Monday, June 28, 2010

10 Things to Do in the Car on a Road Trip

I am participating in a blogger contest held by Cabins For You. Cabins For You specializes in cabin rentals located in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge TN. For more information about cabins, events and attractions please visit their blog.


We travel as a family quite a bit. Usually we only take one big vacation every year, but with my husband's job requiring some travel, we have recently been able to accompany him on some business outings as well. Now that I have convinced him that our kids are old enough travel well and not slow him down, I have to keep up my end of the bargain and come up with ways to keep them entertained. These are just ideas...some I have tried and some that...well...may just be imaginary things I have thought of that I wish I could do. ha.

1. Treat bags with prizes. I first did this in 2008 when we first took our kids to Disney World. It was the first long car drive for them and I was obsessed with bringing plenty of on the road entertainment. I scouted out the dollar store and Target for cheapo toys and "wrapped" them in brown paper bags marked with mile numbers. Every 100 miles on the way and on the way back they got to open a new prize. Each one entertained them for about...5 minutes. ha. Actually, I want to point out that the on the way home prizes are probably even more important than the on the way prizes. Infinitely so.

2. Electronic Games: I love some electronic games for the road. Some people find it hard to read in the car because it makes them carsick. Nothing like wasting the hours trying to serve all your customer tables on Diner Dash, or making yourself feel smart with an electronic version of Sudoku that offers hints. You will make it from home to destination in no time with your mind preoccupied with the endless distraction of portable video games. Oh, and kids love it too! (Don't forget plenty of batteries/games/adaptor for charging the battery in the car!)

3. Car Bingo: It is great when your kids get old enough for classic car games. I found some great printouts that take the "I Spy" license plate game to a much more fun place. I mean really, I can barely identify the states on the plates anymore until we are smack riding their bumper, especially with all the donation/cause tags out there now. These games have you looking for various construction/road signs, types of buildings, and airborne items. The plus side to these printable cards is that even small children can enjoy looking for them without having to read, and they are FREE to print! Also very useful if you aren't going to be around a lot of traffic on your way to rural Pennsylvania or similar locale.

4. Food: Why stop and eat in a restaurant when you can use that time to drive further on and keep the kids occupied? No waiting around forever for them to finish four nuggets while you mentally begrudge all the miles you could be moving along instead. I have found that the drink carriers provided by some gas stations have perfect little compartments for dividing out fast food fare, or cooler food. It makes a great lap tray so food doesn't end up everywhere, and they are reusable for several meals (as long as you don't squirt condiments out on the actual tray). This is a great win/win for the kids and the adults. That way, when you DO stop to stretch your legs, they can actually run around like crazy instead of having to accomplish eating a meal at the same time. Added bonus: You know that they will be screaming to go the bathroom about 36 minutes after you get in the car after stopping to eat......mission accomplished: maximum miles and entertainment...plus minimum time wasted!

5. School Work: We are homeschoolers...a great bonus that allows us to travel more than we would if our kids were on a school system schedule. But, this tip is great for any family. If your kids need help with a certain subject or need to study, then bring along something they can work on in the car. It will pass some time, they will learn a little, and they can be rewarded when they are done with something obnoxious that isn't on this list, like watching a DVD on a portable DVD player. Yeah, it's not on my list, because I despise having to listen to their shows really loudly up in the front and/or not be able to listen to the radio while Elmo serenades our trip over and over and over and over. Our kids are now 7 and 6, so maybe its time to give that one a try again...ours broke several years ago and was never replaced...I guess Spongebob would be a little less annoying?? nah....
(Oh, and whoever thinks that headphones would help, has obviously never watched a tv show with a 6 year old.)

6. Have a GPS: Your children can be immersed into the foreign language world of the GPS teacher for hours at a time! We didn't know what a great entertainer for the kids the GPS lady would be until our children started imitating her and asking questions like, "What does motorway mean?" and giving advice like, "You are supposed to turn left Dad, left in 1.2 miles." I just know they are becoming geniuses and will be able to intuitively tell distance by bumps in the booster seat or how many trees go by or something in a few years. Oh, and you get to model civilized adult conflict management skills when you "discuss" how you still got lost while using the GPS.

