I went out into the waiting room of the dental office I worked in. My scrubs were getting a little tight around my midsection as my baby bump expanded. I called the name child I was to see next and a boy stood up with his mom and follow me to the room I worked in.
When the boy sat down, his mom asked him if he would like to tell my about himself or if she should. He was capable of speaking but did not make eye contact with me. He told his mom she could tell me. His mom went on the explain to me that her son had autism, and explained some of his odd behaviours and things he may have trouble with.
As a mom-to-be my heart ached. I was 19 years old and knew nothing really about Autism. While I typed up him chart, I said a silent prayer that God would protect my unborn child from Autism. God have very different plans. Little did I know I would be getting the crash course in Autism very soon.
I’ll never forget the day we got the diagnosis.
The A-word. I felt like someone ripped my heart out of my chest and stepped on it. When I mother hears news like this the emotional pain is so intense it can causes her physical pain. My stomach turned and I fought having to excuse myself to get sick.
No, this couldn’t be happening to my son. I argued with the Development Specialist. I had so many reasons why this was not the case. “But he makes eye contact with me! And he loves cuddles and kisses! Children with Autism don’t do that!” The doctor looked at me sympathetically and tried to tell me, “He has lots of strengths and the spectrum is so large. Each child is different.” I was in denial, I demanded more test. In the end of course the test supported the doctor’s diagnosis. There was no escaping it, no matter how it looked to me, my son had Autism.
I asked the Doctor the day we went back and got the official diagnosis, “Well, but he’s going to be alright, right? I mean we’ll do the treatment and he’ll live a normal life.” She flat told me, “I can’t promise you that. Like I said before he has a lot of great strengths.”
I Kind Of Knew
While a part of me was in shock, another part of me wasn’t all that surprise either. I had a watched Jenny McCarthy on Oprah a few months early talking about her son’s battle with Autism. For some reason I felt compelled to go online that night an order her book. When it arrived and I started to read it, I could not put it down. While my son did not have the same medical issues that Jenny’s son Evan had some things she wrote were hitting close to home. But at the time I was still in denial. I called my mom and told her about what I read, and how everything hit so close to home. She agreed that it sounded similar, but we also agreed that he just couldn’t have autism. So this diagnosis came as a shock to them too.
The A-word as I called it consumed my life. My ex and I fought, he thought our son would just grow out of it and I had condemned him by “allowing” him to be labeled. I knew that if I didn’t allow him to be diagnosed he would not receive the services he needed to get better. He accused me of a lot of things, he thought I “allowed” him to be diagnosis so I could get more money from the government. He said I ruined his chances to ever get into a private school. So many hurtful things got thrown in my face. But I had to stand my ground.
My son needed help, and no matter what I was going to get it for him. The extra money that the government was giving me did not come even close to helping cover the cost of treatment or time I had to take off of work to get him said treatment. So I it wasn’t for the money that I allowed them to diagnosis him. It was for the chance to get treatment to help him out of his own little world into ours. I can see now looking back, my son’s dad was just as scared as was. Once we got going with therapies, he came on board for most of them.
Research Consumed Me
I spend many hours searching online, looking for hope. Dishes piled up, so did the laundry, but they were not important. Finding the answer to help my child was. I worked all day, came home, took care of my son, and once he was in bed I was back online. I needed sleep, but I thought, I’ll sleep when I’m dead, my son needs me to figure out something!
One of the purposes of this blog is to provide parents with information on alternative therapies available out their for their child with autism, and our experiences with them. I hope that I can help navigate parents to things quickly so they can decide if it’s right for their child. So they can spend less time searching and more time helping their child.
This Blogs Take Away
The important thing to remember is, “If you met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.” Each child is so different, so if one therapy does nothing for your child, DON’T GIVE UP! That’s just not the right one for your child, it doesn’t mean another treatment won’t work. It is all about trial and error.
This post has been sitting incomplete in my draft box for over a year. I debated back and forth whether or not I should post it. Yes it is over a year old, but other families heading the the IAHP, might be interested in what other families do on their down days while in Philly. There are so many sights and sounds within day trip driving distance. So for that reason and the fact I want to write all about this trip to share with Zakari when he is older, I have chosen to share it.
Why Do Kids Sleep in on Days You Need to Get Moving?
Of course because we had plans to get to the Maryland Zoo nearly 2 hours away, Little Z decides this is the day he is going to sleep in. As much as I wanted to just lay down and go back to sleep, we were meeting my good friend and her kids. I just could not miss this.
Back in 2004 when I got pregnant with Wesley, I was part of an online diary website called Open Diary. Years later in 2014 they went offline. Recently they relaunched the site. However now it is a pay for use site. As a young and pregnant 19 year old, I didn’t have many people who I could relate with.
This is where Open Diary was so important to me. I was able to write about my experiences through pregnancy, childbirth and raising my son. Eventually I wrote about my separation and becoming a single mom. Other people could comment on my post. I created Friends list of people I followed. I would read their posts and comment as well. Eventually when Facebook became a thing, I was able to connect with these people outside the Open Diary format.
I took advantage of the fact Zakari was still sleeping and packed up all we needed. We got ourselves ready and loaded up the car. Finally after a little convincing I was able to get Z out of bed. After a trip to the potty and getting dressed, Mr Z was buckled in his car seat and snacking on his breakfast.
Driving there we were able to check off two more states that with had visited. Leaving Pennsylvania we entered the state of Delaware. Our next state was the state of Maryland.
Thanks to Google Maps we were easily able to find the Maryland Zoo. We had brought the umbrella stroller we had picked up the day before at Walmart, but we decided to leave it in the car and rent a stroller at the zoo. I’m so glad we did. Zakari was way more comfortable, and he could not drag his feet.
Exploring the Zoo With Friends
We were really lucky, this landed up being an very inexpensive trip. Summer has a membership which allows her to get 4 kids and 2 adults in the Zoo. So we just had to pay for Travis’s ticket and the stroller rental.
It was awesome to be able to see many animals that we don’t have at the Assiniboine Park Zoo, like the giraffes, rhinos, penguins and elephants. We also saw some not very shy tortoises, doing the wild thing. I must say I could have done without ever seeing that. I will save you from watching the video my husband took of it… Men…
Lifestyle Differences Between Canada & the USA
While the kids looked at all the different animals and snack on popcorn, the adults chatted. It was fun to compare living in Canada to living in the USA. You really don’t think there are that many differences, but there really is.
We talked about the difference in our health care, politics and education. It was so interesting to hear the differences and share how we do things in Canada.
Playing at the Park till Closed
Once we had seen all that the park had to offer we took the long walk to front gate and stopped at the park so the kids could play and we could all chat some more. Z had spent most of the zoo visit riding in the stroller, so he loved having a space to run and play. I wanted him to really stretch his legs before we started on the long drive back to the hotel.
Then the zoo announced they would be closing soon. So we returned the stroller and headed out to the parking lot to find our cars. We thanked them for showing us around their zoo and said good bye. Summer invited us to join them at a buffet. But since I wasn’t sure if there was anything Zakari could eat there, and we had to be up early the next morning for our appointment we had to decline.
Before leaving Baltimore I needed to find a Whole Foods. I had gone to one the first time I visited Philadelphia and I needed to go back. Especially with my foodie husband. There were no locations close to our hotel, so we found one on our way home.
It was a smaller location then I had been to the year before, but still it offered a lot of great produces. Especially for Zakari who is on a dairy free, gluten free diet. Travis also liked the options of fresh and ready to eat food. I had no trouble getting back into another store closer to the IAHP during the week.
After grabbing some health snacks and drinks for the road, we hit the highway. Driving back to the hotel. The sun started to set as we pulled into Philadelphia. Such a beautiful sight with the city line in the background.
Buffalo Wild Wings
As I rode shotgun on the way back to the hotel, I looked through the Buffalo Wild menu. I was able to put in our order and it was ready for us when we got to the hotel. We grabbed our order on the way home and headed back to the hotel.
After a yummy dinner, Little Z had a bath and we snuggled until he finally fell asleep. The next day was going to be an exciting one. We had to be up for 7:15 am to be out the door, grab breakfast and head to our appointment at the IAHP.
Check out my other post about our visits to the IAHP
(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.
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:
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.
His own blanket and pillow. The comforts and smells from home helps my son relax and eventually fall asleep.
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.
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.
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?
I’m officially on the hunt for chapter books for boys with autism.
Best Chapter Books For Boys With Autism
Anyone that has been reading me for even a short time knows I love book sales! I love thrift store books. Amazon is also another love of mine. But now that I have turned my youngest into a bookworm, the need to collect books and grow our library is even stronger. Our GoodReads “What to Read” shelves is growing & growing by the day.
