Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summer School

I know I haven't written in a while, but we've been very busy.  We're taking a little break from our Before Five in a Row work to participate in a Virtual Book Club.  Each week there is a theme with several books to read and different activities that correspond with the book/week's theme.  It has been so much fun participating!  Everyone has really enjoyed doing the activities and reading the books. 


The first week the theme was bugs.  We read several Eric Carle books as well as other books about bugs. 
 After reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar, we made name caterpillars.  Micah has been very interested in letters lately and the sounds that they make so he really enjoyed finding the letters in his name and making a caterpillar out of them.
 Later in the week, we read The Grouchy Ladybug and made our very own ladybug out of a paper plate.  Micah is also very into painting lately and we've done a lot of painting recently so he loves this.

Another activity we did was spraying letter bugs.  Brad drew a bunch of bugs on the sidewalk and put letters in each bug.  We would call out a letter and Micah would find it and spray the bug until the letter disappeared.  He loved doing this.  Who am I kidding?  He loves anything that has to do with water!


The second week we read books with a garden theme.  I didn't think I was going to like this theme, but the books were actually really good and Micah even tried a few vegetables because of what we read!

Micah was supposed to use these shapes to make shape flowers.  He liked watching me make the flowers, but when it was his turn, he just wanted to make a train.  He told me what each shape was...the track, the "trugger," the wheels, the coupler, etc.  Seriously, my little boy is obsessed with trains!

One day we pulled out the paints again and let Micah paint with some potatoes.  He thought it was the coolest thing, especially after reading Growing Vegetable Soup.  Now, when he sees the bag of potatoes he asks if he can paint. 

This doesn't really have to do with gardening, but one morning Brad made this redneck waterbed that I've been dying to try for a long time.  Both of the boys loved it!  Micah thought it was so cool that it was squishy and the water kept moving around.  This is definitely an activity that we will do again!

 Sunday morning after church, Micah was coloring in a coloring book and he found Dumbo.  He especially liked the pictures with the circus train in them (see?  OBSESSED with trains!).  So, he turned around and asked me if I could make Dumbo's train with his Duplos.  He loved that I used a tall line of the single Duplos to make the whistle.  Once it was done, I told him we should find Dumbo and put him in the train.  He loved that!  Then, he wanted me to make a car for Dumbo's mom, then I had to make more cars for the other animals on the train.  Then, I had to add a track and a railroad crossing.  He even grabbed some cars to wait at the crossing and he wanted a person to be the conductor.  This was the first time that I've really seen his imagination come out like that, I loved it!  Making this train for him was totally worth it!

That's what we've been up to lately.  Keep reading to see what we're doing with our next few weeks of the virtual book club!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Disney Tips

I can't believe it's been more than a month since we left for Disney.  Sometimes it seems like it was such a long time ago.  It always amazes me how quickly life returns to normal when you get home from vacation.  You feel like you should be able to ease back into it, but that is never the case.  Oh well, there's always the next vacation to look forward to!

I know a lot of people think we were crazy to take two young children to Disney.  They will never remember being there, but it was still all worth it.  I will never forget seeing their excitement.  And it could quite possibly be the only family vacation we will ever go on where there was no fighting or major tantrum throwing.  This was a vacation well worth it full or memories Brad and I will always cherish.

We learned a few tips along the way and I thought I'd share them with you.

My Tips for Taking Young Children to Disney World

1. Go to the most important park on the first day.

     The kids will be at their best the first day.  They have yet to be depleted of all their energy and will
     be excited and want to do everything.  So, decide which park is most important and go their first.
     My recommendation is Magic Kingdom.  It has the most to do for young children and really is a
     must see any time you go to Disney.

2. Make time for nap.
     Even if your child doesn't take a regular nap, make time to go back to your hotel and rest.  Get to
     the park as early as you can in the morning, do all o
f your must-dos, then head back to the hotel in
     the afternoon.  After being outside all morning and all of the over-excitement even big kids need a
     chance to re-charge their batteries.  After a couple of hours at the hotel, you can re-group and head
     back to the park for more fun.

