Monday, December 15, 2014

Favorite Toys for Preschool Boys

I’ve been supplying family members with gift ideas for my kids the past few days, which has made me think about which toys my kids really use.  I mean really, really use…the ones they camp out with on the floor and play with for at least 30 minutes, if not much longer.  Before buying a toy, I spend time researching, reading reviews, and asking friends lots of questions about toys for a few reasons:  I don't want extra toys around our house that are played with rarely or never, and I also want our kids actually playing with toys and using their imaginations. 

I could almost tear up at the fact that my Isaac is nearly out of the preschool phase!  Here are the toys he has loved and used again and again as a 3, 4, and recent 5 year old.

Imaginext Gorilla Mountain
As you will see on this list, Isaac really loves animals.  A friend gifted this Imaginext Jungle to us when her son outgrew it.  Like many toys in our house, I keep this one in the closet and bring it out every few weeks.  We usually set this up on the hearth, and Isaac will play with this for at least an hour at a time.  While Isaac was initially attracted to the gorilla's light-up eyes and the fun jungle sounds, he now loves spreading all the animals out and making up stories of what the animals and the two jungle explorers are doing.  (This is out of stock on Amazon, but there are several used Gorilla Mountains on eBay.) 
Sometimes, the jungle animals also explore our household decor.  :)
We borrowed Automoblox from a friend for Isaac to play with on a road trip to Minnesota, and he loved them so much that we bought them for his third birthday.  Isaac disassembles and reassembles the cars over and over trying to make the longest car and then the shortest car and then the car with the most windshields, etc.  These aren't cheap, but I think they're worth the price considering Isaac still plays with them; Emma also plays with them now, too.  They're also great for building hand-eye coordination since it takes a lot of focus to put the wheels on the car.  (Link on Amazon here)
Playmobil My Take Along Pet Clinic
I about choked when I looked this up on Amazon and saw it retails for $149!  I bought this at a consignment sale at a great price (I'm thinking $15).  I wasn't familiar with Playmobil when I purchased this--I just knew it had lots of tiny parts (Isaac loves, loves, loves tiny things) and involved animals, so I was pretty sure it was going to be a win.  And, yes, it was and still is.  Isaac usually plays with this in the afternoons while Emma naps and he has quiet time in his room.  While I was so sick this summer in my first trimester, he played with it nearly every afternoon while I slept.  I can't say enough how much he loves all the tiny animals and the tiny vet instruments.  I also love it because all the tiny parts fit inside which makes clean-up and storage easy.  I definitely wouldn't pay $149 for this--but, if you find any of the Playmobil Take Along toys for less, grab them!  (Link on Amazon here)
Little Tykes Car Mountain 

I laugh just about every time kids play with this toy at our house, because I found it in our neighbor's trash and hauled it home.  Hands down, this is every kid's favorite toy at our house.  Whether a child has been to our house one time or a hundred, they walk in the door and immediately ask where the racetrack is.  This is a retired toy, but there are several on eBay.  I'd say this is something that would be worth $75-100 considering the hours spent on this.  There are five different tracks where cars can race, and the "loop-de-loop" is always a hit.  When friends are over, three of them will hover around the mountain and race their cars down the tracks over and over and see which car flies the farthest at the end.  (The other two tracks go different directions.)  Definite winner!  And, you can store all your child's Hot Wheels and MatchBox cars underneath the lift-off mountaintop.  (Search Little Tykes Car Mountain or Little Tykes Adventure Mountain on eBay--here's one I found.
Melissa and Doug Magnetic Dress-Up Joey
Again, this is a toy Isaac received several years ago and still plays with consistently.  Isaac loves dressing and redressing Joey in each costume--his favorite is the superhero costume because there's a miniature eye mask for Joey's eyes.  Now that he's older, Isaac thinks it's funny to mix-up the costumes and have him wear pirate pants and a knight top.  There are several girl verions of this, too, but they are all focused on ballerinas or fairies where the only variant is the color of tutus/ballerina costumes.  I think this is the best of the Melissa and Doug Magnetic Dolls because of the complete differences in each costume.  Definitely worth $9!  (Link on Amazon here)
Animal Figurines
There are hundreds of animal figurines from mini-dinosaurs that you can buy at the Dollar Tree to beautifully painted Schleich figurines.  I've found that Isaac will play with all of them!  The first animal figurine Isaac had was a Schleich Holstein cow, which I found at a toy store that was going out of business.  I had never seen Schleich animals before and knew Isaac would enjoy how realistic they are.  Since the store was going out of business, they didn't have much selection left--so Isaac got a cow!  Ha!  But, he played with it far more than I ever could have imagined.  Since then, his collection of animal figurines has expanded to include many horses, several dinosaurs, and also a Schleich golden retriever.  Isaac plays with his animals in the bathtub, outside on the playset, in playdough, in the car--anywhere.  (As I write this, he's laying beside me playing with two of his dinosaurs.)  Just the other day, Isaac was laying on his stomach in the family room and playing with some of his animals.  I teared up and said to Dave, "I just don't want to forget this sweet phase where Isaac lays on his stomach and plays animals for hours." 
Here are a few links to some of Isaac's favorite animal figurines: 
Schleich dinosaur set
Lego Mix and Match Men
Two years ago when we were at the Lego store, my mom bought Isaac three Lego mini-figures that Isaac can mix and match.  Each mini-figure has a top, a bottom, a head, and an accessory (an axe or a hat).  I couldn't find an exact match to what Isaac has online, but there are a ton of Lego mini-figures on Amazon.  Legos are usually always a hit with boys, but up until now these have been the only Legos Isaac enjoys.  Lego mini-figures are great for long car rides or quiet time.  (Link on Amazon here)
I've saved my very favorite for last--homemade playdough.  I quickly discovered that homemade playdough beats store-bought playdough--less crumbly and much cheaper.  Plus, I make mine dye-free or use natural dye, which is important to me.  Both Isaac and Emma love to sit at the kitchen table and play with playdough; Isaac sometimes lasts 2 hours.  Usually, Isaac plays with his dinosaurs in his playdough, but he also likes using traditional playdough toys (rolling pins and cutters) or sea animals. 
Here is my favorite playdough recipe--I store this in a Tupperware container, and it lasts at least a year.
2 cups of plain flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup salt
1 Tbsp oil (coconut, vegetable, canola)
1/2 Tbsp scented oil (optional)
2 cups water
Mix wet and dry ingredients separately.  Mix together in medium saucepan.  Cook slowly on medium-high and stir until the playdough thickens.  Dump onto wax paper and carefully knead until cool.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

