A Homemade Jet Pack

What? You didn't know that you can build your own jet pack at home? Well, I didn't either until Nicholas showed me how! What's really great is that it is completely built out of Tinker Toys! I love his creativity!

He said I had to get pictures of all the different sides...

Notice the "fire" shooting out of the jets in the back? BLAST OFF!

The Making of a CarBot

Every other Saturday from 10:00 - 11:00 am, Lowe's offers a Build and Grow clinic for kids. They provide safety goggles, a work apron to keep, a wooden kit to build complete with instructions and all of the nails and stickers needed, and the tools needed. This morning Stuart and Nicholas headed off to Lowe's to build a CarBot. It's a car! It's a robot! It's both!

First you get your safety gear and kit. Open up the kit, separate all of the pieces, take a look at the directions, and start building.

Hammering the fender...

Nicholas loves any excuse to wear safety goggles. I just wonder if they clean those goggles between classes?

Nicholas did a great job on this project. He did almost all of the hammering except for two parts that were a bit challenging to do so Daddy helped with those.

Time to add the finishing touch...stickers!

The CarBot is a #48 Lowe's sponsored race car that turns into a robot called the Lowebot (a construction robot). Once Nicholas finished his CarBot, he got a badge to put on his apron. It's a shame that it needs to be sewn on. I have a sewing machine but I don't know the first thing about how to use it and no, I don't really know how to sew by hand either. Sad, isn't it? Fortunately, our neighbor and her daughter like to sew :)

Build and Grow clinics - What a great way to teach a child building skills while they make a fun toy for themselves. Plus it's a great way to spend time with Dad. Stuart enjoys building things so I know he really enjoys this kind of bonding time with Nicholas. And best of all, it's FREE! We've already got the next two Build and Grow clinics on our calendar...

March 13th - Tabletop Basketball Goal
March 27th - Kaleidoscope

Baby Girl At Work

This morning I was messing with the coffee pot trying to get my morning hit of caffeine started and I heard the baby girl grunting nearby. I didn't think much of it at first but then it got quiet again. I turned around to see this!

Rachel had crawled up into the chair at the kitchen table (hence all of the grunting) and happily plopped herself down in front of my laptop that I had been working on. She was quite proud of her accomplishment and proceeded to click buttons and do who knows what to the computer as she worked away.

Water On Wheels Tour by PUR

We visited the PUR Water on Wheels Tour at a local Lowe’s. The Water on Wheels Tour has several activities and lots to learn about clean water.

The PUR station offers taste tests comparing local water with their filtration pitchers and without. The water from the PUR filtration pitchers had a clean, fresh taste compared to local water which tends to have an odd taste and odor to me. There were also samples of their new flavored waters that have zero calories and zero sugar. I love flavored water because they are so much healthier than soft drinks but still give you a little kick when you want something more than plain water. PUR offers raspberry, strawberry, lemon, and grape flavor cartridges that go on top of your PUR pitcher.

I’ve used the PUR water filtration pitcher in my home so I already know that I like PUR for their great tasting water. However, until today I didn’t know that PUR is also reaching out to help provide clean water to developing countries. There is a display at the event about the Summit on the Summit and the trek up 19,340 feet to the top of Mt. Killimanjaro to raise awareness of the water crisis throughout the world. There is even a climbing wall on the side of the truck but you must be 18 years or older to climb it. Fortunately, Nicholas was content to just get his picture next to it.

I’m amazed at that PUR has technology that can turn the dirtiest looking water into clean safe drinking water for people in developing countries. Check out this video by PUR and learn how your purchase of a PUR filter system can provider 10 liters of clean water for those in need. That’s something to feel good about!

PUR will also donate 10 liters of water to developing countries for each person that signs up as a fan on the PUR Facebook page.

Want a great deal for yourself? If you purchase a PUR pitcher or faucet system during this event at Lowe’s, just bring it to the PUR truck in the parking lot and you’ll receive a free replacement filter!

Go find the PUR truck for yourself this weekend at these DFW locations:

Feb. 27 – Saturday: Lowes – 4305 Bryant Irvin Rd, Fort Worth

Feb. 28 – Sunday: Lowes – 2949 N George Bush Freeway, Garland

Little Escape Artist

Rachel is trying to learn how to open doors. She wobbles the handle around but can't actually turn it. Just in case, we have baby-proof handles on any door that we don't want her to be able to open. She recently tried to open the front door! When she couldn't turn the handle on her own, she got my keys off the table and tried to use them to open the door from the inside. She sees me use these keys to lock and unlock this door from the outside all the time. It's cute how she's watched me and learned that somehow these keys might help her get the door open too. I've got to keep my eyes on this little escape artist!

Who Do You Think You Are?

