Sunday, August 31, 2008

Freezer Paper Stencils - my version

I discovered freezer paper stencils on SouleMama a few months ago. It was an old post, but I just discovered her blog in May, I think, so I explored her archives for a while. I really wanted to try doing it, but hadn't gotten around to it. Once her book The Creative Family finally arrived at our local library (about six weeks after I initially requested that the purchase copies), I couldn't stand it anymore and went in search of freezer paper. I didn't think freezer paper would be that hard to find, but our local SuperWalmart didn't have it, and our former IGA grocery did. Yea for local country stores!

I had located some clearanced canvas bags at Michaels (very cheap - 50 cents but several shredded in the wash), and thought they would be perfect to try this technique on. I was a little apprehenive about trying my own designs, and I really wanted to put my daughter's name on her toy bag we take in the car. As a scrapbooker, I have many alphabet stencils, so I just traced her name using the stencil.

After I traced the stencil, I cut it out with my craft knife. It was a little tricky because with letters you do have negative space to think about. I placed the stencil where I wanted it on the bag, then placed another piece inside the bag (I think this keeps the paint from soaking through). Then I ironed the stencil, making sure that the little dots inside the As and Gs stayed in place. Once I was sure the stencil was stuck to my fabric, I used fabric paint to get my design. For the Abigail design, I used Tulip Soft fabric paint in white velveteen. For Fun Mama, I used Tulip Soft fabric paint in Lime green matte. When the Abigail bag was dry, I pulled up the stencil and then used my heat tool to "puff" the paint.

The great part about this project is how simple it is. I pretty much got the whole thing done during naptime. In addition to the directions I found in The Creative Family and on Angry Chicken, there were also directions on the freezer paper box and of course the paint bottle.

I'm pretty happy with the results. I also painted a bag for me with my blog name in my current favorite color: lime green. I've gotten compliments from people who don't "get" crafty things at all.

I think this is a great project to do with older kids, maybe five and up, but painting only. There's a hot iron involved, and you just wouldn't want to do that with kids. I could let Abigail do the painting part, but I'm thinking at 19 months most of the paint would end up in the "wrong" place. Painting is not about finished product at her age. I'd rather just hand her some paint and a bag and let her do what she wants. I might try that, actually.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Making Toddler Toys

I've been doing some "research" into the Waldorf method of education because one of my favorite current books is The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule and the reviews I've read of the book referenced Waldorf. I'm interested in how it's different from Montessori education. This interest is largely academic because the likelihood we'll homeschool our daughter is small. I have some issues with standard education, though, and plan to at least supplement her education. And I'm her only teacher right now. My problem is that my local library doesn't carry any books specifically about Waldorf education. I did read a book on starting Montessori education from birth and I found that it works against my attachment parenting beliefs - at least for infants and toddlers.

What I have managed to gather about Waldorf education is that the first seven years are sacred and that children should be free to use their imaginations. Having lots of electronic toys that only do one thing is discouraged. So far, so good. I've also learned, though, that even dolls shouldn't have much of a shape until children are about 5 or 6 and they shouldn't have faces. I'm not so sure I agree with that theory.

I grew up loving dolls and I still collect them when given a chance. My mama and grandma made dolls both for my cousins and me and to sell. I've tried making a few dolls and I've never gotten very far, but now that I have a little girl I do intend to try and succeed.

To that end, I checked a book out of the library called Toymaking With Children by Freya Jaffke. The first few chapters are an explanation of the Waldorf play theory and what ages to introduce different kinds of toys to children. For instance, animal toys "should not" be introduced to children under three. The reasons for this have to do with the development of imagination and creativity, which I'm all for developing. I'm just not sure that it's realistic that my child wouldn't have toys that were representative of animals by birth (I can't count the number of stuffed animals we already had by the time I was seven months pregnant - that had been purchased for us). I'd hate to see what the author thinks of our large collection of hand-me-down toys (which, admittedly, even I'm overwhelmed by).

