Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Papa, where are you going with that axe?

Did you think I ran away from home?
No, but I almost axed this blog.
We went on a beach vacation (so fun) with a luau party at the end.
We've been taking daily swimming lessons.
We had a big Fancy Nancy birthday bash for Sister's 4th birthday.
We've been doing lots of art.
We've just been enjoying summer.

And I REALLY didn't miss writing here.
But... I'm not going to give it up yet, I don't think. Though I might be making some changes.
In any case, I won't be back here until about the third week of August when the kids start preschool. So, cheerio! And I hope you are having a TERRIFIC summer!

PS- Do you know which book opens with the sentence that is my "title" today?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Fancy Nancy, I love you.

My friends, are you familiar with Fancy Nancy? If not, you must aquaint yourself at once. Especially if you have a little girl.
Fancy Nancy is all the rage at our house, and is the theme of Sister's upcoming 4th birthday party. I have ordered a dozen tutus, feather boas, tiaras, and pixie wings. (From this source- good prices!) We will be dressing up, painting little nails, putting on make-up (or, rather, making a big deal out of putting on VERY LITTLE make-up) and doing a necklace-making craft. Then we will have "tea" of sandwiches with little frilly toothpicks, mini muffins, fruit cut into fancy shapes, and a very fancy cake. Doesn't it sound divine?
(If I survive, I'll post photos.)
Anway, the above photo is what I've been working on for the past two evenings- homemade invitations. I had a ball! I almost didn't post the photo because it doesn't BEGIN to capture the glimmery, glittered FANCINESS of this creation. (Have you noticed this theme lately? My rental house is just DARK- and even the yard is dark and shadowed- I took that photo outside!) I color-copied the Nancy from one of Sister's books onto cardstock, attached her with 3-D glue dots onto another sheet of cardstock printed with the party info., and then drew the butterflies and flowers. I painted them with a lovely watercolor paint that has a subtle shimmer, and then I got rid of all pretext of subtlety and heaped glitter on Nancy's wings and the Prima flowers. SO fun!
Sister is quite enchanted, and so excited about her party. But first we have our luau next Friday night while we're out at the beach! We're party people these days.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Zuccanoes- yummy,healthy, and filling!

Pardon this photo. My zuccanoes look like they've been sitting under a heat lamp for 30 minutes. Actually, they were fresh out of the oven and quite visually appealing- but when you live in a poorly lit house your nighttime photography options are limited.

After hearing so much about the New Moosewood Cookbook, I decided to check it out from the library and see if it is for me. I will admit that not all the recipes appeal to me, but this one looked good. And it was! And so healthy too! I was getting ready to type the recipe here, when I realized it's already on Mollie Katzen's website. So, click here to get it! Aren't I just the efficient one?

(As if!)

If anyone else has any recipes from this cookbook that they recommend, please do let me know.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Have you ever heard of the Story People by Brian Andreas? If not, go check it out. Somewhere in California a group of diverse people gather together and create prints, wall hangings, and unique furniture pieces that have a really vibrant, artistic flair. I've pasted a photo or two here to show you examples (from their website.) Each one includes a "story" written by Brian Andreas- it's actually more like short prose that suggests a longer story. I love the idea of their enterprise- it's my idea of heaven to be in a studio with a group of interesting and talented people creating ART. So cool.
One night a few years ago I was up late, in a whimsical mood, and I got on a kick reading his "stories" online. (There is a place on the website where you can read them.) Some of my favorites are:
Angel of Dreams (PS- The Susan who commented there is not me, FYI.)
Oh, goodness. (There are so many more I love, but that's enough links for now.)
On that night, a few years ago, I was so inspired by these stories that I wrote some of my own. Here's are a few:
Why does art exist he asked and the angel said because there are not enough words to hold all the possibilities of the human heart.
Have you ever noticed, remarked one star to another, that humans are so busy creating their own light that they no longer notice the light God has provided them?
Little Girls
Why do little girls like pink he asked and the little girl answered because pink is what you get when you mix red hot fire with cool white snow and that is exactly what girls are anyway.
Perfect Medicine
Of course if we could bottle the essence of a baby’s laugh and give it as a tonic we wouldn’t need doctors or hospitals or nurses anymore, now would we?
I wrote these two when I was experiencing infertility and WISHING my heart out for children:
Will I ever have a daughter? I asked the angel and she laughed and said surely someone who loves starlight and deep forests and sunset skies as much as you do will have a daughter, because daughters are born of these things.
Will I ever have a son? I asked the angel and he laughed and said surely someone who loves clear mountains and thunderclouds and the roar of the sea as much as you do will have a son, because sons are born of these things.
I had fun writing those, and fun tonight revisiting them. Check out the Story People website if you're in the mood for some inspiration.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Reading any good books? I am!

Well, I went MIA without planning on it. But in between my last post and tonight, we took a four-day trip to visit my Grandma, had swimming lessons (Sister, to be precise), and hosted playgroup (which involves a LOT of cleaning... before and after!) So, it's been busy. And we've also just been enjoying summer. I've been logging on a good bit less these past weeks, and that's a good thing sometimes.

One of the perks is that when I do go to read my favorite blogs, there is a lot of new stuff! Fun!

Rather than share lots of little anecdotes from life (not in the mood tonight), I'll give you a few book reviews.

Here are some good books we recently checked out from our library: (The cover images are from Amazon.com)

The Circus is Coming by Hilary Knight
This one is a classic, but the new edition is printed in rich color on glossy paper and it's fabulous. Depicting fantastic scenes from a circus parade, Sister can pore over these illustrations for hours.

Peter Spier's Circus!
Another classic! If you've never seen this book, it's a must. I love Peter Spier's super-detailed illustrations (so much to see!) This book really shows circus from start to finish, from setting up the tent and seeing that the circus performers are real people with families to seeing the spectacle of the performance.

Toy Boat by Randall de Seve

This is a sweet story of a little boy and his homemade toy boat. They are best friends, but one day the boat gets tired of being restrained by the string and decides to go out sailing on its own. Of course, the sea is a big, scary place and in the end, the boat just wants to be back with his boy. Happy ending!

Ladybug Girl by Davis Doman and Jacky Davis

This is a cute one. It's starts with a little girl standing in a pile of discarded costumes, enjoying her "ladybug girl" reflection in the mirror. (Reminds me of Sister from page one!)

What I like most about this book is that the message is about learning to entertain oneself. Lulu (aka Ladybug Girl) has "nothing to do"- said while standing in a room FULL of toys. (Sound familiar?) Her parents stand firm, however, and require her to fill her own time. In the end, she does so in traditional childhood style- walking through the yard, imagining heroic scenarios, rescuing ants from a rock, etc. It's definitely worth a library check-out.

The Littlest Mayryoshka by Corinne Demas Bliss
What a wonderful story! A Russian doll-maker makes six matryoshka dolls but the littlest is knocked to the ground before they are sold. Her "sisters" are sold to a little girl but can't stop worrying about their littlest sister. Meanwhile, the littlest doll has quite a traveling adventure (reminded me of the steadfast tin soldier.) Fortunately, there is a very happy ending. A sweet story of sisterly love and reunion.
I'm still playing along with Jade's Expose Yourself challenge. But I'm waiting on some "after" pictures. (Plenty of "before" shots, don't you know!!)
I'll try not to be gone another week before I post again. But, hey, it's summer, so if I don't do my homework, who cares?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sister's "Big Girl" Room Makeover

Well, she's almost 4 years old. I guess it's time to transition from the crib to a bed.
No kidding! Sister still sleeps in her crib- quite happily too. But she's getting so big, and has noticed that all her friends have "big girl" beds, and has started talking about it, so... off we go.
The good news is that we already have a bed for her. It's my cousin's iron daybed (with a trundle) from 20 years ago. My DH always hated it- it looked old and dingy and had these tacky gold finials on top of the posts. But I talked him into just giving it a fresh coat of paint (finials included) and seeing what he thought then.
Here it is undergoing it's new paint job: (I know, I know... spray paint is terrible for the environment, but it's the best option for painting a bed like this. DH's vacation time is limited!)
The bed used to be cream (with a lovely overcoat of grime and dirt), but we decided to change the color to a light pink. It turned out perfectly!
Bedding was next. My mom offered to pay for any costs associated with the new bed (bless her!) so I logged onto the Pottery Barn Kids website. Of course, I loved so many of the bedding collections, but I chose this one:
Isn't it sweet? It's called "French Rose." I loaded up my cart: a comforter, duvet cover, sheet set, and three pillow shams. Then I went to check out. After taxes and shipping the total came to $348.00!!!

