Category Archives: Family

Beach Dance

I know I’ve been largely absent here, and I apologize. I have a million posts in my head, but they’re just not making it into this computer.

Right now, Jenna and I are in Florida, soaking up as much Vitamin D as we can! We’ve been in the pool at least once pretty much every day, and most of the time, twice. It’s fantastic therapy for Jenna and she loves it. We have to tell her it’s time to get out every time. I think she would live in the pool if she could. She isn’t swimming yet, but she’s SO close! She has no qualms about getting her head under the water, and does an adorable little pseudo-swim where she holds her nose, kicks her feet and paddles with one hand while her little butt is up in the air. She stops and stands up when she needs a breath, then starts again. You can check out my Flickr photo stream (in the right margin) for a couple brief video clips.

The other day, it was too cold for the pool (around 70F and windy), so we decided to take a walk on the beach. I have to share a series of photos from our walk that I just love. We were headed back to the car, and she got a little way ahead of me. I noticed that she was doing a funny kind of little beach dance with her feet and I started shooting photos (she didn’t know I was shooting). As I watched and photographed, I realized that she was trying to make a horizontal line of footprints. I captured her finished work at the end of the series.


Some serious pronation going on – especially with her right foot. Need to ask our ortho team about it.

And a couple of extras from the photo shoot – just for fun:

Have a fantastic day!


Posted by on April 26, 2012 in Family, Jenna, Motherhood, Photography, Random Fun


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Extending Christmas: For the Birds

We had a real Christmas tree this year. We debated much about what was most “green,” and I read several accounts that said a real tree, when recycled after use, is still “greener” than artificial options. Something many people don’t consider is the amount of energy that goes into producing and transporting (usually overseas) artificial trees. Added to that, most people only keep artificial trees for 5-6 years (average), which means the used trees simply end in landfills. Christmas tree farms plant a new tree for the one you cut, and, natural trees can be recycled into mulch when you’re finished. Most of all, we simply love the experience of making a day, as a family, to go out and choose a tree on a farm.

This year, we found another way to extend the life of our tree. Jenna was very upset to see the tree go, but my allergies were flaring up, and we suspected the tree (mold? pine?). In an effort to compromise, I suggested that we set the tree outside the French doors on our patio. Then, inspiration hit, and I suggested that we decorate the tree for the birds with peanut butter and birdseed ornaments. Jenna was sold.

Here’s how our project went:

First, we tied dental floss (any string/yarn would work) through the holes in Saltine crackers to make a loop. (We also decorated one cardboard toilet paper tube that we poked a hole in for hanging. I preferred the crackers because the whole ornament was edible.)

Second, I pulsed chunky peanut butter in my food processor with a little sesame oil to make it thinner and easier to dip. Those lucky critters got some organic peanut butter (Yikes! $$) because that’s all I had on hand. We poured the peanut butter in a glass for dipping.

Next, we dipped the crackers. We pushed them down in with a spoon and sometimes scooped the peanut butter up over the crackers to cover completely. We laid them out on wax paper to wait for the next step.

Then, we dredged the peanut butter crackers through the birdseed. We pushed the seeds in, to make sure they were stuck more securely. This was an EXCELLENT sensory exercise for Jenna, who did NOT like the way the peanut butter and seeds felt on her hands. She wanted to get them done to hang on the tree, so she stuck with it.

The finished product waiting on wax paper.

Next, we strung popcorn on dental floss. This was good fine motor therapy for Jenna, but she didn’t do it long. My needle-phobic girl (too many bad blood work experiences) was too terrified of the threading needle. Especially after this happened to Mommy’s thumb:

Finally, we decorated the tree:


Now, to sit back and wait for the birds to come.  ……..

By that evening, our guests arrived.

They didn’t have wings, but they were still fun to watch. Within a day, we had six at a time climbing all over the tree and trying to pull the popcorn strings out! Within three days, the tree was bare. That’s OK! We can do it all over again. Christmas can last as long as the tree does. Then we’ll recycle it to mulch.

Next year, we’re considering finding a tree at a nursery that we can decorate for a couple weeks and then move outside for planting.


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Oh Give Me a Home……

Yesterday, we visited a Bison ranch for their yearly Calving Festival. We had a wonderful time and learned a little bit about the fluffy buffalo! Here’s a photo journal of our day with some things we learned mixed in:

First, we heard some music. Then, we hit the petting zoo

It’s a duck!



A burro….

A fawn….

And a cougar! (That we weren’t allowed to pet) ???

Then we waited for our covered wagon to arrive to take us out to feed the buffalo.

Ah-ha! Scientific classification: Bison Bison Bison. Seriously. Look it up.