I am a passionate genealogy researcher. Well, I'm passionate in my heart even if I haven't stepped into a genealogy library in...how old is Nicholas?..oh yeah, almost 6 years. My heart aches to find time to get active in my research again but for now it will have to sit on a back burner.

My dad started researching his and my mom's ancestry 20+ years ago. When I got married in 1996 and moved away, something clicked and I could see my family as more than just my parents. Suddenly I wanted to know where I came from. I wanted to know who my ancestors were and how did the puzzle all fit together that ultimately resulted in my parents finding each other and making me. I got caught up on all of the research my Dad had done and together we bust through several brick walls and opened the doors to finding so much more about our ancestors.

I am a little compulsive about organizing things, although you wouldn't know it if you saw the desk I'm sitting at right now. But my genealogy research is different. I have about 30 3-ring binders full of research on various family lines. I have entered all of my ancestry, including connecting lines of cousins and marriages, into a software program called Family Tree Maker. Having all of this data in one program has been amazing to help me see my extended family. Ok, it's an extended family on steroids. I can show my lineage back 19 generations. I'm related to 27,312 people that I know of (keep in mind this includes cousins and their marriages, etc). Crazy stuff. I have strong family ties to Kentwood, Louisiana - have you heard of my cousin, Britney Spears? No, she has no idea who I am but I can show you how I'm related to her. I have information on ancestors that crossed the great ocean in search of America. Several ancestors fought in the American Revolution as well as other wars and battles. Some of my ancestors were incredibly poor and couldn't read or write. Some of my ancestors were quite wealthy and owned plantations and slaves. It's rumored from another researcher in my family tree that I may be descended from an owner-slave relationship way back in time. I know the father in that relationship but haven't been able to prove who the mother was yet. Some might think I would be ashamed of such a history. I most certainly am not! I personally think it would be really interesting to be able to confirm that. Would it change anything about who I am? Would I be a different person to know such a thing? Would you like me any less? Of course not. We all have interesting histories like this. Most of us just don't know the details yet. I think it just adds a beautiful texture and interesting tones to the already dynamic fabric of our lives.

Some other interesting finds in our research...On my Dad's side of the family, I am descended from Joseph Benjamin Lewis, Sr. and Elizabeth Sarah Magee. When Elizabeth died in 1828, Joseph remarried Tabitha Morris. Tabitha Morris was the sister of Benjamin Morris, Jr. who was my mom's great-great-great grandfather. It's a little confusing but although my parents are not blood relatives, their families did marry into each other back in the early 1800's.

I sometimes talk to others about my passion for genealogy. Usually I just get the "oh, that's interesting" response or "I wish I knew more about my ancestry". But that's it. Rarely have I found others that get all excited and start talking to me about doing endless hours of research in court houses and libraries or traipsing through a cemetery in another state just to find out the birth date of an ancestor by reading his tombstone. Yes, dear friends, that excites me. I wish others got as excited as I do to find out details about their ancestors. Not just so I can have others around me who understand this crazy obsession. But because I hate to see history die. No matter how irrelevant any of our ancestors lives may seem to have been, they each played some role in history. Maybe not as a Revolutionary War hero or a President of the United States. But in their own way, they were a part of history. All of those history textbooks that we studied years ago in school...our ancestors were living that history. They were the ones losing loved ones in WWI. They were the ones dying of the plague. They were the ones working in the early coal mines. They were the inventors of the Industrial Revolution. They were the travellers in the California Gold Rush. Your ancestors were most likely a part of some of these events. Doesn't that just bring history to life for you when you think of it that way? Sadly, if our generation doesn't do the research and write the names and dates down of the people who went before us then those precious details could be lost forever.

I can tell that I am getting a bit zealous because I'm typing fast without even thinking about what I'm writing so perhaps I should just get to my point. I just watched a trailer for a new show airing on March 5th on NBC called "Who Do You Think You Are?". Each show will help someone learn about their ancestry. The people in the show happen to be celebrities and it's neat to see them get excited by learning about their past. I hope that the show gets lots of viewers and that others may find a spark of excitement to find out more about their family history. Just start by asking your parents or grandparents to tell you what they know about your ancestors. You'll be amazed at how exciting that can be if you really listen and try to learn from them.

Founder's Plaza

Both of our children love watching airplanes. Well actually Rachel doesn't understand much about them but she does point to them in the sky and grunts as they fly overhead. But we all had a good time visiting Founder's Plaza at DFW International Airport. It is a great observation area for watching the planes take off and land but what's really cool is that you can also hear live radio transmissions between the control tower and the planes.

Nicholas especially loved watching the planes through the onsight binoculars. I love this picture of him standing on his tip toes.

Of course, it doesn't take much for him to have fun. He and Rachel seemed to have a blast playing under this information station!

