Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Everyday Adventures

I just love summertime. Actually, I really like spring and fall as well. I guess I just love the type of weather where you don't have to put on a ton of layers to walk outside and when your nose isn't frozen after being outside for more than ten minutes. I've never been a snowy, cold day person, and I really don't think that will ever change.

Summer is also nice because it says light outside until 8:30 or so, and we can go out and do things outside after Steve comes home and we all eat dinner. It gets so depressing for me in the winter when it's 4:30 and already dark outside. I'm one of those people that really is affected by the amount of sunlight during the day.

Lately Steve and I have been talking about how often we forget to make just our regular, ordinary lives an adventure. Sure, we have taken some nice trips so far this year, and it will get only better in the next few months, but you don't need to go far away to have mini adventures in your life. Even a nice walk to get ice cream at 7:30 on a Thursday evening can be an adventure you'll always remember. Of course, I know that having kids has made little things like this mean so much more. I also get this overwhelming feeling of gratitude that as the kids grow up, our entire days will be ones of exploration and adventure. When I think of all the things we'll get to do around our community, state, and world, it makes me feel humble, thankful, and amazed that God had chosen to bless me this way.

Brownie Bake

Jared takes after his father; he has a huge sweet tooth. He'd probably sit and eat an entire huge bag of M&Ms or five or six big pieces of cake at one time if we let him. Needless to say, he loves when I suggest making a sweet treat. Alexa is my cooking helper. She's been cutting up vegetables for pot roast since she was 27 months old. Jared usually doesn't enjoy helping me cook, but he is usually up for baking something sweet.

I haven't made a lot of things from scratch with them. One of my goals for this winter is to make more fresh bread in the bread machine and see if they'd like to help. But we did do a few fun things like make blueberry muffins from scratch when we read Blueberries for Sal when they were two and a half, and made jellyroll like the one in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad day.

Of course, the very best part about being a baker is tasting your creation!


I haven't been very successful in encouraging the kids to help me straighten. Some days are ok but most times all three of us get so involved in our different activities that it doesn't take long to undo an hour's worth of straightening. However, if there's anything at involves using cleaning liquids, my kids are right there begging to clean, especially Alexa. I think this goes along with her love of all things liquid: lotions, sprays and water.

Dusting is a favorite activity, especially if I let her spray Pledge on the wood surfaces. She also loves to spray window cleaner on the living room picture window. Jared's kinda so-so about the whole cleaning thing. Sometimes he'll ask for a rag, too, and join in, but a lot of times he'll just watch.

I've always tried to include them in the things that I do. When they were only twenty months old, they'd help me mop the kitchen floor. Yes, it does take longer, but if I tried to keep them away from me I'd be stopping and starting so many times because they always want to show me things or, more times than I'd like to admit, be fighting with each other about something. I love that they do get excited about helping many times and hope that trait stays with them as they grow older.

Summer Library Reading Program

We've been participating in a nearby library's summer reading program called Be Creative at your Library. At first I didn't know how I felt about this. As a whole, I'm really against giving prizes or any other type of bribery for learning. If it doesn't come from within, you aren't truly going to learn anything. But then I think back to participating in the same programs when I was a kid. I remember one year when I was probably seven and the theme was squirrels and after reading a book you could put a nut under your tree hanging up in the library. I really, really looked forward to those reading contests, having a certificate at the end and seeing how many books I could read that summer. I loved reading regardless if there was a prize involved, and I know that already my kids LOVE being read to and have pretty much their whole life, so I know they would love reading even without any external reason to do so.

After reading twenty books, they were given a coupon for a free chocolate gold coin at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, a buy one, get one free pass for a Kane County Cougar game (which we won't use) and a prize from the treasure chest. After each set of twenty books read, they get one more prize and can put their names in a raffle for a large basket of books.

I thought I'd list the books they have read so far. I'll probably do another update at the end of the contest which ends July 24th (the contest started June 8th.) 

Edit: Since I first wrote this post, I've edited it to include all the books we read during the contest.

The Gnats of Knotty Pine
Nan's Fiddle
How Many Teeth?
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat
So you Want to Be President?
Mona Lisa: The Secret of the Smile
Hubert's Hair-Raising Adventure
Jack and the Meanstalk
We All Fall for Apples
"Not Now!" Said the Cow
My Friend Rabbit
Snowflake Bentley
The Three Pigs
A Cloak for the Dreamer
The Case of the Troublesome Turtle
Chipmunk at Hollow Tree Lane
Dancing on the Sand
The House in the Night
Daisey Head Mazie
The Hello, Goodbye Window
Jennifer and Josephine
Chang's Paper Pony
Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile
It's Winter
Huge Harold
The Greedy Triangle
The Wondrous Whirligig
Where Did That Baby Come From?
For You Are a Kenyan Child
Miss Milly Goes to Philly
George Washington's Teeth
The Best Gift of All
If I Were a Jungle Animal
Just What Mama Needs
From Tadpole to Frog
The Story of Jumping Mouse
The Big Dipper
Dig Dig Digging
Trucks Roll
Jack the Philharmonic Dog
And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street
Edward and the Pirates
Nini Here and There
The Old Woman and Her Pig
Independence Day
Looking for Uncle Louie on the 4thof July
Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky
Once Upon A Lily Pad
The Orphan Singer
Elijah McCoy Inventor
What Lives in a Shell?
Mirette on the High Wire
Ready or Not, Here I Come
Smoky Night
Picture Book of Fredrick Douglas
Grandfather's Journey
Clamshell Boy: A Makah Legend
Officer Buckle and Gloria
Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story
In My Own Backyard
Monster Math
Every Single Night Raccoon at Clear Creek Road
Thomas Edison to the Rescue
What's Alive?
Apple Pie on the 4th of July
Oh Say Can You Say Di-no-saur
Don't Eat the Babysitter
The Glorious Flight
Jethro and Joel Were a Troll
How Many Sharks in the Bath?
Hey, Al
The Pen that Pa Built
Pablo Picasso
Goodnight Copycub
A Day in the Life of a Dancer
Art Dog
A Whale Shark
Polar Express
Tiggy Tiger Brave Explorer
The Shape of Things
Most Loved Monster
Ballerina Dreams
Sharks Not Geographic
St. George the Dragon
The Fantastic Drawings of Danielle
Slower Than a Snail
Akido, Miss Alice and the Dance Class
The Mud Pony
Dancing Drum: A Charokee Legend
Owl Moon
Amazing Shark

Monday, June 22, 2009

Herbs, Toys, and Playing the Paino

The day after the Forest Park Summer fest we went to Steve's parents for dinner, so pineapple upside down cake and had a great time hanging out. My sister-in-law, Cheryl, has a great garden in the backyard from herbs, vegetables, to even a blueberry plant. Last year I had a few containers with herbs and Alexa became really good at identifying the plants. She loved looking at Cheryl's herbs and was especially excited when she was able to pick some to eat.

Another thing the kids really love is the big box of toys that usually makes its way out when we come over. It's just a bunch of small figures, little vehicles and odds and ends, but they get so excited whenever it gets taken out for them.

I was surprised Jared liked playing with these puzzles as much as he did. He hasn't been unto puzzles as much lately as he was a few months ago. He had been putting together 60 pieces puzzles within a few minutes, so I had thought these baby puzzles would bore him, but he seemed to get a kick out of them.

They love to play on the piano whenever we go somewhere where there is a piano. I really wish we could have one at home, but they are expensive, and our house is so tiny there really would be no where to put it. We really do need, however, to get the kids another keyboard (the old one died on us).

Outside Play Part 1

I just love the summertime. Actually, I've been becoming really fond of springtime, too, but this year has been particularly rainy, so we haven't been outside as much. I really do need to buy raincoats and boots for the kids and stop letting the weather get in the way of our outdoor fun. It's nice to have another area for the kids to explore. The beginning of the summertime is usually great because they can rediscover all the things they did last year.

So far they've really enjoyed running around with the butterfly nets, throwing the Frisbees, trying to climb the bushes in back (they call that area their forest), and riding tricycles on the asphalt in back. Jared just started peddling the tricycle about two weeks ago! The trikes we have are pretty cheap, so you have to push pretty hard on the pedals if you have even a slightest incline, so I think that's discouraged them both from using the pedals for a long time. They were very fast just using their legs, so using the pedals slowed them down.

Look for a part two to this post really soon, as I have lots more outside fun pictures to download soon and write about.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Forest Park Summerfest

On June 6th We attended the Forest Park Festival. It was a cool day, so that made it nice for staying outside for a while. The festival ran down a length of several blocked-off streets. Right away the kids were excited because Trader Joe's was handing out free cookies. Sugary treats is the number one way to get to Jared's heart. We meandered through the different booths, saw some face painting, the Wonderworks booth where kids could do crafts, and several musicians. We particularly liked watching the tap dancing demonstration, and Jared seemed proud to drop his dollar into the the donation can.

Jared in particular really enjoyed watching a karate demonstration. It was the first time he had seen anyone do karate and was particularly fascinated by the stick demonstrations. I have a feeling he'll want to participate in this sport when he's older. Alexa seemed to enjoy it, too, but she needed to have Steve hold her the whole time.

Steve's sister, Shara, met up with us later in the day. It'll be so nice having her back living at home now since she graduated a few weeks ago. She's been looking for a job, but hasn't been successful yet, so it's been a little hard for her.

I grabbed a pulled pork sandwich and Steve had a braut. We found tables near the music stage. The kids sort of ate hot dogs and some chips (the little bit they usually eat), but were much more interested in jumping up and down and dancing.

There was a young boy, who looked to be about seven or eight, playing drums with the band. Jared really liked seeing him. Watching that boy made me think again about how we really need to search for a used drum set for Jared. Pots and pans are ok or now, I guess, but I know he would really love a real drum set.

We were going to the pony rides, but the kids were distracted by this giant slide, so we had to go on for a quick ride. I'm such a baby about heights, and even climbing up this ladder which really isn't at all that high started making me feel dizzy and queasy. How am I ever going to walk to the top of the dome in Milan one day?

We ended the afternoon with a movie at the theater. This makes movie number three for the kids (inside a theater, that is). Their first was Wall-e and then they saw Madagascar II. Today's movie was Night at the Museum II. We just saw the first one last weekend, so they were really excited to see this one.

Yet another KISS pose from Alexa!


My kids have always enjoyed creating artworks. Alexa has always loved to draw. In fact, since fifteen months old, she has held a pen the way an adult would. Jared, on the other hand, never seemed interested in drawing until he was a little over two and a half. Then he seemed to want to draw all the time. He didn't like painting that much either when they first started at 12 months, whereas she would paint for a half hour at a time, even at that young of an age. Now ,though, Jared will paint for quite a while, though never as long as she does.

We have two easels in the house, one near the front door and another in the hallway. I've always had chalk, markers, pens and paper out for whenever they've wanted to use them. We did have quite a bit of marking on our walls in the beginning, but with gentle reminders to use the paper, they quickly learned to use the easel or other paper for their creations.

We have their artwork hanging everywhere including the walls in the living room and kitchen. In so many homes children's artwork is designated refrigerator worthy only . I believe that if we want children to place value in their work, we need to show them it has high value to us, too.

If you've never read Young At Art by Susan Striker, please do so. It will make you think twice about children, art, and learning. Yes, it is a lot of work to clean up the messes, but looking at all their paintings and drawings hanging up, I'm always reminded how it is so worth it.

Alexa is drawing with bathtub crayons, which I highly recommend. On rainy days and in the winter, they make for a great artistic diversion. Also, they are great for drawing on porches, and will come off with minimal scrubbing.

Below is a series of pictures showing how Alexa loves to paint her entire self almost every time she paints.

My Girly Girl

I have a girly girl. No one was more surprised than me when this happened. See, I'm not quite the opposite of a girly girl, but I get pretty close. I used to wear small earrings, but don't even do that anymore except on special occasions. I only use body spray for special occasions, too. I wear pretty minimal makeup, no accessories, and hardly ever wear nail polish. It's not that I don't like the look, it's just that it takes up so much time that I'd rather be doing other things.
Alexa will probably be the opposite of me. Isn't that how it usually is, though? She LOVES to go through the top drawer in the middle of my dresser, the only I rarely go in, and drag out everything she can find. Last time we visited Steve's parents house, she wanted to try out every single spray and lotion she could find on my mother-in-law's dresser.
We bought her some play make-up for Christmas and I give her the very last parts of my make-up as well. Pretty much every other day she has to do some sort of beautifying treatment.

Here's her painting her nails. She loves to paint hers and whoever else will let her paint theirs as well. Interestingly enough, Jared doesn't seem interested in even trying to put polish on his nails. It could be because he has some sensory issues, but you'd think he'd at least be curious after watching her do it so often. After painting her nails, she went on to paint her whole chest, too. Even after a bath, it took a few days to finally rub off!

Of course the lipstick doesn't just go on her mouth, either. It has to go on her stomach, legs, feet and back, too.

Dino Eggs

On the way back from our Missouri trip, when we stopped in the Cracker Barrel for dinner, we bought a pretend dinosaur egg. It was the kind where you place the egg in water and within 48 hours it will hatch and become a baby dinosaur (in our case a Stegosaurus.) I was really surprised at how Alexa especially was so excited about wanting to check the egg so much to see how much more the egg had cracked open. Well, 60 hours later and still not hatched all the way, I helped the egg along and our baby dino was born.

Here's Alexa making dinosaur footprints in the play dough.

Made-up Games Part 2

They hold their feet together, and then move them around fast until some one's foot slips off.

I thought this was too clever. They brought their guitars in the kitchen and said, "Look, Mommy. We're playing violin."

Alexa LOVES to play in the sink. It's something she does very regularly. They were seventeen months old when they would first stand up on chairs in front of the sink and play for hours. Her favorite activities in the sink now are filling up cups with soap and scrubbing them out, and still simply filling up containers with water and dumping them from one into another.

I wasn't sure exactly what this one was but from their conversation, I guessed it had something to do with the play dough containers being being people and riding in their boats which are the glasses.

And, of course, I had to include a picture that I'm sure every mother has.....walking in your shoes. Awwwww!