One of the suggested toys for toddlers is a large knotted doll, and there are instructions in the book on how to make one (confusing instructions). The directions call for a large square of soft fabric, stuffing for the head, and something to tie the head with. I do have a collection of fabric but haven't sewn in years, so it's still boxed up from our last move. Then I remembered the ridiculously large collection of baby blankets I have, and found a wonderful pale pink square flannel receiving blanket. My child is a furnace so it's unlikely that she will need flannel in the near future.

I didn't have any stuffing (the author recommends raw sheep's wool but I didn't have any of that hanging around either). Then I remembered the box of my husband's holey socks that I keep for dusting. Two of those rolled up together made a great head, which I tied with a pink grosgrain ribbon (scrapbooking supplies come in handy all the time). You put the stuffing (socks) into the center of the square, pull up the corners, and tie the ribbon around the "head." Next, you tie a knot in two of the opposite corners for "hands." You can also pencil in eyes and a mouth (I used ball point pen because I had one within reach).

The book indicates that the mommy needs to show love to the new baby doll for the toddler to understand what it is and to love it herself (or himself, because we are all about boys playing with dolls too). Well, I've tried showing love to this doll, and my daughter does snuggle it for a few minutes, but she is showing a definite preference for the baby doll with the plastic head and hands and a real face.

In an effort to get her to appreciate it, I let her take it with us when we went out to dinner with friends. She's not allowed to have her plastic handed baby in the car because she chews the hands and feet and we'd rather her not do that. I thought if she was allowed to have the new doll in the car that would endear it to her. Unfortunately, she needed a nap so she threw the doll on the floor and conked out until we reached the restaurant.

I was so impressed with my ingenuity, though, that I let her take the doll inside to show to our friends. Our friends were less than impressed, though. The doll has now been dubbed the "creepy octopus ghost" and I don't believe it's going to be invited back to dinner. Abigail will hardly play with it now, either, and I'm not sure that she's affected yet by the opinions of others.

This is just my first attempt. I'm researching doll kits and doll patterns. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Magic Cabin Catalog

I found the Magic Cabin website when reading The Creative Family by Amanda Soule (I think). I requested a paper catalog because the website seemed more like an idea resource than a toy store. The catalog was in Monday's mail and it is so much fun to look through. It kind of reminds me of the fun catalog I read in college with the capes and safari hats and fun descriptions of how the products were obtained (I cannot remember the name of the catalog though). Magic Cabin has illustrations instead of photographs and the same classic feel to its products.

The company sells toys, books, games, and craft projects that appeal to children's imaginations. They sell mostly cloth and wooden toys. There's not a lot of plastic and I don't see anything battery operated. That's refreshing these days.

What I like about the catalog is that it gives me so many cool ideas of things to make for and with my kids. I know that the intent of a catalog is to sell things, and there are many things in this catalog that I can't make. I'm intrigued though by the idea of making dollhouse furniture out of pieces of fallen branch. Of course, not everyone has falen branches or the tools to do something with them (or a brother who might be willing - Andy, are you reading?), but if you are so inclinded some of the ready-made products might not be too difficult to create on your own. Of course, I'm also sure that even the creators of the catalog don't intend everyone to buy everything in the catalog.

One of the coolest things on the website (I don't see them in the print catalog) to me is the doll kits. Magic Cabin sells several Waldorf style dolls (it was originally a doll catalog), and they seem to have a doll making kit for most of the dolls they sell. My Mama and my Grandma made dolls for me and my cousins growing up, and I'd love to start making dolls myself. And they sound so cool to make. The fact that they're described as for ages twelve and up makes them sound doable for this sewing novice. Until I get my sewing machine into my house (and perhaps have someone show me how to use it again?) this is a pipe dream though.

Until then, I will look through the catalog and figure out my wish list for my girl.

Playdates and a Picnic Lunch

Today we had our first real in-home playdate. We've gotten together with friends at the mall or the gym or the library before. We've even gone to a friend's house to play. Today, though, was the first time we had someone come to our house during the week just to play with Abigail. It was kind of a last minute decision, and we kind of had a bad night last night, so I wasn't sure what to expect. My new friend has two toddlers of her own, though, so I wasn't too worried about mommy-judging.

