Camp Pokémon: If Your Kid is a Little Too Young for Pokémon GO

With lots of fun mini-games, Camp Pokémon is a great, free way for little kids too participate in the Pokémon excitement.

The whole family has gotten into Pokémon GO. Even my husband who has always just rolled his eyes when The Grasshopper and I start talking Pokémon downloaded the app and has been playing. We all enjoy running around the neighborhood, checking in on the gyms, visiting the PokéStops, and finding new pokemon.

Well, almost all of us.

Poor Cricket just can’t seem to get the hang of it, and while her big sister can throw a Poké Ball like a true master, Cricket tends to just fling them offscreen. Bless her heart, she wasted a dozen of my Poké Balls trying to catch a pidgey the other day.

She wants so badly to participate, and while she’s great at spinning the PokéStops, when it comes to catching Pokémon, she just doesn’t have the fine motor skills yet.

The good news is, there’s an app out there that gives her the chance to play Pokémon along with the rest of us: Camp Pokémon.

With lots of fun mini-games, Camp Pokémon is a great, free way for little kids too participate in the Pokémon excitement.

The app is a collection of mini-games that introduces young kids to the world of Pokémon and gives them a way to participate in the excitement.

There’s a game where you learn about Pokémon strengths by selecting which Pokémon type is strongest against the Pokémon floating down the river.

With lots of fun mini-games, Camp Pokémon is a great, free way for little kids too participate in the Pokémon excitement.

There’s another game where you get to practice throwing pokeballs arcade-style at Pokémon as they parade past. (This one is actually kind of hard!)

With lots of fun mini-games, Camp Pokémon is a great, free way for little kids too participate in the Pokémon excitement.

There’s a memory game that introduces the Pokémon TCG (that’s “The Card Game”) that starts easy with simply matching Pokémon, but gets harder (matching types), and then harder again (matching evolutions), as your child’s knowledge and speed increase.

With lots of fun mini-games, Camp Pokémon is a great, free way for little kids too participate in the Pokémon excitement.

With lots of fun mini-games, Camp Pokémon is a great, free way for little kids too participate in the Pokémon excitement.

Cricket’s favorite is the game where you have to look for Pokémon in the wild. She loves going to the different environments and searching for new Pokémon.

With lots of fun mini-games, Camp Pokémon is a great, free way for little kids too participate in the Pokémon excitement.

There are lots more games, too, and even the chance for kids to unlock Mega-Evolutions, which both Cricket and The Grasshopper get excited about.

With lots of fun mini-games, Camp Pokémon is a great, free way for little kids too participate in the Pokémon excitement.

The skill level required for these games is pretty low, but they’ve still managed to make the games a little challenging by adding levels to each game, so I enjoy sitting with her and taking turns playing. Best of all, for us, it lets Cricket keep up with her big sister and gives her a real and satisfying way to become part of the world of Pokémon.

If you’ve got a little one, I really recommend this game. It’s free, and kids don’t have to know how to read in order to play. So if your little one is aching to play but isn’t quite ready to become a Pokémon master, let them play at Camp Pokémon!

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5 Reasons Why Pokémon GO is the Best Game of the Summer

Pokémon GO has hit St. Louis like a summer storm. Everywhere I go, people are walking around, phones up, chasing rare Pokémon. Parks are teeming with people, even when the weather is in the 90s. Some folks worry that Pokémon GO might pose safety risks or security risks, but here is why I think this game is one of the best things that’s happened this summer.

1. Pokémon GO is helping me get fit!

I have been just killing my step count since downloading Pokémon GO. I hate exercising, and I usually average 7k or so steps each day, but Monday I got over 11k, and Tuesday 12k. By noon yesterday, I had gotten 6k steps. All of this movement is a very good thing. It’s easy to rail against video games and blame them for the obesity epidemic that plagues the US, but Pokémon GO requires you to get up and get moving. Today, I might be sore, but that means I am moving my body!

5 reasons why Pokemon Go is the best game of the summer.

