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Free Fun With Pokemon and Star Wars

I've said it before but I love Freecycle. Someone on Freecycle recently gave away two sets of plastic character makers, one was Pokemon-themed and the other was Star Wars. I've seen the Star Wars character maker in the stores and had considered buying it for Nicholas but I wasn't sure if he would really play with it enough to make it worth while. So here was an offer for not only the Star Wars character maker but also the Pokemon character maker - both free. Did it really matter if he didn't play with it much if it was free? I couldn't pass this one up.

The Pokemon set was still in the original box so we started with that one because we knew it would have all of the parts. It comes with an oven, 3 molds, different colors of plasti-goop, and tools for decorating and lifting the characters out of the molds.

You start by filling the mold with the plasti-goop. You can use different colors for eyes, nose, mouth, ears, and body although we found it a little difficult to keep the colors separate since the plasti-goop is so thin and runny.

The oven heats by a light bulb alone. Unfortunately the light bulb isn't included and I didn't realize this until we had all of the stuff spread out on the table ready to start. The box does mention that you will need to provide your own light bulb but it is in small print at the bottom of the box. Fortunately I was able to swipe a bulb from a light fixture.

The oven has some surprisingly nice safety features. First, it will not let you open the door if the oven is on. You put the mold in the oven while the oven is cold then you close the door and turn it on. But the oven will not even turn on unless the door has "clicked" close. The mold then "cooks" in the oven for a few minutes. You don't have to worry about forgetting about the mold and burning it (like I do so often with the real oven in the kitchen) because this oven will turn itself off. When the mold is ready, you turn off the oven and let it cool to room temperature before removing the mold. I love this feature because my inpatient son kept wanting to take the mold out of the oven right away but the oven door will not open if it's still hot. It even has a little temperature gauge so you can see if it's cool or hot.

Waiting for the character to cook is a trying time for a 5 year old. He spent the entire time staring at the oven or the clock on the microwave.

When the mold is finished and the oven has cooled, you use the little spatula to pick it up and place it in the cooling tray to finish setting up.

Once the character has completed cooled, you can remove it from the mold. They are an interesting texture, kind of like gummy candy (but you DO NOT eat these!). They have three dimensional features on one side but the back side is flat. They are not able to stand on their own but Nicholas found that they stick well to windows. I'm not really sure what else you can do with the characters once you make them.

We found the recommended time in the oven to be too long so we experimented and found 5 minutes was the perfect cooking time. Here are our first three attempts starting with 7 minutes and working down to 5.

We had fun making both the Pokemon and Star Wars characters. Even though the characters are non-toxic, I was really upset when I saw Rachel chewing on one of them. They are gummy so her sharp little teeth can actually cut through them and she could swallow little pieces of them. So in the nature of Freecycle, we had our fun with them and have passed them on to someone else to play with.

Spring Lake Park

Today Stuart and Nicholas went to Spring Lake Park on Windmill Lane in Flower Mound. This park was recently part of a beautification project through Keep Flower Mound Beautiful. There is a great fishing pond, pavillion, amphitheater and trails. It's just a nice place to walk around with your children.One of my favorite parts are the interactive nature-based educational stations along the trails that teach about the levels of a forest such as floor and canopy as well as how to identify leaves of the trees in the park. What a great way for children to learn about nature while enjoying the great outdoors!

The guys spent most of their time fishing in the pond. Nicholas has his own little fishing rod and tackle box and is quite a good little fisherman. What fun! These fish usually bite well on little bitty pieces of hot dog which makes for cheap and easy to find bait. But, at least for my child, I find that he wants to snack on the cold hot dog while he is breaking off pieces to put on his hook. Ewww, you just touched a fish and pond water with that hand that you are putting in your mouth! But (fortunately) today we didn't have any hot dogs at the house so the guys used some regular store bought fishing bait that Stuart had in his tackle box. They were quite successful. Nicholas caught four sunfish in a short amount of time!

Static Electricity

Nicholas is always trying to figure out some kind of experiment that he can do. This morning he was working on static electricity and trying to get his hair to stand up. Daddy helped him get a great result by rubbing his fleece blanket back and forth over his hair.

Ta Dah!! Static electricity 101 for kids.

Happy Thanksgiving!

We usually stay home for Thanksgiving but I still make the full turkey spread for us complete with brined and roasted turkey, family recipe dressing, sides, and dessert. I had things planned out in advance and had the perfect turkey defrosting in the fridge....until earlier this week our fridge died and everything in it got thrown out. Ouch! Amazingly, that night, some friends of ours had a surprise change in their plans and were going to have Thanksgiving dinner by themselves at their home so they invited us over. What a perfect blessing!

So we spent Thanksgiving at our friends' house and had a wonderful meal, lots of laughter with the kids, and some nice memories to cherish.

Carving the turkey...

Pepper, the perfect vacuum for every dropped crumb...

The beautiful spread...

Rachel saw a Jack-In-The-Box for the first time...

Mommy gave horsey rides...

Mrs. M. pulled out some fun headbands to play with...

Rachel loved them and had to try on several different ones...

Nicholas gave rides in the wagon in the backyard...

What a wonderfully blessed day. We have so much to be thankful for. Healthy family, great friends, and happy moments every day to remember and cherish.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Coolest Bug Shirt Ever!

Granddad recently had some business in New Orleans and while he was there he stopped by the Audubon Insectarium, a part of the Audubon Nature Institute. He knows how much Nicholas loves bugs so he picked up t-shirts for Nicholas and Rachel. Rachel's shirt is cute but Nicholas' shirt is the coolest bug shirt I've ever seen. Check this out...

It shows pictures and interesting facts about cool bugs but that's not all. You may not be able to see it on this picture but three of the bugs have snaps on them and you can take them off and move them around! Needless to say, Nicholas thinks this is the coolest shirt ever! And I must agree with him :)

Playing Together

Nicholas and Rachel get along so well together. They both get excited to see each other in the morning and they actually enjoy playing together. Rachel plays with Nicholas' toys more than her own and Nicholas would rather play with Rachel than watch TV or play with his own toys. He tries to teach her to do new things and he is always trying to teach her how to talk. He is a good protector of her and is usually gentle when he plays with her, even when they are "wrestling" like in this picture. It's neat to watch them together and it makes me so happy. I know they won't always get along so well so I'm going to savor every minute of this!

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town!

We had a wonderful time at Casa Manana Children's Theater in Fort Worth where we saw the play, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town". Nicholas was excited to see the giant inflatable Santa outside the theater.

These pictures are all taken with my cell phone which for some reason was acting up while we were in the theater so I didn't get any pictures of my two sweet children in their Christmas best standing in front of the Christmas tree. :( As always, I had brought the good camera with me but didn't realize until I was about to take a picture that I had left the battery on the charger at home. I put it on the charger last night because I wanted to be sure I would have plenty of battery to take some really great pictures. So much for that plan!

Stuart chuckled and wished me luck when I told him that I was taking both of the children to see this show. He knows how fidgety Rachel is. She doesn't like to sit still much anymore and is very squirmy and wiggly and wants to always be on the move. The show is about 80 minutes long and we had to arrive about 45 minutes before the show started so we could meet up with our Early Childhood PTA friends and get our group discount. I must admit that I was quite worried too. The lobby at Casa Manana can be quite crowded just before a show so I knew I wouldn't be able to let Rachel just walk and crawl around like she would want to do. Just holding her in the lobby for 45 minutes before the show could bring her to a meltdown. Then the thought of holding her in my lap for 80 minutes of the performance didn't seem likely at all. I had already prepped Nicholas that we might have to leave the show early if it just wasn't working out.

Fortunately, all of our worries were completely unfounded! Rachel was mesmerized by the Christmas tree, lights, and chatter in the lobby so she did great. Some friends of mine even took our picture with their camera as the three of us stood in front of the tree. Nicholas, of course, had fun talking with his friends. Then it was time to enter the theater. How long would we make it into the show before I had to excuse myself because of Rachel's squirming and fussing? I made sure to sit next to a friend of mine who I knew wouldn't mind letting Nicholas stay in his seat next to them for the show if I had to step out and let Rachel get her wiggles out somewhere in the lobby. But she did fantastic! I'm sure the fact that our seats were second row, center stage helped to keep her attention focused on the action on the stage. She was quite cute because she kept waving to the actors when they looked in her direction. She had a great time - which meant that Nicholas and I were able to have a great time too. The show was great. The story was full of fun as well as a whole good-guy-bad-guy drama which Nicholas always loves. There were wonderful costumes and props, great acting, and lots of fun songs and dancing. Of course I have no pictures of it because of my whole camera fiasco! Being with friends was wonderful, and having our first taste of Christmas spririt for the season was fabulous!

I had planned to take the kids to a great little deli and pastry shop called the Swiss Pastry shop. Oh, their pastry cases have the most beautiful treats in them - you ALMOST hate to eat them. I finally found my way there (I ALWAYS get lost in Fort Worth) only to find that they are closed on Monday. This wouldn't have been such a big deal if I hadn't talked it up with Nicholas so he would think it was more exciting that going to the McDonald's playground for lunch. Of course, I don't go to Fort Worth much (probably because of my previous statement about always getting lost there) so I couldn't think of another fun place to go to for lunch. Finally I came up with Krystal for some burgers. Not nearly as exciting as a pastry case but I thought Nicholas would get a kick out of the mini burgers. I was right.

I don't eat at Krystal very often so I couldn't really remember how big the burgers were and how many Krystal burgers might be needed to accomodate a regular-sized burger appetite. I told Nicholas that they were mini bite-sized burgers. Nicholas informed me that he was going to eat 6 burgers. So I figured with myself and two kids I should get the Sackful of Burgers deal which gave us 12 burgers, two drinks, and two fries. We missed out on the whole sack deal because we didn't get it to go but I think our Trayful of Burgers was still quite impressive.

That was a bit too much. I think we ended up eating 4 burgers between the three of us! This clearly means that Nicholas DID NOT eat the 6 burgers he promised to eat...

Rachel tried a cheeseburger for the first time. Even though the burgers are small, I still made them even smaller for her. She got bite-sized burgers. She still only has her four front teeth so I worry that she can't chew her food very well so everything she gets is small and broken up. She didn't mind.

As a matter of fact, she got quite cozy eating her Krystal bites. Here she is in her stroller, in her Christmas dress and stockings, eating her Krystal burger with one leg propped up like she's sitting in La-Z-Boy chair! Looks like I have a long way to go on teaching her how to act like a lady :)

I highly recommended going to Casa Manana for "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town". You won't regret it. And if you have a chance to go to lunch, and it's not on a Monday, then make your way down to the Swiss Pastry Shop at 3936 W. Vickery Blvd which is somewhere south of Casa but don't ask me for details because I took the really, really, long way to get there!

From A Butterfly's Perspective

I was recently putting up our mesh butterfly pavillion that we have for growing caterpillars into butterflies. Nicholas wanted to play with it for a little while. I didn't think much of it so I let him take it. He ended up zipping himself inside it so he could see what it was like to be a butterfly! Silly boy!

Flat Nicholas

Nicholas' class recently read the book Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown. It's a cute story about a normal little boy who wakes up flat as a pancake after his bulletin board fell on him during the night. He has fun adventures as he adjusts to being flat. His family even mails him to a friend in California. Nicholas' class made a fun project out of the story. Each child made a flat version of themselves and mailed it to someone along with a letter explaining the project. The person then brings the flat child with them on an "adventure" and take pictures then sends it all back to the child.

We mailed Flat Nicholas to Grandmother Chance in Louisiana. She took him to a toy store and took lots of pictures of all the fun things that Flat Nicholas did in the store. We saw pictures of Flat Nicholas riding on Thomas the Train, standing on the roundhouse, napping in a doll house, riding a horse, sitting on a bicycle, and even buying a baby doll for his sister. Grandmother sent Flat Nicholas back to us along with a wonderful book of pictures from their outing and even included the baby doll for Rachel and a bird house kit for Nicholas that were purchased on their adventure to the toy store!

Rachel was very excited about her new baby doll and practicially ripped it out of Nicholas' hands!

We worked together on putting together the bird house. It was super easy since everything needed was in the kit and all of the holes were pre-drilled.

First, Nicholas had to screw the bird house together. He had a hard time getting the screws started so I helped with that part but he did the rest...bottoms, sides, shingles...

Then came painting. There were several little pots of paint in the kit and Nicholas made short work of them.

When Nicholas had used up all of the paint that came with the kit, we pulled out several other colors of acrylic paint that he had in his art cart. Oh what joy he had mixing all of the different colors together - only to find that they always made brown...

I was impressed with the kit and proud that Nicholas was excited enough about the project to have the patience to put in all of those screws. I think he did a great job and made a really cute bird house. Now we've just got to find the perfect spot in the back yard to hang it up. Thank you Flat Nicholas (and Grandmother C.) for sending such a fun and useful gift!

Turkey Trot

Today Nicholas' school had a one mile Turkey Trot today. The entrance fee was canned good donations and everyone was invited to participate so Rachel and I showed up with canned goods in tow. Nicholas was already in the gym when we arrived and he was so exctied to see us.

The Turkey Trot was supposed to take place outside but it is so cold today that they moved it inside. The kids did a warm up relay race in the gym. Nicholas was so cute as he was cheering on his team mates.

The P.E. Coach was great. The gym was full of kindergarteners and parents and there was lots of cheering and running and jumping around but she managed to keep it all together and still have a smile on her face as she danced around.

Since we couldn't trot outside because of the weather, we all just made laps around the inside of the school. Rachel and I started out with Nicholas but he was going a little faster than a trot and there were so many kids participating that Rachel and I decided to just step aside so I wouldn't bump into anyone with the stroller. Nicholas didn't even seem to notice. He just kept making his laps around the building...

Everytime Nicholas passed us, he made a big deal of looking back at Rachel and waving and saying cute things to her. It's wonderful that he loves her so much and gets excited when he sees her.

Of course, Rachel would just giggle and point each time she saw big brother make another lap and wave to her.

When the trot was over, everyone met back in the gym for refreshments. Rachel and I enjoyed getting to sit and chat with him.

A kiss for his baby sister before he trotted back off to class...