Thursday, October 1, 2009

Dear Oprah, It's still true.

Today I was cleaning out the files on my work computer and found a letter I wrote to Oprah about 5 years ago. She had a contest to find the "most romantic man," and lucky me...I have one.

Dear Oprah,

Romance is not all about flowers and candlelight…it’s an attitude. Some men have it, and my fiancĂ© is one of those wonderful men. It took me a long time to find him (I’m 33 and he’s 36), but as you know, the best things in life sometimes drop out of the sky when and where you least expect it.

Mike dropped into my life at a local running club, and I knew he was the real deal on our first date. It was Easter Sunday, 2001, and he came over to my apartment to pick me up for a movie. When I answered the door, he was standing there with a plate of desserts from his family get together. He had brought me a slice of cheesecake, chocolate pie, and some cookies wrapped in plastic. That night he held open every door and gave me a goodnight kiss on the cheek (I tried for the lips, but didn’t get anywhere!), and of course he called me the next day to tell me what a good time he had. Since that day, I have never had a doubt about his feelings for me.

During our relationship, he has shown me romance in the classic ways like giving me flowers, taking me to dinner, and giving me presents. But anyone can do those things…TRUE romance is different. Last year a non-profit organization where I volunteer had an art sale. Not only did he show up early to help out, but he went home with an armful of recycled art, including a wooden pig made by a local third grader. And he was happy. The pig sits in the living room, peeking out from under a potted plant.

He calls me from work whenever there’s a full moon out, or when there’s a beautiful sunset that he doesn’t want me to miss. He starts my car in the morning so it’s warmed up by the time I leave for work, and he makes all of his own greeting cards on the computer…mushy sayings and all!

Oprah, when I send you a video, you’ll get the rest of the story, including how he proposed. Your heart will melt just like mine did…thanks for giving me the chance to gush over my man.

I did send in a video, but (sigh) never heard from Ms. Winfrey. Five years later, all of the above is still true, and more. He's a great Daddy, and now he writes out the mushy sayings in crayon and markers. I have tried a few times to toss the pig in the trash, but he won't let me. :) I love you M, more today than yesterday.

Monday, September 21, 2009

International Rock Flipping Day

When I told her we were going to flip a rock, E kept asking, "Do you have it all set up already?" I think she registered it as some kind of craft project. But I sat her next to my prized "pickle rock" (collected from Maine many years ago) and told her to wait there until I got the camera. When I came back outside, she was explaining to Baby m, "Don't flip this rock yet. Mommy said to wait!" She had nothing to worry about, because Baby m was not interested at all! Turns out our pickle rock was the cover for LOTS of ants and a few millipedes. But a neighboring rock, casually flipped on the way inside for dinner, found us the Ant Queen of Okemos, Michigan! Holy cow, she was big. I almost said "YUCK!", but then I realized that two toddlers were staring at instead I said, "Wow! Look at her!" Thanks to Wanderin' Weeta for sponsoring IRFD! Click here to check out other rock flippers' finds.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Unplugged - Sound

I told E that this week's theme was "sound," but she kept telling me that the real theme was "noise." Figures, since this house is never quiet...seriously, noise is the theme pretty much every day.

We kept it pretty simple with the first project, and made a telephone from red plastic cups and string. I figured that E would enjoy hearing me whisper from across the room, but in reality she only put the cup to her ear once. The rest of the time she shouted into her end, and totally missed the point of having the phone in the first place. But she did have fun screaming at me, and I didn't tell her to be quiet, because sound was the theme, after all.Our second project was a little more successful. I went around the house with my little digital voice recorder, and recorded snippets of sound from various objects. The toys that make music, the horizontal blinds, the light switch. Then E, Baby m, and Grandma listened to the sounds one at a time and went on a hunt around the house to find the source. E LOVED this...anything that resembles a treasure hunt, or involves clues or hints, and she's all over it. Baby m just trailed along behind her giggling.

Click the play button below to hear the sound that cracked everybody up...

Even Grandma laughed at that one. Check out the other "sound" projects at Unplug Your Kids!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Unplugged - Ocean

Activity number one this week was to create an ocean under the kitchen table. From the start, I couldn't get the vision of the classic "Under the Sea" prom theme out of my head, so I adapted it for toddlers. I cut some fish out of construction paper and the kids colored them. I also gave them sponge stamps to stamp scales onto the fish, but that didn't really go as planned. They just stamped willy nilly...then we made jellyfish from paper plates with plastic bag strips as tentacles. That was a lot of fun....when I told E and her cousin that the tentacles could sting you, they began a jelly fish fight along with much giggling.
E and Baby m helped tape the creatures under the table, and added crepe paper kelp. Baby m really just liked tearing the paper off the roll and crumpling it up, and E just kept shouting, "We need more kelp!" I draped a tablecloth as a backdrop and the effect was pretty cool. They pretended they were swimming, and it made a fun temporary clubhouse. We also made our first lap-book, which I had been wanting to do for some time. I couldn't think of how to start, so I used this website (Homeschoolshare) for templates. There are some great ones there...I did a lot of prep work for it, but E was able to help cut and glue, and she especially likes the little envelope with counting starfish in it. If she shows any further interest, I will be making more of these. Check out other ocean themed projects at Unplug Your Kids!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Sample Size of Six

Last night I had a much needed night out with the girls. Now that I'm back to work, I have enough time out of the house, but not enough time with friends...I missed them, and I didn't know how much until I was driving home from the restaurant. Our conversations flew around the table like are some stats on the night:
  • At least 3 of us spent a good portion of kindergarten and 1st grade chasing boys. Literally, chasing them and trying to kiss them. We all agreed that what passed for cute in the 1970s would get us kicked out of elementary school today.
  • Five of us are married to men who watch little to no sports on TV. And 5 of us are married to men who rarely read a full length book.
  • Only 1 of us wears make-up on a regular basis.
  • Three of us need help cutting our own child's fingernails.
  • All of us thought that the food was good but the service was poor. Some of us regularly tip 15% for poor service, and some of us tip 15% for good service.
  • At least 4 of us do not have children who sleep through the night. All of us are tired.
  • Two of us are reading "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People."
  • One of us went to Japan, London, and California this year!
  • At least 3 of us hope that next summer finds us less on the road and more on our folding chairs in the back yard.
  • Two of us are reading, um, literature of a questionable nature. Four of us remained quiet on the subject.
All of this while consuming 4 salads, 3 pizzas, one calzone (sauce late and on the side), one pasta dish, 2 bottles of wine, 1 beer, 2 cups of coffee (one with Bailey's) and a hot chocolate. Seriously, I cannot WAIT until next time. Thanks, Girlfriends.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Unplugged - Geometric!

