Posted in Books, Family Adventures

24 Books until Christmas

I have so many thing to blog about both from my class and with my own children but I was so excited to find a book Christmas countdown over at Reading Confetti that I just had to do it at my house.  I will blog about our great migration unit and my weekend away soon but I want to try and keep up with blogging about each of the books we do leading up to Christmas.

First I gathered all my Christmas books together, and I also checked out our local discount book store (and one small trip to Chapters).  Next I created a table on my computer with all the days leading up to Christmas.  I starting by matching books to any special days or special events (eg. getting our tree, making the gingerbread house, and church events), and then I filled in the rest  based on activities I wanted to do with each book and how much time we would have on different days.

I search my house for some sort of basket to put them all in and ending up with a small laundry basket.  It’s nothing special but the size was perfect.

You can guess from the book right at the front that today we started with The Elf on the Shelf.  I managed to pick one up when I was shopping last week and thought we would introduce an elf to our family this year.  We opened our box to read our book and meet our Elf.  Have much debate and deliberation we decided to name him Frankie.  Kaitlyn actually suggested Frankenstein but we convinced her that Frankie was more an Elf name.  I think the big thing will be trying to keep Eileen from touching him.  Kaitlyn is right into it and has already registered him online and spent some time checking out the website, so far she is not too much a fan of the site (not that kid friendly).  The big thing is going to be for Gord and I to remember to move him every night.

The girls were excited to hear there was a television show on the book but I think that we may have already missed it this year. If anyone knows of where I can find it online please let me know.  It may be a big help in getting Eileen excited about Frankie.

I was impressed tonight that this adventure of ours seems to be a priority for Gord.  I told him that we were starting our book countdown tonight and I would like it to be something we do together as much as possible and he made sure to schedule his meeting tonight later so that he would be here for our book.

Tomorrow night is a reindeer book and a craft with Gramma.  Gord and I have his staff party but I am going to try and read the book before I leave.  If not I think it will be O.K. for Gramma and Grampa to participate in our little adventure.

Posted in Family Adventures

Family & Fathers

So it is 8 in the morning on Father’s Day – Michael is playing on the floor (man does this boy want to crawl) but Gord and the girls are still sleeping.  We had my brother-in-law’s wedding yesterday so we did not get home until 2:00 am.  Michael was picked up by my parents around 10:00 so it was a late night for everyone.  It was a great day but definitely an adventure with our three kids!

As I sit and reflect waiting for everyone else to wake I was reading a bunch of father’s day blog post and it made me start reflecting on family.  We have very different relationships with both sides of our family.  I don’t think we would be able to survive without my parents!  To give just an example of the last week – they watched different children almost every day as we did things to get ready for the wedding.  I would not have been able to take Kaitlyn for her first mani/pedi if Gramma had not come over to watch Eileen and Michael.  And talking about wedding – my mom made Eileen’s dress, Michael’s matching vest and bolero jackets for both the girls.  They were all perfect!  And then there is my dad – sometimes I think he lives here!  He will drop anything at a moment’s notice to watch the kids and all I need to keep in my house is a box of green tea and a bottle of dark rum (not to be drunk together).  When we had a big wind storm a number of weeks ago and our playset was blown over and destroyed the girls were devastated but he has installed a new slide and now is working on rebuilding the swing area.  I love my husband and he is very good at many things but he is not a fix-it man, not at all.  My dad has saved me many aggravating repair jobs and probably a lot of money by fixing pretty much anything that gets broken at our place.  I know it is Father’s Day but both of my parents are amazing – they never miss a dance recital, hockey game, soccer game or any other event my kids participate in big or small and this year my mom even volunteered in Kaitlyn’s kindergarten class one afternoon a week (as if she wasn’t busy enough already).

