It’s All About Winning In First Grade Girls Basketball

One thing I am over the moon about is that our 6 year old girl loves to play basketball.

It is pretty much the only sport I know how to play.

I am nearly 40 years old and truly have no concept of what “fourth down” or “offsides” means. Basketball is IT.

It has been amazing to watch a team of girls go from not knowing how to simply dribble at the try-outs, to watching them practice fast break drills.

The hoops are lower and the rules at this early level of girls basketball can pretty much be boiled down to the following,

“You Are Allowed To Travel All You Want,
Just As Long As You Remember To Double-Dribble In Between!”

They often forget.

It is a real highlight to watch a little ponytailed girl fight for the ball, and with exuberant intent, take off down the court in a full sprint, protecting that ball like it’s the hot Black Friday Toy Of The Year.

One thing that all of our girls can do this year is protect the ball. We have come up with a drill wherein the first one to grab the rebound or the fumbled ball yells, “I’ve got it!” so that team-mates don’t continue to try to wrestle it from her.


One of the funniest things to see in a game is how desperately and self-sacrificially these 6 year olds will throw themselves on a basketball, and how difficult it is to pull it from their grasps. The person who seems to have the most difficult time getting the ball out of a little girl’s hands is the referee.

You can often see the referees attempting to get the ball after repeated pleas for it. When they get ahold of it, they nearly lift the determined girl’s body up as a rigid unit since she has encased the ball in a tight fetal position, sealed with the resilience of Super Glue, eyes closed, and with a clenched will to NOT LET GO.

We may also not have our shots perfected, but they are generally headed in an upward AND forward direction.

This is a vast improvement from where we started 2 months ago.

Getting the ball INTO the basket, or simply NEAR the lowered basket, is on the long-term training agenda. Just you watch. We’ll be swishing soon.

It is helpful to remember that these are skills that are cumulative.

We’re going to get it.

Besides, these young ladies and future UCONN Point Guards and Forwards have already demonstrated a tenacious spirit and drive to WIN.

As you can see, they are a formidable bunch in pink.

Attentive. Driven. Ready To Go!

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The diminutive hoopsters with matching pink hairbows (which will surely result in technical fouls in later years if worn during a game) are pounding the court!

Go Pink!

On those hairbows, the greatest problem with them is not that they are particularly hazardous in the under-the-basket brawls for the ball.

It is that they tend to fall out, and the little girls spend their time searching for the fallen bows on the court rather then focusing on their part of the zone defense.

It’s a little comical to watch. “I Got Her! I Got Her! Wait a minute. Where’s my hairbow? There it is by the boundary line!”

And a nice little hole is made for the fast break straight to the basket.

Often, the little girls end up tossing their hairbows to mom in the sidelines as they run up the court after a basket was made because they were obliviously searching for their lost hair bows.

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Even so, the B Team is waiting with baited breath for the chance to go in and redeem that error!

We’re down by 2! Put Me In, Coach!

Well, Sorta.

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I have absolutely no idea why we lost.

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Killer Instincts.

We’ve got ‘em.

We may have lost the basketball game, but some of these girls were TOP DOG in Rock Paper Scissors.

My daughter can often be overheard after a hard-won Handsie-Game on Sidelines as saying, “ROCK ALWAYS WINS! I LOVE ROCK!”

And, don’t get me wrong, we didn’t just lose because second string likes to play Say Say My Playmate.

Lots of parents want to know what the Red Shirt Policy is.

Some of those opposing team kids look like they’ve already started memorizing multiplication tables.

They probably already know how to tie their shoes and keep their letters facing the right direction. I bet their lower case “b’s” don’t look like “d’s”, anymore.

Just saying.

It can’t possibly be this.

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Just give us a couple of years.


It’s All Cumulative.

We’re working on dribbling without looking, fast break drills, a crippling man-to-man defense, and a very cool double-back-hand-reverse slap for Say Say My Playmate, in the meantime.




** HUMOR DISCLAIMER: I am by no means implying that there is any wrongdoing by any teams in the league we play in. That snippet about the Red Shirt policy was thrown in for comedic effect. I’m sure there are lots of reasons for 5 ft tall 1st graders with uncommon hand and eye coordination to abound on some teams.**


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When You Put A Pre-Schooler In Charge Of The Thanksgiving Centerpiece



NOW, we’re ready for Thanksgiving.


