Tuesday, September 18, 2018

50 Activities To Help Kids Learn The 50 States

Our theme for the summer was 50 States. We learned about all 50 states in 7 weeks and 2 days. With each state we learned about was an activity to help the kids remember each state. I was teaching a wide of age range (2-10) so I needed activities to hold everyone's attention, plus make them memorable. Using this book and the facts in the book (along with a little help from my bff Google), I was able to teach the kids some fun, and some obscure, facts about the states. 

Each day we did one or two states and had (mostly) small activities to go along with them. We went over the day's state, plus a quick review of the states we had already done. At the end of the 7 weeks, the result was six year olds who knew their states and capitals, 7, 8, and 10 year olds who got sooo into the states that they created bucket lists of all the cool places they wanted to visit and A LOT of interest in the states. 

My goals for this theme for summer were simple:
  • keep everyone active, attentive, learning, and thinking
  • simple activities that didn't have to take all day (in case there were kids who weren't interested)
  • things that didn't mean spending a lot of money

Here's what I came up with:

Sweet Home Alabama (the song, not the movie): Alabama


"Salmon" fishing - Alaska
Most of America's salmon comes from Alaska.

Hiking "The Grand Canyon"  - Arizona
The Grand Canyon is in northern Arizona.

Diamond digging (with graphite from Crater of Diamonds State Park) - Arkansas
Arkansas has one of the only diamond fields in the world that is open to the public (Crater of Diamonds).

A talent show and costumes - California
These kids were all stars in "Hollywood" on California day.

Crafting lady bugs - Delaware
Delaware's state bug is the ladybug.

Alligator wrestling - Florida
The Florida Everglades are the only place on earth where alligators and crocodiles co-exist.

Coloring peanuts and "picking" them (playing our Find It game) - Georgia

Peanuts are Georgia's official crop. Fun fact: they grow in the ground. You pull them up by leaves and pick them from the bottom of the roots.

Baked potato bar - Idaho
Idaho potatoes are known to be the world's best. The state grows more potatoes than anywhere else in the country.

Chicago style pizza for lunch - Illinios
Chicago style pizza for Chicago; Illinois' largest city and the third largest city in the country.

Cozy Coupe races - Indiana
Car races for the famous Indianapolis 500 that takes place every May in the state's capital city

Corn shucking - Iowa
Iowa is the largest corn producer in the U.S.

Watch The Wizard of Oz - Kansas
Kansas is Dorothy's home. Wampego, KS has a Wizard of Oz Museum!

Horse stick races - Kentucky
Horse stick races in honor of the Kentucky Derby, taking place the first Saturday of May (every year) in Louisville.

Mardi Gras photo booth - Louisiana
Mardi Gras is the famous festival that takes over New Orleans with parties and parades.

Lighthouse building with recyclables (and colorings) - Maine
The coast of Maine has more than 60 lighthouses.


Sing The Star Spangled Banner - Maryland
The Star Spangled Banner was written in Baltimore, after it's writer witnessed Fort McHenry being attacked by the British army during the war.

Tea party & Mayflower boat races - Massachusetts

In honor of the Boston Tea Party (where boxes of tea were thrown into Boston Harbor to fight British taxes) and  the Mayflower Ship (the ship that brought the pilgrims to the new world).

Decorate your own box car while listening to Motown - Michigan
Motown is short for "motor town" for Detroit, also known as the nation's car capital.

Camping at the lake - Minnesota
Minnesota has more than 15,000 lakes! 

Listen to blues music while eating St. Louis BBQ and ice cream cones for dessert while watching Meet Me In St. Louis - Mississippi and Missouri
Mississippi is the birthplace of blue music. It is said that people from St. Louis use more barbecue sauce than any other. Also, ice cream cones were invented in 1904 at the St. Louis World's Fair (when the movie takes place).

Bear hunt in the backyard - Montana
The state animal of Montana is the grizzly bear. 

Kool Aid painting - Nebraska
Kool Aid was invented in Hastings, NE in 1927.

Card games - Nevada
Lots of card games are played in Las Vegas.

Read The Road Not Taken - New Hampshire

Robert Frost lived in New Hampshire from 1900 to 1911. You can visit Robert Frost Farm in Derry, NH.

Playing diner - New Jersey
NJ has more diners than any other state.

Native American word find and learning how to say "hello" in six Native American languages - New Mexico
NM is known for its Native American history.

Apples for afternoon snack - New York
New York City, the biggest city in the U.S., is referred to as The Big Apple.

Krispy Kreme donuts for breakfast - North Carolina
Krispy Kreme donuts got their start in Winston-Salem, NC.

Planting sun flower seeds - North Dakota
ND grows more sunflowers than any other state.

Hot dogs for lunch - Ohio
America's first hot dog was served in Ohio in 1900.

Cowboys lassoing their horses - Oklahoma
Oklahoma City is home to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.

The Oregon Trail card game - Oregon
Many pioneers traveled from Independence, MO to Oregon using the (now historic) Oregon Trail.

