Sunday, June 30, 2013

Our New Ride

Well, we bought a new minivan this week.  It's a Honda Odyssey, which seats up to 8, meaning that we'll be able to fit three carseats, and be able to carpool with 2 or 3 friends.  It drives very nicely, and is so quiet compared to my old car.  Plus, all the speakers work, so we can once again hear both the right and left channels.

The girls are very excited to have our own "magic van".  They love to open and close the doors by themselves.

I am still not comfortable parking it between two cars, so we mostly just park far away from everything.  But other than that, it's been great!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Visit to Grandma and Grandpa's House

I thought I better share pictures of our time at Jeff and Jane's house before we go out of town again tomorrow.  The girls and I drove down to Glen Carbon on Tuesday two weeks ago to spend a few days with Grandma and Grandpa, and then Ben joined us for the weekend.  We got to do a lot of fun things during the week.  It was pretty hot on Wednesday, so the girls played in the pool.  Amelia had a great time splashing and playing in the water, and she even convinced Grandpa to get in the pool with her!  In these first photos, she was throwing a container of water up in the air, and laughing hysterically while trying to duck away from it.  I think it looks like she's trying to do the Thriller dance.


Megan wasn't interested in getting splashed, so she sat with Grandma and read a book instead, and then decided to try out Ben's old tricycle.

While we were playing downstairs, Amelia figured out how to slide down the support column.  She couldn't climb up again, but she could hang on like a monkey and then slide down as many times as Grandpa would lift her up.

On Thursday we went to the zoo, along with Anna, Dan & Abby, Becky, Brian, Natalie & Noah (who happened to be driving through St. Louis on their way home from Utah, and Aunt Julie.  We had a nice time looking at the prairie dogs, the sea lions and the big cats, but then Megan started having temper tantrums and she and I spent quite a while sitting by ourselves while Megan tried to calm down.  It wasn't the best zoo experience for us, but hopefully everyone else had a nice time!  That kicked off a fun little temper tantrum stage for Megan, one I hope she grows out of soon.

I love this photo because it looks like Natalie and Amelia are trying to climb into the zebra enclosure!

Megan in particular enjoyed the insect house, but both girls liked climbing on the big bug sculpture.

On Friday we went to the Botanic Garden, which was so much fun!  The girls liked seeing all the fountains, including this cool one that looked like it was boiling.

They LOVED the hedge maze, too, and had to take turns shouting directions from the lookout tower and exploring the paths.

Feeding the koi was also a huge hit.

As was riding the sheep:

But their favorite place was the children's garden, which was like a gigantic play area for kids.  They enjoyed exploring the cave and digging for fossils, as well as walking across the rope bridge (which Megan did with no problem at all).

And since it was a warm day, they really liked playing in the water area and bouncing on the jumpy mushrooms.  Next time, we'll have to bring bathing suits!

On Saturday, Grandpa and the girls picked sugar snap peas and they helped him snap all the stems and wash all the peas.  It was so cute how serious they were about doing their own little jobs.  Amelia cut the ends off with a scissors, then threw the peas in a bucket of water.  Megan got the peas out of the water and dried them off. 

Anna, Dan and Abby came over for dinner, and the girls had a wonderful time trying to play with Abby.  She was content to bounce in her exersaucer, chew on the attached toys, and watch the girls play, but they kept handing her even more toys to play with. 

We had birthday cake for Amelia's and Dan's birthdays; it was a funfetti cake with pink funfetti frosting and pink sprinkles.  Uncle Dan was kind enough to let Amelia blow the candles out all by herself.  Perhaps he wasn't interested in having his photo taken with such a girly cake?

 Then Amelia opened her presents.  She had asked Grandma for fancy pillows for her bed, and she was so excited to hug her soft princess pillow.  She now sleeps with all her fancy pillows on her bed, along with all her cats, a few baby dolls, and a few Barbie dolls.  I don't know how she even fits on her bed anymore.

And finally, we went to Tropical Snow at least four times during the week.  The girls loved it!  Megan said her favorite flavor was "Porcupine Pig" which was actually called Porky Pig, and flavored with watermelon, peach and vanilla, I think.  Amelia liked the Rainbow flavor.

We all had such a great time visiting with Jeff and Jane, and we can't wait to go back to their house next weekend.  Thanks for being such fun hosts!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Strawberry Jam

The girls helped make strawberry jam yesterday using some of the strawberries we'd picked last week.  I washed and stemmed the strawberries, and the girls cut them up using table knives.  Megan did a great job cutting them evenly in half.  Amelia cut some in half, some in quarters, some in thirds, and some in eighths.  It was a good math lesson for her to figure out what happens when you cut a half in half again.  And it kept them busy for quite a while so I could get everything else set up to make jam.

Megan took the opportunity to sneak a few berries into her mouth:

 They both took turns using a potato masher to smush up the berries, and then stirring up the berries and sugar.  They wanted to help fill the jars with jam, but I thought that would be a little too messy, so I let them put the lids on instead.  Then we got a loaf of Grandpa's good bread out of the freezer and made toast with jam.  Everyone enjoyed it!

Hey, look, it's Megan's natural smile!   Megan had to change dresses because her cute white sailor color was completely covered in strawberry juice.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Strawberry Picking

The girls and I went to pick strawberries on Thursday morning, and had a wonderful time.   We went to a different farm this year, Lutz Farm out by Marshall, and the berries were much larger and more prevalent than last year.  Of course, this year has been a lot better, weather-wise, for strawberries.  Both girls were very good at picking only red strawberries, although we did end up with a few not quite ripe berries in our basket.

When the farmer showed us to our row, he gave each of the girls a berry to taste.  For the first few minutes of picking, all the berries ended up in the girls' mouths, and I had to remind them that we needed to take some home to make strawberry shortcake and jam.

Do you like the strawberry picking outfits they picked out?  Amelia picked her strawberry dress with a strawberry bow, but Megan refused to wear her matching dress.  She did, however, insist on wearing pink galoshes, in case it was muddy.

Amelia has decided to draw pictures of all the fun things we do this summer, so that she can make a book.  Here's her drawing of us picking strawberries:

Can you find the strawberry that looks like a cat?  How about one that looks like a cloud?  And another that looks like an elephant?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

New Rules

Amelia posted some new rules for our house.  Can you figure out what she wrote?

Once Becky guesses, I'll post the translation, for those who aren't fluent in preschool-ese.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Happy Birthday to Amelia!

After a lot of debate, Amelia decided that she wanted a fish cake for her 5th birthday (the other contenders were a gray kitten cake and a princess cake).  She invited five friends over for a little party at our house, and we decided to make everything fish themed.  It turned out really cute, and was easy to plan and decorate for.  Ben blew up 30 blue balloons and hung them from the ceiling to look like bubbles.  Amelia, Megan and I twisted green crepe paper along the stair railing and the china cabinet to look like sea weed.  Amelia colored and cut out a few little fish, and we were done!  All her guests thought the balloons were really cool.

Amelia came up with the lunch menu on her own.  We bought Pepperidge Farm Goldfish bread, and made either peanut butter or cheese sandwiches.   Amelia wanted snow pea "sea weed", watermelon "fish" and green grape "bubbles".  I could not find KoolAid at Target (really?) and so we made lemonade and added blue food coloring to make ocean punch.

She wanted her cake to look like Nemo, so I tweaked an idea I saw on Pinterest, and here's what I came up with:

Almost everyone had a lot of fun at the party, and one little girl even told Ben that "this is the best party!" which was especially rewarding since she had just had her own birthday party at Bouncy Town two days earlier.  We planned a lot of activities, but the favorite was a treasure hunt with written clues.  Either Amelia or her friend Lexi read all the clues, and then the whole group of little girls would charge through the house trying to find the next clue.  I had planned ten rhyming clues, but if I had known they would love it so much, I'd have planned even more!  The next day, Amelia even came up with and wrote down her own clues because she wanted to keep playing treasure hunt.  Clue number seven said "To find clue number 8, look under the place where you ate" and here's the girls crawling under the dining room table:

The girls caught fish in our bathtub, using squirty fish from Oriental Trading with paperclips in their mouths and fishing poles with washers at the end of the string.  The girls really liked fishing, but it was a little awkward to fish in the bathtub.  We had planned to use the kiddie pool outside, but it was in the 50s, and we thought that was a little cold for all the sundress wearing girls.

