Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Learn Something New Every Day

Mia has her own take on everything. Her four-year-old perspective often makes me stop and think twice about what I already know to be "true." I know this will change as she gets older, so it is always entertaining to look back at the end of the month and see the things I have jotted down in my notebook. How else would I learn that bike helmets don't like pigtails or the "truth" about getting everything we want? And although, I did already know that ice cream is "delectable," a reminder doesn't hurt.

"Mmmmm. Ice cream is delectable, Mama!" 

(Vocabulary courtesy of Fancy Nancy.)

Said while feeling frustrated about putting on her bike helmet:
Mia: "These things need to come out."
Me: "What things need to come out?"
Mia: "These!" {points to braids} "This helmet doesn't like pigtails!"

Said while showing me something in the Toys 'R Us catalog:
Mia: "I'm getting this."
Me: "You are?"
Mia: "Yeah. Because I circled it so I'm getting it!"

(If I had only known that this was how it worked, I would have been circling a lot more things in catalogs. Wonder where the Home Depot ad is? I really want some new flooring.)

Fancy Nancy Would be Proud!

I promised Mia that if she cleaned her room she could have a small Christmas tree that I used to keep in my classroom (a lifetime ago when I still had a job that paid money). Honestly, I had forgotten about this from one day to the next. (Things get crazy, you know?) But, of course, the girl has the memory of an elephant and she asked about it as soon as Logan went to take his nap yesterday. So now, she has her very own Christmas tree for her bedroom. She even decorated it herself using items from her jewelry box (and a string of purple and white lights Daddy found for her). A paper tiara left over from a birthday party makes a perfect tree topper. This is one fancy little tree for one fancy little girl. Fancy Nancy would be so proud of her resourcefulness and creativity.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Child-Proof Christmas?

Our tree is up! It's our annual Black Friday event to get the tree out and have it trimmed before bedtime. Like last year, the ornaments are only on the top half. We did originally have them lower. In fact, most were clustered toward the base of the tree as we allowed the kids to put them up. But then we had a new development for this year: a certain 2 year old thought it was okay to pull the metal caps off of the glass ornaments, after which he stuck the narrow end of the glass bulbs into his mouth and tried eat them! That is something I never thought I would have to deal with! After the second time I caught him doing that, ALL of the ornaments migrated up the tree (not just the glass ones, which were the first to get moved). However, even after we moved them up to what I thought was out-of-toddler-range, we have caught him pulling ornaments off the tree and throwing them. One thing is for sure; he is a determined little mischief maker! 

Meanwhile, Mia asks why we haven't put up the stockings. Well, we're kind of afraid that they will pull them down and conk themselves in the head with those pretty, but quite heavy, stocking holders. It made me think about how I have spent so much time over the past four years worrying about whether or not my kids will be well-adjusted, but I think for the holiday season, my goal will just be for them to survive without sustaining any serious injuries.

{A Child-Proof Christmas Tree? Perhaps, if there is such a thing...}

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkey Collage with Dried Beans

While searching for Thanksgiving crafts that we hadn't done yet, I came across this cute variation on a hand print turkey and decided it was perfect entertainment for my little turkeys.

  • paper plate
  • marker
  • dried beans or pasta
  • white glue (optional)
  1. Trace your child's hand onto a paper plate. If desired, add a beak, wattle, and legs to the turkey. Older kids can do this step themselves.
  2. Give your child some dried beans or pasta. We used kidney beans, navy beans, black beans, pinto beans, split peas, and spiral pasta. Popcorn kernels are another option. I put each kind of bean into its own bowl, but you could mix them all together if you prefer. 
  3. Kids can either decorate their turkey and glue down their design to make it permanent, or they can arrange and re-arrange the turkey as many times as they want, skipping the glue.

Turkey Snack Plate

{Mia, age 4, was in a bit of a hurry when she made this.}
Here is a quick, simple idea for keeping the kids occupied while making your Thanksgiving meal. Trace your child's hand onto a paper plate, and add a beak, wattle, and legs if desired. Then give him or her some snacks to arrange into a turkey shape before "gobbling" them up. We used Rice Chex, Honey Nut Cheerios, peanuts, and pretzels, and candy corn, but you could also try dried fruit (raisins, Craisins, etc.), other nuts, seeds, chocolate chips, M & M's, popcorn, or whatever else you have in your pantry. Happy Turkey Day!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fall "Stained Glass" Crafts with Melted Crayons

