The State Fair

Money pit or educational event?

As a child our family stayed away from the State Fair because we thought it was a money trap. Arcade barkers had games rigged to rarely allow a win and there were outrageously priced rides. But as a parent I’ve learned that the State Fair can be fun and educational without being too expensive.  I live in Arizona so the links below will connect to the Arizona State Fair site, but I check the 2014 State Fair Directory and there is a State fair in every state in the United States; some large states even have two, one for Eastern and one for Western areas.

So, here are my tips for an affordable, fun, learning adventure.

Admission – go when there are discounts. In previous years the Arizona State Fair opened on the Friday of our Fall Break from school and the admission price was $1 that day. I’m sad to see that discount isn’t available this year, but there are others times that are free or $2. Realize that if the discount reads “Free admission between 12:00 and 2:00” you simply need to enter between those times but can stay as long as you want.

Read and Ride program: Kids ages 5-14 can read 3 books to earn 3 rides.  Depending on the size of ride they choose, it can be over a $20 value per child.

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Visit the free exhibitsPetting zoo, Duck races, Reptile adventure, Kerr’s Farm tours, Slack Wire Sam acrobat show, Figure 8 racing (even dad’s would like this one!), Racing Lemurs, Native American Dancers and more. A few events are ongoing throughout the day but check the calendar for times of those that only show once a day. Don’t miss seeing all the different animals in the agriculture building and check out the exhibits in the Coliseum building. Last year in the Coliseum my grandsons and I found something we had not seen on the map; lots of full sized taxidermy jungle animals placed in areas that looked like their natural environment. It turned out to be one of their favorite parts.

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My teenage daughter got to feed and pet a Llama.

As a child she also won a ribbons at the fair for baking and sewing projects.




Did you know your kids could enter items into the State Fair? I didn’t until an experienced mom told me that every year she has her daughters sew items to enter. But you don’t have to know how to sew to enter. There are hundreds of entry categories; Baked items, Scrap book pages, Models built from kits, Recycled art, Engineering projects and even making Duct tape item (clothes, shoes or accessories). The list of categories is so inclusive it feels like there is something for everybody! There is a category especially for children 6-11 years old (the competition is not steep).

Entering items does require that you make a few trips to the fair grounds. You’ll need to take the items over early and picking them up after the fair is finished. But it will feel worth the time the day your kids go and admire the ribbons they’ve won. The entry fee is $1 per item but there are small cash prizes for first, second and third places.  SO, when you go to the fair this year, check out the Competitive display areas and see if it’s something your kids would like to do next year.

Parking – This is the only part that I’ve not found a good discount for and that is not educational or fun. But I have learned that I would rather park in the fair ground parking and only walk a short distance for $7 rather than park a mile or more away and pay $5.

And last but not least – the FOOD. I can’t resist the smell of the greasy, yummy food. We take snacks and water but do splurge on a food item.

Going to the State Fair is the type of activity that makes learning (and teaching) fun for me. If you live in the city taking your kids to the fair can let them see animals they might never see anywhere else, and they can be exposed to new and enriching sites and ideas.

Where Do Babies Come From?


Spencer 5:14

When I was 5 or 6 years old and I found a book in my mom’s room about Motherhood and pregnancy.  I remember it had a light blue hardback cover with the face of a smiling woman on front. It would have been published in the 1950’s and it showed by the pre-MRI black and white line drawings of a women’s body with all it’s parts labeled. It showed a cross section of a pregnant women and the baby inside her at all different stages of gestation. I opened the book and must have sensed it was something very private because I remember taking the book and hiding under the covers of my moms bed, out of site, to look at all the pictures. After I’d been looking for who knows how long my mom pulled back the blanket and found me. I thought I would be in trouble looking at the book. But my wise mother sat down beside me and asked what I was doing (although I’m sure she already knew). She explained to me that if I was looking at the book as something nasty or to laugh at that that was wrong, but if I wanted to know about the body and about how babies grow that I could look at it all I wanted to learn about the miracle of birth.

