Sunday, August 31, 2008


Our final adventure of our Jersey shore vacation was a Pirate Adventure boat trip.

Our friends had done this before and recommended it, and thank goodness they did, because the kids felt this was one of the highlights of our trip!

The picture here shows Pirate Megan helping the kids chart a course (This way and down!) to find pirate treasure in the bay near Ocean City, New Jersey.

The trip was just over an hour and it was full of fun and excitement, including a lengthy water battle with Pirate Pete (I think) who pulled up next to our boat and doused everyone in reach with buckets of water! Tater took cover after the initial "attack", but Sprout was a full-on participant - soaking wet and loving it!

The crew was awesome, the kids were engaged and entertained the whole time. They want to go back again next year! Highly recommended! You need reservations - we called a couple of days ahead, but I am not sure it needs to be that far out. Of course their season ends tomorrow...but a great idea for next year!

We also finally finished the shoebox aquarium. Tater wanted to wait until we got home to use the blue plastic wrap, so we finished it up yesterday. Cool, huh?

And no, the floor isn't crooked. Bad camera work.

The other big update is that Hermie is no longer with us. Either he came to us sick, or we just completely stink at hermit crab care, but we found him essentially in pieces at the bottom of his tank on Thursday. Oops.

Tater took it like a trooper and insisted that we go right out and "adopt" Hermie 2. We are being extra careful with him. One dead hermit crab, and you can say it was a fluke. Two and it starts to be a little fishy. Sea creature joke...sorry.

We are back home now. Fully unpacked and ready to go. School starts Tuesday! One more day of summer. We are going to have a picnic with some friends, which will be a nice ending to the season. We went to the pool for the last time today - our YMCA membership ends for the summer tomorrow.

So I survived my first SAHM summer. Well, SAH while WAHM summer...whew!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Down at the Fishin' Hole

A few months ago, my children started asking me when they could go fishing. Where this request came from is a mystery, as neither I, nor my other half, has ever fished (or honestly, wanted to).

I think they were remembering that a couple of years ago when we were at the beach (as we are this week) we saw some people fishing. And I guess knowing that we were coming back to the beach made them want to try it out? Who knows.

Anyway, I said "We'll see", as I often do. And then I saw these sets of fishing gear for kids at Target. And for that moment it seemed like a fun and do-able thing. All those funky little lures, hooks, rubber fish. Fun!

So I bought them, and I stashed them in the closet. And when we were packing for the beach I got them out and brought them along.

The rubber hit the road this morning as, for the 5,000th time, Sprout asked when we were going fishing. It was a little chilly out, too windy for the beach. So today it was.

We put the rods together, got out the (very scary) hooks - we used the ones that look like little feather bugs. Right for the conditions? Who knows.

Bait? Hot dogs. Cut up small-ish. Not in a big hurry to invest in a stash of worms.

So we went a couple of blocks over to the bay, where people were lined up fishing. And a little bitty girl had just caught a itty bitty-ish fish.

So the kids were all excited. Me, not so much.

I have this tendency to anticipate the potential dangerous repercussions of any activity (I worked at DuPont for 5 years - they beat this kind of thinking into you). So putting sharp objects into the hands of children that they will FLING into the air, heart-stoppingly close to other people. Not my idea of a good time.

Hot dogs on, and the casting began. Once we figured out what button had to be pushed to let the string (line?) loose, we were good to go. Sprout is a decent caster. Tater wasn't actually allowed to do it himself, but he was a good helper.

The little bobber thing kept floating right back over to the dock that we were standing on, so lots of recasting (flying sharp things) was required. Big fun.

The fish stole our hot dogs.

Then the guy next to us (with the itty bitty fish-catching child) offered us his left-over squid to use as bait. Said the fish liked it.

I don't know what I expected when I opened the squid box. Fried calamari rings? But it was squid. Like whole, tentacle-wearing squid. In a box. Horrifying.

