Summer Writing

Both of the Big Kids are officially on summer break. After 5 seconds of Evan’s summer, it was clear we were going to need to have a focus this summer. Hello, summer writing!

summer writing


For the past week, our summer writing activities have been focused on giving me time to bond with the Big Kids and keep them learning over the summer break. Because I used to be a small groups reading, writing, and math teacher, I’m used to juggling their different learning styles and abilities. Secretly? I love this.

What are we doing? 

The kids have two composition notebooks and a pack of markers for their summer writing tools. In the morning, they get out their summer writing notebook. The summer journal comes out in the afternoon, just before nap.

The notebooks are for two different activities – one focused, one not. Summer writing is a themed writing activity. Summer journal time is free writing for the kids to document their summer vacation.

What are we writing about? 

In the summer writing journal, the kids are writing to a theme. I put together a list of topics and they write one a day (via a random draw from the list). I write on our chalkboard the theme and give them any “big words” they might need to go along with it. We also have sight word cards based on other topics we’ve written and words (Evan has) learned. Arianna, a rising first grader, writes two to three sentences to the theme. I ask Evan to write the theme and a word or two about it. Both then draw something that goes along with the theme.

For instance, here’s how our first day went:

Theme: “Outside, I like…”


New sight words: I, like (these now hang on the whiteboard)


Arianna: “Outside, I like to play. I like to ride my bike.” (She then drew a bike.)


Evan: “Outside, I like my house.” (He then drew their play house with the two of them inside it, barfing – I can’t make this stuff up.)


Adult writing: When they are happy with their work, I look at it and help them fix any words they didn’t know how to spell and write it below the word so one day they’ll remember.

How can you do this at home? 

It’s really simple. You just need notebooks, writing utensils, and prompts! I searched Pinterest for ideas and then made a list. Below are ones that were available for our first week.

Outside, I like…

My pet…

My favorite book

What I read yesterday

What makes me cry

My hero

What is love?

Hopefully the kids will give me permission to share their work as posts this summer. That’s another rule. They have to show it to me in order to be excused from the table, but they don’t have to share it with anyone else. And the journal? Even more private. Only show me if you want to. (So far, they are really proud of their work and are sharing.)

In a future post, I’ll have to tell you more about other ways we are keeping the learning alive this summer. Now’s your chance! Share with me how you are learning with your kids while they are out of school.

Adventures with Digital Media Academy

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Are you still looking for a summer camp for your kids? There are several adventures with Digital Media Academy that your ‘lil learners just might be interested in. If my kids were the right age, I’d love for them to take part in any of the following camps this summer (all information from

Adventures in Game Design: Make your own video game: learn concepts like game planning, character movement, collision detection, level design, in-game dialogue, playability and more.


Programming and App Development for iPhone® and iPad®: Learn iOS programming basics, while discovering how to create and program an app for an Apple® mobile device. Camp features Apple’s new programming language, Swift™.


Adventures in Music and Beat Production: Explore music creation. Campers get interactive, hands-on demos that teach basic music theory. They they use a MIDI keyboard to create different types of sounds and songs.

All three of these Adventures Camps with Digital Media Academy are for kids ages 8-12 and give them the chance to learn computer programming, app development, 3D modeling, robotics, graphic design, filmmaking, and much more.

Check out this video for more on the adventures with Digital Media Academy.

Camps at Digital Media Academy are one or multiple week hands-on experiences. Students will create projects and be taught by industry experts and tech professionals. (Information from US Family Guide.)

Interested in sending your kids to one of the adventures with Digital Media Academy? Save $75 off summer camps at Digital Media Academy with code TECHSUMMER at Sign up for multiple weeks and save big! Campers save $125 for each additional course they register for. Register by June 30th to #CreateTheNext best-selling app this summer!

Digital Media Academy
Source: US Family Guide


Demanding Dudley

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“Say please.”

“What’s the magic word?”

“Pardon me! Is that how we ask for something we want?”

