Monday, September 17, 2012

September 16, 2012

Catching Up With September

It is halfway through the month of September and I haven't even written about August yet.  I will put that off just a bit longer as I write about this month's events.

It was great weather to get a few things done outside.  Ryan "helped" my mom clean things by rinsing them off with water.  He cleaned just about anything he could find, including himself.  That child loves playing with water!  I don't know that he was really much help, but he had a great time and was not in the way.

 Justin worked on a project with my dad.  The two of them waterproofed the ladder.  Justin had an interesting technique and it often looked like he was dancing more than painting.  He had a blast though and my dad was able to finish up the project.
 September meant the end of the summer and Justin's first year of school.  He had been really nervous in August when we went in for the kindergarten screening.  By the time we went in to the meet the teacher event he was feeling more confident.  On the first day, he was ready to go.  I was lucky I got a picture of him before we left.  He was one anxious boy!
 After school he told me that it was probably the best day of his life.  Off to a good start!  Since then it has been an up and down ride.  Evidently he doesn't like that he can't do whatever he wants whenever he wants.  The teacher even makes them walk in a line instead of trampling around the school like a herd.  The nerve!

 Justin also started soccer.  I was worried that it would be competitive and the kids would have a lot of experience.  I was thrilled to see parents trying to figure out shin guards and kids who asked the coach if they got to go play in the dirt when they were done.  His coach is a gem.  She is a high school student who played Park and Rec soccer all through elementary school and she is really good with the kids.  The first game will be this week.  We will see if Justin is able to keep his cool.  I have been proud of him at the practices.  He has been a good sport when he does well and also when he does not do so well.

While the weather is good we have been trying to get out and take advantage of all of the playgrounds here.  We missed having such nice playgrounds in Namibia.  This playground is at Justin's school, and is perfect for weekend play because it is not as crowded as some of the other more popular playgrounds are.  Ryan enjoys getting the chance to play at Justin's school too.

Although Ryan stopped taking naps long ago, sometimes he still gets worn out.  I always hate when he takes a nap because it means he will be up late.  This nap lasted all of about twenty minutes, but it meant he was up three hours past his bedtime.  He still woke up at the same time the next morning and was a bit cranky.  Who would have guessed I would see naps as an enemy?
 I didn't want Ryan to feel left out, so I signed him up for soccer too.  His group meets once a week on Saturday mornings.  It was such a joy to watch the three year olds run around with so much energy and so little skill.  They had a blast!  The instructors are from the college soccer team.  At one point they were trying to get a 3 on 3 game going with the 7 in Ryan's group.  They wanted to make sure everyone got equal play.  Another mother and I said we thought it would be fine to have four on one team and three on another.  Sure enough, that seemed to work fine.  Sometimes there were multiple goalies, sometimes more than one ball on the field, and frequently there was rolling around on the grass, but the kids had a lot of fun.  Ryan is so excited to have shin guards and a soccer shirt like his brother.

  Ryan doesn't like to do much without his brother.  I was able to get him to go out on his bike with me.  I need to find a better place because there are too many hills when we go around the block.  I was either pulling him or trying to slow him down.  He had a good time, but I was sore by the time we got back.
We miss Rob and can't wait for him to finish up in Namibia and join us here.  In the meantime, it is pretty routine with school, soccer, library, and playing.  The boys are having a wonderful time with Grandma.  She is spoiling me too!  :)

Monday, September 03, 2012

Flying With Preschoolers

When you spend over over 30 hours on planes and in airports with your kids you really want to make sure that you can keep them entertained.  I did it WITHOUT breaking out the ipod.  Don't get me wrong, I love the ipod, but one doesn't work so well for two children and the battery life just isn't that great.  I got so tired of trying to find good ideas online.  People would talk about long flights across the US and I would think, really?  I have done that and it is a piece of cake.  What can I do for a long trip knowing I will be carrying it all myself and going through security in each country?

I know, you are thinking that the kids should sleep a good chunk of that 30 hours, especially since our first flight was at 8:00 PM.  Nope.  Justin didn't sleep until the last hour of the entire journey.  He woke up around 5:00 AM the day we left so yes, my five year old was awake and busy for over 40 hours before he finally crashed.

These are magnetic dry erase boards.  One side is the dry erase side and I made the back into a flannel board.  I found Mario and Angry Birds clip art online.  I printed some on non-gauze milk filters to make them flannel board figures.  (Hard to see them well in the picture.)  I also printed out the pictures on cardstock, laminated, and stuck magnets on the back.  One board could be used for flannel board play, magnetic play, or writing/drawing with dry erase markers.  The Mario magnets were the biggest hit and the boys played with them for hours.  You could make figures out of whatever a child's current interest is.

My boys LOVE mazes, but they get frustrated if they make a mistake on the harder levels and zip through the easy mazes.  I rip out the pages of the maze book (or print some out from online) and put them in plastic sheet protectors.  Add a dry erase marker (the dry erase crayons don't work so well on the plastic sheet protectors) and a sock for an eraser and you are good to go!  Each protector was able to hold about half of the maze book.  This was very popular for the boys as well.

