Sunday, September 13, 2015

Apple Week

As I watched many students head back to school this year, I was happy to know that Jaden and Cody could stay at home with me for at least another year. This mommy isn't quite ready for her boys to be that big yet! ;) I did, however, want to implement some type of preschool experiences into our day. I figured that the learning would be good for Jaden and Cody, and I knew I'd appreciate adding a bit of structure to our days, too. 

For our first week, we followed an apple theme and found tons of fun activities on Pinterest. On day one, we started by looking at apples...

taking big apple bites...

and then identifying the different parts of an apple.

Using those same apples (the boys were done with their apple sampling after 3 or 4 bites), we made apple print pictures. I loved the idea to use a fork as a handle for the apple. This made the printing process so easy for Cody and Jaden's little hands.

The boys' resulting apple print picture wasn't all that attractive (we focused on the process and had fun smearing the apples all over the paper!). So, I cut their pictures into the shape of an A and decided we could save these for a letter book.

The next day, we did an activity involving scissors. Just recently I found these awesome "training scissors" at Walmart. The handles pop back open after each cut so kids only have to focus on pinching the scissors together. It definitely simplifies the cutting process! Jaden and Cody each cut squares from red, yellow or green paper strips.

The boys weren't actually as independent as these photos make it seem. When I wasn't taking their picture, both boys still wanted me to help hold on to the paper to keep it straight. But, they are making progress! :)

Once the squares were cut, we covered these apple outlines with glue and used the paper squares to decorate them.

Our next activity was one we modified on the go, but it ended up being one of Cody and Jaden's favorites! The boys loved this book we found at the library, due to its repetition and rhyme. They enjoyed counting the apples that remained on the tree from page to page.

So, we decided to make an apple tree of our own!

In the book, different animals each take an apple off the tree, angering the farmer and making him shout, "Yippee, fiddle-dee-fee! Horse/cow/sheep, save one for me!" So for our game, Jaden and Cody chose an animal they wanted to be and stomped (Jaden) or slithered (Cody) to the tree while making a fitting animal sound.

Then, they'd take an apple (or two or three) from the tree while Mommy would shout, "Save some for me!"

At first, the boys chose to be a different animal for each run to the tree. By our third or fourth time of playing this game, Jaden and Cody just stuck with one animal and stole handfuls of apples at a time. In the clip below, the boys are growling lions. :)

For our third day of apple activities, cousin Ryan got to participate, too. (Kim and I were swapping baby-sitting for each other that week so we could attend functions at each of our churches. How nice it is to live by family!) This activity was called The Exploding Apple. It was basically just baking soda and vinegar inside of a cored-out apple.

But no matter the container, seeing this reaction always brings joy!

The Jumping Apple Seeds activity also involved baking soda and a small bit of vinegar in a glass of water.

At first we thought this activity wasn't working, but after 15 to 20 seconds of dumping in the vinegar, we saw the seeds start to rise and fall in the glass. How exciting! :)

Ryan also helped us with this apple hide-and-seek game. While the boys were having their morning snack, Mommy hid some paper apples (our same ones from the Ten Red Apples game) around the house. This time, though, the apples were numbered.

After finding the hidden apples, the boys had to match the number on the apple with the number on the tree. All three boys were pretty good at this game!

After we played once, the boys wanted to hide the apples for me... I enjoyed finding all the apples in just two enormous piles. :)

On our final day of apple activities, the boys and I bought a variety of apples from the store. The boys told me that they never had tasted a green apple before!

We cut into each apple, tasted a bit of each one, counted the seeds, and then made some yummy apple bars!

Finally, we placed some seeds and a damp paper towel inside a baggie, hoping we could make the seeds begin to sprout. I had read on a blog somewhere that this was possible, but apparently it doesn't work so well with apple seeds. Unfortunately, our seeds never sprouted, but the boys still enjoyed checking on them each day. And all three of us still learned something from our experiment. Apple seeds need a bit more TLC to grow. :)

All in all, we enjoyed our week with apples!

Monday, September 7, 2015

August Misc.

Here are some random playtime pics from the month of August...

Nearly every day after naptime, Cody asks for "books in my crib" (even though, yes, he is obviously not in a crib anymore). His routine of flipping through a stack of 12-15 books is a perfect transition from naptime to wakeful time. Since Cody almost always wakes up earlier than Jaden, Mommy appreciates the extended quiet-time, too! :)


Lately, one of the boys' favorite pastimes is creating large piles (messes) in random areas of the house. They usually choose a bed or couch or closet (shown below) and make an enormous pile of books, stuffed animals, pillows, cars, toys, etc. The upside of this activity is that it keeps Jaden and Cody happily occupied for quite some length of time! The downside-- I'm sure you can guess-- is that the clean-up is not nearly as entertaining...

Another recent popular toy is our set of dominoes. Sometimes, Cody and Jaden will stack the dominoes in tall towers or put them on toy plates and pretend the dominoes are food items. Usually, though, they create wonderfully long roads or houses or other creations. In the picture below, the boys said they were creating a boat (can you identify the sail and the water line?).

We've been LOVING water play in our Texas heat! Our backyard is a shady place for playtime in the mornings, so one day we set up our water table and wading pool there.

 Since Jaden and Cody didn't particularly enjoy water-play last summer, we never even took this pool out last year. The pool certainly seems to have shrunk from the time our boys were one! :) Even though it's a bit small for our growing boys, Jaden and Cody devised a fun game of touching our back door and then running and jumping into the pool.

