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    family fun, literary road trip series

    I Wish We Could Stay Here Forever: My Woodloch Story

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

    Nominated as the number one all-inclusive family resort in America by USA Today, Woodloch has been owned and operated with pride by the Kiesendahl family since 1958. Woodloch is a beautiful four-season Poconos family resort nestled in a pristine mountain lake vacation setting. As their website states:


    Their traditional warm hospitality has been nurturing and embracing the spirit of spending quality time with friends and family for nearly sixty years.

    If you’ve followed the blog for a while, you may know our family takes literary road trips each year. This is a tradition we started in 2016 and it continues to be something we look forward to each year.

    During our road trips we visit various family resorts or museums and then find the nearest local library or bookstore to visit as well. Our literary road trip series is always a hit and well received by our audience.  Many people are eager to know the best libraries or bookstores in surrounding areas when visiting family-friendly locations.

    Vacationing During a Pandemic?
    Deciding to take a summer vacation in the middle of a pandemic was not an easy decision to make. With two small kids, safety and cleanliness were our two biggest concerns. Thankfully, Woodloch helped ease our minds with their Resort Responsibly initiative.

    Upon arrival all guests have their temperature checked in the wellness check area. In addition, all guests (ages 2 and older) and staff are required to wear masks in all public places except when eating, drinking or swimming. There are plenty of hand sanitizing stations throughout the property and an array of socially distant activities. During our stay we felt very safe and welcomed by the staff and other guests.

    You can read Woodloch’s COVID-19 special statement here to see how they’re handling their guests’ safety during the pandemic.

    Activities Galore at Woodloch
    There is literally something to do at Woodloch for people of all ages. The best part? Since they are a four-season resort open year round, their activities change and adapt with each season.

    Here are just some of the resort amenities:

    • Indoor Spash Zone (water slide and splash pads)
    • Indoor and outdoor heated pools + hot tubs
    • Miniature golf (one of our family favorite activities)
    • Archery
    • Bumper cars
    • Climbing wall
    • Bumper Boats
    • Lakeside activities
    • Indoor and outdoor playgrounds
    • Water Skiing
    • Tennis courts
    • Snow tubing (during winter)
    • Ice skating (during winter)
    • Exercise rooms and so much more!

    All classes and activities must be booked in advance using the Woodloch App. This allows Woodloch to monitor and cap class sizes for social distancing. It also allows for proper sanitizing between guests. Also, by having a scheduled time we didn’t have to worry about waiting in a long line causing the kids to get antsy. It was easy to just show up at our scheduled time and participate in the activity. Overall, our family thoroughly enjoyed all of various daytime activities and nighttime entertainment Woodloch has to offer.

    The Food
    Let’s talk about how GOOD the food was…yummmmm! Each meal we had was so delicious and tasty. They have meal choices, drinks and dessert for both adults and children.

    We enjoyed the fact that each family is assigned the same table during mealtimes throughout their stay. We never had to worry about others sitting at our table (for safety reasons) when it was time to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner.

    If you don’t feel comfortable eating in the dining hall, you have the option have your food or drinks packaged as take-out to enjoy in your room or at one of the many outdoor picnic areas on the property. There are also quick bite ala carte options on-site at North Lodge Bar, Gigi’s Coffee Shop, the Poolside Bar, and Lake Grill.

    The Hawley, PA Public Library
    We opted to explore and visit the Hawley, PA public library. The library is just a short 15-minute drive away from Woodloch. There you’ll also find a local park, playground and walking trail right next to the library.

    The children’s librarian was kind enough to share their outdoor art storytime trail with us which was so much fun! She read the book The Little Engine that Could and at each character on the art trail we had to try and figure out the riddle before moving on to the next one. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to visit and support this quaint library. I was pleased to see so many diverse children’s books prominently displayed on their bookshelves.

    Hawley, PA Public Library

    I cannot recommend Woodloch more!  Visit at least once to experience all the resort has to offer for a fun family adventure. Yes, even during a global pandemic. You won’t regret it!

    Ready to head to Woodloch for your next family trip? Head to their website to book your adventure! Also, be sure to help Woodloch win the title of Best All-Inclusive Family resort for the second year in a row – cast your vote for them HERE.