Since the weather is cool today (for August), and we had a little shade from the house (no real trees in my yard) we threw a sheet on the ground and had a little toddler picnic at lunch. This was not without some mishaps. The three girls managed to eat most of the chicken nuggets I'd baked them while I finished cooking the mommy lunches. I didn't realize that little fingers could reach the tray I'd placed on the table. Then my sweet, innocent cherub, who of course wasn't hungry anymore once we got outside, twice dumped her plate of green beans, sweet potato fries and chicken nuggets upside down on the sheet. On purpose. And all three girls wanted to run around the yard before the mommies had finished eating, which would have been fine if they didn't try to eat rocks and stayed within the mommies sight. (Both of these were from my child, by the way.)

All in all, though, we had a good time entertaining our friends. And I'm thinking a little front yard picnic may be just the thing for breakfast and lunch on occasion. Maybe I'll invite the neighbors next time.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Baby Days

I checked Baby Days by Barbara Rowley out of the library several weeks ago, and I'm so sad that I have to return now! There are so many interesting things to read in this book that I haven't been able to appreciate it all. I've seen reviews of several activitity books for toddlers that insist those books aren't helpful because the activities are things you can think of for yourself. While it's true that I'm a pretty creative person and can think of all kinds of things to do, I am also exhausted most of the time these days and that's not the best condition for thinking of fun things to entertain a toddler!

Things I like about this book:

  1. It's arranged by the course of the day, not the course of the year.

  2. It includes activities for babies (under 18 months) - not many, but at that age you don't need a lot of different stuff.

  3. Each activity has a rating on the messiness quotient.

Arrangement: Most of the activity books I've looked at are arranged according to the season of the year. That definitely has it's place - I do believe in following the seasons and paying attention to nature that way. However, I don't believe that it is practical or necessary for very young children to do crafts or activities based on Valentine's Day or Halloween. I'm not talking about dressing up in fun costumes, but about expecting small children to do heart shape related crafts when all they really care about it playing with crayons and glue. Not to mention the fact that at this age, sometimes it's all you can do to think what comes next during the day. So the fact that this book's chapters include Mornings, Naptime, Afternoons, Mealtimes, and Bedtimes really works for me right now.

Baby Activities: Part of my obsession with craft and activity books is that I have fond memories of doing things with my mom when I was little. Since my daughter is so young and unable to do elaborate crafts with me, sometimes I start wishing she'd grow up a little so we can do more fun stuff together. That's a slippery slope, I know, and I'm really enjoying the toddler phase. I know it doesn't last, and I hate the thought of wishing it away. So I'm glad that this book has suggestions for how to adapt activities to different age levels, include siblings, and do fun things with babies before they can do many "fun" things (of course, it's all fun).

Messiness Quotient: I believe that it's very important for babies and small children to have the opportunity to get messy. It's part of learning to be able to squish gooey stuff between your fingers and toes, and I love being able to provide that experience for my daughter. However, messiness is not always practical if you need to be somewhere, or you need to cook dinner and provide entertainment. So it's nice to see at a glance things you can do that are very messy or relatively clean.

Some things I want to try from:

Morning Chapter:

  1. Play Footsie: providing textures for a toddler to walk through such as flour, uncooked oatmeal and cooked gelatin. There's also a non-messy variation.

  2. Pretend to be animals: kind of like baby yoga

  3. Run an obstacle course: can be done inside or outside

  4. Arrange Stuff: putting natural treasures on a piece of florist's foam (or any other foam, I'm thinking)

Mealtimes Chapter:

  1. Make Peek-a-Boo Food: stuffed strawberries, cherry tomatoes and apples

  2. Shake It Up Baby: let baby dance around with container filled with moist fruit and something sticky (like sliced bananas and chocolate milk mix)

  3. Enjoy a Toddler Tea: finger food picnic on a blanket spread inside or outside

  4. Be A Big Dipper: I've heard this before - kids are supposedly really into dipping things. This gives a list of things that can be dipped and what to dip them into. Anything to get a kid to eat veggies, right?

  5. Decorate the Meal: letting the toddler garnish the plates like at a fancy restaurant. Anything that makes the food fun visually can help convince a child to eat (if not right away, perhaps overtime).

