Monday, December 10, 2012

Holiday Letter

This year I was blessed with a great Tiny Prints credit for a blog entry I did about their holiday cards. I of course used this to cover the entire cost of our holiday cards this year (yup, I'm frugal like that). Of course, that meant choosing a less expensive layout that didn't have room for our holiday letter. Yes, I suppose I could have typed out a letter on paper and slipped in into the envelope, but really, I'd love it if more of our friends and family occasionally visited my blog. Then they could be updated on what we're doing and see recent photos of the boys any time throughout the year! So, I'm posting our short holiday letter here for 2012.

Happy Holidays 2012

Dear Family and Friends,

We hope 2012 has treated you well! We have had a wonderful, although not super exciting year. Honestly, "not super exciting" has been quite nice. There were no job changes, moves, babies, health issues, or anything else to consider truly exciting. Instead, we just enjoyed our year together and spent our time doing things we love.

We spent the beginning of the year waiting for the weather to dry up enough to work on the backyard. Then spring was spent preparing the backyard flower bed for the fruit and veggie garden. By late spring the plants were thriving and we'd be looking at gorgeous crops of zucchini, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, and squashes. We spent a lot of the summer tending to the garden and swimming as well as finally tending to the front yard. Long gone is the hill of dirt and field of weeds. We now have a wonderful bordering flower bed and a full hill and yard of green grass (still speckled with quite a few weeds, but we're working on it).

The boys started homeschool preschool with mom in the fall and have been thriving in all aspects. We took a break to take a vacation to Disneyland (yup, vacations these days are to Disneyland instead of somewhere exotic). We had a blast as a family. I took the boys out to Arkansas for a family reunion and met a ton of wonderful relatives. The boys had a blast playing in the mud and meeting the family, so that was fantastic.

There are still plenty of house projects to work on, but we feel like we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel! This house really feels like home now and we are so much more content than we were at our previous location (although we miss our dear friends in the old neighborhood!).

We look forward to seeing what adventures 2013 brings our way, and we hope you have a fantastic and safe holiday season!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Baby Gizmo's $500 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

Want to win a $500 Amazon gift card? I know I would love to! Since I've already bought all of our Christmas and birthday gifts (it's an expensive time of year when 3/4 of our family has a birthday within 2 weeks of Christmas), a $500 gift card would help offset costs by letting me buy other items we need in the future (laundry detergent, diapers, wipes, Plum Organics pouches, etc...). I'd probably use some of that gift to me to gift to a friend's kids too who are experiencing a tough year and will be having a lean Christmas. Christmas is not about gifts of course, but every kid deserves to have something new and fun this time of year the same as all their friends and peers.

The $500 Amazon Gift card Giveaway is coming thanks to the great site The Baby Gizmo Company in partner with a new site called Sunny Bump. This Baby Gizmo has some wonderful posts including reviews, giveaways, news, recipes and more. I've really enjoyed reading her blog and of course entering all the giveaways! I haven't won anything yet, but I still enjoy entering. Right now she is doing a 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway. A new product is being given away each day! Right now you can enter for a Britax Carseat and some very cool crib bedding (I won't be entering that one since Baby Monkey will be moving to the toddler bed in the next 6 months and already has bedding we love). Check it out!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Recipe Pile Up

Well, I thought I'd have time to post a few recipes last week, but somehow that all slipped away from me and I ended up posting absolutely nothing!

These first two are more ideas for quick and easy meals and not so much a recipe, but I wanted to share.

Toads in a Hole
First, we'll cover breakfast. Toads in a hole is what we have been calling these.

A bear and 2 pumpkins

I got this idea from another friend and have also heard them called "bird's nests." Basically it's a fried egg in the middle of a piece of toast. Our twist that the boys really love? We use shaped cookie cutters to cut the piece out of the middle of the bread. Makes for some cute eggs. Here's how to do it:

Take a piece of bread and spread a thin layer of butter on each side. You can skip this step and just add enough butter to coat the bottom of the pan, but you'll get one really crisp side of the toast and one less crisp side as the first side will soak up most of the butter. Still tastes great and is a lot faster (this is actually my method of choice lately).

Use a cookie cutter to remove the center of the bread. Place bread in a heated pan (or place in pan and let the pan heat) and add the egg into the hole (the pan needs to be warm enough so the egg doesn't run out under the bread). Sprinkle with a little sea salt. Cook and then flip and cook to desired doneness. Serve! Tastes great with a sprouted wheat bread or a bread like Ezekiel 4:9 bread.

