Harrison Farm

for now, the only thing we're growing on this farm is kids - not the goat variety

Category: Family Fun (page 3 of 9)

Library Days

Here are some recent hits we found at the library:

Supersister by Beth Cadena, illustrated by Frank W. Dormer – a little girl appears to be full of herself — until you get to the sweet ending.

My Abuelita by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Yuyi Morales – from a child’s perspective about living with her larger-than-life grandmother. Spanish words sprinkled throughout.

Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen – my 3 reading children think these books are hysterical. Silly, silly, silly with cute illustrations.

Inkheart by Cornelia Flunke – this one was a big hit with my 12-year old son. Almost as intriguing as Harry Potter.

New Favorite

“Kid’s Folk Music” station on Pandora. You’ll hear Professor Banjo, Wayne Potash, Woody Gunthrie, Enzo Garcia, John Kirk and Trish Miller, Dan Zanes, Jack Johnson, Kimya Dawson…

Light, fun music even for adults.

Spring in the Air

Stop.  What's the password?

Stop. What's the password?

We had a sunny, balmy afternoon a couple of weeks, and we went to our local Nature Center to take in the sunshine and fresh air. I thought I’d pull these photos out. They’re a nice break from all the rain we’ve been having.

on the boardwalk

on the boardwalk

With Rosebud walking (rather than riding in the stroller) my hands were free to take pictures. I was rather unhappy though with how these turned out. I guess my hand wasn’t too steady. And the pictures look browner than I remember the day being. Funny how that happens.

Sudoku with red wolf statue

Balance and Swing!

dancing shoes by flickrs tallisandude

dancing shoes by flickr's tallisandude

We’ve been dancing frequently lately. We’ve been contra-dancing as a family, and Marathon and I have given swing dance a try too. Contra dance offers a family friendly setting. No dance partner or experience necessary. Lots of fun for people 9-ish and up. Since the caller goes through the steps before each dance, contra-dance seems like a great way to begin dancing.

Swing dance is great for couples. The basic swing step is easy, but there are all these complicated twists and moves that can be integrated with (or used instead of) the basic swing step. Lots of room for creativity and learning with your partner.

Next dance to learn: the shim sham. Frankie Manning makes this look so very fun.

Snow Days

These photos are a couple of weeks old. But better late than never, right? We’ve had more snow this winter than we’ve had in the last 7 years combined.

Sudoku’s “Best Birthday Ever”

Sudoku’s 10th birthday was approaching, and I was struggling with what to do for her and how to celebrate. Planning a party was really more than I had time or energy to do, but I wanted number 10 to be special and memorable. I thought about having one or 2 friends over for dinner and cake — something low-key, but it didn’t seem quite right.

Then I hit on an idea. An afternoon away. Just the two of us.

Her birthday came and I told to dress up a bit, that she and I were going to meet her cousin and aunt for tea. She lit up.

We left the other kids behind with Marathon, and spent 2 slow, lazy, spoiled hours at The English Rose, an English Tea House downtown. The restaurant is owned by a British woman, and most of her servers are also from the UK with accents to suit. I had to lean in and concentrate when our server was speaking. With real linens, real china, real tea…it felt so…real! We had the Victorian Tea, and while it was pricey…for a small, intimate, girly birthday celebration, it was just perfect.

Sudoku and her cousin were so lady-like, visiting and chatting. My sis-in-law and I were able to catch up and visit too. It was so very refreshing; just what the doctor ordered.

After lunch tea, Sudoku and I headed to the river to do a little window shopping. Then we changed clothes and played in the fountain before heading back to the real world. She claims it was her best birthday yet. It was a day I won’t soon forget.

Would you believe, I forgot to take a picture? Maybe that’s a good sign — that I was living in the moment. Still, I wish I had I captured our outing in digital format…

Update: Chattanooga photographer Cameron Adams graciously granted permission for me to use his lovely photo taken in the English Rose tea room. Pictured is the restaurant’s tiered presentation of the “Victorian tea.” This photo, in my opinion, captures the essence of the venue. Thank you, Cameron.

Gatlinburg-Area Suggestions

At the base of Chimney Tops after our hike

As stated in my previous post, we recently took a trip with extended family to the Gatlinburg area. There is so much to do there, I thought I’d report on what worked well for us, as well as what didn’t.

Good – my sis-in-law suggested that each family be responsible for 2 dinner-time meals since we had kitchens in the condos where we stayed. That provided a nice meal-prep break for each of us for most of the week.

Bad – driving on the Pigeon Forge strip on a Sunday. Lots of traffic.

Good – riding go-carts before noon. You get a 2-for-1 deal. The big kids and Marathon did this on a weekday.

Good – Wonderworks, the goofy, upside down looking building in Pigeon Forge. Marathon, Carman, & Sudoku spent hours there and would have stayed longer if time had permitted. It was like a really well-done discovery museum. Simulated earthquake, mind resting game, a design-your-own-roller-coaster-and-ride-it chair, lazer tag, etc. For the money spent, they felt like they got a great deal. Again, they did this on a weekday.