7. Travel Brochures! You don't even have to visit iffy looking places to pick them up anymore! I recently ordered travel guides for about ten different states. The quality varies by state, but many of them are beautiful, colorful, and actually helpful, rather than just being an ad for such and such tourist trap. If you google "the state you want travel guide", you will get a link somewhere for a place to order these via snail mail, totally FREE. From the time you leave the house, you and the kids can preview little known things to do, state parks, and attractions for the place you are going, without having to wait till you get there to see pics and read reviews. Several of the cities that I ordered guides for, featured a "free" section, that highlighted, yes, free things to do. And not all of these are lame... many of them are little known "free days of the month or week" to certain big attractions like childrens museums and zoos! Yes, I am aware that all of this information can be found online, but for car entertainment, this is a perfect idea!

8. Clean the Windows: I haven't actually tried this one, but I can't believe I never thought of it till now! Let your kids clean the windows....and everywhere they can reach for that matter! Just get some kid safe cleaning wipes or paper towels dipped in your natural cleaner of choice, and let them at it! I could see my kids loving this, as they are way past eating the paper towel, yet still at the "big" chores are fun stage. I bet that sticker grime on the window would be totally gone in about....2 hours of hard scrubbing, max! :)

9. Looking out the Window: Take your kids back to the original method of in the car entertaining. Tell them it's cool and retro and they will too. Right? Seriously...I think we skip this step way too soon sometimes and pull out the full blown entertainment, thus running out of things to do early on in the trip. Sometimes it's okay (because you are the parent) to say, "Look out the window! It's fun, see what you can see... When I was little, we didn't have -fill in the blank high tech car entertainment-" It will kill more time than not looking out the window, I guarantee it!

10. Nothing: Sometimes when we run out of things to do...we actually end up doing nothing. We will find ourselves.... talking to each other.... laughing.... singing...discussing where we are going and what we want to do there.... SOMETIMES, my husband and I actually get to have an uninterrupted conversation and our children do the same... for example...one time my husband and I were talking and I heard a tiny voice squeal, "Mommy!!!" and I said, "What?!?!" and my daughter's regular voice reponded..."Oh, I'm not talking to you, that's my foot calling Noah's pencil."

It can happen!

Do you have any other ideas to add to my list? We have an 11 hour drive to Chicago coming up... and my kids are going to grow wise to the window washing and nothing before too long!

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Party


Tonight was the family party. The trade off for Noah's huge shopping spree was that we had a small family party instead of the big party at fill in the blank expensive location with a full meal and all that stuff. I think it was a lot of fun and the Spongebob decor was so cool!


I tried to make blue punch to go along with the under the sea theme, but I couldn't find white cranberry juice that was called for, and using a slightly more yellow juice made the punch turn out green (not sure you can see it in the pic). Corey said the green was more like ocean water anyway, ha ha.

Katie wanted her picture with Spongebob.


Noah got more money for some more shopping!!! Yay! ha ha. He wants to use the rest of his money on new Nintendo DS games.


New pjs from Katie.


Katie the photographer. She got several treats as well. :)


Noah, like Katie at her 6th, was able to read all his birthday cards with the exception of a few words. What a guy! :)


Iron Man toys!


New rain boots from Chris and Hannah! Much needed after the recent growth spurt!


Spongebob with his cake.


The guests....


Noah and Nanna...(Uncle Ben was there, but no pic)

Maw Maw (my grandmother) and Katie and Noah


My mom and dad...Meme and Grandpa with the kids
(with some tiny friends)

Uncle Chris (my brother) and Aunt, er...I mean, Hannah. ha ha.