Tortilla Wrap Lunch

My good friend introduced me to what my kids like to call "turkey rollers." Yeah, I'd had the Costco version before, but never did think about making my own successfully. So I picked her brain and still frequently make the kids their favorite version - turkey, cheese, and a little cream cheese to seal it with. I've also done salami, turkey, and mustard with greens as well as sunflower butter (you could use peanut butter if you don't have nut allergies), honey, and a banana (terrific for breakfast!). Roll and slice and you're done. However, I wanted to make a more "grown up" version for me for lunch as well as make them vegetarian/vegan to go along with my reduce my consumption of animal products attempt. Note that I said attempt. It's a slow process, but one I'm determined to work toward to help lower my cholesterol. 

I decided to share the two pictured above because they were so good (so good that I ate almost half of the first one before I remembered I hadn't taken a photo!), easy, and healthy. I usually prefer flour tortillas, but this particular week I tried out some small taco sized corn tortillas. They don't "roll" as well as flour and often crack, so I ate most of these as "tacos" instead of rolls. Eh, they still tasted just as good!

The top is corn tortilla spread with a very thin layer of tofutti (tofu version of cream cheese - you could use cream cheese if you prefer) and a thin layer of roasted red pepper hummus. A very small sprinkle of feta cheese (obviously not my vegan one), a row of kalamata olives and some arugula. Yum!

The bottom is tofutti and roasted red pepper hummus topped with an avocado (I think it was an entire half of an avocado. Big Monkey ate the other half; Baby Monkey hates avocado) and arugula. Simple and oh so good!

I also discovered a great tofu coconut curry recipe this week, but I don't have the photo on my computer, so that post will have to come later! Enjoy!

Monday, November 19, 2012

H is for Hippo and K is for Kite

Today is a two for one post - you get two weeks smooshed into one post. 

Two weeks ago we did H is for hippo. I didn't take very many photos, so this first week will be short. I had hoped to take the boys to the zoo where the hippo is, but it rained on the day we had planned to go. We've been before, so they've seen the hippo. He mostly sleeps in the water by the fence. That's about it. Instead of the zoo, we opted to watch hippo UTube videos on the iPad. Strangely, the boys enjoyed the video of the hippo chasing a reserve ranger in Africa the most. Sigh, boys... 

While Big Monkey practiced cutting, Baby Monkey tried cutting an old gumball craft from last week. He wants to do everything big brother does, which gets interesting when it involves scissors, glue, paint, or push pins.  


We fed the hippos! Each hippo got fed the number of beads that corresponded to the number on his belly. We had a good time with this. Best counting activity we have done in a long time.

We moved on to some fine motor skills practice by lacing beads onto pipe cleaners. Baby Monkey went from beads to trying to stick the measuring cup to his face.

Which then turned in to putting the bead container on his head...

 And of course, Big Monkey had to join in. They actually ran around the room with these on their heads for quite awhile.

Color puzzles this week involved words. Big Monkey had to match the colored hippos to the right word, which were also colored the same color. He really matched color to color, but it allowed him to see what the words look like as well.

Last week we did K is for kite. I had hoped for a breezy week in November when I scheduled this, but alas, we had rain on the day it was windy and calm weather the rest of the week. So we couldn't fly kites. We'll have to do that again soon.

It's tough to get photos where both boys look excited. Here Big Monkey looks happy and Baby Monkey looks a little less than happy, but not upset at least.

We practiced some size sorting with our triangle stand. The boys love that thing, although you can see that Baby Monkey has bent it from trying to use the triangle as a tunnel, step stool, and who knows what else. Mama Monkey says "don't do that..." a lot. 

It seems that we always have at least one rough day each week where Baby Monkey just does not want to cooperate. He'll want all my attention and likes to sit and pout. 

Big Monkey did prewriting practice with the dry erase markers.

And of course Baby Monkey had to do the same thing. I tried to pick a dry erase marker close to the color of his pajamas since he almost always ends up with at least one mark on his clothes somewhere. Dry erase markers may wipe off dry erase boards easily, but they do not easily wash out of clothes. 

Big Monkey practiced some fine motor control with the giant push pin.

Yup, so did Baby Monkey. This was his first experience using the big push pin. Usually I tell him, "ouchie, it will poke you." So when I gave him the pin he kept saying "ouchie" as he poked the paper. He did a really good job. He poked along the letter K three times before he decided to go postal and just start randomly poking everywhere on the page. No blood was shed though! 

