Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater

Title: Mr. Popper's Penguins
Author: Richard and Florence Atwater
Ages: 4-8

This is a great chapter book to use as an early read-aloud book. I read this to my oldest when he was about 4 and a half and he loved it. In fact, I think it was the first read aloud chapter book we did, and he was eager each day for the next chapter.

It is a fun little story about a man who longs for adventure and ends up with a group of penguins as pets. That ends up to be quite an adventure for him.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Title : Charlotte's Web

Author: E.B. White

Ages : 9-12

This one is too old for my kids. I don't remember it that well from my childhood, so I read it recently to see if I thought my sons would enjoy it. I knew it was beyond my oldest child's reading level, but I thought it might make a good read-aloud. (Typically kids can understand and enjoy books that are read to them several grade-levels higher than they can actually read themselves.)

In this case, I felt like the content was a bit too much for my kids (ages 4 and 6). It is pretty deep and also very sad in ways. It is a cute book and I look forward to sharing it with them later.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

It Feels Like Snow by Nancy Cote

Title : It Feels Like Snow
Author : Nancy Cote
Ages: 3 - 6 years

This is a fun little story about a lady who can tell it is about to snow and her friends do not believe her. She provides a good example as she helps her friends out when they are not prepared for the weather.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What Shall We Do With The Boo-Hoo Baby? by Cressida Cowell

Title: What Shall We Do With The Boo-Hoo Baby?
Author: Cressida Cowell
Ages: Birth - 3 years

This is a cute little story for little ones. The baby is crying and the fun collection of animal babysitters tries and tries to find a way to quiet him down. Simple, short text and adorable pictures.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Seattle with Kids : Hiking Wallace Falls

This is another fun hike, this one out Hwy 2 in the Cascades. The waterfall is really big and really beautiful. There are several options, a lower, middle and upper viewpoint.

We only went to the lower viewpoint as the boys were not very enthusiastic. I did not think this hike was the hardest we had done but they did not want to go any further. The viewpoint is quite nice and about 3.6 miles roundtrip. It is a beautiful view but if you go further you can get much closer to the falls. But I have heard you have to be careful nearer to the top as it can be a bit precarious for little ones.

At the start of the trail, you walk under humming power lines and wonder what you have gotten into. But in the next section you walk through the woods by a beautiful river and there are lots of scenic spots. It was somewhat steep in places. There is an option to take a longer trail up that is flatter but would add 1 mile to the distance. I might would try that next time.

I'd love to try this again next year and see if we can make it higher up.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fire Truck Factory by Catherine Anderson

Title: Fire Truck Factory
Author: Catherine Anderson
Ages: 3 years – 6 years

My 3-year has really gotten into wanting to know how things are made. He looks around the room and asks “How make shower curtain?” “How make counters?” How make mirror?” “How make towels?” – until I about lose my mind. Imagine my excitement to discover this book that explains how fire trucks (another of his favorite things) are made. It integrates lots of photographs with labeled parts and walks you through the whole process. There are lots of books about Fire Trucks but this one earns an award from me for having a new twist on that same old topic.

I think any kid who loves fire trucks would enjoy this one to add some variety to their reading.

*this post originally written 4/28/2006

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton

Title: The Little House
Author: Virginia Lee Burton
Ages: 2 years and older

I love finding books that my son can enjoy just like children 60 years ago did. And just like I did when I was a little girl. The copy of this book that we are reading is actually the one that belonged to me when I was his age and is complete with my nameplate stuck in the inside front cover. How special it is to show it to my son and tell him how his mommy read this book with his Grandmommy when she was his size. But even without that nostalgia, we have really enjoyed reading this book. Note to those parents who are desperate to read about something besides trains. This book is not about trains but does have some very interesting pages that show trains. Maybe that will be enough to get your train lover hooked on this beautiful classic.

*this post originally written 4/26/2006

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Seattle with Kids: Hiking Little Si

There are lots of great hikes around here to do. A very popular one is called Little Si, out in North Bend. Do not get it confused with the Mount Si hike - that one is WAY harder. Little Si is still a pretty difficult hike. The round-trip is a little less than 5 miles with a 1500 ft elevation gain. I would not take beginner hikers on this one. You may want to plan easier hikes to "work up" to this one. The trail is very nicely maintained but there are very steep sections where my kids had to use all-fours. When we went, my kids were 4 and 6 and they made it with lots of rest breaks. I think it took us 3 hours to get up to the top, but significantly shorter on the way down so be sure to allow enough time.

