loved watching the big kids (and adults!) ride it.  The merry go round and disc swing were a hit with her and other kids her age though.  Gone are the days of hot metal merry go rounds where kids can go flying off.  This one is made of molded plastic with seats on it and it takes some strength to push it.  No where near the speed of a traditional merry go round.  There are four swings in addition to the disc swing, including 2 baby swings and 2 regular ones.  There is a small play structure for toddlers with a little table for playing with mulch, every toddler’s dream!  The large play structure is huge, and from the upper platform kids have to climb a vertical ladder to get to the top where there are two very long slides.  There are also lots of climbing structures made out of cables, typical of the Landscape Structures designs. This is a large park with so many different areas to play that it can keep kids entertained for a long time.  Always great when you are trying to tire them out for nap time!

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Other things to know about Little Mill Creek Park North:

– There is a great jogging/walking trail here, perfect for getting some exercise before exploring the playground with your kids.

– As of June 2015 the restroom building is still under construction, but there are several port a potties available.

– This park is out in the open but does have a shaded pavilion in the middle with several picnic tables where you can get out of the sun.

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2nd Birthday Party- Red, White, and Two!

OMG yes I know my daughter will be 3 in less than a month but better late than never, right?!

Since Gretchen’s birthday is right after the 4th of July I thought this theme would be perfect.  With so many toddler friends we wanted to invite we knew there was noooooooo way we could host the party at our house. We decided to do the party at Deanna Rose Farmstead, one of Gretchen’s favorite places.  We got there early to set up and when her friends arrived we encouraged them to go explore and play for about an hour and then come back for food and mini pies (Trader Joes FTW!)  Deanna Rose gives the birthday kid a cowboy hat, t-shirt, and then each of the guests gets a ticket good for a pony ride, hayride, or mining.  It does not have to be used the day of the party.  One of the great things about the party corrals at Deanna Rose is that it’s in an extremely shaded part of the park, so even though it was a hot July day, the shade and a breeze kept us mostly cool.  We had a great time and hopefully our guests did too!

invitation design by misspokadot on etsy 

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For food we got sandwich trays from Mr. Goodcents and then had veggies, cheese and crackers, and watermelon to go with it.  I cut the watermelon and cheese into star shapes using a mini cookie cutter. For dessert I had star shaped brownies and sugar cookies made by Smart Cookies Bakery.  In lieu of cake or cupcakes we served mini pies from Trader Joes.  They are in the freezer section and come in cherry, blueberry, and peach.  Super yummy!

The red, white, and blue serving platters and decor were from Michaels.  Balloons from my friend Adriane’s shop in Shawnee, FUN Party and Wedding Shop.  

For favors I bought some blue and red striped bags at Michaels and filled them with stickers, custom cookies, fruit snacks, and red, white, and blue sunglasses from the Target $1 spot.

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Gretchen’s dress is from hazelbeebaby but sadly she has closed up shop :(

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Our corral was right next to this big goat’s pen and he got a bath during the party.  He wanted to come join the partyThe kids loved it!

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I think the sunglasses were a hit!

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JoCo Park Tour: Arrowhead Park

We love to take the 3 minute walk across the street to our neighborhood park.  It’s where Gretchen used the swings for the first time and it’s an excellent place to burn off some energy at the end of the day.  Last year the city bulldozed the old equipment and put in a new playground.  It’s colorful and fun but sadly they removed the swings that we used to love and did not replace them.  There is a “tire swing” but you can’t truly call it that as it is bolted to the ground and doesn’t move more than a few inches from side to side.  Much of the playground is better suited for older kids, but Gretchen still enjoys playing there and I think it will be a fun playground to visit as she gets older.

Arrowhead Park

1701 S. Lindenwood Dr. Olathe KS 66062

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What we love about Arrowhead Park:  I really love how colorful the new playground equipment is.   Gretchen’s favorite thing about this park is the blue tube slide.  She also really likes the tree trunk balance beam and mushrooms to walk on, and with Tyler’s help she likes to go across the monkey bars.  Like I said above, she’s simply too young for much of the equipment, but the older kids I see playing there seem to like it.

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Other things to know about Arrowhead Park:

– As with many of the Olathe neighborhood parks, there is no parking lot here.  You can however park in the elementary school lot or on the road leading up to the school.

– There are no bathrooms here but there is a port a potty about 100 yards from the playground.

– In the evenings we like to combine a trip to this park with a trip to the playground at Heritage Elementary School as it has swings and some other features that the city park no longer has.

JoCo Park Tour: Ironwoods Park

We explored this park as a family a couple of weeks ago on a nice evening when we were over in the area.  It is a nice park and Gretchen had a lot of fun.  Will have to go back with friends sometime soon.  Evening is a great time to go as this park is lacking in the shade department.

