Monday, January 30, 2012

Crayon Valentines

When working at a child care center years ago, I saw piles of broken Crayola stubs enter an oven and come out melted into Reese's Peanut Butter Cup-shaped Clowny-style crayons. (Remember Clowny?) I put that craft on my future mommy to-do list. Enter Pinterest, and I couldn't resist making valentines for two-year-olds this weekend.

This Whipper Berry post is what twisted my arm.  I didn't die cut or letterpress anything, but here's what I did do.

I opted for Target instead of Michael's because their aisles are better suited for a double stroller.

I picked up a silicone heart-shaped muffin pan ($2.50), blank valentine cards with envelopes (2 packs of 8/$1), glue dots ($4), a box of 64 crayons ($2.50), and some glitter ($1). 

Surely I could have picked up a nice box of themey valentines like the ones I gave out as a kid instead.  I could have even more easily done nothing this year and nobody would care.  However, I chose to get crafty.

While the kids ate lunch I divided the crayons into groups of three, keeping complementary colors in mind with the intention of contrast. 

I peeled and peeled and peeled crayons throughout the day when I found a moment here or there.  Cutting the paper lenghtwise with a knife was very helpful but also felt like a lost fingertip waiting to happen. 

I heated the oven to 300 degrees, shook a thin layer of glitter into each heart shape, put broken pieces of three crayons in each, and baked them for 15 minutes with the silicone pan on a metal cookie sheet for stability. After cooling in the pan for about twenty minutes, the heart-shaped crayons came out very easily.

The glue dots felt like a bit of a splurge, but I can't think of anything that could have adhered the hearts to the cards faster, more easily, or more neatly while also allowing the crayons to be removed with as little fuss.  I'm sure I'll get my money's worth with future crafts. 

I considered typing and printing the sentiment since my handwriting looks like this:

but I went for the handwritten touch.  I'm sure the toddlers in Michael and Sophie's class at the child care center will appreciate the charm as well as the overall hard work I put into these. :P

I'm probably a horrible twin mama for sending these from both Michael and Sophie rather than giving out cards from them as individuals, but that day will come.  I recently saw a Goldfish cracker fall out of Sophie's mouth and Michael eat it without missing a beat.  Individuality just isn't a big issue yet.

However, if they get valentines from their classmates written out to the two of them rather than ones of their, actually, we really just don't care.  Not yet, anyway.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Natural History

"The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything  always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. . . . Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you."
From Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

This was a Saturday like so many Saturdays.  We attempted (and failed) to sleep in by bringing two bright-eyed toddlers into our bed at 5 a.m. Mike and I spent much of the day plugging through our weekly to-do list (groceries, laundry...) while playing with, feeding, and generally caring for Michael and Sophie.  And like too many times before, as we rushed to get the kids ready for an adventure squeezed in between nap and bed time, I grumped about never really having enough time for fun stuff.

Fast forward to buckling back into the minivan after our outing and I'm admitting to having been a grump earlier who needed to lighten up.  Mike didn't disagree. 

Our trip was a typically fantastic outing with my typically fantastic family.  The two-hour window between nap and dinner was--as it has been for countless visits to local parks, museums, stores, restaurants, and so on--the perfect toddler-sized portion of time.  I savored our drive home filled with nostalgia, amusement, and a gourmet sandwich.

The outing we chose for this week was a visit to the U of M Museum of Natural History.  Memories of my own elementary school field trips there and teenage shenanigans later on were met by new ones: Michael resistant to let me put him down, initially intimidated by the dinos; Sophie fearlessly toddling off from display to display saying "woooowww" everytime. 

Michael eventually let me set him down...and let go of my legs...then scooted off as well. 

Even without trunks between their tusks, he was able to point out the mastadons towering above us as "elluhs" (meaning elephants).  Sophie enjoyed holding my hand as she climbed a whole flight of stairs to the Michigan wildlife exhibit.  Both kids agreed we should do this again someday as we got them back into their coats and headed off to dinner. 

Having just read about Zingerman's delivering sandwiches and pecan pie to Air Force One when President Obama was in town this week, I had a hankering myself.  As always, the bill for our dinner there struck me as hefty ($40 for two sandwiches, a side of pasta salad, and two drinks), and the seating was cramped (envision me carrying a wooden high-chair through a crowd with Michael on my hip and then heading back for another).  But my craving was met, and the kids hammed it up for diners at nearby tables, making this expensive and claustrophobic yet tastey meal a pleasantly memorable one as well.

So, self, no more stomping around like a giant toddler when the pressure of sqeezing in some extra fun stuff gets to you.  The next version of mastadons and bobcats will surely be worth it, and grumping just slows us down.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Let's pretend

Michael making soup for Doggie with a couple of our favorite toys: Green Toys Chef and Dish Sets and Ikea vegetables.

As a kid I loved imaginitave play--playing house, playing Barbies, playing dress-up, and even playing with Star Wars action figures if there was enough emotional drama and not just flying around shooting at stuff.  Naturally I am thrilled that Michael and Sophie like to cook up their fabric vegetables and eat them using toy dishware.

They both also pretend to leave and return from work with appropriate fanfare.  Michael will pick up their play laptop and Sophie will put a handled bag or box over her shoulder (similar to how I look when leaving the house with a diaper bag, my purse, or work bag).  They'll walk by and say, "Bye-bye," which starts this exchange:

"Are you going to work?"

"Yeah, bye-bye!"

"Bye, buddies.  I love you.  Can I have kisses?"

They'll either blow me kisses or come to me all puckered up saying "Mmmmmmuah!"

I respond with, "See you after work.  Have a good day!"

When they come home from behind the love seat or out of the kitchen, I react as excitedly as they do when I pick them up, with a big smile saying, "You're home!  I missed you!"  More hugs and kisses follow, and then the scene repeats.

When playing kitchen we pretend to cut the vegetables and put them in a pot, stir them up, and scoop our soup into bowls.  (After all the cooking done to the "Soup Song," our signature dish should be no surprise.)  Mike is pretty skilled at tossing the toy veggies in the air with a spatula and catching them in a pan.  He'd surely get good tips at a Japanese steak house.  In our house he is tipped with "Moah!"  Sophie and Michael love filling our cups with tea from their kettle that makes a cool gurgling sound.  Then we eat, slurp our drinks, feed each other, and feed any stuffed pal nearby. 

If I was 21-months-old, we would be such friends.

Recently I found toddler aprons at Hobby Lobby in the Valentine's Day section for five bucks each, but Michael and Sophie aren't really into those.  I ask them if they want to put them on almost every time we "cook," and I'm dying to seem them all cheffed up.  I guess dress-up will come later.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Our first tummy bug

This morning Sophie and Michael drank whole sippy-cups of milk, ate all of their Cheerios and bananas, and have been running and giggling away from me as I try to "gitch-ya, gitch-ya, gitch-ya."

This was not the case for the last four days.

On Tuesday the kids returned to their center after more than two weeks at home for the holidays.  Before the end of the day, I had gotten the center's "your child's health is important to us" email informing families that there was a case of conjunctivitis/pink-eye in the toddler room.

That night as we got the kids ready for bed, I noticed goo in Sophie's eyelashes and that her eye was a tad pink. Mike and I compared our schedules for the next day, and he planned to take time off.

In the morning, Sophie's eye looked fine.  Mike took the kids to the center, told the teachers we were concerned and to call him to come get her if necessary, but there was no call.  When I picked the kids up, I breathed a sigh of relief as the teachers said Sophie's eye did look a little pink but not to worry about it. 

What I did worry about was how slowly she climbed out of her chair at the snack table, how much of the snack was still there, and how she didn't smile when she gave me a hug.

As I got Sophie out of her car seat at home, she looked sleepy.  "Do you want to go in the house and snuggle with Mama?"

"Yeaaaah."  She dropped her head on my shoulder immediately as I lifted her out.  Inside she didn't want to say hi to the kitty, she didn't want to find toys in the playroom, she just wanted to take me up on my offer and cuddle on the couch. Luckily, Michael was happy to play on his own.

Sophie requested milk.  Moments later she was vomitting on the living room rug, and then again, and then again.  She didn't eat any dinner (as expected but very unlike her), and we skipped the storytime milk for her, having seen that her stomach turned it into cottage cheese earlier on.  Michael followed his usual routine. 

Since Sophie didn't have a fever, we chose to just wait this out, planning to call the doctor in the morning to be sure that was best and then the center to let them know what was up.  It was my mom's day to watch the kids, but we thought they should know one of their kids had a bug.

