This weekend my husband and I took our kids to west Texas for a family reunion. Each year, my dad’s extended family has a weekend long family reunion at a local church camp. The camp has a large dining hall with a commercial kitchen, cabins and RV hookups, swimming pool and playground. It is a wonderful place for a large group to meet up for several days.
The dining hall was the hub for the weekend’s family fun. Family members congregated before meals and lingered long after meals were eaten. Many conversations were had and games played around those tables.
There were approximately 50 people there over the course of the weekend and I probably knew less than half of them. I can’t actually remember the last time I went to one of the family reunions. It’s got to be at least over ten years!
It took Kora all of five seconds to make friends with the other kid cousins. She is two years younger than the youngest of the cousins. Most of the other kids were in the 8-11 year old range. Luckily, the age difference didn’t stop all the kids from playing together.
On Saturday morning, Kora and my mom found a baseball bat and a small wiffle ball and started to play a game of baseball. It didn’t take long before the big kids jumped in and started to play too. The big kids were very patient with Kora as she tried to hit the ball and then encouraged her as she ‘ran the bases’.
During the baseball game, Kora did something that completely baffled me. When it was her turn, she picked up the bat, that was nearly as long as she is, and tapped the ground like baseball players tap home plate. I couldn’t imagine where she had learned that behavior. We’re not big baseball fans, so we don’t go to games or watch baseball on TV. I asked her how she learned to do that and she simply replied, “George.”
Curious George! Of course she learned it from Curious George! Kora is a little sponge and she absorbs and remembers everything she sees and hears. It amazes me when she starts talking about something that happened months ago. One day I was talking to her about planets and I was trying to use the cartoon Ready Jet Go to help her make a connection to what I was explaining. She then starts talking about how “My dentist has Jet Propulsion.” Why does she remember that her dentist’s office had that cartoon on the TV during her appointment four months ago? That’s such a random thing to remember, but she recalled it as if it happened yesterday.
The other day as I was driving the girls to a playdate, Kora was playing with her toys in the backseat. I hear her talking about steam. She tells her toys that steam is just water. I ask her who taught her about steam. Her response? “Timon.” As in Timon, the meerkat, from Lion King. (Technically, Kora has never seen The Lion King. She watches The Lion King 1 & 1/2)
Seeing how much she absorbs makes me want to constantly surround her with new information and new experiences. It also makes me want to shield her from any and all inappropriate content that we might run across. I cringe when I hear something on a commercial that I feel a 3 year old doesn’t need to hear, hoping she doesn’t start repeating it. With Kora, she might not repeat it today; she might start repeating it in a couple of weeks.
I know it’s starting to sound like Kora spends all her time watching television, but that’s simply not true. She does love to watch cartoons, but we do limit her screen time. And we try to make sure that if she is going to watch cartoons, at least they have good teachers like George and Timon.
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.
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.