I just couldn't do it. I know my Mom is paying, but I just couldn't let myself spend that kind of money on BEDDING for my kid. (*For those of you who have spent that kind of money on your kid's bed, please don't feel judged. I spend PLENTY of money on other things, believe me.)

So, I loaded the kids into the van and made a Target run. I found a lovely Shabby Chic quilt with matching sheets- yay! I was worried at first when all I could see from the end of the aisle was commercialized Disney stuff. (DH would NOT approve.) I ended up buying the quilt, two sets of sheets, curtains, and a lamp- for $100 less than the bedding alone from Pottery Barn.

And the more I look at the Target set, the more I love it.
I'll be sure to post a photo when the bed is put together.
Edited to Add: I popped in over at Jade's blog and saw that doing lots of cleaning out, decluttering, and re-decorating, just like me! So, I'll be playing along with her Exposing Myself theme for a while. Do join us.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Does anyone else have this problem?

I will be washing dishes, or wiping a bottom, or sorting through laundry, when I think of something JUST FABULOUS to write on this blog. Sometimes I laugh out loud at how funny my post will be- sometimes I'll think of words so poignant I'll find a little tear in my eye.
A topic will jump out at me, or even a cool idea for a series of entries. And I'll think, "Yes! That is just the thing for the blog! Don't forget!"

I always forget. ALWAYS!
I sit down here and every witty word, every expository narritive, every uplifting message just drains away...

Yesterday I swore to myself that I am going to keep a little notebook on my person AT ALL TIMES to help me overcome this difficulty. But I have to remember to buy one first.
It's not looking hopeful.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

I'm back!

Hi friends- hope you are all well. We had a great trip to the beach but I must say I'm always glad to get back home!
When I got back to Internet access (Hallelujah!) I was really saddened to read on Beck's blog that Tasha Tudor had passed away. I feel that I should write a long post about how much I admired her lifestyle, and how I loved her art, and how much she inspired me with all her ideas for making childhood magical for her children... but Beck said it so well already. So, if you haven't read her post on the subject yet, please do.
I shall now link you to a few things I am liking tonight:
1. These adorable little fairies from Etsy.
2. The stuff in Fairy Dreamer's Etsy shop- what inspiration!
3. Colored Kleen Kanteens! I haven't yet made the switch from poisonous plastic sippy-cups to the non-poisonous variety, and why the heck not??? It's time to get off my duff and do it, and these cool ones are just the right motivation!
4. This post featuring summer recipes on a newly discovered recipe blog. It looks spectacular. And she has a huge gluten-free index, Beck! Yippee!
5. The recipe archive on the Niki Leigh website- a company that specializes in creating homemade beauty products from natural ingredients. If I had an older daughter, I think we could have a fabulous girl-night with friends mixing up some of these concoctions and beautifying ourselves!
Hope you all have a great weekend!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Final Installment! More Ideas for Toddler Days: Part 5

Here is the final installment of ideas and activities for your toddler. This will conclude the list. (we're to 100! Woo hoo!) Don't forget to visit Beth's original list of 50 Mood Changers for Toddler Days, found on her wonderful blog, Write, Mama, Write. (She's actually on a little break right now while she remodels a house, but check back with her because she's just super.)

41. Mystery Bag or box- For this activity you need an empty bag (fabric bags work best) or box with a hole cut into the side. The idea is that a child will reach in and feel an object without seeing it. There are several ways to play: you can put in an object and see if child can guess what it is OR put in several matching objects, have child pull one out and then go back in and try to feel for the match (can do with fabric swatches too in a shoebox) note: with younger toddlers, show them the objects as you put them into the bag and only use a few. With older kids, put in familiar objects but don’t show them prior. You could also collect some objects and make matching photo cards. Show your child a card and see if they can reach in and pull out the object without looking.
92. Model pretend play- Sometimes we expect children to play without realizing that having your toy bear talk to your toy doll is actually a rather strange idea. Once you model it, they'll take the idea and zoom off (if they are ready developmentally) but the trick is planting the idea. The important thing about this activity is that the adult thinks out loud. For example, you might say, "I want to make a zoo so I need to build some cages for the animals. Hmmm... I think I'll use some of these low blocks for that. Hey, this block would make a good tall cage- that one can be for the giraffe!" Also, draw your child in with questions, "What else do we see at the zoo? Oh, a restaurant! Good idea! What could we use to build that? Yes, that shoebox will work great. Hey! Let's get some little food out of the dollhouse to use in our zoo restaurant!" Do you see what I mean? Research actually shows that this kind of adult modeling can enhance creativity in children's play. I'm not saying that you need to do this every day. (Not should you!) Rather, try doing it occassionally to stretch your child's creativity and give them new ideas. Some of the fun things to model for them:
- Playing house, cooking in their pretend kitchen, playing with the dolls in the dollhouse, "feeding" the stuffed animals and babies, having their toys "talk" to each other, mixing and mingling toy sets (i.e. the dollhouse family inviting the Polly Pocket gals to tea),
93. Homemade sound bingo- Discovery Toys sells a Bingo game that comes with a CD full of sounds. Kids match the sounds they hear to the photos on the cards. It occurred to me that you don't have to buy the game to play this with your toddler. Draw a tic-tac-toe type of board on a sheet of white paper and draw or cut and paste photos of the following:
cow, rooster, sheep, snake, fire engine, car, clock, baby crying, singer, wind, a person sneezing, a person yawning, a person coughing, a person laughing, (Or any other ideas you think of. You could do lots of different animals.) Then give your toddler some small squares of cardstock to cover the pictures and start making the sounds! That's right, Mom takes the place of the CD player. With toddlers, it works best to keep playing until they cover the board.
94. Felt board on the wall- When we went on a road trip last summer, we stopped at the Children's Museum in Richmond, VA. It was FABULOUS. If you can ever take your kids there, please do. In the toddler room they had a big felt board hanging on a wall. Sister was mesmerized (she wasn't yet three at the time) and she wanted to stay at that board the whole time we were there, taking the little felt shapes and people on and off again. We ended up buying a lap felt board for the rest of our trip which entertained her for hours. Now we have one hanging on her wall, and she and brother play with it all the time. We keep the little flannel characters in a basket nearby. (Do a google search for flannel board or felt board and you'll find lots of sources- Ebay is a good source too.) You can also create homemade shapes, letters, and people if you want to get crafty, and if you don't want to hang a flannelboard on the wall, you can always just make a large one that can be put away. An easy and inexpensive solution would be to cover a piece of foam core with a yard or two of felt and prop it up somewhere when your kids want to play. I like a light blue background color because it works as sky or water (and doesn't show as much dirt as white.)
95. Get out fresh magnets for the fridge - As with everything, too much is too much. I've learned to store my magnets in sets in small boxes or bags and let them take our one or two at a time. When the fridge is too cluttered with magnets, they don't play well with them or they all just end up on the floor or strewn around the house. I also don't store and papers or photos on the bottom half of the fridge because it is a play area. (Note- if you have one of those annoying fridges that aren't magnetic (I used to!), just get out a few cookie sheets and let them play on those. I LOVE this idea from Family Fun and it's on my to-do list!
96. Buy a Bounce House- OK. I know. They're expensive. But, people, listen to me! There are some things that are worth the money. For example, it is often hard to spend a lot of money for a nice sofa or mattress, but when you figure out how much you use it and how much it would cost per day over the years, it's worth it! Same goes for the bounce house/ jump castle. For over a year I watched the neighbor kids jumping in their Little Tikes bounce house EVERY DAY on the back porch. I wanted one for my kids but the price (almost $200 for a nice-sized one) was off-putting. I finally broke down and bought one for Brother's birthday party (instead of spending that much to have it at Gymboree.) I can already tell that the $169.00 I spent on that jump house is going to be WELL worth it. The kids play in it constantly. (The key is to have it somewhere accessible, like the corner of a playroom, rather than storing it in the back of a closet.) It saves rainy days, cold days, hot days, days when we have too much energy in the late afternoon, etc. I highly recommend this as a sanity-saving toy. Note: You do need to keep an eye on them while they're playing in a jump house. I've prevented MANY near-injuries just by being vigilant about monitoring what they're doing in there. PS- It's WAY overpriced on Amazon!!
97. Household hunt- make photo cards of basic household objects. Give each kid one card at a time and have them go find that item and bring it back to you (or put into a basket.) ideas: pot, doll, stuffed friend, toy car, sock, diaper, book, etc. (Older kids could do this as a race- give each kid a stack of cards, a bag, and see who can finish the fastest. Then time them to see how fast they can put their stuff back. If you keep time, you can make time the enemy and see if they can do it again and beat their time.)
98. Chugga Chugga Choo Choo- This is one of Brother's favorite books. It is the story of a little toy train that chugs through a boy's room. (He has created a very imaginative track using his toys.) It has inspired us to create our own fun "track" out of toys that winds through the den and take Brother's Thomas trains for a little spin. This is an activity I still have to help with (a lot) but I know I am planting a seed of creativity: one day Brother will create these imaginative tracks all on his own!
99. Happy Toilet Paper Trails...- I saw this one on the Family Fun website. You take a roll of toilet paper and wind it all through the house- around table legs, up stairs, into closets and out again, etc. and have your toddler follow it from beginning to end. It's always fun to have a little treat at the end, like a cookie or a sheet of stickers. Then, make it a game to go backwards and collect all the toilet paper. Is it wasteful? Not if you use it the next day to make Clean Mud! (See # 100 of this post.)
100. Clean Mud - Take a large, shallow pan or a big bowl (a dishpan is a nice size) and into it grate one bar of white Ivory soap. Let your toddler tear a roll of toilet paper into small bits (as small as possible- you might want to go behind him and tear up any big pieces) and add it into the pan. Then pour in warm water (warm so the soap can dissolve) and mix until you get a nice fluffy texture. It should feel like thick Cool Whip. Too much water makes it too soupy. This is a fun one to play with, and it smells great!

