Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Geodesic Dome Playhouse

A project I've been wanting to do for a while now with the kids, and I figured while we are living in someone else's (kid-free) home for a few weeks was a good time to do it: build a GEODESIC DOME out of newspapers. The original idea is from Disney Family Fun (I found that website through Inner Child Fun's blog). 

1. Gather newspaper - You'll need 100 full sheets. 
2. Make 25 logs - Lay four sheets of newspaper flat, one on top of the other. Using something like a pencil as a general guide, start at one of the corners and roll the newspaper along the diagonal. Slip the pencil out and tape the log shut. After all of the logs are made, trim the ends so that they are all approximately the same length (should be approximately 30 inches). 
3. Clear a large area of floorspace to construct your dome. 
4. Staple three logs together to make a triangle. Repeat, until you have five triangles. 
5. Staple the triangles together at the corners. 
6. Add connecting logs across the tops of the triangles. 
7. Staple the five remaining logs together to create a star. 
8. This is where things got a little tricky, and I needed Neven to help me - Slowly raise the triangles structure, bring ends together to create a circular fence, and staple the ends together. 
9. Staple the ends of the star to the tops of the triangles (to do this, I had Neven stand in the middle and hold the star center on his head). 
10. Optional: Add a blanket roof/wall. 

After thoughts: 
*I only used two sheets of newspaper per roll, and they were a bit flimsy - we'll definitely use four next time! 
*The weakest part of the structure seemed to be where they were joined - perhaps some duct tape to reinforce? or roll the newspaper logs along the straight edge (rather then along the diagonal)? 

Monday, September 3, 2012

BIG Changes

This blog post is a bit unlike any other. I've had BIG CHANGES happening in my life recently and wanted a place to get some of my thoughts out. 

Last month: Preschool
Neven started preschool. The first day couldn't have been more un-eventful for him or me (however, that afternoon/evening, filled with hyper-active excitement, was a very different story!). He goes three mornings a week. He loves it, is thriving just as we suspected he would, and is learning SO much about life. Still- a BIG change for me not to have him around 24/7... 
Name Change
Matt and I got married in June 2006. 
I didn't change my name then for a few different reasons: (1) We didn't legally get married at that time... it was more about the celebration and commitment to one another (we visited the courthouse later that year), (2) I was just starting in my career, and any accomplishments I had were connected to Jennifer SMITH, and (3) I was attached to SMITH - My grandma (dad's mom) had three kids: two girls and a boy. My dad had two girls. Which meant... I was the last SMITH in this immediate line (maybe the world isn't hurting for SMITHs?). 
What changed? KIDS. I got to the point where I just wanted to have the same name as my kids. 
A few weeks ago, I finally got around to visiting the social security office to have my name legally changed to Jennifer LynnSmith Sherer, which set off a whole chain of other to-do's (change name with MVD, banks, credit cards... what else do I not yet know I have to change?). I'm not at all used to answering "Jennifer Sherer" when someone asks me my name (in fact, I started that "Jennifer Sm..." before I had to hit the backspace key!), and I feel like I'm lying to them when I do! Will that feeling ever go away?

Wheeler Peak (highest point in NM, elevation 13,161 ft)
What an AMAZING weekend this was! 
Matt and I hiked Wheeler in 2002 with a good friend. We hiked in October, and so our memories of the trail were windy (60 mph!), snow, COLD (I've never been so cold in my life!), and physically exhausting. 
As we planned to hike again, I was unsure of what to expect - I haven't been in what I consider good aerobic shape since 2008 and we haven't been hiking for any significant length since 2007, and so I doubted myself being able to make it to the top without being completely exhausted. But hiking Wheeler had become SO important to me - for the first time since 2008 (notice the pattern?) I had the chance to do something for ME, to accomplish something for ME. And not because I haven't been able to, but because I haven't been ready to put ME first in a long while (I'm VERY ok with that decision, and wouldn't change it for the world!). 
We woke up at 5:00 am, silently got ready while the kids slept on, then traded places with our sweet friends Diane and Pete, who had made this hike possible for us. We drove to the trailhead, prepped our small packs, and put on jackets in the darkness. Then Matt read this passage to me: 
"Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you're no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn't just a means to an end but a unique event in itself. This leaf has jagged edges. This rock looks loose. From this place the snow is less visible, even though closer. These are things you should notice anyway. To live only for some future goal is shallow. It's the sides of the mountain which sustain life, not the top. Here's where things grow." 
From Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig
We started hiking before dawn. The hike was truly SPECTACULAR! With the above passage in mind, I tried my best to stay in the moment, both with MY being and hiking, and just BEING with Matt. We had a slow, steady pace for the entire 4-hour, 8-mile hike to the peak (stopping only once to sit down and rest). 
The climb of switchbacks Matt and I both had remembered as so grueling the first time around was marked this time by the breathtaking panoramic views and fat, fearless marmots alongside the trail. 
We stumbled upon a pack of a dozen or so longhorn sheep (including one tiny, fuzzy baby!), and were able to observe them without disturbing them for a good while before leaving them to continue their morning snack. 
Literally way before I thought it was time, there it was - Wheeler! - only about half an hour away. And still, we hadn't seen another human soul since we left our room that morning. 
We made it to the top by 10:00 am. We spent about half an hour there, (me) in bliss, watching the storm clouds tumble in (there wasn't more than a single cloud in the sky when we first arrived), drinking water, and smiling at our accomplishment. 

Starting in October, I'll no longer be a full-time stay-at-home mom: I got a job. 
Since quitting when Neven was just a few months old, I knew this day would come. But I couldn't help to wonder... Does "that part" (the scientific part) of my brain still work, or is my most valuable skill now growing and nurturing little people? Will anyone want to hire me after taking a three year leave? How will I manage to convey my skills in an interview, not having talked about hydrology in years? For the past few months, I've been putting a few feelers out there in case an ideal opportunity came along. And it did -- in the form of a friend who works remotely from his home office in Santa Fe, who also happens to be a hydrogeologist and dad of an 18-month-old. 
This is very bittersweet for me - I will MISS my one-on-one time with Daria (although this just started when Neven started preschool, and I will still have one morning with just her), the chunks of free time I've been able to find to be creative through crafting, and the freedom of no schedule (although that went away with Neven starting preschool). 
I am GRATEFUL (and this is the part I'm trying to focus on) to have had the past 3+ years as a FT SAHM, to have found something in my field, to have somewhat stumbled upon a great opportunity, and to have the luxury to start back part-time with the option to work remotely. 

Next up: California
Soon, we're headed to California to house-/dog-sit for close friends of ours while they galavant around Europe. I'm really looking forward to the ocean, beach, farmer's market produce, and more beach time. We'll be there for three weeks! 
We're driving, in our Impreza. Maijer is coming along (which pretty much means nothing besides the dog fits in the hatchback space, thank goodness for our roof rack!). Driving in an Impreza with a dog, two kids, Matt's two work computers, clothes for four, toys... means some planning ahead of time. I'm on top of packing and prepping, there's even a spreadsheet (who's surprised?). But until I get those last-minute things (like the kids) into the car, I won't feel "ready." 

Stay tuned... 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

DIY Bean Bags

Truthfully, these bean bags were inspired by my indecisiveness - I didn't decide whether or not I was going to a birthday party until the last minute, then realized I wanted to take along a gift! I found an idea similar to this one online, and altered the pattern to fit my needs. 

Part I: Decoration
The decoration for on these bean bags could be anything - animals, trucks, different colors, printed fabric... Here, I used letters to spell our friend's name. 
1. Cut 3x3-inch pieces of fabric for the letters; you'll need one piece per bean bag. I used muslin, then tie-dyed letters using sharpie markers and rubbing alcohol (full how-to here). 

Part II: Making the bean bags
1. Cut 6x6-inch pieces of fabric for the bean bags (shown here, purple); you'll need two pieces for each bean bag. 
2. Using a decorative zig-zag stitch, attach the decorative fabric to the center of a 6x6 square. 
3. With right sides together, sew one blank 6x6 square to one decorated 6x6 square, leaving a 2-inch opening. 
4. Flip right side out, and iron the edges flat. 
5. Fill The bean bag. I used a combination of dry pinto, black, and garbanzo beans. 
6. Topstitch around the edge. 

The finished bean bags! This one was for a sweet friend of ours in Taos, who was turning 2 years old. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Kitchen Activities

Here are some simple and fun ideas for involving kids in the kitchen... or just some yummy snack ideas! :) 

1. Snail Snacks (from Big Backyard Magazine, which we love!): 
Lay a tortilla flat. Layer cream cheese, turkey, lettuce, or anything else you can think of. Roll the tortilla, leaving a bit at the end un-rolled (this will be the snail's head). Add a small dollop of peanut butter for the snail's head, then add pretzel sticks for the antennae and/or raisins for the eyes. We also used a toothpick to keep our snails from unrolling... 

2. Honey Milk Balls 
A quick, no-bake, relatively healthy snack? My MIL gave me this recipe, remembering that Matt used to love them (he still does!). 

3. DIY Play Stovetop 
What I used: small cardboard box, decorative paper, 1 plastic yogurt lid, 2 milk lids, 2 screws, glue, and sharpie marker. No real method here... just tried to make it look like the original I saw. Even though I made it for Daria, she wasn't exactly sure what to do with it. Neven, on the other hand, was anxious to play! 

4. Milk --> Yogurt --> Cheese! 
I go in and out of phases where I make our own yogurt. We haven't made it for a while, and I figured this was a good time to talk to Neven about how it happens. BINARY FISSION was used in conversation between Matt and Neven at the breakfast table this morning... 
To make yogurt in your crock-pot (original recipe here, but I've tweaked it a bit)
Turn crock-pot on low and pour in 1/2 to 1 gallon whole milk (supposedly you can use lowfat milk, but I haven't tried yet). Heat on low for 2.5-3 hours, or until the temperature is 180 degF. Turn the crock-pot off. Let the milk cool for 3-3.5 hrs, or until the temperature is 110 degF. Remove 1-2 c of the warm milk and place in a bowl. To that, add 1/2 c of yogurt with live active cultures (I find Greek yogurt works best) and mix well. Pour the yogurt-milk mixture back into the crock-pot and whisk thoroughlyPlace lid back on crock-pot, wrap entire crock in a few thick towels, and let stand overnight 10-12 hrs. In the morning, spoon off any excess liquid pooled on the surface. Stir yogurt, then place in containers. For best texture, refrigerate for 8 hrs before using. This recipe usually yields 2-3 quarts of yogurt, which can be stored in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks. 
To make thicker yogurt
Follow the instructions below for cream cheese spread, but only drain for about 1 hour. 
To make cream cheese spread
Line a colander with 2 layers of paper towels (or paper coffee filters) and place over a large bowl. Add yogurt and cover. Let drain, refrigerated for 4-6 hrs. To collect the cream cheese, I used a wooden spoon to scoop most out from the middle, then the rest will peel away from the paper towel. Discard liquid. Store in a container with a lid in the refrigerator. Add some honey and a dash of salt for a very yummy fruit dip! 
Watching the water drip out the bottom. 
Does the yogurt on Daria's forehead count as her stamp of approval?
Makes a great dip!

5. Blueberry Scones (from Parenting Magazine)
A recipe written to be kid- and dad-friendly, what could be simpler? This past weekend, not only did I get to sleep in until 8 am, I woke up to coffee brewing and fresh-baked scones! (For anyone interested... I bought the ingredients at the store, mentioned the idea of making scones to Matt, and left the recipe on the counter - still, they were YUMMY and VERY appreciated!!)

Friday, July 20, 2012

July Activities

Feels good to finally be back into a routine where we are not only getting out and about and OUTSIDE a lot, but also DOING a lot at home. There are a lot of SIMPLE activity ideas here. My hope is that it's not overwhelming, but rather you can pick and choose to find something for your family! 

Scrabble: Neven picked out a video (or book, etc.) and then re-wrote the title using Scrabble letters. As he was doing this, we talked about what sounds the letters make. 

Fingerpainting: Always fun... 

Make Penants (idea from Preschool Express): Give your child a penant-shaped piece of paper to decorate. Add a pole (I used a wooden kabob stick) and encourage them to wave it around. 

Beading with Pipe Cleaners

Baking Soda and Vinegar Volcano (idea from Science Kids): Place a spoonful of baking soda on top of an upside-down container or glass. Slowly add a few drops of vinegar and watch the reaction! 

Draw a Cartoon Truck (how-to from ToonDraw): After we finished the picture, we wrote the word TRUCK. We also labeled other things in the picture like BOY, GIRL, SUN...

Music on YouTube: Alice the Camel, I'm a Little Teapot, London Bridge (did you know... one theory on the origin of this song is that the bridge would fall down if children weren't buried in the bridge foundation as a human sacrifice?!)... One thing led to another and we also used YouTube to watch some birth videos - an elephant, a giraffe, and a chimpanzee. 

Spoon Sounds: Tie a spoon to in the middle of a piece of thick string, about 3 feet long. Wrap each end of the string around your index finger 2-3 times, then put your fingers in your ears. Gently swing the spoon into an object and listen - sounds like a churchbell! The lesson: observing how sound waves move through solid objects. Experiment with how the noise changes when the spoon hits different surfaces (table, fridge, dishwasher, counter-top...). An added bonus: works on fine motor skills. 

Puzzles: In our house, these are toys that are usually out of reach (constantly picking up the pieces drives me insane!). So yes, this IS a specific and targeted activity. 

Blow-up Balloon (idea from Preschool Express): You will need baking soda, vinegar, a balloon, and a glass soft drink bottle (we used plastic, which worked fine). Set out the bottle and pour approximately ¼ cup of vinegar into it. Next take a balloon and dump approximately 1 tsp baking soda into it. Now carefully, attach the balloon onto the top rim of the bottle. Gradually the baking soda will fall into the vinegar (we helped ours!), creating a gas, which in turn will inflate the balloon. Reminder: Do not let children play with balloons, especially pieces of popped balloons, because they are a choking hazard.

Pipe Cleaner Figures (idea from CraftJr.com): A few pompoms, google-y eyes, pipe cleaners, hot glue gun, a little imagination... and voila! 

Clothespin Poke (from The Toddler's Busy Book): You'll need a handful of clothespins and an empty egg carton. Turn the egg carton upside-down and punch small holes (just big enough to fir the clothespin) in the bottom of each section. Poke the clothespins in the holes and let your toddler have fun taking them out and putting them back in again. 
Another idea to add to the activity is a basket of clothespins that they can clip on and off the side (an idea from Montessori). 

Spelling with Magnets: I've already posted this idea (Learning Letters). Neven lost interest for a while, but was really into it again today! Hope this lasts... 

>>> What will YOU try? 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Typical Wednesday

Not too long ago, I recently read a fantastic little poem by Beth Brubaker or Kathy Fictorie (different sites claim different authors)If you Give a Mom a Muffin... 
If you give a mom a muffin, 
She’ll want a cup of coffee to go with it. 
She’ll pour herself some. 
Her three-year-old will spill the coffee. 
She’ll wipe it up. 
Wiping the floor, she’ll find dirty socks. 
She’ll remember she has to do laundry. 
When she puts the laundry in the washer, 
She’ll trip over boots and bump into the freezer. 
Bumping into the freezer will remind her she has to plan for supper. 
She will get out a pound of hamburger. 
She’ll look for her cookbook (“101 Things To Do With a Pound of Hamburger”). 
The cookbook is sitting under a pile of mail. 
She will see the phone bill, which is due tomorrow. 
She will look for her checkbook. 
The check book is in her purse that is being dumped out by her two-year-old. 
She’ll smell something funny. 
She’ll change the two year old’s diaper. 
While she is changing the diaper, the phone will ring. 
Her five-year-old will answer and hang up. 
She’ll remember she wants to phone a friend for coffee. 
Thinking of coffee will remind her that she was going to have a cup. 
And chances are… 
If she has a cup of coffee, 
Her kids will have eaten the muffin that went with it.

The poem was a refreshing reminder of how much I DO every day, even though it doesn't often FEEL that way. I'm sure many of you can relate! My goal for writing this post was actually selfish - I wanted to feel a sense of accomplishment. (In case you're wondering, it worked.) I highly recommend YOU doing the same. Comment with your story here, or send it to me to read. :) 

Anyway, here's my version: Typical Wednesday Morning 
I get woken up at 6:30 by Daria (crawling over me). We spend a few minutes in bed cuddling, the head toward the kitchen so I can start the coffee. I notice that the window is open in the bedroom (we close them very early in the morning to keep the cool air in and the warm air out) so I head that way to quietly close it, because Neven and Matt appear to be sleeping. Then I realize they are only pretending to sleep and hear them whispering about how Neven is going to "surprise" me. I head toward the bed. Neven jumps up "Boo!" (along with a huge smile of accomplishment). I give and get my good morning hugs. Daria hears us (more specifically, she hears Neven) from the other room, I hear her squeal with excitement then hear the pitter-patter of her feet towards us. We're soon ALL in the bed. Daria pats her diaper (her way of saying "I want it off"), so I take her diaper off. We cuddle for a few minutes, kids climb over us and under the covers, then Daria is ready to get going. She climbs down from the bed, fearless as usual. 

Then "Pee!" as she heads out of the room. I jump up to follow her to her potty, used overnight diaper and PJs in hand. She sits down to pee on her potty in the kitchen, leaving me with one free hand to grab the potty (before she has a chance to "help" by carrying it to the bathroom herself). On my way to dump it in the toilet, I toss the diaper in the garbage. 
The kids follow me to the kitchen, and have their morning beverage requests in before I can turn the coffee pot on. Milk for Daria, but Neven wants tea (with honey and three ice cubes) this morning instead of milk. While the water boils in the kettle, I finally start the coffee. Maijer (our 14-yr-old dog) is pacing, so I take him outside. Olive (our outside cat) is sitting on her bed meowing at me, and so I give her a scoop of food and a bit of attention. On the way back in, I see that the fan is still on and turn it off. 
Oh right - I have to pee. Daria joins me, seeing me pee she thinks it's a good idea, and so she squats in front of me and pees. Luckily, Neven is also in the bathroom with us and so I ask him to run and get me a cloth diaper to use to wipe the pee off the floor. 
I pour Neven his tea, and me my coffee. Neven and I sit down at the breakfast counter to do a few pages from his kindergarten workbook while Daria is occupied reading boooks with Matt. Time for a science experiment! This is when I get to sit down for a minute (except for the 30 seconds when I had to get magnets to distract Daria from helping pour the vinegar) while I watch Matt prep the experiment, and Neven watch with wide-eyes. 
I get the kids started on breakfast then jump in the shower. When I'm in the shower is when my clearest thinking of the day happens, which usually results in a mental to-do list: email a friend that's been on my mind this week and another I haven't talked to in a while, blog ideas, activities for the kids, today's schedule, my once-upon-a-time career... I hurry out of the shower. While I'm getting dressed, I remember that I need to pack long-sleeve shirts for after swimming today. 
(try to) sneak past the kids in the kitchen, grab shirts for the pool (closing up windows while I'm in their room anyway), picking up toys and dropping them in strategically-placed toyboxes (in every room!) along the way. I toss the shirts and some snacks in our pool bag, then attempt to take care of a few to-do's in the time I have left before Matt heads to work (which happens minutes later). 
I head back to the kitchen, where the kids are eating breakfast. I remember I need to cook turkey bacon and prep tonight's picnic dinner. I need the food scissors (which I love to over-use!), which are still in the dishwasher from last night. I empty the dishwasher while cooking bacon and finally drinking my cup of (reheated) coffee. I see my vitamins, and chug those down along with some water after filling up my water glass. I think about getting breakfast for myself, but instead run to grab my computer (so that I can write this blog before forgetting too much). Maijer is sitting at the door whining. I take him outside (again). 
The phone rings - while I'm talking, I'll use the time to get kids dressed for swim lessons. I look at the clock, and it's 8:28 am. :) 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Our Battle with Food Dye

Neven tends to be a pretty mellow kid. As a road tripper, he'll look out the window for all of a two-hour car trip. When he first gave up his naps (at 2.5 yrs), he'd opt for sitting in his closet reading books for literally hours instead of falling asleep. Along the same lines, it takes a LOT to get this child excited (amusement parks? eh, not really). Mellow and even-tempered, just like his Dad. 

After Neven eats anything with food dye (by this, I mean artificial food coloring), there's a DRASTIC shift in his personality. He throws full-blown screaming tantrums* over the simplest things (like he wanted to close the fridge door but instead I did). He talks back and screams at me. He pushes physical limits with Daria. He doesn't listen to rules/boundaries that are always in place and he otherwise has no problems with. He's an emotional roller coaster - giggling one minute, and screaming hysterically the next. During his meltdowns, he gets this crazy, empty look in his eyes and it's impossible to reason with him at all. These days are filled with a treadmill of arguments, tantrums, tears, frustration - not much quality time happening. These feelings even spill over onto Daria. We refer to this outfall as The Crazies - it usually starts the day after food coloring, and usually lasts for a few days. 
*I understand kids this age will get irrationally upset about things... but this is different. Neven still has the occasional meltdown even when he's not under the influence of food dye - but I can explain what's going on to him, offer an alternative, and he's usually at least remotely open to the idea. 

At first, I was skeptical. I thought I was just being paranoid, trying to find an excuse for Neven's 3-yr-old-like behavior. I spent months suspicious that food coloring was the culprit, yet still not sure enough that I didn't take the final step to eliminate all food dye from his diet. I got to the point where I was able to convince Matt that there's a correlation (if you know Matt, or have a husband like Matt, you'll understand why this means so much!). 

A few weeks ago, Neven had a bad case of The Crazies that resulted from iced tea mix and/or the powdered 'cheese' on Pringles. This incident was the final straw for me. I realized that we've  already lost too many days to The Crazies, and I don't want to lose any more. I searched through our cupboards, determined to rid our home of food dye. There wasn't much, but it felt good to get it out - marshmallows, Easter candy, Halloween candy (ha!), granola bars, instant oatmeal, licorice, beef broth, iced tea mix, (kids'!) toothpaste, Tylenol, lotion, aloe vera... <On a side rant here: Really, Red40 in Children's Tylenol? Because kids care that cherry flavored must be red?! Not to mention... why does it need to taste like cherry or bubble gum?!> This purging made me realize that even though Neven hadn't been getting much food dye his diet, I think there may have been a slow trickle I wasn't aware of, resulting in essentially a continuous fallout. 

We've now been dye-free for nearly three weeks. I definitely notice a difference. He still has his occasional meltdowns, but they are few and far between and not so intense that they make ME want to cry. He has started asking me "Does this have food coloring in it?" to which I try to explain to him that's for me to worry about, not you. Whether Neven's reaction to food dyes is "real" or not is to be determined, but I'm definitely not the only one out there whose child turns a bit nutty after consuming them. And if there's a logical change I can make that happens to correlate to a more balanced, happier child... I'll do it! 

In my online researching, I found a helpful website (Die, food dye!) which not only has lots of information, but also many others with stories very similar to ours.  I've also discovered that Trader Joe's brand food contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. The Natural Candy Store carries everything from gummy bears to candy-coated chocolate candies, all without artificial  colors, flavors, or preservatives. I splurged and bought Neven a few sweets - perhaps out of guilt? ;)  

Thoughts? Anyone else out there with a similar experience? I'm still looking for all the support and validation I can get! 

Photo Copyright Sheila Aldridge - All rights reserved.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Learning Letters

A quick idea for a Friday -- Learning Letters!
We've been working on letters with Neven forever - Just casually, but we've been at a plateau for a while now. He recognizes them all and knows what most of them sound like, but how to make the jump to writing them (somehow, writing the letter "A" 10 times in a row in his preschool book wasn't keeping his attention!) and making the jump to know that letters in a row make words? 

Here's what we've been doing, with great success: 
1. Pick a magnet. We have a container of 60 basic magnet shapes things like a cat, dog, goat, tree... We make a game of it, but having Neven close his eyes and reach into the container. Not exactly sure why, but this makes it WAY more fun for him! 
2. Use the magnet to hang sheet of white paper on the fridge. 
3. Spell the word using magnetic letters. While I'm searching for the letters, Neven and I talk about what letters/sounds are in the word - sometimes we skip the vowels, since those are confusing (for example, the OA in "goat"), and just try to figure out the first and last letters. 
4. Next up - We pick a marker and write the letters to make the word.

Will you try this? Let me know -- I've been missing feedback in the past few posts!! 

Friday, March 9, 2012

LET IT BE ...at least until after bedtime

Stuff. EVERYWHERE! There are days (in fact, most days) when I feel like all I'm doing is picking up toys - play kitchen dishes, cars, Legos!, random plastic containers, magnets... 
I don't actually see my kids dump any single container, but its like a slow trickle that results in stuff, EVERYWHERE! I really don't understand how they are so fast. 
I know it shouldn't matter - we have kids. No one is going to mind if they walk into my home and there are toys scattered around. But my OCD takes over, and I can't help but to take a few minutes to put a few things back where they belong. Oftentimes, I just grab something on my way past and drop it where it should go. It only takes me five minutes to clean up (each time), but it's an endless task. I once read a quote along the lines of "Cleaning up after a toddler is like trying to sweep in a windstorm." No kidding. And the truth is-- my kids are relatively neat kids, especially considering they are 1 and 3 years old. 

Here's my plan: LET IT BE... at least until after bedtime. I'm going to try to nix the frequent five minute cleanups during the day, and save it for one 15 minute cleanup job at the end of the day. I can only imagine how much time with my kids this simple change could gain for me!! 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Groundhog Day

As a stay-at-home-mom, I feel like some weeks are filled with five Groundhog Days: wake up (more specifically, get woken up earlier than I wish), drink coffee, put dishes away, take the dog out, fix breakfast, shower, more coffee, spend a few minutes with Matt and the kids, Matt heads to work, play time, Daria's am nap, focused time with Neven, morning activity (this IS usually different every day, but still feels the same in that its our "out-and-about" time), play time, lunch, play time, Daria's pm nap, juggle time with Neven while starting dinner, cook dinner, eat dinner, wash dishes, bathtime, PJs, story time, nurse Daria to sleep, {this is where I get 1-2 hours of "Me-Time"!... although more often than not I spend it hanging or folding laundry, or washing and folding diapers}, take the dog out, get ready for bed, go to sleep... 

The hardest part for me: At the end of the day, I'm right back where I started that morning, and sometimes wonder, what exactly did I accomplish today? Some days I find myself waiting for time to pass or for the end of the day, and at the same time wondering what exactly is it I'm waiting for? I do my best to slow down and just enjoy the present, but some days are harder than others. 

The highlight of this year's Groundhog Day is that it also happens to be Daria's first birthday. We figure the fact that she waited 12 days past when we were expecting her and for Groundhog Day to be born must prove that Matt and I still have some Pennsylvania left in us. (For those of you who don't know, Groundhog Day in Pennsylvania is a HUGE deal...) We have a pretty low-key day planned for her: a few gifts from us wrapped by Neven in newspaper, a playdate at a friend's house, and "cake" (blueberry-zucchini bread, maybe with some icing...). 
She likes to "smile" for the camera now...
Daria's cake (blueberry-zucchini bread) and Neven's decorated valentines (see how-to below!).

On another note, some activities: 

SALT DOUGH VALENTINES (found the idea here)
Supplied Needed: 1/2 c flour, 1/4 c salt, 1/4 c water, optional: food coloring; decorating supplies such as acrylic paint, markers, glitter... 
Mix flour, salt, water, and food coloring together in a bowl (you'll have to use your hands!). Roll out on a flat surface using a rolling pin, and use a cookie cutter or bowl/glass to cut out shapes. If you want to be able to hang the finished valentines, use a straw to make a small hole. Bake at 250 degrees for about 2 hours, or until thoroughly dry. Cool, then decorate! 
We used the leftover dough to make an ornament to hang in Neven's room - we added a drop of food coloring, then he stuck a few beads and buttons in it for decorations. 

ACTIVITY CALENDARS (from Preschool Express)
These ideas are great, particularly because they tend to only take a few minutes of time, and virtually no setup! Some examples: go outside and look for shadows, learn how to say "I love you" in another language, look for the number 9 in grocery store ads. I'm thinking of giving myself a personal challenge - seeing how many activities can I accomplish in February. Anyone with me?