3. Bring your own snacks and drinks.
     I highly recommend bringing as much of your own food as you can.  The Disney meal plan is a
     great deal, but not if you only have young children. We stayed in a hotel with a full kitchen, which
     I highly recommend.  Every morning we had breakfast at the hotel.  Then, I packed a lunch with
     lots of extra snacks for us to eat at the park.  We either ate dinner out or made something easy at
     the hotel (usually a pasta dish).  My boys are always hungry so it felt like they were always asking
     for something to eat.  We packed lots of granola bars, raisins, fruit snacks, Mum Mums (Micah's
     new favorite!), crackers, and even some fresh fruit.  I used my thermal lunch bag and it kept
     everything nice and cool despite the heat.  Plus, I don't even know how much money we saved by
     not buying all that junk at the food vendors!

4. Schedule your days beforehand and think it through.
Looks like Mommy kept him up too late last night!
     I researched our trip for a month.  I knew which parks we wanted to go to.  I knew which rides
     we would take the boys on and in which order.  I knew which street shows I wanted to catch and
     any other special attractions we might like.  I even booked us a character breakfast.  I knew Micah
     would be scared, but I hoped that the relaxed setting of breakfast would help him to ease up a
     little bit.  Plus, I knew he would love seeing the characters, even if he didn't want them to get too
     close.  But I made one mistake.  Our first night we went to Magic Kingdom.  I insisted that we had
     to stay for the night parade and fireworks show (which we watched from the parking lot in order
     to beat the rush to exit the park).  And then I scheduled an 8:30 breakfast the next day.  I kept the
     boys out until almost midnight and then made them get up at 7:00 the next morning.  Ooops.
     Don't make the same mistake!  If you're planning a late night, make time to relax the next
     morning.  I fully believe our trip would have gone very differently had we allowed the boys to
     sleep in the second morning (or foregone the fireworks show the first night).

5. Babywear.
      Get yourself a good baby carrier (I recommend an Ergo) and wear your baby as much as possible.       We brought our double stroller with and parked it as we entered each world.  We knew Micah
would want to walk most of the time so we wore Judah and let him walk.  It was much easier than
      fighting the crowds with our massive stroller.  We actually got around much quicker and were
      able to get in the lines very easily.  

6. Distinguish your stroller.
     I do recommend bringing a stroller, too.  We had to have something to carry our diaper bags (we
     brought one for each boy and filled it with their snacks, an extra set of clothes, and their diapers),
     lunch bag, and other miscellaneous items in.  Not to mention, Micah did eventually get tired of
     walking and needed someplace to rest.  But there are thousands of strollers at Disney.  And
     everyone else has the same stroller as you. So, do something to distinguish yours.  I meant to bring
    a scarf to tie around our handle, but I forgot it so we grabbed a bungee cord cable from the car and
    wrapped it around the handle.  Worked great.  We were never left wondering if that was our
    stroller or not and never accidentally took the wrong one.

7. Dress your family in similar clothes.
    I know this sounds corny and it is.  Kind of.  A wise woman told me many years ago that whenever
    her family goes somewhere crowded she made her boys dress alike so that if one of them went
    missing and she was asked what he was wearing she could point to another child and say, "that!"
    What a great idea!  Not to mention it makes the pictures look great, too!  I ordered us all matching
    Mickey Mouse shirts from Etsy because I am corny like that.  We got so many compliments on
    them, though.  Workers, other vacationers, even Mickey Mouse pointed them out in the parade and
    "said" he liked them. :)  Next time I will probably order shirts for every day we go (because I'm
    corny like that).

8. Be prepared for anything.
    Don't have high expectations. We're talking about young children here.  They are like loose canons.
    You never know when they're going to go off.  You might think they'll love a ride and instead
     they're deathly afraid of it.  That's okay.  Don't push.  Be willing to say that's okay and try
     something else.  Know your child well.  Know when it's okay to push them a little bit and when
    it's best to back off.  If you're constantly forcing your child to do things he/she doesn't like it's not
   going to be a very enjoyable vacation for anyone.  There was a lot of things Micah was afraid of,
   but there was also a lot of things t
hat he loved.  I think we rode every possible train ride there was.
   But to see his face every time we stepped on a train was priceless.  And that's what the trip was
   really all about.  No fighting.  No tantrums.  Because we followed him.  And in the end, we all had
   a great vacation.