The relationship with my inlaws is a bit different – we pretty much see them on holidays and for major events (like the wedding yesterday).  My new sister-in-law is awesome and the girls love her so hopefully they will get to spend more time with her.  Saying all that the way my husband’s aunts, uncles, and cousins helped out yesterday was amazing!! Gord was great with the kids but he was the best man so for much of the day was busy with official duties (don’t worry they got their share Daddy time once the dancing started).  During the service one of Gord’s cousin’s girlfriends, who I had met only 5 minutes early, offered to go and change Michael when he decided to mess his diaper in the church – wow!  Then Gord’s Aunt Sue stood to the side and held Michael through the service so I could have Eileen on my lap. Then during the reception all of the cousins and aunts and uncles took turns holding the kids, playing with the kids and taking them on repeated trips outside to see the water fountain. I am pretty sure some of them will have sore arms today from lifting Eileen up so many times.  When the Bride and Groom were doing their speeches I quietly looked around and noticed I didn’t even have any of my children.  Michael was asleep on Aunt Joan’s lap and the girls were cuddled up with some of the much love cousins.  They all helped make the day so much fun for all of us.

Since it is Father’s Day I can’t finish this post without mention my husband and Daddy to Michael, Eileen and Kaitlyn.  It is no big secret that Gord works alot.  He seems the have his fingers in every project, but he loves it!  Sometimes his work even takes him away for a bit (3 trips to China in the past year) but when he is home … he is home.  He is attentive with the kids and at any point you can find him rolling on the floor with Michael, dancing with the girls or curled up on the couch watching Rugrats for the 1000th time (Kaitlyn’s new obsession).  Somedays I think that Eileen is surgically attached to him and he doesn’t complain (well at least not too much).  I have no doubt in my mind that he loves those kids above anything else and would go to the end of the earth for them.

So happy Father’s Day to all and make sure to tell those around you who you appreciate how much they mean to you!

Posted in Craft Thursdays, Family Adventures, Literacy Tuesdays

China Festival Family Style – Introduction & Research

If you have been following my Literacy Tuesday blogs you will know that we were reading a number of alphabet concept books.  One of the books we read was D is for Dancing Dragon – A China Alphabet by Carol Crane and Illustrated by Zong-Zhou Wang, and if you are interested in the book I commented on it at my library blog.  This book was the jumping off point for our China day.  From here we found a research idea, crafts and decorations to make, and food we had to include in our celebration.  I am not going to try an include everything in one  blog post, instead I am going to try and group what we did preparing for the day and on the day itself, into a few blog posts.

The past few years I have worked as a teacher-librarian and one of the main focuses has been to teach students how to learn for themselves.  This  was the first opportunity I have had to directly teach my own children research skills, well Kaitlyn was the only one actually researching, Eileen just was along for the ride.  We started by reviewing the letter P in our alphabet book – The Giant Panda.  We started this on a literacy Tuesday so I printed off some P worksheets and colouring pages for an introduction.  Kaitlyn particularly liked the P wordsearch and I appreciated that it was the perfect level of difficulty for her.  Eileen made an attempt to trace the P letter pages I gave her, which is a big step for her.  They both coloured a few printable pages, and Kaitlyn even made an effort to colour the correct colours in the correct places.

Because my kids respond to hand-on crafts, we made paperbag panda puppets.  I found many different templates online but we chose the one through Circletime kids.  They were very easy to make. Kaitlyn did hers all herself and I helped Eileen cut out her pieces but she did most of the gluing.  A quick and easy panda craft

The final part was to learn a bit more about Pandas.  I picked up a number of panda books at the library, both fiction and non-fiction but before I let the girls look at them I told them they had to come up with 5 questions they wanted to know about Pandas.  I first introduced the concept of an endangered species and the definition of extinct.  The example of the dinosaurs being extinct is easy for them to understand.

Kaitlyn’s Research Questions:

  1. Why can’t we have a panda as a pet?
  2. What do they eat?
  3. Do they live around people?
  4. Do they run or walk?
  5. How long do they live?
  6. Why are they endangered? (O.K. this last one was Mommy’s question)

I thought they were pretty good questions.  We used our books from the library to find the answers.  I read the books to the girls and Kaityn stopped me everytime there was an answer to one of her questions.  When we were done we made a Giant Panda poster and picked pictures that answered some of the questions.  For example she learned that Giant Pandas like climb so we made sure to include a picture of a panda climbing.

