Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cat Cupcakes

After finishing "If You Give a Cat a Cupcake," there was really only one thing to do...go to the beach and collect 187 things in a sand pail. But, since we're under a wind chill advisory, we decided to bake and decorate cupcakes instead.  Ryan helped make Sour Cream Chocolate Cupcakes in the morning--we made both regular size and minis.

"Mini-cupcakes? As in the mini version of regular cupcakes? Which is already a mini version of cake? Honestly, where does it end with you people?"   ~Kevin Malone from The Office
We started decorating after lunch. After watching him frost a few (and lick the knife in between attempts--how could I forget this from our Christmas cookies?), I decided he would exclusively be in charge of sprinkles after I piped on the icing.  

He actually did a great job putting sprinkles on all the minis and I ended up frosting the big ones myself after he went downstairs for a 2-hour nap sneaking up the stairs under his comforter thinking this would surely fool me.  He got to eat 2 little ones he frosted before lunch and I think he approved.

Adam confirmed that they taste pretty darn good.

Even the mini ones.


Keeping up the theme of "If You Give a..." books, we read "If You Give a Cat a Cupcake" after breakfast. Ryan stopped on the page where the cat visits the Dinosaurs in the science museum. He had been playing with dinosaur stickers yesterday and a volcano appeared in both. He asked what a volcano was made of, so we had a quick science chat. I feel like I can handle these at age 3, but check back in with my when he's 8. I only took the minimum 3 Science courses in High School and one doesn't really count because we had an eccentric teacher in his last year before retirement and I kid you not, his grading system was that everyone started with a 70% and you had to earn enough "bonus points" doing things like building bridges out of toothpicks and glue or making a hydraulic robot out of Legos (ours was named Kramer and we spent 2 weeks decorating him) until you got to your desired grade. Then you could (and we did) basically take a vacation for the remainder of the semester. I miraculously passed the Science CLEP test and therefore took zero science in college except for the required Tree-Hugging Environmental 2-credit class (my professor wasn't too keen on my pro-DDT presentation).

Now that you know my extensive expertise in Science, it might shock you that I had to google "Volcano Science Experiment". I knew the two key ingredients (baking soda and vinegar), but ended up using this recipe which also included warm water, dish soap, and food coloring. We skipped the whole "mold a volcano out of 6 cups of flour and salt" and went straight to the Mello Yello bottle.  I can't say it was a gigantic success and didn't erupt as much as I expected without some additional prompting shaking,  but Ryan still thought it was pretty cool and his dinosaurs had fun playing in the liquid hot magma (lame Austin Powers reference). If you got that before I explained it, don't admit it. I don't.

We did it twice with different colors and amounts of water/vinegar, but I'd still do some more experimenting if you were going for a big wow factor. I'm glad Ryan is still easily entertained by things like this. Once he gets to the age where this would invite an eye roll instead of a "WOW" face, I'm going to tell him about that time in 6th grade when I made a light bulb turn on using nothing but wire, pennies and salt water. Mind.Blown.

Kind of like our volcano.

But only kind of.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

ABC Match

Ryan was up much past his bedtime on Tuesday night while we went to the Dutch vs. Rockets basketball game. Uncle Wade coaches the RV boys and Ryan had a hard time wrapping his head around why Aunt Abbie would be cheering against the Dutch, but when asked which team he was going to cheer for, he honestly answered, "I'm not going to cheer for any team. I'm going to play Angry Birds on Mommy's phone." He didn't end up playing on the phone but managed to make it through the entire game with the help of Juliana, Carter, fruit snacks, a Dum Dum, and a Ring Pop. 

Getting to bed so late resulted in a late wake-up for Ryan (thank goodness), but boy was he confused when he came up the stairs. He work up at 8:15, a good 1.5 hours later than usual. Adam was already at school, I was already showered and dressed, it was light outside, and he was still wearing his t-shirt from the night before. He was fully convinced he had just woken up from an afternoon nap and that it was snack time.  I finally convinced him it was breakfast time, not time for goldfish and peanuts.

I had a dentist appointment in the morning (hence my being showered and dressed by 8:15--unheard of otherwise) and my mom came for the morning to play with the boys while I ran a few errands.  After a 2 hour battle, Ryan never did nap in the afternoon, so I knew we'd need some sort of structured activity to avoid total meltdowns before supper.  

I've spent a fair amount of time on Pinterest lately (much of it being in the middle of the night) and judging from my friend's pins, it seems others are also struggling to find indoor activities for their toddlers. I found a great list here and figure out one of them could utilize a previous Pinterest project, a magnet board made out of an oil drip pan.  I taped pieces of paper to the board and drew out all the capital letters of the alphabet, then gave Ryan the magnets and had him match up each letter, talking about the name of the letter, its sound, and some words it starts with as he was searching for each one. Next, we did lowercase letters. Since we haven’t practiced letter recognition before, this was a good way to get started.

If you have any indoor activity ideas for me (preferably ones that can be performed while I hold a fussy baby), feel free to comment! We've got several more days before Ryan goes back to daycare and the weather looks like we'll be spending all of them indoors.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


Obstacle Course

Today's activity was to build an obstacle course upstairs for Ryan to run through. He recently discovered "Temple Run" on my ipad and tried to play it, but he's not quick enough on the swipes to actually play it and we quickly found ChasingYello which is a bit more age-appropriate, but nevertheless, he  understand my explanation of setting up a course where he could be the runner and had to jump over, weave between, and crawl through things to get to the finish line.  Here's a video of his first run:

We tried some modifications including racing against each other, (I did the tunnels exactly once and then cheated from then on out), adding a ribbon at the finish line, and did the course backwards.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Castle Craft

After watching a Curious George episode in which George acts in the community play as a knight and figures out how to defend the castle from the dragon Charky the dog, I asked Ryan if he wanted to build a castle.  We just kind of made up things as we went with this activity.

First, I cut a cardboard box into a castle, including a drawbridge, which was a big part of the Curious George storyline. We used some gift wrap cardboard rolls with paper cones for towers and painted the castle by dipping a rectangle-shaped piece of sponge into some leftover acrylic craft paint.
 Ryan decided the castle needed some knights, dragons, and princesses and since we don't have any of those in our toy collection, he helped pick images off the computer that we printed out for him to paint with watercolors. He tired of painting after a dragon and a half, so I ended up finishing the princesses with color dictation from Sir Ryno.  Then, we glued the princess in the window to the front of the castle and the rest of them to pieces of cardboard tubes so they'd stand up. Rudimentary, but Ryan didn't seem to mind.

I thought he'd tire of the whole castle thing, but that night and the next day, he got it out to play "good guys vs. bad guys" with his Super Heroes.
 It's a little far from a bat cave, but it looks like the Super Heroes are enjoying their new home.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Great Grandma's Pizza Party

On Saturday night, we gathered with some cousins, aunts, and uncles to celebrate Great-Grandma's 84th birthday.  We were at the Pizza Ranch for a good 3 hours and had a great time!

Cousins sending a pic to cousin Colin who had to miss the party to attend a ball. Yes, a ball. Rumor has it he had to wear khakis too.

Carter helping Ryan play "Catching Yello." And Ryan probably explaining the intricacies of Angry Birds.

Cohen looking awkward with my adorable niece, Saylor, who can now say Ryan's name!

Did I mention she is adorable?

Monday, January 21, 2013


I thought it was time to document a few of Ryan's quotes.

Ryan is motivated by the idea of becoming a "big strong football player for Daddy's team" and when eating just about anything (including "Mad-a-mas-car mac & cheese") he'll claim that it will give him big strong muscles.

When I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said, "When I grow up, I'm going to be a big strong football player for the Vikings...or for a good team."  Right on.

After my mom brought over a Lakeshore Learning catalog and Ryan spent an hour pointing at all the toys he "needed" or that "we should borrow", we had a talk about having lots of nice toys and that we weren't going to buy any more toys right now.  When laying down for a nap a few days later, Ryan said, "I hope I dream about all the things in Grandma's catalog that cost money."  Keep dreaming, kid.

Another day he was complaining about his toys and I told him if he didn't appreciate all the nice toys he had, maybe we should give them away to someone who would. He countered with, "We should sell COHEN to someone else instead."

What do all 3-year-old boys like talking about? Here's a clue: You're in another part of the house and you hear him yell, "Whoa! That's a long one!"  If you guessed rolling play-doh into snakes, you would be right...on a different day. On this particular day, it was an observation he was making about what he had just produced in the potty.