Those are my tips for taking young children to Disney.  Do you have anything to add?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Before Five in a Row: Corduroy

Summer is supposed to be a fun time filled with lazy days and no cares.  But for a two and a half-year-old, summer is really no different than the rest of the year.  With the exception of a few days spent at the beach or pool it's all the same to Micah.  So, Brad and I decided that even though it is now summer we are going to continue tot school with Micah.

We do want summer to be more laid back, however, so instead of structured time we decided on two things.  First, we will do one "fun" activity every day.  This activity can vary greatly.  It can be a learning activity or not.  It can mean going to the park or staying home and playing with sidewalk chalk.  I have a calendar of the month and filled it in with all of our "obligations" such as Micah's gymnastics class and playdates we already have scheduled.  Then, I fill in the rest of the days with an activity that I want to do.  At the beginning of the week I look at what I have planned and make sure I have all the supplies.  This has helped us already so much.  It helps with the "I don't know what to do" that can often happen when staying home all day.  Micah would be perfectly happy playing with his trains all day long, but he's always very excited to do whatever activity we have planned.

The second thing we decided was to do a literature based curriculum this summer called Before Five in a Row.  I taught this curriculum when I worked at a daycare and fell in love with it.  Basically, you read the same book five days in a row and then do an activity to go along with the book.  The activity can be as in-depth or simple as you like.  I love the wonderful literature that the curriculum introduces Micah to and he has really been enjoying reading the stories over and over again.

Last week we read Corduroy.  This is such a cute book about a bear who is looking for a friend to take him home.  After the first reading, Micah asked us several times to read it to him again, he loved it so much.  Here are the activities we did with it:

By his request, we took out one of our quiet activities.  He loves stuffing the pom poms into his bowl.  To make it a little more challenging, I gave him some tongs to use.  He is really getting good at using the tongs!

We had a rhyme that we said and then he got to color a picture of Corduroy.  He was really interested in coloring at first, but that lasted about 10 seconds and Mommy ended up doing most of the coloring.

After Judah's morning nap, I took out some colored ice I had made the night before.  Then, I filled some containers with shaving cream and one with water and let them go at it.  Both boys loved this activity!  Judah especially loved the smooth texture of the shaving cream.  This kept them entertained for a good 30  minutes.  

After Micah's gymnastics class we came home to find that Daddy had set up the little swimming pool and water table for the boys to play.  Everyone was so happy for the warm weather!  The best part was pouring water!  Both boys thought it was hysterical when Micah dumped water on Judah.  I have a feeling it won't be long before Judah fights back and learns how to dump water on his big brother!

I found some picture cards that went along with the story and printed them.  Micah had a fun time trying to match the cards.  This is the first time we've ever played any kind of memory game.  At first he didn't get it, but he caught on pretty quick and loved getting a match!  He's asked to play this several more time since then.  We might have to buy him his first memory game!

Micah loves doing puzzles!  Here he is putting together his Thomas puzzle.  He can do the whole thing by himself.  He got a new Toy Story puzzle last week.  It's lenticular (when I was a kid I think we referred to them as holograms!) so a lot harder to put together, but he did pretty well.

One day, our baby sitter drew a hopscotch for Micah.  Now, whenever he goes outside he hops on the sidewalk and shouts random numbers.  He loves it!  I decided to challenge that love and draw some shapes on the sidewalk.  Micah loved jumping on the shapes and yelling out what they were.  He didn't even need any instruction for me on what to do, he just did it.  He knew all of the shapes without any help, too.  I really wish we had a paved driveway so that we had more space for chalk--this is one of Micah's favorite activities.

The last thing we did was go for a walk.  Of course, no walk is complete without a stick to carry.  We had a storm earlier in the week so there were sticks all over our yard for him to pick up.  We're still working on being careful with them so as not to poke our little brother, though!

