Archive for October, 2011

Toddler School–Letter E

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Mikayla had a fun week filled with Letter E.  We made some crafts, ate some eggs

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We practiced tracing and identifying our numbers while singing "The Numeral Song" by Dr. Jean.  If you have never heard of Dr. Jean and work with young children at home or in a school setting you should check her out.  She has some great educational songs and even some fun songs to just sing and dance to.  One of our favorites is the "Tooty Ta" song.  I have 2 or 3 of her CD’s but would love them all!  Seriously, check her out.  It will be well worth your time!

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I made a "letter puzzle" game by putting letter stickers on the back of a cereal box.  She then had to match the magnetic letters to the correct sticker letter.  Since they were Mickey stickers we had to sing the "Hot dog" song from Mickey Mouse clubhouse (not sure if this show is shown in the states or just here, but it is a cartoon version) that she loves so much. 

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I made an ice cream uppercase/lowercase matching game that she wasn’t supposed to find until the letter I, but found this week.  We went ahead and played it using only the letters we had studied to this point.  The ice cream was capital letters and the cones were lowercase letters. 

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Here is a closer view of the game.

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This was a two part game.  Part one she took all the items from a tupperware container and sorted them.  They were three distinct sizes.

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Part 2 was to put the items into the container using the correct hole – small, medium or large.  She spent a good thrity minutes playing this game over and over…I thikn she liked it!

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Since she loves playing with dice I incorparted this into several of our games this week.  For this game she rolled the dice, counted the dots and then found the correct number.  Since she isn’t great at identifying the numbers yet I would sing our "Numeral Song" and then write it on her chalkboard.  She would then match it up. 

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Speaking of chalkboard, we spent some time learning to make smiley faces this week.  She made this one all by herself with me only giving her verbal prompts on what to do.

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Letter E elephant.  He looks a little crazy, but it works!

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And of course we had to exercise with Elmo via our Elmocize video.  She loves this!

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And what E week would be complete without at least one Elmo project (sorry Catherine)!  I was pleased with how this turned out.  I cut out the shape of Elmo’s face and Mikayla painted it red.  She did awesome at painting all the white spots.  Then I cut out the eyes, nose, mouth and letters to spell Elmo.  She glued them all on and did surprisingly well with placement.  I only had to help her out a bit!

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Letter E egg carton

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I made a large letter E out of envelopes.  Mikayla then rolled her dice and put that many E’s in her E envelope.

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We dressed up like an elephant and sang "The Elephant Song" by Dr. Jean.  Here is the video – she got a little camera shy!

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Posted in Parenting |

This Week’s Happenings 10/24-10/30

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Ben went into town on Monday for a big Global Fund meeting and got a great lead on a car.  He stopped by the mechanic who Cabrini uses for a lot of their vehicles and he had two for sale.  We are working with the mechanic to get a few issues taken care of and then possibly purchasing it.  It is Suzuki SVU (similar to a Rav 4 but with full 4 wheel drive).  We should find something out this coming week.

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On Friday Ben went to Nelspruit, South Africa to drop off the sisters vehicle at the airport.  In the meantime he was able to check out one of the malls.  He said that if you didn’t know any better you would think you were in the US.  It will make a great little getaway town if we need a feel for the US.  He was also able to find some Gold Mountain sauce which we use in our Asian cooking.  We have developed quite the spice/condiment rack since arriving!  For the most part we have been able to find everything we needed/wanted.

This week seems to be the week of creatures!  It rained most of the evening and night on Friday and Saturday brought forth a whole new world of creatures!  It started with a (very brief) walk that Mikayla and I took after her nap.  While walking bugs of all sorts were crawling over our feet and flying around us.  Needless to say we turned around quickly and headed home!  Then Saturday evening while Mikayla was taking a shower our house was swarmed by flying termites.  By far the craziest thing we have seen yet!  Thousands of these flying termites were flying around the house and 20-30 found their way inside the house.  Sunday morning we woke up to find a porch full of their wings (which ironically look like helicopter seeds from the states).  A lot gross and a little cool I guess!

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Flying termites – Ben posted a video on Facebook if you want to really see how crazy they were!

We also found these guys in our front yard.

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Not sure what this guy is…any guesses?

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Giant African Land Snail – Steve we thought you would like these!

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And we finally got a picture of one of my favorite birds this week.  Needless to say it was a week filled with new creatures!

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Of course the big rain on Friday meant we were without electricity for 14 hours or so!  We have gotten pretty used to going without electricity, but 14 hours was a pretty long time.  We were lucky in that everything in the fridge an freezer made it through the power outage okay.

