Monday, December 10, 2012

Dreidel: teaching kids about gambling early on

I was cracking up today as I got out our "favorite" dreidel.  Its got a good point, spins great.  And we all agree it is clearly the one we all fight over.

Anyway, the boys and I were allotted our gelt, the Jewish chocolate coins that according to my grandfather he had to go to Israel to get since the company in New York was unable to make them since hurricane Sandy.  Nine each.

Put a coin in the pot.

Sweet, I get the Gimmel.  The one that gets the kitty.

Boog gets a Shin, put one in.

Mudge, well, he gets a Nun, do nothing.

A couple of times, we even get some Hey, get half the kitty.

This early childhood gambling experience went on for a half hour while we waited (or shall I say put of lighting the menorah) until sunset.

I apparently have some good skill at the dreidel.  Years of experience beyond them I suppose.  I ended up winning.  I had over 15 coins.  And dammit if i am going to share them!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Chrismakkah is right around the corner, are you prepared?

Trying to figure out what to get the kids on your holiday list besides gift cards and underwear? Here are some ideas:

  •  Lego Club Subscription- specify age for Jr. version
  •  A Refrigerator Box- can be turned into absolutely anything
  •  Check Craigs Lists for free toys and clothing that may be gently used
  •  Hold a toy/clothing swap for New To You excitement
  •  Make a superhero cape from an old pillow case or towel, if you are good at sewing

Under $10
  • Find some interesting things for all ages at ThinkGeek like zombie jerkey, giant plush microbes, sun art paper  and LED construction bricks
  • Visit 5 below, Christmas Tree Shop, and Job Lot.  You can get a ton of stocking stuffers and great gifts for under $5 each
  • Thinkfun has a variety of games and puzzles under $10 for the cognitive kiddo
  •  Playdoh- enough said

Under $20
  • KiwiCrate gift/project box.- a single box for Crafty Christmas or Handmade Hannukah is 19.95 (or you can set up a 3 or six month subscription for $60 and up)
  • Movie Tickets: go to AAA for a bonus pack discount
  • Spot It by Blue Orange is a fast paced  game that can travel just about anywhere           
  • Animal Monster hand tattoos can add a laugh to any conversation, as kids and adults make their hands talk like a giraffe

Under $50
  • Legos- can’t go wrong
  • At UncommonGoods you can find some incredibly unique items including the Gummy Bear Lights and a fire hose belt

And you must be a grandparent:
  • Full Year Monthly Subscription to Kiwi Crate might set you back over $200, but each month an overflow of creative juices will occur within the home to which you send it
  •  Family Museum/Zoo Subrsciptions- I love the idea of the gift that keeps going all year round. Not only are you supporting a local business but you are encouraging growth and development
  • Savings Bonds- for those under two, or that have everything under the sun

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

ThinkFunAnalysis: Shapeometry

During Sandy's visit to the northeast, the boys and I passed the time with games, including another I received from ThinkFun: Shapeometry.

Geared towards second to eighth graders, Shapeometry is a spatial game that comes with a set of blue and green 'Tetris-like' shape tiles as well as a problem solving card deck. Each challenge builds in complexity, and I have to admit that it provided a challenge to me as well.

This mathematical match up activity can played a few different ways. As a single person, which I did at first to test my reasoning, the goal is to follow the cards that tell you to make the same overall shape with two different sets of blocks. It starts fairly easy, which I am glad to say I was able to do. Then it gets a little harder as you work your way through intermediate, advanced and expert.

As a family, we put our brains aged 4 to 33 to work, getting to card 19, which is in the intermediate section.  By that time, we had played for about a half hour and our brains were getting fried. But it was fun. We could work together, problem solve and build spatial reasoning.

I also had a group of 4th and 5th graders try it out.  They had varying abilities, some had strengths in math, others in social skills, and yet others in language. After demonstrating the basic idea of the game, they went to work. In about 20 minutes, the students had teamed up one set taking care of blue, the other took green.  They were able to configure through challenge #9.  When asked what they thought about it, the general consensus what that it was hard but they wanted to see if they could get farther in the challenges.

