Thursday, July 31, 2014

BBF Back-To-School Basics Hop & Giveaway

It is difficult to believe that summer is almost over and the new school year will soon be here. Bento Bloggers & Friends (BBF) are joining together to share their back-to-school tips for packing lunch and are also having an awesome giveaway. You can enter for a chance to win the giveaway on the Rafflecopter near the end of this post. If you hop through the Bento Blogger & Friends blog hop you can collect a letter tile on each post in the hop. Once you complete the hop, simply arrange the letters in numerical order to spell a word to put in the Rafflecopter entry form.

Making lunches for school does not have to be a dreaded chore. My son helps me make his lunches. The lunches are usually inspired by the stories we read together at bedtime. It takes a couple of extra minutes to use a cookie cutter on a sandwich to make a lunch "story-themed". Here is a quick lunch I made this week inspired by an article in National Geographic Kids magazine:
It contains: ham & cheese leopard sandwich made with the CuteZCute cutter, banana chips ground, a tree made from a Zbar and pumpkin seeds, a marshmallow with a sun drawn on it, blueberries for water, and a salad.

This lunch has the basic supplies I use whenever I make a school lunch: container, silicone cups, cookie cutter (or knife), food markers, and yummy food my son will eat.

My favorite lunch boxes are EasyLunchboxes and Laptop Lunches. This lunch was put in an Easy Lunchbox. Both lunchboxes offer divided areas which is wonderful because my son is not a big fan of his food touching.

Silicone cups are a great way to separate food. All Things for Sale has a large variety of silicone cups.

There are so many adorable, easy-to-use cookie cutters on the market. I like to use my Wilton cutters or CuteZCute Cutters. It makes dressing up a lunch a snap. Sometimes I just use a sharp knife to cut story characters out of bread.
One of my favorite ways to add a quick detail to a lunch, is to use food decorating pens. I have found that this Ameri-Color Gourmet Writer set works the best for me. I used the yellow marker to draw a sun on the marshmallow in the leopard lunch.
Lastly, I need a good bag to put the lunch in. I like upright bags so the food does not get turned on its side. California Innovations Lunch Bucket is my favorite lunchbox. I have bought my son a new one each school year. This bag has two compartments. My son puts his water bottle in the top. Sometimes he forgets to close it tightly and it spills. With the two compartments, the water is contained in the top level. Healthy Eating Starts At Home had a great review on this bag last August, you can read it HERE.

Be sure to write down the tile letter with number as you go through the hop. You will want to collect all of the letter tiles in the hop before entering the Rafflecopter.

Click this hop button to find your next letter tile and to see what tips Biting the Hand That Feeds You has for back-to-school lunches.
Have you made it through the hop and collected all 16 letters? Now, you are ready to enter the giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to check out the wonderful sites I link to on my sidebar!  If you want to see more book inspired lunches, click on the "lunches" label at the end of this post or go to 
My Story Themed Lunches board on Pinterest. I would love for you to leave a comment to let me know you stopped by.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Family Time at Main Event

Last Sunday, my husband suggested a family outing to Main Event. We took advantage of Main Event's Summer Fun Pass. The pass lets you have unlimited access (there are some wait times) to laser tag, mini-golf, rock climbing, and bowling for $15.95 each + bowling shoe rental. That is an incredible deal. We got there when they opened at 9 a.m. and pretty much had the place to ourselves.

Suiting up for laser tag. 

Glow-in-the-dark mini golf

Daddy was the first one to ring the bell.

Boogs was scared at first but then conquered his fear and climbed all the way up.

Boogs was very proud when he rang the bell at the top. Daddy was right behind him.

Boogs enjoy rappelling down the wall.

He was exhausted after climbing up and down for about 45 minutes.

Ready to bowl!

Go, ball, ball! Get me a strike!

Yes, I did win both games. Check out those strikes!

Boogs played a few video games. UFO Stomper is one of his favorites.

There was a tough round of competition for air hockey but Daddy was the champion.

We had a lot of fun at Main Event. It was nice for us to do something as a family. We missed Daddy while Boogs and I were on our camping trip.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Camping Trip Part 3

We arrived at Carlsbad Caverns National Park a little before before noon on Wednesday. Unfortunately, we just missed the noon tour of the King's Palace. We bought tickets for the next King's Palace tour which was scheduled at 3 p.m. There was plenty to do while we waited for our tour time.
We visited the gift shop and let all of the boys make a souvenir pressed penny. The boys enjoyed looking at everything in the gift shop.
There was a really neat interactive area for kids. J1, Boogs, and J3 spent a long time using this screen to create their own cave formations. This helped them identify various formations when we went down into the cavern.
Boogs crawled through the small cave tunnel several times. He said he would be okay having to crawl through something that small in the cavern.
Each of the boys took a turn posing as spelunkers.
One table had several skulls, skins, and some spelunker equipment on it.
We went down 750 feet to walk the 1.6 mile Self-Guided tour. It was a cool 56 degrees F in the cave.
I wish my photos could have captured how amazing the cave formations looked in real life.
After our Self-guided tour, we ate at the cafe 750 feet underground. The kids were ready to get back to the surface. J4 said he wanted to ride the elevator up so he could see the cars and chew some blue gum.
After eating, we still had a bit of time before our tour. I noticed a little girl working on a Jr. Ranger booklet. So, we went to the information desk and got Jr. Ranger booklets for all of the boys. When the boys found out they could earn a patch for completing at least half of the booklet, they were very excited to get to work. They were a little sad to have to put the booklets away when the King's Palace Tour began.

