Friday, July 29, 2011

Game Time

For a long time we weren't really a game-playing family. Jacob and I would do the occasional puzzle until the choking hazard sized pieces became an issue with the kids when they were babies. This year W has embraced a variety of games which we can all play together and game time has become a fun family ritual, and a great activity to do during the day for us too. Here are a few of our current favorites.


This was actually a birthday gift to Jacob from one of his brothers, but we all love this game! W even beat us both for the first time ever earlier this week. His game has definitely been improving. It involves some strategy and a lot of luck. Hint: use all your big pieces first, especially when playing with 3 or 4 people. The one down side is C always wishes he could play, so it has gotten harder to distract him while the big kid and grownups play.


We have the Thomas & Friends version of Uno, but I think we'll need to get another deck soon since these cards have been played so much this spring & summer that they are looking pretty sad. The Easter Bunny brought these for C, but W quickly figured out that it was a very fun game and not just color-matching cards for his brother. I can't count the number of times we've played this. We even took it with us on vacation so it made some hotel rooms feel more like home. W likes playing best of five rounds with Jacob and/or myself. I must admit, I love playing too!

Sum Swamp

This game is fun for W, and helps with his adding and subtraction. Yes, we are sneaky parents and are secretly working on his math skills while he plays. ;) I heard about this through other home schooling families and am so glad they told me about it. It has four animal game pieces so usually C can be entertained with one and feel like he is playing too. It is not the most exciting game for grownups, but it keeps kids entertained so hey isn't that the point?

Rainbow Timber blocks by Haba

This is like Jenga for little kids. The blocks are so versatile and cute. The boys use these on a daily basis, mostly just for building and pretend play. The blocks can be a bridge, a house, or a garage for their toy cars. This is a great toy for the younger set when they have little friends over to visit, but W still loves them. There are actual rules too if that's how you roll. Haba has a lot of great block building model sets that W may be interested in soon. Santa, do you hear me?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

funny storytime

This afternoon we visited the library for a special storytelling event with author and comedian Mark Binder. He kept the kids engaged in the stories and incorporated harmonica music and audience participation in a fun way. Check out the links below for his book & cd/mp3.

W had a great time and enjoyed listening and participating in the stories. C could have behaved better but I was able to keep him busy enough to not ruin it for W. They got to see their friends and had a good time overall. Mommy is exhausted now. Trying to post via my phone for the first time.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Summer Reading

Last week while trying to beat the heat,we had a few playdates and attended a Science event at the library. The Mad Science program was drop in and W got to meet up with a friend afterwards and he really enjoyed seeing the experiments the "mad scientist" did. He showed how air pressure affects an egg in a beaker, and how electric blowers can hold up balls in the air, and used dry ice and bubbles to make some cool special effects.

the kids hold their ears during the air pressure demonstration

W has been keeping a reading chart for the summer reading club at the library and he's doing well with it. With reading chapter books it takes a bit longer to go through as many books as he did last year but he's reading something every day whether it's a picture book or chapter book so I'm happy with that. The librarians set up a wheel for the kids to spin each time they get to 10 more books and get a sticker and prize. W loves to go to the library anyway to play but this just adds to the appeal. He even wanted to go on Saturday after a birthday party, so now he is planning to read 10 more books before the next time we go. They are having an end of summer reading party at the end of August so that will be a fun wrap up. 

Lately W is still into the Magic Treehouse books and enjoys to do the little quizzes on the passport section of the web site for the series when he finishes the books. He also checked out one of the books from The Littles series, and I plan on introducing Flat Stanley pretty soon as well. We are also reading On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder as a family group read. 


Monday, July 18, 2011

Museum of Science

W & C pose in front of a stuffed bear in the New England animals exhibit

Over the weekend we met up with some friends at the Museum of Science in Boston. Actually in Boston & Cambridge as we found out. They have a little border within the hallway of the museum so you can be in both cities at once. I am a dork and love those sorts of land markers.

We had last taken W there when he was 3, so he did not remember any of it so it was all new to him. Jacob and I have fun memories there from our college days so I was reminiscing a bit (the MOS offers a free night for students in the fall). Back to the current century... :) The boys enjoyed exploring many exhibits and were delighted by the two dinosaur areas; one is a traveling exhibit called Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries and it was very impressive. If you're able to get there before August 21st check it out. Alas, there were no photos allowed in that section but it well worth seeing, and it was organized by the American Museum of Natural History which we talked about in our New York post last year.

little space explorer!

W and C loved exploring the model of the Apollo command module.

We took in a show at the Planetarium at the end of the day; Undiscovered Worlds: The Search Beyond our Sun. This was a recent movie produced by the Museum and has up to date facts. It was a fascinating show mainly focused on discovering exoplanets, planets outside of our solar system. It is amazing to think of how much more there is to discover, and how much we will learn within our lifetimes. The MOS web site offers a monthly star chart to view/download. There is even an educator's guide (pdf) on the website to accompany the program we watched. This is targeted at older kids but I will modify an activity for W's level this week as a follow up to our museum trip, along with a review of our own solar system. The boys enjoy looking at stars on some clear evenings and can pick out the big dipper, and now with his glasses it is easier for W to spot shooting stars. 

Now is the time for me to start planning some more science activities for first grade as it's coming up fast now. Most of our "summer science" has been gardening and observing nature. In the fall we will continue to use the Giant Science Resource book, Let's Read and Learn Science books from home & the library, and multiple experiment books along with supplemental materials. 


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Christmas in July

We recently visited Santa's Village amusement park in Jefferson, NH. We had been there when W was a toddler, but this was C's first time and also since W didn't remember going it seemed new to him as well. They have picnic areas so we brought our lunch. They have a lot to see and we spent the full day there. It is a very fun place and W loved the rides, they have a rollercoaster, flume yule log, a train ride, sky ride, and many more. W is very adventurous when it comes to rides and he went on all the big ones and even some fast ones by himself (like the new chimney ride and the boat). They also have enough rides and activities to keep toddlers entertained. 

a ride they both enjoyed!