Bonus: Costume jewelry- When I was a little girl, one of my favorite things to do was go through my grandmother's "junk jewelry." (This was her costume stuff that is actually fairly collectible today.) She gave it to me in lovely old jewelry case with lots of compartments and drawers, and I've added a few of my own "junky" pieces to it. My kids love to sort through it all, identifying each item, asking me to recall the origin of each item. Beyond the obvious appeal of going through and handling each piece, a cache of jewelry has so many possiblities for creative play. It can be a pirate's treasure, a source for the dress-up closet, a mermaid's secret box, etc. Just one IMPORTANT NOTE: I don't let them play with the jewelry box out of my sight. (Not until they're much older, at least.) I read an article about a little girl who swallowed a cheap metal charm from one of those freebie necklaces that come with toys and she died of lead poisioning within a week. Not knowing what metals are in old jewelry, I do two things: 1) I don't let them play with it unless I'm paying attention to them and 2) I took out all the items that were made only of metal and kept the plastic, beaded, and wooden pieces. However, you still have to be careful about not letting them mouth things because there are still little metal clamps, jump rings, etc. Not to mention that almost all jewelry is a choking hazard. Still, if you're there with them, they love to sort through the jewelry, especially if they're feeling under the weather. It's a nice sick-day activity. Just please WATCH them!!

So, there you have it. 50 more ideas. Put them with Beth's and it's 100. Add in the ideas you find in Blogland and it's even more! I hope it helps you have some fun times with your kiddos!

Whew! I'm pooped- that was a lot of blogging!
I'm going on a little beach trip this week so I'll be gone until Friday. Have a great week everyone!!

Friday, June 13, 2008


Help. We're cleaning out the garage today. It's bad; really bad. I'm not going to get to my final installment of toddler/preschooler activities today, but I'll be back this weekend with the final ten.
Hope you're having more fun than I am today!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ideas for Toddler Days: Part 4

Here is the fourth set of ideas to help survive (and thrive) during toddler days. Click here to see
Introduction and 1-10
***NOTE: I have some photos I wanted to drop in here and there, but my computer is being DIFFICULT and I want to get this posted today. Hopefully I can drop them in later, so check back.

31. Felt faces - I bought a toy at a dollar store for Sister one day that inspired this game. It was made of vinyl stickers and little cardboard faces that were blank. The idea was that you put the vinyl stickers (various types of eyes, noses, mouths, ears, etc.) on the cardboard pieces to make silly faces. The kids loved it, but the pieces were so small that they were lost quickly. I decided to recreate the game in felt, and it's been a big hit. (A good travel toy, too.)
32. Prop boxes - Those of you with early childhood education in your background will have already heard of "prop boxes." A prop box is a collection of objects, books, toys, etc. that support a central theme. For example, we have a "Doctor Kit" prop box. Inside you will find our pretend medical instruments in a doctor bag, a set of scrubs, several ace bandages, two picture books about going to the doctor, a digital thermometer that doesn't really work, a small flashlight, and some old CT scans of Mommy's brain. Other prop boxes at our house are the beauty parlor prop box and a pet shop prop box (a good thing to do with the surplus stuffed animals.) The beauty of prop boxes is that they promote creative play and support organization. Before we started our Doctor Prop Box, the toy medical instruments were strewn all over the house, making it very hard to play doctor. The box also makes the toys more novel, since they aren't out all the time. I store our prop boxes up in my closet- the kids know where they are and can request them, but the fact that they're not always out makes them MUCH more interesting! Check out this site for more ideas. This site has tons too- choose a letter of the alphabet to see lots of ideas! It's great on a rainy day to have a "fresh" box of toys to bring out and offer the kids, "Hey! Let's play pet shop!" :-)
33. Do some yoga: I will admit, I'm not really the yoga type. But when Sister's preschool teacher started teaching her some yoga for kids, I was amazed at how quickly she picked it up. Her teacher sent home a "yoga for kids" booklet, and we've been having fun trying out all the poses. Brother is pretty good too! (And it gets Mommy off her tush and doing a little exercise.)Here is a great book (especially for preschoolers.) These two are good for babies and toddlers. Check your library!
34. Play grocery store with stuff from the pantry - There are some days when my kids simply MUST be near me no matter what. The magnetic Mommy forces cannot be defeated. It's hardest when I'm trying to cook supper but I've learned one way to cope. I open the pantry door and let them play grocery store. They get out boxes and cans and set them up nearby, shop, ring themselves out, and bag them up. A toy cash register and toy buggy would probably make it even better. To bad we don't have those! The one thing I've learned to hard way is to store the heavy cans and jars up high where they can't reach. Smashed toddler toes are NOT a good thing.
35. Create a “cave” in a closet. Bring in “supplies” like snacks, blankets, etc. Bring in stuffed animals and dolls, read stories with flashlight. Make S'mores in the microwave. You could also do a mermaid or pirate cove this way and add some blue fabric or sheets to the floor to indicate “water.” White Christmas lights add a magical effect.
36. Shadow/light play - Are you familiar with the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education? If not, read about it here on Wikipedia. I am fascinated with many of the concepts that have come from this movement that was founded in Italy after World War II. One of the ideas I've gained from reading about Reggio Emilia is the use of a light table as a sensory exploration tool for young children. Just look at this photo and you'll see what I mean. We don't have a light table (a little out of our price range) but we do have an old overhead projector. (Surplus from the school district.) The children love to play with objects on the lit top of the projector such as transparent and translucent items (you can find things especially for overheads at a teacher store) as well as flat-bottomed glass beads, etc. It's also fun to draw with Vis-A-Vis markers on the glass. The added bonus of the overhead projector is that it also offers an element of shadow play because it projects images on the wall. We just got ours a few months ago but I have big plans for some shadow-puppet plays too! PS- Check out this photo and see why I love Reggio Emilia. Such beautiful environments!
37. Make a list of places to go so you don’t have to think on your feet if you’re tired, frustrated, etc. and need a change of scenery. Post it on your fridge. My list includes Grandma's house, Target, Barnes and Noble, a variety of parks around town, the farmer's market (on certain days), the museum, the toy store, a bakery, my husband's school (after hours), etc. You wouldn't think you'd need such a list, but the truth is that tired moms can use all the helpful reminders possible. Without such a list, I get into a rut.
38. Watch home movies - So many of us beat ourselves up over letting our kids watch tv. (I do!) Even though I limit the quantity, I still wish I could get rid of tv time altogether. But the reality for me is that there are times I simply NEED tv: when I'm sick, when they're sick, when it's been cold and raining for 3 days straight, etc. I recently discovered a happy medium: home movies! We have a video camera that hooks up to the tv and the kids LOVE watching shows that feature them! Birthdays! Christmases! Sweet little moments from baby-hood! They love it all, and I feel better about it because our home movies lack the over-stimulating, brain-numbing quality found in most modern television programming for kids. This is not to say that we never watch an episode of Sesame Street anymore, but I have been able to phase some of that out and replace it with something much more authentic and meaningful for our family.
39. Fruity Art: Sister went through a Strawberry Shortcake phase as a toddler (and actually never left the phase.) She loves dolls, and those sweet little dolls that also smell good really tickle her fancy. One day I remembered a craft I had done with kindergartners several years ago and thought it would be perfect for Sister. We were going to make our own Strawberry Shortcake paper dolls! First, we drew several "dolls" on heavy white cardstock and colored them. (Actually, we painted them with watercolors, but you could color them any way you like.) Next, I put out little bowls of scented Kool-Aid powders in various flavors/colors. I helped Sister put Elmer's glue on each doll and then we sprinkled a powder on top of each doll (like glitter.) After we shook off the extra, we let them dry. Sister had a BLAST playing with her "Strawberry Shortcake" dolls, and later we turned one or two into necklaces (punched a hole in it and tied it on a piece of yarn.) This activity was a BIG hit, and could be used with any type of drawing- not just "dolls."
40. Get inspired by a children’s artist- There are so many fabulous children's illustrators out there today. You can create an amazing art activity just by mimicking some of these illustrators. A favorite example is Eric Carle. When I taught elementary school, I used to do a little unit on him where we read lots of his books and then created our own collages based on his techniques. The skinny of it is that you 1)Create lots of beautiful papers with paint and lots of fun objects such as brushes, stamps, scrapers, fingers, wads of saran wrap, etc.! 2)Then you come back another day and use those papers to create collages. See this website for a step-by-step explanation. (It's actually a lesson plan but don't be scared of that! A lesson plan is basically just a well-written set of directions!)