Funny Thanksgiving Centerpiece Critters And Crayons


Nothing screams “Gratitude” like “Crocodile”.


It makes total sense to a 4-Year Old.


Best Thanksgiving Centerpiece Ever.




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The Merry Basket Giveaway!

This is a sponsored post giveaway written by me on behalf of Knotty Origami, Vella Naturale, Just Stitch, Susan Hammert of The Pampered Chef, Oma’s Homemade Dogfood, And South Hills Designs By Eliana.  All Opinions Are 100% Mine.  



Rendy Brel***….Your name was selected as the winner of the Merry Basket Giveaway! Please contact me at crittersandcrayons(at) to confirm by Noon (CST) on December 19th, 2013. Thank you to all who entered! Merry Christmas!

Critters And Crayons is excited to announce




The Merry Basket Giveaway!




The Merry Basket features wonderful products from the following businesses!



One Handmade, Adjustable, Burgundy Celtic Knot Necklace By

Knotty Origami


A Three-Piece Variety of Natural Soaps By

Vella Naturale


One Handmade Coffee Coozie From

Just Stitch


One Package of Gourmet Dog Food And Treats From

Oma’s Homemade Dog Food


One Mix ‘n Chunk Tool From Susan Hammert of

Pampered Chef


One Mini-Locket And Charm From

South Hill Designs By Eliana Marroquin



 The Giveaway runs from



Tuesday, November 26th at Noon (CST)






Tuesday, December 17th at Noon (CST)!





(And To Read The Official Rules And Eligibility Requirements),




Or Enter Using The Form Below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Thanks For Entering!


Best Of Luck To You!


A Hopping Popping Christmas Literacy Event!

I hope you’ll come out to to see me and my friends at Laredo 8 HEB Plus for a super fun literacy event on November 30th!

I’ll be reading some old Christmas favorites and the kids are going to enjoy some fantastic stomping on the Bubble Wrapped Floor and Christmas Tree Painting With…..

 Bubble-Wrap, of course!



HEB Plus Critters And Crayons Literacy Event A Hopping Popping Christmas




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Kids Play In The Same Language



Kids Play In The Same Language


Kids Play In The Same Language.


They just a find a way to get over the minor obstacle of competent verbal communication.

One of the best aspects of living on the US/Mexico border is the opportunity for our children to experience a different culture and language.

I was reminded of this today as my children played at an indoor play area.

I posted about it on the Critters And Crayons Facebook Page and realized that such a great thing really warrants its very own blog post.

Our 6 year old daughter ran around playing tag with a new friend.

She ran up to me and said,

“Mom! I made a new friend!  She doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Spanish!   So we made up a game!”


I asked how they played that game.  And our daughter answered,

“I teach her English and she teaches me Spanish!
It’s called Speaking Different Languages!”

I noted how brilliant that was.

It is, isn’t it?

When you have so much in common,

like the need to be gleeful in the moment

for the sake of loving that moment,

then language is not a worthy foe.


That’s something children have figured out.

A reader commented on Facebook, “And a child shall lead them.”



Kids Play In The Same Language


And So They Shall.

And So They Do.


For more posts on bilingualism and culture with kids…..


But, She Doesn’t Like Me….


Bilingualism, The Border, Dora, And Kids…


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Family Night No-Carve Jack-O-Lantern Bar

We chose not to carve pumpkins this year….


But, We Totally Turned Family Night

Into A No-Carve Jack-O-Lantern Bar!


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We rolled out that awesome roll of butcher paper in the kitchen to get our Family Night Jack-O-Lantern Bar ready for action!

Then, we put the pumpkins and craft materials along the paper so we each had a workspace.


I didn’t want to waste anything in our first aid kit, so I used a leftover white crepe paper party streamer and googly eyes to make a mummy pumpkin!


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Mommy’s Mummy Pumpkin!


Our pre-school son used the gold and white paint that was set out, the sponge brushes and googly eyes to make his Scary Vampire Jack-O-Lantern!


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Our Son’s Scary Vampire Jack-O-Lantern!


