Monday, November 23, 2015

Board Games and 4-6 Age Set

I've written about board games and toddlers in the past.  And it's one of many clicks I get based on searches.  Technically neither of my children are toddlers anymore.  They are more pre-school and early elementary set.  So I thought I would blog about gaming for that age group.

Flex those Skills

I'm sure you are like me and you grew up with popular children's games like Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, and Hi Ho Cheerios.  I'm not saying those games aren't great, but they remind me of game candy.  Great for every once and a while, but not the type of games that are truly challenging.  Why?  Because those types of games are games of chance.  While they can teach children counting and colors, they are random.  After a while, especially if we're talking about children who can count or know their colors, it gets boring....and frustrating.  Frustrating because you aren't using your skills to actually win.

I recommend games that actually work by skill.  Here are some examples:

Animal Upon Animal- It's a game where you have to stack wooden blocks shaped like animals on top of each other.  And even for an adult it's hard because it uses fine motor skills.  There's no randomness about it.

Sorry Sliders- Based on the game Sorry, this game requires players to slide pieces across the board.  It reminds me of air hockey, but you don't have to break the bank to get a special table.

Look for Children's Versions of Adult Games

Many game companies have taken popular children's games and modified them so that it's easier for younger players.  They also are less random and work on cognitive skills.

Example games:

Clue Jr.- Although we haven't let our children play this one on it's own, it's good for elementary kids.  It's similar to the adult version of the game, Clue.  We team up as a family so that in the future the children can play on their own (the youngest is three).

My First Carcassonne- This one is based on the adult game, Carcassonne, and requires children to build roads.

Modify the Rules of Adult Games

Many parents who are gamers want to play their favorite games with their children so if you click around on the Board Game Geek, you'll find modified rules to make it easier for younger children to play.  My children recently played the adult game, Pandemic, with modified rules.  Worked just fine.

Why Play Games

In addition to the skills I listed for toddlers, board games can actually teach children a variety of academic subjects.  There are history games which often have maps so geography two-fer.  There are games based on science.  You just have to pick a subject and there are a ton of games available, which revolve around the subject but require skill of some kind.

There are also not just winner-loser type strategy games, but games that require cooperation in order to beat the game (ie cooperative games).  So if you have a child that just can't handle winning and loosing to another person or a child who needs to work on social skills (ie working with others), then those games are great too.

Games are great to work with a variety of skill sets and work on a variety of skills.  So I encourage all parents to think beyond Chutes and Ladders and other random games to find games that can teach your child more.  

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Please, Fellow Church Goers, Don't Do This!

I've seen something and experienced some things that made my eye brows raise up.  I'm sure you have too.  So with great charity, if you didn't know, now you do.

1) Wearing Che Guevara- My Church is Catholic.  And as such we oppose communism.  Putting your adorable 18 month old (?) in a t-shirt with Che Guevara on the front says either 1) I support communism.  2) I'm being "fashion forward" without thinking about what it means or 3) I came to church with my son because my mom begged me to.  In any case, have a little respect and choose a different t-shirt.  Thanks! :)

2) Selling images of Jesus next to....Frida Carlo- I have no idea who sanctioned this train wreck.  But in that same vein Frida Carlo was a communist.  She also had a couple of abortions.  Not exactly someone whose life you want to imitate.  I'm hoping next time my church has someone set up a booth that they will request that the images be ones of saints and not cross-dressing bi-sexual irreligious persons.  Mm Kay?

3) Selling stuff in the narthex-  Last Sunday my non-Catholic husband looked at the display of crafts and said "didn't Jesus get upset with people for selling stuff in the temple?"  While technically there's no pronouncement not to do this, it's generally frowned upon because it gives a bad impression.  We're here to worship.  This isn't a flea market.

4) Using cell phone/checking cell phones during Mass- Okay there are good reasons to do this if there's a family emergency, you are a first responder, you have visual issues so reading along requires magnification for examples.  But in general please put the phones away.  Texting during Mass is generally speaking a big no, no.  I'm trying to charitable and not think the worst of you.