There was a lot of information on display to help you get to know more about this huge airport. It was opened in 1974. At the time it was built, it was the largest and most expensive airport in the world. It is larger than the island of Manhattan and cost $700 million. It is the only aiport in the world with three FAA control towers. It was also the first commercial airport to host a space shuttle landing which occurred in 1989 with the NASA Space Shuttle Atlantis.

There are cute statues of three children pretending to fly like airplanes.

Nicholas had to tickle the foot of one of them!

Rachel liked watching the planes but as usual she was more interested in just walking as far as her little feet would carry her.

It was a bit chilly so we didn't stay as long as we would have liked. There are picnic tables out there so I look forward to going back when it's a little warmer and staying for a while. It is so close and so easy to find that we plan to go back often. Check out this map for specifics on how to find it.


I love this little video of Rachel and me playing Peek-A-Boo in the car. She is so giggly and happy that I can't help but smile.

V-day Party

Because of the snow days last week, Nicholas' class had to reschedule their Valentine's Day party to today. I love going to the school during the day whether it's for a class party or just to have lunch in the cafeteria with my little guy. I just want to be a part of his school and get involved however I can. His class room is especially fun because I always like to look at the interesting work that they have been doing in class. And the room is so well decorated and organized that I'm always looking for tips that I can use.

The party was nice. My neighbor offered to watch Rachel for me so I could fully participate at the party. That was so nice! At the party, there was great snacks and heart shaped cookies. Nicholas made a special valentine just for me.

They played a Valentines themed bingo game.

Nicholas was especially excited to go through his Valentine card collection box to see all of the goodies that his friends had given him. I remember that excitement too when I was little. All of the cute little cards with lollipops attached. Fun fun!

Hanging Out In The Toy Box

I keep a little bin in our bedroom that's full of toys for Rachel. I usually pull it out for her in the mornings when I'm about to get a shower. Alas, that doesn't work because she would much rather attack the toilet paper roll while I'm in the shower. Why does she only go after the toilet paper when I'm in the shower? I digress. Rachel likes to dump out all of the toys in her bin. I guess she does this so she can see everything better. Lately, she has discovered what fun it is to climb into said bin.

Here she's giving Eeyore some love.

Oh, Eeyore must be sad about something. Rachel is holding him close (even if he is upside down) while patting his back and making her sad face.

Rachel says, "Excuse me (while dumping Eeyore over the side of the toy bin), I've got to take this call."

Happy Mardi Gras!

I'm feeling a little homesick today. Today is just another Tuesday for most people in North Texas. But back home, this is no regular Tuesday. This day is Fat Tuesday, aka Mardi Gras! The big celebration of food and drink and merriment before the beginning of lent. But you don't have to have any particular religious belief to get a kick out of a good Mardi Gras celebration and parade.

So much goes into planning for this day. It really takes a full year to bring it all together. Back in 1988, I had the priviledge of being a maid in the Krewe of Romany ball. The theme that year was Winter Wonderland and my costume represented a Jingle Bell. There were bells all over the "wings" and head piece. The costume designer was an interesting guy and I never understood why I had wings as a Jingle Bell. But then again, I was in high school and really didn't care. I was just excited to wear the cool costume up on the stage at the big Mardi Gras ball. I still don't know how much Dad had to pay for that custom made costume (but thank you Dad!)

Being a part of the Krewe, I attended functions for a whole year before the actual Mardi Gras ball where I would be "presented". I got to hear a lot of inside scoop about other Mardi Gras krewes and all that goes into pulling off such an extraordinary event. It was a great experience.

I have so many memories of my family driving down to New Orleans for the Mardi Gras parades. My poor Dad's shoulders hurt from having to take turns letting my brother or me sit up high so we could see everything going on and get more strategic position for catching beads. We would yell "Throw Me Sumpin', Mister!" as the incredibly beautiful floats drove by. We always caught some great beads and goodies from the New Orleans parades. One year we even made it down to N.O. early enough to go to the Zulu parade. My dad lunged for a decorated Zulu coconut, the most prized Mardi Gras throw. I remember fearing for his life as a mob of other big guys also lunged for it. But Dad emerged from the heap with coconut in hand and a few grumpy stares from the other not-so-lucky coconut seekers. I still have that coconut stashed away in my boxes of memories. Some of the gold paint and glitter have worn off but it's still an authentic Zulu coconut...and a memory I'll never forget.

I miss New Orleans Mardi Gras. There is really no other party like it in the world. I want Nicholas and Rachel to have a sense of the fun that I grew up with but that's hard to do when we are so far away. So when I heard about a Mardi Gras parade in Lake Dallas tonight, I packed up our crew (or krewe) and headed over there.

It didn't compare to any New Orleans parade. But there were decorated floats and even a marching band.

Nicholas jumped right in with calling out for beads. No one said, "Throw Me Something, Mister" but instead they just called out, "Beads! Beads! Beads!" It all had the same effect.

I'm not sure why the giant inflatable Geico Gecko was at the Mardi Gras parade but Nicholas just had to get his picture taken with him.

We had some fun in the kids zone where there were bounce houses and a climbing wall.

There was some good cajun music from a live band and there was a restaurant booth cooking up some boiled crawfish with corn and potatoes. But it all just made me that much more homesick.

Happy Mardi Gras, everyone! Laissez le bon temp rouler (Let the good times roll)!

Diapers, Can't Live Without Them

The other day I had to go to the store for the sole purpose of buying diapers. As I was carrying Rachel in the store, I was thinking about how much money we spend on diapers and how I hate having to take her out in the cold just to buy more of them. It's something we can't live without right now but what a pain! And honestly, I'm getting kind of tired of changing diapers all the time. How young can we start potty training?

Then I noticed an elderly woman walking out of the store with a box of Poise bladder control protection for adults. It hit me like a ton of bricks. You spend the early part of your life in diapers and having someone clean you up all the time. Then you grow up and you spend your days endlessly changing icky diapers. Next thing you know, you are old and you are back in diapers again because you just can't hold it in anymore. Isn't that just depressing?

Rachel doesn't have an issue with diapers. She conquered her pile of diapers today, literally. She has discovered what fun it can be to climb into the drawer where I store her diapers and wipes.

I love this video. Rachel is really talking to me. I'm clueless about what she is trying to say but it sure sounds important.

Will You Bee My Valentine?

Nicholas' Kindergarten class was supposed to have their Valentine's Day party on Friday but it got rescheduled due to the snow day. He said that he has Valentine's Day cards for us at school which we won't get until he goes back on Tuesday. But for now I just love the little "Will You Bee My Valentine?" note above that he made! He loves writing notes and drawing pictures for us. He definitely has a creative/artistic side. And notice the fold lines on the paper. It was delivered as a paper airplane!

Grandmama O. sent two big super soft pillows for Nicholas and Rachel. Nicholas got a football pillow which he absolutely loves. He carries it downstairs when he gets up in the morning and brings it back up when he goes to bed at night. Of course, he also liked the box it came in which soon became his "chair".

Rachel immediately knew what to do with her pink heart shaped Princess pillow. She loves to lie down on soft things so this is so perfect for her. She sees it on the floor, goes over to it, and lies down. Granted she doesn't lie still for long but it's so cute to watch her. She loves her pillow too.

And thank you Grandmama for the chocolates for the "old folks" too. We couldn't find any old folks in our house so Stuart and I ate them :)

I made a special breakfast with a Valentine's Day/red and pink theme. Heart shaped biscuits, fresh strawberries, lox (pink) and cream cheese bagels, and chocolate milk (you HAVE to have chocolate on Valentine's Day). I also tried to get Rachel to help me with a recipe for Monkey Bread. I showed her how to shake the dough in the ziploc bag to coat all of the pieces with cinnamon sugar. She shook it a few times but then decided that she just wanted to chow down so she ran off with the bag and tried to open it. So much for my little helper!

Everyone enjoyed the lox and bagels. It was the first time for Nicholas and Rachel to try it. Rachel was addicted!

Nicholas made Stuart and I the king and queen of Valentine's Day. He gave me a crown and Stuart a sceptre, all made of Tinker Toys!

Then he wrote out "I love you" in Tinker Toys. I love this little guy!

Nicholas enjoyed flying around his chocolate like it was a spaceship.

Nicholas and I also made heart shaped strawberry Jello Jigglers. They are made like regular Jello but with less water so they are firmer and more of a finger food. Rachel and Nicholas both loved them!

All week Nicholas and I have been talking about Valentine's Day and making heart crafts. I always try to sneak in a little education in our fun so I used this heart theme to talk about his own heart and the circulatory system. We checked out some cool kids books at the library about the heart and blood. He's learned the parts of his blood - red and white blood cells, plasma, platelets. He really enjoys learning how his body works. We even had a fun interactive project where we made a model of blood. Check out this cool Montessori-based blog, My Montessori Journey, where I found the idea. I love this blog and a few other Montessori-based blogs as well as homeschool blogs where teachers and parents share their ideas for projects with kids. There is a wealth of wonderful ideas out there.

I loved the giant Sumo Gourmet Fortune Cookie that Stuart gave me. Have you ever seen a fortune cookie this big? I love it and the personalized fortune is so sweet. When Stuart first went up to the counter to buy the cookie, the lady asked him what he wanted the fortune to say. He said, "Um, Happy Valentine's Day". The lady (love her!) gave him a pad of paper and a pen and suggested he think about it and write something down. She even offered him a chair to sit on while he composed his prose.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! May your day be filled with love and happiness.