We pulled out an activity for this week's project that's been in the closet for a while. The last time I tried Playful Patterns with E, she just lined all of the pieces up in rows on the couch while I wasn't looking. I came back in the room and actually gasped when I saw this...
The game comes with picture cards to build on, and this time she was really into it...she's getting me a little worried with her perfectionism, though. She was not satisfied until the shape was RIGHT in the middle. If she bumped one with her finger, she carefully replaced it. We also talked about how to make a rectangle out of two squares, and an oval out of two semi-circles and a rectangle. I really thought these concepts were beyond her. I knew there was a reason that we came back to the Unplugged Project!
We read a book about patterns, and we went on a walk and looked for different shapes. I'm not sure what we'll do with the photos, maybe a matching game. E lost interest pretty quickly...our usual game during our walks is for me to get "stuck" in the nearest shrub and yell "Ayudame!" Then she runs up and rescues me. That was much more fun than finding squares and circles. All the same, M and I got some nice shapes pics to work with.

Baby m is showing some interest in participating in games and crafts, but he mostly just wants to throw the pieces on the floor and hit things with his hockey stick. Um, could that be considered an Unplugged theme???

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I Don't Understand This World.

So I have finally started volunteering for our local hospice, writing personal histories. Last week I delivered my first "Tuesdays" story (named for the book, Tuesdays With Morrie), and I felt really good about it. Good enough that I thought it would be okay for me to go to the Volunteers Appreciation Event, even though as yet I have spent more hours in volunteer training than I have as a volunteer.

They had people share thoughts about of different patients that they worked with...I didn't feel like saying anything because the memories of my sister are still to intertwined with this experience. It didn't feel right to say anything but the whole story, so I just kept quiet and listened. I left there feeling very many of the stories were positive. The other volunteers talked about patients who had been able to laugh and love, give advice and ultimately say goodbye.

When I got in to work an hour later, I walked in to a nightmare. I stopped by a colleague's office and said, "How's everything?" She said, "Not good. Did you know B?" I didn't understand what she was asking? B was, is, this incredible man that we work with, and yes, I just talked to him on Friday. "He was in an accident last night and he didn't make it." I was just overwhelmed with sorrow. We found out later that he was killed by a pick-up truck while riding his bicycle, a hobby and passion of his that took him all over the state and country.

I'm just so angry right now. How do some people just disappear from the earth while you're not looking? I'm reminded of my father's death, just hours before we were to visit him. Senseless and just wrong. Why didn't they get to say goodbye? Where is the fairness here? I have a hard time believing that we are mortal, even given the proof that surrounds me daily. But I do not know how to live as though every conversation is my last. B didn't know that when we talked about my daughter on Friday that we would never talk on this earth again. But he laughed, he was engaged, he was listening, he was wonderful. He made me feel important, as he always did. I guess that's the lesson I'll take from him...but I wish I could remember if I gave him the same feeling.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cry Me an Estuary (They're Salty)

Today, I took part in a garage sale with a neighbor. I managed to bring home about $90, which isn't bad considering how FUN it was! I LOVE sales, shopping and selling. But the crazy thing was, no less than 4 (count 'em, 4) women cried at our sale today. I'm not kidding. Real tears. I think that there was some cosmic intersection of lives going on there...and I was glad to have shared the raw emotions.

First, a friend cried because she sold something to which she had no idea that she was emotionally attached.

Second, a stranger cried because she was shopping for a child after going through a recent and devastating loss.

Third, an acquaintance cried because when she asked me "What's new?", I told her that my sister had passed away last fall.

Fourth, I cried because I felt the exact emotion that each of them felt.

It was good, really. I always like to be reassured that other women have the same lack of control over their tear ducts as I do. I cry at Discovery Channel commercials, weddings, watching reality shows, and during committee meetings. Oh, well. I'll never be president, or governor, or even on the school board. My heart (and salty water) is just too close to the surface.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Dinosaur Sensation

I have a confession to make. I don't hate Barney.

There are many reasons to dislike him...his annoying voice, the robotic children, the bad lip syncing. It was very fashionable, when I was in college, to make jokes about the giant purple dinosaur. But now, Mommy that I am, I'm actually a fan. Wait, I can defend myself.

  1. The songs are easy to learn. E loves to sing, and Barney is a melody thief. In almost every video, you can find a song that has the tune favorite is the Christmas episode that spells out, "S-A-N-T-A!" E catches on very quickly, and sings right along. It's a joy to listen to her.
  2. Nobody is mean. It's hard to find a show nowadays (am I 80?) that doesn't have any menacing characters or storylines. The worst thing I've seen on Barney is a lonely child, who ends up with tons of friends by the end. The crises are mild, and always resolved quickly.
  3. M asks for "Ba-neee!" It's charming. It's sweet. He's mesmerized...and he dances.

I have already checked out every Barney video that the library offers, and I'm working on inter-library loan and Netflix. Don't judge me, I'm a mother.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What motivation?

I know that I need to lose a few pounds. Since I stopped breast feeding last September, I've really gotten, um, wider. Oh, and I don't exercise. At all. I always thought that I'd find some motivation inside myself to take care of business like this, but, well, it turns out that I needed a kick in the butt.

My sister-in-law stopped by the other day and told M and me about her plan with some friends to hold a "Biggest Loser" contest. It will be 5 weeks, $25 to enter. Each week that you lose, you get $2 back. Then at the end of the competition, the one who loses the largest percentage gets whatever's left in the pot. I'm in, baby!

I can't lie, it's the competition that gets me excited. I couldn't find the grit to lose the 10 pounds to look decent in my bathing suit, but throw a few bucks my way, and I'm already boiling up the 0 point soup. Oh, well. As long as it works!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Olivia the Brave

There was no reason for me NOT to drive the wave runner during our Clark family vacation last week...I'm 38, I have a driver's license, I'm moderately responsible, and I really, really wanted to say "I CAN drive the wave runner." I did not want to be the one on the dock while everybody else did exciting things. More importantly, I didn't want my kids to see me being a chicken sh*t.

I know exactly why I was so afraid to drive it. My constant and irrational fear of deep water originated in the very same lake we were visiting. Too many Jaws references, too many legends about the crazy depth (100+ feet), too many older kids threatening to throw the younger ones "off the rock." I was terrified of what would happen if I was to fall off and my mind I knew how to get back on, but could I actually do it? I KNOW that I will not drown with a life vest on, but some part of my brain doesn't believe that at all.

My solution was to ease in. First I started talking about driving it, then I asked about how to turn it on, how to dock it, you know...pretending that I would actually do it. Then I sat on it...uh. The view from the seat was even worse than I thought. Before I even got into the scary lake, I had to maneuver it away from the dock, avoiding rocks, a small boat, and said dock itself. Then, to park, I'd have to aim the nose between the rails of the hoist, and hope I didn't launch over it onto the beach.

Once I actually started it, I seriously considered bagging the whole idea, but I do not want to be the one who can't. I want to be powerful, I want to DO things. So I pulled away from the dock carefully, and actually perfectly. I went for a very slow toodle one way, then the other, then docked it, perfectly. It was not hard, but it was not fun. When I cut the engine, my hands were shaking, and I was SO DARNED PROUD OF MYSELF!