He also explained to me how poop is made, "It starts in my toes and in my head and then gets pushed down into my tummy and then a machine makes the poop in my tummy."

He also heard Cohen inhaling and exhaling loudly while I was feeding him and asked if that was the "machine making milk in your tummy". We're just going to leave that one alone.

I asked if he wanted to go to the beach and the ocean when we go to Florida this summer and he was very against it, but I figured out it's because he knows sharks are in the ocean. I explained that they don't come near the shore and he went on to say, "Sharks are not friendly, but whales are friendly and dolphins are friendly and if I ever saw a dolphin, I would throw a beach ball to it and it would catch it on it's nose and hit it back to me. And me and Wade would race the dolphin in the water and there would be a tape for the finish line and I would win." Good plan.

Here are some "mis-cues" or "mispronounciations" that are lingering:
  • Substitutes "d" for "th" at the beginning of a word, like "dese" instead of "these"
  • Substitutes "f" for "th" at the end of a word, like "paf" for "path"
  • Sticks his tongue between his teeth for "s" sounds, like "thnaketh" for "snakes"
  • "R's" at the beginning of a word are getting closer, but "r's" elsewhere are not, like "foit" for "fort" or "bwownie" for "brownie"
  • Substitues "l" for "y" at the beginning of a word, like "lellow" for "yellow", but he's getting much better at this one, saying "ee-hello" like we taught him, or saying it correctly if he says "yee-haw" first.

Skills Update

*DISCLAIMER* This post is not exactly entertaining, but I find it helpful to document skills every once in a while so I can look back and remember when the kids started certain things.

Here are a few new/improving skills that I've noticed in Ryan lately:

  • Potty training has been going great for several months and we now trust him enough to not even have to wear a Pull-Up at night. He knows when he has to go, will get up from bed to go, and can complete the entire task through washing hands by himself, except for wiping which he's decided is easiest if he gets off the potty and bends at the waist with his head on the floor, rump in the air. Sometimes we'll find him patiently waiting in this position until we get there to help. Quite a sight.
  • He can dress and undress himself unless there are buttons/coat zippers involved and even though I know he can do it, he will ask for help putting shirts over his head. He sometimes puts shoes on the wrong feet, but this doesn't seem to bother him at all!
  • He's gotten into the habit of putting his hat and mittens in his sleeve and hanging up his coat in the closet. We installed a 3M hook low in the closet for just this purpose and it's worked well.
  • When coloring, he still just scribbles in the general area of the picture outline. We've tried tracing the inside of a stencil, but he won't hold the pencil close enough to the bottom to be very effective. He'll draw a closed shape if you ask him to draw a circle, but can't really draw other shapes on command. However, today I asked if he wanted to draw a snowman and he drew this one all by himself, explaining as he went that it needed a circle, two eyes, a nose, a mouth, two arms, two legs, and buttons. This is the first recognizable picture I've seen him draw.

  • I bought an  age-appropriate scissors and we worked on cutting today, putting his fingers in the right place and holding his hand the right way. He was a bit resistant to my instructions at first, but then was really excited and cut a sheet of paper into tiny pieces.  I also showed him how we can make snowflakes, but he just left that to me and informed me that most of them did NOT look like snowflakes at all. Obviously, this picture is what I entertained myself with while I supervised, not his project. I could have taken a picture of his, but it was basically a giant pile of tiny triangles.

  • Ryan likes playing with Play-doh, but, as predicted, the first thing he did with his new colors was just mix them all together into one lump. He's rolled out snakes before, but last night was the first time he used multiple colors to create a new object. All on his own, he decided that if he had red, green, and black, he should make strawberries! Here's a picture of his best one along with the tray of all his creations.

  • We've tried to encourage Ryan to play independently, since this is a necessity sometimes now that Cohen is around.  He can get out his Hot Wheels and racetrack and play by himself for a while and today he went downstairs and built an entire Lego town/tower using all the blocks and people. He'll also build with wooden blocks and with his magnetic foam shapes and we love seeing his imagination! He needs help designing a train track that will connect in a complete loop, but runs the trains himself.
  • Ryan loves helping in the kitchen and we often talk through recipes with him helping to measure, pour, and stir.  Our biggest challenge is keeping his hands out of the batter!

