Date Night: Writing Letters

I’m sure you’ve all seen the posts on Facebook or Pinterest about couples writing letters to each other to be opened on different anniversaries. So for a date night, why not write those letters! All you need is some envelopes and paper. But don’t just do major anniversaries (5, 10, 25 years, etc.), do some fun ones too!

For example, I left this one in my husband’s glovebox in his car…

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And yes, I just reused an envelope that came with a bill. No need to buy new envelopes, just recycle the ones you don’t use!

Here are some ideas for letters you could write:

  • Major anniversaries – 5, 10, 25 years, etc.
  • New Baby
  • Baby growing up and graduating
  • Kid destroying the house
  • Put one in the glovebox for the next time he’s pulled over by a police officer
  • Put one with the Christmas decorations to be found the next year
  • Put one with baby clothes/toys that have been put up for future kids/ grandkids
  • Put one with a special ingredient or pan that’s only used every now and then in the kitchen

The possibilities are endless, so get writing and have fun!

Slowing it Down

Now that school is officially in across the country, we’re slowing down the posts at Bring Books to Life.  We know parents get overwhelmed with homework, soccer practice, scouts, and music lessons.  You’ll still get regular date night posts from us, and we’ll still do book posts every 3 or 4 weeks, but things will be more relaxed.

Once summer comes our way again, we’ll be back to a book a week!

Date Night: Shakespeare in the Park

If you’re tired of seeing movies, try something a little different.  See if your town has a community theater and go see a play.  Or look up Shakespeare in the Park.  We had to drive an hour away to a larger city, but the play itself was FREE (donations accepted).  Shakespeare in the Park is a project to bring Shakespeare’s plays to the “masses.”  The project has spread out to many cities, so google it and try to find yours!


Dinner and a show?  Take advantage of the vendors stationed around the area.  Yum!  I love fair style food.


Have fun exploring other options besides movies.  And if you know you’re going to be outside, don’t forget the bug spray!

Where the Sidewalk Ends

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

All Ages

Summary:  Where the Sidewalk Ends is a collection of poems about anything and everything. Want to read about selling your sister? Or being eaten by a boa constrictor? Or the dirtiest man alive? Mr. Silverstein writes about all those things and many more for hours of fun reading!

Cathi Says:  Where the Sidewalk Ends is fun for the whole family to read. Younger kids will probably need help reading it on their own, but the poems and drawings are enjoyable for kids of all ages. My kids love hearing a poem or two at night for their bedtime story.

Focus:  Poetry

**Rhyming Game.  Not every poem has to rhyme, but younger children will enjoy learning to rhyme, just like in all of Shel Silverstein’s books.  Play the rhyming game by saying a work (like “bed”).  Each child takes a turn thinking of a word that rhymes (head, said, red, etc).  They get 2 points for real words and 1 point for nonsense words.

**Shape Poems.  It can be fun for children to change the shapes of their poems.  If their poem is about a tree, why not make the words look like a tree?  An easy way to do this is to use a template (like a stencil or even a cookie cutter), trace it in pencil, and then write the poem in pen.


You can erase the pencil when you are finished and have a perfect shape!  One extra tip:  write your poem in a spiral, going around the outside first.  This will help create a perfect shape.


**Name Poem.  Using the letters in your child’s name, think of descriptive words that show who your child is.  You can do this with your child as a good self-esteem builder!


**Redactic Poetry.  Perfect for older children, redactic poetry makes use of negative space.  Find a magazine article or newspaper clipping.  Your child can create poetry by blacking out the words you don’t want in the poem and leaving the words you do want to stand out.  Start out with something easy, finding adjectives on a certain topic (like the redactic poem in the picture that my hubby did about his wife).  When your children get the hang of it, encourage them to try to tell a story.


Other Ideas:  Introduce your children to different types of poetry, like haiku or iambic pentameter.
Submit a poem to a poetry contest!

