Category Archives: Our Family

Children Should Be Seen

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There is an old saying “Children should be seen, not heard.”  Well, with three boys I have quite the herd, but they are generally very well behaved in public.  There is a good reason they are generally well behaved in public too—they have been out in public frequently since they were infants.  Scrolling through Facebook and Twitter lately I have seen a number of complaints about children in public.  I would wager a guess that most of the complainers do not have children based on their gripes.

The fact is, if you want a 6-year-old who knows how to sit quietly in a restaurant you need to start taking him to restaurants before that.  If you want your 4-year-old to wait patiently in line at a store, he needs to learn that at a younger age.  I have witnessed toddlers behaving better than teens.  A child’s age has very little to do with their ability to behave well in public.  I do agree with the adage “children should be seen, not heard,” especially the part about children being seen.

Training your child to behave in public

First some tips, based on my experience…

  • Set your child up to succeed:    Take your child out on days that he is well rested, healthy, and well fed (if you are shopping).  Try to avoid going out during nap time.  Catch your child at their best moments.  Remember that even the best kids have bad days, and even to worst kids have good days.
  • Pick an appropriate location:  I’ll go into this more later, but generally pick a kid-friendly location.  Someplace your child can be a child without causing too much of a disruption.
  • Set up rules before you arrive:  I usually outline our errand before we leave the house, and then again before we get out of the car.  For example, “We need to get diapers, look at shoes, and get juice.”  I usually also offer the incentive of looking at toys if we have time and they are well behaved.  It is important to let them know that we are not buying any toys or treats ahead of time.  This helps to prevent melt-downs in the toy aisle.  If it is not a great time for shopping, but the errand must be done I remind them exactly what I expect (no running, walk with mommy, no shouting. Etc.).  It has been quite some time since I have needed to define good behavior for my older boys, but the baby is getting to be the age that he can understand these things.
  • Offer incentives, but don’t bribe them:  This can be a little confusing, but it is all in the timing. An incentive is offered at the start of the trip, in the car or while getting the cart.  “If you behave you may ride the pony.”   A bribe is offered after the bad behavior has started “I will get you a juice if you stop running.”  There is a subtle difference, but the kids know that one is a reward for good behavior and the other is a reward for driving Mommy crazy.  (On a side note:  don’t beat yourself up if you have to get milk today and you end up bribing your kid just so you can get through the checkout line in one piece.  Let it go—you’ll do better next time)
  • Reward good behavior: I still point out to my 7-year-old when he has been exceptionally well behaved. Usually praise is all the reward the boys need, but sometimes I’ll surprise them with a bottle of juice or a small toy from the checkout line.  If they ask for a treat at the end of the trip I will allow or not allow it citing their behavior.
  • Be flexible:  Sometimes behavior can seem turn on a dime for the worse (there are clues, watch for them), be prepared to leave if behavior gets out of hand for the location.

Location, Location, Location…

I am going to break these down into a few categories: Beginner, Intermediate, and Experienced. I am of the opinion, that with the exception of some content, there is not anyplace your children should not be able to go if they can behave.

Beginner Locations:

If you are not a parent, and want to avoid ill-behaved children all together, here places to avoid. You will get little to no sympathy for encountering less than perfect angels here.

If you are a parent looking for someplace you should be able to go without offending the childless here are some places I would consider good.  These are places your child can learn how to behave.

  • Shopping: I have found shopping trips to be the best place to start behavior training as they do not require the child to sit still, only to restrain from running. If a store exclusively sells children’s items or has a children’s dept., a toy dept., and sells diapers, this is family territory. Some examples would be Target, Walmart, or Toys ‘R Us. This is a store parents can take their kids as they are learning how to behave.  If you visit these stores regularly you will witness temper tantrums and children running and being loud.
  • Dining out: If you want a quiet dinner do not go to a restaurant on “kids eat free night.” This is the perfect time to acclimate toddlers or older children to eating out.  Other visitors should expect the restaurant to be louder than normal on this night.
  • Entertainment: The drive-in or week-day matinee of kids movies or live shows fall very firmly in kid’s territory.  The drive-in was created for the purpose of allowing parents to take their kids to the movies and to see movies while their kids slept in the car.  I would also categorize most sporting events, which are loud by their very nature, to be ok for kids.
  • As a general rule anyplace outside is kid friendly, the park, the zoo, etc. (But you smart folks already knew that!)

