Monday, June 27, 2011

Alphabet Hunt

This morning and into the afternoon, we gathered together with our friends and searched the museum trails for ABC's. We all put our thinking caps on and were extremely creative in coming up with all the letters. We had wonderful participation from everyone, and enjoyed ourselves along the way. We looked for things that started with the letter, or even actions that began with the letter. And for a precious few, we were able to spot the actual letter in nature. Our only rules were that it couldn't be a person's name, and we had to go in alphabetical order.

This is something we do each summer, and the kids always find it fun, but I believe it was actually the adults that got more into it this year. I always look forward to our hunt. There's something about using your brain creatively that I find extremely satisfying.

So without further ado, here's our Alphabet!

A is for AGUA

B is for BROKEN



E is for EAST

F is for FLOWERS

G is for GREEN and GRASS

H is for HANDS

I is for INSECT

J is for JUICE

K is for KIDS (If you look closely, they are in the shape of the letter K too.)

L is for LILY holding the LOVE LEAF

M is for MOSS

N is for NIKE shoes

O is for the letter O

P is for PINK

Q is for QUIET (Shh)

R is for ROOF

S is for SOIL

T is for THE TRAIL

U is for UNDER the sign

V is for the letter V (If you look closely here, you can see the V is actually the head of a man who's holding a walking stick.)

W is for WOOD chips

X is for the letter X

Y is for the letter Y

Z is for ZIGZAG

I thought I would include some pictures just for fun too. We all really enjoyed ourselves, and by the end had plenty of good exercise!

Sunday, June 26, 2011


After a two month break, our book club finally had our 3rd official meeting. This time we all were to read the book Persuasion by Jane Austen. We also got together to watch the BBC movie of the book.

(Fun Fact) I specifically chose to share this picture of the book, as it is the exact copy that I own. Several years ago, my family took a trip to England and we visited Bath one of the places that frequently shows up in Jane Austen's novels. While we were in Bath, I purchased this book, and the rest of Jane Austen's novels at a museum dedicated to her.

The book was one of my suggestions, as I have grown to love the story. Jane Austen is a favorite author of mine, and I especially enjoy the story of Anne Elliot. When she is a young lady, she is persuaded not to marry a certain man. After 8 long years, she still loves him. The part of I love most about the book is to see the transformation that Anne goes through. She begins as a soft-spoken girl, who will never stand up for herself. Towards the end of the book, she is much more forward, and is no longer persuaded by what others feel. She finds her own identity. I think it's a beautiful story.

Since this was my choice, I was given the task of coming up with a quiz for my friends. I had a lot of fun with this, and took notes throughout the story so I could try to stump them, and even give some extra information later that I had researched. It was quite fun for me!

Just like I did with To Kill a Mockingbird, I will share with you the questions, but if you want the answers, you will have to read the book for yourself. I would hate to deprive you of the privilege and satisfaction you can get from finding out for yourself.

1) Who persuaded Anne to not marry Frederick when she was young, and why?

2) Jane Austen has 6 complete novels, which one is Persuasion?

a. 3rd book
b. 1st book
c. 4th book
d. 6th book

3) What happened to prolong the moment of Anne & Frederick meeting again after 8 long years had past?

4) Who besides Frederick was Anne also persuaded not to marry and why?

5) What is the name of the family home the Elliot family was forced to rent out at the beginning of the story?

a. Kellynch Hall
b. Camden Place
c. Uppercross Hall

6) Why was Mr. William Elliot in bad favor with the Elliot family, and where did we first see him?

7) Anne’s father tells her upon their long absence from each other, “her skin, her complexion, greatly improved; clearer, fresher.” What product did he think she’d been using?

8) How old was Anne when her mother died? And how old is she at the end of the story?

9) Why did the Admiral and Mrs. Croft come to bath?

10) Who was it that told Mrs. Smith that Anne would be marrying Mr. William Elliot?

