Traveling With Autism: Mini Vacation Grand Forks 2018

Summer Mini Vacation in Grand Forks, North Dakota

(This is not a paid for article, we paid for our stay at the Canad Inns Grand Forks.)

 

Day In The Life

In the past I avoided doing a lot of “Day in the Life” of aka DITL. But then I started to think about this blog, and what I want from it. My blog is a place for me to share my journey. The regular DITL stuff is part of my journey. I learn so much about myself, my kids, autism,and what life means to me during those regular days.

I also learn a lot about my family and myself when we go away together. By blogging about this trip, it allows me to go back and see how far we have come. I hope to share more about our journey. I also hope by sharing I can help other autism mom’s along the way. Even if it is just seeing real life struggles happen to other mom’s and that your not alone,

Mama Can’t Stand When People Stop Her From Preparing

Wednesday we were suppose to spent cleaning the house and getting ready to leave for a long weekend away from home. But Wes and my dad went back to the hubby shop to get a part for his car then we went back to his place to hang out. Travis and I drove around and went out for lunch. Then I had to do some last minute running around. You know, make sure we had enough gluten free snacks for Z, pick up some raw cat food for my dad to feed the cats while we were gone, etc. We came home in time to make dinner. Next thing I knew my parents dropped Wesley back off at home and we had to leave to go pick up my stepdaughter.

I’m the first to admit I was stressed out. I wanted to have everything done early on and get to bed early. But as we came home from getting Chloe, it was time to get Z to bed. I was frustrated and anticipated a long night up finishing up the house. But while I did bedtime routine with Z, Travis and my big kids made sure the last bit of the house was picked up, which left me with only a few small things to do. I love that they are old enough to help out more. This meant I was able to get a good night sleep which I was so grateful for.

Mini Vacation: Grand Fork, North Dakota Here We Come.

Thursday morning we all piled in the van, made a pit stop at Tim Horton’s for coffee and headed south to North Dakota.We listened to an awesome Spotify playlist hubby had put together the night before. While waiting at the border, I’m sure the people waiting in line next to us must have thought we were crazy while we danced to the Village People’s YMCA.

After we crossed the border we stopped in the border town of Pembina, North Dakota. I had to stop at the parcel pick up service and get all the homeschool materials I had bought on eBay and some Facebook Homeschool Buy & Sell groups. It saves me so much money having them shipped there instead of to Canada. Look for a post in the future how I save money on curriculum this way.

We of course had to stop at the truck stop in Pembina for a washroom break. There my hubby with his sweet tooth grab us some American treats. Even though I am following Weight Watchers, I allowed myself to enjoy a few treats here and there. The big kids chowed down on some candies and chocolate while we jammed out to Disney Music.

Are We There Yet? YES!

Finally we made it to Grand Forks. We were too early to check in to the hotel, so we stopped in at Walmart.

School Supply Shopping

After we picked up some food for the hotel, I brought the kids to the school supply section. I had done most of their supply shopping the week before, there were a few things I knew I could get for cheaper, or better quality on our trip. The kids picked out there zipper binders, and I was sure to grab an extra to keep as a backup should one of their zippers break. They both wanted the fancier, aka more expensive ones. But they both managed to destroy their binders last year, so they got the cheaper ones with the promise if they take better care of their supplies we could splurge next year and get the fancier ones.

It is Just a Pencil… NO! Its a Ticonderoga

I was also able to get some My First Ticonderoga pencils for Zakari. Last year I based on a recommendation from Erica at My Busy Bees and Me, I order a box of these pencils. I searched high and low, at every store in Winnipeg, Canada I thought might carry them. But I came back empty handed. So I had to turn to the internet. They were expensive and the cost of shipping nearly put me in cardiac arrest. But in the end they are worth the cost.

So this year I decided I was going to look in the USA and try and avoid the extra cost if possible. I was able to find 2 packs for $1.50 a pack. Since I had paid over $1.50 a pencil last year, I bought a case at this price. For kiddos like little Z who have fine motor skill issues, these pencils are worth the cost. He has a much easier time keeping a proper pencil grasp with them.

Can You Say Chick fil A!!

It was still too soon to go check in, so we went to get lunch at my favourite American Fast Food joint Chick Fil A. Honestly it’s a blessing to my waistline and wallet we don’t have a location in Winnipeg. Little Z loves the fries and grilled nuggets there too. I swear I do the happy dance anytime I’m waiting in line at Chick Fil A. We also have to plan ahead for Z. He really can’t have many proteins at other restaurants when we are on the road. But of course it is closed Sundays. So we have to buy extra grilled nuggets on Saturday to put away for the next day. When we got to the window, I indulged in my Spicy Deluxe Chicken Sandwich and waffle fries. When it comes to Chick-fil-a I forget all about Weight Watcher. Afterwards we headed to the hotel.

Check In & Tim Horton’s

We arrived at the hotel 20 mins before check in. We decided we would try and check in on the off chance our room was ready. Of course it wasn’t, but they had us choose which theme room we wanted. Travis picked out the Circus room. The front desk staff said they would call the cleaning staff and have them clean that room next. After waiting for a few minutes we decided to go get some coffee at the American Tim Horton. They sure know how to roll out the red carpet for us Canadians in Grand Forks. Bringing us the comforts of home.

We came back about 30 mins later, and now it was after our actual check in time and our room still was not ready. Before I could even say anything, she handed us 5 free vouchers for the breakfast buffet. We waited about 15 or 20 more minutes and then we were give our key, and our package (3 pizza vouchers and passes for the water park). We made our first trip upstairs with our luggage, and the kids. Afterwards I went back down with the luggage cart and brought up all my parcels.

Box Day! Homeschooling Mom Simple Joys

While the kids picked their bunks, and Travis relaxed, I got down to business with all my boxes. I wish I had taken a picture. It was quite ridiculous actually. 16 packages, 3 were full curriculums(Two levels of Bookshark and 1 Calvert). I had to load up one of those luggage carts to get it all up to the room in one trip. The boxes had taken up the whole back trunk of the van and I knew it could be condensed into fewer boxes. I even brought a large clear tub to package all the chapter books I had purchased. Apparently I purchased more then I thought, because the container didn’t hold them all. Nothing is more fun for a homeschool mom then going through 16 packages of new curriculum and read aloud books.

Wishbone, Magic Tree House, Puppy Place, Kitten Corner, Bailey School Kids, Usborne early chapter books, the list goes on. It was so nice to be able to get all those books for a fraction of the cover cost.

Pool Time!

Soon all the new and wonderful homeschooling materials were all packed up, and everyone else was rested up. Z was standing at the window that looked out into the pool area longingly, ready to get going. So once everyone was in their swimsuits we headed downstairs to explore the pool. We were just outside the pool doors when I was stopped by a woman. She asked how long we were staying and I told her till Sunday. She then handed me 2 free pizza vouchers that were to expire on the Saturday and asked me if our family would use them. They were leaving and didn’t want them to go to waste. We thanked her and told her we would make sure they were used.

We continued to head to the pool area. For being a hotel pool, it was awesome. There was a large climber with a huge bucket on the top that poured down on the kids every 10 minutes or so. If you were brave enough you could climb to the top of the structures and slide down one of the 2 fun slides, But not without the risk of getting doused in gallons of water. The structure also had switches and valves that allowed you to adjust the water flow from all the fountains and spouts.

And Then We Were Flushed…

Then there was the huge toilet bowl style water slide. Riders jump on a tube (either singles or pairs) and blast down a dark tunnel. In the middle of the slide you would go around and around like your being flushed down a toilet. After each round your tube gets turned this way and that way. You never know if your going down the bottom forward or backwards.

Once your sucked down the bottom you come splashing down into the lazy river and float off. Travis and the big kids loved this slide. I couldn’t even tell you how many times they went down.

Zakari on the other hand was not crazy about it. Travis took him down once and then he refused to go again. Whether this was a sensory thing because of his autism, or just a typical fear many kids his age have I don’t know. However our method stayed the same. We gently help him get out of his comfort zone. If afterwards he is still uncomfortable with it, we accept it and move on.

So every once in a while Travis or one of the big kids would come and watch Z for me so I could go down could enjoy the slide and lazy river too. I think the kids thought it was entertaining when I would scream while going down the dark tunnel to enter the toilet part of the slide.

Kids…. Enjoyment at their mother’s expense.

Kiddie Pool, Learning to Swim with Autism

The kiddie pool was beach entry style. It had a double slide, 3 spraying fountains, teeter totter and a single baby swing/jumper. This is the pool that also leads to and from the lazy river.

Zakari spent hours in this pool floating, sliding and playing on the other pieces available. Because he was able to touch the bottom of the pool, he felt comfortable practicing floating.

When it comes to learning to be comfortable in the water, I find that with Zakari, he needs to be in a safe zone where he can gently push himself. If we try to push him he panics. But if he is allowed to his own devices, in a safe and supervised manner, great things can happen. While we have to sometimes push our children with autism, we also have to allow them time to explore and discover on their own. This method doesn’t work so well during a 30 minute swim lesson, and the instructor does have to push him along a bit. But we do our best to give Z lots of opportunities to have free time in a pool where he can touch the bottom.

