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Camping with the kids

This past weekend we took the kids camping at Nehalem Bay State Park. It was… challenging. Not that it wasn’t worth it… it just… took a lot of effort. There were times we had to remind ourselves that home was less than two hours away and we could leave at any time. But hey, we did it! The kids had a great time playing on the beach both days – soaking up the sun, splashing in the water, flying the kite, and generally getting sand everywhere. The hardest part was in the evening, I think. Of course the kids couldn’t get to sleep on time, were occasionally loud which I worried bothered our fellow campers, and then there were “incidences” – like when Leo jabbed himself in the eye with a fork and I feared that we’d have to rush to the hospital, or when Chloe fell face first into the fire pit, scraping her face, bloodying her nose and getting soot all over herself. And sleeping, well… we only have 3 sleeping bags, so I shared mine with Leo, which was kind of awkward, and I kept waking up all night wondering if he or Chloe was cold.

Anyways, it was a good learning experience (and exercise in patience!). Next time we are going to do what our neighbors are doing this week, and getting a yurt. 🙂
More photos can be seen here.


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Dress-Up Storage Organization

Screen Shot 2012-05-14 at 9.50.17 AM

Following up on the previous post, I realized I never shared the awesome dress up storage rack that Grandma Sandy built for Chloe (although I did mention it on Facebook – I need to figure out how to link to those status updates here, instead of my long unused twitter feed). Anyway, it is fabulous, and a really nice way to store and organize all the costumes, play clothes and accessories that Chloe has been given. It is just the right size, and a fraction of the cost of buying one pre-manufactured. I have some beautiful metal dragonfly hooks that I’ll attach to each side, and eventually get some vinyl lettering to personalize the front. I would say Chloe uses it almost every day. Here is the link to the easy-to-use plans we found on ana-white.com. We chose to do the shelf-on-top option, which I highly recommend.

Screen Shot 2012-05-14 at 9.45.57 AM


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Sun + Sand

We went to the beach on Sunday. I just love it there. It was sunny, but with a cold breeze, and we were glad we brought our sun shelter along. Although this wasn’t Leo’s first trip to the coast, it was the first time I took some photos of him there. Like his sister, he seems to be a big fan of the sand. Unlike his sister, he is a pacifier baby, which helped to keep him from eating it.

This was also our first trip in our new-to-us minivan. What a difference! Room for everyone, and even Barkley got a seat to himself. I hesitate to say this, but if anything good came out of the car crash, its that we got a vehicle better suited to our family (the Element we bought pre-kids). The inside still smelled a little of ozone from the extra interior detail we had done, but even that has since dissippated. The car feels as good as new. I just hope it lasts us longer than our last one.


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Tackling the Toys

I FINALLY organized the toy drawers in our living room. I think its been about 2 years since the last time, and that was just to pull some of the infant toys Chloe no longer touched. Talk about procrastination! And honestly, once I finally sat down to do it, it went pretty fast.

The dresser is a Malm that we use as a console table (not the bins shown above). Of the dresser’s 6 drawers, the 4 lower ones were dedicated to Chloe’s things. One drawer is for Chloe’s jackets and hats, so she can put them away by herself when she comes in the door. The other three were full of toys and random junk. I wish I had taken a “before” photo, just to prove what a mess it all was, but the energy to do it came on suddenly. I mean, I had thought about doing it a million times, but this is the first time I sat down to do it. That is the hardest part, in my opinion, just setting down to the task.

Getting Started
I started with 2 large empty bins and one paper bag for junk. Junk equaled anything broken, useless, missing pieces, or not worth giving away. The first bin was for donations and the second for holding items to keep, so I could fully empty a drawer and vacuum out the accumulated dust. After a short time I brought over one of Chloe’s little play chairs, to help my back. Once I saw a pattern emerge, I began to group items in organized piles on the floor, a lot of which needed to go somewhere else. In our house this means:

Bathroom
Bath toys

Chloe’s Room
Books to the bookshelf
Play clothes to the dress-up bin
Play jewelry in a play purse
Finger puppets bagged together (closet)
Games (closet)
Play doh/ Art supplies to the art shelf (closet)