The cave formations on the King's Palace tour were spectacular. We enjoyed listening to Ranger Jim tell us the history of the cave. He was an excellent tour guide. Boogs was fascinated by Ranger Jim's stories about closing down the cavern after the last tour each day. Ranger Jim said,"I sometimes feel like there is something down here with me even though I know it is just my brain trying to trick me. So, I sing Michael Jackson and Beyonce songs while I am turning off the lights. It helps chase the goobers away." That statement led to Boogs starting a ten minute discussion on the death of Michael Jackson and prescription medications. It was an unusual discussion to be having deep in a cavern.
Ranger Jim had J2 help him out with a demonstration, J2 became part of a water molecule. Ranger Jim gave J3 his jacket to help him warm up on the tour.
I am so glad we stayed for the King's Palace Tour. It was really neat to learn so much about the history of the discovery and maintenance of the caverns. After the tour, the boys worked on their Jr. Ranger booklets. They were able to complete enough of their booklets to take the Jr. Ranger Pledge to help learn about and protect the natural world around them. The boys had to raise their hands and repeat after Ranger Jim to take the pledge. Ranger Jim added on "... I will not argue in the car and I will listen to my mom..." Boogs stopped repeating the words and said, "Hey, I read the real pledge and I know that is not part of it." Ranger Jim signed their booklets in English and Chinese then gave each boy a Carlsbad Caverns Jr. Ranger Patch. They happily added it to the other patches we have collected on this trip.
On the way out of the park road, we had to stop and get a picture with the aliens before leaving New Mexico to return to Texas. I would have loved to spend a couple of days in the Carlsbad area.
We stopped for dinner at a little diner called Happy's. The owner had a huge toy collection on display. After dinner, we piled in the car to drive for 5 to 6 hours. We had planned on taking the noon tour at the caverns so we could leave earlier in the day. With our later tour and dinner, we did not leave Carlsbad until almost 7 p.m. Our next campsite reservation was at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas. We drove until midnight and then decided that it was just too late to try and drive another two hours to Glen Rose. All of the boys were asleep. Daphne and I were laughing and talking during the entire drive. I think we were getting a little delirious with being tired because we started laughing at the most ridiculous things. We'd spent the last two nights in tents with lightning, thunder, and strong winds. We started cracking ourselves up by listing the silly things that had happened on the trip that annoyed our children even though the trip was "for the kids". We needed to pull over and set up camp somewhere.

We checked online for the closest campsite and ended up at Abilene State Park a little after 1 a.m. Daphne and I set up the two tents with pillows and sleeping bags while the kids were asleep in the car. It was not a lot of fun setting up camp with only the car's headlights to show us what we were doing. I ended up tripping, falling, and getting road rash on my palms, knees, and foot. My toe bled so bad that the inside of my shoe became slippery with blood while we were setting up camp. After we carried the kids into the tent I went and bandaged my wounds. It started raining shortly after we went to sleep. We checked and Abilene was under a flash flood warning. There was a little bit of water inside my tent when I got up at 6, but the rain had stopped. Three of the boys woke up and I fed them. Then it started raining again. I let the boys play in the car to stay out of the rain. Then it started pouring. Daphne called me from the tent. Water was coming up through the tent seams along the floor of the tent. She sent me a video of her pushing the tent floor, it looked like a waterbed. When the rain went back down to a drizzle, we put the last two boys in the car and took down our tents as quickly as possible.
The tents were standing in about two inches of water. What a mess! The pillows and sleeping bags were soaked. There was no way things were going to dry before we had to set up camp for that night so we decided to call it quits and head home. Heading home was harder than we imagined it would be. The low water crossings were flooded. We drove through one low water crossing with about 8 inches of water flowing across the road. It made me very, very nervous to drive through it. Then we came to a second low water crossing. After looking at it for a few minutes, we decided not to press our luck. We started backing up the car to try and find a place to turn around. Another car drove up, the woman in the car said that there had been construction for the last six months to fix the flooding on this section of road. She was not very happy about the situation. She told us an alternate route to take us to the highway. We started backing up again and then four pick-up trucks drove up to the low water crossing. We waited to see if they made it across.
The pick-up truck on the left side of the street made it across but he almost stalled in the middle of the flooded area. At the deepest part, the water came up to the top of his wheel wells. Scary!
The weather was mostly cloudy and drizzling all the way home. We were sad for our trip to end early, be we had a great time in spite of a few little things going wrong. Everyone got along most of the time, the kids were pleasant in the car, we experienced new things, saw great sites, and had fun together.
This is what the boys looked like on the last leg of our trip. We had to cram wet sleeping bags into the back of my car. They survived the trip and hopefully have some fond memories of it. I know I do.

For Daphne -it is all for the kids (ha)
"They went for a walk while I am in here soaking to death."
"Mama it's raining. It's perfect."
Turn around don't drown.
"The water ran red."
They can't wear backpacks because of the crick in their necks.
Beef jerky bags are amazing!
"Cheetos drool makes me puke."
"This makes me very, very, very, very nervous."
Rain of bugs.
Caution, Tarantulas Crossing the Road
"I can't back up!"
"Why do you two gag so much?"
Watch out for mud puddles in the dark!

Daphne, thanks for joining us on this crazy adventure. I can't wait for the next one.

This post is linked to:
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Summer Lunches

Boogs summer lunches have not been very exciting. Someone asked me to post a few of the lunches I have made this summer. I don't have very many to post. Boogs has not been asking for story themed lunches this summer. Most of his lunches have been pretty boring. I have not taken many lunch pictures since school ended. Here the few lunches I have pictures of:
 In the ELB: turkey, Goldfish Crackers, yogurt, granola bar, blueberries, carrots, and an apple.

On the lunch tray: yogurt, blackberries, roll, ham, salad

On the divided plate: yogurt, plum, garlic bologna, Babybel cheese, broccoli, and a homemade pumpkin chocolate chip muffin.

Today I actually made a story themed lunch inspired by The Otherworldly Adventures of Tyler Washburn, The New Kid by Dylan Cole.
Boogs read this book several times. It tells the story of a boy inventor who is constantly causing trouble with his inventions. Tyler accidentally stumbles his way into the STAR (The Society of Technologically Advanced Races) Academy. It is an intergalactic school for young beings from around the universe. Tyler makes some new friends and learns many exciting things about different planets and space travel. Tyler is able to successfully create an invention that helps his new friends. Boogs loved looking at the illustrations in this book. The author/illustrator also works in the entertainment industry. He was the concept art director for the movie Avatar and the production designer for the movie Maleficent.

School has been out for 5 weeks so I am a little out of practice drawing on cheese. In the ELB lunchbox: Tyler and his friends drawn on a piece of cheese which is on top of a pb&j sandwich, phyllopod salad, and surface of Engogia mango.

Be sure to check out the wonderful sites I link to on my sidebar!  If you want to see more book inspired lunches, click on the "lunches" label at the end of this post or go to My Story Themed Lunches board on Pinterest. I would love for you to leave a comment to let me know you stopped by.  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Camping Trip Part 2

We left Balmorhea State Park (see post HERE) on Tuesday morning. Our original plan was to go to White Sands, New Mexico for a couple of hours before making our way to our next campsite near Carlsbad, New Mexico. We decided to shave off a couple of hours of driving by experiencing the sand dunes at Monahans Sandhills State Park in Texas instead of driving out of our way to White Sands, New Mexico. We figured the kids would still get to experience sliding down giant sand dunes and enjoy less time in the car.
We were fortunate to have a cloudy day with temperatures in the low 90s. The sand was hot, but not unbearably so.
I love this pic of Boogs falling out of his sled. It looks like something I would do.
The sleds didn't work all that well. Sometimes you had to hop them a bit to keep sliding.
Here's Daphne on her first run down the dune.
We took a water break and several of the boys decided they were too tired to go back out on the dunes for more sliding. So I took Boogs and J2 for a couple more slides. It wore them out. Everyone took quick showers and tried to shake all of the sand off their clothing before we got back in the car for the next leg of our journey.

Brantley Lake State Park, New Mexico
I loved this campground! Brantley State Park made you really feel like you were out in the wilderness. It was about 30 miles from Carlsbad and there was nothing close to it. The area we camped in only had 3 campsites in use out of 25. The boys loved the shaded playground. We kept busy playing Frisbee, badminton, Trouble, hiking, and exploring the area around our campsite.
A thunderstorm with lightning and high winds started during the middle of the night. We stayed dry and the sun was shining in the morning. Boogs and I went for a sunrise walk on the trail before anyone else woke up.
New Mexico is full of "cute" little creatures. I have no idea what the bug on the left is, it looked creepy.
I found a free printable scavenger hunt list with pictures on The Creative Homemaker. I attached a copy of the list to a bag for each of the boys. The boys enjoyed searching for the items on the list. They searched around our campsite, took the bags to the playground, and then took them on our Lake Loop Trail hike.
The boys were a little disappointed that the Lake Loop Trail did not actually go to the lake. It was a pretty walk. If we wanted to go to the lake, we would have had to drive to the beach area.
We packed up and left Brantley Lake State Park a little before lunch time to go to Carlsbad Caverns. I will write about that part of our trip tomorrow.

This post is linked to:

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall