Saturday, June 28, 2008

Unplugged Project - Garden

This week's unplugged project really worked for us...we have a fantastic backyard garden. When we first got married, my husband and I worked for two full summers planting perennials, edging, and landscaping. Now we look at it from the kitchen, trying to ignore the weeds, and sometimes we walk through it, quickly chasing E, and we call it "going for a walk." We seriously needed a reminder to slow down and enjoy the flowers.

We had to keep this project fairly simple, since we only had one day at home between trips. So I brought out some vases and filled them with water, and told E that we were going to pick flowers. I brought out some cutters and the plan was to let her fill the vases in ANY way she wanted to. She loved turned out she only wanted to pick one kind of flower. They were little purple geraniums with hardly any stem...but she worked very hard at getting them into the vases. She had a vision.

I handed her some other flowers, some daisies and lilies and blanket flowers, which she put in a separate vase away from her prized geraniums. All of the arrangements turned out beautifully, but my favorite one is pictured below. It is all E.

After the arrangements were done, daddy suggested we "give flowers" to the chalk people they had drawn on the patio earlier. She really loved placing the flowers in their hands...she gave two flowers to each chalk friend..."Here. You take this one." But my favorite part of this activity was watching E enjoy the garden. This is what my husband and I wanted out of life. I mean, have you ever seen anything so beautiful?

Sand is Grand

We returned yesterday from our El family vacation at Glen Lake, Michigan...despite the lack of sleep, we really had quite a nice time. The days were spent sitting at the lakeside splashing and digging in the sand, and the nights were spent filling Baby m with cold medicine and coaxing him to sleep more than 2 hours at a stretch. We managed to squeeze in a few geocaches, and even a drive through Sleeping Bear Dunes.

E got to play with cousin L and friend A...together they were a pack (a gang, a gaggle?) of running, screaming, giggling girls interrupted only by occasional tantrums and screams of "Mine!" The tantrums got a little worse when L received a princess dress-up set for her birthday. Periodically, E would swipe a ring or a tiara and run away with it, glitter flying everywhere. They did occasionally try to share, like when L dangled her purple feather boa over the balcony and invited E to "Grab it!" E jumped, but couldn't reach it, so L invited her to "Stand on chair!" I guess we need to have a talk about how to share WITHOUT swinging from the rafters.

The beach was lovely, and it only took me one day to get used to the fact that I will never get the sand out of E's hair. She positively loved it, and made sand angels every chance she got. Both E and Baby m enjoyed riding in the paddle boat with daddy...and E returned from one trip with the following information..."Ats a buoy. Is a mark says somethin's dangerous in the water could hurt your foot. You gotta be safe." My little safety monitor repeated this speech to anybody who would listen. I just can't wait til she sees the ocean.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Unplugged Project - Old

****We are on vacation, so I can't reply or comment until June 27! :) ****

Last week's unplugged theme was "old." Well as a re-use nut, this one had about a MILLION possibilities. In a drawer in the basement we have old magazines, old calendars, old scrap fabric, buttons, and ribbon. We have wrapping paper and toilet paper holders. But in the spirit of the task, I decided to take the theme in a different direction...after all, "old" is really going to be a secondary theme to all of our unplugged projects.

In my pile of scrap paper, I found a bag of paper dolls that I bought at a garage sale a couple years ago. Okay, they're not only old themselves, but they're an old timey, old fashioned toy. I didn't want to give E the actual paper dolls, because, well frankly, she's two, and I didn't want them destroyed. So my idea was to photocopy them and laminate the photocopies while keeping the originals. But I hit a snag...when I dumped out the bag, it turned out to be an assortment of clothes that didn't fit the assortment of dolls. So I did a google image search...I found a doll and clothes and I printed them on photo paper. Then I laminated them with contact paper and cut them out, and put magnets on the back.

