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    family fun, parenting

    The Library of Things: Amazing Free Perks Your Local Library May Offer

    Today libraries offer library card holders so much more than just something to read. For anyone on a budget, there are amazing perks and services available to take advantage of with your library card.

    For example, my daughter learned how to use the sewing machine for free at our local library. They made adorable fabric place mats and she’s so proud of how hers turned out. Although she already knows how to sew by hand, I also signed her up for the hand sewing class at the library.

    Here are some of the other perks and resources available at different libraries across the country:

    • Check out tools from the tool-lending library
    • Check out toys for children ages 2-6
    • Discounted or free passes to local attractions
    • Foreign language classes
    • Seed library to try out seeds in your garden or windowsill planter
    • Borrow infrared thermometers to improve the efficiency of your home
    • Try out podcasting microphones and equipment
    • Borrow board games
    • Learn a new skill by taking free courses online
    • Borrow knitting needles for your next knitting project
    • Check out a telescope!  (My local library has one you can check out and borrow)

    When I asked my Instagram community for some things their libraries offered, here are a few responses I received:

    I checked out a telescope!

    We’ve checked out power tools for home projects.

    All time favorite library experience was the library that will order any book from Amazon and have it delivered to your house if they don’t already have it at the library and then you just turn it into the library when you’re done! Who knew!!

    My local library has a 3D printer and some amazing kids STEM activities!

    The most unique thing we offer is dinner and a movie at the library. The library is transformed into a restaurant with decorations, candles, music playing, etc. Our teen volunteers work as servers.

    We checked out a state parks pass from our library to go camping for free.

    We LOVE our library! We’ve checked out board games, video games, toy kits (like musical instruments and building blocks), and even a coding robot! Ours now offers local museum and zoo passes to check out too, which is great for families with a tighter budget.

    We do so many great activities at our local library from having a Pinterest live class, learning macrame to making 80’s crafts. I love trivia nights. I have learned how to knit with my arms. We had adult science night and we had fun making rockets and testing them on a summer night.

    Our library has a “nature backpack” with a parking pass to the state parks, animal and plant ID books, and binoculars.

    My daughter went to a week of summer camp at the library. The theme was Spellbound. They did all sorts of magical activities: writing in invisible ink, making wands, and reading stories about magical creatures.

    Ours offer free tutoring to children, by certified teachers, during the week and on Saturdays. Our public libraries also offer movie nights, and theater performances. Without their help I couldn’t have the books, audio books, music and films my students enjoy in the classroom. I’m so grateful for public libraries!

    At my previous library gig we offered circulating bakeware! It was a lovely way for people to test different baked goods or create a treat for a loved one (or themselves!) without having to pay 20 to 30 dollars to procure the baking dish. We made some delicious cake donuts using a donut pan from the library.

    We love our library. Next week we are taking a Toddler Music Class in Spanish at our library.

    As you can see, you don’t have to be an avid reader to enjoy everything the library has to offer.  I encourage you to check with your local library and see if they also have a Library of Things you can check out besides books and audiobooks.

    Your turn: Are you a regular library user? Let me know the most unusual or interesting thing you ever did or checked out from a library.

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    family fun

    Halloween 2019: The Costumes Our Family Wore

    Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you click a link and purchase something. Please check out my disclosure policy for more details. All opinions are my own!

     

    Dressing up for Halloween isn’t just for kids—our family (excluding my husband) enjoys making it a family affair.  Maybe one year I’ll get my husband to dress up with us as an entire family.  Wishful thinking?  Maybe.  Halloween just isn’t his thing and that’s okay.  As for me and the kids, I like to come up with creative and inexpensive costumes each year.  Check out our 2019 Halloween costumes below.

    MADISON AS A WORK OF ART

    Let’s just all agree my daughter Madison stole the show!  There is nothing better than a creative and inexpensive costume that will turn heads.  Amiright?! My daughter and I had this costume picked out since last Halloween after scrolling on Pinterest for unique ideas.  Once I saw this costume, how simple it was to re-create and how much my daughter loved it, I knew it would be a winner and it was!  Everyone absolutely LOVED her costume and she received so many compliments.

    To re-create this costume.  Grab a t-shirt, a picture frame from The Dollar Tree and a little non-toxic face makeup and you’re done.  We ordered this t-shirt and this non-toxic face makeup.

    BARRINGTON AS WALDO

    Who says Waldo can’t be a Black boy?  This Where’s Waldo costume for kids absolutely KILLS me and I LOVE it!  It was my hope that at least one of the kids would be a bookish character so I was thrilled when my son chose to be Waldo.  Barrington loves all of the books in the Where’s Waldo series so it was only fitting to pair his costume with the latest Waldo book for Halloween.