I don't even like to touch raw chicken. And I have to rip a chunk off of a squid and stick it on a hook? Luckily I had brought scissors (expecting to have to cut a fish loose if we were lucky enough to catch it). I managed to minimize finger contact with the squid and get it hooked on. I am not sure I will recover from that.

The fish did like the squid. Took it right off the hooks. Yum.

We never caught anything. But the kids are interested in when we can try fishing again. I am thinking when they are old enough to cut up their own squid.

Circular References

Wow...someone read and referenced this blog.

I am so excited!!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Something Fishy

Today we are working on a shoebox aquarium. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring a couple of the "ingredients" to the beach, so it won't be done until we return. And I also forgot the USB cable for my camera, so I can't post a picture of the work in progress.

Not such a good packer.

Anyway - we cut rectangular holes in the top and bottom of a shoe box - leaving a frame of box around both sides. We lined the box with blue tissue paper and hung pieces of green tissue in wavy, seaweedy strips from the top of the box (for seaweed).

The fish are all colored on thin cardboard and then cut out and decorated with glitter glue. Kids LOVE glitter glue. Totally addictive.

We just glittered the second side and we are waiting for them to dry. Then we are going to hang the fish in the box with embroidery floss (fishing line might be better...we'll see). The final touch is to cover the sides with plastic wrap (preferably blue). I have blue at home, but we might settle on the clear for the sake of closure.

Sprout made one hugenormous fish, and one teeny one. Tater made a whole bunch of little ones. Should be cool when it is done.

We are also collecting shells for our other craft...but we aren't ready yet!

We went to the Cape May County Park & Zoo today. A free zoo which is actually very cool with a bunch of interesting animals.

We are going to go looking for a boogie board after dinner.
Sprout was the queen of the surf yesterday, on a borrowed board.

Tater feels strongly that he needs another hermit crab. Apparently Hermie is not sufficiently entertaining. Maybe if we had two they would start to salsa dance or something.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Just Beachy

We are at the beach. On the border of Avalon and Stone Harbor. Technically Avalon, but much closer to downtown Stone Harbor.

Yesterday the kids went swimming in the pool at our condo. Then we went out for pizza, miniature golf, and ice cream. All the good beach stuff!

Tater has had his heart set on a hermit crab since our Ocean City adventure last week. He brought some of his birthday money specifically for this purpose. Scoped out the 5 & 10 last night to make sure they had them.

When I told him we could go back today to get the crab, he suggested that we could get up to see the sun rise, and then trot right on over to pick up the crab. The reality was that we went after the beach, the pool, and lunch.

He picked out one in a blue shell and got three extra shells: one painted to look like a soccer ball, one with a skull and crossbones, and an understated natural tan (for formal occasions, I guess).

He didn't have a name picked out. Wanted to "meet" the crab before deciding. The final verdict is that he is Hermie. Never was a little boy happier than Tater bringing Hermie home.

I think it might all be downhill from here.

Not really, we have lots of big plans - including two beach crafts. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Today was devoted to shopping for school supplies.

I read something that said that the average family spends $500 PER CHILD on back to school.

I don't have that kind of cash at the moment, so I was very adamant that we were going to stick to the list provided by the teachers.

The only school-supply related tangential purchase was some extraordinarily cool paper clips that I had to have. They are shaped like little musical instruments, and hands and feet. I mean, you HAVE to have those, right?

There is a big bulk-candy-like thing at Staples, $5.99 for all you can fit into a butter-tub like container. I was careful to shove a LOT in there. Still probably not $5.99 worth, but they were too fun. And at least sort of practical. Sort of.

Of course Sprout and Tater both needed new underwear, and a shirt or two. Tater needs new pants, but since he tends to grow about 2 inches every time I purchase pants for him (some growth-inducing effect in the fabric?), I am waiting until the weather justifies long pants before going down that road.