 We read Curious George Flies a Kite. My boys love Curious George, but the original stories often make me chuckle or even cringe sometimes. I'll have to be sure to share the things I see as we read the stories. Flies a Kite has a part in it (the original 8 stories are long and often have 3-4 sub stories in them) where George sees a man with a fishing pole. George refers to him as "the fat man" twice. Needless to say, this has prompted conversations of how people come in all shapes and sizes and that typically we shouldn't refer to someone just by the way they look on the outside.

We tried using clothes pins on yarn for counting this week. Big Monkey was not as in to it as feeding the hippos last week.

I broke down and let Baby Monkey play some preschool apps on the iPad one day because he kept throwing everything Big Monkey was doing on the floor. This allowed Big Monkey and I to quietly work together, but of course it was also a bit of a distraction.

Yup, that is a red dot sticker on my kid's forehead. He stuck one to each of our foreheads that morning. Not sure why. We had fun with this project. It was color matching. Big Monkey had to match the same colored pipe cleaners to the kite. I thread them through a hole I punched in the bottom of the kite. Then he had to gather all the same color bows for the tail. I wrapped the pipe cleaner around each bow for him. He tried the wrapping part, but ended up bending the bows and getting frustrated. So now I have about 8 kites of different colors in my office on the floor as the boys wanted to play with them.

We are taking the entire week of Thanksgiving off from school. It's nice to have the break and allow us free mornings to play, explore, cook, and just be. So there probably won't be another post for about 2 weeks! 

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! Be safe and enjoy the time with family and friends.

Friday, November 9, 2012

And the Winner is...

According to the random number generator I used, the winner of my Tiny Prints giveaway is #5 - Aaron! You will receive your coupon code directly from Tiny Prints!

See, sometimes my reviews and favorite things section can benefit my readers! Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

P is for Pumpkin!

I am a little behind this week, although I'm really not sure why. Some weeks I'm not sure what sucks up my time. Probably the kitchen sink... Anyway, last week we did P is for Pumpkin in celebration of Halloween. We had a lot of pumpkin themed things that we did during the week. Of course there was our regular school work, but we also spent a lot of time in the kitchen. The Monkeys had a good time, although doing anything in a kitchen with two monkeys is never an efficient process. So here is our week in a quick review!

Also don't forget that today is the last day to enter the Tiny Prints giveaway on my blog. I will randomly choose a winner tomorrow (Friday) morning to receive a $50 Tiny Prints credit! You can find that blog post here.

Well, as I went to upload photos for the post just now, I realized why I might have been procrastinating this post. Other than the following three photos, I have zero photos of us doing schoolwork for this week! Ooops, wonder what happened there. I was obviously in some other place in my head considering it's hard to believe this was all just last week!

Prior to Halloween we carved pumpkins, roasted up pumpkin seeds (the monkeys tried them, but promptly spit them out due to texture), baked the 4 pumpkins from our garden (Big and Baby Monkeys each carved one pumpkin from the garden as well), made pumpkin puree from the pumpkins (sooo much better than the canned variety and sooo easy), made homemade veggie filled pizza dough, and baked pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies (which were not so great), rice krispy treats, and brownies. Whew, I'm tired just thinking about that all happening in one week.

Then we were the pirate family on Halloween. Here are the two little pirates practicing their sword fighting.

We had a day or two of rain after Halloween (might have been only a day, but remember I can't remember last week for some reason). So we spent some time indoors playing with legos and coloring. Baby Monkey thinks this is the best way to play with legos.

We attempted a new activity this week - tanagrams. Big Monkey didn't do too bad. He had a hard time getting the pieces to all line up once he got multiple pieces on his card, but he figured it out and completed his kite. Baby Monkey just thought throwing the pieces around the room was a better idea.

 So I guess that's it for the week! Might not have been worth the post even, but hey, at least I got to remind everyone about the giveaway tomorrow!

