Testing

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Hubby got me an iPod for my birthday. He’ll be in Germany on the actual day so we’re eating cake all month. Here’s my first go at posting from my awesome present. Let’s hope autocorrect keeps my posts PG.

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August 12, 2012 · 12:04 pm

summer vacay

Okay, still haven’t fixed my computer or camera so the grandparents are gonna need to follow us on instagram. We spent some time in Virginia with my mom (where I took virtually no photos!) and then made our way back to New England to meet some friends at the Cape (beach). We’re home recovering now, from grandma withdrawal. I think next time we’ll just kidnap her.

On our way up, we decided to stop halfway and check out New York City. Naturally you take children who get overstimulated easily by their environment to Times Square.

And it only made perfect sense that we’d go to the Toys R Us. The one with a ferris wheel.

And buy candy.

And some toys. Cause the NYC branch will have entirely different ones from the one at home (hint: they don’t. And they cost more) But it was worth every penny grandma spent on the boys. They were happy campers who declared New York City to be “awesome” and a place they absolutely want to come back to again. Mission accomplished.

After three hours of flashing lights and live Elmo encounters(wish I had the snapshot of Rocky’s dropped jaw!), we were ready for some solace. We headed out of town and found a nice cushy Marriot to stay at. Rocky took an hour long (no lie) shower and Vinny acted like a natural when we ordered room service dessert. They took advantage of the comfy beds too and shortly fell asleep. After midnight. So hours later.

The next  day we hit the road again. They got a nap in and one hour before our destination declared a pitstop. Can you believe we found a Dunkin Donuts with no bathroom? What are the odds right? But no worries an ipad and some Rosy Maple moths kept Rocky and I busy while Grandma and Vinny found a proper place to do business.

There were plenty more adventures but it’s my bedtime and I have no pictures. So this will have to do. But hey, I managed to squeeze some gratuitous nature photos in there! Hurray!

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Father’s day

We love you Nate!

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I had some super cute videos of them singing to you but I can’t figure out youtube. So here’s a picture of a frog instead.

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Happy father’s day! Because of you life is extra good! According to Vinny you are the strongest man in the world. Both boys wear your shoes pretending to be you. And I’m so happy that they have such a great guy to look up to. xoxo

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testing

I’m back! Sort of. Trying to figure out how to do this via new to me technology so bear with me. I totally could have used a class on how to blog on an ipad in college!

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Can you tell I’ve downloaded (uploaded?) the instagram app? Anyway the boys and I are having fun moving into the 21st century. We even figured out how to stream netflix on the wii! Woo hoo!

Anyway crossing my fingers this makes blogging easier (and more frequent for the grandparents)! Peace :)

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Spring

The geese are back! And we’re so excited. We already saw baby goslings but had no camera! Anyhow geese from Nate’s work, we missed you! And Spring. We definitely missed you.

We found this nest in a tree at my husbands job in the winter. I went back to check on it and flowers had bloomed everywhere.

And this one? I took a few months ago but I don’t think my dad has seen it. So there you go. We’ll be in the backyard looking for bugs and edible weeds!

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May 5, 2012 · 9:57 pm

Ninja Part 3: Weapons

Okay we’ve covered garb and training. Now you’re little ones have been practicing their agility and speed skills, get your thinking caps on for weapon making.

If weapons make you leery here are some great articles that argue in favor of weapon play.

http://www.mothering.com/parenting/gun-play Short and sweet letter style post.

http://www.pgpedia.com/g/gun-play Short and sweet article.

http://sandradodd.com/peace/guns A collection of thoughts, quotes, and personal experiences.