As a bonus, some of the old clothes I had fit the new/old doll! So I photocopied them, along with the paper dog pet! The two outfits in the top left corner on the paper above look funny because I had to put another outfit behind them to provide missing hands...I figured that was easier than trying to draw them. So I'll cut the background outfits out after I laminate them.

We are packing for vacation as we speak, so I haven't gotten a chance to see if E enjoys this "old" toy. If I had to guess, her favorite part will probably be peeling the sticky magnets off the back. If that's the case, I'll put these away in the "Big Girl Toys" box I have in the basement. See you next week!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I think I can, I think I can...

There's this funny thing about me. Just one, you ask? Yes, just one. The thing is, I wouldn't call myself overly confident or prideful, but somewhere in my heart, I truly believe that I can do anything. Really. I hardly ever buy anything at art fairs (though I love going) because I always think, "Oh, I could do that." I have a list of other careers I believe I could be good at, including chiropractor, landscape architect, and coffee barista. I think I got this belief from my Mom...I always remember her saying, "You can be anything you want to be." She would repeat it all the time, especially when we talked about what I wanted to be when I grow up. She says that I once said I wanted to be an elephant, and she said "Okay."

It can get in the way sometimes, because I tend to dream, dabble and not finish projects. There are definitely things I CAN'T do, duh, and tons of things I can't do well. Even so, I hope I pass this quality on to my own children, because I certainly do enjoy the feeling of a life without limits.

My niece S called the other day after she came back from the Relay for Life in Yorktown, New York and said next year we should all go and sell homemade bracelets. At that event (and ours, too) so many people were having bake sales...and there are just so many brownies you can eat in one day. I'm all over that, I said, but at our relay in Grand Ledge, the person who was really raking in the money was this clown who was making balloon animals. I could do that. Pretty sure I would be GREAT at it. It looks soooooo easy.

Well, I got online and sure enough, there are tons of videos showing you how to twist and bend and tie all kinds of fun shapes. I watched different instructions for about an hour, then went out to Hobby Lobby and bought two bags of 20 balloons each and a cheapo pump and got to work (after the kids went to bed, of course....I didn't want to traumatize E with balloons popping all over the place). I popped the first one, got over my mini-panic attack, and remembered that you have to let some of the air out after you inflate them so they are more workable. The result?

These are the "good" ones...counter-clockwise from the left.

  • Pirate sword...not bad, handle needs work.
  • Bumble bee...cute, must have a black marker to color stripes on its back or you wouldn't know what it was.
  • Hummingbird....very cute, very easy.
  • Flower...need green balloons for stem, but the cheap bags I bought didn't come with any green.
  • Dog...easy, but needs longer legs.
  • Ball...super cool, but took forever to make because I'm afraid of popping the balloons. I'd have to charge about $20 for it at this rate, so I guess I either practice a ton or stick with the simple ones.

So I figure I need to learn a few more, including a balloon hat, and I'll be all set to make, like, a million bucks at next year's event. The only thing is, I will not dress like a clown. I CAN, I just WON'T.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Unplugged Project - Plastic!

Hey, I was all about this theme! I'm a re-use fan...we have toilet paper tubes, fabric scraps, tissue paper, you name it. And we also happen to have a LOT of plastic just waiting for a use. We have this drawer in the kitchen jammed so full of "tupperware" that you can barely close it. I've been meaning to clean it out since my sister-in-law spent a good ten minutes up to her elbows searching for the lid to a margarine container. So when I read the Unplugged website on Monday, I found my motivation! I opened the drawer and dumped every last container onto the living room floor.