  • If you ask Ryan what his favorite thing to do is, he'll say "Play Angry Birds on Mommy's ipad."  He knows how to get to the various free versions we have (but will often bonz for other versions that require payment), with Rio and Star Wars being his favorite. He can pass several levels and knows to tap the birds in flight to make them perform various "extras," although I'm not sure he actually knows how to aim very well. I've been informed that he's not the only 3-year-old around who loves playing this game. Although we try to limit his time, we've found the best method is to tell him he can play after supper for a few minutes while we finish cleaning up. This has almost completely solved the slow-poke way he used to eat. He'll now buzz through dinner with minimal negotiation, then will clear his plate and cup to the counter and run to the bathroom to wash his hands.  It also gives us some time to either finish eating ourselves with an un-interupted conversation or wash pots/pans/load the dishwasher without him begging us to play with him. Sometimes he's great at turning it off when instructed and other times, it ends in tears, so we have some work to do in that department.
  • We try to play games at night as a family and, with practice, Ryan's become a better sport.  He is good at Candyland and Hi-Ho Cherry-O, can play Ants in your Pants, and just needs some help recognizing the number on the spinner and going the right direction on Chutes and Ladders. We've yet to finish a "Sorry!" game, even with simplified rules.  Another favorite is a "dragon game" we cut out of the HighLights magazine where you pick a card and advance that color dragon one space forward.
  • Books in bed are another favorite activity and I'll often change words or pause and let him fill in the correct word on books that he is familiar with. I've found this is a great way to learn vocabulary and he'll ask what a word means sometimes. His current favorite story is "How Zebras got their Stripes" and he's learned new words including: extremely, annoyed, fled, enraging, galumphing, amiable, and greedy.  
  • He still loves to look at books by himself, but we've had to limit this so he doesn't stay up too late and if we let him do it at naptime, he won't go to sleep at all. His favorites right now, besides the Zebra one, is his Usbourne "Farmyard Tales", My Fire Engine, Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox, and a funny book called "Psst!" by Adam Rex.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Silly Brothers

Ryan does a great job playing with Cohen, dangling toys for him, letting him hold his finger, patting his tummy, kissing his head, and talking to him (usually a bit too close). This morning, Ryan said he wanted me to take his picture making silly faces for Cohen. I think Cohen liked this too!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Christmas Card/Baby Announcement

Tips: I created this card as a 5x7 collage using the free photo editing software Picasa. I made a collage of my pictures (and of a blue box I had saved as an image) and then used the text tool to add the words.  After saving as a JPG, I uploaded to and waited until they had a sale on 5x7 prints for $0.10 each (code given exclusively on their facebook page). I had to buy envelopes that fit a 5x7 separately, but it was still much cheaper to buy this way rather than pay $.90-$1.40 per card for templated holiday cards.

Photo credits: Ryan's 3-year-old photos and Cohen's newborn photos were taken by Southern Belle Portraiture. (I highly recommend this photographer!) Our family photo was by Hill's Photo Center in Sioux Center and they did a great job with our extended family as well. In all cases, a CD of the digital files was purchased which gave us the copyright to print our own pictures.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cohen: 1 Month

Eating: Cohen eats consistently every 2 hours at night and every 1.5-3 hours during the day.  He can be hard to burp and subsequently will spit up later. He also gets the hiccups often. We haven't tried a bottle yet but will probably need to try it sometime soon to give me a break from having to be available every 2 hours.

Sleeping: Cohen sleeps in his crip at night, going down for the night between 9 and 10:30.  He does wake up about every 2 hours at night eat which means I never get more than 1.5 hours of sleep at a time.  On a positive note, Cohen doesn't have a hard time going back to sleep after each feeding at night and sometimes will give me an extra "block" of sleep in the morning after Ryan and Adam leave, sleeping until 8:30 or 9, which helps me to catch up a little bit.  During the day, he might have a few longer naps of 2-3 hours but will stretch, grunt, and squeak throughout, so it's always a guessing game of how long he'll stay sleeping and when he's truly waking up.  During the day, he naps in his swing, bouncy chair, or with someone holding him and is pretty tolerant of loud noises/light, etc. (pretty necessary, especially when Ryan's home.) This is one of his favorite positions:

Temperament: When Cohen's awake, he's content sometimes, but lately he wants to be held/walked around/patted on the back on someone's shoulder. We think this has to do with him having some gas trouble, so we've been working on a few solutions for that, including diet changes, burping more often, bicycling his legs, etc. It's generally hard to get things done during the day if he's awake, but I think most moms with newborns would agree with that!  He does NOT like the process of changing his diaper or getting dressed. I always try to change him before feeding him so he has a chance to calm down afterward. There's really nothing that can replace an intent stare and the hint of a smile!

Toys:  A few times a day, Cohen will lay on his playmat for "tummy time" (until he gets too crabby) or on his back to look at toys that we dangle for him.  He tolerates a pacifier if you hold it in his mouth for him, but doesn't sleep with one at night. He seems to like listening to me read books to Ryan at night.

Bath: Now that he's had a few tub baths, I'd say he doesn't hate them. He just seems surprised by the water and gets a funny look on his face, but doesn't scream through them. He just hates being cold when it's time to dry off and get dressed. His skin is dry, so we're not doing a lot of baths and are running a humidifier in his room.

We're looking forward to watching him change and grow in the next month!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Foyt Ryan

Tonight Ryan decided to build a "foyt" (fort) with the kitchen chairs and some blankets and then filled it with all of his stuffed animals and pillows. He liked using his flashlight inside since it was so "doyk" (dark)...yes we're still working on the "r" sound, and the "th", and the "s."

He wanted Cohen to come inside to play with him. (But not Nika. "Dogs don't belong in foyts.")

Cohen was pretty content to just chill inside.

Except when Ryan started messing with his feet.
But I'm glad Ryan wants to include his brother and it is fun to listen to the quiet little voice he uses to say "Hi, Cohen! Hi, buddy!" (while all up in his face) and how he comes in from daycare in the afternoon, finds Cohen and tells him that he missed him, or makes sure to give him a kiss on the head before leaving in the morning or before bed.  It won't be too long before these two will be building foyts to-ge-der!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Ryan: 3 years and 3 months

Ryan had a BIG month. With the birth of his new brother, Cohen, which brought him lots of "big brother" gifts and Christmas, he's made quite a haul.  So far, Ryan has been a great big brother, calling Cohen his "little buddy" and always wants him to lay on a blanket or playmat so he can dangle toys in front of him. He also likes to share things like his blankets and toys and says, "Cohen can have them because I'm not using them anymore."

With all the new toys, we've rotated a few out and Ryan has some new favorites. He absolutely LOVES playing with trains on tracks, whether at our house or at either grandparents' house. He also got some fun new farm equipment and expanded his herd of cows, so we've been building lots of fences and farm setups, even combining the farm with the trains so his new "Sodor Dairy" cars can haul milk.  He also got some new Lego people so we've been building houses instead of zoos.  He's much more into games and the current favorite is Hi-Ho Cherry-O. He has also gotten very good at puzzles and can do them independently, including a new Thomas the Train puzzle. He still craves our attention, though, and will often ask if someone will play with him.

We've had a few "attitude" issues lately, mostly around not wanting to eat what we have for supper (or using good manners to do so), not wanting to take a nap, whining about playing the ipad, and chasing Nika or acting too wild in the house. This could be normal 3-year-old behavior, or normal 3-year-old-with-a-new-baby-in-the-house behavior, but we're just thankful he hasn't regressed in other areas, such as potty training.

Ryan loves to tell stories and can spend over 2 hours talking to himself in bed (when he's supposed to be taking a nap). He will also rearrange all this pillows/stuffed animals/blankets in his room. He is in a bit of an "interrupting" and "questioning" phase and will ask us to explain just about anything he hears us talking about or anything he sees on TV. (Don't try to watch a parade or a football game if you want to hear what's actually going on.)

A new favorite activity this month has been playing in the snow. The first time he went out to "help" scoop the driveway, he made two half-hearted attempts to shovel and promptly fell to his back, made a snow angel, and started catching snowflakes on his tongue. He's also gone sledding a few times, including a trip to the Alton hill, which he deemed "too scary".