I’d write one myself but I have ninja topics to cover. Maybe next time. Okay just a blurb: I’ll say that my children have a bazillion toy weapons in their toy box and we have fashioned everything from a gun holster to the nun-chucks I’m going to write about. My kids are compassionate and not “violent” or aggressive people.  They know the hurting people for real is different than pretend play. It has opened dialogue for  topics like “What to do if you go to a friends house and they have a gun?” (answer, find a grown up. Even if you think it’s a toy gun) or “Why is it dishonorable to attack someone from the back?” or “Is it ever okay to use a weapon in self defense?” Etc. . . Just like we approach tv or any other thing that comes up, my husband and I are our children’s partners standing by to help them process as they experience and learn about things.  They also are learning how to channel their aggression appropriately, being careful not to point at each others faces, figuring out safe boundaries, finding appropriate “targets” to “shoot,” discovering inappropriate times to play and why,  the list goes on and on.

We had a friend over who wasn’t normally allowed any weapon play but was given the okay by his mom. Guess which of the three kids hurt someone? The child with no experience. It wasn’t intentional but my kid got whacked in the head pretty hard with a newbie wielding a sword.  Obviously accidents happen. Occasionally a sword or stick gets put away if my own kiddos get “crazy arms.” But I’ve seen groups of children safely run around with weapons while maintaining harmony, using their experience to abide by consensual rules and without incidence. That said, it’d be irresponsible to expect a 2 year old to always keep things safe.  So I do my best to stay close and intervene when he (or his brother) gets too excited. Even at two he’s learning about his own strength and boundaries.

Okay the good stuff! Ninja weapons and how to make your own:

Throwing Stars (Shuriken)Variation One:

God’s eye stars. You know those popsicle crosses that you thread yard around? Well they look like cool throwing stars! Here is a tutorial.

Here’s the wikipedia background on ninja stars.

Throwing Stars (Shuriken) Variation Two:

Cut cardboard, Styrofoam, card stock, any thick somewhat sturdy material  into star shapes like these. I’d make you a template but we just free handed ours.  (They aren’t symmetrical anyway.) Decorate with markers and add modpodge to reinforce or cover the whole thing with duct or electrical tape to make them look metal. We used aluminum foil for some of ours and covered them with clear tape. I bet glitter would be fun! Like paper airplanes it’s a fun experiment to see what shapes and materials get the best air. Mix it up. Test them out.

Target (the store) has some inexpensive and super nice foam ones. Light weight and symmetrical. (can’t find the link online, sorry!) The blue plastic ones are store bought as well.

Baskets are great for creating target practice. A large poster board with “points assigned could be fun too.

Nunchucks or Nunchaku:

We made ours with pieces of cylinder shaped foam that was left over from rods on a broken trampoline. We cut the foam down and then used rope to make chain links. Black electrical tape worked well.

If you don’t happen to randomly have cylinder shaped foam lying around your house (yeah I know, please don’t look in my “supply/craft” closets) you can find it at hardware stores as pipe insulating foam. A good back up are toilet paper rolls. Cover them with black electrical tape (or similar) to reinforce them if you want them to last longer.  Punch two holes on the edges. Now start tying short pieces rope into loops creating links and cover at least the knots with electrical, or duct tape if you’re going for the metal look. Ours have five links.

Wikipedia nunchacku background.

Ninjato Swords:

We have yet to make a sturdy homemade sword. Cardboard from paper towel rolls or aluminum foil make better telescopes than swords. Sticks are easy enough for impromptu ninja fights. But so far our most used ninja swords are store bought ones like this and this. Our favorites are from the dollar store. They make cool chinging noises! We’d love to fashion a weapon pack too but I haven’t figured out how to make one so small. If I ever figure it out, I’ll update.

Katana swords are more common if you’re searching for toy swords but technically Ninjato are the ones unique to ninjas.

Sais:

Same as above. We got a cheap pair at a costume store during halloween like these. But if you’re up for the attempt I’d suggest card board/foam and duct tape. These do fit nicely in the back of a shirt so it’s the favorite for covert operations.

Wikipedia and sais.

Happy weaponsmithing!I’d love to see what others come up with!

Ninja Part 1: Garb

Ninja Part 2: Training

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Ninja Part 2: training

Now that you’re looking the part we’ll move on to the fun stuff. In case you missed it here is Part 1. If ninjas aren’t your kiddo’s thing you might skip the writing and just smile at the cute kid pictures :) I’m trying to cram all my knowledge of kid friendly ninja activities into a few not so short posts.