In the middle of the night, Michael let out a frightened cry.  Mike went in to check on him and called to me that Michael was puking.  The rest of the night is a blur of changing crib sheet after crib sheet including one of Sophie's, snuggling with Michael in the rocker, rushing him to the bathroom sink, Mike sleeping with Michael on the living room couch, helping Mike change a couple dirty t-shirts, a pile of stinky laundry growing in the hallway, and gagging a couple times at the sour milk smell.

Side note: Not long ago I was questioning whether we should have bought our Clouds and Stars zipper sheets rather than the less expensive elastic kind.  They were super helpful in the early days,  and this experience made me a believer once again.  Potty-training probably will too.

After our whirlwind night, I called my mom at 6:30 a.m. to suggest she bring a change of clothes like she did in the early spit-up days.

Both kids were sick again that day, and Michael threw up as soon as I took him out of his crib on Friday morning, so Mike stayed with them that day.

Saturday there was no more vomit (my mom was not so lucky--the bug got her), but both kids were still pretty lethargic with bursts of energy here and there.

Like I said, today they are milk-drinking, breakfast-eating, mommy-energy-draining giggle machines.

After their ear infection/coughing illness last month that turned into pneumonia for Sophie, this stomach bug (which the doctor's office said is going around) has me missing those breatmilk antibodies that seemed to keep the kids much healthier last year. 

I'm also starting to miss how breastfeeding kept the holidays off my waistline.  However, the "gitch-ya, gitch-ya" work-out routine should do some good.

1/16/11 Edited to add: The bug has reached my husband's stomach, and mine feels like there's a rock in it.  I'm hoping my wish to reduce my waistline is not granted with that particular solution!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bath Toy Drying Solution

I saw this bath toy bag tutorial from Make It and Love It on Pinterest the other day and loved the look of it.  However, instead of going to a fabric store, buying mesh and ribbon, possibly going to another store to buy suction cup hooks, and later spending precious nap time sewing the thing, I went to my basement. 

I had two mesh laundry bags for delicates (now I only have one) and a few leftover suction cup hooks in a package (that's how I hang my bath poof).  If I hadn't had the supplies on hand, I suspect one could find them at a dollar store for a whopping $2 investment, far less money than baby store bath toy bags and less time/effort than the DIY version. 

Whatever the cost, it's worth it to have a tub ledge free of boats!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Confession: We let our one-year-olds watch TV.

When they were tiny, I put Michael and Sophie in their Rock and Play Sleepers and played part of The Little Mermaid movie for them.  There were babies in my house and I needed to celebrate with a little Disney echoing around the place.  Not long afterwards Mike and I showed the babies a Baby Mozart video just to see their responses.  They zombied out.  Other than that, the kids didn't really watch TV until they were about one and a half.  Then I let go of the "no TV" thing. 

I know avoiding TV until after kids are two-years-old is what the whole world of experts recommends, but the whole world of experts also has the whole world of moron parents to consider.  Despite what this confession might lead you to believe, I know I am not one of those.  I can totally see how setting your baby in front of the TV for hours a day would impede his or her language and social development, and I can totally see how some not-so-bright parents might not recognize those or the multitude of other problems with that scenario.  However, I don't think a half hour here or there of mildly interactive viewing is all that bad for young toddlers.  Honestly, I think it's even a little bit good.

And here are some of our favorites:

1. Little Einsteins - Not to be confused with the Baby Einstein videos (although they're related), we watch this Disney Junior show on demand and enjoy the whole concept of these kids going on a mission with a specific piece of classical music and a work of art incorporated into each episode.  I can no longer hear Greig's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" without the words "We are here to trick-or-treat, trick-or treat, trick-or-treat..." playing along in my head. I appreciate these ways that this show makes art and music so relatable for my kids.  I also respect the audience participation that the show requests.  Michael and Sophie love patting their knees, and usually look over at me to be sure I'm doing it too, when it's time to help Rocket take off.  Now when they they want to watch an episode they start to pat, pat, pat.  I don't always indulge them, but sometimes I do.

2.  Curious George - This is PBS Kids cartoon, and we set the DVR to record episodes so we can watch at our convenience.  Like the books and their little stuffed pals, Sophie and Michael get a kick out of this little monkey and his mishaps.  In the episode we watched this morning, George learned about the number zero, how it can mean none or can be added to other numbers to turn 1 dozen donuts into 10, 100, or even 10,000 dozen donuts.  You can imagine the sort of mess he got into at the bakery.  Like all shows, the storylines and educational concepts are still above Michael and Sophie's heads, but they'll point out George, his "dada," various animals, and laugh at some funny parts.  The television show will never replace the books, but if I need some time to make dinner without toddler shenanigans to reconcile, I don't feel guilty about letting PBS entertain with this one.

