Wednesday, July 25, 2012

2012 Summer Family Fun in Greenville

Whether you are local or visiting for a few days, there are many fun activities going on in the Greenville area this summer...and some are year-round. And much of it is FREE or very inexpensive!

If you're headed for beautiful downtown Greenville, your family can hunt out the nine unique mice sculptures hidden in surprising places along Main Street. The Mice on Main website gives clues for finding the cute bronze mice.

The fountain at Riverplace off S. Main under the bridge is a great place for kids to beat the heat running through spraying water.

There are many wonderful parks and playgrounds in Greenville, including the Children's Garden at Linky Stone Park (under the bridge at Academy St). This magical garden is full of life-size storybook characters!

We found a couple of new reading programs this year. Check out the Barnes & Noble reading program to earn a free book. Read 8 books, complete printable Reading Journal, and take into your local B&N store by Sept 4, 2012.
The Woodruff Rd B&N store offers children's storytime on Tuesdays at 10. The Haywood Rd location has story time Saturday at 11 am. Also, Barnes & Noble offers an online story time each month with a different author.

The local library offers great summer activities and exciting guest performers. Get signed up here for the summer reading programs which reward readers of all ages!

TD Bank will deposit $10 in a bank account for any child who reads 10 books and brings the completed form printed from their site into their local branch by Sept 29, 2012.

Fiction Addiction bookstore on Woodruff Road across from Costco has Children's Storytime Thursdays at 10:30.

Introduce your child to Shakespeare in a lively and engaging setting with Summer Shakespeare. This year's show is As You Like it...set in the 70s. It's an hour-long performance and young children who are able to sit that long are invited to attend. Tickets are only $5 and it is always a colorful, fun, and witty performance!

Get a couple of families together and set up a group tour at Great Harvest Bread (1467 Woodruff Road). Enjoy a sample of their delicious breads or bakery treats.

Beat the heat with a super cheap daytime movie. Regal Summer Movie Express has $1 kid movies on Tues/Wed mornings at 10! Greenville locations are Cherrydale or Hollywood on Woodruff. Check out all the details here for cheap summer movies when it is too hot or rainy to play outside! This deal applies to many areas outside Greenville, also.
Great Escape Theater in Simpsonville has free kids movies starting at 9:30 am Tues/Wed/Thur mornings. Download more info here.

Shakespeare in the park! This summer's performace is Henry V, opening July 12. If you haven't been downtown to see a free play at the Falls Park on the Reedy, then check this out.

If you are looking for a FREE family night idea, bring a picnic supper and enjoy the Furman Lakeside concert. Check out the schedule (Thursdays at 7:30) here!

The Shops at Greenridge will be showing FREE Drive-in movies Friday nights in August! Schedule is here.

If you live in Greer, be sure to check out the listings for FREE outdoor Moonlight movies on Thursday nights at Greer City Park.

And if you live in Simpsonville, head over to Heritage Park for some great movies this summer. The gates open at 7:30 and movies start around 9pm on the lawn.

Plan a family outing at Paris Mountain State Park. It is inexpensive and a great family place to play. Pack a picnic or food to grill, and enjoy a summer day of hiking, paddle-boats, swimming, and frisbee! And they have camping sites if you're up for an entire weekend in the great outdoors! Here is the main site.

George the Train is a historic mini-train that runs at the Pavilion. Rides are offered April thru October on Tues/Fri/Sat/Sun. Check here for more info.

Another local miniature train runs at Heritage Park in Simpsonville. You can climb aboard Sat/Sun. Contact info here.

Please leave a comment if you've found any other inexpensive kid-friendly entertainment in the area!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Creativity Corner: Make Mini Books!