Only 10 left! See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ideas for Toddler Days: Part 3

Here are the next 10 ideas for toddler days with your little one. Click here to read the explanation and see the first ten ideas. Click here for the second ten.
And now here is 21-30!

21. Play your own version of Bubby Ball- While I think it is probably impossible to accurately describe the rules and play of “Bubby Ball", the general idea is that it involves a soft, bouncy ball, some laundry baskets, and a lot of made-up, nonsense rules. Yes, the DH invented this (of course.) Currently the rules are that Brother sits in his chair in his room and tries to throw the ball into one of the baskets. When he makes it, his Dad screams “Rats!” When he misses, his Dad screams, “Miss!” and throws it back to him. And when he purposely throws it into the closet, his Dad tickles him silly. All boy nonsense, of course. Brother LOVES it. Sister loves it too. (Of course there are additional rules added when Sister is in the mix.) Bubby Ball is one of our top “the toddler is in a bad mood” survival strategies. This type of nonsense game gets everyone laughing and burning energy, and it works for all ages. My DH has vivid childhood memories of playing just this type of game outside with his brother with balls, catcher’s protective gear, a shovel, and a hole dug in the dirt. He says they spent hours playing that made-up ball game. (Boys- what silly creatures!) Anyway, the point is that you can create silly games of this genre with a little creativity and a dose of silliness. In fact, the sillier the rules, the better.
22. Puffy sticker play- I'm sure you're aware of the fun your toddler can have with some stickers. But puffy stickers are the best for toddlers because they are easy to take off the sheet and can be taken on and off an object numerous times. My kids especially love to stick them to a window. (Note: vinyl stickers like Colorforms work great on windows too!) Puffy stickers cost a bit more, but I like to keep a few packs up on a shelf in the playroom where I can pull them out when I need 10 minutes of peace to cook some dinner!
23. Whip up a batch of shaving cream paints. This doesn't sound that great, but it is! Buy a canister of old-fashioned white shaving cream (it's cheap!) and then mix up a few bowls following these guidelines: mix white glue (like Elmer's) with an equal amount of shaving cream. Add a few drops of food coloring and mix well. Do this several times until you have as many colors as you desire. Then paint away! This paint is fun to work with and dries with a cool, fluffy texture. (Therefore, it makes great clouds, snow, etc.) We use brushes, fingers, tongue depressors, scrapers, etc. Last time we painted on paper, but next time I'm going to try it on foil and see what happens. Make sure your child doesn't eat any of this paint!
24. Get out of your house! I know, this isn't really a big idea. But the truth is that sometimes what everyone needs is some fresh air and a change of scenery. So, here are some suggestions for getting out and about:
- Go on a color hunt
- Go exploring
- "Feed" your yard fairies - What? You didn't know fairies live in your yard? Well, they do. And if you leave little bits of things fairies like to eat (ours like a mixture of oatmeal and silver glitter) then they leave little treats on your doorstep. Things like special rocks and shells, or a small box of pretty leaves, or even a little sweet. (It depends on how nice you are to them.) And there is always a little bit of fairy dust (clear micro glitter) on the ground near the gift. Just try it and see!
- Go to a green field (recreation fields work well if not in use), take some balls, and run!
- Go for a walk in another part of town. We get bored with our neighborhood and like to drive to another area of town for an afternoon walk. Lately we've been visiting one neighborhood in particular that has beautiful homes, wide sidewalks, and a great park. When the DH has had a stressful day, this is one of his favorite things to do as a family. We get exercise, and the kids enjoy the stroller ride (and the park play.)
- Bored with your park? Try adding a fun new element, like big bubbles, or letting your toddler push her doll there in a doll stroller, or taking a bag of books there to read. A mini-picnic is always a good idea at a park, especially if you can eat it at the top of the play equipment.
- Go outside to do a traditionally indoor activity. Examples: color or paint outside, read outside, play with toys outside (like blocks or the dollhouse)
- Set up an obstacle course for the kids. Here are some of the things on our course: kick the ball, step through hula hoops, fill a bucket with bean bags, and hit the baseball off the tee. Then run back to the start as fast as you can.
OK- I guess it's not so much an obstacle course as it is a course of things to do! For older children, you can add an outside enemy: time! See if they can beat their time each time they complete the course.
-Wash the car. On nice-weather days, this is fun, wet, and actually fairly productive! Kids love to feel like they're "helping" do a grown-up task, especially if it involves sponges and buckets of sudsy water.
25. Bust out the body crayons/ paint- What is so magical about face paint? I'm not sure, but I know that my kids LOVE getting their faces painted at craft fairs and festivals. It inspired me to get these books, which have been a BIG hit around here. I like this one with pencils and this one with paint.
26. Visit this great website. - I already shared a list of links to great activities from Blogland. But I didn't mention this site, which deserves its own bullet: The Artful Parent. One afternoon sit down with a cup of tea and pursue the archives of this site. You will find some great projects that are just perfect for toddlers!
27. Another site: The next blog that is bullet-worthy is The Crafty Crow. She did something I dreamed of doing (but never got around to, of course.) When she sees a great craft, project, or recipe for kids that she wants to remember, she posts it on this blog. It's relatively new, but already jam-packed with great stuff. Once again, peruse all those older posts and jot down/ print out your favorite ideas for a rainy day. This activity saved me one nasty day. It rocked.
28. Silly toddler game: Stuffed Friends Toss- Put your toddler in their crib or bed. Then sit on the floor (or across the room) and throw their stuffed animals, one by one, onto their bed. My kids like to throw them back, and it becomes a competition to see who can win the battle. My kids also enjoy playing stuffed friend basketball into a laundry basket from inside a crib. And then, you can't beat "Bury the toddler with stuffed friends until you can only see their little face." Even Brother will stay still for that one!
29. Play Beauty Parlor - For the relatively inexpensive price of a beauty parlor set from a discount store, you can buy hours of beauty parlor fun. Sister can spend some serious time this way- her favorite items are a doll beauty chair (bought from Target) and a toy hair dryer (that sounds like the real thing when turned on.) Add some hair do-dads, some make-up brushes, some combs, and some pretend make-up and you've got yourself some big fun. And don't think this is just for girls. Boys love this too, to the point that when Sister shared this at school, the boys didn't want to go outside. They wanted to stay in and play beauty parlor!!! Funny.
30. Bookmaking brainstorm - Beth gave the great idea to create a book by pasting down pictures and letting your child tell you what is in the picture while you write it down. It's a GREAT thing to do, not only as a literacy-builder, but because it affirms your child in a very unique way. It isn't surprising to me that our simple homemade books (especially those featuring family members) are by far the most cherished books in our house. Here are some of the approaches we've taken to creating books with the kids:
§ Language Experience Approach- with this approach, you write exactly what your child says and read it. (No correcting, or rewording.) It is quite empowering for children, and helps them make the connection between the spoken word and print. Look here for more information on this approach.
§ Family photo book - One of my kids' favorite books is a simple photo book that has a photo of each family member per page and the name of that family member written underneath. They often want to sleep with this one!
§ Counting book- cut images from mags OR take photos with groupings of toys or objects- involve your child in choosing and setting up which toys/objects will be used. *The only trick is to take the photo so that all the objects can be clearly seen when the photo is printed.
§ Color book using photos - This is the same idea as above. Let your child choose objects around the house or yard that show different colors (group red things and take a photo, then blue, etc.) Brother was confusing some of his colors until we did this and now he's got it!
§ Word book- Again, similar to above, let your child choose the image and help you glue it down- then you write the word underneath. Keep these in page protectors in a binder and keep adding over time. You'd be amazed at how much this can help to improve their vocabulary!
§ Non-fiction- Use photos to create a book that tells about an event, such as a trip to the zoo, or a birthday party, or a typical day at school, etc. These books become very meaningful mementos and are much-requested read alouds.
§ Fiction: Coming soon to our house... fictional stories told through photos and words. Inspired by Amanda's post about her homemade pirate movie, I thought that we could use costumes and household props to retell some favorite stories, such as Cinderella. I'll plan out the events we need to capture in photographs, we'll stage them, photograph them, print them out, and then do a simple retelling before we bind it all up. Don't you think that would be awesome??? I do!

OK- back tomorrow with 31-40!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ideas for Toddler Days: Part 2

Here is the second installment of activities to do with toddlers (and older kids too.) See this post for an explanation and the first ten ideas.

11. Simple scavenger hunt - One of Brother's favorite books is Where's Spot? He loves to look for Spot the puppy behind all the flaps. That book gave me the idea to do a similar scavenger hunt with the stuffed friends in our house. We already have a Spot doll- lucky! So during naptime, I hide stuffed animals around the house with little clues(based on Where’s Spot?) When Brother wakes up and is ready to play, I'll say "That Spot! He hasn't eaten his lunch! Where can he be? Let's look!" Of course, I guide him to the first location (the tub, for instance) and he finds a stuffed friend with an index card that says, "No, look in the pantry!" (or the kitchen cabinet, or under the bed, or behind the couch, or in the shoe basket, etc.) Finally we find Spot (always exciting) and then Brother likes to feed him some crackers. It's a sweet little activity. (Note- when I'm too lazy to make index cards, I just prompt him to go to the next place verbally, "No? Let's look in the closet!" Now that he has the hang of it, he checks all the usual places without much prompting. This means I have to find new places to hide Spot or the game is over too soon!)
12. Have a parade- Throw on some dress-up clothes, grab some noisemakers or instruments, and start marching around the house. Toddlers don't need a big reason to parade. Their natural exuberance is always on the verge of a parade anyway! You can do this with just one child if you load up some dolls and stuffed friends into a wagon, stroller, etc. But it does work better with a few more kids or adults. Sometimes just getting siblings or a playmate to join the parade can make it more festive. You can have a generic parade any time or you can do a "special" parade. Here are some fun ones:
  • Chinese New Year parade: Make a Chinese dragon (you can make this as simple or complex as you like. It works well to make a "head" out of a box or even a paper plate and then attach a length of fabric with crepe paper streamers hanging off.) Add a drum and cymbal and you're a parade waiting to happen.
  • Wild Thing Rumpus: One of our favorite books is Where the Wild Things Are. If you make some wild thing masks, you can have a terrific rumpus of your own. This can be a parade or can just deteriorate into general silly behavior. A drum or two and some rhythm instruments help a lot. Here's a sample mask found on Flickr to inspire you. I neglected to photograph our masks when we made them (bad mommy!) but I'll do so the next time we decide to rumpus.
  • 4th of July: This is not a new idea, of course. But it's a classic reason to parade. If you don't already participate in a parade, this is your chance! See if you can round up some friends and family for a parade. Decorate wagons, bikes, strollers, and yourself, and march on!
  • Birthday Parade: I love the idea of everyone getting dressed up in a silly way (covered in crepe paper, balloons, and a party hat) and parading the birthday child around the house and yard. Brother thought it was a FABULOUS way to start his 2nd birthday- definitely a new tradition in our house.

13. Sorting Box - Sister has always loved small things, so one day when I was at the craft store, I got inspired to create a "sorting box" for her. (Also could be a counting box.) I bought lots of little miniatures and put them together in a blue box. She and Brother both love it. Recently I added a sorting tray bought from this preschool source (awesome stuff, good prices) and it has added a new level to the sorting.
14. Play-Doh - OK. This is nothing new, and Beth even mentioned making homemade playdough on her list. But I will expand and tell you some of the things that have kept Brother and Sister interested: straws of various size and length, small birthday candles (they make birthday cakes and have little parties), coffee stirrers, clay molds, making imprints with shells and other plastic toys, forks, knives, doll footprints and animal tracks, etc., I thought this was a great idea too.
15. Print out ideas from your favorite blogs- There are SO many ideas out there; so many incredibly talented and creative people!!! But I've found that if I don't print out the idea promptly, I forget it. Or I remember it but forget where to find it. Or I remember where to find it but forget when, and spend an hour searching through blog archives. So now I've started an idea binder and I keep all the ideas, crafts, and recipes I want to try in one spot. Here are just a few of my favorites that live in my binder:
- Amy over at Inspire Co. is very, well, inspiring! I love her blog and all her ideas. I especially love this idea for Easter and this one for creating a magnet play area. You also need to see this room Amy designed/decorated for her foster children. She is just an amazing person!
- I love this idea for making stickers from Mary Beth's blog, Salt and Chocolate. She is so creative and crafty, even with her son going through treatment for Cancer. Look at these little books she made for her son to "write" in.-I simply must make these doll mermaid tails for some of Sister's dolls. (From Angry Chicken.)

- Kate's Thanksgiving table runner is a must for this fall. And the Easter one is so cute it hurts me.

And there are so many more! So start printing them out and saving them for yourself! (Obviously not for any copy-catting or commerial purpose, but I don't need to tell you that.)
16. Throw a surprise party for someone special - My kids are REALLY into parties right now. They love an occasion, and at their ages, it doesn't take much to make a humdrum afternoon into a party scene. It's fun to pick someone (like Daddy) and tell them that we're going to throw him a surprise party for being such a great Daddy (or Grandma because she has been under the weather), etc. Then we bust out the party bin and blow up balloons, hang streamers, etc. I usually have thought ahead enough to be prepared to whip up some cupcakes or cookies, and then we're ready to surprise our special person. Adding a few family members or friends gives it a special party feel. You can take it as far as you want, or be as simple as you want. You can also get creative and throw the party for an imaginary friend, stuffed animal, etc. Adding a game or craft makes it even better. Whether big or small, your little ones will think a party rocks.

17. Collage Caddy - Collage is such a great activity for young ones because it's so easy to do. All you need is something to glue on, some glue, and some things to glue down. There are hundreds of ideas out there (dried pasta, beans, seeds, leaves and flowers, torn paper, pictures from magazines, photographs, bits of fabric and trim, pom poms, sequins, stickers, cotton balls, ETC.!) Anyway, to make this an easy go-to activity I created a little collage caddy of materials so we could always make some art on the fly. All you need is glue (I prefer good old white Elmer's- I have NEVER been able to get glue sticks to work worth a hoot!), scissors (safety ones for little kids), and some materials. I like to keep it fresh, and change out the offerings on a fairly regular basis. I have also found that the front and back of a shirt box (or cereal box) are GREAT surfaces for collage. You can either cut off the sides or leave them on for the look of a stretched canvas.
18. Cardboard construction - OK. I'll admit that I haven't done this one yet, but it's high on the list of summer activities. I am gathering as much cardboard as possible- boxes of all sizes, toilet paper tubes, paper towel tubes, etc. along with lots of fastening things like masking tape, clear tape, electrical tape, duct tape, etc. and help my kids to construct something. These websites inspire me. (Though I am sure ours will look NOTHING like them and will more closely resemble a BIG BLOB.

19. Songs and rhymes: Being a former teacher, I have lots of songs, chants, and fingerplays in my repertoire. But, my "early-morning with little kids coma" often prevents me from thinking of them off the top of my head. I really wanted to try a "circle time" with my kids this summer, so I made a small flip book featuring our favorites. On each card I have the words and a coordinating photo or picture. I laminated them (at the DH's school- poaching the laminator!) and bound the cards with rings. Now we can flip through and choose our songs and rhymes easily. I will also tell you that this is an excellent activity to promote emerging literacy!
20. Activities with paint chips - One of my friends is homeschooling the Montessori way and she shared these great ideas. Go to the hardware store and snitch some paint chips. Start out by simply matching swatches- start with primary colors and have two of each chip. Next make a set with have primary plus orange, purple, green, pink, white, grey, brown, and black. Match those! Then, make a third set with varying shades of each color so the kids can put them in order from lightest to darkest. The more shades of each color you gather, the more complex this game gets. You can also play a game with these: give your child a color swatch and have them find an object of that color somewhere in the house (or outside.)

OK, back tomorrow with 21-30!

Monday, June 9, 2008

50 More Ideas for Toddler Days: Part 1

I don't believe that I've ever mentioned her here before, but Beth over at Write, Mama, Write is one of my favorite bloggers. She is a former teacher now SAHM (like me) and has a toddler son (who is, I think, a tad older than Brother.) I appreciate all her musings about motherhood and admire her craftability. (If football announcers can make up words like "escapablity" and the like, so can I. Craftability. Oh calm down, spellcheck!)

Anyway, one of the first posts I saw on Beth's site thrilled me. It was titled 50 Mood Changers for Toddler Days and it is a WONDERFUL listing of ideas that will help you get through those long afternoons with a little one. (I will note that it's not just for toddlers- preschoolers will love it all too - and some work well for older kids- but it's special in that ALL of it works with toddlers, the most, er, challenging group.)
At the bottom of her post, Beth mentioned that she hoped to eventually compile a list of at least 100 ideas, but this list stopped at 50.
Since I first saw it, I've referred to the list time and again, and started making my own notes on the backs of the pages. Lo and behold, my list started approaching 50 too! And it occurred to me that if I posted my 50 here on my blog, Beth would have her 100! (And, just maybe, one of you would find an idea that rescues you from a long, fussy afternoon one of these days.)
So, I'm going to spend the next week posting 10 ideas at a time until I get through all 50.
*Note- For the record, if you read through Beth's blog, she certainly could have compiled another 50 by now with all her creative ideas! (She's the originator of the Sculpey nature prints that have made the rounds on many blogs.) I highly recommend an afternoon spent with her archives!
OK- here it goes: the first ten ideas for toddler days (actually the 51st through the 60th if you start with Beth's list):

1. Set up a "potion station"- This lets kids act as chefs, scientists, or simply mess-makers. They LOVE this one. I like to give them flour, soda, colored waters, pipettes, glitter (in a shaker), turkey basters, funnels, and possibly some vinegar if you're going to be supervising (because of the cool reaction when mixed with baking soda.) Also include containers for mixing and pouring such as empty baby food jars and containers for pouring. I actually bought a few plastic graduated cylinders from this source so they could be like real scientists. If you want to give it more of a "cooking" feel, give them little bowls with lots of different "ingredients"- favorites around here include dried beans, oatmeal, cornmeal, goldfish crackers, colored sugar sprinkles, and old dried spices (nothing hot that could burn eyes.) Here's how I like to set this up: Put down a big vinyl tablecloth. Put a LARGE, fairly shallow bin on a low table-top (or on the floor, but the kids get messier when it's on the floor.) I like to use a futon-style bench my DH made that stays in our backyard, but a piece of plywood stretched across some cinder blocks would work just fine. Then put all the "ingredients" inside the large container. I tell the kids they can do whatever they want- mix, mash, drip, etc. as long as it stays inside the bin. Of course, it doesn't stay in the bin, so be mentally prepared for that. Recently I did this inside on my kitchen floor. Know what? They made a huge mess that we were able to clean up in about 15 minutes with a broom, wet sponges, and a dishwasher. I say, let them make messes! It's what toddlerhood is all about. Seeing how engaged they are in this activity and how proud they are of their "concoctions" makes it worth the mess.
2. "Cook" some Mudballs - This is a yummy snack and is a fun one to make with your toddler. They are really good at smashing up the graham cracker in a zip-lock bag. See recipe here.
3. Snowball fight- What to do with all those old magazines and catalogs? We have a snowball fight. Rip out lots of pages and ball them up into paper balls. (Toddlers like to help with this.) Then, put down a line of masking tape in the middle of a room. The idea is to throw the snowballs at each other in a set amount of time (a timer with a ringer or buzzer adds to the fun.) The winner is the person with the fewest number of snowballs on his/her side at the end. For younger and only children, Mom and Dad will need to model this a few times to give them the idea. For siblings, kids vs. parent works well. And older kids can just go to town at this on their own. At the end, we try to race and see if we can get all the snowballs into a bag before the timer rings.
4. Play dress up from mommy’s closet- Sometimes the dress-up chest gets a little stale and over-played-with. One day I was inspired to invite the kids into my closet and try on some of Mommy and Daddy's things. It was a big hit.
5. Greeting card fun - Do you save greeting cards? I highly recommend it. More than once I've lectured myself on being a hoarder and said, "Just throw them away!" but somehow knowing that they cost $2-$4 each makes it hard for me. Now that I have young kids I'm glad I saved them. Here are some of the fun things we do with our greeting cards:
  • Keep them as a "collection" in a pretty box. Brother and Sister can have some serious fun bringing them to an adult one at a time and back again to the box. I know, it doesn't sound fun at all, but they like it. (Especially when the adult makes a big deal over each card, "Oh, look! And Easter bunny with a colorful egg! I like this one!")
  • Sorting games- I'll offer a prompt like, "Find all the cards with a bunny." or "Find all the cards with something red." Sometimes they come up with their own idea, like grouping them by holiday or by sparkly vs. not sparkly, etc.
  • Collage- Sometimes we decide to cut a few up and add the images to our collages.
  • Play mailman- Brother and Sister have great fun bagging up the cards into fabric totes and delivering mail to various stuffed animal friends. We round up our toy mailboxes and create others out of shoe boxes, bins, etc.

