Thursday, May 30, 2013

Geocaching Part 2 – What to Take With You

Geocaching Part 2 – What to Take With You

For beginning geocaching with kids, you really don't need to bring much. The most important items are:

a GPS device of some sort

a pen or pencil

'swag' or small items for trade

That is really all you need for basic geocaching with kids. We use a low end basic dedicated GPS device when we are heading out on a hike, and we use a geocaching ap on my smart phone for urban, or city geocaching. I'm not really qualified to review or recommend GPS devices, so I won't do that here. I'll just say that my kids don't have trouble using my little Garmin etrek 10. There are many other choices, some with much fancier features, like color maps and all kinds of cool things. However, price goes up quickly with the features, so you probably want to make sure you really love geocaching before you invest in a pricey GPS just for that purpose.

When we use my smart phone, we use a free ap called c:geo. has it's own ap that is supposed to be very good, but I have not tried it. I just tried out c:geo because it was free, and it usually works well for me. When it doesn't it is usually because we are out of phone reception range – that's why we generally use the phone only for city stuff.

I have read that the geocaching experts say that a GPS designed for car navigation usually do not work well for geocaching. I think they are good at getting you to a general address, but for geocaching you need to get to within at least a few feet of the hide for the best chance of finding it.

Regardless of what type of GPS you use, you should sign up for a account. Most aps will need to sync with your account to work and if you're using a dedicated GPS device, you'll need to account to download the cache data into your device. There is a free option, as well as a paid option that includes a few perks. The free account is plenty to get you started geocaching.

It's good to bring a pencil or pen with you in case the cache you find doesn't have one, or the one in it is bad. There will be a log in each geocache for you to sign in order to get credit for making the find.

'Swag' is the term used for the tradable stuff inside many geocaches. It's usually small, and cheap stuff. My husband calls it junk, but the kids love looking through it and picking out something to trade. The geocaching community policy is that you should trade 'even or up' when trading swag. This is to prevent the quality of the swag declining even further. So for example, it would be considered very bad geocaching etiquette to take a mini maglite and leave a nickel. As an example of the sorts of things we often find, and leave: stickers, buttons, plastic craft jewels, small toys (happy meal type stuff), coins, rubber bouncy balls, etc. You should never leave candy or food because that will only attract animals and bugs.

Next time: Part 3 - The search!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Run Through the Sprinkler – Fun Stuff to do Anywhere

Run Through the Sprinkler – Fun Stuff to do Anywhere

Running around in the sprinkler was a staple of my childhood summers. I really don't hear about kids still doing this. Maybe I travel in the wrong circles. Tell me do your kids still like to play in sprinklers?

A week or so ago though, our plans to visit the local pool fell through and my oldest suggest getting the sprinkler out, and they had a blast jumping around in the water. So if you haven't dragged the old lawn sprinkler out in awhile, give it a try on the next warm day.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Low Cost Summer Movies for Kids 2013

Low Cost Summer Movies for Kids 2013

This year, in my Summer Movie research, I only found two theater chains that are offering cheap summer movie programs. Both of these offer their movies on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10am. Tickets are $1.00 per person – adults and children are the same price.

Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse starts June 18th and 19th
They also offer a 10 movie pass for $5
Check the link for the schedule of the theater near you – each one appears to offer different titles.

Regal Summer Movie Express
Each participating theater has different start dates. Some start as soon as June 4th, others begin June 18th.
There are two movies to choose from each week, usually one G choice, and one PG choice.

If there is a chain or independent theater near you offering summer movie deals for kids, please let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Start a Summer Book Club for Kids - Fun Stuff to do Anywhere

Start a Summer Book Club for Kids - Fun Stuff to do Anywhere

There are a bunch of resources that encourage kids to read over the summer. Libraries and book stores offer summer reading programs with prizes. Having a group of friends to share your favorite books with, though, can make reading that much more fun.

If you want to start a children's book club for the summer, I suggest keeping it fun. Pick books that the kids would probably not read in school, and don't worry if they have a lot of 'literary value'. If your child is interested, you could pick a theme, like books about dragons, or superheros, or books with strong girl leads. Think about what the kids you want to invite like. Maybe you pick books that have a film adaptation you could watch after you finish the book. Let the kids talk about what they want, and just be ready to throw out a question or idea if they run out of things to discuss on their own.

Maybe have a snack or craft to go along with the book if it lends itself to such things.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Contra Costa County Fair 2013

We have missed the Contra Costa County Fair in Antioch the last couple of years because it has been moved so early in the year. It feels strange to have a county fair while school is still in session.

The fair runs from Thursday May 30th through Sunday June 2nd.

Opening day, Thursday the 30th, Seniors (62 and over) and folks in the military receive free admission. You can also get in free if you bring 3 canned goods.

Friday June 31st is Family day, and children 12 and  under get in free.

Also, if you buy your tickets or ride wristbands in advance, you can get a discount here.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Geocaching Part 1 - Planning

Geocaching Part 1 - Planning

I promised awhile back to write a more extensive post about geocaching with kids. However, I don’t want to overwhelm with a super long post, so I will be dividing the process up. So here is part 1: planning your geocaching outing. Spring and Summer can be a great time to try out geocaching if you’ve never tried it before. We went out today and found three caches. I’m going to give an account of what we did as an example of how geocaching works. I’m going to do my best to avoid including any details that might provide hints about the location of the caches we found so I don’t accidently share any caching spoilers.

First, I visited and pulled up the map of the Regional Park we planned to visit, to see what sorts of geocaches were there. What I consider when planning a geocaching outing with my kids:

-          The difficulty rating for the cache. While 3 and 4 star difficulty caches are very rewarding for me to find, my kids usually lose interest in searching well before I do. I stick to 1 and 2 star, maybe 2 ½ when they are caching with me to keep it fun.

-          The terrain rating. For this I stick to a 3 ½ star rating or under, even on my own because I’m not all that fit. I don’t want to have to do any climbing or other difficult maneuvers to reach a cache. There may be a 3 or a 3 ½ I won’t be able to get to, but so far those have been obtainable for us even if slightly tiring if they are up a steep hill or something similar.

-          The size of the cache. The kids love the cheep silly ‘swag’, or treasures that are available for trade inside some geocaches. Micro caches are often to small to hold any swag. I try to make sure most of the caches we will be searching for on an outing are ‘small’ or larger. Sometimes a hide is so clever and fun on its own they enjoy finding it just for the sake of finding it (as I do) but usually, they want the swag.

-          The hike involved. We are tackling longer hikes as time goes along and they grow, but I still have to consider a hike length that will keep things fun for them. Sometimes we will skip the hike all together and focus on finding ‘urban’ caches. These are ones that are hidden in parking lots, or neighborhood playgrounds, or sometimes inside local businesses. We found one on the bookshelf at our library! The downside to urban caches is that they tend to be small because it is harder to hide a geocache in a busy area. It can also be harder to search in a high traffic shopping center, for example, without strangers wondering what you’re up to.      
For your first geocaching outing consider looking for a ‘beginner’ cache. When you visit and  under the “Play” tab pick “Hide or Seek a cache” then enter the area you want to look in, you will be shown a list of caches in that area. Caches that the hider thinks would be good for a beginner will be highlighted in green.

Next time I’ll go over what to take with you on your geocaching outing.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Great Bug Hunt – Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere

The Great Bug Hunt – Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere

I don’t remember why my kids and I started hunting for bugs, but afterwards, I was amazed with how much fun it was. Even the littlest one, who normally doesn’t like bugs – is even afraid of some – put her fears and disgust aside to join in the hunt.

We had gone out for a short hike, but The Great Bug Hunt would work at your local park or playground, or even your back yard. All you do is look for bugs. As many different kinds as you can find, and announce to the rest of the group when you spot one. Ants, butterflies, ladybugs, bumblebees, flies, and any other bugs you come across all count.

That’s it. Thant’s the whole game. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but try it out anyway, and let me know how you like it.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

When It Gets To Be Too Much – Dealing with Burnout

When It Gets To Be Too Much – Dealing with Burnout

I was sick earlier in the week. Fever, upset stomach – that kind of sick. But even before that I was starting to feel like I was headed down the road to burnout. Sadly, I’ve been down that road before, so I know what it looks like. I’m sure you have to. If you’re a parent, the odds are you’ve at least gotten close at some point.

I’m not an expert in psychology, but I know enough from reading, and from personal experience to know that the only treatment for burnout is rest. The problem is, in my opinion, that rest looks different for each of us. I’m a huge introvert, so rest for me is quiet, a fluffy pillow, a cat in my lap, and a book. For someone else it might mean going out and doing something fun without feeling guilty about other things that need doing at home.

That’s the key – doing whatever recharges you emotionally. As parents though, it is so, so easy to feel guilty if we slack on our perceived duties. But burnout can turn into a serious problem if not addressed. I believe it is better to let the kids waste a day or two watching TV and playing video games while Mom hides in bed reading, than it is to have a Mom that plows ahead, frazzled and ready to snap, for weeks on end as she refuses to care for her own emotional needs.

This is more of a reminder to myself than to you. Every time I go through this – every single time – I think of all I need to do, and try to think of what I can cut out. I decide that there is nothing to cut; everything I do is vital. Then I get sick, and ya know what? Most, if not all that stuff doesn’t get done. And the world does not end. Funny how that works. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Family Dinner Together and Game Night - Fun Stuff to Do Anywhere

Family Dinner Together and Game Night

Despite all we hear about how great it is to eat dinner together at the table as a family, we don't usually eat together. We've fallen into bad habits of all going our own ways, to our own screens at dinner time. By the end of the day, we are often so tired that preparing a meal is almost more than we can handle, let alone trying to get the table cleared, set, etc. I'm sure many of you understand.

However, I really want to at least try to have family dinners, but the kids love their dinner TV time, and I admit I like my quiet dinner blog reading. So to make the transition more fun, we are adding game night into the mix. While we are all at the able having dinner, we play a game together.

We started with Minotarus by Lego, and had so much fun, I don't think the kids noticed that they didn't watch any TV. In fact, they were up early today playing it again. We picked it up at a garage sale, and I recommend garage sales a great way to build your game collection.

If you have any fun family dinner traditions, I'd love to hear about them in the comments.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Legends Series by Anthony Horowitz – Book Review

Legends Series by Anthony Horowitz – Book Review

My daughter has always loved retellings of the Greek and Roman myths. I picked up ‘Legends: Tricks and Transformations’ by Anthony Horowitz for her at the library, and once she started reading it, she zipped through all the stories in just a few days. She has since read the ‘The Wrath of the Gods’ volume as well, and told me she would like to read the rest. From a kid, I think that’s a darn good recommendation.

The reading level for these books are listed as 9 and up, and my daughter was 8 when she started reading them, and did not have any difficulty with the reading level. However, the old mythology itself, as most of you probably know, can be brutal. While I believe this is a child-friendly version, if you have a sensitive kid, these myths may not be a good choice, no matter who is telling them.