Last week my daughter was playing with a craft book.  She discovered a wonderful cut-out page that created small books using only a few simple pages that we cut and stapled together. We loved them so much that I thought we should create our own from scratch! 
The idea behind this is so simple, but sometimes kids enjoy making something that is entirely their own.  There are many levels of learning and many directions you could go with this basic concept--the sky's the limit!  To begin, I took one piece of cardstock and cut it into 3 equal rectangular pieces.  If you want to let your child practice cutting, let her do this part; it doesn't have to be perfect!
Next, I folded each rectangle in half and asked Maddy to tell me a story.  I thought she might need time to brainstorm but she had her basic story down and was drawing within a minute.  For some reason my daughter was obsessed with "diamonds" on this particular day, so her story was all about diamonds.  She drew a picture on her cover, then began a story on the inside.  I was nearby to help, but for the most part she came up with each drawing (illustration :) and sentence on her own.
Once she had finished her drawings, I helped connect the book by stapling the center pages together.  If you wanted to create a more attractive work of art or a gift, you could easily use a hole punch and ribbon or something more refined than metal staples.  You could also create a thicker cover using cardboard (cereal box) and glue, etc.  We will continue experimenting with this!
When we had the book in one piece I helped her fill in the words.  To do this I wrote out the sentences, then she copied them onto her book pages.  An older child should be encouraged to write entirely on his/her own.  This simple project turned into a great learning activity as we wrote colors and words and learned about the basic layout of books, as well as reading from left to right.  I think the fact that the pages are small kept her attention and helped keep her from feeling overwhelmed by a huge blank page!
For some reason my kids love tiny things, and I'm sure I will find this treasure buried away in a pink purse for many months to come.  Maddy was very proud of the story and book she created almost entirely by herself and we will definitely be making many more of these in the future, most likely using different themes and more pages.  What story will your child tell?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Munchies: Simple Snacking Surprises.

So, occasionally I'll see something like this:
 or this:
....and I start feeling pretty crummy about the lame Wheat Thins or Goldfish I threw in a baggy at my kid just before heading into the van.

And while it is awe inspiring and really nice for a party or special occasion to spend an hour creating a snack masterpiece that will be devoured in approximately 5 minutes, I've discovered that just a little twist on an old (and inexpensive) favorite can result in a big smile and an unspoken understanding of love between me and my kids.

So, break out the Pretzel sticks.

Sometimes (especially for family movie night) I give my kids pretzel sticks for a snack.  After Easter we had lots of egg candy lying around.  When I dumped a few pretzels into the bowl and it looked like a nest, I put a few Robin Eggs chocolates inside and voilĂ ! An exciting bird's nest snacktime was born.

Since our first bird's nest snack, I have tried a few different twists with things we have on hand. Marshmallows also make a fun surprise in your nest.  And sometimes I arrange the pretzels to look like a little bonfire with a few marshmallows stuck to the ends like we are going to roast them on the fire. The kids LOVE this! 
While I hope to keep aspiring to a level of superior child snacking such as this:

My kids are pretty happy with our little pretzel nests and pretzel bonfires.  What are some simple snacking favorites in your family?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Mercies Anew!

Every morning that breaks
There are mercies anew
Every breath that I take
Is your faithfulness proved
And at the end of each day
When my labors are through
I will sing of Your mercies anew!

The sun came up fiercely today--it broke through the curtains and I was reminded just how much I have to be thankful for.

This morning we drove to school without music or distracted chatter about Legos and the Backyardigans.  We had real conversations about baby calves that we passed in the field and the gorgeous Queen Anne's Lace that grows wild by the road.  We laughed and when Griffin gave his brother a big kiss before he headed out the van door, I couldn't help praising God in my heart for mornings like this. For mercies anew.

This week I'm thankful for so many things. 
~For more blessings in our lives in the form of new babies born into our family.
~For cool mornings and soggy dew.
~For a bountiful garden in the backyard.
~For an amazing husband and daddy who cares for us.
~For a 2 year-old who hysterically gains independence each day.
~For my big kids who are helpful and seeking and growing.

But most of all for this.  A reminder that even when it is foggy and rainy and the sun isn't shining, God and his mercy is constant!

And Your mercies, they will never end
For ten thousand years they’ll remain
And when this world’s beauty has passed away
Your mercies will be unchanged

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mother's Day: One-Memory-a-Day Journal

My children are growing fast...way too fast. And they do cute and funny little things every day, which I am already forgetting. 

So I gave myself an early little Mother's Day gift this year: a One-Memory-a-Day Journal.

Confession: I am a wanna-be journaler. Truth be told, I am actually a wanna-be Memory-Keeper in several areas. Don't ask me how far my children's Baby books have progressed (one is unopened!) or how my scrapbooks are going (the photos are all there in Photoshop...not printed, not laid out digitally for a Photobook...just waiting...) And even my great intent to keep separate journals for the kids of all their funny antics is basically still a pile of notes on calendars that I need to get around to copying over to actual journals...

But this one is different. It's not intimidating at all. The goal is to write at least one sentence from the day. It keeps track of all the sweet little happenings that may not be Big Firsts or hilarious stories to share at future family get-togethers...just happy memories our family will cherish reading when the kids are grown.

I grabbed a little journal at Staples and started it May 1. So far, I'm still on track!

If you have young children or need a gift idea for a new or young Mom for Mother's Day, give her a cute journal with the instructions to jot One little Memory a day.  She will love it forever!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Kid Creativity: Bounce Back Game Time.

Sometimes a new game will spring up when we least expect it. I love it when my kids come up with something entirely on their own; I'm always happy to help point them down the pioneering path.

Since it was blazing hot by 9 a.m. on Saturday, our only outdoor option was to pull out the tiny inflatable baby pool and splash around.  After a while my 6-year-old got bored with the little pool and started looking for another outdoor option.  

We have two boys in our house, so we are constantly bouncing with bouncy balls. There are balls in every shape and size, from the least bouncy to the bounciest.  I don't mind a bouncy ball one bit.  I will take 10 totes full of bouncy balls over 1 harmonica or drum any day.

My boys have been on a ball kick lately and it is something that they enjoy playing together--even with their four year age gap, so that's nice.  Since we have an endless supply of bouncing balls around the house, I let them bring a few outside and bounce them around. Eventually the bouncing balls found their way into the baby pool--large target. Then we started hunting for smaller and smaller targets: buckets, totes, cans.  I finally remembered my awesome stash of yogurt containers that I had in the pantry.  I have been saving them because they are just too great to throw away (*cough hoarder *cough) and yesterday we finally put them to use.
Once we set the yogurt containers around the baby pool, we circled them with chalk and put various numbers to represent points at each spot, depending on how difficult we thought each shot would be.  Next, we drew a line for him to stand behind while throwing the bouncy balls and he drew a scoreboard for each player.  
Once the game was all set up (which was really the fun part anyway) it was time to play.  Griffin had fun bouncing the ball and attempting to steer the bounciness into the small yogurt containers.  It was a challenging game and he was very excited even if the ball simply touched the container.  Of course he also had to keep moving farther back.

Games are everywhere.  If you encourage your kids to run with their own creativity, you'll be surprised how far they go with it.  The yogurt/pool/bouncy game might not make it onto the shelves of Toys-R-Us anytime soon, but I had a great time creating something from nothing with my boys.  What is a fun game that your family created or modified lately?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thankful Thursday: A Trip to the Home Beauty Salon.

This morning was low-key.  I managed to sleep in until the glorious hour of 7 a.m. Shockingly rare.  I enjoyed my coffee and some reading time.  The kids have played nicely and we managed to get a few things organized before we head over to school for lunch duty with Griffin.

I was sitting on the floor watching my daughter accessorize a stuffed elephant when my little guy came over and asked if he could brush my hair.  Sure, why not. 
He started out gently and carefully brushing the back of my hair and gradually became more emboldened until I'm pretty sure he brushed away part of my left ear.  Instead of screaming I started laughing which only caused him to brush harder and crazier.  

