Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Another Alexa's Pictures Post

Chocolate Cake and Letters

It's always hard when my husband goes out of town for work. The kids are usually up near 7:00, often do not take a nap and will get to bed by 9:30 or 10:00. So, it makes the day seem very long sometimes. I try to have a good variety to the day. We do inside stuff like play hide-and-go-seek, board games, reading, puzzles, drawing and a tiny bit of DVD time (usually Reading Rainbow, Mr. Rodgers or a Scholastic Storytime DVD). Then we try to get outside time, as well as visiting someplace like a playground, friend's house or library.

This day we decided to bake a cake. It wasn't anything ambitious like a cake from scratch, just a simple Betty Crocker box variety. Still, it's something different to do and, if it involves icing, will keep Jared's attention for a long, long time.

Jared has really been facinated with letters again. Both kids had their first obsession with letters when they were just over a year old. They would bring magnetic letters to Steve and me, and we'd tell them the letter name and sound. That's how they knew their letters and sounds by 15 months.

Then the interest died down. Alexa grew into loving words, and now she can read several sentences in a row from her books. She still will not read an entire book out loud to me word for word, but she is not even 3 and a half yet, so she is doing just great. Jared, although he likes letters, doesn't seem to know how to read words yet, or is keeping it a secret from me.

Just this past week, though, he has really liked playing with the letters again. He has especially liked to ask Steve and me to spell words for him. I wonder if this means he will want to learn to read soon?

My Little Basketball Player

Since Alexa is taking  a dance class, I wanted Jared to have something of his own. I knew he'd like anything to do with sports, but when I first researched class possibilities everything was for ages four and up. Then when we looked into getting a YMCA membership (my husband's work would pay 3/4th of the monthly fee, yeah!) I found out they have a just for 3 year olds basketball class.

Of course, there was only one other boy enrolled. I had liked the fact that the class would be limited to five, but I had wanted Jared to have the experience of working with and playing with other little boys, too. The coach did say some people might sign up later in the week, so we'll see. Jared will miss two weeks when we go on vacation, but it's only $20 for two months with a membership, so it's a really good deal.

Jared has a really nice coach, but I think he was a little unprepared for the two boy's lack of focus. They both wanted to just keep dribbling or shooting right next to the net when the coach wanted them to watch him model a correct position or move.  I had thought it would be more of a messing around kind of class, but the coach really was going to show them baskeball drills, how to dribble correctly and shoot correctly. I guess that is ok, but I want this to be fun for Jared, too, so it doesn't make him lose interest in the game.

Jared was so adorable when the coach was showing them how to do a correct basketball stance. Jared really was taking it quite seriously.

Graue Mill and Museum

We've been coming to the Graue Mill and Museum since before the kids turned 2. I remember the first time we came, and how excited the kids were to simply throw rocks into the water. Is that just a built-in, intuitve need for all kids to throw rocks?  They weren't even as excited to feed the ducks as I thought they'd be.

So, I was a little disappointed that this was the first time, and probably only time, this year that we have made our way down here, even though it's only a ten minute drive from our house. We had brought bread to feed the ducks, but we couldn't find them in the river near where we had parked. So, we decided to walk down the bridge and around the Mill to see if we could spot some ducks on the other side. We came to the small waterfall, and the kids sat with Steve for a little bit to look at the water.

Then we decided to walk along the trail a little ways to see if we could find the ducks further down the river.

Lately, the kids haven't been the greatest when we go hiking. At Kelly's Island, there was only one hike where they actually hiked most of the time. So, I was shocked when they took off running down the trail and ran all the way to the nature center, which was probably at least a half to three-quarters of a mile down the trail. Steve ran to catch up with them, while I tried to walk fast to keep up.

In the nature center there is a huge pretend tree nest the kids can climb up into. They have a bunch of animal puppets.

There was an area where the kids could make animal tracks. You'd press this wooden square with tracks gouged into one side into what I think was silly putty. There were little cards that showed the animal track and the animal that had made it, so the kids could match the prints they made with the corresponding animal card.

Jared, of course, gravitated towards the puzzles. There was a twenty-four piece bug puzzle that Steve and Jared quickly put together before the center closed and we had to leave.

My favorite picture of the day was taken by Alexa, of course! Now we always have someone who will take good pictures of Steve and me while we are out.

Church Picnic

The day after visiting Lincoln Park Zoo, we went to our anual church picnic. We arrived right as the food was being served, around 2:00, which is an odd time to eat. There were so many bees out! I had forgotton how the bees come out in droves in the late summer. My dad smashed one bee between me his hands which really freaked me out.

After lunch Steve took the kids down to a playground, and I shortly followed with my brother. There were a bunch of older kids at the park, and Jared and Alexa really enjoyed talking with them, especially one boy who was about 12 years old.

They had a boucing house set up for the little kids while the older kids did some organized activities. The first year we took the kids to the picnic, when they were 14 months old, there were pony rides. I have no idea why they haven't had that for the past few years.

Still, the kids had a great time. Alexa really, really loved pushing Jared down. Jared would just laugh and laugh when she'd do that. Some of the people watching laughed nervously and kept looking at us like we should stop them, but the kids were both laughing, and even though she was a bit rough, it didn't seem to bother him in the least.


Lincoln Park Zoo

Amazingly enough, even though I have lived about 15 minutes outside of Chicago, I had never visited the Lincoln Park Zoo until  August 28th of this year. It's a shame too because the zoo had really nice areas to view the animals. You are able to get much closer to the animals than you can at say the Brookfield Zoo.

The kids and I went with Steve's parents. We almost didn't go because rain was forcasted for most of the day, but it didn't even rain at all while we were there. We ate lunch pretty soon after arriving, but we stopped to look at the lions first.

We stepped into a house right before lunch and saw jaguars and leopards.

There was a place to eat our picnic lunch in the basement of one of the houses. A family left right when we got there, so we had a large room all to ourselves. Alexa asked to use the bathroom, which is strange because she will definitly not ask to do so on her own at home. I'm still having a lot of problems with potty training both of them but, as we will be taking a two week vacation soon, I will start being more regular with putting them on the toilet when I get home.

Anyways, back to the zoo. After lunch, we walked around some and came to an area that had a statue with stone benches surrounding it. The kids spent a good fifteen minutes here just walking along the bench and jumping off. I remember when they were two, and we spent almost a half hour playing sleep. They would pretend to fall asleep on the bench, and then we'd have to act surprised and excited when they would pretend to wake up.

On our way to see other animals, the kids spotted a caurosel and of course had to have a ride. What a rip off though!  They charged $2.75 per person, even for the adults riding along! At least at the Brookfield Zoo, adults ride for free. Oh, well. The kids had a great time.

We made our way over to the children's zoo next. It was strange to call it a children's zoo because it seemed more like a walkway with different animals to see along the way, and not much different from the other parts of the zoo. The kids ran across this echo display which they enjoyed with Granddad.

The best part of the trip was the bear cage. They had at least two bears that we could see behind a glass cage. The bears had a fairly large area to roam with lots of trees and bushes to hide behind, so we couldn't see them at first. The kids sat up close to the glass to watch for the bears to come out. Suddenly, Jared found a worm in the dirt. Excitedly, he held up the worm. At the same time, a group of what I am guessing were kids on a field trip walked by. One boy says, "Hey, look what that boy has!" and then I was bombarded by a herd of kids all crowding around Jared to see the worm.

Meanwhile, the bear came out from behind the tree and walked to within seven or eight feet of the glass. Did the kids care, even after the adults tried over and over to get them to notice the bear right in front of them? No. They were all facinated by the worm. I think it was probably because the worm was something tangible and interactive for them.

Well, after the worm experience we went to the ape house and saw apes, chimpanzees and monkeys before heading home. A really great day, and I hope we are able to come back again soon.

More of Alexa's Pictures

Even though the picture above is a little underexposed, I really love Steve and Jared's smiles better than any other picture I have of the two of them. And I have to give Alexa the credit for taking it. Enjoy the pictures below that Alexa also took: one of me, a still life of a watermelon, and of Jared playing his "drums."

Ok. So obviously the pictures below wern't taken of Alexa. Still I just had to include it because they looked too darn cute after playing outside with the hose.

Tikki, Tikki, Tembo

I had ordered the book Tikki, Tikki, Tembo from the library, but for some reason they took such a long time sending it out that we didn't technically read the book the week we did these activities. But, we did watch the Scholastic DVD, which was the book read word for word.

Alexa and I made Chinese lanteerns one afternoon out of construction paper and ribbons. She definitely is more of a crafty person than Jared.

Another afternoon we made name pictures. I wrote their names in glue,  and then they poured glitter over the glue.

One really fun, but very long and messy activity was making cookies from scratch. It was from a really, strange recipe so the dough was very crumbly, still I was able to shape the dough into letters of their name and even had leftover dough to shape the word Daddy for Steve.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cicero Gospel Fest

The town of Cicero had its first Gospel Fest on August 23rd, and the worship team at our church was asked to perform. Steve plays the guitar (he has since he was 15) and played with the team. We wern't expecting such a large stage, but it was exciting to see Steve play. There were other things for kids to do there. I think there was a petting zoo, clowns, and games, but the kids, especially Jared, wern't feeling very well so I and my parents carried them for most of the time.