More Brotherly Love

I posted some sweetness last week with Bunny and Monkey, so I thought I’d share some photos of Cricket with him. It’s been such a joy watching her blossom in her big sister role. When Bunny was born, she just wasn’t all that interested. Babies don’t do much, so she just went along doing her own thing and mostly ignoring the new little creature in her house. She loved her sister, but wanting  to hold her or play with her just didn’t enter Cricket’s two-year-old mind. Now, at five, she appreciates having a baby sibling a bit more. After all, he doesn’t take her toys (much), doesn’t pick fights with her, and generally thinks she’s pretty amazing. She’s very patient when he pulls her hair,

and at least 4 or 5 times a day, I’ll catch her rubbing his head and saying “You’re so CUTE!”

Sorry for the toes in the bottom of the picture! Sort of detracts from all the cuteness.

Of course, nobody gets to play with the baby by herself for long. Especially not if Mama is taking pictures!

It’s not easy holding a baby brother who’s more than half your size!

But sometimes he’s content to snuggle.

No doubt this boy is loved!

Haircuts!

It’s haircut time at our house!

Cricket has very long hair, and it grows super fast. I wish mine grew as quickly as hers! She loves it long, but there is a point at which it is hard to take care of properly. Once she can almost sit on it, it needs a trim. Sorry for the lousy before shots. I forgot to get them until she was already up in the chair, and no way was I going to get her back down and start that whole thing again once I had her excited about the idea. She did a pretty good job holding still while I cut it!

After. I just trimmed the ends. I took off several inches, since I probably won’t get back to this for several weeks.

Years ago, Cricket was in the hospital on a ventilator. When they took off the vent tape from around her head, they were patiently removing it from her hair with alcohol. Meanwhile, she was coming out of sedation and starting to resist the vent. I told them thank you, because I appreciated that they were trying to save her beautiful hair, but I really wanted them to just chop it off and get her off of that machine! After some reassurance that I really would be okay if they did it, out came the scissors. I saw them cut it, so I know they were not trying to style it at all, but the angle that it made when they were done was super cute! It created perfect soft layers around her face. I’ve always just kept the same general idea as it’s gotten longer and longer.

Bunny’s turn. Hers doesn’t grow anywhere near as quickly as Cricket’s, but it had gotten fairly long.

This what it looks like when Bunny starts banging her backside against the door! Oops! Never a dull moment around here.

This is what it looks like when she then tells me the very exciting story of how she fell through the door.

I decided to hack it off do a shorter bob for Bunny. I generally prefer long hair, but I have to admit, I love it on her. It highlights her expressive little face! These are not the best pics of the haircut. I’ll try to get some once it shakes out a bit and looks better instead of this still-damp look. It is not nearly as crooked as this appears; she kept raising one shoulder in anticipation of the flash. Kind of like when I was cutting it, and she was all over the place. Between her case of wiggles and Mr. Monkey doing gymnastics while tied to my back, it’s kind of amazing that I didn’t lop off an ear!

I swear that this girl has a range of facial expressions to rival Cary Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace. I’ll never be able to capture half of her faces with a camera.

Well, not sure Cary Grant ever made that one!

Okay, a day or two later, I got this one. it’s an awful shot of her face, but it shows the hair cut quite a bit better.

Not to be left out, Monkey wanted to show off his temporary new hairstyle: the after-bath fauxhawk

Brotherly Love

Bunny and Monkey have had a special bond since before he was born. Her voice was the thing most likely to cause him to kick and wiggle. His first laugh was for her. Within days of bringing him home from the hospital, she was telling me “He’s my boy!” She is still likely to pray “Thank you for letting Mama bring him home from the hospital!” She spends a good part of her day narrating her activities for him and telling him all of the fun things he’ll be able to do when he is big like she is.

One morning last week, she was barely out of bed before she was begging to hold him. He’s pretty mobile now, and more than half her size, so it’s not easy! But he loves her and will stay still for her snuggles for a little while.

Of course Cricket wanted to join them, and she thought that Monkey needed some toys.

He was much more interested in playing with them. Got your nose!

My sisters love me!

I can just see him thinking. “Little do they know…one day I will tease them mercilessly. I will embarrass them completely. I will refuse to watch their girly movies, and I will insist on light saber duels instead of tea parties!”

After all, what are brothers for?