Not all of the activities were geared towards Corduroy, but we had a lot of fun doing different things last week, and as a two-year-old he learns from everything we do!  Stop by next week to find out what activities we do with our book this week.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Everyone has a father.  It's easy to be  father.  A father doesn't have to show up to anything.  A father doesn't have to know his child, doesn't have to support him.  Anyone can be a father

But it takes a real man to be a daddy. 

Daddy.  The word a little boy cries out for in the middle of the night.

The man whose hand that same little boy slips his own hand into as they walk down the street.

Daddy.  A man who chases after his son and when he catches him, nails him to the ground to tickle him until tears are streaming from his eyes.

The man who sits on the floor and for hours pulls a toy train round and round a circle because his son said, "Play trains with me, Daddy?"

Daddy.  The man who pulls his baby into his lap and reads him one more bedtime story and sings him one more song.

Daddy.  The man who teaches his sons what it means to be a real man.  To lead his family by example.  To seek after Christ with everything he has.  To act with integrity at all times.  The man who loves his family unconditionally and completely selflessly.  Who serves not just his family, the his community, and the God who he so loves. 

Not everyone can be a daddy.  It takes a lot.  Sleepless nights.  Long days.  Inmeasurable patience and total sacrifice.  A daddy is someone you should hold on to.  Don't ever let go because they are a real treasure.

I am so glad that my boys have a Daddy.  And I continue to look forward to seeing him grow as a Daddy and every day be more like the man he was created to be.  Happy Father's Day to an amazing Daddy, Brad!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Road Trip Tips

Before we left for our vacation I spent countless hours searching pinterest for ideas of what to do with the kids while driving down to Florida.  I knew that we were crazy for thinking we could do an 18+ hour drive with a 2.5-year-old and a 1-year-old.  I wanted to be as prepared as I possibly could be. 

Now that we're on this side of the trip, I can honestly say it wasn't that bad.  Here are some of my tips for road trips with young children:

1. Know your child.  Micah has never slept in the car for a long time.  When he was a baby he would fall asleep and stay asleep but ever since he turned about one he just doesn't stay asleep for very long.  Sleep is important to us so we decided that the majority of our driving would be during the day.  Worked great for us.  The one time we drove at night was a nightmare.  Micah slept for 20 minutes at a time and then would wake up whining.  We didn't end up getting to the hotel until 1am.  If you are confident that your child will sleep well in the car, then maybe night driving will work for you.  Whatever it is, just know what will work best for your child!

2. Have plenty of entertainment!  I stocked up on new entertainment for both of the boys.  Some of the biggest hits were:
This Thomas busy book was awesome!  It has 12 little trains plus a huge storymat to put the trains on.  Plus, the book itself is a story.  By far, Micah's favorite toy the whole trip.  This is all he played with on our trip from Nashville to Atlanta and it was the first thing he asked for whenever he wanted a toy in the car.  It also provided lots of entertainment in the hotels.  They have several other versions, and we also bought the Cars version.

Playing with his Tag Junior
We bought Micah a tag junior and several books to go with it.  He loved reading the books, especially once he discovered that he could make some of them sing!

He also really enjoyed just playing with his toy cars.  We brought all of his Radiator Springs cars.  I gave him a cookie sheet to play on and he was set for a long time.

He loved having his Color Wonders (again, just used the cookie sheet as a hard surface) and putting stickers on paper.

We got a few books on CD that he really enjoyed listening to.  And, of course, we had several DVDs for him to watch just in case.  In honesty, we didn't turn to the DVDs very often (except the day he was sick, that was pretty much all he wanted).  He was so entertained with everything else that he didn't want to watch anything.

Enjoying a yummy cereal bar.
3. Pack lots of snacks!  Before we left, I stocked up on everyone's favorite snacks.  We got goldfish, teddy grahams, animal crackers, raisins, granola/cereal bars, fruit snacks, nuts, fruit, etc.  I put everything in snack size baggies so that we could just pull one out and pass it back.  I stored the snack bags in larger gallon size bags and then everything was put in one of my organizing utility totes from 31 and kept in the front seat by me.  We also bought a gallon of water and filled all of our water bottles up at every stop.  We went super overboard with the snacks, but I never once had a meltdown because someone was hungry.  Also, I tried not to have super sugary snacks since we'd be sitting in the car, but I also wanted easy and what I know he would eat.

Climbing the playplace at one of the many  McDonald's we stopped at.
4. Make plenty of stops.  This can be tough because you just want to be there, but it's important to stop when you need to.  There's not much worse than a crabby toddler who just wants to get out of the car.  We typically stopped every 2-3 hours.  We planned an activity for each day to get us out of the car and stretch, but we also stopped for one meal a day.  We usually chose someplace that the boys could run around, typically somewhere with the playplace.  These stops usually lasted an hour or so and were perfect for everyone!

5. Have something to prop your kid's feet!  We found this out about 4 hours into our trip.  Micah was so uncomfortable because his poor little feet were hanging down his car seat and his legs started to hurt.  We stacked a couple of suitcases/blankets/pillows so that he could straighten out his legs and he was much more comfortable!

6. This one is more about packing, but still a great tip.  I'm sure you've heard to put your child's clothes for the day in a gallon bag.  All accessories, etc. so they can choose their own clothes and everything is there for them.  I didn't think my kids were old enough for this, but we tried it anyway.  Worked great!  I labeled the bags with what day the boys were supposed to wear the outfit and my hubby had no trouble getting the boys read in the morning in an outfit that I approved of!  Also, we discovered that it really does save space in the suitcase (clothes were not bagged on the way home and took up way more room!).  Love this tip!

That's it for now.  Check back soon for my tips on doing Disney with toddlers!

Finally!  Asleep in the car!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Happiest Place on Earth Part 4

By Friday, it was evident that everyone was ready to go home.  Our check-out was 10am so we didn't have a lot of time, but luckily we were prepared ahead of time.  We wanted to stop at Downtown Disney because we hadn't done any shopping and there was two souvenirs we knew we wanted to buy.  Micah started the day off great, but as were at Downtown Disney it was obvious that he was getting very tired.  So, we cut our shopping trip short and got in the van to head to Chattanooga.  But Micah was miserable.  I think it was a combination of being tired and having sore feet.  He just could not get comfortable and ended up crying most of the 8 hour trip.  He wasn't whiny, just sad and there wasn't anything we could do for him.  When we got to our hotel in Chattanooga he was happy to stretch his legs and he got some medicine.

Saturday morning was not looking good.  I thought for sure Micah was going to be sick and we were seriously not looking forward to our next drive.  We gave Micah some Tylenol right away and he actually did really well in the car!  I think he had a bad sore throat and the medicine really helped him to feel better.

On our way to Louisville we stopped in Nashville to visit my sister again.  We were supposed to visit Rock City in Chattanooga, but since Micah was not feeling well we skipped it.  We had lunch with my sister and headed to our hotel in Louisville.  Once we got there we immediately went to the pool.

Sunday morning we went to Louisville Zoo.  Micah was really excited to see the animals, especially since he didn't get to see them all at Animal Kingdom like he thought.  He did so well walking around the zoo and it was a great last opportunity to get out and stretch before our drive home.

That's the end of our trip.  It was definitely a busy 9 days, but we all had a lot of fun.  And now we're all ready to get back to normal!  Stay tuned for some future blog posts with some tips that I learned while on our vacation!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Happiest Place on Earth Part 3

Disney World is not the only thing we did in Orlando.  We knew that Disney would be a bit overwhelming for the boys so we still wanted to do something, but a little more low key.  We decided to go to SeaWorld because Micah loves fish.  We knew he would enjoy it.  As soon as we got there, we headed for the dolphin show.  It was an amazing show!  Very stimulating.  The boys both really enjoyed it.  Then, we walked over to the indoor aquarium.  This was probably Micah's favorite part.  We walked over to the Shamu show, too.  Brad and I were both really looking forward to it, but both of the boys had other plans.  The show wasn't as stimulating and we ended up leaving after about 3/4 of the show.  It was obvious that the boys were hot and tired and we needed to head home. 

Once we got home from SeaWorld, we put the boys down for a nap.  Then, we spent some time in the pool.  It was nice to just hang out together and a great way to spend our last night in Orlando.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Happiest Place on Earth Part 2

Getting to Disney World was half the fun, but let's be honest, everyone wants to hear about how Disney was!  So, here's a breakdown of what we did when in the Happiest Place on Earth.

