Tag Archives: vacation

Grow a Reader this Summer!

20 Apr

Have you already started mapping out your summer plans?  If you have kids who haven’t learned to read yet, consider using this summer to teach them!  All you need is a few minutes every day and this fabulous book, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann. In approximately the duration of your child’s summer vacation, you can teach them one of life’s most valuable – and fun – skills!

When my son (now 6 ½) was 3 ½, I wanted to start teaching him how to read.  He knew most of his letter sounds, and he would sit still for any length of story I would read him.  It seemed like the right time to get going.

But where to start?  I didn’t know the first thing about how to approach it.

At the recommendation of some moms I know, I bought the book mentioned above.  It’s a very specific method of teaching reading to children.  (The book states that it’s designed for 4- or 5-year-olds, but can also be taught to bright 3 ½-year-olds.)  Its huge size seems a bit daunting at first, but the layout is very easy to follow.

Just do one lesson a day (or every other day, whatever your child can handle and your schedule allows).  Each lesson is presented with exact instructions, down to a teaching script so you know what to say with each task.

Every lesson includes writing practice, and the whole thing only takes about 10-20 minutes to complete.  By the time you reach lesson 50, your child will be reading an entire paragraph!  This amazing book completely takes the guesswork out of this process.

One thing you MUST do before you start teaching your child with this book: read the parent instructions.  It is imperative that you have an understanding of how the lessons work before you begin teaching, or you will stumble around and lose your child’s interest – which we all know is the kiss of death!

An added way to make the lessons fun (and to incorporate a bit of math, too) is to make a chart of squares numbered 1-100.  Each time your child finishes a lesson, they can put a sticker or a stamp in the square for the lesson they completed.  Once they’re done with all 100, they earn a prize.  Or you can give them a prize after every row of 10 – whatever works for you!

My son reads extremely well now.  He’s become a real lover of books, and can read anything we throw at him.  Knowing how to read has given him  independence and confidence to start him on a path to success in school, which is something that will serve him well for the rest of his life!

That's my boy!

I’m now using my well-worn copy of the book, with its many wrinkled pages and a taped-up cover, to instruct my 4 ½-year-old daughter.  She’s coming along great!

If you’ve never taught someone the skill of reading, you’re in for quite an experience.  It’s tedious, frustrating, and sometimes seems impossible, but the end result is an accomplishment that both you and your little one will cherish.  Summer vacation is a perfect time to do it!



24 Aug

Yoga is powerful.  Someone I admire once said that doing yoga twice a week will change your body.  Doing yoga five days a week will change your life.

As a busy mother of three, I can only dream of practicing yoga more than once a week.  While vacationing recently, my mom gave our family a beautiful and generous gift.  She hired a yogi to come and teach yoga on the beach (three mornings in one week)!!

It was glorious.  Being outdoors, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face, the wind blowing my hair, the coolness of my feet in the soft cold sand, and hearing the waves crashing nearby was surreal.

We had three different yogis that week, by choice.  Two of the three included a guided meditation, which I always love.  One of the yogis had been inspired by an Indie Arie song.  She said the only thing constant in life is change.


The only thing constant in life is change.  I started thinking about it.  I am not a person who generally runs from change, in fact, I embrace it most days.  I believe that life on Earth is a continuous evolution; that as people, we are constantly growing and changing.  Plants, birds, animals, humans, cells, energies; everything is changing.

I think back to the child I was, the young woman I developed into throughout the high school years, and the free spirited woman I became in college.  I think of all of the things I would have missed out on, had I not branched out and tried something new: home brew, cliff jumping, artichoke, freshly made juice, skiing, getting a tattoo, overseas travel, hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, chiropractic adjustments, meditation, reiki, and even yoga!

As a mother, it’s even easier to see.  My children are growing, learning new things, developing their personalities, trying new things, testing boundaries, and exploring new things.  As they change, I change too.  I’ve had to alter discipline methods (many times).  I’ve had to change the way my home was child-proofed (I thought it was perfectly safe until my son came along!)  I’ve changed the way I perceive things too, like extended breastfeeding, movie ratings, circumcision, buying organic produce, chiropractics, and teasing.

Philosopher and psychologist Carl Jung once said, “What you resist persists.”  I have found this to be completely true in my life.  The more I try and control things, the more they seem to spin away and out of control.  The more I let things be, the more things fall right into place.

Just like the waves in the ocean undulate and never stay the same, so must we as humans.  If things never changed, I shudder to think of how oppressive our society would be today.  So today and every day, I salute change!

Top 10 Reasons to Visit South Padre Island

7 Jul

There are a lot of places to travel in the great state of Texas.  Every year, my family and I go to the coast for one week in May.  We stay on South Padre island and absolutely love it!  Here are my top ten reasons why I think it makes a great family destination:

10.  The Pirate Cruise (www.blackdragoncruises.com)

Kids and their land lubbing parents will love this cruise, even if they are not that “into” pirates!  The cruise sails around the bay (several times a day- the afternoon one is cheaper than the evening one).  Kids will enjoy pirate games, story telling, drawn-on mustaches, sword fights, and more!

9.  Paragraphs Books Bookstore (http://stexboat.com/Texas/bookstore)

My family and I started this tradition of a week in Padre even before I had children.  I can remember floating around in the condo pool, discussing how great it would be if they would put a bookstore on the island!  In those days, I would finish whatever book and magazines I brought within the first few days, and always wished I could find something else to read.  Now, Paragraphs has brought that dream to fruition!  They sell new as well as used books.  They also have a quaint little children’s area furnished with pint sized furniture complete with toys.  It’s a great place to spend a cloudy day or pick up something to read while on the beach or poolside!

8.  Friday Night Fireworks

All summer long (beginning Memorial Day weekend), the island celebrates Friday nights with an awesome fireworks display at 9pm.  If the kids can make it up that late or out that long, we enjoy getting a table at a bayside restaurant and watching the show.  Our family’s condo has an open landing that faces the bay, so we’ve also watched from there, if the kids are too tired to be out.

7.  Live Music and Louie’s Backyard (www.lbyspi.com/webcam.php)

Their website says it all, “For a good time call…”  Louie’s is a bayside bar and grill.  They have live music and when the party really gets started, dancing!  They have a live webcam on their website, which looks pretty fun!  It’s a great place to see the sunset, listen to music, drink to your hearts content, eat some decent sea food, and watch the fireworks!  In the parking lot outside, they also have a multilevel go cart track and several bungee jumping contraptions.  So if the kids are brave, they will love it!

6.  Sunset Dinner Cruise (www.islatours.com/sunset-dinner-cruises.htm)

There are a few different choices when it comes to sunset dinner cruises.  This one happens to be the one we always choose.  It’s $35.00 per person and includes a 2 hour sunset ride through the bay.  Dinner includes three different courses.  I’ve been twice now, and the food has been wonderful both times.  The service is impeccable as well.  There is live music too, which is always fun.  These cruises can be kid friendly, it just depends on how rowdy the other people on the boat get.  There are covered areas as well as open areas, and you get to choose where you want to sit.  They offer pillows and blankets too, which is nice after the sun sets and the wind kicks up a chill.  It’s BYOB.

5.  Sunset Dinner at Bayside Bar & Grill (202 West Whiting Street, South Padre Island, TX 78597, 956/761-8481)

We are forever looking for the restaurant to have an enjoyable dinner and watch the sunset.  This restaurant was the talk of the trip this year.  It’s relatively new, just having been built in the fall of 2010.  Having dinner outside there reminded me of being on a lanai.  It’s covered, but still very open.  They have a really big deck which is uncovered as well, and a handful of locals like to come and fish after dark.  The food was great and the music eclectic.  I would highly recommend it.  It was also very kid friendly. One of the staff mentioned there is a dolphin who frequents the bay and will swim up pretty close to the deck!

4. Fishing on the Danny B. (www.spibayfishing.com)

Each year, we love to take the Danny B. out and fish in the bay.  Some years we have had so many family members attend, we’ve had to charter the entire boat!  It’s hit or miss with the actual fishing.  Some years we’ve caught a ton, and some years we’ve caught next to none.  On some trips, we’ve caught some really interesting sea life and the crew has given the kids a brief educational lesson about the catch.  This year, for example, we caught some sting rays, an eel, a crab, and some puffer fish.  No matter what, we always have a good time.  It’s also a great place to watch dolphins!  The crew is extremely knowledgeable and helpful though and it’s definitely kid friendly.  On at least one trip, my kids have gotten bored, so the captain took them with him and let them steer the boat and mess around.  You can rent poles or bring your own.  For a small fee, they will clean and fillet all of the fish you catch.

3.  Cook your catch (www.parroteyesspi.com)

That brings me to the next reason why I love SPI!  A lot of the restaurants will cook whatever you catch.  You simply bring in the fillets, and they will cook it.  Sides are usually included in the price, which is $7.95 per person at Parrot Eyes.  This year, we had a plethora of fish, which amounted to four platters full.  They will cook it/flavor it any way you like it.  We tried it “buffalo” style this year, which was really interesting!  Parrot Eyes is a great place for sitting outside on the patio.  They have live music at sunset as well.  The girls and I enjoyed at least one afternoon of relaxing in a hammock on the patio while waiting for some of our family members to return from a fishing excursion!  Because we’ve been doing this trip for 8 years, we’ve tried out a number of different places.  So far, Parrot Eyes is my favorite for the cook your catch.

2.  SPI loves Sea Turtles (www.seaturtleinc.org)

Sea turtles are an endangered species and the people of SPI are doing what they can to save the sea turtles.  Sea Turtles Inc. is an organization that rescues sea turtles and releases them back to sea whenever possible.  Our trip this year fell within nesting season, when thousands of mamma sea turtles come ashore, dig holes on the beach, and lay their eggs.  Sea Turtles Inc. has a facility on the island, open to the public.  They offer an educational experience in which you can learn how to protect sea turtles and sea life in general.  They charge a small fee (or donation) for entering and the kids can view different types of sea turtles in tanks.  Although no one is permitted to touch any of the sea turtles, the kids can feed them a leaf of lettuce (I’ve found that the mornings offer the best odds for being able to feed the turtles and avoiding bus loads of school kids).

Because it was nesting season, this year there were a bunch of turtle related activities, including a turtle “tea” at Paragraphs, a turtle luau in which a turtle king and queen were crowned after arriving at Parrot Eyes via kayak.  There were hula dancers, drummers, and fire throwers.  I took my oldest and it was really entertaining.  They also have an annual turtle masquerade ball for adults, which raises money for the cause.

1. Yoga on the Beach (www.spispa.com)

For the first time, my mom did some research prior to our trip and hired a yogi to come to us and treat us to yoga on the beach.  I highly recommend it; in fact of all of the things we did, it was by far my favorite!  We had three different teachers (by choice) come, for a slightly different experience each time.  I really enjoyed how they incorporated meditation into the experience.  It was a very relaxing way to start the day and was definitely rejuvenating.  For me, it will definitely be difficult to go back to doing yoga inside again!  It doesn’t get much better than feeling the sand on your toes, the wind blowing through your hair, the sun on your face, and the sound of the waves crashing in the background!  I felt more connected on the beach doing yoga than I ever have, doing anything else!

This is just a really small portrait of the activities available on the island.  They also have parasailing, kite surfing, surfing, horseback riding, dolphin watching, snorkeling, shelling, sand castle building, beach volleyball, shopping, and more!  It’s a great place to take the whole family!

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