Two days later while paddling the much calmer kayak, I passed a camp where a little girl was poised to dive into the water off of her family's dock. Her brother was trying to be encouraging, meaning he was calling her names and diving in over and over while she stood there. Her parents watched from nearby, and occasionally said, "You can do it, Olivia. Just don't think about it." But I was right there with Olivia. She was taking her time to understand just what she was getting into. She wanted desperately to dive, and to do that you have to get into position. There are no rules as to how long it should take you to actually hit the water. She was at least much closer than if she was inside watching TV while her brother was out having fun.

About 10 minutes later when I paddled past again, she was still there with her arms out in front, bikini and goggles and tiny little toes, ignoring her pestering brother. I am rooting for her, because she knows what she wants. She wants to be "one who can dive off the dock." And I know she will.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Delay Tactics

Ever since E was about 18 months old, we've had a pretty good bed time routine. Sometime around 8 o'clock, we brush teeth, read two books (Daddy reads more), prayers, and lights out. Little by little, E has been testing strategies to prolong the bed time ritual. Some nights she asks for a drink, or to go potty, or develops phantom itches or owies that need attention. Tonight as I left the room, she tried to rope me into a conversation in the hopes that I'd stay longer. And tonight, it worked.

E: Mommy, mommy, you know those black things with white stripes?
Me: You mean skunks?
E: No, like, they fly.
Me: You mean bees?
E: No. They're like bees, but they're not. They're not bees.
Me: I don't know honey. Good night.
E: Wait! They're swaps. Yes, swaps.
Me: You mean wasps?
E: Yes, wapss-pss. That's what I'm talking about. Those are bad.
Me: Yes, they are. Good night.
E: They fly really slow. And to get away from them, you have to run very fast. That's what I was talking about, Mommy.
Me: Okay, honey, good night.

I finally succeeded in backing out the door, but she followed me out a minute later to tell me that she was too hot. Too many banklets. Oh, and she had an itch. I'm actually terrified to move Baby m into a toddler bed. I'll be outnumbered!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Results - Feeling Sixy!

Wow, June flew by, didn't it? I know I have one day left, but there's about no chance I'll finish up here are the long awaited results of my sixy challenge.

1. I did barbecue three times, so I fell short of the once a week goal. I think I should get a few extra days on this one, because we WERE up on vacation for a week...

2. The freezer is definately cleaner. I threw out two things...a bag of hot peppers from someone's garden from a growing season past, and a container of what may or may not have been leftover potatoes. AND today I made cream of brocolli soup from some pieces and shards of questionable age. But holy cow, was it good! And I really don't like's a good recipe.

3. I did START to organize my recipes...I tossed some that will never be made, and put some into a binder that I started a few years ago. All in all, I'd call this one about a 50% success.

4. Yippee! This one was a winner. I cooked a green bean casserole with real mushrooms, a fantastic mushroom soup, and grilled portabellas. And I really enjoyed the soup. I used a package of dried wild mushrooms, reconstituted with chicken broth.

5. The sweet potato grilling was okay, but they didn't taste any better than ones out of the oven. Not worth the trouble in my opinion.

6. I only cooked from the cupboard one time. I made a very sweet cornbread using a bunch of cornmeal...but I didn't even seem to put a dent in it! I need to make about 5 more loaves. The molasses and fluff recipes are still pending.

So what's the theme for July? Maybe I'll get started early!!!

Monday, June 1, 2009

June is so Sixy!

My friend M has encouraged all of her friends to participate in a monthly club of sorts...well, this is the second month so I'm calling it "monthly". If we're still going by August, I'll be pretty impressed! Last month was "Every Day in May" something, anything, every day for a month. I tried to do a random act of kindness every day, but it really only turned out to be every third day or so...BUT, I did do one big thing that should count for quite a few days. No, I can't tell you what it is, that would be cheating. But if you guess it, I will nod.

Though I haven't received the catchy title for June, the gist of it is to set six goals of any sort (avoiding "nots" if you can) and actually do them during June. Kind of like short term New Year's resolutions. I like this. I decided to center mine around food. Yes, I need to lose a few pounds, but dieting is not what I mean. Here, read them and you'll see:
  1. Barbecue at least once a week. I have a very nice grill and a husband who loves grilled anything.
  2. Clean out the freezer by either eating or chucking the "mature" food.
  3. Organize my small task. I have about a thousand ripped out magazine pages and an almost empty binder with good intentions.
  4. Cook with mushrooms at least three times. Again, husband.
  5. Grill sweet potatoes. I've been wondering whether this is possible, and today there was Bobby Flay doing it, right on Food Network.
  6. "Kitchen Cupboard Cook" once a week. I have molasses, marshmallow fluff, cornmeal, and a dozen other random ingredients that need to be utilized. has an ingredient lookup that will give me plenty of recipes to choose from. And I will NOT BUY additional ingredients in order to use up the offenders.

Thanks, M, for the kick in the butt. I love lists...but uh, six is bothering me. Five or ten would be so much better. Next year do this one in May or October, please!

Unplugged - We're Back!

The Unplugged Theme this week was "petal". At this time of year, this theme should have been easy for us, but on the afternoon that we were supposed to plant flowers, it rained. It was cold. We did not go outside.

So we started with flowers made from Styrofoam egg containers. We have done many open ended projects, because wanted to encourage E to create without boundaries, something I really think is lacking in education at all levels. But this time I decided to challenge her in a different way, by showing her how to make the flower, step by step. Thanks to my crazy-craft-supply-hoarding tendencies, we had all of the materials...egg containers, pipe cleaners, beads, and tissue paper. You can see by the picture how easy they are to put together...E is 3 and had no trouble with the steps involved. The stiffness of the pipe cleaner makes it very easy to put the beads on.As you can see from her pose, she wanted to "smell the roses", so we took out some Tommy Girl perfume and gave each one a little squirt. Warning: The tissue paper in the center of the flower holds the scent VERY well. So use the perfume sparingly.

Baby m was pretty fascinated with the pipe cleaners. I did give him a completed flower to play with, and in true "boy" fashion he demolished it in seconds. (And no, it's not up his nose...just dangerously close).Later in the week, when Grandma and Grandpa came for dinner, E and I got them crafting...E really doesn't take no for an answer. She passed out all the pieces and "supervised", and then reminded me that we had to squirt them with perfume. Seriously, next time I'll use a diluted mixture. My eyes water every time I go into the dining room!
Once we had a dry day, E and I went back to the task of planting the annuals. She really loved picking out the colors and placement. The digging was a little hard for her because our soil is heavy on the clay. But she would gladly pull that wagon around all day!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mr. Man Pants

Baby m's vocabulary hasn't quite taken off like E's did, but he's getting there. He clearly calls us "Mommeee" and "Dadeee", and he just started saying his sister's name. He will NOT say "milk" or "eat", but will nod furiously if you ask him if he's hungry. And if he's unhappy with anything, he proclaims, "No wayeee!"

He says "Chuchi" and "cookie", and when he wants to be picked up he says "down." He still does the signs for "dog" and "finished", but he has learned to say "Kank yew." If his mouth is full, he will also do that sign...looks a little like an Italian hand gesture-type insult, but he doesn't know that!

