Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Despite some little twinges of guilt, I drove through McDonald's on our way home from playgroup this morning. On the way, I told E that we would be getting some Apple Dippers, which really got her excited. "You drove past it, Mommy," she said from the back seat. "You have to turn around." She was remembering last week, when I accidentally drove past Pizza Hut on the way to get her free pizza...smart girl. "No, I didn't, honey. It's right here." I pulled in the parking lot, and she asked, "Where's the barn?" "E, this is Mc'Donald's. It's a restaurant." She thought about that for a minute and asked, "Old McDonald has a restaurant?" How do you answer that?

I ordered her a Happy Meal which came with a Polly Pocket...I'm saving that for the drive out east this weekend. When we got home, she dove right into the apples...not surprising since they come with caramel dipping sauce. She didn't touch the cheeseburger, fine. But she did want to try some of my fries. I handed over a few, and a squirt of ketchup. She spent the next 20 minutes trying out different combinations...fries dipped in caramel and milk, apples dipped in ketchup. Who am I to question the culinary genius of my daughter?

I think we're going to need to come up with a Fast Food Rule...once every 3 weeks or so? Once a month? As with most things, I struggle with how to moderate the "bad" stuff. I don't feel like forbidding it altogether, because I don't want her obsessed. But I also don't want a house full of junky plastic tchachkis or caramel fries every night for dinner. By the way, the second ingredient in the chocolate milk is high fructose corn syrup. I'll tell you what, Old McDonald may have a restaurant, but he doesn't have a conscience!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Seeing Red

For the first time, we are actively maintaining a hummingbird feeder in our backyard. E helps me make up the sugar water and we clean and refill it about twice a week. We started seeing a bird feeding there in early May (?) and we've seen one almost every day since.

Some mornings when Baby m will not sleep, I've seen a bird feeding there at 5:45am. And at the end of the day, when you can barely see a thing, there it is again. I've wondered all summer whether it was the same bird or many, and yesterday my question was answered (partly). I saw TWO hummingbirds at the feeder at one time! I got out the bird book and found that one was a male (very ruby throated), but my daily visitor is definitely a female (white throated). I've tried to get her picture, but she's very fast and I'm very slow.

I don't know when she will decide that the days are too short, and the weather is too cold, to stay in our neighborhood any longer. I'll hate to see her go. She is my tiny little buddy and I'll miss her. I hope we can coax her back next year.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Unplugged Project - Flat

I'll bet I'm not the only Mama to come up with a Flat Stanley project for this week's Unplugged Project theme! But I might win an award for the most prep time...I got a little obsessed.

I had heard of Flat Stanley before, but a quick web search gave me more information than I could even process! The original book published in 1964 is a short story about a kid who gets flattened by a falling bulletin board...it's not all bad, though. He can do fun things like slide under the door and get himself mailed around the world. Some very fun people came up with the idea of encouraging kids to make their own Flat Stanleys and mailing them around the world to promote literacy and friendship. We didn't have time to mail him around the world, but we did make our own Stanley from the template found here. I printed him, colored him, and (knowing my daughter) laminated him...then the fun began.

I introduced Stanley to E while she was doing a craft project, and she was mildly interested. She looked him over, got him involved in the craft, and it seemed to be going well. Then I thought we could pose him around the house and yard, and I would take pictures. That worked up to a point, but E seemed more interested in crumpling him up than setting him out for a photo shoot. We worked through it, and I knew she had warmed up to him when she turned to me and said, "Mama? Tell Flat Stanley I'm pooping."

After I had some good pics of Stanley, I showed them to E and asked her what he was doing in each one. She liked looking at the pics on my computer, but didn't seem to want to tell a story. She made a few comments which I wrote down, and then I used them to create a little book about Flat Stanley's visit. This was where the time involved got WAY out of control. Microsoft Word hates me. It always has...and so when I tried to do a "book fold" page layout, I could actually hear Bill Gates laughing. I could not get it to print right, and I REFUSED to just print it in pieces and cut and paste manually. For goodness sakes, if "book fold" doesn't work, then why is it an option, I ask you!?

