Saturday, November 18, 2017

Recipe for a Happy Birthday │Jack's 6th Birthday Party

Over the course of the last six years, my idea for what is a good kid's party has evolved. And by evolved, I mean relaxed.

We have done a Trucks Go! Party; a Frogs, Snails and Puppy Dog Tails Party; a Curious George Jack Party; a S'mores Party; and an Explorer Party; and Jack has had a wonderful time at each gathering.

This year, Jack told me he wanted a Halloween Party. Eleven days after Halloween, I did not want to throw a Halloween Party. His back up idea was Ninjas. I could work with that.

Since I have two boys, and Jack currently loves Ninjas, and Nerf Guns, I decided to combine the two. So we did. Here is my recipe for a fun kid party.

1) Let you kid help you make the cake. It doesn't have to be pretty.

2) Have a simple craft to keep the kids focused on the party (we could have skipped this, but the kids had fun painting Ninjas).

3) Send the kids on a scavenger hunt. Jack specifically requested a scavenger hunt again this year because he had so much fun last year.

4) Include fun props on the scavenger hunt (but NOT WHISTLES – we did that last year and I learned that whistles are a bad idea). This year's props included colorful glasses and mustaches. I wasn't sure if a bunch of little boys would like the glasses, but they did and they looked AWESOME with their nerdy glasses, mustaches and nerf guns.

5) Have a nerf war at the park. WIN. WIN. WIN. Especially for boys.

6) Have a pinata to hit. I don't think Jack believes it's really a party unless there is a pinata.


7) Sing Happy Birthday and eat cake. And cheetos. Cheetos are always a good idea for kids. And Capri Suns. That's it. No major planning or prepping of the food.

Done. Balloons and streamers are fun, but not necessary (we minimally hung them his year and they were all black to go with the Ninja theme).

It also doesn't hurt if you have a Flag Football game the morning of your birthday and your coach has the team sing Happy Birthday to you after the game!

After the crazy gaggle of friends left, some of our extended family came bearing gifts. When Jack was two he requested an electric toothbrush for his birthday. When he was four he requested his own kayak (we waited until he was five).

This year he requested a harness so that he can get on the roof with Daniel. I'm having a hard time picturing what he will want in future years!

Thank you to all of our friends and family who were able to come celebrate Jack turning SIX with us this year!

Thursday, November 09, 2017

60 Days of Homeschool

Halloween Day marked 60 completed days of our homeschool. It's hard to believe it is flying by so quickly. I have been tracking our weekly progress with little blurbs and weekly slideshows on Facebook, and wanted to share it here as well so that I could look back and quickly see our progress. Homeschool has been such a good fit for us this year.

Week 1, our first full week of kindergarten homeschool. I overdid it with the busy work, and not enough fun. Jack let me know right away that school was boring. You can read more about it here and here.

Week 2 of our homeschool was much improved for us. We started to find our groove. We kicked off the week by watching the Total Solar Eclipse as a family. Then Isaac started his first week of preschool and Jack started playing Flag Football. Jack and I began our Nature Study with a Five Senses Nature Hike at Green Gorge, and finished up our week by meeting friends at a local park.

Week 3 of school found us halfway through reading "Swiss Family Robinson." We discussed why the world is round and not flat, and we tested a hypothesis of powering a kite by running verses letting the wind power the kite. Jack learned how to float on his back, played flag football, and we spent Friday with friends at the Creative Discovery Museum.  

Week 4 of homeschool, we kept finding lots of fun things to do! We kicked off the week with a local Labor Day parade, and ended our week with a Nature Hike/picnic with friends at Greenway Farms. Jack got a haircut, we learned all about penguins, hunted for seed pods, and attended a concert at the local art museum where we also got to see the Wayne White exhibit. There have also been tears, frustration and yelling (me)... hopefully the kids remember the best parts and forget the times I fail.

Week 5: Hurricane Irma meant an impromptu visit from our cousins (who evacuated from Florida) and kicked off this week of homeschool. We went on a hike to Rainbow Lake, there was football and a visit to the Creative Discovery Museum. We have moved on to a new list of sight words and have mapped where the animals found on the island in "Swiss Family Robinson" actually live in the world. We finished the week by having a picnic lunch with Daniel and played in the sunshine at the park with some of our favorite people. It was a good week.

Week 6 We learned all about apples and visited a local apple stand to pick up apples and cider. We spent as much possible time as we could on our back deck doing school work and enjoying the beautiful weather. We did a Mini Beast Hunt hike at Mabbit Springs, and we met up with friends at the Chattanooga Zoo for our weekly Friend Friday. We finished "Swiss Family Robinson" this week and watched the Disney movie as a family that night.

Week 7 The weather continued to be warm here, but cool enough to do much of our schooling from our back deck. Highlights from our seventh week of school included starting the book "Charlotte's Web" and learning about how the earliest people were nomads who became farmers. We picked up new books from the library, baked an apple pie in honor of Johnny Appleseed, started a sewing project, and went on a hike with friends. This lifestyle continues to be a great fit for our family.