But my favorite thing to hear him say is "Lalie", which means Lambie (his flat little buddy). He usually says it with desperation in his voice, as in "Please get me my Lalie, so I can mush it up against my cheek! Now!" Sometimes when I go to take him out of his crib he will say a sort of sentence, "Uh-oh Lalie." This means, "I've thrown Lalie out of my crib and he's on the floor. Pick him up and give him to me."

He gets a lot of what he wants by pointing, which I hear is typical of a second child. No worries, though. Actually, we worry a lot less with Baby m...the only thing we are going to rush him on is potty training. I am SO DONE with diapers!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Funny Photo Freitag (Friday)

We got an email from a friend called "Five Minute Chocolate Cake in a Mug" was a microwave recipe. Because E is so chocolate driven, I figured it would make a nice after dinner project. Well, the results were a little, um, strange, but she ate quite a bit of it! I thought it was a little chewy, and not in a good way. In my opinion, the picture says a lot about the quality of the product.
Check out other funny photos here!

Baby Greed

On the day before Easter, I invited a few tots over for an Easter egg hunt. Following my family's example, I color coded the eggs, so that each kid would have the exact same number in their basket at the end. I was tying to avoid the free-for-all, knock-em-down, greedy run for the money type hunt...the kind I participated in when I was about 4 years old.

I don't remember much, but Mom brought me to a shopping center of some kind, and there was a fenced off area in the parking lot. On the word 'go,' about a million other kids and I went a'running, with big dreams and baskets in hand. I remember seeing a little stuffed bunny, or some such thing, way far away. I ran past countless eggs to get there, only to lose it to a faster kid. I'm not sure whether my memory is accurate, but I believe I left with an empty basket.

I don't think I'll ever bring my kids to a 'survival of the fittest' egg hunt, at least not until they're old enough to process the competitive nature of the event. The capitol (in downtown Lansing) has a hunt on the lawn every year, and I read about it in the paper last week. One little girl left the hunt with just one egg, and her quote was, "Well, I guess it's better than none!" Sorry, little honey, I feel your pain. Next year you're invited to our house. We'll make sure you feel like a winner!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

How Do You Spell Success? B-A-C-O-N

I have been trying to give blood since March 19, my sister's birthday. That day, my friend T met me at the Red Cross...she gave a pint, I gave a drop. I failed the iron test. This was not unexpected, because I had been borderline before. But darn it, I was taking a multi-vitamin with iron EVERY DAY for weeks leading up to this appointment. Needless to say, this was a big disappointment. I called M and asked him to meet me at Red Lobster, so I could load up on iron rich foods and try again the next day.

A big steak, five yummy shrimps, and a good night's sleep later, I went back for another try. Again, failure. Matter of fact, my iron level was even lower than it had been the day before! Fine. So home I went, to dig out the heavyweight iron pills that the doctor prescribed me after I had E. For a week and a half, I took them mind you, these have, like, a hundred times more iron than the daily recommended dose.

I waltzed back into the Red Cross with confidence, but no luck. All of those pills had barely made any difference at all. I was close, but not close enough. This time the nurse not only gave me the list of iron rich foods, but she hand-wrote a note at the bottom of the sheet..."Wendy's bacon double cheeseburger with a side of chili. Eat for lunch the day of your next appointment."

So yesterday when I saw that there was a blood drive on campus, I went immediately to the cafeteria. Alas, I was too early for the I settled on the next best thing. A make-your-own omelet with LOTS of bacon. Funny thing is, I didn't ask for extra bacon...the woman behind the counter just kept piling it on! When one container was empty, she even reached for some extra pieces out of the buffet! Maybe I looked pale. Then I grabbed an orange juice, because Vitamin C is supposed to help iron absorption.

After giving it a little time to work, I went over to the blood drive and BINGO! I passed with flying colors! I walked out a half hour later with my little "I gave blood today" sticker, and a date...56 days from now, on June 1, I can do it again. And this time I'm STARTING with bacon.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Unplugged - Illegal???

Oh, I hope we don't go to Federal prison for this...

A few weeks ago we took the kids to the post office to apply for their passports. We live in Michigan and need to keep our options open for travel through Canada to New England. We knew that it would take about 6 weeks for them to come in the mail, but E has been asking every time we go to the mailbox, "Is my new passfort here yet?"

So when I heard this week's theme, I decided to make the kids some fake passport books...JUST TO PLAY WITH. I took out some junky scrapbooking paper and very cheap stickers and attempted to make two books in about 20 minutes...the results were underwhelming, but fit the bill.
When the kids woke up from their naps, I showed them their passforts, and they were thrilled! E was really surprised to see her own picture in there. I set them at the kitchen table with stamps and ink pads, and we stamped the books while talking about life. It was quite cool, actually. I gave E the cow stamp, because we saw a cow decoration on a neighbor's house yesterday. Baby m got some fish and cars, two of the words he actually says pretty clearly. I was surprised how he really got into the stamping! Most of his "hits" were on the table, but it was washable ink. We all put our fingerprints in too...
I think we'll take these out in a few days and stamp them some more, and maybe I'll write a few notes about the things we did this week....for an older child, this might be a simple scrapbook project, or even a mini-diary. Ours will probably will be shredded by the time we start next week's project.

Friday, March 27, 2009


My babies are entertaining, to say the least. I've decided that some people have children just to listen to their cute little voices saying cute little things. E and Baby m cracked me up about a dozen times today. Let's see if I can recall a few...

Watching a commercial on Nick Jr., E declared, "Mommy, I want dat!" A few moments later, a little quieter..."Mommy? What IS dat?" Go ad geniuses. You have toddlers asking for plastic junk and they don't even know what it is!

Upon seeing a squirrel climb a tree, E said, "I wish I could climb a tree like that." To which Baby m replied, "Oots!" Makes perfect sense to me.

While pretending to be a doctor, E took out a plastic cleaver from her kitchen set and said, "Your leg is sick. I'm going to cut it off." When I told her that would hurt, she said, "Don't say ouch."

When we got back from our walk tonight, E walked in the door and took off every last piece of her clothes...even her socks. Then she ran around in circles through the kitchen and living room for 5 minutes. I could just see little flashes of her bottom zipping around here and there, and I could hear a constant giggle. Baby m chased her around, pointing like, "see that?"

After lunch, E asked, "Can I have some melted chick balls?" (Malted milk balls.)

Baby m is not a conversationalist yet, but he's getting there. He says fish, cookie, ball, car, mama, mo mo (more), gook (book) and of course, oots. I can't wait to hear what he thinks of this amazing world.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Unplugged Project - Long

I'm afraid our project did not turn out as long as I'd thought it would. My niece and I made a marble chute out of paper towel tubes, and attached it to the fridge with magnets. The cool part is you can adjust it up and down and change the angles. The not so cool part is that an actual marble is too heavy for this set up. As soon as the marble hit the second chute the magnets gave way and the whole thing came crashing down. We ended up using a little ball of dried clay instead.
Again, I think I can be accused of picking a project that is more appropriate for a 10 year old than a 3 year old, but E certainly did love the end product! Her face lit up when the ball landed in the Pringles can with a "Clang!" I'm excited to add more chutes...maybe we can run the entire length of the fridge! (By the way, notice the little girlie magnet from Unplugged "Old" looking on!)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Funny Photo Friday

June 2007, we took a trip to California with E, who was just 15 months old. It was a fantastic vacation, and we spent 4 days in Yosemite. On the last day we took a short hike and E found a sandpit to play in. This is a talent of hers....she did seem to be having fun shmearing the dust on her face! I'm sure that other visitors were taken aback by her appearance, and then by her screaming as I tried to clean her with baby wipes back at the car.