And a parting word from Katie.
A great time was had by all!
This party if officially over!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What Happened....

this.......

this is what peanut butter cookies look like when you bake them for about 2 hours instead of the short 8 minutes called for.
How in the world does something like that happen you ask??

Well...it's a long story. It started when Katie came to me at around 11am to tell me that our water wasn't working. After a couple of phone calls and digging around for bills it turned out that our water had been turned off. Adairsville City Utilities is the most aggravating company to deal with... (they need your life history, your parents life history, and a crazy high deposit before you can even get water...it's almost like getting a home loan!) and the lady who sits in the window to take money and answers the phone is one of the crabbiest and most unhappy people I have ever met or dealt with. Let me just say this...I am not the only person I know whose water has been turned off who always pays their bills...AND when I called to get it straightened out she said I had to get there before 4pm so I could get ON THE LIST to get turned back on today. ON THE LIST?!??! In Adairsville??? It's a very small "city" here to begin with....and there is a list on a random Tuesday to get your water back on?? That should tell you something right there.... *SIGH*
So...I had to go get that stuff figured out because it has been mid-upper 90s every day and you just can't go through your day without water in that kind of weather.
She asked if I would be at home so they could come by and I said yes. BUT, thinking back... they did not so much as knock on my door to let me know if was being turned off, so... anyway. She informed me that the "notice" given was a note at the bottom of every bill telling people that if they don't pay it will be turned off immediately. I mean immediately. ARGH!
I was waiting around doing nothing. Couldn't wash clothes from the weekend...couldn't even flush the toilet. I had to use bottled water to wash my hands. Craziness. Our water bill is usually less than $20 too, can you believe it?
At some point in the day I was needing to drive to Rome to pick up some barbecue for the Wednesday night meal at church. It was my week to get the food and I chose easy heat n eat barbecue. It comes frozen so I wanted to get it on Tuesday so it could sit in the fridge and thaw.
I decided to bake some cookies while I waited for the water people. That I could do without water. So, I put the cookies in and go to the bathroom to wash my hands. WHOA! The water was back on! (without any notice of course) I gotta get that barbecue.....it was already 3:00 and they closed at 4:30pm.

"Katie, Noah, get your shoes on, let's go now!"

And that's why I forgot that I had put cookies in the oven.

On the way to pick up the barbecue I saw a billboard for a natural foods store in Rome that I had been meaning to stop by and check out. I decided to take the frozen barbecue to my mom's office freezer and go check out the store.

I was browsing the candy aisle when I remembered the cookies. I guess it was the sweets that reminded me. I ran out of the store trying to get Corey on the phone. His work is only about 4 minutes from our house so he could be there before me.

I stopped by to pick up the barbecue and told my mom what I had done. SHE LAUGHED at me!!!!!! lol. And told me it probably wouldn't catch on fire, which was my worst fear.

Corey called me in a few minutes to tell me that nothing was on fire but we had completely black cookies and a stinky house.

A stinky house that I am just now beginning to get the burned smell out of. We have an air purifier going, and this afternoon I spent 4 hours cleaning the oven inside and out, and every single surface in our kitchen and living room with various mixtures of vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice. I am sooooo tired right now and believe me...I will never leave the house when I have cookies baking in the oven ever again!

OH, and that's why we went out for Noah's birthday and did his shopping spree Tuesday night. The house was sooooooo stinky that night! ha ha! It was the tiniest bit not as strong when we got back from our night out.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

All About Noah, 6-23-10


Stats:
Noah Carter Thompson
height: 3 feet, 9 1/2 inches (45 1/2 inches)
weight: 45 lbs

Favorites:
color: yellow
regular food: corn
sweet food: ice cream
tv show: Phineas and Ferb
movie: Toy Story 3
thing to do: play video games
restaurant: Cracker Barrel
book: How Do Animals Sleep
school activity: handwriting

Happy Birthday Noah! Be sure to scroll down and read all about his birthday celebration shopping spree last night! :)

AND Happy Anniversary to Andy and Bethany!!! 9 years!