However, now I’m on a specific mission, to collect books from particular series. Yes I will still be buying books that are not part of a series. But my main focus is completing several series we are reading.
Why Am I Doing That? Why Does It Matter That We Stick Mostly to Series?
It happened on fluke, and I didn’t piece it together until recently. Zakari and I had started reading the Magic Tree House last year. Honestly the first book, he could have taken it or left it. But in the new year when I started reading him more books from the series, his opinion seemed to change. Each book he seemed to become more and more interested in. Until one day, he started specifically asking for me to read the next one in the series to him.
I thought this was just a coincident, until the same thing happened with the Bailey School Kids Adventures. During the first book or two I wasn’t too sure he really liked it. But because this was one of my favourite series when I was a kid, I kept on trying them with him. Now he listens to them and enjoys them.
8 Books into The Puppy Place, I’m finding this to be true again. He can go from upset about bedtime to attentively listening to these stories. This kid will beg me to read one more chapter, even though he is drifting off to sleep.
Why Are Series Hooking Him In?
My theory is because the characters are familiar to him. He doesn’t have to worry about learning who the characters are. He already knows them, and likes them. Now he can focus on the story line.
Its the same reason why you like to watch the same TV shows. You know the characters already and they can jump right into the plot of the story.
Another Reason Book Series Work For My Son With Autism
This past weekend I attended a local homeschool conference. One of the sessions I choose to sit in was “How Boys and Girls Learn Differently”. She talked about how boys don’t care to focus on character development in a story. Afterwards I started doing my own research on how boys learn and found an article on the Reading Rocket website, Books and Books by Jane McFann.
In the article she mentions that: Boys like to collect things and tend to like to collect series of books.
This makes perfect sense to me as a person who must collect everything.
This I find to be so true. Most of the series we read don’t jump around between scenes too much. Most of the characters are together in most scenes. The only exception to this has been Wishbone: The Early Years. However they avoided confusing by stating they were switching scenes.
What I Look For In A Series:
Over the last year we have dived into some awesome book series. I try and find:
Geared towards 7-8 year olds
Shorter chapter books(50-90 pages)
Includes animals is a major plus
I also look to see if there are several books in the series. The more books the better because if he really loves the characters we can keep feeding that interest. I’m always sad when a series is only 4 books long, and a new book hasn’t been published in years.
Clear, large writing is a bonus in case he wants to follow along. This is also nice for when he’s ready to read this longer books on his own.
Series I recommend for starting out:
The Puppy Place
The Magic Treehouse
The Magic School Bus
The Bailey School Kids Adventures
A to Z Mysteries
Wishbone: The Early Years
Grace Hospital Book Sale & Goodwill Book Haul
So in my hunt for new books to add to our home library, last week I went to the Goodwill by my house. I prefer the Goodwill as the books I look for usually range between 50 cents to a buck. Places like Value Village often have a better selection, but the books cost $1.79 for a kids chapter book and up. I’ve even encountered managers and cashiers that try and charge even more because they feel it should cost more. I left a huge pile of books one time because they were trying to nickle and dime me. It was so frustrating. I REFUSE to step foot into that location ever again. As someone who buys a lot of books, they lost a good customer.
Last Thursday Wesley and I drove to the other side of the city and check out a book sale at the Grace Hospital. I found it was worth the drive, and will likely go back again. This past Thursday the Huge Children’s Hospital Book Sale at St.Vital mall started and I will be sharing more about that in another post.
In the winter I’m a hermit. I do not like to go out in the cold. So I’m in squirrel mode right now. Got to get all the book! If you want to see what I snatched up, you can check out this video. The list with amazon links can be found below too.
Summer Life With Autism & Year Round Homeschooling
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Anne Of Green Gables (abridged version) The copy we read was from the Target Dollar Spot,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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I don’t understand WHY BrillKids is not a household name.
(Originally published in November 2014, Updated in September 2018)
What is BrillKids??
BrillKids is an online company that believes in helping babies, toddlers, and preschoolers reach their full potential. But the best part is, they are creating programs and an online community to make this easier for parents. BrillKids offers a free online community for parents to learn almost anything they would want to know about teaching their young children anything from:
how to read,
learn a foreign language
(Update: While this community is no longer as active as it once was, the post from old members are priceless. Definitely, you will want to go back through and read.)
