Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Snow Day

Our first (somewhat) big snowman!

Sophie had a nightmare last night.  When I went in to calm her, she insisted that there were ants on her jammies.  Her crying woke Michael as well, so it was a long, long time before I climbed back into my own bed.  Thankfully a snow day was called, and I was able to sleep in a bit.

When I came out to the living room at around seven (yeah, that's sleeping in around here), Michael and Sophie ran to me with hugs and shouts about how quiet they were being for me.  Mike had already been to the gym, had shoveled the driveway (the snow was too slushy for the snow-blower), and he had fed and changed the kids.  None of that is terribly unusual, but a day off from teaching and a little extra sleep helps me remember that I'm a very lucky mama.


Michael has been pretending to be his hard-working daddy a lot lately, often putting on his Detroit Tigers hat, pushing a plastic grocery cart around the living room--complete with a baby doll in the seat, and announcing that he's Daddy, and he's going to work. Today Michael shoveled like Daddy, except he put lumps of snow back onto the driveway.


It's certainly no secret garden these days, but Michael and Sophie get a kick out of playing in the space between our garage and the fence in the winter as well.  Their joy still transforms that vinyl siding and chain-link fence into a wonderland, just a winter one now.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Guess what we did today!

These adorable kids...

...wore their underwear to the child care center for the first time and stayed dry all day! 

They're still wearing pull-ups for naps, but even those are occasionally dry.  We're getting there!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Just sing! Sing a song!


On Sunday we took the kids to see Sesame Street Live: Elmo Makes Music at the Fox Theater in Detroit.  Mike and I had been downtown just the night before for my birthday date night (dinner at London Chop House and the Oscar nominated short films at the DIA's Detroit Film Theater--ideal). 

My midwinter break once again feels like  a vacation in the D, but that works for me. 

Both kids got a view of the pre-show entertainment (Zoe then Bert and Ernie) from Mike's shoulders in the lobby.
 Untitled Untitled

The Fox is a great place to play eye spy.  Sophie pointed out gold butterflies on the walls, Michael found monkeys, but it took them both a while to spot my favorite detail waaaaay up high.  I had to take a picture with my phone, show it to them there, and then they could spot the elephant in real life.


The show did not disappoint, all set around the premise of finding instruments in everyday objects to help a new neighbor/music teacher whose moving van hadn't arrived.  But story/schmory, it's all about the characters, and even I was a little star-struck by Abby Cadabby. 

There were a couple of throw-back numbers in the show including a disco bit complete with Bert in a white leisure suit doing "The Hustle," an ensemble performance of the song "Sing," and The Count singing about the number eight in a "Fame" parody ("Eight!  I'm going to count forever...the number, the number, the number"). If the Sesame Street business thinks that kind of thing will get a generation of parents all sappy thinking about life coming full circle since listening to Sesame Street Fever on 8-track, getting all metaphysical with the nowness of their parenthood, relishing how entangled their hearts are with giddy ones on their laps...and will therefore shell out for another round when the show's back in town...well, they're probably onto something.

I debated and debated, as I tend to do, about what seats would be best, having never taken little ones to a big theater like this.  We chose two pairs of seats on the side aisle, one pair in front of the other.  That way both kids could have an aisle seat looking toward the stage without too many heads in the way, or they could both sit on our laps in the two closer seats.  It really worked out great.  We started out all in the closer row, but when the seats right in front of us filled in, we moved to the two aisle seats with the kids in our laps.  We swapped kiddos half-way through.  Couldn't have been better.  Maybe next time we'll go for the cheaper seats, but I'm glad Michael and Sophie got a fairly up-close experience the first time around.


Michael was pretty serious in this new environment, but when I whispered in his ears ("Look how silly Grover's dancing!"), he would giggle and point things out to me as well.  Sophie was more visably into it.  She's singing the ABC's in the picture above.  Both will now recount the experience in an enthusiastic, collaborative run-on sentence about Big Bird and cookie jars and strings (streamers) and lots of stairs and popcorn.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

To the tips of our toes

We also sent some valentines to the kids' grandparents this week.


Someday I'll get out the good camera again.

I'm not sure who got the most enjoyment out of these--the grandparents who received them, the kids who "made" them, or the mom and dad who got to hear the giggles while painting those footsies!

Despite looking pretty calm here, Michael's extreme ticklishness was a riot!

To avoid red footprints all over the house, we did the painting part of the project while Mike was home.  I put some plastic on the floor (a dollar store tablecloth bought for this kind of activity), set one of the kids' little chairs on it (important so their feet could reach the floor while seated comfortably and still), painted and stamped one foot several times on the several valentines (one for us to keep).  Mike then snatched that kid up to wash the red piggies in the sink while I got started on kid #2's first foot.  We repeated the process until all four feet had done their Valentine's Day duty.
It's too bad the grandparents thought these valentines were stupid and sent them back. 
Yeah, right.  ;)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

2013 Valentines

You may recall last year's valentines.

I put the project to work again around Christmas, using up a bunch of our broken, naked crayons.  Sophie had a crayon peeling and breaking compulsion for a while there, and as annoying as all those crayon wrapper scraps had been, those stocking stuffers were done in no time!

This year I made separate valentines from both kids.  Michael will give silly straws to his friends tomorrow.


I bought the straws at the Dollar Tree (5 per package, I think), created labels in PowerPoint, and printed them on card stock.  They say, "Sip, sip, Hooray!  Happy Valentine's Day."  A few cuts with the paper cutter and a couple hole punches later, and there you have it.

