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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Received MMSA Swap

Mail Me Some Art Envelope Swap

Yeah!!! I got my Mail Me Some Art envelope swap today.  On one hand I was slightly embarrassed that my envelopes were painfully simple but you've got to start somewhere. On the other hand, I was so excited that I jumped in to the swap even though I was nervous because I got some beautiful envelopes. It's really interesting to see all the ideas people have and how creative everyone is.  Here they are:
Envelope 1 front:

 Envelope #2.
Envelope #3:

Look what is inside!!!! Cookie recipes :) I can't wait to try them. 

Envelope #4- Front


Envelope #5- Front- Babar


 I made these little postcards to send a quick thank you note to each sender. 

More Kindness

So I was kind of disappointed that nobody else had any more ideas for spreading kindness. When I write, I'm often wondering if anybody actually reads this since I don't have many comments. (Hi Ashley and Sarah, whom I know probably are :) )  I found another group tonight called the ARK Project. You may have seen them on the Today Show. Check them out. The reason I think Random Acts of Kindness are so important to me is that it is a way to show the love of Christ in the world. In the Bible, Jesus says the greatest two commandments are to "Love God with all your heart, all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important 'Love your neighbor as yourself' " Matthew 22:37-39 I, unfortunately, am not the best at always acting loving in every situation. I can judge too quickly, lose patience or just not even realize I'm falling really short of where I should be. Random Acts of Kindness allow me to point to God when I'm asked about why I'm "nice" and to talk about his influence over my life. 

Personal Life

     I think everybody is finally over pneumonia and all the other ailments of the summer.. lol Timmy is playing in a baseball tournament over the next few weeks. David is playing too many games on the computer enjoying being silly around the house with me. The kid loves to dance! It's great to watch Matt cringe as he pities that David has picked up on my awesome moves. I'm learning some athletically challenging ones from him too. Ha ha!  I'm starting to try to get some new lessons put together for school.  Matt and I will be celebrating our 16th wedding anniversary on the 1st. 
    I hope that you are well! Have a great night!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mail art card and received postcrossing cards. Anyone from Finland?

    The past few days we had a mailman who was not our normal postal worker. I got no mail. Not even bills, fliers, etc. Today my mailbox had some treats. Here are 2 postcrossing cards I received. This one is from Finland, a country I have decided I would eventually like to visit.

Those curious little creatures are called Moomins. They're well known in Finland and I have written about them before on the blog. I also liked the stamp and her Postcrossing sticker. I love getting stuff with Postcrossing on it. 

     This card came from Germany. It says "Where is the wrong note?" Can you find it?

 I got this card the other day. I especially loved the Titanic stamp. I hadn't seen that one before.

    One of the cards I was asked to send this week is headed to Canada. The woman likes to make mail art and with my new gelli plate I thought maybe I should make her a card!  So, I did. Here it is:

The colors are more vivid in person. I gelli rolled the background of the card and used bubble wrap to add texture. It looked like a giraffe to me. I added the flower from a Marimekko napkin. (Marimekko is a Finnish design company "renown for its original prints and colours since 1951." Thanks marimekko.com  Apparently it's a Finland day today. While I'm at it- I once had strawberry vanilla soup from Finland. It was instant soup and it was delicious and creamy. If anyone from Finland is reading, I'd love to do a swap for some soup.) Then I made the tiny house with scraps from gelli printing, a Sharpie, white chalk pen and the heart is made from nail polish. I got the house idea from this incredibly talented mixed media artist. She wrote a blog post about it here.  I hope the woman I sent it to likes it. It's simple compared to some of the things I see that get mailed but I liked it. 
     In other news, Timmy starts another baseball tournament tomorrow. Woot woot! Hope they have a great time and play well. Some of the boys are meeting for breakfast before the game. Very cute. (He's 8, they're still cute.) 
    Alright, off to do my devotionals and tidy up the kitchen a little bit. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Spread a Little Kindness

     Lately I have been discouraged with the amount of violence, negativity and discouragement in the world. Not that I'm not always bothered by it, but this week I just though this world is filled with such sadness for so many people. I don't think that anyone can turn on the news, hear about things like the Malaysian flight MH17 being shot down or civil war within a country or bordering countries without feeling sorrow or wondering what is wrong with all of us. (As a Christian, I would say sin.) Day after day we learn of the daily struggles of our family, friends and acquaintances. We suffer from "ear polution" (as I once read in a book) of people complaining about unimportant things or each other. It's 90 degrees here today and I have done my own share of complaining. To be honest, I complain way too much. I try not to but sometimes I am just not a pleasant person to be around. (Especially if it's hot. Who wants to bring me an ice cream?)   Luckily, I'm friends with a ton of good people who are patient with me and are generally uplifting. 
     So, I've been thinking of ways to spread a little kindness and decided to compile a list of some things I've been involved with.  I have also included the links to any relevant pages. Let me know if you decide to try any of these and what your experiences are.  :)  Also, if you have any sites you'd like to share, please add them to the comments. 

More Love Letters More Love Letters is a site that sends letters to people who could use some encouragement. Honestly, Timmy was lucky enough to be a recipient of some of these cards right before he started 2nd grade. First grade was not so great socially and he was a little nervous about the new school year. We got inundated with about 100 letters/cards/postcards and he felt extremely special. After reading their encouragement (some of them over and over), he felt pretty confident that he was a good kid and would do alright in 2nd grade. The current letter requests are for a woman recently diagnosed with brain cancer, a couple preparing to get married, a woman recovering from addiction, a man serving his country, and a girl suffering from depression. Maybe writing to a stranger is weird for you but maybe you have words of encouragement or wisdom that might be life-changing for one of these (or all!) folks!  You could also write a random "love letter" and leave it in a public place where it might be discovered by someone who needs some encouragement. Send a card to a friend who is going through a hard time. Remind your grandma that you love her. Get the good mail out!

The Birthday Project  The birthday project celebrates your life by spreading random acts of kindness to other people. In this project, people celebrate their birthday by doing one RAK (Random act of kindness) for each year they were alive. You obviously don't have to practice RAK only on your birthday but is a cool idea. What are some ideas for things to do? Buy someone flowers. Volunteer at a nursing home. Pay for the order behind you in a drive thru or on a toll. Carry someone's groceries to their car (if they don't think you're sketchy!). Look for opportunities. On Mother's Day this year I went to Dunkin' Donuts and ordered a coffee, wrap, and 2 donuts for the kiddos. The woman behind me was acting a little strangely (to the point that I asked if she would like to go ahead of us in line) and when we got to the counter, she squeezed in and said. "I'd like to pay for their order." We chatted and she said "I don't have a mom anymore, so I'd like to celebrate Mother's Day by buying breakfast for you and your sweet, little boys." I was very touched... and slightly confused. We were on the way to church so I thanked her and headed to church. I wish now that I had taken an extra 10 minutes, invited the woman to sit and have breakfast with us and spoke with her. I've been on the lookout for her every week since then. She really made my day.

Adopt a US Soldier  Although many of our troops are heading home, there are still many, many people serving in various places across the world. AAUSS gives you the name of a person to support while they are on their deployment. I have supported quite a few soldiers through them and have learned a lot. This is not a penpal service so there is a chance you may never hear from your soldier. Out of the 9 I have supported, I only heard from 5 or 6. I was frustrated at the end of their deployment that AAUSS doesn't necessarily tell you so you end up just getting your mail returned. Thinking of what many of these soldiers go through and that some of them don't really have access to communicate much with the outside world fixed my attitude a bit. Realistically, if I had a choice between writing a letter to my sons or a random stranger in my free time, I'm pretty sure the sons would get a response first. Many of my soldiers have told me that my letters and/or packages have been appreciated.  You can also write or put together a package as a group. Timmy's boy scout troop did a package and I have sent cards and letters from church. 

Project Frontlines If you're not really into the whole commitment of adopting a soldier, Project Frontlines basically asks you to send 1 letter or package (your choice) to a soldier they assign you. We just sent a letter  and a postcard out today. This is also run through Adopt A US Soldier.

Chemo Angels  This is not something I have done before but my friend Ashley has and she is trying to spread the word. This site asks you to write cards and letters of support to people who have been diagnosed with cancer are going through chemotherapy. Have you lost a friend or family member from cancer? Maybe this would be a great way to honor them.  This site does ask that you write your partner every week. I just put in an application right now to put my money where my mouth is :)  I'm very excited to start. 

Operation Beautiful  Ever feel down on yourself? Imagine rushing through your day and finding a note with an encouraging message on it. I once saw a post-it from Operation Beautiful on a bathroom mirror at a bookstore. I was in a hurry (as always), went to the bathroom, washed my hands and looked at the mirror, which had a note saying "Smile, you look great!" I didn't look great at all, and I felt like a mess but the note was uplifting and made me smile. 

Not a writer? (Why not? What is wrong with you? Lol. Just kidding... sorta) Here are some other ideas
- Volunteer to babysit for a family (for free) so mom and dad can go out for a date.

- Make a box of sunshine for someone.  We did this as a family. I brought the 2 kids to the dollar store. We got cute little yellow baskets and yellow themed things- a candle, dish towel, candy, hand soap, lotion, a mug with a Bible verse on it, yellow ribbon- it can be anything. We made 3. We gave 1 to a couple just returning home from vacation. We left it outside their apartment door so they would be greeted with something nice. We gave another to the sweetest woman we know at our church (Sorry if you are a church friend and reading this. It was Mary Ellen.. I'm sure you'd agree. lol). Everything we got was yellow, except that the store had run out of a lemon soap we had bought everybody else. So, we got her a cherry blossom soap. It has been about a year since we did this and she still talks about how special that basket made her feel and how nice the soap was. The 3rd we gave to a random couple in a supermarket parking lot. (Yes, my husband also feels that I'm extremely strange)  The kids and I sat in our car in the parking lot with the basket and prayed about who they wanted to give it to. After about 10 minutes, Timmy yelled "them!" and pointed to an older couple struggling to get in their car. We walked over and explained that we had made a basket to brighten someone's day and that the boys wanted to give it to them. They seemed confused and thought we were trying to sell them something. We explained that it wasn't for sale and told them what was in it and gave it to them. The lady gave Timmy a hug and they sat in their car unpacking the basket and smiling. I would definitely do this project again though the random stranger thing put me a little out of my comfort zone.

- Don't forget your family too. Have you ever taken your kids out for a date, one on one, just to let them know how much you love them or to talk to them individually? Breakfast in bed for your spouse? (If they like to be woken up with food rather than letting them sleep in.. my husband prefers the sleep in option!)  Our families sometimes can be the people we take for granted and they're stuck seeing all sides of us, not just the nice ones we present in public. 

- Collect food/supplies for a homeless shelter.

- A former student of mine runs Hope for Creativity  Run an art supply drive at home or school. Send supplies for art packs for homeless children. 

- Bring a child that you care about somewhere special. One of the teens(7th grade)  at church once brought a younger student (kindergarten) to the mall to Build A Bear, just because she's a nice kid. The impact she made on the younger student that day was amazing. Maybe there is a young student, or even a teen, that needs a caring adult to reach out. 

- Smile at people. Look them in the eye. Say hello. Hold a door. Use words like "please" and "thank you" or even "ma'am" or "sir."  

      There are millions of ways that you can change the world in a positive way- even if it is something very small that only affects one person. I'm sure I could've written pages more for ideas of what to do. Think of what you're passionate about and think of ways you can help. I know this post may be "too cheery" for some people who read my blog but hopefully others will be inspired to take a few minutes out of their day to spread a little kindness in a world that sorely needs it. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Incoming from the US and from Russia

I am not finished with my ICAD card yet but I wanted to share my two postcards I have received today.

    This one is from Korana. She is a photographer in UT. Check out her beautiful photographs! Calexico is a band. I listened to a little bit of them and I like what I heard so far. I listened to 2 songs and they were completely different in style. I like groups with variation.

I love how vibrant the colors are on this balloon. I have come to learn that I really like the ideas of hot air balloons. I think I would be afraid to ever go on one, but I love seeing pictures. I'd love to see the huge hot air balloon festival in New Mexico sometime.
     Elvina also sent me some really pretty stamps on the back of the card. One is of Ludmila Zykina, who is a Soviet singer.

Friday, July 18, 2014

What do you use your gelli plate for? + ICAD48

Today's ICAD prompt was Matryoshka Doll. This was done in crayon. I wanted to use colored pencils but then I realized I had bought some for Timmy's school supplies this year. (Yes, already..)  I thought this one would be difficult so I am pleased with my happy little ladies. I originally thought of doing one of our family. Everybody else would look a little too plump.. lol.
   One of my students gave me a generous gift card to Amazon. I was holding onto it to wait for something special. While doing the ICAD challenge, I saw so many cool backgrounds of the cards and wondered how do they do that?  Well, for many of them, the secret was that they used their gelli plate. I decided that this is what I could buy myself for a treat. It came today and I waited patiently all day. This is the packaging.

These are some of the beautiful backgrounds that came out on my first try. These were all made with the same combinations of paint. I love the variety. I might try to make some envelopes and bookmarks using the gelli plate. I think I like the 3rd one and the last one the best. David's favorite was the 2nd one.

How many of you guys have a gelli plate? What projects have you done with them? I'm thinking of trying to use black paint for a background next time. I wonder if it will be really vibrant or a horrible mess. We'll see!
    I had no good incoming mail today. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

ICAD47, Postcrossing and P&L Swap

Today David and I sat and painted. My ICAD47 (purple prompt) was on the top. His is on the bottom. I wanted to do something different with the seed beads but I thought I'd just experiment tonight.

  Today I finally sent an outgoing letter to my friend Marianne in The Netherlands. It was nice to write a letter again. I haven't written in a while because of my elbow issues (which were partially caused by fine motor movements in my hands/wrist/fingers). 
    These were my incoming cards:
This one is from a teacher in the US. Three Island Crossing is a state park located in Idaho.

 This one was from a preschool in Poland. The food are "Ruskie pierogi" (Russian pierogis) which are like a dumpling filled with potatoes and cottage cheese. Have you ever had potato and cottage cheese together? I haven't.
This was from Kirsty from Penpalling & Letters. We both took part in a July card swap. Croissants- yum. I didn't like croissants until I had a chocolate filled one in Germany! This card is from The Netherlands.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cotton Candy balls?

Well, this will be a somewhat "food" related post. For ICAD, our prompt was recipe. I decided to write a card for what we had for dinner. Since I wanted people to be able to actually read the card, I took up most of the space of the card writing out the recipe and didn't worry about decoration. This was my first time making this recipe (which is from Diabetic Meals in 30 Minutes or Less). It was really easy and tasted like lo mein. Timmy literally went back for extra 2 or 3 times. You should try it. I love trying new recipes. If you have a special one, feel free to e-mail it to me or send it in a letter!
   Here's why I put quotations around food earlier. Today my husband went out with the kids for a while, and on the way home he stopped to pick up some things for the recipe. When they walked in, David (6) was carrying this:

 What the heck? Cotton candy balls? My first reaction was thinking nothing that color could be good for you. So, I took the lid off and smelled them. They have a lovely, cotton-candy-ish smell. I decided to try one. They are basically cheese balls that were sweetened and not cheesy. The flavor was interesting at first until you got the stale cheese ball aftertaste after. I felt like I was eating a smurf.  I laughed at Matt for getting them and he said they just HAD TO try them. Timmy "LOVES" them. David likes them too as you can see from how many are missing in the container.
     To redeem myself as a mom- they also ate the sesame noodles (David was excited there were carrots in there. I hate carrots.) and I made strawberry banana smoothies for dessert. They do eat food that is healthy too. (Notice the basket of fruit behind the cotton candy balls.) Any particularly interesting food make it into your house lately?

     I spent the day today getting some housework done. We live in a small apartment and have way too many possessions. I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the room with the most clutter so I was pleased. I took a brief break to send a few thank you notes, make a duplicate of the black and white tape card I made yesterday to send to a Postcrosser and take a trip to the post office. I only had one card that came to me today. It game from Agata in Germany. She got the card in Paris. It's very cute. This is frequently what Timmy looks like after dessert. lol.

    It has been way too long since I have sat down to write a letter. I'm going to go start one to a great penpal (and a very patient one!!!) and hopefully finish before bed. Have a great day!

PS> I just found out about a Postcrossing meetup in August. I might try to go meet some other postcrossers from MA.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

ICAD, Postcrossing and mail art

     Today was a creative day! (Don't look at my kitchen table!) I created a card for ICAD with the prompt dala horse- which is a traditional in Sweden. I wanted to be brave and try to paint one. When Timmy saw me creating he asked if he could come paint with me. So, the first card is my dala horse. The second is Timmy's horse drinking out of a trough. (Bet you didn't think you'd be able to tell whose was whose..lol)

   In addition to painting, I decided to try some mail art. I have been reading a blog called Mail Me Some Art for some time now. The blog is put together by someone from Massachusetts, like me. I have been lurking around and trying to get up the guts to take part in one of Karen's swaps. I decided to submit a few envelopes for one of her last swaps. They were REALLY basic but I figured if I got my foot in the door I might be inspired to try another swap. 
    So, I did. This swap was for postcards featuring tape. I have a whole bunch of washi tape that I just stare at wishing I could make something pretty. Here's what I came up with:

My favorite is the black and white one. Advice- I was thinking of holding the love one vertically and adding a heart in a contrasting color. Should I add it or leave it like it is? Or even a black outline of a heart? I'm afraid of adding something and then hating it.

    As for incoming mail, I received this delightful card from Germany. I wish my mailbox was as cute as this one!

If I'm translating correctly, it says something to the effect of- Like cool water to the thirsty, so is good news from a far away country.  I love it!

Monday, July 14, 2014

ICAD 43, 44

ICAD43- Violin- I had grand ideas about this card.. They didn't happen. I had dyed the card with tea but I wanted it much darker. Perhaps experimenting with distressed inks would've been MUCH more effective.  I also wanted a violin printed in color. I wanted to get the card done so I just finished with the violin I had. :/ I think I'm getting worse.
The text is from Exodus 15:2-" The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation." I wanted to include a verse that had to do with praising God with music but all of them either mentioned praising him by singing or playing a specific instrument- that was not the violin. My music teacher OCD wouldn't allow me to have a violin and a text that said something else- seriously.

    I like ICAD44 better- This is a kokeshi doll. I folded it based on a template. I put it over a card with gesso and attached a piece of my scrap paper towels. Unfortunately, I don't have any Mod Podge. What I used to seal/attach it (Made the card above way too shiny) took out some of the color in the kokeshi doll and didn't seal as well as I would've liked. Overall, I'm happy with it. It is very different for me.
Kokeshi dolls are traditionally wooden dolls from northern Japan. According to Wikipedia, "They are handmade from wood, have a simple trunk and an enlarged head with a few thin, painted lines to define the face."  I was unaware of kokeshi dolls before today.
    Tomorrow's prompt is "dala horse," which is a traditional, Swedish, wooden horse. I think I might attempt to paint one. I also did not know what dala horses were, though I own a similar elephant brought to me by a student. It is originally from India.
     If you are a reader from a different country, what is a traditional craft that your country is known for?

My Reading Habits

1. Do you have a certain place for reading at home?
My bed or my couch. I love to read before I go to sleep.It's a way for me to unwind and slow down my thoughts a bit. My couch is definitely a more comfy place to read, on the bed I'm frequently changing positions.

2. Bookmark or random piece of paper? 
Bookmark. I have a beautiful woven bookmark I exchanged with someone from Postcrossing. It was either from Iran or Turkey.

3. Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter or a certain number of pages? 
I usually like to stop at the end of a chapter but I'm not upset if I don't make it. If I'm trying to read a book within a certain time frame, I will make sure I read at least enough pages to get through the book in time.

4. Do you eat or drink when reading? 
Sometimes. I like to have a nice iced coffee if I'm reading outside or sometimes a cup of hot chocolate or diet Coke when reading in the evening. I don't think I eat when I read. 

5. Do you watch TV or listen to music whilst reading? 
Not usually. Occasionally the TV is on while someone else is watching, but I'm usually not paying attention to it.

6. One book at a time or several at once?
Usually 1 book at a time. Recently I have started reading a book for enjoyment and a book for learning/study. For example, I have been reading Steven Furtick's Crash the Chatterbox for a women's group that I am hosting for a book study but I have also been reading books other than that. I never read 2 fiction books at the same time or something where I would have to follow the story.

7. Reading at home or everywhere? 
Everywhere- except in a moving vehicle. I can't read and have a bunch of things passing by me.

8. Reading out loud or silently in your head? 
Always silently.

9. Do you ever read ahead or skip pages? 
I never read ahead.

10. Breaking the spine or keeping it new? 
Ha ha.. I'm very OCD about this one. Most of my books look brand new- the spines are never broken, no markings of any kind, etc. 

11. Do you write in your books?
Nope. Never.

12. What are you currently reading?
The Diagnosis & Correction of Vocal Faults by James McKinney (I'm a music teacher)

** I decided to write this post after seeing Megan's Reading Habits Tag on her blog

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Great Wolf Lodge New England

Last week we visited Great Wolf Lodge New England. My husband and I decided to take the boys on a surprise vacation. Since we had visited the Great Wolf Lodge (GWL) in the Poconos (Pennsylvania) and loved it, we decided to try the brand new GWL in Fitchburg, MA.
   When we pulled up to the lodge, the kids were super excited (once they realized what was going on.)  We parked the car in the lot near the entrance and went to check in. We were a little surprised that there weren't many sidewalks or walkways to cross over the parking lot to the entrance. (You can pull right up to the building if you're getting dropped off.)  The lodge entrance is nice. It's not as open as the Poconos location but it is still cozy and has places to be comfortable and hang out.  It has a few leather chairs and couches as well as a nice fireplace and the GWL Forest Friends Show (animated animals). 
     Check-in was great. Everybody was friendly. Everything was right with our reservation and there were many people checking people in so we didn't have a long wait. We got our wolf ears and paw pass and headed up to our room. (I would definitely recommend the paw pass if you are thinking of doing a lot of the extras at the hotel. We saved a lot of money and it's really convenient) Oh, check-in is at 4 but you can arrive as early as 1 to use the facilities. Our room happened to be open at 1 so they let us into the room earlier than we expected, which was pretty cool.
     Our room was on the 4th floor. The halls were clean. The room was decently a little smaller than the other room we had in PA but it was nice and clean.  The beds were comfortable. We got all unpacked. As I was putting our toiletries in the bathroom, I noticed DIE written in small lettering on the wall in purple sparkly nailpolish. I immediately got a housekeeper outside of the room to show her that we hadn't written it. She said that the room was vacant before us and seemed very embarrassed that nobody had caught it while cleaning. She tried to get it off but it wouldn't come off. She apologized profusely and explained that she would have maintenance take care of it. 
     After that, we decided to go take a look around.  The top floors are all guest rooms. Anything that you want to do is all located spread out on the first floor.   The main lobby is kind of the central area. To the right of the lobby is the fitness area, the bar section of a restaurant, a Dunkin Donuts and a hallway for the MagiQuest game. The Dunkin Donuts is the same as any other Dunkin Donuts. We didn't visit the bar section. The fitness area was a little odd. I was excited that GWL had a place that I could exercise while I was there. My husband pointed out that it was really a strange location for a fitness room. If you are exercising you are enclosed in a room with large windows- which look right into the restaurant. I don't know how appetizing it would be to sit and eat your meal as I sweat it out on the machines right in front of you. No thanks. Needless to say, I skipped the fitness room.  Also off of the lobby is the Lodge Wood Fired Grill. I'll write about this when I talk about breakfast on the last day. The Buckhorn Exchange is a gift shop also located off the lobby.  We didn't get anything here but they had some interesting stuff.
     There is a hallway that attaches to the lobby that leads to all of the other attractions at the lodge. The first thing you come to is the Great Wolf Kids Shop. They sell all kinds of branded GWL stuff, including magnets, stuffed animals, t-shirts, etc. They have many characters associated with the lodge and they are all sold here.  When we went to get David's animal there on the first night, the machine that stuffs the stuffed animals wasn't working so we offered to come back the next day. Everyone who worked here seemed delightful and really friendly to everyone. They would often be standing in the doorway, greeting people as they came by (in a non-annoying way). 
     Next to that was the MagiQuest store. Timmy was already a Master Magi at the Poconos location. The cool thing with MQ is that your wand will work at other locations. We were told Tim's wand might be incompatible with their system so all of his previous progress wouldn't be there but the wand would still work. This was fine with us. We got David a wand and a game using the PawPass. He didn't want to play at first but ended up loving completing quests with dad. 
     If you continue down the hall you reach the Scoops Kids Spa, the arcade, Bear Paws Sweets & Eats, the Hungry As a Wolf pizza place, Lazer Frenzy and Howly Wood XD theater. We didn't do anything at Scoops, though 1) it smelled really yummy and 2) we saw tons of little girls getting pedicures and manicures. There were also a lot of moms running around wearing the tiaras. It seemed like a cute mother-daughter experience. We spent a ton at the arcade. You can get a reloadable arcade card. Most of the games cost 4 paws= $1. One or two cost 2 paws, 1 or 2 cost 8 paws. There were lots of different games from driving games, fishing games, game show type games, claw machines, skeeball, etc. The prizes were good but, like every other arcade, cost a lot of tickets. Timmy liked one of the fishing games best. 