Additional Reads:  The Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Falling Up by Shel Silverstein

Date Night: Try Something New!

I love trying new things and being active! That’s what this week’s date is all about. I have always wanted to try paddle boarding and so we decided to turn it into a date. Fun, right? And if you do your homework, it can be pretty cheap too!

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Step One: Find something that you and your hubby want to do but haven’t necessarily done before. Maybe try something different than your normal date nights (ours was an entire date day!)? Or something outdoors, active, and maybe a little out of your comfort zone?  Isn’t there something that you have always wanted to try? Go. Do. It.

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Step Two: Research. We went with paddle boarding so obviously we needed to find a relatively large body of water. And the rec center swimming pool just wouldn’t cut it! Luckily, there are a TON of places around me that were perfect for paddle boarding. We also needed to find paddle boards. We called the lake that we were going to and they rented paddle boards for $20/hour. Eek. So I called a few other outdoor sport stores around my area and found a place that rented them for $20 a board/day. Score! And because we rented them on a Friday, they gave the boards to us over the weekend… AND since this Monday is Labor Day, we don’t have to return them until Tuesday before the store closes. So I ended up getting the boards for $20 for 5 days. See? Research. And a national holiday on a Monday usually helps too.


Step Three: Commit. Just go and do it. We had to plan ahead for this so that we could plan our schedule around this date. And no excuses!

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20 weeks pregnant!

Step Four: Have fun! Oh my gosh, my husband and I had so much fun. It was exactly what he and I needed after a very busy, stressful week at work.

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I highly recommend paddle boarding! It’s fun AND relaxing. We did everything from standing to sitting to laying down and soaking up the sun on those boards. Have fun and try something new. You won’t regret it!

Have fun,

Princess Academy

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Ages 10 and up (AR Book Level is 6.0)

Summary:  Princess Academy is about Miri, a young woman from the small quarry town of Mount Eskell and several of her friends. Mount Eskell, the poorest territory of Danland, has been foreseen as the home of the next princess. With the prince coming to choose his bride in a year’s time all the young women of Mount Eskell are sent to the Princess Academy to learn reading, history, poise, diplomacy, and many other useful subjects.

Cathi Says:  Princess Academy is a fun book to read. Despite its name, much more besides schooling goes on in the book. There are bandits, quarry accidents, families sticking together, and, of course a little bit of romance. (The scene with the bandits may be scary for some.)

Focus:  Manners

**Dinner Time Pig.  Miri had to learn how to behave like a lady when she went to the academy.  Test your children’s manners with a fun game.  Before dinner, remind your children of your meal time rules.  Find a pig–stuffed, cut out and colored, or a little figurine.  This is your Dinner Time Pig.  Whenever someone sees another using bad manners, they silently place the pig in front of their plate.  The pig travels from person to person until the end of dinner.  Whoever has the pig when the meal is over gets to help with the dishes!  Remind your children to SILENTLY move the pig to squabbles and hard feelings.


**Manner Jar.  Instead of the harsh punishments Miri received, reward good manners with a Manner Jar.  Find any empty, clean jar and label it as the Manner Jar.  Anytime you catch your children using good manners, you put something in it (marbles, cotton balls, pennies, etc.) to slowly fill it up.  When it’s full, go out for ice cream or get a new game for the family to play!


**What Game.  I have a love/hate relationship with this game.  My children drive me slightly crazy with it.  The object of the game is to avoid the word “what.”  If you say “what,” you are IT.  If you are it, you want to come up with ways to make the other players say “what.”  How does this teach manners?  Well, my children no longer reply to me with “what” (which seems rude) when I call them.  They say yes or yes ma’am.  Simple but effective!

**Outline Placemats.  Help your children learn the proper way to set a table with our printable placemats.  The PDF file below the image will print on two sheets of paper.  Cut the margins off and tape them together.  They’ll be fit to dine with royalty, just like Miri! 

table setting placemat
Basic Table Setting Placemat (PDF)

**Tea Party or Fancy Dinner.  When the lessons and games are over, reward your children with a sweet little tea party or a fancy schmancy dinner.  Break out the good china, or find some fancy goblets at a yard sale.  Make a fancy meal and dress up.  Help your children feel like they are at Miri’s big ball  at the end of Princess Academy.

tea party

Other Ideas:  Play Simon Says to reinforce the manners you want to teach.
Practice table manners at a restaurant.

Additional Reads:  Princess Academy: Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale (Book 2)

Make it a Memorable Movie Night

Let me be honest here for a minute. I just don’t always have the energy to plan a fun creative date night. Usually, I just want to do the usual dinner and a movie because it’s easy. And that’s fine, but sometimes when life gets monotonous or boring, having a more unique date can pull me out of it and keep me motivated and happy with my life and my marriage.

This past date night was going to be a plain ol’ dinner and a movie, but then my husband, Bob, decided to make it a little more special. As simple as it was, it was exactly what I needed.

Instead of taking one route and going out to a movie, or taking the opposite movie-watching route and staying in, we did something in-between the two options.

Bob took an extra hour or two and set up a place to watch a movie in my parent’s hay barn (hooray technology!).

movienight setup

He made and brought dessert, and we got to snuggle and enjoy one another’s company. We left the doors in the hay loft open so that we could enjoy the night-time air. Part way into the movie it began to rain. It was a really beautiful, romantic night!

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So, instead of choosing whether to stay in or go out for a movie, try going in-between. Set up a tent in your back yard. Go to the park and lay out a blanket. Find a more unique place to watch a movie, bring your laptop or mini dvd player, snuggle up, and enjoy an easy and refreshing movie-date.

Date Night Posts

Ignore our post-movie sleep deprived eyes. It was a great date!

Maniac Magee

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

Ages 8 and up (AR Book Level is 4.7)

Summary: Maniac Magee is a story about an orphan, Jeffrey Magee, who runs away one day and just keeps running. He ends up in a small town bouncing around from family to family. Along the way he does many impossible things, thus earning the nickname Maniac, and eventually finds a family to call his own.

Cathi Says:  Maniac Magee can be a fun read, with all his impossible accomplishments. But it can also be sad at times as he doesn’t have a family and he seems to have a run of bad luck for a while. Maniac Magee is a great book to show kids that race doesn’t matter and anyone can be family.

Focus:  Exercise/Getting Active.  Maybe with all of these ideas, your kids will become legends just like Maniac Magee!

**Races.  Maniac Magee loved to run.  Racing Mars Bar, and later running every morning with him, helps him to be accepted among everyone in his town.  It’s easy to run races with your children.  Try different types of races–running short or long distances, walking backwards, egg on a spoon, or even a slow race!


Ready, set, go!


Pillow cases are great for sack races.


Balloon between your knees race!

**Sports.  Catching a football that “Hands” Down threw and practicing baseball with Grayson are other ways Maniac Magee got active.  Sports helped him to find things he had in common with others, no matter their age.  It’s inexpensive and simple to get outside and active by doing sports with your children.  Throw a frisbee, baseball, or football.  Try tennis.  Do some yoga or gymnastics.  It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, just get active!


**Freeze dance or dance party.  Dancing is my secret weapon for lightening the mood in our house.  When it seems like everyone is cranky or irritable, I put on some fast paced tunes and my kids can’t help dancing.  They love these spontaneous “dance parties,” especially when we do a freeze dance!  When we play, no one gets out; they just freeze and unfreeze.  Gets them moving and helps them have a better attitude.  (We also do freeze dances at birthday parties.  Always a hit!)

freeze dance

**Obstacle course.  Have to wait outside sometime?  Create an obstacle course for your children!  My sister-in-law introduced me to this, and I thought she was a genius!  It’s so much easier to keep your children contained in an open area when you give them tasks to complete.  “Walk to that tree backward, then balance on that sidewalk edge, crawl under the sign, spin around 2 times, and baby step back to me.”  You don’t need a lot of equipment!  Just use your imagination to get your kids moving.  They will do their obstacle course over and over!

obstacle course

My then two year old son crawling under a sign at Sea World, while waiting for the moms to clean up lunch!

