Monday, February 28, 2011

A Belated Valentine's Craft

{A Flurry of Heart Flakes}
 I needed a quick time filler for Sunday School the other day and I decided to try the "Heart Flakes" that I had seen in Disney's "Family Fun" magazine. I didn't have origami paper, so I tried construction paper, which seemed a bit thick. Next, I tried some old scrapbooking paper that I wanted to get rid of, anyway. This was easier to cut after folding, but I think the patterns distract from the heart shapes that you want to show up in the snowflake design. Anyway, the verdict was that this was too tough for little hands. Mia, age 4, refused to even try, and Ben, a kindergartner, was able to do the folding, but couldn't cut through all the layers of folded paper. I would recommend this craft for late elementary and older. It would be cute to make a bunch to decorate the walls or windows of a classroom or maybe to deliver to a nursing home, so I may tuck it away for future reference. And maybe origami paper is the way to go...
{The solid color seems to look best.}

Milk, Eggs, ... Gorillas?

Brett has a free grocery list making app on his iPod Touch and lately he has been trying to convince me to use it instead of giving him lists on scraps of paper. I am trying to comply with his wish, because really, who wants to complain when someone else is doing the grocery shopping? The only problem is that once you type a word into it, you can't edit or erase it if you've goofed up. And this seems to be exacerbated by the word-prediction function. I don't know which one of us chose this from the word prediction list or even what we were trying to add to the list, but we now have "gorillas" on our permanent shopping list! We also have "French load," which I know is supposed to say "French loaf," and doesn't make me laugh nearly as hard as "gorillas" does every time I see it. So, whenever he leaves for the grocery store I can say, "Honey, don't forget the gorillas!"

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wave Bottle

Here's a really simple craft Logan and I made today while at his play group. He helped by choosing which food coloring and which glitter to use. In less than 5 minutes, you can make your own wave bottle with stuff you probably have at home already. The end result is a bit like a lava lamp, which is sure to entertain kids of all ages.
  • plastic bottle with lid
  • water
  • oil (cooking or baby)
  • food coloring
  • glitter
  • hot glue gun (optional)
  1. Fill bottle 2/3 full with water.
  2. Add enough oil to fill the rest of the bottle.
  3. Add a few drops of food coloring. (We used 5 drops of blue.)
  4. Add some glitter.
  5. Screw lid tightly onto bottle.
  6. Shake bottle to mix contents and enjoy.
  7. If desired, use hot glue on the inside of the cap and then screw lid onto bottle for extra insurance against curious little hands getting it open!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's Never Too Early...

This morning, Mia decided to write some letters to Santa. I guess it's never to early to start thinking about Christmas. She wrote one for herself, one for Logan, one for me, one for Brett, and she even wrote one for our dog, Ritzy. I noticed that she was writing a few different letters besides the ones in her name, so I starting naming letters to see if she could write them. She got bored with that, though, and wanted to know what I wanted to ask Santa for. I told her "chocolate." When she asked what else I wanted I said "clothes." She asked a third time so I told her "shoes." These were the first things I thought of. Then she informed me that I only get to ask Santa for three things. I hope I chose wisely!
{My letter to Santa is the one on the bottom right.}

Pick Your Battles (Not Your Nose!)

As a parent some things are just not worth fighting. As the saying goes, "Don't sweat the small stuff." All parents will agree that you have to pick your battles wisely. The hard part is deciding which things to give over control of. I'm sure this list will change over time, but here is where I stand on these things currently.

Things I have decided not to fight over:
  • Logan eats crayons. (I sometimes think he does it just to get a reaction anyway, and they aren't hurting him as far as I know... plus it makes for interesting diaper changes. You never know what color you will get!)
  • Mia hardly ever takes a nap anymore. She knows when she really needs one, so I let her decide.
  • Wearing a coat. We tell Mia she can either wear it or carry it. This works great because even if she opts to carry it, she quickly decides that it's too cold and wants to put it on. Or else she's cold. It doesn't affect me, so I don't care. (Of course, Logan doesn't get the option yet.)
  • Hand washing. Most of the time I let Mia just use the "magic soap" (hand sanitizer) unless her hands are visibly dirty (or she went #2). I don't know why she hates hand washing so much, but most of the time when she needs to wash with soap and water, she insists that I stay with her to make sure the temperature is just right.

