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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tips on Tuesday: Inexpensive Fun & Family Game Night

With summer vacation quickly flying away leaving us with mere days or a few short weeks until school starts, I thought a post on summer fun would be nice. Then I look at all the news on the economy and know that people don't have the extra money they might have had in the past. I realize many people think fun can only be bought or that you need to 'go' somewhere to have fun. I decided a post on inexpensive (or free) fun would be the right thing to write about.

Let's review the idea I got last year from a blog friend and look at our Seasonal Fun Charts, (also be sure to see Summer 08, Winter 08-09 and while we did Spring 09, I didn't blog it). If you've read these posts, you know I use a lot of activities that are inexpensive or free. The museums we put on our list we generally either have a membership or I know there are a lot of BOGO or discounted coupons.

For this year's summer fun, have you...blown bubbles, gone to a park, had a picnic (indoors if it's too hot outside) had a camp out (ours is done on the hide-a-bed...indoors...this mommy doesn't camp), or movie night? My list goes on as we also have Family Game Night (I'm going to come back to this one), play dough fun (I prefer outside on the deck so the play dough is less messy in my house), run through the sprinklers, play with sidewalk chalk, roll down grassy hills or lay in the grass to count the stars?

So far, I've named of lots to do and the biggest cost would be $1 at a Redbox to rent a movie. All of this good old-fashioned fun is the stuff memories are made up of. A lot of it is just spending quality time with your kids and your family.

Now, back to Family Game Night. When the kids are really young, it's hard to find a game for everyone to play. Taking turns is a difficult lesson to learn and a lot of game concepts are beyond the very small. Yet, it never stopped us from playing with the bigger kids holding an infant or very young toddler on our lap. If we were playing cards, we'd give the little one the jokers or cards from a different deck. Keeping them at the table with you helps teach turn-taking without lecturing. They learn by example.

The point I want to make with Family Game Night is how good it is for your children on so many levels. The first time I really saw the difference was when I volunteered weekly in Andrew's classroom. Kids who play games at home have a distinct advantage in the classroom. They have better attention spans, they understand taking turns and they have some of the logical reasoning skills already in place. We don't have to teach them how to think logically or how to think strategically. They have already learned it. Kids who played games at home with their families did better in every subject I helped with.

The other thing I realized is the sense of family stability. When you're willing to sit down and play a game with your child, it gives all of us a chance to get to know each other better and share things we wouldn't talk about in passing. It also brings a sense of unity and harmony to our home. OK--the harmony doesn't happen DURING the game since we're way too competitive as a family, but the feeling carries out of the game and into life.)

Andrew's game of choice is Cribbage. For an 11 year old, you'd better not 'go easy' on him because he'll beat your socks off. It took time around a table teaching him the strategies of the game (and waiting for him to count to 15). Now he plays with adults all the time and doesn't slow down the game. He also took a liking to Backgammon and will play anyone who gives him a chance. We also went through a Scrabble phase where we ended up purchasing a "Travel Scrabble" to use at home. Since the letters locked into place, we could leave the game in the middle and not worry about little brothers and sisters messing up the board.

Candy Land was the first game Nathan would sit and play from start to finish. He loved the colors and it is an easy game to understand and play. Considering his Twice Exceptionality (he's Gifted and Autistic), finding games for him was not an easy task. Once he loved playing Candy Land, we tried some additional games from the easy set. He would play Chutes and Ladders, but it wasn't his favorite game. We discovered that he LOVED playing High Ho Cherry-O and that was when I started to see how intelligent he really was. His math skills are incredible and he would be mentally adding some pretty large numbers in his head to keep track of the total amount of cherries in his basket. It's not part of the game, but it was something he did on his own to add to his fun. He's also our Phase 10 player. As long as we have card holders, he was good to go. (And in the beginning, he needed someone to help arrange the cards and not remember what they saw.)

Rebekah would rather do a puzzle than sit and play a game. She got some 25 piece puzzles for her birthday and she can do them, "All by myself!" She also loves our new Hyper Jump game where it tells you what number/color to jump on and you do. It's like a large Simon game for the whole body. I like it because you have to get off the couch and move your body. Also, it's great to help teach following instructions. I got it for the boys, but she absolutely loves it.

I hope you'll be encouraged to spend some time playing games, or doing other fun things before our summer is gone. This summer has been very nostalgic for me and I've craved family time and activities. I'm working on going back to basics and some of these simple things are my methods. Just last night our backyard was filled with kids blowing bubbles. Some would be up on the deck blowing bubbles while the rest ran around the yard trying to pop them. It brings a lot of joy to my heart to hear the laughter and squeals of delighted children. What a treasure. Don't let summer slip away without spending some time enjoying your greatest treasure of all--your family.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The best thing...

I saw a quote today that really struck me as important.

One of the best things to hold onto in this world is a friend.

Hope you've given all your friends (and kids) a squeeze today.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ever feel trapped by your clothes???

Just found these in my photos--forgot I had them. If you head back to 4th of July weekend, I put Miss Rebekah down for her nap. She seemed quiet and I knew she had gone to sleep. After a long naptime, I went to check and see if she was still sleeping. Yes, she was still sleeping...but when I walked into her room the first thing I noticed was this...

It's her Red, White & Blue Ponytails and her plastic pants and training pants (undies). I'm becoming concerned because she doesn't always stay dry at naptime and I didn't want her to get her 4th of July dress wet.

No problem there! She had taken the dress off, too. It was thrown off the other end of the crib. I adjusted the covers a bit to keep my photos PG-13. This is how I found our precious girl. Yup, buck naked.
The good news is she remained dry through the entire nap. Whew! Sheets could wait for another day to be changed.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tips on Tuesday: Free Starbucks Pastry TODAY

This morning only, click here for the printable coupon. Get a free pastry with the purchase of a beverage.

Please note: This special is only valid from Opening to 10:30am--or until the pastries run out. Enjoy!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hip Hop Class

Nathan decided to take Hip Hop class again this summer. Keep in mind, after being very excited about this class, he started to really seem distressed that we put him in the class. I couldn't figure out why he was so excited to take Hip Hop and then started to back-pedal. The week before classes started, I gave him the final choice--go to Hip Hop or pull out and don't take it.

Nathan asked, "Is Hip Hop one of my therapies?"
I told him no--Andrew did baseball for a sport this summer and you picked Hip Hop. If you don't want to go, we'll pull you out and you don't have to go.
Nathan: I don't have to go?
Mom: Not if you don't want to.
Nathan: OK, since it's not therapy, I'll go.

If that doesn't bring on a moment of Mommy-guilt, you've got a stronger will than me! I remind myself that we're doing all this to further his life and his opportunities. We're trying to pave the way for an easier time at school and in social situations. does bring Mommy Guilt.

Nathan is doing Listening Therapy this summer to help mature his Auditory Processing System. He's also been taking "Handwriting Classes"--which are a lot more fun than they sound. It's an Occupational Therapist (OT) working with him on all sorts of games and toys (these games and toys just might help with both fine and gross motor skills) with about 10 minutes of actual writing thrown in. Top that off with piano lessons (fine motor builder--and if you live in this house, you have the 'opportunity' to play piano) and a summer bowling league (a gross motor builder that we bill as fun) and I see where he is getting the idea that Hip Hop might be another therapy disguised as fun.

Here are some photos from Hip Hop class. They are a little blurry/shadowed since I'm taking them through a two-way mirror. His final class is later this week and I'm hoping to get a good video of their dance.

Nathan is so happy to have a friend from school at hip hop. The red-headed girl in the pink shirt is in his grade at school. Miss S and Nathan really hit it off in class. He's had a great time and is doing really well.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Our Field of Dreams is "Officially" Finished

Last weekend we were able to put the finishing touches on the swingset. If you remember, the field of dreams was left as this:

You may not realize it, but there's a slide missing on this. The store was out and we had to get a different sized slide because it lands in the yard. We were finally able to locate and purchase one and get it put onto the swingset. (That first week was a little hairy with a big gaping hole off the four foot deck of the playset.)

Here we are sliding...

At first, Rebekah was coming off the slide with feet in motion to keep her running...
Then, she figured out how to go off the end and 'stick the landing'.

Lots of fun!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Carnival Day

Our local grocery store has an annual Customer Appreciation Day complete with inflatables and carnival games for the kids. We were able to go (even though it rained off and on) and have a great time.

We took off shoes and stood in line for the inflatables. Rebekah wouldn't let me get a photo of her looking 'normal'. I finally got this one showing off the bottoms of her Dora sandals. Nathan was all smiles waiting for his turn.

Nathan went through the obstacle course first. He did great with the climbing wall.

Rebekah needed a little help so she went through with Andrew. He's a great helper for her and they work well together. (She listens to him giving instructions better than when she listens to me.)

Once she understood how to climb the wall, she was off with Andrew on her heels. Then coming down the slide....

Andrew following behind her. They had fun. Rebekah would have made Andrew do this all day if I hadn't distracted her with the games.

