Thursday, December 20, 2012

Enjoy Christmas Lights With the Kids for Free!

Enjoy Christmas Decorations With Kids © Katrena
Tight budgets often call for less spending, but my kids and I have discovered that going to stores during the Christmas season can be a wonderful way to enjoy festive lights and decorations for free. This simple time together can also serve many other purposes.

How to Have Fun Christmas Shopping with Kids © Katrena
Many stores elaborately decorate their showrooms with holiday cheer, and "window shopping" is typically free. Before going in the store, you might want to mention any specific expectations you have. For instance, if you are planning to make a purchase, mention the limits of what you are going to buy before entering or that you expect them to stay together where you can see everyone if you have more than one child.

Turn Shopping into an Educational Experience © Katrena
The Christmas decorations are often prominently displayed, and many of them now have animations or music. Plan for plenty of time to simply enjoy the moment. For any of you who want to sneak a little education in there, you could easily encourage the kids to count the reindeer, name the colors of the penguins, or to tell you everything they know about icons like Snoopy or even Elvis. Older kids might want to talk about robotics, or you might challenge them to determine how much an item might cost if it were 50% off or to determine how many of a particular item one could purchase with a set amount of money.

Learn about the Symbols of the Season While Christmas Shopping © Katrena
Christmas often brings bright and colorful plants such as poinsettias, roses, and trees. You can easily be a sneaky teacher here by identifying colors, counting, or even talking about how Christmas lights will now remain lighted if one bulb goes out (thank goodness!). This can also be a golden opportunity to reminisce about traditions you might have had related to the holiday. We had some wonderful friends when I was a little girl who owned some wooded land, and they would let us come over each year and cut down a cedar tree for Christmas. What a special gift to our family...and a story I wanted to share with my own children!

Enjoy the Beauty of the Christmas Season with Children © Katrena
Christmas is a Christian holiday, so this can be a great time to talk about Jesus and the biblical accounts of His birth. Nativity scenes and Advent calendars can encourage kids to learn more about the Bible and one's own beliefs related to Christmas.

Free Christmas Festivities for the Family © Katrena
If you decide to shop after dark, an added bonus might be seeing lighted Christmas decorations in some yards beside the road as you drive back home. Turn on some Christmas music and have a sing-a-long in the car. You really don't have to buy anything to enjoy the lights of the season, but if you have shopping to do, this can be a great way to add a fun tradition that perhaps the whole family will cherish!

Christmas Fun for Free © Katrena
Many thanks to Lowe's Home Improvement of Mocksville, North Carolina. They allowed me to take pictures of my kids enjoying their wide array of Christmas decorations to share with all of my readers. They also offer some fun, free workshops for the kids called Build and Grow. I'd recommend signing up for these workshops ahead of time because space and supplies might be limited during popular months in particular.

Teach Kids Math and Other Life Skills at the Store © Katrena
Readers might also be interested in reading about McAdenville, a town near Charlotte that lights up their trees for Christmas in North Carolina or about The Cookie House bakery in Hanes Mall where you can watch holiday cookies being made and decorated. Find more of Katrena's articles at the Wildflower Bouquets site map.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Day Our Nation Cried – Musical Tribute to Sandy Hook

The Day Our Nation Cried Lyrics
The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting has hit home with so many of us on multiple levels. I wrote this song in the hope that perhaps the words might bring comfort to those who mourn. This song is dedicated in memory of those who died and in honor of those who survived. May God bless each of you as you search for strength beyond understanding.

The Day Our Nation Cried
(to the tune "American Pie")

The December day dawned bright and clear,
No one knew what pain lay near;
Seemed just like an ordinary day.
Hugs and kisses, homework packed;
I love you...I love you back,
Never guessing these might be the last.

But shots rang out and people cried,
Doors were locked and many died;
Arms and love surrounding,
Unlikely heroes abounding.

Calls for help, responders raced,
Sirens wailed and horrors faced;
No one really knowing what to think
The day our nation cried.

We want to ask...
Why, why did they have to die?
Should our teachers carry weapons?
What have we not tried?
We want to protect them and hold them tight.
The day our nation cried.

