Thursday, January 31, 2013

Oliver's Cooking Show: Chocolate Brownies

We've completed the second episode of Oliver's Cooking Show! Today, he is going to teach you how to make brownies. Yum!


In case you missed the last one, here's the link to Oliver's first cooking show.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pre-School Cooking Class: Sticky Fingers!

The rec center where Oliver takes his cooking class doesn't offer the class in the spring or summer due to so many athletics and day camps going on. I've scoured the Denver area for a cooking class for his age group and finally found a public one through Sticky Fingers Cooking.

They need a minimum of 8 kids (ages 3-5) to run the class, and it's an 8 week course on Monday afternoons. If you're in the Denver area and are interested in a cooking class for your pre-schooler, check out this class offered through JCC. If you're interested, contact Jill from JCC at to register.

These are the recipes they used for their winter session:

• Zucchini Oatmeal sandwich Cookies + Apple Pie Smoothies
• Cauliflower tater tots + Egg-cellent Veggie Quiche
• Peach Shortcake Kabobs + Lemon Yogurt Cream
• Quinoa Avocado Sushi + Quick Asian Pickles
• Caribbean Twice-"Fried" Plantains + Tropical Punch
• Japanese Tofu Yakitori + Asian Slaw
• Cranberry Far Breton (pudding cake) + Nutmeg Whipped Cream
• Butternut Squash Pot Stickers + Sweet Soy
• Broccoli Calzones + Gelato Milkshakes
• Pumpkin Tapioca Pudding + Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins
• Sunflower Pesto Mac' n Cheese Cupcakes + Thyme Lemonade
• Black Bean Taco Cups + Super Kid Salsa
• Japanese Tofu Yakitori + Sweet Sesame Slaw
• Warm Indian Kid Curry Cups + Easy Tomato Chutney

Monday, January 28, 2013

Pool & Piñata

Yesterday, my friend, Gina, threw a pool party for her daughter's 3rd birthday. She did a fun snow/pool contrast theme and even made her own snowman piñata! What kid wouldn't have a fun time at a pool party with a piñata filled with delicious treats? We had a blast! 

Here's the piñata Gina made: 

The birthday girl!

Piñata time! Here's the birthday girl taking a swing:

Oliver waited patiently in line.

When it was Oliver's turn to hit the piñata, he freaked out. He went back a few minutes later and kind of gave it a whack.

Here he is in his big moment!

You'd think he would have been more successful since he'd had practice. Haha. One of the big kids finally busted the piñata open. Success!

Oliver was so cute. He grabbed a single Twix from the pile. I told him he could have more, so he picked one more Twix.

RIP, snowman piñata.

Then came time for fun in the pool. I'd never been to the Foothills pool before. It's fantastic! A large portion of the pool is a foot deep or less. The water's warm, and you walk right into the pool (there's no drop, just a gradual deepening).

It was like a splash park in the shallow part of the pool. All of the kids had a blast.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

First Birthday Party at Lollipop Park

A good friend of mine from high school threw her son a first birthday party at Lollipop Park. I'd never even heard of it before! It's a play area for kids under 10, and it's located within the Family Sports Center in Centennial, Colorado. They have a bouncy castle, a train, and swings, which kids ride by themselves. Parents can accompany kids on other rides, like the tea cups, Ferris wheel, and merry-go-round. My husband took the kids on those rides so I could socialize with my friends. We all had a great time!

Oliver is really into trains these days. He was very excited to get on this one, until we realized we weren't getting on with him. I talked him through it, and he finally boarded the train. He basically was expressionless on the train, and I'm sure it looked to everyone else that we forced him to sit on a stupid ride that went around in circles. I could tell he was having a really good time, though. In fact, he had such a good time that he spent the rest of the day at home moping because he wanted to ride the train some more.

Fun-house mirrors:

My favorite clowns:

Andrew and the kids on the teacup ride:

Andrew and the kids on the hot air balloon Ferris wheel:

Oliver on the bus:

Oliver sat with the other kids at the party! I was so proud of him. He was silent the whole time and just ate his pizza, but I think he was happy sitting with the other kids.


The birthday boy!

 My friends and me:

It's kind of nice having some friends with kids! We got to hang out while watching our kids go crazy on the rides. And, as you might be able to tell from the photo, another very dear friend of mine is expecting a child now, too!

The party was so much fun. I loved seeing Oliver participate in a birthday party like a big kid. It amazes me how he's able to do things on his own without us now (like, apparently, go on rides!). We had a wonderful time. Thanks, Nicole!

Friday, January 25, 2013

100 (Attempted) Ways to Entertain a Young Toddler, Day 89: Toddler Ball Pit

I found this pin from Rookie Moms on Pinterest months ago and then forgot about it. Then, today, I took the kids to Target to shop for presents for two birthday parties we're attending this weekend. Large bags of play balls were on clearance for $7.50! They were on an end-cap in the toy section at my local Target. I picked up a bag for us and a bag for our friend turning 1.

As soon as we made it in the door, the kids started begging to play.

I set up the play yard and dumped all 150 balls in there. As an FYI, this ended up being enough for the kids, but I'd imagine you could easily add a second bag unless your kid is really little.

At first, Jo hated the toddler ball pit. I set her inside, and she started crying and stood up for me to pull her out.

Oliver had a great time throwing balls and rolling on them and kicking them!

After nap time, we tried again. First, Jo watched Oliver play. When she seemed comfortable, I stuck her back into the ball pit. Success!

Jo banged balls together, kicked at them, and squealed with joy!

I grabbed a mixing bowl and pitcher and handed them to the kids. They filled them up and poured the balls back out. Oliver even filled the bowl according to color.

This activity was a major success! I have a feeling our ball pit is going to stay set up all weekend.

Pros: Easy to set up, no mess, and tons of fun!

Cons: Possible injury (especially if you have two kids in the pit) and it costs money to do

I give this activity an A-

Here's a video of their toddler ball pit fun:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Park Day in January

It's 62 degrees and sunny in the Denver area today. After Jo woke up from her morning nap, we set out for the park. I love park days in January. It was so hot with the beating sun that some of the slides were too hot to go on!

Joanna loves slides and wanted to go down the slides herself head first. I had to be there to grab her and rotate her feet first. Oliver loved running, climbing, and going down the smaller slides himself. He enjoyed watching the older kids (4 and 5) run and chase each other. He looked tempted to join in but was too shy to try. Maybe by summer he'll be playing games with the other kids!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Family Vacation in Florida

My parents treated the whole family to a vacation in Siesta Key, Florida. We just got home from a long weekend of fun in the sun! Our kids did really well on the plane and were happy to eat snacks and watch videos the whole time.

Vacation Posts

Friday, January 18, 2013

Animal Cage 2.0

A year and a half ago, I created a game for Oliver called "Animal Cage." He was in his crib then. He'd throw his stuffed animals out of the crib at us, and we'd throw them back on him. He loved it and would be in fits of laughter.

As he's gotten older, "Animal Cage" has gotten more sophisticated. It's still one of his favorite games, and Jo gets in on the fun, too. We built a fort on my bed out of pillows. Then, I gently toss his stuffed animals at him over the fort. I make the animals noises as I do it. Once all of the animals are on the bed, Oliver throws them back and makes animal noises for each one. Jo thinks it's hilarious and laughs at his antics.

Here's Oliver playing Animal Cage 2.0:


Some still shots:
What a fun toddler/preschooler game!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Oliver's very first class without Mom

Oliver is growing up so quickly. Yesterday, I dropped him off at his first-ever class without me. It's a toddler/preschooler cooking class, and kids have to be at least 3 years old and potty trained to join. Oliver was one of the youngest.

Oliver has never been left with a babysitter (other than grandparents), and I know he can have a tough time giving other kids a turn to play. So, I planned on sitting in the first class in case he needed intervention or help. We got there, and the teachers let me know I could wait out in the hallway and watch from outside the classroom. I told Oliver I'd be out in the hallway if he needed me. When I stepped out of the classroom, I felt my eyes well up. Apparently, I'm a big sap.

I watched from the hallway. Oliver sat around the table with all of the other kids and was very well behaved. He listened to the teachers, did what they asked, and didn't seem to fret that I wasn't there. They made coffee cake, and Oliver got to measure and dump in one of the cups of flour. I felt so proud of him and also pretty wistful at how big he's getting. He's going to classes without me. In a year and a half, he'll be going to preschool. Holy cow.

He did so well that I felt silly hanging out in the hallway all class long with Jo. Next week, I think we'll drop him off for real and go back home for the duration of the class.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dad!

We celebrated my dad's birthday yesterday. I think Oliver and Jo had the must fun celebrating.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Javert in "Les Miserables"

In celebration of one of my best friend's birthday this week, we went out to dinner and a movie. She'd initially wanted to see Silver Linings Playbook, but the movie times didn't match with our schedule. We decided to see Les Miserables instead.

I adored it! I've never read Les Miserables, nor have I seen the musical. I went into the theater knowing just that it was a musical that took place during the French Revolution. It followed the story of a man, Jean Valjean, played by Hugh Jackman. He evolves from life of a slaver prisoner to parole dodger to humanitarian.

What moved me most was Russell Crowe in the role of Javert (Jean Valjean's antagonist). His character begins as a police officer, in charge of the prison slaves (including Jean Valjean). We learn he has worked his way up from his unpromising birth in a prison, and he eventually becomes a police officer. His perspective of the world is very black and white: There are people who break the law and must face the sentence for their crimes. He was able to work his way through the ranks and believes everyone else should, too. The people are poor and destitute because they didn't work out of their condition as he had. Criminals like Jean Valjean are criminals because they chose to commit an illegal act, like stealing bread. He doesn't judge them subjectively. To him, just because you're hungry doesn't mean you can break the law.

Like Jean Valjean, Javert is a religious man, but his focus on religion is the reward of the good and, more importantly, the punishment of the bad. In his eyes, Jean Valjean acted illegally. As such, he should be punished. He spends his career chasing down Jean Valjean.

Jean Valjean saves Javert's life and sets him free. At first, this doesn't shake Javert's black-and-white perspective on life, and he lets Valjean know it changes nothing. To Javert, doing a good deed (saving his life) doesn't change the fact that Valjean is still a criminal and must pay the price for his crimes. He finally catches Valjean when time is critical; Valjean is trying to save another young man's life. Javert tells Valjean he will kill him if he tries to flee. Saving the young man is more important, so Valjean leaves with him.

This is what was so moving to me: Javert had to face his world-view. Jean Valjean was a criminal who dodged parole and needed to be caught and returned to prison. As far as Javert has ever been concerned, that is what mattered. Yet, to kill him would mean the death of the young man, and it would mean killing the man who freed him. It would mean killing a humanitarian, a person who has clearly repented. It would mean acknowledging that the world is not black and white. It would mean that good people (Valjean) can do bad things (steal and break parole). It would mean that some good people are victims of unfortunate circumstance, and some bad people might benefit from fortunate circumstances. His choice is to shoot Valjean or throw away everything he's ever believed and known. Unable to do either, Javert kills himself.

The movie tonight just blew me away. Russell Crowe's portrayal of Javert impacted me so much that I can think of little else. I just love it when a movie stays with you! I can't shake this one. I want to share it with everyone! My husband is not nearly as excited about the movie and was relieved I "went with friends so [he] didn't have to take me." I've told him he'll have to suffer through watching the DVD with me when it comes out. As for you, go see this movie. It's one of the best films I've ever seen.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

100 (Attempted) Ways to Entertain a Young Toddler, Day 88: Play Foam

Today's activity came from a blog called 
"Play, Create, and Explore." The mom mixed two boxes of corn starch and one container of shaving cream. It produced a large amount of "Fluffy Stuff" for her kids to play with. The made balls out of it for summer "snowballs," and, when her son threw them, they would explode in a powdery poof. 

That sounds like so much fun; doesn't it? With it being winter, it's not exactly prime time to play outside, and I didn't want clouds of fluffy stuff exploding in my home. So, I decided to do her project but made it much wetter (I used less cornstarch). The result was a fun foam that could be molded into towers. It reminded me of some of the images I've seen on Pinterest of "moon sand" (sand, corn starch, and water) and "cloud dough" (flour and baby oil). It also reminds me of the non-Newtonian fluid science activity we did a few months ago.

I didn't need to make much. This is how much shaving cream, corn starch, and food coloring I used. If you use food coloring, be careful because it could stain.

At first, Oliver wanted to eat it. I told him no, and he started to cry. Jo saw him crying and decided to join in. She also seemed to be afraid of our play foam. She wouldn't touch it.

After a few minutes (when I told them I was just going to clean it up), Oliver finally decided to start playing with the foam. He loved smashing it!

What's this?

Then, he discovered he could mold it:

It felt really soft and squishy. I kept squishing some, too.

Clean up wasn't too bad. I plopped the kids in the tub. After they were clean, we went back to the kitchen and cleaned the table. The foam had dried and left behind powder. I just had to wipe, and off it went! We didn't have a problem with staining on our table, but I probably should have tested it first to be safe.

I'm not sure what to grade this activity. Oliver loved it, but Joanna hated it. Later, during clean up, she accidentally got some on her finger and freaked out. That's not her personality at all! I'm going to give it a B- because it was really easy to set up and clean and made for nearly an hour of fun for Oliver. Even if your child hates it as much as Jo (unlikely), at least you didn't waste much time or resources. Our version was really good for an indoor activity, but I really look forward to this summer when we can make a big batch and form summer snowballs!