     Hungry As a Wolf was pretty good. We ordered a cheese pizza and a sausage pizza. The boys loved it. I wasn't a huge fan of the sauce but had a few pieces anyway. I also cashed in on the ice cream in the paw pass at Bear Paws. It's Edy's ice cream and you can choose as many toppings as you like. They also sold things like delicious looking candy apples, cupcakes, and some yummy looking fudge. I'm proud to say that I exercised great self-restraint and only got the ice cream. (though I really wanted the fudge) Ironically, I ran into 2 of my 5th grade students here. (An hour and a half away and I still run into students- I don't mind much.)
     We didn't go to the theater or the lazer frenzy. Honestly, the lodge is so packed with things to do that it can be a little overwhelming. We didn't want to push the kids and make them do EVERYTHING, especially if they didn't seem like they really wanted to. 
     Next came the hallway where the water areas are located. They have a staff member who open the doors to the water areas for you, which I first thought was annoying but appreciated later when I was carrying things. There are 2 rooms that are filled with water themed things. On one side there was a water playground (very shallow water- 16" at most) for younger kids (toddler aged I'd say). It  had little water sprayers, a few little slides and other things to play with. Everyone there looked like they were having a blast. In the same room is Slap Tail Pond- the wave pool. The waves are up to 3' and the pool is 5'. It was a little rough but my kids really liked it. I got a little worried about David, who is 46" but he did fine. Oh, and they also had life jackets that you could put the kids in if you wanted to take extra precautions. On the far side of this room were the big water slides. The first, the Wolf Tail, (was scary and I wouldn't go on.. lol) is a ride where 1 rider is enclosed standing up in a tube and then the bottom drops out. No thanks. Timmy loved it. Matt went on too. David was too small. I sat by the exit to this slide for a while and watched people come down. have you ever seen a little kid fall over and lay on the ground wondering if they were hurt until an adult looks over and says "Yeah! You're okay!!!" and the kid runs off laughing? Well, that is how I felt watching all the people come off this slide. "Yeah!" Seriously though, there was this little boy who must've been about 10 who I saw go on this thing at least 20 times. 
     River Canyon Run is a raft ride that up to 6 people can ride on. We went on this as a family a few times. It was fun and not too scary for the younger kids. Unfortunately, the first time we got through the line and got into the raft there was a huge lightning storm (and flash flood warning and a TORNADO!? warning) and they had to close the ride until it passed. The River Canyon Ride was my favorite.
     The last slide in that section was the Howlin' Tornado, which features a 6-story funnel and can have up to 4 riders. David couldn't go on this one so I sat this one out. Tim and Matt loved it. 
     There are lots of chairs to sit in and some tables to eat at as well. Unfortunately, it seemed that many people shove their stuff on the chairs and desert them for the day. Any time we went to either water area we were able to find 1 chair at least. There was a little cabana section in one of the water areas that you could reserve. The other water area had Buckets- a snack place that we didn't check out. Both water areas also have towels to use, life jackets, bathrooms and a place to put your used towels. All of the lifeguards who worked there were personable, polite and fun to be around. 
     When you cross to the other water area you will pass an area for the Glitz tattoos. Tim got a "zen dragon." It was pretty awesome (and on the Paw Pass). The girl working there was really enthusiastic and chatted with Timmy for a while. There is also the Bear Essentials Swim Shop where you can get bathing suits, goggles, and other swim related items. We got a pair of goggles with our paw pass. Again, friendly, knowledgeable staff. 
   The 2nd water area had Fort Mackenzie- another play area that is multiple levels, has many interactive water activities, bridges and a giant bucket that dumps when it's full. It was amusing to watch all the kids experiment around with how the water sprayed, when the barrel would dump and which kid-activated water events would affect other kids. Then there was the lazy river. It was a little compact but we had fun floating around. Next was the Chinook Activity Pool. On one side was a little basketball section that Timmy enjoyed, on the other there was a small obstacle called Big Foot pass where kids try to jump from lily pad to lily pad without falling in. The young kids kind of hopped and the older kids tried to help themselves by pulling themselves along with the overhead netting. 
     Next to that was the hot springs- it's supposed to be an adult only area but kids were in there too. I think this was partially because there is an opening to the outside where you can swim from the hot spring inside to the outside. Which kid would resist that? Outside was a little deck with a spray area and lots of fun things for the younger kids. 
     The water slides inside this are were Otter Run- a normal water slide and Alberta Falls- slides you can ride as a single rider or double. You use tubes for these. Alberta Falls has 2 slides. I think the only difference is that one is light and the other is dark inside. David seemed to enjoy these ones the most. 
    Continuing on- outside the water park and down the hall a bit was the main room for Magi Quest. MagiQuest is an interactive game that you play with a wand. The goal is to become a Master Magi by completing quests and collecting runes. Once you have completed the tasks, you complete 3 adventures to become a master magi. At first I was a little disappointed that most of MQ stuff was in this hallway and the adjacent room but, after remembering trekking up and down different floors to complete quests in the Poconos location, I appreciated being able to find a seat and watch the boys race from one place to another without having to worry. 
     The last room also contained a ton of activities. It had the Howling Timbers Play Park- which were some amusement type rides. They were a little young for our boys. It had the Howl at the Moon Mini Golf, Ten Paw Alley, and the Howler's Peak Ropes Course. Timmy immediately asked to go on the ropes course. Again, the staff was awesome in helping getting the kids all strapped in and managing all the people. David was a little overwhelmed by how high the course was but then we noticed that there was a smaller ropes course, After the initial argument about putting on the harness, he whizzed around the course with no problem. Then he wanted to go on the larger course and did pretty well with that. This is David on the smaller course (with his cute wolf ears on):

   ( A quick note- there are rooms for guests that surround the giant "last room" I just described. I thought "wow, I don't think I'd like staying in a room where there are tons of people are running around all day."  I figured the sound of MQ and the rides would be audible all day. I spoke with a guest and her daughter who said they hadn't noticed any noise at all though. )
      After getting exhausted just exploring, we went back to the lobby for Bingo. The woman who ran Bingo seemed less than enthusiastic. She was the only staff person that I was not impressed with. They had about 20 kids playing and decided to just keep playing 1 game until everyone won. My kids got bored before that happened and asked to leave early. At GWL they tell teach the kids the Great Wolf howl. (Stomp, stomp, clap, clap, howl) They do this on the wolf walk, with the characters, at the forest friends show, etc. It's kind of their thing. So, this woman wanted the kids to howl when someone won Bingo. Instead of saying something like "Hey, we have a really fun tradition here at GWL that when someone wins, we congratulate them by giving a howl" she basically was like "I don't hear anyone howling," "Where's your howl?" "That one wasn't very good." The kids all looked at her like she was crazy because nobody knew what she was talking about- especially the kids who had just checked in that day. 
     Sadly, we went and watched cable after that since we don't have it at home.. yeah, we're sad. 
     Tuesday started with David going and getting his stuffed animal from the kid's store. He chose a dragon and named him Red. He came with a cute GWL bag.
  After that, we went and played at the water park for a long time. I was lucky enough to run into my 2 5th grade boys again. Meeting my students while I'm in my bathing suit- new awkward moment. Luckily they didn't gag or run off crying. That would've made things worse. We went on the slides and played a lot in the wave pool. After this came lunch and a lot of Magi Quest.  The lightning storm the day before had messed up many of the MQ things so it was a little aggravating to get to a quest and realize you couldn't complete it because the game was broken. There were all kinds of problems with the wands too. Both boys had to get their wands replaced. Many people were unhappy and I don't necessarily blame them since it costs so much and you invest a ton of time into it. 
    Timmy had been selected for the All-Star team in baseball and we found out after the regular season that there were 2 games scheduled during our vacation dates. The Thursday game was not an issue but Tuesday was little tricky. After some deliberation we decided that it was a commitment we wanted to follow through with so we made the trek back east to attend the game. Unfortunately they didn't play well and lost 11-6. He looked cute in his new uniform though!
   When we got back to the lodge- David begged to go to the arcade so we went and played for a while. We also watched the Forest Friends show. All the little kids were very cute in their pajamas. Timmy enjoyed people watching more than the show. I was surprised at how into it David was.
    Wed was our fullest day. Unfortunately, David woke up exhausted and seemed to not be feeling well. We did Magi Quest for a while and then went to lunch at the Old Mill. The restaurant was pretty and had a place to feed the ducks. They serve corn fritters, rolls and fresh pecan rolls to start. Matt loves pecan rolls, which is part of the reason I suggested this place. David ordered a mini pizza and ate none of it. (It was obvious not that he really was not doing well) Timmy ate a BLT. I ordered a chicken wrap and Matt had a fried haddock sandwich. Only Timmy finished. Matt and I packed ours up to eat later. It was so filling. (Sarah- if you decide to go here, there is a lunch buffet, just look up the times) We decided to go back to the room and give David some rest. I kept him in the room most of the day. Timmy and Matt went swimming. David fell asleep. I read.
     Matt went to CVS to get a thermometer and medicine for David. We had a quick dinner and David wanted to go play a few games so we went to do a few games at the arcade... AGAIN. I admittedly was addicted to one of those coin drop games. I wanted to help earn the tickets for the boys? Then we came back to the room and David fell asleep. Matt also started to feel sick. Oh, on the way down to the arcade, I asked Matt if he would mind if I just checked with the front desk to make sure they had noted the damage in our room so we didn't get charged. I explained the story and the woman at the front desk asked if the boys read it. I told them that they could both read and had read it. She said that they'd like to offer us a free breakfast in response to our inconvenience and unfortunate event. I wasn't complaining but I thanked her and took the coupon for the breakfast.
     On the last day, Matt and David both woke up with temperatures. They had cereal. Timmy and I had a delicious buffet breakfast in the Lodge Wood Fired Grill. They served orange juice and coffee at the table. Timmy had scrambled eggs, sausage (he wasn't sure he liked the sausage), tons of bacon, and fruit- cantaloupe, honeydew melon and one more fruit that I can't remember. I had a spinach and cheese omelette (freshly made by someone at a cooking station), potatoes and onions, and bacon. Everything was delicious. The cook was also making these cute bear paw waffles. I was disappointed that David and Matt couldn't make it but it was nice to have a little alone time with Timmy too. 
     After that, David and Timmy finished the MQ tasks to become Master Magis. David was excited to get his certificate. Timmy had gotten one in PA. When we went to get ours, we were told that they don't have that at this lodge. Another MQ disappointment to be aware of. Both boys went on the ropes course again. Timmy got his zen dragon. Then we packed back in the car to head home to rest and then go to baseball.
     Here are the pros and cons of this lodge:
Cons- I think I would have been fine with this lodge if 1) I hadn't been to a better GWL and 2) I thought that this was a brand new building that had been built. It was a refurbished CoCo Keys so it wasn't a brand new facility built by GWL. If I had known that when I booked I think my expectations would have been lower. Obviously I was turned off by the DIE welcome but that was someone being stupid and not really a lodge issue (other than not seeing it somehow). The problems with MQ were annoying but the staff was trying to accommodate all the requests that people had. Bingo lady. Pack your wallet!
Pros- Tons to do. Nice staff.  I feel like GWL in general tries to make sure all the families feel welcome. The kids had a blast. Early check in option is nice. You can also stay after check out. The time to check out is 11 am but you are welcome to stay and use the activities until 9. The room was nice and comfortable. Lots of places that the kids can play and the parents can watch and enjoy (sometimes from a distance, depending on how old your kids are). It is wonderful to see so many families playing together.