To modify the game, we built on top of one set.  I even considered placing a piece of paper on top of one set to see the "whole" from its parts.  As part of a math center, you could set out the challenge cards that fit the needs and abilities of the children.  ThinkFun went as far as to provide skill alignment to the Common Core Standards to help justify the use of the game within the classroom.

This game is challenging and therefore can be frustrating.  But if used to support a math curriculum or center, or as a game in an arsenal of family fun, Shapeometry can definitely shape youngsters' (and adults') minds to think outside the box.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

So the apple does fall far from the tree...

Or at least when I attempted to go apple picking today, the apples were even on them.

Between the rain and illness, we didn't have the chance until today to go apple picking.  I was so excited and so were the boys.  We love going.  We go every year.  It is one of the best things about fall.  So today when I went through the ProJo's list of places to go picking (put out 2 or 3 weeks ago), I decided to try Dame Farm Orchards, located 94 Brown Ave, Johnston, Rhode Island.
Dame Farm has quite a history in Rhode Island, going back to 1890.  It now boasts as being true family farm, having three generations making a living from the fruits of their labor.
The site itself is absolutely beautiful.  Today (October 8) was a crisp, fall day so the parking lot was packed.  But we found out that the apples were all picked out as of Saturday, so we had to chose from already picked.  Which was fine.  At least we were able to get a good variety including some GINORMOUS green apples the size of Mudge's head.  The boys insisted they were the most delicious apples they have ever had.  We picked some pumpkins as well, just 70 cents per pound.  I just couldn't talk them into getting the warty ones.
Though we didn't have time to do it all, Dame Farm has horse drawn hay rides in addition to a corn maze.  Even a Del's lemonade truck was there to tempt us.

Though it wasn't exactly what I had in mind, Dame Farm was a wonderful place to stop by.  I will definitely try getting there a little earlier, hoping to pick my own next time.

Moral of the Story: Call, before you (attempt to) pick.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Think FunAnalysis: Zingo! Sight Words

I really love Think Fun's games.  Many I have purchased, and some I have been blessed to get for the gratis so that I can share my ever so humble opinion.  This was one of them.  Gee, twist my arm!

I was super dooper excited to hear that Zingo now has a Sight Word version.  I had been trying to figure out what other concepts we could finagle out of the Zingo world.  In our game arsenal we've got the traditional, the numbers (1, 2, 3) , and the travel versions of Zingo.  There are Spanish and Hebrew versions as well, but we haven't gone that route.  I bring them back and forth to school on a daily basis.
When Sight Word Zingo came in the mail, Mudge was eager to get our first game going.  Though the boards themselves are a little visually busy, the concept is the same.  Match the word tiles to its board counterpart.   It still has the trademark Zinger, the Zingo slider with slots for the popping in unused tiles (great for fine motor development and wrist rotation).  The 72 tiles themselves are double-sided with 24 frequently used words from the Dolch list.

As Mudge is only in preschool, he did not know the words but could match the tiles by the letters.  He loved trying to figure it out.  His persistence and memory began to pay off towards the end as he recognized the groups of letters like  and, we and me.  This has proven to be a great starter game to get new readers recognizing letter combinations as words.  It is also a great review game for up to first and second graders.  Many of the children I know have requested me to bring it in for bus arrival time or indoor recess.  For children with special needs, one of my teachers even thought of using it towards her Alternate Assessments, as many of them need to identify sight words.
When our game was done, I asked Mudge his favorite part to which he answered, "I like the matching Mommy."  Was there anything you didn't like?  "Well, Mommy, the red side was very difficult".  Did you not like it?  "Oh no.  I liked it, it was just difficult."

Finding the just right challenge can be difficult sometimes.  But Think Fun has found another winner again for the early learners.  Sight Words Zingo is another great addition to the home and school family.       For around $20, Zingo Sight Words will happily engage young readers while helping them learn.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

What Planet Box are you from?

