How to Keep Your Kid’s Mind Sharp Over the Summer

My friend Erin at A Bird and a Bean has been a great help to me getting started on this blogging adventure.  She graciously asked me to guest blog for her, and you can read the post at this link.

For a tease, here’s an excerpt.

However, as an educator, I’m try to be about engaging students with their personal interests and passions.  Let’s face it.  A massive percentage of what students learn in school is exactly what they are told to learn in school.  I love it when I can give my students the freedom to learn topics or skills that interest them.  (Check out Genius Hour if this paragraph got your enthusiasm rolling.) I love to apply this concept to summer learning…

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Please check out Erin’s blog and be sure to read the full post on her site.  Thanks!

Celebrating 100 with a Giveaway!

The Bugs World has reached 100 Instagram followers, which means it’s time for a little giveaway contest.  Interested in winning?  Of course you are!  Here’s what you want to know.


Prizes? ONE lucky winner may choose ONE of the following items.

  • A free copy of The Bug’s first ever chapter book — Pirates Past Noon — delivered directly to your doorstep.

OR

  • A $15 iTunes gift card delivered directly to your email inbox.

Interested?  Read on…

There are multiple ways to enter.

  • Become a new follower on any of our social media outlets. Links provided below. You get one entry for every follow you click.
  • Share your favorite Bug’s World post on any or all of the social media sites listed below.  Be sure to tag us in your share so we know you did it.  You get one entry for every post shared and on every site you share it.

That’s a lot of possible entries, so here are the only pro tips you need to know.

  • Follow us on all social media outlets.
  • Share all our posts on every social media outlets.
  • I don’t do Pinterest.

That’s that.  The contest ends at noon Eastern Daylight Time (USA) on Saturday, June 25, 2016.  The winner will be announced shortly thereafter.

Now, here are the links you’ll need.

Thanks for playing!

Zoo Camp

The Bug loves the Cincinnati Zoo.  I don’t think I can overstate that fact in any way.  Her lifelong dream is to be a zookeeper, but she has recently narrowed her focus. She wants to be in the Bird Show…or more accurately she wants to be in charge of the Bird Show.  This girl has goals.

With her love of the zoo, it was only natural for us to enroll her in Zoo Camp this summer. While the zoo offers a couple different camp options for the little ones, we went with their half-day morning program called “Growing Up.”  She loved it!

Each day I dropped her off in her classroom, which was really a tent overlooking the giraffes. Since she has always had a soft spot for the giraffes, I’m surprised she was able to focus at all, but she learned a lot!  Her teacher is a zoology major at a local university and was INCREDIBLE with the kids.  (And I know a thing or two about being patient with 7 year olds.) Not only that, but they had three “volunteens” in their class to help the learning and fun go on.

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Every day, they focused on a different kind of animal — insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. They had visits from animals in those categories and went on hikes to see them in their enclosures at the zoo.  All along the way, they sang songs and played games.  Their time together ended with a craft about that particular animal.

THE BUG LOVED IT!

We made plans early in the week to eat lunch together at the zoo on Friday.  Now, I’ve mentioned before that we normally pack a lunch to save some money, but I didn’t tell The Bug that we were going buy pizza instead of eating a sandwich.  She flipped out with excitement.  (Seriously, it doesn’t take much when you’re 7.) On our way to buy our food, I told her we had to hurry if we wanted to make it to Bird Show in time.  Oh! My! Goodness! I had one hyper girl on my hands! We hooked up with one of her camp buddies at lunch and had fun hanging out with her and her family that afternoon.

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I highly encourage you to enroll your kid in Zoo Camp.  Slots fill up fast, so start looking for sign ups in Spring 2017.  Just to warn you… The Bug plans on taking a full day slot next year.

Here are some pro tips.

  • Take something to do.  It was silly for me to drop her off at the zoo, head back to Kentucky, then turn around and get her again.  So, I camped out with a laptop and did some blogging last week.  They have free wifi throughout the zoo, so come prepared. The views above your laptop are probably much better than what you see in your office anyhow.

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  • Don’t be a nerd and hang out with your laptop the entire time.  You have a world class zoo right there in front of you!  See some animals before you get your cup of coffee and hit the wifi.

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  • Find your kid during the zoo hike.  The Bug’s teacher was really cool about me meeting them at random times and places to snap a picture or two.  I never wanted to be in the way and just wanted a quick hi and picture.  It got so The Bug was looking for me while they were out and about.

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  • Don’t forget the Pizza and Bird Show Trick.  It’ll be a winner every time!  Add some ice cream too.  I give you permission to compromise.

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One other thing, I’m already pushing The Bug to be a volunteen when she turns 13.  This is an awesome opportunity to spend time in and around the zoo helping out and seeing if this is what she wants to do full time.

 

Happy Father’s Day to Me!

We decided to celebrate Father’s Day a week early this year. Why?  That’s a different story for a different post.  What does matter is that I got to be spoiled!

Actually, it was a pretty low-key day.

It started with a few quiet moments with my wife while The Bug slept.  We were sitting on the couch sipping coffee when a cherry bomb went off somewhere nearby!  What?!?! We both jumped up and ran to the front door to find the culprit.  (If it was you, SHAME! You ruined our tranquil morning, and you should be really sorry.)  Of course, that woke up Bug, so the party started with a Lion Guard card.  (Lion Guard is one of The Bug’s new loves.)  Inside the card, I was told that my present couldn’t be wrapped and I would have to search for it.  Hmmm….

They played Hot and Cold with me till I eventually stepped outside and saw a shiny new grill sitting on the patio.  Sweet! I’ve been using a table top grill for the past year or so, and it’s a pain in the neck to set it up and tear it down whenever we want to grill.  What a great gift and a great surprise!

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Then, it was time to get ready to go to church.  Normally, we serve in Kids Club then go to the service, but this week we opted to skip the adult service.  We’ve had a busy and tiring couple weeks adjusting to my wife’s new job and summer break and all sorts of other fun.  So we went home after hanging with the kids for an hour.

Lunch was dinner which I got to cook on my new grill.  Pork chops, potatoes, and asparagus.  Very yummy.  Very fun to cook on the grill!  (OK, truth be told, we weren’t sure how to do the asparagus on the grill and decided to cook that in the oven. I’m open for grilled asparagus recipes if you have one.)  We followed that up with some ice cream sundaes, and the celebration was over!

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We took naps and went to a swim birthday party where The Bug jumped off a high dive!  Now, that was a very cool Father’s Day gift too!

 

Pro Tips:

  • Even if a cherry bomb goes off on Father’s Day morning, don’t run out the back door.  Yes, I saw the grill before I was supposed to because I wanted to find the evil cherry bomber. I tried to act surprised when the big reveal came.
  • Always work a nap into Father’s Day.  Who doesn’t love a good nap?  You deserve it!
  • Celebrate a week early if you can. Maybe you can squeeze two special days out of it.  I’m still banking on saying something like, “Today is the REAL Father’s Day,” on Sunday.  Who knows what will happen?

 

What? A Boy? No Way!

**Disclaimer: All names have been changed to protect the “innocent.”**

I was getting ready for church Sunday morning when I got a text from my friend Bill.

Awkward question…how does The Bug feel about boys? Luke (from church) seems to like The Bug and and made her a gift (a necklace). His parents said he could only give it to her as a friend.  How does that make you feel? Other than totally freaked out.

Of course, my first question was “Who is Luke?!?!”  I never heard of this kid before.  I finally realized that his father, Larry, heads up the department my friend Bill volunteers in.  OK.  I’ve got the family down, but I had no idea they had kids, much less one who may one day try to woo my little girl away.  Not cool.

The Bug started calling EVERYONE her boyfriend or girlfriend months ago.  My wife cautioned me not to make a big deal about it because it would only encourage her to do it more.  So, I just explain to people, “You are a boy and you are her friend.”  That seems to appease them, but you do see some strange looks.  Well, this Luke thing jump started our “this is what it really means to have a boyfriend” talk with The Bug.  (She’s only 7, people!!!!!)

My wife explained to me that a boy gave her a necklace when she was in 2nd grade.  She remembers the boy’s name and still has the necklace.  It’s all sweet and innocent at this point.   So, I acquiesced.  Luke could give her the necklace, but that doesn’t mean I need to have to like it.

Fast forward to church time…

I saw Larry and (I presume) Luke walking to Kids Club, and us dads gave each other that knowing look and chuckle.  You know.  One eyebrow up, an upward nod of the head, and a snort. I even got a handclap on the shoulder.  What I should have done was gotten down in that little boy’s face and gave him the most wicked teacher look known to mankind, but I was in church. I needed some measure of decorum.  Some dad bonding was more appropriate.  (I do need to tell you that Luke was looking sharp! He even had a snazzy little fedora and was dressed for the occasion.)

All four of us walked down the hall together and Luke was crushed when he realized The Bug was going to a different room than was our normal Sunday morning activity.  He didn’t know what to do and was like a lost puppy.  So, I called The Bug back into the hallway.  (I’m a guy.  I get it.  You get your hopes up and when the plan goes south, there is no Plan B. So you make up Plan B on the spot and do dumb things, making a fool out of yourself. I decided to help the poor kid.) When The Bug magically appeared in the hallway, Luke disappeared into his room and threw his “gift in an envelope” to his dad.  His dad, being a good dad, made him come and give it to her himself.  Luke quickly handed the envelope to The Bug, then ran away as fast as possible.

The Bug was clueless.

She pulled a necklace out and, with a shrug, handed it to me.  “Here.  You can hold it.”

Larry and I were trying not to bust a gut laughing.  It was hilarious!  Finally, The Bug thanked Luke and went into her room.  Luke, face saved, went to his room, and life went back to normal.

We made The Bug try on the necklace on the way home and pose for a picture, but she hasn’t worn it since.  “I’m keeping it in my room for decoration.”

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Good girl!  Stay innocent for a few more years.  20 or 30 would be great.

Pro Tips:

  • Hide your daughter under a rock till she’s 25.  No school. No church. No nothing.
  • Always make sure your daughter’s suitors wear a fedora. If they are going to chase after your precious one, they should look good doing it.
  • It’s OK to laugh.  It’s better if your opposing dad also thinks it’s funny. After all, you probably both need an ally at this time.
  • It’s never too early to model what a good man looks like. While true dating is still ages away, you are the example she is looking to.  Be the man you want her to date.  Treat your wife and your kids with nothing but love and devotion.

Tell me your great “this is happening a decade too soon” stories!

Breakout!

My wife and I got to have a date last night!  I admit that this happens way too infrequently.  Life gets busy, everyone is tired, and we don’t hang out without The Bug nearly enough.  However, we had a blast the other night with a group of friends at Breakout in Cincinnati. (I really need to give some props to my friend Erin at A Bird and A Bean for setting this up.)

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Never heard of Breakout?  No worries. I’ll give you a primer.

  • Gather a group of friends.  We had 10 in our group, and that may have been a bit too much.  Most rooms can only hold 8.
  • Hop on to www.breakoutcincinnati.com to reserve your adventure. You can pick from four rooms.
  • Show up on time (maybe a bit early) and be ready to be locked in a room with your friends.

Yes, I said you’ll be locked in the room.  The whole point of the game is to figure out the clues to get yourself unlocked…and you only have an hour to get out.

So, let’s talk about what goes on in that room. First, they give you instructions in the hallway before you go in. Then, they lead you into the room and they… wait a minute!  No spoilers.  For one thing, it would ruin the fun for you AND I’m fairly certain they frown upon any and all discussion of what really happens in there.  The mystery and intrigue is part of their business.  I do feel pretty confident that I can tell you the room is FULL of clues.  Once you decipher one clue, it leads you to another clue, which once deciphered leads you to another clue, and so on, till you finally figure out the code that unlocks the door.

There is great pride in unlocking the door before 60 minutes expire, and I’m proud to say that my team made it out with roughly three and a half minutes to spare.  Whew!

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Breakout is a lot of fun and a great way to bond with your friends, small group, or office mates.  I highly suggest you visit some time this summer.

And when you go, you’ll want some pro tips.

  • Groups of 8.  Let’s get the truth out there.  I enjoy each and every person in that picture.  We’re good friends, and I love hanging out with them.  However, I think that 10 people was too many.  “We” solved some puzzles that left me clueless about the solution.  I joked that I could go back in the same room and be almost as lost as I was the first time because I missed a lot of things.  Most rooms can only handle a max of 8, and I think that may have been better. (No, I don’t have a suggestion of who to leave off the island.)
  • Everything is a clue.  Seriously, I think everything I saw in that room lead us to the solution.
  • Use the calculator app on your phone.  Mental math doesn’t work when under duress.
  • Bring $15 for your “I Broke Out” T-shirt.
  • Always watch your wife for something that might make her shriek.  I will be forever sorry I missed it happen.

I loved my time in Breakout!  Tell me about your experiences in the comment section below!

 

The Wonder of Learning

This week The Bug is taking an enrichment class at her school. I drop her off at 9, squeeze as many home projects as possible into 3 hours, then get her at noon.  She’s learning all about the art of Eric Carle and his books. 

I brought a car full of Goodwill donations to get The Bug today with the goal of stopping on the way home. She came out of class with an armful of artwork and away we went to the car. As we approached Goodwill I heard…

Oh my goodness look one with a tail I can’t believe it Daddy get my paper MY PAPER DADDY MY PAPER!

As soon as I pulled into Goodwill she unclicked the seatbelt and reached for the passenger seat in one fluid motion. 

I had no idea WHAT she was so excited about but I finally figured out that she saw a cloud she recognized from an activity she did in class. And, by golly, there was some sort of cloud identification paper (complete with cotton ball clouds) on the passenger seat next to me. We rolled her window down to gaze at the clouds. 


The entire trip home she told me all the animals and shapes she saw in those clouds (running at the mouth, I may add). 

May she never lose that sense of wonder and awe and that love of learning.