2. Pokémon GO is getting kids outside!

It’s summer. It’s hot. The Grasshopper would much rather be indoors reading a book or chilling in front of the TV than playing outside. Not so anymore. Now she begs me to go for walks in the afternoons. Instead of parking her butt on the couch or in her room, she wants to be outdoors, exploring. And she isn’t ignoring the natural world in favor of the game environment either. She’s started having fun spotting robins, sparrows, and the other critters we’ve got running around our neighborhood. She pretends they’re Tailow, Spearow, Rattata, and so forth. Even Cricket is getting into the action, jumping into the picture with the Pokémon we find.

 

5 reasons why Pokemon Go is the best game of the summer.

3. Pokémon GO brings people together.

There are a ton of people at my office playing Pokémon GO, people I wouldn’t normally talk to or interact with. It’s not hard to spot them if you’re in the know. They’re walking along, phones in hand, or pausing at the PokéStop conveniently located right in the middle of our office. It’s been fun striking up conversations with folks. These are people who I haven’t said more than a hello or good morning to before, but now we’re talking best places to find Pokémon, who’s caught what, and how sore everyone’s legs are. There’s even talk of us all joining the same team to take on a gym near our office, and every so often, someone will call out over the cubicle walls, “Hey, there’s a venonat in the conference room.” or “Pikachu just out the side door!”

5 reasons why Pokemon Go is the best game of the summer.

My coworkers and I are not unique. Everywhere I go on social media I find stories of people making new friends with this game. In the south where I grew up, it’s common to strike up a conversation with the people around you. In fact, it’s often considered rude not to make eye contact and say hello, even to strangers. Here in the midwest, the culture is a little different. Sure you talk to people you know, but not some rando. These days, folks are saying hi to each other, stopping to chat and exchange tips, and just generally being friendlier. We all need a little more of that right now.

4. Pokémon GO is getting teenagers excited!

Our neighborhood is full of families, so I’m used to seeing teens hanging out by the pool, walking the dog, and bumming around looking bored. What I’m not used to seeing is them running around with excited smiles on their faces. Pokémon GO seems to transcend the usual high school cliques, too. It’s not just the geeky kids playing. It’s everyone! It feels so good to see kids running around and just being kids. Childhood is so short, and seeing these teens, who are on the cusp of adulthood, giving up trying to act like adults and just have fun really does warm my heart.

5 reasons why Pokemon Go is the best game of the summer.

5. Organizations are using Pokémon GOo to encourage people to help out in their communities.

This is the biggest thing to me. People are out walking and there are organizations like this animal shelter are jumping on the chance to encourage people to volunteer to walk their dogs.

5 reasons why Pokemon Go is the best game of the summer.

A vet clinic got in on the Pokémon GO fun and encouraged people to stop by their office to get their pet spayed or neutered while visiting the PokéStop out front. Churches are opening their doors to Pokémon GO players and offering water, charging stations, and fellowship. I cannot, in my life, remember a time when a video game brought people together like this.

5 reasons why Pokemon Go is the best game of the summer

I’ve seen a fair bit of naysaying about Pokémon GO, but for us, this game has been fantastic. I’d encourage you all to give it a try. Soon you’ll be hooked, and your legs will be sore too!

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Best Splash Pads Around St. Louis

Our 5 favorite splash pads in the St. Louis area!

It has been crazy hot these last few weeks. It’s part of living in St. Louis. Terrible heat and humidity. But another part of living in St. Louis is that the city is filled with splash pads!

Let’s be honest, running through a sprinkler is one of the supreme joys of summer, and splash pads are like sprinklers only better! We try to go splashing at least once a week these days, and here’s our list of favorite splash pads around town. Of course, there are tons of splash pads here, so if I didn’t list your favorite, let me know what park it’s in and why you love it so much so we can check it out!

Jaycee Park

Jaycee Park is out in St. Charles, but it is worth the drive. St. Charles County is home to some gorgeous parks these days, and this one is no exception. The splash pad is actually a multi-part area with a more natural feel. The top section has a waterfall springing out of a rocky ledge onto the upper splash pad.

st louis splash pad jaycee park top

The water flows down a “creek” complete with stones to divert the water. Cricket loved making boats out of leaves and floating them down the creek. I remember doing that in the gutter when I was a kid. The JayCee splash pad creek is a much cleaner alternative!

st louis splash pad jaycee park creek

At the bottom of the creek is a lower splash pad. Both upper and lower splash pads have squirty fountains that spray at various intervals.

st louis splash pad jaycee park

Cricket loved the creek, and the fountains amused her, but after a little while she was ready to ditch the splash pad and hit the playground, which is one of the better playgrounds I’ve seen. It’s also designed to be accessible to children of all abilities (splash pad too!) and I love LOVE the focus on inclusive play!