He always keeps us on our toes--full of joy and finding adventure in every task and every moment.  His moment of hair-brushing glory ended shortly after encountering this tangle on Maddy's head.  He needs a little more practice in the art of gentleness.

As these simple moments pass, I am reminded that I am fortunate to be home with my sweet babies to cherish these casual mornings.  I am blessed to see the joy in little faces, the discovery of new adventures, and even the tiny disappointments and daily failures.
I love these kids.  I'm thankful for these mornings and know that they are fleeting.  And as the calendar fills and Summer draws near, I'm reminded to "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4. 
Not just sometimes. Always. What a challenge!

**top photos by Maddy, age 5**

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jump Starting My Week.

Yes, even weekends can be crazy.

Sometimes it's impossible to get caught up on things over the weekend, and I rely on a lazy Monday to get things back on track. Yesterday was supposed to be our lazy Monday, but shockingly, things don't always go as planned.
We have been staying busy lately, which might partially explain my lack of blog posts. As school and everything else winds down, we have also found ourselves doing things such as:

Learning to ride a bike.

Repairing a deck.
This awesome Mud Run with mom friends.

And on and on...
So yesterday, on our supposed lazy Monday morning, when I chose not to shower and get ready for the day before conquering breakfast with the kids and school, it is no wonder that the engine wouldn't turn when we loaded up at 7:35 in the morning. 
It's no surprise that the battery was dead as a doornail, which by the way—have you ever wondered what that saying means? Look no further
And it was unusually chilly yesterday morning; as I unloaded kids (2 of them still in PJ's) from the van and called my husband at work, I kissed lazy Monday goodbye. As I waited for our sweet neighbor to come with jumper cables, I scrambled to dress my little ones more appropriately for the weather and switched myself from PJ pants to jeans.

While we rushed over to school, then on to Goodyear to switch cars with my husband, followed by 3 consecutive shopping errands, I struggled to keep perspective on our Monday turn of events. While I worried over the fact that I might run into a familiar face in public with my ragamuffin kids and my day-in-the-life-of-a-mommy attire, my kids joyfully sang and played in the backseat and played eye-spy in shopping carts.

I am realizing more and more that these trivial upsets in my routine shape me more than any lazy Monday ever could. How can I really rate a dead car battery, a tardy kindergartner and an annoyance in my change of plans in the big scheme of things? I keep thinking back to one year ago when our little guy was hospitalized for viral pneumonia. 

It was scary; it helped pull everything into perspective for us. It reminded us to be thankful for the truly important things and people in our lives.  And you can bet we held them all a little closer and tighter that week.

I think of my friend Sarah who is a passionate advocate for the people of Sudan. I think of those woman and children near the Nuba Mountains who try to avoid bombs and famine while I sit here typing in my house, stressed about surviving until Season 3 of Downton Abbey.
I have to keep my own undesirable situations in perspective, and learn what I can from each tiny trial.  And as our crazy Monday morning finally culminated in a spectacular moment of triumph when Mason used his potty in the front of the Camry in the Post Office parking lot because we were out of other options, I had to laugh.
And even though I'm pretty sure I sent at least one exasperated text yesterday morning using words like “blerg” and “annoyed,” I'm very thankful for these lazy manageable Mondays. And even though Mondays are the potholes in the road of life, it's true, these tiny potholes are molding and preparing me for who knows what. It's not very hard to recover from the inconvenience of a dead battery and a trip to the store in Pajamas and no make-up.  I'm still trying to keep the big picture in check, remembering that these little warm-up stretches are hopefully making me more flexible for future, bigger potholes.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Toddler Toy: Upcycle a Wipes Tub

This Huggies wipes tub was just too cute to throw away! I decided to recycle it into a fun little activity for my 2-year-old. (Incidentally, I recommend the Huggies tubs over other brands because of the rubbery opening that is softer on little hands.) Ever left your toddler alone with a tissue box or wipes come back later and find it had been emptied one-by-one? Yeah. The fascination of one little white corner appearing after another...

To fill my tub, I pulled out a bunch of fabric scraps and cut rectangles about the size of a small paperback book. I tried to find different colors and textures--velvet, satin, flannel, and corduroy.

Then I cut some different shapes--oval, triangle, circle, heart, and square. I even pulled out a couple of my son's favorite old t-shirts that were in the rag bag because of holes or stains and cut out the front picture. This is a great option for anyone who doesn't have fabric around. The nice thing about t-shirt fabric is that it won't fray around the edges either.

If you knew your child would play with this over and over, you may want to go to the trouble of hemming the edges of your cloths. I didn't bother.

When I gave it to my son this morning, he had a lot of fun with it and got some good practice naming his colors and shapes. To keep it interesting, we made up games, such as "Find me the green cloth!" and "Sort the shapes."

It's a quick "toy" to make, and something that can be pulled out for Quiet play when Mom needs to make a phone call or fix a meal!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Fresh Batch of Lunch Love Notes for Springtime!

It is hard to focus on school when it's sunny and warm and the green grass is calling. 
I wanted to cook up a fresh batch of love notes for my big guy to remind him that the lazy days of Summer are just around the corner--he will make it!  We all will make it!

It's time to finish strong; here are a few more love notes to print and place in your child's lunch or in his room or at the breakfast table as we finish out the school year!
Simply go here and print your own Lunch Love Notes!  If you want to make re-usable notes, print on cardstock and laminate them--my son usually brings his notes back home with him.  Hang in there....Summer is coming!
"Spring unlocks the flowers to paint the laughing soil.
~Reginald Heber.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dyed Pasta: Multi-Purpose Entertainment!

Who knew a couple of boxes of pasta and some food coloring could provide my kids with multiple fun and learning activities enjoyed over a couple of days' time?! One of my son's home school lessons this week showed how to dye pasta and make beads to string. We dug out several kinds of noodles and prepared several cups of colorful beads. But the necklaces were just a start...we have actually used these noodles for three more activities so far. And happily, it took a whole 10 minutes of prep with things I already had on hand!

First, for the dye job. Materials needed:
  • dry pasta in various shapes
  • vinegar OR rubbing alcohol (the vinegar smell will linger, but may be preferable option if you fear a noodle "taste-test")
  • small plastic ziploc bags
  • food coloring
  • paper towels on trays

Put a cup of dry pasta in a ziploc. Add 1 TBSP of the vinegar OR rubbing alcohol and several drops of food coloring to the bag. Close it up and gently smoosh it around to color all the pasta.

Empty it on paper towels to dry. Best to leave it overnight.

I only had food coloring gel around, and a couple of the colors didn't dye the pasta so well by this method. So I actually mixed the gel with the rubbing alcohol and a cup of water in a bowl and we let the noodles sit in it for 7-8 minutes until the color "took." Not too long or the noodles would get mushy. That worked much better for us.

Noodle Fun #1: Beading!

String the beads on plastic elastic cord for necklaces or bracelets. Love the bright colors!

Noodle Fun #2: Sorting!

Using the sorting idea from this post, I gave my 2-year-old a muffin tin and several colors of pasta mixed together in a bowl. I showed him how to sort the colors in separate tins.

He LOVED it and sorted over and over for an hour-and-a-half! My 4-year-old thought it was super fun and did it several times too...first by color, then by shape.

Noodle Fun #3: Math Manipulative!

Use the pasta to make patterns. I laid out a pattern of various colors/shapes on a paper, and then asked my daughter to copy it. I hadn't tried this before with her, and she really liked the activity. She even made a complicated pattern for ME to copy! Noodles=learning fun for everyone.

Noodle Fun #4: Easter craft!

I drew an Egg shape on colored paper, added some craft glue, and then had the kids decorate their Easter eggs. They loved their pretty eggs.

Gotta love when you can make several new and exciting activities for FREE with a few supplies from the pantry!