The Big Kid Pool

Finally the slightly deeper pool was the pool my oldest hung out with other kids he met. It was about 4 feet deep, and the big kids enjoyed meeting people while playing water basketball in it. Next thing you know the group of them were going down water slides together and running under the huge bucket of water and getting soaked together

Traveling With The Big Kids

After a few hours of swimming we all started getting hungry. I ordered the big kids a pizza from the hotel by the pool and we went upstairs to get changed. By the time we got everyone sorted out, I ran downstairs and picked up the pizza. The big kids hung out in their room playing video games, and listening to music while Travis, Zakari and I headed out. I love that my big kids are old enough to stay back and hang out if they want. Sometimes they just want to relax while we have running around to do and we don’t have to drag them against their will with us.

Walmart and Supper Run

First stop for us was back to Chick-fil-a to get Z some grilled nuggets. Then we went to Walmart to get some snacks for the hotel. We did not want to have to spend too much money poolside on snacks if we could help it.

I just about fell over with how expensive produce was. It seemed that fruit cost the same price at home, but you have to add 25% to that price for exchange. Cereal, candy, junk food, all seems to be so much cheaper in the USA, but produce is another story. Yikes.

We grabbed a few things we needed, and then went across the parking lot to the Panera Bread drive thru. We had eaten at Panera Bread once when we were in Philadelphia and really enjoyed it, especially my husband. After we were served we took our dinner and Walmart purchases back to the hotel. Once again the soup and sandwiches were delicious. We both really hope Panera decided to start opening up shop in Canada some day.

Magic Tree House. The Perfect Book

Reading as always been a great way to get Z to relax. It also helps him fall asleep. So when we travel I always bring some books to read aloud. Zakari loves the Magic Tree House, so it seemed like a no brainer to grab the next one in the series to read. I didn’t even look to see what the next book was about.

When we started to read Buffalo Before Breakfast (Magic Tree House 18), I realized that it was about the Lakota Native Americans who lived in North Dakota in the 1800’s. I could not have planned that better. We were able to talk to Zakari about how this story took place in the same location we were, but hundreds of years ago.

As I read he drifted off to sleep. Honestly having my child fall asleep in my arms while I read to them is the best part of my day.

Rough Early Morning Wake Up

Around 4:30 am, Little Z woke up and had no idea where he was. He was in one of those startled states, where you cannot console him. After about 45 mins of trying to settle him, I was scared the big kids would be woken up, or the people in the next room could hear him. I did not want to be kicked out. So I quickly threw in my contacts, grabbed my purse and took Z to the van. As soon as we hit the fresh air, he seemed to snap out of it. He settled down, and I drove around, not sure what to do at 5:15 am.

For a little while drove around parts of Grand Forks I usually don’t travel. During that little journey I found a thrift store I never noticed before. Mental note, find time to go check out the books there… While I was in the parking lot checking out the times, I text my mom, and told her to call me if she was up. She’s one of those crazy people that choose to wake up at this time, ON PURPOSE!

Mom To The Rescue & Walmart Therapy

But Grand Forks is not very big, so that did not take me long to drive around. Finally I decided to take the long way to the new Walmart that is a bit further from our hotel. I stopped to see what time Kmart opened at, and drove through the older area of the city. This whole time Zakari was completely content. I hoped my family was getting in some good sleep.

As I pulled into the Walmart parking lot, my phone rang. It was my mom. Such perfect timing, she had wanted me to look for some American groceries for her. I figured now was the perfect time, since Z and I were just killing time. Before I went into the store, it was great to just vent to her. I’m not naturally an early riser. I’m also not always the most pleasant person when I’m awoken before I’ve slept enough. So it was nice to talk to her and get my frustration of my chest. I was able to get back into happy mama mode.

School Clothes Shopping

We walked all of Walmart, and got my mom’s shopping done. While looking at the boys section, I found some fresh t-shirts for Wesley’s back to school wardrobe. Before leaving I grabbed some stuff for Zakari and I to eat for breakfast. I’m love to say I bought some health fruit for myself, but that would be a lie. Besides like I said before fruit is SO expensive here. I had a delicious glazed yeast doughnut. You know what, I don’t even feel bad. I was tired and needed a sugar rush. Good Old Weight Watchers got kicked to the curb. Well not completely, I only bought one doughnut. Before Weight Watchers I would have bought a package, ate a few, and brought the rest back to the hotel. Not this time.

Pumpkin Pie Pop-tarts to the Rescue

I was about 6:50 am when we had seen all there was to see at Walmart. So I googled Targets hours and was surprised to see they opened at 7 am. I knew it would take me about 10 mins to get there. So we checked out and took off.  At Target I was able to find a few school supplies that were a good price. I also once again smacked Weight Watchers in the face. I mean come on, who can turn down Pumpkin Pie Pop-tarts.

It was still early, and I didn’t want to head back to the hotel yet, so Zakari and I went to a grocery store and did the aisles. When we got back to the car Travis called me to check to see if we were OK. The kids were still sleeping, but by now it was almost 9 am. So we hit up the Tim Horton’s, (because that’s what a good Canadian does when they need coffee)and head back to the hotel.

Traveling with Autism

Mr Zakari seemed to be in a much better mood. It is hard traveling when your little one has autism and anxiety. But setting realistic expectations is so important as a parent. It is hard when you have all these big plans and sometimes they are too big of plans for our special kiddos. Thing is to go in baby steps and that with practice it will get better.

Roll With The Punches

Even traveling with neurotypical children can be a challenge. I have learned we just need to roll with the punches. Some times I just want to lock myself in our house where it is safe. But that is not what is best for our family. Zakari needs to learn how to go out in and deal with the over stimulation the world has to offer. But we have to help him him learn to cope. These experiences mean so much to him. Even though he doesn’t talk about them, we know it is meaningful because of how he behaves after. He loves looking back at pictures of himself weeks and even years later. Or when we return he asks to do things we have done before there.

No matter how difficult it can be sometimes to travel with a child with autism, the life experiences are much more important. Both to the parents and the kid.

What We Bring To Help Our Son With Autism:

  1. Ear Defenders: When things start to get too loud, we can easily help him block out some of those noises by putting on a pair of ear defenders. I know some kids wear them a lot, but Zakari just uses them to regulate himself and then he takes them off.
  2. His own blanket and pillow. The comforts and smells from home helps my son relax and eventually fall asleep.
  3. Books: As mentioned above this is a great coping strategy for our son. I cannot encourage people enough to read to your child with autism. Even thought they may not seem like they are listening, they really are.
  4. A fully charged iPad & Leap Frog Epic and chargers
  5. Catnip Fennel. Now I take this with me everywhere we go. It is so helpful for dealing with upset tummies and it helps calm the nervous system. It is a product that has helped us so much over the years. During those meltdowns that we cannot figure out the cause, a lot of the time Catnip Fennel is able to help defuse the situation.

Breakfast Than Back To The Pool

We came back into the hotel room and I got the big kids up. Zakari looked out the window longingly at the pool again while every got ready.

Friday was an awesome day to spend by the pool. The kids swam their hearts out. When lunch time came around we ordered pizza, fries and chicken strips by the pool for lunch. The kids waited for the bell to start ringing so they could run with the other kids under the giant bucket and get soaked. Everyone had so much fun.

At dinner time the kids wanted Pizza, so seeing we still had the free vouchers we had gotten at check in and from the woman in the lobby we didn’t see any problem with that. Travis and I ordered Buffalo Wild Wings. It was so yummy. I just love their food. Another restaurant that we don’t have in Canada.

Little Too Busy Saturday

We woke up Saturday morning, and after lazying around we decided to head down to the pool. Before we left we noticed the lazy river and the kiddie pool were taped off. I called the front desk and there had been a pool fouling, so we needed to wait till it was properly treated.

Finally after an hour or so the pool was reopened. We went down and it was BUSY. Thursday and Friday we had been so spoiled. There was a good amount of people at the pool. Today the pool was swamped with people. Zakari was not having it. Several times he asked to go back to the room. So I decided to take him back and we went shopping.

Thrift Store Shopping

After we went back to the hotel to change, we headed to the car. I wanted to check out the thrift store I had seen on my early morning travels the morning before. We arrived, and of course I went straight for the books. Sadly I was only able to find one book we were looking for. I was impressed with some of the toys they had. They had some real classics from when I was a kid. But I knew we didn’t really need them, so I left them behind.

Little Z was tired. Of course when I had suggested a nap in the hotel, that was met with him jumping on the bed and running around like a crazy head. I really could have used a good nap, but now that we were out I wanted to at least check out Kmart. Sears was the last stop I made. They had just 8 days before they closed their doors for good. We looked around a bit, but Zakari was just not having it. So we headed back to the hotel.

Supper Plans

This weekend was just meant to be a get away. Get in some swimming, eat some good food and hang out as a family. The kids were not hungry yet, and we wanted to take them to the arcade at some point in the evening. So Travis, Zakari and I went out on our nightly supper hunt.