Hershey bars - Pennsylvania
Hershey, PA is the chocolate capital of the U.S.

Circus Day - Rhode Island
Newport, RI held the first circus in America in 1774.

Sweet tea and the National Parks Memory game - South Carolina & South Dakota
South Carolina is the birthplace of sweet tea and also home to the first tea plants in America. South Dakota has the famed Mount Rushmore (a National Monument).

Garth Brooks and Elvis - Tennessee

Nashville, TN is the home of country music; while Elvis has Graceland in Memphis, TN.

Space Day - Texas
NASA headquarters is in Houston, TX.

Salt water experiment - Utah
The Great Salt Lake is saltier than any of the Earth's oceans.

Ben and Jerry's ice cream tasting - Vermont
Ben & Jerry's headquarters is in Burlington, VT.

Nerf gun battle - Virginia
Virginia not only has Jamestown, the first village in America, but it also saw many, many battles during the Civil War.

Coffee shop - Washington
The very first Starbucks was in Seattle, WA.

Coal sensory bin - West Virginia
Coal mining is an important part of WV history.

Milk tasting (regular, chocolate, and strawberry) - Wisconsin
 Wisconsin is a top producer of milk (and cheese and butter).

Coke and Mentos geyser experiment - Wyoming
Wyoming is home to Yellowstone National Park, which has more geysers than any other place on Earth!




We all loved this activity so much that next summer we will be doing a Celebrations Around The World theme!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Raising Kids Credit Card Free



My husband and I realized early in our relationship, when I was pregnant with our first yet well before we were married, that we wanted to live our life as debt free as possible. This meant no credit cards, as few loans as we possibly could (we currently only have two: our vehicle and our mortgage), and only having cash. To say it's been easy would be a lie. It took years to save and pay off past debts. We've been living within our means for 10+ years. This is the only life my kids have known. We have made them very aware of how we pay for things and how we can't pay for things if we can't afford it.

There's been very few snags in this lifestyle. That is, until we went to rent a violin for our 10 year old. We went to a recommended music store to rent a violin for the school year. Renting was/is the way to go for the kids who plays piano, is learning guitar (and owns one), and wants to learn saxophone by 8th grade. We decided if he kept playing, we'd purchase one in the future, but for now, renting was a better fit for our needs. 

Imagine our surprise when we were told that a major credit card was needed to rent the instrument. Not a debit card, but a true major credit card. Huh? I was confused, my husband was confused (even after the employee explained the reasoning to us), and the poor employee was even more confused how to handle things without dealing with a credit card. I really stumped the employee when I said if we can't rent the violin because we don't have credit cards, I'll just purchase the instrument outright with cash. This threw a few employees for a loop. Is living without credit cards this unheard of? 

After we got the "issue" taken care of and the violin was in our possession, we had to answer our children's MANY questions about cash, debit cards, and credit cards. Our middle child kept insisting we did have a credit card to use (debit cards) and couldn't understand that if we had the money to just buy it, why couldn't we? There's nothing like trying to explain to your child how "we do things" compared to majority of society.

There's been plenty of explanations about how we do things vs. other people/friends/society (video games, electronics, TV, diet, etc.). However, this was a very confusing topic for our three. It's a big topic to cover regardless and we didn't even scratch the surface. I'd like to share with you pointers on how we spoke with the minis, but honestly, we answered a few basic questions and then changed their focus with questions about what other instruments would be played this school year (we've got drums and ukulele waiting to be played too). 

It's never easy, no matter what the topic is, to explain to children why we're doing things differently than what society tells you is normal. It's very easy to use words and phrases such as "well, the rest of society is wrong about this," but I don't want my children to think of things negatively (this sounds as millennial as one can get). I like to keep conversations positive and tell them all angles of every topic we talk about. I'm fully aware that how I'm raising them may not be how they continue to live their life when they're adults. We can only give them all of the knowledge we possibly can so they can make informed decisions in the future.

So, there you have it. A simple errand to rent an instrument for orchestra turned into a deep conversation about money that turned into mom and dad slyly changing the subject to other instruments that can be played because we didn't want to have the conversation on Sunday Family Funday. Isn't parenting awesome?

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Do More Of What Makes You Happy




I wrote an email with the word effusive in it while simultaneously asking a kid if they have poop in their diaper, drinking coffee (my fourth time re-heating my first cup of the day), returning a text message, and keeping slime off of a kid's shirt. As soon as I finished typing, I read over a contract while mixing a batch of play dough with my free hand. I kept scenes like this going for ten hours through my "workday." I took an hour for dinner, another hour to put kids to bed and clean the house, and then another hour laughing at email and text exchanges with business partners, client, and friends. I might have let out a few words of frustration in between the laughs as well.