Ironwoods Park

14701 Mission Rd. Leawood KS

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What we love about Ironwoods Park: This is a really fun play structure and one of the things I like most is that there is a bridge from the little kid side to the big kid side so if your kid doesn’t like climbing ladders or rock walls they can still do the big slides.  Gretchen’s favorite feature was probably the long sloped tunnel.  This park has the standard swings- 2 baby and 2 big kid.  There are numerous slides and climbing opportunities, including ladders that go straight up from the ground under the structure to the top.  A nice sidewalk loops around the playground and is perfect for bikes and scooters.  There are several benches scattered around as well as a shelter right next to the park and indoor bathrooms.  This park is at the south end of Leawood and has lots of other fun features like a nature center to explore (see below for a list).

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Other things to know about Ironwoods Park:

–  Beyond the playground there is lots to do.  The Prairie Oak Nature Center is located here and has a 2 mile walking trail along with lots of reptiles, butterflies, and amphibians to check out.  It is closed on Mondays during the summer months and there is no admission fee.

– There are also cabins that can be rented and a challenge course with fun activities for older kids, like a giant swing.

– Inside this huge park is an amphitheater where events for kids take place throughout the summer as part of the Grinnin and Grooving series.  (see page 4 of this brochure for dates and more info). There will also be a Sunday evening free concert series in August and September and it’s at 6pm so early enough to take the kids.

– The Historic Oxford Schoolhouse also hosts events for kids including American Girl Doll themed events.

 

Weekend trip to Omaha

We drove up to Omaha for a couple of days as a mini-summer vacation/early celebration of Gretchen’s 3rd birthday.

Where we stayed: Homewood Suites downtown.  We got a 2 room suite which I thought meant we’d have a living room and then a bedroom.  Instead we got 2 bedrooms and a living room/kitchen in between!  Gretchen had 2 queen beds in her room but slept in her pack n play :)  The living room and kitchen were great.  Having a full fridge/freezer was perfect since we brought our own food for lunches.  We got a good rate thanks to our AAA membership.  This was a really nicely appointed hotel with complimentary breakfast AND complimentary dinner (Monday-Thursday) that includes beer/wine.  It was pretty standard continental breakfast fare: fruit, cereal, muffins/bagels, eggs, sausage, waffles, juice, coffee, etc.  We did not try out the complimentary dinner.  This hotel has an indoor pool and hot tub which was a big hit with Gretchen.

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Where we ate: Since it was only a 3 hour drive from home we packed sandwiches, fruit, and other lunch fare to take to the zoo with us on Monday and Tuesday.  This was a time and money saver and we avoided the typical zoo fare of chicken fingers and fries.  We dined out for dinner both nights and had lunch at a restaurant before leaving town on Wednesday.

Monday night: Upstream in the Old Market followed by dessert at Ted and Wallys which was just around the corner.  Ted and Wallys was worth the wait, truly amazing ice cream!

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Tuesday night: La Casa Pizzeria followed by dessert at eCreamery (Shark Tank fans will probably recognize this brand of ice cream that you can personalize and have shipped to your friends).

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Wednesday: lunch at Wheatfields in the Old Market.  Next time we go to Omaha we will eat here again, this was our favorite of the 3 restaurants we went to.

Henry Doorly Zoo: We spent two half-days at the zoo since we knew Gretchen could only do a few hours before she’d be a mess.  Happy with that decision especially since we got discounted admission with our KC Zoo membership.

Day 1: On Memorial Day we got there at about noon and it was packed, not surprising for a beautiful day that also happens to be a holiday.  We bought basic admissions tickets (Gretchen was free and Tyler and I got in for half price with our KC Zoo membership).  We stopped and ate our lunch first and then visited the aquarium, giraffes, and the jungle exhibit.  The aquarium was nice but so incredibly crowded.  Gretchen loves fish so she loved it.  I definitely think the penguin exhibit at the KC Zoo is superior, however as a whole, the aquarium was is much better than KC’s Sea Life aquarium.  The giraffes will be moved into the new Africa exhibit when it opens but when we visited they were all indoors.  Gretchen said at the end of the day that the giraffes were her favorite.  Tyler and I really enjoyed the jungle exhibit.  It was way bigger than we initially realized and had so many great animals including otters (Tyler’s fave), pygmy hippos (my fave), and a sloth, which I don’t think I’d ever seen before.  Gretchen was kind of freaked out by the waterfalls and I was definitely freaked out by the bats, ick.  By 3pm she was getting fussy so we checked in to the hotel and she took a nap.