We stopped at Chick-fil-a because we needed to get Z chicken for that night and Sunday because, they are not open on Sundays. Then we tried The Noodle Company. It was just OK. I’m not sure I’d go back again. But I’m glad I tried it.

Arcade & Dippin Dots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The one thing Chloe wanted to have while we were in the USA was Dippin’ Dots. So when we got back we went to the pizza place/ arcade. We had two vouchers left for pizza, so the kids each ordered one. While we waited we loaded up the arcade cards and the kids had a blast playing all the games.

 

We got Chloe some Dippin Dots for helping us out so much with Zakari at the pool. She went up the play structure with the slides and huge dumping bucket all weekend to keep an eye on Zakari. With my contacts I couldn’t keep up with Zakari and not get chloride water in my eyes. I did not want to lose a contact, nor do I like water that much.

When the pizzas were ready, the kids cashed out their tickets, and we went back upstairs.

Packing Up To Go

When we got back I started packing and organizing our stuff. We wanted to be up early and be able to try the breakfast buffet we had free passed for. The big kids ate their pizza and enjoyed one last night of snacks, video games and movies.

Sunday Rough Morning

Zakari had a rough night. I almost wanted to pack up the van and head home in the middle of the night. But Travis talked me out of it. Luckily we got him settled and he finally fell asleep. Only to wake up again at 4:30 am. He wanted me to take him to Walmart again. Of course I didn’t want this to be a habit he got into. But even if I wanted to take him, I couldn’t, Walmart was closed until noon.

Once I read him a few chapters I was able to get him back to sleep. But now I’m worried. Travis and I have not slept well enough to be driving him as safely as we would like. Travis had a pounding headache at this point and needed time to sleep it off.

Late Check Out

I called the front desk and explained that our son had a rough night, we were not sure if he was feeling well or not. We ask for a late check out. They were amazing, they said that even though they don’t do late check outs, they would give us an extra hour or two. We were so grateful, so even though we slept through the breakfast buffet, we were all well rested.

We packed up the trolley, brought all our luggage and my packages to the van, and then checked out. Overall I was very happy with our stay. 3 hours away from home and the kids had a blast. Perfect mini vacation.

Last Minute Shopping

Once again I’m so grateful for big kids who are old enough to babysit. I wanted to run into Sears and have a better look. Travis was not with me the day before so he wanted to look around too. But Zakari was NOT interested in shopping at that moment. So the big kids babysit him in the van. We of course left it running and they locked the doors behind us. All of them were happy playing on their iPads while we spent a few quick minutes looking around. We stopped at the candy store in the mall and went back to the kids.

Afterwards we made one last stop at Walmart. Of course Zakari loves Walmart, so he insisted on coming with us. We grab a few snacks for the road and some more Tylenol to keep Travis’s headache at bay.

McDonald’s, Worst Service EVER

My big kids wanted to have McDonald’s for lunch before we left the states. I swear that was the worst managed McDonald’s in North America. They messed up our order twice, over charged me, and when I asked for something for compensation for our wasted time I was offered 3 free coupons for ice cream or cookies. Offered might now be the right word. The manager rolled her eyes at me, then said she guessed she could get me some coupons. A few weeks later when I went back down to the USA with my parents, they stopped their for coffee and they had an equally terrible experience.

Plus I had a ridiculously hard time cashing in those coupons, they tried to make me wait for a manager to get off their lunch break which would be in 30 mins. I explained that these coupons were given to me for wasting our time. He was able to get us the cookies. At least they were good, but I refuse to ever go to that location again. I will drive down the road to get coffee from now on.

Last Supper Before Heading Back to Canada

Travis and I decided, after long, and painful deliberation we were going to try Erbert and Gerberts. I’m so glad we did! It was so much yummier then Subway.

We ate, filled up our tank and hit the road home. All I could think was, well the moment of truth is coming up. I have to declare what I spent to the border patrol. Which means I have to admit to my husband how much all those boxes cost.

Back Home Again

We landed up making good time, and getting home safely. We were all glad to be able to sleep in our own beds that night. It was so much fun being able to spend time with our kids.

What We Would Do Differently

This was a learning experience for us. We want to take a trip to Great Wolf Lodge next summer and this trip was a great practice run. This winter though we might head back to Grand Forks Canad Inns.

However we will be doing a two things different.

  • Going for 2 nights instead of 3. I think we all had our fill of swimming after the second night, and the money we save in hotels can allow us to do this trip more often.
  • I would not go on the weekend again. Saturday was WAY to busy for Zakari. Looking down to the pool on Sunday, it also seemed crazy busy.

What is your go to tip on traveling with a child with autism?

Summer Life With Autism & Year Round Homeschooling

Summer Life With Autism & Year Round Homeschooling

summer

Summer is officially over. My big kids are back at their respected schools, and Little Z is back to the homeschool grind. Well not that we really stopped learning since we are year round homeschoolers. But we did pull out the new curriculum a few weeks ago.

Life has been very hectic the last few months and I had taken a long unplanned hiatus from blogging and YouTube. I just felt that I was being pulled away from this platform. Instead I needed to put all my energy into my family. Last September my body was getting so run down. I got sick 2 times that month. It made me see I had to slow down.

Now with this fresh start of a new school year, I am hopeful that moving forth with this blog is the right thing to do. I miss sharing about our lives and journey. It is therapeutic to me, and I need that right now.

Attack of the Disappearing Blog

Something that made me realize how important this site is to me was when it went down. A few months ago my credit card number information was stolen. Someone in the UK had a blast buying things off of Google Play, and grocery shopping. So obviously my credit card was canceled, and fraud claims were put in. Thank goodness I didn’t have to pay anything for that. But when I received my new credit card, I forgot to change the number on my host site. For some odd reason I did not receive any emails from the company saying this was going on and my site was taken down. Thankfully I noticed soon enough and was able to do a disaster recovery.

The thought of my site that I have worked on and off on for the last 8 years being *poof* gone made me sick to my stomach. This made me realize I needed to get back here and start sharing our life journey again. Even if what I write about helps only one other mom, it’s all worth it. Plus on a personal level, its a log of how far my family has come during these last 8 years. I explained it to my husband as if all our family pictures burned and I had no way of getting them back. I’m so grateful to have my little piece of the internet back safe.

All About Day-camp

This summer just seemed to go by so fast. In July, Wesley was involved in two day camps.

The first full week off of school he attended a camp for kids ages 10-14 years old. They had 1:1 camp counselors that switched each day. This way the kids would focus on building relationships with their peers, and not as much with the adults. The best part was Zakari’s old ABA tutor, and the respite worker that took Wes to camp last year was a counselor there! They worked on social, life and planning skills. Some of that activities they were involved in were Skyzone Trampoline Park, archery, bowling, Shapes Gym, swimming, and sports. Lunch preparation and cleanup tasks were rotated so campers actively participated. Something else that impressed me was they showed the kids how to do some basic auto maintenance like checking oil, tire pressure and adding oil and other fluids to a car.

Two weeks later Wesley started a second one week day camp. A van came right to the house every morning and picked him up, and dropped him off in the evening. This was so helpful to me as a busy work at home mom. The camp two weeks before had me orchestrating a drop off and pick up schedule with my family and my ex’s family. It was one less thing to worry about. He spent his week learning to cook with camp friends, enhancing independence, trying out adapted sports, and allowing him to develop & grow friendships with the staff and other peers. They visited the Human Rights Museum, a local water park, and spent the day at Camp Manitou.

Summer Reading Challenge

During May, FullTimeWifeLife whom I follow on YouTube announced she was hosting a Summer Reading Challenge. So Zakari and I signed up. He was able to collect $100 in pledges & he read over 1200 mins between June 1st & July 15th.

  1. 1 Fizz and the Police Dog Tryouts: Fizz 1
  2. 2 Fizz and the Dog Academy Rescue: Fizz 2
  3. 3 Fizz and the Show Dog Jewel Thief
  4. Outback Rescue
  5. Storm Rescue
  6. Bush Rescue
  7. Farm Rescue
  8. Hey Jack! Complete Collection with backpack (15 books)
  9. Animal Detective (Bear Grylls Activity Book)
  10. Secrets of the Rain Forest: A Shine-a-Light Book
  11. Animal Trivia Questions

Zakari earned a total of 25 books and a back pack. Plus his group earned $700 worth of books for less fortunate kids. It was such an awesome program we can’t wait till next summer to participate again!

As his mother I’m most excited about the Hey Jack! books. They look great for a kiddo who grew up on the Doman program. The writing a large and clear. I believe these will be the first chapter books he reads to be aloud this year. Thank you again Abby!

Summer book challenge

Where Did August Go?

The month of August just flew by. From the 3rd to the 19th, Wes was off with his dad. He spent time at his dad’s place, then a week at a cabin, and then out to Gimli for a car show before he came back home. Between the 12th and the 22nd my stepdaughter was off to Disney with her grandparents. So during the time it overlapped that they were both gone Zakari was an only child. I think it was nice for him to get our undivided attention.