The only drawback to this park is the lack of shade. There is a nice pavilion, but it’s small and by the time we got there, other parents had staked their claims on the benches there.

  • The Jaycee Park splash pad is open April through September, temperature permitting.
  • Map to Jaycee Park

Millennium Park

Millennium Park is a little less of a drive for us, and the playground is a favorite on winter days that are just warm enough to play outside because it gets full sun. This means you stay warmer and can play a little longer. It also means it tends to get blazing hot in the summer.

Our top 5 favorite splash pads in the St. Louis Area

The splash pad at Millennium Park is fully fenced in, and you let your kids into the area through a latched gate and watch from outside the fence. It’s nice that it’s fully contained like that, especially if you’ve got a runner. The splash pad is one of the larger ones in the area with lots of fountains and fun, but the sun is fierce, so we save this one for cloudier days.

Brendan’s Playground

Brendan’s Playground, located in Westhoff Park in O’Fallon, is another long drive if you don’t live in St. Charles County, but like Jaycee Park, it’s a fantastic playground. The splash pad is small, best for younger kids, but the playground next to it makes it worth the trek! Unfortunately for us, we’ve only made it out once this year and the splash pad was closed for repairs, so no splash pad pictures. But the kids had a ball playing on the bug-themed playground!

Brendans playground st charles mo

Like Jaycee, Brendan’s playground was designed to be accessible to all children, regardless of ability. The cities of St. Charles and O’Fallon are doing a fantastic job with designing playgrounds where everyone can play together!

Unfortunately, because it’s so new, trees haven’t had the chance to grow tall yet, so while there are several lovely picnic pavilions, there really isn’t any shade.

 

 

Creve Coeur Lake

Creve Coeur Lake is a huge park, and the upper park (on the bluffs above the lake) actually has two splash pads! This is an enormous park with multiple entrances and to reach both of these splash pads, enter the park from Dorsett Rd.

The smaller of the splash pads (located by Playground #3) can be found just behind Go Ape. This one is generally the less crowded of the splash pads, which is nice, and although it isn’t quite as exciting as the other one, we still had to drag the Grasshopper and Cricket away when it was time to go. This one is only open on weekends and holidays, but if you accidentally go during the week and find it closed, you can head on over to the other splash pad!

splash pad creve coeur lake go ape

 

The second splash pad (located at Playground #2 and the Branwood shelter) is our absolute favorite splash pad. It is shaded by huge trees that make it more comfortable for parents, and the splash pad itself is full of action. There is a bucket that dumps water on your head, fountains, and tons of space to run through the water. It’s also close enough to the slides that kids can move back and forth between water and playground. Slides when you’re wet? Awesome fun! The only drawback is that this one can get a little crowded. But, like I said, it’s one of the best, so there’s a reason people flock to it!

Creve Coeur Lake splash pad

Do you have a favorite splash pad in St. Louis or your own home town? What do you love about it?

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Beat the Heat at the St. Louis Magic House

The Magic House in St. Louis is the perfect place to play in the summer. The Future Play exhibit runs until September 5.

The heat in St. Louis is no joke, and now that summer is here, we are looking for ways to cool off. One of our favorite places is The Magic House, the children’s museum here in St. Louis.

When St. Louisans rave about The Magic House, they are not joking. This place is amazing. There are two buildings with multiple floors, and an outside garden. We are still finding areas in the magic house that we didn’t know existed, and we’ve lived here for three years!

The Magic House is the perfect place to stay warm in the winter, dry in the rain, and, right now, escape the heat and humidity of the St. Louis summer.

A few weeks ago, the Grasshopper and I met up with my blogging friends Denise of stlMotherhood and Jen of And Hattie Makes Three to explore the newest exhibit, teamLab’s Future Play: Art + Technology, which is here until September 5th.

 

I liked the cool and the dark, but the Grasshopper loved the interactive hopscotch screen and seeing the spaceship she created fly across the giant screens.