They also have created some pretty amazing computer programs to make teaching your child even easier. I started using some of them with Wes when he was a preschooler. But when Little Z came along, he was lucky! He became a BrillKid’s baby when he was a newborn.
BrillKids Little Reader:
Little Reader is a full computer curriculum to teach your child how to read and includes over 2,300 words. It is designed to be used with children ages newborn to preschool age. We started using the program with Little Z when he was only a few months old. I found using Little Reader on the iPad to use the iAccess app better when he was younger. Because when they are so little it is so hard to have them sit up by a computer. This way I could kick back on the couch and Z and I could snuggle and watch his lesson.As he got older we started running through the programs while he was eating breakfast and lunch, so at this point, I started playing them on the computer.What is the verdict?Z finished this curriculum several months ago. Well, my baby can read, that is for sure. I have printed out multiple words, phrases and small sentences from the program and Z is able to read each word. He also understands what he is reading. I can also tell his mind is reading faster than he can out loud because every once in a while he will find something funny and start laughing before he can say it out loud.
BrillKids Little Musician:
Sneaking into brother’s room to play piano
Little Musician is a program that allows parents to give their young children a foundation in music in 5 mins a day.We have already gone through both Semester 1&2 in this program. However, after we finished the program, we decided to start again back at Semester 1 Lesson 1. Not because I don’t think Z has learned most of the information because I think he has. But I want him to work more on getting perfect pitch. Since he is so little, I don’t like to test him too much. So I figured since he still loves the program, he must be getting something from it. Little Z loves to sing in Solfege and loves to sneak into his brother’s room when he is not looking to play on his piano. While he “plays”, he says the notes in Solfege. I think he may have loved music, even if we didn’t have Little Musician. However, I think this program will give him the upper hand in the near future when he starts taking music lessons.
BrillKids Little Reader Chinese:
Well, we have a few days left of Little Reader Chinese. It is basically the same curriculum as Little Reader English, except in Chinese of course. I don’t speak Chinese, actually, our family’s second language is French(Which I understand, but have difficulty speaking). I’m honestly not sure how much Chinese Little Z has learned. But I know there are connections being made in his brain. This was my goal. The more he is exposed to other languages, the more easily a second language will come to him. I think if one parent knows how to speak Chinese, you could definitely use this program to reinforce what you are teaching your child. For our family though, it was about keeping the connections happening so when Little Reader French came out, his brain is ready to absorb even more info. After we complete this program we will be moving on to Little Reader French.
BrillKids Little Math:
Little Math is based particularly on the late Glenn Doman’s method of teaching a young child math. The nice thing is there is no stumbling with 11×11 flashcards of dots. I have no issues flashing word cards. But dot cards are another story. Little Math makes this process 100 times easier.At first, Little Z did not care so much for Little Math. However, I started playing Little Math first and following it with the other programs, that helped SO much. Now while this was not the only math program we were doing with Little Z over the last two years, his math skills are awesome for his age. I notice while we are doing some math apps on the iPad that he seems to know the answer right away. I’m thinking this has to do with the facts he learned in Little Math.
BrillKids Country Course made by EEECF Volunteers:
The Country Course was created and put together by volunteers from the Early Education for Every Child Foundation. This program teaches your child encyclopedic knowledge from all around the world.I wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard there was a program put together by volunteers. Honestly, I was a bit worried that maybe it would not be the best quality. Well, I was wrong! The program is very well put together and of excellent quality. Even my big kids like sitting in on these lessons, and I’m learning about countries around the world right alongside them. The best part, each semester contains 300 lessons instead of the regular 130 in all of the other BrillKids products, meaning with both semesters you get 600 days of lessons. So needless to say this program will keep us busy for a year or two. While Little Z is not sharing what he has learned, he is glued to the screen. So I trust soon he will start sharing what he is learning. Right now though, input input input.
Update from September 2018:How We Use BrillKids Software Now
Zakari is now 6 years old and we are still using several of the BrillKids Products. The software has grown with us.
Little Reader French
This year as part of our homeschool we are adding in BrillKids Little Reader French. As Canadians our second national language is French. As well on both sides of my family are french speaking. This is a gentle introduction to French for him. I wish I had started even earlier.
Little Musician the Program that Keeps Giving
Even though we have been through the Little Musician curriculum 2 or 3 times, we are going through it again this year. Zakari has not started formal music lessons yet, so for now, I am using this as part of his musical journey.
Little Reader Printing Feature
Because we are on the IAHP/Doman International program, I am required to make lots of physical materials. Little Reader makes it easy for me to find already made materials and print them out to use away from the computer.
Not Just For Learning To Read. Let’s Learn Geography & Cultures Too!
BrillKids Country Course Vol 1 made by EEECF Volunteers: This is an amazing program written by volunteers. I’m using this year to expose Zakari to information about Ukraine, Hungary, Italy, Greece, Lebanon, Turkey, Iran, India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kenya, Madagascar, South Africa, DCR, Algeria, Spain, France, Ireland, United Kingdom, and Germany.
The countries included in each group are geographically related to ease of map study. There are 20 Encyclopedic Knowledge facts for each country with images to illustrate these facts. 400 facts are grouped in sets of 4 and each set is repeated 6 times in the course.
The course is loosely built on the spaced-repetition method. New facts are introduced in the same lesson as old ones get reviewed. Each new fact will be repeated 2 days later, 6 days, 8 days, about 20 days, and finally about 60 days later.
How to Purchase:
Running all of these programs takes about 25mins MAX. We usually do lessons in the morning during breakfast time and another in the afternoon during lunch. I honestly think these programs are worth every penny. Right now Little Reader Basic runs for about $179. Back when I first bought the program it was actually retailing for well over $400. If it still cost $400 I would still highly recommend it.If you are interested in purchasing any of these programs on the BrillKids website, please consider using my Coupon code: BKAFF21929 and getting a discount on your order!!Full disclosure: I have purchased some of the BrillKids programs, and received some to review in the past, for my honest option. As well I have received sponsorship from the Early Education for Every Child Foundation. That being said, this post is completely unbiased and is just an update on our experiences with them. If I had paid cash for every one of these products, I would still have written this post.
What to Learn More About Doman International?
Click HERE to fill out a quick form and a representative from Doman International will contact you to set a FREE 30-minute consultation.
Disclaimer: This page may include affiliate links. I appreciate it when my readers use them as it provides me a little compensation and no extra cost to you.
(How to Teach your Baby to Read on a budget was originally posted in Oct 2014. Updated September 2018)
How to Teach your Baby to Read on a budget. 6 Helpful Tips.
In my world, I think every baby should be taught how to read before they enter kindergarten. When my oldest was 22 months, I stumbled across the work of Glenn Doman, and the way I look at my kids changed forever.
In the 1960s Glenn Doman and Temple Fay discovered that severely brain-injured children could learn how to read. After a while, they realized that these brain-injured children were not only reading, but they were doing it earlier and better than typical children. So they started using their method on all children and the results were nothing short of amazing.
Once I learned that I could teach my child to read much earlier than kindergarten, I dove into researching it. That is when I found the BrillKids Forum and the Little Reader Program. Back in 2007 before Facebook Groups were big, these were my people. 30,000+ parents who wanted to teach their kids not only how to read early, but how to do the math, play music, speak many languages. All this new information was inspiring and overwhelming at the same time.
So I started my journey teaching Wesley to read. As a working single mom, I had to be a little strategic about working time into our day. But while he ate breakfast I could play the DVD Program Your Baby Can Read(now called Your Baby Can Learn! ). Then once he was strapped in his car seat before we would drive away for daycare I would do a set of flashcards with him. When we arrived at daycare before I pulled him out of the car we would shuffle the cards and do them again.
At the end of the day in the daycare parking lot, I would show him the cards one more time after he was back in his car seat, then we would drive home. Before I started making dinner I would set him up again with his Your Baby Can Read DVD. Then after dinner and before bed, we would do a session of Little Reader.
This might sound like a lot, but it took very little of Wesley’s time.
Your Baby Can Read Sessions 20 mins each viewing
Little Reader Sessions 5 mins each
Flashcard sessions 1 min each MAX
So in approximately 52 mins MAX a day I successfully taught my son to read.
Little Z Man’s reading program has looked very different because we started earlier, I’m a work at home mom and had more time with him. Technology has changed so much as well that it has been even easier. But I wanted to share Wesley’s reading story because he was in daycare 9 hours a day and I was a single mom. If I could do it then, anyone can.
There are many products on the market that help parents teach their little ones. And as long as the parents stay consistent, playful, and gentle(ex: no pressuring) this is possible in most cases.
But what if you can’t afford to purchase these products?
Now while these products do make it easier on Mom and Dad, they are not required. There are cheaper ways to teach your young child to read. However, you might have to invest a bit more time. But I would not let finances get in the way of educating your child.
This is a back to basics, Do It Yourself, how to teach your baby to read program. All you need is some paper and a black and red marker.
One thing you should keep in mind when you read this book is, Doman has a very very strict schedule. Don’t feel like you have to do 3 sets of words, 3 times a day each. Figure out what works for your child and go with it. Some kids will set for 10 cards 3 times a day, some prefer 30 cards one or two times a day. Even when we attended the IAHP we were given different reading schedules than are in the book. Adapt to your child.
Also, don’t worry about his exact sizing too much. Making your cards on 8 x 11 white paper may be perfectly fine for your little ones. However, if you find that your child is not paying attention to the cards, then they may be too small. In that case, you can jump up to 11 x 17 inches paper. Once they are older you can cut that down to half or even quarters.
Card stock is obviously better, however more expensive. But a huge pack of plain white printer paper can be purchased for fairly cheap. If your budget is still too tight for this, you can use the unused side of scrap paper, the inside of cardboard boxes, etc. Contact offices and local businesses and see if they can save you a paper that has only been used on one side. A lot of places only print on one side. Also, look for back to school deals. This year I was able to buy 600 pages of white printer paper for just under $3 a pack. If you use both sides that 1200 flashcards.
#2 DVD section in the library or Netflix:
You can find MANY good educational DVDs at the local library. My library has a very limited selection, however they have good videos like Signing Time, Little Pim English(other languages too if that is what you’re looking for), and Leap Frog just to name a few.
If you have access to Netflix, that is another good option that has in the past had videos like LeapFrog and Signing Time on it as well.
YouTube is AMAZING when it comes to educational videos. There are so many good quality videos that are perfect for teaching your child to read for absolutely free. Create a playlist and show it to your child. I connect YouTube to my TV which has larger than my computer screen for my kids so that the words are easier for them to see. But they have also done well using just the computer screen.
Be sure to check out Songeez also known as Readeez on YouTube. Michael Rachap and Gerry O’Neill have done an amazing job with these videos and I know that all my kids and daycare kids have loved them. But most of all they have learned so much.
Do make sure you watch any videos on Youtube first to make sure it is appropriate for your child.
#4 Free Starfall
Check out the classic Starfall.com website. There are lots of great interactive educational games there. They do offer a paid subscription for more content. But the free content is still very good. Both my children have used the free site and loved it.
#5 Thrift Stores, Kijiji/Craigslist, and Garage sales
This is a biggie! I have gotten so many awesome deals during garage sale season, or at the local thrift store. Things that usually sell for $20 or $30 for $1.99, $5, 50 cents.
I also check for things on Kijiji before I pay the full price. I have heard Craigslist is good in other cities, but it’s not popular where I live. But check both and see what works best where you live.
In more recent years Facebook Buy & Sell groups have been AMAZING for getting great items to help teach my kiddos for cheap. So be sure to check those out too. Sometimes people even give stuff away on there.
Don’t be afraid to barter a little. People at garage sales and on Kijiji often up their prices because they expect to have people barter with them a little. If someone has several items for sale that you want, try and get a deal for buying it altogether.
Know your prices and keep your eyes open and you will be amazing what kind of treasures you can find.
#6 Join Swagbucks
Check out Swagbucks. It’s a search page/bar that rewards you with points while you search. Then once you collect enough points, you can exchange them for gift cards. I usually pick Amazon cards. I have earned hundreds of dollars doing this.
Top 8 Tips Before Attending the “What to do About Your Brain Injured Child” Course
In September of 2016 I attended the What to do About Your Brain Injured Child Course. In 2017 I went back with my son. We had a full evaluation and I took Lecture Series II. I have to say I was way more prepared during my last trip because of these 8 tips.
#1. Turn off your cell phone.
You have to trust the people at home taking care of your children can do the job. The cell phone is a distracting tool. You are there to learn how to help your child. Do not allow your cell phone to take away opportunities to talk to other parents, staff, or listen in on questions other parents have.
Give your family the number of the Institute in case of emergencies. And tell them that your phone will be off from the moment you arrive till the moment you leave. Now this was a hard adjustment for me I’m a phone junkie. However on the Friday I made the exception of turning on my phone to complete some of the homework and I did find it very distracting. I was happy that I had made the decision to turn it off Monday through Thursday.