The kids are blessed with an aunt who owns a pool and loves to have them over to swim. Three times during the summer we went over there and lounged in her pool. It is fun to see each year how the kids have developed their swimming skills through all their swimming lessons during the year. Even Little Z was more independent in the pool with his life jacket. I did not have to be standing and holding onto him the whole time. I was able to float or sit on the side of the pool within arms reach and enjoy everyone’s company. Its sad the cooler weather is blowing in and the pool is closed for the summer.

swimming

Forget August, Where Has September Gone???

Like I said we have started school. Zakari was the first to start. We were so excited to dive into his new Bookshark Kindergarten curriculum. We started a day early on Tuesday September 4th. This curriculum is just such a perfect fit for my son. Several of the books these last few weeks have sucked us both in. I can’t image what we would have missed if I had just put him in the Grade 1 level.

A week later we introduced Calvert Grade 1. No, I did not purchase the whole Calvert curriculum new. $1500 US dollars is way out of my budget no matter how good the curriculum is. But I was able to get all the textbooks & most of the materials from a mom on an American homeschool Facebook group for $80 US shipped. I had looked at this curriculum years ago when Wesley was homeschooling kindergarten, but the price tag blew my mind.

Next up was Wesley. On September 5th he went off to his first day of grade 8. Guys, he’s in GRADE 8 now! I’m not entirely sure how that happened. This is his last year in middle school, then he is off to high school. He also started back up with piano & his once a week evening group at the local school gym. Two weeks ago we met his new teachers at the school BBQ. I also met one of his buddies that he has lunch with.  I hope he’s off to a good start.

Then on the 7th we sent Chloe off to start grade 7. She’s already had one overnight camping trip with her class, and seems to be enjoying school. She’s soaking in book after book. I love that she shares my love of reading.

school

Portage La Prairie Here We Come!

September means Zakari’s favourite place is open again, the Portage La Prairie Aquatic Centre. We have already taken the 1 hour 20 mins journey out there. He loves that place so much. I look forward to several more visits between now and June when they close up again for the summer.

stride place

What Does Year Round Homeschooling Look Like For Us?

So I mentioned that we are year round homeschoolers. Because Zakari is a creature of habit, we have decided that homeschooling year round is in his best interest. This allows us flexibility throughout the year. If either of us is having a bad day, we can put the books away without fear of running out of time.

However year round homeschooling this past year allowed us the time to go through two full curriculums. We started the year with Bookshark PreK, which we finished in April. Between April and August we started and completed Build Your Library Level 0.

Homeschooling Year round allowed us to enjoy all the books in the PreK Level and still hit and complete our kindergarten year. So we not only stick to a routine that worked for him, and allowed flexibility, we also completed more this year then we would have if we stuck to a strict 36 week school year.

book worm

Weight Watcher Journey

Something this summer that I did for myself was joining Weight Watchers Online. My weight was climbing past my comfort level, and my body was starting to rebel. I’m happy to say I was able to lose 22 lbs since the ending of May. 18 lbs was thanks to Weight Watchers.

A few weeks ago I joined a meeting group, and I hope to get down to a healthy weight again. I’ve already been able to get past a frustrating plateau, and the scale is going down again. It’s amazing what years of stress and poor self care can do to a body. I feel now is such an important time for me to get back on track. The healthier I am, the more I can do for my family.

Starting Our Family Holidays

This year I took 1 week off of work. Part of it was spent going to doctors and dentist appointments. You know, all that stuff no one wants to really do. I’m happy to say check ups went well, and neither of the boys have any cavities. Although Zakari gave both doctors a run for their money. Thank God for patience doctors.

Waiting at the dentist

Waiting at the dentist.

Boys and Their Toys…

But we were sure to add in the fun stuff. Wesley saved $600+ dollars of his own money and wanted to buy himself his dream RC truck. My dad took him over to my uncle’s house to try out his RC truck and learn how to take care of them. Then on the Monday of our holiday we met my parents at the local hobby shop and with my dad’s expertise he picked out a Traxxas Rustler VXL.

Since Wesley has gotten his truck he has enjoyed spending time with my dad in the country, tearing up gravel and dirt, drag racing with my uncle and cousin, and just spending some quality time with his grandpa. Even though my dad’s main hobby now is RC boats, he loves spending time with Wesley racing his truck. He even fixed up his old RC race car he use to race when I was a kid. Since they are from the late 80’s they are not as quick, but even with a few modifications using today’s technology he was able to make them faster than they use to be.

rc car

Long Weekend Trip To Grand Forks

On the Thursday of our holidays we drove out to Grand Forks and stayed at the Canad Inns. But that trip deserves its own post, so stay tuned!

 

What did you do this summer? How has the start of the school year for your family?

Homeschool Collection {Monthly Round UP}

75 Books We Read Aloud : Homeschooling Kindergarten

75 books we read aloud

Homeschooling Kindergarten: 75 Books We Read Aloud

 

One of the main reasons I love to homeschool is the amount of time Zakari and I can dedicated to Read Aloud Time. Helping my child grow into an avid reader is one of the most amazing feelings ever. Sharing the passion of reading is such a natural high and I feel it is a powerful gift I’m giving my son. Once a child learns to read, all knowledge is at their fingertips. A person who can read well can teach themselves anything they want to learn from books.

I am of the camp that all children should learn how to read from infancy. A child can learn to read the same way that he or she learns to talk. As long as we can make the words big enough, they can learn. I don’t want to hear that they will be bored in school. I don’t want to hear that they are developmentally not ready. That my friends is hogwash. Children who are taught how to read, love to read. Teaching my youngest who has autism to read as a baby opened up so many doors for him. Plus teaching them this skill while they are young and hungry to learn makes it so much easier.

Check out my other articles about teaching your child to read:

How to Teach Your Baby To Read on a Budget

Teach your Baby Math, Reading & Music

One of the programs that we were given when we visited the IAHP in August 2017 was to read with Zakari from books designed for children in grades 2-3. We have taken this program and ran with it. While we did take a break from many of the programs, this was one would could not stop if we tried.

Spencer Doman from Doman International (formally from IAHP) made a video about reading being the one most important thing families can do for their children.

Reading Can Comfort a Child

Reading has become a tool I can use to help comfort Z. We read every night before bed. So when we land up staying away from home, I can often get him to sleep by making sure we read our chapters before bed. I have also helped settle him back to sleep in the middle of the night while away from home when he wakes up startled by reading to him. When he is tired he will often ask me to come with him and “read chapters”. It makes nights where he is struggling to fall asleep more tolerable because it just means we read a little more.

Actually to be honest, Z has a habit of falling asleep just as we reach the last chapter of the book. I’m often sitting on pins and needles till the next day to find out what happens to the characters in our current story. I come out of the room and my husband asks me if Z is sleeping and you should see the odd look I get when I say with a pouty face, “Yes, sadly he is…”

Growing up I loved to read. But living in a rural community in the 90s limited my access to reading materials. Our school libraries had limited materials and in the summer they were closed. My mom was not one to go to a thrift store and being a single income family, books were not often in the budget. However my mom did often buy us the scholastic books on deep discount on the front page of the Scholastic Order forms. We also hit up the local mall book sale from time to time. But it was just not enough to satisfy my deep thirst for reading. I got through the summer borrowing the odd book from friends, saving my allowance and buying a book and rereading the books I did own.

It wasn’t until I was a teenager did I have access to the “Mail Library”. I went online and selected books I wanted to read and then waited. When my father came home from work he would stop at the community mailboxes and bring home the resealable cloth mail bag with my books. This was such a happy day every time these books made it into my hands.

Reliving My Childhood Book Dreams

Now that reading together has become such a special time that Little Z and I spend together, it is an opportunity for me to nurture that inner young bookworm of mine too. Zakari and I have been reading a series I loved as a young child, The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids. This was a series I did own a few of. My favourite one would have been Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots. So I have been slowly collecting the series for us to read together by visiting the thrift stores, garage sales, and the Facebook Buy & Sell Groups. At first it didn’t seem like his favourite series. However as we have gotten to know the characters, he seems to be liking it more and more.

Non Fiction Historical Chapter Books for Kids

However this isn’t the only series we have been reading together. For Christmas Zakari’s Aunt and I bought him many of the Who Was/Is Series, along with the Where Was/Is Series.I really enjoyed being able to sit with him and learn alongside him about these famous people and places. If you have never seen these books before I highly recommend them. We got most of ours for dirt cheap on BookOutlet. But I’m starting to see them pop up in thrift stores.

Reading Challenge 2018

Because of Goodreads, I have been able to record everything we have read together and create this list for you. I know I’m always looking for new booklist to read with my kids, and I hope this will help you. While I was recording what we read together from the beginning of the school year, our reading journey did not explode until January 2018 when I joined the Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge. I highly recommend joining and coming up with a goal for you and your child to read together. Find me on Goodreads and ADD ME to Goodreads as a way to track our reading sooner, we would have read more than 75 read alouds together.

