Tag Archives: outdoors

Grocery Store Signing

Grocery Store Signing www.growingsigns.com
One of the best places to show and reinforce signs to your little eaters is at the grocery store! Stacks of colorful fruit and veggies will be easy to point at and talk about, so don’t be afraid to linger in those aisles and add some fun to your shopping when you have time. Yup, I know it can be stressful shopping with kids, but try to carve out some time whenever you can manage it. Your kids will start learning about the foods you eat and begin a rich relationship with food. All those bright colors and piles of juicy FRUIT you’re strolling by… YUM!

My daughter, Ella, hates bananas and so it wasn’t a sign I bothered working on because it caused all sorts of wails and groans. But I still signed banana to her every time she watched ME eat a banana because I love them. One day, when Ella was just 15 months old, we were at the grocery store strolling along and we passed a gigantic pyramid of bananas. She caught my eye and frantically started signing banana to me! I was so surprised at the time because it wasn’t a sign I was purposefully working on with her, but of course,

I shouldn’t have been surprised at all.

Our babies want to tell us what they see and do, and Ella was dying to tell me about the huge pile of bananas she saw despite the fact that she didn’t like eating them.

Be sure to sign and talk about all the foods you are eating and seeing together, your babies will soak it up and show you when they’re ready, I promise!

Oh! And don’t forget to sign when you visit all the farmer’s markets popping up for summer!

All those stalls of fresh produce and the lovely smells and colors will be such a vivid experience for learning. What are your fave foods to see at the grocery store?

How to sign FRUIT ins ASL www.growingsigns.com

To sign FRUIT in ASL, hold your letter ‘F’ hand with index finger connected to thumb and rest of fingers extended up beside your mouth, and twist that hand like you’re eating some FRUIT.

How to sign VEGETABLE in ASL www.growingsigns.com

To sign VEGETABLE in ASL, hold your letter ‘V’ hand up beside your mouth, and twist that hand like you’re eating some VEGGIES.

Search and Find

True story: last week as I arrived at school pick-up, my son looked up at me with those big eyes of his and sheepishly told me that he couldn’t find his glasses. It took all I had not to completely freak out, I’m not gonna lie. His glasses are extremely important, of course (not to mention expensive!), and the last thing I wanted to do on this warm afternoon was go looking for them.


Schoolyard  www.growingsigns.com

We started retracing his steps to SEARCH the school, but then something went horribly wrong.

During our first loop around the hallways outside his classroom, one of the school workers we knew ran by us and said a girl was missing, the little sister of a boy in first grade. She was only 4 years old, she said. “Have you seen her go by?” Suddenly my son’s glasses were completely forgotten and we joined the SEARCH for little Olivia. Ian knew the boy and his sister and remembered he had seen her in the hallway running by right when school let out, but by now no one had seen her for almost 20 minutes. The panic in the air was palpable as we started looking and I saw all of the principals, teachers, school workers and parents on the school grounds SEARCHING, too. Kids old enough to look were combing the area in pairs and threesomes or trailing behind their parents as the entire school community dropped everything and came together to find this little girl.

All you could hear was the calling of, “Olivia!” as we SEARCHED every corner of the school building and walked the grounds.

The happy ending is that our kindergarten teacher ended up finding Olivia tucked in between the bushes and the school building right next to the playground, afraid to come out even though she heard everyone calling her. She thought she’d be in trouble for running away and hiding. The relief that spread across our schoolyard was immense as we watched her mom pull Olivia into the tightest embrace that didn’t seem to end. Once my own maternal heartbeat returned to normal, I felt so proud to have witnessed our little elementary school community stopping everything and coming together to SEARCH for Olivia.

And I took the opportunity to sit down with Ian and discuss how great it is to have everyone at school help us, and how we can always count on our community here. And I pulled him onto my lap and hugged him so tight he sputtered for air.

Oh, and then we got back to SEARCHING for those darn glasses.

To sign SEARCH in American Sign Language, hold your ‘C’ hand up to your eye and circle that hand in front of your face a couple times, like you’re looking hard for something through a lens.

How to sign SEARCH   www.growingsigns.com

CLICK to learn how to sign EYEGLASSES


We just joined some good friends for the first day of my kids’ spring break at the Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park. It was a typical Pacific Northwest grey, drizzly day outside, but we walked into a lush, tropical rainforest-like oasis inside!
Processed with Rookie Cam

The Bloedel Conservatory is offering free entry for kids until March 24 for spring break. Adults pay $6.95 and up to 2 kids per adult are free, yahoo!

One of the best parts about going to the hilltop location of the Bloedel Conservatory is walking through the gardens of Queen Elizabeth Park following a meandering paved path through the expansive outdoor gardens to reach it. The kids ran ahead for a long while within our sight, and stopped to rest and see the fantastic outlook once we reached the top. Queen Elizabeth Park is home to one of the city’s biggest hills and best viewpoint to see Vancouver’s downtown skyline, the north shore mountains, the valley to the east and ocean to the west. Visibility wasn’t stellar since it was a cloudy day, but still a breathtaking view of Vancouver.
Viewpoint at Queen's Elizabeth Park  --www.growingsigns.com
Once inside, we relaxed in the warm, tropical air under the geodesic glass roof with palm fronds, treetops and vines frolicking above us. We heard the chirping of birds and insects and critters all around us.

Time to explore!

Inside Bloedel Conservatory  --www.growingsigns.com
Again, the conservatory is a really nice place to let the kids walk with us because it’s a paved, windy, big loop that we could let them get ahead and still easily find them in the confined grounds. Babies and tots in strollers or carriers would love seeing all the wildlife at eye level, too! My little guy loved that he could (gently) touch and feel the foliage all around the conservatory.
Giant Fronds  --www.growingsigns.com
We saw lots of tiny, multi-coloured birds flitting around us as we strolled around the conservatory, and came upon a koi pond, chatty parrots, a throne made of branches, a feeding area, and lots of habitats full of tropical and desert plant life.
Koi Pond  --www.growingsigns.com
Bird trio  --www.growingsigns.com

May I present, Princess Quinn!
Branch Throne  --www.growingsigns.com
Rainbow Bird  --www.growingsigns.com
This rainbow-coloured bird was so extraordinary!

After we got our bearings, we let the kids roam around together finding items on the scavenger hunt provided at the conservatory.
Scavenger Hunt --www.growingsigns.com
We moms found a lovely bench and proceeded to catch up a little bit, of course. All of a sudden, we realized there was someone eavesdropping on our conversation. Well, not just one eavesdropper, but two! Behind us in one of the parrot environments, a couple of beautiful parrots were saying, “HELLO!” and “HOW ARE YOU?”. For real! They were just as chatty as we were, and they kept talking and asking questions as we responded. “I’M FINE, I’M FINE, HOW ARE YOU? HELLO!”
Parrot chat --www.growingsigns.com

To sign BIRD in American Sign Language snap your index finger and thumb together like the beak of a BIRD

How to sign BIRD in American Sign Language --www.growingsigns.com
Snap your index finger and thumb together like the beak of a BIRD

Do you have plans for spring break?

Winter Beach Day

winter beach thumbs up www.growingsigns.com
One of my family’s favorite places to go is the beach. We have picnics and birthday parties at the beach when it’s hot out, but we head to the beach during every season. Our city of Vancouver lies on the west coast of Canada and has more beaches than I can count on two hands. We are also watched over by huge mountains to the north that look spectacular year-round, so heading to the beach on a sunny day is just as lovely in winter as it is in summer.

We often head out to the beach late in the day to catch the last rays of light as the winter sun makes its way down to set over the water.
Winter beach day www.growingsigns.com

Oh yes, it’s COLD here in the winter! We bundle up with gloves and hats, but the fresh ocean air and vitamin D shining down feels so invigorating in December.
Winter seashell www.growingsigns.com

And even though my kids are big, they still love to climb and balance on the logs, find seashells, touch the water, and generally just muck about
(and so do the parents).
beach log balance www.growingsigns.com

balancing act www.growingsigns.com

log wiggle www.growingsigns.com

beach jump www.growingsigns.com

When dad and I finally get too COLD and decide it’s time to go, we can sign COLD in American Sign Language to the kids no matter if they’re out of earshot –they know that’s the signal in winter for let’s get moving! Even if they’ve wandered a little far down the beach…

winter beach www.growingsigns.com

Remember to tell your kids what’s happening with signs along with your words so they can follow your lead. Combining signs with your commands adds extra oomph to your directions, and shows that you mean business. I love using signs when we’re out so I don’t have to shout things like, “Let’s go, it’s COLD!” a million times.

To sign COLD or CHILLY in American Sign Language, hold your two closed fists up and shake them while hunching your shoulders, like you’re shivering in the COLD.

How to sign COLD in American Sign Language www.growingsigns.com

Where is your family’s favorite place to go play in winter?

Home Run

I played a lot of sports as a kid, but baseball was the very first team sport I joined. There was a keen dad in our kindergarten class, and somehow he rounded up enough girls that summer to make a team. Looking back, I’m pretty sure it was pure comedy for the parents to watch a dozen 5-year-olds learn how to throw a ball, use a mitt, and (sort of) run around the bases at practices. I remember a lot of horsing around. We were very young and very silly, and it was probably sheer chaos to our adult spectators, but I remember so many fun summer nights spent at the baseball diamond. I played every summer with that same team until we moved away when I was twelve.

Flash forward a few (ahem) years, and now I’m the parent sitting in the bleachers watching my little guy go up to bat and take some swings. Well, a lot of swings, actually. All the kids are swinging and hitting and throwing their hearts out. And boy are they having fun! My guy is thrilled to learn a new sport and join a team with his school-mates and other kids from around town. Sitting there watching his first practice, I realized I had completely forgotten how much I loved playing baseball as a kid, too. Like, really loved it!
The next day I picked up an adult glove for me from the used sporting goods store, and started throwing the ball around with my new little leaguer that night. Talk about feeding the soul –tossing a baseball back and forth on a warm sunny evening together felt so good.

Last weekend his team played their final game at playoffs and then the league hosted a huge family fair to end the season. I made cookies for snack after our last game, but soon after munching those down the kids made a bee-line over to the other side of the field where hot dogs, cotton candy, popcorn, a dunk tank, and a bouncy castle awaited all the teams on this last day of the season. Super fun.
This former baseball player mommy got to experience the fun of the game through new eyes, and touch back to my own childhood.

Do you play any sports or activities now that you also played as a kid?

Think about it, you might be like me and remember a whole other side to your childhood that can feed the soul again.


How to Sign BASEBALL in ASL. www.growingsigns.com

To sign BASEBALL in American Sign Language, pretend you are holding a baseball bat with both hands up, then swing hands forward like swinging the bat to hit a ball.

Hammock Time

For Father’s Day, my husband asked if he could just chill in his hammock. No gifts. He’s been keeping long hours at work for a big project these days and he didn’t want anything fancy, he just wanted some quiet time with us. The kids and I readily agreed that we could all use a lazy day after a lot of end-of-the-school-year events lately. So we quickly packed up the picnic basket and headed to local Whytecliff Park in West Vancouver for the afternoon.

It was time to break out the hammocks for summer!

A few years ago, my hubby scouted these cool camping hammocks by Kammok that attach to trees with nylon straps, adjustable to wherever you may go, as long as there are two sturdy trees. He bought two of these new Kammok hammocks a while back when Kammok first brought them out as a kickstarter project, and we love them. They fold up into a pouch about the size of a grapefruit, and we take them whenever we head out into nature.

For our last-minute, very casual family celebration for dad, we set up our blanket and picnic lunch on the seaside grass.
Then Scott got the hammock set up and climbed in. He had a few minutes alone before the kids climbed in, too.
We also went exploring down at the beach –it’s such a pretty park and beach.
Whytecliff Beach
Ian found this cool critter that we called a sea-centipede. It probably has a real name, I’d love to know what it is!

We spent the afternoon at a leisurely pace with everyone lounging, reading, and relaxing.

Happy Father’s Day to all the hard-working dads.

Snow Day (indoors and out)

My in-laws live next to a lake about 10 minutes away from Whistler Blackcomb, host mountains to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Whistler, B.C. Their little cabin overlooks the lake with both mountains tucked in behind. It is gorgeous here year-round, but it’s especially snowy and beautiful in winter. Every year for New Year’s Eve we come up and stay with the grandparents and play in the SNOW!
Indoor snowball by Snowtime Anytime
(Disclaimer: lots of wintry words ahead, but if it’s not snowy where you are, I have a really delightful indoor solution for you and your littles at the end of this post.)
How to sign SNOW in American Sign Language --www.SigningBabies.ca
To sign SNOW in American Sign Language, hold your hands up in the air. Flutter your fingers as you move your hands down and side to side.

We don’t get much SNOW where we live in Vancouver, so the 90 minute drive up to Whistler always excites us as we watch the terrain slowly morph from shades of brown and green in the city into a frozen wonderland in all shades of white.

As soon as we arrived, I rushed outside while it was lightly snowing and took some photos so I could show you some snowy ASL signs!


To sign COLD in American Sign Language, hold up both arms with closed fists, and shake them sideways like you’re shivering in the COLD.

Every SNOW day requires you make a SNOWMAN! Here’s our little guy ready to greet the trains passing by, not far from the cabin:

Signing SNOWMAN is easy -just sign SNOW with your fluttery fingers (see sign above), then sign MAN:
How to sign MAN in American Sign Language --www.SigningBabies.ca
To sign SNOWMAN in American Sign Language, first sign SNOW, then MAN by tapping thumb once to your forehead and then bring thumb down to tap once on chest.

A good PLAY in the snow always tuckers out my kids, hallelujah!
How to sign PLAY in AMerican Sign Language --www.SigningBabies.ca
To sign PLAY in American Sign Language, twist both hands with pinkies and thumbs out (middle fingers stay tucked in).

Of course, a steaming cup of HOT CHOCOLATE is always in order after playing in the snow, right? It’s almost the best part, and always a fitting ending to all that snowy fun.

To sign HOT CHOCOLATE in American Sign Language, sign HOT by placing your open claw hand beside your mouth, then turn it away from your body (like it’s too hot to touch). Then sign CHOCOLATE by circling your ‘C’ hand on top of your other hand in a closed fist.

*Okay, so here’s my find of the year, brought to me by my Very Inspiring Friend, who first found these incredible Indoor Snowballs online here.
She then showed me they carried them at a local dollar store near her house and I promptly bought two dozen snowballs to tuck into everyone’s stockings for Christmas. We had a huge snowball fight right after opening our presents and it was completely hilarious. The kids didn’t get tired of chucking snowballs at each other but they did get just as tired as playing outside. The adults had the biggest child-like grins on their faces as they pelted each other, too. The snowballs are made of tightly bunched soft yarn so they aren’t likely to injure people or knock down things in your house. They’re incredibly realistic-looking and just plain fun to throw!

And that leaves me with one more word for you to sign with SNOW:
How to sign BALL in American Sign Language --www.SigningBabaies.ca
To sign BALL in American Sign Language, hold both open claw hands in front of you, like you are holding a BALL.

Are you having some fun this winter in the SNOW (inside or outside)?

Happy New Year!

-Lee Ann

Light the Night

My family is participating in Light the Night in Vancouver this evening -a walk to raise funds for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada. It occurs to me as I write this that many of you don’t know my father because he died of cancer at the age of 43, when I was 10. He was one of those incredible people that embodied life and charm and vitality, and I miss him every single day. He’s been gone much longer than I ever had him, and although I know he’s with me and my family today in different ways, it’s not the same as having him here, alive, with us. Not even remotely the same.

I have two other friends whose fathers passed away of cancer, one specifically of leukemia. My husband, Scott, lost his grandparents to cancer, and his cousin, Chelsea passed away from an incredibly rare form of brain cancer just last summer leaving 4 small kids under the age of five. The list goes on.

We all know someone.

This cause is very close to our hearts, and we are joining this walk with our dear, dear friend, Sara Sutton and her family, who bravely and thankfully showed lymphoma that it was no match for her two years ago.

Tonight, we will be walking for them, with them, and to benefit them. Maybe you want to light a candle or lantern tonight and think about those you know and love who felt the impact of cancer. I felt it was really important for my kids, aged 8 and 12 years, to participate and perhaps begin to understand how we can try to make a difference while we celebrate the triumphs and mourn the losses. They are old enough now to be a part of change, not just hear or learn about it. So we will be walking and lighting the night.

Of course, these two ASL signs are very usable signs for babies and kids, too!

LIGHT in American Sign Language -middle finger and thumb are connected, then middle finger thumps chin twice lightly  -www.signingbabies.ca
The ASL sign for LIGHT -middle finger and thumb are connected, then middle finger flicks upward on the underside of the chin twice lightly.

NIGHT in American Sign Language -one arm is held horizontally, palm down, while other hand arcs forward from behind flat arm to rest its wrist on the back of your flat hand.  -www.signingbabies.ca
NIGHT (or “evening”)
The ASL sign for NIGHT -one arm is held horizontally, palm down, while other hand arcs forward from behind flat arm to rest its wrist on the top of your flat hand.

If you are interested in donating, here is the link for our family’s team within the mighty Vancouver Team Sutton.

Thank you!

Le port de Cannes en fête

imageOn our second evening in Cannes, families and music lovers were warmly welcomed onto the boardwalk for the second annual Le Port de Cannes en Fêtes, a free festival celebrating summer fun. Why, yes, we’d absolutely love to celebrate in Cannes! We scrubbed up from our beach day and headed to the Esplanade Pantiéro just past the beach where there was a carousel, a picnic area, food trucks, a massive stage and carnival games set up in the seaside square.
Scheduled onstage that evening were performances by French music bands Miss America and the Sisters G, and headliners Kool and the Gang. Those of you old enough will remember Kool and the Gang’s huge dance hits from the 80’s like Celebration, Get Down On It, Ladies Night, and ballads like Cherish and Too Hot.

Scott and I were thrilled to see them appearing at this free outdoor concert. That song, Celebration, made it on our wedding CD and kicked off the very-important dancing portion at our reception 14 years ago. Who knew they were still touring?

(Click here if you still can’t quite hear the disco rifts and need a little Kool and the Gang while you stroll with us on this festival evening!)

“Celebrate good times, come on!”

But before the sun set and the concerts began, we had time to wander the area and see all the wonderful family entertainment that was set out on the esplanade. Scott and I quickly realized that the French manage to attain an air of sophistication even with something as simple as carnival games.
imageThis first game we saw was very simple but oh, so tricky! With 2 pulleys, you had to balance and manoever the wooden ball up to the top of the board around all the holes without letting it drop. There were so many games to try, and it was very civilized as kids and adults waited their turn to try them all. Line ups weren’t necessary, everyone just watched for who was next. See what I mean about the civilized stuff?

Mini Ropes Course, Ball Balancer, Tilted Maze & Mini Shuffleboard

Mirror Puzzle
This one really tested my own left-handed/right-brain synapses, but Ella found it quite easy to assemble the half-a-picture puzzle pieces into one full picture using the mirror.

Nope, none of those silly pay-up-and-give-it-your-best-shot-but-you’ll-never-win kinda games here, and no ratty stuffies as prizes like we’ve always found in our hometown. In Cannes, they set up handcrafted wooden games that actually challenge your body and brain, and they’re great for all ages! No prizes necessary, it was just plain fun. My kids and hubby and I had a blast trying out all the free games, and testing our varying levels of hand-eye coordination. We enjoyed watching how other people solved the puzzles, too. Hands down, it was the best carnival I’d ever seen, and I loved seeing it all through my kids eyes as much as I enjoyed participating in such simple pleasures.