Apple print Father’s Day cards

ETA: I like to give credit where credit is due. Since we made these last year, I didn’t remember finding them anywhere specific. We did apple prints as a part of another school activity, so I thought this might have just come out of that idea. But I recently saw this page, and I think it must have been my inspiration for this idea. (Scroll down a bit for this particular card.) I apologize for not linking it sooner!

http://www.daniellesplace.com/html/mengifts.html

 

I’m always on the lookout for holiday card, decoration, and gift ideas that my littles can enjoy making. The girls and I made this last year, and I thought I’d pass the idea along. We had a blast making it, and their Papa really appreciated the effort that they put into it. It’s my idea, but may have been influenced by others, and I’m not one to think I am so terribly original that no one else could have come up with the same thing. Use it freely!

We started with apple printing. I will hardly eat a Red Delicious apple any more, because I find them terribly flavorless , but they are inexpensive and a beautiful shape for this! Any apple with a characteristic cross-section will work just fine. I just spread a little puddle of red tempera paint on a paper plate, laid out a big sheet of craft paper, and let the girls stamp away. I let them do several, knowing that some would be better than others. When they were dry, we picked the print we liked the best, added leaves and seeds with markers, and cut it out to paste on the front. My little Cricket could write words, but in order to help her with spacing, I printed out the phrases using the tools here: http://www.handwritingworksheets.com/ I use this tool all the time! It is great for practicing things like name and address that need to be personalized. We use them for days of the week, months of the year and any letters that need a little more practice. In this case, I printed out the sentiment that I wanted for the card, Cricket traced them with a colored pencil, and we cut and pasted them into the right places. Letter stickers helped to highlight the key words.

For the inside, I helped each girl make a caterpillar out of their fingerprints. (I find the index finger easier for them to manipulate than the thumb.) I used a thin layer of tempera paint for this, too. When they were dry, the girls added details like legs, antennae and faces with a marker. They signed their pictures and the card, but I edited them to show their blog names instead.

I hope this helps you think of some other ideas for helping your little ones to express their love and appreciation for their Father! What other themes do you think would be nice for a Father’s Day card?

Breakfast Popsicles, or Shortcut to SuperMom Status!

Being a Mom is a really tough job some days, and Moms are often unappreciated. I admit that I love it when something happens that makes my kids think I am SuperMom, even though it usually doesn’t require leaping tall buildings in a single bound. It’s almost always something simple and wonderful – like letting them dance outside in the rain in their Sunday dresses, making paper party hats just because they asked if they could, or whipping up some cute felt finger puppets and letting them vote on the features. Here is one idea that is guaranteed to make your kids think you are Super Mom – or your money back! Popsicles for breakfast!

Of course, serving your kids frozen sticks of sugar and artificial colors and flavors first thing in the morning may not make for a very good day, but I have a better idea! Yogurt Smoothie Popsicles.

My kids love smoothies, and I don’t make them often enough. I don’t even really measure, just throw some things in a blender until it tastes pretty good. But I’m lousy at making the right amount, so we’re either running short and no one gets their fill, or I have tons left over. I tried freezing it and scooping it out like ice cream, but it was more like scooping concrete. Not going to work. Meanwhile, they were begging for ice pops to eat while playing outside, since our weather here is nearly always somewhere on the spectrum of warm to unbearably hot. Suddenly, I had an idea – freeze the smoothies in popsicle molds!

This is another super flexible recipe. More of an idea or a process, really. Throw in certain key ingredients, then add whatever you like that is on hand! I’ll give you the one that has been a favorite here, and you can run with it.

  • 1.5-2 cups milk
  • 2 cups yogurt (we like Vanilla or Strawberry. Greek yogurt is great, too, but you’ll need to increase the milk)
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (it’s fine to omit this or add more)
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 2 T sugar

I’ll tell you what works for me, but you can do whatever works for your blender.