    To re-create this costume.  We ordered this Where’s Waldo costume.  We also used a pair of blue jeans and black boots that my son already owned.

    CHARNAIE AS THE GIVING TREE

    If you’re feeling crafty and you love books.  This Halloween costume may be for you (hello, DIY!).

    When it comes to Halloween costumes, I’ve always been the do-it-yourself type. Mainly because I don’t like the selection of costumes I see in stores. Especially for women and girls. But also because I like to create.  I’m not sewing savvy enough (yet) to make a whole costume from scratch, but adding little pieces or DIY-ing certain parts? Oh yeah. I can handle that.  That’s why I was all over this costume when I saw the idea online.

    This costume was super simple to create. I bought this plain green t-shirt and these green jeggings.  Green felt, red felt, white letters, a foam board and a dowel from Micheal’s, and a headband from The Dollar Tree. I cut out some leaves and an apple and done! I grabbed our copy of The Giving Tree off our bookshelf to complete the look.

    Sharing Halloween with your kids, whether they’re babies, toddlers, or older kids can be such a fun experience especially when you’re all dressed up and feeling festive.

    So, take your pick from these Halloween costume ideas or come up with your own to create happy memories on Halloween night!

    Which of the Halloween costumes listed above would you like to try (if any)? Tell us in the comments section!

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    coloring books, family fun, giveaways

    The Kids’ Book of Paper Love + A Giveaway!

    Disclaimer: Workman Publishing sent me a copy to check out and is partnering with me for a giveaway!

     

    THE KIDS’ BOOK OF PAPER LOVE
    From the editors of Flow magazine
    by Irene Smit & Astrid Van Der Hulst
    Release October 15th, 2019
    Recommend ages 7-14

    About the Book

    A surprise on every page!

    Brimming from cover to cover with projects and other paper surprises, The Kids’ Book of Paper Love, from the bestselling editors of Flow magazine and books, is a bounty of a book that begs to be folded, cut up, collaged, doodled on, and shared.

    Loop paper strips into a paper chain. Snip out bookmarks. Fold a paper house. Make photo booth props—a silly mustache, a crown—to pose with friends. Bind up a DIY storybook and use it to sketch out adventures and dreams. Construct a paper flower bouquet, a paper terrarium, a fortune-teller with prompts like Lend someone a book and tell them why you recommend it.

    The Kids’ Book of Paper Love is from the bestselling editors of Flow magazine and books including A Book That Takes Its Time and 50 Ways to Draw Your Beautiful, Ordinary Life. Now Flow enters the children’s section for the first time.  Take a look at the video below to see the book in action!

     

    With this book, kids will enjoy HOURS OF UNPLUGGED FUN and the pleasures of paper.  The Kids’ Book of Paper Love invites children to write, craft, play, and share in a completely screen-free way. Each page throughout the book can be folded, cut up, collaged, doodled on, and shared.  We enjoyed cutting out our own bookmarks, making DIY photo booth props, and making a paper “boredom buster”.  We plan to do the paper chain activity to countdown the days until Christmas this year!  This is such an amazing book that can be enjoyed so many different ways.  Ready for your chance to win a copy?  See the giveaway details listed below.

    Visit the website to learn more about the book.

    Follow Workman Publishing on InstagramTwitter and Facebook

    Follow Flow Magazine on InstagramTwitter and Facebook

    The Kids’ Book of Paper Love Giveaway


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    family fun, product reviews

    The Easiset Way to Learn How to Play Chess for Ages 5 – 105: Brainblox Family Fun Chess

    Disclaimer: My family received a free Family Fun Chess set from Brainblox to review and enjoy with our family in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

    If you’re like me and have little to no experience playing the game of chess, you may be wondering how to teach kids to play chess when you don’t even know how to play yourself! Thankfully, Brainblox is here to help! They recently introduced a beautiful Family Fun Chess set to their product line and it’s so great.

    If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen me talking about it recently in my Instagram stories.  I also hosted a giveaway in partnership with Brainblox where we gave away one chess set to a lucky winner.

    What is Family Fun Chess?

    It’s a color-coded, FUN, learn-as-you-play game for kids and adults to learn chess!

    When it’s your turn, simply roll the Chess Cube to see which piece to move! The Reference Cards make it easy to learn-as-you-play, while the full-color Instruction Book and videos tell you everything else you need to know.