If you are saying these things daily (over and over again) like Greg and I do, perhaps it’s time to introduce a picture book from The Wiblets
collection that will teach your children about respect and the right way to get what they want. Our kids heard about 4 pages of Demanding Dudley before they realized the message we were trying to get through to them.


It was that powerful that they knew right away what Dudley’s mama was going to teach them about how screaming and stomping does not get you the apple juice you want. Does it mean they took the message to heart and haven’t screamed or cried or stomped or yelled to get something they want, but it does mean that they think a little more about where those actions get them (the stairs for a ‘lil timeout!). But, all we have to do is remind them of Dudley:

In the case of Demanding Dudley, The Wiblets take on issues of thanklessness and impatience. Children will see the harmful effects of such negative behavior through the example of Dudley, a young Wiblet who forgets the value and importance of “using his magic words.” Dudley and his mother discuss the hows and whys of self-control and gratitude, ultimately demonstrating in a positive light how kindness and patience can go a long way in making and granting requests. After reading and discussing the story of Dudley with their children, parents can make use of the positive trigger question, “Are you being a Demanding Dudley?” in order to establish an immediate understanding with their child if and when the lessons taught by the book have been forgotten.

(From The Wiblets Press Release)

And you know what? I was actually supposed to share this info with you over a month ago, but the kids. Those kids of mine. They “stole” the book from my review pile and were “reading” it to each other to remind themselves (and their imaginary students) of how to ask for the right things. When I asked for it back to remind me of the colorful pictures and [adorable] text tone to show Dudley’s emotions, they told me they appreciated me asking with my magic words. Dudley taught them some big words,  not just the magic ones! Mom win.

If you’d like your own copy of Demanding Dudley, you can visit or get a copy on Amazon for around $11. If your kids like Dudley, there are other Wiblets ready to teach them lessons through books and games on their website.


Pittsburgh Children’s Museum

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If you ask the kiddos behind this blog, they are owed a trip to The Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. And rightfully so. It’s been awhile since our last visit, and let’s be honest, this summer hasn’t been all that outdoor play friendly. Well, they’ll be happy to know that this mama who loves deals has found out that the Children’s Museum has a great list of events that are at a discounted rate this month. The information below was shared with me by US Family Guide – a great resource for parents trying to raise happy kids! 

There’s lots of creative, fun and educational exhibits to explore throughout the Children’s Museum … in fact, Play Is On Sale! this Summer at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh! Enjoy Museum admission discounts* and giveaways every day of the week through August 29, 2014. 

Fantasy Weekends (Saturdays & Sundays)
All Museum visitors dressed in a costume relating to the weekend’s theme receive $3 off admission:
Dress like an Alien, Monster or Space Hero- August 16-17
Dress like an Animal – August 23-24

Member Mondays
Museum members park free (as space permits) and have a chance to win prizes.

T-Shirt Tuesdays
Free Museum t-shirt to the first 200 children visiting the Museum

Weather Wednesdays
Child admission for children 2 and up is based on that day’s forecasted high temperature for Pittsburgh, PA, by the National Weather Service, as forecasted at 5:00 pm the previous day. e.g. 73 degrees = $7 child admission, 87 degrees = $8 child admission, etc.

If purchasing tickets online, use code WEATHER when checking out to receive the discount!

Throwback Thursdays
Child admission = $7 – the child admission price in 2004 when we opened the expanded Museum.

If purchasing tickets online, use code THROWBACK when checking out to receive the discount

Hot Dog Friday
A free hot dog to the first 500 children visiting the Museum

*Play Is On Sale admission discounts (Weather Wednesdays, Throwback Thursdays and Fantasy Weekends) cannot be combined with other admission discounts.

10:00 am – 5:00 pm Every Day
Our Studio and MAKESHOP close at 4:30 pm daily.

Latest Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh Deals can be found at Pittsburgh Kids Guide
Get more details about the Children’s Musuem here!