Magic House STL Future Play

 

After we finished exploring FuturePlay, we had to head straight up the beanstalk to her favorite part of the magic house: the mystery room. Here, kids are challenged to solve the mystery of an art theft using logic, physical evidence, DNA evidence, and their powers of exploration. There are secret passages, duct-work to crawl through, and a slide. Some kids prefer sneaking (or thundering) through the ductwork and sliding over and over again, but the Grasshopper enjoys solving each piece of the mystery to find the art thief.

magic house mystery

Of course, there’s the Bubble Room, the Math Path, and the three story beanstalk to climb (Protip: If you’ve got a little one like Cricket who isn’t quite ready to tackle the beanstalk, but still wants to climb, head over to the Wonder Works area for a smaller version they can explore.)

Magic House Collage

By the time we had done all of that, we were ready to meet back up with all of our friends in the garden. Yeah, I know. Outside. The heat. But there’s a creek to play in! And seriously, who doesn’t love splashing in a creek. If you plan to do this, it might be a good idea to bring dry clothes to change into. And if you don’t plan to do this, and you end up doing it anyway like we did… Well, they’re only kids once!

magic house outdoor play garden

These are just the things we saw during the morning. It’s easy to spend an entire day at The Magic House and not see everything there is to see.

The Magic House is one of our favorite spots in St. Louis. Admission is $10 per person (free for kids under 1 year) and their hours right now are:

  • Mon-Thurs, and Sat: 9:30am – 5:30 pm
  • Fri: 9:30 am – 9:00 pm
  • Sun – 11:00 am – 5:30 pm

Today, I’m teaming up with And Hattie Makes Three and stlMotherhood to give away four free passes to The Magic House (a $40 value!) so you can escape the heat too! We’ve each got a set of passes, so three families will win! This post is sponsored by the Magic House, who provided the free tickets for you to win.

Be sure to follow both And Hattie Makes Three and stlMotherhoodHattie Makes Three blogs about fashion, food (check out her recipe for Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread! OMG YUM!), and fun things to do in St. Louis with her adorable daughter Hattie. stlMotherhood writes about St. Louis happenings, minecraft, and kids crafts. She even has this awesome tutorial on how to make a pool noodle catapult because every home needs siege weapons, amIright?

{Thanks to all who entered! The giveaway is now closed, and the winners have been contacted.}

 

What are your kids’ favorite things to see and do at The Magic House? Do you have another spot you think we should explore? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

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Tick Season has Arrived, But It’s Going to be Okay.

Tick season has arrived in Missouri, and it is gross. Last week, my husband and I were snuggled on the couch while the kids were still asleep. I was reading a book on my Kindle, and he was watching a soccer game. It was very relaxed and peaceful until he said, “What’s that on your arm? A new mole?”

Spoiler alert: It was not a mole.

I looked down, and there, stuck to my arm, was a tick. It was about 1/8 of an inch across with 8 little legs, and it was feasting on, well, me! I may or may not have shrieked and flapped my arms, but the good news for me is that I knew how to remove the little beast, and I was able to get it off without causing more damage.

Aside from being completely disgusting, ticks carry a variety of different diseases, some of which can be quite serious and some of which are just plain weird. For example, did you know that bites from the Lone Star Tick can give you an allergy to beef and red meat? I know, technically not a disease, but completely freaky! Here are some of the diseases that ticks spread:

But here’s the deal: It’s spring. It’s beautiful, and I’m not going to let fear keep my family from enjoying the outdoors.

There’s a lot of mythology out there surrounding ticks and tick removal, so I’m here to give you guys accurate information so that you can feel empowered about getting outdoors and having a fun and safe spring. We had a mild winter here in Missouri, so this tick season is going to be a bad one. The information I’m sharing with you comes from the Missouri Department of Conservation, the CDC, and other locations. I will provide links to my sources so you can dig as deeply into this as you like.

What is a tick?

A tick is a member of the arachnid family, a cousin of the spider and scorpion. They’re small, anywhere from the size of a poppy seed to 1/8-1/4 inches across. They survive as a parasite, eating the blood of other animals.

Photo Courtesy of CDC Public Image Library
Photo Courtesy of CDC Public Image Library

When & where are ticks found?