In the end, I compromised. Turns out there's a bug in my program that many a user has tried to combat unsuccessfully. So I printed the book on half sheets of card stock and glued them together into a heavy (though not toddler proof!) book. This morning, Daddy read the book to E and she pretended to be interested. Note to self: Do not try to read E a book after a long conversation about candy. When Daddy got to the last page, E said, "More! I want more pum-rockas!" "What do you want, honey?" asked Daddy. "Pop Rocks," I answered. "She wants more Pop Rocks." Turns out that the adventures of a flat, laminated boy cannot compete with strawberry flavored, carbonated sugar.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

If You Want to be a Grump

There's a great song on Noggin that goes like this...

If you want to be a grump that's okay,
But could you be a grump a little further away?
It's not that I don't love you, cause you know I do,
Sometimes I'm grumpy too.

I sing along with it, and I keep singing after it ends...it's just one of those songs, you know? Sometimes I sing it to Baby m when he's crying, and E will often ask me, "What happened, mama? Why's he cryin?" So last week I told her, "He's okay. He's just in a grumpy mood." "Oh," she said, and that ended that.

Then when we were driving up North last weekend, Baby m let out a cry and M said, "Aw, what's wrong, baby?" E piped up from the back seat, "It's okay Daddy. He's a grumpy nude."

Enough said.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Catch the Bug

The Capital Area District Library has a summer program called "Catch the Reading Bug." Kids can sign up and get a card to keep track of their reading. In our case, we marked the card each time we read to E for 20 minutes. Every 3 hours of reading gets you a prize. The first prize, a pencil, got E so excited that she danced for the librarian. The next prize was a bug catcher that she loved so much that she broke it during a puppet show at the library...yes, she was listening to the performer, singing, dancing, and catching a little pink bug all at the same time. Don't worry, I collected the pieces and we put it back together at home.

We picked up the third prize yesterday...a coupon for a free personal size pizza at Pizza Hut! I didn't know if E understood the concept of coupons, so we went straight to the restaurant and placed our order. After "fifteen to twenty minutes" (yeah, right) of patiently waiting, they finally handed over our pizza, and we went home to enjoy it! She was so excited until we got to the car and found that Baby m's Lammie-kins was missing. Uh oh. We must have dropped it at the library. I assured E that we would find it tomorrow, but she was really concerned for her little brother. I think the smell of her prize took her mind off the crisis, and when we got home we had a lovely dinner together.

This morning I went back and asked about Lammie-kins. The nice librarian man looked in the drawer and found him, but he was a little worse for wear. Baby m must have dropped him in the parking lot...there was a tire track on his back. Honest to God, an actual TIRE TRACK. And it looked like his head had been stepped on a few times. I'd like to thank the person who saw this dirty rag in the parking lot and handed it in to the lost and found. One run through the washer and he's good as new. Baby m actually jumped up and down in his seat when I handed Lammie-kins back to him. Then he promptly shoved the lammie's head in his mouth...hmmm. It's okay. The library parking lot is cleaner than the Pizza Hut.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Unplugged - Glass

Glass, I thought, would be challenging with a toddler. Sharp, you know? But out of the box we went...and came upon beach glass! We have collected lots in the Great Lakes over the years, but come time for our craft, I went to the bag of glass I had bought for the craft shelf. I figured we'd save the "good stuff" for a craft when E gets a little older.

So I had this idea to make sun catchers with sea glass and Elmer's glue...I looked for some directions on the web, and didn't find any, but that didn't deter me. I got out two old canning lids (the hoop parts) and some clear contact paper to seal one side.

I used the contact paper to make a sort of shallow cup from each hoop, then poured in pools of glue. In hindsight, I should have used WAY less glue (more on that later). Then I gave E some beach glass, and was proud of myself for remembering not to give her the whole bag. Even so, she lived up to her tendency to use EVERY LAST PIECE of craft material given to her. I envisioned her placing one piece of glass at a time into the glue, mosaic style, choosing some light and some dark greens to form a nice contrasting pattern. In fact, the first thing she did was dump the entire container of glass into one of the hoops, and we spent the next ten minutes fishing the "extra" pieces out of one hoop and putting them into the other.
She did have fun with it, and we soon moved on to pressing the glass in play dough. One of our play dough cutters is a fish, and I thought glass fish scales would look cool...and they did! We read through The Rainbow Fish while she put about 20 eyes on each fish, and we talked about sharing (a theme of the book). Since we ended up with one scaly fish and one naked one, I asked if the fish wanted to share scales with each other..."No! Day don't want to share!" Oh, well. They looked pretty, anyway.
Then we waited for the glue to dry...and here we are 5 days later and IT'S STILL WET. I admit I forgot that big pools of Elmer's glue DO NOT dry. Ever. Especially when sealed airtight by contact paper. Hair dryer, AC vent, dehumidifier, forget it. I ended up peeling the paper off to allow the air to circulate, and glue puddled out everywhere. The parts that did dry contracted strangely and made weird bubbles, but the effect is actually kind of neat. I plan to wrap a ribbon around the outside and hang them in the dining room window.

Now that I know better, I would recommend this craft for older kids with either much less glue or a pourable resin. The glass sticks together nicely, so you could place the glass, then drizzle some glue over top, making sure that some touches each piece and the sides of the container.

This is our fourth or fifth Unplugged Project, and I've thoroughly enjoyed every one. The focused time with E, the teachable moments, and the chance to be creative myself have really been a blessing for us!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Milky Milkington

Ever since we decided to have kids, I considered it a given that I would breastfeed them. Before E and Baby m came into the world, I had no idea what it really meant to breastfeed babies...it has been both the best and worst part of motherhood.

Seeing a baby nurse is one of the most beautiful things I've ever witnessed. The absolute comfort, the calm, the love in their eyes. But one of the biggest trials of the last few years has been having infants who love me SOOO much that they absolutely REFUSE to take a bottle. What's a mommy to do??? Baby m is 7 months old...he nurses an average of 6 times a day. That means I've fed him milk over 1200 times. I have never been away from him for more than 5 hours in a row.

In 7 months, he has slept through the night fewer than 10 times. He wakes up several times a night, and he still wants to feed between 1am and 3am. I try to make him wait til morning, but he is seriously hungry. And I am seriously tired.

Yes, I'm skinny. 1200 feedings has added up to approximately 5000 ounces of milk. I can eat whatever I want...if the babies weren't in bed right now, I'd hop in the car and get a southern chicken sandwich from McDonald's with no worries. But what I really need, I cannot buy at McD's. I need my baby to drink formula. I need someone else to feed him. I need a week's worth of uninterrupted nights' sleep. And I need these things BEFORE he enters kindergarten.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Is there a full moon?

On a day like today, I always look outside to see whether there's a full moon. I truly believe that the moon makes people do strange things. My day with E was just plain weird!

For the past few months, she has been fascinated by my cesarean scar. I just tell her, "That's where Baby m came out," and that usually ends the questions. But today at playgroup, she not only peppered me with questions about my belly, but she moved on to other moms in the room...apparently my answers weren't good enough. When Sophia's mom introduced herself, E asked her, "Did Sophia come out of your belly? Did her big sister come out of your belly too?" The mom looked at me for guidance, and I just shrugged my shoulders like, I don't know! Later, E asked me, "Did Dr. Skyler (her name for my OBGYN) take Sophia and Sophia's sister out of her mommy's belly?" "Yes," I said. "He did." It's not long, I can feel it, before she asks me how Baby m and Sophia and Sophia's sister got in there to begin with. Um...at this rate we'll be discussing potty training and the facts of life all in the same weekend.

Then during naptime, E ripped the Diego pop-up book we just got from the library. More specifically, she ripped the HEAD off of Diego. This is the conversation we had in her room as she was waking up.

Me: What happened to this book?
E: Somebody make Diego all funny. On da boat.
Me: Who did that?
E: Daddy did it.
Me: Oh. Should we call and ask him why he did that?
E: I will ask him. Is he angry?
Me: He must be angry if he ripped Diego's head off.
E: No, he dinna mean it....but he did it. He make Diego all crazy.

The subsequent phone call to Daddy at work confirmed that it was indeed E, and not Daddy, who "make Diego all crazy." I thought she might apologize for ripping the book or for lying, but she was too obsessed with finding the tape to fix him up. Then she wanted band-aids for her phantom owies and already-healed "bosquito" bites. When I said no, she sneaked off to the closet to try and steal some. When I found her, she had dragged her step-stool from the bathroom into the hall and was reaching for the Hello Kitty band-aids that Daddy bought for her. She looked me in the eye and said, "I won't do it again, Mommy. Can I have some band-aids please?"

