Rachel and Daddy

Rachel and Daddy. What a cute pair!

Local Library Tour

Our Early Childhood PTA group took a tour of the Lewisville library this morning.

As we entered, we noticed a neat example of Recycled Art in the lobby. It was part of a building made entirely of cans. The cans were connected together by a cool product sold right here in our area. It's called Pop Bloox and with them you can snap cans together just like Legos. I think we'll have to get some and try them out ourselves - but only with Pepsi cans, of course!

We had fun at the library. They opened their doors an hour early for our private tour. We learned about the lay out of the library and got to go behind doors usually closed to the public. Then we all enjoyed a storytime together.

Fun on an Ice Day

School was closed yesterday and today due to icy road conditions. Nicholas and I tried to make the best of it although we hate feeling couped up inside for very long. Today we made a Reading Fort. We pulled some chairs into the room and draped a sheet over them. Then we decorated it with streamers and balloons.

Inside the fort, Nicholas, Rachel, and myself sat on a blanket and read lots and lots of books while snacking on fruit and Cheez-It crackers.

A Rough and Tumble Little Boy

I have a rough and tumble little boy. As a result, I'm always having to buy new pants for him. You can see why from the picture below. There seems to be a pattern of holes in the right knees. The left knees are always fine. I'm not sure the reason for the discrepancy but the fact of the matter remains that this boy goes through lots of clothes!

Museum of Nature and Science

We took a field trip today to the Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas. It was especially fun because we got to meet up with some cool friends of ours!

I had not even realized that today was the Chinese New Year so what a neat surprise it was to learn that we were going to get to see a Chinese New Year lion dance there. We learned all about the tradition behind the Chinese New Year and then watched an awesome lion dance. The music and lion dance is intended to scare away bad guys and bad luck to make way for the good luck of the new year. The lion threw out lettuce and peppermints for good luck to those who catch them.

Next Nicholas got to be part of the lion dance in a kid-sized lion costume. His feet are the third pair under the lion costume!

Then they let him help make the music while other children did the lion dance.

We learned that 2009 is the Year of the Ox.

Nicholas was born in the Year of the Monkey. According to the Chinese belief, monkeys are fun and loving persons who are always cheerful and energetic. They are very clever. Give a monkey a boring book to read and he'll turn it into a Musical. Better yet, he'll invite everyone to see it free! That's how talented, creative and generous monkeys usually are.

Rachel was born in the Year of the Rat. In Chinese, the Rat is respected and considered a courageous, enterprising person. People born in the Year of Rat are clever and bright, sociable and family-minded. They have broad interests and strong ability in adapting to the environment and able to react adequately to any changes. They are gifted in many ways and have an easy going manner. They are active and pleasant, tactful and fantastic, and are able to grasp opportunities. They seem to have interests in everything and hope to participate in doing it and usually do it very well.

This museum is our favorite. It's such a fun place to learn about all kinds of things. We spent several hours there and never even made it over to see the big dinosaur exhibits in the other building.

Nicholas walked into a giant mouth, which he just loved...

Worked as a fireman and rang the fire alarm...

Looked through microscopes, worked on a farm and milked a cow...

Learned about electricity and solar power, dressed up as a bee, looked at a tarantula up close...

Built with blocks...

Wore a Haz Mat suit...

Learned about water movement...

Looked at exhibits about building demolition/imploding, earthquakes, kaleidoscopes, and the human body. Here we are all learning about mucus through an interactive exhibit (eww!).

Dug for dinosaur bones and made giant bubbles....

We had a blast!

We decided to continue celebrating the Chinese New Year once we got home. We made Chinese paper lanterns. It was super easy and fun. All we used was construction paper, scissors, markers, and a few staples.

Next we worked on a really cool art project in which we made our own Chinese dancing lion. We colored a mask that came from the museum and cut it out.

Then we pulled out some cardboard tubes from our recycle bin and painted them blue.

I found some used tissue paper that had come in a gift bag and we used that for the lion's body. We decorated it with markers and glitter. We attached all of the pieces together and we had our own Chinese lion! Nicholas had fun walking around the house making the lion dance while I made lots of music for it to dance to.

First Books!

Nicholas has been interested in learning to read for a while now. He is always working on phonics and often sounds out words he finds around the house or as we're out running errands. If he can't sound them out, he will ask me to help him read the word. Sometimes he will ask me how to spell a particular word, just because he is curious.

We have the first set of Bob books which are a whole series of beginner reader books. Nicholas has tried to read them in the past but would always get frustrated before he finished the first book and would give up. A few weeks ago, Nicholas sat down with the books and read the first book without hesitation. He was so proud of himself that he continued on with books 2, 3, and 4. Here's a video of the first two he read. I got part of the third book on video but the battery died, of course!

Nicholas is so proud of himself...and we are proud of him too!!

Saturday Morning Fun

Nicholas and I were the first ones up this morning. I tried to find something sort of quiet for us to play so that Rachel and Daddy could sleep late. Legos it is! Nicholas loves playing with his Legos and he loves for us to build things with him. He likes for us to be creative but only if we are building a spaceship and only if it is built in the color that he chooses. Bummer! I don't get too interested in building space ships and I'd prefer to just let my creative genius run free. But alas, sometimes it isn't worth the fight. So I compromised and built a plane and he let me make it blue instead of the requested black.

He created some other odd-shaped little space ships. He has such an imagination that a space ship can look like anything to him. He cherishes everything that we build so he never wants to take anything apart. (Daddy built the Jeep in the picture a few weeks ago and we all think it is too cute to take apart!) This wouldn't be a problem except that we are left with no bricks to build anything new. I have "accidentally" broken my space ship on occasion so that we can put the pieces back in the building pile. Bad Mommy!

Rachel is getting better at holding on to toys. She loves to hold things and move them around. Her favorite seems to be this cute little Taggies elephant because it has a lot of places that are easy for her to grasp. She is such a happy baby. Sometimes she just starts cracking up laughing. It's so cute!

Spending the Day in Dallas

Today Nicholas, Rachel, and I took a trip to Dallas and visited 3 places while we were there. I took 380 pictures while we were there. Do you think that is too many??? I just love taking pictures, especially of my two sweet children. Of course, this is the reason that I can't ever get my blog postings actually posted on the day I write them. I have several postings written and ready to publish on the blog but I always need a few days to go through all of the pictures that go with the journaling. I also have a hard time narrowing down to just one or two pictures. Maybe that's why Nicholas has 5 scrapbooks made for his first year of life! If I kept up that pace of scrapbooking for both of my children then I would need a whole room just to store them all. Thank goodness for blogs. They are online scrapbooks and they take up no space on my bookshelves!

We started the day at a PTA outing at the Dallas World Aquarium. We got to watch the otters being fed fish for their third breakfast of the day. Their tank had huge glass windows that extended well below the water line so we could actually watch them as they swam underwater!

There were cool crocodiles, tarantulas, and Nicholas' favorite - snakes!

At one point we were walking through an enclosed tropical exhibit and this funny little bird flew right up to me and landed on a post of the railing we were next to. I was pushing Rachel in the stroller and trying to navigate around a field trip of children so we were rather slow moving along the walkway. The little bird stayed right there just looking at us. As I finally made it a little farther up the walkway, the little bird flew over to the next post beside us and again just looked at us. This continued down the walkway. I thought it was kind of weird but figured it was just my imagination until a friend of ours commented that he seemed to be following us. Sure enough, we got off of the walkway and he flew into a tree just above us. Then as we made it into a hallway and were getting on the elevator, we saw him fly out of the tropical area into the elevator hallway and then he perched on a railing as he watched us leave in the elevator. Crazy!

Nicholas stared at these spotted skates for a long time. He loves sting rays and thought these little guys were really cool looking.

While Nicholas was engrossed watching skates, Rachel was mesmorized by the giant waterfall. She stared at it for about 10 minutes with a look of amazement on her face.

We looked at the giant aquarium for a while. It is so neat to be able to see all the action taking place under the water when just earlier we were walking on a path over the water and couldn't see all of these cool creatures from around the world swimming around just below us. There were giant turtles, huge catfish, manatees, and fish.

Next we went to the shark and ray tank. This is our favorite part of all. We walk through a 40 foot glass tunnel that goes through the tank so you can see the sharks and rays swimming all around you!

We saw a lots more cool critters.

Puffer fish...

Tree frog...


Owls...Nicholas enjoyed watching the owls but as Rachel and I approached the exhibit, they got kind of creepy. They were both perched at the top of the post when Rachel and I first came up to them. They instantly both started staring at Rachel in the stroller. One even came to a lower branch and started stretching his next out to get a better look at her. They never looked at me. They just stared at Rachel the whole time. They were enclosed in glass but we moved on rather quickly...

There was even a beautiful jaguar exhibit. I know, it isn't what you'd expect to find when visiting an aquarium but this is no ordinary aquarium!

We left the aquarium and our friends went their separate ways. The three of us headed over to the McKinney Avenue trolley. McKinney Avenue is full of restaurants and shops but it is also runs between many downtown and uptown Dallas businesses so the trolley is a great service for the area. However, we love to just hop on it and ride these beautifully restored antique trolley cars up and down the street...and it's free!

The area has high pedestrian traffic so it is hard to find places to park. Most of the businesses have small parking lots and they've posted signs stating that the parking is only for their patrons and they will tow your vehicle if they see you walking somewhere else. Therefore the biggest challenge for us when we ride the trolley is always finding a place to park our car. There are places along side streets but we found a parking spot at an empty building that was up for lease. I figured no one would care if we parked there since the building wasn't being used. We walked to the trolley stop and waited on a bench for the next trolley to pick us up.

While we were sitting on the bench, I told Nicholas that I was still a little worried about our car being towed while we were riding the trolley. He said, "I know what we should do. Let's say a prayer that our car doesn't get towed." Great thinking little buddy! He didn't want to say the prayer himself so I said a little prayer to keep our car safe and untowed while we were gone.

Our trolley soon appeared and we hopped on. We got trolley 122 this time. 122 is lovingly known as "Rosie". Rosie was built in 1909. She is 28 feet long and weighs 14 tons but she is the smallest trolley in the fleet.

We lucked out and got our favorite driver, Leo. He has a 12 year old son who he has brought along with him on rides before and he is great with children. He let Nicholas blow the whistle a few times and talked to us a lot while we rode.

I asked Leo where we might stop for some ice cream along our ride. He said the only place he could think of was a gelato place that we had just passed. I told Nicholas that we weren't going to be able to go because I didn't want to make two round trips in the trolley today because I wanted to get back to the car to make sure it hadn't been towed. Nicholas said, "No, you don't have to worry about that. Remember, we said a prayer to keep it safe." You are right, little buddy, but Mommy thinks we should still get off after one trip around, just in case!

I asked Leo about the best places to park for just riding the trolley. He recommended the Cityplace Station or the Trolley Barn. Good to know for next time!

We made it back to our starting place and were glad to see that our car was still happily sitting in its parking spot! I wanted to take Nicholas to Pioneer Plaza in downtown to show him what is said to be the world's largest bronze sculpture - a cattle drive of 70 huge longhorns and 3 cowboys! I had a general idea of where it was but Stuart and I haven't been to it in probably 13 years. We saw it on a trip to Dallas when we were still living in Louisiana. I managed to find it pretty quickly with some guidance that one of our friends had given me at the aquarium. I was glad that we went because Nicholas had a blast running among the herd.

The longhorn statues travel across a little stream. Nicholas enjoyed jumping across the rocks in the stream and then he noticed the little minnows in the water. He decided that he needed to catch some of them...with his hands!

I struggled with this because I don't think the water could have been very clean but sometimes you've just got to let boys be boys. So he squatted down and for about 15 minutes he studied the minnows and would quickly dash his hand into the water to try to catch the quick little fish. He never caught one but he had a blast trying. On the way home he talked about what he needed to bring with him to catch the minnows the next time we went to Pioneer Plaza.