Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chimney Arrives!

We got our Christmas tree up this weekend. However, I just haven't had time to get the boxes of lights and ornaments down from the attic so it is looking kind of sad and naked.

Included in these boxes is our little Christmas elf, Chimney. Usually I get our stuff down the day after Thanksgiving so Nicholas is used to seeing Chimney around that time. He's decided that perhaps Chimney doesn't come until he sees that we've decorated our tree and are ready for Christmas. Seems like good logic to me.

So the boy took matters into his own hands yesterday. He quickly grabbed some paper, scissors, and colored pencils and handmade tree ornaments on the fly.


I love this double layer ornament.


Our tree still looks bare but I absolutely love our new ornaments!


And I guess it worked in a round about way because it guilted me inspired me to get the lights and ornaments up so that Chimney could appear on the tree this morning.


Merry Christmas, Chimney!

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Graceful Ballerina

Rachel sits through so many different activities for Nicholas each week that I thought it might be time for her to try a little class of her own. I couldn't decide between dance or gymnastics so I was delighted to see that WinKids had a Mommy and Me class for little ones that combined both ballet and gym. Of course, the "Mommy and Me" format means that the moms are in the class with the students because they are still so young.

The class starts with ballet for about 20 minutes. The teacher uses a lot of fun activities to introduce the basic ballet steps. She shows them how to use ballet steps to gallop on a horse, plant seeds in their garden, dance with teddy bears and magic wands, and sprinkle magic fairy dust. It's really cute.

But sometimes, ok a lot of times, she just doesn't want to move on to the next step when she is having fun doing something else. She's not the only one in class that does this. They are still only 2-3 years old.

I took dance lessons for most of my youth so I was really excited for Rachel to take this ballet class. And don't little bitty girls look so cute in the little pink leotards and tutus? I had visions of my little Sugar Plum Fairy dancing around our house.

Rachel really likes practicing her sautes (pronounced "so-tays") which in ballet means jump.



This is about the only thing I can count on her to do correctly.

Unfortunately, she prefers to use the balance bars in the dance studio for climbing on.


And while practicing for their upcoming recital, she decided that their holding hands and dancing in a circle was an awful lot like "Ring-A-Round the Rosie" where you all fall down....and play dead.



Graceful ballerina, she is not.

After ballet class, we move to the gym for about 20 minutes. Rachel loves her coach and can't wait to hear what she will learn each time.




She pays attention and remembers each activity that she is supposed to do along their gymnastics "course", even if she can't quite do all of the activities properly.




Of course, what child doesn't love jumping on a trampoline?



Or a giant foam pit? I love the little wiggle she does just before she jumps.



Rachel is definitely calmer and more quiet than Nicholas but she still has a lot of energy and likes being active. I think gymnastics may be a better fit for her right now (although I can't promise that I won't put her back in ballet because I'm still dreaming of a Sugar Plum Fairy).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bible Stories

We've been attending Valley Creek Church for several months now. While it isn't as theatrical as Fellowship, we love the music and the pastor is phenomenal.

Most importantly, the children seem to have a good time and are learning more about the Bible. Nicholas brings his Bible to church each week and they have races to look up verses and win prizes.

Although Rachel's class doesn't bring their Bible, she sometimes insists on bringing one so she can be just like big brother. Unfortunately, she has destroyed the one that she received from Fellowship Church at her Parent-Child dedication.

But for now, she is quite happy with her Bible Stories book which was passed down from a friend of ours.


I love watching her "read" the stories in the car as we are on our way to church.




Calling the Tooth Fairy.....

Nicholas has had a wiggly front tooth for well over a month now. The baby tooth has been getting pushed out of the way by the new permanent tooth coming in. But instead of coming out, the baby tooth has just moved further down until it flops and wiggles in all directions but still hangs on for dear life while the new tooth keeps pushing its way in.

Nicholas happened to have a regular dentist appointment a couple of weeks ago for a cleaning and his dentist suggested that we wait a little bit to see if it will come out on its own but if it doesn't come out in a couple of weeks then she wants to pull it because it might affect how straight the new tooth comes in.

After dinner, we had our ritual of checking on the tooth.


Yep, still hanging there by a thread, still dangling, still twisting all around. But not coming out.

I suggested that we might need to call the dentist on Monday to just get the thing pulled out because I'm tired of seeing it dangle. After Nicholas went to bed, I imagine he must have been lying there twisting and pulling on his baby tooth because he soon came out of his room to show me that the tooth was about to come out. He went downstairs to show Daddy and ended up pulling it out himself right there!


He's pretty excited about getting a dollar from the Tooth Fairy (Stuart is getting on his shoes to head out for change now!)


I think this tooth has been such a hard struggle that the Tooth Fairy might have to leave two dollars this time!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Games For Girls Summit by Activision

Black Friday! The holiday shopping season is officially underway!

What is on your little girl's wish list this year?

Every kid loves to play games and video game systems such as the Nintendo DS are really hot this year.

I recently attended the Games for Girls Summit by Activision at the beautiful Hotel W in Dallas.