Check here and here for other wonderful Friday Photos!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Unplugged - Happy! :)

Happy? Well, any of our unplugged projects could have that theme! Even when they go wrong, at least SOMEONE enjoys themselves! This week, I decided that we would try to do something to make others happy.

At some point in the last few weeks, I stumbled on The Toy Society blog, where people make little tchachkes and put them out in the world for others to find. Sounded perfect for us. After the kids went to bed one night, I turned a baby sock into a bunny, and labeled it as directed on the site. The next day, we left the bunny in a bag at a bus stop down the hopes that someone would take her home and, well, be happy! Though I knew she wanted to keep it, E seemed to understand that we were doing this as a gift for someone else. Alas, two days later she was still hanging there, in the rain, sadly. So E and I rescued her, dried off the bag, and brought her to the grocery store. E gave her a kiss and whispered nice things in her ear, and we left her in a cart. When we passed by not two minutes later, she was gone! Who knows whether she ended up in the lost and found or whether someone brought her home, but that's out of our hands now. There's a note with her that directs the finder to the Toy Society blog, but the owner does say that some people never report their find. That's okay. It made us happy just to throw some love out into the world. Thanks for the inspirational theme!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Funny Photo Friday

Here is Baby m enjoying the beach last summer. It was a great trip to Seapointe Resort in Cape May, New Jersey, but it was tricky keeping the kids cool enough. Photography note: This angle on a chubby baby makes a funny picture! Couldn't you just bite him?

Check out Yelli's site and Carrie's site for other photos!

Wink Wink

Now that E uses the potty, we are forced to accept that she will be up during the night to do her business. We can no longer tuck her in "for the night" and expect her to stay there. The problem we've had during the last few weeks is that she leaves her bed immediately after we close the door, and follows us into the living room. Then she will look at us with kind of a sad, apologetic face and say, "I need to ask a question. I gotta go to da potty."

We are trying not to discourage her at this point, because there is the off chance that she may actually have to go. So we walk her down to the bathroom, sit her down, wipe, and back to bed. It seems that this freedom has opened up a new door for her, and she will often try to wander back 3 or 4 more times before settling down.

I had heard of a technique that uses sort of a bribe in reverse...and I'm actually trying it. I put 3 candy Kisses on the counter and told her that those were her treats for tomorrow (yes, we've graduated from M&M's to a larger, messier candy). Then I told her that if she got out of bed again (not including ACTUAL potty trips), I would put one of the Kisses back in the jar. "So I'll only get two?" Great...she understood. Last night, we only had to put one Kiss back, and there was no crying or flailing on the floor. I don't know if you can count candy deprivation as a "natural consequence" of getting out of bed too many times, but hey. We're desperate.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Unplugged - Bottle (sort of)

Okay, so this is one of those Unplugged Projects where the clean-up takes more time than the actual project. The upside was that the product was useful! We used a milk jug (or bottle?) to make a bird feeder. E used some gold and silver sharpies to color the outside of the jug, and that's where the first mess took place. She learned that the ink would pool up if you pressed hard and held the pen in after we were done I had to scrape up little dried puddles off of the kitchen table. Then I cut a hole in the side (no mess) for the birdies to access their food. The last step was to lace the string through the top and decorate with beads. E wanted to sit on the couch for that part, and the end result was beads all over the place. As soon as she had two or three on the string, I would drop it or she would bump the jug...I mean bottle. :)

After I filled it with seed, I hung it outside her window. She was pretty excited to see it out there. I hope we get to see a bird on it before the local chipmunks chew it to smithereens.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Funny Photo Friday

Potty training was a long, hard road for us. A few days ago, apparently E wanted company in the toilet, and this is what I found when I came in to help her take care of business. She had lifted the lid and shoved her brother's stuffed puppy in, presumably to relieve himself. I did my best not to laugh, as all parents can relate to...this is a promising sign, a toddler teaching a stuffed critter how to use the can! (Visit Expat Yelli for more funny photos...)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Unplugged - Clothing

E and I tried our hands at weaving for this week's challenge. We did not intend to weave clothing, but rather with clothing...reused shreds of clothes that had seen better days. I remembered from an arts fair how to attach lengths of fabric without tying (kind of like how you make a string of rubber bands), so I made us a long strand while E "helped." She thought I was making her a jump rope, which we did try, but no was too light, and baby doesn't know when to jump.

I made a simple loom with a cardboard box and we were on our way. During E's nap, I started weaving just to see how hard it would be...pretty hard. But of course she was eager to join in once she woke up and saw that I had started the "project" without her! She did get the hang of over under, over under, but we did NOT get the hang of how to keep the fabric equally tight between rows. The result was, well, pretty ugly. But one thing I've learned from the Unplugged Projects is, if it's really ugly, just zoom way in when you take your pictures. Everything looks like art if you get close enough. After the fact, we decided it was not an ugly pot holder, it was actually a very nice hand woven rug for the doll house daddy. He is just happy to have something to sit on, since we don't have any chairs for him.To keep with the theme, we also did some dress up, but E is not too crazy about being in costume. So the game was mostly me dressed as a princess (complete with crown...the beaded headband I wore at my wedding) and talking in a "princess voice." Don't ask me what that is, I just tried to sound snooty and said "thou" and "thus." It worked.

Then Daddy broke out a giant pile of CLOTHING so the kids could go outside and play in the snow. I stayed in and did some cleaning...with the TV on. But Daddy was truly unplugged, dragging two toddlers around on a sled through deep, wet snow. Thanks M and thanks Unplugged Mama for the weekly inspiration!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

My JellyBean

We have 3 cats, though a visitor to the house might not know it. We love them, we so love them. But they are now in "isolation", because they were destroying the house. They had marked so many times near the back wall of the living room that we had to rip the carpet out, replace the padding, and have the carpet sanitized on both sides....and you KNOW that they would have marked all over again. It's what cats do, especially when irresponsible cat owners let their pets saunter up to OUR back window to torment our indoor kitties. So Larry is in the bedroom, Mac is in the basement, and Bean travels between the two rooms. It's working...they are well fed, they don't mark, and they seem okay.

We acquired these kittens in very different is the story of Bean.

My last year of field work, I was living in a cabin in the Pigeon River Country State Forest. The nearest town was Vanderbilt, and we often went to Darcy's Bar to unwind after checking traps on the weekends. One night when we walked in, there was a skinny white cat behind the bar. She was sniffing around looking for food, and the bartender said they were calling her "Darcy". I called her over and she jumped into my lap, and fell asleep...purring. Over the course of the night, I endured jokes from one persistent biker dude, who thought it was funny to refer to my "p*ssy." It didn't matter, I was totally in love with that cat. They said she was the bar cat, and that they were keeping her. I left my phone number just in case, and wouldn't you know, they called. "Guess what? The owner said it was a health violation to keep a cat in a bar."

A few days later I was the proud owner of an imaciated one-year old cat that I promptly renamed Emma, until one of my roommates pointed out should be called "Emmet." Huh? Oops. So his new name was JellyBean, or Bean for short. The first night he spent in the cabin, he stood on the window sill and yowled. The next night he invaded the garbage can. It was a rocky start, but once I moved him to my apartment downstate, it was all good. I had him checked out at the vet, convinced him that he wouldn't go hungry, and let him sleep under the covers with me. It's hard for me to believe that that was over ten years ago...seems like yesterday. He's always a kitten to me. :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Am I a skier?

No, I'm not. I have skied, yes, but I really prefer not to. Cross Country is okay, but I could go the rest of my life without downhill skiing and I would be just fine with that.

Why am I so bad at it? I think it's because I'm scared of speed. You cannot be a good skier if you are afraid to point your skis down the hill. I can only remember one ski trip that was fun for me, and even that one had a little mishap at the end. I think I was in 7th grade or so, and we took a bus up to Belleayre (?) for the day. I did very well in my lessons on the bunny slopes, and was pretty confident going up and down the lift. Granted, the hill was all but flat, but I thought I was pretty hot stuff.

Most of the day, I skied alone, because my skill level was, well, unmatched among my friends (I was by far the worst). Still, I was happy. On the last run of the day I decided to take another route down the mountain. I zigged when I should have zagged. To my horror, the path I chose was a dead end with a funny looking lift that I had never seen before. It was a T-bar. I was get to the bus I would have to take the T-bar to the top and then ski down the main slope. And I was almost late already.

"Okay, I can do this." I got in line for the lift and when the T-bar came my way I did what any normal person would expect you should do...I sat down. The bar of course did exactly what you would expect it to hit the ground. They had to stop the lift so I could roll off to the side and get back in line. The second time the lift operator offered this advice: "Don't sit down." Thank you, really. I tried to stay calm, I tried to relax, but I was starting to panic. When the bar hit my heiny it threw me completely off balance, and I fell again. Again the lift stopped, to the back of the line for me.

After 5 or 6 tries, I started to cry. A very nice mommy-type lady saw me and agreed to show me how to get up the hill. With her help and 3 more tries, I finally made it. My adrenaline was pumping and I just flew down that bunny hill to meet the bus. To my relief it was still in the parking lot idling, waiting for us stragglers. Turns out that adults don't trust 7th graders to be on time anyway. I probably could have made another half dozen attempts before anybody would have noticed I was missing.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Unplugged - Wrinkle

A baby prune is like his dad,
But we ain't got 'em half so bad.
We've got wrinkles on our face,
But pruney's got 'em everyplace!
No matter how hard a prune may try
He's always getting stewed.
Little seed, within a pru-in,
Is it night, or is it nu-in?
Whatcha doin' pru-in, stewin'? Hmmmmm?

This song has been going through my head since I read the theme for this week's Unplugged Project. My sister used to sing it to me...maybe it's a Girl Scout song...anybody know it? So I looked up how to make prunes and raisins, and you either need a food dehydrator or 17 hours in the oven. So I ditched that idea real quick.

Idea number two consisted of wrinkled, wet tissue paper, and allowing the dye to leach out onto a canvas. The only problem we ran into was that we could only find one color of "runny" paper. So that project was, well, disappointing. Idea number three really stretched the theme...we had piles of wrinkled tissue paper, so I started looking up tissue paper crafts. Lo and behold, Tie-dye! The directions are pretty easy, and E had a great time painting with food coloring.
The hardest part about this was waiting until it dried to unfold it. We did about 6 pieces, and probably diluted the color a little too much, but they're pretty, nonetheless. This craft would be good for a variety of ages...the only drawback I can see is that my fingers are still red, two days later! :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I Just Can't seem to Get it Right Today

Today was just a bad day. Messing up at work just really stinks, and I messed up several times today. I forgot to change the time for a class to meet their bus for a field trip, so they were stranded with no transportation. The instructor worked it out, thankfully, but my mistake inconvenienced quite a few people. I feel terrible...

This reminds me of a day in graduate school when I was travelling to Rosebush (maybe?) to talk to another biologist about trapping grouse. The back road that led to his field office was a sheet of ice, and I slid off the road right into a ditch. Do you see a theme with me and trucks??? I had no prayer of getting un-stuck, so I walked (skated) to the nearest house. A very nice lady drove me to the field office, very, very slowly. The biologist was very nice about it, but I could tell he was not impressed. He drove me back to my truck, and hooked up the tow strap. He instructed me to put the truck in neutral, which I did, but then I got out. I don't know why I got out. In retrospect, I'm not sure what I thought would happen. In retrospect, what happened was perfectly logical.

I don't know if Mr. Biologist thought I was in the truck, but he hit the gas and pulled mine out of the ditch, and as soon as it hit the icy road it just kept on going...right into the ditch on the other side. I just stood there on the ice with my mouth hanging open, and I could see him shaking his head. He didn't say much to me after that, and any chance I had for earning his respect as a new wildlifer was gone. I'd say that was the story of my first 2 or 3 years at MSU. One stupid mistake after another. But thankfully, in between, I was able to recover and of course I did not give up. I remembered that we are all human, none of us perfect, all of us flawed.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Unplugged - Floating!

Float was a fun theme for us. I knew that E would enjoy my first idea, because I had seen hundreds of kids do it at a fair a few years ago. The idea was to take a piece of aluminum foil and make a little boat....then place pennies into it, counting them up as long as the boat stays afloat. It's really a competition, but E just took sinking the boat as the goal!
Baby m had a good old time too, but his theme seemed to be "splash." I couldn't give him too much to float in the water, because he took it all to be food...maybe because I had him in his high chair.When cousins J and L came over on Saturday, we did a "floaty" craft...dragon boats! E had seen an episode of Ni Hao Ki Lan where there was a dragon boat race...oops, does that violate the "unplugged" part??? Anyway, I drew out a template for the kids to color, and then we cut them out and decorated them with ribbons. I told them that the dragons would scare away the bad guys and they seemed to like the thought of that. I was so impressed with the way my niece used scissors...she insisted that she could cut out the dragon herself, and she's only 3! She didn't do a bad job, either. Sure, we had to tape the head back on, but so what? Her independence was to be admired. I think the picture below shows that it was another big Unplugged Success!(My question for those reading is there a way I can share templates on the web? How do people put files out there to share??? Any input would be appreciated.)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Many Faces of Frustration

Yesterday was a very frustrating day for me. Three individuals (myself, E, and Baby m) at home, each one in a foul mood, each one within 6 inches of the other. Ya. Bedtime could not come too soon. Lately, I've been thinking about an incident in grad school, not one of my finest moments, and perhaps one of the most frustrating days in my memory.