Things I am still choosing to battle:
  • Manners. Mia doesn't get anything unless she says "please." Period.
  • Baths. Both kids currently hate having their hair washed, so we just aim for twice a week... but it's still a battle!
  • Healthy eating. I don't make the kids clean their plates, but I do expect them to eat at least a small bit of some kind of fruit and some kind of vegetable plus the main course at lunch and dinner. Neither one is a very picky eater so this works for now. And Mia will eat just about anything I ask her to if she knows it means the difference between getting dessert and not getting dessert.
  • Mia's nose picking. (I know it's not a big deal, but I keep reminding to stop because it's gross and she might be spreading germs. And nobody likes to see her doing it. I've tried telling her that princesses and ballerinas don't pick their noses, but so far that hasn't deterred her.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Logan's Speech Progress

Logan qualified for Early On services with a speech delay on January 5th when he was 16 months old. He wasn't saying any actual words up until that point. That day, he shocked me by saying "cookie," but he hasn't said it since. Things have gotten better for our communication, though. He has picked some sign language. He has his own versions of "more," "please," and recently I think he is trying to sign "eat." He is also using a few approximations for common words. For example, he says "ba" for ball, "ca" for car (or any vehicle), and "ga" for dog (or any animal). Lately, we think he might even be saying "yeah."

There have been a few other words that I thought he might have been saying like "color," "carrot" (he loves carrots!), "cow," and "cup." I really haven't heard any of those lately, so I am not sure if he was really trying to say them or not. I don't know if I should be worried about the possibility that he is losing speech... He did used to say "mama" and "dada" occasionally, but he stopped that awhile back, and when he said them they were just sounds, not words that he associated with us.

He has continued to point, and shake his head (or really more of his whole body) "yes" and "no" and he will choose between things if you offer him two choices. The cutest thing is that he now folds his hands when we sit down at the table to remind us that it's time to pray. He is super observant and will let us know if something is out of place like if the baby gate isn't up or the DVD player was left on. I know he understands a lot, and I am excited that he became interested in books in the past week or two. This is huge! I am trying not to be frustrated, but I feel like he should be saying a bit more now that he is 17 1/2 months. On the other hand, he has found lots of non-verbal ways to get his needs met, so I guess it's not as important to him as it is to me.

I am really thankful that he is getting help with his speech development! I'm getting lots of support, too, and in ways I didn't even realize I needed. Yesterday, at his weekly playgroup at LESA I learned about what a big deal "W" sitting is and why I need to get him to stop doing this. I knew a small bit about this because the pediatrician had noticed Mia doing it and told me it was bad for her hips, but now I know that it can affect the child's core strength. And more importantly in Logan's case, it can further hinder his speech development. They gave me some exercises to work on with him, but honestly, I haven't done them yet. (I am still doing my own PT exercises twice a day for my bursitis, so that takes up a fair bit of my time.) I am hoping that things will pick up and communication with Logan will be smoother for us. For now, I have decided I need to focus on the progress he has already made!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentine Crafts and Other Goodies

 I know this is a bit late, but here is what we tried this year.

This looked super cute when I saw it in the magazine, but it was a bit tricky to make.

(Read: Mia, age 4, could barely help me except for choosing colors and occasionally gluing on small details at the end. Plus, it must have taken a good hour or more to make, and that is keeping in mind that I am a craft "pro." I also thought it was odd that the directions said to cover the OJ container with paper and then cut out the opening for the Valentines. This made me tear some of the paper so it didn't look as "finished" as their picture perfect example. Another complaint I had was that they said to use a glue stick and I found that just didn't seem to work, so we used tape and Elmer's glue.)

{The Maiden Voyage of the S.S. Valentine}
An addition I made to the original project was to use ribbon to trim the smokestacks and around the boat instead of paper as suggested, which I think was cute. I would recommend this craft for upper elementary and older if you want them to be able to do it independently.

