Western Day Rodeo

Nicholas' kindergarten had Rodeo Day today. He got to dress up like a cowboy for school. Last night at bedtime, he asked me to MAKE him a stick horse to ride on at school. I like being crafty and making projects like this but not on such short notice, especially after a long busy day and a hectic bedtime routine with the kids since Daddy isn't home to help. I think my little cowboy looked cute even without a stick horse!

Yes, he did have to ride around the front yard with just a stick! I felt a little bad about not making that stick horse after all...

Music and Art

Rachel likes to draw with markers as seen by the artwork on the paper as well as her tummy in the video below. But she has recently discovered that she can make music with the marker caps while making art. She's multi-talented!

Handmade Cards by Nicholas

I had mentioned to Nicholas that when Daddy left for New York recently, I snuck a card in his suitcase so that he would be surprised when he opened his suitcase in New York. I told him it was a congratulations card so it would be like we were there with him telling him "Congratulations!" Nicholas loved that idea and wanted to make a card for Daddy since he's going to Montreal this week for a new project at work.

On the cover, he wrote, "To Dad, From the rest of the family". Cute!

Then he opened it and wrote "I U, Nicholas" and there are lots of stickers of cool hot rods. He asked me to also sign it from Rachel and myself since it's a card from the whole family. Then we also wrote, "Have a safe trip!"

Nicholas was so excited about his card creation that he couldn't bear to sneak it into Daddy's suitcase. He went ahead and gave it to Daddy as soon as it was completed tonight. It turned out to be a great idea since he got to watch Daddy open it and he told Stuart all about making it.

Nicholas loves to make handmade cards. He makes them for anyone, for any occasion. He often makes quick little cards for us and leaves them around the house for us to find. He also loves to make bigger, fancier cards for birthdays and other special occasions.

Making cards is a great way to encourage children to be creative, practice handwriting, show love and appreciation to those around them, and to experiment with different art mediums. Plus it's just a fun way to spend some time with your child!

To encourage his creativity, I keep a well-stocked art cart available. When Nicholas was little, it was a small little art cart. But as he got older and more creative with supplies, we got more supplies and had to get a bigger art cart. You can often find these on sale at Michael's or Joann's craft stores or get on the mailing lists for either of these stores and receive frequent coupons for 20% off one item.

Before Nicholas could read, he could tell which supplies were in each drawer because of the see-through drawers (I love this feature!). Now that he's older, he can read the labels. Each drawer has a specific type of art supply in it. Here is how ours is divided up:

1. Markers, crayons, colored pencils
2. Stickers, rubber and foam stamps, stencils - all stored separately in the drawer in their own zip top bags.
3. Miscellaneous craft supplies such as popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, glue, paper plates, brown paper bags, beads, buttons, string, pictures cut out from magazines, etc.
4. Painting supplies such as smocks, tempera paint, watercolors, and lots of brushes.
5. Play-doh and clay. We have lots of Play-Doh tools so this drawer has actually overflowed some into the tray on top of the cart!

I also keep a stash of white drawing paper, colored cardstock and construction paper, as well as coloring books. These are stored in a portable file case.

It's so much fun to have an arts and craft day because we just roll out the art cart (it's on wheels!) and pull out the paper storage file and go to it. Everything is right where you need it and by having it all right there by the table you can easily see all the materials you have to work with. It just seems to make the creative process easier and more enriching.

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist when he grows up."
- Pablo Picasso

All Done! Outside!

Rachel finished her toast for breakfast and announced that she was "all done" and she even did the correct sign language for it (which is good since she it's hard to understand what she's trying to say if you aren't used to hearing it). Then she promptly announced that she wanted to go "Ow-side!"

Paradise Pond

Paradise Pond is one of the best kept secrets in the area. It is a children's play area at First Baptist Church Grapevine. It is just a big open room with 10 different areas for play.

There is a bounce house with a slide and a giant climbing structure.

There is an area with cars, trucks, and trains. Another area has a little grocery store complete with cash register and shopping carts.

There is a magnetic toy area where you can learn about magnets and even build small structures with them. There is also a Lego/building block area with table and chairs for little ones to sit and build with Duplo blocks. They even have Duplo animals that can attach to your structures. There are even some giant cardboard "bricks" to build a life-size fort.

There is a see-saw, a little roller coaster ride, and a climbing wall. This is as far as Rachel got on the climbing wall despite many many attempts. :)

She had no trouble with the tunnels though! Back and forth she went, over and over and over again.

There is even a costume area with some really neat costumes for girls and boys. What kid doesn't have fun playing dress up!

Paradise Pond is only open on Thursday and Friday mornings from 9:00 - 11:00 am. However, during the summer they will also be open on Monday mornings. But you have to get there early, especially during the summer time, because they can only allow in 125 people at a time so they fill up quickly. I've come many times and seen this depressing sign out front telling parents that they are full. Talk about some unhappy kiddos!

Best of all, Paradise Pond is a great place to go during the hot summer months. It's indoors and air conditioned but also has water fountains and restrooms. And when you are done you can take the kids just a few blocks over to Main Street and visit some of the great shops and restaurants in Historic Grapevine. Another great thing about Paradise Pond is that you can bring the whole family and not spend an arm and a leg because it only costs $1.00 per person! How cool is that?! Check them out for birthday parties too! They are located at 301 E. Texas Street in Grapevine. Have questions, call Kirsey at 817-488-8573 ext. 247.

See you at The Pond!

So Proud of My Husband

I'm so proud of my husband! Stuart was recently told that he had been awarded a Harvey C. Russell award from PepsiCo.

The Harvey C. Russell Award, part of PepsiCo's Chairman's Award, honors those who have distinguished themselves as truly extraordinary in their efforts to help PepsiCo further its goal to build a diverse and inclusive culture. Stuart was the project manager for a software update and he, along with two other employees working on the update, voluntarily decided to apply enhanced standards for the update to pro-actively increase the accessibility of the application for employees with different abilities, particularly to assist blind employees using screen readers or employees with low vision.

All recipients of the Harvey C. Russell award were invited on an all expense paid trip to PepsiCo World Headquarters in Purchase, New York for a reception and award ceremony. The company was even going to pay for my airfare so I could attend the events with Stuart. However, we had no one to watch the children for us so Stuart had to go by himself. I felt bad that I couldn't be there to share the moment with him but he knows how proud I am of him even though I couldn't be there.

There was a reception on his first night there. And it wasn't just any regular reception at a restaurant or in a conference room. This was a dinner reception on a sunset cruise! Sweet!

Stuart got some great pictures from the ship. Here's a Pepsi-Cola bottling plant as seen from the river.

The Chrysler building...

A cool bridge...

Stuart liked this view of trees and plants on a high rise apartment building. I guess in the big city you have to make your garden wherever you can.

Coast Guard ship...

New York skyline...

And of course, the Statue of Liberty...

Heading back to port...

Stuart had some free time the next morning so he took a taxi to the PepsiCo World Headquarters. While there, he spent some time in the award winning Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Garden. There are 45 sculptures in the collection that are spread throughout the Headquarters property and it is open to the public.

A tree trained to wrap around itself as it grows...

There are several different water features throughout the sculpture garden. Some are even home to some sweet koi fish.

"Girl With A Dolphin" by David Wynne

"Grand Disco" by Arnaldo Pomodoro

"Meridian" by Barbara Hepworth (click HERE to see some pictures of this sculpture being created)

"Celebrations II" by Louise Nevelson

"Totems" by Robert Davidson

"Through the Sound Barrier" by Asmunder Sveinsson

"Eve" by Auguste Rodin

"Three People on Four Benches" (obviously not all of the statues are pictured here) by George Segal.

There are multiple sunken gardens on the property that hold smaller sculptures.

The garden also welcomes school field trips so there are often lots of children in the gardens. What a nice field trip to combine learning about art while in such a beautiful natural setting.

"Hats Off" by Alexander Calder

And here's a special piece of artwork inside Headquarters. It's a football player made of Pepsi cans! I love recycled art!

Stuart accepted his award from Indra Nooyi, Pepsico CEO. He said it was a very humbling experience to hear the accomplishments of all the other award winners from around the world and how they are making a difference in the lives in their community.

Stuart, as always, I'm so proud of you and how far you've come from the Thrifty Car Rental service guy that I met back in 1991. You have always taken on challenges and worked hard to deliver your best. As a result, you have not only thrived but excelled in your career. Thank you for all that you do for our family, for your work ethic, and for setting such a great example for our children. I love you!

My 18 Month Old Little Bundle of Joy

My little bundle of joy is not so little anymore. In fact, she's quite big for her age. At her well exam, Doc said she is 35 inches tall already. That's really tall for an 18 month old girl. She's at the 100th percentile for height. Yep, she is taller than 100% of girls her age. Wow! And her weight is well proportional to her height. She weighs 28 lbs, 3 oz which is in the 91st percentile for girls her age. Nicholas was a big baby and has consistently been tall for his age. I was so excited to have a little girl because I just knew she would be a cute little petite thing. Wrong! She's got all her Daddy's tall genes. That's ok, she's still a bundle of joy, just not a little one. I can still cradle her in my arms but her long legs hang way down. But she's a good armful when she wraps her arms and legs around me as I hold her close to me. So sweet.

Rachel is all toddler - walking, talking, and into everything she can get her hands on. She is wearing me out. I can take 5 minutes to clean up the bathroom only to walk into the bedroom to find that she has opened all of the DVD cases, scattered DVDs all over the floor, AND found a marker which of course meant she had to draw on herself, her clothing, and everything around her. The mess I have to clean up on her and in the bedroom from that 5 minute bathroom cleaning hardly makes me interested in cleaning the bathroom again anytime soon. Maybe we need a maid!

Rachel is quite a chatterbox. She is good at repeating words that you say even if she doesn't get them 100% correct (I personally think those are the cutest!) She still has a hard time saying diaper. She uses sign language to tell us she needs a diaper change but she also tries to say the word. It comes out a little different each time but it's something like "Dee Dee" or "Die Dee". But she makes the sign language word for diaper with her hands as she says it just to be sure we know what she's talking about.

Some of her other cute sayings...

Milk is "Nil" or sometimes it even sounds like "Nolk"
Tomato is "May-doe"
Nicholas is "Thlick-o-lus"
Blanket is "Be-lo"
Tick Tock is "Tick-Tah"
Ball is "Bahl"
Mess is "Meh"

Her favorite place to be is outside. Usually when she's at a window, she will point outside and longingly say, "Ow-sye"

Her latest thing is when she sees a truck on the road, she points to it and says, "Truck!" or "Bus!" if she sees a school bus (her favorite!). She also calls out "pig" and "fish" when she sees them but says "Woof! Woof!" is she sees a dog.

Rachel loves Nicholas' toys as much as her own girly toys. But she also likes some of his new "educational" toys like Magna Tiles. She loves to stick a bunch of squares together in a stack and just carry them around with her.

I have so many little nicknames for Rachel...Sweet Pea, Little One, Lady Bug, Chickadee. Sometimes I even call her Rink or Rinky Dink which was my grandmother's name for me when I was little and the smallest one in the family.

Rachel is rather easy going in general. She especially likes to kick back in her stroller. Everyone laughs when they see her do this.

Look at the size of her foot! She's certainly going to be tall.

Want to know what Rachel had for breakfast or for dinner last night? You could always check in the little storage compartment on the back of her booster seat to see what leftovers she has stashed there. She doesn't just accidentally drop her food in there. She really has to turn herself around to get it in there.

Here is some sliced turkey and a crust from her toast...

Later she stashed some mandarin oranges...

Her favorite foods now are strawberries, baby tomatos, cheese, and chips. Yes, chips are not the healthiest food I can give my child but my husband does work in the Frito Lay division of Pepsico so what do you expect? Actually, she doesn't get chips very often but she is so funny when she sees a bag of chips. She reaches out for them and gets all excited as she says, "Chip! Chip!".

She's still a messy eater but doing better. Here she's eating a meatball with her hands. She likes chicken, turkey, and pork but doesn't really eat much beef.

Rachel is very sweet and loving but she can be stingy with her kisses...

You see how she loves that little pink bunny blanket. It was part of a baby shower gift from Stuart's previous supervisor at Pepsico. I never thought Rachel would be so attached to it. But she calls out for it if she sees it on the other side of the room and she always wants it at bedtime. Heaven help us if it ever gets lost!

Happy 1 1/2 Birthday, Little One!