2nd Bedroom (soon to be Leo’s!)
All Legos and blocks

Great Room (aka kitchen/dining/family area)
Baby toys for Leo in the baby toy bins (more about this later)
Play food and utencils to the play kitchen

Living Room
After sorting and putting toys away that belonged to the above areas, the remaining toys that stayed in the Malm drawers now fit into just two drawers. One drawer is for all stuffed animals, dolls, and doll clothes. The second drawer is divided into musical instruments on one side and tiny figurines, knick-knacks, cars, wind-up toys, small balls, bean bags, and anything that Leo (now 8 months) shouldn’t play with. Also, any very small toy that was worth keeping, but that I didn’t care about losing, were put away into a separate grab bag for taking on trips.

The remaining empty drawer will be used for Leo’s jackets and hats, and to help ease Chloe’s jacket drawer for now, which is completely stuffed thanks to generous hand-me-downs. Through the winter she mostly rotates between only one coat and a jacket, but once spring comes she’ll be using her lighter-weight ones, too.

The biggest accomplishment in all this, at least for me, is that now everything has a place. No, I don’t like that things are spread over four rooms, but the fact is that Chloe would rather be where we are than playing by herself in her room. Right now her room is for sleeping, getting dressed, and reading. Otherwise, she spends most of her time in the great room or the office where she is allowed to watch occasional shows on the computer (via Netflix or PBSkids.org).

Leo, being the baby, is also, naturally, wherever we are. Thus there are 2 of the large Target bins (shown above) of baby toys in the great room. And honestly, Chloe plays with them, too. Someday I’d like to add structure and storage to the great room (maybe with some Besta?), but that won’t be anytime soon.

The hardest part of this whole experience was keeping Chloe from undoing the work while I was trying to cull and organize. She would want to play with some newly uncovered toys and then walk away with them, or scatter my piles before I had a chance to put them were they belonged. I also had to take breaks to entertain or feed Leo. So I would suggest doing this while the kids were elsewhere, if possible. Even if, by some miracle, both my kids napped at the same time, our house is too small and the noise of shifting toys would certainly wake them.

So there you have it. I feel I should add that I am by no means naturally tidy, and I don’t expect everything to stay put, because it won’t. But, when I occasionally attempt to maintain it, it is much easier to do now. Chloe is able to find things easier and enjoy her toys more. It is a really good starting point for an organized (if not tidy) future.

If only I could organize my office as easily…


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Chloe’s first haircut

I’m getting a little bit of spring fever. The weather has been unusually mild and not as grey this year, but I’d love for it to warm up just a little. It would save so much time, too. For some reason, in my house, it takes a full 15 minutes to get jackets, socks, shoes and a bag together for the three of us.

Chloe got her first salon haircut today. I thought it would be kind of fun, but it was sort of meh. We’ll probably try somewhere else next time. Meanwhile I have cleaned up lines to guide me on trimming for a while. I got a much needed haircut of my own last week (half price thanks to Groupon). I am definitely going back to that stylist. Now there is less for Leo to pull, not that that deters him in the slightest.


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Flower pinwheels

When we added the third bedroom to our two-bedroom house, the middle bedroom did not fare well. Not only did it lose a window (and lots of natural light), but the remaining window looks out at a blank fence that partially obscures the house next door. Someday, I’d like to do some landscaping on that side of the house, but until then these pinwheels spruce up the view nicely. And Chloe likes them. A lot.

Total cost: $7 at the dollar store. (And a special thanks to the cable guy who left his u-shaped staple gun here).


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Love + Bubbles

We’ve been having a lot of cold, snowy and wet weather lately. I don’t take Chloe and Leo out into it as much as I should, but we do get out on occasion. Like this break in the weather. Chloe and I both enjoy blowing bubbles. Who would have thought that the best bubbles would come from the dollar store? Good thing, too, because Chloe still spills her bubbles a little too often (and the ones with the “spillproof” caps have too tiny of a wand to be really fun).

