Monday, August 22, 2016

"Cupcake Shop" (Coin Counting Practice)


Mercedes learned to count pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters in her first grade math book last year. To practice this skill over the summer, we played games like this. The girls set up a "cupcake shop". Emerald was the "baker", and would tell Mercedes a random price for each cupcake. Mercedes would pick which cupcake she wanted, count out the coins correctly and give them to Emerald, who placed them in her play cash register. The girls were not even aware that they were learning. My favorite kind of "school"!




Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mercedes' Hawaiian Themed 6th Birthday Party


My baby girl just turned 6! She requested a volcano cake and pool party so we decided on a Hawaiian theme. 


Most of the decorations came from my mom's basement. She got them from The Oriental Trading Company for a party she did a few years ago.




Mercedes had a small pile of presents waiting for her when she woke up. An electric guitar, amp and lesson book, a tropical outfit to wear to her party and a few small toys.


I made all her meals festive. This was her breakfast...cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs and fresh strawberry and blueberry smoothie.


Lunch was all her favorite processed junk food that we never have in the house...chicken nuggets, mac and cheese and hot dogs. And a special novelty around here...apple juice!


We got the idea for her cake from this Nerdy Nummies video. Mercedes made her own video you can watch HERE.




With dry ice, it actually smoked! This was a huge hit at the party.


To go with her cake, we made pink lemonade and rainbow fruit kabobs. The plates, cups, napkins and tablecloth came from Party City.






Everything was super festive and fun. Mercedes had a great day and an awesome party!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Mercedes' 6th Birthday Letter

My Dear Sweet Mercedes,

6 years ago, you changed my world. 6 years ago, you made me a mom. For 6 years I have loved you more deeply than I ever thought possible. For 6 years, you have been my life. You and your sister and your soon to be little brother. But you started it all. You started me being a mom. You were the one that showed me it's possible to love another human being more than I love myself. You showed me that I would happily sacrifice any part of myself if that's what's best for you. You gave me the best purpose for my life, the best reason for waking up every day. You and your siblings. But it started with you.

Being the oldest means I made all my first parenting mistakes with you. I push you harder, expect more of you, ask more of you and have the least amount of fun time to spend with you. You have to share more, work harder, have more patience and more responsibility than any of your siblings will ever have to. I'm not doing it on purpose, I promise. From what I've heard, this is just life as an oldest child. Part of me feels guilty for not being able to raise all my children the exact same way. Part of me feels like being the oldest means you got the bad end of the deal. But then I see you. I watch you interact with your little sister. I see you becoming someone amazing. With a huge heart, tons of patience and a complete willingness to help me whenever I need you. You are responsible, thoughtful, kind, smart, a hard worker, and selfless beyond your age.  I have to think that maybe, maybe being the oldest is good for you. Maybe you are learning lessons that will turn you into an amazing human being. Lessons your siblings won't quite be able to learn in the same way as you can, as the oldest child.

You are truly turning into an incredible little person. I love to try to guess what you will end up doing when you grow up. Whatever it is, I bet it's going to be very creative and artistic. You love all things music. You love to sing, dance and you just requested (and will receive!) your first guitar and guitar lessons from Daddy for your birthday. You love to paint and color. Your new favorite hobby is adult coloring pages. You just completed one that took you three weeks! You have such a long attention span and patience for projects. You also love to bake and film baking videos, and to watch other people's baking videos online. You are also very active and into fitness. You love doing my workouts with me, especially yoga. You are getting so flexible and good at balance! You completed your first year as a part of Dazzler's Christian Dance Team and will start your second year in a few weeks. Over the summer you have been busy with gymnastics class, swimming and riding your bike with no training wheels!