Noah's 6th Birthday!

Happy Birthday to our awesome son: Noah Carter Thompson!
I can't believe it!!!!! He is 6 now, the baby is six!!!!!

We surprised Noah with a shopping spree for his birthday! Well, he knew he wanted to do a shopping spree, but he didn't know it was going to be tonight! Here he is, in the driveway, opening his gift: (why we were in the driveway will be explained in a later post, stay tuned for that great story soon! It also contributes to why we switched to doing the shopping tonight!)

Lots o'money.......


$250 shopping spree!!!!! WOW!!!!!

and now....

This is after we told him we were going shopping TONIGHT!!!!!! He was so excited and surprised! He thought he had to wait until Saturday after his party!
But, we like to do something special on their "actual" birthday. Tomorrow evening we will be at church for musical practice, and Corey has band practice. We had discussed doing breakfast but a few other things just made us decide to do it tonight.
Yeah, $250 is a lot of money for a 6 year old to spend at the toy store...but we do big birthdays around here, especially with our three gift Christmas tradition (which I will be forever grateful for our friends sharing that idea with us...its such a great tradition!), birthday is the time we do a big party and believe me, this $250 shopping spree was a better "deal" than Chuck E. for sure! ha ha ha!

I think Corey had just as much fun as Noah did, browsing the aisles. I was afraid it was going to take forever for him to choose what he wanted, but after the first item finally got put in the cart, the rest went a little easier, ha ha.

Noah showing off some of his goods.


We don't usually do the whole sibling getting a gift on the other ones party day, but after Katie walked patiently around with Noah getting all kinds of cool stuff and not complaining...she did get a little something too. :)


After shopping spree dinner.

Noah with all his goodies:
a skateboard (with training handle for beginners)
a pogo stick (very cool with a wide base attachment for learning)
Nerf N-Strike video game
a pack of bakugan toys
pokemon cards
walkie talkies
2 matchbox cars
a helmet
a giant nerf type gun (toys r us brand)
an electric drum set
and Super Mario Galaxy 2 for the Wii.
I think he spent his money very wisely on some cool big stuff and little things too.
When we first got home, Corey, Katie, and Noah all enjoyed a little treat from her choice of toy.....




A classic Snoopy snow cone maker. It actually works! I always wanted one of those when I was little! ha ha!

After a very quick blitz playing with each thing for a couple of minutes....


We all said goodnight, and Happy Birthday to Noah who will greet his 6th birthday with a ton of new toys to enjoy in celebration!
We have a small party planned with all the grandparents and uncles on Friday with cake and ice cream.... his trade off for the "big friend party" for the shopping spree. I don't think he will have any complaints! :)
Tune in later for a complete run down of the first part of our day... which resulted in our leaving the house as much as possible tonight, and opening his gift in the driveway! Part of it involves me washing my hands with bottled water as well..you won't wanna miss it! :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Weekend (Review: Toy Story 3)

Last week, Corey was in Nashville for the Summer NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show. He goes this time every year, but it happened to fall on Father's Day weekend this year. So Sunday after church, the kids and I, plus Corey's mom, drove up to Nashville to see them, his dad and brother were there also. We got there around 3:30. Corey and the guys were tearing down and loading up their booth stuff from the show so we hung out in the NICELY air conditioned room. ha ha.

We ended up having a late dinner at Pie in the Sky across the street from the hotel. It is YUMMY pizza!!! This isn't the same as "big pie in the sky" in Marietta. This place is more like a mellow mushroom style of pizza, but not as hippie of decor, ha ha.

You could watch the guys making the pizzas and they gave the kids balls of pizza dough to play with while we waited. The kids were starving since Nashville is on central time and it was 8pm our time when we ate!
Corey and the kids, Father's Day.