I love these kids so much. When I was pregnant with Leo, I couldn’t imagine loving Leo as much as I loved Chloe. She was my baby, my precious little girl, my darling first-born. She was all I knew. My whole world. Then along came Leo, and my heart swelled. I am amazed every day at how deep my love is for these two little ones.

Leo is barely over half a year and already his charming and affectionate nature is obvious, way more so than Chloe was at this age. Then again, I am not very good at remembering things, and even now I’ll have to ask David his perspective from when Chloe was a baby. Just one more reason I need to put more effort into recording the kids’ milestones. I know later that I’ll be glad I did.

 

 

 


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Before & After: Spray painted rocking chair DIY

I am often amazed at the spray painted transformations that you find among DIYers on the internet. So many inspiring projects! I wanted to give it a try, and this was my first painting effort – a wooden rocking chair that Chloe’s grandparents found for her. It looked to be well-used by the time we got it, with stains and pencil marks and a replaced dowel on the back. But Chloe loved it and so did I. It just needed a little freshening up.

Since there are plenty of “how-tos” on spray painting, here are a few things I learned from this project:

1. Keep a large cardboard box for a ground cover. It doesn’t blow around like plastic.

2. Don’t use primer unless you have to. I wanted to do this project “right,” including primer for best adhesion and coverage. However, the primer was rough and somewhat gritty, which required more sanding. I realized too late that the original chair would have been fine un-primed, and would have saved a lot of work.

3. One can of spray paint was not enough. This meant that I had to make a second trip to the store, and with a new baby and toddler, it took a while until I could get back there. Also, the first can of paint didn’t spray very well. I thought it was my technique, but it turned out there was just something off about that particular can.

4. In the case of this chair, it was better to start with it turned upside down, giving it a good coat(s), letting it dry, and then finishing it right side up.

5. Try not to let weeks (or months) go by from start to finish. Because I left it with a coat of rough primer for a long stretch of time, Chloe kind of got out of the habit of sitting in it (that or because the cold set in, she now prefers her little upholstered rocking chair instead). However, we have another kid who will love it once he gets a little older (and a big reason we didn’t choose the color pink!).

 


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Splish splash

Another beautiful Saturday at Cannon Beach. David and Chloe purchased her first “real” kite at the Kite Factory, and it joined the many other flying colors in the air that day. I felt so happy watching them play. I want Chloe’s (and Leo’s) childhood to be filled with days like this – full of sunshine and fresh air, and lots of joy. I want them to love the beach as much as I do. My only regret is not taking a photo of Leo. It’s his third time at the coast, but it’s always been too windy to lay him down on the sand. Instead, he spends his time sleeping on my chest in his carrier, which makes him hard to photograph. But it won’t be long before he is out enjoying the water just like his sister.


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Lazy Weekend

I hope you had a nice weekend! Ours was pretty relaxing. I think the most effort I put into anything this weekend was dyeing my hair. I had to fix a botched lightening job from a few weeks ago that I did without David here to help me with the kids. Big mistake. It turned out patchy and strangely reddish. If I had done my research, too, I would have realized that they discontinued that line of products. Last night I dyed it back to my normal color. Much better. Makes me wonder why I wanted to lighten it in the first place.

When we woke up Saturday morning, we noticed two of our Painted Lady Butterflies had emerged from their chrysalides. Two more emerged this morning. It is nice to see Chloe curious about them, since she is NOT into bugs. Sometimes she’ll be playing outside and I’ll hear a blood-curdling scream because she saw a bee or some such insect get too close without warning. She usually shies away from butterflies, too, since their flight pattern is so drunken-looking and unpredictable. We released them this morning, and Chloe did great. Now we are just waiting for the remaining one to hatch.

Otherwise, besides getting groceries, and taking Chloe swimming, David and Chloe spent most of both weekend days playing Legos. Leo watched them from his play pad for a while. Will he like Legos as much as his father and sister?
Only time will tell, but as a mama, I’m not looking forward to keeping all those little pieces out of his reach, and out of his mouth!


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One month down

Leo turned one month old this week. Several times I sat down to try and write about what life has been like this past month, but I can’t seem to find the right words.

