We were eating breakfast this morning when Nicholas happened to look out the window and noticed ice in the backyard. He quickly threw on his cold weather gear and headed outside, complete with chocolate milk mustache from his half eaten breakfast.

We were amazed to find this thick ice brick that had formed in a bucket of water.

There was lots of cool ice to be found. And nothing's more fun that smashing ice on the ground to watch it shatter.

Even Rachel had fun playing with the ice but I didn't let her do it for long since she kept pulling off her little gloves. It made my hands hurt just watching her hold this with her little bare hands.

A Southern Louisiana Tradition

As a transplant from South Louisiana, we still hold dear many of those traditions even though we live in the Lone Star state. One of those is Mardi Gras. And nothing says Mardi Gras better than an authentic King Cake. Every year, my dad ships us a REAL King Cake from back home. Oh, it's such a delight to find that special FedEx King Cake box at our front door! (Yes, FedEx makes a special box just for King Cakes.)

The cake that Dad sends is fun because it includes all of the icing and colored sugar crystals so you can decorate it yourself. Nicholas just loves this part of it.

Rachel had lots of fun with the Mardi Gras beads that came with the cake. She kept putting them on herself then taking them off and putting them on Daddy then taking them off and putting them on herself, etc, etc.

Finger Spacing

Today I noticed Nicholas using his finger to help him with spacing between words as he wrote.

I couldn't help but laugh because Grandmother C. was just recently talking about watching her boys do this same finger spacing and how painfully long it took to watch them write just one sentence. Oh, don't I know it! Nicholas is slow with writing and it still looks messy! But it is interesting because he still shows signs of being ambidextrous. He can write with either hand and after lots of handwriting comparisons I can't determine a dominant hand.

Making Friends At A Playground

Yesterday, the four of us enjoyed a Sunday afternoon at a local playground. Nicholas was excited to find that some kids had left a few toys behind and he enjoyed playing with them while we were there. When I picked him up from school today, we talked about going to a park to enjoy a little sunshine. He immediately said that he wanted to go back to that same playground to see if the toys were still there.

We got there and found that not only were the toys there but so was another mom and little girl that we had met at this same park about 2 years ago. We only played with them that one time and haven't talked to them since but we all remembered each other. Of course, each of us had a second child with us this time. It was neat talking seeing Nicholas playing with the little girl as if they have been best friends ever since. It's always fun getting to make friends at a playground.

Rachel wasn't as interested in making friends. She just wanted to walk around the park picking as many dandelions as her little hands could hold.

Lego Mania!

Our local library has a special event once a month. It's called Lego Mania. We stopped by today to check it out. We were a little late but Nicholas quickly found the table with the cool Star Wars Lego pieces and went to work building.

It was neat watching the boys at the table. None of the boys seem to know each other and they were each building their own ships yet for the most part they would help each other find particular pieces that each other needed. It was a great experience in teamwork.

Got The Munchies?

Rachel is into everything these days. Today she decided that she had the munchies and managed to open the refrigerator on her own. It was cute watching her look around in amazement at all of the food in front of her. Of course, I had to put an end to it when she picked up a glass jar of preserves and started toddling around with it. Time to start using the child-proof refrigerator lock again!

My Baby is 15 Months Old!

My little baby girl is 15 months old! The time has flown by even faster than Nicholas' first 15 months. It has been crazy around here this last year or so but I feel so blessed each and every day. Is there such a thing as Blessed Stress?

Rachel is doing great. She is 32 3/4 in tall (97th percentile) and she weighs 25 lbs, 3 oz (80th percentile). She's a little underweight for her height but you wouldn't know it by looking at that belly of hers!

She is on target for sign language and speech. She says about 10 words like

"Nigh Nigh" for night-night time
"Buhbay" for baby
"Die Die" for diaper
"Sah" for sock
"Tank Du" for thank you
"Ma" for more

She understands more than she says though. When you ask her a yes/no question, she will respond with a verbal no or she shakes her head up and down for yes.

She is fascinated with dogs and says "woof!" anytime she sees any kind of animal.

