Toddler Lesson: Pumpkins

Our first homeschooling lesson with friends last week was a success! My son Kai is one month away from hitting 2.5 years old, and I began to realize the importance of social interaction along with a structured form of learning and playing.

After a few failed attempts of teaching my toddler the alphabet at home on my own, I started talking with other moms and seeking some online resources for guidance and inspiration.

And, finally after speaking with a few of my mommy friends who I met at the library, I really got motivated and started developing a toddler curriculum during my recent trip.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Every Wednesday morning, for about an hour, I teach and direct play! That first day, we welcomed two of Kai’s friends to our house! They are both very close in age. The little boy is one month older than Kai and the little girl is three months younger than him. All the kids have their own personalities, which makes the class challenging yet educational. Everyone gets to show his or her strongpoints and they can learn a great deal from each other!

Lesson Plan and Poster

Below is my lesson plan. It’s a FREE PDF DOWNLOAD of PUMPKIN LESSON PLAN.

So feel free to view, download, and print at home!  I have included the sources I have used in the file, and additional resources will be listed in the Resources section of this post.

Pumpkins Lesson Plan

Here was my toddler homeschooling lesson poster:)

homeschooling a toddler pumpkin lesson poster board

As you may notice, it was a lot to cover! I ended up having to make an adjustment mid-way through the lesson and eliminated the life cycle of a pumpkin because it just didn’t seem like it was going to grab the kids’ attention.

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Water Activities

This one is a picture of the pumpkin washing station where I filled a large plastic bin with some warm water and added some brushes for the kids to clean off the dirt from the pumpkin. We did this activity indoors so I ended up putting a towel underneath the tub, but you could easily bring the classroom outdoors too!

In my mind, this teaches the toddlers to focus on cleaning something, and it demonstrates the importance of helping and working together to complete chores.

pumpkin washing and cleaning station for toddlers

To the right of my son you may also notice another plastic bin. This one was used to demonstrate the concepts of sink or float?! We first saw this activity in an episode of Blippi!  My son absolutely loves watching his educational videos. I think Blippi is very enthusiastic and definitely captures the attention of my little one. I enjoy watching Blippi with my son in small doses:)

Anyways, when I introduced sink or float to the kids, they automatically began putting all the objects into the water and their goal was to play. This was perfectly fine because it was getting their attention and it was more of a “free play” activity! It wasn’t my goal, but we were totally happy with the kids enjoying themselves. That is really our goal here: for the kids to have fun, learn to play with other kids, and conduct their own experiments and create their own form of curious play.

Pumpkin Painting and Decorating

In between my structured teaching, we handed out brushes, paint, and smocks, and everyone brought their own pumpkins to paint! The kids had fun painting. Afterwards, we let them dry and I bought Halloween-themed foam stickers from the Dollar Tree for the kids to stick them on after our Chinese lesson!

toddlers painting pumpkins for a homeschooling craft activity

In addition to painting and decorating their very own pumpkins, the kids got a chance to help measure out the ingredients while we made slime for the first time!

Pirate pumpkinSkeleton pumpkin

Pumpkin Slime-Making

One of my mommy friends brought pumpkin seeds, which were so scrumptious! She got the ones that were seeded and salted. YUM! We all got to taste-test these pumpkin seeds before we added them to our slime mixture.

The recipe we used to make this version of slime can be found here.

It took a little bit to figure out how to not make it as sticky, but it turned out to be such an amazing sensory activity for them.

pumpkin slime with pumpkin seeds

Kai and I ended up playing with it after everyone left, and we must have spent over a half an hour on this activity.

Little Passports

Chinese for Pumpkin

Here are the Chinese characters for pumpkin. In pinyin it’s n√°nguńĀ.

Chinese characters for pumpkin

I have included a printout for you to download for Pp is for Pumpkin, which includes the Chinese characters for pumpkin.

The Chinese resources I used during my lesson are found in the Resources section of this post.

$1 Craft Supplies at Dollar Tree!

Pumpkin Bread

Another mom friend made pumpkin bread and brought it for everyone to share. It was so thoughtful! We really have a wonderful and creative team of moms in the group. So happy.

After the lesson and activities, the kids got to play upstairs in Kai’s play room. And, we all got to have some pumpkin bread and other snacks. It was a nice time to just wind down and do some bonding.

Feedback

I was so happy with the feedback! One thing I am going to try and focus on is getting the kids’ attentions as soon as we start the lesson.

It had been a while since one of the little girls had been to our house, and the little boy had never been here before. Hence, distractions galore:)

We are hoping the next time the kids come over, I will plan for more songs to grab everyone’s attention. Maybe playing some dance music or adding a few more songs in the beginning of the lesson to set the toddlers in “lesson mode”?

Kai, of course, was just too comfortable and drawing on the whiteboard while I was reading the books, haha.

One suggestion was to do a rotation, where, every week we would travel to other mom’s houses and everyone would plan their own lessons. Such a wonderful network of moms here. And an amazing idea…that we would definitely want to do after the holidays. Why? Well, one of my mommy friends is leaving for a month to visit family out-of-state. And, the following month, our family will be away for a month and a half, traveling.

Everything will return back to a normal schedule come January 2019. So, we could essentially start this rotational homeschooling program with the toddlers then. For the remainder of the autumn season, I have developed the curriculum and will continue to host the kids at my house or wherever we are. And, during our time away from each other, the moms will have the choice to use my weekly lesson plans and do their own activities at home.

It was such a great first run. 

I’m super excited to be doing this with my toddler. He’s having such an amazing time learning. It also gives me purpose. I am thankful for having friends so Kai is able to socialize and interact with them.

xErgo baby Love Carries On/Go Far Stay Close

Field Trip Tie-In

Before or after each lesson, my intention is to bring the classroom outside for the kids to explore and experience things first-hand. With the colorful changing seasons of New England, what a perfect way for us to do some family bonding while reinforcing a lesson topic:)

Our intention was to visit a local pumpkin patch and do some hayrides. Unfortunately, he started getting a runny nose, the coughs and sneezes:(

Last night, he was up a few hours because he couldn’t breath from his nose. I honestly swear this kid gets sick so many times during the year. It’s at least once a month if he’s interacting with other people. I’m praying his immune system is solid once he gets older because he’s probably caught 70% of the colds out there.

Maybe we will take a family trip to a local farm that incorporates all of the autumn topics I’m covering.

Resources

Here are the links I used throughout the lesson:

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Thank you ALL for reading! If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment:)

Homeschooling my Toddler

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Boston Children’s Museum Day Trip

Boston Children’s Museum Day Trip
Friday, August 10, 2018

Sometimes going on day trips and taking advantage of where your home base is, is the best way to explore.

Explore locally.

So my husband took a guys fishing trip to Key West, Florida for about five days. Oh I’m really hoping he will write a short post about his trip…or maybe I’ll do an interview! Anyways, while he was away, I had planned a few activities to keep my toddler and me busy.

Preparation

My friend Paolina and her one-year old Isabella met up with us.

We both had planned to pack our own lunches. This always takes a little time. My go-to: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches:) well I made one PB&J with the crusts cut off and cut into triangles for Kai. I also made one ham and cheese with mayo sans crust for him. I made myself a buffalo chicken sandwich with mustard, and I brought some baby carrots dipped in hummus with pine nuts (so tasty)! One thing Kai loves is his milk.

I always pack a change of clothes and underwear for Kai. And, extra shoes too! Since he was going to do a lot of walking, I made sure to put on socks and sneakers for him. I did notice there were some rooms with water, so I packed sandals for him too!

The Trip

We met at the Boston Children’s Museum, and we both drove into Boston. I live in Rhode Island, so Boston is about an hour north of me. Paolina lives north of Boston, so we met in a good location.

I left my house around 10am to try and avoid the rush hour traffic into the city. It worked out pretty well!

Parking garage options are listed on their webpage. We opted for the one located at: 280 Congress Street, Boston, MA.

The rate: $20 for the day with a validated parking ticket from the museum.

Kai and I got to the parking garage around 11:20am. Paolina had just parked, so she waited for me in the elevator area while I got all of his stuff together.

Stroller ride to the Boston Children's Museum

Thankfully we brought our stroller with us. It was quite useful when commuting from the parking garage to the museum itself.

Navigating the Museum

Here is the link to the museum floor plan. The museum is fairly large compared to the one in Providence, RI.

Once we were there it having the stroller was a little bit of a hassle, but the museum had ample stroller parking space alongside or outside of the exhibits.

This was both of our first times here at the museum.

Because I have a family plus membership to the Providence Children’s Museum I was able to get a 50% discount for up to six guests in total at the Boston Children’s Museum. You should check your local museum to see if they participate.

Here you can find a chart listing museums participating in the reciprocal program! This way, if you get a membership to your local museum, you are able to get a 50% discount to other museums:)

Food First!

Our first stop after purchasing tickets was to find a lunch area where we could eat our packed lunches. We ended up having to around to the cafe (Au Bon Pain) which was to the right of the ticketing area. Food for purchase was available, but since we brought our own lunches, we just ate that.  The cafeteria is a really cute space with ample high chairs if your child needs one.

We started from the top and worked our way downstairs.

Third Floor

There is a large construction play area, filled with trucks, tracks, and large working equipment for children to play on! There are costumes for the little ones to play dress up, and there were areas for them to climb on; bridges to walk across. It was as if you were in a large city environment in a construction zone.

We didn’t get a chance to see the Japanese House because they were doing guided tours every 15 minutes or so, and the timing just didn’t work out when we were there.

One thing we enjoyed was the large dinosaur they had on display. You were able to use the controls and push the buttons for the huge mechanical dino to move its head and arms. It also roars loudly.

Second Floor

The play space for kids 0-3 was a nice and contained area for the younger ones to explore and play! There were little areas for kids to play pretend and use their imagination. There is also a little playground area for the little ones to climb up and slide down. There is a scarf station that uses a vacuum.

Kids playing in water area at the Boston Children's Museum

I believe the water area is on this floor too!

First floor

To your left, after you purchase tickets, you will notice a large jungle gym. It is the same type of jungle gym/maze that the Providence Children’s Museum has outdoors.

There are a lot of sensory activities for kids to partake in. Kai especially enjoyed playing with the golf balls and rolling them down the ramps.

The bubble room was very entertaining as well. There is an interactive exercise area where kids are able to use a pulley system and pedal on stationary bike to race. It’s all about ‘energy’, and it was fun.

Right before we left, we decided to catch one of the kids shows at KidStage: Three Little Pigs. The performers were so entertaining. They asked for seven volunteers: three little pigs, three houses, and one big bad wolf.

Everyone did an amazing job.

Conclusions

Will we come back? It’s definitely likely, since you can really spend a lot of time here. My only concern would be how germ-infested it is during the winter months when outdoor playgrounds are of no use since it’s freezing in New England…but that’s everywhere I guess.

This museum will wear you AND your child out. Paolina and I thought it was necessary to get a caffeinated beverage from the Starbucks across the street when we left.

If you parked in an affiliated parking garage, don’t forget to get your ticket validated by the museum!

Thanks for reading about our day trip.

Little Passports

Woodstock, eh?

2018 ROAD TRIP TO MAINE & CANADA
Days 4 – 8: Sunday, 7/15 – Wednesday, 7/18

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Campground, Woodstock, New Brunswick, Canada

We crossed the Canadian border for the first time with Kai and Stanley! It was a breeze. No line at all. The officer didn’t even ask to see Stanley’s papers.¬† Woodstock was literally right over the border.

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There was an hour time difference. They are one hour ahead of EST. It worked out perfectly because we were able to check in when we got there, just before 1pm.

After we set up shop, we were famished! I asked a park ranger for a recommendation for food, and she said Murray’s which was inside of Irving Gas Station. It was literally a 2-minute drive to get there.

It was a homestyle diner kinda place. Not bad. Food food was nothing to rave about. LOVED the strawberry shortcake. Biscuit and fresh strawberries made the dessert.

That first afternoon there we took Kai to the water park. We all had a blast!

Jellystone Park New Brunswick

We stayed a total of four nights.

I had been wanting to visit a Jellystone Park. We loved the campsite we were given. Even though it was a bit farther from the main attractions, we enjoyed not hearing the cars passing along the highway. We were right next to the washrooms and laundry facilities = perfect, since there was no sewer hookup in the campground.

None of the sites here have sewer hookups. Only water and electric. They have three sewer stations. During our stay, we ended up showering and washing our dishes in the washroom.

I also did a load of laundry.

Included amenities/attractions: mini golf, bounce houses/obstacle courses, large water slides, basketball court, various playgrounds, hayrides every evening with Yogi bear himself, and a huge water play area with two additional (smaller) slides.

The only thing it did not have was a dog park for Stanley, our Cairn Terrier.

 

Our Routine

Our routine was wonderful while we were there.  In the morning we either went to the inflatable bouncy things, or played mini golf or just did something dry. Then in the afternoon (after his nap) we would go to the water park.

It was nice to have mini golf included because I had been wanting to take Kai and pay, but I wasn’t sure how he would do. He loved picking up all of our golf balls (after our initial swings) and putting them into the hole =p

Overall, Kai and our entire family thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Woodstock, NB at the Jellystone Campground. It had activities to keep all of us entertained.

¬†Interested in reading more about our first RV experience? Here are our posts for our first ever family RVing experience with our very first travel trailer, our first day of travel, and our first time participating in campground’s family-themed weekend!

Halloween in July

2018 ROAD TRIP TO MAINE & CANADA

Days 2 – 4
Thursday, 7/12 – Sunday, 7/15

After our action-packed first day and our first time boondocking at the Cabela’s in Maine, we drove up north to Medway, where we had booked three nights at Katahdin Shadows Campground.

The last ten minutes of the ride, Kai was not having it:( hence the crying toddler pictured above.

What made it worse was that Michael had to check into the campground and get all of our paperwork. So Kai wanted to see Daddy. Poor kid.

I did turn on an episode of Dino Dana on our Amazon Fire HD 8 tablet and that helped a lot! Kai loves watching Dino Dana. That and Curious George are two shows that definitely keep him entertained.

Initially, we had planned this route because Michael and his guy friends were planning on hiking Mt. Katahdin on Saturday. His friends were supposed to drive up on Friday, camp that night and get an early start on the hike on Saturday, camp that night and leave Sunday.

I had found a family-friendly campground. They were having a Halloween-themed weekend, so I could bond with Kai and Stanley while Michael was away.

The week before our trip, his friends all backed out from hiking.

Guess that meant more family time! As you can imagine, Michael was overjoyed to spend HALLOWEEN weekend with us in JULY!

Katahdin Shadows Campground

Staff was very friendly!

Prior to our stay, we were fortunate enough to get a call back from the campground a few days before we arrived. We were on a waitlist for a 50 amp, pull-thru site with a sewer hookup. We ended up getting it. That was such wonderful news.

I did read a review about the check in area being fairly steep for a big rig to pull into. We had no problems. But it was nice to have a idea beforehand.

The sites were all fairly close together at this campground. The playground is such a wonderful area and since it was Halloween weekend, the campground was fully booked. That meant a lot of kids!

I would definitely recommend this campground to families with young kids with an RV. It gets loud, but it adds to the community and excitement of it all.

It surely isn’t for the older couple look for a nice relaxing and quite environment or the young couple looking for nature hiking and biking; unless you are simply going to Baxter State Park for the day.

One thing to note about Baxter State Park is that it is not dog-friendly.

The staff and people here were super friendly! There are a lot of seasonal campers here and what’s great is there are also cabin rentals and just regular tent sites. Those are more private and tucked away. So, if you are someone who doesn’t have an RV and enjoy tent camping, this campground offers a very different environment, away from the noise.

Getting settled

That first evening, we decided to get some essentials: food. We asked the staff and they informed us of a local market at the gas station right down the road from the campground. It was called the Big Apple Store. They had the essentials. So, we were very happy.

We decided to take the bikes with us! Before we had Kai, we had Stanley, our cairn terrier. When we got bicycles for us, we also invested in one of these InStep bicycle trailers so that our little pup, Stanley could ride with us:)

Now that we have Kai, he can ride in it while my husband pulls him. It’s so perfect when we have sort of a long distance to go but would rather take our bikes to get there a bit faster.

In this case, we needed to purchase a gallon of milk, drinkable water and some other groceries! And we just didn’t feel like driving because that’s all we had been doing for two whole days.

The bike trailer is able to seat two kids, so it was just enough space to fit Kai and all the groceries we purchased:)

Local summer festival

On Friday, we found out there was a little festival in town, not far from the campground. It was the East Millinocket Summerfest 2018.

It was definitely a small town festival, but it was nice to participate in a local community event.  There was live music, and Kai had fun at the bounce houses!

Stanley gets to rest in the Airstream while we go out:)

That weekend was fun. On Friday evening, we did a hayride with Kai around the campground. He loved being pulled by a large tractor. He loved playing with the kids at the playground!

Then on Saturday morning we brought Kai to an exercise trail about a half an hour south of the campground. It was in Lincoln, ME. We chose that particular trail due to its close proximity to Walmart. We had pre-ordered these truck mirror attachments, because Michael informed me that each state has different laws about having towing mirrors while we towed our trailer. Kai had fun on the trail.

We then went to a park with a playground and a beach at Mattanawcook Lake. Kai wanted to play with the older girls who were swinging, so we brought our lunch there and had a picnic.

That afternoon, we took Kai trick-or-treating on the campground after his nap. Michael and I took turns taking Kai and giving out candy.

On Sunday morning, we just ate pop-tarts, packed up, and were off to our next stop.

Interested in reading more about our first RV experience? Here are our posts for our first ever family RVing experience with our very first travel trailer and our first day of travel.

How I keep my toddler busy in winter

Go to the mall = FREE, aside from shopping
Some malls have indoor play areas with adult supervision so kids are able to play. I sometimes head to the Emerald Square Mall in North Attleboro, MA when it’s raining outside or if I’m planning on doing light shopping. I would choose that mall vs. the Providence Place Mall because there is an indoor play area so he can put his energy somewhere:) There’s also the Warwick Mall near us which has a Carousel for entertainment.

Visit Chick-Fil-A or similar place – $
This fast-food chain usually has an indoor play area for kids. While small, it does the trick! You can always just get a little something to snack or a simple beverage and then your toddler can play! One thing to keep in mind is you typically cannot bring food into the play area and you may need to bring socks for your baby if they have a no shoe policy.

Work out! = FREE – $
Every week, I go to the gym at least once. At my gym there is child care in the morning from 9am-12pm and then again from 4pm-8pm on the weekdays. During the weekend, they are open from 9am-11am on Saturdays. It’s not too bad! If I want to just take an hour class, I can drop Kai off with the caregiver. He usually has fun with the other kids. this also is a great way for him to socialize with other children. It was tough for him to leave me at first, but after 2-3 times, he got used to it. I never leave him for more than 1.5 hours. One perk is there is a sauna and showers as well as tanning beds (if you tan). I haven’t gotten to take advantage of those amenities, but they sound nice huh?

Can’t afford a gym membership or don’t like to get sweaty in public? There’s always the option of doing an exercise routine at home! You can find videos online or just make up your own and get your toddler involved! Make it fun to work out. Kai loves music, especially dancing to the best. You can try to make up a routine at home and have a dance party while breaking in a sweat! Just remember to be safe and consult with a medical professional before doing anything out of the ordinary!

Go to an indoor play area – $
Such places include Chuck E. Cheese. One local place in Warwick, RI is called Kidz Kastle. There is also a place in Taunton, MA called Round 1, which is a place for the whole family. That’s pretty much an all-in-one arcade, pool hall, bowling alley, bar and kids indoor play area. In my area, in Seekonk, MA there are Fantasyland and the Seekonk Speedway.

Visit a local pet store – FREE – $
My son loves animals! Sometimes when our dog runs out of dog food or is in need of a little something special, I bring Kai with me to run errands. Meanwhile, there are usually some fun, cute and also creepy little critters on display and for sale at the local pet store.

Kai loves running up to the fish tanks on display and pointing to the different species. And he loves dinosaurs, so naturally he is drawn to the prehistoric-looking lizards and reptiles on display too!

And who doesn’t love watching little rodents run a muck in their little confined spaces? Gerbils, mice, ferrets, and more. Sometimes there’s also some rabbits. Although most of the time, they’re just sleeping.

Oh and don’t forget about the little birds flying about in their cages and mingling with their companions!

Visit your local library  = FREE
The library is a great resource. The libraries in my local area have wonderful programs, such as story time, play time, or music and dance programs. It’s a great place to network with other parents, grandparents, and caretakers. It also serves as a wonderful place to get your little one interested in reading books!

Take swim lessons – $$
Since we live in RI, I was initially drawn Pods Swimming, which is a local aquatic swimming education center. They were building a brand new facility last year, and unfortunately construction was a month behind. Therefore, I enrolled my then-10-month old child in a swim class at my local YMCA. They start accepting children as early at 6 months old! We had so much fun. Although, just keep in mind these are introductory classes to get your baby familiar with the water. Safety was emphasized in these classes along with fun activities.

Play in the snow = FREE
Kai went sledding for the first time a few weeks ago. While it only lasted about a half an hour to 45 minutes, we were able to both indulge in some rich hot chocolate!

Sometimes when it snows a lot, I choose to take our dog Stanley in the backyard to do his business instead of going out for a walk with Kai’s stroller. So, I suit Kai up and we run around and explore our snow-covered backyard!

Get a Children’s Museum or Discovery Center Membership = $$
We were fortunate enough to be gifted an annual pass to the Providence Children’s Museum for Kai’s Christmas present! We opted to go with the Family Plus Membership, which was $150. It allows a total of 6 people to visit the museum. Kids who are 12 months and older have to pay full price. He loves playing with the water. It’s a great place to bring your child during the winter!

Meet up with family and friends = FREE
While I thoroughly enjoy spending time with Kai and Stanley I also like to have some time to have a conversation or two with other adults. Also, if your friends and family have kids of their own, they can play together! If you have family nearby, take advantage! If they’re anything like my parents or in-laws, they love bonding with their grandchild. I also have a few friends who love hanging with Kai. It’s a win-win. Maybe you can even cook together and plan out meals!

Get a zoo membership
Sometimes when there’s a warmer winter day, I like to take Kai to the zoo. It’s usually or crowded at all during the weekday, especially in the wintertime! I guess it also depends on where you live though. We sometimes just watch the animals for a longer period of time, and since Kai loves those pre-historic looking creatures, we watch the Komodo dragon (which is in an indoor area of the zoo).

Read – FREE
Kai asks me to read to him about five times a day! He tends to gravitate towards busy books. The peek-a-boo ones where you lift the flaps up and see something. He really likes me to read the same book several times, or go to a specific page and gets mad if we don’t read that page many times.

While I like borrowing books at the library, I also enjoy owning them because he can always go back to them whenever he wants to. I’ve discovered a local second-hand store where you can buy and sell your old baby items. It’s called Once Upon a Child in Warwick, RI. You know when you go into a Savers, a Goodwill or a Salvation Army and there’s a weird musty stench? This used store isn’t anything like that. I’ve only gone there twice, but they have a ton of toys and clothes. I have gotten three of Kai’s current favorite books there.

The other day, I celebrated my friend’s birthday by going to trivia at this bookstore and cafe called An Unlikely Story in Plainville, MA. It has a wonderful children’s section! I plan on going back one of these days for story time.

Visit a local botanical garden – $
Most of these gardens have large a large or multiple greenhouses you can visit with a wide variety of plant species! Kai enjoys exploring new areas and appreciates large open spaces so he can run around.

Join a support group = FREE or $
If you are a new mom, there are usually local support groups you can join! There are Meetup Groups, which are usually private, that you can request to join. There’s sometimes a small fee (maybe $10-$50 a year) to participate. Kai and I ended up going to a mommy Bible study at a local church. There was nursery during the session, so Kai was able to interact with other kids. It was a wonderful way to fellowship as well as grow closer to God.

Get your toddler involved in cleaning:) = FREE
Kai keeps me on my toes. He loves to see people cleaning, especially sweeping or mopping. And shoveling or raking. I guess he just has a fascination with sticks. Sometimes, when we are hanging at out home, he asks me to sweep and clean the floors because it is “dirty”. He also begs me to take the vacuum cleaner out and use it.

Enroll in a music class = $$
This year, we decided to enroll Kai in a music class. He absolutely loves it.¬† Last year we ended up going to a free introductory music class to get a taste for what to expect if we decided to sign up this year. It was nice to see the different activities and just a a little taste of everything. At the time, Kai was still just beginning to take his first steps, so I selected swimming vs. music class. This year, we selected Lori’s Music Together. It has been such a fun few weeks already! It’s amazing to see Kai’s progress. He’s singing parts of songs and mimicking all of the dance moves at home! You just need to show him one time, and he remembers! It’s hard to believe because I sometimes think he’s not paying any attention to what the teacher is doing.

Go on a movie date at home – FREE
Since my almost-two year old cannot typically sit still for more than ten minutes or so, we haven’t yet attempted to go to a real movie theater. He usually does pretty well when he’s a little tired, but not over-tired.

On certain days, especially if he’s feeling under the weather and he needs a little more TLC, I will make some popcorn, get a juice box for him and maybe even think about giving him little lollipop treat while we watch a G or PG-rated movie together. Since he is still taking naps during the day (well mostly just one long nap now), he sometimes falls asleep watching a movie.

His current favorite movie is Moana. Michael thinks he has a crush on her.

Play at home – FREE
There are ways to make play time fun, creative and interactive! Playing with your toddler and teaching him to play pretend expands his imagination. Don’t be afraid to get messy either! You can always take a bath afterwards!

You can play with the idea of planning activities around different themes matching holidays or cultural traditions. Or, tailor play and activity time at home for your toddler to learn about the basics, such as colors or numbers.

You can invite his little friends over too! This also teaches your child or children to be more social with other kids. While this can be challenging at first, it’s good to be consistent with it. Since Kai is an only-child he doesn’t understand the concept of sharing. Well he’s getting more used to the idea, at least:)

Some of his favorite things to play with now are play-doh and instruments; play dirt and monster trucks; his train wooden tracks and train set; his CAT diggers, bulldozers, dump trucks, and front-end loaders; his Hot Wheels cars; cutting his wooden fruits and vegetables with this Melissa & Doug set; and watching PBS Kids!

Got any more ideas?
These are just some ideas! There are plenty of ways to entertain your toddler. I have honestly bonded so much with my 21 month year old. It has been such a joy to watch him learn things so quickly. I feel so lucky to be spending this time with him.  If anyone has any other ideas, please share! I am totally open to trying new things to keep busy.

Summer ’17 Short Trips

Throughout the summer our family has taken a few day and overnight trips. Some photos to follow!

2015 + 2016 Recap & Now

It has been a WHILE. We are back to the real world! ¬†So we ended up skipping Milan for the 2015 World Expo, but we are okay with it. There was just so much going on at once and sometimes life gets in the way. Michael was extremely focused on his clients during tax season from January-April, and I was still trying to figure out what path I wanted to take, career-wise. I worked for his parents’ business and his grandmother’s tax practice too.

It was towards the end of May that I landed what I thought was going to be my permanent job for a long time: a position at Hasbro toy company. I was so excited to have secured this job, but once I settled in few a month or so, I soon realized that this was not the right fit for me.  You never know until you try!

In September 2015, I started working at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, and I had never been happier! It just took a few different attempts at figuring out what was best for me and how to balance that with my family priorities. It’s all about that work life balance, since¬†our family has grown.

We took our first family trip to the Poconos when Kai was just 3 months old, where we rented a house through Airbnb.¬† It was hard to believe how much stuff we needed to pack for the trip. We had to stop several times since Kai was still breastfeeding and eating around the clock, but we wanted to enjoy our last few days together before the end of my leave from work. It was the end of July in 2016, and I just remember it being so hot too! Thank goodness for central air conditioning in that rental ūüôā

After going back to work for two months, in October 2016, I decided to leave my position at Brown University to become a full-time stay at home mom. Since then it has been such a whirlwind of adventures! It has definitely been the most challenging gig I’ve had thus far in my career. Our holidays were very special since we had the opportunity to take an extended family vacation in December to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. Kai and I flew down with my parents. This was the first time Kai rode an airplane! Michael drove down with Stanley, so they got to do some bonding. Michael’s parents drove down together and met up with us after their holiday party. This was a perfect time for our parents to spend some time with their first grand baby. They gushed the entire trip, and everyone seemed to have a great time with Kai.

In April 2017 we celebrated Stanley’s 2nd and Kai’s 1st birthdays. We figured this was the perfect time to continue our family travels…we booked an all-inclusive in Mexico for the end of September. However, as the nicer weather approached, we were itching to get away. So we decided to take a leap….by booking a cabin in the Cape. Yes, a cabin. Michael and I had seriously contemplated renting or even buying an RV! We almost went through with it a few months ago actually, but thank goodness we did not. You can read more about our memorable week-long trip to the Cape in our next blog post.

Texas

grgWe headed to Dallas to visit my sister Kayleigh, her boyfriend Anthony, and dog, Rocky. We arrived in Texas early in the morning and Christina had planned for the two of us to stop in Gainesville because they had some outlet stores there and she had been looking for a bathing suit. When we arrived, there were only three stores opened in the entire outlet shopping center. Every other store had been closed down and were out of business. We stopped into an Applebee’s for lunch then headed to the large selection of stores we had to choose from. We headed to Gap and Reebok with no success. There were no bathing suits to be found. There was also a kitchen store where we picked up a few items for my sister since they just recently moved to Texas and we thought they may need a few things.

We arrived in Farmers Branch, just outside Dallas, around 6:30 pm. After lugging all of our stuff into the apartment Christina, Kayleigh, Anthony, and I headed to dinner at BJ’s. The food there was really good. Christina and I split the Mediterranean Pizza. It was deep dish, Chicago style, and really good. It was topped with chicken, feta, olives, and sun-dried¬†tomato. We also finished off dinner with a “Pizookie”. It’s a pizza cookie. Basically a large cookie with toppings. We tried one that was a pumpkin cookie with cream cheese ice cream and the other was a chocolate cookie topped with peanut butter and marshmallow. Boy were they good.

The next morning we decided to work off our dinner and headed to Rockledge Park. We brought Rocky with us and headed out for a 2.5 mile hike. The scenery was very different than what we are used to back in Massachusetts. Also, the lake that the park is on is huge. There were people boating all over the lake. We headed down the trail and stopped ¬†after about 3/4 of a mile because there was a cache nearby. We searched for our cache and after a few minutes Anthony found it hidden in a tree. This was also Anthony’s first time geocaching so we were happy that he was the one to find it. We continued out on our hike until we hit one of the roads and then headed back the way we came. This was Rocky’s first time going for a hike. He did well and was well behaved along the trip.

After our hike we headed to Target to pick up a few groceries for dinner. Christina and I usually try to take advantage of a home cooked meal when ever we can. We picked up some hot dogs and hamburgers to have for dinner. The apartment complex that Anthony and Kayleigh live at has a grill out in the pool area. Anthony cooked us dinner while we hung out around the pool. Later that night we stayed in and watched “Million Dollar Arm”. It was a movie about a baseball agent who goes to India to find cricket players and turn them into major league baseball pitchers. The movie was really good and I highly recommend seeing it.

The next day Kayleigh had to work so Christina and I stayed in the apartment with Anthony in the morning. Christina and I were getting our guest book ready for the wedding. In the afternoon we went to the mall that is just a couple of blocks away, this is also where Kayleigh works. We needed to get a Texas magnet and Christina still wanted to find a bathing suit. Finally she found what she was looking for. H&M is what paid off with the bathing suit. We also stopped by a bag and luggage store. Christina had been looking for a bag that will attach to her suitcase that we can use while traveling. There were a few good options there. Christina and I both decided on getting a Tumi bag. This was because they also matched our carry-on suitcases.

tumi alpha bravo slimtumi voyaguer q-tote

Since it was our last night in Dallas we thought it would be nice to go out. We headed to Hard Eight BBQ for dinner. The offer BBQ by the pound. We got beef brisket, pulled pork, pork ribs, and sausage. The four of us left there very full. After dinner we headed to The Flying Saucer. The Flying Saucer has an extensive list of beers and ciders. On Sundays they also offer local Texas beers for $3 a pint. There were also a few dart boards in the corner and we played a few games before going. Kayleigh and Anthony ended up beating Christina and I most games, although Christina and I did win 1.

The next morning Christina and I had breakfast with Kayleigh. Anthony had to be at work for 5am. We then headed out. Off to our next stop: Little Rock, Arkansas.

Leg 2 Endings and Leg 3 Beginnings

Leg 2 Endings

These past few weeks have been more relaxing than the first leg because we had completed a lot of the legwork of planning out the campsite and hotel reservations prior to the 2-week trip.  One downfall of planning beforehand was that we did feel quite restricted and confined to what we had already planned. So we were unable to change our plans if we enjoyed one city over another.

Because we also took a different vehicle this time around, we realized that there were other considerations. One positive change was the fact that we knew for sure that we definitely over-packed during the first leg (if the Honda Ridgeline was completely packed FULL and we were able to fit everything we needed into the MINI convertible). We were proud of the fact that we were more organized in a way.

One negative (for Michael) was he really felt claustrophobic in the MINI. I felt completely “at home” and did not even need my back pillow the entire trip. I really do enjoy driving my car long distances in excess of 3 hours, because it really suits me nicely. The bigger truck makes my lower back ache a lot more when I drive a hour or so. We returned my car to my parents’ and then packed Michael’s truck on Friday, August 29th. It took us about 4.5 hours or so to get to Swansea because it was the Friday before Labor Day weekend and traffic was difficult.

Upon arrival to Swansea, MA we were really able to spend some quality time with Michael’s parents as they took us out to dinner at Ichigo Ichie in East Providence, RI. It was really nice to catch up with them before we departed once again for the next leg of the trip.

On Saturday and Sunday we met up with our friends to get some wedding tasks completed because the next time we would be back in the New England area would be one week before our big day:)

Leg 3 Beginnings

Our main goal for the third leg of the trip is to make a lot more progress to visit each of the 50 states in time for our wedding. The portion of the trip starts in MA and ends with Alaska/Seattle, WA. This could potentially include doing some intensive driving straight through states we had already been to during the first and second legs of our journey. We just need to take a day to mentally prepare ourselves for what is to come. We also just ended up booking our cruise to Alaska, so we could better prepare and plan out our route across the country.

New Jersey

We decided to postpone camping in¬†New Jersey towards the end of August before we went to watch the US Open in NYC, and we had already been to Atlantic City and the Jersey shore region before. Our thought was to stay closer to my parents’ in New York and explore Northern New Jersey. To our surprise, it was a very nice experience!

There was a lot of farmland and natural areas where we camped, which was at Stokes State Forest. We stayed at the campground that included the hot showers. The camp office was actually located about 2 miles away from the campground and cabin areas.  Before my parents came to visit us the next day, Michael went fly-fishing at the pond and caught a few fish. While he fished, I collected some pine cones (this was for a future art project).

Before we knew it, my parents had arrived to the campsite, and they brought a portable radio, some games, and some fresh fruits. We started a fire and showed them our tent setup and space we reserved. Overall, NJ was a nice time for us to relax, and Michael had a chance to catch  and release some fish too!

We were surprised to find that the northern part of NJ we were in was also considered bear country. During our stay we ended up seeing and hearing small animals and lots of insects throughout the night while we were camping. We saw a really neat heron that was hanging out right near the pond. It seemed as though the area we stayed in was preserved pretty nicely.

This trip to NJ gave us a new appreciation of the state of New Jersey from a perspective we had not experienced in the past, which is the “typically” known portion of the state everyone is particularly familiar with.