You are beautiful inside and out and I'm so happy that you belong to me. I love being your mom. You make my job so easy and fun. I love you, sweet baby girl. Happy Birthday!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Mercedes' Summer School (1st Grade, 2016)



Mercedes completed 1st grade last spring. To keep her brain fresh over the summer, we have been checking out Level 1 readers from the library for her to read to me each day. Sometimes she flies through a whole book in one sitting, other times she just reads a few pages a day and the book takes us a week to complete, depending on the difficulty level. Even though they are all Level 1, some are super easy with a single short sentence on each page, simple words that repeat and rhyme, and some are very challenging with full paragraphs of difficult words on each page. I try not to push Mercedes to the point of frustration. I encourage her to read as much as she can handle but not so much that she gets discouraged. We usually end up reading about 15-20 minutes a day. Her favorites are Splat the Cat books and My Little Pony books.

After she reads to me, I reward her by reading a few books of her choice. Ben has started reading the girls chapter books in the evenings before bed, too. Their favorite books of the summer are from the Magic Tree House series. 


The other subject that doesn't get a summer break is Bible. Ben does Bible with the girls after dinner every night. He chooses a Bible story from one of our 4 Bible story books (Biblically accurate Bible stories told at a level a child can understand). He uses "My Good Night Bible by Bean Sprouts, Big Ideas in the Bible by Charles R. Swindoll, The Children's Bible in 365 Stories by Mary Batchelor and Egermeier's Bible Story Book by Elsie E.Egermeier, revised by Arlene S. Hall. He reads a devotional every night out of The One Year's My Princess Devotions, the preschool addition by Karen Whitings,and helps the girls memorize one Bible verse a week from the book I Can Learn the Bible (52 scriptures every kid should know) by Holly Hawkins Shivers. Whenever there are Bible verses to look up in any of these books, Ben uses Mercedes' NIV version Precious Princess Bible by Zonderkidz.

We have also been spending lots of time this summer playing outside, coloring (we are really getting into adult coloring pages lately), painting and doing other crafts, and playing games. The girls' current favorites are Slamwich and Ruckus. We have a pool pass so more often than not we go to the public swimming pool at night when Ben gets off work, and in the afternoons on his days off. The girls are both taking a gymnastics class this summer and love to practice their tricks and make up dance routines every day. This summer is a beautiful balance between physical activities, unstructured play time, arts and crafts and school review. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

Emerald's Summer School (Kindergarten, 2016)

At the end of May, I bought Emerald a Big Kindergarten Workbook from School Zone. My plan was to do about 4 pages a day throughout the summer to keep her brain fresh and exercised. Instead, Emerald ADORED her book, did more like 12-24 pages a day just for fun, begged me to do more school constantly and finished her book in about 6 weeks. Seriously, I cannot keep up with how fast my girls want to learn. 

Our new summer school routine is to spend about an hour a day playing educational games, reading books, doing puzzles and practicing with flashcards. I keep all of these activities in a small plastic bin and I let Emerald pick which she wants to do each day. She LOVES this and BEGS to "do summer school" every day. Mercedes usually plays with us.


For Emerald to choose from, we have Alphabet Bingo, Shapes Lotto, Numbers Lotto and Locations Lotto.


Flashcards to practice numbers, letters, shapes, colors and opposites. 


And puzzles to practice shapes, numbers and letters. 

She can also choose to play games to "exercise her brain" like memory.

After we play several games and activities, Emerald picks some stories from our bookshelf for me to read to her. The girls are really into reading books this summer. They have just finished the summer reading program at the library and it helped them to remember how much they love books!


Ben stays involved in the Bible part of the girls' education by reading from a variety of Bible books every night. He chooses a Bible story from one of our 4 Bible story books (Biblically accurate Bible stories told at a level a child can understand). He uses "My Good Night Bible by Bean Sprouts, Big Ideas in the Bible by Charles R. Swindoll, The Children's Bible in 365 Stories by Mary Batchelor and Egermeier's Bible Story Book by Elsie E.Egermeier, revised by Arlene S. Hall. He reads a devotional every night out of The One Year's My Princess Devotions, the preschool addition by Karen Whitings,and helps the girls memorize one Bible verse a week from the book I Can Learn the Bible (52 scriptures every kid should know) by Holly Hawkins Shivers. Whenever there are Bible verses to look up in any of these books, Ben uses Mercedes' NIV version Precious Princess Bible by Zonderkidz.