Last year, I came across Planet Box when I was looking for easy to open kids' lunch boxes.  I have been a traditionalist for the most part, choosing the simple pack style that holds their water bottles, lunch and snack items. I did upgrade from the annoyingly poorly manufactured character bags to the more indestructible Land's End brand.  My boys beat up their lunch boxes.

But Planet Box was expensive; I had a hard time justifying spending 40-60 bucks on a lunch system.  So I passed, not thinking of it until this past summer when I really needed and wanted to purchase new lunch boxes.  I had been using these plastic Bento-type containers, which I am sure were not BPA free, since they were close to 7 years old.  And the guilt was getting to me.  Not to mention that the boys are creatures of redundancy when it came to what went in their lunches.

So, I sucked it up and figured to give it shot.  I hoped that it was worth its cost....

I am happy to say they were.
Planet Boxes are a system, a lifestyle I dare say.  They are stainless steel units that have an easy clasp to open and close.  Mudge, the preschooler, can easily lock and unlock the unit.  They come in two sizes, Launch and Rover.  Rover, what we have, has 5 small compartment units to help provide spots for smaller portions of a variety of foods.  Launch has fewer compartments but they are bigger for larger portions.  I chose the Complete Rover kit, because it comes with your choice of insulated carry bag, 2 dipping units, and your magnet choice. The magnets are the cool parts that can totally customize your unit, cheaply.  Mudge has ocean theme and Boog has skateboard.  But I am thinking for Chrismakkah, to order a few more since the magnets themselves are only $3.95 a pop.  Then the boys can interchange the magnets depending on their moods.
When they came in, within a week of ordering, I have to say I was excited.  And so were the boys.  They were so intrigued that Mudge insisted to eat supper in it that evening.
What I love about the Planet Box is its visual cue for me to provide an ecclectic-as-I-can be lunch for the boys.  I am more conscious, as are they, about eating a rainbow.  It fits a Danimals yogurt drink, fruits and veggies, a mini treat (like yogurt raisins or m&ms) and the sandwich of their choice.  My boys have been coming home with less and less leftovers in their boxes, which has been a real plus.
Not only are they sturdy, easy to clean, but they are helping me teach my kids portion control, healthy eating habits, and green(ish) living.  They have cut down on my morning prep time, as we often make lunches at night.  I really feel that they will last, and hope they will out grow the boys so I have the chance to use them :).  For us, it really did provide a bang for the buck.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mommy's Special Ice Cream....

I can honeslty say I don't drink much or often.  But when I do, I drink Dos Equis.  Just kidding. I like girly drinks.  Sangria, Coffee (or Hot Chocolate) with Bailey's, or some spiked cider. But when I went to a wedding, someone told me about pudding shots.


I know.

Sounds ridiculous.

Sounds like dessert to me.

So using her recipe, my adult, over the age of 21 friends, and I began an Adult Ice Cream Adventure.
We went to town, probably making about 12 batches over a 7 day vacation period.  Mind you, there were 10 adults....

Basically if you have ever tried the Weight Watchers Ice Cream Sandwich recipe with Cool Whip and the graham crackers, then you are half way there.

Kid Friendly Version....
1 pkg favorite instant pudding mix
1 1/4 cups of milk
Then fold in:
1 container of whipped topping (thawed)

Not-so-kid-friendly over 21 Version...
1 pkg favorite instant pudding
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup desired liquor
Then fold in:
1 container of whipped topping (thawed)

Place mixture into the same whipped topping container.  But be forewarned, there may be just a little too much to fit it that you are just forced to eat it right away.  If you can manage to wait over night, you will reap wonderfully creamy benefits.  If not, it is still freakin' delicious.  And depending if you used skim milk, fat free and sugar free versions, it is a pretty low calorie/low fat dessert option (with or without the alcohol).