I was given a truck to use for my graduate work...mind you, I was not well versed in the use of a 4 wheel drive vehicle, or in the use of anti-lock brakes (this was in 1993). I got the hang of the ABS, by necessity, on the roads of the Pigeon River Country State Forest. Then one December day, the little light came of those dreaded dashboard lights that sent me to the dealership in Gaylord. "Well", the mechanic told me, "it looks like your anti-lock brakes are malfunctioning. I'm going to disable them for now." My instructions were to bring the truck back to the university for repair, and I headed back to the forest.

The cabin was about 30 miles away, and I got 2/3 of the way there without incident. Then, just after I exited the highway, I hit a patch of black ice on an overpass and lost control. "Slam on the breaks, slam on the breaks!" Long-term memory overtook the short term knowledge that I had no ABS, and I spun part-way around and hit the barrier on the opposite side of the road. I was beyond lucky...there was no oncoming traffic. Some passersby helped me get the truck back in the right lane, and the only real damage was to the driver's side door and the left front quarter panel. As I finished my drive to the cabin, my blood pressure went up and up and up, as I visualized my embarrassment at delivering the damaged truck to my boss.

When I pulled in the driveway, I couldn't even get my door open. As I shuffled to the passenger side and slid out, I began to cry. I can't remember what I said to the truck, but I know it included profanity...and then I did a very stupid thing. As hard as I could, I threw the keys at the hood. In one fleeting instant, I saw them bounce off and sail away into the snow, never to be seen again. Literally. Hours later (with friend M by my side), I conceded defeat and called a locksmith. I remember it cost $70...because I did not have the money, and I had to write a check from my VISA account.

Thankfully I have grown a bit since then, but yesterday I almost threw the keys again...but what good does it do? It lowers the blood pressure temporarily, but in the end it costs you more.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Unplugged - Color and Light

Working at a college, I find myself constantly collecting strange things from colleagues that I think I might use someday. My office also seems to be a recycle and reuse depot, seeing as I can hardly bear to throw anything away. So I had a lot of things hanging around to use for this week's Unplugged Project.

First, E and I used some old transparencies to make stained glass windows. I cut up the acetate into shapes, using the pictures and graphs for color. Then I drew a church on an old manila folder, cut out the windows, and attached some contact paper to the back. Then E stuck the shapes to the paper...she graciously let Baby m and I finish covering up all the blank spaces, and then she colored the front with crayons. I also have a giant box of random slides that I can't seem to part with. I thought E might enjoy projecting them on the wall with a flashlight, but I didn't know how hard that would be! When I looked up "Make your own slide projector" on google, I came up with directions that involved many lenses, mirrors, jigsaws, hammers, and glue. Finally I figured out that all I really needed was a flashlight and a magnifying glass. The set up below shows the final product...flashlight, slide held up by a cardboard base, and magnifying glass held up by play-dough. The picture on the wall was not perfect, but good enough for E! In fact, I would say that she was a little bit TOO interested for this project. She wanted to move around the light and experiment with the magnifying glass. Every time she touched anything, though, the picture would disappear and she would end up frustrated. I'm now thinking that the guy who recommended a hammer and glue had a toddler! We did finally settle on one fun activity...E liked standing in front of the "projector" and seeing the butterflies tattooed on her body! That's my girl.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I'm not sure how it all came about, but the other day I asked E to put out her little fists, and I did "One Potato, Two Potato." She really liked the "you're out!" part, so I kept going and going and going. As we played, I could picture the schoolyard at George Washington Elementary School, and I started remembering all the rhymes that went along with picking "it."

One potato, two potato,
Three potato, four.
Five potato, six potato,
Seven potato, more.

Bubble gum, bubble gum
In a dish.
How many pieces
Do you wish?

Eenie meanie miney moe,
Catch a tiger by the toe.
If he hollers let him go.
Eenie meanie miney moe. (To that one, E commented, "I'll be Moe!")

A bottle of ink.
The cap fell off
And you stink.

My mother and your mother
Hanging the clothes.
My mother punched your mother
Right in the nose.
What color blood came out?

Ahh, the good old days.


After completing number 2 on the potty this evening, E peered into the toilet and proclaimed...

"Ohh. That looks like an apple. With a stem on it." And the funny thing is, that's exactly what it looked like.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Powerful Dreams

If you know me, you know I'm a in, I dream almost every night, very vividly, very strangely, and in color. I've had all the classics, from forgetting my lines on stage to flying in space to losing my teeth. In the better ones, I see and interact with the people I love, and sometimes I can control exactly what happens (lucid dreaming). I don't usually think of dreams as giving me signs, though. Actually, I'm a little nervous about posting this, because you, reader, friend, might think I'm a little wonky (if you don't think so already).

On Monday at work, I came to my office and found a student perusing the "stuff" posted on my door. I have a few little sayings, some pictures, nothing too profound. I asked him if he was waiting for me and he said "No, just looking." Early this morning (Wednesday) I awoke and remembered a short dream I'd had about, oddly enough, my office door. In the dream, I wrote "You are powerful" on a piece of paper and taped it up with the other decorations. It made total sense to me that someone might see that and get a little boost of I did it.

I'm guessing I will never know whether anybody else even notices, but I will see it every day on my way in. Come to think of it, maybe the sign is not for the world after all....maybe it's for me! I am powerful.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Unplugged - Painting With Marbles

I had been wanting to do shoe-box and marble painting for a while, so it was good to see that this week's Unplugged Project theme was "ball". The gist of it is that you put a piece of paper into a shoebox with a glop of paint and a marble, close the top and shake. The shoebox part seemed a little risky, what with the possibility of paint-laden marble flying across the room. So I thought I would experiment with some more toddler-friendly possibilities.
Our first try was with a shampoo in, curl up a piece of paper and jam it in, squirt in some paint, plop in a marble, and screw the top on. My theory was that there would be no risk of projectiles. I was right, and the painting turned out pretty good, but I failed to anticipate how difficult it would be to pull the paper out. Basically, I shredded it. So on our next try, we used a wide-topped deli container and heavier paper. Note that for this to work, the paint really has to be quite thick...watery paint is not picked up by the marbles. E loved squirting out the paint, but she was a little under the weather and didn't take to the bottle shaking like I thought she would.
In the end, my favorite product was the deli container with leftover paint in it! I even squirted a little more paint in and rolled the marbles around to coat the entire inside. I don't know what we'll do with it, because the paint will probably peel off pretty easily, but maybe it could be a paintbrush holder for our "art corner"!
Today was also our first "Crafty Critters Club" meeting (that is, toddlers at a table for 15 minutes with craft supplies), so afterwards we played a (very short) game of laundry basket ball to go along with the theme. Below, E's friend W doesn't need much coaxing to throw a ball! In future meetings, I hope to incorporate the Unplugged Theme to a larger extent. Thanks for the motivation, and all the good ideas!

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Times They Are A'Changing

The other day I entered E's bedroom to find the rail from the side of her bed laying on the floor. I asked her if she had taken it off, and she said, "Daddy took it off." M came in and told me that he thought it was time...I admit I had my doubts. She is a restless sleeper and we sometimes find her out of the covers, flipped upside down, with her head down by where her feet should be. I was sure I'd find her in the morning sleeping on the floor, or even under the bed.

But my baby girl is so not a baby...she didn't fall out of bed. Instead, the next morning she woke up, opened her door, and went to the bathroom. By herself. Okay, she didn't wipe. But still.

A half hour later, I was changing Baby m's diaper, and I asked E to throw it away. She usually loves to help with these chores, but that morning she was too busy with her chocolate milk. Much to my surprise, Baby m stood up, picked up his diaper, and walked away with it. I peeked around the corner and saw him proudly place it in the diaper pail! He looked back at me and smiled, then did a little happy dance.

Everybody told me how fast baby-hood flies by you, but I wasn't prepared for this. Sniff, sniff.

Monday, January 19, 2009

We Are Unplugged Family

A few weeks ago we did a balancing butterfly for our Unplugged Orange project. Everybody LOVED it, and I was immediately obsessed with finding other animals that would balance on the tip of your finger. The one that I couldn't let go was "Balancing Lobster." So, I was very excited that Unplugged Mama picked "balance" as the theme for this week!

A quick google search yielded some clip art lobsters that were almost right, so I printed one and took some creative license to turn it into a template for our project. Maybe it was wishful lobster thinking, but a good chunk of my New York family was in town this weekend for a Michigan State basketball game (go State!) so I printed out about a dozen crustaceans. E went running around the house collecting cousins and other relatives to participate.
It was an Unplugged Miracle. Two toddlers and seven grown-ups grabbing crayons, sharing scissors, fighting over tape. Even my brother (below, the big guy on the left), who I've never seen draw so much as a stick figure, used every crayon in the box to create a sort of psychedelic effect.
After we were done coloring and cutting, we taped pennies to the claws and set the lobsters up for display. It turns out you can balance them on just about anything, including magic markers, noses, chairs, table corners, and chandeliers.

It's always nice when my family comes to town...of course one presence at the table was sorely missed, my sister. She would have been first in line for a lobster and a crayon. But I know she would be happy to see us together, playing games, eating good food, laughing and enjoying eachother's company. We are family! :)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Unplugged - Square Art

The theme this week inspired us to look into famous "square" artists. Picasso was the first to come to mind (think Cubism), but the lovely book called Math-terpieces reminded us that Mondrian was also quite angular. The book is meant to introduce mathematical sets to older kids, but the examples of art pieces and accompanying poems were perfect for E.

We read the book together on Friday night, then tried our hand at abstract art on Saturday. I gave E a little canvas and some blue masking tape cut into thin strips. We looked at the example in the book, and E used the tape to mask off squares, sort of. Then I gave her just the primary colors to work with, and if you know E, you know that she promptly combined them all into some unnamed shade between purple and brown. She painted happily, though, and was pretty proud of herself. I wasn't sure she knew that we were using the book for inspiration, until she commented, "Mommy, he left some of his picture white." :)
Then on Sunday, we tried to imitate Picasso, sort of. I cut some pieces of random faces and some angular shapes out of magazines, and gave E another canvas. This time, she pieced together some Cube-ish faces, and seemed to approach it as sort of a puzzle. She did not mind that the eyes didn't match, or that parts were facing different directions. I wonder how long that freedom of expression will last!I think these activities would be great for a variety of ages...E certainly did entertain me with her uninhibited comments! When I told her how Jackson Pollock would throw the paint around, she said, "He shouldn't do that." The only thing she found odd about the Picasso (a woman with eyes facing two different directions) was that he didn't paint a ceiling in that picture. I asked her what Dali's clocks were doing, and she said, "Ticking." Duh. But she saved the best for last...Andy Warhol, according to E, did not paint soup cans, he painted beer cans. Um, file that one under seriously questionable parenting.

The Eagle Has Landed

And by "the eagle", I mean pee. And poop. In the potty. Yay.

I didn't believe experienced parents when they told me how difficult potty training could be. But holy cow. Over the past year, we have had countless false starts, tantrums, disappointments and "missed opportunities." As of today, E says she is a big girl and for the most part she is. We only had one accident yesterday, and that involved number be expected, I hear.

In the hopes of helping another mother, I have compiled a short list of unsolicited advice:
  1. If you push your child too hard to use the potty, you will end up very frustrated. The truth is, they are in charge of the decision making. Don't fool yourself into thinking you have any control.
  2. If you plan to use candy corn as a bribe, be prepared to give out about a million of them in the first few days. A kid who's used to peeing in a diaper at any time of day will NEED to use the bathroom over and over and over and over...
  3. Watch will probably need to do the "grab and run" a few times a day. And by the time you arrive at your destination, your toddler will be too flustered to perform.
  4. Don't be too enthusiastic with your praise. Otherwise your little one will ask you "Are you so proud of me?" after every bathroom visit. Yes, we are proud, but should we be potty training her just to make us happy??? Uh.
  5. Don't use shame either. When accidents happen, you don't want to hear, "Mommy, is kindergarten going to be mad at me?"
  6. At 3 in the morning, when your toddler calls you to use the bathroom, forgive yourself for thinking, "Why are we doing this? Diapers are soooo much easier."

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Unplugged - Orange

This week we successfully accomplished TWO Unplugged Projects for the "Orange" theme. I guess that's what happens when everyone is off work and the weather outside is frightful.

Project 1: "Nothing Rhymes with Orange"
When I read the theme, I couldn't get the phrase out of my we did a rhyming activity. E will be 3 in March, so I figured she was up for some rhyming flashcards. I downloaded a rhyme matching game from the web, and some pretty little flashcards. I printed them in color and laminated them with contact paper.

The game went over well, and she now knows that yes, parrot rhymes with carrot. But she calls the wizard a witch and the jeep a car, which leaves "lizard" and "sheep" without a place on the board. Oh well. We tried again a few days later and the cards all turned to money, and E was trying to buy chocolate from Daddy. Maybe she's not a poet yet, but she IS creative!

Project 2: Balancing Butterflies
When we went out to visit cousins J and L, we did another orange project that was a little more hands-on. The first orange thing I could think of was a monarch butterfly, and I quickly found this awesome balancing butterfly project on the Minnesota Science museum website. I printed out some butterflies for the kids to color, and a few monarch pics in case they actually wanted to make their butterflies orange.

After they were colored, I cut them out and the kids taped pennies on the underside of the wing tips. The effect is really cool. Below, cousin L is showing off her creation, and my husband is demonstrating with E's finished product. As you can see, the "orange" part was marginal at best. Cousin J did a wonderful replica of a monarch, though!

It was really simple, but would work for a wide variety of ages. The other cool thing is that once you get the proportions, you could make lots of other things balance in the same way...a clown, maybe, or even a lobster with big claws. Incidentally, I actually tried a quick version of a lobster and it worked perfectly! I won't show you yet, though, because he may show up on another "Unplugged" posting! Thanks for another inspiring week.
Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr