O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Psalms 43:3

And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith. D&C 88:118

The kids

The kids

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ice Cream in a Bag!

You might be a homeschooler if you do science lessons while on a vacation/family trip…

July Utah 2013 070 One day we decided to do some science activities. I opened up e-Science and found an experiment that included making ice cream. What could be better than exploring thermodynamics by making ice cream with a bunch of kids!? Getting out a lot of energy before having ice cream of course…

Nothing like a game of catch with a frozen bag of ice, coconut milk, sugar, peanut butter, and chocolate powder…

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Enjoying the fruits of their labors…

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Basically, you take your COLD ice cream ingredients and seal them in a freezer quart size bag. Place that inside a gallon freezer bag with lots of ice and  a heaping scoop of rock salt. Then SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE until the ice cream is frozen. It takes about 5-10 minutes of shaking. I suggest wrapping a dishtowel around the bag after it gets really cold because it drips water and the towel helps it to not be too cold on your hands.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Random Acts of Kindness Matter

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

                                                                  Matthew 25:40

The news is full of the depraved, perverse, and corrupt. In other words, what we hear about most is the worst that society has to offer. If we listen to the news, we might begin to believe that there is no good in the world. We might begin to believe that kindness doesn’t count. I believe it does. Friday I witnessed 3 acts of kindness that really did matter.

So what do a bike and shopping carts have in common besides the obvious wheels? They were the sources of kindness.

While our co-op group was at the park, one little girl (4) was pedaling her bike around the park. She is fairly new to 2 wheels and her foot slipped and got caught between the bars of the bike frame and the pedal. There was no extracting her foot. July  2013 107

Try as we might, we couldn’t rotate her foot or slide the bike off. We needed to release the back wheel and take the chain off in order to allow the pedal to move backwards due to the pedal brakes. The little girl’s mom had some needle nose pliers and a small pocket knife multi-tool, but none of the tools would loosen the bolt or the screw that were holding the bike together. The little girl was uncomfortable since she was totally tangled in her bike. I sat on the ground holding as much weight as I could and cushioning her foot but it must have been very uncomfortable. We were about to call the fire department to come and untangle her when we noticed a man working on the yard across the street from the park. He had a truck and probably some tools. One of the moms walked over and asked him if he had a wrench we could use to take the bike apart. He dropped everything he was doing and came over to see what was needed. Then he returned with the wrench. Yes! Nut off. Now we pulled the wheel and discovered a screw where the training wheels had been that needed to be removed. Again he returned with the tool we needed. After freeing the wheel, the pedal swung away and the little girl was free. The man returned to working on the yard, and she returned to riding her bike (after her mom put it back together again).

So what happened in the grocery store? The first is something I observed.

There as a gentleman at Trader Joe’s whom I knew was all by himself because he had complemented me on having 4 children (Tiger was at scout camp) and told me I was doing a blessed thing while we had a sample of the treat at the sample table. Later, I got in line to checkout and there was that same man just finished up followed by a woman with a cart, a baby in the cart, and a little girl. I didn’t see the SECOND cart or the OTHER baby in the carrier behind the counter. That same gentleman was putting her groceries in the cart as fast as the checker could bag them. As the checker was finishing checking her out, he asked if she needed help and she looked at the gentleman packing her up her cart and told the checker, “Apparently not!” I thought that was very kind of the man. Then when I saw the mother pick up the second baby carrier, I realized she had had 2 carts with twin babies in 2 car seats, and a little girl about 3. There was no way she was going to maneuver out to the car without help. The man cheerfully helped her out to her car. The relief on her face was evident as she pushed one cart  with the twins and kept track of the three year old.

After I checked out, I went to the car and unloaded my bags. I was thinking about how my hands really were full! Tiger wasn’t there to help me unload the cart or buckle the baby. Butterfly usually buckles Strawberry, Tiger usually unloads the cart or buckles Little One, and I do the other job. This time I was trying to do it all and we were far from the front of the store because the parking lot was full. After I got everyone  and everything loaded, I realized that I had to go quite a way from the car to return the cart. As I was standing by my car analyzing what to do, a woman crossed the parking lot and asked if she could take my cart. She had already returned hers and was on her way back to her car. She had seen me in the store and figured I could use a hand. She then went on to say with a kind smile that she figured I had a lot to manage and my kids were so cute. It sure felt nice to have someone see a need and step up.

