Tot School – Zoo Trip, Farm, and Edventure

This week’s Tot School was on the road. I guess you could say we have a series of field trips! It was time for a trip. I guess our children have become accustomed to long road trips because Petra was asking for several weeks to “sleep” in the car and visit her grandparents. So when Thomas got the request to participate in the USMC Mud Run in Columbia, SC – we jumped at the opportunity. This is a 4 mile obstacle course with a LOT of mud. Pictures to come in a subsequent post. And it was very crowded. Parking and driving was a nightmare – over 14,000 ran in the race on Saturday! Jasper also had the chance to run on a mini course.

Since we were heading to SC, we went a little further north to NC and visited grandparents. It was a 10 hour trip in the car from start to finish. We usually make this trip mostly at night while the little ones sleep. But this time, we had to wait and leave after lunch. It still was much easier than one would expect with two toddlers. Petra complained very little and we didn’t hear a peep of whining or fussing from Jasper. He had a little car in each hand and was good to go. He is such an easy traveler.

At the grandparents’  house the children had a blast, and I think so did the grandparents. Both grandma and Papa Gerry are very interactive with the children which is great for us. This visit ended up being a mini farm tour for the children. I never really thought how perfect this location is for children, but what child wouldn’t want to see goats, cows, chickens, horses, and donkeys every chance they get. You can see the post and photos from this part of the trip HERE.

But to cater our trip to our children I googled the city of Columbia and we came up with a few options for the children. First we visited EdVenture – the south’s largest children’s museum. I was a little surprised that Columbia was home to a famous children’s museum. The museum was interesting, but disappointing. It looks much better online than it was in person. And it was OVERPRICED. More of this to come in a subsequent post. (sorry, this is the only way I know to seperate out the photos in to manageable slideshows)

The day after the Mud Run, we visited the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, SC and LOVED it. I’ve been to several zoos in my lifetime and this is by far my favorite to date. So this post is mostly going to be about our zoo trip because where else can you see lions, tigers and bears …. and meerkats, penguins, wallabies, and more. We went with a couple families who ran with Thomas in the Mud Run – so we had lots of older girls to help us. So you will see more than just my children in the slideshow below.

I’ve had a hard time not posting photos of all the animals we saw, but I’m sure you can imagine. The zoo was easy to walk from place to place – which made it perfect for toddlers and young children. But what I loved most was the interactive parts of the zoo. My favorite was the exhibit of Lorikeets – you could acutally go into the room with the birds and hold them. And this was free – no extra price. Jasper was quick to ask to hold a bird and I was able to get one perched on his arm in seconds. The birds were very friendly. One decided to take up residence cuddling with me. (I would have taken it home with me if allowed). Thomas purchased some little cups of nectar and they flocked to him for food. He had several perched on each arm and some on his head and shoulders. (there are pictures below).

Both Petra and Jasper also fed the giraffes. And we also watched the penguins get fed which was interesting. Unfortunatley, it was sprinkling the day we went and some of the extras were closed. Petra kept asking to ride the train and it was down for the day. But overall it was a great experience. If I lived nearby we would be buying annual passes.

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In between all the excursions were a few normal tot school activities – especially cutting. Petra is still on a cutting kick with her new scissors. Every day, several times a day. Plus there was a lot of book reading. And while we were in the car we went through phonics and letter sounds. Petra was only about halfway cooperative, but it was wonderful to see Jasper so intent on listening and learning. His eyes didn’t leave the cards for a second while I went through each letter of the alphabet. I would hold up a phonics flash card and ask the children the letter, the sound, and words that started with that sound.

This was also there first time in a hotel room, in the same bed, sleeping in a room with us where we couldn’t close the door and get away at night. And they did fantastic! I was so very pleased to see how well they did.


I’ve been away for a few days … completely unplanned. We spent a long weekend in Columbia, SC so that my dear husband could participate in the 2010 Marine Mud Run. But that wasn’t enough. We had to make a huge weekend of it. So while we were there we also visited Edventure, a children’s museum, and the zoo. And since we were only 2 hours away from grandparents (which are usually a 9 hour drive away) we decided to head up a day early to spend a day with Thomas’ mom and stepdad.

We had a GREAT time. It was an amazing trip for all of us. I had hoped to post while we were away and didn’t have a chance.  I’ll be posting photos for days it seems like. But this is going to be a very quick post on our trip to visit the grandparents. Our first stop was Grandma Grotberg and Papa Gerry’s house. We had a great time there and it is a perfect retreat for us. They are lucky enough to have a farm right next door. So we were able to see cows while eating breakfast. And then later we went for a walk and visited with some of the other animals that came up to the fence. Later in the day when Papa Gerry took them for a long, long ride on the riding lawn mower, the neighbors were outside and invited them inside the barns for a closer look at the goats, chickens and other animals. I was not there for that part so we have no photos. But here are some photos from our walk along the road.

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Tot School – Months, Days, Seasons and Weather

It was a very fun, but different week with tot school activities this week.

The theme I chose was: months, days of the week, seasons and weather. They all seem to go together well because you can’t really talk about months without talking about seasons, and you can’t really talk about seasons without talking about weather.

One of the things I really wanted to do was make this calendar that Carissa has featured on her blog. But I didn’t get to it. So, it will have to wait another week or two. We will keep talking about the days, months and weather daily so I still have time.

But I did buy a calendar for the children. It is the same as you would see on bulletin board in a classroom. We hung it up in our tot room and it has been quite the focus this week. (I tried to take a photo but my camera is on the fritz at the moment).

We also learned some of the songs featured on the 1+1+1 blog, including this Days of the week song. The children loved it and especially loved trying to snap. We also learned the 12 months of the year sung to the tune of ten little indians. This was also a big success – Petra started singing it tonight on her own – and did absolutely fantastic rattling off the 12 months of the  year.

We read a lot of books around the seasons this week and the months of the year. Several of these were Jane Moncure books – including Here We Go Round the Year, Word Bird’s Fall Words and Winter Words, and Word Bird’s Rainy Day Dance. We also read the Circle of Seasons which I’ve mentioned before here. And we read Sun Snow Stars Sky by Anholt and First Concepts Time book.

While all this was a lot of fun, Petra most enjoyed cutting with scissors this week. I FINALLY found a pair of scissors with a spring on them (for learning) this past week. I have been looking for months. Evidently I just had to wait for the back to school sales. I didn’t even look at the back to school supplies and a friend just mentioned she saw some. So I went and bought every pair I could find – which was only 5 pairs since I didn’t go until this past week. I kept two here at the house and intended on taking the others up to Sunday School for the toddlers there.

So this week Petra cut ….

And she cut….

And she cut….

She asked to cut every day, several times a day. But these were the only photos I took. In just one week with the learning scissors she has become quite a pro. I actually forgot to take the scissors with me to Sunday School and she was very disappointed when I handed her a normal pair. Before this week she couldn’t cut at all without training scissors. But after just one week at home using the training scissors, she had no problems using the regular scissors in Sunday School! I was shocked to see such a difference.

Also this week we matched the shapes and put them in a row. These made an easy and fun exercise. Easy for me because these are just foam pieces. And fun for the children because they are stickers and they had to pull the backs off each one. Petra did a great job getting her shapes lined up by shape. Jasper put all his shapes in one row.

And then there were other activities. Playing with weebles and reading on their own (notice Petra grabbed a piano book to read).

(Petra is 33 months, Jasper is 23 months)

If you would like to learn more about Tot School, GO HERE.

Our First Tot Book

Jasper’s first word was car. At almost two  years old, he is just starting to put two words together. So, now we hear “race car.” But often he asks to watch the movie Cars – he looovees this movie. So for our transportation theme a week or so ago, I made this tot book for  Jasper. This is our first tot book – a mini version  of a lap book. And it features cars of course.

I love the idea of lap books so this was something I have been wanting to try. However, I’ve largely held up on doing them yet because the children are so young. Ideally, I figure they should be making them, not me. But since Jasper LOVES cars with all his heart, I thought I would give this cars tot book a try.

To make it I used printables from 1+1+1 available HERE. They are completely free. After printing them, you just have to laminate, cut and paste everything together. It is super easy and takes a few minutes.

He has played with it some. But honestly not that much. I’m hoping he will get some more use out of it, otherwise I am definitley going to hold off making any more tot books into the children are older.

Here is what it looks like:

Toy Kitchens

Petra and Jasper love to help me cook in the kitchen. They are with me nearly all the time when I preparing, cutting, etc.  And I would really love to get the children a toy kitchen for Christmas. It is at the top of my list of things I think they would love the most. HOWEVER, I don’t really care for the ones in the store – and most of them are very expensive. This is my dilemma. Plus, there is the space issue. We cleared out the toys in the play room and organized them in the children’s closets. So I think there may be space. But now I have to find one I like.

The only problem is that I found some online that I LOVE, that can not be purchased. Many families have refurbished old pieces of furniture or entertainment centers and made absolutely outstanding play kitchens for their children with a very limited budget.

This family spent just $30 for this toy kitchen. Click HERE for details on this kitchen.

And this one looks like a modern piece of art. Go HERE for details on this one.

I’m seriously thinking about hitting some yard sales for a piece of furniture that will work easily. We have an entertainment center we are about to get rid of… but I just don’t know if I’m up to the challenge of this.

Birthday Celebrations and Ruffles

(this photo was taken approximately 12 hours AFTER make-up application or any hair brushing – now I’m wishing I’d taken the time to fix up)

Yesterday marked my 34th birthday. It was a good day. I am blessed in so many ways already, but yesterday definitely topped the cake in blessings. The weather was fabulous; I felt great; and I had so many people wish me well — I felt truly loved.

We celebrated. Thomas took me out to lunch. It was nice to have a meal without two toddlers to disturb us. We usually take the children everywhere with us. I think we have been out on maybe 6 dates since Petra was born almost 3 years ago. Then for dinner he brought home a cake! I was very surprised. The story is pretty funny, but I can’t really tell it in a blog very well. But the bottom line is he ordered it from a small Italian restaurant in town – and asked them to make one without flour, sugar or dairy! HAH! So they compromised and used as little as flour as possible, no icing, and substituted olive oil for butter when possible. The resulting almond cake was absolutely delicious! We all really loved it. (although Jasper vomited it all up just a few minutes after eating it – I’m guessing it was due to the fact he never eats these foods because he wasn’t sick) Here is a picture of the children putting candles on the cake – if you look closely you can see Jasper was really shoving them down in it.

At lunch, Thomas surprised me with a fabulous birthday present. A ruffler for my sewing machine! It was just what I wanted. I can not stand taking the time to gather ruffles by hand, and the ruffler makes it SO EASY. So of course I had to try it out. First I tried it out to see how much fabric it used on each setting. I set it to make a ruffle with every stitch and the fabric shrunk from 40″ to a 10″ ruffle! Much smaller than I expected. But it made a perfect mini skirt for Petra’s doll.

Then I got to work and made….

THIS 2 layered skirt:

THIS 3 Tiered Skirt:

And some more camera strap covers – notice one has a ruffle down the middle – which I did actually gather by hand.

And the only problem now is that I really don’t want to stop sewing!