{Acorn by Mia, Age 4}
Once again I was looking for a way to use up our collection of broken crayon bits, which I have been saving for a few months since we made scribble cookies. After seeing this acorn craft, I decided we would melt them and make some stained glass-like crafts. That said, I encountered a number of problems while doing this, so I have lots of advice to offer if you want to make crafts by melting crayons (and not have it be a complete catastrophe).
  • First, you may want to peel the wrappers off of your crayon bits as you collect them in your container. (I have been using a plastic bowl, but a jug or jar would work well.) The reason I say this is that I spent a long time doing this all at once and I ended up with wax shoved underneath three of my fingernails, which is pretty painful.
  • After that, I spent another long while making wax shavings with a pencil sharpener, since Mia got frustrated quickly while trying to help. While this was necessary for making the craft, I ended up with blisters, which I wasn't thrilled about. If you do this, I would plan in advance and make some shavings each day for a week so that you don't have the issue with blistering
  • I sorted all of our shavings by color families (blues, reds, greens, etc.) into individual bowls. This was probably too perfectionistic since the kids mixed the colors all together in their projects, anyway. Don't be too concerned about being perfectly organized, unless, of course, you are so compelled.
  • I am pretty sure I ruined our ironing board and possibly, the iron. (Oh darn, how will I iron now? I obviously use it so frequently, right?) I thought I had taken proper precautions to protect them, however, it wasn't enough. I still ended up with melted crayon everywhere! If you are still reading and you are feeling brave enough to try this project, make sure you don't care about your iron or ironing board. If, however, you would like to save your iron and ironing board, note that one sheet of construction paper and one dish towel aren't going to cut it. Cover your board with plenty of paper or maybe old tee-shirts or towels that you don't care about ruining. Or buy yourself a used iron/ironing board at a garage sale, and keep it on hand for craft projects.
{Turkey Eating Acorn by Mia, Age 4}
  • wax paper
  • old, broken crayons
  • pencil sharpener
  • container to hold wax shavings
  • pencil
  • scissors
  • warm iron
  • black construction paper (optional for making "windows")
  • tape 
  • clear contact paper  
  • paper trimmer (optional)
  • templates (optional)
    Large Acorn
    Small Acorn
    Large Maple Leaf
    {Acorn by Logan, Age 2}
    Small Leaves
  1. Use a pencil sharpener to make crayon shavings.
  2. Tear off two sheets of wax paper, approximately the same size, making sure they are large enough for your design.
  3. Use a pencil to draw or trace your design on the non-waxy side of one piece of wax paper. When using a template, you will lay your wax paper over top and outline the shape onto your wax paper. 
  4. Have your child sprinkle crayon shavings inside the design area. Don't worry about being perfect; it will change as the wax melts, anyway. Remind them to use a small amount. Big clumps of wax don't work as well as a thin layer.
  5. Lay the second sheet of wax paper on top and carefully transfer both sheets to your ironing board. (Make sure you have protected the surface before doing this.)
  6. Cover the wax paper with a large, old towel. Then, gently press down the iron. I checked on the progress about every 10 seconds until I thought they were melted enough. (There is no exact science to this, though, so watch closely. The wax will melt quickly. Only adults should use the iron.)
  7. Set the wax paper/crayon "sandwich" aside to cool.
  8. If you want your project to look like a stained glass window, draw/trace your design onto a piece of black construction paper and cut out the shape. Tape your now cool melted wax creation to the back side, trimming as needed.
  9. Using scissors or a paper trimmer (my preferred method), cut two pieces of clear contact paper slightly larger than your wax paper shape or black paper (if making a stained glass "window").
  10. Slowly peel the backing off of one piece of contact paper. Place the wax paper shape or black paper onto it. Peel the backing off of the second piece of contact paper and place it over top so the sticky sides meet. Trim away excess as needed, leaving 1/4" all the way around.
  11. Use tape to display the stained glass craft in a window.
  12. {Maple Leaf by Mia, Age 4}
    {Oak Leaf by Logan, Age 2}

      Sunday, November 20, 2011

      Houston, We Have a Sentence!

      I realized that I needed to consolidate my many notes notes written on the wall calendar over the past couple of weeks. I considered compiling all of Logan's new words, approximations, and phrases in alphabetical order or by grouping them into related categories, but decided to just stick with chronological order since it seemed simpler. (That's how it's on the calendar, right?) I really would love to analyze this further, especially since I have lost track of how many words he knows and there are times when Mia announces, "Logan just said _____________. Has he said that one before?" and I am not even sure. Silly, I know, but it is a great problem to have. Logan is saying so much more every day, and having us successfully understand what he is saying motivates him to keep saying more. It's pretty amazing. I have always known that he was watching picking up new things since he is such a visual and a hands-on learner, but now I really see how much more he knows about the world by what he says.

