Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: August 2014

Rocky Reach Dam


On our way back from a camping trip in Lake Chelan my husband suggested stopping at Rocky Reach Dam along the Columbia River.

“No way,” I said. “That sounds boring.”

“Twenty minutes, my husband promised. “Tops.”

It turns out we stayed for two hours because the dam was so much fun.


First we checked out the fish ladder and juvenile fish bypass pipe. If you’re not from the Pacific Northwest you might not know what that is, but basically it’s a fancy way to keep fish safe from hydroelectric dams. The visitors center had a short and informative film to watch.

Give salmon a fighting chance

Giving salmon a fighting chance

Click on the picture to find out more information

Click on the picture to find out more information

The pipe is where the fish come out

The pipe is where the fish come out

Cooler than it looks

Cooler than it looks

After viewing the fish ladder we went to the museum about the Columbia River. It had a cool, “Mad Men” era vibe to it. I was really impressed by the museum because it had something for everyone: geology, archeology, anthropology and history.

Paging Don Draper

Paging Don Draper

Turn the crank to make the light bulbs turn on

Turn the crank to make the light bulbs turn on

Inside the dam

Inside the dam

Roll on, Columbia and keep our lights on

Roll on, Columbia and keep our lights on

Outside of the dam there are beautiful grounds to explore. The Chelan PUD really does an amazing job with the flowers. Not pictured is the American Flag planted out of petunias and lobelias.

This is a great place for picnics. The bathrooms were clean and there was an outstanding playground for the kids.

My kids were impressed by the gondola

My kids were impressed by the gondola

So it turns out my husband was right. Rocky Reach was a good dam reason to stop. –What? I couldn’t write a whole post about dams without at least one pun!




Instant Homemade Books


Homemade books are one of the best examples of how parents can help kids learn to read. In a classroom setting, personalized books are difficult to manage. But at home, Mom and child can whip out a book in fifteen minutes. The whole point is to create leveled readers with meaningful content that is sure to engage your kid’s interest.

Homemade books don’t have to be perfect. I talk a lot on my blog about making homemade books from brown paper bags, but there are a myriad of other ways to create them.

Here’s an example of a book my five-year-old daughter and I made for her baby cousin last weekend. Jenna told me what to write and did the illustrations. Sometimes I helped prompt her, but pretty much the words were her own.


Notice how Jenna didn’t want to draw a picture for page one. Totally okay!


See how Jenna drew over the words? That’s okay too.


Rain, yes, well you can tell we live near Seattle! This is a very realistic plot development.


Normally I like to have one sentence per page at this level, but I honored what my daughter wanted me to write.


All in all, this book took us about 15 minutes to create. Then afterward, Jenna read it several times to her cousin. She felt very proud of her creation.

Ideally, it’s best to make 1-2 homemade books per week. Realistically, this is hard to accomplish, especially if you have multiple children. But once school starts in a couple of weeks, Jenna and I are going to be making lots of books as part of my afterschooling plan for half-day Kindergarten.

Boulder River Waterfall


Joan Burton’s fabulous book Best Hikes With Kids: Western Washington & the Cascades has served us well again! Last weekend my family took a trip to Boulder River Falls.

Our drive along the Mountain Loop Highway offered us a sobering look at the devastating mud slide in Oso, as well as the tremendous reconstruction work in progress.


At milepost 41 we turned right onto French Creek Road. 3.8 miles later we found the trailhead packed with families just like ours, who were looking for an easy and fun hike to do with kids. As soon as our Northwest Trails pass was on the dashboard, we were ready for fun.

The hike to Boulder River Falls is relatively flat and easy. Burton says it’s 2.5 miles with a 250 feet elevation gain. My five-year-old daughter was able to handle it just fine. But be warned; there were a lot of bugs. In retrospect, we should have brought bug spray.

As close as I'll ever get to a weirwood throne!

As close as I’ll ever get to a weirwood throne!

The waterfall itself is breathtaking, but my kids’ favorite part of this adventure was throwing rocks into the river. This was good for an hour’s worth of entertainment. Then they discovered a patch of clay, and I knew my car upholstery would never be the same again.

On our way home we stopped by Fruitful Farm and Nursery and picked up some fresh local honey from Oso. It was a very “sweet” way to end the day.