November in Pictures

We finally carved our pumpkin after Halloween!  The kids still loved their "tiger" pumpkin,

 Emma had her first visit to the ER!

We found Emma asleep like this one night.

Emma started school with Isaac. Isaac kept saying, "Emma, it's your first day of school! You get to have recess with me." 
 We got a dusting of snow one night!  Isaac was galloping around the backyard (in the dark) and singing, "snow, snow, snow snow snow, it's so good to have you!"

All ready for church in a new dress from Papa & Nana  (an early Christmas gift) 

the best part of bedrest 

Our dear friends, Kenny & Carla, are home from Africa on furlough.  We were so happy they were in Texas and spent an evening with us.  Our time together was wonderful & too short. Isaac and Emma had a blast playing with their 3 boys (pic above).
Isaac and his friend, Landrie, at the park after BSF one Wednesday.  So thankful for friends who pick up my kids each Wednesday for BSF.
My little Pilgrims at their Thanksgiving program & feast--so glad Daddy and both grandmas were able to attend.
Celebrating my dad's birthday!  My kids love their Pop, cake, and their matching pajamas!

These two aren't always full of giggles and kisses for each other, but I love moments like this! 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

For many months, we had been looking forward to Thanksgiving in Steamboat with Papa and Nana.  Obviously, our plans changed once I was put on bedrest.  My wonderful in-laws didn’t let it phase them at all.  They immediately said they’d be happy to have Thanksgiving at our house instead.  I (secretly) wondered how great of a Thanksgiving this would really be, because we had all really been excited about spending it in Steamboat.  But, this Thanksgiving truly ended up being wonderful!  It meant so much to me that everyone showed my family so much love during this season of bedrest and cheerfully accepted having Thanksgiving at our house (well, besides Isaac—he said I could stay home by myself and everyone else could go to Colorado). 
My mother-in-law arrived the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.   Susie was able to attend Isaac and Emma’s Thanksgiving Feast at school.  She also cooked for us, took care of Isaac and Emma, and spoiled us with the best backrubs.  My father-in-law arrived the night before Thanksgiving.

~all ready for church~
Emma really wanted to wear this dress because it was "like Nana's!" 
Emma had already seen Susie ready for church and wanted to match the colors of Nana's outfit. 
Thanksgiving Day!
Dave woke up at 5:30am on Thanksgiving morning to make cheddar pear and French apple pies.  Emma woke up almost as early and got some extra snuggle time with Daddy after the pies were done.
Dave and his dad took the kids to the park on the morning of Thanksgiving while Susie and Mike were working in the kitchen.  Dave said that the park was full of dads &  kids that morning--all so the moms and grandmas could work in the kitchen!
playing at the park on Thanksgiving morning
While everyone was either at the park or working in the kitchen, I was sitting in my recliner, knitting, and enjoying a decaf Peppermint Mocha that Mike brought me. As I felt our baby moving and wriggling inside me, my heart nearly burst. To have a precious son, daughter, and husband whom I love so much, family & friends that have taken such good care of us while I'm on bedrest, and a little one in my womb is overwhelming....thank You, Jesus!

