Monday, September 1, 2014

Rebecca's 7th Birthday!

The last year went FAST and now Rebecca is 7 years old. She decided on a Rainbow theme for her birthday after seeing a rainbow layer cake on Pinterest (of course, where else would we look for anything :). We decided to use gumballs to decorate the cake. She shared this party with her two cousins who were turning 3, and her aunt, so I made a large cupcake for each of them with their birthday number on it out of gumballs.
The rainbow theme was very easy to decorate for - multi-colored plates and napkins, juice boxes, and fun straws - there is something about twisty straws that kids go bonkers for!

Blake (2 1/2), Rebecca (7), Brianna (10 months)
This is a little banner I made to go on the top of the cake, but I didn't really think about the size while making it and it ended up too big so I improvised a little. I picked these little buckets up at Target a few years ago in the dollar bins and they have been worth every penny. I have used them for so many parties in various ways. So cute!
Here are the girls and their cupcakes! Happy Birthday Rebecca, Brooke, and Katie! (Aunt Debbie also got a cupcake with her birthday number on it, but I didn't get a picture of her.)

Here is the big cake reveal!!
 It turned out so great! I was so happy how it went together and looked! Honestly, one of the easier cakes I've made for a birthday so far.
 It tasted just as good as it looked!

Here is a little "how to" of the cake: I used 2 white cake mixes. The first mix I divided equally into 4 bowls (about 2 1/2 cups of batter each) and used food coloring paste to color the batter. I was impressed with how bright the batter was without having to use a ton of coloring.
 I only have two 8 inch round pans so the baking took a little patience. I lined the pan each time with parchment paper to ensure the cakes would not stick - nothing worse than trying to flip the cake out of the pan and have it stick and crumble! They baked for about 15 minutes each. Blake was a big "helper" :) Do you see his blue face?
First 4 layers done. 
The second cake mix made the last 2 layers (blue and purple) and then I made 4 large cup cakes for each of the birthday girls.
 When all the layers were baked and cooled, I mixed up my favorite frosting recipe (Wilton Butter cream frosting) and put a thin layer of frosting between each colored cake. I made the frosting softer than I use for piping so that I didn't tear the cake apart trying to frost it.
 Finally, I added a row of stars around the bottom and a few on the top and put a gum ball on each star. I put the gum balls in rainbow order on around the bottom and the pattern came out perfectly!
 This cake turned out perfect inside and out! And honestly, it was the easiest of all the baked birthday cakes I've made for my kids so far.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Rebecca's 6th Birthday!

Yes, I know Rebecca is turning 7 tomorrow, this was a year and a day ago, so I figured it was about time to blog about it! I just finished making Rebecca's cake for her 7th birthday and wanted to make sure I documented her 6th first. It still catches me by surprise at times how fast she is growing up. For now, let's take a look back one year!

A start of a new school year also means Rebecca's birthday is not far behind! Here she is in her last days of being 5 - First day of First Grade at Pella Christian. You wouldn't know by looking, but this pictures was taken at 6:30 in the morning shortly before she rode the school bus for the first time!

Her birthday celebration started with bringing treats to school for her classmates and teachers and then taking her cousin Joanna home from school for an overnight. We went mini golfing and out for ice cream together.  
Ice cream at Goldie's was a great treat because the temperature was in the 90's and humid. 
Rebecca wanted an Ice Cream Party, so we searched Pinterest for ideas. Here's what we came up with!
 I made an ice cream cake out of ice cream sandwiches and she picked some of her favorite ice cream toppings to go with it - M&Ms, Oreos, nuts, sprinkles, strawberry syrup, and gummy bears. I also made an ice cream cone pinata, which turned out great and a "Happy Birthday" ice cream banner

Here are the details of how I made the cake: I wasn't exactly sure how the bars would stack up, but they actually fit together nicely by alternating directions when stacking them. I used whipped topping between each layer to help glue them together. Needed to work quickly before it starts to melt!
I used 2 full boxes - 24 bars, 8 on each layer. Then I covered the whole thing with more whipped topping.  For the cake topper I used a waffle cone with strawberry ice cream and of course, 6 candles for the birthday girl!
 Happy birthday to you Rebecca!

 After ice cream it was time for the pinata. 
 I made it very sturdy with quite a few layers of paper, so it took some good swings to start to break it open. Rebecca started with 6 swings, then each of her cousins got a turn. Blake got a little help, but loved to swing at it too.

 Ah, what a sad face - her pinata that we worked on for a week was ripped apart in just a few minutes.
She had a great birthday! We love watching you grow and mature Rebecca!! 

