Monday, November 12, 2012

DIY textured alphabet placemat

This is so easy and simple that I cannot believe I didn't think of it! It was actually Hubby-Man's idea and I just tweaked it.

We have been working hard at learning letters this school year, and are trying to put the alphabet everywhere. Boogie is really into it and will ask what letter words start with or make the beginning sound of a word and try to figure out the letter. We are continuing with a letter of the week approach, but with a lot of holistic activities as well. It seems to be working for Boogie, he knows the sounds of a few letters, he can recognize all the letters of his name and about 5 others, I think, at this point. He does not write any of them yet, but that will come.

So, the idea. Our latest way of encouraging Boogie to recognize letters is to make him a textured alphabet placemat.

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I bought a $2 plain(ish) placemat at Walmart and a $5 giant bag of glittered, foam, uppercase alphabet stickers in primary colors (and white, which it didn't say on the bag). 

I played with the colors (I wanted to do it Montessori style and have the consonants blue and the vowels red, but there weren't enough blue consonants. I kept all the vowels red, though, and didn't use red for any consonants. So the groundwork is there.) and arrangements until I settled on a layout I liked, then I peeled them and stuck them. That's all! The fact that they are raised and a bit textured from the glitter will help Boogie make connections between seeing the letters and recognizing them or writing them.  

Because the letters are all a uniform height, it absolutely works as a placemat! I imagine that Boogie will mostly play with it after he eats, though, and is waiting for his brother to finish. We have a rule that he has to stay at the table while Bam Bam, Hubby-Man or I am still eating, and he is allowed to color, look at a book, or do schoolwork if he is antsy. This will go on the list of "Keep Boogie at the table" tricks. 

This idea actually stemmed from the geography and history placemats that Rachel uses over at Grasping for Objectivity in my Subjective Life.  We plan on buying those placemats and using her reward method of memorization for the alphabet as well as the geography/history facts. Basically, she puts a treat on a state, president's photo, or country and asks her daughter to identify what is under the treat. If she does, she gets the treat (nut, raisin, marshmallow). If she does not correctly identify it, Rachel corrects her, moves the treat, and her daughter tries again. By 3.5 or 4, her daughter knew all the presidents, the 50 states, and something like 60 countries! Sign Boogie and Bam Bam up! We will start with the alphabet and maybe alternate with one other placemat since we are going through the alphabet so slowly (one letter a week) and there is a lot more to the alphabet than memorization.
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Thursday, November 8, 2012

First Snow of the Season Memory Photo

I always mean to take pictures of our family's footprints when we go to the beach, but I always forget. That thought popped into my head today though, so I did the next best thing- took a picture of the boys' shoe prints in the first snow of the season.

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Boogie LOVED the snow, but poor Bam Bam had a lot of trouble maneuvering in all his layers. And he couldn't play with the sand toys because of his mittens. So he kept trying to run away and find someone who would take off his mittens. I got a couple cute pictures of them individually, but it is very hard to get them to both cooperate and smile for a brothers shot these days, so this will have to do :)
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Monday, November 5, 2012

FREE Bible Verse Printable- 1 Corinthians 10:26

We are teaching Boogie Bible verses that address certain undesirable behaviors. I hope to post a lot more about this at some point, but for now I wanted to share a freebie.

With two little ones less than 2 years apart, we are constantly talking about sharing. I looked around the blogosphere to see if I could find a verse that got to the heart of the issue, but finally settled on creating my own. The concept that I am trying to teach our boys is that nothing is theirs. Everything we have is a gift from God, and all of it belongs to Him or comes from His goodness. I decided that 1 Corinthians 10:26 was a wonderful and simple verse to use to illustrate that fact.

To download this Bible verse printable, just click on the picture below. Once you open the PDF, you can choose color or black and white. 

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Family Birthdays Photo Prayer Calendar

Both Boogie and Bam Bam are all about birthdays. Bam Bam's current favorite song is "Happy Birthday", which he requests by going "ba da" and blowing at me. When Boogie and I play with cloud dough, there must be candles, cupcake liners, and a million rounds of the song. There have been a lot of birthday parties around here for friends and family in the past few months, and the Lord gave me an idea based on the boys' enthusiasm.

I have been trying to find ways to make prayer a constant focus of our day. And not just prayer for ourselves, but prayer for others- for family and friends, as well as for the world. I plan on sharing more about this soon, but for today, here is the latest way we are praying.

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Each day, when we do our calendar time (you can see the post that highlights how we do calendar time by clicking on that link), the spot that used to have our little prayer book now has a calendar with photos of family members on the day of their birth. Boogie is not reading yet, but is very into family photos. So, we look at the day on our big calendar, then look at the day on the little calendar to see if it is anyone's birthday. If it is, if there is a picture on the current day, we start by identifying the person, because some family members we don't see very often. I tell Boogie the person's name and how they are related to us. We talk about all the fun things we do on birthdays. Then, we pray for the person, asking God to bless them and give them a special day. If there is anything specific that I know that person is going through or dealing with (health issues, pregnancy, financial problems, military service), we pray specifically. We thank God for that person.

An extension that I would like to do is to be a blessing to the person and have Boogie decorate a card that we can send. I used to be great about that kind of thing but since having kids, have dropped the ball. I hope to include Boogie in creating a special card and teaching him about random acts of kindness. For any family members reading this, know that even if you don't get a card, we are praying! Arts and crafts always depend on the day with a three year old boy, I am finding.

How do you make prayer a fun and tangible thing for your young child?

May be linking up to these great parties!
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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

DIY Hard Hat Cake Pops

One of my dear friends makes amazing desserts for her kids' parties. Her creativity in cooking and baking always makes me feel like I need to go back to housewife school because I must have missed a class. When she made cake pops for her son's baptism about 2 years ago now, I filed the idea away because Hubby-Man and I loved them so much.

After our sweet little Bam Bam's dino-themed first birthday party this summer, I asked Boogie what kind of cake he wanted. Without hesitation, he told me he wanted an excavator cake for his birday.

Yes, my child can pronounce excavator with great clarity, but adorably cannot pronounce birthday.

