Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Nature's fury and beauty

We got an unexpected thunderstorm last night a little after 10:00 pm. On the 6:00 o'clock news, the weatherman said that there might be some rain (no storms) well to the east of us around 2:00 am. So he was wrong on every count. I didn't even realize a storm was coming until I took the dog out for a walk around 10:00 and saw the western horizon light up with lightening. Since I didn't hear any thunder, I figured it was safe to walk the dog, and then stand outside and take some pictures of the lightening. Here are the best shots I got.

We also got golf ball size hail. Some areas not too far away got baseball size hail.

Erin asked if I caught these hail stones as they were falling from the sky. No, I'm not that brave, or dumb. I collected them off the ground after the storm passed. Although standing in an electrical storm to take pictures probably isn't much smarter.

I got this picture this morning as I was taking Erin to school. It's the last of the storm clouds moving out and the sun starting to break through.

Both kids were asleep when the hail storm hit. Garrett woke up screaming at the first sound of hail hitting the roof (it was LOUD). Erin slept through the whole thing. She is deathly afraid of thunder and will wake up to even distant thunder, but this storm didn't have very loud thunder, so she slept right through it.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Two toys, tons of fun

We had a pretty low key weekend, just the way I like it. Next weekend we will have two birthday parties and an Easter egg hunt, but this weekend we just hung out at home and played. My kids have about a million toys, but only play with a few of them. And that's fine with me. I think it promotes creativity to let them make up their own games. "Boredom is the mother of invention." Isn't that how the saying goes? Ha!! So we had a Monster Truck Jam at my house this weekend. A dump truck loaded down with at least 30 pounds was slammed into every surface imaginable.

And then we tried to think of as many games as possible to play with a Hannah Montana bean bag. I started out taking cute pictures.

Then I decided to get some action shots of Erin jumping on the bean bag. I've put them in order. If you scroll down really fast, it will look like she's moving in stop motion. Meet me at the bottom and let me know if it looks like she's really moving. Start scrolling................NOW!

Did it look like stop-motion? No? Just a bunch of blurry pictures of a kid flying through the air, huh? Well, we had a lot of fun making this little sequence. Disclaimer: No children or bean bags were hurt during the taking of these pictures.

But we weren't quite done with the bean bag, yet. We used it as the circle center to play "Duck, Duck, Goose." I couldn't take pictures and play at the same time, so when we were done, I made Erin pretend to play Duck, Duck, Goose so that I could take some pictures. At first it's not obvious.......

.....that she is not diggin' this picture taking thing any more.

(Check out Garrett doing a back bend behind the bean bag)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Everything I need to know, I learned on a Blog

If you scroll down to the previous post, you'll see some ideas that I got from blogs and actually tried them out. Well, here's another great idea that was a BIG hit with my family. They are called "Poke Cupcakes." Basically you make cupcakes, poke holes in them and pour jello in the holes. I got the idea from Liz at Hoosier Homemade. Click here for the recipe. Here's how mine turned out.

I think I need to pour more jello in next time, but you can still taste that extra punch of flavor that the jello adds. My cupcakes are not as elaborately decorated as Liz's, and I chalk that up to my helper. When you have an almost 6 year old that wants to help, you have to choose your cupcake decorations carefully. Erin really enjoyed poking the cupcakes with a fork, and then sprinkling them with colored crystals (not to mention eating some frosting and crystals, and sampling the finished product). I made 24 of these yesterday afternoon and I think there may be 10 left, so 14 cupcakes in less than 24 hours. That's a new record.

I am also very excited to be the winner of the giveaway at Hoosier Homemade; a tote bag!! Click here to see the totes she makes. She sells them on Etsy. When the prize arrives, I will post pictures. I can't wait. Thank You, Liz!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ultimate Blog Party, 2009

I had a great time at the Ultimate Blog Party and made lots of new bloggy friends. I had no idea there would be so many participants, but enjoyed seeing all the different types of blogs there are in cyberspace. I was looking for blogs much like my own, talking about family and daily life. But I wanted to add some international blogs so that I could get some insight into how families around the world live their lives. I also found a couple American families that live life very differently than I do, so I'm following them as well.
One of the first blogs I found was Brandy at http://american-mom-in-germany.blogspot.com/. Her husband got a job in Germany, so she and her two kids plus hubby all moved to Germany. Her party post was about recycling crayons. Click here to read the post. We did that project, and this is the result:

Notice the color variation in slightly different hues of the same color. And we just decided to mix red and white to see what would happen. My daughter and I had a lot of fun peeling off all those paper wrappers from the crayons, just one of those nice "spend time together just because" moments. We talked and laughed while we peeled and broke the crayons into pieces. Erin was very proud of her creations.

And coloring with "cupcake" crayons is way more fun than the stick shaped crayons, as evidenced in this picture.

Another wonderful blog I found was Mum-me athttp://ouraussiehalf-dozen.blogspot.com/. This family lives in Australia and I love reading all about her children's activities and their summer vacation to the beach (remember the seasons are reversed in Australia). Mum-me posted a great recipe for Carmel Slice that I had to try. Click here for the recipe. It turned out great as you can see from this picture.

I have also enjoyed reading The Norwegian Mom at http://myworld.mirielsverden.com/. Her toddler already knows how to ski!! Can you believe that?

Andrea from Mum's the Word at http://mumsandmore.blogspot.com/ is a lot of fun to read. She lives in Liverpool, England with her husband and kids. I can hear her British accent even through her blog, with words like "rubbish" and "binbags."

Of the American blogs that I found, my two favorites are Life on a Southern Farm and Our Simple Life. GAMamma from Life on a Southern Farm posts pictures of her farm animals and the hen houses they built, the chickens they are incubating, etc. It's some great insight into the farming lifestyle. Julia at Our Simple Life talks about and posts pictures of all the rural beauty in California, wild flowers, birds and bird houses, planting trees.
I met many other bloggers in cyberspace, some I liked, some not so much. The ones I chose to follow are on my sidebar. Feel free to visit them . They may become your bloggy friends, too.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Growing up too fast

Garrett has decided that he's too big for the booster chair at the kitchen table. I loved keeping him in the booster chair because until recently, he couldn't get out by himself, so if I needed to keep him safe, I could put him in the booster chair and have him play with blocks or something. But he rebelled and, as of this past weekend, has refused to sit in the booster chair. I guess he looked around and decided that nobody else was sitting in a funny looking thing on their kitchen chair, so why should he? So here's my big man sitting like a big boy at the kitchen table. The only bad thing is that the table is about even with his chin, but if he doesn't mind, I don't either. I'm just not quite ready for my baby to grow up.

On a different note, some things are more fascinating than words can describe. This tractor was mowing the empty lots around our house, and Garrett watched every move it made.

In the picture below, he's probably thinking, "When I grow up, I want to drive one of those!!"

Monday, March 23, 2009

Routines and Ruts

I think most kids are routine oriented. Consistency is very secure and comforting. When you are trying to figure out the world, too many surprises can overwhelm a young mind. I have always been a big proponent of a daily routine, and I, myself, am very routine oriented, too. But Garrett takes routine to a whole new level. Things have to be almost exactly the same everyday, or he gets upset. For example, Good Night Moon has to be read to him every nap time and every night or he starts screaming "Goonite Moooooooon!!!" We can read other books, too, but we have to read Good Night Moon.

When he gets home from school at 11:15, he has to listen to the CD with "Hokey Pokey" on it. I'm figuring out that one activity has to lead to another. I used to think that eating lunch triggered the CD, but now I see that coming home from school is the trigger. We were on Spring Break all last week and no Hokey Pokey music was required during lunch. What blissful peace and quiet I enjoyed during lunch. Today was the first day back to school, and when Garrett came home, the first thing out of his mouth was "Hokey Pokey."
Garrett's playtime is also very predictable. He has a limited number of toys that he plays with regularly, and he plays with each toy the exact same way each time. For example, this dump truck:

I bought that dump truck for Garrett on his second birthday, a year and a half ago. He loves to push the dump truck and feel the clicking sound the wheels make.

He has been playing with the truck the exact same way for a year and a half. Talk about a great value in a toy. How many toys do your kids play with from a year and a half ago?

Actually, Garrett likes any toy that he can push. I think it has to do with his Sensory Integration Disorder. Pushing something gives him a better sense of where his body is in space. Here he is pushing a toy vacuum cleaner. Too bad he can't push the real thing!

And here he is pushing a toy lawnmower. I'm sure Daddy would love for him to push the real thing, too.

This past Christmas, Erin got a Hannah Montana guitar from her cousin. She played with it for a few weeks and then moved on. Well, Garrett got a hold of that guitar and made it his very own. The guitar has buttons on the front that play Hannah Montana songs when you push them. And Garrett loves toys where you push a button and music comes out. But this guitar also has an On/Off switch on the back. If the switch is in the off position, the buttons won't work. This concept is completely amazing to Garrett. Here is Garrett pushing some buttons on the guitar.

When Garrett's playing this game, the conversation goes something like this:

Garrett pushes buttons, "Working."

Garrett turns guitar over and turns the switch to off.

Garrett turns guitar back over, pushes buttons (no music comes out), "Broken."

Mommy, "The guitar is broken, go throw it in the trash."

Garrett quickly turns guitar back over and sets switch to On, "Working!!!"

Mommy, "You fixed it."

Turn guitar back over and set to Off.

And the game continues like this for up to 15 minutes, over and over again.

His sister's Hannah Montana "MP3" player (What can I say? This Christmas was dubbed the Hannah Montana Christmas) has a similar on and off button that enables/disables the other buttons. Garrett is holding it in his hands.

The toy is "broken" and suddenly "fixed" or "working" with the click of one On/Off switch.
This is over 50% of his playtime. He has a few other games, but they're pretty similar to these I have described. I guess this is Garrett's way of feeling secure in the world, knowing that some things are very predictable, when the big bad world can be so unpredictable for a little guy.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Books, revisited

We moved into this house last summer and I am 99% unpacked. We got the last few carloads of boxes out of storage in January and here they sit in my not yet furnished formal dining room, behind Garrett.

During Spring Break, Erin wanted to unpack boxes to see what kind of treasures we might uncover. We found lots of treasures like Mommy and Daddy's photo albums from our wedding and honeymoon in Santa Fe, NM and baby pictures of Erin and Garrett. But the most exciting treasure uncovered was a box of books that was "between kids" last spring when they were boxed up, books too young for Erin, but too sophisticated for Garrett. Well, Garrett is a year older now and more able to appreciate these books. And Erin hasn't seen them for a year, so they are like new books to her. (I linked the books I could find to Amazon.com if you want to buy them. I'm not receiving money for endorsing any of these books).

Some of our favorite rediscovered books are "What Makes a Rainbow" by Betty Schwartz, about a little bunny that discovers the colors of the rainbow by asking all his friends. As you turn each page, a color ribbon is added to the rainbow until it is complete at the end of the story.

The "Thank You God for..." series. Each books thanks God for family, friends, the animals, and the world we live in. They are very colorful and very simple for 1-2 year olds. You can tell that the edges are well worn on this book. It has been read a thousand times. (I couldn't find them new on Amazon.com. They must be out of print).

Here is Garrett reading one of the "Thank You God" books.

Another favorite is Jamberry. A boy and a bear rhyme their way through all the berries. I still have most of this book memorized, "One berry, two berry, pick me a blueberry."

And Erin just loves this once hardcover collection of every fairy tale, nursery rhyme, fable, ever written. She's showing the story "Beauty and the Beast," one of her favorites.

Who knew that we would unpack a box of old books and spend an entire morning exploring and rediscovering them. Just goes to show you that if you can't buy new, stick it in a box for a year and it magically becomes new again.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring Staycation Part 2, The Botanical Gardens

Ultimate Blog Party 2009

If you're visiting from the Ultimate Blog Party '09, welcome to my blog. I am a stay at home mom of two beautiful children ages 6 (almost) and 3 1/2. I love posting pictures of the places we visit or the funny things my kids do. There's never a dull moment in this house and you're invited to stick around and enjoy the fun.

Where I left off from Spring Staycation Part 1. (Staycation is when you stay home instead of going somewhere on vacation.) The kids and I took our train ride on the Forest Park Mini Train, but getting there was a major hassle because the entire city was trying to get to the Fort Worth Zoo for half price day (because everyone else is taking Staycations this year for Spring Break). So off we go to the Botanical Gardens. The flowers were really fabulous, but the kids thought the fountains were fascinating.

This was the first thing the kids ran to when we get to the Botanical Gardens.

And Garrett couldn't resist getting a little spray action from the gardener.

The tulips were in full bloom.

And I just loved this fountain.

Unfortunately, Garrett loved it even more, and kept trying to put his hands in the water. I think he would have jumped in if I wasn't holding his hand (or the collar of his shirt). In fact, I had a death grip on his hand while I was taking this picture. Some things are just too much for Garrett to resist.

And here is a beautiful flowering tree. I don't know what kind of tree it is, but I've seen it in people's yards around here, so it's not some rare, exotic tree you find only at a botanical garden.

We only stayed about 30 minutes at the Botanical Gardens because we were starving. My restaurant plans had to be nixed because traffic was too heavy to get to any of them, and the Botanical Gardens restaurant was packed. All the Fort Worth Zoo people that were stuck in traffic decided to take a detour to the Botanical Gardens to let the traffic die down. So we just left, besides, I was tired of pulling both kids in the wagon. My arms were getting tired. But the kids really enjoyed the day. Erin's favorite part was riding the train. When I asked Garrett what his favorite part was, he smiled really big and said "Wagon!" If I had known that, we could have stayed at home and ridden the wagon through the neighborhood.

The Ultimate Blog Party

Ultimate Blog Party 2009

Click on the link below to join the blog party. You will be able to find other bloggy friends and they will be able to find you. Click on the link to learn more. See you at the blog party!

Spring Staycation Part 1

We didn't go out of town for Spring Break which is why I'm calling it our "Staycation." The plans for our staycation on Wed. were pretty straightforward. We were going into Fort Worth to ride a mini train, called the Forest Park Train and then go to the Botanical Gardens which are right across the street. It is important to note that the Fort Worth Zoo is about a mile down the road from our destinations, and Wednesday is half price day. Those details will be important later in the story. We load up and get on the road for our 30 minute drive to the train station at about 10:30 am. As soon as I got on the highway, a traffic jam. I waited it out 15 minutes then decided to bail and take back roads. The 30 minute drive just turned into 45 minutes. We get to within a mile of our destination and this was the view for the next 20 minutes.

After listening to "Are we there yet" and "Can't you drive any faster?" for 20 minutes, I had to take drastic action. You can't make it out in the picture, but there is a No Left Turn sign up ahead. Yep, you guessed it! I maneuvered into the left lane and took an illegal left turn to get out of traffic and get to the train station. Now, the way I figure it, that No Left Turn sign is designed to keep traffic flowing, but traffic wasn't flowing anyway, so I obeyed the spirit of the law, if not the letter of the law (that's my story and I'm sticking to it). The traffic jam was caused by everyone trying to get into half price day at the zoo. Almost all the school districts in the area are on Spring Break this week.

We finally get to the train depot, and the kids board the train.

It was a really cool open air train that goes about 20 miles per hour.

Parts of the track follow the Trinity River. We saw all kinds of interesting things on our train ride. These are turtles sunning themsleves on partially submerged tree branches.

And some water fowl, I don't think they are ducks. They look like some kind of crane.

This is the Fort Worth skyline.

And the beautiful Forest Park. It was a great train ride. The traffic woes were long forgotten by the time we finished the train ride.

Part 2 of our Staycation, the Botanical Gardens, coming soon.......