Start with 1.5 cups of milk – we use 1% – in the bottom of a blender. Add the protein powder, if using, and blend until well mixed. Add the frozen berries, and pulse until there are no large chunks and the mixture turns a lovely shade of pinky purple. (If the strawberries are whole, I usually smash them quite a bit first. That’s hard to do if they are frozen solid. I prefer to buy fresh berries, chop them up, then freeze the chunks. You could even do one recipe’s worth in a baggie and just pull that out and dump it in!) The frozen berries freeze the milk and make it quite thick. You may have to add more milk to loosen it enough for the berries to get to the blades. Add the sugar and pulse a few times. Add the yogurt and blend thoroughly, pouring in more milk a few tablespoons at a time if necessary for the smoothie to blend well. When the mixture is nice and blended, pour into popsicle molds and freeze overnight. I have 3 molds that I got for a few dollars each. Each one has room for 4 popsicles, about 1/4 cup each. This recipe fills all of them with some leftover. If you don’t want to serve the “leftover” in cups with straws right away, you can pour it into small paper cups, freeze for about an hour, then pop in a wooden stick. I let them freeze overnight. Don’t get in a hurry – if they’re not thoroughly frozen, the sticks will come out and leave all the popsicle goodness in the mold with no good way to get it out. If you don’t have molds, you can just use the cups. Run the molds or the cups under warm water for a few seconds to release them.

Sometimes, especially if I don’t use protein powder, I add a splash of vanilla. The kind of fruit or berries doesn’t really matter.  It’s easy to find a mix of frozen berries – usually blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and/or blueberries. Sadly, my younger daughter had a bad reaction to blackberries when she was a toddler, so we avoid them for her sake. She may have grown out of that, but we haven’t been willing to try it yet. Other yogurt flavors or frozen fruits would be fine, too. I’m sure peach would be lovely! Feel free to toss in other ingredients. I’ve added a few leaves of fresh spinach at the beginning. No one noticed, and I loved sneaking in those extra nutrients. I’m sure a banana would be delicious. I think these would be good without the yogurt, if you didn’t have it on hand, and a banana would help keep the texture from being a bit icier. I’ve use a splash of juice in place of some of the milk, and I’ve used Stevia instead of sugar. Some day, I’ll try making simple syrup and adding that instead of sugar. It should work to make the pops a little creamier and less icy. If you’re dairy free,  you can make some delicious pops with just frozen fruit and juice. The versatility of this idea is one of its best features!

My girlies went bonkers the first time I gave them popsicles for breakfast. They could hardly believe it. I knew they were getting something healthy, but they thought they were just being spoiled. My girls have big appetites in the morning, and will often eat 2 or even 3 if I let them. Since that’s equivalent to about 1/2-3/4 cup of smoothie, it doesn’t bother me a bit! These popsicles also make great snacks. I love that I can whip them up during the afternoon and have a whole week’s worth, and I only have to wash the blender once!

What flavors do you want to try? Are there other healthy ingredients that you’d like to add? And what color cape will you wear once your kids declare you SuperMom?

A growing Mr. Monkey

All of my good intentions to post regularly have disappeared in my daily task of keeping Mr. Monkey out of trouble, so I’m playing catch up when I can. He started crawling about a month ago, and is now adept at sitting up, crawling, and even learning to pull up on things! He’s tall, so that means that every level surface in the main room – fireplace, coffee table, couches, etc. are now accessible to him. Yowzers! I know I’ve done this twice before and all, but this whole becoming a toddler stage still kicks my rear. He’s actually my latest to do these things. Both girls were cruising by 7 months! But this time, I’ve got a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old with lots of toys that a baby shouldn’t have. Makes for an active day for me!

Here’s some pics. I have a couple at the beginning of this sequence, but I don’t really want to post them, because the background has Bunny in a somewhat rare moment of pantslessness, and it’s just not fair to put that on the internet forever, even if she’s only 3 now!

His ultimate destination with all of this crawling: MAMA!

A better picture of his two teeth:

Can I admit that I am thrilled that he still has blue eyes? They are dark blue, but definitely blue. Most of my family has quite dark hair and dark eyes. Mine are hazely-green-brown, and I like them just fine, but I always thought it would be nice to have a blue-eyed child. I just assumed with our coloring that it was highly unlikely. Bunny’s were blue to about 6 months, but re a rich, dark brown now. I hope Mr. Monkey’s stay this color! His hair is lovely, too. It’s actually quite golden, but it’s hard for that to show up in pictures. I assume it will darken with time, since nearly everyone in my family and my husband’s family who has had lighter hair as a baby has seen it darken considerably over the years. It’s so fun to watch children grow and change!

Things I want to remember…

The funny little ways Bunny says things. Cricket was always extremely careful with her enunciation, to the point that it was strange. She spoke exceedingly clearly and was almost always precisely correct from a very young age. If she said it incorrectly, and we repeated it the right way, that was it. She had very few of the fun little mispronunciations that are cute for the short while that they exist. Bunny has them, and they make me smile, partly because she says them with such enthusiasm. They go away quickly. She has very few that she says regularly any more, and that is as it should be. But for posterity’s sake, here are a few of my favorites:

Helipopter

Cupcape

Balella (Umbrella)

Strawbuhberry

Car themed Valentines

I wanted to make Valentines with the girls that would incorporate several different fun activities. That way, we could work on them a bit each day.

Don’t you just love tutorials on blogs with step-by-step instructions and tons of great pictures? Me, too! But this isn’t one of them. Maybe I’ll do that some day, but for now, I’m keeping busy enough doing these fun things with a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old, while trying to keep a young baby happy, so trying to get all of the perfect photos would have made the process drag out longer than I was willing to! Besides that, it’s no fun for the kids if I’m constantly telling them to stop, so I can get a picture of the next bit, and I’m not good enough to juggle getting several shots while they are busy without getting paint on my camera!

I started with a giant sheet of white craft paper. I bought a roll at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby with a 40% off coupon, and it has been one of the best purchases ever! It is so versatile, and it was inexpensive enough that I don’t mind laying it down to protect the table for other projects. I took a piece big enough to cover one whole end of the table and squirted white and red tempera paint on it, then let them go to town with paintbrushes. They saw that red and white make pink, and had a blast making swirls and splats. (Side note: spell check does not like “splats,” but I think it is a very useful word! Now I’m feeling all defiant, and I’m going to try to sneak it in to several more posts!) Some parts near my older daughter’s careful strokes were nice and marbled, and others near Bunny’s energetic flailings were just solid pink, but it was fun! My girls cannot get enough paint, so it was quite thick. I laid some pieces of plain white paper on top, then peeled them right off. We got some fun, more subtle imprints that way. You can see them to the sides of the main piece below.

After the pink swirly paint dried, I put some black tempera paint on a paper plate and gave them each some cars to drive through the paint and all over the pink. This is what we got:

The trick is to find some toy cars with a distinct pattern on the wheel. Most of the little matchbox cars in our collection have only plain wheels, so I had to pull out the three vehicles I could find with some kind of tread on the tire.

The big dump truck was the favorite, since it made the most obvious tire tracks and was easiest to hold onto. I thought cleanup would be awful, but it wasn’t bad at all! I may have to turn them loose on the patio with cars and washable paint one of these days.

They were very proud of their art work up to this point.

And Mr. Monkey was a doll, happily occupied in his swing for a while, doing his very important job of looking oh-so-cute!

The next day, we turned that big mess into Valentine’s. I started by cutting several hearts out of the pink swirly tire track madness. I gave each girl a few white index cards and some heart and kiss stamps and let them go to town. I also made some paper cars. You could go very fancy and make much nicer ones, but I was going for letting the girls do as much as possible, and I wanted my parts to go quickly. They put stickers on the wheels and glued the wheels to the cars. I wasn’t planning on faces on the cars, but the girls insisted.

I wrote a few car-themed Valentine’s Day messages on the stamped index cards. We glued the hearts, cars and sentiments to the front of some folded over white cardstock. We also added some dots of glue and a sprinkle of glitter. Because with little girls like mine, there is NEVER enough sparkle! 

I think it would be really easy to make these much more polished. I envision something similar folded over and stapled to the top of a little plastic baggie with a toy car inside as a great boy Valentine. (Note: Spell check does not like “baggie,” either! What is up with that?)

I hope this gives you some inspiration and fun ideas for your own twist, and I’d love to see them! Leave a link in the comments if you do something similar, so we can all share.

 

 

Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo

I am a proud native of Fort Worth, Texas, and one of my favorite events of every year is the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo! I’ve never actually been to the rodeo, but it is most definitely on my bucket list. Growing up, we used to get a day off of school and free tickets to the Stock Show, and we went every year.  There are different breeds of cows, horses, donkeys, mules, goats, sheep, pigs, pigeons, chickens, rabbits, and llamas. Amazing food, a midway, shows and competitions, and tons of vendor booths.
 

It is so fun to be able to share this fabulous event with my children. We make it a big family affair – my sister’s family and my parents come, too! It makes it easier to wrangle the kids, especially now that ours outnumber their parents, and everyone enjoys spending time together.

The girls had to sit on one of the tractors. We took a picture for my husband’s grandfather, who farmed for years until his retirement a few years ago. John Deere, of course.

Girls on Tractor

There’s a photo booth with a big bull. They dress the kids up in chaps and hats, and they get to take a picture like a bull rider. We tried to get my little 21-month-old niece up there, but she wasn’t having any of it.

 
 We stopped by the Borden milk booth to pet Elsie and Beauregard. Beau and Mr. Monkey were both in the midst of peaceful baby sleep.
Elsie
 
 
 
Of course, the Stock Show wouldn’t be the Stock show without a pony ride! Bunny kept saying “I just LOVE riding these things!!” See her huge grin? Cricket was a bit more mellow, but that’s mostly because she felt like such a big girl to go all by herself without anyone walking with her. She was taking it very seriously and concentrating on being careful.
 
Pony Ride

 
I’ll use just about any excuse to get close to a horse. Even Mr. Monkey enjoyed the ponies!
Pony Ride 2

 My girls love the midway. It’s our last stop, and they look forward to it all day! My Mom loves Carousels and enjoys taking them on a few rides.
 
I thought it was cute that Bunny chose a rabbit!
Bunny on the Carousel

 
This choice didn’t surprise me at all. Cricket, in her constant attempt to convince us to add one to the family, reminds me frequently that her favorite animal is a dog. This is one of my favorite photos from that day.
 
Cricket on the Carousel

 If you’re ever in Fort Worth at the end of January or beginning of February, plan on a day at the Stock Show! As the slogan says, “This Thing is Legendary!!”

Bunny Turns 3!

Our precious Bunny has her third birthday today! When she was born, we never could have guessed what a delightful, hilarious, cuddly girl she would turn out to be! She says adorable things like cupcape, strawbeberry and bellella (umbrella). She is almost the size of her 5-year-old sister, and on track to be almost 6 foot tall. She loves to sit on my lap and cuddle, play with dollies, go to the park, and paint. She is also one of the funniest children I have ever seen!

One of her favorite things is to help me with baking or cooking. This is one of my absolute favorite pictures of her. She was helping me make pizza for dinner, and brought me two bandanas and asked me to make them into a hat and apron.

Bunny makes pizza

Bunny makes pizza

I made her a hat and apron of her own as a birthday present. Since Cricket got one for her birthday in November, this wasn’t a big surprise. Bunny loved choosing the fabric, and it didn’t bother her at all that it wasn’t a surprise! The apron is reversible, so the other side has cupcakes with a pink pocket.
 
Bunny's Birthday Hat and Apron

Bunny's Birthday Hat and Apron

 
She is a big fan of Thomas the Tank Engine, and Percy is her favorite. I usually do a frozen buttercream transfer, but didn’t have enough time for that this time, so I just drew freehand. The trains are pretty geometric, so it wasn’t all that hard. It ended up being a good thing that I didn’t stay up late to work on it, since she changed her mind about what she wanted on the cake between going to bed and getting up in the morning. Why can I draw better with a piping bag than I can with a writing utensil of any kind? I managed to do this in the midst of other birthday preparations with three munchkins, so I’m happy with it even though there are things I’d like to have done better.
 
Percy cake

Percy cake

As you can see, Bunny liked it, too!
 
Posing with cake
 
She loved blowing out her own candles!
 
Blowing out Candles
 
It was a great evening! My sister and brother-in-law were both off of work, so they came over with their daughter for a homemade pizza dinner, then presents, cake, and ice cream. (As an aside, if your daughter begs for a pink cake, but the store is out of strawberry cake mix, you can make a white cake and add food coloring. It works beautifully! However, no amount of reminding yourself will keep you from being surprised when you bite into it and it doesn’t taste like the strawberry you were expecting!)
 
My brother-in-law started by asking her “How old are you, 10? 12?” To which the ever-wise Bunny said “YEAH!” For the rest of the night, all of the careful practicing we’d done was out the window as she told everyone she was twelve while holding up her three chubby little fingers.
 
Happy, Happy Birthday to my darling Bunny! I’m so glad that you were born, and incredibly thankful to be your Mama!
 
Bunny in a Birthday Bag