Some great combinations include:
Chocolate + Kahlua = Mudslide Flavor
Butterscotch + Kahlua = Werther's Original Flavor
Cookies and Cream + Cake Vodka = Cookies and Cream Flavor
Banana Cream + Cake Vodka = Banana Split Flavor
Coconut Cream Pie + Cake Vodka + Shaved Chocolate and Almonds = Almond (Oh) Joy Flavor
Chocolate + Ameretto = Chocolate covered cherry flavor
Pistacio + Cake Vodka + graham cracker crumbs = Old School Watergate Pie Flavor

If you come up with any good combinations, please feel free to let me know :)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Land of Ahs...

Over the summer, I got a call from a friend to meet her at this "cool playground" in Killingly, Connecticut.  Always looking for a new place to play, I agreed.
Well, let me tell you, this place is a great free find.  Land of Ahs is a comprehensive little playground with lots of extras.  As a Boundless Playground, it is pretty accessible for kids and adults using walkers and wheelchairs.  Located in Owen Bell Park, at 572 Hartford Pike, Killingly, CT., it is convenient right off 395.  
There is bike/skateboard park located adjacent to the parking.  There are bathrooms and covered picnic tables, which is something I don't often find but often need.  In the summer, there is also small splash zone.  So make sure to pack some extra clothes.

There is a decent partially paved path for bikes and walkers that lead the way around the field to a pond and ice cream shop.
Some of the other things I loved is the use of poured in-place rubber surfacing, which makes for smooth and safe play for kids of most abilities.  And though the Lions Club, Bryant College and Killingly townsfolk updated this playground, they also kept some of the older pieces in place too, so there is a large spread area of play available.

We reallllllly enjoyed our time there.  We brought bikes, water clothes, sunscreen and lunch.  We were set.  And had it not been for an appointment later in the day, we probably would have stayed longer.  So before the weather turns to wintery, take a hike down 395 to quiet Killingly and try out Land of Ahs.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Scrumptious Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins

Looking for a great fall recipe to feed the munchkins something other than munchkins?

Try this recipe out and let me know what you think....

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together in large bowl:
3 1/3 cup of flour (AP or whole wheat)
2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup white sugar (I know, usually it's considered a wet ingredient)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (fresh if you have it)
1/4 tsp ground ginger

In second bowl mix:
1 cup oil
2/3 cup orange juice
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree
4 eggs

Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing well.
Last, add 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips (I like mini ones better, since they provide more even distribution of chocolate to muffin batter ratio)

USE MUFFIN LINERS!!!!!!!!!!!! They make cleaning the tin so much easier and quicker, and you don't have to worry about it between the batches.

Also, one of my favorite tools of baking is the 1 ounce cookie scoop.  This is a perfect application for even muffin management.

Bake 20-25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.
This recipe makes approximately 80 mini muffins.  It sounds like a lot.  But by the time the second batch was in the oven baking, the first batch of 24 was amazingly down to 5, mostly between the two boys.
These muffins are rich, and pretty healthy I think (minus the oil).  They make a great on the go breakfast or snack for busy mornings.  So if you make them over the weekend, they might cover you a couple of days while you hit snooze one more time.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

I'm Baaaaaaack.....

So I had (not intentionally) taken a hiatus from writing for many reasons.  Biggest one, life.  Kids being a large part of that.  OK, not large, but all encompassing.  Energy, or lack there of, due to the previous two reasons.  Desire, again not having it because the Energy went to entertaining the kids.  You get the picture....

So now that the summer passed without much more than a blink of an eye, I am back into a routine and I want to get back to writing.

In the upcoming posts I have a ton of products, games, places and ideas to share including recipes, Think Fun game reviews, Planet Box and Kiwi Crate.  Maybe a spot or two on life with Hermy and Crabby.  And how you too can become One Tough Muddy Warrior Mom (also called "Bring it").