Fast-forward almost 50 years – Recently I went to the library and checked out all the children’s books I could find on conception and birth. My plan was to make a reading list of books parents could read to their children to help explain the human reproductive process.  I took the books with me to our cabin and my grandchildren happened to be there. So in the afternoon I got permission from my son and daughter-in-law to read the books to their children.  My initial thought was how fortunate I was to have a practice audience, but I was surprised the different feelings I had as I read. I was sitting on the porch on the bench swing in a cool breezy afternoon with two little boys I loved dearly snuggled close when I opened the first book. The first few pages were comfortable to read and we were all chatting about the pictures and enjoying it. As we got further into the book the pages started showing male and female body part and labeling them with their correct name. I started to get a little uncomfortable. This was sensitive ground and I began to remember why it was difficult for to talk to our kids about conception, birth and all the other things that come along with that topic.  I also found it interesting how differently the 4 ½ year old responded to the information compared to the 6½  year old. The older one got real quiet while the younger one pointed out pictures on the page that were totally unrelated to the subject at hand, like the cute cat that appeared on each page. I learned and was reminded of several things by this experience.

Parents should start young and talk often about the facts of life with their children. Berkendamp and Atkins, authors of, Talking to your Kids About Sex” suggest thatstarting the conversation about sex with your kids when they are young helps set the stage for open and honest communication throughout their lives- especially at those time when it will matter most”.

Meg Hickling in Speaking of Sex writes, “For children, silence on the part of the parents becomes a profound message to the child that this is a taboo subject. ‘My family does not talk about this, it must be bad, and I’ll be in big trouble if I mention ‘it’ or ask about ‘it’”.  Children need to be shown that talking about sex is private but not secret.

Only tell them what they are ready for. One day a young boy came home from school and asked his mom, “Where did I come from”? His mom thought, “Oh no, the time has come…” and she proceeded to give him a detailed lesson on the facts of life. After the mom finished her explanation the wide-eyed boy was silent for a moment and then answered, “Wow, Johnny just said he was from Cleveland”.

To avoid giving more information than your child is ready for, paraphrase the question they ask before you answer. This helps make sure you understand what your child wants to know.

When your child comes to you with a question about sex immediately say, “I’m so glad you came to me to ask that”.  This not only puts your child at ease because they see you are not mad at them for asking the question, it also give you a few seconds to calm down and decide how to answer. Also, it’s okay to say, “I need time to think about the best way to answer this, I promise we’ll talk about it after dinner tonight” then make sure you do.

Create a comfortable setting. A counselor friend of mine once told me that when he had a child client with tough things that needed to be talked about he’d take them to the park to feed the ducks. In his experience, conversation flowed easier while gazing at the lake than if they were sitting across from each other trying to make (or not make) eye contact.  I also found it helpful to talk about these types of things while lying next to my child, at bedtime, with only the night light on. I even once had a discussion with a child about birth control while we rode bikes on the boardwalk next to the ocean.

Talking to children about this subject will be very different depending on the age of the child. Teaching children about where babies come from is more that just teaching about sex. Below is a very abbreviated list of what to talk to children about at different ages.

Toddlers –This age is curious about their bodies and how they work. This is the stage for teaching about gender, functions of the body, parts of the body and their correct names.

Preschoolers- At this age boys and girls will notice boys and girls bodies are different from each other. Teach about appropriate/inappropriate touch, and that we only talk about these personal things in private (not blurted out in the grocery store isle).

Six to nine year olds- Kids at this age are starting to think more concretely and want some strait answers. They are starting to think things like, “How did that baby get in mom” and “how does the baby fit in mom’s tummy with all the food she eats”? If these type questions leave you speechless, there are books that can help parents know good answers to questions kids ask (see our reading list below).  They might also tell you that the whole idea is gross (remember this is the age when they see people kissing on the lips and say, “Yuuuuck”).  They also might say they will never do THAT! To which you can respond, “That’s good you don’t want to right now, because you’re too young” or “When you grow up you don’t have to if you don’t want but when you’re older it might seem like a good idea to you”.