Fiddlesticks: A Salute to America

Disclaimer: I received event tickets for my family and for a giveaway in exchange for this post. All opinions, however, are my own.

Just in time to celebrate the Memorial Day holiday, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is bringing the season finale of Fiddlesticks with their A Salute to America concert.

Why would a family that has never been to the Symphony want to share a concert with you? Well, we’re growing to be more cultured this year and Fiddlesticks is a great way to introduce the kids to the PSO’s musical offerings. Fiddlesticks is a concert series geared toward children ages three to eight. The concerts are on Saturday mornings and include a pre-concert event that allows the children to explore and discover music.

Source: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

Our family is fairly patriotic (on our way home from Wisconsin, the activity was counting American flags), so it’s no surprise that I’m excited to know that some of my favorites will be featured. I am sure Arianna is going to love singing along to “You’re a Grand Ol’ Flag” while Evan will probably give you all a good laugh with his singing of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”!

If you are in the area and want to go, the concert will be held at Heinz Hall on Saturday, May 17 at 11:15 AM. Tickets are available to purchase online and start at $12. I’m also offering a family four-pack of tickets to one lucky reader! Enter below through May 5.

Can’t make it to A Salute to America but want to introduce your ‘lil Burghers to the PSO? Details on the 2014-15 Fiddlesticks season can be found at Fiddlesticks is presented by Macy’s.

Get Fit with Your Friends from FREE BIRDS and TV’s Toughest Trainer Chris Powell


Kids, we know it may seem more fun to live a lazy life of pizza, TV and fuzzy slippers like Reggie from FREE BIRDS, but if you want to be big and strong like Jake, it’s going to take work! That why we asked trainer and host of ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition,” Chris Powell, to share some tips to help you get moving and eat things that will keep you healthy. If you follow his plan, pretty soon you’ll have pecs and glutes as impressive as Jake’s!Tip #1: Eat Breakfast.  Mom is right, it really IS the most important meal of the day!  Eat something hearty that’s going to give you a lot of energy, like eggs and toast, or yogurt and granola. Start the day strong!

Tip#2: Get to school at least 15 minutes early for recess. Run, jump, climb, and play your favorite sports. You’ll get some extra time with your friends, you’ll get stronger and faster, and you’ll supercharge your body and mind for learning!

Tip #3: Eat fruit every chance you get!  Fruit is nature’s dessert, and comes in all kinds of fun flavors. You can never go wrong with classics like apples, oranges, bananas, pears, grapes and pineapple. But also try exploring new and crazy fruits, like starfruit or kiwi, grapples or mangoes!

Tip#4: Cut the soda. Any way you look at it, it’s just not good for you!  If you crave sweet beverages, try naturally sweetened waters!  There are all kinds of new flavorings for water coming out with natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit – find one that you love, and hydrate!

Tip #5: Be a lean and mean gamer.  When you’re done with your homework, instead of vegging out on the couch with your PS4 or Xbox 1, get up and try playing one of their MANY active games. Get off the couch and LIVE the game! Run, jump, balance, shoot…get involved in your video games and get fit in the process.

Enjoy the hit family comedy FREE BIRDS, and see Jake’s impressive physique in action, when it hits Blu-ray and DVD on February 4th!

Disclaimer: ThinkJam asked me to share this feature with you and because my kids heart Free Birds and I heart Chris Powell and his mission to make America healthier, I couldn’t say no. Thanks for letting me share! 🙂

Luca Lashes Visits Mommy in the Hospital

Disclaimer:  I was provided with the app below in exchange for the post. All opinions are 100% my own.

As you know, 2014 has been the year of the sick for us. Luckily…so far…Greg’s been okay enough to not be in the hospital, but the kids just might be prepared because they’ve been playing with a new iPad app this week–Luca Lashes Visits Mommy in the Hospital. 

This app is a story in the “Luca Lashes” eBook series and tells children when to expect when visiting someone in the hospital by telling the story of Luca visiting his mommy in the hospital. There are interactive pieces to the app that my kids love (especially the balloon and heart monitor), too.

When I had some struggles during my pregnancy with Evan, Arianna visited me in the hospital. I’m pretty sure it was a bit scary for her – I was hooked up to all kinds of monitors and confined to the bed. No fun for a two-year-old! This story helps kids learn that hospitals are for help.

I was also sent these tips, which if this year keeps up, I probably should keep on hand. Please use these should you ever find yourself taking your child(ren) on a hospital visit.


Do you have a parent spending time at a hospital? Here are five suggestions to help a child through this.

(By Nicole Fonovich, co-creator of Luca Lashes Visits Mommy in the Hospital, from the “Luca Lashes” multilingual interactive App and eBook series.)

There are a few occasions in life where a child is going to have to visit a parent in the hospital. Accidents happen, surgeries become necessary…life happens. When these occasions require extended, or even just overnight stays in the hospital, children will want to visit their parents. Sometimes just to be reassured, other times to make the parent feel better. Here are some tips to help get you through this.

1. Get Crafty

Children can be very creative, especially when they make something for their parents. This can be a card, a trinket, or some other craft in which they can convey their feelings to their parent. With a little help, a child can make something that can make anyone smile! Add a picture to this and it makes a great memento!

2. Share a meal?

Parents who are in the hospital are eating hospital food, often by themselves. When getting a visit from their children, it might be nice to have a picnic together at the hospital to help make this day a little brighter. Even if all you can do is share the hospital food together, a shared meal is always a great chance to laugh and connect!

3. Use technology!

Visiting hours at hospitals and doctor schedules don’t often correlate to the best times to have children visiting parents in the hospital. With so much global wifi around us, it is possible to use video chat applications like Skype or Facetime to help children connect with and see their parents, and vice versa, when put into this situation.

4. Be calm when it happens

Both the parent bringing the child to the hospital and the parent in the hospital need to be as calm and natural as they can be. This is not a regular occurrence where someone needs to stay at a hospital for medical care, and children often do not understand what is going on.  Remember, model the behaviors you want your children to emulate. Stay comfortable and calm to set the example!

5. Use resources

A lot of hospitals now employ special counselors to help family members dealing with a loved one in the hospital. It is important to use all the resources at your disposal to make any experience easier and less of a challenge for your children, so make sure to inquire at the hospital! Why re-invent the wheel?

Visiting a spouse in the hospital is always a stressful situation.  Add bringing the kids along, and this job just got a whole lot tougher. After the visit is over, make sure to ask your children how the visit went, what they liked or thought about it. Dialogue is so important in making everyone more comfortable with new experiences.

Luca Lashes Visits Mommy in the Hospital is available at and all major eBook and App marketplaces.

Luca Lashes Visits Mommy in the Hospital

Kidz Bop

Disclosure: I received product(s) reviewed below in exchange for this post. All opinions, however, are 100% my own.

When you’re driving down the road, listening to your own radio station and your kid starting screaming singing along to “I woke up in a new Bugatti”, you know it’s time to get some new tunes.

We’ve had this talk before. Greg and I were raised with our parents’ music and some kid / faith music sprinkled in. We want our kids to be raised the same way. But there are just some tunes that the kids really shouldn’t be singing along to. That’s why having a copy of Kidz Bop on hand is a good idea.

Kidz Bop 24 and Kidz Bop Christmas! are two good options if you’re still looking for a gift. Both are available as downloads or CDs, so you can plug them in wherever you listen to music.