Thank goodness for the internet. I do not know how mothers mustered up the energy to create fancy cakes for their kids without any kind of guide when my generation was little and before that. I pinned away construction cakes with reckless abandon. Boogie's Lightning McQueen second birthday cake and Bam Bam's dino cake were cute, but I didn't want to use another mold. They stress me out because no matter how much Crisco and cooking spray I use, I always lose the pattern and do it by hand and it never turns out like I want. An icing artist, I am not. While I was searching, I remember cake pops, which brings me back to this post. The light bulb went off and I knew that, along with his excavator cake, I wanted to make hard hat cake pops.

I was surprised that there wasn't already a tutorial for such a thing since there were so many construction parties on Pinterest. I saw hard hat cake pops for sale, but no how to's. So here I am to fill in that blank with my own imperfect but delicious instructions for how I made Boogie's.

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I am going to include a lot of pictures and links back to the sites that helped me get through the process. It is time-consuming but not hard if you do all the steps. I followed most of the directions at Sweet April's blog, but missed the shortening tip the first time. More on that, later.

The picture you see above, the ones for the party, were my second attempt. They are not perfect but they are a million times better than the first time!

Here is what you need to make these adorable treats for your little one.

If you are making any other dessert, one cake mix will make plenty. If you are only making cake pops for dessert, you should probably make 2 boxes. They go fast! I forgot to include two things in this picture, I just realized. I also used a cake pop stand (and Styrofoam but you don't need both) and decorative icing in a tube for the details. Sorry!

First thing you need to do is bake a cake mix according to the directions.

Mmmm. I love yellow cake. My single cake pan was dirty and I was too lazy to clean it. That's okay, because the next step is, after the cake(s) cool, take them out of the pan and toss them in your mixer. Add anywhere from 1/2 a can to a whole can of icing. I chose vanilla icing and used about 3/4 of a can but I have used more and less with similar results. I suggest using half a can and testing the stickiness as you add more to taste. You want the cake and icing mix to be cookie dough consistency.

Next step is to scoop out the cake and roll it into a ball. You can use a melon baller or a tablespoon to help you. I did it by hand. This picture is from the first time I did it and they were TOO BIG. You should be able to easily fit 2 dozen onto a cookie sheet, not one dozen. This was partly why my first attempt failed. The balls were too heavy. I am sure some people have success with larger-sized cake balls, but the ones I made successfully were probably rounded tablespoon-sized.

Once you have all the balls rolled, you need to freeze them for at least a half hour. You can skip this step, but it will make the next step harder. I only had room for one cookie sheet at a time in my freezer, so I made the balls in shifts, and put the rest in tupperware in the fridge. I had to reshape them later but not a big deal.

When the half hour is almost over, prepare your candy melts. Think about how many cake pops you need or want to make, then take out half as many candy melts and cut them in half. These will be the hat brims. I got that brilliant idea from this post on KC Bakes.

Next, find a microwaveable dish with a lid and dump the rest of your candy melts inside. I didn't do this, but I would suggest using a container that is higher than it is wide so you can maximize the dipping. You want to be able to dunk the whole cake pop. If your dish is wide, you will need more candy melts to do this than if the dish is tall.

Now, here is the awesome step that I found out about in time for Boogie's party, and that made all the difference in the world. Add shortening to the candy melts. This will make the liquid thinner, which means a smoother coating and less chance that the cake pops will get stuck in the candy melts and fall off. Thank you, Homemaker Chic, for that bit of wisdom! Like I said, Sweet April's, did mention shortening, but Homemaker Chic suggested adding a lot more, so I did, and that made a huge difference.

Once you have your candy melted, and your cake pops frozen, get your sticks ready. This is another tip from Homemaker Chic that made all the difference to how my second batch turned out.

Dip your sticks into the candy melt. Make a hole in the cake pop and drizzle some candy melt inside the hole you just made. Dip your stick into the candy melt liquid again, then put the stick into the cake pop hole you already made. Lay the cake pop back on your cookie sheet and let it harden without any pressure on the "glue" or the cake pop. That "double glue" as she calls it makes all the difference. Even if your cake pops are not 100% frozen, that step will prevent you from losing any cake pops.

After 5 minutes or so, the candy should have set. You will probably want to re-heat the candy melt liquid you were using, just to make sure it is soupy and ready to go.

Then, the moment of truth. It is time to dip your cake pops. If your cake pops were not too big, were frozen and you did the double glue, there is no reason why any should fall off. The second time I made them, I did not lose a single one! All you have to do is dip your cake pop in the candy melt and pull it out, quickly.

The coating was beautiful and smooth with the addition of shortening! Next, add your hat brim, before the coating hardens. Just stick the half candy melt where you want it on the cake pop.

Then, dip the whole thing again. When you take it out, you can do a little tap or spin it around a little to make sure there is no dripping, then put your pop either in Styrofoam or a cake pop stand to harden.

Just for comparison, here is the first set I made, frozen before dipping, but without shortening, and without the "double glue."

Huge difference, right?? Don't let your cake pops look like that. Friends don't let friends serve mangled hard hats at parties.

When they are cool and set, use your decorative icing to make those 3 lines on top that make them look like hard hats.

A few sidenotes.

These would also make cute ducks if you used orange candy melts for the beaks (instead of brims), and used icing or candy for the eyes. Perfect for a baby shower, as my BFF pointed out!

A cooler way to contain these and display them then in a cheap cardboard cake pop stand would be like the mom did at Project Nursery (those came from a bakery, and there was no how to, but I worked from that picture once I got the idea). I would have loved to put them in a bucket or in the back of a dump truck with dirt cake, but I ran out of time and forgot.

Just in case you were wondering, Boogie and Bam Bam loved these, with and without shortening :)

Look terrible, still taste delicious, Mama!

Silly boy BEGGED to sit in his brother's high chair.

May be linking up to these great parties!
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Friday, October 5, 2012

Where's the Truck? A Letter Learning Game for Kids Who Love Construction

We have lots of construction cones leftover from Boogie's 2nd birthday party, which had a Cars theme. His party was very racetrack-centric because that was cheaper than going full on Disney. Thankfully, he wanted a construction themed party this year, so we are re-using the cones. As I got all the cones out for his party this weekend, Boogie started hiding things under the cones. I immediately remembered this post from Sprinkles to Kindergarten. She puts sight words on cups, then hides a bear under one of the cups and the children practice reading words to help her find the bear. I realized I could use this idea and practice letters with Boogie by writing some letters on post-its and sticking them on a few on the cones.

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The game is simple. I told Boogie to close his eyes. I hid a truck under one of the cones with a letter on it. He opened his eyes. I told him to put on his listening ears. This has a dual purpose. He cups his ears with his hands so he is both listening, and his hands are engaged so he isn't just flipping over all the cones. While he is doing his listening ears, I tell him "The truck is under the letter ___." He then looks at the letters and lifts up the cone with that letter written on it. Except when he lifts up a different cone :P When he lifts up the wrong one, I tell him, "That is the letter ___. Look again. Do you remember what {the correct letter} looks like?" Sometimes I will give him a hint, or sometimes he remembers. Or sometimes he just keeps turning cones over until he finds the truck.

We didn't play it for very long because he decided he wanted to hide all his trucks under all the cones after a few rounds. But he got some literacy learning in before his attention wandered. And I found a fast way to combine his favorite toys with letter practice. We played with "a", "b", "c" and the letters of his name. This took me about 5 seconds to put together and didn't cost a cent :) You better believe we will play this simple game again!

I can't remember where we got the cones from because I don't think they sell them in packs anymore. I have seen colored cones at the dollar store, but not necessarily orange. You could also use cups and any kind of toy or object that your child likes. The point is to make letter (or sight word) recognition fun and to incorporate it into their play. What kid doesn't love a good hiding game?

Might be linking up to these great parties.
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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Very Boogie Story, aka Happy 3rd Birthday, Sweet Boy!

If you know me, and aren't a mama, this will almost definitely be TMI. Fair warning.

If you love a good bump to baby story, this post is for you.

Today, my Boogie turns 3. I have no idea where the time has gone. But, I am feeling very nostalgic, and want to share the story of our firstborn coming into the world since I haven't posted it before. 

Hubby-Man and I had been trying to expand our family for a few months when my grandfather died. Poppy was an incredibly special man and a huge part of our lives. He was so healthy and so strong until he developed pancreatic cancer. It was heart-breaking to watch his health deteriorate over the 10 months that he fought the disease. After Jesus called him home in September 2008, I did not have a cycle for 3 months. At the end of the third month, right around Christmas, I called a doctor. I was told there were no appointments for months. I almost started crying. The woman asked what was wrong and when I told her, she got me an appointment within two days! They gave me a hormone pill to take to jump start my system and told me emphatically that it was like a reset button and not a real cycle. I would still have to wait for a real cycle before I could expect to get pregnant.

God laughed, cracked his knuckles, and asked, "Says who?"

Within 2 weeks of the so-called fake cycle, I was pregnant with Boogie.

I didn't know it until February, though. Hubby-Man and I relocated for his job. As we were moving and unpacking, I felt terrible. My stomach was having a lot of problems, I was going to bed at sunset, waking up late in the morning, and still felt tired all the time I was unpacking. I was having migraines every night. I attributed it to the stress of moving, but after 5 days in our new home, I unpacked a box marked "bathroom", took out a dollar store test, and 3 minutes later was absolutely stunned to see two lines! Hubby-Man didn't even know I was testing, since we were both under the impression that it was not possible at the moment, so he was over-the-moon happy and surprised.

The next two months passed in a nauseous, tired, busy blur of unpacking, subbing, and tutoring. We were on our way home from visiting with friends on Good Friday of 2009 when we got a call that my Daddy had died in a car accident.

That was the longest night of my life. And there were many long nights to follow. The prayers of many faithful friends and acquaintances, the love and patience of my Hubby-Man, and the knowledge that I had to be brave for the baby in my belly, strengthened me to get up each morning. It was not easy. I did not gain any weight until sometime in the second trimester when the doctor told me that I needed to work harder. She told me to eat white bread, drink whole milk, and stock up on ice cream. After that, I started gaining weight :)

September 28, 2009- 4 days before Boogie made his debut!
And gaining weight, and gaining weight! 

Until October 2nd. I woke up at 5:21 in the morning with a really strong contraction. I had been having
tons of light Braxton Hicks for a few weeks but it was very different. I wrote the time down in my journal then tried to go back to sleep. 10 minutes later, another one. Wrote it down, tried to go back to sleep. I
knew if they were BH again sleep would make them stop. For an hour they were 8-10 min apart. Hubby-Man's alarm went off and he saw I was up. I asked if he could go into work late because I had been timing contractions for an hour. He was so excited! Every morning since I started having BHs he would ask if my water broke yet (at least half-joking, since that isn't the kind of thing I would let him sleep through!) so the fact that it might actually finally be the day was exactly what he wanted to hear. He called work and showered and got ready to wait and see with me. I showered, and he kept jotting down times when I called to him. At 7:30, we called the doctor because the contractions were anywhere from 3-8 min apart.

The nurse told us, "If it's your first child, I doubt you're in labor. Wait it out an hour or two. Take some Tylenol if it hurts." Hubby-Man and my mom thought we should go to the hospital but a) I didn't want to be "that girl" and b) copays are expensive if you aren't admitted. So I wanted to wait and be sure.

Hubby-Man and I got out bags ready just in case. He repacked them because he needed something to do and he didn't think we needed everything. Then, we sat on the couch and he turned on one of the myriad of Planet of the Apes movies. We kept timing the contractions and they were getting more intense. Hubby-Man tried to apply counter-pressure while I leaned against the couch, the exercise ball, or cushions and it helped but didn't take away the pain obviously. We started watching a badly dubbed Jackie Chan movie next and by then it was about 1030, I think, so we called the doctor back. At this point, the contractions were 2-5 min apart. The nurse was like "Oh, um, maybe you should come in after all." Thanks, lady!

We got in the car and drove the 20 minutes of city road, complete with trolley tracks the whole way. Worst. Ride. Ever.

As I was feeling every bump, and trying to breathe through the contractions, Hubby-Man was like "If you're in labor I think you could do it naturally because you must not be in too much pain. You're not showing it at all!" I told him, whenever I could speak, "No, I'm in a ton of pain. I'm just stubborn."

When we finally got there, Hubby-Man dropped me off at the front and went to park because it was quite a little walk. We had to wait until I had a contraction then I got out and rushed in to the lobby and found a chair in time to have another contraction. I called my mom to keep me company while I waited for Hubby-Man, who was extremely fast. Mom kept telling me to go to the front desk and tell someone I was in
labor but I told her I wanted to wait for him. My sister-in-law was at my mom's house and thought I didn't want to talk to her because she got on the phone and tried to say hi during a contraction. Mom had to explain that I didn't want to talk to anyone during contractions and was having them to the point where I couldn't talk when they happened. They both thought I was crazy for sitting there instead of being rushed to a room.