3.  Mickey Mouse Clubhouse - My curiosity about this show came from the reviews from other parents who said their kids loved it long before we ever watched.  Some teachers at work were even talking a while back about how each of this show's episodes includes closure, a requirement of our own lesson plans.  One teacher pretended to miss the point and said she was going to start ending her classes with the "Hot Dog Dance."  I didn't get the humor at the time, but now I laugh a little when I see Michael and Sophie dancing along, imagining my 9th graders joining in.  Just sing "Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog..." in Sophie and Michael's presence, and you'll see this show isn't just about vegging out.

Michael and Sophie have also sampled Caliou, Yo Gabba Gabba, and Sesame Street, among others, but the above three are the winners around here.  I aim for no more than one show in 24 hours and am attempting to get back to far less than that.  However, on my less responsible days the kids might watch an hour total--one show mid-morning if they're tired (I swear they've never fully adjusted to one nap) and then another half-hour in the late afternoon when I'm making dinner.  That's a bad day, and I don't love when it happens, but it does.  And I must confess, I'm not totally ashamed.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Another closet transition

I managed to do some organizing with ten minutes here and there while the kids played in the playroom over the last couple of days. The most pleasing result of that time is the kids' closet.
This is pretty much what it looked like before (although the picture is from well over a year ago):

Every few months or so the kids' closet and dresser drawers need some adjustment as clothes get too small, gear is outgrown, and new things (like more shoes than ever) need new homes.

This round's changes included bringing in matching baskets for (left to right) Sophie's shoes, bath toys, and Michael's shoes. Behind them (respectively) is space for Sophie's bag of daycare nap items when it's home for weekly cleaning, the first aid kit, and Micheal's nap bag. The good children's books have been on the top shelf for a while, but I added bookends to make it a permanent home. I moved the extra diapers, wipes, and pail liners from that top shelf to behind the diaper pail (where that tub in the before picture used to live). The rest of the space up top is devoted to three diaper bags--the little everyday one, the big guy, and one just for rec. center swimming with towels, swim diapers, and suits all good to go.

The playroom got a little fix-up as well.  I finally hung the scrapbook frames on either side of the needlepoint that was in my own nursery, a gift from my mom at our baby shower. (The pics below are terrible--the lighting in that room is either cold and gray or crazy yellow.  I'll get some better ones later on for the "Nursery and Playroom" page of this blog.)

Here's a closer look at the frames:

And the needlepoint:

Ending this post with that statement is a little ironic considering my tidying up during play time, but dust never does sleep.  Sometimes a mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The pants in this family

As goofy as we surely looked strolling into Mike's parents' house and later my parents' house on Christmas day, the matching pajama pants that I made for all of us really added a special feeling to the holiday.  That feeling was a combination of cozy, proud, and mildly embarrassed by our cheesiness.

I had hoped to find a couple of coordinating winter prints for this project, ones we could wear all winter long, maybe one print for the guys and another for the girls.  Unfortunately the selection was surprisingly limited.  I opened myself up to all fabrics, Christmas and non-Christmas, and just didn't find much at all.

The red and white pattern I settled on also limited us on shirt color options, and my mostly online search for "same color but different style $15 or less tops" was also disappointing.  So the only variation in our looks was the fact that one pair of kids' pants had the print going vertically while all the others were horizontal, a solution to coming up short on the yardage.  So, I embraced matchy-matchiness.

This tutorial is the one I used for making the pants.  It was pretty simple to follow and even provided a couple of laughs.  These pants were the first garments I have ever made, and sewing up the first crotch with one pant leg right-side-out inside the other was nothing short of a miraculous revelation to me.  I was actually excited to do it three more times.

I didn't plan for us to wear our family uniforms...I mean, pajamas...beyond the couple hours at home while Michael and Sophie opened gifts from Santa, but Mike suggested we keep them on for comfort's sake, at least for the first drive.  I thought we might change mid-morning before the second leg of our Christmas morning journey, but like the Brady Bunch, we decided to keep on, keep on, keep on, keep on...(stole that reference from the witty little tutorial).

Mike and I finally put on real clothes around noon on Christmas day.  We switched the kids into their more formal attire after their naps.  Had I known we would sport these looks for so much of the day, I might have added some sweet accessories.  Like antlers.

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