So if you care to share in my thought process then be on the look out for my rants, as I figure I might as well purge them before sanity loses the battle in my head :)

As Boog was reading as I typed, he just questioned, "You have a battle going on in your head???"  "Yes, Honey," I answered, "I always do."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Goodnight iPad

As I passed the adult section in the library, about to let the boys check out their umpteen books, I stopped and giggled.  Oh,  I am soooo bringing this home.
(click on the book above to watch the story)

If your household is anything like mine, there are enough electronics to start a small Mac army.  And at least one copy of Goodnight, Moon, which frankly I don't particularly enjoy, but the kids do.  So if you have read about the lady whispering hush, the comb and the bowl full of mush to the point you want to huck the bowl full of mush at her, try Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd.  Note the author's name.

There is no longer a woman whispering hush.

There is no bowl of mush. (why would you say good night to it anyway?????)

Just a frustrated woman telling all the people in her family to shut off the thousands of electronic devices and go to bed.

I would put this adult children's parody in a category with Go the F to Sleep, just without the Samuel L. Jackson, umm, quality. 

For a laugh, get the book for yourself or for a friend, or at least an electronic-obsessed coworker.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

South County Balloon Festival

After years of missing the South County Balloon Festival, due to conflicting vacations, we finally made it last night.

 Located at the URI Athletic Field in Kingston, RI, the Balloon Festival plays host to concerts, vendors, and of course a bunch of hot air balloons.  The other bonuses include the BBQ competition which is taking place on Sunday.  Three of the major competitors at least sold their variety of pulled pork and brisket yummy deliciousness towards the back of the park.  I love BBQ, so this was the other reason I wanted to go.
Besides the gas money, it costs $25 for a family of 4 (2 adults and 2 kiddos) to go.  There are amusement rides (which we didn't do) and games for a cost.  But there are some 'freebies' too.  Bwana Jim held a couple of shows and we were able to see a turkey vulture and other vermin.  There was a free catch and release tank.  But neither of the boys caught anything because the fish were well-fed from a day of children releasing bait into the tank.
And of course, the Cannon Lady.
You can even walk inside a partially inflated balloon.
It was the dusk lifting of the hot air balloons that was the beautiful.  Though it got a little windy and they were not sure if they would lift off, eventually the 8 or so balloons expanded their nylon to give the peole what they wanted.  A sight.  And it was....

So if you have no idea what to do today, head down route 138 towards URI for the last day of the South County Balloon Festival.  Bring a camera, some cash and an appetite, and hopefully you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Disney for Dummies

So this past June, I finally talked the hubby into going to Disney with the boys.  And crossed my fingers that we would have a good time.  We didn't.
We had a great time!
But here is why...
1. The family suite.  If you can afford it and you have more than one child, get a family suite.  Even in the value resort like we stayed in, it provided a separate area for the kids and parents.  We had the ability to shut the door.  Read.  Watch tv other than cartoons.

2. Go when it rains.  Ok, let me specify.  Go when there is a freakin' tropical storm sitting on top of the Walt Disney World Resort for your entire trip.  Though soaked to the bone, our kids didn't mind.  And therefore we didn't mind.  The lines were minimal, 15-20 minutes tops.  And for those that were too long (60+ minutes) the Fast Pass took care of it.  Remember, you have to grab your Fast Pass early in the day because they run out.  Go to Job Lot before you leave, purchase $1 ponchos, or in Mudge's case, use a garbage bag.
3. Go Meal Plan.  We did the Quick Service meal plan that gave 1 snack and 2 meals each day per person staying in the room.  It included a drink, entree and dessert.  But be weary that you need to know what places are quick service versus a sit down dining place.
4. Pack a food bag.  We had one bag dedicated to cereal, granola bars, bagels and peanut butter.  That way we didn't have to worry about using the meal plan for breakfast.
5. Get the refillable mug.  Use your mug at meal time and stow away the bottled drinks that come with the meal for when you go to the theme parks.
6. Dessert does not meal chocolate cake.  They have apple slices with caramel and other things that aren't as calorically challenging.
7. Buy a waterproof camera (or case).  See #2.
8. Accept that your child may not want to meet the characters.  Booger had a breakdown in the Muppets 3D movie adventurer when one of the characters comes out into the audience.  He couldn't grasp/believe that "they were real" and that "they are not supposed to be real, mommy!"  With tears streaming down his face, we had the talk.  For the logical/spirited child, its ok that you tell them that it is special effects.  Plus it saves the hours you could spend in line to meet the characters.
9. Know ahead of time, the height limits.  It can save a lot of aggravation and tears if you bypass the things you cannot ride. A crazy overwhelming place of which you will not see every detail and hope that you can go back again another day when the children are all above 48" tall.
 10.  Go back for a nap or quiet time.  Almost everyday, we went back to the hotel after lunch, rested, then went back on the bus to a different theme park.  Worked beautifully for our kiddos who are 6 and under.