The trickiest thing to find was pens with multiple colors inside them. Sprout was SO excited that her teacher required these - because, how cool does that teacher have to be??

We got out the label maker and labeled anything that could fit a label. Tater wanted to label his pencils and erasers, but that seemed a bit much.

So now everything is packed away in the backpacks waiting for the first day of school.

12 days.

Not that I am counting.

Beach Day

We spent the day yesterday in Ocean City, New Jersey with my mom and my nephew. We left home around 8:30 AM and got back just after 9:00 PM so it was quite a long day, but it was fun!

We stopped at a diner for lunch in Somers Point and had a lovely waitress who told us the best place to go on the beach (North of 1st Street). We were able to get an on-street parking space, and were never asked for beach tags, so that was all very lucky!

It was a little windy and chilly, but our little Texan was ALL OVER the water. He was so happy to see the ocean, he was smiling and running around like a maniac the whole time. My kids didn't even have bathing suits on, but Tater wound up mostly wet and Sprout spent a lot of time digging up and prying open little bitty oysters.

When I told her she was killing them she just smiled and said she knew. That it was fun. I am trying not to be too disturbed by that.

After a couple of hours we went and cleaned up at the "Bath House", which has all sorts of not-child-friendly connotations, but was pretty much a locker room. Then the kids had the biggest ice cream cones ever and we went on some rides. My kids are happy that we are going back next week so they can do some more!

The most exciting thing was that all three kids played a game, and although Sprout was technically the winner, all three got prizes. HUGE inflatable hammers. With squeakers in them. Which I got to hold while they went on the rides, feeling like I was taking up more than my allotted space in the world. "Who is that woman with the HAMMERS?" Probably all in my head, I know.

I was awakened this morning to the sounds of my adorable son hammering the furniture, walls, floor with his big, squeaking hammer. Harsh.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I took the kids to the driving range today, although the totality of golf coaching that I can provide (because it was what my Dad always told me, since I was generally doing it wrong) is 'bend your knees' and 'keep your eye on the ball'.

They were both insistent that they needed a LARGE bucket of balls...each.
That is 105 balls per child.
210 chances for the ball to backfire and knock out my teeth.

Luckily, they are better than that and had pretty impressive control over the club (still have all my teeth!) And really, the 'bend your knees' and 'keep your eye on the ball' seemed to be valid coaching points.

There were probably 5 really impressive hits from each child. Way high and way far. And boy were they thrilled!

There was a woman practicing next to them, providing color commentary on her own performance using vocabulary that I am hoping was going right over the heads of my kids. She wasn't happy with her performance, and apparently looking for someone to discuss it with.

There was also a high-school aged boy (young man?) hitting the bejesus out of his balls and sending them so far that the kids kept stopping and staring at him.

Now Sprout thinks she might like to take golf lessons.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Up a Tree

This is our last week of the stay-at-home summer. Next week we are off to the beach and then back to school!

My nephew is in town and staying with my parents, so we are going to be visiting with him a lot this week. He lives in Texas and the kids love to get the chance to play with him when they can!

Today we went with them to Tyler Arboretum in Media, Pennsylvania to see their "Totally Terrific Treehouses." I gotta say, it was terrific!

There are 17 treehouses of all different designs along a nature trail. The kids had a great time "finding" the next house and checking them all out!

Some notable houses included one made of bent wood and plexiglass with a huge ladder, one with a fire pole, and one that was just a bunch of hammocks. There was also a castle, an enormous pink elephant, and a "bell house" which was essentially a platform with a bunch of ropes attached to bells that the kids could ring. Very entertaining.

It was pretty hot today, so we didn't quite get to all of them (don't tell the kids). But it was definitely worth the excursion to check it out.

I have to pore through some books for a good idea for tomorrow. We are doing a field trip to the beach (I should say "shore" - we are going to New Jersey) on Wednesday.

Friday, August 15, 2008

How Cute is This?

