Thursday, June 30, 2016

Cup Cartoons

Howdy! I saw a cool art project recently and we tried it and loved it, so I thought I'd share it with you. It's cheap and easy! All you need is two clear plastic cups and a variety of permanent markers. We used fine point Sharpies. 

Step one: use black marker to draw a simple character on the cup. 


Step 2: Slide another cup over the first, then use colored markers to draw clothes and accessories for your character. 

                                                        
                                       

Here's what it looks like when you take them apart.


Then rotate the top cup a quarter turn and draw another scene. 








You could do multiple characters on the bottom cup and then just make a top accessory cup for each of them. Things One and Two loved doing this. If you are looking for a non-messy craft time, this is it! I hope you are having a happy summer!

You are loved!




Monday, June 13, 2016

South Dakota Summer Vacation

Hello! Happy summer, it's hot here and finally feels like summer! I'm so excited for all the adventures we will have and for the lazy days too. We just got back from Yellowstone and I'm just starting to sort through pictures. Last summer we spent a week in South Dakota and loved every minute of it, so I thought I'd share about that trip in case you are still planning this summer's adventures.

2016 is the 100th anniversary of our National Parks. National Parks are my absolute favorite and basically every vacation we ever take in America will likely include a trip to a National Park or Historic Site. I just think it is such a great value and a great opportunity to really see America. If you are going to visit more than one place in a year, I definitely recommend getting an Interagency Pass. The Interagency Pass is $80 and it's good for one year for your entire family (or whoever is in your car) at any of the national parks/federal lands/historic sites throughout the country (read about that here), there's at least 64 places just in Colorado. Additionally, if you are in the Military or 4th grade, your pass is free (for the whole family)! You can see all the places your National Parks pass is good right here. 

I've mentioned before that our boys love earning Jr. Ranger badges at all the National Parks/Memorials/Historic Sites. Thing One earned SIX badges on this South Dakota trip, and the whole family had fun exploring together from climbing to caving, we did it all. Here's the highlights:

We were driving from Colorado, so we decided to start by swinging up north to Devil's Tower in Wyoming. We spent just a couple of hours here checking out the visitor center and climbing on the boulder field. The rocks were huge and I was a little nervous as the crevices between them were large enough to swallow a small child or two, but it was fun and we returned with both boys.  It's cool to watch the expert rock climbers make it to the top. They look so tiny up there! It was a great chance for us to stretch after several hours in the car. Then we continued the rest of the way to Rapid City, SD.




The view of Devil's Tower from afar.

When we got to Rapid City we spent the first day just exploring the small town. It's a super cute town with lots for families to do. We especially loved the splash park in Main Street Square. 

                                      


Rapid City is known as the "City of Presidents" because they have a statue of every president on the corner of almost every downtown block. Check out the city website here for info on the presidential scavenger hunt. Things One and Two loved trying to find them all and match up the picture clues.


The other thing that was fun in Rapid City was Storybook Island. This is a giant free park that is filled with play forts and characters from classic children's tales. The park is free, but they sell snacks and charge for rides on the mini train and carousel (you are not allowed to bring in outside food, but there are picnic tables just outside the gates in the city park). This was a great afternoon activity for young kids. Both boys loved finding characters from so many stories (The Wizard of Oz, Winnie the Pooh, Cat in the Hat, and all the classic fairy tales).



The next day we sent to both Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument. The great thing about the caves is that weather is never a factor. Whether its rainy or 100º the caves are cool and mostly dry. 



Wind Cave National Park.


Jewel Cave National Monument. The caves were a little different than other National Parks/Monuments, because you do have to pay to go down into the caves. You can hike and explore above ground, but going into the caves requires a tour guide for safety, so you need to buy tickets and plan your day around the time of the tour you're taking. We stuck with the short and really basic tours, since we had pretty small kids. Young kids are not permitted on the longer underground hikes. So make sure to check all the details before buying your tickets. 

One of our favorite parts of the trip was driving through Custer State Park. It's so beautiful. 



We drove Needles Highway and hiked around Sylvan Lake.




Of course we went to Mt Rushmore,



and saw Crazy Horse.


We did do Bear Country USA. It's like a drive through zoo of bears, and a few other animals. It was both weird and cool. It was pretty fun to see all the baby bears and so many big bears, but felt really touristy. A lot like the zoo I guess. 



I wouldn't have know about this if I hadn't read it on another blog, but out toward the Badlands you will find the Minute Man Missile National Historic Site. If you are a collector of Jr Ranger badges, or interested in the Cold War,  this is a good stop. Thing One and I went through the museum-like visitor center in about 45 minutes and watched the video, which was pretty interesting. 



Probably my favorite day of the trip was the day we went to Badlands National Park. We saw buffalo, big horn sheep, a burrowing owl, and a turtle fossil and the landscape was just amazing. 


It was over 100º the day we were there in July, so we actually drove out to Wall Drug for a few hours in the afternoon, had dinner there, and came back to the Badlands for a sunset hike. It had cooled off a lot by then and the sunset was amazing.




Wall Drug was the highlight of Thing One's trip. He had built it up in his mind and I don't think he was disappointed. : ) They have a splash pad in the "backyard" now and that was great because like I said, it was 100º!


The boys also loved the live dinosaur. Wall Drug is an experience for sure. If you haven't been there, you just have to go. I enjoyed reading the history of it (find it here), and we all enjoyed our free ice water and a stop at the ice cream parlor (and the restaurant, and the bookstore, and the arcade...).


On our last day we toured the Big Thunder gold mine, and also panned for gold. They have gem panning for younger kids so that they are sure to find some treasures. We didn't find a lot of gold, but did have a good time.


And that was our trip to South Dakota. I couldn't recommend it more. The whole time we just kept saying how fun it was. America has a lot of really great places to visit. I feel pretty lucky to be in Colorado where we are 8 hours or less to so many awesome National Parks. Rapid City is just a 6 hour drive from Denver. So you can leave early and be there for lunch. Even a long weekend would be worth the drive. Whatever your plans this summer, I hope that you get to enjoy some nature and some history and make some awesome memories with your family. Happy 100th, National Parks. We love you a lot!

Happy summer and happy travels!!



Sunday, May 22, 2016

Book Review: God Gave Me You

I haven't mentioned this here, but our family is about eight months into our own adoption journey. While every adoption looks different, they certainly call it a journey for a reason. Ever since we started filling out paperwork and connecting with other adoptive families, I have been very interested in hearing different families' adoption stories.



I just finished reading a new book, that was released this month: God Gave Me You, by Tricia Seaman & Diane Nichols. Trisha is an oncology nurse, who was taking care of a terminally-ill single-mom. This mother was facing a terribly painful and uncertain time, and as she got to know her nurse Tricia, came to believe that she would be the best person to take care of her son when she passed away. After just three weeks of knowing one another, she asked Tricia to adopt her son and raise him. Amazingly, Tricia and her husband had already been going through the process of becoming adoptive parents. While they were expecting a baby, this story shows how God sometimes has other plans, yet He does such an amazing job of preparing us for them, even when we don't see the turn coming in the road. It's a moving story of how two strangers became one big family in a matter of weeks, and how love and support can change a person's life and death.

This quick read is a great reminder that every day is a gift, and we can make it through our darkest days when we have a friend to walk with us.

You can find God Gave Me You at Howard Books, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.



** I received a free copy of God Gave Me You from Howard books for my honest review. All opinions here are my own, because it's my blog. **

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Book Review: Close to You

Hi Friends! Remember how I had a long list of mostly serious books to read at the beginning of the year, and mentioned I was going to need to work in some lighter reads for fun? Well, I found a good one! Close to You by Kara Isaac comes out April 26th, and you will definitely want to put it on your summer reading list!


When Howard books told me about this story, I jumped at the chance to read it. Both my sister and my cousin lived and studied in New Zealand in college. I'm the only one in my immediate family who hasn't been there, so this was my imaginary ticket! The main character is smart and funny kiwi Allison Shire who keeps on keeping on in the midst of her life's biggest disaster to date. At the moment, that means this scholar, with a doctorate in literature, is leading tours all over New Zealand with groups dressed entirely in Lord of the Rings garb and speaking Elvish.
Meanwhile Jackson Gregory has signed up for the ultimate LOTR fan club tour in order to schmooze his great uncle into investing in his business--an investment he desperately needs. The only problem is, Jackson knows nothing about The Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit. Perfect. 
If you've ever wanted to traipse all over New Zealand, if you've ever had a career disaster (like both of these main characters), if you've ever read a Lord of the Rings book (or seen the movies), or if you just like a good love story; you will love this book! It is well written, with a great setting and fun characters. This is Kara Isaac's first book. How I love to see people succeed! 
Happy reading!

** Howard Books gave me a free copy of this book for my honest review. All opinions on my blog are my own. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sole Hope

Hi Friends! We are on Spring break this week and loving it!  Trees are starting to come alive with new leaves and even some blossoms. I love spring because it's like all of nature is coming back to life. It's so exciting to see something new. Along those lines, I have discovered something new (well, new to me). It's an organization called Sole Hope. They are based in Jinja Uganda and they are helping to solve a unique problem. Several years ago a couple read about how many people in Africa are infected by jiggers, a sand flea that burrows into toes and the webbing between them, and then lays thousands of eggs. These fleas in the feet are very painful and and lead to other diseases. They looked at all the angles of solving the problem and then created Sole Hope. They bring in people who have jiggers (or travel to them), and clean their feet, remove the jiggers, and provide education about how to keep from getting them. Then each person is given a new pair of shoes as well as a foot care kit, and finally their house and property is sprayed with a pesticide that kills the jiggers to eradicate them and keep everyone healthy. Watch their video here for a peek into what they do!


One of my favorite parts about the organization is that they employ local shoe makers to make the shoes that they distribute. I read once about how some well-meaning shoe companies had actually hurt communities by giving everyone a pair of shoes, putting the local cobblers out of business and causing them to have to move elsewhere for work. Then when those shoes had been worn though there was no where to get shoes. I love this more sustainable approach. Best of all, they invite people like you and I to be a part of this process. The shoes are all made out of recycled blue jean or denim. In order to make shipping as efficient as possible, Sole Hope asks groups in the U.S. to get together and have a "Shoe Cutting Party." Last week we had a cutting party and it was fun and easy! We gathered up our old jeans that have been waiting for a project such as this. The fronts of these pants are pretty worn,


but the backs are still in great shape, perfect for cutting out shoe pieces! If you don't have jeans, you can also just buy a few XL pairs at the thrift store. 


So we rounded up our jeans, 


ordered a party pack with the patterns and instructions (order a cutting party here), and invited friends to come over and trace and cut. 


For each pair ten pieces get cut out of denim


and two pieces get cut out of plastic milk jugs, as heel supports.


Then all those pieces get pinned together and labeled,


and put into packs of 10 in a gallon size bag. Everyone that comes is asked to bring just $10 help cover the cost of paying the shoe makers in Uganda, and shipping the materials. Best $10 you'll spend!


When you see how much trash there is just between all the seams, buttons and pockets, you realize how efficient it really is to cut them here and ship only the needed pieces. We saved the pockets for a later project...stay tuned :)


I have already planned a second cutting party, and I'm thinking this will be something we do on a regular basis.  I love their awesome holistic model. Check out Sole Hope's website here. 

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