**Get Up and Move Dice.  Sometimes it’s hard to make that first step to getting active.  My kids often complain that they don’t know what to do.  Try our Get Up and Move Dice to create dozens of fun ways to get active and get moving.

move diceGet Up & Move Dice (PDF)

Other Ideas:  Some video games are designed to make you move.  Try Just Dance!
Go jump on a trampoline.
Play Twister.
Try alternate types of exercise, like tai chi or yoga (one of my daughter’s favorites).
Sign up for a “Fun Run” with your child (like The Color Run).

Additional Reads:  Try other Jerry Spinelli books.  His books generally delve into deeper topics, so be prepared to have discussions with your child.

Date Night: The Park Play Date

My hubby and I actually did this date night about 11 years ago when we were still just dating. We both remember it as being a lot of fun and wanted to re-create that magic from so long ago. So without further ado, the park play date!


First things first, kiddie food. We hit McDonalds and got some Happy Meals (yay for Smurf toys!) but feel free to hit your favorite joint and order off the kids menu. Or if you don’t want to spend any money just make some fun kid food at home – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, mac and cheese, hot dogs – whatever you’d like.

Then we visited our neighborhood park for a picnic and playtime!


Swinging is so much fun! Even with four kids I had forgotten how much fun it can be to just swing.

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And going down the big slide. So much fun!

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And don’t forget, racing across the monkey bars!

Our park doesn’t have a see-saw or merry-go-round, but those would be even more fun.

So grab some favorite childhood food and relive those great memories from years ago! Act like a kid and have fun running, screaming, and just playing around with that special someone.

Ranger’s Apprentice: Ruins of Gorlan

The Ruins of Gorlan: Ranger’s Apprentice Book 1 by John Flanagan

Ages 10 and up (AR Book Level is 7.0)

Summary:  The Ruins of Gorlan is about a fifteen year old boy named Will. Will has been chosen to be the apprentice to the local Ranger (Rangers are the eyes and ears of the kingdom) and begins his training. He learns archery, knife skills, hunting, tracking, and a great deal of other skills all needed to be an effective spy. Soon though, Will and his mentor Halt find themselves to be key players as the battle between the kingdom and the evil Morgarath begins.

Cathi Says:  The Ruins of Gorlan is the first in a series of books about Will and Halt. While there is nothing too scary in the book, there are some suspenseful scenes and two encounters with terrifying creatures. There is also some intense bullying that occurs, but as always good prevails. The entire series is fun to read for the whole family (even my husband loves the books!).

Focus:  Archery

**Oak Leaf Necklace.  All rangers wear an oak leaf around their neck.  Bronze for apprentices and silver for full fledged members.   Use our printable to create one with them!  Once they are an apprentice, they can start their training with our other activities.

Apprentice Leaves
Apprentice Leaves (PDF)

**Mini bow and arrows.  Just like Will, your children will need a bow and arrow!  To make a mini version, use pliers to bend a paperclip into the shape of a bow.  Make sure you leave notches or loops at the end to hold the “string.”  We attached rubber bands for the string.  Our rubber bands were too big, so we had to cut them and tie them onto the bows.  We used q tips for arrows.  Some of my kids liked to cut off one end, others left both ends on.  It’s a personal preference.


There is a bit of a learning curve to using the bows, but anyone can do it once they get the hang of it (even my three year old managed to shoot it).  We found it best to use only the thumb and pointer finger of each hand.  My husband had fun designing different bows and my children played with them for HOURS!