Basically, it’s complicated.

One thing for sure – being a mother of a newborn and a toddler is HARD. Existing on such minimal sleep is the worst part – like living life through a fog. Simple tasks can seem monumental. And I feel like I should be happier – like when my mom was here, I felt like I should have been so happy, but I wasn’t quite as happy as I thought I should be. Does that make sense?

Anyway, in a nutshell, this past month has been stressful, but things are getting better. I am feeling better, both mentally and physically. Best of all, we are slowly starting to adjust to our new shape as a family.

As for Leo, he is definitely growing. Seriously. It was like I woke up one morning and my tiny newborn was replaced by a hefty baby boy (which makes sense when I think about it, since all he wants to do is nurse). Nights are getting somewhat easier, and what seemed to be his constant fussing and crying is giving way to a few more periods of “quiet alertness.” Thank goodness.

The thing I miss most is the little time I had for myself, and going out with the “ease” of having just one child. Now there are two little individuals with vastly different needs. There are moments I feel trapped and frustrated in my own house, and other times when I don’t want to leave again, ever. Plus, I miss my husband. He’s here, too, doing his part, but our whole lives are revolving around the kids right now, with no time for us. It will be good when Grandma Sandy (my mother-in-law) comes next week. Hopefully that might give us time to reconnect. So, again, it’s hard. But we’re dealing. And learning. And living.

One day at a time.

(Btw – that photo was taken by David a week or so ago, so Leo is not a one-month old in that photo. Note to self: take more photos!)


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Musings :: Kid’s Bathroom


This kid’s bath kicks butt!

The hall bathroom in our new addition will also be the kid’s bathroom. Originally, I thought we’d save money by choosing plain white wall tile, whatever bargain basement floor tile we could find, and just try to spruce it up with paint. After all, it is the room most likely to be trashed by little hands (and later teenagers) right? Well, maybe not, according to David. He made a good point that it will also be the bathroom most used by the household, including guests, so why not make it the nice bathroom and our master the cheap bathroom?

So then I went back to the drawing board in my mind, and I think I’ve had some better ideas after thinking it through.

First of all, the one thing we’ve been able to agree on is the white IKEA Godmorgon/Odensvik sink (similar to below). For the kid’s bath, we’ll get the less-expensive single sink version (I thought the double version at first, but David thinks it is unlikely that the kids will be using the bathroom at the same time once they get older since they will be boy & girl). Besides being both budget-friendly and modern looking, the other thing I like is that the kids will be able to push their step stools underneath the sink when not in use.

By keeping the tile and fixtures white, a lot of fun can be had with paint color. Maybe a bright blue or green, or perhaps the addition of a wall decal to liven things up. In this way, it would be nice enough for adults, but also fun for the kids.

Now lets just imagine… for example, right now Chloe loves owls. Although spendy, I found that Target currently carries really cute Owl bathroom accessories. Aren’t they adorable?


Awesome Owls Bath Coordinates Collections

Awesome Owls 3pc Towel Set

Hoot Bath Coordinates Collections – Tan

And after a quick search for wall decals I found this Owl on Tree wall decal on Etsy which can be custom colored and then tie every thing together. Can you imagine what a cool bathroom it could be? So many possibilities. The hard part is limiting to items that will fit our budget, but it sure is fun to imagine! 🙂


Owl on Tree – 090 – Vinyl Sticker Wall Decal on Etsy


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Updated Tutorial & Printables List

I updated my Downloads + Tutorials page (see link under the header bar) with all the project tutorials and printable pdfs I’ve included on this blog. Hopefully they’ll be easier to find and use all in one place. Here are some:

1. DIY iPhone 4 Bumper Idea_2b.jpg, 2. Paper-Wrapped Jewelry Organizer, 3. bird magnets1.jpg, 4. Free Printable Valentine Flower card, 5. Chocolate Gift Jar Oreos.jpg, 6. Baby bib, 7. Halloween “Cauldron Bubbles” Treat, 8. IMG_7332.JPG, 9. “Dad” Father’s Day Card, 10. Cute Baby Hair Clips, 11. Holiday Gift tags, 12. Printable Holiday Gift Wrap, 13. Printable Holiday Cheer game board, 14. Felt photo album cover, 15. Vinyl Record Bowl, 16. Modern Happy Holidays Card