Street performers, magicians, jugglers, and marching bands passed us by on our way down the esplanade towards the boats in Quai St. Pierre.
Then we doubled back towards the square as it started getting dark and we could hear Kool and the Gang taking over the stage. We found out that this concert was a surprise announcement, not on Kool and the Gang’s official touring calendar. Apparently they love Cannes, too, and added it to their European concert dates this summer. Our kids thought we were nuts, but Scott and I were so chuffed to see them perform and there might have been a little boogie-ing in the streets (cue the eye rolls). I caught a quick pic of the scene as we four regretfully headed back to our apartment from the fête with sleepy, smiley faces.

“Oh, what a night!”


And here’s a great video that shows all the entertainment, games, performers, and Kool and the Gang in action that night at Le port de Cannes en fête 2014.

Beachy Keen in Cannes


So let’s talk a bit more about the ritzy Cannes beaches that were right across the street from our apartment along La Croisette. Scott and I thought more about the reasoning behind pay beaches, something we hadn’t experienced before and seemed, at first, way too “lifestyles of the rich and famous”. But then we realized that in France, as in many parts of Europe, people don’t really store “stuff”. They typically don’t have sheds, garages, basements or even many closets. Europeans live in much smaller spaces than we are used to in North America. There’s no room for bulky things like beach chairs, umbrellas, coolers, etc. So a pay beach where those kinds of items are provided would be useful to both locals and tourists, and perhaps, even worth their weight in gold (or Euros).

So, as I mentioned here, the city of Cannes runs both public free beaches where it’s just empty beach and you bring your own gear, and also pay beaches where there’s a full set up of chairs, umbrellas and tables ready. You just bring your towel, pay for a day or half-day, and then walk in. Very convenient.

We didn’t pack any beach chairs in our carry ons, and it is way too hot to sit on the sand in full sun, so we opted to try out the beautiful city pay beach called Plage Macé -around $6 per person for a full day (9am-6pm). Earlier that morning, we had seen many young men and women working hard to set up all the equipment for the day.

We were fascinated by the keen effort being made for the visual beauty of the set up.

Early morning set up

Before opening, they rake the sand for glass and debris, then lay out string in measured lines to make sure all the chairs line up. Small beach tables are carefully placed in between the evenly spaced chairs, and then large umbrellas are dug into the sand and placed in colour order -yellow and blue. You just can see in the photo above a young man in turquoise shorts heading to arrange more rows, and the many footprints of the crew going back and forth with the equipment during set-up.

Once all the chairs, tables & umbrellas are set up, they rake all the footprints away and lay a grass woven carpet down the middle before opening up for the day. Symmetrical patterns are raked onto the sand on either side of the woven carpet where the footprints had been (look carefully at the photo at the top of this post for swirly sand patterns). Every inch of the beach front was pretty as a picture, and we were gobsmacked. It was absolutely incredible!

Feeling quite swish after we paid for a full day, we found chairs near the water line and sat back and enjoyed the hot sunny day. The surf was perfect for kids to play in -not too rough but still lively and fun. We all frolicked in the water, and we tossed a mini-football back and forth in the water. Ian could throw forever, so I eventually figured out how to toss the ball to him in the water while I sat in my lounge chair. Yup, it felt like a vacation to me!

Soon, Ian met a boy visiting Cannes with his family from Italy and they tossed the ball for awhile, and then built some sand sculptures. Because of the language barrier, we asked him to PLAY using the ASL sign, and then a motioning with the ball to show throwing and catching. A bit mish-mash, but it worked!
I always love watching what kids will imagine and create in sand -Ian and little Roberto built towns with community gardens and moats and water towers (perhaps memories of the gardens we visited in Tavel?).
We were so relaxed and happy to just spend the day doing nothing. As the sun traveled across the sky, people moved their beach chairs and shifted their umbrellas to either face the sun or stay in the shade, and all those measured rows of yellow and blue went askew. The picture perfect set up quickly became a jumbled mess.

But still beautiful. We were so very impressed with the way the French approached their job by creating art and beauty within the realm of one sandy beach. It made perfect sense to our family for Cannes to offer full service beaches alongside the public beaches. The French continued to dazzle us in a cultured, refined, but good-natured way, and we were feeling a kind of punch-drunk love for this sandy corner of France.

And we stayed all day at the beach. We wanted to get every minute we paid for!

At the very end of the day they take it all down, piece by piece.