11) In the letter that changes everything at the end of the book, to whom is it addressed?

a. Miss Anne
b. Miss A E
c. Miss Anne Elliot

This will probably give away one of the answers to the questions, but I found this information to be most interesting and made me enjoy the novel even more. Jane Austen wrote Persuasion in a hurry, during an illness that she eventually died from; as a result, the novel is both shorter and arguably less polished. It was not subject to the usual pattern of careful retrospective revision. I believe it was still very well done, and has a special place in my heart.

If you've read many books from the time period of Jane Austen, the lifestyle they led was remarkably different than us. One of the things we were talking and laughing about the night of our meeting was how the characters would take a turn around the room, or a walk together. They would stop what they were doing, link arms, and walk the perimeter of a room. I would guess this would be to stretch their legs a bit, but it's still rather comical. My friends decided to take a turn around the kitchen.

I am so thankful for the gift of friendship I was given. I love all these women dearly, and I would gladly do anything for them. Whether it be taking a turn around the room, or something greater. God has blessed me!

This coming month, our next book we will be reading is Julie by Catherine Marshall, another one of my suggestions. I would encourage you to read it with us!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Summer Challenge

We've had a busy summer full of parks! Each weekend, we've tried to visit at least one, but sometimes as many as three. We are well on our way to making our summer goal of visiting all the Topeka parks. In fact, we only have 24 left to go!

I have nine parks to tell you about, so I'm going to try to keep it nice and simple. Just the facts...

A few weeks ago, we visited Central Park at 16th and Clay. This park is probably the busiest one we've been to. All the people we met were very friendly and kind. The park had a mixture of new toys, and several older toys to play on. My kids actually seemed to prefer the older toys at this park.

Zechariah is turning into quite the little monkey, and actually figured out how to do the monkey bars all by himself. It was so funny to watch him dangling there before he would reach for another bar.

The park has a pond that we actually saw people fishing at. There are also lots of ducks and geese roaming the grass near the pond.

Later in the day, we jogged over just a few streets to Boswell Park. It's located on the corner of 14th and Boswell. This is probably one of my favorite parks we've been to so far. The neighborhood was very pleasant, the park was well cared for, and no trash was littering the ground. It was quite nice! We've already been back for another visit.

My boys especially enjoyed the tire swing. Their dad would swing them exceptionally high and they were thrilled with it.

One of the times I went with some friends, we all were quite interested in this part of the toys. We figured out all but one very quickly, and eventually came up with the last one. They're kind of fun! You should try to figure them out!

I thought this was the most interesting thing yet, some doggy bags. They gave you directions on how to use the bag to clean up after your dog's poop. I actually found it to be hilarious to read! I wonder how successful they are with these bags? I imagine it works, because the park is beautiful.

Some of the things I didn't get pictures of, they also have some basketball goals, and a very nice gazebo. The perfect place for a party!

This is not a Topeka park, but a school playground. We meant to visit a park this day, but because of time restraints, and a wild goose chase, we were required to visit a park closer to home.

After we had a picnic lunch at Indian Hills Elementary, we decided that next year we're going to have a summer goal of visiting all the school playgrounds. I know there are quite a few of them!

Someone left their sunglasses at the playground, and we all got a kick out of trying them on. We did make sure to leave them right where we found them in case someone came looking for them later.

The metal playground ground equipment was really cool to look at, but unfortunately in the hot sun not very effective to play on. The kids gave up after getting burned by it. I'm sure during the school year, the temperatures aren't quite as hot as they are during the summer, so it works out for them.

Our next weekend of park hopping was started off at Garfield Park. The kids LOVE this park because of the fun roller slide. Titus grew up in the neighborhood and went to the elementary school next door, so it's extra special to us.

Garfield Park is one of the older parks of Topeka, dating back more than 100 years ago. There is a community center, and lots of picnic area, along with the Garfield swimming pool.

I like to find the unusual parts of the park, and I found these subtraction problems to be most interesting. There were two sides to the toy, so you had two choices of an answer.

The famous roller slides!

We had fun playing as a family on the teeter-totter. Ariel took some photos since she was in trouble and not allowed to play at this park.