      October 31:
      "treat" (I forgot to add this one to my last post. I think the reason he learned this is fairly obvious. He couldn't manage the entire phrase "trick or treat" so he picked out the most important word.)

      November 2:
      "hand" (approx.)
      "got it" (approx.)

      November 3:
      "paper" (approx.)
      "nurse" (approx.)
      "lunch" (approx.)
      "milk" (approx.)
      "pick" (approx.)
      "lid" (approx.)
      "dirty me"
      "Gaggy (Daddy) eat"
      "bath now"
      "fire truck"
      "hair brush"

      November 4:

      November 5: 

      November 6: First Sentence! = "Me eat apple."
      "I spy (approx.) .... beep beep."
      "clothes" (approx.)
      "happy 'ween" (happy Halloween)

      November 7:
      "treat bag"
      "yellow pepper" (He recognizes this color.)
      "yellow ducky" (Ducky is new.)

      November 8:
      "apple juice"
      "horsies run"
      "Logan" (approx.)
      "another one"

      November 9:
      "bread" (approx.)
      "butter" (approx.)
      "popcorn" (approx.)
      "open" (approx.)
      "lunch" (approx.)

      November 10:
      "water bottle"
      "corn" (approx.)
      "carrots" (approx.)
      "off" (approx.)
      "bobble head"

      November 11:
      "paper towel" (approx.)
      "heart" (He recognized the shape.)
      "monster truck" (approx.)

      November 12: 
      "cousin" (approx.)
      "'prise" (surprise)

      November 13:
      "squirrel" (approx.)
      "More, Gaggy (Daddy)" (a request)

      November 14:
      "rabbit" (approx.)
      "more apple juice" (He strung those words together.)
      "Uh oh. Dog woofing." (He has been making more and more observational statements like this.)

      November 15:
      "broccoli" (approx.)

      November 16:

      November 18:
      "peanut" (approx.)
      "Race car go."

      November 19:
      "pink" (approx.) (He recognizes this color.)
      "orange" (approx.) (He recognizes this color.)
      "more books" (a request)
      "No eat it." (This was a directive given to the dog.)
      "rubber ducky" (Rubber is new.)
      "leg" (I don't remember if he has said this before or not.)
      "fire station"
      "Mia's room" (approx.) (Both were new words.)

      November 20:
      "lollipop" (He said this after seeing the card in Candy Land.)


      Wednesday, November 16, 2011

      Homestyle Chicken and Stuffing

      I tried this one for the first time last night, and I will definitely be making it again. It was easy, and everyone ate plenty, even Brett who says he isn't that big of a stuffing fan. I cooked some chicken to make it, but the recipe suggests using leftover chicken or cut up roast chicken from the deli as a time saver.

      Ingredients:        Makes 4-6 Servings
      • 1 10 3/4-ounce can condensed cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup (I used cream of chicken with herb.)
      • 1/4 cup margarine or butter, melted
      • 1/4 cup water
      • 1 16-ounce package frozen broccoli, corn, and red peppers (We don't eat red peppers so I added approximately 12 ounces of broccoli and 4 ounces of corn.)
      • 2 1/2 cups cooked cubed chicken
      • 1 8-ounce package cornbread stuffing mix (My package was 6 ounces because that's all I saw at the store. Do they even make 8 ounce packages?)
      1. In a very large bowl stir together soup, melted margarine, and 1/4 cup water. Add vegetables, chicken, and stuffing mix; stir until combined. Transfer mixture to a 3 1/2 to 4 quart slow cooker*. 
      2. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 5 to 6 hours or on a high-heat setting for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
      My Notes: 
      *I have spent months trying to figure out why our slow cooker cooks everything so much faster than recipes suggest. My best guess is that ours is smaller than recommended. This dish cooked in 2 1/2 to 3 hours on low.  
      *I wonder if doubling the ingredients would help since the Crock Pot was only about half full.

      Human Handkerchief

      When did I become a walking repository for all things icky? Apparently it was when I became a mom. Little Man has had the sniffles for about a week and a half now, and this conversation just transpired a short while ago.

      Me: "You need a tissue."
      Logan: "No." {wipes his nose on the sleeve of my no-longer-clean shirt}

      This was after he decided to eat his raspberry Jell-o with his hands (It wasn't finger Jell-o.) and then attempted to wipe away the mess on my pants. I know they were just my around-the-house-mom sweat pants, but still they were clean, and I had just put them on after grabbing a quick shower while the kids watched an episode of Diego. (Thank you, Netflix.) I'm sure this is my fault because I have allowed and even suggested that he wipe dirty hands on my clothes (Sometimes that's easier than listening to him get upset.), but having him do it without being told to is new, and I'm not entirely sure I like it. I am a lot of things to my kids but I didn't intend to become a human handkerchief.

      Friday, November 11, 2011

      Bottle Cap Stamps

      Got milk? If you're like me, you save all the bottle caps in case you need them for a project. Here is a fun way to get some use out of all those milk bottle caps you have collected. (Caps from pop, water, or juice bottles will work, too.) I found this idea on Pinterest and decided we had to try it. The blogger who originated this says to use self-adhesive foam, but we had more of the regular foam shapes, so we just applied them with glue. This turned out to be ideal for making letter stamps, which are the perfect crafting tool for a preschooler.

      Materials Needed:
      • bottle caps
      • craft foam shapes
      • glue (unless using self-adhesive foam)
      If using self-adhesive foam shapes, simply peel off backing and adhere to the back of a bottle cap. If using regular foam, apply a small amount of glue and then affix to the bottle cap. Allow glue to dry before trying out your stamps. 

      • If you want to use foam letters (or numbers), I recommend not using the self-adhesive kind. Unless you want your letters to be read backward, you will need to apply glue to the front of the letter (or number) --as you would normally see it-- and then attach to the bottle cap. This way you will get the reverse (correct) image of your letter (or number).
      • While ink pads are the simplest way to use your newly created stamps, you can also try them with paint or even markers. (With markers, you have to work quickly, before the pigment can dry. Breathing some little "huffs" of hot air on the ink can temporarily re-moisten it if you need a bit more time.)
      • Can't find craft foam shapes that you like? Purchase adhesive foam sheets from a craft store and create your own shapes.
      • For more ideas on DIY craft foam stamps, see my previous post.

      Thinking Inside the Box

      Stumped on what to buy your little ones for Christmas? Allow me to offer some gift ideas. First, I suggest these collapsible storage boxes from Target. They are inexpensive, available in a variety of colors, and can be used more than storing stuff.

      { See what great one-size-fits all hats they make?}

      However, if your budget won't allow for storage boxes, I recommend this perennial childhood favorite: the cardboard box. It's guaranteed to provide hours of creative entertainment; children will find so many ways to use their new cardboard box.

      {Use #1: Artist's Canvas}

      {Use #2: A Boat That's the Perfect Size for Living Room Sailing Expeditions}
      {Use #3: Hiding Spot}
      {Use #4: Play House}
      {Use #5: Bongo Drums}

      And best of all, this childhood favorite is completely free. Toys are overrated, anyway.

      Tuesday, November 8, 2011

      "Season's Eatings!" Turkey Card

      Here is something you can do with all those outdated spices in your pantry. I found this idea for a spice-covered hand print turkey, and decided to expand it into a Thanksgiving greeting card. Please note that this is not an edible craft, although your kitchen will smell quite lovely when you are done.

      {Spice Hand Print Turkey by Mia, Age 4}

      {Another Spice Turkey by Mia, Age 4}

      • white construction paper
      • pencil
      • newspaper (optional)
      • white glue
      • paint brush
      • tray/plate to hold glue
      • spices
      • orange or yellow crayon
      • black marker
      • egg carton* (optional)
      1. Fold a piece of paper in half.
      2. Trace your child's hand onto one side of the paper.
      3. Draw a beak and wattle onto the thumb for the turkey's head.
      4. If desired, cover work surface with newspaper to make clean-up easier. Pour a small amount of white glue onto a tray or plate and have your child "paint" it onto the entire turkey using a small paintbrush.
      5. Let your child decorate the turkey with various spices. We used black peppercorns for eyes. Other spices included cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, apple pie spice, parsley, oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary, and mustard. (I know that last one isn't really related to Thanksgiving, but I thought it would provide another color.) *Tip: I found that putting small amounts of each spice into a different section of an egg carton minimized the mess.
      6. Gently shake off excess spices, and allow glue to dry.
      7. Have your child add legs and feet to the turkey using an orange or yellow crayon. (Colored pencil or marker would work as well.)
      8. Personalize your card and send "Season's Eatings!" to a loved one.