Intermediate Locations:

These are places that do call for good behavior, but still should offer some wiggle room for kids to be kids.  Be sure to put a stop to rambunctiousness ASAP.

If you are out at these locations without and a parent is doing their best, try to cut them a little slack.  Parenting is tough work. Society will benefit from children learning how to behave, but every kid still has a few tough days and makes a few mistakes.  We don’t want you to have to deal with their bad behavior anymore than you do.

  • Shopping:  If a store has a children’s dept., a toy dept., or sells diapers, this is a middle ground.  Shopping in the misses dept at Kohl’s does require a quiet and mostly still child, but if they are talking a little louder or moving a little faster (not running and screaming) in the children’s/toy dept. that is ok.
  • Dining Out: Generally, I would say any restaurant that has a kids menu with crayons is a good place to take young children, although you have to use your judgment on what level of fidgeting or loudness is appropriate at any given time.  Restaurants like Chilli’s or Applebee’s may call for different levels of good behavior based on the time of day and ambient noise.  Even the location of a corner booth or a central table may have different demands on your child.  Be prepared to take the child out if he gets too loud.
  • Entertainment:  G or PG movies/theater at any time, week-day matinee of other shows.  You know your own kid, you are the best judge of whether or not something is appropriate for your kid, and how much your kid is actually going to pick up from a movie.  I have taken the boys to PG13 movies in the middle of the day during the week.  The movies are not as crowded then which puts less pressure on your child to be perfectly behaved, which actually makes it easier for them to behave well.  It is harder to behave in a crowded theater, but if you are seeing a kid’s show you are going to have to expect kids to be there, sorry!

Expert Locations:

These are places that require your child to be on their very best behavior, and that very best behavior is to behave like an adult.  If you are taking your child here be prepared to remove the child at the very first signs of bad behavior.

If you see a child here, don’t automatically assume the worse, I have taken young kids into all of these situations and not only did we not disrupt the public, we have been complemented on our behavior. Yes, someone at these locations is well within their rights to complain if a child is misbehaving, but not just because a child is present.  Give the family the benefit of the doubt to begin with.

  • Shopping: Boutiques and antique stores are filled with breakable items and other delicacies that should not have sticky fingers all over them.  Clientele here is expecting a quiet and serene experience.  The most important thing to enforce here: No Touching!
  • Dining out:  If there is no special kid’s menu, or it is only printed at the bottom of the regular menu, then this restaurant is not going to be very forgiving of fidgety kids.  I would not recommend  eating out at a place like this without two adults, that way someone can stay behind to pay the check and box up un-eaten dinners if necessary.
  • Entertainment: I know the movies are considered by many to be adult-only territory, but I disagree.  Again, you do have to be prepared to leave at the very first sign of bad behavior.  Sit on the aisle, not too far from the exit, so you can get out fast if the child starts to act up.  You are the best judge of whether the content of the movie is ok for your family.  Honestly, to see a movie for adults with a baby or toddler, I would recommend going after the child’s bed time if he will stay asleep.  Movies and live theater call for the highest level of discipline, but if your kid can handle it I say go for it!

So that’s it.  That’s my two cents on children being seen in public.  I suppose I should add that infants who will take a pacifier, bottle, or breast and be quiet should be welcome anywhere, but a colicky baby is best left at home except in the most dire circumstances. As always, this is what works for my family.  Yes, I can take my 7 and 5 year old sons into expert locations sometimes, but there are also days I would cringe to take them to a beginner location. Such is the nature of childhood. You know your children, you know what they are capable of, you know what is best for your family.

Muppet Mania Party

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Ok, this is the last party post for a while–I promise.  As I mentioned in the train party post Kae’s theme last year was the Muppets.  He had seen the new movie the previous fall and love it.  I thought that since the movie had just come out in theaters a few months previously supplies would be easy to find.  I was wrong.