Our Kindergarten Reading List

  1. Who Was Steve Irwin? If you haven’t check out this series, what are you waiting for. Zakari is being introduced to many different famous people in a fun, kid friendly way. As the parent I am also learning. After reading this book I ordered the biography Teri Irwin wrote because I wanted to learn more.
  2. Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House, #1) Honestly I wasn’t sure if I’d like this series. However I picked up the first 42 in the series for the crazy price of $15 on Kijiji, so I decided to take the risk. I was pleasantly surprised once we started reading it, Zakari and I got attached to the characters and their crazy adventures. When given the choice of what book to read as our next read aloud, Zakari often picks the next one in this series. 
  3. James and the Giant Peach This was a classic from my childhood. I was one of the longer books we read this year, so it took us a long time. But Zakari seemed to really enjoy it. He often dragged me to read it with him at other times then our regular reading time.
  4. Who Is Wayne Gretzky? A book about a Canadian hero and hockey. Of course we had to read it and it did not disappoint. Even my hubby sat in and listened to this one.
  5. Salty Dog (Adventures of Wishbone, #2) Wishbone was one of my favorite TV shows when I was a kid. I never knew they had Wishbone books. Since I found out I have been on the hunt to collect them all. They are also on the longer side, so I am saving them for now. But when the time comes we can binge read them. (Does anyone else binge read book series? You know how people binge watch Netflix shows? I can’t be the only one, right?)
  6. Who Was Elvis Presley? We enjoyed this book. I also loved how they handled explaining some of Elvis’s shadier parts of his life. Very age appropriate in my opinion.
  7. Because of Winn-Dixie Apparently I live under a rock, because I never heard of this book or movie. I stumbled upon this book at the thrift store and it caught my eye. A few days later our tutor noticed it on my cabinet and told me how she read that in school and loved it. So I decided to read it as our next read aloud and what an awesome story about a girl and her dog. I’m not a dog person and this story really touched me.
  8. Winnie-the-Pooh I’m not going to lie, I didn’t care for this one. I know, its Winnie-the-Pooh, how can you not care for that. Well to be even more honest, I disliked this book. Its not on my list of books to ever reread. I felt there was no point to the story. Zakari didn’t seem too interested either. We only finished it because it was part of our BookShark Curriculum.   
  9. Who Was Walt Disney?
  10. PeeWee (This link is for the French version. I found my English copy at a thrift store) I’m so sad I cannot find a link to share this book with everyone. It is an awesome book about a Canadian Pee Wee hockey team. I love how they grew as a team and reading about the team’s journey. 
  11. Babe: The Gallant Pig This is another childhood classic for me. I remember my teacher reading this to my class in the 3rd or 4th grade. Plus after you read the book, you can watch the movie with your child.
  12. Who Was Jim Henson? I’ve always loved Jim Henson, but after reading this book I have a new respect for him. He was a household name when I was growing up, and my big kids have no idea who he was. Now they do.
  13. The Knight at Dawn (Magic Tree House, #2)
  14. Little House in the Big Woods (Little House, #1) While I loved the little house on the prairie show growing up I never read any of the books. This was one of the books assigned in our Level 0 Build Your Library Curriculum. I enjoyed it very much, but if I’m honestly I could tell Z didn’t care for it much.
  15. Twenty and Ten I heard about this book from Emily at ARRRGH! Schooling. So I ordered it for myself. Then I was surprised to see that Bookshark use it as a book for Kindergarten. So instead of just reading it to myself, I read it aloud to Z. We very much enjoyed it. Its a story of a selflessness and courage during the time of Hitler. 20 young children and their teacher risk everything to save 10 Jewish children. I have since recommended it to another homeschool mom and her family enjoyed it as well.
  16. Anne Of Green Gables (abridged version) The copy we read was from the Target Dollar Spot,
  17. Mummies in the Morning (Magic Tree House #3)
  18. Pirates Past Noon (Magic Tree House #4)
  19. Who Was Dr. Seuss?
  20. The Trouble with Tuck This was one of those random thrift store finds that caught my eye. Its about a girls search to find a seeing eye dog, for her dog who as gone blind. Tuck had saved her life, now it was her turn to save his. Her perseverance and determination was heart warming. If you can get your hands on this book it worth the read.
  21. Night Of The Ninjas (Magic Tree House #5)
  22. Magic School Bus – Blizzard Another educational but fun series. Especially for kids who are already familiar with the characters on the two Magic School Bus shows on Netflix.
  23. Rise of the Earth Dragon (Dragon Masters #1) This series was such a hit for Zakari. He just loved reading about the children who become Dragon Masters. We stumbled across books 1-6 at Once Upon A Child, and I grabbed them. Books in this series are still being released, and we can’t wait to read more as we get them.
  24. Pirates Do Ride Scooters (The Bailey School Kids Jr. Chapter Book, #4) This is a series of beginner chapter books for kids with the same Characters from the Bailey School Kids Adventures I talked about earlier. While less detailed and simpler then the original series, they are great for kids easing into chapter books.
  25. Snow Monsters Do Drink Hot Chocolate (The Bailey School Kids Junior Chapter Book, #9)
  26. Afternoon on the Amazon (Magic Tree House, #6)
  27. Saving the Sun Dragon (Dragon Masters #2)
  28. Sunset Of The Sabertooth (Magic Tree House #7)
  29. Secret of the Water Dragon (Dragon Masters #3)
  30. Jack and the Beanstalk (Wishbone: The Early Years, #1) For kids that are not quite ready to sit through the longer Wishbone books, this might be a great starting place. They are not as simple as the Bailey School Junior Books, they are quite a bit shorter then the other Wishbone series. This school year we had a blast reading though this short 4 book series.
  31. Where Is the Amazon? This book was not as good as the Who Was/Is series. It was good as a research book for kids learning about the Amazon. But it was not a book that sucked you in. We did learn a lot, but it did feel like learning.
  32. Power of the Fire Dragon: A Branches Book (Dragon Masters #4)
  33. Midnight On the Moon (Magic Tree House #8)
  34. Werewolves Don’t Go to Summer Camp (The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids, #2)
  35. Song of the Poison Dragon: A Branches Book (Dragon Masters #5)
  36. Who Is Stan Lee? After watching a newer Thor movie on Netflix, I nerded out and read Zakari this book that night. He seemed to enjoy it and we got though the whole thing in one sitting. What I like about this series is finding people that your child has been exposed to in one way or another and expanding on it.
  37. Dolphins at Daybreak (Magic Tree House, #9)
  38. The Children of Noisy Village From the author who wrote Pippi Longstocking, we read The Children of Noisy Village. It was part of our Build Your Library Level 0 Curriculum. While I would have never picked it up if it wasn’t a required reading. But it was a nice read. It had a Little House on the Prairie feeling.
  39. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Wishbone The Early Years #2)
  40. Flight of the Moon Dragon: A Branches Book (Dragon Masters #6)
  41. Reindeer Do Wear Striped Underwear (The Bailey School Kids Jr. Chapter Book, #2)
  42. Ghost Town at Sundown (Magic Tree House, #10)
  43. Santa Claus Doesn’t Mop Floors (The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids, #3)
  44. Who Is George Lucas?
  45. The Leprechauns Don’t Play Basketball (Adventures of the Bailey School Kids #4)
  46. Lions at Lunchtime (Magic Tree House, #11)
  47. The House of Shadows (Usborne Young Reading: Series 2)
  48. Sleeping Beauty: Usborne Young Reading
  49. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: (Usborne Young Reading: Series One)
  50. The Hit-Away Kid Another Thrift store find. This one used a lot of baseball terms that Z and I are not familiar with. But if you have an avid baseball fan in your home, I would highly recommend it.
  51. Polar Bears Past Bedtime (Magic Tree House, #12)
  52. The Ghosts Don’t Eat Potato Chips (Adventures of the Bailey School Kids #5)
  53. Goldie (The Puppy Place, #1) Wow! This series is something else. Each book Lizzie and her brother Charles help a new foster dog find the perfect home. I’m not a dog person, but this series has both Z and I sucked in. Thankfully they seem to be still be printing new books in the series. I know this is one series we are always on the hunt for use copies to complete our collection.
  54. Who Is Steven Spielberg?
  55. Vacation Under the Volcano (Magic Tree House, #13)
  56. Hansel and Gretel (Wishbone Early Years, #3)
  57. Who Were the Brothers Grimm? This was another Who Was/Is that as an adult I learned so much. For my son who loves fairy tales, it was interesting for him to hear how they came to be.
  58. Snowball (The Puppy Place, #2)
  59. Day of the Dragon King (Magic Tree House, #14)
  60. Wishbone (The Early Years) The Brave Little Tailor
  61. Viking Ships At Sunrise (Magic Tree House, #15)
  62. Frankenstein Doesn’t Plant Petunias ( The Adventures Of The Bailey School Kids, #6)
  63. Hour of the Olympics (Magic Tree House, #16)
  64. Little Pear Another Build Your Library Level 0 Curriculum required reading. Its about a naughty young boy names Little Pear. Each chapter is another one of his adventures. While I would have likely never picked it up before BYL we enjoyed Little Pears antics. It helped push us out of our comfort zone.
  65. The Adventures of Peter Cottontail I had never read any of these stories but found this book at the local homeschooling conference for only $3. Zakari and I have enjoyed it. Each chapter was like a mini story. Mostly about Peter Cottontail and his archenemy Reddy Fox.
  66. Who Was Milton Bradley? I always thought that Milton Bradley was just the creator of the Milton Bradley company and games. Turns out he was instrumental in bringing kindergarten to the USA.
  67. Tonight on the Titanic (Magic Tree House, #17) So far to date after reading 21 books from the series, this was my personal favorite.
  68. The Mystery on the Great Barrier Reef This was one of our favourite books in Build Your Library Level 0. This is book #6 in the Carole Marsh Mysteries series. Before this I had never heard of this series. Now I want to collect them all. Its all about 10 year old Christina, 7 year old Grant, their grandfather and mystery-writing grandmother Mimi. What I liked most was it was a easy to read, yet rich in vocabulary not usually used in books geared to this age category.
  69. Shadow (The Puppy Place, #3) As a family trying to get our son a autism service dog, this story helped us understand the process a dog goes through to become a guide dog. I’m sure when we are finally accepted to the service dog program, we will be rereading this Puppy Place book.
  70. Mr. Popper’s Penguins Once again I’m going to be honest, I didn’t care for this one. Even Zakari who loves penguins, didn’t get as into it as I thought he would. I know its a classic that has been around as long as I can remember. But if I were to homeschool another child(which no more are planned) I would find a different book to read.
  71. Pirates Don’t Wear Pink Sunglasses (Adventures of the Bailey School Kids, #9)
  72. Buffalo Before Breakfast (Magic Tree House, #18) The timing for this book was just right. We read all the Magic Tree House books in order. So before leaving for our 4 day get away to North Dakota, I just grabbed the next book in the series. I could not have planned it better, seeing as this book is all about the Lakota natives that lived in what is now North Dakota in the 1800’s.
  73. Rascal (The Puppy Place, #4)
  74. Tigers at Twilight (Magic Tree House, #19)
  75. Truth About Bats (The Magic School Bus Chapter Book, #1)

