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Showing posts from June, 2015

Kids - Creating a chore chart

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I think it is really important that kids understand the importance of earning. We try hard to not buy a lot of toys and junk for our kids. Of course occasionally we do purchase them something, but its usually because they behaved well under a circumstance or helped out with something around the house (babysitting your little brother while Dad and I dealt with a leaking ceiling). Because we have been firm about our "no's" since they were little, they don't throw tantrums when they don't get something they want. If they really want something they have to save.

We have a white-board calendar in our dining room with weekly "mandatory" chores for each kid. On that board is also the kids virtual bank that keeps track of their funds. The image below shows the start of July and the end of June at the bottom. As they do their chores they cross them off.

The 12yo cleans the cat box every week, she also feeds the cat and makes sure his bowls are clean. The 8yo dum…

Kids - Magic Science Kit

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My daughter received this kit as a birthday gift three years ago. We did some of the activities and then she was no longer interested and the kit was shelved. Earlier this year we pulled it out of her closet and handed it to the 8yo. I figured nothing was going to work because it had been sitting in the closet for so long, but I was wrong.


There are seven activities in the box. Most have to do with density, acids and bases. A lot of color changing and fizzy experiments. Basic contents in the box: baking soda, citric acid, vegetable oil, red cabbage juice powder, zinc sulfide, 4 test tubes, a test tube stand, scooper's for measuring, and a few other random items for the experiments.



None of the experiments are overally messy and there are none on an explosive level, like Mentos and Coke-a-Cola. It's a very good learning tool for me and for my kiddos. The lowest cost I found online is at Target for $17.99.


Being Sick - my Husband & my Job

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My husband knew when we were dating that I have a handful of medical annoyances. I'm not one to shy away from being blunt about my "issues". On and off for the past 9+ months I've had foot procedures, ear, respiratory and sinus infections, plus a few other annoying things occur. Due to another illness I am writing this blog.

We eat mostly healthy. I haven't been able to exercise as much because of my feet and that probably has something to do with me catching all these fun illnesses, but generally we are okay at it.  Always, no matter how much stress is happening in our household or at our jobs (deadline!), my husband makes me a priority. Making sure I stay in bed, that I take my meds, that I sleep okay, gets the kids out of the house, cooks every night and tries to stay positive.

It strengthens our relationship. Plus, fourteen years of marriage to me can't be easy.



My job is pretty amazing. I set my own hours and telecommute pretty much full-time. When I…

Nerd Block Jr - June Box

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Our Nerd Block Jr. June box arrived! Nerd Block has six different box subscriptions, we opted for Nerd Black Jr "for boys" for ages 6-11. There is one that is "for girls" that is for any kid into; Care Bears, My Little Ponies, Hello Kitty, etc. I don't think they need to gentrify it, should just be the "pink" or "blue" box. Or something more creative then that... I digress.

June box was full of fun geek-type things; A Ninja Turtles Plush that says things when you squeeze it, A Ninja Turtle magic painting activity, Batman tattoos, Scatter Brainz "dart" game, Superman figure and a Minions comic book. The comic book is basically picture following and no words, has one activity of "find all the banana's".

The cost of a3-month subscription is $38 plus $18 for shipping. A bit steeper than Kiwi Crate we got earlier this week. Odin was very happy with the toys and spent most of the day playing on his own in his room. We have…

Kiwi Crate - June Box Part 2

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We tackled a few more fun projects from the June crate this weekend!

"Walking Colors" is the name of this project. It teaches Capillary action. (Which was a learning experience for me to.) The project uses cups, food coloring and paper towels to move water from one area to another. Like a tree's roots to branches.


It takes time for the the liquid to transfer and little man was not going to sit around waiting. So we headed out to see the movie Inside Out. Side note: the movie was funny and cute. Both the 8yo and the 12yo were entertained, as well as the hubby and myself.

We came back about 2 hours later and the liquid had transferred quite a bit into the other cup. As you can see in the photo above, we started with red, yellow and blue. So, as two colors transferred they mixed and made: purple, orange and green.

This is such a fun and easy do at home project if you have some food coloring, small cups and paper towels. I never would have thought of it, so thank you Kiwi Cr…

Kiwi Crate - June box

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We received our very first Kiwi Crate box today! Kiwi Crate offers four different age brackets of subscription boxes. Depending on the age bracket, the boxes can contain projects involving; art, science, crafts or all the above. The price depends on how many months you sign up for. I went with the 3-month subscription for summer break.

After weeks of anticipation from the 8yo, the box showed up today. Every month has a theme, this month is color. Because this was our first box, we received a welcoming letter, color-in poster titled "My Adventures with Kiwi" and a pair of kid-scissors. For every box, there is a Kiwi sticker that is related to the monthly theme, kids adhere this sticker to the poster every month so they can track their Kiwi Crate fun. This month's was Kiwi with a rainbow. One of today's do on-your-own activities was color the poster and hang in his room.


There are two main projects and some other fun side projects. To our surprise the box is packed ful…

Favorite Kid appropriate Podcasts

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Telecommuting means that my kids are often sitting in my office (bedroom) while I'm working during the summer school break. I don't like to have my headphones on all the time, so I have to make sure any podcasts I'm listening to are not to "adult".

One of the only kids specific podcasts I enjoy is brains on! This podcast is all about science, there are episodes about specific animals, volcanoes, roller coasters, etc. The length of each episode is 10-25 minutes. Which is perfect for my son who struggle sitting still and not talking for more than 5 minutes. Sometimes when he is working in his activity books we will have a binge and listen to 3-4 episodes. Odin really enjoys the "The Mystery Sound", its a sound that relates to the episode topic, and you guess what is.


 The second podcast is Stuff you Missed in History Class. Its exactly what the titles says, history. The history related topics are pretty broad and full of fun stories and facts. The adults …

Our favorite Family Board games

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We love board games, we are not experts on the topic, but here are a few of our favorites that the entire family can play.

Apples to Apples Jr. is for ages 9 and up, but my (just turned) 8 year old has no problems playing and understanding the concept of how to play. It also entertains my 12 year old teen daughter.
Educational wise the game gives the opportunity to teach new words, what they mean and how other words could relate to it.

This game gets very fun, and rounds of laughter happen often. We scored our game at the Thrift Store for $2, but I've seen the game available used online for $6-$15. And I've seen it on super sale during holidays at your local big Box store, for $10-12.


Our second most played game is Trivial Pursuit Kids. Like most Trivial Pursuit games, the questions cover entertainment, history, people, animal, etc. We often have to sift through the cards to find a question the 8yo might know or would be good for him to know. We also change the rules a little …

Women's Prana Kara Jean review

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Comfortable bottoms for an active woman can be a challenge to find. I'm not talking about stretchy yoga type pants, I'm looking at jeans. I am not a fan of having to change clothes to be able to run around the park with the kids or hop on the bike to run to the store. The search for a pair of women's jeans that could accommodate these simple activities and not break the bank, has been a challenge.

The Kara Jean has fit that bill. I purchased these last fall and have been living in them for weeks at a time. I wear a size 10 and these have a little give after wearing them for a few days, but an 8 was way too small for me. The pants are low-rise and the materials is a nice soft and stretchy woven denim. They are machine washable and I have had no issue with them shrinking. The fit is flattering and these pants can be dressed up for work, date night or just chasing the kids around the park.


The Kara Jean retails at $85 and is available in different colors depending on the seas…

Kids Summer - Reading Programs

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The 12yo, like her Dad, likes to read consistently throughout the year without having to be poked or prodded about it. The 8yo is not as much of a "reader" as his big sister. Most of the books he picks out he read in school and is coaxed into trying a similar book by that author, or some kind of license book; Lego, Pokemon, Star Wars, Comic Books etc.

During summer I enroll the 8yo in summer reading programs. Every library I've come across runs a summer program. Our local library has events throughout summer as well; magicians, animal experts, local chain restaurant mascots... Whatever it takes to get kids and parents into the library. Once your kid reads "X" amount of books, they can enter to win a prize or they get a sticker. If it helps get my kid reading then we are doing it.


Barnes & Nobles has a summer reading program that kids can earn a "free book". You can find more info here. You just print out the PDF and record any 8 books on this for…

Fire bowls & Sparklers

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We received a fire bowl as a gift about 4 years ago and we have really used the heck out the thing. I love fires on chilly nights. If you do not have a yard that you can make a DIY fire-pit, purchasing a fire bowl and getting outside in the evening with the kids can be a fun evening.


Like most parents we cannot escape the house as often as we'd like, so the fire-bowl in our small backyard is always a welcome treat. Throughout summer you can find fire bowls on sale at big box stores, ours is a $50 bowl. We put it under the awning when its raining and leave it outside all winter and it's still in good shape. Keeping a reasonable size fire and not having a bonfire will help it last longer. We destroyed the lid to the bowl last year... Between a couple medium to big size fires and a bit of rust the lid fell apart. As long as you are just burning wood and keeping your fire controlled, not having a lid is fine.



I'm also a big fan of sparklers and poppers as soon as they show up …

Suburb Bike Rodeo

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We currently live in a smaller suburb of Pittsburgh, where cycling for utility is a crazy notion and there's no way kids will ever ride a bike to school. Before you ask, most of the parents in the area feel that its better that way... sigh. Anyway. Today was North Huntington's Bike Rodeo.