{Our Works of Heart}
Another one I saw in the magazine and thought we had to try. Again, it was a bit of a flop for us. The corn starch glue, while quick and easy to make, was a terrible consistency that was a pain to work with. And Mia hated the texture and barely touched it before declaring that she was done. I haven't gotten around to this yet, but I think I will thread some embroidery floss through the top so we can hang this. This craft is great for little hands providing that those hands like to get messy!

{Door Hanger by Mia, Age 4}
I think this one was the biggest success. I used it for our Valentine's party at Sunday School and all of the kids ranging from preschool to fifth grade enjoyed it and were able to easily do this craft. The main prep I did was cutting the ribbon beforehand and some yarn for hanging. We also had some of the cardstock shapes pre-cut for the younger ones.

{Heart Shaped Brownies ~ What's not to love?}
{Happy Valentine's Day to Brett!}

These were a bit more work: molded chocolate hearts, rimmed in red sugar, and filled with fresh berries. Delicious!

Friday, February 11, 2011

When Will It End?

I am starting to think we should buy stock in Pedialyte since we've invested so much in their products in the past couple of weeks, anyway. We're caught in a cycle of sickness that goes away and then reappears a couple of days later, just when I think I've gotten everything sanitized and assume we're in the clear. I even did something I have never really done before: I attempted to sanitize all of the toys. My thought on this has always been: kids are exposed to germs, which isn't all bad; I can't protect them from every little thing, so why make myself crazy trying to? However, it has been exhausting keeping up with this nastiness, so I decided to soak practically everything in a bleach solution (despite the awful smell and not really liking to use chemicals to clean things), and was somewhat surprised to realize that about 99% of the things the kids play with are made of plastic and can actually be immersed in water. Most everything else, I sprayed with Lysol (again, I'm not a fan of the smell or the chemicals, but I figured it had to be done.) Also, I didn't realize how many toys we had until I tried to clean them all!

Meanwhile, I'm doing my best to keep everyone from getting dehydrated, but it is a task in shear futility to try to force the BRAT diet on two little people. Despite what the pediatrician's office told me, I would like to think that my children are smart enough to know when they are hungry and how much their little tummies can tolerate. And it's really not worth a huge battle. I refused to buy plain yogurt because I know they will not eat it and Mia would not eat dry toast (although she came up with her own solution for this by spreading applesauce on her toast) and as for rice, really? How many kids do you know who will eat plain rice? If they're sick of bananas and applesauce, how bad can PB and J or pretzels really be? So, when Mia requests yogurt, I have given her the flavored Yoplait we normally buy. I know it has more sugar which isn't helpful for the diarrhea, but I trust that she recognizes when her body tells her it's okay to eat this. She is actually doing fine. It's Logan who keeps having issues, and I am starting to think it's more from the teeth he's cutting than from whatever yucky stomach bug is currently going around. Still it would be nice to know that we are all healthy and can resume our regularly scheduled programming without fear of contaminating everyone else.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Mermaid's Tale

It has taken me awhile, but I wanted to document Mia's 4th birthday party, which in my opinion, was a huge success! Mia's favorite movie is "The Little Mermaid" so we celebrated "Under the Sea" on January 29, 2011, her actual birthday. I did quite a bit of planning during January and I will be the first to admit I probably went overboard, but it was a really nice party. Everyone seemed to have a great time. (And I spent much more time than money, which was my goal.)

The Invitations:
Most of the guests (friends and family) were invited by email. I used evite for this. They didn't have a mermaid themed invitation so I used one that was intended for a pool party. For the remaining guests (three kids from preschool and one down the street), I made invitations using pre-made cards and rubber stamps (some sea shells and one that allowed me to fill in the details for the date, time, and location of the party.)

The Decorations:
Mia and I made a few under the sea craft projects to use for decorations including paper plate fish, which we taped on the walls in the dining room. We also made toilet paper tube octopi and I made some star fish cut from cardboard egg carton cups and painted with acrylic paints, both of which we used as table decorations. I just set them on top of the blue plastic table cover I bought at the dollar store and then cut down to fit our dining table. In one of my moments of inspiration while preparing for the party, I decided to use clear packaging tape to secure the table cover. (Basically, I remembered what a pain they can be since they slip all around-- not good when you have a bunch of young children eating! Anyway, this was a good idea, and I will tuck it away for the next birthday party.) There was some left over, so I used it for the card table we set up for extra seating in the living room. 

Other wall decorations included a package of tropical fish cut-outs from the dollar store and taped those on the front door and on the wall in the living room. I also got two different shades of blue curling ribbon from the dollar store. I cut these into strips, which we alternately taped to the arch that is between our dining room and living room. It looked like waves and I thought it was fun for people to walk through. I think this was worth the time because it really helped set the undersea look without costing much money. 

The single decoration I am most proud of (and yes I will sound crazy when you find out how long I spent working on it!) was a four foot tall cardboard Ariel. I bought this online from Birthday Express. It was on clearance for $2.99 so I actually spent more on shipping than for the kit itself. It was intended to be a child's coloring activity and came with some cheap quality crayons. I, however, painted mine with acrylics, which took a total of about 6 hours over the course of a few evenings. If I didn't find painting relaxing, this would have been a really insane endeavor, but for me, it was fun. Then, the four main sections had to be connected like a giant puzzle. My only complaint was that the outlines of Ariel, Flounder, Sebastian, and the other little characters were this odd magenta color, so I had to go over everything with a black Sharpie for it to look finished. I managed to keep this a surprise from Mia and she thought it was pretty amazing to have a life-size Ariel at her party. I took pictures of all the kids with Ariel as they arrived, and then printed off the pictures to include in the thank you cards.

The Food:
Brett was kind of annoyed with me when we had leftovers of food that we don't like (which, yes, in retrospect wasn't wise), but I wanted to have the theme of "Under the Sea" continued with food. We served shells and cheese, hot dogs (I was planning for "octo-dogs" ~ I saw this idea online: Supposedly you can slice eight sections into a hot dog, boil it, and the ends will curl up to look like tentacles. The reality is that I am not that talented with a knife! I tried one, messed it up completely, and decided that it was really not worth the frustration when kids are perfectly happy to eat regular hot dogs), and tuna salad sandwiches (I was thinking of shaping the bread into fish using a cookie cutter, but didn't have time for that. Besides, I figured I had done enough already.) There were goldfish crackers, "sea cucumber" slices, "sea grapes," and "coral" (Cheetos) to eat. We had punch to drink. I made this mixing Sprite together with blue Hawaiian Punch. For dessert, we had blue Jello cups with a Swedish fish in each. (It seemed like a good idea, but personally, I would not do that again. The fish were hard to see and they ended up kind of slimy so the kids wouldn't eat them.)

The cake turned out great! I impressed even myself. The base for the cake is just a flattened cardboard shipping box reinforced with packaging tape and then covered with aluminum foil. Mia had requested a cake that looked like a mermaid, so I found this idea and improved upon it. (I found it too weird that the mermaid had no arms and a disproportionately large head!) The original plan calls for a 13" x 9" cake pan and an 8" round cake pan, but I decided to use a 10" round pan instead. Once it was baked, I traced a smaller circle in the center using a lid from a large margarine tub. After cutting out the smaller circle, I used half of the outer ring for arms by simply cutting it into two parts. The last section I threw away (gasp!). Wasteful, I know, but there was a lot of cake after using two mixes. I cut the tail exactly the way the website shows and skipped the cupcakes for hair. Mia had selected Golden Butter flavor by Duncan Hines, which was really yummy. I normally buy Betty Crocker but I am considering switching. To make the mermaid's flesh tone, I mixed red and yellow gel food colors into white canned frosting. For the tail, I used green gel food coloring. For Ariel's purple shell bra top, I mixed red and blue gel food coloring. I used about 2 whole tubs of white frosting altogether. For decoration, I was inspired to use M & M's for the scales on the tail after I saw this cake online. Then, I decided that licorice would make perfect "Ariel" hair after I saw this picture. The main difference is that I used Twizzler's Pull n' Peel, which I think looks better. Plus, it's softer, and I'm assuming that makes it easier to cut the cake.