Bad – taking a family bicycle ride through Gatlinburg on a holiday weekend. Crowds and cars forced us to walk our bikes. “Riding bikes around. That’s a good idea,” I heard one woman say. Her husband shot her a questioning look. We were pushing our bikes at the time. Our goal was not to ride through Gatlinburg. We just wanted to find a place to park (not easy) and cycle out of town to bike on the the 5-mile, 1 way nature trail. We made it through town, but the hills in getting to the trail proved to be too much for Sudoku and I. So we all headed back to the van. So much effort for nothing. Well, not nothing. We learned. And now you can know too!

Good – a 2-mile hike to the Chimney Tops. We took it slow and easy so that we could accommodate the 4-year olds. It was a strenuous hike, but they made it all the way. In the photo above, we’re at the base of Chimney Tops after our hike.

Good & Bad – riding bicycles downhill from Clingman’s Dome. Marathon and Carman did this. They tell me it was great, exhilarating, but also nerve-racking when cars got impatient with them and tried to pass them on a curve. I’m glad I didn’t see that. Carman’s favorite moment was when he started gaining on some Sunday-driving motorcycles. The biker last in line noticed Carmen’s bicycle gaining on him, looked shocked, and gave his motor the gas.

Good – Ober-Gatlinburg. This was a great outing for the 4-year olds. My brother’s family and my parents took Doodle along with them. He had a wonderful day. Most rides there are free for children under 6. (Or maybe it was 6 and under?)

Good – playing games in the evenings and on rainy afternoons.

Good – taking it easy at the condo.

Good and Bad – our bike ride through Cades Cove. The ride is nice, but the weekend traffic was really bad. When we do it again, we’ll go on a Wednesday or Saturday morning when the road is closed to motor vehicles before 10am.

Biking Cades Cove

We recently returned from a fun extended-family trip to Gatlinburg. On our way home, we drove through the Smokies to the 11-mile, 1-way Cades Cove loop and biked it as a family. Here is some of the family after the ride, taking it easy in the grass and watching some horses. (Carman really isn’t a grumpy sort of boy; he just plays one in photos.)

The weather was perfect. If only we had known soon enough that the road had been closed to motor vehicles earlier that morning. Oh well, we’ll know for next time. The weekend traffic was horrendous, but we’re still glad we did it.

We started off with Rosebud on my back, and Doodle on his little seat on the front of Marathon’s bike. When we were about halfway through our ride, and the hills didn’t seem to be subsiding, and I was still the pokey one, Marathon took Rosebud on his back. He was quite the sight, sandwiched between two little people.

While making the loop we saw deer, 3 black bears, and a rattlesnake – all at a safe distance.

After our bike ride, we decided to take the 1-way dirt road out of the national park that put us closest to home. That was an adventure for our van, especially considering the 4-bike hitch on the back. We crossed fords and spun our tires a bit. Carman nearly hit the roof when Marathon mentioned using the Traction Control System. How could he, the Carman, have not known that our base model Odyssey has a Traction Control System? How?

Track Meets

This spring the kids once again trained for a couple of local track meets for elementary school-aged kids. They had a good time, we had good weather for the meets, and they even came home with a few ribbons.

It was exciting (and bit disheartening) to see a friend who had had one practice run, come out and sweep first place in 2 of her 3 races. I suspect the reason she didn’t win her 3rd race was that she and a fellow runner decided they would “tie.” It didn’t turn out as they had planned.

Anyway, the kids learned about the gift of natural ability as well as the reward of hard work. (At least, I hope they did.)

The most exciting part of the “track season” was their training. We stopped running on our street in favor of making the short drive down to our local nature center. It’s beautiful; it’s not concrete. So they gladly traded their 1 mile run on the street for a 2 mile run at the nature center. On a couple of occasions they added a 3rd mile on the windy road leading out of the center. Marathon, Doodle, Rosebud and I followed along in the car, waiting for them to tucker out. But they ran to the end of the road, laughing and having fun together. I think they’re becoming friends. 🙂

Here they are ready to leave on the chilly morning of the first meet.

A Find for Ralph Moody (“Little Britches”) Fans

Fellow Ralph Moody fans, you won’t believe what we (actually my sleuthing husband) found! We just finished reading The Fields of Home, the 5th book in Moody’s autobiographical series. At this point in Ralph’s young teen-age years, he goes to spend some time with his abrasive maternal grandfather after getting kicked out of Medford, Massachusetts by the town sheriff. His grandfather lived just outside Lisbon Falls, Maine.

This book is full of trials of a different sort than what we’ve seen in the previous books. Here, Ralph’s trials are primarily relational ones – trials with an old, stubborn, prideful relative. There are lots of golden nuggets within the pages.

So what’s the “find”? Continue reading

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