I was not aware there was a Bike Rodeo in the area until a "summer activities" booklet showed up in the mail. This rodeo will be their second year. We had some leftover Honka Hoota's from Dirt Fest so Odin and I brought some with us to give to the organizers. Needless to say they were very happy to have something so fun to give the kids (and some adults).


The local bike shop Cycle Symphony was their, donating safety checks on the kids bikes. Basic stuff, tire pressure, brakes work, chain works, etc. There were kids with brakes cables not attached, loose pedals and a few other needed fixes.


 They had a small, tight-turn obstacle course. The officer was encouraging to the kids, b…

Hiking with Kids - Bird Watching

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Going on hikes is a fun summer family activity. Sometimes I have to drag the kids out the door and they are miserable and angry at me for a good 30-60minutes. But once they start walking and getting fresh air, the bad feelings seem to slip away.

We often encourage the kids to bring their bird watching "gear". Honestly, I know nothing about birds; they fly, their different colors and sizes, etc. I can name a few when I see them, but that's about it. The point is giving kids a task or an assignment to encourage to go outside with you.

Our bird watching gear:

A Bird Caller. We have the Audbon Bird Call, pictured below. I found it online for $7, here. There are plenty of different ones online, but this one works fine and the kids enjoy it. We only have one, and the kids have to share. I did not want both kids making bird noises at once, getting angry at each other, and so on. They will make a noise with it, wait, maybe make another, wait... eventually a bird will respond to…

Hiking and playing in the River - Ohiopyle, PA

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Ohiopyle is located in Laurel Highland Mountains of Fayette County. There is a small community based within the area. There is hiking, biking, fishing, camping, white water boating, lounging by the river, collect rocks, bird watch, inner tube fun on natural water slides and I'm sure there's more.



We live about an hours drive away from Ohiopyle. Generally we avoid the more crowded areas, like the natural water slides and some of the river spots near downtown. The hubby and I like our solitude. Probably a little too much....

We have hiked around and found a few less crowded areas for the dog and kids to play in the water. Also area where the kids and I can sit for the day and the hubby can meander off and fish.


Camping at Ohiopyle State Park fills up fast, so reserve a spot as soon as you have made the decision to go. They also have Yurts that sleep 5 people in bunk beds, which we've always wanted to try but they are full anytime we look go camping. Basic camping cost $23 a …

Kids Summer Activity - Box full of Fun Things

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How do you get work done and manage to keep a 8yo occupied... It's not easy. He would be very happy to just sit in front of the T.V. all day playing video games and watching Pokemon or Wild Kratts.

The hubby and I have put together a "Summer Box of Thing to Do!". As any parent of a kid with the need to talk and do things constantly will tell you, hopefully this will occupy little man for an hour here and there.

First we went to the local discount store, "five Below". You can find a mix of things in the chain. I've found some decent activity books, craft & party supplies, outdoor toys, etc. This store is mostly east coast, but there's generally a chain like this in most small towns and cities.

We scored a drawing with prompts book, maze book, a silly activity adventure book and a fun game. All cost about $15. I also put in the box a few things he's been working on, Star Wars Mad Libs and his Star Wars workbooks.


 I took a cardboard box and decora…

Kids Summer - Gardening

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One easy-ish summer project for the kids is a garden. I have written about how growing a garden can help get kids to be more open to eat fruit and veg, Eat your Vegetables kid. The 8yo enjoys checking on and watering the garden. the 12yo, not so much anymore, but we encourage her to embrace it and encourage her little brother to garden.

We almost didn't have garden this year, just to much going with work and home repairs. My mother in-law came to the rescue with a very cool mom's day gift for me, a handful of veggie & herb seed packets.

Odin and I spent the better part of a Saturday churning the garden beds, mixing in the compost and planting the seeds. I let him choose where to plant everything, I just made sure he spaced things out appropriately.


When the job was done, he was quite proud of himself. Every morning we check on the garden, see if anything has sprouted (possibly from the compost as well).

He is especially proud that his strawberry plant survived the harsh wi…

Kids Summer Education - Star Wars Workbooks

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Last year my mother in-law purchased three Star Wars workbooks for the 7yo: 2nd Grade Math, 2nd Grade Writing & 2nd Grade Reading. He did about half of each book last year. We tried to dedicate a couple hours a day working with him on certain tasks he couldn't do on his own.


We hung onto the books and pulled them out of the "craft dresser" last week and he dove right in. Now that his reading skills are stronger, he can do the almost all the pages on his own. What I liek about these books is;

1. They're Star Wars and I'm a huge fan.

2. My son finds them very fun. When he is going through the cursive practice, G is for General grievous, Y is for Yoda, etc. Math problems involve droids or Star Wars creatures.

3. Each book adds in some creativity and art. ie; create a new type of droid, draw them doing their job, draw your favorite jedi or sith, etc.


 4. Again, they are fun. Most of the educational books I find are mostly boring for the parent and kid. Yes, as a …