Boon Bag-a-polooza

I am sure you are all aware of the children's story song, "Ten in the Bed".  I am quite confident that if I were to redo the story, it would more accurately reflect the "Fifty-four in the Bed" that Mudge has.  In fact, he has so many that they take up close to three quarters of the surface of the "sleeping" space.  Luckily he is so short that it doesn't matter too much.  But frankly, when sheet-cleaning-Saturday comes, I grumble under my breath.

But today, oh glorious today, my saving grace arrived.  The Boog Animal Bag.  It doesn't look like much, but it is a brilliant little addition to each of the boys' rooms.  The Boon Bag is a stuffed animal storage bag rated for 18 months and up. It is a 100% polyester, machine washable container that 'when full' is 24" x 22" x 12".  It doesn't seem like much, but behold the glory!


 Mudge fit 50+ animals in.  I lost count.
"These things are the best things evvvvaaa!"
Boog fit 40+.

And now, instead of their beds being the stuffed animal zoo, the Boon Animal Bag is the special place where the stuffed animals belong.   Not only that, it turns the plethora of cozy creatures into a chill out spot for the boys to read or watch tv.

Retail, it goes for $48.  However, being a saving junky at times, I found them on for much less.  And bonus, if you have a Kohls charge, you can always search for coupon codes.  I managed to these bad boys for $30 with free shipping. 

So if you suffer from the overwhelming need to burn the stuffed animals, wait.  Get one of these or its cousin the Boon Bag Otto (around $85) or the Boon Trio (around $100).  And you can always tell the kids whatever doesn't fit goes to charity.  

Saturday, March 24, 2012

For Truth, Justice and the Sickly

I was thinking the other day about I haven't been inspired to write.  And I don't know if it is inspiration versus laziness, but call it what you will.

Over the past few months, I have switched my "free time" to training time as I prep for my Tough Mudder.  Running, exercising, and whatnot.  The boys are so amused by this.  They ask to go for runs or they claim to do their "exercises", which incidentally if it what I look like during my work outs, thank god I have blinds on my windows....

And for the most part, most of us have been healthy. But with this unseasonably warm weather here, the germs never died.   So now I am home with one recovering and one beginning illness children, fighting fevers and boogers with my Super Mommy Powers.

A working mom by day, Super Mommy dons her illness patrol patch, in hopes to combat any of Viral's men from entering her dwelling.  On her utility belt is a box of tissues, hand sanitizer and a plastic bag to help fight the crime of the Boogie Man.  With her stock of magic medicines, Benadryl and Ibuprofen, forever dwindling, Super Mommy must travel through sleet, snow, rain, and the best sunny days the Earth has to offer to retrieve them.

But reality kicks in.  Get the barf bowl.  Hopefully not to be used.  Fill 17 trashcans with snotty tissues.  Wash hands until dry and cracked.  Eat mac and cheese for breakfast, because frankly you just don't care.  Have the children play outside to get some "fresh air" but really to wear them out so they will actually take a nap.  Watch way too much TV and play way too many electronic games.  Don't put make up on, because I know I am not leaving the house.  Wear puhpuns (or pichou as the French Canadiens call them) and robes.  Laugh hysterically as your child blows caterpillars out his nostrils, landing in multiple piles on the floor.

Ah, the joys of motherhood.  Luckily, I actually kind of enjoy it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February Vacation....