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Water shoes for Toddler Girls


Chloe’s got new kicks! Originally, I thought we’d try to make it through the summer in the hand-me-downs that we’ve received, but after seeing Chloe play at the city park fountains and on the river’s edge, I realized a better fitting and safer pair of water shoes were in order. Her Crocs, although easy to slip on, cause her to fall a lot, and the other pair, a cheap combo of hard plastic and foam, become slippery on the footbed when soaked, and cause her feet to slide too far through the toe opening. Not good!

After doing an online search, I narrowed it down to a handful of choices, but eventually decided on  Columbia Kids Splasher. The features I liked were their modern style, that they are lightweight and flexible, have a closed toe, two points of adjustment for a custom fit, and come in a stinkin’ awesome colorway (tarte/orange pop). Plus, the modified mary-jane style make it look like more than just a water shoe, but maybe an everyday shoe, too. I would gladly wear these shoes myself! The only problem is that the two reviews on zappos (free shipping!) don’t sound promising, but I’m willing to see for myself.

Here are some other nice water shoes:

Robeez Mini Shoes Breezeez These are super-lightweight and flexible. Probably the next best thing to bare feet while still giving some protection. No free shipping available on this style though.

Salt Water Sandal by Hoy Shoes How adorable are these? Nice enough to wear with a dress, but waterproof for an impromptu sprinkler party. Expensive.


Teva Kids Tirra
More than I wanted to spend, but I love the style, color options and the multiple adjustment points.


Teva Kids Psyclone 2
More foot coverage, and possibly more comfortable than the other Teva Kids shoes above, not to mention cheaper. However, the heel height reminds me of Crocs, which is too tall in my book.


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Happy Fourth of July, 2010

Happy Fourth of July! We attended our neighborhood Independence Day parade this morning, and I have to say, every year it gets better and better. It was fun to see so many families out. At first, Chloe wasn’t sure what to make of all the hubub, and was startled when the leading police car sounded his siren, but she was quickly distracted by the waves of tossed candy (I’m sure more than one spectator was beamed in the head by a flying jolly rancher), and the many young parade participants riding by on their bikes or being pulled in wagons or floats. It was kind of like Halloween. Without even trying we came home with candy, a small American flag, a patriotic folding fan, a packet of wildflower seeds, a USA tatoo, and a packet of salon-brand hair conditioner. Go figure.


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Chloe’s playhouse


Isn’t this a fabulous little playhouse? Chloe’s Grandma Sandy custom made it just for her! What a lucky little girl. I can see years of fun out of this particular gift. It fits perfectly over our kitchen table and includes lovely details like windows complete with white eyelet curtains and pink ribbon tie-backs, a sewn-on garden hem, half yellow and half pink interior walls and little buttons to hold the door flaps open. That Grandma Sandy is just so clever, I tell you what. Of course Chloe loves it! What little girl wouldn’t want a cozy and fun place to play (or simply enter and exit over and over)? Thanks again Grandma Sandy!

See more photos in Chloe’s Playhouse Set. Other Grandma Sandy related projects include these baby bibs, appliqued handtowels, and nursery mural. Just wait until I get a chance to photograph Chloe’s Busy Book!


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Chalkboard Paint

I know its seriously early to start thinking about kid or even toddler rooms, but I just love this idea from BHG – chalk board painted walls. The perfect (and manageable) response to a kid who says ” I want to paint my room black.” This would work particularly well for us, because we already have a chair rail along the walls in our soon-to-be nursery. And in the case of a younger child, you could always paint the lower wall instead. According to BHG, the trick is to pair the black paint with brighter hues to bring in color and light, and to add some black accessories. Love it. Via Ohdeehoh.