When Hubby-Man came in, he was like, "Let's go" and I told him I needed a wheel chair. He was surprised and asked, "Can't you walk?" since I had just walked in. I told him NO in no uncertain terms, so he wheeled me into L&D. It took a little while to get signed in then we went across the hall to another waiting area. I was taken before the other woman there because she wasn't in labor and I definitely was. Hubby-Man had to wait outside while they did the triage thing with a ton of questions and then I came back out and we waited some more.

FINALLY, around 11:30 in the morning, someone checked me and told me, "Oh, yes, you're about 6 centimeters dilated, dear." I knew 10 was the number I was going for but wasn't sure how 6 ranked in the grand scheme of things. I asked, "Does that mean we're having a baby today?" and she told me yes, then went to get Hubby-Man, who started making phone calls. Next time the nurse came in, I asked for my epidural and she told me I could have one when I got a room. After another 30 minutes of waiting, and monitoring, they took me to get an ultrasound to make sure the baby was head down. Since I could barely talk anyway, I didn't tell them that he has been head down for weeks and I could tell them for a fact he was at the moment. As they are doing this, and I am still undrugged, and still having contractions every 2-3 minutes, they are asking me more questions. Then, finally, they gave me a room.

I asked for the epidural again, and they told me it was coming, but in the meantime they needed to do my IV, ask more questions, and have me sign stuff. Since this was a multi-doctor practice, I wasn't sure who would be delivering our baby until she walked into the room. It was my favorite doctor, so I was really excited to see her. Since the nurses were doing their paperwork, she said she would be right back.

The epidural came, and the anesthesiologist was a resident. She had more questions and more things to sign. As they were getting me ready, and telling me to hold still and lean forward, my water broke, around 12:40 in the afternoon. It took them 3 times to get the epidural in- the first time she missed, the second time she hit a vein. My Hubby-Man kept asking me if anything hurt as he is watching all the needles and I told him that only the contractions hurt.

While they were still putting in the epidural, I felt the sensation that only a mother knows- time to get to the end and push. I told my nurses, who looked at each other and rushed to get things ready. They said even though I hadn't been checked yet, they believed me.

At 1:20, the epidural was finally in and they gave me an elevated dose and let me push the button right away for more. Instant relief. It was lovely! My doctor came in as soon as I was lying down, checked me, told me I was 10 centimeters and it was time to push. I was extremely fortunate to get the epidural at all, since they aren't supposed to give it that late. Thankfully, she hadn't checked first. But all that is to say I went through active labor and transition without any drugs. Not by choice, but I did do it.

Then, I pushed for THREE HOURS. Poor Boogie's head was big and he was just pounding it against bone for three hours. I am glad I had the epidural for that last stretch, which was the longest part of the whole thing. Finally, finally, at 4:12 in the afternoon, something worked, and they handed me our beautiful baby boy!

So, my entire labor and delivery, from beginning to end, was only 11 hours! It was a huge blessing that it went so fast and so well.

And now, here we are, three years later on his birthday.  It has gone so fast!

Now that I rambled about how Boogie came into the world, here are Boogie's answers to 20 questions now that he is 3.

1. What makes you happy?
2. What makes you sad?
Garbage truck. 'Cause a garbage truck makes me cry.
2a. Why?
So loud!
3. What makes you scared?
Lions make me scary. And I say, "Oh my!" And I'm going to get scaried of lions. I get scaried of tigers and lions.
4. What is your favorite season?
5. What is your favorite weather?
Desert. (ok, then!)
6. What is your favorite color?
7. What is your favorite toy?
Dump truck.
8. What is your favorite food?
9. What food do you not like?
10. What is your favorite TV show?
 Lightning McQueen.
11. What is your favorite store?
Car cart. There's a train in the other store. (He means Wegman's.)
12. What is your favorite song?
Doo Doo. The train song at Atai's. (A Mandarin song called "Doo Doo Dong" that we watched/listened to in Taiwan on karaoke about a million times)
13.  What is your favorite book?
14. What is your favorite animal?
15. What is your favorite drink?
16. What is your favorite thing to bring in your crib with you?
Sebastian (the name of his Fisher Price musical seahorse.)
17. What is your favorite thing to do outside?
Schoolwork. (Nerd!)

And my favorite questions and answers:

18. Who is your best friend?
19. Who is your best little friend?
19a. No, I mean your size. Not a grown up.
Bam Bam. Can I snuggle him?
20. What do you want to be when you grow up?
BIGGER! (And he yelled it, too. So.Stinking.CUTE!!)

And a bonus question. I asked him his favorite memory. And he said "Go in the rain." Today, we took his birthday pictures in the rain outside of Olive Garden and he loved it! Which you can tell from the photo at the top of this post, I am sure :)

One more piece of remembering, then I am done with this super sappy post.

Happy birthday, Boogie. I love you so much.
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Friday, September 28, 2012

30 Free Apps for Babies

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We are back in the States and trying to recover from jet lag, but I wanted to take a few moments and share some of the apps that we discovered while we were in Taiwan. What were we doing discovering apps in Taiwan, you ask? Don't ask. Well, since you did...the plane ride there was incredibly challenging. Bam Bam (15 months) did NOT want to sleep. At all. Ever. For 15.5 hours. He wanted to lie down flat and nurse to sleep and because he couldn't lie down flat, and refused to nurse under the cover (I nursed him in the plane bathroom twice. I felt less clean than I have ever felt except after having a baby!), he was miserable, we were miserable, and everyone on the plane was miserable with us. All the planning, preparing and creating I did was for naught because nothing made him happy. Even the television didn't help much. The plane left at 1:45 in the morning and all my poor little boy wanted was to sleep. It was a really rough experience and I seriously considered never leaving Taiwan just so I wouldn't have to go through that or put my family through that again. But then being in Taiwan also had its challenges, so I decided we had to find a way to get home. So, I started researching and testing apps that would distract Bam Bam from his misery if he couldn't sleep again.

What I was looking for in an app for him was movement, sound effects, and simple tap or drag cause and effect. Here are the best 30 apps I found. The app that kept his attention longest is first, and then they are just grouped catergorically from there. The best part is all these apps are FREE! Some of them I would like to buy the full version, but they are fun in their lite versions, too.

