Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Kiwi Crate - August Box

We purchased a 3-month Kiwi Crate subscription for summer break and we are a little sad that this crate is our last one because it is our favorite so far. The August theme is "Day at the Lake", it came with a fish paper-lantern craft and 2 make your own paddle-boats.

The fish paper-lantern was easy and fun. It involved a lot of gluing but there was a general excitement about the end result. There is something magical about lights when your a kid... or a grown-kid, cause I loved the end result. It is only about 2 inches round, has a little light that will likely die within a few months considering how often my son turns it on. It also opened the conversation of paper lanterns, where they began, and what they are associated with in other counties.

It glows!!!
Each box comes with 2 "big" crafts, and then the booklet with side crafts, snack ideas based around the box theme. The second craft was make a paddle-boat. We were so excited it came with 2, so they can race and my 13yo was able to make her own an they could race them. Such a good big-sister.

The majority of this craft was decorating the sail and putting the pieces together. The rear paddle has a rubber band over it and you just twist it, set it in the water and let it go. Added bonus, the boats inspired us to take a trip to the lake.

Odin always enjoys the additional projects in the books sent with each crate; mazes, jokes, puzzles, snack ideas, easy science experiments, etc. After experiencing 3 crates, we will definitely be purchasing another Kiwi Crate subscription over winter when going outside has a limited time-frame and considering them as gift ideas for friends.

Check out the June and July crates.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Parenting - Teach Kids Basic Manners

It seems that more adults and children lack manners or etiquette than ever before. We can blame it on cell phones, media, video games, etc. But, truly we can only look at ourselves to see where most of the blame belongs. It is up to us as parents to teach our children these basic skills, just as it was our parents responsibility.

In this day and age having a kid with manners seems to surprise the older generation. Teach your kids these basic skills and it will help them when they step into the big-wide-world on their own.

1. "What's the magic word?". Please and Thank You! It starts with your toddler just saying these single words, then you roll that into "Make a sentence. May I have some milk please?"

2. Table manners. This one could be a blog in itself... Chew with your mouth closed, don't talk with food in your mouth(!), don't slurp, use your utensils, use your napkin not your pants. Burping and farting at the table is only funny on occasion let's not make a habit of it, of course never in public places or when having group dinner with guests. We've taught our kids to excuse themselves to the other room when they need to fart, they always return chuckling and smiling, it took us a bit to break the 8yo to stop announcing it from the other room "I'm glad you are relieved kiddo, but you don't need to let everyone know." (Secretly withholding parent chuckle).

3. Inside Voices. At the the dinner table, in the store, hospitals, theater shows, the movies or the library. Teach your kid they have the power to control the volume of their voice.

4. How to Answer the phone. Say "Hello.", "May I ask who is calling?" and saying "Goodbye".

5. Greeting people. Say "hello", smile, make eye contact and shake hands.

6. Cleanliness. Pick up after yourself, take your plate to the kitchen, help clean the table, (help set-up the table), give them chores or set-up a chore chart.

7. Treat public places as you treat your own home. That means if you drop trash pick it up, pick up trash that others have dropped (be the better person), flush the public toilet, don't destroy the dinner table at a restaurant, put things back where you found them, etc.

There you have it. Basic manners. Of course there are more, but these are a good start. It's never to late to instill these life skills on your kids or yourself. Although I appreciate the steps forward we have made as a society, we have taken many steps backwards in other areas, manners and etiquette being one of them. Good luck and may the force be with you.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Canoe the Youghiogheny River - A Beginner in West Newton

The Youghiogheny River is 134 miles, it flows through West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland. We live just outside of Pittsburgh and are lucky enough to close access to it. The river ranges from calm to advanced rapids.

About a 20 minute drive from our house is Youghiogheny Canoe Outfitters. They offer canoe and kayak rentals, with four different options in length to be shuttled and dropped off. Including an overnight. Cost is $39-$42 per canoe for a day or however long your float lasts, single kayaks are $22-$25 a day. Other boat options are available on their site.

Youghiogheny Canoe Outfitters were helpful, friendly and not overly concerned with when the boat would be returned. It seems like a lot of rental places charge by the hour and things can get pricey fast. The employees also made sure we had on our life vests and my two kids were set-up as needed. We were able to all fit in one canoe, and the staff gave us pads for the kids to sit on in the canoe.

I have had ear problems since I was a toddler and this was my first time out on a legit canoe float. The hubby made our reservation for the 7-mile adventure. There had finally been two days with no rain, so the river was perfect, especially for me as a beginner. I was slightly nervous being on the water again, although I had a custom ear plug and an ear-bandit. (I'm not allowed to get water in my right ear.) But, it was a very mellow float. We stopped at Cedar Creek Park and used the bathrooms, then stopped further down for a lunch break and to let the kids splash in the water.

We will definitely be returning and possible purchasing a canoe in the future.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Columbus Ohio Zoo & Aquarium - a family outing

The Columbus Zoo & Aquarium is located just north of Columbus, Ohio. The zoo opened in 1927 and in September of 1978 Jack Hanna was named Director of the zoo. In 1979 the lowland gorilla's of the zoo had never been outdoors and this was normal, with financial backing the zoo was able to overhaul the habitat to a more liveable state. In 1983 Jack Hanna had his first appearance on network television, long story short, Hanna's passion for animals made the Columbus Zoo what is today and home to many rescued animals.