At the end of the night I finally showered and climbed into bed. I was so tired my bones hurt, my phone chimed with reminders for the next day as I lay in bed in the dark, my eyes slowly giving in to the exhaustion. At the end of the day I was tired, content, more tired, and happy. Really happy. I make sure every day brings me some kind of happiness. It's how I've designed my life. The next day similar scenes would play out. And every morning I start my day looking at this sign:


Do More Of What Makes You Happy



I rarely do something if it doesn't bring me joy and happiness. By some dumb luck, life has given me a pretty good hand (let's acknowledge that) and I've made that hand work in my favor every day. I've designed my life to bring me happiness every day. Does it sound silly and ridiculous? Yes, it does. Is it possible for everyone to live life this way? Yes, I do so believe. You see, it's more of a mindset than anything. Not everything works out perfectly, but it can still bring you happiness.

That poopy diaper I mentioned at the beginning? Yeah, it didn't stay in the diaper at all. The slime didn't stay off the shirt and I wound up scrubbing the shirt. My days don't run smoothly. I think 'WTF!!??!!?' more in an hour than some people do in a week. Yet it all makes me laugh, if not in the moment, at least at the end of the day.

My days are a good mix for me. There's things I love to do in every day. It's not to say that my busy lifestyle doesn't bring me stress, worry, doubt, or headaches. It's the fact that the end of the day, at the end of these projects and meetings, if I've learned something and the end result brings me happiness, then it's worth it. I'd like to say I've found the key to happiness, but I've simply found the key to my happiness.

I challenge you, before you complain, before you wish something in life were different, before you act, do more of what makes you happy.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Celebrating Mother and Father's Days In September

Back in May, I couldn't quite decide what to get my mom for Mother's Day. I faced the same thing for Father's Day a month later. I mean, I can only give so many picture frames and pictures of the kids. Gift cards are okay, but I wanted something that would really stick out. So, I went with my go-to gift for Hubs and the minis: an experience. This particular experience was a day at our local amusement park, Adventureland, with the minis, myself, Hubs, and my sister.

We finally had our experience over the weekend and to sum it up easily: it was the perfect day! The park wasn't crowded at all, the weather was a cool 72 degrees and sunny, and everyone was in a great mood. We had such an awesome time! But, before we get to our amazing Sunday, we had Friday night and Saturday.

Friday was the first fall-like day of the season. We ate chili for dinner and had apple cider for an after dinner treat. Of course, someone had to try out her many faces for the camera....




Bright and early Saturday morning, Hubs went to work and brought the youngest mini with him. The boys and I went to the Museum so I could volunteer for a shift and try out a simple programming event I set up. Plus, whenever I'm at the Museum lately, it's been easy enough (and I've had fantastic volunteers) that I've been able to work on programming and other various things for the Museum.


Apple printing at the Museum. The boys refused to do this the other day when I had it out for daycare, but they loved it at the Museum.

Max: "Here mom, let me take a picture of you so you stop taking pictures of me."




Saturday afternoon we decided on apple picking for an outing, followed by dinner at El Rodeo, and a quick trip to Target (all necessary items this time).


To be perfectly honest, I wasn't impressed with the apples as we were picking at Iowa Orchard. We had to look for apples that weren't bitten by bugs or had holes in them. However, they were THE BEST apples I've ever had! All of that searching for the perfect apples was completely worth it! We got one peck of Honeycrisp apples and another peck of a variety of apples (Jonathon, blondies, gala, etc.). It's not going to surprise me if we got picking again before the end of the season.



The middle mini spent most of our apple picking time catching toads. My favorite part of our picking was when Elizabeth walked down a lane way ahead of us and we heard her shriek (not out of shock, but disgust), "there's a HUGE toad! Harrison, come here. Just come here you guys. This thing is huge! Huge!" She was legitimately ticked that toads could get so big.






Elizabeth: "No, I will not look at the camera mom."


Elizabeth: "Toads are gross. Bugs are gross. Apple picking is gross." So, basically, everything was gross for the hour we were there. 



Our visit to Target resulted in the minis searching for "everything we want for Christmas." This was the most random thing, as all the others were typical doll accessories and Lego sets. 


Sunday included donuts, breakfast pizza, and the most perfect day at The Land (aka Adventureland). The park wasn't crowded at all, which meant no lines for rides, perfectly cool weather, and happy people. 







Usually when we got to Adventureland, we spend more time at Adventure Bay than on the rides. Since the water park is closed, we got the full day to spend on our favorite rides. The minis even tried out new rides (well, new to them) happily.





















Harrison conquered The Monster! It's taken him (and me) all summer to go on it. It shouldn't shock anyone that he loved it and can't wait to go on it again next year.




Max finally got his red velvet funnel cake.



A full day at the amusement park and still home in enough time to prepare for the week ahead! The minis had a great time helping me with our very own "apple orchard."


I can't get over how perfect our Sunday Family Funday was! I love giving experiences as gifts and this was one of my favorites. Overall it was a fantastic weekend. The next few weekends we're going to attempt "low spending weekends," as we save for vacations and weekend getaways. We'll see how that goes!