My kids just finished up art camp through Kidzart. They had a great time and made a whole bunch of very cool projects including sketch books covered with tie-dyed coffee filters, watercolor paintings, dyed tote bags, and sand sculptures. They said they want to go again next summer, always a good endorsement!

But even cooler, I can (and most likely will) order things with their artwork on them through Through the camp they upload the kids art to this website, but apparently you can also do it yourself.

I have my eye on the notecards.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Giggling in the Rain

Apparently rain is very entertaining to children. Especially if you let them go out and play in it.

A couple of years ago on a summer day when there had been a rain shower, we put on our swimsuits and rain boots and set off on a quest for puddles.

Unfortunately (for this particular venture) our street has excellent drainage, so no satisfactory puddles were available. Luckily, there is a large church nearby with a huge parking lot which had several huge and excellent puddles.

The kids proceeded to stomp and jump and splash and have a heck of a good time. I think the fact that they are generally NOT allowed to jump in puddles combined with their overall love of wetness combined to make this a super fun expedition.

I saw this same joyousness repeated this evening watching four kids, ages 3 to 8, playing in the water running off of the roof of the ice cream shop. They ran back and forth through the rain drops. They stood under the corner of the roof where there was a stream coming down, joyfully informing us on a regular basis that they were GETTING WET!

It is hard sometimes as a grown-up person who sees the rain and thinks about wet shoes and frizzed hair and rearranged plans to realize that it can be terribly fun, if you just let it!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mall Scavenger Hunt

My mom gets credit for this idea (Hi Mom!)
She has done this activity with my kids a number of times with resounding success.

Rule #1 - No one can actually go into any stores at the mall
Rule #2 - You are not there to shopping...not even if you see cute shoes...

Each child gets a list of things to find in the mall - in windows or on people walking by. If the lists are on clipboards, so much the better. Kids love clipboards!

On a recent list:
  • Red Shoes
  • Banana
  • American Girl Book
  • Diamond Ring
  • Wrist watch
  • Blue Coat
  • Someone drinking soda
  • Yellow Flower
  • Frog
  • Teddy bear
They did this today (different list) and apparently were unable to find a tennis racquet at the mall...although there were two sporting goods stores. Perhaps the rule that stores couldn't be entered hindered them?

Anyway - the kids love this. Great rainy day activity (or sunny hot day). And FREE!! (Until you find the cute shoes...)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sticky Socks

Easy and practical. This would probably be more fun if you could find colored socks, but I couldn't. We used a 10 pack of white socks - 5 pairs per child (!) so they will be good and decorated!

Basically you just make designs on the bottom of the socks with puffy fabric paint and they will be un-slippery and cute at the same time.

I had to calm my inner control freak (who am I kidding, she's all over the place) for this project. I had envisioned cute little designs, but after the first pair for each child they started getting crazy. Witness Sprout's orange and red creation over there.

These happy face ones are more in line with what I had in mind! We also did stars, little x's, lightning bolts, and polka dots.

Fun and useful. Yay!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Paper Doves

A rainy day had us trapped inside today. The kids seemed cool with watching the Disney Channel Games for the 400,000th time, and I had made up a short list of activities for the coming week:

  • Mosaics (Sprout and I started on this one yesterday, but Tater wants to get in on the action and we still need to grout)
  • Paper Doves
  • Non-skid socks
When I arrived home from grocery shopping (does it seem like I go grocery shopping a lot??) Tater lost it because I hadn't brought him mosaic supplies. Oops. Didn't realize he was waiting for them.

In order to redirect, I offered up the Paper Dove project. I'll have to come up with a replacement for later in the week!

For this project we needed:
  • white paper plates
  • plastic spoons (2 per dove)
  • rubber bands
  • masking tape
  • markers (we used permanent markers, but if your kids are not to be trusted with them, you can try the regular ones - although I don't know how well they will work on the plastic).

1. Pile the two spoons up on top of each other, bowls together to make the head of the dove and wrap the rubber band, ponytail-style around the spoons to hold them together.

2. Draw a face on the spoons (see the picture) with the markers.

3. Take a paper plate and cut it in half. One half makes the "wings". Take the other half and cut a triangle-shaped wedge out of it (like a piece of pie) for the tail.

4. Use the masking tape to tape the tail onto the wings.

5. Tape the handles of the spoons to the underside of the wings.

If you push them gently, like a paper airplane, they fly pretty well!

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Sprout and I had a Girl's Night Out last night. Mike was out and Tater was sleeping over at Nana's so we went out on the town!

First stop, bowling. We had a free pass for 2 games. Sprout wanted to work on her technique - concerned that her little brother is getting to be a better bowler. Competitive little critter.

Then, Dairy Queen. I suggested that we just have ice cream for dinner (scandalous!) but she really wanted a hot dog. So we did both. She had a Cotton Candy Blizzard, which I think is horrifying. I had Girl Scout Thin Mint, which was quite delightful.

Then, Wall-E. Which as I am sure everyone already knows is super cute, despite very little dialogue. She recounted the entire story line to Mike and Tater today, blow-by-blow, punctuated with lots of "And then it was funny when"s. So I guess she liked it.

Then two chapters of Harry Potter (we are getting to the end of The Deathly Hallows!)

She is pretty fun to hang out with. I made a good one!

Friday, August 8, 2008

All Fun and Games

Well, a fun game anyway!

I was asked to review a new game for the folks at Hasbro from their line of "Noodleboro" games. This is a series of games intended to help teach kids social skills. They include the Noodleboro Pizza Palace Listening Game, the Noodleboro Picnic Basket Manners Game and the one we received, the Noodleboro Fun Park Sharing Game.

First off, I have to clarify that I think my kids are a little old for these games. They are for ages 4+ and mine are 6 and 8.

Nonetheless, the prospect of a big box with something fun for them was very exciting. They ripped the box open and were very intrigued by all of the little carnival games inside.

Of course this all happened as I was attempting to juggle groceries inside the house and start dinner so they were begging me to play, "A parent has to hold the sharing stars!!".

They were practicing their technique at the different "tricks" while they were waiting for me, so by the time we were ready to go they could pretty much do them all flawlessly.

There is a little maze thing (The Log Flume) where you hold a little ball on a stick and balance it along the path. Another is called The Roller Coaster, where you drop a little token in the top and try to catch it with a little spoon-ish thing at the bottom. The Circus Tents are like the classic shell game where you try to find your animal after the three tents have been mixed up (Tater is jaw-droppingly good at this). And finally there is a little Ferris Wheel where you guess what color it will land on.

The idea here is to work as a team so that each player gets all of the tokens before the park closes. This probably would be more fun/challenging with a)littler kids or b)more kids. We whizzed through all of the obstacles very quickly.

The sharing part is supposed to enter in when one kid gets more tokens than he/she needs and shares them with other players - then you get "Sharing Stars" on the board.

There is no real "winning" at the game. The sharing is the winning. Of course, this would also fly better with littler, less competitive kids. The up-side was that with no clear winner, there was no freaking out tantrum from the not-winner.

Regardless, Tater especially enjoyed doing the little obstacles over and over again and has asked to play the game several times. So that's a success in my book!

The game also came with a book (which no one was interested in reading, but it looks cute) and a CD (which I never saw, since the kids ripped the package open...)

This whole package would be great for a 4 or 5 year old who is really working on learning sharing skills and new to board games.
Playskool is giving away 200 of these games - so click here to enter to get one!

Fun games and more polite kids. Sounds good!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

So Not Fun

I am not being fun this week. Sprout told me as much today.

Boo on me.

We came back from vacation and I just never got myself together to have a plan for what was going to be fun. And I had set an expectation that there was going to be fun.