A tip on parking. There are two lots. Go past the first one, as the second one is the one right at the trailhead. If that one is full, head to the overflow lot which you already passed. It is a very popular trail so go early on a weekend. When we arrived at just after 9am, the primary lot was already full.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Learn how to make bread

Title:Bread Bakery

One thing I love about reading is extending what we learn when we read into our daily activities. It brings the book alive and I think is going to really help turn my boys into kids (and adults) who love to read.

After reading this book to my 3-year old, my husband decided that we needed to make bread. I'd better go ahead and confess that we used a trusty bread machine instead of doing the whole thing by hand but it was still lots of fun and very educational. My son was able to help collect the ingredients and measure, and with the help of the instruction manual for the machine, watch each of the steps the machine performed, through the little viewing window on the top of the machine. When my kids get a little older, I'd love to try making it by hand with them.

My son loved it and we all enjoyed the bread so much that we have already made a second loaf. Guess who ran to the bookshelf to find the Bread Bakerybook to read while the bread baked?

*this post originally written 5/8/2006

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Billy and Blaze by Clarence William Anderson

Title: Billy and Blaze
Author: Clarence William Anderson
Ages: 4+

I love older books. This one was written in 1936. It is a bit longer than a picture book but not so long that a little one cannot enjoy it. The story is simple and sweet and easy to follow along. There is a whole series of books about Billy and his horse to keep you reading away the summer!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Peekaboo Baby by Margaret Miller

Title: Peekaboo Baby
Author: Margaret Miller
Age: Birth - 2 years

My 10-month old really enjoys reading this book. He can flip the pages himself and loves to look at other babies. This is one from her Look Baby! Books series – and they have fun baby photographs and bright cheerful pages.

*this post originally written 4/27/2006

Friday, July 24, 2009

Seattle with Kids: Discovery Park

Since we live in the Seattle area, I realized it was about time to mention some of the activities we enjoy with the kids nearby.

A few weeks ago, we headed down to Discovery Park. This is a huge park, the biggest in Seattle with a very long and beautiful coastline. It is definitely worth checking out. And I don't want to forget to mention the wonderful lighthouse right on the point. Such a scenic spot with views on Mt Rainier and Mt Baker!

As you enter the park, there is a very helpful visitors center. Most of the parking requires a hike down to the beach but if you are handicapped, have small children, or elderly with you, then you can get a special pass there that lets you head right down to the beach to park.

Besides the scenic coastline, there are quite a few hiking trails though the park to enjoy, so have a great day!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Title: The Boxcar Children
Author: Gertrude Chandler Warner
Age: 5+

What a fun book this is to read! I read this one out-loud to my 6 year old son. It is a great read-aloud story. Not only did he really enjoy the story and the exciting happy ending but I really enjoyed it as well. My favorite part was reading about all the ways they "made do" with what they had and set up such a nice house for themselves.

We both looked forward to this story each night. I think boys and girls would like this one from the time they are old enough for a chapter book until age 10.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Who is in the Garden?

Title: Who is in the Garden?
Author: Vera Rosenberry

We've been reading a lot of non-fiction lately and really enjoyed this picture book for a change of pace. The illustrations are beautifully done and we had fun finding and counting all kinds of creatures living in the garden. The text is so well written and flows so pleasantly.

I've been reading a lot of easy readers lately so it was nice to read something with a bit more interesting vocabulary. I needed to explain what some of the words meant and sometimes I let my son guess the meaning by looking at the illustrations. I think this is great for learning new vocabulary.

*this post originally written 6/9/2006

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Children's Cookbooks

Title:The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Children's Cookbook

I was inspired by this post on the PlayLibrary blog to look at some cookbooks for children since we enjoy having my son cook with us so much. I really like this cookbook I stumbled across. It has tons of pictures and the instructions for the simple recipes are very detailed and clear. And the best part is that the foods sound yummy to eat.

Many others I have looked at either have unappetizing recipes or are full of junk food.

Anyone have suggestions for other good cookbooks for kids?

*this post originally written 6/6/2006

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Crafts and Activities Related to Childrens Books

Title:Great Books to Read and Fun Things to do with Them
Author: Mary Beth Lagerborg
Ages: Parents of children aged 2 and up

All the other books I have reviewed so far are for children to read but I ran across this book and thought it looked like fun. The editors picked a children's book for each month of the year and then collected a bunch of ideas for crafts, snacks and activities related to that book as well as ideas of things to teach your child about using the book. The ideas look like lots of fun and seem like a great help for those long summer days when your little one is on preschool break.