My fave, the manatees. Their flippers have been damaged by boat propellers.

The Zoo is large, allot a full day to see everything. There is no transportation within the zoo, be prepared and wear comfortable shoes. You can find discounted tickets at a local Kroger grocery store, there is one about 5 miles from the zoo.;postID=5154038197498129397
Spiny Leaf Stick Bug in the Australia section of the zoo.

There are Koala's, turtles and reptiles galore, penguins, Red River Hogs, Flying Fox Bats, Markhor, a ton of beautiful birds, and much more. One of the things I really like is the description on the animal boards talks about each animals level of extinction. There are a lot of great education opportunities and activities for kids and families.

Its always fun to catch the keepers cleaning one of the aquarium tanks.

Zoombezi Bay is a water park within zoo. The tickets are additional and it would be a full day event for my family of 4-5 (depending if my sister can join in the fun). It is on the kids list to go back and spend a day at the water park as well. Needless to say we will be returning to Columbus for another visit, hopefully soon.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Taking my son to his first Concert

My Mom took me to my first concert when I was 13 (maybe 14...). I saw Neil Diamond. He stood on a circular stage in the middle of huge arena in a sparkling jumpsuit, surrounded by middle aged swooning women. My Mom told me, "this isn't like a typical concert" and I remember a sigh of relief because this was kind of ridiculous. But, of course it was still fun.


We took our oldest to her first concert when she 11, Neko Case. Unfortunately we made the mistake of letting her sleepover at a friends house the night before, she fell asleep in the middle of the show and I had to sort of carry her. That following spring we took her and my younger sister to see First Aid Kit for their Lions Roar tour. It was a small venue and they gave out autographs after the show. Darby was excited at the end and she actually stayed awake for the whole thing. Success!

Last week we took our 8yo and the soon to be 13yo to see First Aid Kit. I got odd looks from younger and older people while sitting with the 8yo at stadium type seats in the balcony. He sang every song and hoped they would play his favorite, Emmylou. Which was the very last song of the encore. Occasionally he would start to fall asleep then he'd hear a song he knew, sit up and start to sing.

I brought cotton for his ears in case it was to loud. He didn't want or need it. It wasn't a Mastodon show so I wasn't worried about his ears. Although the older group behind us got a little too drunk and too loud on occasion, he had a blast.

I've seen a lot of concerts and music was a huge part of my teenage years, as is for most. I don't expect my kids to be in a garage band one day. But, I can hope and encourage it!

Younger Hubby
For now we will encourage Odin to continue his drum lessons and  Darby to keep playing on her viola. Music is important, make sure your kids a daily dose of it.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Nerd Block Jr. - July box

I purchased a 3-month subscription to Nerd Block Jr. for my son over the summer. You can read about our first box here. We received the July box on Monday and it was ripped open with excitement before I could get home. This month didn't have an overall theme, just some stuff in a box. Here is what is inside:

The box came with a Middle School level book by Jeff Probst (the guy who hosts  the tv show Survivor), a summer activity book, glow in the dark Ninja Turtle tattoos, a kidrobot figure, a Yoda assembly "craft" and a Skylanders figure.

Skylanders is a video game that requires a portal & additional figures purchased

My soon-to-be 13yo quickly snatched up the book, otherwise it would have ended up on the book shelf for a few years. The activity book has crossword puzzles, outdoor facts, questions, but is a little too advanced for my 8yo. Both books are something we can work on and read together! The "big ticket" item is the Skylanders figure. My kids like this video game and have managed to collect quite a few characters over the years its been out. Unfortunately he already has the figure that was in the box and none of his friends have the game, so he decided to paint it and use it for pretend playing.

Odin's favorite items are the kidrobot figure and the Yoda craft.

Here is a better photo of the Yoda thing.
Overall, I'm not as stoked on this box as I was with the June, we'll see what August holds. I assume not every box can have a serious wow-factor and had he received a Skylanders figure he didn't already have, Odin would have been ecstatic.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Kiwi Crate - July Box

I purchased my son a 3-month subscription to Kiwi Crate this summer. We received our first box in June, you can read about it here. June's box theme was "color" and Odin did the activities multiple times, it came with a lot of supplies. The July box is not as full of activities as the June, but still has fun and educational projects. Here is what was inside this month's box:

Odin had already finished both crafts by the end of the day.
The July theme is "bugs". A great theme, since my kids are almost as scared of bugs as I am. There are two crafts in the box: My Dragonflyers and Bug tic-tac-toe. The Dragonflyers is a quick color and apply sticky tape project. You can see the green bottle and finished bugs in the above photo, squeeze the bottle and your dragonfly's fly! The tic-tac-toe came with Crayola modeling clay and accessories to create your bugs, as well as the game box. My 8yo was able to complete both of these projects on his own with zero mess.

Tic-tac-toe came with make your own bugs and paper bugs to play the game.
The box also came with an activity book with mazes, coloring pages, a "bonus" project, comic strip, etc. Not as packed full as the first box, but we will definitely be spending the rest of the month playing the game and taking time to learn more about bugs.