I had a standard formula for party decorations: themed dessert plated and drink napkins, one themed table cloth for the cake table, themed banner, one themed mylar balloon, themed goodie bags with mixed themed/generic filler. Then I fill in with solid color table wear and more balloons as needed.  Well, the Muppet party was the first time I couldn’t find my themed stuff.  There were some plates and napkins I found available in the UK, and one large Kermit head balloon on Amazon.  Mostly when I searched “Muppets Party Supplies” I got Sesame Street.  But I pulled together some ideas (mostly from–you guessed it–Pinterest) and We all ended up very happy with the results.

We used mostly solid color tableware. Kae chose green and orange for his colors.  We did find some great bright “Happy Birthday” plates for the cake at Walmart. Most of the theme was carried out in the food.

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I saw some great pictures of Elmo and Oscar veggie trays so we tried out character fruit and veggie trays too:

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Fozzie was made from orange cauliflower (which I had never seen until one day before the party) and red and yellow bell pepper with a tomato nose.

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Gonzo was made from blue berries with a banana nose and eyebrows.  The banana did turn kinda brown, and no one wanted to eat the face anyway, so next time I probably would not peel it.  You can also see in the back ground a Kermit apple head.  I wish I could take credit for him, but he is from the blog Party Frosting.

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My AWESOME mom made an Animal cake and Muppet cupcakes.  The awesome part is she used an Elmo cake pan and frosted it to look like Animal.  The fancy star candles are from Dollar Tree.  We very nearly missed this shot of Kae blowing the candles out because he got them all in one huff the instant the song was over.

I couldn’t find invites, a banner, or goodie bags.  But I did find some great clip art at Muppets in Sermons.  Which I used to create this  invitation and a sticker for the goodie bags:

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I also printed out a clip of Kermit which I glued to a generic birthday banner from Target.

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DSC09870We just sort of stuck to bright colors for our generic decorations and added little Muppet details (including a Muppet Show CD playing in the background) where we could and it turned out great!  This was a really fun theme, I might consider doing it for an adult party again sometime in the future.

 

Happy Birthday to Choo, Choo, Choo!

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This past weekend we celebrated Kaelen’s 5th birthday with a train party.  This kid has a habit of picking interesting, but hard to shop for party themes.  Last year it was the Muppets (I found a balloon online–that’s it).  This year it was a train party, which I thought would be easy, but it was NOT a Thomas the Train party, which made things here in Ohio much more difficult.  But, thanks to Pinterest, I came up with a lot of easy ideas for decorating.

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We set the mood with an outside railroad crossing sign:

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The sign was just two big circles cut out of yellow poster board glued to a wooden post.  I used electrical tape to make the X and my Cricut for the R’s, but you could just as easily hand draw on the detail with a black marker. In fact if I didn’t already have the Cricut out for the banner that is probably what I would have done.

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We made the banner with pre-shaped chip board pendants and scrapbook paper from Hobby Lobby. I was torn between the denim look paper and a ticking stripe paper.  Ultimately I thought the stripes that were available were dizzily narrow and choose the denim.  Once the banner was complete I thought the denim was too dark and wished I had gone with the stripes.  Oh well!  We used two 15 ft spools of ribbon to hang it because we could pick a color, one would have worked fine, and we had plenty of length left over to hang the banner anywhere we wanted.

We added lots of little train details inside including a wooden track on the snack table:

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and tracks on the floor:

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The floor tracks were a big hit.  We got lots of complements on it and the cost was $1 for a pack of electrical tape from the Dollar Tree.  The wooden track came from our pre-existing toy collection, but if you don’t have tracks already you could make them part of the birthday kid’s present.  Ikea has a few nice sets.

Even the cake had a train track on it!

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I know fondant cakes are all the rage, and I saw a lot of cute ones online, but I hate the frosting.  My mom makes this REALLY awesome frosting (I think it is an old Wilton recipe) and makes all the boys’ cakes.  This one was super simple.  We found the train candle holder at Amazon.  My mom even added a little bit of frosting steam coming off the top of the engine (which the birthday boy enjoyed licking off after blowing out the candles)

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My niece also came up with the very cute and cleaver idea of adding “choo, choo, choo” to the birthday song instead of “cha, cha, cha”.