Everyone had a turn at pin the fish in the ocean:

Amelia did not want to have any "winning games" at her party because she said it wouldn't be fair if some people didn't get a chance to win.  Nobody minded that there weren't any winners; they all just had fun playing as many times as they wanted.  Amelia and Megan decorated our bean bag board with clownfish, and then Amelia and I made rainbow colored felt bean bag fish.  Everyone had multiple turns throwing fish into the hole.

The girls did ocean sticker pages while we were waiting for everyone to show up, and when things were getting a little crazy after the games, we sat down to make fish necklaces.  I think everyone enjoyed this activity, but it definitely lasted longer for some kids (Megan) than for others.

Then we sang Happy Birthday and ate birthday cake.  Just like when she turned three, Amelia wanted the very center piece of cake with the two orange slice fins, so I had to carefully extract that as the first piece of cake.

And then Amelia opened presents.  Amelia's favorite present was a Mermaid Barbie that can go in the water.  She told me she is "into" Barbies now.   Then the girls all played a game which involved them holding hands and running around in a circle until they all fell down.

And I managed to get a fantastic group shot of all the girls!

I didn't take a photo of the goody bags, but we gave out the squirty fish from the fishing game, squishy tentacle-y "sea urchin" balls that were the prizes from the treasure hunt, mini M&Ms in a little container labeled "fish food", an orange fish hair bow that I made, the fish necklaces that the girls made, and goldfish snack mix that the girls got to mix themselves (the Swedish fish were a huge hit).  Becky designed super cute labels for us that said "Thanks for swimming by!"

Lessons Learned:

  • Two hours is plenty of time for a party.  Our party started at 12, and we were done with everything by 1:40.  
  • If possible, have an extra adult to help with the younger sibling.  I thought Megan would be fine, but she had three separate screaming fits over things like having to take her turn at the bean bag game.  Thankfully, she went to her room and shut the door all on her own, but we could still hear her screaming and either Ben or I would have to go try to calm her down because the other girls kept wondering why she was crying so much.  She's not normally like that, so I suspect she was overwhelmed with all the other girls there who were just a little older, a little faster, and a little bossier than she was.
  • Definitely have something for the kids to do while waiting for everyone to show up.  One girl was at least 20 minutes late, and so the sticker pages were a big hit while we were waiting.
  • If you suspect one of the kids is going through a separation anxiety stage, ask the mom for hints before the party.  It would be nice to be able to avoid having a crying child dropped at your doorstep.  As a followup, plan something low key for that child to do until they feel comfortable joining the group, or have another extra adult handy to sit with that child as she sits by herself at the kids table moping.  
  • While it is cost effective to have your goody bags contain art projects or prizes from the games, keep in mind that YOU will have to take each thing from each child and put it in the correct bag.  This takes a lot more time than you would think, especially if you have seven children and five different things that need to go in the bags throughout the party.  They WILL remember that they had the purple fish and the pink sea urchin.
  • It takes two adults to run a party with 6 five year olds and 1 two year old.  An extra adult would have been helpful to deal with difficult kids.
  • If you hang balloons from the ceiling at a level kids can reach, they will bat them around.  Take photos (like the group shot) BEFORE they discover they can do this.  On the plus side, the kids would have been happy batting balloons around for probably a half hour, if we'd had more of them where they could reach.
  • Have enough fancy party hats for everyone, even though you KNOW nobody likes to wear them.  Once five year old girls see shiny sparkly party hats, they will all want one.
  • Take photos with the cake before the party.