Pre-teens and teens- At this age kids will probably not want you to talk to them at all about the topic. I think a few kids will be brave enough to ask a parent a question, but if there has not been ANY conversation between parent and child before this point, it could be an awkward to time to begin teaching about the subject.  This does not mean you should not try. Look for opportunities to bring up the subject; watch a NOVA or PBS special together and let them know you are always open for questions. Remind them that you are there to offer correct information as what they have heard from friends or other sources may not be accurate.

Bringing home a new baby or visiting someone who has a newborn seems to be a catalyst for good discussion.

So each stage our child is in requires a different approach. There are some books I found that I think contain good words to borrow to answer some of the questions your kids might ask that could leave you speechless. The picture books can be a good springboard to start conversation on the subject.

Suggested books

Picture books

What’s the Big Secret?  By Laurie Brown and Marc Brown

The Baby Tree by Blackall

It’ Not the Stork by Harris and Emberley

Getting Ready For New Baby Harriet Ziefert and Laura Rader

The Visual Dictionary of the Human Body Eye Witness Visual Dictionary

Book for parents

Talking to your Kids about Sex from toddlers to preteens. By Berkenkamp and Antiks (Don’t let the silly illustrations scare you away from this book, the info they write is excellent).

Speaking of Sex by Meg Hickling

So You Want to Raise a Boy (see pg 283-285 for typical questions of children)

This may be a difficult subject for you to approach with your child but remember, as a parent YOU ARE YOUR CHILDS BEST TEACHER.  Telling your child, “As you get a little older and your hormones start to kick in, you will have feelings you’ve never had before. You may start to think things you never imagined, but that’s all normal, it happens to everyone” will help them know nothing is wrong with them.

Start early, mention it often, and try not to panic no matter what they ask.

From a teacher’s perspective, Lindsey adds:

Nature seems to bring up a lot of questions regarding reproduction. I know that more than a few times I have had students in my class ask why some eggs have chicks inside and we could eat the other ones. They wanted to know the difference between the eggs, how to know if it would have a chick or if it would be safe to eat, etc. Since I was their teacher and not their parent I would say, “That’s a great question, you should ask your mom or dad about that”.



Remember to be FUN

Annie w dad and comics

Parenting can often seem filled with so many “don’ts” and “hurry ups” and the need to be firm and consistent. As a result, it’s easy to get so focused on business that we forget to BE FUN.

It only take a few minutes to leave what your doing and go wrestle on the floor.  Your child will remember what you did rather than how long it lasted.

Some of my fondest memories with my children were small simple things –

Tickles in mom and dads bed on Sunday mornings.

Wrestling on the floor.  Occasionally dad would “play dead” and could only be brought back to life by a kiss.

Eating lunch or dinner sitting on an old sheet spread on the grass outside (You have to take time to eat anyway, right?). Younger kids would love to eat their food on tiny tea party type dishes.

 “Doing time” with dad. That meant one evening a week a child got 30 minutes with dad’s undivided attention. The child got to choose what ever they wanted to do for the activity.  WARNING: sometimes what the child wanted to do seemed silly to us as adults, but during this time, they chose. Rules might need to be set before this tradition begins, such as; needs to be within a certain distance from home, or can’t cost more that a certain amount of money.

 Read a picture book or 5 minutes from a chapter book.

I asked my kids their memories and here are some of the things they remember:

    • Flashlight tag
    • Coloring on big sheets of paper
    • “Helping in the kitchen”
    • Dancing in the living room while mom played the piano (and getting insanely dizzy from spinning during the “Spinning Song”). Or you can use the radio.
    • Bike/wagon rides
    • Looking through the cedar chest
    • Helping in the garden
    • Reading Sunday comics together in the recliner chair.
    • Being read to each night by the light of the closet, before bedtime.

Kids grow up fast. It feels like you blink and they are teen-agers who don’t want to spend as much time with you, so enjoy it while it lasts.

Say “No” to “No”

No is said several ways, “No”, “Don’t”, “Stop that” or “Shhhhh”.