    The chess set includes:

    • a folding wooden chess board
    • 32 wooden chess pieces
    • 2 reference cards
    • a full color chess book
    • a wooden cube

    Learning how to play chess the “Family Fun” way was very easy to understand for me and my kids.  We found the reference cards to be super useful in helping us all understand how each of the chess pieces are able to move on the board during the game.  I also appreciate the fact that Brainblox included instructions for playing chess the standard way too.  This will come in handy once we’ve fully grasped the rules of chess and are ready to move on to learning how to play standard chess.

    The thing I love most about learning to play chess and teaching my kids to play is all of the benefits associated with understanding the game.

    Here are just a few of the benefits of playing chess:

    • increases concentration and memory
    • helps with paying attention to detail and strategic thinking
    • improves problem-solving and spatial skills
    • exercises both sides of the brain

    Even more importantly, I find learning to play chess alongside my children to be much more meaningful because offers quality time and experiences that we will remember for a lifetime. If you’re sold on learning to play chess with your little ones, you’ll first need to get your family a chess set.  If you can’t already tell, I’d highly recommend the Family Fun Chess set from Brainblox.  It makes a great holiday or anytime of the year gift for ages 5 – 105!

    Not ready to invest in a chess set of your own yet?  You can also look into local chess clubs for kids in your area.  Find out if your child’s school or your local library has a Chess Club. That’s a great place to start, so kids can get basic instruction and have peers to play with.  There are also many online resources and apps available to use too.  You can choose to play against friends, connect with other players at your level, or get live or virtual tutoring.

    Your turn:  Do you or your children know how to play chess?  Are you excited to learn about the Family Fun Chess set from Brainblox?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    family fun, parenting

    First Day of School Prayers for Children and Parents + 5 Day Prayer Challenge

    Tomorrow my children start their first day of school in a brand new environment.  Although I’m excited for them to start this new journey in a new school, I am also filled with a bit of anxiety and I just feel like praying—and I thought you might pray with me—for our children as they start a new year of school.

    I believe the best gift we give our kids as they head back to school is our prayers.  Whether it’s the first day of kindergarten, middle school, high school, or college, children need our prayers.  If you believe this too, I hope you’ll join me in a 5-day prayer challenge you can do on your own.

    In order to participate, all you need to do is recite the prayers below each morning for the first five days of school.  If you don’t like any of the prayers I’ve chosen, feel free to come up with your own prayers.  And of course, if you’re not the religious type then this challenge isn’t for you and that’s okay.  If your children already started their first day of school, no worries you can still participate.  Just recite the prayers each morning for five consecutive days with your children or on your own.

    I hope you find this prayer challenge to be helpful and will help spread the word if it’s something that resonates with you.

    Day One

    Dear God, Father of heavenly lights, Giver of perfect gifts,

    I give my child(ren) to you today and everyday.  Keep him/her and his/her schoolmates safe and protected, Father God.  I ask that this school year you would use every person, every experience and every lesson to shape him/her into Your image, to grow in his/her fruit of Your spirit.  God, grow in his/her heart.   Teach him/her to sacrifice like You did, giving up what he/she values for the good of others. Bless the teachers and administrators, God.  Keep them safe.  These men and women who have committed to invest in the next generation. Give them discernment and wisdom to see each student’s unique abilities and gifts. Multiply their preparation and may their plans be fruitful. Fill the day with moments of wonder. Remind them of their special place in the lives of their students and give them confidence in their abilities.  And for all the parents/grandparents, Lord, I pray for peace. Give us plenty to do so we don’t have time to fret. Let us be extraordinarily grateful for the privilege of parenting. Fill us with wisdom as we watch our babies grow. Grant us patience and kindness as they stretch their wings. Hold us close to You as we learn to let them go.  In Jesus name I/we pray, Amen.

    Day Two

    Dear Father God,

    Today, I ask You for godly, loyal friends for my child(ren). Friends who love purity, who are pure in heart, and gracious in speech, friends that will sharpen them and love them at all times.  Please give my child(ren) a heart of compassion. Help him/her/them to see situations from every perspective and to treat others like they would want to be treated. Give him/her/them a friendly and kind spirit. May he/she/they welcome friends with a smile.  God I pray my child(ren) would be wise when choosing friends. Give him/her/them discernment to find true friends and help them to build each other up. Give them the ability to say no when necessary and bravery to stand up for what is right. In Jesus name I/we pray, Amen.

    Day Three

    Dear Father God,

    Today I pray for Your care and protection throughout the school year. 
    Cover the schools in our area and across the nation with Your covering and protection.  I/we pray for vigilance among administrators and teachers as well as security personnel. Lord I/we pray that would-be perpetrators will be turned from their intentions and receive the corrective influences that are needed in their lives.  Lord, I/we pray that the school year will be successfully completed without incident. It is so.  In Jesus name I/we pray, Amen.