As you can see, some of our favourite books have been random thrift store finds. I can’t stress the importance of getting books used. If your not a library family like we are, its an awesome way to try a series and not invest too much money.

Why don’t we use the library to borrow books?

We don’t often borrow from the library because I’m to irresponsible to get the books back to the library on time. Its terrible but sometimes the late cost me more then buying the book to keep used. At one point, my library late fees were part of my Dave Ramsey Debt Snowball. That being said, I do often hit up the library book sale.

 

What books did you and your children read aloud this past school year? How do you keep track of what your reading? Does your child have a particular series they can’t get enough of? Stay tune to find out which series we are loving, and how they are fitting into our homeschool lessons.

 

 

Homeschool Collection {Monthly Round UP}

 

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IAHP Trip- Free Day #1- New York City

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IAHP Trip Free Day: New Year City, here we come… 

Walmart shenanigans

 

Early Morning Walmart Trip

Morning came painfully early. Regardless we didn’t want to miss any of our precious free time. When traveling to the IAHP, Free Days are limited. There was so much to see and do within driving distance, we got up and started our day. We knew we were going to meet a friend of mine at the Maryland Zoo on Sunday, so we decided to head the other direction. We drove to Coney Island. Before we hit the highway made another trip to Walmart to grab some supplies and snacks. Little Z had a blast playing with the over sized mascot heads.

 

 

Elastic Man Meets Houdini

About to head out on our road trip!

We left Pennsylvania, drove through New Jersey. Suddenly Zakari became a mixture of Elastic Man and Houdini. I look behind me and he has managed to weasel his upper body out of his car seat and he is trying to open up the back door. While we are on the interstate doing speeds that would have your license revoked in Canada.

Honestly I’m not sure how this happened. I’m what some might refer to as a “Carseat Nazi”. I’m very careful to make sure that my son is buckled up properly. But I guess he discovered how to unbuckle the chest clip and was able to get his arms out. This was a new car seat we bought specifically for the trip. I do not recommend traveling with a car seat your not use to using.

Needless to say it’s not as easy to pull over on the interstate in New Jersey as it is to on a Manitoba highway. I had to unbuckle myself and climb into the back to fix his seatbelt. Slightly scary since the car was traveling nearly the speed of light while Z and I were not properly restrained. Let alone the fact he was trying to open the door. Not my idea of fun.

New York City!!

Crossing the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

An hour and a half later we arrived in New York City. There was that iconic bridge you see in the movies. Except in the movies, they usually don’t mention the $15US toll to drive over that bridge. Now that’s something I was not use to, tolls. Where I’m from you don’t have to pay to drive on a road. I feared what my credit card statement was going to reveal when I got the EZ Pass bill. It seems like everywhere we went there was a new toll to pay for. I’m glad that we figured out there was an option in our GPS to avoid toll roads.

Of course Zakari was not done living dangerously. He was demanding we pull over so he could “go swimming” in the Ocean.  I had to keep a close eye on him, because I was worried he was going to pull Houdini and try and jump out again. Thank god for child locks on the back doors and the fact he could not undo the lower clip/buckle.

 

Visiting The New York Aquarium

New York Aquarium with Daddy

Little Z loves sea creatures especially penguins. When we went to Alberta we spent so much time watching the penguins at the Calgary Zoo and the Aquarium exhibit in the West Edmonton Mall. So we were pretty sure we wanted to take him to the New York Aquarium. It is the oldest Aquarium in the United States that is still open. After doing a little research, we were aware that they were under construction. From what I read online there was mixed reviews whether it was worth the money or not.

The aquarium was damaged in 2012 by Hurricane Sandy. Staff members had to work tirelessly after the storm to help save as many of the aquatic residents as possible. According to many people on facebook the aquarium as never been the same and some exhibits are still under construction.

However for the $12 a person we paid, we were happy with our visit. We were quite proud with how Z was able to handle the crowds. I love to see the wonder in his eyes when he gets the opportunity to see these beautiful creatures. However just like on the plane the day before, Z had his own ideas how things should go. He got quite upset with us when we would not allow him to swim with the sea lions. The idea this kid gets sometimes cracks me up.

I’d say we spent 45 mins to an hour there exploring. I loved that we were able to buy our tickets on my phone and avoid the ticket lines. We just walked up to the advance tickets door and they scanned my phone and let us in.

Exploring Coney Island

When we were done at the aquarium, I really wanted to check out Coney Island. Since we had already paid for parking at the Aquarium, we just walked down the boardwalk. However we were not able to spend much time here because we seemed to have reached Little Z’s sensory limit. I would have loved to walk down through the midway or let him get his feet wet in the Atlantic Ocean. But now we have another place to add to our bucket list to visit and experience.

We still got to see the ocean, have fresh squeezed lemonade and get the Coney Island vibe. Spiderman came to pose for a picture, but Z was not having it. Maybe it had something to do with the fact it he had a Mexican accent instead of a Brooklyn accent and Z knew he was a fake.

Driving Around New York City

NYPD Parking Enforcement Vehicle

Ground Zero – 9/11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was getting late, but we did not want to miss having a look around New York City. Z was content with his snack and drink, so we went for a drive. We were told we were crazy even to drive into New York City by other people who had visited the city, but we did just fine. We were able to see the Statue of Liberty and Ground Zero from the comfort of our rental car. I know it’s not the same, but one day we will go back and experience the whole city the right way.

Homestyle Food – Bob Evans

On our way back to Philadelphia we decided to pre order some food online from Bob Evans. I remember when I went to Florida with my family when I was a kid that we loved this restaurant. Usually when we head out to the USA we visit North Dakota which does not have a Bob Evans. My friend from Baltimore had posted a photo of her take out from there on Facebook a few weeks before and I knew I had to eat their at least once. Isn’t technology amazing that you can order food online right from your phone and have it ready when you get there. I just pulled up the menu while Travis drove and selected everything I wanted.

Of course some where in New Jersey someone *cough*Zakari*cough* needed to stop and use the washroom. Driving down the interstate there is not an easy way to stop and find a washroom. We were luckily we able to find a turn off quite quickly that lead to a small town that had a Dunkin’ Donuts. And thank goodness for GPS which helped us find our way back onto the interstate. It was starting to get late and I had no interest in getting lost in a strange place.

Back in Philadelphia

Little Z after a full day of exploring

Finally we made it back to Philadelphia. Just in time to pick up our pot roast meal. I ran in and after a long day of exploring, the aroma of roast, mashed potatoes, veggies and yummy rolls were just what we all needed. I was so glad to be able to get a more home cooked meal while traveling.

Exhausted we went back to the hotel and ate. We all showered and changed into our pjs.  Of course since Z was out of his routine, it took us a while to get him to sleep. So we watched Netflix, and finally shortly after midnight we got him to sleep.

Our second day of our trip was in the books. We were in 3 different states, two of which I had never visited. What an amazing adventure.