Travel Guess Who, Travel Checkers, Travel Connect 4, and Travel Tangoes are all lightweight and not very large.  Justin liked Connect 4, but I didn't really want to play with him and he lost interest on his own.  We didn't get to the other items on the plane.  We have since used the Travel Tangoes and Justin LOVES them.  Ryan hasn't gotten a chance to try them out yet, but I don't think that he would like them as much.  Justin remains occupied with them for over an hour during church.  They are small and magnetic. :)  You could make your own too.  I will probably print out some additional cards for Justin because eventually he will get tired of doing the same ones each week.

We had some activity pads, sticker books, and flashcards.  I punch holes in the $1 flash cards that I pick up from Target.  I stick a ring through them and then tape over it with masking tape so the boys don't open it up and scatter the cards.  This doesn't keep them busy for more than about 20 minutes at a time, but is great for planes, cars, waiting rooms, etc.  They also seem to pick up some information from them as well.  Could work with any cards you purchase or make yourself.  We didn't get to the activity pads, but I know that my children enjoy the variety of tic tac toe, mazes, word scrambles, etc.  The sticker books were a hit on previous flights, but not so much on this trip.  I think a lot had to do with the timing of when they were pulled out.

My mom sent us some Angry Birds, Mario Brothers, and one other type of little figure.  The boys liked them, but I swear Ryan was acting more like a baby dropping them over and over again so I would have to take off my seat belt and retrieve them.  We also had some of our Littlest Pet Shop figures.  I have found that the boys enjoy having those or small finger puppets to play with.  Buying sets from the Dollar Store or Oriental Trading Company is good so you don't have to worry about losing them.  Also pictured is a calculator.  My boys LOVE calculators.

We had some crayola wonder markers and stamps.  They prefer the regular markers, but since Ryan still likes to "decorate" himself I like the crayola wonders for trips, hotels, etc.  We didn't get to them on this trip.  Books were great for times when we were taking off and landing.  The boys were restless and wanted to do something and it was easy for me to read to them and then just stick the book back in the bag quickly.

We also had some other items that were given to us.  One friend gave us Snakes and Ladders (the size of the checkers set we took) and another small game (I can never remember what it is called or how to play, but my boys have made up their own rules) and we didn't get to those either. 

Another friend gave us dot to dot books.  Justin enjoys them, but sometimes it was hard when it was bumpy.  She also gave us a really cool crayola set that I have not seen in the US.  It had small markers (like the pipsqueaks) and a variety of small projects (finger puppets, paper dolls, picture frame, mobile, etc. AND all necessary materials to make them.  The projects were small and it came in a very compact package.  We didn't get to that on the trip either.  I have let Ryan do some of the projects during church and it has worked out well.  I will probably keep some in my purse in case we have to wait at the doctor's or a restaurant and they need something to do.

My boys also LOVE measuring tapes.  I had those in the bag as well.  They work better in airports where they can move a bit more freely and measure things.  They also like to use the measuring tapes when playing with some of their small figures.  The measuring tapes can be made into nests, slides, leashes, snakes, and heaven knows what else.  Ryan enjoyed his mostly broken slinky.  It is tangled beyond untangling, but it still has a little bit of bounce.  He held it by one end and bounced it along as he walked through airports.  It really distracted him while waiting in lines or trying to cover long distances between terminals.

I did not take play doh because sometimes I have had it taken from me in screenings.  Even if they just pull it out of the bag for inspection it slows me down.  My kids like a lot of accessories for play doh too and that means more bulk to transport.

Snacks are definitely the biggest help of all for me on trips.  My boys had so many different Angry Birds and Mario fruit snacks that I am surprised they didn't turn into one!  They like to sort them, play with them, and then eat them.  Crackers in fun shapes and pez dispensers with refills are big hits with them too.  I try to get some less junky things for them to eat, but really it is the junk that keeps them happy.  As long as they don't get sick, I am thrilled that it keeps them happy and quiet.

Before flying I checked to see if there would be movies/shows for my children to watch.  Our flight from Frankfurt to San Fransisco had the Lorax.  They boys watched that at least six times.  There were a couple of other cartoons (maybe an hour or so) appropriate for them as well.  Having this meant I didn't have to worry about hauling around DVDs, not that the DVD player can last that long anyway.

For the record, I can fit in the airplane lavatories with both boys.  It isn't pretty, but it sure beats the days of changing their diapers in there!  I convinced Ryan that he should wear a "cool Diego pull up" instead of "boring underwear" just in case.  I am so proud of him for making it through the whole journey dry.   He has been trained for some time but I didn't want to risk it.  I have probably traumatized him for life, right?

I have also found band aids and/or masking tape helpful for limiting the boys' access to controls that are on the seat arm.  Who wants to call the flight attendant every five minutes?  Cover up the button and no worries!  They also like to band aid/tape themselves (or me) up.

Our next BIG trip will be from Idaho to Armenia.  I am sure I will be planning it months in advance.  I would rather have too much than not enough.  I also know that I will be the one who ends up hauling all of the carry on bags (hand luggage).

Hope this gave you some ideas of what you might be able to use for your next trip.  If not, it will help me remember what I can pull out.

Saturday, September 01, 2012


I just got the air shipment from Namibia.  That means that I now have my laptop again!  I hope to soon catch up on my blog and all that we have done this past month.  Soon, soon...