Would the fire department have come to free our little friend? Yes. Was it nicer to have her foot free sooner due to the kindness of a stranger? Most definitely.

Would Trader Joe’s have helped the woman with the little kids out to the car? Most definitely. They are so incredible about that. I saw how grateful that woman was to have the help of the man who saw a need.

Could I have taken the cart back myself or sent Butterfly to do it? Yes I could have. But, that smile, kind word, and selfless act of service, which took only 2? minutes really made my day.

Kindness and service don’t need to be big- the small things really do make a difference to those who receive.

Friday, July 26, 2013

4th of July- New Traditions?

The 4th of July is a big deal at home. We love to go to our local parade. The whole town comes out for it. There are pirates in a pirate ship on wheels that blast a cannon, old cars, new cars, ancient school buses, all the town sports teams, bands, clubs, and of course the Red Coats and Patriots! People start setting up chairs days before the parade all down the parade route. Then, after roasting at the parade we head home and we get ready for fireworks at home. Fireworks are legal at our house and the skyline is FULL of them. It sounds a bit like a warzone on the 4th. But, this year we were out of town visiting my sister. At first my kids were really disappointed to miss their town parade, but then we did something new- we went on a fabulous hike.

First, we drove up to the sky resort and took the ski lift up to the top of the mountain. I have only been on 1 lift in my life and I don’t remember it being quite so high… oh wait, there were 12 feet of snow below me! This was scary high and I was freaking out that my 3 year old would fall the whole time. I sat next to her and any time she twitched I told her not to move. That is my sister and Pumpkin Pie and Tiger 2 lift chairs back.July Utah 2013 116July Utah 2013 120July Utah 2013 124

It took about 20 minutes to get up… we had a long way to go.July Utah 2013 130 

Even though I had a few moments of panic, the view was amazing.   

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When we got to the top, there was a little cloud cover and it was windy. All the kids were suddenly cold. There were a couple of sparse sprinkles… that should have told us something but 12 feet away it was dry…July Utah 2013 134

It was time to hike back down. There was a family adventure trail about 2/3 down the 3 mile trail. We got a few hundred yards in and the 3-5yr olds and my brother in law decided to turn back and take the lift down. My sister and I were left with a baby on each of our backs, an almost 7 year old, a 9 year old, and an 11 year old. Off we went. The view was even more amazing. July Utah 2013 139

The sky got bluer and it got hotter… July Utah 2013 135    

Then the sky got greyer as we got to a spot a little bit above where the adventure trail began… July Utah 2013 141       With babies strapped to backs, we kept going. and going and going. Now we heard thunder. That’s ok- it is in the distance and maybe it is just the wind we thought…

Nope. Pretty soon we felt a sprinkle, then another, and then another. As soon as we got to the first activity, the sky opened up and POURED. Poor Little One! He did not like that. I pulled up my sleeping hood on the carrier and he was ok, but still not too thrilled. We hid for a moment under some trees but then I realized Pumpkin Pie and Butterfly had run ahead and were not taking shelter in the same trees. I ran down the trail a little further and found them in the next stand of trees huddled to get out of the rain. We decided to forgo the rest of the activities (darn it! there were some fun ones like panning for agates and fool’s gold!) and race down the mountain the rest of the way. The sky was pouring out HUGE drops of rain. By the time we got down, the rain had let up a bit and we were nice and wet but hot from our run down the rest of the mountain. It certainly was an adventure to remember.

We drove home, had dinner, and then it was time for the cherry-pit spitting contest. I think my brother in law won in spite of Tiger’s HUGE windup!        

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Unfortunately it was a bit too windy to do much with the fireworks we bought. We did get to light some of them with a lot of effort and they were beautiful. We also got to see some amazing ones from neighbors. I don’t think their streets were quite as windy as my sister’s.