The kids all received a conductor hat and red bandana.  My brother also brought stick on mustaches which were a big hit.

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The hats were from Oriental Trading Company and were an excellent buy.  I paid $13 for a dozen cloth adjustable hats (I think the price went up since my purchase).  The hats fit the two-year-olds and adjusted up to fit the adults who scavenged the extras.  The bandanas were purchased from amazon for $8/dozen.  They were so stiff when I received them that I washed them.  They were much softer after being washed, but also VERY worn looking. If we do it again, I will probably just pick up the $1 cotton bandanas from Hobby Lobby.  A lot of train party blogs also included a wooden train whistle for their guests, but I know how loud one child with a train whistle is, and I am not (completely) insane.  Also, I like the parents of our young guests, and I want them to like me, so I very rarely include any toy that makes noise in goodie bags.

Speaking of goodie bags:

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Because the kids were receiving a hat and bandana we kept it simple.  A bottle of bubbles, a piece of sidewalk chalk, and a sheet Thomas stickers (we couldn’t find any plain train sticker).  They also all add a balloon added at the last-minute.  Our local party story has been out of helium for months so I purchased balloon sticks with the intention of creating a bouquet for the table.  I even made extra smaller crossing signs to include in the bouquet. Well I couldn’t figure out how to arrange the bouquet so the vase wouldn’t tip over anytime someone looked at it, so I just stuck them in the goodie bags.  The kids loved it, so I think I will plan on balloons in the goodie bags from now on.

One thing Kae insisted on was a piñata, so we made a super simple paper bag piñata.

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These are so simple to make I will probably never do it any other way.  You take a paper bag and decorate it with streamers and a party themed image printed on cardstock.  This time we used a bag with handles, but you can also use a plain bag folded over a hanger.

I found these instructions at Infarrantly Creative last summer.  She adds ruffles, which I felt were too much extra work and too feminine, but do look very pretty.  Also she uses a hot glue gun, which I do not have, so I used double sided tape.  I think I might even just use plain tape next time.

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A few tips for breaking a piñata. Bring an extra rope and set it up as a barrier for waiting children to stand behind.  In the past we have told the kids constantly to back up, but adding the visual cue has worked best for us.  Because we have a wide array of ages at our party, we put everyone in order the birthday boy then youngest to oldest, to help make sure everyone gets a turn. Each child gets to hit the piñata 3 time per turn.  We have always gotten through the order at least twice before the piñata was broken, at which point we usually ask if one of the “big kids” (the uncles) wants a turn.  This year to make sure everyone got some candy I also divided it up evenly into little plastic bags before stuffing the piñata. Each child just sort of naturally knew to get one bag.  I will definitely to doing this again in the future.

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Over all everyone had a really good time, which is all that matter.

Semi-annual Clothing Change

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It’s time again to pack away outgrown clothes and get out the next size. Does anyone else have kids who insist on outgrowing their clothes with maybe a month left in the season? Perhaps it only seems like this at my house because the entire second half of the season I won’t put them in the next size up unless absolutely necessary, but when ankles are sticking out of pant legs and pajamas can no longer be zipped I am forced to break out the next size.

The semi-annual unpacking of hand-me-downs has become quite the production. The timing is dictated more by the fact that we no longer have any space to set aside for out-grown clothes rather than the actually change of seasons. I start by making sure every article of children’s clothing I can find is washed, at the same time, and sorting out anything that is too small. I do this at least twice within one week in an attempt not to leave anything out. This of course is futile as I will find stray outgrown clothes regularly over the next six months. I had more than two boxes of clothes that missed being packed up last time on this go-round. In fact some of them have missed probably two seasonal changes as I ended up putting them back in the drawer for the next child this spring.