I brought Rachel along with me and we were able to see 6 new games that Activision has just released that are geared towards girls.


Moms got to sit at the tables while the kids played in the back of the room - yes, childcare was provided at this event!

The Mom Tables each had the 6 new Activision games and a DS system to play them on. We even got to try out the cool new interactive Wappy Dog. My friend and I had a lot of fun with these!


Of course, each time I checked on Rachel, she was playing one of the DS games too. I think Wappy Dog is one of her favorites too!


Wappy Dog is truly the next generation of interactive toys. It connects a physical pet toy with the virtual world, where young gamers care for and raise their very own interactive puppy to adulthood through an immersive experience communicated through the Nintendo DS, truly touching both the pet toy and videogame audiences. Wappy Dog can sing several different songs but can be trained to learn up to 16 tunes as play continues. More than 18 conversational prompts are answered with more than 350 evolving responses, with a “barked” response translated by the Nintendo DS software.

Each Wappy Dog is a personalized experience enabling players to customize both the virtual version with different colors and accessories, as well as the physical dog with spots, colors and accessories via in-pack sticker sheets. Players train and care for their Wappy Dog to determine their pet’s constantly evolving personality, skills, and happiness, as well as use their game system to communicate with their dog.


Rachel's other favorite game is ZhuZhu Babies. In the game, Razzmataz has wandered off during a safari trip in South Africa and the friends back home need your help to find him! You’ll travel around the world and visit exotic cites with the ZhuZhu Babies to help find Razz and bring him home safe and sound. There are 11 Babies to Play With, familiar and new characters, each with their own adorable personalities, include Razzmataz, Luana, Izzy, Sox, Legend, Bandit, Riley and more!


There are lots of levels to explore. 35+ levels of twists, turns, and big surprises! ZhuZhu Babies is intended for ages 4 and up so even young girls can have fun playing!



Although the games we looked at were being promoted as games for girls, I know my son likes Moshi Monsters. It is the world's fastest growing online game for children. Now Activision has released Moshi Monsters: Mosling Zoo on the Nintendo DS and Nicholas has it on his Christmas wish list. The games lets you explore the Wooly Wilderness in search for ULTRA RARE Moshlings to add to your Moshling zoo! Play exclusive Moshi mini-games to help boost your Moshling’s level, mood, health and happiness. Explore all new areas of Monstro City including Buster’s Baby Care, the Glormatorium and Raaghly’s Stararcade. Unlock ULTRA RARE Moshi Monsters rewards including achievements, trophies and super secret items to be unlocked within MoshiMonsters.com.

It was a fun event! I played all of the games at our table. Lalaloopsy is a really cute game where your doll magically comes to life from the fabric used to create her. She plays with her friends in a silly colorful world. I also played Squinkies 2: Adventure Mall Surprise. I've seen Squinkies in the store as cute tiny little squishy figures that you can collect but I just learned that there are DS games for them too. Both of my kids like to play with Zoobles magnetic figures but they are going to flip over the game!

And I truly hope that they enjoy playing with all of these new Activision games. They are cute and model friendship and caring for others.


Not only did I have a good time playing games but I also learned a few things. I realized that although I try to limit "screen time" for my children, there have been recent studies showing that playing kid-friendly non-violent games can have developmental benefits. Some of the physical benefits include faster reaction times, increased hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity, and increased spatial skills. Video games can also have mental benefits. The ability of games to ignore the rules of reality actually help kid's expand their minds and their creativity. Children learn to be more resilient to failure since they fail so often in games but get right back in there to give it another try. Games can also improve children's ability to reason and problem solve.

It is important to be aware of what games your child is playing. Here are two resources to help you screen out the good games from the not-so-good according to your child's age.

Common Sense Media
Entertainment Software Rating Board

The moms attending the summit were all bloggers so it was the typical blogger scene with everyone holding the phones to take pictures and/or tweet about the event!


If you want to follow the chatter about these fun new games from Activision, please join us over at Twitter -
@ATVIGames4Girls
#ActivisionGames4Girls

Now, back to your holiday shopping....

Gobble! Gobble!

Stuart and I always make a full Thanksgiving spread, even back when it was just the two of us. Now there are four and the 2 little ones don't really care what we eat. But we still stayed up way too late last night (or is that this morning?) preparing a full Thanksgiving meal.

We could have slept later this morning but with little kids in the house that is a foreign concept to us. We eventually got the bird in the oven and finished up some last minute details for our big dinner. While we were puttering around in the kitchen, the kids did a great job of playing together on their own.


Well, I thought so until I realized that Rachel had been standing on TOP of her play kitchen!


So to keep my wild little Indians entertained (and safe!), I printed off a turkey template from DLTK and put them to work writing down what they are thankful for.


I loved hearing about some of the things they were thankful for.


We cut out all of the pieces and put them together to make little turkeys of gratitude. Nicholas listed that he is thankful for music, a roof, trees, TV, God, food, a DS (Nintendo, that is), my family, and Legos.


Rachel is thankful for stop signs, chicken, my play kitchen, my family, my big brother, pink baby, animals, and turkey.


Speaking of turkey....it's done! We always use the Alton Brown Good Eats Roast Turkey recipe. It uses a brine so there is some prep the day before but it's easy and oh, so worth it!


We also had Stuart's family recipes for dressing and sweet potato crunch plus I tried a new recipe for a corn and bacon casserole. ummmm, bacon....


We even got out the charger plates, china, and crystal to do it up right.


We are thankful for our health and our families.


We are thankful for our home and our jobs which provide our home and put this delicious food on our table.


We are thankful for determination and willingness to try new things.


We are thankful for the laughter in our home.


We are so thankful for hugs from our children!


But we are most thankful for those that have gone before us, who followed their dreams and their destiny to fight for freedom and the making of this great nation.

Thanks Be To God!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Konos Stewardship: Muscles

Konos Unit: Stewardship
Theme: NERF - Nutrition, Exercise, Rest, and Fun

As we are studying about keeping the body healthy through exercise, Nicholas has been learning about the muscles of the body. He's learned about the tree types of muscles - smooth, skeletal, and cardiac.


I picked up a steak in the "manager's special" (aka "it's going bad soon") section for $2.00. I cut muscle fibers from the meat and prepared them on slides so that Nicholas could look at them with the microscope.


He really likes his microscope. Granddad gave it to him as a Christmas present a while back. He had been too young to work with it reliably by himself but he is an old pro at it now and can entertain himself for an hour at a time with it. It's a cool microscope because it is digital so he can see the image on my laptop. This makes it so much easier for me to see what he is looking at and to point to things on the slide that I want to be sure he notices.


We can even capture video and still pictures. Here we were looking at the muscle fibers and the black striations that cross the fibers. This is only found in skeletal muscles.


Nicholas has also learned to identify the names and locations of some of the major skeletal muscles in his body. He has also learned how a muscle works through contracting and extending. He even made a model of his arm to demonstrate it. He used a cardboard tube from a roll of wrapping paper and cut out a piece the length of his humerus bone. Then he measured his forearm and cut out another piece of cardboard to match. He cut this forearm piece in half lengthwise and taped them together to form his radius and ulna bones.


He labeled his bones carefully.


He straightened out a paper clip and used that to connect the humerus to his forearm bones.


He attached the forearm bones together with a rubber band in place of a wrist.


Then he blew up two long red balloons just slightly and I helped him attach them to his bones. He then demonstrated how the bicep muscle extends when the arm is straight...


...and how it contracts when the forearm is pulled up.


It was neat that he finished up his model while Granddad was here so he was able to show off his work to Granddad.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Healthy Choice Top Chef Inspired Café Steamers

I've recently started relying on frozen meals for my lunch because, unlike my children, I just can't eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day but I've got to many other things to do than to spend a lot of time fussing over making a tasty meal for myself.

I recently learned that Healthy Choice teamed up with Bravo’s Top Chef to introduce an exclusive line of eight Healthy Choice Top Chef Inspired Café Steamers.

Oooh, I love Top Chef so I knew that these would make a yummy addition to my freezer!


The flavors are bold, innovative, and exciting and include such delicious meals as Barbeque Seasoned Steak with Red Potatoes, Chicken Fresca with Chardonnay, Chicken Linguini with Red Pepper Alfredo, Chicken Margherita with Balsamic, Grilled Chicken Marinara with Parmesan, Grilled Chicken Pesto with Vegetables, Grilled Vegetables Mediterranean with Rice, and Roasted Chicken Marsala with Mushrooms.

They offer exactly what I'm looking for - food that is healthy, delicious, and easy to make! The packaging uses a proprietary steaming technology that produces a fresh-tasting meal in minutes. It's not like some microwave meals that just come out limp and unappetizing. Healthy Choice uses a unique steaming technology that separates the sauce from the rest of the entrée to steam the meal in the microwave, allowing for crisp vegetables, tender meats and al dente pastas.

One of my favorites is the Grilled Chicken Pesto with Vegetables. I made it for lunch today so I thought I'd show you just how cool this steaming process really is. You remove the meal from the carton and put it in the microwave. Don't puncture the cover or open one corner. Don't touch it! It is self-venting and will cook just fine if you don't do a thing.


My meal cooked for 4 1/2 minutes. I removed the film from the top and then lifted the steamer basket which was full of chicken tenderloins, rotini pasta, zucchini, and spinach. Then I stirred the steamed food into the outer sauce bowl.


So simple! Quick and easy as well as healthy and delicous!


Check out the Healthy Choice Top Chef Inspired Café Steamers for yourself. Make sure to grab a Healthy Choice coupon before you head to the grocery store.

For more information about the Healthy Choice Top Chef Inspired Café Steamers, please visit the Healthy Choice website or Bravo's Top Chef website. You can also follow Healthy Choice on Facebook Twitter at @Healthy_Choice.

Note: Healthy Choice provided me with two Healthy Choice Top Chef Inspired Café Steamers to try. The opinions here are entirely my own. I would not choose to promote a product unless I truly felt that it was worthy of a recommendation.