We have also been spending lots of time this summer playing outside, coloring (we are really getting into adult coloring pages lately), painting and doing other crafts, and playing games. The girls' current favorites are Slamwich and Ruckus. We have a pool pass so more often than not we go to the public swimming pool at night when Ben gets off work, and in the afternoons on his days off. The girls are both taking a gymnastics class this summer and love to practice their tricks and make up dance routines every day. This summer is a beautiful balance between physical activities, unstructured play time, arts and crafts and school review. 

Cardboard Firework Stamps


I had three friends send me THIS LINK and tell me they thought the girls would enjoy this craft for the 4th of July. I figured we'd better give it a try! We just cut a wrapping paper tube in several pieces and then cut thin slices all different sizes to make different sizes of fireworks. These made awesome fireworks. It was so easy to do, and we loved how they turned out!











Saturday, July 9, 2016

Homemade Fondant (1st Attempt)


Anyone who follows my blog knows by now that my girls LOVE baking. They watch all kinds of baking videos on YouTube with creative and complicated ideas. Many of them use fondant to decorate their cakes and cupcakes. Fondant is expensive to buy and not always gluten free, so we decided to experiment and try to make our own. 

This recipe came from the Nerdy Nummies Cookbook, which I totally recommend buying. So many fun and delicious recipes in there to try!

Ingredients:

1 bag mini marshmallows
3 Tablespoons water
6 cups powdered sugar
Oil
Food coloring gel 

Directions:

Place marshmallows in a microwave safe bowl and coat with the water. Melt marshmallows in the microwave and stir. Sift half of the powdered sugar and pour the melted marshmallows over top. Mix well, then add the rest of the powdered sugar. Use oil on your hands and knead the fondant, adding powdered sugar and your oiled hands until the fondant is the correct consistency (soft but mold-able and not sticky). Coat hands with shortening then add food coloring and knead until fully colored. 

I have not perfected the consistency yet but this recipe certainly takes the place of store bought fondant. It's way cheaper and tastes delicious! It's very easy to work with. The girls and I had so much fun playing with it like play doh the first time we made it.











Our second attempt at homemade fondant was while we were making these Ninja Turtle Cupcakes.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

4th of July Treats (2016)

 As much as we can, we try to stay away from artificial dyes, flavorings and horrible amounts of sugar. I usually make exceptions for holidays (as you can tell from my Baking Creations page). This year our original idea was to make a Captain America cake, which would have been AMAZING. But the girls have had a hard time adjusting to our new later bedtime summer schedule and have been sleeping weird hours, napping a lot and have been extra cranky. I didn't feel like letting them eat mouthfuls of pure sugar mixed with red dye #40 on top of staying up til midnight watching fireworks, so instead we came up with a bunch of fun, festive sort of healthy-ish 4th of July treats to enjoy. These treats were made and enjoyed over the entire loooong 4th of July weekend... Thursday-Tuesday...definitely not all in one day! The girls had fun helping me with each of these treats.


Raspberries stuffed with white chocolate chips.


Banana split bites with strawberries and bananas dipped in melted chocolate with crushed peanuts sprinkled on top. Idea from Nerdy Nummies.


Lemonade popsicles with strawberries and blueberries..another Nerdy Nummies idea.



 White chocolate dipped pretzels with rainbow sprinkles that reminded the girls of fireworks.


Our 4th of July breakfast...chocolate chip pancakes, strawberries and blueberries with whipped cream. 


Ben got fancy and bought a little mini movie theater popcorn machine from Aldi. We always bring popcorn with us to watch the city fireworks.


And banana boats. Bananas split in half, stuffed with marshmallows, milk chocolate, white chocolate and peanut butter chips. Wrapped in foil and melted on the grill or in the oven, served over ice cream.