I decided to try and take it one step further and introduced some social awareness to Kaitlyn.  After discussing endangered animals and the possibilities of extinction we started to talk about what we could do to help.  We discussed the WWF and decided to have a donation jar at our Chinese festival.  She let our family who was coming know of the jar and she collected $13.87 in loose change and her Aunt & Uncle also made a symbolic adoption in her name.  Mommy and Daddy added to the $13.87 to make another symbolic adoption.  One small step to start raising the idea of making a positive impact in the world.  We even got a bit of a math lesson out of it sorting all the coins.

And what is a party without party favours!  I found a seller  through ebay who sold Chinese parasols.  For my cousin’s son who was at the party I got him a small dragon puppet.

Posted in Family Adventures

Great Wolf Lodge Vacation

Thursday morning we woke up at the Embassy Suites in Niagara Falls and went to sleep at Great Wolf Lodge Niagara Falls.  Everyone was up very early in morning, and I mean 5:00 am early!  Michael was not feeling great and when he woke up everyone else was up shortly after.  When we had checked into the Embassy Suites  I was pleasantly surprised to learn it included a breakfast buffet.  When we went down to breakfast we saw that it wasn’t your typical continental breakfast but a full buffet.  Bonus!  We had a great seat right by the window overlooking the falls.  The only problem was that the sun was very bright coming in the window, but that was our sacrifice for the amazing view.  Most of us ate very well, except my non-breakfast eater Eileen.

While I packed up the room we let the kids rest in the hotel room.  Gord went for a run along the falls, I wish I would have brought my running stuff!  At noon we checked out of the hotel and after a quick Timmies run we went to Great Wolf Lodge.  All the kids were asleep in the car so Gord went and checked us in.  We were lucky and our room was available.  We had booked a Kids Camp Suite for our family.  Gord and I had a queen bed and the girls had bunk beds in their own room within our room.  Michael slept in our playpen which we brought from home.  They said they may have playpens available but couldn’t guarantee one so we brought our own.  The room was perfect, and our location in the lodge was awesome.  We were on the ground level so we never needed to use the stairs or elevator unless going up to the lobby.  It took us only a minute to get to the waterpark or arcade and we were right across the hall from the Cub Club.

Things we loved:

  • Great waterpark for all ages.  Eileen loved the little kids section (Chipmunk cove) and once Kaitlyn got over her inital fear she went down every waterslide she was able to, and there were only three she was too small for.  Michael even sat on my lap when we went on the lazy river.
  • So much to do.  Our inclusive package included a colour-your-own T-shirt for the kids, and arcade tokens.
  • Few line ups during the week.  On Thursday and most of Friday we rarely had to wait in any lines – and if they did they were very short.
  • The animals in the lobby – Kaitlyn’s most used phrase was: “Go see animals!”
  • The breakfast and lunch buffet were great.  There was a lot of selection and the kids loved being able to reach their own food at the kid-high buffet.  I am not normally a fan of buffets but if it had to be a buffet it was a pretty good one.
  • The service was very good.  The only person I saw who wasn’t polite and smiling was the good who made up our room, and she wasn’t rude just not overly friendly.  We found that overall all the service in the Niagara Falls area was very good.
  • Minigolf! My girls loved the minigolf course.  Kaitlyn said it was her second favourite thing after the waterpark. It was a pretty easy course and perfect for kids.
Pitfalls:
  • The best place to eat was right in the waterpark.  This made it very difficult to find a table.  They needed to have some tables reserved just for people eating.  It was very humid in there if you didn’t have a bathing suit on but that didn’t bother us as much.
  • We purchased the all inclusive package for the kids.  This also included a plush for each of the kids, but it wasn’t a Great Wolf plush – just a generic elephant.  It would have been nice to have a souvenir that said “Great Wolf Lodge” that they could have to remember their trip.
  • Free Wi-Fi sounds like a good thing but it was soooo slow.  I had planned to blog in the evenings when the kids were asleep but is was to slow to do anything.
  • VERY busy on Saturday.  As we were leaving on Saturday at about 1:30 we went by the lobby to say goodbye to the animals.  It was a zoo – and I don’t mean the animals. The line up to check in was crazy.  We were very happy to be leaving at the time.  I am not sure if they are that busy every weekend or if it was because it was Mother’s Day weekend.
Would we go back? Definately.  On Sunday we were driving to Mother’s Day dinner and when Kaitlyn was asked why she was so glum she replied: “I wish we were at Great Wolf Lodge”.  I don’t know if we would get the the inclusive package again – I would have to price it out to see what would be the better deal.  We would also do everything in our power not to go on a weekend.  This will be difficult when I go back to work.  Has anyone ever been in the summer?  Would be interested to know how busy it gets in the summer.
A great family vacation!
Posted in Family Adventures