Nap Times Chapter (activities for parents):

  1. Keep an Informal Parenting Journal: I actually do this at night before I go to bed, which can be a problem. Even if I'm not too tired, often I've forgotten the cutest stuff.

  2. Make Old Toys New Again: This suggests to move toys around in the playroom. I actually switch them out completely, keeping the spares in dish tubs in her closet.

  3. Be Ready for After Nap Crankiness: I'm always caught off guard when she wakes up cranky. She went to bed cranky - shouldn't getting some sleep HELP with that??? Ideas from this book include storytime and having a project ready.

Afternoons Chapter:

  1. Silliness: This might be the number one solution for every problem. I just have to make myself remember it. I have a tendency to get frustrated when we're both hungry and she can't tell me what she wants. If I could just remember to pretend to fall down, would that make everything better?

  2. Move all activities outside - including bath and dinner

  3. Make a fort: We did this all the time as kids, and I've done it for Abigail a few times already. Everything seems fun inside a tent.

Bathtime and Bedtime Chapter:

  1. Paint Your Belly: For babies, you paint and for toddlers they paint. Or you paint. Even in the tub I'm not sure about letting her loose.

  2. Paint your Nails: Using baby safe paint, paint baby's nails before bath.

  3. Massage: for after bath - although this has never worked as well as promised for me.

  4. Help Baby Keep a Diary: This is a habit I'd like to start young. I think it's important to have a record of our days.

There are also chapters on outings, travel and special events. The book is subtitled Activities, Ideas and Games for Enjoying Daily Life with a Child Under Three. I think it's a great book for those"what are we doing next?" moments, and I intend to get my own copy soon. I think it would be helpful for any mom who sees herself in these moments more often than she'd like.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Gorillas Found

I've been so caught up in the Olympics that all other news has gone right past me during the past two weeks. So I was shocked and excited when I found out that a team of researchers found 100,000 gorillas living in Congo. I thought this was so cool that I just had to share.

Friday, August 22, 2008

State Fair part 2

We were able to get to the fair a second time this year, and just got back a few hours ago. I have a confession to make. Post-kid, it seems that pineapple whip is still one of my favorite things about the fair. Although the look on her face when she saw a cow up close this afternoon was pretty cool too.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Scrapbook kit giveaway at Kerri Bradford's blog

I am a huge Stacy Julian (Big Picture Scrapbooking and Simple Scrapbooks) fan. Her philosophy has influenced the way I scrapbook for almost 8 years now. So I was excited when she came out with a mini-scrapbook kit in June as part of CK Media's Kit of the Month. I have not had an opportunity to purchase one yet, but I hope to get one soon (not many left, I hear).

Anyway, Kerri Bradford is giving away 2 of Stacy Julian's Penny For Your Thoughts kits this week on her blog. You have to hurry, because she's drawing names on Thursday morning.

Good luck!

State Fair

Growing up, I didn't get to go to a lot of fairs. The state fair was several hours away, and the county fair was on the opposite side of the county and we couldn't get over there after school. So the Kentucky State Fair was surprising to me the first time I experienced it in August 2000. For one thing, it's huge (one of the largest in the country although I don't have stats). There are all kinds of animals, a huge horse show, competitions in all kinds of home and fine arts. I've always had so much fun going to the fair, but we had to miss it last year because we were out of town.

This year was the first time we got to go as a family, just the three of us. My husband took the day off work on Friday and we spent 9 hours walking around the fair (19,750 steps according to my pedometer, if you're interested that's 6.23 miles!). Fortunately, our girl is pretty good at taking naps in her stroller and will eat just about anything we give her.

My favorite parts of the fair pre-kid were the quilts (I've always wanted to quilt), the decorated cakes (my mom is a fabulous cake-decorator) and the pineapple whip. Pineapple whip is this ice cream-type concoction but it's non-dairy. It tastes like soft-serve pineapple juice. I love it. I understand that it's sold in Magic Kingdom at Disney World but other than that I don't know where to find it.

My favorite parts of the fair post-kid? I love how educational the fair is! I never noticed it before, even when I was there with my niece and nephew. Abigail got see so many things that we don't see on a daily basis. There was llamas, alpacas, donkeys, goats, rabbits, chickens, turkeys and a few other farm animals I've forgotten about. We live in the country and there are ponies, horses, goats and chickens viewable from our front and back doors, but she's little and can't see them as well as I can. And she's never had the opportunity to pet our neighbor's goat. We also got to see baby chicks because there is an incubator in one of the exhibits.

Abigail is too young yet to appreciate some of the exhibits available. Kids have the opportunity to explore emergency vehicles, and to speak with police officers in a celebratory atmosphere. There was an exhibit about the Kentucky Proud program, which helps local farmers market their goods within the community. Kids (and parents) could not only learn what kinds of goods are produced in Kentucky but how it serves our community to buy local. A lot of local farms allow visitors which I think is so fun. I've been looking into visiting a sheep farm in the area not only to see the sheep but to buy some wool. The collective is called Kentucky Farms Are Fun and I'm so excited about this venture!

I believe that it's very important that we as a society understand where our food comes from and how it's grown, and I don't believe that kids today grow up understanding it very well. While our family (and the families we were raised in) do garden and I know our children will have that exposure, I am still grateful that there are resources like the fair for our children to experience some part of agricultural life. I am so glad that we have the opportunity for attending the fair to be part of our family traditions and I hope we continue this tradition regardless of where we live.

So my suggestion is to look into your local fair, county or state. There is often so much more to the fair than the rides and the food.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Rosie O'Donnell's Crafty U

Rosie O'Donnell's Crafty U came out in April 2008, but I've been living under a rock because I didn't know about it until a few weeks ago when I came across it at Michaels. It's a very good looking book with great photographs of the competed projects. I checked it out at the library to see if it's a resource our family needs. I do really like the book, but the target audience is older - at least preschool. And preschoolers would need a lot of help from an adult to do these projects. Of course, the point of the book is together time with your kids, so that's not really a problem. I am interested in purchasing this book when Abigail gets older.

This is yet another book that is arranged seasonally. I'm not sure why so many craft books do this. Sometimes it seems to be an artifical method of sorting projects. Yes, there are projects that just scream "seasonal" like dying Easter eggs (decorating Easter eggs is actually one of the projects) or creating soapy snowmen, but a lot of the projects can be adapted to any time of the year. There is one chapter at the end for "rainy day" activities that use common household items and are not tied to any season.

I knew I wouldn't get to do any of the projects with Abigail for quite a while, so I made a list of the projects that I most wanted to do along with the page numbers. Now, I just have to hope that this book doesn't go out of print before I'm ready to buy!

My List of Future Projects:
  • Cuff Love p. 22 (bangle bracelets made from cardboard tubes)
  • Photo tray p. 26
  • Sunflower bird feeder p.52
  • Pencil holders/vases p.56, 62 (projects made from tin cans - I might do one of these myself soon)
  • flower prints p.58 (I actually saw something similar as a Martha Stewart Good Thing years ago and I've always wanted to do it)
  • decoupaged plates p. 60
  • Clay beads p.66 ( I was amazed by how easy to make these seem)
  • Tie Die Shirts p.75
  • homemade sidewalk chalk p.78 (I've seen this in several books, and I really want to do it)
  • Sand art p. 90
  • paper chains p.134 (like gum wrapper chains which I never learned to do as a kid)
  • Soapsud Snowmen p.140
  • Cinnamon Clay Ornaments p. 142, 150 (two different projects using this clay)
  • Noisemakers p.152
  • Rope Basket p.170 (this is so simple I might be able to do it even with a toddler - as long as I don't expect her to finish it)
  • Glove Puppets p.180
  • Soap p.190, 192 (several soap making projects I found intriguing - nothing like making a mess and making soap at the same time)

So, while I have seen several of these projects in other places, and even Rosie has said that the pictures do not represent reality (the photos show projects completed by adults, not kids), I still really like this book. I really believe that crafting should be a source of family memories - good ones - and should become a family tradition over time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Perfection and Toddlers