Before our time was up, we allowed Ariel one time of going down the coveted roller slide. She was most thankful!

Next to the swimming pool, you will find a memorial for 12 soldiers from north Topeka who died in the Vietnam War.

Just past the memorial there is an area of wetlands that you can find various birds and geese. We caught a glimpse of a very majestic heron flying away from the water.

Our last park we visited that day was to McKinley just a few blocks from Garfield. If you go over the Kansas Bridge, you turn left onto Gordon Street, and stop when you get to Western.

I think this will always be a family favorite, just because of the fun obstacle course idea that it gave.

This toy was rather hard for the kids to do themselves, but easy when a grown-up was heavy enough to help out.

This was our inspiration for an obstacle course. They called it a fitness course, and I agree that it was great exercise. By the end we were all huffing and puffing trying to beat our previous scores. Since we've gone to this park, at all other parks we have made up our own "fitness courses". It makes it so much more fun, and its good exercise.

I thought I'd show you an example of that first "fitness course" we took. This can make any simple playground a lot of fun for the whole family. Titus and I even got involved and enjoyed trying to beat our scores or times.

First you had to start on the steps, and when your clock started ticking, you jumped off.

Next you had to run over and do a short pull-up.

You had to go back up the wobbly staircase.

Down the bar slide.

Another pull-up, this time much higher off the ground.

You had to climb up the rock wall. (This is very tricky if you're short and the first step is almost to your chest.)

Then you slide down the pole.

You head over to the staircase, run up the stairs.

And finally slide down the big slide. Your time doesn't stop until your feet have hit the ground. The kids loved this! We timed them over and over again. In the end, our times went according to age. Titus was fastest, then myself, then Ariel, Gabe, and finally Zechariah.

I would recommend making your own obstacle course out of the next playground you visit. It's amazing how much more involved it makes you, and you'll be surprised at the fun you have.

This past weekend, we visited Collin's park located at the corner of Collins Ave. and 15th street. I wasn't very impressed with this park. The toys were well spread apart, but they weren't really all that exciting or different. We didn't hang around here for too long.

Gabe really enjoys jumping out of the swing, and sometimes comes down a bit dramatically. If he bumps anything on the way down, he will lie as if dead, until you come to rescue him.

The next park we visited that day, Westboro, was just a few blocks over, still off of 15th street, this time on Lakeside.

This park we have been to many times as we used to live in the neighborhood. When Ariel was 1 or 2 this was our favorite park because it was in walking distance from the house. We would actually walk past Collins Park first, and then stop at Westboro park.

This park has all the old toys, and some modern play equipment, along with picnic tables. The kids really enjoyed coming back to it, as they could remember playing there years ago.

We made an obstacle course on this play set, and found it to be very challenging. The next day I woke up with my arms incredibly sore! There were lots of things you had to pull yourself up, the bars, the tube slide, and the rock wall. All were great sources of exercise for the arms.

The last park I'll share with you, is the Betty Phillips Park on the corner of Girard and Irvingham, just off of 37th St.

I was so impressed with this park. The playground equipment was huge! There were so many things to do, and I loved that it looked like a tropical place. They also have some picnic tables under an open-air shelter. A perfect spot for a party; you just might need to bring a broom and dustpan. The place was littered with trash.

There have been a few parks that offer the sign language alphabet. I think it's a great addition, but I wonder how many kids actually take the time to look at it. I believe those things are there to entertain the parents!

We had our Father's Day BBQ at this park, so when the food was all put away, we came up with an obstacle course for everyone in the family to do. I was very pleased that we had 100 percent participation. I think everyone enjoyed themselves.

The last thing worth pointing out at this park was this unique spider climbing toy. I've never seen anything like it! I think it would be fun for kids to climb on, but it's a little difficult to do in flip-flops.

That's all the parks I have for you this time, but I'm certain to have a list again of more. Hopefully, it won't take me as long to blog about them. I have so much to do, and so little time to do it in!