Bedtime Reading Choices

These were Nicholas' bedtime reading choices tonight...

Book #1: "Baby Animals on the Farm" - although he knows he's too old for Sesame Street books, he still loves anything having to do with animals, especially the cute little baby animals. I've tried to suggest that he pass this book down to Rachel. He said yes but then quickly changed his mind and said he'll keep it just a little longer.


Book #2: "Prickly and Poisonous" - because he loves to read and learn about about real-life scary creatures.

He's a tough one to figure out sometimes!

Come To The Tropics at Texas Discovery Gardens

Yesterday we spent some time at Texas Discovery Gardens in Dallas for their "Come To The Tropics" event.

We looked at giant hissing cockroaches...

...and big scary scorpions...

But the highlight of the event was the warm, humid butterfly house where butterflies fly freely around you as you walk through the tropical gardens of the two story greenhouse.

We were disappointed that we didn't get more pictures of butterflies but they were very active and hard to capture. But the kids saw a lot of them flying all around and they learned about the stages of butterfly development.

Rachel especially loved the giant colorful butterfly kites just outside of the butterfly house.

Next we did a fun butterfly craft. Take a piece of construction paper and fold it in half. Then use a template that looks like a curled up caterpillar and trace it on the construction paper. Make sure the curved side of the caterpillar is on the folded side of the construction paper.

Cut out the pattern and decorate your caterpillar.

When the caterpillar is "grown" you can open up the contstruction paper and he becomes a butterfly! Decorate the inside to look like a butterfly.

We decided to take a break and listen to a live band that was playing. I got us each a glass of Bubble Tea. What? You don't know what Bubble Tea is? Don't worry, I didn't either but it sounded fun. Nicholas and Rachel got Blue Raspberry Bubble Tea.

Bubble teas come in various fruit flavors and while it has a tea base, it is actually quite milky in texture. What is most unique about them is that there are small tapioca balls or pearls called "boba" in the bottom of the drink. You get a superwide straw with the drink so that when you take a sip you can also get a tapioca pearl to "eat" along with it.

It sounded neat but the pearls were much bigger than I expected and I found it too unusual for my taste. I kept having a hard time figuring out if I was drinking it or eating it.

Rachel didn't care for it much either.

Actually neither of our kids liked it at all. Maybe that's why one of their drinks got spilled all over the floor.

We decided the great outdoors was a better place for us so we headed out to the gardens for some fresh air. We watched the minnows and koi fish in the pond.

Of course, our kids are free-range kids so if there are wide-open spaces then they can be found running freely.

And, like most kids, they have an innate attraction to water that they just can't resist.

Even when the water is near freezing temperatures. Note Nicholas' appreciation of said cold water!

Yep, maybe just sitting next to the fountain is a better idea.

Rachel was so cute as she held out her arms and walked on the edging of the grassy area as if it were a balance beam. I see gymnastics in our future!

I love outdoor sculptures. It's fancy artwork that is ok for kids to touch!

It was nice getting to see the butterflies and spending time in the gardens as a family.

Texas Discovery Gardens is located at 3601 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Dallas. You can reach them at (214) 428-7476 or get more info from their website at Texas Discovery Gardens is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. Each Tuesday, the gardens are open for free (butterfly house admission is regular price). Butterfly House and Garden Admission is $8 Adults, $6 Seniors (60+), $4 Children (3-11), and free for under 3.

Pinewood Derby Car Race

It's Cub Scout Pinewood Derby time! Each boy in the Cub Scout pack was given a pinewood derby car kit at the Cub Scout Christmas party. The kit is just a small box that mostly contains a simple block of wood and some other essential car parts. There is a lot of work before the block of wood becomes a race-winning car. But Nicholas loves race cars and Stuart couldn't wait to get in the garage and teach his little guy about using power tools!

Nicholas wasn't sure where to begin with designing his car so Stuart suggested that he pull out some of his favorite Hot Wheels cars so they could talk about some of the features that Nicholas likes the most.

Nicholas drew a few different designs on paper and then he transferred the final design to the block of wood. Then he got to hang out in the garage with Daddy and the tools.

This was his first time to do anything like this and certainly his first time using a Dremel. He was totally pumped about it and had a great time.

I'm so proud of Nicholas for being excited about his work and for taking the time to do his best instead of just playing around with it and rushing through it.

Next Nicholas sanded the car and it was ready for paint. He primed it and gave it a base coat of green.

He then did some design work with the blue and gold paint.

And, of course, every race car needs flame stickers!

Off to the race!

Nicholas finally got to check out his competition. These are all cars from his buddies in his Tiger Den. I love the one that looks like a Wii remote!

Nicholas got assigned number 22. Go 22!

The track was set up through the middle of the room. This was our first derby race and I must say it was a bigger production than I had really anticipated.

Nicholas was quite excited!

I was really impressed with the high-tech components in the timing process. This is a shot from the car's perspective as it is approaching the finish line. The timing system not only records the order in which cars cross the line, numbers their winning position, and then displays the car's number, child's name, speed, and winning position on the big screen for all to see. Quite a neat production for a little cub scout wooden car race.