One of the important things about ninjas, is the training. Otherwise known as Ninjutsu. Learn more about it here.

For the sake of fun though we’ll keep it light and not quite so lethal. As a mom I’ve been honored with role of ninja master and often am overseer of training. Here are some of the areas we’ve practiced.

Stealth: Practice using your environment. Blend into the shadows. Camouflage into trees and brush. Can they press up against a wall and round a corner without being seen? How about some sneaky missions. Can they make an item appear or deliver a letter without you noticing them? May day is coming up, perhaps the perfect spring mission: leaving flowers on your neighbor’s stoop!

Silence: How long can your kiddo play the quiet game? Whoever stays quiet the longest wins! The blinking game fits too (whoever blinks first, you get the idea). And the NO smiling game! That one will guarantee giggles. Ninjas are mentally strong and disciplined. Do you and your kiddos make the cut?

Physical training: Calisthenics can help ninjas get strong: push ups, jumping jacks, pull ups. Along with strength don’t forget speed and endurance! Vinny loves to test himself by running against the clock (or rather me counting out loud), competing against their own records. Speed tests can be advantageous to the chore master too. I’m not above sending them on missions to be the fastest ninjas to put the clean rags back in the kitchen. (or course we replace rags with “secret messages” and kitchen with “the War Lord’s samurai castle.”

Obstacle courses: This can be done indoors or out. Outside we balance on logs and jump off walls. Inside we often make ours with cushions, our bubble machine, a small trampoline re-bounder, and carpet squares. Highlights on being able to jump from one thing to another, crawling through tunnels(chairs, tables), and of course kicking and hiya-ing along the way! Those invisible bad guys are always lurking.  Use yarn to construct a course tied from furniture or taped to walls, the object being not to touch the “lasers.” For bonus ninja points add some cardboard block towers  to kick down or even trickier kicking over, without knocking them down. Or kicking higher than the tape on the wall. They should be worn out after training.

Skills: I’ll talk weapons next post but kids can really get to thinking about their skills. Which ones can help them in their missions? Knot tying may be handy. Learning to make an herbal salve out of coconut oil or beeswax. Mapping is another great skill they might like . Foraging, cooking . . .

Obviously martial arts is a huge part of ninjas. My kiddos have never taken a class so we make up our own kicking and chopping routines but if your ninja seems interested sometimes you can take a free week long introductory course at your local dojo. We didn’t get there yet but it’s not off the table. If we get around to watching some old Kung Fu movies (other than King Fu Panda which we love!) I’ll be sure to come back and post too. Not a ninja movie but next year I’m thinking Karate Kid might be a hit here.  This martial arts book is also kinda cool too, for a rundown of the different types.

If I could only buy one ninja book though it’s be Ninjas: Masters of Stealth and Secrecy. It’s non fiction but has a good amount of pictures combined with really interesting facts. A used copy will set you back less than $5.

And for when they need some less active activities, we love our ipad apps and one of Rocky’s favorites is:

Super ninja goes great with the training theme. Throwing ninja stars and objects at targets.

Fruit ninja  gets rave kiddo reviews too. Who doesn’t love slicing fruit.

8ButNinja is frustrating for my guys but I think it’s cute. Mostly you dodge fruit and earn money for stuff.

Urban ninja and Ninja Jump are faster paced but also ninja related.

Really the only ones my young kiddos love are the first two, though the others are still pretty simple and straight forward games compared to most out there. They’re all free or .99

We also found this cute mental exercise of a computer game on Starfall.com It’s fairly benign but if your kiddo tends to frustrate easily like mine does with video games, stay close by. I had a lot of fun helping play it!

Last but not least, you’ll need a playlist for your training. And this is one of our favorite songs to get us pumped:

And before anyone gets their panties in a bunch, yes Kung Fu is not necessarily related to ninjas, along with laser yarn, but when your kids are 4 and 2, the worst thing you can do is get stuck on the details. If it’s remotely related, it gets play. There is nothing quicker to kill spontaneous fun and learning than a mom trying to turn everything into a lesson. Trust me, I speak from experience. Carry on warriors and masters.