Survivors walked outside that day,
Unsure of what to do or say,
Seeking peace beyond the morn.
People showed their human side,
Tears fell down, arms opened wide;
Yearn for hope beyond amazing grief.

Life forever changed that day,
A tragedy in every way.
Will it make us bitter?
Or can it make us better?

It's so hard to look ahead,
Reaching out as the Spirit led;
Charging those left shaken
To honor each life taken.

Why, why did they have to die?
Should our teachers carry weapons?
What have we not tried?
We want to protect them and hold them tight.
The day our nation cried.
The day our nation cried.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Free Printable Words of Thanks

Thanksgiving is not the only time to say thanks! Just a few words to say thank you can be a great way to let someone know that you recognized the extra effort. These colorful printables are short thank-you notes that you can share with others. They are great to send in a backpack, lunchbox, or coat pocket. You might also personalize the message by adding a short note or signing the back.

How to print these words of thanks:
  1. Click on the image below.
  2. Select "file" then "print."
You can fit two of these on a regular sized sheet of paper. Find more of Katrena's printables, scavenger hunt clues, and tips for enjoying the simple pleasures in life at the Wildflower Bouquets site map.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Sound of Music – How an Old Movie Can Connect Generations

Memories of The Sound of Music - Photo by Stephen McKay at Wikimedia Commons
Some movies seem to transcend time and may weave a thread that ties the young to the old. The other day as I was picking up my daughters from the childcare area at a gym, I began to sing "So long, farewell, auf weidersehen good-bye!" An adult in the nursery immediately caught a gleam in her eyes and joined in!

Sound of Music Tunes by Richard Rodgers - Photo World Telegram Staff Photographer from Wikimedia Commons
Yes, she remembered the movie The Sound of Music as well and began to sing with me. We stopped for a few moments to reminisce about memories of this amazing movie featuring memorable songs, scenes, and wonderful talent.

Ways to Connect Generations - Photo by Jonas Sternerson at Wikimedia Commons
Songs from the movie always make me think of sewing. My mom had a record of the sound track and would play it as she helped me learn to read sewing directions, cut out a pattern without cutting off the tabs, make a ruffle without breaking the threads, and attempt to make a finished product that would actually fit.

My daughters had never seen this classic musical from 1959. What a thrill to find the DVD at a nearby library! I then had the pleasure of watching with my girls as Maria became acquainted with the von Trapps and eventually transformed them into a family with a much richer harmony.

Maria VonTrapp History - Photo by U.S. District Court by District of Vermont at Wikimedia Commons
I did a little online research about the movie, its history, and cast members, and shared some of that information with my daughters. Mom mentioned that she remembered watching the television excitedly as someone interviewed the woman upon whose life the movie was based. My girls were curious about the flag and military presence in the movie and began to understand more of the world's history as we talked. They also learned that some of our ancestors had a pin cushion shaped like Hitler's rear end!

Although The Sound of Music is over 50 years old, the film captured my daughters' attention and they enjoyed the classic as much as any modern movie they have seen. I hope my girls will glean the idea of being brave enough to step in the directions they feel called to go.

Young and Old in One - by cartoonist W.B. Hill from Wikimedia Commons
Today if I happen to start singing a song from The Sound of Music, three younger voices join in. Those voices represent the hope of the future!

Find more of Katrena's articles about simple pleasures in life, scavenger hunts, printables, and more at Wildflower Bouquets.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sasha Shops Salisbury Book Signing October 20 at Stitchin Post Gifts in Salisbury NC

Sasha Shops Salisbury - Find the Book at Stitchin Post © Katrena
Most folks and perhaps a few animals who have been shopping in downtown Salisbury have probably found a shop nestled close to the corner of Innes and Main at 104 S. Main Street. Stitchin Post Gifts is one of those shops that my kids love to visit. The shiny jewelry catches their dazzled eyes. The unique gifts and clothing items capture their attention. The Kit-Cat clocks mesmerize them, and the large stuffed animals seem to beckon from the aisles. But the biggest attraction for my kids is Sasha Kitty.

