Welcome Summer!

Summer is here. You know how I know? Because we are in the pool every single day! Today was Rachel's first time in a swimming pool. She loved it.

Here's Rachel sitting pretty in her Bumbo seat wearing her little swimsuit. I think she was a little startled at the time of this picture, perhaps because of the five year old boy screaming and jumping around at the other end of the pool. But look how she turned her little feet inwards like she did as a newborn. So cute!

When Nicholas was little, we got him a little inflatable swim boat that held him up in the water as we pulled him around the pool. Of course, it didn't survive all these years but we found the same boat again and bought one for Rachel. At first, she was only interested in chewing on the little toys on the boat.

Look at these cute little chubby arms. Just makes me want to pinch them!

Rachel enjoyed having me pull her around in her little boat and she seemed completely at ease. As a matter of fact, here she is pretending to drive a convertible with one hand on the steering wheel and the other hanging out the side window! Isn't she tough looking?

There is no sweeter sound than the giggles and laughter of a child!

Rachel enjoyed her little boat but not nearly as much as she enjoyed being in my arms where she could splash the water. Boy, she is a splasher! She was giggling the whole time even with the water splashing all over her face.

After swimming, Stuart grilled burgers and we ate outside by the pool. We talked and laughed and were totally relaxed. Of course, Stuart's photographic eye is always on the lookout for interesting lighting effects so he had to snap this picture of Nicholas looking at a candle. Neat pic.

What a perfect day!

Nature Hiking With Our Friends

We visited one of my favorite places today, LISDOLA (Lewisville Independent School District Outdoor Learning Area). We went with a bunch of other children and their parents from the Early Childhood PTA. This was our third trip there and it was awesome as usual. I was excited to learn today that Nicholas will have school field trips at LISDOLA too.

We started with a little talk to all of the children about preserving Nature, not taking things from the trails, and not leaving trash behind. Nicholas already knew a lot of the issues in this discussion and he seemed to feel proud to be one of the "nature experts" among the group.

Mrs. Deb who organized this awesome outing gave each child their own binoculars - made of recycled toilet tissue rolls! How cool is that?!

When we go on nature walks, I usually push Rachel in the stroller but I had talked with Mr. Steve at LISDOLA before the walk today. He said a stroller would be fine but the ride would get pretty bumpy at times. I decided to just carry Rachel in a baby harness. It was my first time to use it and it was comfortable at first but did get heavy as the hiking continued. I was also carrying a backpack full of Rachel's things like diapers, wipes, bottle, bib, change of clothes plus things for the rest of us like suncreen, bug spray, bottled water and lunch for Nicholas and myself. I was really loaded down like a pack mule!

At one of the stopping places along the trail, Mr. Steve had set out some bug jars complete with live bugs for us to look at. After everyone got to view them, we were given empty jars to catch our own bugs in. Nicholas is a great bug hunter so he had lots of fun with this part.

At another stopping spot, Mr. Steve left some hand lenses for the kids to examine things they found up close such as leaves and tree bark.

Of course we had to go on the Unnatural trail where there are 20 items placed along the trail that don't belong there and are unnatural to the setting. Nicholas was proud to tell everyone about some of the objects but I was glad to see that some of the items had changed from last year so that he still had a bit of a challenge.

We also stopped at the spider web. This is a cool interactive tool to show how a spider uses a web to find their food. The "spider" stands in the center of the string web and closes their eyes or wears a blindfold. Then the "bugs" stand on the edges of the web and give gentle tugs and shakes to the web. The spider feels the vibrations in the web and has to figure out where along the web to go to find his lunch.

Afterwards, we all sat for storytime with Mrs. Deb as she read "Diary of a Spider" to us.

Mrs. Deb wrapped up the hike with popsicles for everyone! Thanks, Mrs. Deb!

As we were leaving, Mr. Steve showed us a tree that has the biggest thorns I've ever seen! Take a look...