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    family fun, summer camp at home, technology

    Go Girls! Virtual Summer Camp for Girls Ages 6 – 14

    Disclaimer: Our family was provided with a complimentary 5-week session of Go Girls! camp in exchange for an honest review. As always, all opinions shared are my own.

    For the past four weeks, my daughter has been participating in a virtual summer camp called Go Girls! at Home. I’m so glad this camp provides so much enrichment to help keep kids busy, learning, and having fun — while practicing safe social distancing.

    Go Girls! at Home has been teaching my daughter how to be a confident leader, the importance of building community and teamwork, the art of music, song and dance and so much more! It’s a social and emotional camp specifically designed for girls and I have loved watching my growing girl blossom over the past few weeks. Bonus points for it being a Black woman owned business.

    Go Girls! at Home is a virtual summer camp for girls and gender non-conforming kids ages 6-14 (rising 1st through 8th graders) to make art and media together – all while practicing the Go Girls! Culture Code, their highly effective social-emotional skills framework designed to help girls become their boldest, bravest selves.

    As stated on the Go Girls! website, here’s how the virtual camp works:

    Go Girls! at Home virtual summer camp takes place inside of a Google Classroom.  The primary learning will happen in 3 different formats:

    1. Live large group meetings via Google Meet – at the beginning and end of the week, Go Girls! will come together for connection and celebration
       
    2. Zoom and/or Video-enriched lessons led by talented Go Girls! teaching artists – Go Girls! will watch instructional videos whenever they want and complete the artistic projects at their own pace
       
    3. Live small group meetings – Go Girls! are assigned to a small “family group” with other girls their age.  Each week, the groups, led by a Go Girls! “Camp Mama,” meet to build deeper connections and practice the lessons of the Go Girls! Culture Code.

    My favorite part has been reinforcing how my daughter (and myself) have been able to apply to the Go Girls! Culture Code to her life (Say Yes, Give & Take, Make Mistakes, Feel My Feelings, Take Center Stage).

    Each week has a new theme that follows the culture code. This week the girls are learning about feeling their feelings and emotions.

    Have questions about this amazing virtual girls camp? Ask away in the comments.

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    family fun

    Starting a Family Newsletter: A Fun Quarantine Activity

    Starting a Family Newsletter

    It took a virus to slow us down.  The coronavirus pandemic has brought our frantic pace of living to a screeching halt. Practicing social distancing at home with my family has allowed me time to evaluate the things in my life that matter the most. In short, COVID-19 has changed my perspective of living in the most unexpected and meaningful ways, and for that, I’m eternally grateful.

    As a result of being safe at home, I decided to start a family newsletter to journal our quarantine experience.  We are currently making history right now and I want to remember how we spent these precious days together.

    Each day my kids take turns being the “journalist” of the day.  They write down things like: what we did each day, the meals we ate, who we prayed for, quotes, the best moment of the day and anything new each person in the family learned.  We also include any pictures taken each day. At the end of the month I type up the newsletter and print it out as a keepsake.

    I think it will be fun for us to look back years from now and remember how we bonded during a time when our usual activities were put on hold. Plus, this family activity helps to improve my children’s writing, communication and typing skills. A win-win for the whole family.

    If you’re looking for a fun family activity that will keep each member of your family engaged, start your own family newsletter. Give it a catchy title, come up with a design and then start creating content.

    What kind of content should you put in family newsletter?

    Here are a few ideas to help get you started:

    Family recipes
    Your family tree
    Recent achievements
    Memorable moments
    Birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, birth announcements, celebrations
    Historical facts
    Trivia questions
    Funny jokes
    Family quotes
    Prayers

    Every member of the household can make contributions to the newsletter. Even a preschooler can dictate what he or she remembers most about the past month, year or quarter. Or you can ask little ones to draw their favorite memories.

    How often your newsletter comes out depends how much news – and time – you have to put in. A once-a-month newsletter was our choice. You could also choose to have a quarterly or once-a-year newsletter you publish around the holidays.

    If you’re looking for a simple and cost effective activity, starting a newsletter can be an effective way of strengthening connections between family members. Why not give it a try?

    Your turn: Does your family have a newsletter? How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your perspective about life and living? Feel free to share in the comments.