We did have a couple apps on my Kindle Fire, too, but I am too lazy to get that right now. So, these are just the ones on my iPhone. Not sure if they are all available for android, too. The best two that I had for the Kindle were a bubble making and popping one (there are loads of free ones for any device and you should definitely download one of them!) and a paint dropping one where you could splatter the paint. I could not find either of those exact apps for the iPhone.

And in case you are wondering, the plane ride home was better, thank the good Lord! Bam Bam and Boogie both slept some, and Bam Bam did enjoy some apps. The sleeping saved the day and our sanity, though :) It is good to have a supply of apps for waiting situations, too, though, so I am glad that I have them ready to go, just in case I need them another time.

 Animals and/or Vehicles

Peekaboo Barn

Bam Bam loved the free version of Peekaboo Barn so much that we bought the full version. This is hands down his favorite app. All you have to do is touch the barn door and it opens to reveal an animal. The animal makes a sound and a child's voice says the name of the animal. For free, you can record your own voice saying the names of the animals, which allows you to customize the language for free. Or, for an additional fee, you can buy a language pack (either Asian or European, both of which include several languages from the area). I just discovered this when linking to the app page, so I will definitely have my husband record the animal names in Mandarin for our kids!

I Hear Ewe

This app has 24 animals and 12 vehicles. The images are all cartoons. You touch the picture and a voice says "This is the sound a ______ makes," then you hear a real life sound. The pronunciation of some of the words is strange, but the variety is great. The biggest thing I love about this app is that you have 5 different language options for free! I switch between English and Mandarin. You can also choose to turn off the description and only hear the sound. I wish there was an option to just hear the name of the animal/vehicle in Mandarin, rather than the whole phrase. And I wish there were photos rather than cartoons. Otherwise, a pretty comprehensive free app.

Sound Touch Lite

This is the free version and it has cartoons of 12 animals and 12 vehicles. You touch the one you want to hear and it takes you to a full screen photo and a clip of a real sound effect. I love that it uses real photos, which is my complaint about I Hear Ewe.


The idea for this is great, but I feel like it could use some work. There is a large egg on the screen. You tap the egg and cracks appear. After several taps, there is a boing sound and something is revealed. I feel like this could be a lot more educational if it was all real creatures that actually come from eggs, if there were photographs instead of drawings, and a voice said what the animal was. For what it is, though, it is cute.

Talking Tom series

I downloaded three of the Talking Tom series because they were suggested on every site that had reviews for apps for kids. The highlight of these apps is that you talk to the animals and they repeat what you say in a funny voice. The downside, which I think you can turn off in some of the apps, is that there is a violence aspect where when you poke the animal, instead of giggling like it tickles, the animal acts like you just smacked it. 

Broom Broom

I think they meant "vroom vroom." In this app, when you move your finger around the screen, the squiggles turn into roads and cars drive around on them. Eventually the roads fade so you have room to make new ones. The cars make sound effects and sometimes honk. This is by the same maker as Colorful Balloons, and like that app, the ad on the bottom is annoying, but watching the cars drive and the roads appear is entertaining and engaging.


Piano Pals

On the bottom of the screen is 8 colored keys, and the top is a farm scene with 8 animals. You can choose to have the keys play the animal sounds, play music, say the colors, or say numbers. There are 4 other animal themes beside the farm that you can purchase.

My Baby Drum

In this digital drum app, there are 8 colored circles (drums) on the screen that you can tap. There is also an option to have music play that you can drum with or have drums play that you can drum with. I think the free play is the best for a baby who just enjoys tapping the screen.


If you like the Fisher Price Singamajigs, you will like this app. You can scroll through several different creatures, tap their tummies and they will sing notes. There isn't the option like there is on the real thing to change between words, sounds, and notes, but watching the mouth move and hearing the notes is still entertaining.


Pocket Pond

I really like this app. A very realistic looking pond with koi that swim around and get scared if you poke your finger and make ripples. For a 15 month old, the original version is perfect. There is a 2nd version with more interaction but it is a lot more involved and not as baby friendly. 

Colorful Aquarium Lite

For a baby, a parent has to set up the aquarium by adding fish and plants and what not, but then your child can watch them swim around. You can also tap on the glass or shake the aquarium to make the fish move, which your baby will like. The bubble sound effect can be controlled or turned off, and the glass tapping sound will amuse your child. I recommend turning off the dirtiness factor in the setup menu unless you want to have to fake clean the fake tank so your baby can see the fake fish.

Colorful Ripple

Not very water-esque, really, but since it is called "ripple", I put it with the other water apps. I wanted this app to be more than it was, but it did engage Bam Bam and it is simple, colorful, and fun, so I should stop nitpicking. The background is a colorful spiral. When you tap the screen, a "ripple" (a colored circle in this case) appears, expands, and disappears. You can tap repeatedly or drag your finger around. Each ripple is a different color. I wanted there to be a musical interaction each time you tapped but you can have music playing in the background.

Liquid Mantra Lite

As you move your finger around the screen, you make water appear. It moves or settles depending on your movement. Pretty realistic and there are a lot of options if you want to change them but since it is just for Bam Bam to tap on the screen, I left the settings alone.

Liquid Lite

Similar to Liquid Mantra Lite but the graphic isn't as realistic. The liquid moves more with the phone motion and there is a sloshing sound effect, along with 4 different liquid colors and backgrounds.  Not sure which one I like better, which is why I kept both. If your child likes the sound effect, this is the best water app for you, since the others don't have sound.

Liquid Mirror

This is a cool idea. The app uses your phone's front or back camera and acts like a mirror, but when you touch the screen it distorts it as if it is a reflection in water. You can make ripples and waves. No colors or sounds, but it is a fun way to use your baby's love for mirrors.

Fluid Monkey

Another liquid simulator app. This one has a TON of options for changing how the liquid looks. I like the way the water looks and moves and settles, even though I feel that Liquid Mantra Lite is definitely the most realistic as far as how it looks both when settled and moving. But as far as the way the water moves, this one is probably the best. 

Pocket Drops

This is like fruit ninja, in zen mode, with circle and square drops of water. The maker also made Pocket Pond, so the graphics are great, and there are some sound effects. There are 4 different backgrounds that you can have your water drops floating around on. The drops don't interact with phone movement, only finger movement. You can combine and then slash the droplets to make more, and watch them reconnect, or you can add more by opening the menu.


Heat Pad Lite

This is a tough app to describe but it is really cool. When you touch the screen, it acts like a heat sensor and the colors change depending on how long you touch one spot. There are 9 different color/style settings, including heat, glow, metal, and flame, just to name a few. You can tap or drag your finger to create images and there is a setting to change how long they stay on the screen before fading. There is zen music playing in the background that you can use or silence. This one is great for babies.

Fireworks Arcade

I looked at a bunch of fireworks apps, and liked this one best. When you touch the screen, a firework appears and explodes. If you stop it will start setting off its own show, which causes a baby to start touching the screen again and set off their own.

Fire Fingers

This is like drawing with fire. It is similar to Heat Pad Lite, except the flame graphic is more realistic in this app. 

Kooleido Lite

This is a kaleidoscope app that you can set to auto or manually control the changing of the image, either with your finger or by tilting the phone. There are 15 images in the free version and 4 different shape combinations you can choose between. It is as close to a real kaleidoscope as you can get without carrying one with you. 

Kaleido Free

Another kaleidoscope app, but in this one, as you move your finger around, you are causing a glowing kaleidoscope image to appear.

Balls, Bubbles, Balloons

Newton's Cradle

There are several different free versions of this app. I am sure you have seen this in real life. It is a stand with balls on strings that keep tapping one another. That is not a great explanation, but that is the best I can do under the influence of extreme jet lag. Mesmerizing and relaxing for adults and interesting for kids.

Colorful Balloons

In this app, each time you tap on the screen, a balloon appears. They float around the screen on their own. If you continually tap on the same balloon it gets bigger, and eventually pops or flies around the screen making a sound like you let it go part way through blowing it up. The ad on the bottom is annoying if your child likes to tap all over the screen, but otherwise a cute app.

Bubble Snap

This is digital bubble wrap popping. Such a clever idea. You can choose 3 different sizes, and I find that the biggest is best for clumsy little fingers. It looks and sounds like bubble wrap, and what kid doesn't love that?!

Jiggle Balls

The free version of this app is such an annoying tease, but the idea is fun, so I am including it in case you want to buy the full version. In the free version, you touch the screen and several tiny grayish balls appear and fall to the bottom of the screen. The more you touch the screen, the more balls appear. They react to bumping into each other, touch, or phone movement. The sound effects are bouncy and fun and it is pretty much like having a bunch of ping pong balls in your phone. But the free version keeps the info screen as the background and taunts you with the information about the paid version (you can change background, ball color, ball weight, gravity, sound, and the bounce). Next time we are going somewhere, I might get the paid version because I think being able to change those things would make this a really awesome distraction.


Let Loose

I was looking for some kind of "splat" app, where if Bam Bam touched the screen, something would make a splat sound and image on the screen. That is how I stumbled across this app, which is pretty funny. There are 15 cartoon "weapons" you can use to throw at a picture from your photo library. The "weapons" that I choose for Bam Bam include pies, tomatoes, eggs and water balloons. There are a few different sound effects and the splattering is different depending on the "weapon."

Crack and Break

Another one I stumbled across looking for something else. My little bruiser really liked this one. You can choose between a picture on your phone, glass blocks, light bulbs, or fluorescent lights and you tap them to break them. He laughed out loud the first time one shattered. I am in trouble!

Smart Tot Rattle

A very simple app that held Bam Bam's attention when he was tired. The app has several backgrounds with some combination of big black, white and red pattern. Then, in front, there are 3 more colorful objects that move and bump against one another making sounds. They move on their own as well as according to touching the screen or moving the phone. I think there are 4 screens that it rotates through.

Fisher Price series

There are a bunch of free Fisher Price apps that have minimal interaction needed. The typical Fisher Price voice and song and dance kind of does its own thing, which is adorable and educational. Bam Bam isn't really into just sitting and watching, though, so he wasn't a big fan. He wants to poke and have something happen, and the ones we played were on auto mode. But if you have a child who likes to watch and you need them to be quiet, these are great.

Do you have any apps for babies or young toddlers that you would add to this list? Feel free to comment below!

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

7 Imperfect Days (Week of Aug 27)

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I feel like I am grumbling, either out loud or in my heart, a lot lately. I am excited and grateful for the opportunity to go to Taiwan, but I am frazzled and the everyday things are getting away from me. I am blogging pretty regularly again partly as an escape from all the responsibilities of being a full-time SAHM (mom, wife, housekeeper, accountant, secretary, cook...etc) that are feeling like more of a burden than a blessing right now. I don't want to just get by. I want to enjoy each blessed moment of each blessed day. To try and do this, to look back on the day and remember the treasures rather than the trials, I am taking a few moments at the end of each day and writing at least one good/funny thing that I want to remember about each of my fellas. It is a daily gratitude list. And it helps.


Hubby-Man remembered, even after a long day of work, even after we had already run 3 errands and were on our way to the fourth, that I hadn't had dinner yet, and offered to drive-thru at McDs so I could get something. He also suggested that I could blog more easily with some kind of dictation software, which he would look into. I don't know that I would use it, or should use it since my problem is that it is sometimes TOO easy to drop everything and blog, but the fact that he wants to support me in my creative outlets means a lot.

Boogie learned "May I please be excused?" last week. He remembered to say it when we were at my grandma's house. She exclaimed, "Holy moly, what a gentleman!"

Bam Bam blows whenever we walk past the fan in the hall between the boy's room. I love all the new ways he finds to make sense of the world.

Bam Bam wore his new shoes to walk to the tot lot in our development. His first walk! He walked inbetween Boogie and I. He sat on Boogie's lap to go down the slide, too.

Boogie was so excited to hold Bam Bam's hand for our walk. He did not want to hold my hand at all, he wanted to help his brother.

Hubby-Man worked late, but picked up food so I could leave as soon as he walked in the door for my girl's night out with my sister-in-law and 2 girlfriends. Yes, I get a girl's night out, often once a week. Even if the house is a mess (which it is) and there are dishes in the sink (which there are) and the boys aren't bathed (which they aren't). Also, he played catch with Boogie in our room while I nursed Bam Bam in theirs and Boogie loved the quality time.


Hubby-Man took out the garbage before work.

Boogie took the bag of mini muffins out of the fridge and asked my mom (Gudge) and I "Would you like one?" so sweetly. He gave one to Bam Bam before himself. He talked about playing catch with his dada all day today!

Bam Bam and I were in the car driving my grandma (Gum) home and he realized Boogie wasn't in the car. He said the word that we have been assuming is how he says Boogie's name. I asked, "Are you saying [Boogie]?" And he goes, "Yeah!"


Boogie was trying to do "I love you" in sign language when I walked into his room this morning. Precious. He also was having a great time at the train table. "Gordon! I need help with these freight cars! Them are too heavy please!"

I asked Bam Bam where Boogie was and he pointed. He also will fold his hands when you tell him to fold his hand and pray and he tries to say Amen.

Hubby-Man got home from work early so I could run an errand. We had our fantasy football draft and he was really excited to get Peyton Manning.


Boogie says cute things all day long. "I think my birthday is coming up, Mama. And I will blow out the candle and sing happy birthday to Boogie." He is also full of mischief and used a double negative on his dada today. Hubby Man told him to say "I will not push my brother" several times and every time Boogie say "I will not not push my brother." Stinker!! We have been doing popcorn prayers throughout the day, and he loves asking me to pray for the cars when we drive.

Bam Bam loves popcorn prayers, too. He goes "eh eh eh!" whenever we finish and folds his hands to do it again. He also pretends his hands, his food, and everything is a car and goes "vrrrrrmmmmm" on everything, including me.

Hubby Man got home from work early again today so I could run more errands. We had fun looking at his new tablet and looking over my purchases from the new craft store.


The boys woke up late. We had lunch about an hour after a light breakfast. Boogie goes, "We not eat lunch. We almost eat breakfast!"

Bam Bam points to his toes when you ask where they are.

Hubby Man bought his own clothes for Taiwan during the boy's nap, which was really helpful! We watched our college football team win today, too.I made an epic fail meal and he didn't complain at all. He was really encouraging that I tried something different.


Bam Bam knows his ear. He lays his head on our chests or shoulders when we say "snuggle."

Boogie was playing with potato heads and said "Does the mama need a mustache?" Cracked us up! Then, he turned the mouth upside down and said "The mama is sad." When I asked why, he said, "Cuz it misses the dada." When I brought the dada over, he turned the mouth back around. That seems advanced to me! He also was enjoying snuggling with us on the floor in the playroom.

Hubby Man and I packed for Taiwan together.

That's all for this week! I am feeling better already :) God is good!

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Letter A Sensory Bin

I love sensory bins and it has been much too long since I posted one! Since we are focusing long and hard on each letter right now, and Boogie is really enjoying A, this bin has been out for awhile. I just recently started letting Bam Bam play in it too and he LOVES it. He toddles right over to the shelves and starts saying "please" in sign language with "eh eh eh eh!" thrown in with a tone of desperation. I obviously VERY closely supervise them while they play because there are a ton of choking hazards in here. You have to know your child. Bam Bam puts things to his lips and looks at me. And he has never once tried to eat the rice. He is completely the opposite of Boogie, who was, and still is, a hardcore mouther. Boogie is finally getting his last two molars, so I am hoping his teething days are going to be over by the fall. Another big difference with how the boys approach sensory bins is that Bam Bam is all about throwing everything everywhere. He is very hard to discipline because he is so young and nothing phases him. Boogie has always hated having Hubby-Man or I upset with him so saying "No throwing!" was usually enough. Bam Bam looks at us like "What are you going to do about it?" So, I have a ton of rice all over my kitchen floor several times throughout the day.

Anyway, all that aside, let's look in the bin!

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I don't know why I don't have a picture of everything in the bin. Sorry!

The base is red rice dyed with Kool-Aid. I figured that went with apples. If we had access to acorns, I would have rather filled it with something that started with A. Because I am crazy like that.

I used every letter A I could find in our stash.

giant foam letter from JoAnns
sponge letter from the dollar store
foam letters from puzzles from the Dollar Tree
wooden letter from a name puzzle
bottle cap letters
Leap Frog fridge phonics magnet letter
Melissa and Doug letter stamps
Melissa and Doug alphabet puzzle letter
dollar store magnet letters
Wilton cookie cutter letter
pipe cleaner letters

Then, I found a bunch of items that began with the letter A.

handmade yarn and pipecleaner apples
pretend food apples from a Walmart set and from the dollar store
an airplane from the train set and one from the airport
an alligator from a Melissa and Doug puzzle
acrylic acorns from Pier 1
acorns from the dollar store

All items we had around the house. Hours of free sensory and letter learning fun!

May be linking up to some of these great parties!
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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Letter A Muffin Tin Meal

I have missed muffin tin meals! I realize blogging and muffin tin meals are not mutually exclusive, but I was kind of taking a break from all those things for awhile. This week I wanted to do something new for the letter A anyway, so I decided to make Boogie a meal full of As for lunch today.

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Just used a Wilton letter A cookie cutter and went to town! Pretty self-explanatory, huh? :) Gotta love PicMonkey!

May be linking up to these great parties!
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Monday, August 27, 2012

Family Photo Peekaboo Board

You know me and my love for reinventing a perfectly good wheel, right? Well, here is another example, inspired by the peekaboo boards on Inspiration Surrounds...Creativity Abounds and Disney Family Fun.

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The above photo is my favorite because it shows what the windows look like as well as how they open.

I did mine completely differently than the other 2 I linked to, though the idea is the same. I knew that for the flight to Taiwan, I wanted a switchability factor, meaning, I wanted to use more than just 4 photos, and I wanted to make it so that I could put any photo I wanted in any window. I knew this would mean one of my 2 old reliables- either velcro or magnets. I went with magnets because I have a lot of weird small pieces left over from my other magnet projects.

If you follow my blog at all, you know that I do not sew if I can avoid it. But with 2 little boys tugging on this, I knew there needed to be a sewing component rather than just hot glue. So I knew that I needed to hot glue felt to some kind of board so that I could sew felt on felt for the windows. And I was pretty sure I wanted to use pom poms for the handles because those would be easier than buttons or pony beads for Bam Bam to grasp.

With all those ideas in mind, this is (roughly) what I did.


exacto knife
scissors and/or pinking shears
hot glue
needle and thread
pom poms
laminator and laminating sheets
magnets (or velcro)
1 piece of paper


Figure out the size of your board and cut it from your cardboard. I used a diaper box because it is pretty strong. I actually used 2 pieces about the same size so the boys couldn't bend the final product.