The end product of my cleaning frenzy was a very well organized space and about 40 random I sat down in my thinking chair and thought, thought, thought. Well, they look kind of like a pile of money, don't they? I dug up a shoe box, cut a slot in the top, and I had a giant "bank" for E to play with. I even thought up a second project...I punched holes in two larger lids for lacing ribbon, which led to a record breaking THIRD project. The tiny plastic dots that came out of the hole puncher looked like coins too, so I used a baby food container to make a tiny bank to go along with the giant bank. I proudly took a picture, and introduced E to the fun. So can you guess what she LOVED? Yes, the tiny bank. In fact, she would ONLY play with the tiny bank. She had no interest in the big bank or the lacing, though she did play for awhile with the ribbon (the "rescue rope," that is). The only interest she showed in the big bank was when Larry the cat decided to lay in it. Then she cried, "My bank! It's my big bank, Larry! Mommy, tell him get out of my bank!" And it's not because she wanted to play with it, it's because she wanted to sit in it. And P.S. I can't recommend the tiny-dots-bank project without the following will be finding tiny dots sprinkled around the house for days, if not years.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Something's In My Shoe

E got her first sandals last week, a cute little pair of Teva's. In theory, she likes them...she asks to wear them every day. But in reality she is still breaking them in...I don't think they're very comfortable. Yesterday we went to Chipmunk Story Time at the nature center down the road, and she wanted to wear her new "saddles." Between the car and the building we had to stop twice to remove her saddles and brush sand, rocks, and pine needles off the bottom of her feet. Wow, I thought. This is going to be one long hour.

Thankfully, the excitement began as we walked through the door, and she forgot her uncomfortable feet in a flash. Mr. Brian (or "Mr. Uncle Brian," as E would call him) gave each kid a carpet square to sit on, and then he read Jump Frog Jump and Possum and Peep. Then he showed them a tree frog and a green frog in little containers...E listened, waited her turn, sat quietly. It was a nature center miracle.

After the stories we went outside to the frog pond, where we spotted three green frogs sitting in the rocks. Then to the field where the real fun started...Mr. Uncle Brian passed out party blowers to imitate frog tongues, and started up a bubble maker. He yelled, "Catch the flies! Get them! Quick! They're getting away!" So fifteen kids were hopping around, laughing and trying to catch bubbles with their party tongues. We are SO going to try this one at home...maybe even this afternoon.

After the flies were all popped, we all went on a nature walk. E put her blower away, paid attention to the rules, and followed the group into the woods. When we fell behind to remove a pebble from her sandal, her plan to catch up was, "I'm going on a nature run!" When Mr. Uncle Brian told the group to go quietly through the pine forest, E tiptoed and whispered so she wouldn't scare the wildlife. We heard a peewee calling, and saw some beautiful purple wildflowers. I can only hope we have more summer mornings like this one. I wonder how much they pay Mr. Uncle Brian over there...if he makes housecalls, I'll offer him double.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


It's official...Baby m is big. He was 6 months old yesterday. How is it possible that I have been out of work for half a year? How is it possible that I am expected to return in August? I don't even know how to do my job anymore...but that's beside the point. My baby is big.

He had his doctor's appointment today, and he's 17 pounds 4 ounces and 27.5 inches long. Doctor C said, "Actually, for his height, he could gain a pound or two." Hmm. I guess lately he HAS been looking a little less like a brick. I told the doc about his nightly feeding, where he wakes up STARVING between 1am and 3am every night. E used to wake up for comfort, this boy wakes up hungry. We started feeding him solid food at 4 months, and he has been eating 3 meals a day for about a month: oatmeal for breakfast, fruit for lunch, vegetable for dinner. Doctor C suggested that I double, that's right double, his intake. Two containers for lunch and dinner. Um, this is going to get expensive.

So on the way home I stopped at Kroger and picked up a pile of sweet potatoes and a pile of pears. I figure I can save some money and lots of plastic (hate those Gerber containers) by cooking and pureeing some fraction of what the big boy eats. I did this a few times with E's food, but this boy's eating habits make me realize how little she actually ate. She rarely finished a container at one sitting, let alone two! A bonus to grinding up the sweet potatoes is that I can throw some of them into E's food, a la Jerry Seinfeld's wife's cookbook. Sweet potato brownies, anyone??? :)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Super Baby

A few months ago, Cousin S and Aunt P got together and sewed E a WonderPets cape. It's has a big W on the is held on by velcro. When they first gave it to E, I suggested that someone wear it into the room and make a big deal about it. That's the way to fool E into realizing that she really does want something...if you hand it to her, she is likely to throw it on the ground and storm out of the room.