Books include classics like The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Where the Wild Things Are as well as a bunch of books I have not heard of and am looking forward to trying out.

*this post originally written 5/30/2006

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

Title:Why is soap so slippery?
Author:Catherine Ripley
Ages: 3 and up

I am sure I am not the only mother of a 3-year old hearing Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? ALL DAY LONG! Check this book out! It has answers to some common questions kids might ask - these are all about bathtime. But I noticed when I looked on Amazon, this author has several other books of a similar nature - answers to questions on other topics. My son will be thrilled!

*this post originally written 5/28/2006

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Puerto Rican Folktale

Title:There's a Billy Goat in the Garden
Author:Laurel Dee Gugler

This story is a retelling of a Puerto Rican folk tale. The story flows smoothly and the illustrations are unusual and enjoyable to examine.

Here is a quote from the publishers website(Barefoot Books):
Another soon-to-be classic collage picture book from Clare Beaton! This heartwarming version of an old Puerto Rican folktale reminds us that the smallest creature can make a huge difference. Join a group of farmyard animals as they stomp, bark and whinny in their hilarious attempts to chase a misbehaving billy goat from the garden. The animals' confidence soon turns to dismay as the billy goat remains stubborn, and the solution to the problem lies not with the biggest, but with the littlest of them all.

*this post originally written 5/21/2006

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Soap Nuts Giveaway!

Ok, these are the coolest sounding things ever. I really want to try this.

Soap Nuts!

Isn't that crazy sounding? An inexpensive and natural laundry soap.

Go check out the giveaway Lindsay is doing and read her really interesting article about homemade laundry detergent options.

I have been planning to try making my own for quite a while now but have not gotten to it. This seems even easier and more natural for sure!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Richard Scarry's Best First Book Ever

Title:Best First Book Ever
Author:Richard Scarry
Ages: 3-5 years

I have fond memories of Richard Scarry books from when I was growing up. A few years ago, I pulled out an old one to share with my son and was pretty disappointed with the busy pages and strange characters intermingled into the story. So I really think the choice of the title is a bit odd. This is not a great first book.

But now that my son is 3 and a half, we are really enjoying this book. He likes to look at it on his own and read it with me. It is chock full of all sorts of things to learn about like colors, numbers and months of the year. I'm sure we'll be enjoying this one for a long time to come. So even though it is not a great first book - it is a great book for the preschool set.

*this post originally written 5/17/2006

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I Love You Because You're You

Title:I Love You Because You're You
Author:Liza Baker
Age: 1-4 years

I took the advice of PJ Librarian at The Magic of Books and got the book I Love You Because You're You. I was so excited that I wanted to read it right away to my 3-year old. I should have waited until he was in the mood for a cuddly-lovey book-reading-snuggle instead of eager to go outside to play. I, on the other hand, was almost crying as I enjoyed holding my quickly-growing-up little boy while reading such a sweet book. PJ Librarian hit the nail on the head for me when she said

Plus, as a parent it is a reassuring read to sooth a soul on a crazy and hectic day.

Another thing I like a lot about this story -- It goes through a bunch of situations where the little fox's mother still loves him like when he is sad or angry or loud but fortunately it does not do what some other similar books I have seen do. It does not suggest bad behavior to my little one that he may not yet have thought of, like

I love you even when you paint the walls and your brother too!
I love you even when you disobey and run into the street.

Sure we still love them but lets not put any ideas in their heads.

*this post originally written 5/9/2006

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

All Aboard Overnight (A book about a train ride)

Title: All Aboard Overnight:A book of compound words
Author: Betsy and Giulio Maestro

We got this book right around the time we were taking a train trip ourselves. After reading this, our kids were quite disappointed that we did not go on a much longer ride including a sleeping berth.

I have liked most the books we have read by Betsy and Giulio Maestro. They have lots of educational books many of which are about various modes of transportation. This story follows a family as they go on an overnight train ride to visit grandparents and has a focus on compound words.

My kids both really enjoy this one

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Truck and Loader by Helen R. Haddad

Title: Truck and Loader
Author: Helen R. Haddad
Age: 3 years – 5 years

This is a nice, short chapter book for little ones who can sit for a little longer book. This one is especially interesting because it tells 3 different stories of situations where the dump truck and loader can work together to get a job done. This is a great addition to your library of books about trucks. Especially if you are getting tired of the simple books where trucks and truck parts are just labeled. My son asks me to read this one over and over again.

*this post originally written 5/5/2006

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Terrific Trains by Tony Mitton

Title: Terrific Trains
Author: Tony Mitton
Age: 2 years – 4 years
This book is one in another series of books about Things that Go. They feature a set of animal friends that work, ride, and drive around. There are lots of great illustrations that provoke my 3-year old to ask lots of questions. It is also easy to use this book to ask my son questions like “What is the rabbit doing?” and “Why is the bird there?” The text is simple and rhyming but does a nice job explaining about how things work.

*this post originally written 5/3/2006

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

There's a Wocket in My Pocket by Dr. Seuss

Title: There's a Wocket in My Pocket
Author: Dr. Seuss
Age: Birth – 3 years
I am all for educational books. In fact, we make a beeline for the non-fiction children’s books each visit to the library. Our whole family is learning an amazing amount from the books we read with my 3-year old including books like the Fire Truck Factory.

But some books are just fun! I love reading this Dr. Seuss book with my kids. It just rolls off your tongue and the pictures are funny to look at. Maybe I should not have said JUST fun either. They say that listening to rhymes helps kids develop their language skills and maybe even math ones too. And everyone knows that laughter is the best medicine. Keep rhyming!

*this post originally written 5/2/2006

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Too Many Mittens by Florence and Louis Slobodkin

Title: Too Many Mittens
Author: Florence and Louis Slobodkin
Age: 3 years and up
I’m really starting to like some of the older children’s books I run across. This one was written in 1958 and my family really enjoys reading it. It is a simple story of some boys who lose their mittens and then end up collecting a bunch of lost mittens and returning them to their rightful owners. It’s a fun story. Perhaps we are easily amused but I enjoy seeing all those mittens showing up everywhere they go. And how sweet the way they help a bunch of mittens get back to their rightful owners. A nice lesson for all kids! I’m sure I sound old fashioned but a lot of the newer children’s books just seem plain weird.

*this post originally written 5/1/2006

Monday, April 27, 2009

Unplugged Project - Yellow

This weeks theme is yellow!

I had what I thought was a really good idea but it did not turn out that well. I recently purchased a whole set of tempera paint and thought it would be fun to do a painting project. My idea was to have beautiful paintings with a variety of shades of yellow only. We would mix yellow with each of the other colors and talk about what the new color was.

My kids did like painting but the paints I bought (from Oriental Trading) were pretty poor quality and they just frustrated me. But the kids made 2-3 paintings each and we did have some nice conversations about mixing colors so I guess I will lighten up.

Hopefully I will have something with photos next week.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

TV Turnoff Week Results

Well, my kids did great! I think they watched 3 videos this week total and stuck to the 30 minutes per day rule for the computer with minimal protesting. They are pretty good at finding something else to do. I did well at being consistent on enforcing that.

The rest of it went pretty poorly. I did well on Monday with keeping my computer usage under control and I really liked it. I only used it at the set times and it really felt good. I felt different - less spastic and rushed and I definitely got more done. I have no good explanation for why I did not continue for the rest of the week since it was really nice. Old habits die hard, I guess.

I am also embarrassed to say I did not do the one activity per day I had planned to do with my kids. My excuse is that they were finding things to do so nicely that I did not have to come up with anything but really I am sure there were times I could have done this. I was a bit thrown off by some things that happened this week and just wasn't able to get it together. We did do some extra reading this week after getting a big new pile of library books!

Now I need to think about what I want to do with my computer habits moving forward....

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mouse Goes Out - Easy Reader

Title: Mouse Goes Out
Author:Phyllis Root

My little one is almost 4 and he absolutely loves this book. It is in the "Brand New Readers" series and contains 4 short, simple stories about a mouse. My son calls it "My I can read book" and is always looking for it to read it over and over again.

After reading it to him a couple of times, he was able to "read" it to himself or to his family members with great pride and joy. I believe it has really helped him with his letter and word recognition, and with his love of books and reading. The story is even simpler than a lot of easy readers so he could grasp it at his young age, but the story is actually quite cute and funny.

I am also looking into some of the other books in the series as a result of the fun we have had with this one.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Portland with Kids: OMSI

I wish I would have re-read this post from Debbie at DeliciousBaby the night before we went. We had a little trouble getting started at OMSI. Not getting there, we asked the front desk staff and our hotel and got good walking directions, but once we got there.