After I have sorted out “all” the out-grown clothes I sort them by size and season. Now here is where the work gets tricky. I now bring down every box of clothing from the attic. I’ve just started doing this of this spring. We have probably 20 boxes of clothing up there. Most of them are diaper and paper boxes, but there are a few other sizes, just to make things really interesting. They all come down because over the last six months we have been up there picking through them as we find a need for various items, mostly dress clothes and pajamas. Although when I started packing away clothes for Ted it was very easy, everything for one size & season in one box, another size & season in another, it was now become more complicated. I not only have the wardrobe that my boys have worn but have also inherited the clothes from my cousin who is the same age as Ted and my nephew who is the same age as Kaelen. Larger sizes take up more space in boxes than baby clothes. Clothes stretch and shrink.

Now I need a box just for size 5 tee-shirts. But is that a 5T or a 5/6?

These rompers say 24 months but they don’t stay snapped in the crotch much after the boy out grows 12 months.

After filling these boxes nearly to bursting with 6 summer clothes and 7 summer clothes last fall I still had half a box of each, they had to go in a box together. But now I have ¾ of a box of size 7 summer clothes to mix in.

So everything comes down. I now re-sort all these boxes, putting things the most alike together, trying to pack away things that will be worn at the same time in the same box. I then cover the old labels with new ones and take everything back up to the attic, stacking everything in order of size—2t fall/winter, 2t pajamas, 2t spring/summer, 3t fall/winter and so on. The whole process takes at least a week of working on it daily.

Unfortunately it seems that this task can never wait until the season truly changes. For example, right now it is spring, but still snowing occasionally, and summer is just around the corner. The boys are not ready to have all their cold weather clothes packed away. Typically at least one of them needs pants and long sleeves in the next size up. But I also want to be prepared with some short sleeves and maybe even some shorts. It is Ohio, just because it is snowing today does not mean it will not be 70 for 4 days next week, and probably 35 the week after that. To add to the confusion we really need a additional dresser—not that we have any place to put it—as the older boys share a small children’s dresser. We hardly have space to keep out a wardrobe for the children that is large enough to last a week. I cannot get out too many “out-of-season” clothes. The space crunch results in unpacking partial boxes and setting aside other stuff away at different intervals throughout the year for different children. So in a month on so I will be going up stairs again to get out some summer clothes and pack away some winter clothes—and do you think I will be able to find what I am looking for?

Busy Winter Weeks

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Busy Winter Weeks

Wow, It was already been over a week since I posted–so much for trying for one a day. It has been a busy week. We had Tiger Cubs on Tuesday. I’ve starting party planning for my mom’s party. We went to the Detroit Zoo on Friday. We also celebrated with my grandma Land, Aunt Sue, and Uncle Kent & Aunt Barb Friday evening. Yesterday I drove up to Great Lakes Crossing to hit the children’s outlets. All this while everyone seems to be (mostly successfully) fighting off a cold/flu bug. We have been lucky that no one is curled-up-in-bed, I-can’t-move miserable, but everyone is a little run down and cranky.
I have not been completely remiss in my picture-taking though so here is a little catch up on our week:

Jan 13: Circle

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Sunday we went to Spaghetti Warehouse with Grandma & Grandpa, Ted made HUGE circles of spaghetti noodles on his fork. Watching him, we were reminded why we use bow tie noodles. Jensen had his first spaghetti noodles.  The first one he had he grabbed the two ends and took a bite out of the middle, but he quickly figured out how to slurp them up!

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Jan 14

I don’t have something yellow for Monday–but I do have another circle.  Kaelen and I played Wii Sports.  This is his golf swing:

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Yes, that is my four-year-old doing an airborne 360 for golf.  I may not know much about sports–but I’m pretty sure this is not usually seen on golf courses around the world.  But hey, he is off the couch and being active and that is all that really matters!

Jan 15: An Ordinary Moment

Just chillin’  waiting for Ted to get out of school.  Here is one of Kae’s many self portraits.

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Jan 16: Two Things

Take two peanut butter hearts add one baby and what do you get?

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A chocolate goatee

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Jan 17: Ready

Someone is ready for a nap! Ok, it’s Mommy.

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Jan 18: Shadow

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A shadow of a seal swimming overhead in the Arctic Ring of Life at the Detroit Zoo.  More on our adventures there to come–but the real camera is in the diaper bag, in the car, and it is -15 wind chill out.  I’m not making any extra trips outside today.

Jan 19: Delicious

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Ok, not my picture, but we did try out this new recipe for Chicken, Ranch, and Rice soup and it was very delicious. It was also pretty easy to make, which is a requirement in our home!  Check out the Picky Plate recipe here: http://picky-palate.com/2010/06/07/homemade-chicken-ranch-and-rice-soup/

Jan 20: Something you Saw

Sunday is Downton Abbey day here in the states.  Even though I finished watching the season 3 DVD set (contributor gift to PBS) Sunday during the day I still loyally tuned in at 9:00 to watch it on PBS.  It is hard to believe there are only a few weeks left and then we have to wait a whole year for season 4.

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Jan 21: What You Do

I am Mommy, I do many things.  Something I really enjoy doing, which I worked on this week, is party planning.  I love picking a theme and coordinating everything.  I think I use to drive my husband crazy with the collection of scraps of paper with supply notes on them all over the computer desk and internet images saved all over the desktop.  Then I found Pinterest…

I working on planning a birthday party for my mom.  I’m thinking a sort of peacock/game foul theme to coordinate with the regency era tavern which will be set up in our space.

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What does everyone think?  This is a collection of some of my pins for the party to check them out with the original sources visit my board: http://pinterest.com/cross321/mom-s-birthday-party/

One O’Clock

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It has been a busy few days so I am catching up. Thursday’s prompt was 1:00. I like 1:00. 1:00 is nap time for Jensen. Kaelen has eating lunch by now and is entertaining himself so Mommy has a little time to herself. Time to do some laundry. Time to take a shower (Yes–I shower in the middle of the afternoon, moms shower when there is time). Then, if Jensen is still napping, I could do more laundry (there is ALWAYS more laundry), I could do dishes, I could do any number of other household chores, but usually I will sit down at the computer for a little bit. Sometimes I’ll work on my digital scrapbooks or imerse myself in Pinterest. Sometimes I’ll play my latest purchase from Big Fish Games. right now I am playing through an RPG from Eridani Games called “Leah’s Quest.” I have really enjoyed it and it’s companion “Ella’s Hope.” For anyone reading this who likes the Aveyond games by Amaranth I would recommend checking these out. The story is charming and engaging, with appropriately challenging levels, and a variety of side quests. In fact–I think I will go see what is in store for Leah right now!

The Magician’s Sons

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Tonight's instalment: chapter 2, Digory and His Uncle

We are a family of readers. Josh and I both grew up reading a lot, and now the boys all enjoy books immensely. Even Jensen who doesn’t yet understand what is going on will sit and flip through the pages of whatever book is within reach, be it a colorful ABC board book or Daddy’s latest Preston & Child suspense.
Although we have always read to our children frequently and pretty much on demand we do not have a nightly reading ritual. Some nights may have Ted and Kae each picking out a story while others may not include a story at all. Until now, that is. Josh has decided that the boys are old enough to read “The Chronicles of Narnia” with him. He purchased the collection a few years ago and was very disappointed when they did not have the focus to listen to an entire chapter, especially when there were no pictures! Last night we started again. The whole family sat down on the couch while Josh read the opening chapter of “The Magician’s Nephew.” Ted was enchanted and eager to continue, Kae was less interested but happy to be sitting cuddled up with Mommy & Daddy, Jensen got down after a few words and played quietly on the floor. Tonight we continued.
I think this may become something that the older boys will never forget.  There is something quite magical about reading as a family. I remember gathering in bed with my brothers—a different room each night—while my Dad read to us the Hobbit when I was young. I don’t remember how old I was when we did that (older than Ted is now for certain) and I don’t even remember the details of the story (there are a lot of details in Tolkien) but I will always remember the special feeling of togetherness as we explored Middle Earth as a family. I hope Ted and Kae will enjoy exploring Narnia with their father just as much.

Ted & Kae listen to Daddy read from "The Magician's Nephew"
Ted & Kae listen to Daddy read from “The Magician’s Nephew”