According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, ticks are most active in April-July. They like to live in brushy areas and tall grasses, and they hunt by climbing to the end of a leaf of grass blade and sticking a leg out in hopes of snagging it on a passing animal or human. They sense the carbon dioxide we breathe out and they follow that to find their prey. They like to hang out where prey is abundant, such as in the brush and tall weeds beside trails. But it’s not just hiking trails that harbor ticks. Last week, I didn’t venture from an urban area. My outdoor adventures were limited to playgrounds and the backyard. I still managed to pick up a tick from somewhere. They can be anywhere.

How do I avoid them?

You folks know that I usually prefer more natural products in my home and for my family, but I’m going to be real honest here and say that with ticks, I follow the recommendations of the CDC and Missouri Department of Conservation. Ticks are dangerous. They carry diseases that can have lifelong consequences. I’m not going to mess around with that!

First of all, you can avoid tick habitat.

  • Stay out of brushy areas
  • Don’t take shortcuts through tall grass
  • Walk in the center of trails

Use tick repellents. Always, ALWAYS follow the directions from the manufacturer. Always.

  • Permethrin – You can use this to treat your gear (shoes, hats, tents, backpacks, socks, pants, etc) to keep ticks away. This permethrin spray will last six weeks on your clothing and gear. It’s the kind my friend who is writing a hiking with kids book uses. Don’t apply this to skin and follow the directions for treating your gear. The important thing with this is that you need to plan ahead. Spray it and let it dry according to the manufacturers directions. When my friend led a hiking group yesterday, the folks who had treated their clothes had no ticks and all of the folks who did not had ticks inside their pants.
  • DEET – You read that right. DEET. 20-30% DEET applied to clothes and exposed skin will last several hours. There’s no need to apply this to skin that will be under clothing. Use only what you need, help your kids apply it, and wash it off when you come inside. I, personally prefer not to apply this to my face and have not had mosquito or tick bites on my face. Also remember that higher DEET percentage isn’t necessarily better. According to Consumer Reports, effectiveness tops out at 30%.
  • Natural insect repellents – There are a lot of insect repellents on the market including some nifty ankle bracelets that we used last year. I’ve used these in the past with good luck, although when I go hiking, I use them in combo with DEET sprayed on shoes and pant legs. In digging around, I found information about these to prevent mosquitos, but not a lot of info on using them to prevent ticks. With that in mind, for me, I’m most comfortable using the combination I mentioned above and re-applying every 30 minutes or so.

How do I check for ticks?

It’s important to check for ticks as soon as you come indoors. Strip down and, in a well lit area, check everywhere for them. Use a mirror if you don’t have another adult to help you check your back. Ticks love to hide in all the little nooks and crannies on your body, so when I say look everywhere, I mean it. They can be tiny. I pulled some nymphs (the babies) off of my youngest last year that were no bigger than a poppy seed! So look closely and take your time. Ticks like to hide in ears, armpits, belly buttons, and in the hair.

Bathe or shower right away after coming in. This will wash ticks off of you and down the drain.

Don’t just toss your dirty clothes in the hamper. I can tell you from experience, there’s not a lot grosser than pulling your clothes out and finding a tick crawling around in there. Yuck! It’s like it’s invading your home or something. The CDC recommends that you tumble-dry your clothes on high heat for an hour. I usually just throw ours straight into the wash. I don’t even bring them in to the carpet. Just straight into the washer.

How do I remove a tick?

There are a lot of methods floating around about tick removal: put an ice cube on it, burn it with a hot match, heat the tip of an ice pick and burn it to make it let go, paint it with nail polish or cover it in grease to smother it. Don’t do these things. Seriously. Don’t.

When you remove a tick, you want to remove it immediately, not wait around for it to let go. The longer it is attached, the higher the chances of it passing along a tick-borne disease.

The CDC gives the proper way to remove a tick and all you need is a pair of fine tipped tweezers:

  1. Grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible. Don’t squish it with the tweezers because this can squash its body fluids into you! Gross and unsanitary.
  2. Pull upward gently, with even pressure. Don’t jerk it. Don’t twist it. Just gentle even pressure. You don’t want to risk breaking off mouth parts in your skin.
  3. Wash the bite carefully with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.
  4. Dispose of the tick properly. Don’t smash it with your fingers! Remember, it’s a little bag of disease and plague and nastiness. Crushing it spreads that around. Treat it like it’s a biohazard. The CDC link above gives some suggestions, but my preferred method of disposal is to drown it in alcohol then flush it down the toilet.

 

 

Ticks exist. They’re out there. They’re a fact of life. But you can still enjoy the outdoors safely. I hope this article has helped you know how to keep your family safe this tick season.

Here’s a quick list of the pages I used to research this article:

Missouri Department of Conservation’s Tick page

CDC’s Tick page

Tick.info – A good website if you want to try to identify what kind of tick bit you

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Kids, Games, and Sportsmanship

I grew up playing games all the time with my parents. We played card games like Double Solitaire and Russian Bank. We played games like Boggle, Yahtzee, and Scrabble. Trivia games like Trivial Pursuit, Jr. Trivia, and more.

When I played with my parents, we all played hard. No one let anyone win. When I did manage to beat them at a game the victory was so sweet, but those wins were often far between. Sportsmanship was a very big deal in my family. I learned how to be a good loser and how to be a graceful winner. And you never, EVER cheat.

I’m trying my best to pass that along to my kids.

Games, in St. Louis, are a huge thing! There are gaming conventions, game nights, and groups that get together regularly to play. I always felt like such an oddball for liking to play games so much, so it’s cool to discover that there are other adults who love playing as much as I do.

It’s been fun discovering new games with my kids, but inevitably, we’ve run into problems with sportsmanship, so here are our family’s rules for fair play:

  • Cheating is never tolerated. When someone cheats (which has never happened) the game is over. Period.
  • Accusations of cheating as a means of expressing frustration for the outcome of a game or turn are never tolerated. Cheating is a charge we take seriously, and it’s not an accusation to be bandied about.
  • It’s okay to feel disappointed, but it’s not okay to pitch a fit and behave rudely to other players when things don’t go your way.
  • It’s great to celebrate a win, but it’s never okay to gloat.
  • Everyone plays as hard as they can to win.

Really, for my family, it’s the same as sportsmanship in an athletic event. You congratulate the winner and encourage the ones that lose, and we teach this by example. Although, my husband tends to “jokingly” accuse people of cheating which earns major side-eye from the rest of us. We’re working on that one.

I do my best to teach them strategy, just like my parents did with me. On my turn, I explain why I chose certain moves over others, and sometimes we play “open-handed” so I can give them pointers on why some cards might be better to play than others. But if they beat me, they know that the win was truly earned. The smiles on those faces are wonderful to see!

The girls are learning. Winning is fun, but losing can be tough. Last week, the Grasshopper made a really bad decision at the start of a new game we got the day before. I mean, it was a colossal mistake, and it immediately cost her the game. In a dramatic way. The tough thing was, she had to hang in for 30 or so minutes until the game finished, watching the rest of us pull farther and farther ahead. She shed some disappointed tears. Not tantrum-y tears. Just sad ones. But she hung in there and finished the game. It never crossed her mind to quit, and for that I am so proud of her.

When it was all over, we hugged and talked about what had happened and why she had lost, and we came up with some strategies for next time. I told her how impressed I was about how she played her hardest until the end. She was still sad, but she’s looking forward to playing again, and that’s the most important thing.

These are some of the new games we’ve found. They’re pretty well known, but they’re new to us and tons of fun!

  • Hey! That’s My Fish – Cricket got this for her 4th birthday from a friend and it is a favorite! There’s enough strategy that it’s engaging for me, but it’s simple and requires no reading, so it’s great for little ones, too.
  • Ticket to Ride – We don’t actually have this one, but we got it for my parents for Christmas and we all LOVED it. We were all able to play, even Cricket, although for her to play, we either had to put her on someone’s team or play open-handed. My husband and I are thinking of picking up one of these for us!
  • Ninja Camp – We got this through their kickstarter and it arrived last week. We’ve only played it a few times, but so far it seems to be a hit! This one is tough for Cricket, though, because of the reading involved.
  • Munchkin – This is one that is best for the Grasshopper and I to play. My husband gets frustrated with the complicated rules and doesn’t find the cards amusing. He doesn’t have the same love of role playing games that I do. It definitely requires reading skills, so Cricket is not able to play. Honestly, I’m still figuring it out, but the Grasshopper and I have fun with it.
  • Machi Koro – This was the one that the Grasshopper lost so bad at last week. Poor thing. Awful loss aside, this is a fun game, although Cricket needs tons of help to play. Even though Cricket can’t read the cards and mostly just guesses, and even though the strategy has been a challenge for the Grasshopper, it’s still a fun one that even my husband likes.
  • Race to the Treasure – This is definitely one for the kids, but it’s cooperative which they enjoy. It’s simple enough that they can set up and play it by themselves.
  • Cauldron Quest – Again, this is a kid’s game, but it’s got enough complexity that Cricket needs a bit of help remembering the rules. They both enjoy playing it with me, and it’s cooperative so it’s fun to see them working together toward a goal.
  • Pokemon – Yeah, you read that right. the Grasshopper and I get serious playing Pokemon TCG. That’s “The Card Game” if you’re unfamiliar. It is surprisingly fun, and she’s gotten great at adding, subtracting and multiplying in her head with this one.

I really want to try Catan, but I think we may have to get the Jr version of the game. I also want to get Pandemic, but I’m holding out for the Cthulhu version. I have the feeling this one will not be one the kids can play, though. I’m also curious about Forbidden Island/Forbidden Desert. I’ve heard that one is playable with children.

Do y’all have any favorite games to recommend? How do you handle winning, losing, and sportsmanship when you play?

 

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Merry Crickets: A Christmas Invasion

The first time I went south with my husband to Ecuador for Christmas was the first time I had been south of the border at all.  I knew to expect the heat, which washed over us as we stepped off the plane.  After an eternity of puking into my then fiance’s lap (I get airsick), the heat and humidity was stifling.

But the sounds were beautiful.  Underneath the honking and engine noises of Guayaquil was the soft song of crickets singing.  It added a surreal ethereality to the unfamiliar city. Little did I know that this beautiful song heralded of a terrifying invasion that would change the way I view the holiday forever.

We spent the night in the cool of his parents’ apartment, but the next day we made the 4 hour drive, headed for the island where my future father-in-law had a shrimp farm.  I had been told that the accommodations were a bit more rustic there than the plush carpets and AC of the big city apartment, but I didn’t know that we would have roommates.

The trip was uneventful and the island was, predictably gorgeous.  The house, though simple with screens instead of windows and tall stilts to keep out water, was comfortable and tidy.  All that would change when the sun set.

As the shadows lengthened, the familiar cricket song from the city began to hum and tweet.  This time, though, we were away from sounds and lights.  The song quickly changed from background music to din.  And as the stars began to peek out in the twilight sky, we realized that the sound wasn’t coming from the outside.  It was coming from inside the house with us.

Then they started jumping.  We hadn’t realized it during the day, but the crickets, thousands of them, had been climbing the stilts and the steps and the walls.  They had been finding tiny crevices in the walls and cracks in the floors and gaps in the screens and they had been pouring in one by one in silence while the heat of the day baked down on us.

At first we tried to squash them.  How many could it be?  But still they came.  We quickly realized there were more than just a few.  Still, we could handle this.  My fiance, his sister and parents, and myself took on cricket fighting duty, while my future sister-in-law’s fiance got started with the beef wellington we were to have for dinner.

After fighting for what seemed like an eternity, there was a lull in the battle.  Perhaps we had driven them off!  We sat down to rest for a few moments.  It was then that we realized that the pictures on the walls were moving.  Then we noticed the twinkling Christmas tree and remembered that they didn’t own blinky lights.  It was the crickets.  There were so many crickets in the tree that they were moving the ornaments making it appear that the lights were twinkling.  The branches themselves were shifting with the dreadful weight of the insects.

I escaped outside to the dark of the porch where at least I couldn’t see them.  Dinner was served and our chef told us that he was pretty sure he had defended the food from crickets, but the grim set of his face told otherwise.  He didn’t eat.

We spent the night with our mouths tightly closed, praying that no crickets would crawl into our sheets and listening to the noise that had changed from a peaceful song to deafening shrieks.

And the next morning, it was over.  The dead crickets were nowhere to be seen, the birds, crabs, and other wildlife having made short work of this Christmas feast.