We tried to open the treasure chest, but picked the wrong keys.

Then we went to Plinko. Since Andrew & Poppa built us our very own Plinko board last year, we've got a lot of practice. They both won nice prizes.

Then we did the pig races. Looked like Rebekah's pig would win, but Nathan's pulled ahead in the last few steps and he won.

And then, Andrew loves the ring toss game where you 'win' free 2 litres of pop. Now, keep in mind he won't drink pop, but it's his favorite game to play. I finally had to get a cart to take the pop to the van. If you didn't win a pop, you got a piece of candy. Rebekah wanted candy so she stood in line. Wouldn't you know it--she WON a bottle of pop. She snuck a candy when the gal wasn't looking, too. Andrew already won a pop before Rebekah, then he won another one on his turn and Nathan won the 4th bottle of the day. I took all that to the car and wouldn't you know it, Andrew won a 5th one while I was gone. We're pop happy here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What a Bubblelicious Day!

It all started as one mommy's dream. To find a No-Spill Bubble Tumbler with three bubble wands. You would think this to be an easy mommy task...but alas, after much searching the mommy felt great despair. She feared she would never see such a product beyond the neighbors driveway. Until she went--on a whim--to that mecca known as Target. And there, the mommy triumphed in her quest and in her home there is much rejoicing. (And the mommy has successfully checked another item off the Summer To Do List while not spilling bubble juice everywhere.)

And the loyal subjects of the kingdom rejoiced with their mommy.
And they blew bubbles.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tips on Tuesday: Cake Wrecks--because a Laugh a Day keeps the Doctor Away!

Let me begin with a little explaination. I usually try to 'tip' you with great ideas to save money, time, lifestyle ideas, etc. I've been saving this post for months--just waiting for the right moment to share. I wanted a day when we all need a really good belly laugh. I think today is that belly-laughing day. Before reading farther, please grab a tissue or two...once you see and read this post, I hope you'll be laughing so hard you'll be crying. I cry (from belly laughing) everytime I visit the following site. I'm reading backwards to the beginning. I consider it a theraputical website.


All of the following photos and most of the captions/quips are from a fantastic, award winning website. Check it out at

The following is the description of their website:
What is a Cake Wreck?
A Cake Wreck is any cake that is unintentionally sad, silly, creepy, inappropriate - you name it. A Wreck is not necessarily a poorly-made cake; it's simply one I find funny, for any of a number of reasons. Anyone who has ever smeared frosting on a baked good has made a Wreck at one time or another, so I'm not here to vilify decorators: Cake Wrecks is just about finding the funny in unexpected, sugar-filled places.

Would you like to see the cake that inspired it all?? I'm sure you've seen this one before...

Best Wishes Suzanne--and underneath that, We will Miss You
I think the decorator totally understood what was being asked of her.

Welcome Baby in Pink (see--the decorators are following instructions to the last letter...maybe white icing wasn't the look the cake buyer was going for?)

Miss Jen, CakeWrecks owner, has a LOT to say about this cake. One of my favorite points is to notice that the poor gal has been spanked so hard that she's now flying several feet off of the ground. But this cake is truly ok for the office because they did put the big red "DON'T" symbol on it. Check out the whole post here.

In case you weren't sure, it's a foot. With possible toenail fungus. I'm not sure what the lumpy look is--perhaps it's a genetic condition? Keep in mind--this is a real cake and people were supposed to eat it. Bon Appetite!

Some cakes speak for themselves.

Here's the real mascot:

Here's the cup cake version:

I see how they are VERY much the same logo. No changes at all.

I implore you to read the whole
Good Luck in China cake post. I'm telling you it's a MUST read for people everywhere. (You've got tissues at the ready, correct??)

At first, I thought the wreckage was the fireman that looks like a girl. But that's not the main commentary. Check out the hose that man/girl/person is holding. Nope, you're not the only one with your mind in the gutter. Just go read the post. I'm telling you it's worth it!!!!

So we eat the bride at the reception? I'm creeped out on so many levels.

Wonder what the card said?

Supposed to say, "Happy Fatherhood Shawn & Glenn"
Instead we have the ever popular new celebration, "Happy Falker Satherhood"
Must watch the video on this post. Again, have tissues at the ready. Still laughing here!

I found the whole site through a Facebook Connection---but found out when I went to visit that Jen and the Cake Wreck Crew are fellow BlogHer members. They are currently a Top 5 finalist for "Funniest Blog 2009". Winners announced the end of the month--hope they get it.
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