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.
This summer I’ve been taking advantage of the Kids Bowl Free program at our local bowling alley. If you don’t know about this program, check it out here. I was skeptical about signing up my three year old, but she has been having so much fun bowling. She has a pretty funny celebration dance after she bowls – she usually does her victory dance before the ball even hits the pins!
Usually, if I take enough snacks with us, my youngest daughter will sit happily at the table stuffing her adorable little face. This last time however, there weren’t enough snacks in the world to keep this baby happy. Lila was content for the first half of the game and then she got sleepy and only wanted to be held. I ended up bowling the rest of the game with a baby on my hip.
It was weird, but once I started bowling while holding a baby, my game actually started improving. Before having to hold Lila, I didn’t bowl a single strike or spare, but after picking her up, I continued to bowl strikes and/or spares. I guess the baby corrected my bowling posture.
While I was bowling, I had a thought: Why is there no such thing as the MomOlympics? Why do we not have a contest that features moms and their amazing multitasking ways?
If there were a MomOlympics (and there totally should be) here are a few of the events that should be included:
- The Marathon – Moms would line up at the starting line with their child in a jogging stroller.
- Rock Climbing – Babies would be snuggled up in the baby carrier as Mom ascends the rock wall.
- Bowling – With the baby on one hip, the Moms would bowl one handed.
- Swimming – Mom swims while towing a child in a raft behind her.
- Baton Twirling – With every toss of the baton, Mom would have to bend down to tend to the baby.
- Paddle Boarding – Mom paddles while the child sits on the board at Mom’s feet.
- Dodgeball – The Moms play dodgeball while trying to keep their children from being pegged with the ball.
- Rhythmic Gymnastics – Mom would use the ribbon to not only entertain the crowd but also to soothe a crying baby.
- Curling – Mom would throw the stone while instructed her children to “Sweep! Sweep!”
- Yoga – Moms would twist and bend into the most complicated of poses – partially due to the nature of the pose and partially because they are reaching for their child in order to keep them from wondering off.
Along with the above already established sports, MomOlympics would also host events like:
- Lego Obstacle course – Mom walks through a land mine of Legos while holding a baby on one hip and carrying a load of groceries.
- Diaper Changing Challenge – Moms get timed on how fast they can change a diaper.
- Laundry Folding Challenge – Moms race to fold as many towels as they can while their children “help” (read: unfold) them.
- Grocery Store Challenge – Moms (with children in the shopping cart) would race up and down the aisles trying to get everything on the list before the kids start whining or crying.
- Potty Training Sprint – Moms must locate a potty and sprint to get their potty training child onto the toilet before an accident occurs.
I really think I’m on to something amazing here. MomOlympics could be an international success! Who’s up for a little friendly competition!?! I’d love to hear if you have any other ideas for MomOlympic events!
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.
So the most ridiculous thing happened yesterday. I put Lila down to sleep, and then I went outside for a little walk (I had to make sure I got my steps in for the day!), leaving my husband inside with Kora. They both enjoy their father daughter time in the evenings.
Fast forward to later in the evening when Kora is sleeping soundly in her bed. Thomas informs me that Kora and gotten her hands on my phone and she had gone around the house taking pictures. This is not the first time she’s done this. She likes to take pictures of anything and everything she sees. It’s actually quite funny to watch her as she’s snapping away – she has to get very close to the object she’s shooting and she’s talking the whole time as if she’s coaching the subject in order to get the best shot.
I grab my phone so I can look through the pictures she took. I wanted to see our house through her eyes. To my amazement, she only took about 150 pictures – I was expecting more. There were pictures of her toys and pictures of shoes – outsides of shoes and insides of shoes. She took pictures of cabinets and got a good shot of our laundry hamper. She even got a picture of the inside of the toilet bowl! I’m just glad she didn’t drop my phone as she was getting that shot! Many pictures were a little blurry and some of the pictures were just a total blur. Kora did manage to get a smiling picture of her dad – “Say cheese!”
There were a series of pictures that made me giggle. My husband explained that Kora got a little frustrated that she couldn’t take a picture of the mirror. Because she takes close-ups, all she was capturing was herself holding the phone! I guess you can call that a selfie!
Then there was one picture that stumped us. We could tell that it said ‘DEXTER’, but we could not tell what it was. My curiosity was piqued, so I started searching for the mysterious object. After several minutes of searching, my husband joined in on the effort.
We searched everywhere, but we couldn’t find Dexter. We were baffled, yet determined to find it. We were laughing so hard because Kora had stumped us. We even joked that we were going to wake her up to help us solve the mystery! It was completely bizarre. We searched for half an hour before we finally found Dexter. She had taken a closeup of the embossed logo on the front door. It sounds a little silly, but I felt a strange sense of accomplishment once we solved the mystery of Dexter.
It was the most ridiculous scavenger hunt unknowingly created by a three year old. I’m thinking that I’ll start using this as a new activity for us to play. Kora can take pictures of things and then I have to go find what she photographed. I know she would enjoy it, and I hope she can continue to challenge me like she did with Dexter.
Have your kids ever unknowingly challenged you?
Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and I was fortunate enough to be able to spend the afternoon with my two girls, my mother and my grandmother. We didn’t have any special plans or do anything out of the ordinary. We just sat in my mother’s living room and watched the kids play. Other than four generations of strong willed women in one room, it was nothing to write home about.
But that’s what made it a great Mother’s Day. I was able to enjoy the company of my mother and grandmother while watching my two little girls play. I know there are many people out there who wish they could have had a day like I had.
A friend from high school recently lost his mother in a tragic car accident. I can’t help but think of him and his family this Mother’s Day. I grieve for him and his children as they mourn their loss. I know they would do anything to be able to spend one more Mother’s Day with her.
I also keep thinking of the friends and family that have lost children or who have struggled with becoming a mom. Mother’s Day must be a terribly painful time for them. I happen to be reading a memoir about a woman who struggled with infertility before finally adopting a child. In the book she writes about the staggering number of children in the United States alone that are in need of a loving home. I ache for the children who are motherless and for the women who yearn to be mothers but aren’t.
Mother’s Day is the one day of the year set aside to honor the mothers in our lives – mothers, mother-in-laws, grandmothers, or any other motherly figure. But is one day really enough? If the mothers in your life are anything like the mothers in mine, one day of celebrating is really not sufficient. Mother’s Day should be a yearlong celebration! We should appreciate all the things they do for us each and every day.
I love being a mother. It is hard work, and it seems like it gets harder every day. I have been pooped on, puked on, and as I write this, my daughter, who is sleeping next to me, reached up and pinched me! She’s sleeping and felt the need to pinch my arm. Motherhood hurts! But I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. These two little girls are my everything. I am continually being amazed by the things they do, and I love being a part of their lives.
Kora made me a mommy and Lila renewed my subscription. I love these little girls more than they will ever know and it a blessing to be their mother.
Happy Mother’s Day!