Day 2: Rain was in the forecast but we decided to go anyway because we figured it would keep the crowds away.  Gretchen got in free again and Tyler and I got half off admission.  We did pay full price for the transportation/sting ray package as our zoo pass didn’t get us a discount on those.  For the first hour we practically had the zoo to ourselves, it was awesome.  We visited the big cats, the bears, the orangutans (so loud!) and gorillas on our way down to the train depot.  After checking out the kid’s area and riding the carousel we took a ride on the train.  Tyler fed a sting ray and Gretchen chased some peacocks around.  At this point it started raining.  We walked through the bird aviary but the decking was extremely slippery from the rain.  I managed to avoid any major wipe outs.  We also visited the Madagascar exhibit before stopping for lunch and then heading up to the Desert Dome.  The Desert Dome was unlike any zoo exhibit we’d visited before but it was a bit crowded by that point and Gretchen was getting cranky. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the underground exhibit, Kingdoms of the Night.  We hauled our whiny kid out and took her back to the hotel for a much needed nap.

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Omaha Children’s Museum

This place did not disappoint at ALL and I wish we’d had more time to explore. The 3 of us got in free as our Union Station/Science City membership gets us 100% reciprocity. Saved us over $30 on admission! Oh how I wish Kansas City had a children’s museum of this caliber. Wonderscope and Science City just aren’t nearly as magical.  Gretchen LOVED the HyVee grocery area.  She shopped, had her daddy check out and bag her groceries, made me pizza in their pizzeria, and then had to be bribed to leave the area and see the rest of the museum.  She flipped burgers and dogs at the Omaha Steaks grill area like a pro, played at the water tables, and pretended to drive a fire truck. The ball room was huge and made me wish I were a kid again.  Before leaving we went upstairs so she could ride the carousel.  This is where we discovered MY CHILDHOOD MEMORIES RESURRECTED!  It was the Richman Gordman zoo animals, fully restored and ready for my kid to play on just like I did as a kid when we shopped at the store in Topeka.

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JoCo Park Tour: Blackhoof Park

This park is…wow.  It is ginormous and has so much to offer.  I think we may have found the best park in Johnson County, but our tour isn’t over yet so I will reserve judgement until the end of the summer!  Because this park is so huge I’m going to write this up a little differently than usual so I can cover it all!

Blackhoof Park at Lake Lenexa

9053 Monticello Road, Lenexa, KS

What we love about Blackhoof Park:

The Little Playground: This playground is perfect for the preschool set.   Lots of fun activities like slides, a narrow stationary bridge, and my daughter’s favorite: a steering wheel.  There are also monkey bars and their own set of rings to hang from that aren’t too high off the ground.  This structure also has these hybrid-slides/climbers that are great for kids that want a slide climbing like activity when mom doesn’t actually want them climbing the slides ;)  (recently learned slide climbing is a super hot topic among park moms, lol).  The bathrooms are right next to this little playground, perfect for the frequent potty breaks that 3 year olds need!

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The Medium Playground: This playground is not far from the little playground and features 4 baby swings, a sand pit, and another fun play structure.  Here you’ll find your average height slides and climbing structures as well as a cool climbing wall.  The sand area is devoid of any diggers or toys so make sure to bring a sand bucket and a shovel for your kids to play here.

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The Big Playground: This playground is at the top of the hill and nearest to the parking lot. There are 4 big kid swings here. The slides on this structure reach heights not often seen at parks these days!  Gretchen went down one and was wide eyed at how fast she went.  I asked if she wanted to go again and she politely said “no thank you!”  I really like when big structures have normal stairs for the little kids to climb since many enjoy the thrill of the tall slides but can’t manage rock walls or tall ladders.  This one had a great variety of ways kids could explore and climb to the top.  For bigger kids that may feel they’ve outgrown the typical playground, this one has a ton to offer that should still excite them.

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The Nature Playground: Like Franklin Park and Gezer Park there is a man-made “creek” here for the kids to play in.  Unfortunately we went right before Memorial Day so it was not yet turned on.  We’ll go back in July to check out that feature when it’s nice and hot out!  Even without that feature there is plenty to do over here.  Logs and stumps for the kids to walk on and large rock formations perfect for climbing.  This is a shady and cool area of the park to retreat to in the middle of the day.  Water fountains and the trail connecting to the rest of the walking paths at Lake Lenexa can be found down here.

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Other things to know about Blackhoof Park:

– Lake Lenexa is 35 acres and open to non-motorized boats as well as fishing.  They is a really cool damn that you can explore.

– There is another small playground right by the boat ramp that is on the lake.  The large playground that I featured above is just up the road at the north end of the park.

– There are lots of paved trails here perfect for walking, running, and bike riding.  Lots of wildlife to see as well!