**Water balloon target practice.  Will had to practice every day to be able to shoot well.  Create a target by drawing with chalk.  If you like, you can give point values to each different colored ring.


Then use water balloons to aim and fire!  Count up your points and see who has the wettest aim!



**DIY Bow and Arrows.  Once you have the basics down with your mini bow and arrow and target practice, why not give a regular size one a try?  This takes a bit more time to prepare than the mini version.  If you have older children, it’s great to get them involved in the building and teach them a little how a bow and arrow work.

We made two different kinds.  With a bow and arrow, you need one flexible component (either the bow or the string) and one sturdy component.  The less effective version uses a curved stick found in our backyard and round elastic string, found in the sewing section of the local craft store.  The more effective bow is made from thin, flexible PVC pipe and parachute cord.


I can’t lie.  I had plans to do this as simply as possible, but my husband, sweet over-achieving perfectionist that he is, loves archery, and couldn’t resist getting involved.  I’m going to attempt to explain things as best I can!

When making the stick and elastic version, all you do is tie the elastic, pulling it as tightly as possible, onto the already curved stick.  Easy peasy.

When making the PVC version, you need to break out the tools.  Our pipe was just over 3 feet.  Drill a hole about 1/4 inch from each end and then use diagonal cutters to clip the hole at only ONE end to make a notch (so you have a notch on one end and a hole on the other end).  Feed one end of the cord through the hole and tie a double half hitch knot and cinch it down tightly.  Then tie an overhand loop on the other end of the cord to go over the notch.  You will need the cord to be cut shorter than the pipe so that it bends into the shape of the bow when the cord is put on.  Tada!


Now for arrows.  The longer your arrows, the more force you will be able to put on them (and the farther and harder they will fly).  My kids are young and don’t always think about where others are when they shoot, so I opted for shorter arrows.  I bought a bag of 1 foot wooden dowel rods, but older kids and adults will want at least double this length.


Arrows need a weight at the tip.  Again, wanting to protect my children, I blunted the tips of the dowels with a cotton ball wrapped with a piece of felt and held on with a rubber band.  We used popsicle sticks (cut to size) and duct tape to create the nock at the back end of the arrow.  We experimented with duct tape fletchings, but they didn’t seem to help the flight of the arrows, so we didn’t bother with all of that extra work.


To shoot the bow, put the arrow in the middle of the bow on the left side (for right handers).  Loosely hold the arrow between your pointer and middle finger with your right hand, and hold the bow with your left hand so that the arrow rests on top of your bent pointer finger.  The cord or string should be between the two long ends (the nock) at the back of the arrow so it stays on easily.


Pull straight back (don’t crook your wrist) as far as possible, making sure the arrow stays next to the bow.  Release your right hand and send your arrow flying!


My kids shot arrows for a couple hours.  They loved shooting, called themselves archers (just like Will), and especially liked moving and shooting.  My three year old called it his “Duck and Shoot.”

After teaching and watching the kids (and making all those arrows), the adults wanted in on the action!  We changed the cotton ball out for a rock and duct taped two of the dowels together (we didn’t have anything longer at the time).  We were amazed at how far our homemade bow and arrows could shoot!



(Even grandpa wanted a turn!)

**DIY Quiver.  Your apprentice will need something to keep the extra arrows in!  An empty Pringles can is the start to a good child sized quiver.  Cover it with construction paper and decorate however you like.  One thing we learned–try to use a wide strap (instead of an uncomfortable thin string).



**Ranger’s certificate.  Have your children proved their ranger skills?  Print out our certificate so they can graduate from being an apprentice to being a ranger!

Ranger Certificate
Ranger Certificate (PDF)


Other Ideas:
Visit a local archery range.
Practice stealthy moving and hiding like rangers.  (Try hide and seek, but in this version, after a few minutes, the hider tries to find his way back to base without being seen.)

Additional Reads:  There are currently 10 books in the Ranger’s Apprentice series, all by John Flanagan.