Monday we arrived at our resort in Orlando.  We decided to stay off property because we knew we'd want a full kitchen and laundry services as well as at least one bedroom to give the boys their own space away from us.  We ended up with a two bedroom condo and could not be happier.  One of the best decisions we made the whole trip!  We were able to put the boys down for nap or bedtime and Brad and I could do what we wanted.  We also saved a lot of money on meals by cooking some of our own.  And we continued to cloth diaper even on vacation so it was great that we were able to wash our diapers at no extra cost to us.

Tuesday I was so excited that I woke up super early and was not able to fall back asleep.  We decided that even though we wanted to be there when the gates opened we would not wake the boys.  We didn't want to do anything to hinder the best attitudes possible!  Once the boys were up we quickly moved into action, eating breakfast and getting dressed.  We spent Tuesday at Magic Kingdom (another great decision since that was where we knew they'd have the most fun and they were the freshest on Tuesday).  Of course, our first stop was to get our ears.  We let Micah pick out his own, but I don't think he ever actually put them on.

Trying to get Micah to dance during the dance party.
When it was time for the street party we thought Micah would have a blast.  We were seriously wrong.  The loud music was too scary for him and he kept asking to leave.  Part of it might have been that he finally got to ride a train right before the parade started and all he wanted to do was go back and ride the train.  Either way, I was a little worried about the evening parade, but he did very well for that one.

Brad and I had low expectations for what we would actually get to see/do while there.  We knew Micah would be afraid of the characters, but we still wanted to give him opportunities to meet them.  We also knew that several of the kid-friendly rides would scare him, too, but if we pushed him a little he would really enjoy others.  Micah especially loved Small World.  We even did it twice.  We had to push him a little, but he really liked Dumbo, too.  Of course, his favorite was any train ride so we rode the people move and the train through the whole Magic Kingdom.

Around 2:00 we decided to head back to the resort so that boys could take naps and we could re-group.  Great decision!  The boys were ready to go and able to make it through the nigh time parade (though they both fell asleep in the car on the way home).  We brought our own glow sticks for the parade and both boys loved playing with them while watching the floats go by.  As I mentioned before, Micah really enjoyed the night parade.  And Judah kept clapping for everyone.  The highlight of the parade for me, was when Mickey saw us from his float and waved, then he made motions to show that he liked our matching shirts.  So fun!  It was a late night for the boys, but so worth it.

 The late night turned out to really bit us in the butt on Wednesday.  I made the mistake of scheduling a character breakfast for 8:30 Wednesday morning.  Sounded like a good idea at the time.  Both boys were very tired.  We knew Micah would be apprehensive with the characters, but his tiredness just made it worse.  He wouldn't even sit in my lap because he knew that the characters were walking on my side of the table.  I could feel him shaking as he sat in his chair, just looking at his plate of food, refusing to even look at anyone that came to greet us.  As each character was getting ready to leave our table, he just looked up at them and very happily said, "Bye bye!" as if he couldn't wait for them to leave.  It was adorable and cute all at the same time.

Judah, however, was great with the characters.  Unfortunately, he was exhausted, and battling an infection at the time, though we didn't know it yet.  He looked so pathetic, so tired.  But all of the characters were so nice and gentle with him.  Mickey especially just melted my heart with the way he was comforting Judah.  It was just priceless.

After the breakfast (at which Judah fell asleep) we headed right for the safari because Micah was very excited to see the animals.  Judah slept through the entire ride, but woke up shortly after.  He seemed to be overheated so we went inside for a little while.  We tried to do something else, but Judah was just miserable and we decided that it would be better for us to head back to the resort so everyone could cool down and get naps.  Once at the resort we found that Judah had a fever and Brad ended up bringing him to the urgent care center.  We were given some antibiotics for him, but when all was said and done it was now 5:00 and not worth returning to Animal Kingdom (which closes at 7:00).  So, Micah and I spent most of the day at our condo just playing, which really ended up being a good thing!

 Unfortunately, our time at Disney was cut a bit short, but we did still have a fun day planned the next day.  I'll write about that later!