When we paid our $40 (!!!!) admission (not including any of the additional items like the submarine), they did not give us a map. So we just headed up the escalator and ended up in the Life Sciences room. We spent about 15 minutes there but clearly everything was targeted at an older crowd than we had (our boys are 6 and almost 4). I knew I had heard there were hands on activities for little ones and left the family in there to scope it out.

Sure enough, right next door was the Science Playground which is geared towards 6 year olds and younger. It was pretty crowded but our kids did not care at all. They loved it. There were so many activities they enjoyed. They spent almost 1 hour solely in the sand area and eventually we decided to move them along to something else. Is it possible they could have played there all day? They spent about 30 minutes at the amazing water table and got totally soaked, even in the smocks provided. Definitely wear the smock and the boots and BRING A CHANGE OF CLOTHES. I knew it had been suggested to do that, but my kids don't usually get wet in water tables. Bring the change of clothes - they were DRENCHED!

There are also art projects, a grocere store, buckets that go up and down on a pulley and so many other fun things for younger kids to do. After several hours in the Science Playground, we moved downstairs to the Turbine Hall. This is the most amazing part of the museum. If we would have understood the layout of the place, we would have headed straight here when we arrived.

The hands-on activities here are suited for bigger kids or younger kids with their parents assistance. There were so many interesting things here that my kids really loved. Our favorites were probably the ball room (I don't even know how to explain it - it was just totally cool. Go and see it!) or the bottle rockets. We also did actual chemistry labs together and built buildings to withstand earthquakes.

We spent the entire day there. We got there a few minutes after they opened at 9:30 and left right at 5pm as they were closing. We went on a Friday and there were lot of people there but it wasn't so bad we could not do everything we wanted. I imagine it might be harder on the weekends. It was a great day that we all enjoyed even if it totally wore us all out.

*Note: I have written a bunch of posts about Portland so if you want to read more, click on the Portland Label at the end of the post, and you will see all the Portland entries.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Turnoff Week Blog Challenge

It is time again for the Turnoff Week Blog Challenge. This will be our second year participating. I can't believe it is time again already, I feel like I just did this. I think this is a great chance to evaluate how we are doing and set some goals and priorities for our family.

Our current status:
  • My kids are allowed to watch 1 video (30 mins-1 hour) each day. Most days they do not even ask for one.
  • I don’t watch any television at all.
  • Both my kids love playing games and typing on the computer and I have been waffling on the time limits and they have been spending a lot of time doing that.
  • I spend way too much time checking email and reading blogs.

I am happy with the limited amount of time my kids watch TV, I am not going to do a TV-free week. I will outline our goals below.

Our goals for the week:
  • Limit my kids to 30 minutes each on the computer per day using a free timer program I found online.
  • Limit my computer usage by only using it during set periods of time during the day. I think those times will be 7-7:30am, 1-1:30pm, and 7:00-7:30pm. I keep my task list on my computer so I will have to print that in the mornings so I won't go to check it and get "trapped" by the lure of my email.
  • Participate in one craft or activity each day with my kids (using that time I would have been reading random blogs!)
So I guess the summary is that we are not actually turning everything off, but using this week to try out some new limits and maybe break some bad habits. We’ll see how it goes!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Portland with Kids : Chinese Garden

We had a beautiful sunny (but somewhat cool) afternoon to spend in Portland so after hitting the Portland Saturday Market (by the Skidmore Fountain) we walked a few blocks over to the Classical Chinese Garden.

In addition to a self-guided tour guide, the volunteer staff was nice enough to give us a children's scavenger hunt packet which was a laminated booklet of pictures of things to search for in the garden. This was a great addition as it gave the kids something to do while we walked around. The gardens and buildings are beautiful and the area is so serene and restful. (Would have been more so had we not had kids with us that I was worried would fall right into the easily accessible water)

The admission charge was about $24 and we were probably there about 1-1.5 hours.

*Note: I have written a bunch of posts about Portland so if you want to read more, click on the Portland Label at the end of the post, and you will see all the Portland entries.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Portland with Kids : Pearl District

The Jameson Square fountain is so neat and fun. The weather wasn't even all that good when we were there so we weren't able to get wet but it was still lots of fun. There are rocks to stand on and stay dry while the area fills up all around you, and you can always run from the filling fountain like you would the tides at the beach. We had a really fun time playing around and watching the water cycles.

We did not have a lot of time in the Pearl District as we needed to catch our train, but we also checked out Powell's Bookstore and the Pearl Bakery (yummy croissants!) We will definitely check it out again next time we are in Portland. We also went to the Whole Foods right near Powell's to pick up some lunch for the train and use the restroom facilities.