Yes, this was what Isaac chose to eat on Thanksgiving.  He was so excited to have a bone all to himself!  (And, he ate it all.)
the wishbone!

My parents stopped by on Thanksgiving night to have pie with us.  While everyone else had pie, I enjoyed more mashed potatoes and gravy.  Sweets have not been my thing during this pregnancy, but the mashed potatoes and gravy were amazing. 
When Dave put our kids to bed on Thanksgiving night, he asked them what they were thankful for.  Isaac said God, Daddy, Mommy, Emma, and our whole family.  Emma's answers were God (because she always wants to be like Isaac), Mommy, and Michael!  These kids love their family.
Dave showed me a lot of love by putting up our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving.  Decorating for Christmas isn’t quite Dave’s favorite thing in the world, plus I’m sure it didn’t help that I was giving him suggestions from my recliner as to how the deco mesh should be arranged on the tree.  But, we survived, and our kids were absolutely ecstatic to put ornaments on the tree.  From my recliner where I spend a lot of time each day, I see a portion of the tree that is clustered with ornaments.   This is where Isaac predominantly decorated, and each time I look at it I think about how excited Isaac was to hang each his bunched-up, 5 year old way. 
It's finished!  (Dave was very relieved!)
Uncle Nate--known to Emma as "my Nate"--stopped by for a visit!  Look how happy Emma is!

On Saturday morning, David, Michael, Papa, Nana, and the kids headed downtown to a Polar Express Pajama Party at the IMAX Theatre at the FW Museum of Science and Industry.  

Papa and Nana flew home on Sunday morning, and I wasn't the only one crying as we all said goodbye.  We can't wait to see them again soon.
We love you!


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Isaac David: 5 Years & 20 Questions

When Isaac turned three years old, I started interviewing him on his birthday.  I asked him the same questions again last year for his fourth birthday.  As his mom, I think it's fun to see which themes keep popping up in this answers each year:  he loves dinosaurs, he loves horses, and he hates tomatoes and cilantro.  (Isaac is the best eater ever, but he gets nearly panicky if a food contains cilantro or tomatoes! Ha!)  
Also, Isaac loved answering all these questions this year.  Even after we were finished, he came back to my bed twice and asked if we could play questions again.  :)
1.  What is your favorite color?  green 

2.  What is your favorite toy?  dinosaurs

3.  What is your favorite fruit?  every fruit but not tomatoes or cilantro 

4.  What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch?  hot dogs--that's what we sometimes always have at Mom-o's house for lunch 

5.  What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? pancakes

6.  What is your favorite thing to eat for supper?  meatloaf

7.  What is your favorite thing to drink?  apple cider

8.  What is your favorite snack?  cake

9.  What is your favorite show?  Blue's Clues

10.  What are your favorite clothes to wear?  dinosaur jamas 

11. What is your favorite animal?  horses 

12.  What is your favorite song? "O God is good....America...the soldiers of the king" (He started improvising words to the tune of "America, the Beautiful".)

13.  What is your favorite book?  Bible cause God is in the Bible.  That's why it is. 
14. What is your favorite thing to do with Daddy?  ride on Bilbo the horse...that was a long time ago.  I wish I could ride on my favorite horse.  I miss my favorite horse.

15.  What is your favorite thing to do with Mommy?  read books 

16.  What is your favorite thing to do outside?  play pterodactyls with Landrie 

17.  What is your favorite holiday?  Christmas

18.  What is your favorite thing to take to bed with you each night? my horse

19.  Where is your favorite place to go?  to the beach

20.  What do you want to be when you grow up?  a scuba diver

Isaac started PreK two days a week in September.  I had been working with him at home, but enrolling him in PreK was the best decision since I've been on bedrest.  We were shocked at how much he absolutely loves school!  (He's very disappointed he doesn't get to go this week due to Thanksgiving break.)  Isaac knows that Dave and I are praying about where he'll attend kindergarten, and he's asked me if he can just keep going to his same school (which is a wonderful option).  We're so thankful he has adjusted so quickly during this time of transition. 
first day of PreK at Messiah Lutheran Classical Academy
His favorite things about school are recess, the turtles in his classroom, music class with Mrs. Dam, and playing with his friends Abbey and Larsen.  His teacher came to our house so I could participate in Isaac's conference.  She told me that when she passes out worksheets Isaac usually says, "I'll just do these at home with my mom.  I'm going to go play now."  Of course, it doesn't work that way.  :)  Since I enjoy working with Isaac so much on his learning, it's fun to talk about what he learned each day at school.  I may have teared up when I saw how he wrote his name at the top of this paper--how can my baby boy now do this?

Isaac and I have spent many, many hours snuggled up and reading together since I've been on bedrest.  He has many questions about the baby--how big baby is this week, whether or not the baby will have hair at birth, and how baby will come out of me/  He asked, "Is your tummy like a dino egg that will crack open so the baby can get out?"  He often kisses me and says, "I love you" and then gives the baby a kiss with a peck on my stomach and says, "And I love you, too."  Isaac felt the baby kicking for the first time this week, and his smile couldn't have been brighter!   
The two funniest things Isaac has said lately:
Isaac: Why aren't we going to Colorado for Thanksgiving?  (This was our Thanksgiving to go to Steamboat to be with Nana & Papa, and we'd all been looking forward to it until I was put on bedrest.) 
Mom:  Because I have to be laying down because of the baby, and so Papa and Nana came here.
Isaac: We could still go, and you could stay here by yourself.
Mom:  But then I'd be alone, and that would be pretty sad.Isaac:  Nah, you wouldn't be alone.  Remember, Jesus is always with you.
And, one night Isaac did something wrong to Emma (I don't even remember what).  It had been one of those days where I'd been training, retraining, and encouraging constantly (which is much harder when you're on bedrest), so I asked Isaac to please go upstairs and talk with Daddy (who was working on the bathroom remodel) about what he'd done.  Isaac went upstairs--or so I thought--but was soon back downstairs.  Isaac said, "Well, I started to go upstairs and talk with Daddy like you said, but I just really don't want to disturb him in his work on the bathroom."  It was very hard for me to keep a straight face that time!

What a difference a year makes!  We love this smiley, talkative, curious, energetic boy!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

20 Weeks

Yes, we are shivering in this picture!  It has been cold in North Texas this week!
Last Tuesday, Dave and I went to the doctor for an ultrasound.  We thought we’d have another ultrasound this week when I was 20 weeks, but instead the sonographer did baby’s full anatomy scan last Tuesday.  Again, it was so fun to see baby in action on the screen!  Our favorite part was when baby put his hand behind his head, as if he were relaxing.  Through this pregnancy, we’ve been in awe of how God creates each little part of our bodies.  I know I've read all the facts of a baby's development in books, but to know that it is occurring in my body is incredible.  I’ve looked at Isaac and Emma’s little bodies in a new light (ok, Isaac is 59 pounds, so not quite little) and thanked God over and over for creating them perfectly in their birth mother’s wombs.  Dave and I didn’t move as we watched each of baby’s four heart chambers beating.  We were also amazed to see oxygenated and deyxegenated blood flowing to/from the umbilical cord.  The sonographer showed us every organ, measured bones, and said baby weighed 9 ounces.  We had warned the sonographer repeatedly that we didn’t want to know baby’s gender, and I laughed when she asked us to turn away for a moment while she looked in that region—we both whipped our heads to the side so quickly.  We are really, really excited about this surprise!   
After the ultrasound, we had an appointment with Dr. Bradford.  She was so pleased with the results of the sonogram and said, “Our baby is looking perfect today!”  My bleed is now measuring 8cm x 4cm and is sitting right on top of my cervix.  Since there’s still no way to know the cause of my bleeding, I will remain on bedrest until I deliver our baby.  I am able to be up 1 to 2 hours a day. I usually use this time to eat meals with my family, though Isaac often tells me, “Mommy!  Go lay down!  You’re not supposed to be up!”  As Dave was getting dinner on the table a few nights ago, Emma pulled my chair out from the table and said, “I help you.  You sit down.”  I thought it was so sweet that she didn’t even think I should pull my own chair away from the table to be seated.
Baby will receive steroid shots at 24 weeks (second week of December) to help his lungs develop in case of early delivery.  We have no reason to believe that I’ll deliver early; but, since I had a perfect first twelve weeks of pregnancy before my bleeding began, my doctor is being cautious in case something unexpected happens again.
I started feeling baby move a lot more in the past week!  And, it’s wonderful.  Just the other day I was laying in the recliner and felt baby moving.  I started crying and crying--no, I didn't expect to be on bedrest for this pregnancy, but I am so, so thankful that our baby is growing exactly on track.  Will you please pray with us for continued healthy growth for our baby and that baby will not be affected by the pocket of blood?  Your prayers are a gift to us!
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