This week I hope to share a few easy and fun breakfast and lunch recipes that we've been trying out as well as our adventures with H is for Hippo. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A few OIT Corrections

Thanks to a woman very knowledgeable in the OIT process, it has been brought to my attention that a few details in my original post about our journey to OIT need to be correct or at least better explained. Hey, I warned you that I am new at this and don't have all the facts 100% right. I do my best to read up on as much as I can, but interpreting it and finding the time to do extended research while taking care of the monkeys is sometimes difficult. Anyway, on to the corrections! First, I should have been a bit more clear. The death I spoke of was not actually OIT, but an injection study. I knew this and even told me husband about it, so I'm not sure how I got the information all mixed up on the blog post. It was a clinical study where the patient was supposed to receive a placebo injection, but was accidentally administered the non placebo injection. You can see how that would be terrible. The injections were stopped for all after that. No one has died from OIT itself. Sorry for that mistake on my part - not a minor fact to make a boo boo on there. Second, I described one protocol for OIT. From my research it appears that this will be the closest to the protocol that WE would be following should we choose do start OIT with Big Monkey. Different doctors and different studies do different things. Straight from my friend's message to me: "Some use liquid with peanut extract or protein? Others use peanut flour and applesauce (DUKE STUDY PROTOCOL). Some dose once a day (DUKE) others twice a day. Some take over a year to reach maintenance. Some take 4-6 months." So my description is by far not the only way OIT is completed, but since this is our journey, I have decided to focus mostly on what we will be facing. Lastly, and something I didn't really know, reactions to treatment/side effects are not actually that common. I guess my bias comes from hearing mostly from families that are having reactions. That makes sense though. Those struggling the most with something are often the most verbal because they need more support to keep trucking forward. Those who breeze through a new journey with no struggles can often handle the journey on their own. Those that do have side effects usually have them at the earlier doses, which agrees with the study I read. I can't recall the exact percentage numbers for the risk of side effects done in the study, but it was less than 50% for most things. So we have a very good chance of not having side effects at all. It all depends on the person. So those are just a few corrections and I'm sure that more will come up in the future. Of course, most of what I post from here on out will be our own personal experiences rather than an overview, so maybe not. :) Unless I decide to try and explain the uKnow Peanut component test. I've been leaning toward not explaining in detail though and instead just linking interested individuals to the website. This may be a much easier way to avoid sounding like I don't actually know what I'm talking about. It's all good though as we all have to start somewhere in the learning process and have to learn from someone. Thank you to some amazing people for helping educate me in the topics of food allergy, testing, and OIT! We would not have this much hope of a more normal and stress free life without you. Unfortunately, I have to report that Baby Monkey seems to have had his first food related allergic reaction two nights ago. It was not a good night. He had a mild rash reaction to a food I have not yet identified (we had cashews that night, so I am praying as hard as I can that it was not to the cashews or we will next have to go tree nut free, which would not be easy for this household). That same night I found half a peanut in the dishwasher that had hitched a ride in Daddy Monkeys lunch box. As you can imagine, my anxiety that night and the next day was a little high. Here's to hoping Baby Monkey's rash was a fluke and that I won't be telling you all about a new challenge in our life. We need some simplicity.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Tiny Prints Holiday Card Giveaway!

It's that time a year again where we're starting to think about what we want to do about holiday cards. There is always the good ol' generic drug store pack of holiday cards you could pick up, fill out and mail off, but it seems that is not the current trend. Nor is it very personal or fun to tell you the truth. I was one of those drug store holiday card purchases until just a few years ago. Then I jumped on board the photo holiday card bandwagon (I'm usually a very late follow to trends, so this is not surprising)!

I usually purchase my Christmas cards from Shutterfly each year. Well, this year I got a blog campaign email from Tiny Prints (they seem to be a division of Shutterfly), and thought I'd check them out. They offered to sponsor my post and a giveaway (details below), but I won't blog about something if I don't like it. So I headed to the website to check out their Christmas Cards. I must say, I'm quite excited about this site and will probably get my Christmas cards here this year!

When I make a holiday photo card, I spend most of my time just trying to decide on a style. I'm picky. I want my card to have several photos, not just one. I want it to be a certain size and still have room for a little letter summarizing the big things from our year. Then on top of all of that, I don't want it to be too typical holiday design - I'm just not into Santas, candy canes, ornaments, or other "typical" Christmas icons that show up on card designs. So that always seemed to limit me to a handful of styles, none of which I loved. I wanted elegant, simple, and yet still Christmasy (is that even a word??). I've loved my cards in the past, but mostly for the layout and photos. This year Tiny Prints might make me LOVE every aspect of my Christmas card. They have some amazing designs and prints that feel very elegant and stylish to me. You can get the standard Christmas designs too. Add to that the option for a premium doublethick matte cardstock, and you could make a really fancy holiday card this year.

I think I'm in love with this design, but I haven't had a chance to go through every design they have. Hmmm... deciding what style I want may still take majority of the time. At least this time I'll be having a hard time deciding which I love best instead of which I dislike the least.

This one makes me think of a vintage sign or candy shop for some reason.

Oooh, while this one doesn't feel very "Christmasy" (I've decided it's a word for at least today), I think it is really cute and fun! There was something like 800 designs on the page I pulled up, so there is something for everyone, I'm sure! 

 Want a chance to join me in trying out Tiny Prints for your holiday cards this year? Tiny Prints is giving me a chance to give $50 off your total order (expires 12/14/2012, no extensions and does apply toward shipping) to one of my readers! To enter leave me a comment below telling me what you're favorite thing about holiday cards is. Then on Friday, November 9th, 2012 I will randomly select one winner and Tiny Prints will email you your promo code!

Even if you don't win, check out their Specials Page and see if you find anything for you! Good luck!

Peanut Allergy No More? Maybe...

Yup, you read that right. Five years might be the longest we have to live with the worry and panic that comes along with Big Monkey's peanut allergy. The key word here is "maybe," but hey, I'll take a maybe over the thought of having to worry about him for the rest of his life!

We appear to be a pretty normal family trying to let our kids experience life, and for the most part, we are. I let Big Monkey experience everything we can despite his food allergy. He still goes to birthday parties, the zoo, playdates, trick or treating, and to the circus. We just always go prepared (epi pens) and take precautions (i.e. he eats nothing without my approval and we wash hands a lot). So far we've been lucky (or done well) and haven't had a need for the epi pen (we have used benadryl on a number of occasions though). Of course all the worry takes its toll. I hate to see Big Monkey growing up so worried and fixated on food and what's in it. All the precautions we take only fuel my OCD and anxiety issues. Worst of all, I look at Big Monkey's future and the thought that he could have an accidental exposure anywhere down the line that could take his life makes me shudder in fear. I would move heaven and earth to make this last worry go away.

About two months ago, I found a support group that introduced me to the hope of just that. The process is called oral immunotherapy (OIT), and it is a potential "cure" at most and a "safeguard" at least for my son's peanut allergy. Where do I sign up, right? Well, it's not quite that simple. The catch to this great sounding treatment is that it requires a huge commitment, comes with some risks/side effects, isn't cheap, and will take a lot of sacrifice on our part. Here's what we're looking at.

If you're at all familiar with allergy shots, then you can sort of think of OIT as the oral version of allergy shots. On Big Monkey's first day he would be fed a very very tiny amount (think like 1/100,000 of the final dose, which may only be a few peanuts) of peanut flour and watched carefully. He would then have his dose increased gradually until he either showed any symptoms of reaction or until we reached the goal amount for day one. This is considered the "desensitization" day and takes anywhere from 2-8 hours. The goal on day one is to teach his body to not react to the presence of small amounts of the peanut allergen.

After day one, Big Monkey will consume a dose of peanut protein twice a day every day for the next 3-6 months with the dose increasing each week (less often if he shows side effects or has difficulties). If all goes well, then somewhere around the second month he would consume his first whole peanut (um, yikes for mama!). This period of time induces tolerance to the peanut protein. Once he reaches the ability to consume a certain number of peanuts at one time, he "graduates" from the desensitization treatment process and would move into the "maintenance" phase. This phase includes eating 8 peanuts twice a day in the beginning and eventually 8 peanuts once a day. How long these maintenance doses need to be continued is not yet known, but eating 8 peanuts a day (or 8 peanut M&Ms) for the rest of his life would be a small price to pay to be able to attend school without having to eat lunch at a separate "peanut free" table.

Doesn't sound so bad right? Well, it won't be a walk in the park. Each of these weekly dose increases must be done in the allergists office so that Big Monkey can be monitored and properly treated in the event of a reaction. OIT is safe, but it does come with side effects. Side effects often include hives, itching, rashes, runny nose, itching throat, some wheezing, stomach cramps/aches, and vomiting. Anaphylaxis can occur during treatment, but the risk of this over the entire course of treatment is only 1-2%. As far as I can find in the literature, only 1 person has died during OIT and that was due to a dosing error in a clinical trial. Studies have shown that reactions most often occur on the first day, during dose increases, with exercise to close to a given dose, or when the person is ill (fevers, viral infection, etc). Sounds scary to some, but we live every day with the threat of an unexpected deadly reaction, so some vomiting/stomach aches/other reactions in the presence of a doctor doesn't sound nearly as scary.

Giving doses in the doctor's office every week is the complicated part of this treatment. Here is why: there are only a handful of doctors in the US that offer OIT, and of course, none of them are local. The nearest doctor to us is located just outside of Portland, OR. We've done a cost comparison, and traveling every week from home to Oregon would be more expensive than just living in Oregon for 6 months. So, if Big Monkey gets the all clear and is a good candidate for this treatment, the boys and I will be considering temporarily relocating for 6 months.

Why do I say 5 years might be the longest we have to live with the fear from this allergy? Well, because the doctor we are considering starts as early as age 4. After the New Year, we will have Big Monkey component tested (using the uKnow peanut test) to see what peanut proteins he is allergic too. If he is allergic to the proteins that cause anaphylaxis (we haven't had an ana reaction to date, so we don't know), then we will schedule a consult. If the OIT allergist says we're a go, then hopefully we will start sometime in 2013!

Of course the best thing in the world would be if we went in to the allergist and they told me his test results show he's no longer allergic at all. Here's to hoping!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

G is for Gumball and Goodness Grief

Goodness grief is what I kept repeating off and on all week. We struggled a bit getting through the week, but all is well now that it is the weekend. Other than the fact that Mama Monkey has a bit of a cold.

This week we did G is for gumball. I thought as a field trip we would go to the Jelly Belly factory. So we did, but we were only there maybe a half hour. We tasted a few jelly beans and then waited in line for the factory tour. We made it upstairs and got our little paper hats. Then just as we were about to go through the doors for the tour, Big Monkey decided he was too scared and didn't want to go. I asked several times and he insisted that he wanted to go home. Poor Baby Monkey was in my arms crying "No, jelly bean me, jelly bean me, no go home!" He was very sad, but I couldn't imagine having a terrified preschooler in the factory. So we left. Good thing too as my friends reported that the factory was decorated all spooky and scary for Halloween. Whew, I narrowly missed that disaster. Unfortunately, I didn't even snap a photo out front because Big Monkey just didn't want to.

We had a few more cranky days between the boys, but we managed to fit in some school. Friday was by far the hardest day with Baby Monkey. He was just looking for trouble the entire time. I'd get him set up with an activity like beads and as soon as I'd turn to help Big Monkey, Baby Monkey would leave his activity and go destroy something else. Sigh, it was a long day. In retrospect, I believe Baby Monkey was fighting this mild cold as well.

We counted gumballs and added them to our gumball "boxes" as Big Monkey called the gumball machine printouts. He actually liked this counting activity. We often do "graphing" versions of counting where he has to count the number of something on the paper and then place the same number of cheerios, beads, or magnets. He's not crazy about that for the numbers larger than about 6, but he counted gumballs very willingly here. 

Baby Monkey showed me that he could trace the letter C. He actually traced both letters completely on his own before scribbling all over the paper.

Big Monkey attempted a color by number sheet and did a great job! He worked hard to color in the lines as best he could (which is a big deal for him as he'll usually just say that he can't because "it's too hard").

Baby Monkey practicing his cuteness skills.

We attempted to take some photos of all 3 of us, which is quite hard when lying on the floor with both kids on top of you and no pillow behind your head! I think we did pretty good though.

This was Friday. Yup, Baby Monkey attended school half naked that day. He had a blast gluing gumballs onto his machine. I did all the cutting for him, but Big Monkey did all his cutting and gluing solo.

Power magnets.

So I've tried clip cards with Big Monkey before. The idea is for him to clip clothespins or paper clips to the card based on the number printed on the card. Well, we've had some major problems with his ability to clip either a normal clothespin or paperclip, and thus, a lack of interest in the counting clip cards. So I bought some of those tiny baby shower clothespins. He seems to have an easier time clipping these, although on this particular day he was having a hard time paying attention to how many pins he had on his card. At one point when I was dealing with Baby Monkey's destruction, he had 19 paperclips on the card for 9. Some days are not our best. :)

Next week we move on to P is for pumpkin to celebrate the week of Halloween.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I am NOT a better parent than you...

In fact, I may be a terrible parent compared to you. How would I ever know since I'm not you and I don't know your kids? In fact, while I'm doing my best to do right by my kids, I have a whole slew of my own issues that I'm hoping I don't dump on them in the process.

I had a friend mention today mention that she was tired of all the "mompetition" (great word by the way!) in today's parenting society. She is so right that this exists. So many parents think their way of parenting is the only right way and they aren't afraid to tell you so. They're also not afraid to tell you if they think you're doing it wrong. It's sad, especially when it makes great people rethink the idea of becoming parents in the first place.

