Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Share the Love: Don't Miss the Chicago Botanic Garden's Brand New Regenstein Learning Center Grand Opening {Giveaway!}

Forget the X-Box. The iPads. The Wii and all the screens and games for which my boys beg.

And bring on the hills -- medium-sized and closely spaced together and perfectly padded, green-grassy hills.

Hills {who knew} are apparently the very thing that've been missing all of my boys' childhoods.

We discovered this secret of the hills when we attended last Friday the preview day for the Chicago Botanic Garden's Regenstein Learning Campus' grand opening, and my kids immediately mad-dashed for the perfectly crafted rolling hills that comprise a good chunk of the new outdoor Nature Play Garden. As we toured the outdoor garden, our boys promptly ran to the top of the biggest one ... and began rolling down without abandon in the soft green grasses.

Likely, though, hills and the greatness of the outdoors in general is what's increasingly missing in a great majority of our kids' lives as they grow up in an ever-increasing electronic world, making the unveiling of the Garden's Regenstein Learning Campus even more exciting and, honestly, necessary.

Nestled to the right of the parking lots when first entering the garden by car, the Regenstein Learning Campus is home to the Grunsfeld Growing Garden, The Kleinman Family Cove and the newly constructed Learning Center and outdoor Nature Play Garden. The grand opening, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday September 10 and 11, 2016, is just around the calendar corner, and if you're looking for something wonderful to fill your weekend, this is it!

During opening weekend of the center, the Garden will offer refreshments and free activities like seed play, soil sandbox, watering activities, yoga, make-you-own smoothies, water play and a walk and talk in the Nature Play Garden with the goal of showcasing just a sampling of the 500 classes offered at the Joseph Regenstein, Jr. School.

In addition to the free activities, the Garden also is generously giving away one parking pass so one family here can attend the grand opening of the center for free! See below to enter for the parking pass giveaway.

Here's a little cheat sheet of what to expect when you visit during the grand opening or beyond:

Photo courtesy of the Chicago Botanic Garden

The Nature Play Garden is a sensory-rich outdoor play space thoughtfully and intuitively designed for all ages to enjoy interacting with nature in a hands-on way. Roll down the grassy hills, play in the open grassy areas, splash in the streams of water, climb on the logs and tunnel through the willow tunnel at the Nature Play Garden. It's designed just for that!

The Learning Center is home to learning rooms, the classrooms that house the Garden's preschool and camps, multiple bathrooms, water-bottle filling stations, Chicago-area history and a bee hive! Explore the classrooms, use the bathroom, take a breather and check out the busy bees bustling around their hive in this new building.

The Grunsfeld Growing Garden gives children an up-close view of the growing fruits and as well as the opportunity to help take care for these plants by watering them and tending to them. Often times, family drop-in activities are planned in the growing garden.

The Kleinman Family Cove features 800 feet of shoreline gardens for exploration and observation of flora and fauna as well as stepping stones that visitors can navigate as they explore and enjoy the beautiful waterfront.

And don't forget, mom and dad, to make a long pitstop at the hills; they aren't just refreshing for the kiddos.

Disclosure: My family loves the Chicago Botanic Garden and the great outdoors, so we are thrilled to be Garden Ambassadors, sharing our love the Garden here and across social media! In exchange for writing and sharing, we receive a yearly membership to the Garden so we can continue to explore and learn and grow and share! 

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Monday, August 22, 2016

A Short Story of the Event that Most Impacted my Life

Our daughter, Marina, was assigned to write about the event that has most impacted her life for freshman English her first week of school. She chose to write about her adoption into our family. She wanted to share this with the people who have been journeying alongside of us and asked me to publish it here. All the feels for this mama. All the feels. 

guest post by Marina Worth

The event that impacted my life the most happened almost two years ago; it was my adoption.

But before that came hosting. And before that came the orphanage. But before the orphanage came my parent’s divorce, but I’m not going to talk about that just yet. 
Adoption is an act of giving official acceptance or an approval of something. Well, how did it change or impact my life? The first five years of my life went well, and then my parents got divorced. I stayed with my mother for six hard years, but then I went to an orphanage when I was 11. In the orphanage it was a somewhat easier life, but it still wasn't a piece of cake. It was fun in the orphanage because during the two years that I lived there I got hosted two times a year by families in America. 

During those years I was hosted by three different families and finally the third family wanted to adopt me. It took awhile for all of the paperwork to be approved and sent Latvia, which was where I lived. 

When the papers got to Latvia a counselor talked with me about adoption. She seemed very nice, and she asked me a lot of questions about being adopted. I answered that I knew what adoption was and that I wanted to be adopted. A couple of months later my new family came to Latvia, and at that time we had our first court date and the judge said that I could live with my new family in the U.S. but we still had one more court date to attend to make the adoption final. So that summer I went to the U.S. for about four months before my dad needed to travel back to Latvia for our final court date. The court ruled in favor of the adoption so my sister and I officially became a part of our family. When we went back for the third trip to get my citizenship the whole family didn't needed to come with, so my sister, my dad and me went to Latvia once again. 

After the final trip I was excited because I had a new family, and I was sick of flying back and forth across the world. Also I felt a bit sad because I was leaving my school and my good friends. After the appointments were done I said goodbye to everyone I knew, and we flew back to  the U.S.            

Today I go to a good school, I've got everything I need and most importantly, I've got a family that cares about me and that would do anything to make me feel loved and safe.