When your child does something that you don’t want them to do it’s easy and tempting to say, “No” or, “Don’t”.  But if you say that often enough they will stop paying attention when they hear the word.

Instead, try giving an explanation. I love watching little people’s faces when you explain why and they soak it up—they’re just trying to figure out the world and giving detailed explanations really helps them do that.

If your child is jumping on the bed rather that saying, “No”, “Don’t do that”, or “Stop that right now”.  Try telling them WHY they should not be making that choice. Tell them, “If you jump on the bed it might break then you would have to sleep on the ground and that would not be warm or comfortable”. Or, “Jumping on your bed makes all the blankets and sheets come off and get dirty. I don’t want to make my bed again today, do you?”

Or if they are eating while sitting on the carpet, try explaining why you don’t want them to do that. Say, “When food gets on the carpet we can’t just wipe it up like we can when it’s on the table or tile. I don’t want to pay to have our carpet cleaned when food spills and if you don’t want to pay either, then you should choose to eat in the kitchen”.

Church is the classic “NO” time. For some reason it’s tempting to say “Shhhhhh” when a child asks a question during a reverent time.  I think it’s because we don’t want to be irreverent by talking. But chances are the more you “shhh” a child the more frustrated they will become, and that could get louder. Ask them if it the question can wait, if not have them whisper what they want and give them a quiet answer.

For example if the child is kicking the bench in front of them instead of, “Don’t”, try saying “The people sitting in the bench your kicking can feel it and it makes it hard for them to pay attention to what’s going on in church”.

If you are at the library and you child is treating a book rough rather than, “Stop”, tell them why it’s important to be careful with expensive books.

If you’re at the park and they dump sand on their sisters head… what should you do? YES—explain WHY that’s not a good idea.

Don’t throw the words, “No” and “Stop” out of your vocabulary. Save them for when your child is running out into the street or in a life-threatening situation where you need to act quickly – that’s where they belong.

A tip to help you break the “No” habit; if you start to say, “No” or “Don’t”, STOP, and start your sentence, instead, with “If” or “When”.  Tune in next week for some examples and sample words you can use to help you stop saying, “No” so much and help you learn to be a more affective parent.

Use each experience as a teaching moment. Remember they might not know why you want them to stop and saying, “No” is no explanation.

Holiday traditions


It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Traditions can really make the holiday season a fun, wonderful time of the year.  We want to share a few of our favorite traditions with you.  We have also gathered traditions from others.  We hope as you read you will be reminded of your wonderful traditions and possibly find another (or a few) to start doing.

Lindsey here.  I can’t express how much I love this time of the year!  I wait for it all year (and am already sad that it’s almost over when it just barely started…).  I thought I’d share some of my favorite traditions before we shared ones others have shared.

My family helps pass the LONG afternoon before Christmas Eve by playing football at the junior high school down the street.  Then we get Chinese food to take home and eat.

The day before Thanksgiving we make pies at my momma’s house.  This year the nephews joined us.

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My mom and dad were introduced due to a gingerbread-making class my mom taught.  We now make gingerbread houses every year right after Thanksgiving.  Now that we are grown up, each sibling makes his/her own gingerbread, brings candy and gathers to decorate.



We debated putting our recipe and pattern here. We ended up not adding it, but if that’s something you’d like, leave a comment or shoot us an email and we’d be HAPPY to get it to you!

Christmas Eve we gather around the Christmas tree at bedtime, turn out the room light, and read the story of the Saviors birth from Luke 2 by the light of the tree lights.

There is a picture book called The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey.  At some point during the season we read this aloud as a family.

Christmas morning (despite the fact that more than half my family lives away from home) we meet in my parents’ room around 6:00.  We have a family prayer then walk down the hallway to the living room together.  My dad always goes first so he can turn on the video camera.  We then go around and take turns opening presents.  We all watch as someone opens so that we don’t miss anything and it takes longer than if we all opened at the same time.

My husband’s family has a White Elephant gift exchange every year.  We bring food, eat, visit, steal gifts, and end up with a present at the end of the night.