My sis was a good sport, and wore it into the room while we all made a fuss. We oood and aaahhhed, and E was appropriately interested....that is until we put the cape on HER. She lasted about 30 seconds before she grasped at her neck as though she was choking. So we set it aside, referring to it once in a while and gently coaxing her to wear it. No go.

But the cape has been hanging around the house for a while now, and slowly but surely, she has taken to it. She puts it on and pulls her elbows back into the "wind up" position, then says, "I'm on my way!" Then she takes off to save Daddy, or me, or DeeDee, whomever appears to be stuck. Sometimes, she commands one of us to wear it and save her. The other day, she gave the cape to M, and then went and got herself stuck behind the couch. When M got delayed by business, I came to save her. One problem...I did not have the cape. "Daddy! We need the cape!!!" She unstuck herself long enough to run to Daddy, rip the cape from his neck, and bring it to me. Then, ever the actress, she re-stuck herself and waited to be rescued.

I found myself really in need of a super hero yesterday. Finishing my shower, I realized that I had forgotten a towel. "Ayudame! Ayudame!" I yelled, hoping that the Spanish version of "Help me" would bring her to my aid more quickly. Dripping and waiting, I could hear E shout, "Someone needs help! I'm coming! Daddy, where's my cape?" Then I heard them both running through the house, looking in every room, unable to find it anywhere. I tried to keep up the enthusiasm in my voice, but after a few minutes, my "Aydame"s were getting a little tired. I didn't want to spoil her fun, so I waited...I was mostly air-dried by the time they found the cape and came to ask me what kind of help I needed. When E came back in with the towel, she was so proud of herself, and I was proud of her. She saved me, my super baby.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

We're Starting Today

While browsing the web for toddler craft ideas, I came across the blog, Unplug Your Kids. Regrettably, we are not an "unplugged" family...we have Dora, we have WonderPets. We have toys that play music, count in Spanish, flash, giggle and spin. But we also take walks, play in the sand, paint, hunt for treasures, camp, and chase butterflies. Two weeks ago, we walked to the park and flew a kite. I'm pretty proud of the balance we have in our lives, but I sometimes need a kick to move us out of the living room and into the world.

The Unplugged Project gives a theme every week which families use as a guide for some activity away from the TV set. Then everybody blogs about it and shares a link to their stories...I'm in. We missed "paint" last week, but I was excited to see the adjective "sticky" for this week. When I told M about it, he responded as I thought he would..."So, we're starting next week, right?" Nope, we're jumping right in to sticky. Sorry, hon.

I decided to revisit an activity we first tried about 6 months ago...cornstarch peanut sculpture. You know, a lot of those packing peanuts you get nowadays are made of cornstarch. They dissolve when you put them in water. But if you just wet them a little, you can stick them to each other and build things. When we first tried it, it was a little too advanced for E's fine motor skills, but I thought she might do well with it now. So I set the kitchen table with a pie tin full of peanuts and one with a little puddle of water and we sat down to work.

She really enjoyed it, but it was still a little advanced for her. She had the will, but not the gentle touch required. I asked her if she wanted to make snakes, but she wanted to make squares. "BIG squares." So together, we stuck together about 20 peanuts in the shape of a square. That one wasn't big enough, so we made a BIGGER square. Then we wet our hands and mushed them both into a sticky, mushy mess on the table. It was really pretty fun, but we had no product at the end. I ended up dissolving all the partly used ones and scraping the residue into the trash, and reminding myself that it's all about the process.