A few days later, my Mother-in-Law returned from a grocery trip to the city and reported that the invasion had come for Guayaquil the day after it had hit us.  The streets were full of crickets.  Drivers heading to the mall for last second shopping found themselves sliding as if they were driving on ice.  People slipped and fell down on the sidewalks. There were car crashes. With no wildlife to clean up the mess, the bodies of the insects piled up and the city stank of dead crickets.

No one had ever seen anything like this.  It had been a hundred year hatch, they said.  My Father-in-Law seemed certain that I had brought the crickets with me in my suitcase.  To this day, when we go to visit, he laughs and asks me if I’ve brought crickets again this year.  And I, for one,  will never eat beef wellington again.

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs – The Answers

Last week, in celebration of Easter, the Grasshopper and I dyed eggs using food-based ingredients.   Here’s a quick link in case you missed that post.  It was so much fun and a few of the colors were so surprising that I decided to make a game of it and let you guess which ingredients produced which colors.

Here’s that list of dye ingredients again:

  • Spinach
  • Beets
  • Turmeric
  • Purple Cabbage
  • Yellow Onion Skins
  • Blueberries
  • Paprika & Chili Powder

And here’s that picture with the numbered eggs:

Which egg is which?

 

I had a few people guess in the comments and several guess in real-life and via email.  So here are the answers!

# 1 – Onion skins. I love how the membranes of the onions left that pretty pattern on the shell.
#2 was blueberries. Look at the polka-dots left behind where the berries rested against the eggs!
#3 was spinach. I think if I had processed the spinach in a blender I might have gotten a greener color. But it’s still so soft and pretty.
#4 was a blend of paprika and chili powder. Mr. Grasshopper said that this one looked like marble.
#6 was beets. This one actually changed pretty significantly as it dried. It turned into a beautiful green and purple marbled effect which you can almost see in this picture.
#6 was turmeric. I loved how speckled this turned out!
#7 was purple cabbage. This one was such a pretty surprise! Who knew that the purple cabbage would turn blue!

I hope you all had a wonderful week this week!  Happy Easter, happy spring!

Easter Eggs, Dyed Naturally! – and a game

I loved dying Easter eggs when I was a kid.  I loved the colors.  I loved the weird smell of the dye.  I loved eating them afterwards and feeling so lucky when I got one where the shell had cracked and the white was tinted a nifty color.  Easter eggs are so much fun.

I haven’t dyed Easter eggs in years!

This year, I decided it was time to start passing that tradition along to Miss Grasshopper.  But, like many of the things I’ve done over the last year and a half, I decided to see if there was a natural way to dye the eggs.  As it turns out?  There absolutely is!

This year, we dyed eggs with things in our pantry!

It was surprisingly easy.  Sure, it took a bit more work than the kits, but only a bit.  I just hard-boiled my eggs, researched my ingredients, dumped them into jars, and made my dye.

Here’s how to dye the eggs:

  1. Put a handful of the ingredient into the bottom of a large mason jar.
  2. Pour boiling water over the ingredient to fill the jar.
  3. Allow the ingredient to steep in the hot water until the water cools (several hours).
  4. Place the eggs in the jars and poke them right down to the bottom.  The dye will overflow, so do this over the sink.
  5. Leave them overnight in the fridge.
  6. Pull them out in the morning and take pictures to show your friends on the internet.

Pretty!

These turned out so well.  The colors are so soft and the various ingredients I used to dye gave a pretty marbled appearance.

Here’s a shot of the jars of dye in action:

From left to right we have: onion skins, paprika & chili powder, blueberries, beets, turmeric, spinach, and purple cabbage.

I probably would’ve gotten darker colors if I had boiled the dye ingredients for some time instead of just steeping them and letting them cool right away.

The Game – Guess which Dye made Which Egg

The Grasshopper and I had such fun finding out what colors the dyes made.  There were some real surprises in there!  See if you can match the eggs to their dyes!

Here are the dye ingredients again:

  • A. Spinach
  • B. Beets
  • C. Turmeric
  • D. Purple Cabbage
  • E. Yellow Onion Skins
  • F. Blueberries
  • G. Paprika & Chili Powder

Here’s a shot of the eggs, numbered to make it easier:

Leave your answer in the comments.  Next week, I’ll post the answers and you can see if you got them right!

Happy Easter everyone!