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.