Enjoy Downtown Salisbury and Help Animals © Katrena
Sasha runs the shop. Well, perhaps that is a stretch, but she does live there. Sasha is the cat that might be gracing the front window, sashaying through the isles, or perhaps may be perched on a stool behind the cash register, watching to ensure that everything is done properly. She might even be hiding if there are large numbers of people shuffling in and out during a Salisbury Night Out event. Sasha is a special cat, loved by those who work and shop at the store. My kids adore Sasha and decide their day has definitely taken a turn for the best if they can get a glimpse of her!

Fund Raiser for Faithful Friends in Rowan County © Katrena
But my kids aren't the only ones who particularly love this furry feline. Sasha has quite a reputation in Salisbury, and now she has her own children's book! Sasha Shops Salisbury, written by Julie Apone and illustrated by Jean Barlow, gives Sasha the opportunity to introduce kids to some of the historic town's sites. Lots of kids have been anxiously awaiting the book and have been participating in a coloring contest as evidenced by the artwork proudly displayed on the front window.

Book Signing on October 20 at Stitchin Post © Katrena
On October 20, 2012, stop by Stitchin Post Gifts in Salisbury, NC for a book signing 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. WSAT will be broadcasting live from the store and folks can enjoy games, contests, prizes, and snacks that day. The event will help raise funds for Faithful Friends Animal Sanctuary, a no-kill animal shelter in Rowan County. Shelter volunteers will be available with kittens and puppies for those wishing to adopt a forever pet, and donations of Purina cat food or litter are greatly appreciated. You are also welcome to donate Purina dog food – just make sure to sneak that in when Sasha is not looking! Kids who come dressed as their favorite animal will have a chance to win a $50 Stitchin Post gift certificate.

Sasha Kitty on Her Couch With her Book at Stitchin Post - Photo provided by Julie Apone
Find more of Katrena's articles at:

Monday, September 24, 2012

Katrena's Indoor Scavenger Hunt #5 – Free Clues, Answers, and Rewards

Quick and Easy Indoor Scavenger Hunt with Free Clues and Answers
This simple indoor scavenger hunt features ten rhyming clues designed to help kids with reading and problem-solving skills as they search throughout the house for the hidden reward. Staying at home doesn't have to be boring but can be quite fun and exciting with a few family activities like a treasure hunt.

If you have more than one child, it helps to come up with a few rules before playing that will ensure that everyone has a chance to have input and fun finding clues. Have the kids go to a room that you will not be using for the hunt while you hide the clues.

Directions for Katrena's Indoor Scavenger Hunt #5
  1. Print clues #1-10 and rewards (click on images below to enlarge and select "file" then "print") and cut on the lines.
  2. Keep clue #1.
  3. Hide clue #2 at the answer for clue #1.
  4. Hide clue #3 at the answer for clue #2.
  5. Hide clue #4 at the answer for clue #3.
  6. Hide clue #5 at the answer for clue #4.
  7. Hide clue #6 at the answer for clue #5.
  8. Hide clue #7 at the answer for clue #6.
  9. Hide clue #8 at the answer for clue #7.
  10. Hide clue #9 at the answer for clue #8.
  11. Hide clue #10 at the answer for clue #9.
  12. Place prize or reward at the answer for clue #10.
  13. Give clue #1 to the person(s) doing the scavenger hunt.
Free Clues for Katrena's Indoor Scavenger Hunt #5
Answers for Katrena's Indoor Treasure Hunt #5

Free Printable Rewards for Katrena's Scavenger Hunt
All of my kids love treasure hunts and I hope that you will also enjoy this free family activity. Find more of my free scavenger hunts, printables, and more ways to enjoy simple pleasures of life at the Wildflower Bouquets site map.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Free Star Printables – Encourage a Kid to Shine!

Free Star Printables at Katrena's Wilflower Bouquets Blog
As the first day of school is rapidly approaching in my neck of the woods, I thought I would create some star printables with messages of encouragement. These stars of encouragement can be great for placing in a backpack, bookbag, or lunch so that the kids can have a helpful surprise as they work toward their goals at school or elsewhere.