The front baby carrier worked absolutely beautifully. It was certainly harder on me than having Rachel in a stroller as I was having to carry around her 17 pounds in addition to the ton of weight in my back pack. However, I don't think Rachel would have been happy for the whole hike. The hike started at 9:30 which is when she usually goes to bed for her morning nap. Instead she was all smiles and giggles in her cool baby carrier, looking at the world from a whole new perspective. She stayed happy for the whole hike and we didn't even leave until 1:00 this afternoon!

Last Day of Preschool

I have been so wistful and reflective these past few days and it all culminated today with Nicholas' last day of preschool. I'm a sad Mommy. My little baby boy isn't so little anymore. He's a full blown kindergartener!

Here is Nicholas in 2006 as we were on our way to his first day of preschool. He was only 2 years old and so excited about going to school.

Here he is running to me at the end of the day. Oh how I wish I could still wrap my arms around that little wiggly 2 year old...

Here's my little guy three years later on his last day of preschool. What a sweet little guy he has turned out to be.

After school, we went to Baskin Robbins to celebrate. Nicholas ordered the Wild 'N Reckless Sherbet...how fitting for a wild 'n reckless kind of guy!

While we were there, a friend from preschool showed up with her mom to also celebrate the last day of school. Nicholas has been friends with her since that first class at Montessori when they both started preschool together. It was fun sitting there reminiscing and then looking at how much they have grown and matured since then.

Oh, I'm savoring and cherishing every day that God blesses me with my sweet little children. Each day is so very precious to me.

The Butterfly Song

This morning I was sad that I hadn't made Nicholas' lunch extra special since it was the last time I was going to make his lunch for him in preschool. I had forgotten that the parents were invited to school at 11:00 for a special end of the year chapel service. So Rachel and I made him a special little love note and a goodie bag of gummy worms and secretly stuck it in his lunch box at school before his class had lunch time. Yea Mom!

The chapel service was nice. I finally got a good position to get some video of Nicholas. It's about time. Over the last 3 years at Montessori, every single time there is a special chapel service, I get their early to get a good viewing spot but his class ends up sitting on the other side of the chapel or someone is blocking my view of Nicholas or whatever. But this last service, I was finally able to capture him singing...and not only that but I caught him singing my favorite song - The Butterfly Song. I just love this song! It's so cute! I've included the words too because I know it can be hard to understand on the video at times.

The Butterfly Song
If I were a butterfly, I'd thank you Lord for giving me wings
If I were a robin in a tree, I'd thank you Lord that I could sing
If I were a fish in the sea, I'd wiggle my tail and I'd giggle with glee
But I just thank you father for making me, me

For you gave me a heart and you gave me a smile
You gave me Jesus and you made me your child
And I just thank you Father for making me, me

If I were an elephant, I'd thank you Lord by raising my trunk
If I were a kangaroo, You know I'd hop right up to you
If I were an octopus, I'd thank you Lord for my fine looks
But I just thank you Father for making me, me

For you gave me a heart and you gave me a smile
You gave me Jesus and you made me your child
And I just thank you Father for making me, me

If I were a wiggly worm, I'd thank you Lord that I could squirm
If I were a fuzzy wuzzy bear, I'd thank you Lord for my fuzzy, wuzzy hair
If I were a crocodile, I'd thank you Lord for my great smile
But I just thank you Father for making me, me

For you gave me a heart and you gave me a smile
You gave me Jesus and you made me your child
And I just thank you Father for making me, me

The next song is another favorite at his school - Deep in the Heart of Texas. They always sing it at the end of the year chapel. Nicholas loves this song and often sings it around the house.

Last Lunch

This morning was the usual rush to get everyone fed and dressed, pack a lunch for Nicholas and get him off to preschool. After I had dropped him off and was on my way home, I started thinking random thoughts and went over in my head what I had packed in his lunch box. Then it hit me. This was the last lunch I will pack for him in preschool. Tomorrow is his last day of school but he won't bring his lunch because they are having a pizza party. Next year he will be in Kindergarten and eating lunch in the cafeteria. How sad! The last preschool lunch I'll pack. I just had to start crying right there in the car. My little baby boy is growing up way too fast. I wish I had taken more time to make this lunch extra special for him, maybe even throw in some of his favorite gummy worms.

A Wonderful Anniversary

Yesterday Stuart and I had a wonderful anniversary. We didn't travel anywhere or do anything elaborate. We just went out for lunch and a movie. What made it especially nice was that it was just the two of us. We never ever do this anymore. We used to find time to go on a few date nights now and then but we haven't done this in a long, long time. With everything going on in our lives, it is easy to not take the time to schedule anything for just the two of us. We always say that we will but somehow it never happens.

A big reason we never have dates anymore is the obvious childcare issue. I'm so jealous of friends that have their parents right here to watch their children anytime they need childcare - for doctor appointments, date nights, whatever. I so wish we had that option. Instead we have to drop Nicholas and Rachel off at Adventure Kids which costs $7.50/hour for Nicholas and $9.00/hour for Rachel. Do the math - that's $16.50/hour for childcare! I think we might get a small discount if they are both there at the same time but still you can see how this gets costs prohibitive very quickly. And also we are confined to only the times and days that Adventure Kids is open and then the kids are surrounded by strangers, both in caretakers and other kids there.

This time we hired a babysitter. Our first babysitter. She has watched the children before at our Bible study group. She stays upstairs with all of the children while the adults are downstairs talking. But this was the first time we left our children at our house with her while we weren't there. Oh, it was hard for me. The car looked so empty and lonely without my two children's smiling faces in the backseat. As we were walking into the restaurant, I told Stuart that I felt like I was missing an appendage. No one was hanging on me, pulling my hair, crying, needing to be told to not play with the plants. It should have been nice but it was just too foreign for me.

We sat down at our table and I couldn't help but think of how Rachel would do a few hours from now once we were in the movie. She never eats when she is at Adventure Kids, no matter how long she is there. I was hoping that she would do better at home but I couldn't help but worry about her.

Eventually, I started to relax a little, just a little. Stuart and I started talking and laughing and it felt really good. We joked that we weren't having to tell Nicholas to get out from under the table or keeping Rachel from whining out of boredom. As I looked over my menu trying to decide what to order, I realized that I was actually tearing up. Not because of worry about the kids or guilt that we were out without them. I was tearing up from the release and happiness of actually getting a break. Yes, I feel a little like a bad mom for saying that but doesn't everyone need a break from time to time. And I know that Stuart and I needed some quiet time with just the two of us that didn't involve passing out on the couch at 9:00 at night after the kids are in bed and we are just exhausted.

So from there on the day only got better. We had a wonderful meal with lots of conversation and laughter. We got to the movie theater and as we were walking away from our car holding each other's hands I couldn't help but get a little skip in my step. We got our tickets but had some time before the movie started so we walked over to Barnes and Noble. I felt a little lost because I always have Nicholas with me when we go here so I spend all of my time in the children's section. Wait! You mean I can actually look at adult books, something just for me?! I tried that for a while but I still found myself over in the children's section shopping for them! Crazy, huh! We had a great relaxing time watching the new Star Trek movie...and I realized that I'm really a closet Trekkie. I really loved this movie!

I think we still ended up paying more for childcare than we did for our date but it was so worth it! We were completely relaxed, happy, and so in love. Hopefully we can make this a new habit every month or so.

And just so you know, Adventure Kids does offer gift certificates, in case you are ever in the mood to just give us a random gift :)

A Blessed 13 Years Together

Stuart and I were married on May 25, 1996 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Today is our 13 year wedding anniversary. We met back in 1991 while we were both in school at LSU. Since then we have shared so many wonderful years together - years full of blessed joy mixed with the inevitable heart ache at times. But as I look back over the years I can see that our lives have been overflowing with God's love and grace since the beginning. How else could we have each found our perfect mate, our puzzle piece?

Even Dandelions Have A Silver Lining

I love our yard but I hate the weeds. We used to have an awesome service that came out on a regular basis to put down weed killer and fertilizer. We truly had the best looking lawn on the block. It was awesome. But then enter kiddos. We stopped the service once Nicholas started crawling around in the yard because we didn't want him exposed to the chemicals. I had been thinking about starting the service back up but now with Rachel approaching the crawling stage I think we'll just have to put up with weeds a little bit longer.

But as they say, every cloud has a silver lining. With all of the dandelions that we have in our yard, we have constant entertainment from the bunnies that like to nibble on them!

Pumas vs. Mighty Penguins

I love going to Nicholas' soccer games. The boys are just so cute in their uniforms and they really get into the game. Nicholas played his best ever today. I'm so proud of him!

Rachel, on the other hand, has a hard time at the soccer games. The games start at 9:00 in the morning but she's used to going down for her morning nap around 9:30 or 10:00. So she's really sleepy by the time it's all over and we finally get home. Stuart got this sweet picture of her cuddling up in my arms sucking her thumb while I was watching the game.

A Wild Time at the Dallas Zoo

Parking: $5.00

Entrance fees: $11.00

Lunch for one adult and one child: $16.00

Welcoming summer with some splashing fun at the zoo: Priceless!

We had a fun day at the Dallas Zoo today with our friends. Between the Dallas, Fort Worth, and Gainesville zoos, we go to a zoo quite often. But it never fails that we learn something new and discover new animals each time. And it's such a simple way to have fun while you learn! Nicholas' favorite part of this trip was the meandering river in the children's zoo where kids are welcome to splash around and get wet which of course Nicholas had to do!

Nicholas also enjoyed the pony rides. He likes to pretend to ride an imaginary horse around the house so it was fun getting to ride a real pony again. I think this was just his second time on a pony.

In the children's zoo there was a neat climbing structure made out of rope to look like a spider web. Nicholas and another little boy had lots of fun playing here. Nicholas is pretending to be a bug caught in the web and the other boy is the spider coming over to grab a little snack.

We saw lots of the regular animals like giraffes, elephants, tigers, monkeys, etc.

But we also a new creature. There were three albino crocodiles! Two babies and a one adult. (Why did Blogger rotate my picture for me? It's not supposed to be vertical!)

Our absolute favorite part of the Dallas Zoo is their Nature Exchange. It's is just so cool! Nicholas can bring in anything from his collection of nature "finds" such as seed pods, rocks, shells, dried leaves, etc. He can get points for the items he brings in and he gets more points for being able to tell the Nature Exchange workers all about the items he brought. He also gets points for the quality of the items, the effort taken in collecting or preserving the items, and for keeping a nature journal. He can then use those points to trade in his items for other items in the Exchange. And let me tell you, they have some cool stuff in the Exchange!

Just to throw in a little bit more education into our trip, I asked Nicholas to read the signs so we would know where to find certain animals we were looking for. He is doing really great with his phonics work but he also used some common sense in reading the words. He would read the first part of the word and then just guess at the rest of it but it was successful enough for him to find the animals he wanted to see.

Rachel sits up well enough now that she can sit in the stroller without being in her infant carrier which means that she can face forward and see all of the action. It certainly makes it more fun for her but it also means that she doesn't get bored as easily and is less likely to want to be picked up and held during an excursion. Hooray! It's not fun to have to hold baby, push an empty stroller, and keep up with the 5 year old.

A Little Bit of Jealousy

I wrote yesterday about how much Nicholas loves his little sister. However, as you can expect, he also realizes that he isn't the center of the universe anymore. Although he is very sweet about everything, we can still occasionally see little signs of jealousy. For example, he used to be great about running to tell me when Rachel has woken up from her nap and started crying. He doesn't do that anymore. Sometimes I will start to go get her and he will say, "She's ok. Just stay and play with me for a few more minutes."

There's also been a few other incidents which are kind of funny but they also make me sad that he is feeling left out at times. Stuart and I were playing with Rachel and saying how cute it is when she grabs her little feet. Nicholas flopped to the floor and grabbed his feet and said, "Look, I can grab my feet too!"

Another time, I had finished bathing Rachel in her infant tub but hadn't emptied it yet. I brought her to her room to put her pajamas on. When I came back to the bathroom to empty out her tub, I found Nicholas playing it it! He is way too big for it but I guess he wanted to see what it was like!

Rachel is 7 months old!

Rachel is 7 months old today. Oh how I wish time would just slow down. I want to treasure these days forever but they just keep slipping through my hands. I already long for the days when Rachel was just a little newborn and would melt to my body as she fell asleep in my arms. Each day brings wonderful and exciting new discoveries for her and it's a blessing to be able to share these with her. But at the same time I just want to keep her as my little baby forever.

Rachel is doing great. She is drooling a lot and her lower gums look a little paler so there might be a tooth or two on its way. She is still nursing great and eating a wide variety of baby foods. The whole baby food thing is still just as messy as ever. We go through lots of bibs and wipes each day! She has also graduated to the little Gerber puffs which are kind of like little cereal pieces but they dissolve in the mouth to prevent babies from accidentally choking on them. We started out putting them in her mouth one at a time because she had no idea what to do with them. Now I can put some down on the tray of her high chair and she will get some into her mouth on her own. She is still figuring out how to work her hands and little fingers though. She will kind of scoop up several puffs in the palm of her hand but then struggles a bit to get them from her palm into her mouth. She will twist her hand around at her mouth until she gets some. But often we find puffs stuck to her clothes, her arm, shoulder, and yesterday I found one in her ear! But I think she is able to eventually get most of them in her mouth.

She is growing quite well and is wearing 9 - 12 month clothes. She has lots of baby fine hair which is a light brown but still seems to have red highlights when the light hits it just right. Her hair is growing out and although is long enough on top to stick up in places that it shouldn't. However, there still isn't enough of it to keep a barrette in place so she often has some pretty wild hairdos. Headbands work well to keep the stray hair in place but she often just pulls those off.

She still doesn't take a pacifier so I've given up trying to use it to soothe her. But fortunately she doesn't need to be soothed very often. When she is sleepy she starts sucking her thumb. It's the only time she bothers with sucking her thumb and it is an easy sign that it's nap time for her. I love it when she puts her head on my shoulder and starts sucking her little thumb as she is trying to go to sleep. I call her my little Cuddle Bear. She is just so sweet to cuddle with. When I put her in her crib, she puts her thumb in her mouth and rolls to her left side to go to sleep. So cute!

I also call her Squirmy Worm because she can be quite squirmy like a little worm that flops all around after being pulled out of the dirt. She especially likes to squirm around when I'm changing her diaper - not fun for Mommy! She isn't crawling yet but she is so close. She will push her body up and try to get her knees going but she hasn't quite figured out how to make it all work together. But that doesn't stop her from travelling across the room! She will be playing on her mat as I'm working at the computer. A few minutes later I look at her and she is on the other side of the office. I like to watch her because she will roll herself over to travel where she wants to go. She can also scoot herself around a little, kind of like a commando-type crawl. We really have to keep a keen eye out for all of Nicholas' little toy pieces that could possibly be within her reach and become a choking hazard.

Rachel is sitting up well. And she loves it. However, I still sit with her to help catch her if she falls because she still falls over often. If there is something to the side of her that she wants to pick up, she will lean over to reach for it and just flop over on her side.

Rachel just loves her big brother. He can make her smile when nothing else can. And he loves her too. He is so proud when I bring her into his class room. He makes sure that everyone there gets to see her and he loves to tell them little stories about the things she does. He also loves to show her things and try to teach her what he knows. He said this morning that he can't wait for her to be old enough to play "ships" (aka space ships) with him.

Cool Mazes

Nicholas loves mazes. If he sees a maze, he must work through it. I often go online and just print mazes for him but I recently found a neat way to throw in some counting practice as well. Check out this website... www.printactivities.com.

With these mazes you start with the number one and you must travel to the adjacent box that has the next sequential number in it. This link is for mazes counting by 1 up to 100. However, this site also has mazes counting by 2,3,4, and 5. When Nicholas first realized that there was a little bit of work involved in this maze, he said that he didn't want to do it. But he stuck it out and got the hang of it and finished it up pretty quickly. So we're working on some of the harder mazes now. There are also lots of other great educational printouts on this site as well.

First Swing

We went to the park today to enjoy the beautiful weather. Nicholas made some new friends on the playground and I held Rachel in my lap while I met another mom. We were talking about homeschooling and I was enjoying relaxing for a bit in the shade but Rachel didn't want to just sit still anymore. She has been doing a great job of sitting up on her own so I put her in an infant swing and gave her a little push. Her eyes lit up and she laughed right away. She looked all around her and she glided through the air. What was really cute is that she would laugh when someone else looked at her. It was if she was saying to them, "Look how cool I am!! I'm in a swing and you aren't!"

Cows in Danger

As I've mentioned before, Nicholas loves to play a game he created called Man vs. Wild. He obviously likes to watch the show of the same name. He also likes the simliar show, Survivorman. We have a debate in our household about which show is better but that's a different story.

Nicholas has learned some interesting survival techniques and facts about nature from watching these shows. As we are pretending to be stranded in the wild, he often likes to teach me all that he knows about "roughing it" in our backyard.

Today we were driving to the store and passed a pasture of cows. Nicholas said, "Oh no! Those cows are in danger!" I looked at the pasture and saw nothing of danger so I asked the little guy what he saw. He said that there was some shallow water in the pasture. He said that Man vs. Wild taught him that crocodiles like to hide in shallow water and will attack their unsuspecting prey from there. He said that the cows were surely going to get eaten by a crocodile!

Too darn cute! I don't know of many crocodiles in our little Texas town especially any that would hide in a cow pasture. This little guy sure can make me smile!

Lego Mania!

We said we weren't going to do it. Why fall victim of the crazy hype? So what if a new Lego store is having their grand opening this weekend? It will be the same store a week from now minus all of the crazy mob of people. We'll just wait and go later....

We were doing great until something clicked and we lost it. Somehow we found ourselves packing up the kids and going to the grand opening of the new Lego store at the mall. No, we didn't need any new Legos and no we didn't particularly feel the urge to be smooshed in a large crowd of people. But what else are you going to do on a perfectly good Saturday???

We made it to the mall and walked up to the store. Wow, there isn't a mob of people in there after all. I guess they've all cleared out by now. Good deal. We walk up to the entrance and a guy in a Lego apron kindly smiles to us and points into the mall stating, "The line is over there. We can only let in a few people at a time". Oh. Okay. Hmmm. So we walk over to the line looking for the end of it. We keep walking and walking and walking....Where does this line end?! We finally found the end and learned that it would be a minimum of a 45 minute wait. Well we're here now. No point in turning around and going home. So Stuart and Nicholas walked around the mall while I stayed with Rachel in line. I talked to some of the Lego people mulling around the line and learned that earlier this morning there was a 2 hour wait to get into the store!

Finally, we made it into the store. It was fun looking at all of the displays and seeing so many Lego kits in one place. We even saw a kit of the Star Wars Millenium Falcon which includes over 5000 pieces and sells for a mere $499.00. Ouch!

This was my favorite part of the store by far. It is the wall of bulk Legos. You can pick out whatever kind of individual Lego pieces in whatever colors you want. It was fun just looking at all of the colors and touching all the different pieces. But it was a bit overwhelming when we tried to actually pick some out. There were just too many choices!

The highlight in the store was a life-size Indiana Jones holding the crystal skull made entirely out of Legos! How inspiring. It makes me want to go home and build something really cool!

Once we picked out our few items, we had to wait in another line to check out. By now I think they had let in more people than they had before because it was getting very crowded and it was very difficult to manuever Rachel around the store in her stroller - although it may have actually helped me to push my way through the crowd at times!

After spending hours in lines and shopping at the Lego store, we were tired and hungry. We decided to check out our favorite Tex Mex restaurant that had opened a new location in Plano. Thank you, Chuy's!

We got there at 5:30 and thought we were doing great to be there so early and miss the dinner rush. Wrong! This is Chuy's - very good food, cool place to hang out, and great drinks. At 5:30 in the afternoon there was already a one hour wait. Crazy as it is we decided to stick it out. No we don't love waiting but we know what we love and sometimes it's just worth it. We had a great meal and a fun time.