The highlight for me was seeing the reindeer and getting to feed them. They are amazing to see up close!

The boys enjoyed a scavenger hunt to find all the Elves named after letters of the alphabet. C is still working on his abc's and although he can say the letters he's working on recognition. He loved pulling the lever to punch a hole for each letter.

We had a memorable day and are even considering going back sometime for a pre-Christmas day trip.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Day Out With Thomas 2011

We went to the Day Out With Thomas event at the North Conway Scenic Railroad in NH last week. This was our second year going, so now we feel like old pros.

The biggest tip we learned was to buy tickets ahead of time. Last year Saturday sold out so we had to go Sunday when the only tickets left were available. So this year we ordered online a couple months in advance.  We also opted to go on a Friday since it is probably less busy than the weekend. There were big crowds as the trains unloaded but there is stroller parking on the side of the rails.

C was so happy

We wound up on an open car which was much more enjoyable, the middle car in the photo above. The latter was luck of the draw as they just try to fill up the trains as there is no assigned seating, but we loved seeing the mountain views and enjoyed the breeze as well. The train goes backwards and then forward back to the station and the ride was about 25 minutes.

one of the gorgeous mountain views from the train.

kids of all ages enjoyed seeing the tortoise

DOWT tickets include admission and the train ride, and they offer a scavenger hunt with a small prize if you get all the stamps. They also had rides on small rail cars, bouncy houses for different age groups, photo ops with Thomas & Sir Topham Hatt, a tortoise and wildlife expert walking around, and a large tent with crafts and activities, and much more. Another tip if you are on a budget try to steer your kids past the gift shop as the toys are pretty expensive, but last years t-shirts were half off. ;)

If your child is obsessed with trains or Thomas, I highly recommend this event. This was better than Christmas for C! And W was still very interested and he liked getting to see the inside of a train again and push buttons. The guys working with the trains are very knowledgeable and willing to answer any questions. We had also begun re-reading the original Thomas stories by Rev. W. Awdrey in preparation of the trip.

North Conway has a great playground and picnic area nearby and the downtown is fun to walk around and has some fun general stores and Dondero's Rock Shop which has all kinds of cool rocks and fossils.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Watching the Garden Grow

It's been a while since a garden update, but a lot has changed in the past few weeks. We just took a long weekend trip up to the White Mountains so we were pleasantly surprised that no animals had eaten the fruits of our labor so far. I had spotted a deer shortly before we planted the garden and we have also seen our local wild turkey family checking out the pumpkin patch. As long as they stick to eating ticks and bugs they're cool with us. 
Oh, hai turkeys.

July 1st.. lettuce and carrots beginning to pop up.

and July 10th.. as you can see we need to do some thinning out, but the lettuce is starting to look edible and the carrots are pretty hearty now. We also have seen several blossoms on the squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, and pepper plants. The eggplant hasn't changed much since planting. The herbs are thriving and we had fresh basil on our tomato & mozzarella sandwiches last night.

I see baby lettuce salad on the menu in the near future.

A cute cucumber flower.

Yay, tomato!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Free Fun Fridays (Boston area)

Free Fridays at Boston area museums! This summer some museums and attractions will be free on certain Fridays. Check out this link for more information.

We are hoping to take advantage of a couple of these days. :)

Oh Say Can You See?

W was recently diagnosed with Astigmatism in both eyes, and mild lazy eye, and therefore was prescribed glasses. We suspected for a while that he needed glasses, but looking back I wish I took him to the eye doctor a lot earlier. At his annual checkup, he flunked the vision chart and they said to make an appointment with an Optometrist.

The Optometrist was great with him but said that W really needed to see a specialist to get a prescription for glasses. So after a referral and weeks of waiting, he finally got to the Ophthalmologist and did well for the first part of the exam.  However, once it came time for them to dilate his eyes with drops he freaked out and we had to reschedule for the following week since the doctor, nurses and myself were unable to convince him to cooperate. The first drops stung his eyes so I think he was afraid they would all feel like that and he went into fighter flight mode. So we got drops to bring home with us for the next appointment, and last week after much grumbling on W’s part, we succeeded enough to dilate the eyes. I was so happy it worked! And he was an angel at that appointment getting compliments from the doctor and nurses at how great he was behaving, as Jacob and I exchanged knowing glances of how hard it had been for us with him that morning! ;) They promised no drops at his next checkup so he is a happy camper now. He may need a temporary patch at some point but for now he’s getting used to his prescription.

the thinker

This week he got to go pick up his glasses. He has been great with them so far, knock on wood. He has had two playdates this week and he kept them on great despite climbing up on playscapes and swinging, and we got the protection plan for the glasses so if any accident does occur that will cover it. We went through Lenscrafters and they also had a sale of 50% off total purchase of lenses and frames for kids under 12, score!

The librarian recommended a book to W which he was not very receptive of initially but I caught him reading it anyway. It's called Why Do I Have to Wear Glasses? by Sandra L. Stuart. It was just what he needed to read, and of course since actually getting the glasses he notices a big difference and is happy he can see better.

Next up we need to get a referral for C, as the doctors highly recommended getting him checked out as well. Even though he is only 2 they can do a vision test with lights. Looking back I wish I did this earlier for W, but he has hid his vision problems well, he can swing a bat and hit a ball he throws in the air, and loves to read, but did always want to sit too close to the TV. So to other parents, just go to a local vision center as part of their health care routine to get kids checked out well before school (or homeschool) age. :) /end of my vision PSA