6. Present hunt in the house (like an Easter Egg hunt but use small boxes) - This one takes some prep. work but it can really rescue a day turning sour. Collect some small boxes- jewelry boxes work great. Put a small treat inside each one (a small candy, small toy, a sticker, etc.) Wrap them in wrapping paper and set them aside until you REALLY need them. Then, when you decide it's the right time, have the kids sit in one spot (like on a bed) while you hide the presents. (It helps to have them see them before they're hidden so they know what they're seeking.) Have them go on a search and bring all the wrapped presents to one location. (I have them put them in a laundry basket.) Then, divvy them up and open! *I recently decided to paint the boxes so that I don't have to wrap them. It's easier to get organized for it and has the same effect. **Also, the prizes are nothing fabulous. A sticker here, a few M&Ms there- it's all good to them!
7. Mrs. Magoo's magical purse - Does your toddler love to "hoard" small things? Sister, especially, has always been a hoarder. We go to playgroup and she ends up walking around the room clutching 10 small toys in her little arms. Toddlers also love to "discover" and unpack/repack. I got out an old purse and did a little embellishing with paint and glitter to make it look more magical. Then I loaded it with some small "treasures"- small dolls and animals, various odds and ends. (See the photo.) It really doesn't take much to make the purse seem "magical"- novelty is the key. So, on a rainy day, "find" Mrs. Magoo's magical purse and let them explore. Then, during an opportune time (like while they're sleeping), make it "disappear." I always tell them Mrs. Magoo must be going on another trip and needs her bag so she can pack. It makes it really fun to add a new little item or two every now and then and let them "discover" something new. Here are a few of the current contents of the purse:

8. Wash-Away-Your-Blues - Beth mentioned this idea on her list, but it is such a great one that it bears another mention. If you're up for a little splashing and puddle wipe-up, you can provide your toddler with a fun activity with no expense. On a nice day, I set up a water station on the back porch or in the yard. On bad weather days, I strip them down and let them play in the tub. While doing simple things like pouring water and playing with water toys is fun, I find that their play is much more engaged and long-lasting (and often less messy!) if I provide a focus. Some ideas: offer some plastic baby dolls, small washrags and sponges, and a little soapy water for baby washing, let them round up their plastic toys or plastic dishes for washing, wash shells and rocks, or give them a bin of items with which to experiment the scientific properties of sink/float. You could also make it an art exploration by providing some homemade bathtub paints. It is also very helpful to provide them with various pouring items- plastic drinking cups, measuring cups with handles, etc. Brother is especially fond of ping-pong balls because he can't make them stay submerged. (Lots of giggles!) Another idea is to use a Sharpie to draw faces onto ping pong balls and use 1/2 of a (cleaned) Styrofoam egg carton as a "boat." Foam meat trays (clean!) also make cool "barges" for small plastic animals. 9. Celebrate some less-common holidays- Last year after Christmas and New Year's Day had passed, it seemed like a long, dull time until Valentine's Day and then Spring. Beck offered some great suggestions for January and February on her blog. Go here to see! I have also some fun "holidays" on our family calendar. A few include:
March 3- Hina-matsuri (Japanese doll festival) See info. about it here.
March 13- Good Samaritan Day (On this day we perform Random Acts of Kindness. Next year we're going to do some guerrilla art on this day too.)
March 18- Johnny Appleseed Day
March 20- First Day of Spring
May 1- May Day and Mother Goose Day
May 5- Children’s Day
May 19 Circus Day
June 25- Eric Carle’s B-day (I'll share more about him later this week.)
July 28- Beatrix Potter’s Birthday
August 12- Middle Child’s Day *We don't celebrate this one because there is no "middle child" in our house, but I think it's a great idea.
September 9- Teddy Bear Day

And one I have dreamed up for fun, Rainbow Day: This one is scheduled for late June at our house, and here's my plan. We are going to use this day to honor God’s faithfulness and celebrate the beauty of his creation. I'll start by reading the story of Noah’s Ark (and/or use puppets and/or set up a scene and/or act it out) Then we'll:
Decorate the house with rainbow colors (to remember God’s sign of promise)
Wear white t-shirts and squirt each other with colored waters, and paint our shirts
Eat the rainbow; set out foods in color rows or areas to make a rainbow, eat Jello jigglers in multiple colors, drink brightly colored Kool-Aids,
Play outside with tinted waters, clear tubing, funnels, and ice cubes
Go on a color hunt in the yard (and note the beauty of God’s creation)
Talk about the colors of the people in the world/ diversity
Do some tie-dye
Play a color-based game
I will certainly post about our first Rainbow Day after it happens!

::The fun thing about these days is that they are totally optional. I keep them on the calendar and decide whether to celebrate them (and to what extent) based on the other things happening in our lives at the time. For example, this year I had really wanted to celebrate the Japanese Doll Festival in our own way (because Sister would LOVE it) but that week was already so overloaded that I didn't need to add to it. However, Good Samaritan Day worked nicely for us this year. We read the Bible story and ended up delivering some cookies to families and friends and taking some homemade cards to the nursing home down the road. Of course, once you celebrate these days one or two years in a row, they will become OFFICIAL holidays to your kids and you'll have to keep it up!
10. Create a scrapbook page with your child- Many of us become scrapbookers of some kind or another when we have children. When Sister was born, I discovered this craft/hobby and really got into it... until Brother was born. Since then I've only had time to do one measly page. Poor Brother. It's just so hard to find the time! So, to solve the problem and bring my children in on the fun, I've started scrapbooking with them. I do have some tips for you if you decide to give this a try:
  • Limit the quantity of art supplies- they'll want to use it all! I usually put out a few papers, safety scissors, a few photos, glue sticks, some good quality markers and crayons, and one or two fun extras (such as a few stickers, rubber stamps, glitter, Prima flowers, etc.)
  • Once you've introduced the concept, let them do it. Don't interfere by suggesting where they should place their photos, offering design tips, etc. On the flip side, you work on your own page too and don't let them interfere with your work either. That way you both end up with a product you like.
  • Offer to transcribe their dictation onto the page to record what they want to say about the photos, the layout, etc. (If they refuse, I usually just have them talk to me about their memories of the event we're scrapbooking and write it down, along with any sweet or funny comments, on a separate piece of paper. Then I attach it to the back later.

Here we are at work during our last family scrapbooking session:

And here are two of the "finished product" pages. As you can see, process is our focus around here! (But I actually do love their products!) Sister's is on the left, Brother's on the right. (And I did blur their faces in Photoshop, so don't be scared by that!) See you tomorrow for the next ten ideas!

PS- I must mention that this post "series" has been languishing in an incomplete format for quite some time until I saw Bethany's post of summertime activities. She got me motivated to finally finish them up! Thanks, Bethany! :-)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Check back next week...

I'm working this week (teaching a grad. class) so life is rather hectic. On top of that, we have 3 parties/events this week in the evening, so I'm not going to be posting again here until next Monday. But do check back, because I have several posts in the works that will give you some ideas to occupy your toddler/preschooler.
Hope you're having a great week!

Monday, June 2, 2008

OK. I'm still alive, and feeling better. Thanks for the well-wishes!
While I've been "bed-resting" a bit, I have had fun planning some summer activities. One on the top of the list right now (just because I'm into it at the moment) is the idea to have a luau when our family rents a beach house together this summer. I think it would be an fun way to end our week together.

And check out what I bought on Etsy?

Hula dancer cake toppers so we can make this fabulous cake.

Trees (also for the cake.)


Some cocktail umbrellas (Sister will be able to make the drinks fancy.)


And these fabulous hula dancer beads. I think I'm also going to buy some colorful wooden beads and have bracelet-making be an activity at the party.

The first three items are from this Etsy shop and the hula girl beads are from this one.
With a good haul from Oriental Trader (you should see Sister's wish list!!), we'll be set. It's not until July, but planning a luau has been a rather cheering activity.
Hope you all are HEALTHY! (fresh respect for being healthy) and enjoying your week.

Friday, May 30, 2008

emergency room part I

Well. There is nothing like a middle-of-the-night ambulance ride to put things in perspective. The person in the ambulance was me: I woke up at 3:30 in the morning with an excruciating pain on my right side that only worsened over the next hour. To make a long story short, after several tests and a night spent at the hospital, they still don't know what it is. I'm feeling a tad better, though I still have a fair amount of abdominal pain and discomfort. The doctors and I decided to "see how I do" over the weekend. I must say, as much as I love doctors, it was rather frustrating to go through all that (CT scan after drinking a HUGE amount of DISGUSTING Barium, 2 ultrasounds, gyno exam, various needle pricks and IVs, etc.) and leave the hospital without an answer. I guess that's how it goes. I guess that's better than hearing some really bad news of some kind.

So, I'm home. Taking it easy. Hoping I don't wake up at 3:30 again tonight with that same pain. And feeling a brand new level of empathy for sick people.
I'll leave you with something that made me laugh so hard a few weeks ago that I kept remembering it in the ER and cracking up (and then cringing horribly as the pain shot across my stomach.)

Here's a favorite comic: Brian Regan. (Do watch Emergency Room Part 2 as well.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

This past weekend DH and I attended a wedding and, for the first time, took Sister along with us. The mother of the bride (my former boss and current friend) told us to bring her and I thought she'd enjoy the magical beauty of a wedding. She did, but I was sweating it for a few minutes in the church when Sister started getting a little squirrely. Apparently the Preacher's mini-sermon on the life changes brought on by marriage wasn't all that magical to Sister. Thank goodness for the tiny pencils and offering envelopes sitting there in the pew (God bless the Presbyterians- you can always count on them for tiny pencils and envelopes.) I did a little drawing to entertain her and it worked.
I surprised myself by tearing up when the bride walked down the aisle. I don't usually do that, but what got me was seeing my friend, the bride's mother, watch her daughter walk down the aisle. I suddenly had this flash-forward in my mind to 20ish years from now when I will likely watch Sister doing the exact same thing. My friend looked so happy and proud, not sad at all, but I could only imagine that it seemed like yesterday that her own daughter was a wriggling preschooler in her lap. Everyone tells me, "Don't blink! She'll be grown before you know it!" but it's one of those things you just can't appreciate in the moment when you're potty training and sleep deprived and cleaning up a room full of toys for the 100th time.
The wedding itself was so beautiful. My boss/friend is one of the classiest women I know, and of course the wedding followed suit. The reception was at an old plantation in a meeting hall/ barn kind of building but they had made it really beautiful with greenery and white lights. They had even hung tiny chandeliers dripping fresh flowers over each of the 40+ tables. I can only imagine how much the event cost- especially once I got a glimpse of the food. Major spread! They had everything you could imagine- roast beef, shrimp, crab legs, a variety of breads and dips, ham biscuits, spring rolls, etc. etc. etc. PLUS a big sushi bar. Quite fabulous. (Of course, the only thing Sister would eat out of the entire line-up was a deviled egg and a cheddar muffin.)
One thing I wanted to remember for future wedding plans (Sister's, not mine) was that they did make one mistake that could be avoided. The wedding was at 6:00, so people arrived at the reception around 7:00- STARVING. All the food was set out but was covered with saran wrap; the message obviously being that it wasn't time to eat. There were waiters going around with tiny little servings of appetizers, but that wasn't cutting it. There was one table in the corner with some fresh veggies, olives, deviled eggs, and crackers that wasn't covered. The line for that table was 50 people deep at all times. By the time the wedding party arrived (around 7:40) and the caterer uncovered the rest of the spread, the first little table was decimated. And then the line for the main food (which could only be served off one side of the table- another error, in my opinion) was at least 100 people deep. So, having seen that, I would definitely tell the caterer to serve everything as soon as guests started arriving. I know it's tempting to wait for the wedding party to arrive (in fact, I remember this debate from my own wedding) but the reality is that it creates a huge log-jam and causes your guests to go hungry. There. I'll label this post "weddings" and then in 20 years I can pull it out and remember! HA!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

food wars: return of the mommy

OK. So time and space have a way of making things seem better. You could probably tell that I was rather irritated when I wrote my last post. (Sort of the "Dear Diary" syndrome creeping back into my writing.)
After a date night (Hark! We actually hired a sitter! Sound the bells! Cue the Heavenly chorus!) and a dose of John Rosemond, I have a new plan for dealing with Sister's picky eating.
1. I will not get mad. I will not get mad. I will not get mad. (If I say it enough times, maybe I will actually believe myself.)
2. I will serve three meals and two snacks per day. They will all be healthy foods. I will (somewhat) cater to her likes/dislikes at breakfast and lunch. Supper is what it is. I will plan these meals and snacks carefully so I don't resort to "Oh, gee. I don't know what to serve. How about some Ritz Crackers with a side of fruit roll-ups?"
3. I will put a very small portion of everything I have prepared on her plate. She can eat what she wants to eat. She will not get seconds of anything until her plate is clean. If she chooses not to eat, I will NOT GET MAD and will cover her plate and put it in the fridge. If she gets hungry before the next meal, I will simply pull the plate out of the fridge and put it on the table.
4. No dessert, sweets, or treats unless she eats all of her lunch/ dinner.
5. There will be no bribery, cajoling, etc. DH and I will not demonstrate in elaborate form how much we LOVE our vegetables. We will eat like normal people and will have normal conversation.
6. There will be zero tolerance for rudeness at the table (pushing food away, sulking, making gagging noises, etc.) If you do that you leave the table and go to the place where naughty children go.

DH and I are going to sit Sister down later and explain these new "house rules" in clear terms. Then it's in effect. I'll keep you posted.

I will not get mad. (One more time for good measure.)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Where have I been? Battling head colds, that's where. Theirs, mine, plus a last minute ear infection for Brother. Nice.
Between all the sleepless nights, fussy whining, and genearal "too much time together in this house!" I got to feeling pretty sorry for myself. Then I remember that they're just MINOR illnesses in the comparative sense, and get renewed admiration for people like Mary Beth who persevere through something like their baby having cancer with such grace and positive energy. Amazing. I'm ashamed of myself.
Anyway, I guess the above has left me with not quite the usual amount of patience, because I just snapped at lunch and put Sister in time-out for refusing to taste her pizza. (The kind of pizza SHE likes, purchased just for her.)
I know you're not supposed to do that. I know it is highly unwise to make the dinner table a battle field. I know you're just supposed to act like you don't give a care in the world when your child refuses to eat. But you know what? To quote Popeye, "I've had all I can stands; I can't stands no more."
I guess I'm just old school. I was taught that you eat what's on your plate and you thank the cook for it, like it or not. I think it's the height of rudeness to push your plate away, cross your arms, and pout when served your meal. And I'm just not having it from one of mine.
I know she's only 3 and 1/2. But all I asked her to do was TASTE it, not clean her plate. And it was PIZZA for crying out loud!
After I got her out of time-out, I gave her the choice to come to the table and eat or go to bed for her nap early. She chose the nap. Stubborn!!!
It seems that my beloved eldest daughter is about to find out just how stubborn her Mama is, too. Guess what's going to be served for Sister at her next meal?

Monday, May 19, 2008

too sexy

I was at the park the other day with the kids, sweating in the 90 degree heat of the afternoon
(can they not leave even ONE tree when they create these new neighborhoods????), when another family joined us. They were a Muslim family. I know this because of the woman's attire: black head covering, long sleeve shirt with a vest over the top, and jeans. Her husband was wearing a t-shirt and soccer shorts. The kids were also wearing summer clothing. At first, the "I am woman, hear me roar!" side of me got pretty annoyed at seeing a fellow mother dressed in those suffocating clothes, chasing her two young toddlers around the park while her husband went over to a soccer field and kicked a ball around. (The Dad not helping out with the kids part would have annoyed me no matter what the race/religion.)
But then I remembered that they don't share my cultural and religious beliefs, and that I shouldn't judge them. I actually think people of Muslim faith are probably onto something regarding modesty. I wouldn't go as far as they do to cover up, but I understand the intent. As I see women in public places like the grocery store, I am often ASTONISHED at the things they will wear. (Or, more to the point, fail to wear.) Do we really need to see all that cleavage, or upper thigh cellulite, super-tightness that reveals all, or just general skin? And more often than not, these women are already married with kids, so it's not like they're trying to snag a man. I say, "Save it for the bedroom, sister!"
Anyway, off the soapbox and back to the playground.
I made an effort to talk with the Muslim mom. She seemed shy and nervous around me, but was nice and smiled a lot. Her English wasn't great, but we talked a bit and compared our kids' ages and such. Her little boy looked to be about Brother's age and they shared a soccer ball for a little while quite sweetly. And I remembered an old movie where a woman says something to the effect that if all the mothers of the world could just get together and talk, there would be no war. In the movie, the guests at the dinner party meet this statement with derision, but I think it's true. Standing there in my shorts and t-shirt, I am sure I looked as ridiculously dressed to her as she did to me. But we found some common ground there at the park, smiling at each other over the tops of our children's heads.
I did have to secretly laugh at the patch on her jeans, though. In large letters it said, "TOO SEXY." It seems to me that such a message stamped on the rear of your jeans kinds of defeats the purpose of all the oppresive layers of clothing. But just maybe my fellow mom isn't quite as oppressed as she seemed.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Life can be sweet

Like everyone else, we're enjoying strawberry season in the South.
FYI- Sister's shirt says "My Dad Rocks" in huge blue-glittered gothic letters. I got it at a yard sale for $4. Awesome.
Happy weekend, friends!