Sophie will give out bubbles.

Sorry for the not-so-great photos from my phone.  Upgrading that thing has made me a tad lazy in the picture department.

The bubbles are from Michaels craft store.  The labels are stick-on address labels that I use for everything (Christmas cards, invitations, etc.).  You can get those at any office supply store, and the packages will direct you to templates available online.  Sophie's valentines say, "Your friendship blows me away.  Happy Valentine's Day!"   The label edges started to curl up off the round bubble bottles, but a strip of clear Scotch tape was the perfect width to make the fix quickly and neatly.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Winter Survival

With our work week and Michael and Sophie's three days a week at their child care center, cabin fever doesn't get too severe around here, but like any Michigan family, we do need to find ways to keep the indoors engaging while winter does its thing.

Here's one of my tricks:

Winter Survival

I know what you're thinking, but give me some credit!  I don't use it like that.

We use it like this:


Keepin' it real with the laundry in the background.  Snow days ain't what they were in my single days, that's for sure!

Michael loved playing "Red Light, Green Light" while pushing his cars along the road.  He kept saying, "Mommy and Daddy and Sophie and Michael are going to Grandma's house!"

We also use painter's tape like this:

Typically we listen to "Toddler Tunes" on the TV during play time and "Light Classical" or "Soundscapes" when we're winding down, but on this day (back around Christmas--we don't still have stockings up :P) I tried out "Party Favorites."  "Just a Gigolo" wasn't what I'd had in mind, but it kept the course moving.

Clean-up is one of the highlights of this kind of play.  I can sit back and rest while the kids peel up strip after strip of tape, carrying balls of the stuff into the garbage can in the bathroom.  They get mad if I help, they enjoy this so much. That alone gets me time to drink a cup of coffee in relative peace.


I didn't intend for this to get particularly educational, but Michael asked me to make an "M" out of the tape (something I had done as part of the obstacle course in the past) and he and Sophie traced the first letters of their names with their cars this last time.  I read something somewhere that said teaching kids phrases like "up-down-up-down" helps them to process the writing of letters, so this gave us a chance to really practice that.  Saying, "Uuuuuuup, dooown, uuuup, dooooooown," became part of the game.  We said, "Up around and down around," for the "S."  I'm sure I just got them into Harvard with that one.

What are your simple tricks for keeping little ones occupied on long, winter or rainy, summer days?  Please comment with other ideas!  We're running low on tape.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Surprise Toys

At this point I can't go down in the basement without two little voices chanting "Suprise toys!" at the baby gate.  This is the result of our toy storage system.

The picture above is from a couple of years ago, but it's still pretty much the same. We keep toys in marked bins like "Vehicles,"Books,"Instruments," and "Stuffed Animals" and store some bigger items on top in our basement storage room.  When I notice toys have lost popularity in the playroom, I swap them out for "new" ones from the basement, typically during naps.  When we get an influx of new toys, we store the majority and bring them up as "surprise toys" as needed.  Christmas lasts a little longer that way.  Even older, played with toys get the kids all giddy after they haven't seen them for a while. 

This little system has been working really well for us.  Yesterday when I ran downstairs for a candle, I grabbed a couple of stuffed dogs.  I felt like a celebrity on the red carpet as I came up the stairs.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Middle

Maybe it's February.

Maybe something needs to change.

Maybe I need a break.

Whatever it is, I've been in a funk.

But you know what's been pulling me out of it?  A post on another blog.  Not this one, although Glennon never fails to make me want to high-five her.  Not this one either, despite being caught by Mike in a teared-up snuggle with Sophie the other day, having a moment similar to what Liz describes.

Nope.  The one that has been helping me dig out of my grumpy hole is this one, a Young House Love post from November.  There was a link to it in their recent post about choosing a rug for their little girl's bedroom.  Yeah, if you're not familiar, this is a home decorating blog.  Probably not the most likely place to find the antidote to my winter blahs, but it helped.

Here's where my mind went with this.  In the YHL post, Sherry was addressing the question of how she and her husband manage to get through designing and decorating a room without losing faith that they're heading in the right direction.  Her response: "Because (sing it with me): the middle makes no sense."  As rooms they're working on come together slowly over time, things can look a little off until all of the elements are in place.  Although they question their choices along the way, ultimately they keep heading toward their vision, knowing "the middle makes no sense."

I plan to keep this in mind in our home improvement endeavors of the future, but I'm finding that mantra helpful right now when I think about all the awkward, anxious middles in my life.

Michael and Sophie are growing out of their cribs, perhaps their shared room.  But right now we're living in the middle...which makes me think of a post of my own on the topic, actually.

Speaking of our house, middle.

And teaching?  Oy.  The middle never ends, and that's not hyperbole.  New standards and goals are adopted and inflicted and criticized and changed long before the "big reveal" is even on the horizon.  Curriculum is ever-changing, as I believe it should be, but in my twelve years of teaching I have never been able to shake the desire for one school year to look just like the last.  You really have to have a stomach for the middle in this field.

And I guess that's true about all of life's awkward, anxious transitions:  they never end.  Even when you think you're solidly in it, life moves you out of a moment.  You grow older, your kids start walking, dust accumulates, life does what it goes on.

I guess you have to have a stomach for that as well.  And a good camera.

But for now I'm going to trust the vision, believe we're headed in the right direction.  If not, I guess we'll redecorate.

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