I thought about what she said (which included mentioning seeing this mompetition in Facebook posts, blogs, etc...), and I started to panic a little. I thought, gee, I sure hope none of my friends or family feel this way about my comments or blog posts. I could have asked her if I was a culprit of this mompetition, but I didn't. Why? Well, I probably didn't really want to hear if I was since that had never been my intention (I really should put on my big girl panties though and take the criticism if that is the case. If she is reading this, she knows who she is and I give her full permission to scold me privately). Mainly, I decided that even if I have not made her feel this way, I still needed to post something to let the rest of my friends know that creating competition is never my intent with anything I write, post, or even say in person!

I am so far from perfect as a person or parent. I wouldn't choose some of the parenting choices others make, but I respect them all. Those decisions are being made for kids that are not my own, and it's not my job to decide what is best for them.

The choices I make are what is best for my children, not necessarily yours. I share because there are people out there that have asked me for ideas. A number of my friends have asked about where I get some of my activities and how we carry them out. My husband likes to follow my blog during the week so he feels like he's there with the kids more. I'm part of a peanut allergy support group where many members share their journey and enjoy reading the journey of others. There are so many reasons why I post the things I do, but trying to say I'm a better or more knowledgeable parent is never one of those reasons. If you've ever felt this way about anything I've said, my deepest apologies.

With all that said though, I don't plan to stop sharing. So if my words at all offend you or make you feel bad, by all means, please just stop reading them as that is not their point. We are all doing the best we can for our kids and that is what is important. I think you are all amazing parents (or would be if you're not currently), and should keep doing what you are doing!

Friday, October 19, 2012

F is for Fish and Fun!

This week we focused on F is for fish and had quite a bit of fun along the way. After several weeks of traveling and squishing school into days, we finally had a regular week with three full days of school. Ok, so full day means about 2 hours each day, but still that's what is normal for us.

We started our week with a trip to the local aquarium with Big Monkey's friend Ladybug. We haven't seen them in awhile, and when we pulled up to park, Ladybug screamed out her car window "you are my best friend!" It was very cute. We had a fun time, but I was surprised by how wild and crazy Big Monkey and Baby Monkey acted while we were out. We had a rough night the night before, so I think that was the reason. At least we got to see some cool fish.

Then we used the next three days for school at home. I've noticed a lot of improvement in both boys this past week. It amazes me how suddenly they master certain skills. For example, we got these great power magnets (even I think they're fun) to use with magnet sheets. The boys take the magnets apart (they come stuck together) and then place them in the little circles on the picture. The papers are on top of cookie sheets so that the magnets stick (yup, I lost two of my good cookie sheets to the school room). Big Monkey has always been good at these and has fun using either a single color, a pattern of colors, or just random colors. Baby Monkey used to just take the magnets and stick them all over the page, to each other, and to other random places on the cookie sheet. Then he'd put his pieces back in the box and steal his brother's magnets. Well, this week I looked over (yeah, he got a sheet from a previous week) and there Baby Monkey had 2 magnets neatly placed in the circles on his sheet. He only put down a total of 3 magnets, but that's a major step for him!

Big Monkeys cutting skills have improved greatly. He's now able to carefully cut along a line of almost any shape.

We've also improved on patterns. Big Monkey seems to really get the concept of patterns now. Although I am a bit concerned about some of our color recognition. I'm noticing he often calls red, green, and a few other colors something else. If I call him out on it, he corrects himself. So I'm not sure if he's just not paying close attention or if it's something else. I'm not concerned that he doesn't know colors, he does. I'm concerned about color blindness. Ready for a quick genetics lesson? The genes for color blindness are located on the X chromosome. My dad is shade blind, and I'm a carrier for the gene (it's recessive, so have 2 X chromosomes means I have one good gene that compensates for the defective one). That means each of the monkey boys has a 50% chance of having some sort of color blindness (they each inherited their X chromosome from me and each had a 50% chance of getting the one with the defective gene). I believe that I read somewhere that kids are usually tested around age 5. I might pursue that topic with the pediatrician a little sooner.

He can at least matched the same colors together though.

Another item I've been working on is trying to teach Big Monkey that we read things from left to right. He really likes to read and write from right to left. So I figure we should start now. I point out words as I read books to him. I show him how I write. I've tried to instruct him on which direction he should write and read. None of these things had a very big impact. Then one day I watched him doing 2 activities. The first was counting the numbers of the calendar in the background of the above picture. I had to help him go from 6 to 7 instead of from 6 to 13. He's starting to get a handle on that. Then I watched him singing the ABCs as he pointed along to the letters in the back of the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom book. This has been the biggest helper in teaching him to read from left to right!

We do more than paper work during the week. I just don't often snap photos because I'm usually helping or enjoying. This week Baby Monkey played with the beads and an old (cleaned) milk jug. He had a great time dropping them in the jug and then dumping them back out into the container (yup, a cleaned yogurt container).

We also did lacing blocks, which for some reason, the boys think make good "lassos" once the blocks are on the strings. Oye...

We also found a nice little surprise on our front porch this week. We got a boo basket from one of our neighbors. This person went all out and had the boys in mind when they built the basket - there were even 2 pairs of Cars socks! As well as crayons (2 boxes), color and number flashcards, a pumpkin carver and other goodies. I have a few ideas of the sender and we are so greatful!

 Next week we are expecting some rain. This mama might have to get creative on keeping the boys entertained!

Friday, October 12, 2012

An Early Lesson In History

The boys (mainly Big Monkey as Baby Monkey was mostly along for the ride) got a very early lesson in history this past week. All sorts of history!

First we took a week and a few days and went on vacation as a family. We visited Grandma's house and Disneyland. We checked out the new Cars Land at California Adventure, but quickly discovered that it is geared to an older (or at least taller and braver) set of kids. The main ride - Radiator Racers - had a minimum height requirement of 40". Daddy Monkey and I managed to sneak on, and it was a super cute and very well done ride. However, it would have been way too fast for Big Monkey, who is afraid of pretty much anything more thrilling than Dumbo. We had a great time, but I think we will wait several more years before returning (in hopes that the boys will be less afraid then). We did have great success with Big Monkey meeting several characters though!

 We also made a visit to the beach while we were on vacation and enjoyed making some sand angles and climbing trees. 

After a brief 4 day return home to do some laundry and squeeze in some school work, the boys and I jumped on a plane and headed for Arkansas. This is where the lessons in history began!

What's in Arkansas besides a ton of trees? Well, it seems that a fair number of my extended family is located either there or Texas. The rest are scattered among about 4 other states. We attended the family reunion for my maternal grandmother's family and had a blast!

The reunion took place in a state park, and it was gorgeous. The Monkey boys spent 2 days doing pretty much nothing except playing in the dirt. They couldn't have been happier and they got to meet a great group of kids that I calculate to be about their 5th cousins maybe (is that even the right terminology??). My entire immediate family (sans Daddy Monkey who had to work) flew out for the reunion. What a lesson in family history!

There is a theme every year, and this year's was patriotism. Great Papa Monkey wore his army uniform from when we was 17 and the boys got to dress up as mini-Marines. We only had to wear costumes for about an hour, so we went all out and had fun with it.

Then we stayed with Grandma Monkey for a few extra days and explored Little Rock. We saw the ducks at the Peabody Hotel. They ride down the elevator and then "march" (run/waddle really) to the fountain in the lobby where they stay for the day. The Peabody Hotel in Memphis has this too.

Then we took the boys to the Arkansas Old State House Museum. I really thought we'd only make it 10 minutes in this place before I had bored, whining children, but see, my boys like to prove me wrong. We spent 2 hours in there! We saw a history of the Arkansas battle flag (a great introduction to how the US flag has changed over the years), the governors, and even an old legislative room complete with candle holders. Then there was an entire wing of the building about growing up in Arkansas. It was all about the history of childhood in the state including really old wooden school desks like these that the boys tried out: 

Of course, Big Monkeys favorite thing was the cannon out front. Not sure he is showing his intelligence in this photo though considering he had his head practically inside the thing...

The last day we were there we walked half way across the Big Dam Bridge, which is the largest pedestrian only bridge in North America at 1,700 feet. It was peaceful and gorgeous. We even saw the fish swimming below and got to teach Big Monkey a little about how a dam works.

There are great school lessons in every day life even when on vacation! Some of which are better than what one will ever get from a text book.

Next week we are back to our normal school schedule in Mama Monkey's office/school room. We squished 3 days of school into 2 this week and worked on D is for dinosaurs (we completed C is for caterpillar the week between vacation and our Arkansas trip), and will move on to F is for fish next week. That means there might be a trip to the aquarium in store for the boys! If it's not too busy, I'll actually try to take some photos.