If you missed my post about how we got to Philadelphia, be sure to read: IAHP Travel Day- Arriving in Philadelphia 

 

Overdue Halloween Adventure Update

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Halloween has come and gone for another year. Honestly it was always one of my favorite holidays. As a kid I loved dressing up and going out with my friends trick or treating. You can’t forget about the Halloween Slumber Parties. As I got older the Halloween Parties, dressing up and going to the bar. But then the kids came and things changed.

Now I have these little humans that I get to dress up in adorable costumes, that I wish was socially acceptable to always have them in.

20151029_135034407_iOSWe started off on the Thursday before Halloween with a duo daycare party. My good friend who also has a home daycare came over for a little daycare get together. We all got dressed up, and the kiddos spent the whole time playing. After lunch the kiddos got to indulged in some yummy chocolate cupcakes my friend made and some “worms and dirt” dessert one of my daycare families brought.

That night though, I somehow managed to slam my fingers in the driver’s side door of my van. And I don’t mean, just bounce the door off my fingers. I mean the darn thing latched closed. I cried the whole way home from 711. My friend finally convinced me to get my engagement ring off. As soon as I got it off the pain decreased. I guess the swelling was able to happen without the rings restriction.

The next day was Friday. I had 2 daycare kiddos, one was going to be leaving early and the other was going to be joining us at the mall Trick or Treating. During lunch, my daycare girl who suppose to be coming with us landed up having an asthma attack. Since this was her first full blown attack, her mom and I agreed she should be picked up and taken to the doctor. Then my other daycare kiddo was picked up and it was just Little Z, myself and my friend and her son.

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The local mall does trick or treating during the day on Halloween. If it falls on a weekend they do it Friday. They always make sure it’s during the week so the little kids can come early and not have to be trampled on by the big kids. Little Z did awesome, he walked about 3/4 of the mall snacking on suckers as we went.  After that he asked to be carried, my friend decided to see if her Little boy wanted to walk and do his trick or treating that way instead of in the stroller. So Z when in the stroller and promptly passed out. Sugar coma at its finest.

After we finished up there, we hurried and picked up Wes from school. I had seen someone had posted that Ikea does a safe halloween the night before Halloween. So we thought we would check it out. Wow… It was a bit on the lame side. No one seemed to know what was going on. At the end though, we stopped at the cafeteria and bought cinnamon buns. Mmmmmm…. Ikea cinnamon buns made it worth the trip.

20151031_015143737_iOSWes came home that day with a pumpkin they had carved at school. Then him and hubby wanted to carve some pumpkins and make pumpkin seeds. Think there was a single store that had pumpkins still. LOL NO! So I remembered that a friend of mine on facebook was selling them this year. I messaged her and sure enough she had some. So Wes and I when and grabbed some. We never actually carved them because it was so late. But we did get into some of them and make pumpkin seeds.

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Then it was the big day. I woke up and my eye was all messed up. I swear when I slammed my hand in the door it messed everything up. The nerves were shooting pain up my arm, into my neck. I felt ill and kept having headaches. I’m sure the shock did a number on my immune system, because after I visited the craniosacral therapist a few days later, I feel 100% better. I’m not sure if it was really pink eye, or a cold in my eye. But I didn’t have time to go to wait in a walk in clinic, so I went to the pharmacy and picked up some Polysporin drops. We lazied around most of the day, then I took the boys for slurpees. This was Little Z’s first slurpee. I’m sorry to say he didn’t enjoy it for long, as he also experienced his first brain freeze.

We were not sure how it was going to be in the evening. It had been raining all day, and just looked like it was going to be a miserable night. However, even though it was misting all night it was beautiful. The mist was refreshing, and we all left our coats in the van.

The only issue is, Z usually likes to go to bed around 7-730. He starts slowing down around 6. He didn’t understand that we are not there to visit people. He just ran into my friends auntie’s house. The whole going to everybody’s house, but not stay was very confusing to him. Eventually my friend and I just put the little boys in the stroller wagon and pushed them as close to the door as we could get and held out their buckets with their older brothers. They did enjoy the candy, and are able to eat it, just all the stairs to get to people’s doors was too much. Everyone was so sweet and no one made any rude comments.

Last year we were in my home town and so many people were so rude to Z. He had trouble walking in his costume, plus he looks a lot younger than he really is. So people didn’t want to give him candy. They told me I was just going to eat it. So rude. I’m really glad we choose to stay in our neighborhood this year.

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The kids did really well, we were out for about 2-2.5 hours and they filled a pillowcase and about 1/3 of another pillow case. I have no pictures of Z by the candy once it was dumped out because he was out cold.

We had a blast. It was sad for me not to spend Halloween in my hometown because it’s so nostalgic for me. But I can see that it is easier for my kids to trick or treat in the city where the houses are closer together and people are less judgemental.

Good time with my kids and friends. No much more a mom can ask for.

How did you spend Halloween??

Overdue Penners Pumpkins and Scarecrow Forest Visit 2015

With Z having an afternoon tutor starting, so I should have no excuse not to update. Another motivation should also just recently paid for my domain and hosting fees. Yikes! But at least you know I’ll be around for another year.

20151024_193752545_iOSThe weekend before Halloween, we went back to Penners Pumpkins and Scarecrow Forest. I wrote about this place last year(Click Here to Read). Now this place is actually more of a fall experience instead of a Halloween experience. There are no witches, ghost, or goblins. This is a wholesome, place for parents to take their children for fall fun. (I’m not against Halloween activities by any means, but I know they are not for some families, and that’s cool too.) I was extra excited because Hubby and my step daughter were able to join us this year.

I think what I love most about Penners Pumpkins and Scarecrow Forest is the homemade feel. The slides, the corn box, the zipline, it’s all homemade. Some very handy people, turned their farm into a fun place for kids to experience country style play.

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Myself and the kids got to go on the zipline. Even little Z got a chance. I don’t think he knew what he was getting into, but he had fun flying down the line with me. I really liked that it’s affordable. As I’m sure everyone knows it is usually super expensive to Zip Line. Here it only cost 1 $2 ticket per person.

 

 

 

 

 

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While the big kids were running through the corn maze, little Z got to go for a pony ride. He loved it, but I think he would have prefered not to wear the helmet. With all the cases of lice going around, I also wish the kids did not need to share helmets with strangers. So as soon as we got home I rubbed a special essential oil blend our herbalist/aromatherapist made for us that repels lice in our hair. All was good.

 

 

 

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I want one of these in my backyard! Every year I can’t get over how cool the corn-box is, and how much fun it is to play in. Plus it’s not nearly as dirty as a regular sandbox.

Z was actually enjoying himself, just everytime I snapped a photo he looked like he was sad.

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Also we can’t forget the mention the duck races. We each purchased a little rubber ducky for one ticket, then we were able to use him all day and race. Love these old fashioned water pumps.

 

 

 

 

 

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All three kids loved the homemade play structures what were all over the farm. We were able to measure Little Z on the height chart compared to last year. All three kids had fun playing with the homemade horse tire swing. Little Z needed a bit of help this year climbing the hay bail pyramid, but I’m sure next year he will be tall enough.

Simple outdoor country fun. Just what my city kids need. I can’t wait to visit Penners Pumpkins and Scarecrow forest again next year.

Hot Housing Toddlers to Read?? Little Miss: a father, a daughter and rocket science (Book Review & Giveaway)

Toddlers that can read…

That statements holds a lot of stigma.

If you have taught your toddler to read, you must have pressured them with hours and hours of lessons and drills. Right?

Wrong!!

Nathan Meikle shared the journey of how his daughter learned how to read at the age of two in his book Little Miss: a father, his daughter & rocket science.

This book shares day by day accounts of not only how he got his child interested in learning how to read, and how he taught her. But also all the conversations about he had with his wife through the process, as well as his own doubts.

Overall I thought this was a very well written book. I couldn’t put it down and read it in a day. Even though it didn’t add to what I personally knew on teaching young children to read, (I only say this because I’m 7 or 8 years into this life style of parentings, first with Wes and then Little Z) I couldn’t help but think…

Imagine! This book on the book shelves at the local bookstore in the parenting section. A mother to be comes in looking for a book on how to parent her baby, what to expect the first year, etc. She stumbles upon it and reads the back, “Interesting…” she thinks and adds it to the pile to buy.

What I’m saying is I believe this book could be the gateway to early education. Parents read it and then start researching. Next thing you know they are on the BrillKids site, reading about Glenn Doman, Your Baby Can Read, etc. What an amazing gift these parents will be offering their children!

Ok! Ok Monique. So this little girl could read when she was 2. What good is that if she is just going to burn out? Well I’m happy to say she hasn’t burned out. She loves to read. Kyla is 5 though she hasn’t started kindergarten. She still LOVES to read, as long as her parents find the right books for her. Nathan told me that just a few days ago she picked out two different 60 page book and read them to herself. The other day she also typed out one of her favorite picture books–took her about 2 hours. He is guessing she’s at a 4th grade reading level. She even corrects him when they are reading together and his skips a word or mispronounces something.