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Butterfly Pavilion, Westminster, Colorado

A few days before we left Colorado, Aundrea and Andrew suggested that we all stop into the Butterfly Pavilion. It’s a neat place, great for kids, where you can see all kinds of insects up close, hold a tarantula in your very own hands, gently pet a few objects of sea life like starfish and horseshoe crabs and see all kinds of butterflies. We were lucky to be on time to watch one of the two daily butterfly releases. A speaker comes out with a small cage of butterflies, picks them out individually (by their wings, which surprised me because I thought you were never to touch a butterfly’s wings), gives a short educational lecture and releases them to fly away freely in the tropical conservatory, which is like a plant-filled rainforest-like room.

It was neat to walk around slowly looking for butterflies hidden amid the foliage, or see them flutter by high above. Sadly, I saw several butterflies with torn wings, due careless children, despite the warnings of the speaker. David’s dad mentioned that the place was showing its age, which is true, but I still found it to be a worthwhile and unique experience.


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Free Holiday Cheer Board Game

Holiday Cheer Game

Holiday Cheer Board Game – download free pdf here

A couple of weeks ago while I was shopping at Michael’s I made several spur of the moment holiday purchases, including 2 foamy-style rubber-stamp blocks and 3 packages of epoxy stickers. I have no idea what made me pick these items up because I don’t stamp, or use stickers (much). There was just something pretty and tactile about them that made reach out and place them on the check stand. (Actually, I was just going to buy one stamp, but it didn’t have a sku tag, so the checkout girl asked if I could grab another. Then I heard myself saying “I’ll just take that one, too”). Thank goodness they didn’t cost much!

So I’ve had these foamy stamp blocks on my desk for a while now. David asked me why I bought them and I guiltily mumbled something about probably returning them, or using them for… something. Later, I found myself tossing one around and noticing how it bounced merrily before settling. Then I thought Eureka! I could design a holiday game for my nephew with it! (Okay, so I didn’t say Eureka!, but that word perfectly described how I felt. As in: Whew! If I can make something useful/fun, then I can be excused for making an impulse buy. After all, it must have been fate at work that day, right?).

This picture is misleading. These are the two stamps I bought, but only one is used for the game.

How to Play: Here was my thought process. The foamy stamp block would work like a die that you roll (there is a snowman side, a snowflake side, a kid’s face, the words “Let it Snow,” and two blank sides). Whatever lands face up is the icon that you’d move your game piece forward to on the board. Sounds pretty easy right? The only kicker is that when you roll a blank side you lose that turn and don’t get to move forward. I designed the whole game board with this idea in mind.

I should mention here that I don’t know anything about three and a half year old boys, or any kids at all for that matter (although two of my good friends are now expecting!). Paolo, our nephew, lives in Austin and we rarely see him. I could be totally wrong about skills at that age or his interest in something like this. However, the other night when I explained this game to Marcy, she said it sounded like Candyland, which I looked up and is rated for ages 3+, which is perfect.

To make a long story short, you can download my Holiday Cheer Game here. It’s pretty large, with a full size of 17 x 22″ so it has to be printed out (or tiled) in four sections if you’re printing it out on regular letter-sized paper, like I did. Then I pasted the sheets to a larger piece of thin cardstock for durability/foldability.

Playing Cards: Unless you happen to find the same stamp block at Michael’s, the best way to play is to print out a second set of pages and cut out the squares from the game board to use as cards. Instead of rolling a die, you would set the stack of “cards” face down and each player would draw a card and then move his or her game piece forward to the nearest icon indicated. You would also have to cut out some “blank” cards to use as “lose a turn.”

Holiday Cheer Game

These are the simple plastic playing pieces I made . I would have preferred something more 3D, but they seem to work okay.

Game Pieces: I made game pieces out of Shrinky Dinks plastic (I am having such fun with that stuff!), but any small objects will do. Playing pieces from another game, a set of erasers, coins, bottle caps or anything that will fit on the squares should work.

Advanced Play: Depending on the level of the players, you can make the game harder by adding additional rules. For example, instead of two players sharing a square, maybe the original player gets kicked off his space and moved backward to the nearest same icon. Or maybe he moves all the way back to start! It’s up to you.

Have fun!

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