Rachel walks all the time now. I love the way she holds both arms up and stomps her feet down as she walks. I've captured this in pictures and video because I know she will soon master the art of walking and will no longer do it like this.

Rachel is very outspoken. She will grab your hand if you don't pay attention to her right away. If Nicholas is bothering her, she will lean over and fuss at him in her own little squeaks and grunts. If you ask her a question, her most likely response will be "NO" followed by a head shake. She is also quite good at pouting her lips and scowling up her face just to be sure you know when she is displeased.

She likes bath time as long as I'm not rinsing her hair. She has eight teeth and loves to try new foods. Her current favorites are strawberries, toast, turkey, and cheese. I love it when she wakes up in the morning or from nap time and I hear her calling "Mama" for me to come scoop her up out of her crib. She loves that I read to her before bedtime. She will pick up books and then pat on the glider for me to come read to her. She still sucks her thumb when she's falling asleep.

My baby girl finds new ways to bring me to exhaustion each day but she also finds new ways to melt my heart each and every day.

Bath Time!

Nicholas and Rachel like playing together in the bath tub. Here Rachel is squeezing water out of a foam ball over Nicholas' head. Of course, he is the one who taught her to do this so it's just as well that he gets a dose of it right back.

Rachel loves the bubbles...

Rachel loves the bath toys...

But I don't think she likes it very much when we rinse her hair...

Baby, It's Cold Out There!

Last weekend we enjoyed a late morning brunch. I gave Rachel some of my food and then she just started helping herself to my plate. She picked up a green bean and "dunked" it in my mashed potatoes. I guess it was yummy because she did it over and over again. Messy but cute!

On the way home we passed the duck pond. We had several days in a row of below freezing temperatures but we were amazed to see so much ice on the pond. These ducks are standing on a giant block of ice in the pond. Those are some cold duck feet!

Of course, Nicholas wanted to get his own block of ice. Please don't fall in!

Fun With Science

We spent the day at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. What a fun way to learn about science with your friends! But you can't learn on an empty stomach, right? We headed to Fort Worth a little early so we could have breakfast at Ol' South Pancake House which my friend Holly over at the June Cleaver Nirvana blog recommended a while back.

Nicholas ordered from the kid's menu...french toast with scrambled eggs and sausage. Good choice. Hmm, would you like a little french toast with that powdered sugar and syrup?

Rachel enjoyed bits and pieces of my breakfast while flirting with everyone around her. She's quite a little social butterfly.

Finally, we were off to the museum. They have been closed for what seems like forever while doing a total $80 million redesign of the museum. Let me tell you, the wait was worth it!

We found some great activities for kids at the museum. We found a station on generating electricity. The staff person let Nicholas hook up some wires to what looks like a fishing reel and let him spin away. Look at Nicholas' face as he realizes that he is manually generating the electricty to turn on the little light bulb that the staff person is holding.

Next we went to a station on aerodynamics. There was a table with lots of crafty-type supplies such as scissors, tape, pipe cleaners, paper cups, coffee filters, etc. The children made their own creations and then floated them in an air tube to see how well their design floated up in the air.

Nicholas loved this station and he made several different designs. Here's one of them in action.

We also found a station with Snap Circuits (we must get some of these!). There are lots of different pieces that snap together in various formations to create electrical circuits. Nicholas played with some on his own but we also used some of the manuals at the table to create specific circuits like this one that powers a light bulb.

This was a challenging station with many activities involving art and light. Here Nicholas is drawing on an Etch-A-Sketch but he can't look at his work directly but instead through the mirror in front of the drawing pad. Quite challenging!

This was a fun activity. There is a giant box of extra fine sand and some turntables. The children pile up some sand on their turntable and then use various tools to create designs in the sand as it is spinning around. I wanted to play with this one but there were too many children in line for me to feel ok hogging it all to myself.

Another cool electricity activity. Nicholas kept getting drawn back to this one. He loves anything that glows in the dark and this one was exceptionally neat!

Not to leave out the little one, we headed over to the little children play area. Rachel had fun toddling all around. She spent most of her time toddling between the pretend grocery store and hospital.

We had such a great time at the museum today. I see many trips here during the summer when we are looking for air conditioned places to play.

Decorate Your Own T-Shirt

I was recently given a child t-shirt from a realtor. It has the basic advertising logo on the front pocket but on the back is a black line drawing of a house with directions for the child to color the house with markers and how to make the ink set so it doesn't some off in the wash.

Nicholas had a lot of fun coloring his own shirt. I wonder if this would work with those iron-on transfer sheets that let you print an image from your computer and transfer it to a t-shirt? If so, the child could pick out some clip art that they just love from the oodles of resources online and then color the graphic themselves for a completely custom-made t-shirt. I just might have to try that!

Rachel Likes Mashed Potatoes

Of course, who doesn't like mashed potatoes?

Still working on how to hold that spoon!

Aw, Mom! It's just easier to lick the bowl!

The Only Way To Eat Chili

I recently cooked up some homemade chili for dinner to go with the unusually cold days we've been having. Although Stuart and I love spicy foods, I made the chili mild so that Nicholas and maybe even Rachel could eat it. We can always add our spice directly to our bowl.

I scooped out some beans and ground beef for Rachel to eat as finger food. She was excited about the new flavors and textures and she ate everything I put in her little bowl.

Nicholas, on the other hand, complained that it was too spicy (or had too much flavor). So he decided to make it "better" by adding some shredded cheese and crackers to it. Hmm, I know there is some chili under there somewhere....

Playing at the Mall

Rachel and I ran some errands and ended up at Collin Creek Mall. They have a nice indoor toddler play area and Rachel loved it.

Of course, she found something she liked and she had to do it over and over and over again.

Rachel won't go down a slide facing forward unless I sit her up that way and help her slide down. Instead she prefers to turn around and slide down on her tummy. I guess it makes sense because we've taught her to go down the stairs by crawling down backwards.

Sleeping On The Couch With Daddy

Rachel and Daddy snuggling on the couch. What a way to stay warm when it's cold outside!


Nicholas had his first karate lesson today. He was SO CUTE in his little uniform and white belt.

Nicholas had fun and did quite well for his first lesson. He couldn't wait for Daddy to get home so he could show off his new moves!

Having Fun in Louisiana

I loved seeing my ZTA "big sis" for lunch. She got to meet Rachel for the first time and they hit it off right away. Rachel was enchanted by Kristina and her ring. She also thought that her hair bow would look better on Kristina so she kept putting it in Kristina's hair and then taking it back out...over and over again. Thank you Kristina for being such a fun Aunt!

Granddad volunteers at the observatory on the weekends running the telescopes for the public that come out to look up at the sky. Although the observatory is closed to the public on Sundays, he took us out there for a private telescope viewing. We invited Nicholas' cousin and uncle to join us as well. We look at the moon as well as the constellation of Orion the hunter. We zoomed in on the star Betelgeuse, which, as it's name in Arabic implies, is in the "armpit" of Orion. This star is 640 light years away and it is a red supergiant. It is so large that if it were placed where our sun is, it would swallow up the sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars with Jupiter being it's first planet in orbit - yet it's just a little dot of red light to us, even with the telescope. We also got a look at the horsehead nebula, the Orion nebula and the Trapezium, and a star formation that looks like an owl, .

Nicholas and his cousin enjoyed the telescope viewing but there was an awful lot of running around and playing as well. Stuart and I decided that the two of us would have to go back alone with Granddad some other night so we could really focus on learning and even take some pictures of the night sky through the telescope.

Yep, that's me controlling the telescope and telling it where to point in the sky. I really think I need a giant telescope of my very own for the backyard.

Look at the star light that shines back through the eye piece of the telescope. It's so cool to think that this very light beam is coming from who knows how many light years away.

It was a cold night so after our star viewing, we headed to Coffee Call for some classic french market beignets. Oh yum! Fried sweet goodness dusted (or drenched) in powdered sugar.

And you MUST have some of their hot chocolate or cafe au lait to go with those beignets!

Monday night we had a nice night out. Grandmother C. watched the children while we had a nice dinner with my parents at Ruth's Chris Steak House. Oh, my mouth is watering just thinking about those tender steaks. After dinner, we headed back to the observatory with camera in tow. It was a much more interesting experience this time without kiddos. Of course, we had to make some silliness of our own. Stuart took Dad's laser pointer and wrote my name as I took a picture with long exposure. Awww, so sweet!

The constellation of the great hunter Orion as seen through the opening in the observatory dome...

We spent many hours at the observatory. I believe we finally wrapped it up around 2 am. But after much tweaking of both telescope and camera, Stuart was able to capture this cool picture of the Trapezium within the Orion Nebula.

There was lots of other fun to be had on the trip. Nicholas and his cousin spent lots of time together.

I somehow didn't get many pictures of them, probably because there were zipping around so fast the whole time and they seemed to be into everything at once. It's hard keeping up with them when they get together.

Rachel on the other hand got to spend some quality time with her grandparents.

Talking with Grandmother over breakfast.

Playing with her new Alphabet Train with Grandmother.

Crawling through the tunnel behind the couch at Grandmother and Grandfather's house. She LOVED doing this the whole time we were there. Why did we bother to buy her presents? We just need to set up a tunnel for her to crawl through!

Rachel had a lot of fun picking flowers with Grandmama.

And playing more at Granddad's office.

We had fun each and every day and we were always on the go. Stuart even did a little work by helping Steve put up shingles on his house. Thank you Hubby!

The kids were tired and slept when they could. Sometimes on Daddy's shoulder while he ate a poboy...

Or just catching a wink in the car on the way to another place...

We visited Uncle Steve at work just to play on the playground equipment. Rachel has never played there before so it was neat watching her explore things that were new to her.

Playing in the tunnels...

What is this rock climbing wall supposed to do???

Bouncing on a trampoline with Uncle Steve.

We also spent some time downtown with Grandad. We visited the state capitol building for Louisiana, the tallest capitol building in the United States. We tried going up to the observation level on the 27th floor but it was closed for renovations. We had fun playing on the many steps out front. Each state is named on a step along with it's date of admission into the United States. Nicholas quickly found the Texas step.

The state capitol contains many statues both inside the building as well as throughout the many acres of gardens outside. Nicholas wanted his picture taken with these cool dudes outside. At first I asked him to move over a little to his right so that I wouldn't get a picture that looked like a sword was going through his head. He obliged but then excitedly asked me to take the picture with the sword going through his head. Voila!

Rachel just wanted to play with Granddad's hat...

We walked over to the working Libery Bell reproduction which was one of 53 bells cast in France and given to the state of Louisiana in 1950. There is a plaque by the bell that states, "The dimensions and tone are identical to those of the original Liberty bell when it rang out our independence in 1776. In standing before this symbol, you have the opportunity to dedicate yourself, as did our founding fathers, to the principles of the individual freedom for which our nation stands." I love sneaking in a little history lesson while we are out having fun. Isn't that the best way to learn?

Of course, the boy must ring the bell...

...and it was loud!

Next we wandered to the top of an Indian mound circa 1000 AD, but not before a little tree climbing. South Louisiana does have some great trees for climbing!

At the top of the Mound, there are two really old canons placed there to honor the men who fought in the Battle of Baton Rouge during the American Revolution, which was the only battle fought outside of the original 13 colonies. Yep, a little more history lesson thrown in. But that didn't slow Nicholas down. He was quick to climb on top of the antique canons (just as my brother and I did when we were his age!).

Then to the highlight of the trip for Nicholas. A beautiful building? A work of art? A military antique? Nope. A dead squirrel! And of course, all dead squirrels require poking with a stick....

Grandfather C. brought home some King Cake from Ambrosia Bakery where he works. It was delicious and Nicholas found the baby!

Rachel didn't spend much time with Grandfather C. during our trip. I guess perhaps he reminded her of that scary Santa Claus because she did not want to let Grandfather hold her, regardless of all the coaxing.

However, Rachel's love of dogs let her overcome her fear of Grandfather enough to let her sit on his lap for a while so she could pet Lucy.

We had a good trip and spent wonderful time with our families. But we were all a little glad to get back home and settle back into our usual routines. Now if only I could catch up on all of this laundry!