All in all it was a wonderful 4th. As much as I love our home traditions, sometimes it is fun to go on an adventure and try something new… and we certainly had an adventure!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Adventures to Remember- Broken Windows

Every young boy needs a broken window story, right?

Well, Tiger has his…brokenglass 002

That is my sliding glass door. Tiger was weed whacking the weeds outside in the direction of the house and a rock flew up and shattered the glass.

Next step- get the glass out of the window and clean up the mess.

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After scrapping all the glass into the bag, they dumped it into the trash and then vacuumed up the rest of the glass with the shopvac. brokenglass 003brokenglass 009 brokenglass 010   (The “crack” on the interior glass is actually window marker and not cracked.)

Lessons learned:

Face 180 degrees away from windows when weed whacking.

Tempered glass will continue to break and crack even 20 minutes after it cracks.

Cleaning up messes is no fun.

Broken windows are expensive (we are making Tiger pay for 10% of the replacement).

Dad still loves me and even helped me clean up my mess.

Homeschool Programming Java/Android- Schoolhouse Review

 photo logo_zpsfc09b7b4.jpgWhen I was younger, I wanted to be a computer programmer when I grew up. I remember playing with the very rudimentary programs for children but I wasn’t learning enough to ACTUALLY program. Tiger, likewise, has an interest in programming. He has done some programming with Small Basic but wanted more. When the opportunity to review a new computer programming product came up, Tiger jumped at the chance to learn Java and Android programming with the TeenCoder Java Series from Homeschool Programming. Homeschool Programming offers several programming courses on Java, website making, visual basic, C#, and more. 

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I received the Java Programming (1st Semester), Android Programming (2nd Semester), and 2 optional instructional DVDs for review.  The TeenCoder Java series is a self-study course intended for 9-12th graders who are interested in learning the Java language, may need a computer course for high school, are possibly interested in taking the AP computer science exam, or are interested in computer programming as a career. It can also be used by adults or younger students if they are motivated, can understand some pre-algebra or algebra, and have a parent who is willing to jump in and assist if necessary. Because of Tiger’s previous exposure to programming, I figured he would be ok in this course. I was right, although it was challenging for him.

Java Programming assumes that a student has no programming knowledge but has a basic understanding of how to navigate files and folders, run programs, and have basic computer operating knowledge. In Tiger’s case, he didn’t understand navigating file directories before beginning (he only knew how to navigate folders through the Start menu or desktop folders). This caused a minor hiccup for him. Once I taught him the skill of file navigation, he was off and running. Each text is intended to be used for a semester. The two books within the series build on each other, so it is advisable to use the Java semester and then continue on to the Android programming. 

Setup was fairly easy. First I installed a small packaged from Homeschool Programming that contained my student manuals, solution guides, student menu. The student menu contains the activities, activity source code for some of the more complex codes, and bonus materials. The Bonus Materials in the Java programming portion include a few extra lessons as well as information on preparing for the AP Computer Programming exam. The Android materials include the solutions, activity source code, activity instructions, and some supplemental documents for a few of the activities. The Solution menus contain multiple choice tests on each chapter and solutions to activities. Both the Java and Android courses require the installation of free 3rd party programming utilities. The installation is covered in the text. Instructions for installation, or to learn about Eclipse and Java Development Kit, can also be found here. The lessons give very clear instructions on how to install the programs. The only caveat was the command prompts at the beginning of the Java lessons which I needed to help Tiger with. If I had not had a very rudimentary knowledge of command prompts or the previous instructions in the installation hadn’t been followed exactly, I would have been frustrated. I didn’t realize at the time, but there is a PDF document dealing with command prompts on the website that would have been helpful for Tiger.

The text is written in a very easy to understand manner and the author attempts to put the complex world of computer programming into plain English complete with screenshot illustrations. The Java text moves from explaining what computer programming is, code of ethics of programming, and then simple programs to more complex programs. Each program builds on the previous lessons. The final project is programming a game of Jailbreak, a game with similarities to chess and other two player grid games. Similarly, the Android Programming assumes a basic knowledge of Java programming and then progresses through more and more complex lessons related to programming for Android devices. The final project is a simple game called Maelstrom where the goal is to match animals to avoid getting them into the whirlpool. Samples of the text, solution guides, and table of context can be found on the website.

The optional videos are not necessary for completing the course. They are supplementary materials intended for those who benefit from some audio/visual examples. The videos only contain a small portion of the information contained in the text. Tiger found it helpful to read the text and then refer to the videos if he was confused about how to do something.

Tiger has been enjoying this curriculum. He does have a tendency to rush through the reading and not really absorb it- his rushing negatively impacted his experience slightly. When he would rush through reading something or not totally understand a concept, he often tried to keep going and then he would get totally stuck because he needed the prior information. Neither of these reflect on the curriculum, it is just who Tiger is. Once he backed up, with help from me, and understood the concepts, he was joyfully off and running again. Even though I wasn’t taking the course, I was able to backup a few pages, read it with him, and discuss it. I really appreciated that the text is written in such a manner that while I would not be successful programming mid-chapter, I was able to understand enough to get him untangled and moving forward again mid-chapter. 

I really liked that this course does not spell out the entire program for the student to copy. It teaches tools and then encourages the student to try them out using various programming tools. The activity guide gives all the details of the parts needed to be successful but doesn’t just list the program to copy. There were only two things I think could have been improved. One is  I would have liked to see was a pronunciation included with the definitions of new terms. Also, at times a crucial step would not be illustrated while less crucial information would be pictured. Having the videos really helped in cases like this.

Overall, I think this is a solid program that gives a foundation for both Java and Android programming. After looking over the curriculum and watching Tiger use it, I think it is time for me to start learning Java programming. I have an Android app idea rattling around in my head. Watch out Tiger, I might be taking over your programming curriculum! Maybe I really will be a computer programmer when I grow up.

Homeschool Programming TeenCoder Java Series is available as a bundle for $155. This includes both the Java programming and Android programming as well as the Instructional DVDs. Just the Java and Android programming courses without DVDs is $130 and just the DVDs is $30.  Be sure to check out the other reviews on this one. Members of the crew reviewed not only the Java series but also the KidCoder Visual Basic Series, KidCoder Web Series, and TeenCoder C# Series. There is something for everyone interested in learning to program.

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

25 Truths- Schoolhouse Review

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I was recently offered the opportunity to review a book published by Ed Douglas Publications. 25 Truths (Life Principles of the Happiest and Most Successful Among Us), by Ed Douglas, is a 150 page book containing the 25 truths he has learned and lived by throughout his life. Ed Douglas is a father of three, the author of a two books on financial planning, retired CEO of the Bancshares Bank, financial planner, and high school tennis coach. A paperback book is $12.50.

 photo 25book_zpsac9dca24.jpg25 Truths is a Christian, inspirational book of character and values principles to live by. Mr. Douglas states that these principles are not meant as a “substitute for the great biblical wisdom of the Ten Commandments…” but the list of 25 tips “…will help you lead a fuller, better life.” While not all these principles are expressly Christian, they do encompass Christian values and none are in opposition to scriptural teachings. Many are related to how to relate to others in a positive Christ-like way. They also deal with ways to obtain true happiness- through service and love. The way I see it, many take a commandment like love your neighbor and highlight essential ways to show that love such as forgiveness, avoiding speaking negatively, and apologizing quickly.

Each chapter in 25 Truths is comprises one truth. The chapter starts with a quote from the Bible, great literature, or a great person in history. Then after a 2-3 page explanation of the truth, including personal illustrations of how the truth worked in Mr. Douglas’s life, there is a 1-2 sentence summary of the truth. Each chapter ends with several discussion questions like, “Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not? or Have you ever experienced this truth in your life? What happened? There are also questions like How can  you apply this truth in your life? Each question is modified slightly to reflect the details of the chapters and facilitate more thoughtful discussions. The very last chapter is a bonus truth. This one summarizes all the others and was added in the republication of the book. This chapter does not contain the discussion questions like the others.

At first I intended to read each truth each night at dinner and discuss it. That didn’t happen because of a business trip, vacation, evening commitments, and at the ages my children are, not all of them were age appropriate to read aloud. Truth #2 is one that deals with decency. Discussing decent speech is appropriate, but reading about indecency with my children at this time would not have been age-appropriate. Mr. Douglas does do a good job of writing about the topic without being graphic, but I still felt the chapter was a little too mature for some audiences. Even though we didn’t read it at dinner and discuss, I still think it would make great dinner time conversation.

So what did I do? I read the book to myself and brought up topics and truths later. As I read, I would notice a truth I thought needed to be discussed by one or more of my family members. I would bring it up in the car, before bedtime prayers, or even at dinner. I read the chapter out loud if appropriate and we would discuss it. I did not use all the discussion questions, but I did use them as a guide to help me ask questions. For my family, some discussions were more conducive to more of the questions than others. While this book is intended for those in Grades 6+, I think many of the topics are valuable to discuss with all ages and found that our conversations were valuable even for my younger children.

I really enjoyed reading this book and discussing various truths with my family. I am very grateful to have received this book. The principles presented in this book are timeless and even if one is discussed today, it will still be worth discussing again at a future date. The children and discussion will both mature and evolve. This book would make a great conversation starter for dinnertime conversations or an addition to family devotionals. I do believe that these are “life principles of the happiest and most successful among us.”  I look forward to continuing to discuss applicable chapters as my children grow.


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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Picaboo Yearbooks- Schoolhouse Review

 photo 67706_520522131306078_514079593_n_zps2983de7c.jpgAs homeschoolers, we don't always have formal markings of each year. Having a yearbook of activities and extra classes and field trips helps with this. I am so thrilled with a product I just got to review- Picaboo Yearbooks!  Picaboo Yearbooks is a company which enables schools, co-ops, clubs, and other organizations to create yearbooks. They sell both hardcover and softcover yearbooks. I was able to review a custom 20 Page Softcover Yearbook for my family.

Creating a yearbook is really easy. Once I created a new account and new yearbook, I was ready to start my yearbook. (This can be done by anyone before committing to buy). I knew I had 20 pages so I chose to divide up my book by month and gave a couple pages to each month from September to June. I could have just as easily divided my book up into other categories like Tiger, Butterfly, Pumpkin Pie… or by subjects or classes.  These divisions are called sections by the software. Each section gets a name that makes for easy navigation and compilation. Each section is worked on individually rather than working on the whole book at once. Pictures are uploaded into each section. There is a way to use pictures uploaded into other sections, but primarily you work with the pictures uploaded in that section. Uploading is easy with the multi-picture uploading tool. After the pictures are uploaded into the sections, it is time to go to work laying them out.

Picaboo Yearbooks has so many options and tools available, more than I have found elsewhere, to help you lay out your yearbook in a pleasing manner. For example, there are pre-set pages with locations for pictures and text or you can create free-form pages. Even if you select a page layout with a certain number of pictures, you can customize the layout with more or less pictures, new sizes, and changes to the text boxes.There are also many tools available to work with pictures like borders, zoom, crop, shape, rotate, etc. Each one of the features allows for further customization beyond the default settings. For example, borders can vary in color, thickness, and which pictures have borders. Zooming in and cropping are really easy so just the part of the picture you want is visible or highlighted. Picaboo also includes in their compilation software a myriad backgrounds, graphics, and fonts. Colors for borders, text, and text boxes can be matched to colors within the photos (using an eyedropper tool) and the color palette for your book is stored so you can reuse a certain exact shade again later.  In addition, any user uploaded picture or graphic can be used in creative ways. For example, in my book I used a photo I took as the background on a few pages including my cover.

Picaboo offers many "stickers" or small graphics to use in the photo layouts. Stickers can also be user-created. I uploaded graphic as a sticker for my son’s Arrow of Light.

One feature I absolutely loved was the lines that would pop up when I was lining up photos. When I placed a picture of Tiger on the cover and then when I placed the picture of Butterfly, I was able to line it up with the guide lines. It was great that they didn’t stay on the page and clutter my screen but appeared when I was moving things and the images lined up.

At times the interface was frustrating and I wished there was a help screen within the edit interface. Once I got the hang of it, it got really easy though. I did find a user’s manual after digging around the site a lot right before submitting my book to order. The manual can be found here. Really, the most difficult part about compiling my yearbook was deciding what pictures to include! One thing that I thought could be improved is the inability to upload .gif image files. I wanted to upload some clipart but couldn’t unless it was in .jpg format.

Because the yearbook in process is stored on the Picaboo server, Picaboo Yearbooks allows for multiple people to work on the yearbook anywhere they have access to the computer and internet. This is especially helpful for a co-op or club. Since my yearbook was just for my family, I didn’t use this feature, but I could have invited others to add to my yearbook. After writing my review and receiving my book, the yearbook editor at our co-op decided to use Picaboo for our yearbook. She went through all the steps of setting up the yearbook and then invited me and a few other parents to work on the yearbook. As the administrator, she can authorize or deauthorize access to whichever pages she wants to have someone work on. Working in a group on our co-op yearbook is every bit as easy as working on my own yearbook.

For the most part customer service was excellent. I did have one minor snag when I had a technical glitch just before finalizing my book. The agent I spoke with did as much as she could before upgrading my problem to a technical specialist. She had told me she would call me back with an update but didn’t. When I called back to follow up, the next agent was extremely helpful and the technical glitch got fixed quickly. This time I did receive a call back when it was fixed.  I also took advantage of the online chat feature a few times when I could not figure out how to do something on a page within the book. Both times the agents were extremely helpful.

After ordering my book, I waited impatiently for its arrival. The yearbook is gorgeous! The pictures were vibrant, true to color, and crisp. The pages were heavy-weight and had a nice hand to them. I was also pleasantly surprised with the quality of the cover. The paper felt almost like a leathery plastic paper and was nice and thick for durability. It has been looked at many times and everyone who sees it comments on the quality.

Picaboo Yearbooks are for everyone. I think that for the most part, middle school and up will be able to handle the layout portion, but everyone can enjoy the finished product. For 20 pages, a softcover book is $8.49. Additional pages are $0.22 each. Hardcover prices are about $10 more. Shipping is $8.99 for 1 book and $.99 for each additional copy. Additionally, ebooks are available free with the purchase of a yearbook. The ebooks can be viewed on a tablet or computer that uses an ePub reader. Picaboo Yearbooks are great for both families and groups.

 I am going to start working on my yearbook for next year right away!


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Birthday Fun

Pumpkin Pie wanted to take her cousins and do something fun. They had been to a local family fun center as a family reward and couldn’t wait to go back so they began informing her of all the benefits of going. LOL Pumpkin Pie wanted to go. Since it was really hot outside and we would have 2 three year olds in tow, we decided that mini golf wasn’t going to be too fun. The bigger kids decided on bumper boats. July Utah 2013 152 July Utah 2013 154

The littler kids were too short for bumper boats, so they opted for mini bumper cars.

 July Utah 2013 156 July Utah 2013 163 Both Strawberry and my nephew were too little to push a button and steer at the same time… so the attendant had to keep running out and getting them unstuck and going again.

On the bumper boats, the kids were allowed about five minutes to play. For $5.50 a piece, that was ridiculous and they were disappointed that they had to get out. My sister and I decided that we would spring for $10 in tokens (about 8 tokens per person) so they could play a couple games in the arcade. That was a better value for our money for sure. The kids had a ton of fun. July Utah 2013 168July Utah 2013 179

Butterfly figured out that if she competed against her brother she could get more tickets… so she offered him a token to play on the other side of the board with the caveat that she got all the tickets that were produced!July Utah 2013 186

I loved that Butterfly helped Strawberry with the ducks.July Utah 2013 171 July Utah 2013 172

For dinner we went to Pumpkin Pie’s choice- Cafe Rio. I think that even though Daddy was back at home and not with us, Pumpkin Pie had a great birthday.