As I put her to bed tonight, she asked to sleep with a partially deflated balloon bumblebee. We settled for placing it on the headboard, where she could see it from the pillow. "Mommy, say, 'I love you, butterfly.'" And so I did. Honestly, it's easier to just go along with her than try to figure her out. She's complex, she's smart, she's a moon baby.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

These Are the People in Your Neighborhood

Yippee for neighborhood carnivals! Friends A and K organize one every year, and this year E was old enough to really enjoy it. Baby m didn't know what was going on...mostly he sat patiently in the stroller and watched his big sister have fun.

When we first got there they were still setting up, so we headed over to the conveniently located playground...E waited for her turn on the swing, then slid down the slide a few times before we were joined by A and Baby w. Then J and Ke showed up, and E went running to Ke, shouting, skipping and jumping just like she greeted me last weekend at the airport. We probably could have just stayed at the swings the whole time, but I bought tickets...so we had to go use them!

At the duck pond, E picked a winning duck. So she went to the prize box and selected a little container of bubbles shaped like a crayon. Then we got our "meal deal" to share...for 6 tickets ($1.50) you got a hot dog, beans, watermelon, pretzels, a cookie, and a drink. Can you say, "Bargain?" E ate a few bites of each and seemed to really like the watermelon...except for the part that had ketchup on it. Oops. The hot dog got too close. She does NOT like her food to touch. Two more tickets got us a bag of popcorn, and I spent the next ten minutes saying, "Chew it, honey. Just one piece at a time." Girlie loves her popcorn, and she eats it ravenously. As we were enjoying our treats, we could see a bouncy house obstacle course being inflated in the distance. E watched intently as it went up, finally announcing "Look, guys! It's a rainbow!"

"Can we go see the rainbow, Mommy?" "Well, honey, that's really for bigger kids." She was so polite, so cute, so insistant as she looked in my eyes and said, "Please." I told her I would ask someone, because I was SURE that she was too little to go on it. Turns out, there is no such thing as too little as long as Mommy goes along for the ride. So we handed over our two tickets, took off our shoes, and jumped in to race against a four year old boy. I have to say, once I squeezed my butt through the entrance, it was really pretty fun. There is absolutely NO WAY to get hurt unless you bump into the other racer (or your Mother)...but E could not scale the Very Big Wall at the end that led to the slide. The four year old waited for us (I guess he didn't want to beat us too badly) and a worker helped pull E up to the top. We held hands and on the count of three we slid down together. Yippee! Baby m was watching with his friends from the sidelines...next year we'll all be racing!

Oh, maybe next year I'll be twisting balloon hats for three tickets each. You never know!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Unplugged - Stone

What a fun theme for this week's Unplugged Project! First I thought about garden stones, then I thought about the book "Stone Soup." But ultimately I settled on a few activities centered around a unique Michigan treasure, the Petoskey stone. Petoskeys are fossilized corals found in and around the Great Lakes in Northern Michigan. When you find them on the shore, they are sometimes rough and bumpy, but many times they are polished beautifully by the sand. Some people sand down the rough ones for display, or you can buy nicely finished ones in the touristy shops. M and I have spent many, many hours beach combing for Petoskeys and beach glass, and anything interesting, really, and we have buckets and bags full in the basement.

I showed E some of the stones we had around, and she thought they were pretty and fun to touch. I didn't think that E was old enough to stay interested in sanding down a stone, but I figured she might get interested in making Petoskey Stone Treats! I found a website that suggested making Cheerio Crispy Treats and shaping them like rocks. Sounded like a great idea, but I forgot the cardinal rule of the Unplugged Project..."Know Thy Child." I COMPLETELY FORGOT that my daughter has an irrational fear of marshmallows. As I opened the package and asked her to help me measure 4 cups, she actually gasped in horror. "I don't want dem!" Even after they melted in the microwave, I couldn't coax her to eat even one sticky, sugary Cheerio. As per the directions, I greased up her hands so she could help me shape the stones, but she refused, with actual tears in her eyes. She wiped her hands in her hair (lovely) and stormed out of the room. Even so, I was pretty pleased with the results, shown in the picture below.
On the left is a rough stone found up north, and on the right a pretty Petoskey heart given to us for a wedding present. In the middle, the edible stone...I briefly considered lining up the Cheerios so they looked more realistic, but gave that up immediately. I had forgotten how really really sticky melted marshmallows can be!

Phase II of Project Petsokey went a lot better. While E was napping, I hid 10 stones (all kinds) in her sandbox. After she had milk and a snack, I told her that we had another stone activity, and she was excited to go rock hunting. I gave her a pail of water to rinse them and a few shovels, and I removed all the other sand toys. She came up with a way to search for rocks using her bare feet, and she even asked one rock, "What's your name?" I don't know if it answered.

After dinner, I'm happy to say, E actually ate the Petoskey Stone Treats. After a few tentative bites, she said "More." I gave her a few small ones which she devoured, and I said, "No, that's all for now." "That's okay," she said. "We can make more stones tomorrow." Hmm. I wonder if she remembers that marshmallows are the main ingredient?!

No Children Required

This year, July 4th was a little bit different...for our family, holidays of the past were filled with giggling children eating hot dogs and playing penny pitch. This year, despite trying times, the gigglers, eaters and players were mostly adults, with one pre-teen and an infant along for the ride. My nephew E was a good sport to play with his older cousins, aunts, uncles and grandmas, and Baby m just chewed on his fist and tried to get milk from anybody within arm's length. Everyone was very well behaved! :)

Grandma, sis-in-law E, and P provided a basket-o-prizes, and you'd be surprised how competitive people can get over boxes of Cracker Jacks and Mardi Gras beads! The first game was "Candle Squirt," which paired up contestants tournament style. Each person got a little squirt gun, and whomever was the first to shoot the candle out COMPLETELY moved on to the second round. Sorry, Little Grandma. The rules were clearly laid out at the start. If the candle goes out and then comes back on, you gotta keep shooting!

"Penny Pitch" turned out to be harder than expected! My brother E won with only 4 out of 10 pennies landing in the cat food containers. One player (who shall remain nameless) didn't land a single penny. After hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages, and salads, we all took to the yard for "Hot Potato" and "Water Balloon Toss." Sorry, players, but you CANNOT refuse the potato, nor can you throw the potato AT YOUR MOTHER when the music stops. And it's only fair that all water balloons are filled to a similar capacity. If you pick a balloon that is SO OBVIOUSLY under filled, your uncle is justified in replacing it, even if you moan and groan about it.

In the end, I think everyone enjoyed the activities...I am blessed to have family and friends who are able to channel their inner children. Not one person rolled their eyes or laughed at me for suggesting games. And let me tell you...those pistol-packin' grandmas were a sight to see!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Small Miracles

Last week, I was in need of some things to go right. I traveled to New York with Baby m, and M stayed in Michigan with E. M was so good about the whole thing, volunteering to give up true family time so that I could go spend some quiet time with my extended family. Yeah, big miracles are nice, but small ones stacked up together aren't bad either.

All of our flights were on time. With Northwest, this is indeed a small miracle. Even on the way home, when we were stuck on the tarmac for 40 minutes, our plane somehow landed in Detroit on time. How, you may ask, can you be 40 minutes late for a 2 hour flight and still land on time? Uh, I have no idea. And on 4 legs of travel, Baby m only cried twice, both times during descents. He was as close to perfect as I could ask for.

During my visit, my sis and I went shopping for crafty things at A.C. Moore, and EVERYTHING we picked out was on sale. Even stuff that wasn't marked was on special, like a flower container we thought was 10 bucks and turned out to be a dollar. We filled five or six bags full of treasures and didn't even use up P's gift card! Then, when we did the flower arrangements, we had exactly the amount of everything that we needed.

The whole time, Baby m was charming, pleasant, smiley, and best of all, he NAPPED! And this kid doesn't nap. He fell asleep at all the right times, he slept through the barking dogs, and he woke up happy and rested. Everyone took turns holding him and he never complained. One morning, I found a blinking firefly in the bedroom, watching over his crib while he slept.

Every time I called home, M and E seemed just fine without me, which made me a little sad, but was what I needed to hear. I needed to focus, and I did. So thanks Baby m, Big M, and E, and thanks Universe. It was a downright perfect week in a very imperfect world.
Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr