Thursday, May 31, 2012

Yes, You Can Survive Camping with Toddler Twins

We actually had Pierce camping when he was only about 9 months old.  We took a road trip up north and hit some state parks in Michigan and Indiana for a week.  Everything is a little different with twins, though, so we've held off camping overnight with them.  Finally, we felt ready to take the plunge.  We have a camping site located on top of a mountain on our property, and we decided to head up one Saturday night when the weather was mild. 

After a steep 1.25 mile hike to the top, Pierce set to work helping his Dad pitch the small tent.  We decided to pitch our big tent for me and the twins (so they could have lots of space) and a smaller tent for Pierce and Paul.  Next time around I feel more confident that we can just use the one large tent.

I brought up large cars for every child (each with a squeaky frog to ride inside) and these were cherished and pushed over rocks and through dirt all evening.

Cort and Reid don't have shirts on because although we brought up a large jug of water, we forgot to bring cups to drink from!  So, very thirsty from their hike up, they both managed to saturate their shirts while trying to drink water from a huge jug.

First corn of the season.  You really can't beat corn roasted over open fire.  It takes about an hour, but is so divine.

Pierce hangs out in the tent.

Paul told me to get junk food at the grocery store for our campout, so I bought two cans of Pringles as a special treat.  I find it hard to believe, but the Pringles were all gone by the next day.

 Mmmmm, corn on the cob - 

And fire roasted hot dogs too!

Of course, you're not really camping unless you have s'mores.

And then it was bedtime.  We used an inflatable twin mattress and I put Reid on one end and Cort on the other.  This worked just fine.  Except they would roll over in the middle of the night, fall off, and get mad. 

The other drawback was the Reid had a cold (or allergies?) and he started coughing at bedtime.  And he coughed.  And coughed.  And coughed.  For six hours straight.  I debated what to do.  Should I put him on my shoulders and hike down our steep mountain in the middle of the night?  What if I fell?  Was he sleeping through it?  And once I got down to the house, all I could really offer him was honey and a humidifier for comfort.  Which isn't much.  In the end, we toughed it out. 
Around 2 am, the coughing finally subsided and we all managed to get some sleep.  I even dreamt of Civil War soldiers (one on horseback, 3 on foot) standing and conversing in the midst just outside my tent.  So weird.

I suspect there will be many more campouts in our future this summer.  Just not when Reid has a cold!

This is a blog hop!  Everyone is welcome to join in on Rural Thursday, hosted by myself and Nancy from A Rural Journal.  Just grab the code below the button, and paste it into your blog post.  Then come back and add your link to the linky.  Please remember to visit at least 5 other participants and leave them some comment love. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

LeapFrog Summer Camp


Thank you to LeapFrog for sponsoring my post about Leapfrog Summer Camp. To sign up for LeapFrog Summer Camp, please click here. #CleverLFCamp #spon

The past few weeks I've been brainstorming for ideas to keep the boys busy over the summer.  Did you know that studies show that by the time kids return to school after summer vacation, they've lost about one month of learning?  Yikes!  I know it's great for the kids to have some down time, but I don't want them going completely stagnant.  I've toyed with thoughts of doing a summer bucket list (as I have the past couple of years) or even doing organized activity bins for an hour each day.  Then I found out about the LeapFrog Summer Camp and when I went to check it out on their website I was so impressed with the creativity and ideas! 

First off, it's free to join!  It's an 8 week program (running from June 4 - July 28) for ages 4-7 and each week has a different theme.  They provide you with all the ideas and activities (like great printables and simple crafts), so you can focus all of your energy on just enjoying your kids.  Pierce and I are particularly excited about the Caring for Animals theme week and the Puzzle Time week.  Obviously, we often incorporate caring for animals into our daily life (since we do live on a farm) and the boys have been really enthusiastic about puzzles lately, but it never occured to me to do specific units on these topics.  I think they will be a huge hit.  Even better?  LeapFrog will also be offering specials on their products and a weekly photo contest with prizes during the duration of the camp. 

This is such a great way to be engaged with your children this summer by involving yourself in their learning in a fun and creative way.  If you want to sign up, you can do so now by visiting LeapFrog Summer Camp.   In a couple of weeks, you can look for another post from me telling you all about our experiences with the camp!

This post is sponsored by LeapFrog. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective, and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Madagascar Party with Children's Claritin

As part of the Children's Claritin Mom Crew, I had the opportunity to host a Madagascar Movie Viewing Party in preparation for the release of Madagascar 3.  Claritin sent me the dvds for Madagascar 1 and 2, some Madagascar 3 stickers, Claritin samples, and popcorn boxes.  Pierce was very excited about this, as he had never had a 'party' before (it wasn't so much a party as just inviting a couple of friends over, but don't tell him that!).  I decided to hold it on a Friday night, let the kids come in pjs, and have it be a pretend sleepover - they were still heading home for the night!

Claritin provided me with some recipe ideas, and I made their turkey wraps which were a big hit with the adults.  I also had a nacho bar and discovered in the Jello aisle Madagascar jiggler molds for $1.  Would you believe I'd never made Jello Jigglers before?!

Packets of Madagascar 3 stickers and Claritin samples for the taking:

Popcorn ready for the making.  I used coconut oil and real butter and salt to make it taste like movie popcorn and the kids loved it so much I had to make a second batch after the first! 

Since Madagascar 3 has a circus theme, Clariting suggested doing ice cream clown cones -

The boys had a fun time decorating the clown faces, and sampling the candy:

I could go for this creation!  

I put sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows all over the floor and took a vote - Madagascar 2 won.  There is one child missing from this picture, but it was hard to get the kids all together!  Turns out it was a beautiful evening and they had a lot of fun just playing on the porch. 
Seems like everyone had a fun time, and Pierce is already begging to have another 'sleepover' movie party soon!

Disclaimer: I was provided 2 dvds, party suggestions, samples, stickers and popcorn boxes for participating in the Claritin Mom Crew program. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Creole Hearts on Muffin Tin Monday

I love to cook cajun and creole style foods.  My boys don't seem to appreciate it as much as my husband and I, but I keep hoping eventually they'll anticipate nights of spicier dishes.
This tin is actually a microwave cake tin that my mom picked up somewhere.  I need to track down those mug microwave cake recipes everyone was making last winter and give it a shot!  Meantime, it seemed appropriate for a Muffin Tin Monday.  We had red beans + rice w/ celery, onions, and smoked turkey sausage, a hard boiled egg from our chickens (who are laying quite well lately), a strawberry fruit leather (homemade!) and some fresh grapes. 

For more fun MTM ideas, check out Muffin Tin Mom

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Using Floam to Make a Pencil Cup for Father's Day

Would you believe that way back in the early 90s, when Floam first came out, I bought some?  I was in high school, and thought it was cool stuff.  Today's formula is new and improved, so when I was contacted about using Nickelodeon's Floam to create a pencil cup craft for Father's Day, I was pretty excited to revisit the substance.  The pencil cup you see in this picture is made with Floam, but it was not made by us - it was sent for inspiration!

Pierce tests out the pencil up they sent with a pencil!  I dug into the recycling bin and found an old vinegar bottle to use for our pencil cup - it was just the right size.  I cut off the top and taped around the top edge before passing it over to Pierce.

Pierce was particularly fascinated with the consistency of Floam.  He kept asking how it was made - how they got all those tiny white balls in there.  While Floam is soft and pliable (plus nontoxic and washable), if you let it sit out it will eventually dry and harden.

Following the instructions we were sent, Pierce rolled out the Floam into a sheet long enough to wrap around our bottle.  He needed help for the actual wrapping process. 

We decided letters might be a little too tricky (and I did want this to be as much a Pierce-creation as possible).  So Pierce said he wanted to make a smiley-face heart and a sun instead of "#1 Dad". 

I did help him with the shape of the heart (using scissors to cut it out once the blue was rolled out).  I also helped him get the circle of the sun.  And I assisted him a bit with the piece on top - that was most difficult part for him.  I think it turned out cute, how about you?  Next up Pierce says he's going to make a Floam monster.
You can also find Floam on Facebook and Twitter.  So readers, if you had some Floam right now, what would you create?

Disclaimer: I received the products pictured on top in exchange for writing a review.  The opinions you have read are all my own.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fairy Stone State Park

For Mother's Day I usually request a hiking trip, and this year was no different.  We flipped through a couple of hiking in Virginia type books and finally decided to head to Fairy Stone State Park.  It's crazy that we'd never been before, since it's only an hour away.
 We certainly had fun hiking the Lakeshore Trail to the dam.  The boys had a lot of fun with a millipede they found.

Our youngest?  He has decided he prefers to ride than walk, although he still apparently needs a hiking stick even when refusing to hike.

Beautiful lake view:

At least the youngest was willing to get down for photo ops:

A bit of a grade...

Would you look at this tree?  It seems my old neighbor, JP, has been defacing trees out at Fairy Stone Park.  Do you see the big JP on the upper left? 

We also found a few trees defaced by a very busy beaver!

Made it to the dam!

We finally gave up and put Cort in the backpack.  But please note that he still has his hiking stick.  He's still hiking, you know, even if he's refusing to walk.

Once again, he gets down for pictures!

After our hike we drove to the spot where you look for fairy stones.  Little stone crosses, left by the fairies, are mementos of their inhabitation of this enchanted spot.  (Okay, technically they were formed by a combination of heat and pressure during the folding and crumpling of the earth's crust in the formation of the Appalachian Mountains.  However, I personally prefer the romping, playing fairies explanation). 

Reid and Cort decide to climb on a log instead of hunting for fairy stones.

They are tricky to find, and we did hunt for a while, but I've got a couple of tips for you if you go.  Walk far back - further than you think most people would.  Search along the edges, where the water has washed up in the past.  Look under leaf debrise.  We found a small handful all together.  Here's one of the best we discovered - this one, a St. Andrews version, was found by Paul:
Ever been hunting for fairy stones, readers?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Thrush is making our horse Zip lame! Rural Thursday

I've had horses my whole life, and I've had them get thrush before, but never anything like this.  However, weeks of daily rains, wet grass, and muddy corners of pasture have done a number on Zip's hooves.  I got him out to lunge him recently and noticed he was slightly lame.  Two days later, slightly lame again.  I looked him over well and the only thing I could find was a slight crack in the heel of his hoof.  So a few days later, when the vet was out to administer rabies shots, I asked if that could be the cause of his lameness.

He said, "Hmmm, could be.  Looks like thrush.  Let me trim this up with a hoof knife and take a better look."  He trimmed it, which made the crack more visible, and then lo and behold stuck his finger in the crack about an inch and a half deep!  Shudder!  The vet said, "Yup, that's definitely the problem!"

So what did the vet give me for Zip?  A treatment for cows, of course.  He said this Bovine Foot and Heel Spray worked better than any of the horse treatments.  For $38 I should hope so. 
It's a gel, so it sticks in place.  Zip doesn't like it - I think it must sting a little.  Sadly, the rain has kept him from healing very much, but I'm hoping his thrush will dry out soon so he can feel better and I can get out riding! 

It's Rural Thursday, so now is your chance to jump in with your own animal stories (hopefully not as gross as mine), recipes, crafts, walks in the woods, or anything else that fits in with a rural mindset.  You can link up at A Rural Journal or right here!  Just grab the code for the button and add it to your post.  Then come link up your url and be sure to visit and comment on at least 5 other posts!  Looking forward to reading and looking at your pictures this week!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Anti-Romantic Child - Book Review

The Anti-Romantic Child, A Memoir of Unexpected Joy, by Priscilla Gilman, is one of those books that will pull at the heart strings of any parent.  Gilman opens the book with thoughts on her idealization of childhood - creative play, art, adventures.  She had longed for a child of her own for years, and when she found herself with a new baby reality struck.  The motherhood that she had envisioned, somewhat through her devoted readings of Wordsworth, was far from what she experienced.  She felt alienated from her child, and didn't feel as though she could interpret his cries.