  1. Click on the image below to enlarge.
  2. Choose "File" then "Print."
  3. You can print two of these per page.
Notes of Encouragement with Star Theme

Readers may also enjoy looking at my scavenger hunts, other printables, and articles at the Wildflower Bouquets site map.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Katrena's Scavenger Hunt #4 With Alphabet Code Clues

Katrena's Indoor Scavenger Hunt #4 With Alphabet Code Clues
Scavenger hunts can be loads of fun for the kids, but sometimes they seem to be over so quickly! This indoor scavenger hunt is a great way to sneak in a little practice with code reading and spelling as the kids must stop and find matching letters for each picture in order to determine where to search next.

You can make this one tougher by hiding the clues in unexpected places at the code's hint. If you have older and younger kids working together, you might wish to hide them so that the clues are easily visible and encourage the older kids to solve the code while the younger kids hunt for the clues.

How to play Katrena's alphabet code treasure hunt
  1. Print the alphabet code (click on the image to enlarge and then select "file" and "print") – the kids will use this to crack the code on the clues.
  2. Print the prizes in code and choose which one(s) you wish to use (1st is "Way to Go", 2nd is "Awesome", 3rd is "Fabulous")
  3. Print clues #1-10 and cut on the horizontal lines, leaving the blank space on the right intact.
  4. Keep clue #1.
  5. Hide clue #2 in the microwave.
  6. Hide clue #3 with the toothbrushes.
  7. Hide clue #4 in the kitchen sink.
  8. Hide clue #5 on the couch.
  9. Hide clue #6 under a bedroom pillow.
  10. Hide clue #7 on the telephone.
  11. Hide clue #8 in a chair.
  12. Hide clue #9 in the refrigerator.
  13. Hide clue #10 on the bookshelf.
  14. Place prize in the stove.
  15. Give clue #1 to the person(s) doing the scavenger hunt.
Alphabet Code for Indoor Treasure Hunt
Free Scavenger Hunt Clues with alphabet matching code
Free scavenger hunt prizes in code
I hope you and the children will enjoy playing this scavenger hunt. My kids have always loved to solve clues and mysteries, and I thought it would be loads of fun to put the prizes into code too! Find more of my free scavenger hunts and other articles at the Wildflower Bouquets site map.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Amazing Sunflower Field Near Catawba College in North Carolina

Sunflowers in North Carolina © Katrena
July brings fireworks to Faith, rubber duckies to the Bull Hole near Cooleemee, and the tractor parade to Mocksville in North Carolina, but few people know of the pot of gold that comes to life between these towns in this heated month. Agriculture abounds in Rowan and surrounding counties in the Piedmont of NC. Folks in these parts are used to seeing corn marching across the rolling hills or wheat dancing in the breeze, but this field is different and as rare as a diamond without flaw. Tomatoes are just a slice away and watermelons are approaching their peak when the yellow petals begin to dance around the brown seeds in this most special field.

Bird Sanctuary in Rowan County © Katrena
Many of the most amazing sites in this Southern state lie just a few steps off the beaten path. This beautiful piece of yellow and brown artwork lies just a short distance between Catawba College Rowan Memorial Park. It's near where the old drive-in movie theater used to welcome folks before the mall was built, for those of you old enough to remember. Rabon's Barber Shop, Ellis Park, and the beautiful horses of Saving Grace Farm are just a few miles away. Travelers heading north on highway 601 past Catawba College toward Davie County would be wise to make a left at the caution light, headed toward Salisbury Mall, Jake Alexander Boulevard, and the $2.00 movie theater. Those traveling south from Greasy Corners should forgo the shortcut and drive all the way up to the blinking caution light before turning right.

Agriculture in the Piedmont © Katrena
A field lies to the left just a few yards after that turn toward Jake Alexander Boulevard. You might even see a lone farmer wearing a wide-brimmed hat yielding a hoe. Yes, this is a bird sanctuary created by hand. This huge sunflower field is an act of loving labor and becomes a magnet beckoning flying friends galore by day and lightening bugs by night. The sunflowers are just beginning to lift their heads to the sky's heated orb. It won't be long before the pot of gold lies in full splendor.

Old Fashioned Farming in the South © Katrena
Capturing the beautiful essence of this sunflower field on a photo card is like trying to freeze a child's first steps or a sunset's majestic markings. Just as a sand castle's beauty is soon wiped away into the ocean, so this sunflower field has its short season...but oh the rewards of the short drive off the tried and true trek in July. Salisbury's pot of gold is beginning to bloom!

It's hard to figure out an address for a sunflower field! Take the Jake Alexander Blvd exit - you're about 5-10 minutes from the field, depending on traffic and stoplights.
  • Turn onto Jake Alexander Blvd toward the car dealerships, and you'll eventually see a YMCA and cross over a train track a little ways past that.
  • Keep going straight - you'll see an Advance Auto Parts on the left and then a stoplight where there's a McDonald's, CVS pharmacy, and a gas station at the corners.
  • Keep going straight - I believe the name of the road is Hwy 601 at that point.
  • You'll see a small school on the right and large housing developments on both sides of a road a little ways past that.
  • After the housing developments you'll see some trees.
  • Just past the trees you'll see the field on the right. 
The road ends almost in sight of the field, so if you drive past it, simply turn around and look to your left right before the trees. My family has enjoyed looking at this golden work of art for several years. Kudos to the farmer who has worked his beauty throughout many hot summers.

Nearby (about 5 miles) fun things to do:
Visit my Wildflower Bouquets site map and Travel NC With Kids blog for more family-friendly ideas!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Katrena's American Flag Scavenger Hunt

Katrena's Patriotic American Flag Scavenger Hunt
Teaching the kids about the American flag through the use of a scavenger hunt can provide a unique opportunity to encourage patriotism in a game format. It can also provide a teaching opportunity if the kids do not know the answers! This is a fun game that you can play more than once because you can change the hiding places each time.

This scavenger hunt includes ten simple questions and answers related to the United States flag and can be played inside or outside. If you wish to print the images below, simply click on each to enlarge and select "file" near the top left of the screen and then "print."

How to play Katrena's American Flag Themed Scavenger Hunt

While the child(ren) is (are) in another room:
  • Hide ten small American flags (or print and hide the ten flag printables below), ensuring that the flag is displayed vertically without touching the ground or other objects and make a note of the location of each.
  • Place a glass or some other type of container in a centralized location in which to place the flags as they are found.
  • Print the questions.
  1. Have the kid(s) to come in and ask them the first question. Give hints if necessary.
  2. Once the correct answer is offered, provide a hint for the location of the first flag/printable and have the player search for the hidden flag/printable.
  3. Once the flag/printable has been found, place it in the holding container.
  4. Continue the above procedure for #2-10. Alternate if more than one child is playing.
American Flag Scavenger Hunt Printables
American Flag Scavenger Hunt Questions
American Flag Scavenger Hunt Answers
I hope you enjoy this patriotic scavenger hunt! I have several family members who are veterans, so flag etiquette is something that I try to teach my own daughters. Find more scavenger hunts, printables, and articles at my Wildflower Bouquets site map.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Saving Grace Farm in Salisbury NC – Where the Horses Whisper Back!

Max - the Biggest Horse at Saving Grace Farm in Salisbury NC © Katrena
Saving Grace Farm, located at 565 Trexler Loop in Salisbury, NC, offers a wide range of horse-related opportunities for people in and around Rowan County. My two older kids have enjoyed a summer horse camp at the farm, and even my youngest has had the opportunity to learn a bit about horses (and dogs!) from the sidelines.
Connect With Animals © Katrena
Horse Farm in Rowan County © Katrena
We first heard about this camp after a friend, who has a son with autism, absolutely raved about the wonderful staff and how they interact with the participants. Her son has enjoyed many physical and emotional rewards from the equine-assisted horse activities at Saving Grace and loves to tell us about riding and working with Max.

Summer Horse Camp © Katrena
Those participating in the summer horse camp have a wide variety of learning opportunities. The kids learn safety issues, such as where to safely stand near a horse and how to read a horse's body language. The horses at this farm are not simply trained to walk around in a circle. The riders learn to steer and work with the horses according to the participant's physical and mental abilities.

Learn About Horses © Katrena
Horses have distinct personalities, and the beautiful animals at the farm range from slow, calm, and steady to a bit more spirited and spunky. Lots of staff and volunteers are available to help as the campers begin to interact with their chosen horse.

Horses & Kids Have Personalities at Saving Grace © Katrena
My oldest daughter discovered that a horse named Jubilee seemed to pick her out as she began to follow my child as she walked outside. My second oldest was immediately drawn to the spirited pony named Misty. Other kids in the camp began to develop one-on-one relationships with these beautiful animals.

Kids Learn How to Balance and Focus © Katrena
Before riding, the kids learn about balance and the importance of using muscles in order to avoid falling off. Practicing several exercises while standing on the ground also allowed the instructor to help the participants learn the importance of focus and listening.

How to Clean a Horse's Hoof © Katrena
Grooming techniques are taught, and the kids have the opportunity to groom their chosen horse or pony from head to foot. Staff and volunteers encourage the campers to become more self-sufficient as the week progresses.

Horse Tack at Saving Grace Farm © Katrena
They learn about various pieces of equipment placed on or used with the horses, such as a fly mask, bridle, lead, reins, blanket, stirrups, and saddle. The campers also learn about how to carry and store the items as well as how they are used on the horse and are given the opportunity to put this knowledge to practical use as they prepare to ride.

Horse Riding Trail in NC © Katrena
Campers are split into smaller groups during the riding portion. All riders are required to wear helmets. The nurse in me likes that safety rule! One group participates in craft activities and nature hikes while others ride in order to allow for more focused individual attention by the equine specialist, who checks each horse and rider personally to ensure that saddles and stirrups are properly adjusted as each child mounts.

Canada Geese at the Farm © Katrena
The location of Saving Grace farm is quite serene and offers a nice display of natural beauty as campers have the opportunity to see a wide variety of plants and animals. As the kids walk or ride the trails, they may see a family of geese, turtles, or fish at the pond. They also have the opportunity to learn about flora in the area.

Horsemanship at Saving Grace © Katrena
Riding Backwards on a Horse © Katrena
Early in the week, leads are used so that the campers can learn the art of balance while riding a horse. They may ride on a trail or in an arena. They might even ride backwards or with no hands! As they become more comfortable, they are offered the opportunity to steer and practice posting while trotting. They are given lots of feedback for ways in which they can position their bodies in order to connect better with the horse. Additional skills are taught as the children gain confidence.

Learn to Ride a Horse © Katrena
Horse Camp in Rowan County © Katrena
Just as all horses are different, each camper also has different strengths, weaknesses, and fear levels. A healthy respect of horses is always encouraged. Those who might feel uncomfortable may be encouraged to move back to an activity that feels more comfortable until ready to move to the next level.

Kids Gain Self-Confidence by Working With Horses © Katrena
Riding a Horse Without Using Hands © Katrena
I was surprised to see how quickly the campers progressed and learned various skills. A horse camp can do more than teach skills and knowledge. I could see all of the children grow more self-confident and self-sufficient throughout the week. Some people connect with horses by whispering, but those who connect best are the ones who learn to listen as the horse whispers back!

Trail Riding at Saving Grace © Katrena
Saving Grace Farm offers a wide variety of activities in addition to their summer camps, some of which include:
  • Riding lessons (private or group)
  • Programs for veterans who have experienced illness, injuries, or wounds after September 11, 2001
  • Equine assisted activities for children and adults with special needs
  • Growing and Living Lives of Purpose (G.A.L.L.O.P.)
  • Community workshops such as survivors or grief, abuse, parenting challenges, etc.
  • Connection and leadership skills for horse owners
  • "Sunshine Seekers" Hospice grief camps
Find Healing by Working With Horses © Katrena
Find more of my articles at the Wildflower Bouquets site map. Those interested in equestrian camping might also like to read my article on South Mountains State Park.
Find Joy in Equestrian Activities © Katrena