Our Niagara Falls Adventure

We have been looking forward to this trip for a while.  I have been trying to take the kids to Great Wolf Lodge for a couple of years now but it always gets put off.  Last Christmas my in-laws wanted to give us money for a trip.  I suggested that maybe a gift card for Great Wolf Lodge would be a good idea, because we wouldn’t be able to put the money towards everyday expenses and it would force us to take the trip.  We had to wait until tax season was done because my husband is a Chartered Accountant, and we wanted to go after the election so we booked our trip starting today.

Today we left Simcoe around 1:00, after Eileen’s speech therapy class.  My birthday is tomorrow, and about 10 minutes after leaving home Gord asked me if I wanted to open my present.  As soon as he said that, knowing my birthday isn’t until tomorrow, I figured out I must have got what I asked for – a Bloggie Touch!  I had been thinking having a Flip Cam would be awesome right about the time they announced they were going to stop making them.  Then I came across an article outlining other similar type camcorders.  I quietly forwarded the article to Gord suggesting that one of these might be a great birthday idea and voila!  I have had it for about 8 hours and so far I love it.  I am going to play around with it on this trip and then will write a full review when I  get home.

I decided that we should spend one night in Niagara Falls before going to Great Wolf Lodge.  Our first stop was the Butterfly Conservatory.  Kaitlyn’s studied butterflies in Kindergarten in the fall so I thought she would find this cool.  Well, Mommy thought it was a pretty cool place. There were hundreds of butterflies, and it felt like they were going to fly right into you but they never did.  There was one who kept landing on Michael’s stoller.  The girls like it but I think they were more intrigued by the man made waterfall inside the observatory.  In another area there were informational displays and I think we all learned more in this area.  Cool fact of the day = Butterflies taste their food with their feet.

After the conservatory we headed into downtown Niagara Falls for dinner.  Our plan was to take the kids to the Rainforest Cafe.  We had trouble finding it at first because it is in it’s own alcove but once we saw the sign I am not sure how we missed it. The girls had to pose on the bench with the frog Cha Cha for a picture before we even made it in the building.  When we first walked it I thought “Wow this is cool”.  As we were seated we were given the outline of the restaurant and explanation of the thunderstorms every 30 minutes and how the animals ‘come to life’.  I thought this might be kind of fun for the kids but the girls immediately got freaked out that the animals would come to life and attack them.  Gord and I were worried it would feel like a very long dinner. As the dinner went on they began to share my feelings and Kaitlyn went from “I never want to come back here again” to “I love this place”.  We took many walks around the restaurant, encouraged by the wait staff, to visit all the animals both real and pretend.  The best question had to be Kaitlyn asking why they had a shark in the restaurant (a real one) if there were no sharks in the rainforest.  We agreed it was a good question!

Next we checking into our hotel, The Embassy Suites Niagara Falls.  We are very happy with the hotel and considering where we are it seems very reasonably priced.  I did pay a bit more to get a room with a great view of the Horseshoe Falls but it was worth it to see the girls plastered against the window.  They even got so see the falls lite up at night from the comfort of our room.  This is also a great hotel room for mom and dad because it has two separate room.  This means Daddy can watch the hockey game and I can blog while the kids are sound asleep in the other room.  So far very happy with our selection.

The one other thing we did before turning in for the night was taking a drive & walk down by the falls.  Kaitlyn was initally terrified someone would fall it but we did convince her it was safe.  It was cute when she started to question why it was raining and we told her that it was just the mist off the falls.  We weren’t there long as they were getting tired by we can now say we took them to see the falls.

A great first day of vacation.  Looking forward to a quiet morning, as much as it can be with 3 young kids, and then heading to Great Wolf Lodge early tomorrow afternoon.