After we got back to the hotel we decided to take a late night swim while it was still hot no hot sunshine beaming down. The forecast for Monday was 99 for the high!
Our kids are totally spoiled about hotel stays. We almost always have beds for each of them or at least a fold out sofa for them to share. But the hotel was all booked up for several events that weekend, so we had a king bed and a roll-away. Noah slept on the roll-away and Katie slept in the bed with us. We got in the bed really late anyway and I couldn't sleep well so the next day we were very tired. We had talked about several fun things to do in the area, but with our two favorite indoor Nashville activities shut down still from the flooding (Opryland Hotel and Opry Mills Mall), we ended up just heading out of town and seeing Toy Story 3 instead.
It was AWESOME!!!!! We were planned to go with a group from church this weekend, and honestly, we will probably see it again. It was THAT good. Did you know it has been 15 years since the first Toy Story came out? It came out in 1995! So, if you had a 3 year old in 1995, then your child would be the same age as Andy in the movie now, even though he wasn't 3 in the movie at the time. Anyway, the storyline was great, it was hilarious and entertaining for adults too without being too borderline inappropriate, and the ending was perfect. It is a definite tear-jerker though, so bring the tissues! I highly recommend it, but also want to point out that the 3D wasn't really a big thing for this movie. It would be just as great without seeing it in 3D. I even forgot later that it was even IN 3D, so that's how unimportant it is....so save the $3 and see the regular one instead if you want to.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Simple Joys Saturday

I always knew that God created me for "such a time as this...................."


The time of air conditioning of course! God never hears so much constant thankfulness from me than in the summer. Air conditioning is a gift from heaven and a blessing to those of us here in Georgia who are already anticipating fall before the first day of summer has even come!

And what could be better than the simple joy of air conditioning? Bare feet on a cold wood floor...that's what!
Slipping your HOT and TIRED feet out of your shoes or flip flops.....and walking across the cool floor is INSTANT relaxation and relief from the brutal outdoors. A simple joy...that I do not take for granted!
One more simple joy for us this weekend......
Driving up to Nashville and spending time with my husband, enjoying a swimming pool in the midst of a heat advisory....and enjoying a ride home the next day...just being together. It's a blessing and a joy!
Click the link/photo at the top of the post for more Simple Joys Saturday posts!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Baby Thrashers


The eggs hatched!


When we left late Friday afternoon, we saw the nest no longer contained eggs.


We could only get passing glances at the nest and baby birds from afar, because the mama bird was staying very close to the nest all weekend. She was covering them most of the time and seemed ready for attack, ha ha. So, it was today that I finally got some good shots while she was away gathering food.


We are pretty sure there are two Brown Thrashers hovering around the area. One was walking around with a worm in its mouth this evening when I got home from book club.
It is so cool to see the babies!!!! They just have black fuzz right now. Katie will be so thrilled to see the pictures I got of the babies because they haven't been able to get a good look at them. I couldn't really either, I just blindly took these photos and hoped they turned out okay when I zoomed and cropped on the computer. They aren't bad!
It will be interesting to see how they develop over the next days.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Congratulations!

I would like to say congratulations to my long time friend, Alicia! (and her husband, Joe, of course!) They had their day in court last week which finalized the adoption of their son, Andrew. Their story is amazing, and their little boy is a perfect fit into their family! Andrew was placed with them right before Christmas and it is already FINAL, isn't that a miracle in itself?!?!

Anyway, "Congratulations" to all three of them, having a child in the house is one of God's sweetest blessings! They deserve every bit of happiness! You can read about their story and see pictures of their sweet family at: "Growing in Alicia's Heart."

Friday, June 11, 2010

What to say......?

I don't even know what to say these days. I haven't really been overly busy. School is already planned for the first nine weeks. Although I did make another last minute change to curriculum. As I was talking to someone about school, I remembered the Handwriting Without Tears program. We had used Abeka handwriting practice workbooks last year because they just wrote them the way they had learned with HWT. Then I thought about the fact that Katie will be learning cursive this year, which she loves. That brought to mind the cursive instruction program that HWT has and how if I loved it so much with teaching print, then I would probably love it for cursive too, so now I am switching that and have two completely unused handwriting workbooks for sale, ha ha. The Abeka cursive program is sooooo fancy, it drives me crazy. I remember having to work so hard and making all those curls and tails just right, then as we all know, most people adapt their own version of it anyway, so it doesn't do much good. The HWT cursive program is much more simplified and realistic although theirs doesn't start till third grade. I'm going to get it anyway because it is the number one thing Katie has been excited about for this coming school year.