Twin Harbors Beach State Park

Twin Harbors Beach State Park

Twin Harbors Beach State Park

The adventures continue! My “I Brake for Moms” column today was called Pirates weren’t part of the plan for this camping trip and was about Twin Harbors Beach State Park.  Here are some pictures, including shots of the massive die-off of velleas.

Velleas, aka "purple sails"

Velleas, aka “purple sails”




I think these were white mussels attached to a tire.

I think these were white mussels attached to a tire.


For more information about Twin Harbors Beach State Park, please visit their webpage.

P.S. I liked camping sites 262 and above best. They seemed to offer the most privacy–except from pirates.

Zumba Exhilarate vs. Zumba Incredible Results


I wrote an I Brake for Moms column a while ago about my journey back from breaking my wrist and how Zumba had helped. (Please see: What burns more calories, Zumba or kids’ aerobics?)

This post is a specific review of the two versions of Zumba I own, Zumba Fitness Exhilarate and Zumba Fitness Incredible Results. Plus I’m offering a confession: Sometimes I let my kids watch TV downstairs while I’m doing Zumba upstairs. Otherwise, how would I find time to exercise during the summer when they aren’t in school? Yeah, it would be better if they were reading books or cleaning their rooms, but sometimes you have to make compromises. 😉


Why I like Zumba DVDs in general:

  • ALL of the instructors are really great. Nice, upbeat, encouraging, and they give clear directions.
  • Usually you have the option of turning the instructions off and just following the music.
  • The sets come with enough variety to keep things interesting.
  • The music is really awesome, even though I’ve never heard it before.
  • Zumba is FUN.

Random Thoughts and Unanswered Questions about Zumba:

  • Is Beto really as nice as he seems? Because he seems really nice.
  • Do you think Beto and Tony Horton from P90x know each other? Because Tony seems really nice too.
  • How does Kass Martin look so different with and without bangs? I think she looks pretty either way.
  • The lighting on Loretta Bates in the Zumba Step video is really pale. At first I didn’t realize she was the same person who was in Rush. Also, how did she get so good a belly dancing?
  • What’s with the wrist bands? Do people really wear random wrist bands when they exercise? What’s the point?
  • Doesn’t it hurt to exercise with big earrings. Wouldn’t they bang around and hurt your earlobes?
  • Was Marcie Gill a former cheerleader? She seems to have a cheerleader’s spirit.
  • Am I the only person who thinks Jessica Mellet looks a little bit like Heidi Klum? Especially in Zumba Step.

But I digress… Now for the reviews.


Zumba Fitness Exhilarate Body Shaping System DVD (Multi, Small)
What you get:

  • Step by Step (an introduction to the steps)
  • Activate (40 minute easy routine)
  • Exhilarate (60 minutes difficult routine both in terms of dance steps and intensity)
  • Rush (22 minute routine that is intense but short)
  • Ripped and Mix (30 minutes of cardio toning with the sticks, plus a 60 minute cardio routine)
  • two, one pound rhythm sticks

Thoughts about Exhilarate:

  • Rush and Ripped are my favorite. Usually I do them together.
  • The sticks are too easy for me now, but were really helpful when I was rehabbing my broken wrist.
  • Exhilarate is really hard for me to do on the carpet. I think it would be easier on wood floors.
  • The costumes are wild. I could imagine conservative people having a hard time with so much skin.

Zumba Fitness Incredible Results DVD with Zumba Max DVD


What you get:

  • Quick Start (an introduction to the steps)
  • Step (40 minute step routine)
  • Zumba riser (step)
  • Super Cardio Dance Party (60 minutes difficult routine in terms of intensity but with easy to follow steps)
  • 20 Minute Express (short and fairly easy)
  • 30 Minute Burn (easy to follow steps but no directions)
  • Amazing Abs (17 minute chair workout that is really hard

Thoughts about Incredible Results:

  • I love pretty much all of it, except I rarely do the 20 Minute Express and have never done the Quick Start
  • Steve Boedt in the Super Cardio Dance Party is really funny.
  • The Step workout is my FAVORITE!
  • I wish there was another step workout.
  • I wish there was another step workout.
  • I wish there was another step workout.


Final thoughts about Zumba?

Zumba is super fun. Exhilarate is slightly easier I think, but beginners would like Incredible Results too. If you’re going to go for it, I would suggest getting the shoes as well. Otherwise you can’t slide properly on the carpet. The first few times I did Zumba I had my ordinary gym shoes on and I kept tripping. Zumba shoes have a smooth sole and that really helps.

Party on!