Dinovember (Part 1!)

It's a good thing Jon's brother told us about Dinovember; otherwise, we would have had no idea why these dinosaurs keep getting into trouble!

When we came back from an early morning run, we spotted them:  the dinosaurs were helping themselves to one of my favorite snacks (crackers, cream cheese, and jelly)!

Luckily, we knew that during Dinovember toy dinosaurs come alive during the night and have all kinds of adventures.  They also get into all kinds of mischief...

Kaia and Harry were not too sure what to think about them.  

Kaia decided to roll with it...those naughty dinosaurs!

Harry still insists that "these dinosaurs are fake!"

Harry thought it was much more likely that someone took our keys, snuck into our house while we were sleeping, and set up the dinosaurs.  This is serious business!

The next day, we found the dinosaurs in the middle of a rock band jam session!

After this, we had to put the dinosaurs up high so they could not climb down and get into trouble.  I'll let you know how that worked out next time!

Do you want to know more about Dinovember?  Click here to find out how it all started?

Geography Crafts: Norway: Rosemaling

This year we're exploring Geography through arts and crafts!  We usually have another homeschooling family join us, and that's been fun too.  After our first lesson, Kaia asked if she could choose the next country.  I was certainly curious what she wanted!  She then requested something Norwegian because we have Norwegian ancestors.  When I learned about rosemaling, I knew it would be the perfect project.

Rosemaling is a traditional craft from Norway and Sweden.  I found these videos extremely helpful as I learned about the art:

Freehand Rosemaling Tutorial:

How to use a round brush:
I like how this lady uses two colors on her brush, but with a different technique that may be easier for children to imitate:

How to make a Rosemaling Flower:

One Stroke Flower Painting:

We first painted on paper and then on little wooden frames that I found at Wal-mart (for only a dollar!).  It may not look professional, but it was certainly educational...for me as much as for the kids!

Halloween 2013

We just love Halloween around here--all the cute decorations, dressing up, fun treats, and (the part I could skip...) candy!

I got to pick Ryleigh's costume, and I think she is the cutest ladybug ever:

Kaia chose her costume...she was going to be Cinderella, but changed to a fairy the morning of Halloween:

We had a ton of fun with her hair too:

Harry also chose his costume...he spent a week being Buzz Lightyear, but on Halloween decided he should be Superman.  Late in the afternoon he spilled bubbles on his Superman costume, and changed back to Buzz.  I had a hard time getting a clear picture of him because he doesn't hold still!

Our Halloween adventures started with hay-rides, spiders, snakes, and trick-or-treating at Jesse Jones Park on Saturday:

Both Kaia and Harry held the tarantula and the corn snakes...and thought it was pretty cool.  Jon and I got turns too, but the cameras batteries all died after one spider picture!

Kaia and Harry both wore their costumes to gymnastics in the afternoon, and Harry (in Kinder Gym) got to do a parade and special costume picture.

Then, of course, we went trick-or-treating.  The kids helped Grandma Judy pick out her ghost costume!

I love going trick-or-treating in our neighborhood!  Most people sit in their driveways with their candy bowl and are very friendly.  

We spent most of the day hoping the rain would stop so we could go out easily, and were so happy when it did!  Sadly, at that point I was feeling sick, so I only went around one block with them.  Luckily, Grandma Judy took them around one more and, while they were out, Jon got home and took them out a little longer.  

After they came home, we ate our Jack-o-Lantern cake, sorted candy, and went to bed!

Yay Halloween!

Pumpkin Muffins Recipe

This is my new favorite recipe and I just have to share (and make it again!).  It is super moist, has a great flavor, and can easily be frosted if you want it sweeter!  I started with Pioneer Woman's recipe here, made a few changes so it's a little simpler and a little less dessert-y (though it is still insanely yummy!), and I came out with this:

Pumpkin Muffin Recipe

Makes about 30 medium muffins.

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line muffin tin with paper cups.  I don't grease them, but that's up to you.  :)

2. Mix the following in a bowl:
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt

3.  Mix the following in another bowl until the eggs are well blended:
  • 1 cup 2 % milk
  • 1/4 cup Smart Balance at room temperature (it's very, very soft)
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins
  • (optional: chocolate chips would be amazingly yummy)
4.  Mix the two together until just blended.

5.  Fill muffin cups about 2/3 with batter and cook for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown on the top.  My oven tends to cook quickly, so you may want a few extra minutes.  

These were so delicious--all my kids (including our daycare friends) loved them!  I already wish I had made three times as many!!

Pumpkin Baby!!

Happy October!!

I have been so excited about taking Pumpkin Baby pictures of Ryleigh ever since I saw the idea last year.  I knew she would be just the right age, and I am so glad she was willing to indulge me!  Jon thinks it looks like she has a "giant pumpkin diaper," but I think it is just so cute!!

Just in case you wondered, I did line the cold pumpkin with a nice cloth diaper.  ;)

Cody the Smart Cub (by V-tech) Review & GIVEAWAY!!

A big thank you to V-tech for sponsoring this post!

I am so excited to share V-tech's new learning toy for young children: Cody the Smart Cub!  He talks, sings, and laughs, and asks your child questions.  He's an adorable stuffed animal, and a great "learning toy!"

Our Cody the Smart Cub arrived last week and has been popular ever since.  He is designed for children 6-36 months, but is also a huge hit with Harry (40 months) and Kaia (6 years).  Ryleigh (8 months) loves pushing the heart "button," watching it light up, and listening to it thump a gentle rhythm.  You can see her playing with it in the picture above.  She also likes to push on its tummy.  When it first said her name, she looked up at me like, "Did you hear that?!!!"   I wish I had the camera handy for that instant...it was awesome!

Harry has surprised me with how much he loves Cody the Cub.  When he first played with it, he methodically pushed every button on its body until he figured out what to expect.  When Cody announced, "Halloween is in two months!" Harry laughed and laughed, and then turned to me and said, "This is a smart bear!"  Then he continued to push the paw until the phrases cycled back to "Halloween is in two months!" so he could laugh at it again!  He also declared, "I like this bear!"  

Kaia played with it just long enough to figure it all out, and then she was happy to pass it back to her brother.  She explained that it was made for younger kids, but a few minutes later I caught her showing Ryleigh how it worked.  

Straight from the box, it is programmed with fun holidays, great phrases (it asks you to give it five, find its foot, etc), fun music, and more.  You can also plug it into your computer with a short USB cable.  The cable is included, but it is very short: I could not put Cody the Smart Cub on my lap and have it plugged in at the same time.  I scooted the computer over so there was more space right next to the USB plug, and it worked great.  It takes about ten minutes to set up your computer to interact with the Learning Lodge at V-tech, but it is a very easy ten minutes.  I plugged the bear in and followed the prompts that showed up on the screen.  Once everything was installed, I could customize Cody to my heart's content!  I only spent about fifteen more minutes customizing him: now, Cody will say all my children's names (and none of the them are especially common!), count down to holidays, bed-time, talk about favorite foods and colors, and more!

And the best part (for you!) is that V-tech is giving another Cody the Cub away to one of my readers!  Just use the handy Rafflecopter form below to enter!  Please note that entrants are limited to the continental United States and if you win you need to respond to my email within 24 hours or a new winner will be drawn.  The giveaway will end at midnight on October 4th.  Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

V-tech provided me with a Cody the Smart Cub to review and sponsored this post.  All opinions are 100% mine...I only recommend products we love!

Ryleigh's 6-Month Pictures & update

I love baby pictures!  And I love the effect digital photography has had on picture taking: getting hundreds of shots of very similar poses!  I have tried to narrow these 6-month pictures down to just a handful for you.

Of course, I think she's the cutest baby ever (you know I have three cutest babies ever now) and I love to look at her over and over!  So, here's a couple of the bloopers:

And what was she doing at six months?

  • Obviously she was sitting, rolling, and grabbing objects!
  • She also could say a pretty clear "Mama" and "Dada" and summon Kaia and Harry with distinct calls. You might call her calls a cry, but I can tell it's a name.  She has been working very hard on talking.
  • Her first food, at six months, was homemade baby food: carrots!

And what is she doing now?  Well, we're approaching eight months in another week, and here are some of her mad skills:

  • She has a sign for "come," though she also uses it to summon inanimate objects.  Often, she gets lucky and they come flying toward her (in the hands of Kaia or Harry).
  • She pulled up (all the way to a standing position) for the first time yesterday.
  • She likes to stand and hold on to things...and she gets very frustrated when she falls!
  • She is doing a fun combination of rolling, scooting, and almost-crawling to get around.  She has crawled a few times, but it's usually an accident.  Yesterday, she actually crawled deliberately...though she only moved each leg once before she fell on her tummy!
  • She loves to go outside.  She loves to go running in the jogging stroller.  She cries whenever we walk past the door without opening it and going outside.
  • She is still working hard on talking.  She makes lots of sounds, and we're not sure what it all means, but one of her favorite games is to make sounds and listen to us copy them.  She also copies back, and it is hilarious!  
  • She has lots of ideas and opinions and is not shy about letting us know exactly what she wants...and doesn't want!  She does not like getting dressed, wearing headbands, having her diaper changed, or having her face wiped.  She does like to go outside, touch new things, eat (especially those funny Gerber puffs, fruit, and carrots), and she really loves playing with her family.

Happily, we really love her too, and are so glad she is now part of our family.  Harry and Kaia play with her so well and love to make her happy.   A few weeks ago, Kaia said it best: "I just can't imagine our family without Ryleigh!"

Happy Baby

You know those moments when your baby finds the silliest thing completely hysterical, and you think, "If she would only keep laughing when I pull out a camera, I would record this!"  Well, she actually did keep laughing this time!  Of course, it was much funnier when I wasn't holding the camera, but you get the idea...

If it doesn't load, you can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDWFEf0Jrmc&feature=youtu.be

Jon Graduated!!!

The title to this one has three exclamation marks because it is so exciting!  After 2 1/2 years of very long days, we are so thrilled that Jon graduated, passed the Texas bar, and has now finished everything he needs to do to be a Texas lawyer.  Of course, now that it has been two months the next big exclamation event will be an attorney job.  In the meantime, we are happy that he is working at an immigration law firm that he enjoys.  And we are so proud of the work he has done so far!

Here he is walking and getting hooded at the UH Law School Graduation:

And here are a few other fun pictures...Jon's graduation was like a big party!