Here are a few details on how I made the pinata: I started with a large balloon and a paper cone. I simply taped them together.
 Then I did some good 'ol paper mache (flour and water mix and strips of newspaper). I did one good layer at a time and let it dry in between - give yourself a few days to get this project done! After the first 2 layers were dry I used string to create the hanging loop on the top. One of my pet peeves of store bought pinatas is when the hanging string breaks before the pinata does! Then the kids are left to beat the pinata while its on the ground - it's just sad!
 I don't have a good picture of how I did the string, but I actually anchored the top loop all the way around the balloon to a loop around the cone. Here's what I mean - tie a circle around the balloon where it meets the cone. Then tie 4 strings to the small circle and pull them around the balloon vertically to meet at the top. Tie all 4 stings together on the top and create a loop. These strings will all be secured in place by more layers of paper mache. This is how I let it dry outside between layers. Because the cone part is made out of paper, you need to be careful not to get it too wet with the flour/water and not let it bend while it dries.
 When I felt I had enough layers (maybe 6 or 7) and the shape was hard - very hard, I spray painted the cone brown. I cut a hole in the top to insert the candy. I did stuff some filler paper down into cone because there was no way I was going to fill the whole thing with candy!
 To make the ice cream pink, I glued on a few layers of pink tissue paper using spray glue - so much easier than liquid glue.
 I added a little more tissue paper around the base of the ice cream to make it look more like a scoop of ice cream. A lot of work, but a lot of fun and the of course the best part is that Rebecca love it!

(Wow, that was a long post! Thanks for reading!!)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Another New School Year, Another New School

Parenting is seriously the hardest.job.ever. 
Especially when it comes to making decisions for your kids and constantly wondering if you are doing the right thing. Here's our story of one child and three schools.
First day of Pre-K at Delaware
Four years ago I was teaching first grade at Delaware Elementary in the Southeast Polk district. Rebecca was going to turn 4 on August 31. Was she ready for Pre-school?? She still seemed like our little baby - and she really was - our only child at the time. I wanted her to go to pre-school, but still couldn't imagine it. Delaware had a new PreK program and we open enrolled her. At first we were told there was no room and I tried to be okay with that, but then 4 days before PreK was to start, we got a call that they had room. Rebecca was in Mrs. Alberts' morning PreK class just down the hall from my first grade room. I really loved having her at my school and it was only slightly inconvenient to transport her to daycare over my lunch break. *On a side note, Blake was born in January of Rebecca's PreK year and she only went to school once a week while I was on my 12 week maternity leave. 
Rebecca and her teacher, Mrs. Alberts
At the end of PreK, we agreed with her teacher that she was ready for Kindergarten, even thought she is young for her grade. She started Kindergarten at Delaware in Mrs. Kuebler's class. She had a pretty good year and loved school. I liked having her close, but it did make my day more hectic before and after school as I tried to do what I needed to do as a teacher and yet have Rebecca hanging around. (If you know Rebecca, she is not one to sit quietly with a book or the Ipad and let me do my thing every well ;)
First day of Kindergarten at Delaware.
By her classroom door, Mrs. Keubler.
As she was ready for first grade there were two main reasons why we felt that she could not longer stay at Delaware. #1 Transportation - we knew that we were expecting our 3rd child and I was again planning on taking a 12 week maternity leave. How would Rebecca get to school for 12 weeks while I was home? (Delaware is 25 miles from home). #2 Teachers - did I really want Rebecca with me again especially as I taught the same grade that she would be in? Therefore we decided to send her to Pella Christian. We both believe strongly in the importance of Christian education and as a bonus - the PC bus came right past our house. A lot of families from our church attend PC so Rebecca already knew a few kids in her class as well as her cousins that attend. Rebecca had a great year at Pella Christian - great teachers, classmates, and school atmosphere. The only draw back really was the 2 and 1/2 hours on the bus every day.
First day of 1st grade at Pella Christian with Mrs. Howerzyl.
First time riding a school bus to school!
Rebecca never complained about the bus ride, but it was a big concern. An extra 2+ hours away from home above and beyond the school day is a lot. And what about as she gets older and wants to be involved in extra activities? How many trips to Pella would we need to make in a week? A year? This is where the hardest decision we've had to make comes in. Weighing the pros and cons, which school comes out on top - the Christian school 30 miles away or the public school 3 miles away?

After much prayer, advice from others, sleepless nights, and yes, even a few tears, we decided that for now, the local public school would be the best school for our kids. I hated leaving PC because it was such a great place for Rebecca, but we pray that she will also grow strong academically and personally at PCM. 
First day of 2nd grade at Prairie City Monroe.
Our silly 2nd grader!
Now her bus ride is less than 10 minutes.
So that is the story of 3 schools in 4 years. As a teacher, switching schools often doesn't sit well with me because I have often judged families that I saw move their kids around so much. But our hope is that our kids will have great school experiences regardless of where they go and what the future holds. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

More Bits of Summer

I have snapped so many pictures of the kids this summer. Here are a few of my favorites.
Rebecca is a great big sister and knows how to make Brianna smile and giggle.
We went to a 4th of July party with friends who had a dunk tank set up. Despite the cool weather, Rebecca volunteered to be dunked over and over.
Sparklers on the 4th of July.
Brianna started crawling! (By now she is pulling herself up and cruising around!)

 Blake broke his collarbone by falling off a dining room chair head first. It really bothered him the first few days, but after that he used his arm just as much as ever. He wore the sling for 4 weeks.

A rare moment of sibbling cooperation.

 Blake, "I wanna under puppy!" (aka - under dog)

 We entered Blake in the Barnyard Babies competition at the Jasper County Fair. His age group was suppose to dress up as "Mr. Farmer." He kept saying, "Daddy farmer, me farmer." So cute! He got 3rd.

Brianna also participated in Barnyard Babies. Her age group was suppose to dress up as "Little Miss Softball." I made her outfit and bow. She was so CUTE!! I really don't know how she didn't place :) They are both first place to us!