A mature bull is 6.5′ high at the hump, 9-12′ long & 1800-2400 lbs.

During mating season, males are so “busy” (hehe) they have little time to eat & lose up to 200 lbs.

Gestation is about 9 months & calves are born around 50 lbs (ouch).

Buffalo can run 35 mph for up to 1/2 hour!

They can jump 6′ high from a standstill.

They are excellent swimmers! Who knew? They look more like they’d be excellent sinkers.

Buffalo fur allows them to withstand temps of 50 degrees below zero.

In warmer weather, they shed by rubbing against trees & rocks or rolling.

In the 1700s, there were around 60,000,000 buffalo in North America. By the 1800s, thanks to white hunters, the numbers dropped to as few as 500. Today, there are around 500,000 in the U.S. and Canada.

Their meat is lean (2.4 grams of fat in 100 grams of meat!), free-range and hormone free. They’re not confined to small feedlots, they eat the grasses from their pastures, and are only given antibiotics when they’re sick (instead of in their daily grain as most cattle are given).

Cowgirl Jenna is in heaven. She says this was her favorite part of the day.

We checked out the full-sized teepee (with a real fire inside!)…

…and painted some kid-sized versions!

We watched buffalo jerky being made over an open fire (Yes – those are Amish girls in the background),

Waited for a balloon animal from a freaky clown in a weird hat (Yes – that’s an Amish man in the background),

Jumped in a bounce house,

Said goodbye to my favorite critter,

And called it a day.



Posted by on June 12, 2011 in Family, Jenna, Random Fun


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Train Spotting

Historic Steam Engine

Today, we visited a railroad museum near us. Jenna’s favorites were the HUGE model train set with multiple running trains, tunnels, bridges, etc., and the actual train engine that she got to “drive” and blow the whistle. I was thrilled with all the fantastic photo opportunities and kicked myself for forgetting my good Nikon camera. I had to resort to my Droid camera apps (Vignette & RetroCamera), but ended up being quite pleased with the results! The steam engine pictured above & below is one of the only two running passenger steam engines in the U.S. They’re currently restoring it and prepping it for hitting the tracks again.

Steam Engine

Given how much we all loved it, I think we’ll be going back, and I’ll make sure to take my Nikon the next time! Enjoy the rest of the pics!

Steam Engine 1



Wheel & Chain



Wood Train Car



Rust 2



Brick Arch






BW Caboose



Rail Passes



Snowy Tracks



Iron Steps



Railroad Station









Rail Yard Tracks



Rusty End



Beside the Steam Engine



Red Coat Girl (Serious)

She really did have a great time, I promise! She just wasn’t in a photo shoot mood, plus, it was FREEZING outside and we were all a little bit numb.


Posted by on March 6, 2011 in Family, Jenna, Photography, Random Fun


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Fancy Nancy Tea Party

My Aunt C invited Jenna and I over for a Fancy Nancy Tea Party! What fun! Jenna and I have been enjoying Fancy Nancy books from our library lately, and Jenna has been very into the idea of dressing “fancy” and using fancy words. If you haven’t read Fancy Nancy, I highly recommend the books (and there are MANY). I steered clear of them for a while because somehow I was under the impression that she was a little bit spoiled and pretentious (a la Eloise). I’m so glad we finally gave them a try! Unlike Eloise, Nancy lives with her parents, one little sister and a dog. She loves dressing fancy, using fancy words (even in French!), and dreams about visiting Paris. She’s very down to earth, and her adventures (as well as the lessons she learns) make it easy for kids to relate. Each book is full of lots of great vocabulary lessons (fascinating is a “fancy” word for interesting) as well as some sort of lesson, either about life & relationships or nature & the world. Awesome.

My aunt went to a lot of work to make the tea a fabulous success. She sent us an invitation last week made out of Fancy Nancy fabric that she stitched onto a postcard and edged with lace. Adorable. The invitation gave Jenna a whole week to build her anticipation and excitement, and I’m pretty sure we talked about it every day. We counted the days, and she carefully planned (and changed multiple times) what we would wear and which babies we would take. Today, she woke extra early and was practically bouncing out of bed. When we arrived, we found the cardboard Fancy Nancy pictured above, and here are some peeks at the rest of our tea:

Miniature tea set

Fancy Nancy plates

Fancy Nancy placemats for coloring that included Fancy Nancy trivia! Fun!

These tiny table decorations she found online

Tiny treats including Mini M&Ms, “Fairy Bread,” & finger Jello “princesses”

Jenna even ate most of one strawberry and TWO jello princesses!! Yay!