To start the race, the cars are lined up at the top of the ramp. There is a bumper that keeps them all in place.

When it's time to go, one of the scouts releases the bumber and the cars zip down the track by gravity. Shape of the car is important for what little aerodynamics is involved but weight of the car is probably most important to help pull it down the ramp faster.

As they cross the finish line, the readout above each car's lane states it's winning position. Each car makes 6 runs, one in each track position. Nicholas got first place for the first several races.

Nicholas was loving it!

At some point, the weights on the car started loosening and the jiggling may have affected it's speed because he soon started dropping in his position. However, he finished in second place for the Tiger Cubs and 5th place overall for the pack.

Way to go! High five!

Playtime at Gymboree

I found these old pictures and videos from a couple of years ago and thought I'd finally get them up on the blog!

Rachel is in a little toddler gym class at Gymboree.  They offer many classes such as gym, music, art, etc. all for younger age children.  It is a colorful, musical place to spend some time with your toddler each week. And I enjoy meeting other moms while we are there.

Nicholas was in these classes for a year or so when he was little and it was always a highlight of our week.  Rachel is a little more shy than Nicholas and doesn't interact as much with the other kids but she does love climbing on the play structures and crawling through the tunnels.

There are usually themes for each week and the equipment gets moved around and configured to match the theme.  The teacher has some structured activities that we all do related to the theme.  This week we had a transportation theme so we read a book about different kinds of transportation, sang songs, and then we all pretended to be airplanes as we played.

Rachel likes free play best where she can just wander around and do her own thing.  It's neat to look back and see how little she was in this video below:

Nicholas is too old to be in this class so he usually sits right outside playing with toys or games that he brings along with him.  But sometimes I catch him looking longingly at all the things he would like to climb on too.  I think in the future I'll have to find a class that they can both be in at the same time.

Besides, Rachel doesn't fully participate in these Gymboree classes like she is supposed to.  There is always a time during class where the kids and parents come together for circle time.  They sing songs, play with the giant parachute, and dance around together.  Rachel may sit with me in the circle for a few minutes but she never will stay.  Instead she always wants to go back to exploring the playground equipment.  I initially tried to make her stay in the circle but I figure we are paying a lot for her to have fun here once a week and if she wants to climb instead of sing songs then that's fine with me.  I've talked to the teacher and she is fine with that as long as I'm still supervising her.

Here's another video of her just doing her own thing.  This is a little wooden bridge that the kids like to walk across.  But of course, Rachel won't just walk across it.  No, she has to bounce across it!

At the end of class, Gymbo the clown always comes out to tell the kids goodbye.  At first Rachel was scared of Gymbo and wouldn't go near him but today she ran up and kissed him goodbye!

Playing at Pump It Up!

I found these pictures and videos from a couple of years ago.  I had taken them off the camera but just now looked at them for the first time.  Rachel was a little over 2 years old at the time.

We went to Pump It Up with some friends to play.  Pump It Up has lots of different bounce houses and inflatable obstacle courses for kids to play on.  My kids love it and could spend the whole day here!

This is my favorite video.  Rachel is so proud of herself and says, "I slide down, Mommy!"

She struggled at first as she tried to climb up the little notches to get to the top of the slide.  The space between footings was really big for her to manage.  But she didn't give up!

She got much quicker at scaling the wall by the end of the day.

Here is another video of how fast she was sliding down.  She's brave for a little two year old!

Highlights from our School Days

We've been homeschooling for just a few months now and it has been a challenge to us all. We've overcome some hurdles, set expectations, gotten familiar with our curriculum, and are working on improving our daily schedule.

Overall, it is great. It is a challenge finding time to prepare my lessons, teach school, and get all the housework and other errands done each day. I realize that teaching my children is my primary job now and some things might have to slide a little until I can juggle my time a little better. Although I'm teaching both children at home, it is hard to really teach difficult concepts to Nicholas when Rachel is distracting every few minutes so I save most of those things for her nap time. I need to work on arranging more activities for her while Nicholas and I are focused on school.

Here are some highlights from our last few months.

I created a file folder game to help Nicholas learn the constellations. He loves playing games so we play this a lot.

Math is going well. He is really a wiz, especially when we get to pull out the LEGO bricks to use for manipulatives!

We did a craft project on Joseph's Coat of Many Colors. Nicholas used crayons to completely cover a piece of paper with all different colors.

Then he colored over the whole thing with a black crayon.

We then used the end of a paper clip to scratch out Joseph's coat.

I know I've done this kind of craft before when I was little but I think I used black paint of some kind and it had a much more dramatic result. We might have to try this one again because Nicholas just loved the concept.

We talked about how a magnifying glass concentrates light and used chocolate to demonstrate it.

One piece of chocolate had magnified rays while the other two did not.

Look how bright the light is.

In the spot where the rays were concentrated, the chocolate was melted but the rest of the chocolate was not.

But they all tasted equally good!

We're having fun and creating a love for learning while we're at it!