They are also doing the same thing they did with their 2.5 year old son Bennett, only difference is they started a bit earlier than they did with Kyla.

It has been much harder with him because Kyla gets bored while listening to us try to teach Bennett to read. She often helps, we try to include her as much as we can, but inevitably, she is not happy when the YBCR DVD’s are on because she wants to watch something else. Bennett has always been a little behind where Kyla was in terms of language progressions, but he has memorized a handful of words from YBCR and knows all his letters and the sounds (he’s 2.5). There plan is to do memorization for another few months and then get started on phonics. Though the process is going slower with Bennett, the bright side is that both Kyla and Bennett are learning patience (hopefully) because at every mealtime we alternate books (e.g., Kyla chooses one, and then Bennett chooses one). In sum, the process is much easier with just one child, but it is also fun (though challenging) to teach Bennett to read as a family. Kyla will hopefully remember the days of teaching her little brother to read.

So now the fun part!! I have 2 copies of this book to giveaway. If you would like to win a copy check out the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This review is my honest opinion. I received a copy of the book to read and review, but otherwise was not compensated.

 

Assiniboine Park Zoo visit with Little Z

walking around the zooThe weather got unseasonable warm a few weeks ago. So one Sunday when we had just Little Z we took him to the zoo.

I’m going to be honest. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Our zoo in the past was less than impressive. Lots of empty exhibits. They recently added the new Churchill exhibit where they take in orphaned polar bears. But since they added it the cost jumped 2.5x higher.

But I’m happy to report that we had a great time. While its not Calgary zoo, there has been some improvements.

Polar bear cubs eating at the zoo

Feeding time for the Polar Bear cub.

The weather was perfect. The animals were so active and we seem to get to several of the exhibits just at feeding time. The zoo keepers that were feeding the polar bears told us about the polar bears and answered several of our questions.

Lions at the zoo feeding timeAll of the staff were so helpful. Since the zoo has recently been changed we nearly walked right by the tiger and lion exhibit. The staff taking care of the camels redirected us and guess what, good thing too! IT was feeding time for them too.

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Little Z’s favorite animal at the zoo. The seal!

Now Little Z’s favorite exhibit was the seal area. If was like the seal knew too. As soon as we got there the seal started swimming and diving and putting on a little show. He was so happy to get to see his favorite animal in front of him.

 

Overall it was an awesome day! We enjoyed spending some time with just Little Z. The big kids have each had lots of time to spend with us alone, and while Little Z is usually with us alone on Sundays, we are usually just running errands.

We also took the time before we left to read about a few of the animals we might see at the zoo. And when we got home we read about others we didn’t know we would see. We used Firefly Encyclopedia of Animals to find what we wanted to know. I felt it had enough of select to find all the animals we needed to.

I think if you are able to visit a good quality zoo, that is respectful to the animals and supports conservation and research, it is enriching to your child’s life to go. It is so important to teach our children compassion for animals as well as respect. Its a lot harder to respect something you have never seen. But hands on experience at the zoo can help bridge this concept for your child.

What My Two Year Old and I Read Today. Mini NACD Update.

So its been a few weeks since we had our NACD assessment (The National Association for Child Development). With the holidays and everything we have had a slow start. But I’m already seeing some positive changes in Little Z. So I’m hoping once we get the rest of the supplies needed, we will see even more changes. Right now The Listening Program and Wes’s comprehension books are sitting at the border, waiting for my cousin to pick them up on his way home back to Canada.

 

Firefly AnimalsOne program we are working on right now is what I call the Modified Encyclopedic Knowledge program. We flip through either an Kids Picture Encyclopedia or a Kids Picture Dictionary and read random facts. As soon as we got our programs I ran to the store and bought a copy of Firefly Encyclopedia of Animals.

The point of this program is not to read the dictionary or encyclopedia from cover to cover. But to flip around and read random facts. This will teach Little Z that we can learn from reading. That words have meaning and they are not just there for him to play with.

Before we went to the zoo a few weeks ago, I went through this book with him and we found animals that we might have the chance to see on our visit. Then when we got back, we found some others we had seen but hadn’t read about before leaving.

Kids Dictionary and Encyclopedia Thing is, we need to mix things up a bit. After a while going through the same Encyclopedia for a few weeks becomes a bit boring.

So we went to the library and picked out a few more Encyclopedias and picture dictionaries for use to flip through. Today we looked though these two. On the way home I realized I should have looked for an encyclopedia on vehicles. He would have loved that too. Note to self.

I have kids picture dictionary coming in the mail. But I plan on  putting that away and continuing to use the assortment of library books. I want to have that one put away ready to go if we have to either a) go away on vacation and I don’t want to worry about losing a library books or b) if we can’t get to the library for some reason.

Another program we are working on is a simple one. We are doing a reading program. We have to sit down and read together 2 times a day. The only catch, it has to be new materials. Which can be a bit of a bother for Little Z. He has his favorite books and wants to keep reading them over and over again. But in his situations we need to keep offering him new materials.

So while at the library on Sunday, I went to the bin of suggested books of the month, and started flipping through.

I was looking for :

– books that had a story line

 

– books that were not too long or wordy

 

– books that were not  too short or had no words

 

– books that were non-fiction and not too wordy

 

– books that were not simple phonics or sight words books, (This is a cat. This is a red apple. Etc)

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We started with a book called Whoever You Are (Reading Rainbow Books). by Mem Fox and Illustrated by Leslie Staub.

It is a beautiful, yet simple story about how we are as cultures different in many ways, like:

                – Different skin color

– Different homes

– Different Schools.

But then the author goes on to explain that we are also very similar for example:

– We all have hearts

– We all smile

– We all cry

I was quite happy that this book was able to explain to young children common humanity and diversity.

cat and mouse in the rain

Then we read the story called Cat and Mouse in the Rain by Tomek Bogacki.

This is a cute story about a cat and a mouse who get stuck in the rain. Then they meet their new friend frog, who helps get them out of the comfort zone to try something new… playing in the puddles. 

George, the dragon and the princess

After we were introduced to a little mouse named George in George, the Dragon and the Princess.

This book would be perfect for a young child that feels like they are small and not good at very many things. George learns in this story that everyone is good at something. We just might not have found our special talent yet.

market day

 

Market Day by Lois Ehlert is a simple story about a family going to down to buy items they need and sell their wares. They tell the story using folk art.

 What are you reading with your child today?

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4 Magic Words When Dealing With Exhausted School Age Children.

angryWe’ve all been there. Its just after dinner and your kiddo just can’t keep it together. There is home reading and homework to do. Maybe swimming lessons, or piano practice. But everything is a problem for your child.

What is a parent to do?

Well the technique we use at home, when my 4th grader is losing his cool is quite simple. I say these 4 magic words.

“Its time for bed.”

Maybe we miss piano, or don’t get those last math problems done. But thats ok, doing so will not cause your child to be a high school drop out, or suddenly not able to play piano.

What it will do is help your child learn to regulate their emotions, and to know when they are tired.

Just to clarify myself, I’m not telling you to be cruel about this. What you should tell your child is:

“Sally, I can see your having a hard time controlling your emotions. You seem quite tired. Its time for bed.”

If your children are anything like mine, they will argue that they are not. But gently telling them that their actions are telling you they are tired. I let them know, that going to bed early will help make sure tomorrow they will feel better.

My oldest needs to be in bed for 8pm, 8:30 the absolute latest. But for a few weeks, I think he was growing and he was melting down right after dinner. We started sending him to bed at 7. Which meant we didn’t get all our NACD homework done one night, and we missed piano lessons another night. But he needed it.

You know what the kicker is? Now he recognizes when he is having trouble controlling his emotions due to being tired and will ask to go to bed early.

As a parent I always felt guilty by the thought of sending my child to bed right after dinner. I mean come on, I’m sure I can get him to cooperate. Sending him to bed at 6 or 7 would be just plain lazy. Right?

WRONG!

If your child is that overtired, things are not going to get better by keeping him up even later. You need to help set them up for success. If they are overtired and cranky, and you know they have school the next day, that extra hour or two will help them feel more rested and ready to have a wonderful productive day. Chances are it is just a growth spurt and they will get back to their regular bedtime.

If possible make sure to still go through your regular bedtime routine. Storytime, snuggles, bedtime prayers, whatever you and your child usually do. This will help them realize that this is not a punishment. Because it shouldn’t be. However, if my child was overly protesting early bedtime, I will ask them if they are too tired for bedtime activities(bedtime story and such.) Usually my son will stop protesting. There has been a time or two where is actions made the decision for him to go straight to bed. However I try to avoid this if possible.

The goal is to help your child learn to self regulate their emotions. I know as an adult if I’ve been pulling too many late nighters, I sometimes become short with my hubby or boys. So you know what I do? I go to bed early so I’m fresh in the morning. It might also help to share this with your child. That way they know this is what adults do too.

For now, do not strain your parent/child relationship. No one wants to go to bed angry at their child’s behavior, when you know they were just over tired.

Just say “It’s time for bed.”