    Day Four

    Dear God,

    Today I come to you in prayer Lord, asking you to help my child(ren) experience peace this year. I pray he/she/they will not worry about things they cannot control, but that You will guard his/her/their hearts and minds and keep him/her/them trusting in You. I pray he/she/they will not only enjoy the peace of God, but peace with God. I pray he/she/they will develop a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving as they look to You daily for their needs.  Grant him/her/them Your peace in their hearts and minds in great measure.  In Jesus name I/we pray, Amen.

    Day Five

    Dear Heavenly Father,

    Let this school year be their best year ever with excellent grades, favor with teachers and classmates and good behavior all covered by Your protection. Enable our children to continue growing in wisdom and stature all the days of their lives.  Let Your peace and understanding envelope them at all times.  Let your joy be their strength. Help them to trust You as their refuge and fortress.  Guard their minds from bad counsel and peer pressure. Bless them with Your Spirit of discernment to know and do what is right at all times.  Strengthen their heart and spirit to resist the devil, so that he/she will flee from them.  Teach them to cast all their anxiety upon You, trusting and genuinely knowing that You care for them.  Let Your light shine in their lives and cause all forms of darkness around them to flee. Make them strong and courageous in the presence of danger. Let them be assured You will never leave nor forsake them as they remain strong in You and Your mighty power.  In Jesus name I/we pray, Amen.

    Below I’ve also included a few short prayers for parents or kids to recite daily.  Source: Living Prayers.

    First Day of School Prayer
    (a parent’s prayer poem for their child starting school)

    Dear Lord,

    Fill her (his) heart with peace,
    Hold her (his) hand today,
    Help him/her feel secure and loved,
    Be with him/her we pray.
    May him/her smile and make new friends
    Paint and learn and play,
    Bless the teaching staff who care
    For little ones today.
    Lift my heart to trust that he’ll/she’ll
    Be overseen by you,
    Father God cover us
    On his/her first day at school.

    Amen.

    Prayer for a child starting a new school year
    (a simple prayer for a child of any age to say)

    Father God,

    Thank you for being beside me,
    Thank you for this new school year.
    Please be there to hold my hand,
    Please help me to relax and enjoy the day.
    Bring new friendships into my life,
    Bring new possibilities to learn and grow.
    Help me to pray in my heart to you if I am anxious,
    Help me to remember that you are always with me.

    Amen.

    School Morning Prayer
    (a simple prayer for primary school aged children to say)

    Father God,

    Be with us today
    Fill our hearts with joy
    Fill our minds with learning
    Fill our classrooms with peace
    Fill our lessons with fun
    Fill our friendships with kindness
    Fill our school with love

    Amen.

    If you’re looking for a few religious picture book recommendations for children, you might enjoy this post.

    Your turn: What will you pray for your children (grandchildren) as they go back to school? Feel free to share in the comments.

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    connecticut, family fun, literary road trip series

    Literary Road Trip Series: Lake Compounce in Bristol, CT

    Disclaimer: Thank you to Lake Compounce for providing me and my family with complimentary access to the park. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

    Did you know Lake Compounce is the oldest, continuously-operating amusement park in North America?  It had its genesis more than 170 years ago in 1846..wow!  Lake Compounce is home to Boulder Dash, which has been voted the world’s #1 wooden roller coaster, as well as Connecticut’s largest water park.  It has over 400 acres of fun and is essentially like having two parks in one.  You get rides, games, food and roller coasters along with an amazing water park that is SO MUCH FUN – especially on a hot day.

    One of my favorite things about the park is how clean it is.  Plus, the lines are usually pretty quick and the staff is has always been very pleasant and helpful each time we’ve visited.  Our most recent family visit was a few weeks ago and as usual, Lake Compounce didn’t disappoint.  It’s definitely our family’s favorite go-to amusement park in the state of Connecticut.

    We like to get to the park as soon as it opens to try and avoid the mad rush.  As soon as you arrive all guests must go through a security checkpoint and bag check for safety reasons.  The lines typically move along pretty quickly although depending on the size of the crowd and time of day, the wait could be about 10 minutes or slightly longer.  Keep this in mind if you’re visiting with smaller children as they may get a little antsy.