My husband used the shiny stickers and googly eyes to make a Man-O-Lantern with a goatee!


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Dad’s Man-O-Lantern!


And our fashion-loving first grader blinged her squash out!


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Our Daughter’s Jeweled-Up Pumpkin!


You can see how we did it here!


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We’ve never done this before, but the Jack-O-Lantern Bar Family Night was a big hit!

We love how the whole family looks in squash form, with everyone’s personality looking right back at us on those pumpkin faces!


Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!







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Crafting With A First Grade Fashionista


first grade fashionista


There was once a time when I could style my daughter.

I favored earthy, bohemian clothes for her:  autumnal layers in subdued colors, natural fibers, denim and vintage-looking outfits…


Those days are gone, gone, gone.


A couple of years ago, our little girl began to assert her independence and claim her own identity by rejecting outfits with a “Nah.  That’s not really my style.

She developed a very glitzy, blingy style. Loud, bright colors and shiny, sparkling accessories are what she loves.

If she can’t find what she’s looking for, she’ll just make what she wants.

She’s turned into our little First Grade Fashionista.



Here’s one of her style creations:  


A mermaid skirt

made of butcher block paper,

held up with gold ribbon,

and stamped

with bubble-wrap

dipped in metallic paint.




Within the last year, we saw this love of fashion translate into some fun craft and dramatic play activities:


1)  DRESS-UP:   This provided a good reason to pass items like scarves, hats, purses and fashion jewelry down to our daughter to fill her dress-up basket.


2)  DRESS MOM UP:   Our daughter brings a stepping stool into my closet sometimes to pick out a dress she would like me to wear to her stuffed animal birthday celebrations in the play room.


3)  JEWELRY BEADING:  With pipe cleaners or rubber elastic cord (found at craft stores) and various beads, kids can easily make their own jewelry.   A good tip on this activity?  Use a small piece of tape to secure one end of the cord to a desk/table to help small hands focus on beading.  Even our son enjoys this activity and it opens opportunities to work on fine motor skills, counting and pattern-making.


4)  FASHION SKETCHING:  A sketch book and colored pencils are all that is required, really.  But, there are many sketch books with stencils available now for kids!


5)  3D PAPER FASHION DESIGN:  This activity rolls all of the above activities up into one very cool and creative craft activity!


This is our daughter’s newest Fashion Passion….


Our first grader borrowed the little mannequin I was using to hold necklaces because she wanted to create actual outfits she had sketched.


This is what I saw one day while in the shower.  


In the shower.




That’s Right.




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But when creative inspiration strikes, it is something to be encouraged!


Moms understand that “Anytime” really means At. Any. Time.

So, of course, she could totally use that jewelry mannequin!


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The kids are surprisingly imaginative in the ways they use the scrap materials.

We actually keep all of ours in an an old Legos Container.

When I have leftover craft materials, I don’t throw them away.

They go into our daughter’s new Fashion Design container.

Maybe one day I’ll get my jewelry mannequin back.




Until then, I’m happy to see it being put to even better use.









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Write Each Sight Word In Bleach…

Any parent of a new reader knows that sometimes it takes a little searching to find that magic “way” our children really “GET” our language’s highly illogical and very troublesome SIGHT WORDS.

A friend of mine posted something tonight on her Facebook Page that made many of us marvel at a new way to make learning Sight Words in the First Grade fun for our 6 year olds!


It was a worksheet that included an optional task to

Dip a Q-Tip into Bleach and to write the word

on construction paper (with a parent’s help.)


My friend posted it as a homework assignment slightly beyond her creative comfort zone.

It should NOT be lost on anyone reading the homework sheet that the homework specified that a parent needs to help if they do that one.

This is a good thing.

Because my bottle of bleach says to keep out of reach of children (and to read the back panel for even more precautionary statements beyond the All Caps Warnings on the front.)

But on a high note, THIS bottle of bleach DOES NOT contain any phosphorous!



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Interestingly, the back label describing recommended uses for this potent liquid only details the most boring applications throughout the household and kitchen.

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I think that label needs some expanding to include Dolch Sight Word mastery. :)

Anyway, we all had a good chuckle.

My friend’s son’s teacher does get an “I” for Initiative, a “C” for Creativity and a small”t” for Toxicity for sending home the worksheet.


I have no idea what my friend sent in or if she even initialed that little task block.

I recommended that she substitute paint or pudding or anything that does not require Poison Control’s intervention to complete the assignment, or that might require gloves to handle.


But, I made this sign for her.

Too bad she lives in Maryland.

I can’t even overnight it in time.


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If you want to read more funny stuff about the trials of early elementary homework, my friend, Bridget, who writes the hilarious blog Twinisms has started a virtual series about First Grade Homework now that her twin boys are bringing it home.

She hasn’t actually called it a series, but there’s  a lot to cover.

I kind of wish she got this assignment (times two for her twins).


My Word.


That would have been FUNNY, whether it was written in bleach, battery acid, turpentine, or Drano.


If we ever get a homework assignment like that, we’ll probably just substitute ketchup or mustard for any flesh-dissolving poisons the worksheet calls for.


And, then we’ll initial the little box.




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The Cheer Up Gift

A friend of mine was having a tough time.

She was feeling like the world was just one big toilet bowl.

We knew this from her graphic descriptions of just the kind of stuff her days seemed to be filled with.

She also has a broken toilet paper holder in her bathroom.

I know this because she said so when I ran THIS post about our very essential alligator toilet paper holder.

So, I knew what the most efficient gift would be to fix two problems at the same time.

The Best Cheer Up Gift Ever

She says it was the best Cheer Up Gift Ever.

She laughed.

Mission Accomplished.


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There Once Was A Gator Named Tasha….


The first thing our son asks when we pick him up from school is, “CAN WE GO SEE TASHA???!!!”


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“Tasha” is an American Alligator who lives in a pond at the Lamar Bruni Vergara Environmental Science Center (LBVESC).

He is the most territorial and is the largest gator in Laredo’s Alligator Alley.

There used to be 14 American Alligators in the alley, but Tasha overtook four of them, and another four died of pneumonia.

Laredo’s dominant gator turned 14 on August 31st, 2013!   (See the flyer at the bottom for info on the September 7th Birthday Celebration you can bring the kids to!) Here’s a video of Tasha being fed!


Tasha now lives in his own pond while 6 younger gators occupy neighboring ponds.

The little gator our son is looking at below in the lilly pond is the tiniest one in the entire center.

He has to be separated from his much, much larger brothers and sisters since he was the runt of the litter!


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Here is “The Runt” at feeding time!


Our family has had  a lot of fun watching the active young gators in the pond next to Tasha.

We’ve watched them grow from tiny gators over the last few years to their current size.

The one below is starting to show his dominance over the others as he forces them out of the pond and snatches food from them.


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The other day, we were looking at the bobcat and our son started to yell, “They’re fighting!  They’re fighting!

The gators are fighting!” We ran over to the pond and found out what he witnessed…..


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It was a battle for a turtle snack!


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That was a happy gator.

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Here’s a video of the adolescent gators at feeding time!



Our kids get a kick out of seeing all of the other animals there, especially the cool turtles….

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The large Alligator Gar Fish!


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And the Bobcat….


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We are looking forward to seeing Tasha and all the other animals

to celebrate his birthday with some cake for us,

and maybe a pile of raw chicken for the gators!


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Hope to see you guys there!

This Saturday is also the Paso Del Indio Nature Trail Clean-Up (right behind the Science Center), so it’s a great way to get out with the family and do something fun and helpful while you pop in to sing “Happy Birthday” to a 6-foot Alligator.

Totally normal stuff.  :)

Do you wanna know a cool little secret?

Our crocodilian-obsessed little boy totally named that Gator.

I think the staff heard him screaming “Tasha!  Tasha!” so much that the name stuck.

He started calling the male gator that about two years ago.

He wasn’t too cool to watch The Backyardigans back then.

And, anyone with toddlers knows that “Tasha” was one of those cherubic dancing not-sure-what-they-weres.

Tasha Page Picture


So, here’s an  interesting bit of Laredo history-


Tasha,The Alligator

was named after

a bossy female Backyardigan

by a then-2 year old boy

who gave up Batman for Crocodilians.


Critters And Crayons Crocodilian

Cool, huh?

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