Figure out how many windows you want and the size you want them. My cardboard square is about 8 inches and the windows are 2x2. Roughly.

Figure out the placement of your windows. Trace. Cut with exacto knife. (do this for both pieces of cardboard if you want it reinforced.)  If you used 2 boards, hot glue them together.

Put your piece of felt (or fabric) that is the same size as your board underneath your board and with chalk or a similar colored marker, trace the windows. Cut out the windows.

Cut the window covers out of whatever colors of felt (or fabric) you want, just a little bigger than the size of your windows. I liked using my pinking shears for this for added cuteness.

Use your needle and thread and a simple stitch to attach the window covers depending on which way you want them to open. I did all different ways.

Use your needle and thread again to attach your pom poms opposite your stitching so that your little one has a handle.

Hot glue the whole felt shebang to the cardboard.

Now, the inside and back. I will show you photos first so you have it in your head before you read on.

I ran 2 laminating sheets through my laminator to create the place for the pictures. I did one empty and one with a purple piece of paper to round out the 6 major colors. I cut them to size then  put the purple one, which would be the back and bottom-most layer under the felt/cardboard so that I could place 4 magnets in the centers for the pictures.

Next, I stapled one side of the clear and purple laminated pages to act as a hinge. I stapled with the purple page towards me so that when I attached it, the pointy parts would be towards the cardboard. I used hot glue to attach the clear page to the back of the cardboard so that there is a barrier between the pictures and the children

I used a small piece of velcro on the opposite side from the staples to act as a lock.

I used velcro to attach an envelope to the back of the whole thing to keep the pictures in, just like I did with the travel train table.

I laminated all the pictures and attached magnets to the backs.

Now, it is a simple peekaboo board for Bam Bam, but it is also a way to reinforce colors, memory recall and direction-following to Boogie. For example, "Can you open the door with the yellow knob?" or "Do you remember who is under the red door?"

Linking up to some of these great parties!
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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Fish in a Bottle- a travel aquarium

This is another travel idea aimed at my 14 month old, Bam Bam.

This activity was inspired by the Bright and Beyond Baby Playtime Activity Cards. They did it with only one water balloon and a sharpie face, but why use one balloon when you could use 5? And why use a sharpie when you could use googly eyes?

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The boys were happily entertained at the train table the day I made this, so I popped into the kitchen and watched them while I was gluing google eyes onto water balloons. Bam Bam noticed that I was doing something fun first, and within seconds I had two screaming children begging for fish at my feet. So, I made two, put them away, and am fairly sure this will keep them both happy at least for a little while on the plane. Obviously, I am bringing the bottles empty and adding water once we get through security. And unfortunately, it won't be colored water on the plane. But for car trips or a quiet activity in a waiting room or at a restaurant, colored water would make this more fun!

To make the fish you just need a little puff of air in small water balloons. Make the knot and voila! Fish! Use your favorite waterproof adhesive (I used superglue because I wasn't sure about hot glue in water) to attach some small googly eyes. Squeeze the fish through the opening, add some water, use some adhesive on the top if you will not be on a plane, and you have an adorable, portable aquarium!

I think this is fun for not only shaking and watching where the fish go (which is mostly what Bam Bam will be doing), but also for talking about colors and counting, which we will do with both boys, but Boogie will be more into the counting than Bam Bam, obviously. Colors are old hat for Boogie, but we can review them for Bam Bam's sake.

Hope you are all enjoying these cheap, easy DIY travel activities as much as I am enjoying making them! :)

Linking up to these great parties!
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Build a Face Blocks

Here is another great, easy idea for your baby or toddler. I am using it specifically for travel, because it is smallish and portable. It will be great for my 14 month old because a) he just figured out blocks  b) he is obsessed with pointing out and hearing the words for parts of the face c) we can identify and name the 4 of us. It will also be great for my 34 month old because a) he will get a huge kick out of mixing up our faces b) we can reinforce the Chinese words for the parts of the face, which he has mastered recently c) we can reinforce the concept of top, middle, and bottom d) he can practice following instructions (ie- can you put mommy's eyes on daddy's nose and your mouth). This is so much more than just building with blocks!

I got the idea from a feature on U Create but the blog that it was originally posted on was A Couple of Craft Addicts and she got the idea from Disney Family Fun Magazine. With all those sites linked properly, though, I tweaked the idea by just using 3 blocks and the parts of the face rather than full body shots. To be a hundred percent honest, I was pretty sure Hubby Man does not ever want to see himself with boobs :P But also, like I said above, both boys are learning about the face right now in different ways, so it made a lot more sense for our family to do it this way. I do think it could be a lot of fun to dress your family members up in either crazy outfits, costumes, or their favorite outfits to do this. Or, if you are going to do faces, to do silly faces instead of normal smiling faces. The possibilities are really endless!

The only changes I made to the actual project was to laminate the pictures and use double sided tape rather than Mod Podge. I have one hardcore teether and one end-of-the-road (FINALLY) teether, and I want the pictures to survive. Also, the tape allows the pictures to come off easily and be replaced with more recent pictures and the blocks can be used as blocks again when we aren't traveling.

Go to A Couple of Craft Addicts for a full tutorial if you would like one :)

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25 Popsicle Stick Animal Friends

When I saw these 5 fun popsicle stick farm animals from Make and Takes, I knew I had to create Boogie a set for the plane. I was going to buy finger puppets on Amazon, but could not decide which set because he likes such a variety of animals. Making my own out of popsicle sticks solved that dilemma. Amanda gives a little tutorial on the horse, pig, cow, cat, and rooster there, in case you would like some instruction. Otherwise, I think the process is pretty self-explanatory :)

I had a lot of fun making these for Boogie and think he will have fun singing "Old MacDonald" and talking about our trip to the San Diego Zoo when he sees these.

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In case it is hard to tell, the farm animals from left to right are a mouse, cow, horse, pig, cat, sheep, duck, goat, dog, and rooster.

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The forest animals from left to right are a brown bear, snake, rabbit, frog, and robin.

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The zoo animals from left to right are a panda, lion, elephant, zebra, rhino, tiger, penguin, hippo, monkey and giraffe. 

I think they turned out so cute!

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