To get there, we took the streetcar and got off at the last stop before leaving fareless square (10th and Glisan)

*Note: I have written a bunch of posts about Portland so if you want to read more, click on the Portland Label at the end of the post, and you will see all the Portland entries.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Portland with Kids : World Forestry Center

The World Forestry Center is located right by the Portland Zoo. It is very easily accessible via the light rail line heading west out of downtown.

We spent about 1.5 hours working our way through the exhibits. They had some really neat hands on exhibits which appealed to our young kids. It is not a huge place but it seems very nice and new. It was almost deserted which was a big plus for us as we were able to enjoy everything at our own speed. For example, our kids spent quite a while at the pretend tree planting station.

Since this is an indoor activity, one idea would be to spend some time here before heading to the zoo right next door once the day warms up. Instead, we headed over to the Chinese Garden for the afternoon.

Our family of two adults and two children paid $26 admission. As I said, we enjoyed our 1.5 hours there and are glad we got a chance to check it out.

*Note: I have written a bunch of posts about Portland so if you want to read more, click on the Portland Label at the end of the post, and you will see all the Portland entries.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Portland with Kids: Dining Choices

Well, we did not have that great a food experience on this trip. Meaning - it was fine but we did not get to try any of the interesting places I had researched before we went.

We were all tired by dinner time and did not feel like sitting in a restaurant. Frequently when we travel, I bring a lot of food, which would have worked on this trip since our hotel room had a kitchen. But since we took the train and were traveling lightly, I did not bring much, just some snack food and lunch for the train.

Our hotel provided an extensive breakfast each morning. One day we ate at OMSI for lunch. The cafe there was actually quite good and had some healthy options. One day we ate at the Portland Saturday Market. For our dinners, we ended up ordering delivery two nights - once Hot Lips Pizza and once Chinese food. The other night we stopped off and picked up some sandwiches and sushi and a little place we happened to pass on the way back to our hotel.

Near the end of our visit, I noticed there is a Safeway right on the streetcar line (1030 SW Jefferson). If we would have realized sooner, we could have used it instead of some of the dinner deliveries.

One fun place we got to check out was the Pearl Bakery. The croissants we had were really good. We also stopped at the Whole Food right by Powells Books to get some food for the train ride home.

Maybe next time we will get to try some more of the cool sounding places Portland has to offer....

*Note: I have written a bunch of posts about Portland so if you want to read more, click on the Portland Label at the end of the post, and you will see all the Portland entries.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Portland with Kids : Hotel Choice

We were very happy with our hotel choice - the Residence Inn - Portland Downtown/Riverplace. It is right on the streetcar line and right beside the last stop before you leave the fareless square on the south end of the line. There is a nice Riverwalk area heading north from there all the way up through Tom McCall waterfront park clear up to Chinatown.

We were able to easily walk over to OMSI which is in a sort of out of the way place not on the light rail or streetcar line. The streetcar crosses the light rail line, so it was super easy to get to anywhere else we wanted to go.

Our room was actually 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms with a separate sitting area and full kitchen. There was actually a full refrigerator and a full dishwasher. There was even a table for 4 which really came in handy. It was very comfortable. The hotel had a very nice hot breakfast buffet that is included with the room which got our day off to a great start.

They also have a little grab-and-go area where you can pick up some things you need - like to address a late night ice cream craving! Another plus was the free wifi in the room. One of our favorite features was the pool which was never crowded and a great place to use a little time between activities or to make sure we used up all the kids energy before bedtime.

Our room was on the freeway side of the building and although the sounds did not really bother us, I would likely ask for a room on the other side next time. Something to consider if you are sensitive to sounds while sleeping. Besides that, this hotel is in such a quiet area, you don't get any of the city noises like you would closer to downtown.

*Note: I have written a bunch of posts about Portland so if you want to read more, click on the Portland Label at the end of the post, and you will see all the Portland entries.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Riding the Train (Seattle to Portland)

Wow! How cool it is to ride the train. I could not get over how much more relaxing it is than flying or driving. Even though the train was full, there were no crowds or waiting except for the unfortunate seating assignment situation. There is no security process like when you fly and all the personnel I talked with were very kind. It probably helped I started every question with a big smile and, "This is our first time on the train..."