One of the most exciting things to happen this week was we discovered that we now have 3G at home. I am not sure what all the means, but it does mean we have faster Internet which means we can do things like call people from our computers and occasionally video chat.  It is still really expensive and the faster the Internet it is, the more you spend to be online.  We were able to make a few phone calls to friends this past week.  We haven’t done so previously because it is so expensive to call from our cell phones (around $1 for thirty seconds to a minute).  It was nice to be able to call folks without having to wait for them to call us!

On Saturday evening our friends John David and Brittany continued our tradition of having our annual Halloween Party.  We were sad to miss/host this year, but glad the tradition continued!  Because we now have 3G we decided it would be fun to wake up during the party to "see" everyone.  So we woke up at 3am and after a couple of failed attempts we were able to video chat with our friends.  It was so great to "see" everyone and take part in the festivities a little.  Our costumes were a little lame (on account of us waking up in the middle of the night), but we dressed up as a couple of sleepy heads!  Mikayla even woke up to see her friends, although I am not sure how much she remembers!

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We went for a brief walk one evening and it turned dark so Mikayla had to wear her "torch".


Animals in the First Three Months

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

We have seen lots of wild life and livestock since arriving in Swaziland.  On a daily basis we see cows, donkeys, dogs, goats and a variety of birds.  On rare occasions we see some more unique animals.  We have visited two of the game reserves since arriving and have seen a variety of African animals.  Here are some of the animal we have seen so far.

Lots of deer like creatures:

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Blue Wildebeest

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Impala Female

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Impala Male

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Common Reedbuck


A couple more birds (I am leaving the names off for my father-in-law.  He asked for some more birds to identify!):

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This is the nest of the bird above – how unique?  They fly through the little hole in the bottom. 

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Some unique finds:

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Southern Tree Agama

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Rock Monitor – Mikayla is not the unique find!


Animals you think of when you think of Africa:

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Warthog – terrible picture, but man those suckers are fast!

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And of course giraffes!  We have lots of these pictures, but here are just a few!

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Seriously, how could someone not think these are beautiful!

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I love this picture because it reminds me of our little family.  Daddy and Mommy giraffe on the left and Mikayla giraffe on the right.  Silly? Yes, but still fun!

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Posted in Life |

This Week’s Happenings 10/17-10/23

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

As we mentioned last week, we were approved for our TRP’s (temporary resident permits) but did not have all the paperwork taken care of.  Well as of Monday we can now reside in Swaziland (officially) for two years!  We headed into Mbabane on Monday and got all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed for our TRP’s and paid an exorbitant amount of money and were good to go.  We finished in record time (only 2-3 hours were spent at the government offices.  We had heard horror stories of all day lines and no success.)  Afterwards, since we had planned on being at the government offices much longer, we found some time to do a little shopping.  I found a health food store at one of the malls that carried black beans!  I was so excited.  That meant that Mexican food was well on its way.  Then at a grocery store we found some tortilla chips!  Another fantastic and rare find.  The whole way home I had visions of Mexican food dancing through my mind (can you tell I miss it?).  We also hit up a fabric shop, to purchase fabric for seat cushions for the kitchen table and apron for me, and grabbed a pizza (or two) on the way out of town.  It was a long day, but extremely successful!

On Tuesday I set out to make a tasty Mexican meal for dinner.  I started by whipping up some guacamole, only to realize I didn’t have any lime juice.  I improvised with a little lemon juice and it was still tasty.  Then I made some homemade tortillas!  That’s right folks, homemade tortillas.  They were actually surprisingly easy.  The only difficult part was getting them thin enough to resemble tortillas.  They were excellent on the first day, but did not warm up as well.  Next on the list was black beans.  Despite losing electricity halfway through cooking (I was using a crock pot), they still turned out amazing.  I cooked up a little meat, threw in some taco seasoning (found at another volunteer house – although we through out afterwards because the flavor was a little off) and had a well rounded Mexican feast!  It wasn’t quite Puerto’s or El Mazatlan, but we still thoroughly enjoyed it.  I have been eating black beans and rice all week.  At breakfast (and sometimes lunch) I have been making scrambled eggs with cilantro and serving with black beans and rice topped with guacamole (or avocado when we ran out).  Mmm…delicious!  I am sad to report that we only have one or two more servings of black beans left.

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On Thursday morning Mikayla and I went out with some child care staff to go on a few home visits.  Mikayla was extremely well behaved and interacted nicely with the children at the homesteads.  She even fell asleep in my arms on the way home.  Sweet (and rare) moment! 

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This is Mikayla at one of the homesteads.  She got out of the car and marched right up to sit down with all the kids.  Picture quality isn’t great because it was taken on my phone!