Some cake tips I have picked up along the way: 
  • When making a layer cake or in this case, a shaped cake, spray the pan generously with cooking spray and line it with wax paper. This makes it much easier to get the cake out of the pan. 
  • I also set the cakes onto wax paper to cool completely before cutting them. (This was something I tried this time around since my cake stuck to my cutting board last time I made a layer cake.) 
  • I discovered this time around that gel food coloring works better than the liquid. (Basically, the frosting slid right off of Logan's 1st birthday cupcakes because of heat and I am assuming, liquid food coloring.)
Under the Sea Activities:
Other than having photos taken with the stand-up Ariel and having "The Little Mermaid" soundtrack playing during the party (I bought it on eBay.), I only had two games planned, which seemed to be the right amount for 4 year olds. The first was Pin the Tail on Ariel which I made by coloring a large picture of Ariel using colored pencils. Then, I spent $2 to have it laminated at Staples. (It's now hanging in Mia's bedroom as a poster.) Next, I used tracing paper to trace her tail, cut that out and used it to make a template. I traced this several times onto green construction paper and cut them out. We used a scarf for a blindfold. Everyone enjoyed this game. After that, we had Sebastian's Crab-Walk Race, which was hilarious! I simply lined the kids up across the living room and had them crab-walk the length of the room. This was fun for the kids and fun for the adults who were watching.
This party turned out to be a lot of fun! It was a fair bit of work getting ready, but I think it was worth it. And really, most of the ideas were ones I found here, so it's not like I had to come up with everything myself.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Things that Make You Go Hmmm

  • Why do all kids like hot dogs (seriously, I don't even want to know what is in them, let alone eat them), but they turn up their noses at bread crust?
  • Why don't all toys come with volume control? The ones that have one volume only, are LOUD. On the other hand, kids quickly figure out the difference between the two settings and always opt for the louder one, anyway...
  • And on a related note, why didn't anyone tell me sooner about the Scotch tape trick for making noisy toys quieter? It's so simple and brilliant. Now, I have finally have control of the volume on those toys! (And so far, no one has managed to remove the tape from the speakers.)
  • I recently noticed that colored Goldfish crackers are now made with "natural ingredients." It makes me wonder what prompted the change. Fingers crossed that more foods will be made with "natural ingredients" in place of food dyes and other stuff that I prefer not to think about (even though I know they are harmful.)
  • How is it that everyone can be up 2-3 hours before we have to leave the house, but we will still end up running late?
  • Why am I the only one who ever changes a roll of toilet paper?
  • How did people ever get by without dishwashers, cell phones, high-speed internet, DVR, and Netflix? Am I spoiled? You bet! Do I feel bad about it? No way!
  • Strangely enough, Dollar Tree has the best selection of decent quality hair accessories for Mia. (Granted, you have to poke through stuff and you never know what you may find, but it always seems worth it to check out that section of the store.)
  • Why do Barbie dolls cost so much? And while we're on the topic of dolls, what is up with the exorbitant prices for American Girl dolls and clothing? I would consider starting Mia with if the doll itself didn't cost more than I would spend on all birthday or Christmas gifts for her!
  • Being a parent of young children is weird. You spend a lot of time talking about poop, and it doesn't matter who you're talking to. Poop seems to come up as a topic of discussion with practically everyone.  
  • This morning I discovered what appears to be a bruise on Logan's earlobe. What in the world caused that?

I Hate to Complain, But...

I don't know if it is the fact that we've recently been snowed in or the assortment of things complicating my life right now, but I am ready for some good news for a change. I have been getting pretty cranky with the kids in recent days, which makes me feel lousy. It's not their fault that so far in 2011 I have spent 4 weeks in physical therapy (although it seems to be the opinion of my mom, mother-in-law, and at least one lady from church that carrying kids around is what caused the bursitis in my hip). I am completely certain, however, that they are not responsible for the 2+ weeks I have been feeling dizzy from a sinus infection and the antibiotic I am taking to treat said infection. Those things just make it harder to keep up with my day to day activities which seem to be ever increasing. The biggest problem, I think, is that I really haven't had time away from the kids in a few weeks (except for going to physical therapy, but that hardly counts as "mommy time!").

I am finished with the antibiotic now, so I plan to get out tonight. I will probably head to David's Bridal to look for shoes to go with my bridesmaid dress. Thankfully, my brother's upcoming wedding will give me something positive to focus on for the next few months. And, it may not hurt that the groundhog didn't see his shadow. (Just in case there is any truth to that superstition.) I am all for an early spring! This year can only get better.