I got my preferred version of the first grade phonics/reading teacher's book from ebay this week. We got it for just $12 including shipping! Gotta love that better than $35 for the new version! I had a previous teacher's book that worked okay but it was the "school" edition and took quite a bit of planning to change what they said for an individual. It didn't matter much for Katie because she already knew all the stuff mostly, but for Noah I want a better plan. He is reading SO WELL so I think first grade won't be that difficult in that department either, but it was a great deal and will be nice to have.

I am restless and ready to start school already. But, we do have a few things planned to do during our time off. We plan on visiting the Chattanooga Zoo with some friends. And there are three movie theaters around us doing cheap/free movies during the weekday mornings.

Noah's birthday is later this month, so that will be fun. Instead of a party, he is choosing to go on a "shopping spree!" I know he will have a blast.

Then, in July, we are hopefully going to hit the road with Corey for some business trips. Philadelphia/New York, and Chicago are on the hope list for those. We actually hope to join the chattanooga zoo as members, so then we will get free admission to many zoos around the country, something we might could really take advantage of with the traveling we will be doing. If admission isn't free it is at least 50% off the rest of the zoos around the country, but mostly they are free. You actually get into more free with the chatt. zoo than with atlanta zoo membership! crazy!

OH! We also registered for the Southeast Homeschool Expo on July 30-31st in Atlanta. The last time we went was in.....2007, the summer before we started our first year of homeschooling. Katie was starting prek and noah prek also. It was a lot of fun, and we saw some really cool stuff, including the Handwriting Without Tears that we ended up using. I have been wanting to go again, and even though I already have everything we need for this coming year, we are going. They had a special offer that the first 1000 people to register get a free year membership in Homeschool Legal Advantage, which I have been meaning to do anyway. We probably won't go both days of the expo, but there are a few workshops I want to sit in on and there were so many cool freebies last time, like pencils, pens, magnets, etc, ha ha, I love freebies!

I gotta keep myself busy and I think we will be able to do that easily this summer!

If only I had a trip to Disney World on the calendar, then it would be perfect! ha ha!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Life

There has been a lot going on with us lately. I just wanted to point out my baby blog, (over to the left) to anyone who didn't know about it. Doctor's visits, seemingly bad news, slightly hopeful news, frustrating "no" news.....

If you would like to know what's been happening on that front, there have been posts going on there for the past few weeks concerning the hopes of an addition to the family, but not sure which way it will go yet.

Keep us in your prayers.

Thanks!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Birdwatching 101


This is the state bird of Georgia: The Brown Thrasher


We are now fairly certain (after much stalking, watching, attempting to get photos) that this is the kind of bird that has built a nest in the bush by our front porch.


Here is the nest...the way we usually see it. The mama bird flies away almost immediately every time we go down the stairs.

Here are a couple more shots. I have to get the photos from a decent distance to not scare her away, then when I zoom they are blurry. But her markings are just like the ones in the first photo I found online.


The final confirmation was when I finally got a good look at the beak. It is long like the photos of the brown thrasher. Katie thinks that everything about the bird and eggs and nest are just adorable. I hope we haven't disturbed her too much. Now that we have confirmed the type of bird, we will just wait for the eggs to hatch. The eggs incubate for 11-14 days, so probably another week and a half till they hatch. I just found out that they are very serious defenders of their nests, so we will have to be extremely careful. I am so excited that we are getting to see something like this so conveniently. We had scheduled our first science unit all about birds to begin in July, so this will be a great way to lead in!