Now haven’t been home for a few weeks I can see how much of a distraction my phone has been to be in the past. I make sure that I am not distracted by my phone while I’m working with my son on his programs. That being said there was a day last week when my son was having some free time between programs and I picked up my phone to read a text. Well apparently he didn’t like that, because he came up to me and gently said no phone mom. Point taken little man point taken. And I put The phone down.
#2 A sweater is not going to cut it.
When they tell you the auditorium is cold they don’t mean it’s just slightly chilly. It’s an icebox. Bring yourself a blanket, a sweater and make sure you’re wearing close toed shoes. When I went back the second time I brought along my winter jacket. I’m from Canada, no one is going to make me cold like that again.
#3 Monday through Thursday do not make plans to do anything after class.
You’re going to leave exhausted. Your brain will be full of so much information and it is going to take you time to process it. Some days are your are going to leave class at 9:30, You’re going to have only a short bit of time to grab something for dinner. Then run home or wherever you’re staying and do homework. Plus remember you’ve also had your cell phone turned off all day so you’re going to have to catch up with everything going on back home.
Thursday nights the big one, you’re going to be working on a program for your child. Friday you’re going to be assigned time to sit down with a staff member to go over this program and get some advice. That night my head was spinning, my best friend wanted to talk to me, and the kids want to talk to me. We got out of class late and we had the largest homework assignment of the week.
I had to make the decision that everything else took up a backseat to the homework. I know it hurt everybody’s feelings when I told them I couldn’t talk but I was a woman on a mission. Once I was done the homework showered and in bed I called hubby and found out what was going on throughout the day. My best friend forgave me, my kids forgave me and I had a full complete program to go over with my staff advocate on Friday.
#4 Pack some snacks in the car or your bag.
Lunch is delicious and there is a soup or sandwich break at around 5 o’clock, however it is nice to have a few little snacks keep you going.
I’m going to be honest I was a little concerned about the food before I came. I had heard some reviews online that the food was less than desirable. I’m glad to say in my opinion this was the furthest thing from the truth. Even the day that we were served salmon, which I don’t like the sides were so filling I didn’t miss it. There was also a vegetarian day and I found that meal also delicious.
#5 Make Connections.
Get to know the people sitting by you, Find a staff member that you connect with and make sure to find that person with your questions during the break. Find out if anyone is starting a Facebook group. People are not going to understand what you’re doing with your children and it’s nice to have a group of people that know what you’re going through I can support you.
#6 Take Notes
Yes you will receive a package at the end of each day. That being said you should still take some of your own notes. Because most of the notes will contain exactly what’s on the board. So if you find the speaker says something that you find inspirational or helpful write it down.
#7 Ask Questions
If you have questions be sure to use the 10 minute breaks to get answers to those questions. The staff at the What to do About Your Brain Injured Child Course are there to help. You may find that one staff member may be more helpful to you than another. All the staff members are qualified however you may find you personally connect with a particular staff member. I found even though some staff members were available I would wait to speak to a particular handful. I knew they had connected with me and understood what I was looking for for my children.
#8 Spend Some Time in the Bookstore
OK well this might just be because I’m a book junkie. I have a pile of books by my bed that is so large and I haven’t read them yet yet I keep adding to the pile. I was in heaven in the IAHP bookstore. Yes it is a small bookstore but I really connected with both of the shopkeepers. I found them very helpful and knowledgeable.
One thing that I really liked about the bookstore was the fact that the encouraged you to wait until the end of the week to make your final purchases. So you could make a pile and take things out and add them throughout the week as you heard the lectures and make your final purchases on Thursday or Friday. This helped me save a lot of money. I often went in during break to remove a book or add a book as a lecture series went on.
If you think you’re going to want to purchase a book to read in the evenings I can almost guarantee you you will not have time. By the time you get out of class, find somewhere to eat, and get home or wherever you’re staying, you will have very little time to do much else but your homework, shower, and check in with your family at home. My head was usually spinning from all the information I had her during the day, the thought of adding more information on top of that was a bit nauseating.
This course was life-changing for me. When I came home I looked at my kids differently. I parent differently now. I have an absolute newfound respect for my children. It’s not like I didn’t think they could do things before. I mean I taught them how to read at a very early age. But I found out things about them but I was there that I didn’t know. So take these tips seriously if you were planning on attending the What to do About Your Brain Injured Child course. You have sacrificed a lot to be there. Don’t waste it
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.