Week 8 Highlights for our week include a day spent at the Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center, a visit to the courthouse where Jack met a judge and got to sit in his seat and bang the gavel. We visited grandparents, saw the Harvest Moon rise, had a Nerf War, and built cushion forts. We have a new set of sight words to learn this month, and are learning lots of new words from "Charlotte's Web" like salutations and hullabaloo. We finished listening to the season 1 podcast of "The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian" and can't wait to start season 2. Jack is also working on his first creative writing story to submit to the "Story Pirates" podcast. We finished our week at a new park with friends. Next week is Fall Break, but I'm sure we will still be learning new things! Happy weekend y'all!

Fall Break (Week 9) This week we were on Fall Break, but we still managed to learn some things. Our family hiked in Joyce Kilmer Wilderness among old trees and learned a new poem. We celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving as a family. We went to parks with friends, visited the library, watched lots of TV, played with Legos, built forts, and had Nerf wars in the basement. We also read and listened to our favorite podcasts. And today we met some friends at Coolidge Park to play, climb large Magnolia trees, and get soaked in the fountain. It was a good week.

Week 10 While we paused school last week for a low-key Fall Break, this week we have found it hard to get back in the school groove. We have been working on attitudes and respect, and on top of that, Isaac got sick which meant we had to cancel a Nature Hike and a Friend Day. But it’s ok. We read a ton of Library books, we made progress in "Charlotte’s Web." We did some math work and some days math meant playing Connect Four or War. And we spent one morning painting while still in pajamas. Though not a week day, on Sunday we were able to spend the day in nature at Greenway Farms: where we were introduced to archery and took a hike as a family. Hopefully next we will be a bit more on track.

During Week 11 of our homeschool, we learned all about pumpkins. We bought pumpkins for Halloween and painted the small ones. Jack had flag football practice and the boys participated in a costume parade at church. Daniel and Jack got to go on a father-son Hike to Mushroom Rock on Thursday. And we finished reading the book “Charlotte’s Web” then saw the play of “Charlotte’s Web” at the local Children’s Theater with friends. We finished out our school week by doing a little cardboard sledding downtown by the river. There was also fort building, sword fighting and costume wearing, and we spent Saturday afternoon visiting a retirement home to pass out candy and have the kids show off their costumes to the residents. Another good week in the books for us.

Week 12 of homeschool meant we passed the 60 day mark for our school year. We also celebrated Halloween by attending a Family Day at church, complete with hayride, then pumpkin carving as a family, and trick or treating with good friends on Tuesday. We finished season 2 of "The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian" podcast this week, and started “Classics to Read Aloud to Your Children.” Jack attended his weekly Homeschool PE at the Y, and had flag football practice. Wednesday was a Library day for us, and we wrapped up the week by going on a Nature Hike to Glen Falls on Thursday, and visiting the Creative Discovery Museum with friends on Friday. Our days and weeks are not without challenges but the good outweighs the bad as we learn and grow together.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

RiverRocks 2017: Family Fun Day at Greenway Farms

River Rocks is a multi-day event that brings world-class and amateur athletes to Chattanooga each October to compete, celebrate Chattanooga outdoors lifestyle and enjoy live music.

Since moving here, we always seem to talk about participating in some of the family friendly events, but October always seems to be a bit crazy for us. In the last four years the only events we have managed to attend are the Three Sisters Concert and a Lula Lake Open Gate Day

There are so many great activities to participate during the month (not just competitions), that I have a growing list of things I would love to be able to do some day... including the Family Fun Day, Fireside Concert Series, the Family Fall Camp Out, Ciclovia, Mountain to Town Bike Adventure, Sunset Night Hike, and the Urban Nature 10K.

This past Sunday we finally made it to a Family Fun Day, and we hope to make it to one of the Fireside Concerts before the end of the month. The Family Fun Day takes place at Greenway Farms with free activities like archery and nature hikes, and the option to rent a canoe for $25 (we skipped on this since we can paddle whenever we like).

We decided that Jack was old enough to try his hand at archery, and he really loved it. The guys overseeing the activity were really friendly and let us go as many times as we wanted. I don't know how busy during the entire event, but we were able to take several turns without having to wait.

Once we felt like Jack seemed to know what he was doing, Daniel and I also gave it a go. This was a fun activity because I don't think any of us had ever shot a bow and arrow before. I was surprised to discover that I have really consistent aim. I didn't get a bulls eye, but I hit three arrows almost on top each other, just slightly left and high of the bulls eye.

We had to drag Jack away from the archery to go for a hike. We really enjoy Greenway Farms and decided to go down to the quarry. We have viewed the quarry from above but had never gone all the way to the bottom. 

Jack really wanted to just stick with the archery, so we told him we would go back if he had a good attitude during our hike. He kind of dragged his feet at the beginning, but was pumped to actually go down and see the quarry from below. I don't know what it is about our kids and water, but it is a game changer... even if they aren't swimming.

We would definitely recommend the Family Fun Day at Greenway Farms, and we plan to be back next year. We may also find some more opportunities to do some archery in the future.

Recipe for a Happy Birthday │Jack's 6th Birthday Party

Over the course of the last six years, my idea for what is a good kid's party has evolved. And by evolved, I mean relaxed. ...