Kidz Bop Christmas

Not that listening to Christmas music is tough on the ears or morals, but Kidz Bop Christmas brings you 15 classics (like “Winter Wonderland” and “I Saw Three Ships”. These are more the mainstream songs of the season and not necessarily the carols you’ll be singing in church on Tuesday evening. Our kids enjoyed Jingle Bell Rock and asked to hear it over and over. (Thanks to Greg having them watch Home Alone on repeat, I’m pretty sure.)  You can grab your own copy by checking out

Kidz Bop 24

And Kidz Bop 24 is full of songs from the summer of 2013 that are likely earworms in your head if you’ve been listening to your local pop station. “I Love It” is one of those songs in our house. We really shouldn’t be letting our kids sing about crashing cars into bridges and letting them burn. Instead, now they are singing “I drove my car across the bridge” and appending it with “like we do when we go to the grocery store, Mommy!”. I’ll take it. I also get to hear them sing “Girl on Fire” and “Mirrors”, two of my favorite workout songs. A great last minute gift, you can find it here.

Both of these CDs come recommended by the kids and Greg (who spends the most time in the car with them). We’ll definitely be using them on road trips to keep the sponges from overhearing too much. 😉 Thanks for saving our sanity, Kidz Bop!


Interested in a quick giveaway? Enter here through 11:59 PM on December 26. 18+, US Only. Prize fulfilled by Kidz Bop.

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One more item we got to check out was a musical toothbrush from Arm & Hammer Tooth Tunes. Arianna will be getting a “Party in the USA” toothbrush in her stocking, and if her singing this song at a year old is any indication, I am sure she’ll love it. I’ve seen these in stores while shopping, so I am sure you can still grab one.

Rufus and Ryan Go to Church!

Disclosure: I was sent a book in exchange for a review. All opinions, as always, are 100% my own.

“Making connections” is one of the comprehension skills of literacy. Rufus and Ryan Go to Church! is a book that made such awesome connections to our ‘lil boy that I shed tears that first time I read it.


Do you see why, yet?

So sweet, this story by Kathleen Long Bostrom tells the story of four-year-old Ryan who takes his stuffed monkey (Rufus) to church.

Just like our Evan and Monkey/Baby, Ryan and Rufus:

  • Greet the pastor
  • Love the Bible story (especially the Ark)
  • Fidget
  • Say AMEN!

I seriously shed tears the first time I read it, because I know Evan would enjoy reading a book like him. Sadly, he didn’t get it at first, but Arianna totally made the connection. She was dancing on her carpet square as the story went on, smiling ear to ear. When it was done, she said, “Bubby, that story is just like YOU!”. And then I think it clicked with our ‘lil boy. 😉

Rufus and Ryan Go to Church! is the first in a board book series for kids ages 2-5. This series (which includes Rufus and Ryan Say Their Prayers) provides a simple, child-friendly introduction to the concepts of Christianity, starting with going to church and saying prayers. In addition, the books focus on character traits and development. The text is presented in young Ryan’s voice as he teaches Rufus about the things he is learning himself.

You can find the series at This book retails for $7.99.


Disclaimer: US Family Guide sent me information on Snapology and asked that I share with you. In exchange, my family will be visiting Snapology; however, all opinions are 100% my own.

Source: Snapology

Winter break is coming. Do you have plans for your kids? If not, why not check out Snapology in Mt. Lebanon!

Source: Snapology

Snapology is a place where your ‘lil ones can use building tools (including Lego® bricks) to learn about science and engineering. The center offers:

  • Creative / Imaginative Play
  • Robotic Battling Stations
  • Slot Car Racing
  • Birthday Parties
  • Summer and Winter Camps More Info Below!
  • Toddler Play Area
  • Drop-off Program for kids 5 and up – use this with your older ‘lil ones for extra shopping time! 
  • After-school programs for students districts in Allegheny and Washington County

This holiday season, you can enroll your kids in the Friday night Robot Rumble League, Saturday morning Minecraft® Mania, or Sunday afternoon movie making with the Lego® Animation Studio. There are day camps December 23, 26, 27, 30, and 31. Be sure to visit their site ( if you’d like more information on how to enroll.


Bonus for my readers thanks to US Family Guide: Click here to receive a FREE hour of play at Snapology!®ionid=58