So, yesterday I was reading the assignment for the journaling class that I'm taking at Big Picture Scrapbooking, which was to contemplate and write about perfection. I'm contemplating as my toddler is wandering around the kitchen, chattering away and climbing into a chair. And then the cushion slipped and so did she, right into a chair leg. I scooped her up, checking for blood, and giving her mommy-love. As I gave her a kiss on her forehead to help her calm down, I realized I was kissing the largest bump I have ever seen and it was getting bigger. I am usually pretty calm with her tubbles, even a little blood doesn't concern me much. I have three younger brothers so I've seen a lot of cuts and bruises over the years. I had never seen anything like this and I panicked. I ran to my neighbor's house (she's a nurse) hoping that she could help me calm down and tell me it was normal and Abigail would be fine. Unfortunately, this was the largest "goose-egg" she had ever seen too. So we paged the pediatrician (it was lunchtime), and waited for the call back. In the meantime, Abigail looked around, realized she was in a different environment with new toys, and made herself at home. She wandered around the house inspecting things, making gibberish pronouncements and telling us all about the "birdy" (their cockateil) and the "cookies" (pretty much any food item - I swear this child does not eat only cookies all day). So Abigail was fine and Mommy was a total mess. The doctor called back and said since she was walking, talking and making eye contact then not to worry unless their was lots of vomiting.

So, in an instant was gone my image of myself as a cool, calm and collected mama. There is so much that I've made a concious decision to just let go and not worry about. I made this decision when she was born to be educated about my child and not to automatically assume that every tiny blip was a major situation. I don't run to the doctor every time she sneezes as I've heard other mothers criticized for doing. But on this day, I looked at my child and felt my world was falling apart. I thought her little head as broken beyond repair and I couldn't imagine my world without her. I know it sounds melodramatic. I'm sure it IS. I just feel so blessed that it was really just a bruise that looked much worse than it was.

So. . .perfection. I am not a perfect parent (like I even needed to write that). The thing is, there is simply no way to be a perfect parent. I do my best daily by following my personal parenting philosophy. I believe in raising my child a certain way. But by no means does that mean that I am a perfect parent. I'm doing the best that I can day by day and I just have to hope that it is enough.

And that she stops climbing on everything. . .

PS. I did take photos of Abigail's head, but not until two hours after it happened. I grabbed my girl and my cell phone and ran out the door, not even locking it behind me. In fact, when I got home over an hour later, my front door wasn't even shut. I usually do have a camera attached to my hand, but not this time. I wish I'd gotten photos sooner since the swelling went down some even before I did take photos. When I got them printed today, though, I was almost brought to tears, so perhaps it's for the best.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fun With Mommy & Me

Okay, if there is a true Mommy & Me program in Louisville, I have yet to find it. So when I saw this book available in our library's catalog online, I requested it without realizing it was based on the Mommy & Me program. I really like this book, and hope to find a copy to keep. Just like the books in my previous post, this book is arranged seasonally, and I considered including it in that review, but there is a crucial difference with this book. It contains activities for children from birth to 5 years old. That's a huge range, but I think it works well in this book.

Fun With Mommy & Me: More Than 300 Together-Time Activities for You and Your Child by Dr. Cindy Bunin Nurick and Jane Schonberger has two main sections. The first section contains activities for children from birth to 24 months, and has chapter divided into age ranges based on development. The section pertaining to Abigail's age made so much sense and really had some activities that I could do with her right now. It's hard to find age appropriate things for Abigail to do that she will actually sit still for, but I think I've got a shot here. There is also a list for each development stage to guide you to activities if your child is developmentally advanced or delayed. Each activity also has helpful tips and variations.

The second section is for toddlers and preschoolers and is divided into monthly activities. Just like in Treasured Time With Your Toddler, Mommy & Me can provide a curriculum of art projects, seasonal activities (sometimes for off-the-wall holidays that can help break up the week), educational concepts and musical activities. Sending stay-at-home children to preschool is a controversial subject (isn't everything?) and for those who don't want their children to go, this book can help with things like multiculturalism , colors, shapes, and other concepts. Each month also has ideas on how to customize the activities to your child's personality and age. The book's authors intend for the time spent together to be the most important thing, and that the activities you do with your child become family traditions that they will remember participating in year-to-year.