We did go the zoo. And we did sort of an art project. And we made a telescope out of old glasses and a toilet paper tube. And we magnified things with a drop of water on a envelope window. And we watched a movie. And they went golfing and on a picnic with my parents.

Which is essentially more fun than they have had in weeks.

But it wasn't packaged properly I guess.

I have work to do!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Questionable Parenting Decision #4521

My darling Sprout yearns to be a musician. She has a number of guitars that she plays around with and a keyboard that she likes to put on in player-piano mode to serenade us with endless repetitions of "The Entertainer".

In third grade last year, kids were able to take lessons on a stringed instrument at school. Sprout chose the cello. Even a half-sized cello was seriously the same size as she was. When she attempted to carry it on her back she couldn't stand up straight or it would drag on the ground.

But it sounded really good! A cello has a mellow enough sound that even a beginner sounds not at all bad.

But by the end of the school year she was ready to try something new. So when I offered music lessons to both of my kids over the summer, Sprout chose the viola.

This seemed somewhat anticlimactic to me. Another instrument essentially pigeon-holed to play only classical music (and yes, I know there are "rock" violas out there, but really...not many). So I asked about 20 trillion times if she was sure. And she was.

So for about 6 weeks she took viola lessons. And she was pretty good. It was easy to pick up from the cello apparently. But she didn't like not being AS good as she was at cello. Not a bit fan of the slow build of new skills.

Early in July we went and saw a performance by The School of Rock. And those kids were completely awesome. And Sprout decided that she liked the idea of being in a rock band. Her dad is. She frequently pretends to be a Jonas Brother (which is a whole other story).

So today, we traded in the viola for a snare drum. And oh boy, is she excited.

Me and Mike? Not so much.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Elmwood Park Zoo

We had a recovery day today. Everyone slept in very very late. Sprout was up at 10:30, Tater at 9:30, me at 9:45. We were up before 5 yesterday for our return trip from Florida and apparently we needed some rest.

We decided to go to the Elmwood Park Zoo today. The kids wanted to go to the Philadelphia Zoo, but driving on the Schuylkill Expressway was more than I could face. The Elmwood Park Zoo is a nice manageable size - reasonably interesting animals, but less than an hour from our house and takes about an hour to really see everything.

Tater especially liked the otters. Sprout was disappointed that we couldn't capture a prairie dog and bring it home ("But they are so cute!")

The gift shop was, as they always are, horrific. I swear Hell is a gift shop.

Tomorrow we have rented a movie (College Road Trip - Sprout's choice - I am skeptical). And maybe we will take our poor sunburned selves to the pool if it isn't raining.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Fun Trip

We had a great time in Florida visiting our friends. It was super hot, but we spent lots of time in their beautiful pool!

We visited the Myakka River State Park and went on a boat ride to see alligators. Unfortunately, it is too hot in August to actually see any alligators, as they apparently migrate to the bottom of the lake, so we saw the eyeballs of one alligator (which is pretty much enough alligator for me, and yet a little disappointing).

We also visited the Mote Aquarium, which is our third visit there. The kids loved seeing the manatees (which are HUGE) and the dolphins.

Of course, if you asked what they liked best about either of those trips, they would say the gift shops...where they carefully budgeted out their $5 souvenir fund and came home with all sorts of fun things - slap bracelets with snakes on them, glass animals, paper fans, bouncy balls...they had quite the time unveiling each item for their Daddy this evening!

We also spent yesterday on the beach at Siesta Key, which was very fun despite repeated incidents of sand-in-the-eye which caused us to use all of our drinking water rinsing little screaming!

We highly recommend visiting the Sarasota area - and if you prefer to travel light, you should definitely contact our friends at A to Z Baby and Beach Rentals - they provided us with everything from booster seats to a beach cart and are the nicest people ever! Personal service and great, new equipment!

The kids are off from camp this week, and I haven't made a plan...oh how I wish there was someone who would just provide on for me (see how I plant that idea...subliminal...very clever...)