How to Get Tickets
I bought my tickets online at the Amtrak website. When you buy them, you print out a confirmation page with a barcode on it and take it when you go to the train station. I imagine you could check-in at the counter (where there was never a line) or you can do like I did and scan your barcode at the kiosk and get your tickets printed. You sign your tickets and then hang onto them until seating assignments are made (see below)

Checking Baggage
Check the Amtrak site for info on weight and size limts. If you get to the station in time (30 minutes before departure they say), you can check your bags. Ours were small enough that we could have carried them on but we went ahead and checked them so we would not have to deal with them. There was no line there either and it was very quick, you just show your tickets and they tag your bags for your destination. We put our small bags in the bins above our seats so we could get things out during the ride. But only small backpacks or briefcases really fit up there. Anything else you carry-on goes in the bins at the end of the car, and those bins looked pretty full. We had no trouble picking up our bags very quickly after we got off the train.

Seating Assignments
So you can buy your ticket in advance online, but you cannot get your seating assignments until you are at the station. Look around for the sign that says seating assigments. This is where people will line up and the train conductors with pass out the assignments. Note that only one member of the party has to stand in the line. I did that with the tickets while my husband was entertaining the kids in the station.

They start assigning them about 30 minutes before the departure time, but you may want to line up sooner. In Portland, we were there 15 minutes before that time, and the line was already quite long, so long that we did not get the kind of seats we wanted. Next time, I will plan to be there to line up 45-60 minutes before departure because I want to have my choice of seats (see below)

Where to sit
From Seattle to Portland we sat in 4 seats around a table (so 2 seats were backwards) It was so awesome. It was perfect for our family. Eating the lunch we brought from home was so convenient with the table and if we would have gotten a chance it would have been great for playing cards. The kids did a lot of drawing and coloring with the items they packed in their carry-ons and it was so nice to have the hard surface. If your kids are littler than mine (3.5 and 6), you may prefer the 4 facing seats without the table. Then they can climb in and out of your lap etc without the table in the way. The four seats together was so nice because both parents were able to engage with the kids and one did not get stuck with the kids while the other focused on driving.

From Portland to Seattle we set in two adjacent rows facing the same direction. That was not nearly as nice as it was hard to communicate and pass things over the high seat backs. Of course, you are not confined to your seat so it wasn't so hard to move around and get the things we needed. Next time, I would ask for 2 seats with the other 2 across the aisle instead of behind. I think that would be easier.

Just make a request when you get to the front of the line, they did seem to want to accommodate if possible.

Length of Ride
Our train trip was scheduled for 3 hours and 40 minutes. There was some variation depending on which train you scheduled to take. On the way down to Portland, we had to stop several times for maintenance on the tracks, so it took an additional 45 minutes. On the way back, we ran pretty much right on time. Even so, I don't think it takes quite that long to drive it.

Plus we walked about 30 minutes (fairly slow as the kids were on foot) to the bus stop and then took the bus about 20 minutes to the train station. So if you add up our transit time from home to hotel, it was quite a bit longer than driving.

The views from the train were breathtaking. I could have spent the whole time looking out the windows at the mountains and water, other trains, trucks, cranes and all sorts of things. The kids attention span wasn't so long but they did enjoy the barges and tugs and trains we saw.

We packed our own lunches for the train. On the way there, we brought it from home and on the way back we picked some things up at Whole Foods and a bakery. There is food available on the train but it is all prepackaged stuff and did not look particularly appealing. We did notice there was a bit of a line right at lunch time but it did die down a bit later.

Comfort on the Ride
We thought the seats were very comfortable and enjoyed the ride. You could definitely feel the train moving, especially when you were walking around or trying to use the bathroom. The kids enjoyed exploring the train but did have a little trouble walking around as the train rocks and bumps a bit. I was a bit concerned before we went, but we did not have any trouble with motion sickness. The air felt a lot fresher than on an airplane and I did not feel as confined either.

Well, every parent wants to know the bathroom situation. The good news is that the bathrooms were plentiful on the train. There is one bathroom in each car (I think about 36 passengers per car). So there were no lines for the bathrooms. You could always walk to the next car if yours was occupied. Plus you are never confined to your seat so you can go whenever you need to with no pesky seatbelt signs! The bad news is that the bathrooms were tiny, just like airplane bathrooms. Not the most fun to try to squeeze into with a little one, but definitely do-able. My tip is don't back up to the sink to try to allow your preschooler to squeeze in as well or you may possibly get the back of your pants wet from the sink. Just a thought ;-)

Getting to and from the Station
The bus stop (5th and Jackson, or 4th and Jackson) is very close to the King Street Station in Seattle so it was totally easy to transfer from the bus to the train, even in the rain! We did not look into the bus routes in Portland, so we walked several blocks to the streetcar stop at 11th and Glisan and took it down to our hotel. Alternately, you could probably walk to the light rail too. You are in the fareless square at that point so you can just hop on either without buying a ticket.

Please let me know if you have any questions about riding the train.

*Note: I have written a bunch of posts about Portland so if you want to read more, click on the Portland Label at the end of the post, and you will see all the Portland entries.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Books to Grow On - Alphabet 2

My library has a really awesome program called Books to Grow On They have put together theme kits on all kinds of different topics that are available for check out by any library patron. Included in the kits are not just books (usually around 10) but also cassettes or CDs, VHS tapes or DVDs, puzzles or other activities, and ideas for a parent or teacher on ways to expand on the theme. If you think this sounds like fun, ask your library if they have such a thing. And if you live in the Puget Sound Area like I do, take a look at the Books to Grow On page on the King County Library website and find whatever topic your little one is clamoring for!

We recently brought home the Books to Grow On Alphabet 2 box and enjoyed reading and reading and reading lots of unique and interesting ABC books that I am not sure I would have found on my own. Here’s some information on our favorites from this box.

Title: A is for Asia
Author: Cynthia Chin Lee
Ages:3 and older
I wasn’t sure how interesting my son would find this book. I flipped through it and thought it looked neat but wasn’t sure if there was too much text or if the content was too unfamiliar to him. I really wanted to read it with him because I think it will only benefit him to learn about other countries and cultures at a young age. I must admit as we got to the “P” page I was not really playing attention to what I was reading – I was too busy worrying about how to raise a culturally sensitive child. The last line on the “P” page is that pandas love to eat honey as a special treat. As I finished reading that page, my 3-year old said “Pandas like honey but usually they eat bamboo.” I was just amazed at how smart he was. How did he remember that? I looked at the pictures and sure enough there was bamboo but would he really recognize it? The mystery was solved when I asked him how he knew that they usually ate bamboo. He said “Mommy read that in the book.” Good job mom! If I had been paying more attention, I would have realized that was exactly what that page said. Anyway he really found this book really interesting and has already asked me to get it from the library again.

Title: ABC of Crawlers and Flyers
Author: Hope Ryden
Ages:3-4 years
My son is really into the ABCs right now so he enjoys seeing each of the letters as he practices. It was fun to learn about different insects and other creepy crawlers but I think it is pretty dumbed down. I don’t think your school-age child would benefit much from the scientific content but it was perfect for my 3-year old. We both enjoyed all the pictures (Ok – I did not enjoy the Tick page but he liked them all!) This was the perfect time to read it as they are studying bugs and butterflies now in preschool.

Title: O is for Orca
Author: Andrea Helman
Age: 3-4 years
I really like that this is a Pacific Northwest book. The photographs were great and we had some really long discussions about many of the items covered in the book. Anyone know other books that focus on this region? I’d love to get some more.

**This post was originally written 5/11/2006**

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Books about Ferries

If you are planning on a ferry ride anytime soon, it would be fun to check out a few books about them. Here are some that we have enjoyed. Even if you don't have a ferry nearby to ride, kids will enjoy learning about ferries, especially if they are into other modes of transportation.

Title: Ferryboat
Author: Betsy and Giulio Maestro
Ages: 3 and older

We took our preschooler on vacation recently where he had the joy of riding on a ferry for the first time. (Toddlers are great at teaching us how simple matters of transportation are actually quite thrilling.) I was so excited when I found this book to extend the ferry fun. He just LOVES this book! It has a really detailed and interesting explanation of how a ferry works (where the engine is, where the driver sits, how they dock it, etc). The illustrations have lots of little details my son likes to point at and ask questions about. Even if you never get to ride on a ferry, I think your little one would enjoy seeing how they work. I know this has been a great springboard for my son pretending to be a ferry driver and transporting all his toy cars and trucks all over our house. I am all for things that get kids imaginations going! I wonder if there are any other good ferry books. Got a recommendation?

*the above book review was originally written 4/24/2006

Title: Ferryboat Ride
Author: Anne Rockwell
3 and older

This book is a bit longer than the one above and my 6-year old has really been enjoying it. He is always fascinated by this sort of thing. It is fun to have 2 ferry books to look at, because the ferries are quite different. Also the books point out different interesting things about ferries.