It's all about creating family memories. You never know what your child's first memory will be (my earliest memory is from before I was two years old), but spending time with them and creating with them stacks the deck in the favor of it being a good memory for you both.

Some Seasonal Crafty/Activity Books

I've been researching books for activities and crafts, looking for ideas for my daughter and I. Unfortunately, there just aren't a lot of ideas that can be adapted to a young toddler. Don't get me wrong, I am enjoying each stage as it comes and I love this age (most days - teething is a challenge). She is so happy and full of energy and finds her own activities. I just have days where I see a future of crafty fun, and I know I'll enjoy that too.

So, as a reference for the future, these are some books I've found that I think we'll enjoy once we reach that stage. I hope this list can help someone else too. These books are all arranged by season, although I think some of the activities can be adapted for other times of the year. Each of these books are listed in my sidebar.

  1. Little Hands Fingerplays & Action Songs for ages 2-6 (a Little Hands publication): I really like the books in this series. There are a lot of interesting activities, craft ideas, science experiments, etc. It's just a fun series. I'll look into this book again in a few months. This particular book is good for finding songs and fingerplays to do relating to particular holidays or seasons. We're still very much in a stage of enjoying our fingerplays set to music - or maybe it's just that Abigail and I love music very much and can't get into poetry without it. I'm not sure.
  2. Treasured Time With Your Toddler: I really enjoyed this book, but as I looked through it realized that most of it is geared toward a child in the 2-3 age range. Abigail still seems a bit young to follow all the instruction. This book is divided into chapters by month, and each month has 4 themes. Each theme has a storytime book list, song ideas, recipes and activities (whether crafts or games). So each week you could have a different theme, and treat this book as a lesson plan for your week. The ideas are really fun, but a little beyond what I'm able to handle right now - glue, making pancakes, baking bread. Great ideas, but not likely to happen in our house at this point.

As I said, these are books that I might even look into buying once we get to that stage, but for now we aren't ready for them. They are great resources for anyone wanting to have some structure to the day with a small child.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Animal Parks

Well, I couldn't stand the quarantine on our house one second longer, so yesterday we took Abigail to Henry's Ark, an animal rescue farm in Prospect, Kentucky. It was a beautiful day, the sky was blue, the air was cool. Abigail recognizes ducks on site, so she kept "barking" at them (she only likes barking and her bark sounds more like a pant, but she's having fun). There were, it seemed, hundreds of ducks and geese, quite a few chickens and peacocks, deer, alpacas, and all kinds of other animals. The craziest thing we saw were what we believed to be groundhogs at first. Certainly the largest groundhogs we'd ever seen, but then again, I'm not from around here, and groundhogs are a novelty to me. It turns out they are called capybara and are the world's largest rodent. Lee and I are pretty sure they really RUSs that escaped the Fire Swamp.

Abigail especially loved the free-ranging goats that kept coming up looking for carrots. We didn't bring any (we took saltine crackers not knowing they only allow carrots now) so the goats weren't as interested in Abigail as she was in them. She kept patting her leg to get them to come. We don't have a dog. Where did she get that?

All in all we had family fun time outdoors which I miss getting to do very often. Not having any shade at our house really limits the amount of time we like to spend outside. And since Henry's Ark is a rescue facility there were none of the conflicting feelings I have when I go to the zoo. I know that this is the best place for these animals at this point.

What kinds of fun outings do you like to take with the family?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Life with a Sick Toddler

Well, Mama, baby and now Daddy are all sick. Life with a sick toddler - even just one with a cold - has all sorts of challenges. I've a few days ahead of her in this cold, so I know the stages she's going through, but there's just not much I can do for her other than offer nursing and a little Tylanol. She doesn't know how to cough yet or blow her nose. I can't give her throat lozenges or cold medicine. I am sleeping propped up, but she doesn't seem to like that either. So, since I know my throat is sore, I'm making sure to give her lots of Mama's popcicles (still haven't tried the applesauce one, but the mashed banana and V8 tropical juice one seems to be a hit), and I'm keeping lots of ice in her sippy cup.

For a sick kid, she's surprisingly chipper most of the time. The times when she's cranky are working my nerves though, perhaps especially since I'm sick myself. We've had little to no naps all week, and nighttime sleeping is challenging at time. Still, I'm amazed at how she can run all over the house and laugh and play like she does. her main complaint (other than us chasing her with a tissue) is that she can't play with the neighbors until her nose stops running.

Anyway, if anyone has any suggestions on working through a toddler cold, I would love to hear them. Hopefully, I can go back to normal blogging tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


I loved popcicles growing up - especially Mayfield banana. We lived in Georgia and didn't have air conditioning so popcicles were almost a requirement around the house in July and August. I like homemade popcicles too, but I've had trouble finding molds that fit my needs. Actually, this was the first year that I found popcicle molds locally (Meijer and Target), and they don't work very well. I made pudding pops for Abigail using instant pudding and whole milk since we're trying to increase her weight and she's at the age where whole milk is still "necessary." (That bit is debateable, I know.) Unfortunately, the molds that I used will not release the pudding pops, so I have yet to see how she likes them. I was able to locate silicon ice swizzle-stick molds at Target on clearance and they are the perfect size for popcicles for a toddler!

So, I've been testing the limits of homemade popcicles for the past few months. The first batch I made used up the last few cartons of whole milk organic yogurt that were about to expire. Abigail and her little friend loved those (something I can't always say for yogurt in its normal state). Earlier this week I tried popcicles using the new V8 fruit and veggie juice. That was trickier, since these molds are open on the sides, not the top. So it was difficult to keep juice from splashing out of the mold and all over the freezer. Abigail did seem to love them though. Not surprising - she has the same cold I do so I can only assume that her throat hurts as much as mine and that frozen juice feels great.

Mt latest experiment is using apple sauce in the molds. I'm less sure about this one, and it's still firming up right now. I'll let you know what my toddler taste-tester thinks.

What have you tried as a popcicle flavor? Or share your other warm weather treat solutions!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Fun Food part 1

The past week was extremely busy, including a 18 month checkup, two bouncy play-gym trips, home improvement shopping and very bad colds by Mama and baby. Mama and baby are still recovering, which is not very fun. Anyway, I feel the need to catch-up on posts, but we'll see what happens.

One of my initial reasons for wanting to start this blog was to share (and collect for myself) all the fun-mama type things I come across. One of my favorites was Taste of Home's summer special issue "Fun Food." Now, I love cookbooks and I always have. When I was a kid I liked to look through them, pick out recipes, and drool over dessert photos. I liked looking at kids cookbooks, too, since they always had such interesting photos and recipes. The thing was, I was not an especially adventurous eater. I don't like dairy products (except ice cream) and cheese always seems to be a main ingredient in everything. I don't care for creamy sauces. A lot of the recipes I liked looking at I would never eat. Luckily, so far my daughter will eat just about anything as long as I put it in front of her often enough (she's only 18 months, so we'll see how that goes).

What I've always liked about Taste of Home publications is that they tend to be good wholesome country-type recipes, and there's usually a lot of recipes I'd be willing to try. So I excited to see this special issue on the rack at the grocery store (also seen at Michaels, Target and Walmart). It's broken into fun categories: parties, campfires and cookouts, pizzas, burgers, treats, and kids can cook. It's not just a book that tells you how to arrange veggies on a plate to make them more appealing to young children. I realize that's fun to us, but to a kid who won't eat broccoli, arranging it in an appealing way is not necessarily going to get it to the mouth. I've been cooking and baking for a very long time, but this magazine really showed me some new ways to use food in a fun way. And I think my kid will actually eat this stuff (unlike me as a kid).

My favorite ideas in this book: cinnamon chocolate nachos, salsa chorizo pizzas, the various campfire packet ideas, and all the fun cake decorating ideas.

So, check out this magazine (on sale until Sept 22) and let me know what your favorite idea was. Or, what's your favorite fun food idea in general?