My husband’s family also does humongous stocking!  You know the stockings that are 3 feet tall?  They use those.  Since they are so huge everyone helps fill them up.  Each family member buys a few things to contribute.  Late Christmas Eve we all go over and put our gifts into the big stocking.  They are usually filled with food, treats, gag gifts, small trinkets, and little gifts.

Whew!  That’s enough with me!  Let’s move on.  Thanks to those who shared their holiday traditions with us.  Here are traditions we have collected from readers, family, and friends:

A 9-year-old girl said they go to their grandparents’ house (in another state) to spend Christmas. On Christmas Eve all the grand kids build a “nest” out of blankets and pillows in the Family Room then lay in it. They watch Christmas movies until they fall asleep.

Several mom’s said their families drive around to look at Christmas lights then drink hot chocolate, on the way home or when they get home.

One reader wrote “Last year, we went Christmas Caroling to widows and widowers we know.  They loved to see our girls!  We sang a couple of song and gave them a card my girls helped make.  Baking was too much for me. We kept the list short so we could visit a few minutes with these sweet people who miss their closest loved one, especially during the holidays.  It was such a sweet experience for us and for them!”

“I like to have my kids make an ornament every year–it can be simple or complex–but have them write their names on them and the year.  My kids love putting them on the tree each year!”

One girl said that her mother re-married and changed all their traditions. She missed the things they used to do. So remember, if you’re blending a family there can be so many changes that keeping traditions the same can be an anchor for the children.

One family reads the book, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

Another family eats Mexican food on Christmas Eve and reads the story of the birth of the Savior from Luke 2.

One family in my neighborhood has a number of fun traditions.  They open matching pajamas every Christmas Eve.  They then wear then to bed and match the next morning.  They also read The Little Match Girl by Han Christian Andersen.  During the holiday season, their grandma comes over with a batch of sugar cookie dough; they then cook and decorates cookies with her. In addition to all these wonderful traditions, they play the Right Family Christmas game.  I had never heard of this one and I love it!  They also invite a few family members over to dress up and act out the nativity.  Christmas Eve they always read T’was the Night Before Christmas in the Desert.

Another fun tradition that was shared was a family that goes to see A Christmas Carol every year at the Hale Theatre.  Some years they invite another family, sometimes they enjoy it with just their immediate family.

One of my good friends grandpa owned a hotel.  Christmas is one of the busiest days in that industry.  If her father’s family opened presents on Christmas Day, his dad would miss it.  So they would open presents on Christmas Eve.  Now, 2 generations later they still adhere to that tradition (even though the family is no longer in that business).  Santa still brings one big gift for Christmas morning, but other than that all the presents are opened the night before.

I heard from two separate families that they have a white stocking for Christ.  On Christmas Eve each family member gives a gift to Christ.  It’s supposed to be a way that you will remember Him during the holiday.  They write it on a piece of paper and put it in the stocking.  It could be anything from being nicer to a family member, to being more helpful to others.

Many families shared that they eat a fancy dinner Christmas Eve.  They have a ham, use China, and have a nice big family dinner.

A Christmas Eve hike with a fire on the top of the mountains is a tradition for one family.  At the top as they are around the fire, they talk about forgiveness and tell stories.

A couple families who have private pilots in their families fly over Christmas lights at night.

A friend told me about her sister who has an enchanting tradition.  She, her husband, and young child had just moved across the country for her husband to start attending Harvard.  Money was incredible tight that year.  Since they couldn’t afford a tree of any other decorations she decided to make her own decorations.  She took newspapers and old school textbooks and cut out paper snowflakes.  She hung them ALL over the house.  Since then (over 20 years ago), the whole family makes snowflakes each year.  They pick their favorite one each year, write their name and the date.  They have saved snowflakes from EACH year and when they decorate, their living room is covered with snowflakes from all the years.

What ever your traditions are, we hope that you have a wonderful season!  Thanks for stopping by and have a happy holiday!