      Wednesday, November 2, 2011

      A-Corny Print Making Project

      {Bubble Wrap Print Acorn by Mia, Age 4}
      This week at preschool, Mia's class is studying squirrels and nuts, which inspired me to come up with this acorn print making craft using some leftover bubble wrap.

      {Work in Progress}
      • brown construction paper
      • tan construction paper
      • scissors
      • bubble wrap
      • brown paint*
      • paintbrush (we love the foam kind)
      • newspaper (to protect work surface)
      • tray/plate (to hold paint)
      • glue stick
      1. Fold a piece of brown construction paper in half and cut an acorn shape. (This is a bit like cutting a heart except that you don't bring your scissors to the center of the paper at the top.) Cut out acorn shape.
      2. Cut an acorn cap shape from bubble wrap. (This is like a half circle with a stem on top.)
      3. Protect work surface with newspaper. Have your child paint the textured side of the bubble wrap with brown paint. Press the painted side down onto a piece of tan construction paper and allow the paint to dry.
      4. Once paint is dry, cut out the print. (Older kids can do this themselves.) Have your child glue the printed acorn cap onto the nut shape. After glue is dry, display your acorn printmaking craft project.
      Tip*: We actually ran out of brown paint, so we made our own. You do this by mixing together orange and blue paints.

      I Can't Keep Up!

      During Logan's home visit with his speech teacher, Ms. Pam on Monday, she noted, "It's like a switch went on for him all of a sudden." I agreed, adding, "He's just so much more engaged in everything." It is so awesome to hear how he has progressed. She showed him several photos of children doing various activities and asked him to identify verbs by asking things like is she "brushing her teeth" or "eating" and he answered every one correctly, not just saying several words I had never heard him say before, but also adding "ing" to each one! That really amazed me! Verbs that Logan said included "drinking," "catching" (totally new), "eating," "running" (new), "crying," (new), "brushing," (new), "sleeping," (new), "riding," "climbing," (new), and "crawling," (new). I also gave Ms. Pam a long list of words and approximations that he had said since the last time she visited the house on October 13:
      1. "hi"
      2. "football" (approximation)
      3. "owl"
      4. "ready"
      5. "pebble"
      6. "yellow"
      7. "tractor"
      8. "banana" (approximation = "nana")
      9. "please" (approximation)
      10. "red"
      11. "bowl"
      12. "tickle tickle tickle" (approximation = "ga ga ga")
      13. "on"
      14. "in"
      15. "wet"
      16. "pod" (his approximation for "iPod")
      17. "hat"
      18. "down"
      19. "hop"
      20. "show"
      21. "coat"
      22. "airplane" (approximation)
      23. "under"
      24. "work"
      25. "home"
      26. "blankies" (approximation)
      27. "clean"
      28. "ride"
      29. "mine" (Admittedly, this is my least favorite thing he has learned to say. In true 2 year old fashion, however, he has it down pat.)
      30. "good"
      31. "candy"
      32. "arm"
      33. "hard"
      34. "me"
      35. "leg" (approximation)
      36. "hoop"
      Now, prepare to be really impressed. Logan also started putting together two-word phrases! On Friday, October 28, he looked out the window and informed me "Gaggy work." (Remember, "gaggy" is his version of "Daddy." That is the first time I heard him say "work.") He had been sad all week that Brett wasn't there and I kept telling him that "Daddy is at work," but I didn't think he necessarily understood that since it is fairly abstract. Maybe he doesn't get what it means, but he definitely can say the words now! Later in the day, he said, "Bye, llama!" to the llama at the farm behind our house. We visit frequently, and I always tell him to say goodbye to the animals when we are ready to leave. Then, while reading, he pointed to a picture and said, "Bobby Elmo." ("Bobby" is his approximation for "baby." "Elmo" is a new word.) Since then, he said, "mummy dog" when he was excited about our pre-Halloween dinner. ("Mummy" is a new word.) He also said, "Bye doggie!" when leaving a house after trick-or-treating. Yesterday, I went to a doctor's appointment and when I returned home, Brett reported that he said, "Mama home!" Last night before bed, he asked for a stuffed "animal" to be put into his crib with him.

      Honestly, I am not sure how many words Logan knows at this point. I will try to tally them up, but it may be reaching the point when I don't need to keep track as religiously. The important thing is that he is communicating, and the really exciting thing is that he is starting to string words together!