For Jason's birthday, Matt and Kim gifted Jason with concert tickets to see the Christian singer Josh Wilson. As part of the gift, they offered to watch our boys so we could attend the concert with another couple. What a generous gift! We had a great evening! During our absence, Matt and Kim bravely ventured out on a walk with all 5 boys. Look at this supermom! :)

The boys loved stopping to see some "wildlife" along the way. :)

Jaden and Cody LOVE their cousin time!

One day this month, I pulled out a number activity idea (modified from one I saw on Pinterest). First, I wrote the numbers from 1 to 12 on small stickers and had the boys place the stickers inside two muffin tins.

I didn't give the boys any specific directions about how to place their stickers, and it was fascinating for me to watch them! Jaden very methodically took his stickers off in order, counting the numbers as he did so. He also placed his stickers in neat rows in the muffin tins. Cody, on the other hand, had absolutely no order to his numbers or his placement but still carefully placed one sticker in each spot, as I had asked.

Next, the boys counted and placed beans into the muffin tins to match the numbers. They didn't quite make it all the way up to number 12 before they got restless and just started dumping piles of beans in. But, that part made for some fun playtime, too!

In our Montana home, we never had a specific toy room for Jaden and Cody. So, after setting up the boys' playroom here in Texas, I wasn't exactly sure how I wanted to decorate the walls. I finally decided to make it kid-centered by filling it with some of the boys' own art. We spent a few days working on these letters, using a different medium for each one (marker, dot painters, torn paper & glue, and paint).

Since Jaden's name has one extra letter than Cody's, I had the boys complete the N together by covering it with stickers. I was pleased with how their names turned out. The best benefit of this decoration is that the boys have looked at these so often that they each now can spell their own name.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Papa & Grammy Visit

In early August, Grammy and Papa drove out for a visit. You know your parents love you when they plan a visit smack in the middle of a hot and humid summer in Texas! It was a unique experience for them to split time with two different families in the same community. We were able to enjoy a few activities all together during their visit. One such activity was going to see some bats in downtown Houston. Kim had heard about this event, and we all thought our boys would love it. 

For some reason, thousands of bats have made their home underneath this random overpass. Each night near sundown, the bats awaken and make a mass exodus

Before the bats officially flew out, we peeked under the overpass. We could hear the bats, SMELL the awful bat smell...

...and even catch a few glimpses of some small awakening bats.

The boys waited somewhat patiently...

Gradually, the bats started to come out from hiding and fly in circles underneath the overpass. Suddenly, and seemingly for no particular reason, the bats all simultaneously flew out into the nighttime air. It was hard to capture the moment on camera, but it was quite fascinating to watch!

Thanks for letting us tag along on this trip, Matt and Kim!

A few days after our bat outing, Grammy and Papa came to stay at our home. Jaden and Cody could hardly contain their excitement! They couldn't wait to have two new playmates. For the first hour or so after Grammy and Papa's arrival, the boys suggested game after game to play. Papa and Grammy willingly shot a few baskets, 

played a LOT of hide-and-seek,

and designed Lite-Brite creations.

Another day, Grammy took out a game that she frequently plays with her tutoring kids. Cody and Jaden were very interested in these puzzle-games.

Papa even gave Cody and Jaden a front-row seat to his Cardinals-viewing one night!

Often, the boys would rope Papa and Grammy into playing games before they were even showered or ready for the day yet! Papa and Cody count for yet another game of hide-and-seek.

Cody and Jaden showed Papa and Grammy how to play Cootie....

...and Busy Town. What wonderful playmates!

One morning, we met Kim and her boys at the Children's Museum. Grammy and Papa had gifted our boys with an annual pass to this museum for their birthday. We wanted Grammy and Papa to see just how much Cody and Jaden appreciated their gift! The boys enjoyed the large lite-brite,

fishing at the water table,

reading books with Daddy and cousin Nathan,

building with Papa,

driving the fire truck with cousin Ryan,

and burying Ian in the mulch pit.

Ryan even took a turn later but didn't last as long as Ian. :)

We took a break for a picnic lunch outside the museum.

And then it was back inside for more playtime! By far, Cody and Jaden's favorite activity was "shopping" for food. They loved identifying all the food items that they put in their baskets. Daddy served as the cashier at first.

As the kids "scanned" their items, a small light would shine on their items. What a fun activity center! The boys could've shopped all morning!

Ian took a turn as a cashier, too. Daddy even gave the boys some real money to use when it was time to purchase their food. I'm sure this section of the museum will be a popular one for our boys for quite some time!

Another day, Papa and Grammy gave Jaden and Cody a new experience in the kitchen-- making homemade soup noodles. After Papa made the dough, both boys helped roll it flat.


Then it was time to cut the noodles. At their home, Papa and Grammy do this step the easy way, with their pasta machine. Since we don't own one, Grammy taught the boys how to cut the dough by hand. The tasty soup they made was well worth the extra efforts!

We loved our time with Grammy and Papa! This last series of pictures is one that best captures Cody and Jaden's joy at playing with their grandparents. Recently, the boys have really enjoyed performing short action rhymes from their High Five magazine (thanks for this wonderful subscription, Grammy and Papa!). After acting out a few rhymes on their own, Cody and Jaden asked Grammy and Papa to join them....

"Put your elbows on your knees"

"Give yourself a squeeze!"

And.... "dance, dance, dance!"

We love you so much, Grammy and Papa! Thanks for your willingness to play games and be silly, for your love and care for our family, and for your models of faith to us all. We enjoyed your visit!