Helping kids deal with death

 I know this is a heavy topic this week.  Early Sunday morning my husband’s grandma passed away.  She was 97 and lived a long, full, wonderful life.  Despite all that, it is still sad to have her gone.

In light of her passing and the events to come, a relative wrote in: “How can I help my children cope with death of a loved one?  I’m especially concerned about the viewing.”

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Death can be a really hard thing for kids to understand and deal with.

As I thought about this, my mind went back to the first death I dealt with.  Here is the journal entry my 9-year-old self wrote:

IMG_3487“8-8-95  My Great grandma died.  My hamster died the same day it was a hard day.  I was rilly sad. And I’m still sad. I went to her funaral it was my first funaral.  She died a few days before her Birthday.  She died 8-2-95.”

Here I am 16 years later and I still feel a lot of those same things now.  Having someone die who is close to us is sad and I don’t think that will ever change.  Here are some good ways to help young children work through that grief and find comfort, hope, and peace:

Listen.  It is healthy for kids to talk about what they are thinking and feeling.  This also helps them identify what is bothering them the most.  Sometimes, as adults we get tired of them asking questions or talking about it so much.  But try to be patient and let them talk. They may start to worry that they could die, or one of their parents (not just an old person) might die.  On the other hand, some children will not want to talk about it, but need to be encouraged to do so.

Let them cry and grieve.  This seems to be the most painful part: the many tears and the heartache.  Yet this is part of the process to healing and accepting.  Convey that to your child!  It is natural and healthy to feel sad.  The length of time a child/person needs to grieve is different for every individual.  Bear in mind that it may not go completely away.  I still feel sadness for those I have lost even thought many years have past.  The good news is that as time passes the hurt lessens.

Tell happy memories.  When my maternal grandmother passed away about 5 years ago we had a ‘memory sharing’ at the gravesite.  I remember how nice it was to share my happy memories about her and hear memories other had as well.

Talk about the afterlife/religion. I have always found a great amount of peace knowing that I will see my loved ones after this life.  Also remember that lots of questions will likely arise.  Be open and honest as you answer questions your kids have.  My knowledge has always been an incredible anchor during these hard times.  This little video is a good way to show kids about our bodies and spirits.

Write in a journal.  If your child already has a journal they could write their feelings and memories there.  If they don’t yet own a journal it could be a good opportunity to start one.  It could also be special if you put together a ‘remembering journal’ as a family.  Each family member could write a few memories, you could glue in pictures, and record the feelings each person has.

Give them choices about the funeral/viewing.  It is beneficial to be open and give your children some choices.  If they have never been to a funeral or viewing, explain what will take place.  Let them know that at a viewing the body may look different than they remember.  Let them know that if at any time during the viewing or funeral they feel uncomfortable they can sit really close to you, take a little break (go into the hallway or step outside for a couple minutes), close their eyes, or take a bathroom break.

Remember that although there is no way to completely erase all the heartache that accompanies death, talking, crying, journaling and retelling happy memories can help children work through the grieving process

Your traditions

tra·di·tion noun \trə-ˈdi-shən\ : a way of thinking, behaving, or doing something that has been used by the people in a particular group, family, society, etc., for a long time

The holidays are knocking at our door!  We have been thinking a lot about holiday traditions.  Every family has different, fun traditions and we want to hear about what you do!  We will be putting together a blog post all about holiday traditions soon.

What do we want from you?  Let us know what you do around this time of the year that makes the holidays special.  If you’re up for it ask your children and let us know what they say (kids always have a different perspective).  It can be anything from a family activity to a favorite recipe.

We have some delightful traditions that we have and will be sharing as well.  Here’s a little sneak peak:


Michelle Johansen put it well when she said; “The holiday season is a time to build lifelong memories with your family.  Traditions also help you bond and reconnect with loved ones, friends, and neighbors.”

So, please take a quick moment and write to us a favorite holiday tradition you have—you can leave a comment here, click over to the “contact us” tab, or shoot us an email @  Then tune in shortly to read our collection of  holiday traditions that you might want to start in your home!