As her son grows, it becomes clear that he is incredibly precocious.  By 14 months, he knows all of his letters (keep in mind, this is when most kids are just start to say Mom or Dad).  At 18 months he can tell time digitally, and by 2 1/2 he is reading and quite obsessed with letters and numbers.  But Gilman starts to have concerns for Benj in spite of his brilliance.  He isn't interested in toys, is regimented and fastidious, and at the age of 2 1/2 is still only eating baby food.  Eventually, after touring a preschool and seeing adament differences among his peers, Gilman begans her own research.  She discovers that Benj has hyperlexia which is characterized by a precocious ability to read words but a difficulty in understanding verbal language and abnormal social skills.  In the DSM, it is a diagnosis that falls under Autism Spectrum Disorders.  While Benj is never formally assessed for a specific diagnosis, his behaviors seem to fall closest to the characteristics common to Asperger's.

What unfolds in the memoir is Gilman's struggle to help Benj in his weak areas, while appreciating his strengths, all intermingled with her love and appreciation of the writings by Wordsworth.  Through his verse, she seeks to understand herself as a parent and strives to accomodate and accept her child. 

I think this book is quite validating for mothers who have struggled in their parenting, and particularly for moms of children with special needs.  Any parent who has gone through the quest for evaluations and services for a child will read Gilman's articulations and think, "yes, here is someone who gets me, who knows what I am going through".  You'll be impressed with Gilman's devotion to her family and to jumping through whatever hoops necessary to ease the challenges her son faces on a daily basis.  It's a beautifully written book, and I enjoyed the excerpts from Wordsworth so much that I found myself in the wee hours of the morning flipping through my old college lit textbook.  Even if you don't have a child with special needs, you'll enjoy the humanity of motherhood expressed in this book, and identify with the desire to be the best parent you can be.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours for review purposes.  The opinions expressed above are my own.  I loved this book, and on my personal Shelfari page I rated it 5 out of 5 stars. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

WOD Fitness Toys for Toddlers and Kids

Twice a week I work out with free weights - doing a combination of circuits for about 30 minutes.  Whenever I do this when the kids are around, they always beg to try using weights too, but I never let them, for fear that someone will drop a 10 pound free weight on a foot and get hurt.  Recently, though, we got the opportunity to review WOD fitness equipment for toddlers and children, and my boys finally got to try out some weights. 

 When I opened the four boxes of items we received from WOD, it was like a mini gym right in our living room.  I could practically smell the testosterone.  Pretty sure this is how things will be all the time in about 12 years.
 The barbell weighs 2.2 pounds.  So you don't have to worry about your child straining something in lifting it.  The boys also loved stepping up on the Plyo box and jumping off. 
 The Plyo box has a weight limit of 60 pounds, but it's very sturdy.  My kids are so skinny they will be able to use it for years.

The kettle bell was a fun addition to their workout routine.  I was just a little jealous.  After all, I don't even have a kettle bell!  Now I think I need to get one so I can be like my boys!

By far, the biggest hit was the medicine ball.  At just 1 pound, you don't have to worry about them throwing it at the wall - or each other.  Cort and I played with the medicine ball all afternoon - he was particularly taken with it.  We rolled it back and forth, and worked on his catching skills.  Pierce worked on his catching skills too - he's not the most coordinated when it comes to this sort of thing. 

Cort demos practicing on the Plyo box.  Excellent for kids still working on their up and down steps skills.

Reid did a routine he made up himself, where he hooked the kettle bell over his feet and then pulled it in towards his belly.  A sort of kettle bell crunch. 

Happy boys, finishing up their extended workout.
We loved these products!  They were durable, fun, and physical.  I want to add that these would be an excellent addition for the child that has sensory issues or gross motor imbalances.  They are a fun way for the child to work on weak areas and strengthen them.  These items were just released, but I wouldn't be surprised at all to see occupational therapists using them in the future with young children. 

WOD also has soft versions of these items for babies!  Yup, your infant can even get in a workout safely!  You can find WOD on Facebook and Twitter too.  Also, if you would like to order some of their products, enter the code twobears2012 for a discount coupon! 

Disclaimer: I received four products from WOD for review.  The opinions stated above are my own.