The most exciting part of our week was on Saturday when we decided to hit up a game reserve about 45 minutes down the road (Nisela).  When we got there they said that they were not doing any game drives because they were working on the rides (ironically enough nobody was actually out in the park working on roads).  Ben ended up talking one of the guys into letting us do a self guided driving tour for only E50 (about 6 bucks)!  We spent the first hour or so driving around and not seeing much of anything.  We saw some kudu and other deer like animals, a couple of ostrich but nothing we hadn’t seen before.  We were getting ready to park and have a little snack when I spotted the first giraffe!!  We saw so many, it was amazing.  They would stop and stare at us.  At the closest point we were probably 20 meters away.  Fantastically beautiful creatures.  I told Ben that I would probably never stop getting excited about seeing giraffes, no matter how many times we were to see them while living here.  After viewing the giraffes (and snapping a ton of pictures) we headed back to the lodge to eat lunch.  And much to our surprise we got to watch the giraffes grazing while we ate our lunch.  Highlight of my week!  I am going to try and post a just animals post soon so I won’t show you all the giraffe pictures just yet!

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It was like they were posing for the camera!

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Our lunch view!  Amazing!

Posted in Cooking, Life |

Toddler School–Letter D continued

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Last week we had some interrupted learning time so I opted to continue on with the Letter D this week.  We also had some interrupted learning time this week so all in all we got about 4-5 days of D in over two weeks!  On Monday we were in Mbabane to get our TRP’s taken care of and then on Thursday we went on some home visits with childcare staff.  In addition to D activities we also reviewed some of our letters from previous weeks.  Here are some of the D activities we completed this week.

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We painted dots on the letter D.

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This isn’t letter D, but Mikayla has gotten to wear she will choose school activities to play with instead of her toys.  Here she is playing with a patterning game at the desk while I was making dinner.  I thought she was playing with toys until I turned around!

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I took our disc golf discs and scattered them around the floor.  Then I placed letter cards inside.  She dropped the ball onto the disc and identified the letter.  As she gets bigger she can identify things that start with this letter.  We had an extra disc with no letter so that was the dancing disc.  Anytime her ball landed on that disc we both had to start dancing!  And when she got bored with this game we went outside and through them around the yard.

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We found this book in town on Monday.  It teachers her basic line movements.  She loves writing in it and then erasing it off!

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For our final D project we made donuts.  I found a great recipe that Mikayla could help me with all the way through.  When it came time to rolling out the dough she grabbed her IKEA rolling pin and went to town.  Then she took cookie cutters and cut out her own donuts.  Here she is enjoying them fresh from the oven.

Next week we will move onto the Letter E – elephants, eggs and Elmo.  I know my friend Catherine is cringing right now, but rest assured we will throw in Grover when it come to the Letter G!

Donut Recipe:

1 1/3 cups warm milk, 95 to 105 degrees (divided)
1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
5 cups all-purpose flour
A pinch or two of nutmeg, freshly grated
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Place 1/3 cup of the warm milk in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir in the yeast and set aside for five minutes or so. Be sure your milk isn’t too hot or it will kill the yeast. Stir the butter and sugar into the remaining cup of warm milk and add it to the yeast mixture. With a fork, stir in the eggs, flour, nutmeg, and salt – just until the flour is incorporated. With the dough hook attachment of your mixer beat the dough for a few minutes at medium speed. This is where you are going to need to make adjustments – if your dough is overly sticky, add flour a few tablespoons at a time. Too dry? Add more milk a bit at a time. You want the dough to pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl and eventually become supple and smooth. Turn it out onto a floured counter-top, knead a few times (the dough should be barely sticky), and shape into a ball.

Transfer the dough to a buttered (or oiled) bowl, cover, put in a warm place (I turn on the oven at this point and set the bowl on top), and let rise for an hour or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.

Punch down the dough and roll it out 1/2-inch thick on your floured countertop. Most people (like myself) don’t have a doughnut cutter, instead I use a 2-3 inch cookie cutter to stamp out circles. Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet and stamp out the smaller inner circles using a smaller cutter. If you cut the inner holes out any earlier, they become distorted when you attempt to move them. Cover with a clean cloth and let rise for another 45 minutes.

Bake in a 375 degree oven until the bottoms are just golden, 8 to 10 minutes – start checking around 8. While the doughnuts are baking, place the butter in a medium bowl. Place the sugar and cinnamon in a separate bowl.

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Posted in Parenting |

Toddler School–The Letter D

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

We had a short week at school this week due to a meeting I had on Monday and the abundance of ripe bananas I came across on Friday.  So we really only had three days of school this week.  Next week we will continue on with D and review old letters and activities.  Next week will also be a short week because we head into town on Monday to take care of our TRP’s.  Here are some of our activities from this past week.

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We made a letter D duck with paint, feathers and construction paper.

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We worked on patterning using pom poms.  She did really well with this so next time I will extend the patterns and maybe leave a blank spot to see if she can figure out what would come next.

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We clipped letter clips to spell her name.

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We practiced counting by choosing a magnetic number and placing it on the card with the correct number of stars.

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We made a D dinosaur.  I had hoped to do some more dinosaur activities but she didn’t act too excited about it so we didn’t!

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We had a quick review of B and C by placing B’s in a bowl an C’s in her cookie jar.

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We rolled a dice and put stickers on the number that was rolled.

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We stacked dice on top of each other like blocks.

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We played with an alphabet uppercase and lowercase puzzle (only the letters we had studied so far though, I didn’t want to overwhelm her).

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And of course we made deviled eggs.  She was very meticulous with peeling the eggs (an added bonus is it worked on he fine motor some).  She of course loved helping in the kitchen and as you can see below enjoyed eating the deviled eggs even better!

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Like I mentioned earlier, next week will be a review of letters and continuation of our letter D study.  We will move on to E the following week!

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Posted in Parenting |

This Week’s Happenings 10/10-10/16

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

We had a pretty slow week this week, not much to report on.  Ben managed to only work 43 hours this week (which is much lower than his average has been).  He said he didn’t get everything done that he needed to, but it was nice to work a shorter week.

One of Cabrini’s contract workers donated a truck bed full of bananas to the ministry this week.  In the truck load there was probably ten gallons worth that were already over ripe and needed to be used immediately.  Ben asked if I wanted some to make banana bread and I said sure.  Little did I know that the ten gallons would end up in my hands!  Yikes!  So on Friday I spent the entire day baking banana bread…14 batches to be exact!  We gave a lot of it away, but ended up keeping five or six loaves in our freezer for down the road.  Mikayla was a big help when it came to peeling the bananas and stirring up the batter.  Needless to say I have no interest in seeing another ripe banana for awhile!

I went to wash dishes the other day and was greeted by these two frog eyes!  (Side note – I keep this little hippo I found in a closet when we got here by my window in the kitchen.  It makes me think of my friend Dacia each time I see it!)

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The most exciting thing that happened this week was we were approved for our TRP’s (work permits) this week!  We go into Mbabane on Monday to hopefully get all the paper work signed off and pay our fee of around $800!!  That’s right folks, for a two year TRP it is going to cost us around one dollar a day to live here!!  Pretty spendy, huh?  I guess that is what happens when the government is broke.  We are hoping to get the fee waived, but aren’t expecting it.  Basically what a TRP means is that we can live in the country for two years without having to cross the border every thirty days like we have been, we can legally stay in the country.  We will also be able to open up a bank account and purchase a vehicle (assuming one comes our way). 

We put Mikayla’s hair in one long braid this week also (I need to learn to French braid).  She is getting so big and talking up a storm!  She announced to one of the aunties at the hostel the other day that she was "Swazi"!  Sometimes she talks in jibberish and I wonder if she is really speaking Siswati that we just don’t understand!



It is a little hard to tell, but she is "sweeping" the ground with a stick like someone living on a homestead would sweep the dirt in front of their house.


This is a picture of the female Southern Tree Agama I mentioned last week.  Her colors are not as bright as the male colors are, but still neat.

Be sure to check out the contest I posted about yesterday!  Have a great week.

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Posted in Life |

Can You Name That Bird?

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

So after an extensive week of bird watching (thanks to our letter B study), we have been able to identify several African birds.  I thought it would be fun to host a little contest and giveaway to see how well you could identify these birds.  The rules are simple – Name/identify the following birds correctly the quickest and you are the winner.  Leave bird identifications in the comments section below or you can send me an email (  If you are the first to correctly name/identify each of the birds you will receive a special Swaziland token in the mail (not sure what yet, but I promise it to be good)!

Bird #1:

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Bird #2:

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Bird #3:

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Bird #4:

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Bird #5:

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Bird #6 (Hint – this bird has really bright orange legs):

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Bird #7:

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Bird #8:

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Bird #9 (please take note of the long tail on these two):

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Bird #10:

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Good luck!

Posted in Random |

An Afternoon Snack

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

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Homemade cranberry scones and real coffee (thanks mom and Rita)!  A perfect "Mikayla is napping and mommy is taking a break" treat!

Posted in Life |

Swazi Jumping Beans

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Here are the beans/seeds I mentioned in a previous post.

Posted in Parenting |