    Once you get past security and the ticket lines, it’s time for the fun to begin!  We like to reserve island loungers on the Lake Compounce website prior to our visit.  You get 2 lounge chairs, a shaded straw umbrella, entrance to the exclusive island lounge chair area, and accommodations for up to 4 people. The island loungers are conveniently located right next to Bayou Bay which is one of our favorite attractions at the park.  The lounge chairs sit on a sandy area across from the lake making it feel like you’re spending the day at the beach.  Oh and the best part?  You can leave your belongings in the private island lounge chair area.  It’s always monitored by a Lake Compounce employee giving us peace of mind our stuff will be safe.  If you have a larger group of people you can rent a cabana.  The park currently has 5 Luxury Cabanas located lakeside by Riptide Racers, 6 Private Cabanas located by the entrance of Mammoth Falls, 2 located on the lake, and 5 located next to Bayou Bay.

    Our family likes to explore the water park attractions first, eat lunch and then head to the amusement park rides afterwards before heading back to the island loungers to pick up our belongings.  So far this year we had a chance to experience: The Dino Expedition, Croc-o-Nile, Boulder Dash, Zoomerang, Riptide Racer, The Wave Swinger and Down Time.  We also tried our hand at some the games which is always a blast.

    Lake Compounce has always catered to families with young children like ours, while offering high value thrills for the older kids and adults too.  Our kids love the variety of rides and games in the kiddie park including the Dino Expedition.  There are also plenty of seating/resting options for watchful parents and grown-ups who like to watch children ride and take photos.  The park is interesting enough and accessible enough for our family so naturally always purchase season passes for the amusement park and parking lot.  They pay for themselves on the second visit.  Season pass holders also get other perks throughout the year too like buddy passes and food/retail discounts.

    From the outside, Lake Compounce appears hidden and small, but trust me, you can spend all day inside and not get to everything.  Since they are constantly adding new attractions and features to the park, we still haven’t done everything there yet.

    Prior to our visit we read a few amusement park themed books like: Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee.

    A few other things to keep in mind:

    • Bring all of our summertime essentials if you plan to spend the day there: suntan lotion, bathing suits, extra clothes to change into, towels and strollers if traveling with smaller kids
    • Be prepared to walk – You’ll do a lot of walking from the moment you arrive at the park.  If you have a fitness tracker it’s a great way to rack up your step count for the day!
    • Admission for kids ages 3 and under is FREE
    • They have phone charging stations, family restrooms AND a nursing station for nursing mothers (Woohoo!)
    • Locker rentals are also available for securing your belongings
    • Shirt and shoes are required everywhere except Crocodile Cove water park.  Bathing suits are required for the water park area.
    • Outside food or drink is not allowed in the park (with exception of baby items, food allergies or other special dietary needs)

    I cannot recommend this place more!  Visit at least once to experience all the park has to offer for a fun family day adventure.

    Ready to head to the park?  Be sure to take advantage of my ticket discount by clicking here!

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    connecticut, family fun, literary road trip series

    Literary Road Trip Series: Winterberry Landscape & Garden Center in Southington, CT

    Spring has sprung here in the Northeast and is our area is now bursting with lush gardens and flowers in bloom. Mother Nature has certainly given us lots of rain this season so far. The rain has been great for all the plants, trees and flowers despite it dampening my mood and thwarting my plans at times.

    Two weekends ago, the kids and I had the pleasure of attending an event at Winterberry Gardens located in Southington, CT. Their 16-acre garden and landscape center is gorgeous! They have everything from native plants to unique plants all planted by certified growers.

     

    I will admit years ago I didn’t have a green thumb to save my life.  Every plant I had died. Now, I’ve learned how to take care of plants after much research, reading and watching videos online.  Now that I have Winterberry Gardens as an additional local resource that’s an added bonus!

    To help provide you with ideas for your home or garden Winterberry Gardens offers tours of their landscapes gardens and they host educational seminars. They also have a wide selection of hanging plants, trees, soil, mulch, perennials and annuals.  Oh, and did I mention they do landscaping too?  Yes, their expert landscape designers can create a plan for you that’s both stunning and easy to maintain no matter the size of your yard or budget.

    I’m so excited with the new plants I purchased from Winterberry Gardens and will be going back soon to buy more and attend their upcoming educational seminars.

    If you’re local in the area be sure to check out this amazing garden and landscape center.  It’s a one-stop-shop for all of your lawn and garden maintenance needs.  It would make an excellent educational field trip with kids and the local library (Southington Public Library) is just 10 minutes away.

    Winterberry Landscape & Garden Center
    2070 West Street
    Southington, CT 06489
    Phone: (860) 378-0071
    Email: info@winterberrygarden.com
    Web: http://www.winterberrygarden.com

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