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    children's books, children's literacy, family fun, read aloud

    20 Black Parents to Follow on Instagram Who Instill a Love of Reading in Their Children

    20 Black Families to Follow on Instagram Who Instill a Love of Reading in Their Children

    As a parent, I’m obsessed with cultivating a love of reading in my children. It’s one of my favorite things about my parenthood journey thus far. Before becoming a parent, I read countless books and studies that have proven the many benefits of reading. I knew before having children that I wanted to instill a love of reading in them starting at birth. I take pride in seeing how well both of my children read (and write) and how they often choose to pick up a book and read on their own without being told to.

    When it comes to children, the ideal time to begin sharing books with them is during infancy, even as young as six weeks old (or sooner). From early on, children should own books, be read to often and see others reading and writing.  Children are rapidly learning language.  They often quadruple the number of words they know between the ages of 1-2.  Therefore, as parents and caregivers it’s crucial to read aloud with them often to increase their vocabulary.

    Below I’ve rounded up 20 Black parents I follow on Instagram who value reading and work to instill a love of reading in their children. These parents get it and understand the importance of establishing a reading habit with their children early on. I thought some of you may be interested in following some of these people as well for inspiration, tips and Black family joy!

    1. Me @hereweeread

    2. @jeanellnicolereads

    3. @rattlesandheels

    4. @mymotherhoodmagic

    5. @_colorful_stories

    6. @justmeomaya

    7. @imsuzettesays

    8. @readlikearockstar

    9. @apron_education

    10. @schoolathomeandbeyond

    11. @polishedplayhouse

    12. @puzzlehuddle

    13. @rahmarodaah

    14. @thevitamindproject

    15. @mayasbooknook

    16. @mommyweek

    17. @firstname.basis

    18. @twolightsacademy

    19. @arethoseyourkids

    20. @mybusybeesandme

    Your turn: Did this list help you discover new people to follow? Who are some of your favorite Black parents to follow on Instagram who value the importance of reading with their children? Feel free to share in the comments as I’m always looking for new like-minded people to connect with.

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    children's books, family fun

    31 Days of Women’s History: Download this Printable To Celebrate Women (and Girls) Who Persisted

    March is Women’s History Month – a time to celebrate the accomplishments of women trailblazers and also inspire a new generation of young women and men. How do you plan to celebrate Women’s History Month this year? I hope some of you will take time this month to post about women on social media, share women’s stories with family and friends, and ensure that women’s impact on history and society is valued and commemorated.

    31 Days of Women's History Printable

    Just like last month for our Black History Month printable, we are celebrating again with another coloring printable!

    To create this printable, I collaborated with Briana James of Notebooks and Nibbles, a talented Art student who reached out to me on Instagram and Latoria Williams from 1FirstCashAdvance online lending company, an open-heart woman who loves to support people. She’s currently building up her portfolio and asked to collaborate. I gladly accepted her offer after seeing her amazing work! Get in touch with Briana, give her a follow on Instagram, and support her as she continues to build up her art portfolio. It was such a pleasure to work with her and help support her at the same time.

    This coloring printable is a fun way to celebrate 31 days of diverse, inspirational, female leaders. It features women and girls who are strong and brave leaders, authors, politicians, inventors, humanitarians, women’s rights activists, and activists for other causes. You can enjoy this coloring page printed in various sizes from 8.5 X 11 up to 24 X 36 if you’d like jumbo poster size.

    Each day during the month of March (or any time of the year), color in one woman until the whole poster is complete. If there are books written about any the women, feel free to read them on your own or with your little readers. Otherwise, take time to research any of the women you may not be familiar with.

    31 Days of Women's History Printable

    Some of the women featured include: Jacqueline Woodson, Anna May Wong, Maria Tallchief, Serena Williams, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Wangari Maathai, Jazz Jennings, Mari Copeny, Michelle Wie and more!

    Happy Reading & Researching!

    CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THIS PRINTABLE!

    CHECK OUT MORE OF MY RESOURCES (INCLUDING MY POPULAR PRINTABLE READING JOURNAL) ON MY NEW TEACHER’S PAY TEACHERS WEBSITE AND GIVE ME A FOLLOW OVER THERE TOO.

    AS ALWAYS, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

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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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