And please link me pictures of your own obstacle courses! We love to swap ideas.

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Birthday

So it might be a bit late but I didn’t want to skip it. Rocky turned two last month and it was kind of a sucky birthday. Things went wrong and Nate didn’t get back from his business trip until way after the boys were in bed. The next weeks were spent recovering from illness and jet lag. Fortunately we did manage a cake and then grandma came up for a proper low key bbq where we made up for it. All he really cared about was singing and blowing out candles anyway. We did plenty of that. And presents too.

So I have no more babies, he’s a toddler now! :( But enough about me and my bittersweet feelings about growth. Let’s celebrate Rocky. His enthusiasm for life is like no one else I know. People should take notes from this guy. He kicks ass!

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Ninja part 1: Garb and “research”

My kiddo loves all things powerful. We started out with dinosaurs and dragons and easily transitioned superheroes and gi joes. Well he did, it took me a bit of adjusting. But it’s no surprise we entered a ninja phase and still haven’t quite left. They are different in that they have more restraint and discipline, but still quite a desirable tough guy role to act out. It’s been amusing watching Vinny test himself, going minutes without speaking and slinking around corners trying not to be seen.

Much to my dismay ninjas are best known as ruthless mercenaries, but that wasn’t their only task. They also worked to deliver messages to important people and gathered information as spies. There were women ninjas too. In fact the whole darn history is fascinating. They were real!

I’ve done a lot of googling and amazon window shopping researching all things ninja. I’ll send this out in parts in order to make it more comprehensive. I imagine it can save other moms with ninja loving kids some time! So onto the ninja basics:

Ninja garb

uniform-This can be as elaborate or as simple as you want to make it. A pair of black pants and a black long sleeve shirt, or even better, an all black hoodie (built in mask), are all that’s really needed but we like this one from amazon. It’s super easy for young ones to get on or off. We’ve also been able to put it over clothes. Poke around amazon for dozens more.The hood is key but can also be fashioned out of a solid color scarf and beanie. The black outfit isn’t historical but it is a common scene in Hollywood. And much more convenient for moms. Worth googling for the curious.

optional items:

Tabi socks- These are ninja socks that separate the big toe from the rest. They are tight on adults so don’t worry about the size so much as they don’t have a heel which sort of makes them a one size fits all. They aren’t the most comfortable foot wear, so don’t bother investing in the tabi shoes. If anything sew a gripper (upcycled rubber/leather) to make them less slippery on wooden floors. They are for the most dedicated of ninjas. You could even get a pair of black socks and stitch between the toes if you didn’t want to order a pair.

Ski mask- We found the costume hoods and scarfs tend to slip with lots of activity. For those who have a lot of bad guys to fight you may think of investing in one of these. Cheap and serves a dual purpose. It’s a winter beanie after all! My little ninja does fine since it’s an adult size and can be pulled down for fresh air, but consider your own child’s preferences. They have masks with bigger and smaller holes and some with dual holes for eyes and mouth. They get quite warm but really are an excellent choice for the winter ninja. We don’t have these lighter weight hoods but they could be a cooler alternative.

Belts-  Be it a scarf or actual belt it’s the best way we’ve found to carry our swords. Vinny hopes to fashion a sword back pack but as it stand the ones on amazon are too big for little guys. And not so durable. Belts work okay though.

Stories

For starter ninjas we loved the Magic Tree House ninja book. In fact their whole series is great for getting you into a pretend play mood. The ninja adventure is particularly good though. Out-ling how ninja’s use nature and some of their basic traits, like stealth and silence. I won’t give too much away. It’s a cute story to boot! We prefer to listen to it as an audio book. In fact we listen to most chapter books in the car. We got ours from the library so check yours out before you buy them!

Here are a few more that are cute books with ninjas in them:

Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted To Be Noticed  by J. C. Phillips

The Boy Who Cried Ninja  by Alex Latimer

Ninja Cowboy Bear Present the Way of the Ninja by David Bruins

We found a couple of these at our library too.

Other ninja related media we like:

Fyi, there are books related to all of these too for those kiddos who love to read books adapted from their favorite shows.

Gi joe’s. I know I know, I also swore my kids wouldn’t watch stuff like that either, but they often spark the most excellent conversation.  Snake eyes is a particularly honorable character. (the picture above is also a snake eyes costume) Storm Shadow and Jinx  have a history with him that’s quite juicy too. We have the old version on dvd but I’ll warn you they are a bit outdated and racy. The new version is actually more pc. Either way they portray some of the only real life employed super heroes (boy were we sad to discover that batman isn’t a real job)  and my kiddo loves them. So we watch together often and learn a lot. The figurines are fun to collect and make versatile characters. We’ve found both old and new on ebay and amazon as well as antique store. When we play I usually get to be Jinx!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles  Not my all time favorite characters but they grow on you. Super goofy, not as many ninja skills but a big hit here.

Ninjagos- Totally a commercial for the toys but then again aren’t most cartoons. Yet we have no Lego Ninjagos stuff. (We should probably remedy that as all things Lego are quite fun.) But we look forward to seeing new episodes each week. More ninja like stuff and some potentially scary skeleton bad guys. The boys love spinning around yelling Ninja Go! This show inspired our obstacle course training too, as it’s a bit more traditional as far as ninja stories start off.

Power Rangers  These guys have the most confusing series. They have several variations. We like the Dino Thunder series best. Read this Cracked.com article if you really want to shake your head thinking on old school cartoons.

It’s amusing to find myself twenty years later watching shows I never liked as a kid but enjoying alongside my kids, because they like them. Though it’s worked out for the husband as he now has a lot in common with them. In fact the Jinx I get to play with once belonged to him!

But I digress. I’ll add more on weapons and training this week and follow up with origins and samurai. Happy chinging  (our sword sound)!

And for those looking to learn more about our tv watching habits I have a super long post where I dig in deep here.

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Almost Spring

In like a Lion. It snowed big but luckily it got warm enough to keep Jack Frost from overstaying his welcome.  Anyhow if you're in New England you'll know these pictures are from two weeks ago but they are uploaded and grandparents need new material to brag about, so here ya go!

 

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 He gets his work ethic from me.

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This is worth discussing as Rocky generalized something somewhat specific. Vinny has a Iron Man button that attaches to his shirt and when pressed lights up with noise. It's a two piece deal that's held together with the shirt wedged in between. That Rocky thought to do this with magnets was pretty cool considering it hasn't been in the play rotation for several months. It's been neat to see all kinds of inventiveness pop up in his play.

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 Vinny is "experimenting" here. Realizing that the paper towel got more or less wet in one spot depending on how far away he sprayed kept him busy for a good 20 minutes. Glad we didn't replace all the paper products with cloth. Something tells me he'll enjoy this experiment too.

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 My favorite superheroes using their spy gear. Funny how batman didn't enter our life until Vinny was 4 but Rocky is not only wise to the na na nas but quite adept at fending off bad guys. 

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This kid is all lashes.

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We've been practicing cracking eggs.

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Yup, Rocky too.

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We discovered that magnets and cans/washers/screws make great robot building materials. And that soda cans don't.

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 When I got sick of outside snow they talked me into bringing some in.

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We made faces with our breakfast.

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Squeezed some fresh orange juice.

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And made more faces with our dinner.

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Finally the snow melted and the boys took their absolute favorite game outside: "Stuck." This is where they get stuck and yell for me over and over until I give them a hand and pretend to pull them out. This happens on the couch several times a day as well as pretty much anywhere you could potentially fall prey to quicksand, goopy mud, tight spaces, and where tricky monster arms may be lurking.

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Don't tease me New England!

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 The beloved crocus has arrived!

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And has become the now squashed crocus.

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Always treasure to be found in mud and dirt. Here is a cap from a cap gun. "Let's put this in my special box mom!"

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Oh and mud. But I'll take it. Out like a lamb right?

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