Though I am sooooo lucky to in fact, have 3 days off without kids next week, thanks to Irene at the beginning of the year, that I do not have the joyful problem of finding things to do with the kids.  However, I just wanted to share some great places to go and things to do if you are not as fortunate as me....

February School Vacation Week Outdoor Fun- Hey if the weather stays like this....

Tuesday, February 21
DEM Parks & Recreation staff will lead guided hikes with an opportunity to view the seals that bask on the rocks off Rome Point at the John H. Chafee Nature Preserve in North Kingstown. The 2 ½ mile walk is relatively easy and participants may also catch a glimpse of numerous birds including loons, cormorants, gulls and mergansers. The walks will take place on the hour at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. The walks begin at the parking areas on Route 1-A. Hikers are encouraged to dress appropriately as the area can be extremely cold in the winter wind.
Wednesday, February 22
DEM Parks & Recreation staff will lead guided hikes and walks around Peck Pond and other trails in Pulaski Memorial Recreation Area in Glocester. Participants will able to explore beaver dams around Peck Pond and learn about geo-caching. The hikes will take place on the hour at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. Hikers should meet at the warm-up hut/pavilion in the beach area.
Thursday, February 23
The Department will offer tours of the Lafayette Fish Hatchery in North Kingstown. The tours will run continuously from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Lafayette Fish Hatchery is one of three hatcheries where DEM raises fish until they are stocked in the state's waters. During the tours, personnel from DEM's Division of Fish and Wildlife will explain the functions and procedures of the Hatchery as well as the life stages of fish.

For more information contact the Division of Parks and Recreation at 222-2632 or visit the website

EcoTarium Worcester, MA- This week is all about electricity!

Roger Williams Park and Zoo, Providence, RI- Admission is half-price throughout January and February - $6/adults, $4/children (ages 3 - 12), $4/seniors (ages 62+). Zoo members and children under 3 are always free.

Audubon Society of RI, various sites throughout the state- check the site for the multiple classes and activities for many age groups

February Vacation Indoor Fun:If you try to go to an indoor play place this week, be prepared for chaos and crowding.  I am just saying, it gets nuts and you must be a glutton for punishment...

Kidz Castle, Warwick RI

Monkey Joes, North Attleboro, MA

Kidz Wurld, Attleboro, MA

Rock Spot, Lincoln, RI- Great for strength building and energy using, I've taken 3 years old and up,but know your kids' limits and call ahead of time if you need help or training.

Cinema World, Lincoln, RI- Super Tuesdays $6 ticket specials

Town Hall Lanes, Johnston, RI- they have some coupons online and special vacation week hours

Sunday, January 29, 2012

ReVamped Ecotarium Brings a Mountain of Fun

With our year's membership coming to an end shortly, I figured yesterday would be a great day to visit the Worcester Ecotarium with the boys.
We were pleasantly surprised to enter the newly renovated top floor.  Upon entering, we became emerged in The Arctic Next Door which has Mount Washington related experiments.  There is a new bouldering wall that Boog just had to keep trekking.  A wind tube that let them experience hurricane force winds.  An air flow construction area that was intriguing to look at with its colorful wall of 144 pinwheels.
Many of the tried and true fun-sploration was still there.  But there were some new additions too.  Right now there is a Playing Together area in which we played giant chess, giant manacala, and a bunch of other great games.
And of course since the weather was nice, we hit the playground and I even went up the rope net with Boog.  The boys stuck it out with me in the mud to do the Forest Trail.  And we payed our respects to Kenda, the Ecotarium's pride and joy polar bear who passed away this January.
This family pass was by far one of the best investments we have made.  Not only is the Ecotarium a great local place to visit and spend hours experimenting and exploring, but the pass has either full price or discounted reciprocity to 250 other places including the Providence Children's Museum and the Boston Museum of Science.  For  $100, it covers 2 adults and up to 4 children under 18. If you choose the $120 plus option, you get an extra 2 guests to bring. We are definitely renewing our membership.
So if you are thinking about things to do in the upcoming February vacation, you may want to check out the Ecotarium.  It is open Tuesdays thru Saturday, 10-5; Sundays noon- 5; closed Mondays, except as indicated on their website.