After the tea:

Jenna works on Fancy Nancy printouts (including mazes, dot-to-dots, etc.) with Aunt C

Making a thank you card for the library (who provided the large Fancy Nancy cutout)

Happy girl poses

Tired girl reads Fancy Nancy with Aunt C

I’d say the party was a complete success! I’ll leave you with a couple close-ups of the adorable tiny tea set (that was Aunt C’s when she was Jenna’s age!)

Update! Here’s a link for a BUNCH of great Fancy Nancy free printables! Scroll down to the Fancy Nancy section and have fun!!


Posted by on February 24, 2011 in Book Reviews, Family, Jenna, Random Fun


Sparking a Love of Reading

I’m pretty sure reading has always been magical to me. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love reading (thanks Mom & Dad!). I’ve been so excited to foster the same magical excitement in Jenna. We have read to her since she was in the NICU as a baby, and she LOVES hearing stories. We started a routine of reading two stories before nap and again before bedtime at night, and it was a wonderful thing when she started bringing us books at all other moments of the day to snuggle down for a story. I still waited for that magical moment when she would start to get excited about reading on her own.

When she turned 4, I started working with her more by pointing to words and sounding them out. She quickly got irritated and frustrated and told me to “just read the story, Mommy!” She just didn’t seem interested in learning to do it herself. I backed off, watched and waited. I was thrilled last fall (at just past 4 and a half) when she spontaneously started sounding out words on signs when I was driving! She became infatuated with her Spinny Speller and she LOVED building words with this. I was excited for her. This continued for 2 or 3 months, then, somewhere around her 5th birthday, it seemed to shut off. She’s back to being frustrated & impatient when we sound things out, she says she doesn’t WANT to read it herself and insists that she just wants us to read to her. What happened?? I have no idea. None. And I’ve thought about it A LOT.

I began trying to think of ways to gently spark that magical excitement again. I say gently because I ASSURE YOU that any sort of pushing will be immediately met with her stubbornly applying the brakes. She needs to do things at her own pace. At some point, I started thinking about how much kids learn through modeling and imitating our behavior. I realized that I very rarely (almost never) pick up my OWN book and read when Jenna is around/awake. My reading time is while she’s sleeping. I decided to try initiating a “Quiet Reading Time” where we set aside time where the rules are no talking allowed and we BOTH spend time reading our own books. I knew that she wouldn’t be able to actually read on her own, but was hoping that this might push her into practicing sounding out words on her own again as well as reigniting her spark of interest in learning to read. She was excited about the idea. I set a timer (for just 15 minutes at first, so she doesn’t get to frustrated), and it became clear instantly that I was on the right track during that very first session. She got a teensy bit frustrated at first and stated that she couldn’t do it, but I gently encouraged her to just look at the pictures and try sounding out words if she wanted to. She quickly became engrossed, and now, two weeks later, she’s asking me more and more about words and sounding things out on her own. Hooray! That first day, she proudly told Daddy when he came home from work, “Guess what, Daddy? I’m doing Quiet Reading Time with Mommy every day now! Because I’m big!” We have Quiet Reading Time every day before naptime, now, and I’M loving it because I’m actually getting in some reading time of my own! Here’s what today’s session looked like:






What kind of stories do you have about reading with your kids? What got them excited about reading? What worked and what didn’t work for you? Do you read with your kids every day? If you don’t, I encourage you to give it a try. There’s nothing more magical and fun than snuggling down with a favorite little person to open a world of adventure simply by opening a book!

P.S. I should note that she independently declared today “Fancy Day” and just as independently chose her outfit & accessories! There’s also a tutu under that book!   🙂


Posted by on February 18, 2011 in Family, Favorite Things, Jenna, Parenting tips


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Noodle Trick

Noodlephoto by ashleigh290

Jenna’s been in a “big girl bed” (twin) for almost 2 years now, but we’ve had the occasional bad experience of her ending up on the floor.  A toddler rolling out of bed in the middle of the night isn’t fun for anyone in the house, let me tell you.  We treasure our sleep around here.

We weren’t thrilled with the idea of forking out the money for fancy side rails that she hopefully won’t need for long and started looking for alternatives.  I think I gave a shout out to the lovely Twitter mamas I follow and got this fantastic idea: Simply tuck one or two pool “noodles” in the edge of the bed inside the fitted sheet!  The fitted sheet holds them in place, and they provide a “bumper” that keeps the kiddo from easily rolling out.


They’re also easy to transport when traveling.  We use two at home for Jenna and take one when traveling.  We’ve also asked if the homes we’re visiting have them already.  Many people do, which saves on packing space.

I’m so sorry that I don’t remember who gave me this tip and that I’m not properly crediting you!  If it was you, give a holler in my comments.



Posted by on January 13, 2011 in Family, Jenna, Parenting tips, Travel