Category Archives: Parenting

Tot Finder or Darth Vader?

Old Tot Finder StickerWhen I was a child, I had a sticker on my window that was extremely dirty and faded. I often gazed at it from inside my room, trying to make out the pale image. It wasn’t until many years later that I’d learn it was a Tot Finder sticker, featuring a fireman rescuing a child.
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I’d spot them in second story windows from the back seat of our green Plymouth Fury, too far away to see in any real detail.
Eventually, and with the aid of George Lucas, my imagination eventually filled in the gaps and I falsely identified the fireman as Darth Vader. It seemed he was holding someone small. A child? Little baby Luke? While I still had some questions, the mystery was mostly solved.
I’m not sure why I didn’t just ask my parents about it sooner,  but many years later I learned the unfortunate truth: Parents everywhere weren’t spamming their child’s windows with “dark side” propaganda.
Although Tot Finder stickers are no longer recommended, I’ll still occasionally spot one in an old window, smile, and shout, “LOOK KIDS! DARTH VADER!”

How to Find Walking Labyrinths 

labyrinthMy family recently came across a walking labyrinth for the first time and now we’re hooked. We literally stumbled onto it during a college campus visit. Thinking that I would be the only one excited about this, I was surprised when both of my young kids jumped in and walked the entire length with complete focus.

Of course, I was quite impressed by this. It was a ten minute, non-digital oasis when I didn’t have to field questions about snacks or break up arguments. They were totally in the zone.
It is a simple, yet powerful, principal; you are set into forward motion, you have momentum, and knowing the end is not too far away, you’re committed to twisting, turning, and spiraling until you reach it. What a great exercise for focus in an age when people (of all ages) can use it the most! I left wanting more, so I’ve since tracked down several other nearby labryinths and we’re excited to visit them.

To find labyrinths near you, visit labyrinthlocator.com, where you can search a large database of labyrinths that includes useful information such as: directions, accessibility, hours, pictures, etc. You can search by city, zip code, or state. Both private and public labyrinths are listed, and while some aren’t open to the public, it’s still fascinating to view the pictures and marvel at these labors of love.

Sorting through data by state produced too many results over too wide of an area to sift through. Yet, I didn’t want to exclude any nearby small towns located in other zip codes that were still within reasonable driving range to me. A map of nearby labyrinths would be ideal, but since that wasn’t an available feature, my solution was utilizing zipmap.net to make a short list of a few zip codes within an acceptable driving range, then searching each of them on the labyrinth locator. I quickly found several labyrinths very close to me, and was especially surprised to find that I drive right past a few of them daily. Now that I know they are there and available to the public, it’s on my spring to-do list to hit as many as possible.

A day or so after our first labyrinth find, I noticed something interesting about a carpet at preschool. Carpet LabyrinthI think this may be an example of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon at work. It’s amazing what you can notice, or miss, depending on how you look at things and whether or not your mind is primed.

If you visit any labyrinths near you, send a picture and I’ll post them here! Stay curious and keep exploring!

Getting Started with Juggling

JugglingI love exploring new hobbies and interests, and while there’s not nearly enough time in the day to keep up with all of them, one of the few that has stuck over the last few years is juggling. Not only is juggling extremely fun and a classic neat trick to have up your sleeve, it also comes with other powerful benefits. For one, it’s really good exercise, especially when I’m learning new tricks and dropping balls everywhere. It’s also really good for your mind in a variety of ways, and has been linked to increased grey matter in adult brains. I’m looking forward to teaching my kids what I’ve learned so they can gain the same benefits, and so we can eventually learn to do awesome passing tricks!

Learning to juggle three balls takes a quite a bit of patience and focus at the beginning, but that’s also what makes it so fun and rewarding as you start seeing results. It’s honestly not very difficult if you understand the basics and practice smart. This just means breaking it down to the smallest and simplest parts and mastering them before moving on and adding complexity. So, are you ready to give it a try?

Some great beginner tutorials can be found on YouTube. I like this channel from Expert Village, which teaches beginning techniques for three balls, but quickly advances into many other tricks. Be prepared to spend a lot of time on just the first few videos, and do not be in a rush to move on too fast.

Your initial goal should be mastering the very first exercise, then each succeeding step, in order to lay the foundation for which you will build all of your technique and skill. I can’t stress this point enough. I tried and failed at juggling several times when I was younger because I didn’t follow the basic rule of breaking it down to the simplest movement and mastering it before moving on. This idea is actually quite universal and can be applied to learning many other skills.

By doing the above, you’ll have mastered the three-ball cascade before you know it! Now, you can take this experience plus the added confidence boost and apply it towards your next project. On the other hand, if you’re enjoying your new hobby as much as I am, you can continue to delve deeper. Just like when you are learning to play a musical instrument, there is an infinite amount of new skills as well as “tricks” you can learn to take your ability to the next level.

If you’re like me and you just can’t wait to jump in to something, go ahead and watch a tutorial, grab a few makeshift juggling balls (small scarves, oranges, baseballs, etc.), park yourself in front of a couch or a bed (a great beginner tip), and have at it!

In addition to juggling balls, I’ve grown curious about learning how to juggle clubs as well. I’m in the process of making DIY juggling clubs from household items. Be sure to check back soon to hear more about this project!

The Datexx Miracle Cube Timer

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We just got a Datexx miracle cube timer to help the kids with things like toy sharing and limiting their screen time. We love it! I may have to pick up another one just for myself to use for exercising, instrument and juggling practice, gaming, or other activities. It would also be great for personal productivity, meditation, or time management strategies such as the pomodoro technique. You just turn it on, flip it so the desired number of minutes is on top, and do your thing until the alarm sounds. Flipping it over to “0” turns the alarm off.  Overall, it’s very easy to use for kids.Datexx 2
These are way better than your average kitchen timers, especially because there is no ticking sound to stress you out or break your concentration. If you do need to keep track of time, there is a small digital display on one side that counts down to zero. The miracle cube timer comes in a variety of different colors which relate to varying combinations of timed increments, going up to an hour. It is perfect for managing kids at home or in the classroom, or for anyone looking for a simple, fun, and easy way to time their activities.
Jasmine note

Sticky Notes for Santa (and select others)

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Notes for Santa under the tree

My daughter has moved from writing her alphabet to full words and phrases, and evidence of her recent practice explosion has been popping up everywhere. It all started as a desperate attempt to communicate her Christmas wish list to Santa.

Guardian of the Santa Notes

Guardian of the Santa Notes

After finally exhausting all Christmas wants and desires, she continued her momentum with a barrage of notes addressed to our pets. We found notes left for the animals on their food bowls.

Dog NotesWe also found notes on the animals.

Jasmine note

It’s been fun finding notes all over our house, but by far my favorite note is the very last one I found while tucking myself into bed after a looong day.

Bear Note

Rock Hunting for Cabbage Head Quartz

Cabbage Head QuartzI always thought it’d be fun to take the kids on a hunting expedition for fossils, trilobites, geodes, or other cool rocks, but never had a clue where to look or how to get started. It was just happenstance that I spotted a FalconGuides Rockhounding book at the library. I started flipping through it immediately upon returning home, and was excited to find a site of interest in my hometown. I grabbed some gear and loaded the family into the car to join me in some impromptu rock hunting before dinner. We were looking for cabbage head quartz, which turned out to be ripe for the picking, because everyone had found at least one specimen in under twenty minutes! The rocks have a really unique circular pattern that look like flowers, or cabbage heads. Now that our first hunt was a success, we’re excited to plan another expedition soon to add some other neat rocks to our collection. It’s amazing what sort of new wonders are lurking just around the corner, waiting to be discovered. The trick is to be curious about the world around you. There’s always more to learn and discover, no matter where you live!

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