     So, that is the whole vacation. David and Matt are still sick. (I did check to make sure they didn't catch the pneumonia that I had a few weeks ago. Ugh, what a summer)  Timmy won his second game, 10-0. 
  They also won their game today, 7-3- which means that they will probably continue into the championship games. I secretly love watching the kids play. (Except Tuesday, that was painful.)
    Ignore my frizzy hair in this one. I just love the expressions on the kids' faces. 
Have any of you visited any of the other Great Wolf Lodge locations?  I would go back to one in a heartbeat, I just don't know if I'd go back to the MA one as a first choice. 

What are you reading?

    One of my favorite things to do during the summer is to read. (I know, I'm SUPER exciting)  I find reading to be incredibly relaxing and I've always been a nerdy type who loves to learn. You can catch me reading anything from a crime novel to a textbook. So far this summer I have read:

Caught by Harlen Coben
A Place Beyond Courage by Elizabeth Chadwick
The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
Sticky Faith by Kara Powell
(Me and My Big Mouse by Ethan Long- I won this in a Goodreads giveaway. It's a kids book and my boys really liked it)
He Who Fears the Wolf by Karin Fossum

    Apparently it's a historical fiction, crime novel type summer. I'm currently reading:
Crash The Chatterbox: Hearing God's Voice Above All Others by Steven Furtick- I'm reading this with a small group of my friends. We've been meeting to talk about the book. It's good but I lose momentum if it is too long between meetings. I am definitely a "read through this book and think about it as I go" person rather than "a little here, a little there" type.

     I'm also reading Columbine by Dave Cullen. If you are not aware, Columbine is a high school that had a school shooting back in April of 1999. Any school shooting is horrific but this one was one of the first ones that really hit home for me since I was just about to graduate with my degree in music education and start teaching. I just started it yesterday and I don't think it's going to be a book I can say that I love or enjoy but definitely one that will make me think. I actually have met the father of Rachel Scott, the first person killed in the attack, and heard him speak to our students. It was painful to read her story and connect it with a person I have actually spoken to and learned about. I am also glad that the author decided to include no pictures in the book.

      There is one book that I started this summer that I put back on my "to read" shelf. After about 300 pages I found that I still was not really into the book. I can usually whiz through a book and finish it, even if it isn't super interesting but this book is really long and I think I just needed a change of pace. I'm also not really connecting with many of the characters. This book is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I really wanted to read it since it's considered a classic. I'll try it another time and see if I become more invested.

     What are you reading right now? What's the best book you have read lately?

Friday, July 11, 2014

ICAD 21, 40, 41

Here are a few more index cards I made. I think the kaleidoscope one is way too chunky. I wish I had better art skills but I'm having fun just experimenting around. The next thing I would like to invest in would be a gelli plate. A student gave me a gift card at the end of the year so I may just treat myself :) If not, my birthday is in October.. lol. Here are the cards.
Prompts were: moon, repeating pattern, and kaleidoscope. My moon isn't visible because it's apparently daytime. Too bad I like the light blue and wasn't thinking of making it darker.

  We just got back from vacation. Perhaps I will write about it in the next post.