Monday, January 16, 2012

In case of emergency, don't look up from your game...

When I work out around my children, I don't expect them or want them to be in the middle of what I am doing. However, I would like them to acknowledge my falling ungracefulthermo the ground, rolling around and writhing (albeit briefly)in pain. Nope, not one glance up from thier electronic devices when this happened this morning.

So it got me thinking. God forbid I had a serious problem, would either of them notice?

I could see either of these following scenarios happen:
1. When they get up to pee, they step on me on thier way to the bathroom. Then, on their way back, they ask me for a snack. And when I don't get their snack, because I am unconscious lying on the floor, pursue the request with a louder version of "mom!" still while getting thru Bowser's Castle. Then finally call for help...Only after their DSi has run out of batteries.
2. Only after they begin arguing over the name of the Pokemon they each are going to pretend to be, leading to a battle of Nun uh and yeah Huhs, and some toys thrown, and find me unresponsive to their heated arguments, that they might come looking for me broken in the living room.

Maybe I should test out these theories.....

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

No, Sam don't eat.

I have determined we live in a land of reverse psychology. Or rather, just the little one does.

See, he is determined to do the opposite of whatever Dad tells him.

"No, Mudge, don't eat your pasta so you can shrink."
Devilish smirk, then he takes a great big bite.

"No, Mudge, don't finish your almonds, I want them."
Evil giggle followed by devouring 4 of them.

"No, Mudge, don't eat that broccoli so you don't grow. I don't want to have to buy the next size up."
Maniacle laugh followed by shoving it in his mouth.

We reflected on this one night. First, this has worked greatly to our benefit. Mudge is not a big eater and supper often takes an hour or more to get him to finish parts of his meal. He dilly dallies and generally fiddle farts and putzes around his dish as if he were working it like a maze. We would get so frustrated. But then the Ah Ha moment happened. The little shit always does the opposite of what Daddy tells him. Bingo! So dinner now is back to being more goofy and filling for the Mudge. And often it reminds us of the scene in A Chirstmas Story where Mom gets Ralphie's brother to eat his supper like a piggie.

I guess what it really comes down to is parents will do whatever it takes to get their children to do what they want,even if it takes a little verbal finagling.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Hoping to make wishes come true...

At the beginning of December, I started the Second Annual Pennies for Wishes Campaign, in memory of a great little girl, Dana.

She was a phenomenally happy child despite a lot of medical issues.  I had the pleasure of knowing her for 1/2 her life, as she was taken at 6 years old.  Her death fundamentally changed my 'spirit'.  And because of her, I strive to do my part to pay it forward as best as I can, in the little ways I know how.  So Pennies for Wishes was born on the anniversary of her death in 2010 to celebrate life.

The object was simple.  Each classroom gets a container and fills it with the loose change they might find lying around.  But when every penny counts in each family's dynamic, especially in these rough economic times, I truly wasn't thinking we would raise more the an a hundred dollars for A Wish Come True, a Southern New England wish granting non-profit organization.  But what happened was amazing.  We raised over $620 that first year.

With the success of last year's endeavor, I felt it was important to keep the momentum going.  But not all of the students, let alone the staff, remembered Dana.  It didn't matter.  People still gave.  I even had a little preschooler come up to me with a bag of coins and a note saying she wanted to donate her money from her piggy bank to the Pennies for Wishes.  I wanted to cry, I was so touched.

So over vacation, I spent a good amount of time counting and rolling coins and dollars that were collected during the four weeks prior to winter break.  15,000 pennies and then some.  I was floored.  The generosity of the students, families and staff was overwhelming yet again.  Amazingly, everyone exceeded my expectations, and last year's amount by over $100.

With each wish granted averaging $5000, each penny counts.  Though I am sure we all have a few pennies lying around, it is when you put them together that you see the change- pun intended-.  And if we are able to help out children with life threatening disease and their families experience a little joy, then it was all worth while.