Think about your parents for a minute. Are there some phrases or things they said to you or your siblings repeatedly? When I think about my mom and dad, here are a few of the things that stand out to me:
“Dang, Tina!” – A cross between “Dang, Gina” from the sitcom Martin and Tina the llama from Napoleon Dynamite.
“You’re killing me, James” – my mom mistakenly quoting Sandlot
“I love a challenge” – my mom anytime my siblings or I said we weren’t doing something she told us to do.
Well, now thanks to my mom, Kora loves a challenge too. It all started a couple of weeks ago when we went to visit the grandparents. Kora and two of her cousins were playing in the yard with my mom. She started giving them challenges that they needed to complete:
- Run and touch three trees and come back
- Run and touch something red and come back
- Sit in two different chairs and come back
I was completely surprised by how much the kids enjoyed these challenges – they were begging for more. It’s always the simplest things that the kids seem to love most. (My mom always joked that as kids we would always compliment her more on her dinners of macaroni and cheese with BBQ hot dogs than on meals where she would slave away in the kitchen.)
The next day, while playing inside, Kora and her cousins asked for some more challenges. I will admit that some of the challenges were legitimate and some of the challenges were used to help clean up the toy area a little – ‘I challenge you to find three blue toys and put them on the shelf’. I did challenge the five year old to find a toy shaped like a triangle. He searched for a little while and then he found a toy fence that he shaped into a triangle – clever little guy!
Since our visit, Kora has continued to ask me for challenges. Anywhere we go, she wants a challenge. We went to a splash pad with some friends one day, and I think she got one of her friends hooked on challenges. They had so much fun filling a bucket and dumping it on their heads and getting splashed by three different sprayers.
We’ve done challenges at the park and challenges at the mall. Here’s Kora trying to make a tower of checkers:
Completing challenges is one of those activities that I absolutely love. It can be done anywhere, you just adapt the challenge to your environment. It can also be played with any number of people and any age range can be challenged. The challenges can also be used as a learning tool. The challenges can ask kids to find a certain number of items (counting) or to find certain shapes, colors, letters, etc. Outdoor challenges are a great way for kids to get exercise as well as improve coordination and balance.
I challenge you to use Challenges with your kid this week. But fair warning: they might get addicted! I’d love to hear how you used challenges with your family.
It seems like everywhere I look I see people spending lots of money on fancy gadgets and toys for their children, and sometimes I end up feeling guilty for not shelling out big bucks for my kids to have the latest and greatest. But then I remember that kids are really easy to please and that it doesn’t take the latest and greatest thing to make them happy. Sometimes all it takes is a stroll through your old alma matter.
Today we loaded up the girls and their stroller, and we headed out for Aggieland. I’ve been taking Kora and Lila to Aggieland once a month for Lila to participate in the Infant Cognitive Lab, so I had to clarify to Kora that we weren’t going for that reason. I didn’t want her to get her hopes up that she was going to get to play with her Aggie friends. We told her that we were going to Aggieland for a walk through the campus.
Our walk got off to a slow start – about 5 minutes in, Kora was ready for a snack. Once Lila heard the word snack, she needed one too. In order to keep walking, Thomas filled Kora’s pockets (she had the pockets in her shorts as well as one on her shirt) with animal crackers! Kora thought this was just awesome. As we were walking Kora dropped one of her crackers, but quickly bent down to pick it up. It seems that as soon as the cracker hit the ground, two squirrels appeared out of nowhere. They sensed that we had food! These squirrels were not bashful either; they kept walking closer and closer to us. I started to get a little concerned because these little guys were not afraid at all. Thomas tried to scare them away, but they weren’t easy to scare. As we walked away, one of the squirrels followed us. He kept checking out things on the ground as if we had dropped them. He followed us for a couple of minutes before giving up.
We made a couple of stops at some of the different fountains on campus. I really think Kora wanted to jump in, but I wasn’t quite ready for her to start fountain hopping. She was so happy when I told her she could touch the water – she loved how cold the water was. Lila really liked watching the water shooting up in the air.
A trip inside the Memorial Student Center was a must. Since Kora has been a little obsessed with flags recently, we had to take her to the Flag Room. After telling her that there might be Aggies inside studying so we needed to be quite, she started tiptoeing around the room. The student center has lots of areas for sitting and studying and Kora kept finding new places that she wanted to stop and “hangout”. Kora found one lounge area and she asked if we would hangout with her. As soon as we sat down, she got up and started scooting over several different ottomans for us to use.
As we exited the MSC, Thomas started to sneeze. We happened to be standing outside the football field so his sneezes echoed quite loudly. This entertained Kora for a while – she kept fake sneezing so she could hear her echo. “AAAAAAA-CHOOOOOO”
Kora had fun posing like one of the statues around the football field. She started out posing, but realized she didn’t have anything like the football to hold. She remembered that she had a rubber duck in the stroller so she went to get it to complete her pose.
During our walk, Lila decided that she no longer wanted to ride in the stroller. In fact, she decided that she wanted to push the stroller. Well, that was getting us nowhere fast. Kora tried to help by standing behind Lila and pushing. That only resulted in Kora stepping on Lila’s heels. We ended up getting Lila to stand on the back of the stroller with Kora pushing! These girls are a mess!
There wasn’t really anything super spectacular or special about our walk, but Kora and Lila had a great time. To them, we were out on an adventure. Exploring the world. To us, it was a way to reminisce a little about out college days while getting a little exercise.
My three year old has recently become curious about where she lives. She’s also become a little obsessed with spotting flags when we’re driving around town. I decided that I would make her a little book that included her town, state, and country as well as the corresponding flags.
I learned how to make these super simple mini books while teaching elementary school, and I used them all the time in my classroom. My students always liked when we did our assignments in extreme sizes – miniature or jumbo, so I knew Kora would love her book too.
I quickly made her book while she was taking her afternoon nap (oh how I drew a simple map of her town that included our house, the library, Aggieland, and her dad’s work. On the next double page spread I drew the state of Texas and the Texas flag. I drew little stick figures in a house to represent Kora and her sister at home and then more stick figures for both sets of her grandparents. This way she can have an idea of where her family lives in relation to her home. The last spread was an outline of the United States that included an outline of Texas and a little house to represent home. I also drew a little American flag (I will admit that when I drew it I did not take the time to count the stripes or draw all the stars. I just wanted to get the general image down).
When Kora woke up from nap, she was so excited about her book. She played with it all afternoon. She kept showing me over and over where she lived and how to get to Dad’s work. She found an urgent need to FaceTime Grandma to show off her book. She continued to play with her book for the next several days.
Then she asked me where Africa was in her book. Uh oh. I had to throw together a quick world map on the back (please don’t laugh at my lack of artistic abilities). She’s been asking us to take her to Africa for a while now so she can see the animals. She keeps telling her dad we need a plane.
She enjoyed her first mini book so much I made her another one about her and one of her friends. I added simple sentences so that she can read it herself. She is so proud of her friend book, and she carries it around with her in her adventure bag.
Since Kora is really enjoying her book and since they’re a great teaching resource, I thought I’d take a minute to show you how to make them. They’re super quick and simple and you can use them for any topic/subject imaginable.
Take a sheet of paper and fold it in half hot dog style. You can use any kind of paper – I used manila and regular copy paper. Once you have your paper folded in half, fold it in half hamburger style twice.
Next, open your paper all the way up and fold it in half hamburger style. You’re going to then cut halfway down the middle of the paper, starting at the folded edge and following the crease. I drew a pink line to illustrate where you need to cut.
Once you have made your cut, unfold your paper and refold it hot dog style. Holding the two ends, gently push the paper together like an accordion, then crease all the edges. Fold your book in half hamburger style one more time, and your book is complete. I tape the edges of the book together to make it easier for Kora to flip pages, but that’s not necessary.
“Rain rain go away! Come again some other day!”
The last day of our beach vacation just got cut short due to the rain. There was so much rain in fact that I got a flash flood warning alert on my phone.
Anytime I’ve ever received one of these alerts I’ve usually shrugged it off because I’m somewhere indoors with no plans of getting on the road. Today was different however.
Within ten minutes of getting the alert, my five year old nephew looks out the window and says to my mom, “Nannie, your car is half way up with water!”
What!?! We look out the window and found that water was covering the road and rising. The water level had almost reached the bottom of the car doors!
My dad ran outside to move the car and quickly became drenched – the water was higher than the tops of his boots! Of course since this was our last day, all of his other (dry) clothes were already packed and loaded into the car.
Other than the rain, our beach getaway was a real success. The kids had a blast digging in the sand and hopping over waves.
On the afternoon of the annual sand castle competition, people were being turned away from the beach so we didn’t get to see the sand castles. We planned to go the next day to see them, but then it rained. There’s no way the sand castles survived all that rain. I guess we’ll just have to do this whole beach weekend vacation again next year!
Early last week, my husband asked me if I wanted to go camping this weekend. I’m always up for a camping trip, so my answer naturally was, “Sure!”. Within minutes, my husband had us a reservation at a campground a half hour from Scarborough Renaissance Festival.
Camping and a Renaissance Festival in one weekend? Score! Now just to decide what to wear. My husband secretly wants to be a pirate in real life, so I knew that his costume was set. Since the girls had outgrown their pirate costumes from last year, I had to find them something new to wear.
A quick search on Amazon and I had the girls matching mermaid outfits! I could have purchased more elaborate costumes, but opted for simple and comfortable. I didn’t want their costume to make them (and me) miserable all day.
I also found me a pair of mermaid pants! I was a little nervous about wearing such bold pants, but I have learned over the years that nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is out of place at the Renaissance Festival. That’s what is so great about Ren Fest. The attire ranges from everyday clothes to the most elaborate costumes (dragons, fairies, barbarians, etc) and everything in between. I like to dress up, but still want to be comfortable and able to chase two little ones around.
The night before the fair, I made Kora a mermaid tail out of foam to wear with her costume. She loved it and showed it off to everyone we passed at the festival. She didn’t wear it long, but thankfully it lasted long enough to get a picture of her in it with the ‘real’ mermaids!
Throughout the day, I received several compliments on my pants and on the girls’ outfits. As I am the picture taker of the family, I don’t appear in many pictures. This is the only picture of me in my mermaid pants. Aren’t they so shiny? I think I may have to buy another pair in a different color.
The girls had a blast at the festival. Kora loved the mermaids and had to say hi to everyone she saw in an elaborate costume. The dragon Fireflicker was her favorite! Lila could have spent all day at the petting zoo. She loves animals!
We had such a fun, yet very exhausting day. I absolutely loved our pirate/mermaid combination. In fact, I think I’m going to do a little work on making my mermaid costume a little more elaborate before the fall’s Ren Fest.
In my Birthday Resolutions post a couple of weeks ago I wrote about wanting to go camping more often. After this weekend, I can proudly say that I have my first camping trip under my belt!
My husband, his sister, and his dad planned a camping trip for all of our families for this past weekend. We all met at the campground for a weekend of family fun. And let me tell you, we had fun! My girls had a blast run around the campsite playing with their cousins and grandparents.
Saturday morning was spent down at the beach – the adults lounging in the shade and the kids splashing in the water and digging in the sand. (Well, except me and the baby. We stayed back at the camper so she could take her morning nap. With all the peace and quite, I ended up taking a little siesta too!) By the time I finally made it down to the beach, it was almost time for everyone to head back for a little rest from the sun. I hate that I missed most of the fun in the sun, but my nap may have been worth it!
One of my favorite parts about camping came Saturday night – Burgers by Thomas! I may be a little bit biased, but I happen to think that my husband makes the best hamburgers. (Don’t tell him I said this, because I don’t want to give him any ideas, one of these days I think he’ll decide to open up a burger joint!) My husband usually does all the cooking when we go camping which I think is just fantastic. I always enjoy food more when it is prepared by someone else!
Sunday morning we explored the Nature Center which had some interesting hands on exhibits for the kids. Kora loved the fish and hermit crab tanks. There was a bird spotting scope that we used to look at pelicans and boats off in the distance. While some of the other adults were pouring themselves a cup of courtesy coffee in the sitting area, Kora and I ran across the parking lot to catch a Pokemon we hadn’t caught yet!
This was our first time to visit this particular campground, and I doubt it will be our last. I was very happy with the facilities and its proximity to the beach. They even have several events scheduled throughout the summer, so we made sure to grab their calendar of events for any future plans. We had a so much fun camping this weekend, I’m ready to plan our next trip! Comment below and let me know how you like to have fun while camping.
I have a love/hate relationship with the town in which I reside. You see, I live in a college town – the same college I graduated from many moons ago. While in college, I absolutely loved living here. But its different now. Now, I love it and hate. Totally depends on the day.
I haven’t done any research on the matter, but I feel that most towns that house universities are cities first and home to a university second. But not my town. Where I live, the city has grown up around the university. The town lives and breathes our university.
While I love my university and love football pregame tailgating, any inconveniences due to the football game can be frustrating when I’m not partaking in the festivities. This may include more traffic on the roads or longer wait times to get a table at a restaurant.
Driving around town is nice and peaceful during summer and Christmas break as all the students have gone home. During this time, the stores and restaurants are rarely crowded. But come school time, the population changes by 58,000 people. The roads are now packed with cars and everywhere you look there are college kids hanging around.
Probably one of the things I dislike most about living in a college town is that it seems like the population is getting younger and younger. I’m not sure when they started letting twelve year olds go to college, but they have. My town is full of them!
Despite any inconveniences that living in a college town causes me, there are other times that I truly love living here. The university provides many opportunities and resources that I would not have other places.
One such resource is the Infant Cognition Lab. The lab accepts babies from 3 months to 18 months old. I took my older daughter and now I’m taking my younger daughter. We visit the lab once a month and the students run a brief experiment on Lila. The students are researching the development of infants’ knowledge of objects. The students monitor Lila’s eye movement to see how long she looks at particular objects and if she looks back to where an object once was. For each visit, Lila earns $5 as compensation for our time and travel. I’m putting my girls to work early! Both girls get a little certificate afterwards – Lila for participating and Kora basically for playing with toys while Lila participated.
We also had the opportunity this weekend to visit the Veterinary School’s Open House event. The students host a day long event and invite the community to come check out their facility. Along with tours of the facility, they had a petting zoo, a cow milking demonstration, polo demonstrations, and Search and Rescue demonstrations. There were lots of reptiles available for the kids to see as well as some out to touch and hold. One of the coolest things about the Open House was the Teddy Bear Surgery. Several of the Vet School students did surgery on stuffed animals that the kids brought from home. Kora took her giraffe that needed a little more stuffing in the neck. Doctor Sarah cut open the neck, added some stuffing, and then sutured the neck closed. The kids were wearing surgical mask and gloves. It was the cutest thing ever.
Right now I am loving where I live and I am grateful for the opportunities that the university provides us. I’m sure that feeling will change come graduation weekend when the town is flooded with people, but right now, I love my college town!