I think we'll try this one again in another 6 months. Oh, and by the way....after she was done with the cornstarch, she did another "sticky" activity quite by accident. She asked me for stickers, and then peeled off every last one and stuck them to her right leg. There they stayed for the rest of the day. Good girl. Way to get into the spirit of things!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


There's a Seinfeld episode where some guy calls Elaine "breathtaking." She takes this as a pretty big compliment, but later he uses the same term to describe an ugly baby...Elaine is understandably upset, and spends the rest of the episode trying to figure out if he was actually insulting her. You know, we have a lot of Seinfeld-esque moments in our house. Sometimes I call people shmoopie, and E definitely dances like Elaine. But we had a series of events yesterday that can only be described as "breathtaking."

A few nights ago, while M was at work, I made a secret thing for a secret reason, which may have something to do with a holiday that will honor him some day in the near future. Well, I LOVE this secret thing that I made, so I decided to show it to E, accepting the risk that she may decide to tell M about it. Well, I took it out and held it up for her to see, and her eyes widened and she said "Wow!" She was all smiles, and I was appropriately proud of myself for impressing a two-year-old.

Later, we were out in front of the house looking at the strawberry plants. She has been watching the little white flowers for awhile, waiting for the berries to come. I pointed out a little green berry, and E said "Wow!" Okay, strawberries are pretty great, even if they're not yet red. Then she found another and said, "Wow!" And another, and another, "Wow, wow, wow!" About a dozen Wows in all, for tiny unripe fruit. I can live with that.

But then came the ugly baby. I was changing E's diaper, and it was a really stinky one. Lately, she has been asking to see what's in there before we throw it away...this is probably a byproduct of potty training, making her more interested in her bodily functions. That's what we tell ourselves, anyway. Well, she looked at that diaper, and, you guessed it, "Woooow!" A bigger, more animated response for her own poop than for strawberries or my art project...In the future, I will look elsewhere for compliments. E can no longer be trusted to build my confidence.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Stick It

For quite some time now, E's nighttime ritual has included two books. I always stick to two so I never have to negotiate. I must have read that in a magazine's one of the few parenting rules I think I enforce well. Most of the time, she goes to bed without a fight. Every night she looks over the books on her shelf and picks something interesting, and adds it to the basket of favorites by her bedside. Every few days I put some of them back on the shelf where they re-enter the rotation. She constantly asks for Bunny My Honey, Green Eggs and Ham, Ten Little Ladybugs, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. She lays in bed or on Daddy's lap, wrapped up in her "banklets", listening and asking questions.

If the books were too short, or if E is wide awake, I will sometimes prolong bedtime by opening the book to a random page and asking her about it. She comes up with some interesting ideas, usually having nothing to do with the story itself. In Jingle Cats, there's a picture of a cat in a stocking, sleeping...E says "He's stuck. He needs help." When I point out the ZZZZZs over his head, she says, "Help him, Mommy." Now that I think of it, most of the Wonder Pets episodes (and a fair amount of Diegos) have plotlines that involve animals that are stuck and need to be rescued...a hedgehog stuck in a shrub, a kinkajou stuck in a beehive, a cow stuck in a tree (tornado...don't ask). That might explain this exchange we had last night involving the book, My Cat Likes To Hide In Boxes...

Me: Look at this cat...he's from Norway. What happened to him?
E: He's stuck in a doorway.
Me: Yes! That's right! It rhymes. How about this one, this cat from France? What does he do?
E: He likes to dance. And sing. Is he stuck?
Me: No, he's not stuck. The cat from Norway was stuck. What about the cat from Spain?
E: He's stuck in da airplane. Where's da back door? He hasta get out.
Me: He wasn't stuck, he just flies the airplane.
E: We gotta rescue him.
Me: Look here at the end of the book...all the cats are okay.
E: They are?

She uttered that last line with a mixture of relief and disappointment. I can see the games she will play when Baby m is old enough to obey her..."Okay, m. You go get stuck under there and I will rescue you." Hmmm. Gonna have to keep an eye on that girl.
Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr