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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