Sunday, September 25, 2011

Me Time (well, kinda...)

I haven't been as focused on Neven this week as I intended -- I've been a little distracted with my own projects. Feels amazing to get in some me-time!! 

...bananas (as good as candy!!), sweet potatoes, apples, peaches (huge, juicy, organic ones from a neighbor), apple fruit rolls. I've realized that since I got the dehydrator, Neven is a super-healthy snacker! He eats homemade yogurt and granola for breakfast most days, grilled cheese for lunch makes his "unhealthy" meal of the day, and he snacks on dried fruit almost 100% of the time. Makes me a happy mama. :) 

We took down the bi-folding wooden doors on Neven's closet and our laundry closet (where our washer and dryer are), since they were hardly ever closed anyway and just seemed to be in the way. Neven went to the fabric store with me, and picked out blue sharks (luckily for me and my OCD personality, this matches his room which already has a 'fish' theme). 
Along the sewing lines -- I've been commissioned to make a baby quilt for a mama in Santa Fe, using her son's baby blankets and onesies. Pretty excited about this!! 

For a few years now, I've been working on setting up and populating a basic database for the Birth Center in Taos. And yes, I like -- no, LOVE -- data entry. Such a black and white task. No (or at least, not much) room for interpretation. With each keystroke, you're technically making progress. Aaahhh... :)

Neven's Activities this Week

Back to it! We did many basic signs with Neven when he was around one to two years old. As he started learning to say words, signing took a back seat. We've recently re-discovered the fun of learning though talking with your hands, and have been picking out a card each day (ok, most days!) to learn. We have flashcards that I really like, but when I need to look up a word, my favorite website to use is Signing Savvy.

STACKING BLOCKS (Gross Motor Skills)
Yep, another simple activity that was entertaining for a while -- making a "castle" for the guy in blue (not Neven, the plastic guy!). 

On Saturday, Matt and I took the kids to the Albuquerque Aquarium. They both *loved* looking at the fish, especially Daria! 
We took the train to the Zoo... 
...had a picnic lunch in the park there, then headed back to the Botanical Gardens. We made it a point to not rush to see everything, and rather we tried to let Neven set the pace. It seemed to pay off -- although at the end of the day he was tuckered out, he was still a happy camper!

Monday, September 19, 2011


In my first blog entry I wrote "I'm pretty sure [Neven would] rather spend an hour with me looking for bugs in the backyard than go to Disneyland." This week, I came as close as I could to proving that correct. Neven, Daria, and I drove to to the state fair in Albuquerque to meet a good friend of mine and her two kids (who are about the same age as Neven and Daria). We visited McDonald's Farm (where they walk around a mini-farm collecting fruits and veggies from the various stations), fed some goats, ate fair food for lunch (a foot-long corndog and french fries), rode a few rides (three seemed to be enough), and bought some cotton candy at the end of the day (that did get a wide-eyed "ooh!" expression from him). I had a good day! Neven had an OK time for sure. Maybe he was just on overload and taking it all in, maybe the crowds made him a little nervous (it's usually his idea to hold my hand)... most likely a bit of both? 

He slept for most of the car ride home, and wasn't exactly ready for bed at his normal time of 8:00. As a treat, we let him stay up late. He and Matt curled up on the couch together under a blanket (the blanket I made for him while pregnant, his "hug" as he calls it) and watched "How to Train Your Dragon." After the movie ended, he was very animated as he told me with his hands all about dragons flying this way and that. And that night, he went to sleep talking about dragons. 

My conclusion? I think he's a homebody... just like his mama and dad.  

(I had planned on writing more on this topic, but am running out of time and just want to get something posted!) 

Neven's Activities this Week

Last weekend, our family visited Eldorado's 4,000+ acre community preserve. Full of connecting trails, we made a short 2-mile hike that Neven was able to do on his own (Daria was awarded a free ride in the backpack). We picked flowers, learned about "trail markers", and listened to Neven leading the way while mumbling to himself about all that he was seeing and taking in (what a joy!). 

MAKING PIZZA (fine motor skills)
Neven helped me make Greek-style pizza for dinner. One of the simple activities that not only makes him feel included, but can be used as a learning opportunity. I cut up all the veggies, and let him put them on. Of course, he added them one by one -- great use of his fine motor skills! 

FORT (gross motor skills)
Pillows + not on the couch = a fort! Pushing the truck trough the fort with him was intentional - additional practice using his gross motor skills. 

BALANCE BEAM (gross motor skills)
An idea I read about online - We found an old wood plank in our yard, about 6 inches wide and 6 feet long. At first, I laid it directly on the ground, thinking that would provide a challenge for a least a few minutes. No such luck! Next we moved it to make a ramp from the grass to the wall of the flower bed. That lasted a few more minutes. Moving it to a foot off the ground turned out to be the best - Neven was able to walk across (to escape the sharks, he claimed), bounce in the middle, or jump off the side! Pure, simple fun... 

Some of the simplest fun you can have - a cardboard box, painted like a boat (you do see the resemblance, right?!) with circles and squares!

This weekend's Saturday activity was a visit to the Santa Fe Children's Museum. We've heard rave reviews, and this was our first time to go since we've moved here two months ago. Plenty of stimulating activities here - rolling balls along a track until they crash, bug displays, beads, bubbles, a (huge!) water table, magnets, play kitchen, art supplies... Definitely a place we'll be visiting often this winter when it's too cold to be outside! 

Monday, September 12, 2011

August (and a bit of September) in Review

Before I can start blogging like I want to, I feel the need to share a bit of what we've been up to for the past month (and a half). Much of my time has been spent in the kitchen (hooray for harvesting season!) or outside trying to make some progress on my newly-aquired garden. Also high on my priority list since I (we?) decided to start home-preschooling Neven has been planning focused activities for him and I to do. I haven't been too strict about a schedule, but I've been aiming to have one activity per day (seems like a reasonable start, and makes sure we have more than just good intentions). So far, it is working out well, and I think the structure is beneficial to all of us.

Next week's post will be more interesting, for sure!

We go through granola (cereal) like its going out of style! A few months ago, I started making granola at home. I had no idea how simple it is to make, and it feels great to know exactly what's going into it. I've tried a few recipes, and this is the one I've landed on as my favorite combination (its actually a recipe from a card I found in one of the fireplaces at our La Posta house...!). In the end, I think making our own granola costs about as much as the generic, store-brand “granola with raisins.” But making our own not only tastes much, much better, but it feels healthier and we can customize each batch to the variety we want!
3 c regular rolled oats
1/3 c wheat germ
1/3 c brown sugar
1 apple, shredded
1/4 c water
1/4 c honey
1 t cinnamon
1 t vanilla
1 c dried fruit (cranberries, apricots, raisins, dates, dried bananas...)
1/2 c nuts (slivered almonds, sunflower seeds...)
Mix oats, wheat germ, brown sugar, and apple in a large bowl. Combine water, honey, cinnamon, and vanilla in a small bowl, and microwave for 30 seconds. Pour mixture over oats; mix well. Spray 10x15 baking pan with non-stick spray. Spread oats evenly in pan. Bake at 325 deg F for 60 minutes or until golden brown, stirring every 10-15 minutes. Cool. Add dried fruit and/or nuts. Store in airtight container.

Another recent discovery I've made is making our own yogurt, in the crock pot. How much easier can you get? I was a bit skeptical at first as to whether or not this method would work, but it does! It tastes fabulously simple, and costs about half of what the cheapest, store bough yogurt does.

'Tis the season to be buying in-season fruit in bulk, and preserving it for the winter. For us, this has meant buying many blueberries and strawberries on sale at the supermarket, and picking our own raspberries. Much was frozen, some was jammed, and we just purchased a dehydrator to deal with the rest. I'm pretty excited about the latter, to make on-the-go kid snacks! Neven has always been a healthy eater at home, but it was too easy for me to fall into the convenience snacks for when we were out and about – goldfish crackers, animal cookies, granola and cereal bars... (all pre-portioned in individual packaging, of course). Making our own dehydrated fruit and vegetable snacks not only means healthier, but it also means less packaging to toss in the trash!

What you need:
plastic coffee or yogurt container, with a few holes poked in the bottom for drainage (I used a hammer and screwdriver)
seeds (we used green beans)
dirt (“yard” dirt worked fine for us)
a few straight twigs, about 12” long
Fill plastic container with loose dirt. Use finger to make a few holes, about 1 inch deep and 2-3 inches apart. Drop 2-3 seeds in each hole. Cover with loose dirt. Water seeds every day to keep soil moist. You should see sprouts in less than a week. As they start to grow, use straight twigs and twisty-ties to support the stalks. At some point, you may need to transplant your bean plants outside or to a larger pot.
Concepts: fine motor skills (planting), plant needs, responsibility (remembering to water them)

Initially, the idea came from here:
But we didn't use our ice cubes to paint – we used them for playtime in the bathtub.
When you make the ice cubes, consider using basic colors, which will mix easily to make other colors!
Concepts: colors, mixing colors, melting, ice/water phases

Another idea from the same website:
The best form we found to use was a piece of aluminum foil, molded into a trough of sorts. As the wax melted, I squeezed slightly and rolled to help the wax stick together.
Concepts: colors, sun/heat, melting, fine motor skills (coloring)

What you need:
colored paper
wire hanger
Directions (or, what we did!):
Cut out six fish shapes of different colors (while I cut fish, I gave Neven a pair of scissors to cut randome pieces). Use a marker to draw designs on the fish. Punch a hole in the top of each fish. Attach the fish to the wire hanger at varying lengths.
Concepts: fine motor skills (using scissors), colors, fun!

What you need:
containers or bowls
miscellaneous objects (buttons, beads, marbles, beans...)
Concepts: colors, shapes, motor skills

What you need:
pictures to color
crayons or markers
construction paper
clear contact paper
Print black and white pictures of animals, etc. Color pictures with crayons or markers. Glue onto construction paper and cut to desired size. Stick pieces of contact paper to either side of the construction paper and picture. Attach magets to the back.
Concepts: fine motor skills, colors, animals

What you need:
objects to pour (beans, rice, buttons)
containers of varying shapes and sizes
Concepts: fine motor skills, life skills

Last weekend, we went to Salman Raspberry Ranch just north of Las Vegas, NM. Had a great time, and picked 4 pounds of fresh, juicy raspberries free of pesticides and herbicides. It was a good day!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thoughts Swirling

Starting a blog is NOT something that's been on my to-do list... Just this past week, the idea came into my head. And when I decide I want to do something, I have to do it, NOW. I constantly have thoughts swirling around in my head that I'd like to write down. Since I'm a stay-at-home-mom, most of these thoughts tend to be about parenting and the lifestyle I want to create for my family. I love to write (I think technical writing might be my dream job!), since it gives me a chance to collect the thoughts in my mind and move them out. I already keep digital mini-journals for my own sake so I figured... why not share some of what's up there (in my head) with out there (on the web)?

I want this blog to be about experiencing motherhood (parenthood) – not just getting through it, but really taking it ALL in and savoring it. All the ups and downs, all the kisses and “I love you's”, all the sleepless nights and tantrums. I want to share my experiences and thoughts, the little bits of wisdom I've managed to gather through it all, and I want to hear from you (guest blogging, anyone?). After all, support is usually the best solution I can find!

What to Expect:

1. Enjoying the Simple Things in Life
For the first time in years (ever?), I have time to sit back and just enjoy life (surely it has almost everything to do with our recent move!). I've really started to appreciate the little things day-to-day life has to offer. I want to pass this fascination on to my children, and share the idea with as many others as I can. Maybe this is common sense to some, but I feel enlightened – I didn't really understand how easy it is to make my child so happy and content! I'm pretty sure he'd rather spend an hour with me looking for bugs in the backyard than go to Disneyland (at least for now).

2. Home-Preschooling
Many of Neven's friends are starting preschool this year! I can't help but to feel some (healthy) pressure to keep up. But does he really need to go to preschool already? No doubt, he'd enjoy it, and would certainly learn a few things along with some great socialization. I never went to preschool, and I did pretty well in school. On top of that, I feel a little guilty considering it when my “job” is to stay at home with the kids. My solution? Start home-preschooling him. I've been trying to commit a block of time everyday to do some focused activity with Neven alone (which is hard some days with a teething 7 month old!) – whether its watering the flowers and talking about what plants need to grow, or making a fish mobile together. I think this might just work...

3. Challenges and Lessons Learned
As a mom, I face challenges everyday. When I'm lucky, I also learn something everyday! One of my hardest challenges is learning how to balance – taking care of my family with finding me-time (not to mention, time for my husband!), being eco-friendly with being frugal, giving my kids the structure of a schedule without becoming a victim of the schedule myself... I want to reflect on my experiences and share with others. I've found that often times, hearing “I know how you feel” is all I need!

4. Simple Sustainability
That isn't an official term and I don't know exactly what it means. What I'm getting at is that I like to minimize clutter in my life. I try to minimize what I send to the landfill. I try to re-use and buy used. I try to eat simple food with a short list of ingredients, and to make my own food when I can. I don't like to waste food. Sounds easy enough, right? Not so much when I'm sure kid clothes and toys multiply in the closets when you turn your back, and my time seems limited by taking care of my family in other ways...

So now that you know what I'm planning here... I hope to see you back!