5) Wedging your hand into mine during the Our Father- First of all Mass is communal worship so it's really redundant to hold hands during the Our Father.  That said there's no official pronouncement against it, but some bishops would prefer that you didn't.  Why?  Well holding hands is an American thing.  Canadians and other nationalities don't do that sort of thing.  You are kinda making some foreigners feel weird.  And some people don't like it.  I'm thinking off the top of my head of people with OCD and autism.  So let's be charitable and not try to wedge your hand into someone who already has their hands prayerfully clasped.  Kay?

6) Literally holding them up to the Lord- This too is one of those things the bishops never officially squashed.  There's nothing wrong with holding one's hands up to the Lord, but...(yes, there's a but) the priest is in the person of Christ.  It makes you look like you are the priest making the offering instead of the guy hanging out at the altar when you do that during Mass.  Yes, I realize some people didn't grow up Catholic.  Some people are very charismatic.  But I thought you should know if someone is raising an eyebrow or two why we think it just looks bad.  If you need help in this department, look to the deacon.  We're to imitate him and usually he's got his hands always clasped together for those parts.

7) Giving blessings during Mass- This is mostly for the Extraordinary Ministers (EMs).  You aren't the priest and not a deacon.  You can't give babies blessings while distributing.  Blessings outside of Mass are fine, but inside of Mass it's one of those usurping-the-priest's-job thingies.  Just so ya know.  And yes, I will avoid your line if I think that you are going to give my children a blessing.  I'm trying to help you avoid sin.  You're welcome.

8) Wearing Red Lipstick while taking the Precious Blood- This is for us linen people's benefit. It is extremely difficult to get that particular shade out of the altar cloths.  We can't make pronouncements on this sort of thing since it's considered uncharitable. That said I don't think women are aware that it stains so badly which is why I've brought it up here.  I feel like if women did know they wouldn't have a problem blotting or wearing a different shade.  I certainly didn't know until my mom was involved in this ministry.  Red wine is hard enough to get out (and requires a special soaking process in case its been consecrated).  This has been a public service announcement from the linen washers.

I hope you enjoyed my tongue-in-cheek post.  Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Green Kid Crafts vs Kiwi Crate

Last week I was out sick with a cold.  This week the kids are under the weather.  HB has the same said cold.  Knee had a fever yesterday and binge-watched Netflix from the couch.  But he started getting bouncy yesterday evening and this morning insisted on going to the park.  I told him children, who haven't yet had a fever broken for 24 hours, don't need to be going to parks.  He was not happy.

This sickness thing has left me rather back-logged on crafty projects, house-hold chores, and blogging.  Fortunately Hubby helped me out with the house-hold chores part so I'm not terribly behind.  So on to the blogging...  Reviewing the two monthly- subscription craft box services for kids.  They also offer single purchase boxes.

Kiwi Crate

I received a Kiwi Crate through a promotion.  Kiwi Crate is run by the same company as Highlights, the children's magazine.  There are four age level Crates.  Each crate comes with a booklet, an idea pamphlet to help you with the activities and crafts, and supplies for crafts.  I chose the Koala Crate for Knee since he's 3- almost 4.  They sent me their standard first shipment which is on colors.

Colors are not terribly impressive to my child.  About the only thing he liked about the crate was it came with giant crayons.  Knee already knows his colors.  I tried to get him into mixing to make colors but it's above his skill level at this point so it only held his attention for so long.  The box also had a soft block in it.  To me that's a bit babyish.  The cover to the paints was broken.  I'm sure I could have requested a replacement but I didn't bother.  Neither one of us was rather impressed by the box at this point.

Because of my children's social levels they prefer to do the same activities at this point.  Plus the activities aren't usually repeated in my house.  My children like to move on so to speak.  If I try the same game again the next day, it's usually rejected.  This is probably because they are used to playing board games which are usually more complex and have some competition.

Kiwi Crate does have more interesting activities for older children.  I'm sure if I had a wider age range of children or much older children than that would be a good thing

Green Kid Crafts

I also received this as a promotional offer.  As far as I can tell the company is independent.  Green Kid Crafts has a STEM skills slant to it.  They often focus on the environment and encourage re-purposing materials (like water bottles) for their crafts.  The boxes aren't separated by age and are for ages 3-10.

Because of the wide-age range, you may have to help younger children.  Kiwi Crate has boxes designed for teenagers and clearly Green Kid Crafts is meant for the younger set.

The themes are interesting.  The kitchen science box has the children making bathroom stuffs (bath bombs and soap) in the kitchen.  The nocturnal creatures was crafty.  None of it was baby-ish or watered down.  I had to help Knee a little more but he enjoyed it so much more.  HB still remembers stuff about nocturnal animals.  There were 3-4 activities, but they also included ideas for other activities so you can flesh out the unit.  We did the nocturnal set over fall break and I plan to use the kitchen science (my mom purchased) over Veterans Day break.

Nobody paid me for the review or even asked me to review either subscription box.  These are my honest opinions.  All boxes were either purchased for me or were promotions the companies had that anyone could opt in.  If you are interested in purchasing a box, I can e-mail you are a referral for 10 dollars off.  If you click on my link, I will also receive 10 dollars off a box too.  This is for both companies.

Friday, October 30, 2015

7 Quick Takes: #LiturgicalCalendar

1) Tomorrow marks the beginning of AllHallowTide or the Triduum of All Saints.  Yes, it is a real Catholic holy thingy.  No it's not pagan.  It's like the Easter Triduum although the focus isn't on death and resurrection of Christ as it is the death and resurrection of Saints.  Still important though because it's the perfect time for indulgences for those in purgatory.  So get out there on Saturday and go to confession. Then go to Mass on All Saints. Walk over to a cemetery and offer up prayers.  Get someone out of purgatory.  Win!

2) The crazy thing is last year HB went to a Catholic school and they totally did not play up Halloween like they are at his secular public school in the States.  I count this as a blessing from God.  We still have God everywhere even if he's literally in disguise. 

3) Advent starts in a little over a month.  I go overboard with Advent even though it's supposed to be the Little Fast.  But understandable we are to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ and that means also getting our houses set up for the King's arrival.  So bring on the Advent decor!  Bring on the violet!

4) This year I've got my crazy Advent Calendar to put up.  I'm making an Advent Wreath for my mailbox.  Yes I know I'm picking up a lot of Lutheran traditions.  It's fine, ultra-traditionalists.  But if it makes you feel better this year I'm creating a Jesse Tree, which is a Catholic tradition that many Protestants have adopted.  A Jesse Tree is the genealogy of Jesus based on the Biblical passages in Matthew and Luke.  Just to make the ultras happy, I'm only including the actual relatives listed in the Bible and tacking on the O Antiphons on the end.  The O Antiphons start December 17 and are sung during Vespers.  This decision was made after much head ache but deciding to be traditionally Catholic.  I've got to make a felt ornament a day with some room to be able to create the tree itself out of felt much like my tapestry of an Advent Calendar.  Then I will combine the two.  Meaning the ornaments go in the calendar's pockets and placed one at a time on the tree. 

5) Since you are probably wondering what the ornament list will be, here's what I'm doing.
Adam&Eve- apple
Noah- rainbow
Abraham- camel&tent
Sarah- cradle w/stars
Judah (brother of Joseph b/c not directly descended)- silver coins
Rahab- rope
Ruth- wheat
Jesse- tree stump
David- harp
Solomon- scales
John the Baptist (he's a relative although Jesus is not descended)- sea shell
Joachim and Anne- Immaculate conception silhouette 
Joseph- tools
Mary- pierced heart
Jesus is Wisdom- Book
Jesus is Lord- burning bush
Jesus is flower of Jesse- flower
Jesus is Key of David- Key
Jesus is Radiant Dawn- sunrise
Jesus is King of Gentiles- crown
Jesus is Emmanuel- chalice&host
extra-Jesus is Light of the World- Candle

I'm still debating whether I should include John the Baptist who is not in the list but is in the Bible or Joachim and Anne who aren't listed under those names but rather simply as Jacob in the Gospel of Matthew.  Joachim comes from the Protevangalium of James and that's the only known use of the name.  So?  I'm leaning toward Joachim & Anne, but what do you think?

6) In the midst of this is Thanksgiving and a birthday.  I love this time of year but it keeps me hugely busy. 

7) I'm super excited about purchasing a used Christmas tree.  We got rid of our leaning trash tree and my Charlie Brown special which worked when I lived in only 500 square feet by myself.  I'm also currently reading In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden which is about a Benedictine monastery. 

So how are you keeping busy over these shifts in the Liturgical Calendar? Do tell.

Thanks to This Ain't the Lyceum for hosting!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Gift Ideas for the Brothers

Christmas is coming down the pipe and I have some dread of it.  Mainly because it usually involves stuff.  My children's birthdays surround Christmas so it's this time of year that there is an overload on toys. Last year was fine because the boys had outgrown a lot of toys, but this year I think we're set until Knee is elementary school. I'd prefer that things were spread out more and less about toys so without further ado here are some gift suggestions.

1) Clothing- We live in the desert so our need for heavy winter clothing is basically non-existent.  This doesn't mean that they a) don't wear holes into their clothing and b) don't grow and c) have their own personal style preferences.  My mother-in-law has a fantastic used clothing store although I'd have to ask her to ship things periodically through the year and specify what not to buy (Knee's so darn picky).  The other option is Sprouting Threads.  It's like the children's version of Stitch Fix.  You can choose seasonal wear (or monthly) tailored to your child's tastes.  They take a 20 dollar fee and you keep what you like and send back the rest.  The nice thing is that they will buy back gently used clothing and you have the option of choosing half used and half new things.  Family can contact them to purchase a gift certificate.

2) Magazines/Books- This one is pretty well covered into November 2016.  I'm huge into using the library especially since my children's tastes change.  We also have a HighFive subscription.  However there are other magazines out there and monthly book subscriptions.  I don't think its necessary, but it's something to mention.

3) Activities- We can get the kids into a low cost activity through parks and recreation for the city and county.  I've also been wanting the children to take swim lessons at a private institution that does them for a little more but it's year round.  We did something like this once for HB and I think he enjoyed it.

4) Passes/Memberships- There's a regular zoo, the desert zoo (called the Desert Museum I don't know why because it's a zoo), botanical gardens, children's museum, Tucson Old Studios, etc.  They all offer memberships for a year for families.  I tend to like a variety of things so even just simply purchasing one-time-only gift passes will go a long way.  The Botanical Gardens has a butterfly exhibit running now until May.  The local movie theatre, AMC, offers autism-friendly movies for a small cost. They have multiple locations throughout the US so you may look into that for your own family. Hubby has been dreading taking the children to the movies and not because he's worried about HB's reaction. It's more like their over-all behavior. So this is a great way to mingle with parents in the trenches and not worry what other people will think.  They also have a Stubs program that you pay 12 dollars for the year and get to reap some discounts.  In other words, for 28 dollars you can set us up for the stub program and enough tickets for one film.  Not too bad eh?

5) Art Boxes- I've already mentioned that I like Green Kid Crafts.  They have monthly subscription options in addition to buying single craft boxes.  They aren't that expensive either.  The boxes are about 25 bucks for several projects (3-4) (unless you get a re-occuring subscription which is 19 a month) and then you can for an additional fee tack on the other sibling.  The box I got for a promo was a re-occuring subscription (that I canceled).  It was for one child but I was easily able to stretch things for two children because of the number of supplies I also have on hand.  I've also gotten a promo for Kiwi Crate, but I didn't like it as much.  It has a combination of activities and crafts which is "meh" to me. The other option is to raid the local craft store for craft kits for kids. I got a couple of foam crafts, Thanksgiving-themed, from Dollar Tree for two dollars stashed away for later.

So hopefully that will give family members (and that includes ourselves) some ideas for things for the kids this year that don't break the bank or overwhelm the house with toys but make lots of fun memories. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Somewhat Wordless Wednesday: Brace Yourselves

pumpkin costume

my front yard

 no idea why this is upside down

Friday, October 23, 2015

7 Quick Takes: #Brainy #Outings

1) My children are smart.  Now I know when a parent says this, they usually mean to be bragging, but when I say it I mean it in a sort of startling/wonder and awe way.  You have to understand that my oldest, HB, is in kindergarten.  He is autistic.  He statistically speaking should struggle academically not just socially/emotionally (which he is behind in).  He has a brain disorder.  Now I understand that sometimes the brain hard-wires itself to excel in areas while it can't in others.  I've heard stories of children who have physical problems confined to hospital beds actually talking very early because the brain just puts energy into areas like that.  I knew HB was reading well.  He started reading a year ago.  But tonight his kindergarten teacher said she has been trying to figure out where his reading comprehension level is.  So she asked the reading specialist to evaluate him so that she would know what to be challenging him with.  The reading specialist said he reads somewhere at a third or forth grade level.  She's not sure but she said he could be as high as fifth grade.  Hard to tell with him.  She cautioned that some of the books would have topics not suitable for a kindergarten aged child.  She suggested giving him the Little House on the Prairie series to read on his own.  On his own!  In a year he reads at least third grade level?!  And the kindergarten teacher is reading Harry Potter to/with him.  Harry Potter?!  That's meant for ten year olds?!  He's only been reading a year and He's not even six yet!?  He's in frackin' kindergarten?!  As his mother, I must say, he's already smarter than I am.  What is he going to be like later on?  Is he going to be read the Lord of the Rings with me in fifth grade?  I think you understand me.

2) Now I did say children, plural.  While Knee is average and typical for being almost four, he has his own special skills that I hazard to guess he gets from other relatives.  To say he is meticulous about art is an understatement.  His spacial comprehension is off the charts as far as I can surmise.  Today we dropped off HB at school.  He had brought along one of his lego creations.  The principal thought it was one of those Star Wars ships that you put together as a kit.  It wasn't.  Knee created and built the darn thing himself out of various lego parts (some of which I'm sure are from Star Wars kits).  And it looked like a freakin' space ship.  Not the kind your average four year old would build, but it had wings and seats and stuff.  I wish I had a picture.  I think when I start working more with him on letters we need to focus on writing them or creating them rather because, man, he puts my lego building skills to shame.  To shame!  It must be some recessive genes have some mad engineering skills 'cause I've got a great-uncle who was a mechanic and a grandfather who was one too.  Both loved to tinker, but it's not a skill I or my husband have.  So there you go.  Should have named him Alvin (which was my great-uncle, God rest his soul).  Not to mention of course his love for cooking. I know where he got that creative streak.  His Grammy because nobody on my family cooks with quite that level of flare.  I think I need to pair those two up over the holidays.

3) To completely veer off topic, I've looked into school choices for next year.  I like that Arizona has a voucher program set-up.  Gives us options.  I asked HB about it but he says he likes his school and wants to remain there.  I figure in middle school I should look into getting him into a specialized school of some sort (magnet or charter) because my fear is that at that age he'll get bored and into trouble.  Not sure if we'll still be in Arizona, but I want to be armed with information for the future. 

4) Our weeks have been busy ones.  We went to the Biosphere II.  I don't really recommend it for little kids.  It's interesting, but our kids got quickly bored.  They don't quite get the fascination with the plants and biomes, history, engineering, and current research.  It's neat for older children though I'm sure.
The Solar Club had a display outside. Left-right: Knee, Hubby, HB, and Solar people
5) We also went to the Pumpkin Patch.
The Corn Maze, which we got lost in for a while
This they liked quite a bit.  But who wouldn't like a petting zoo, playground, corn mazes, jumping pillows, mini-train rides, and picking out pumpkins.  A little overwhelming with the sheer volume of people.  Maybe next year we'll go early or during a week day.

6) We also did crafts over fall break.
Star constellations.  Can you guess whose is whose? I'll help you out; my Orion is on the far right.  Given what I've said I'm sure you can figure out HB's and Knee's. 
7) And tonight it was fall Harvest Festival at HB's school.  They had a food, jumping castles, rock climbing, carny styled games, cheap books, and face painting.  I volunteered to man a game.  I think the kiddos enjoyed it. 

Fall is such a busy time of year isn't it?  What are your plans for fall?

Thanks to This Ain't the Lyceum!