Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fixing Those Obnoxious Noisy Toys

Did your kids get toys that make a bunch of noise?  I know I know, silly question!  Some noisy toys are less noisy than others, some are downright obnoxious.  Little Man got a bunch of construction trucks for Christmas which he LOVES, and some of those are really loud.  So I fixed them.  And I'm going to show you the trick I learned years ago!

 Here's one of the more obnoxious sounding toys that we got for Christmas.  Don't get me wrong, he loves it and I'm glad he got it!  But I'd be less glad if I couldn't do what I'm showing you next.  And you should get some note paper because it's complicated.

Look around for the speaker holes, and cover them with a layer of clear tape.  That's it!  Usually one layer is enough to turn down the volume without taking the fun of the sounds it makes away.  If you looked around our house at noise-making toys, you'll find a lot of them with tape on them.  Some are quiet enough on the low setting to not need any tape, but many do.

So if you're kids toys are driving you crazy because of the sound, tape them up!

"Warrior", and Putting It Off Till Tomorrow

Since last fall, all my kids during the day are toddlers except Izzy, and she's not the one making most of the mess.  Toddlers are messy little punkin-heads, with their 1 minute attention spans and rare ability to stop and think about putting a toy away when it gets boring.  Add to that the fact that one of them sleeps in our main living space and is a light sleeper, meaning I can't clean anything up during nap time.  All of this adds up to a pretty substantial mess by the end of the day.  A mess that needs to get cleaned up at night or my next day is ruined, because if the day starts off particularly messy then my mood isn't right and we all have a bad day.  So I've been cleaning up in the evening.

Last night though we had a Christmas dinner with Spencer's dad's relatives about an hour away, which we left for immediately after work and didn't get home until 8:30.  We got our sleepy children to bed and collapsed into an exhausted heap on the couch to watch a movie that Spencer had really liked and knew I'd like to.  The movie was Warrior (click the link to get to the imdb site and click Watch Trailer) which I figured I'd like but had no idea just how much!  Warrior unexpectedly jumped to my favorites list!  It's thrilling, powerful, has some phenomenal fights, and still manages to tug on the old heart-strings. Tom Hardy's not bad to look at either. You might think because it involves MMA fighters there would be a lot of blood, but if blood makes you a little woozy don't worry, there's not much of it at all.
Warrior Poster

Anyways, after the movie was over it was so late and I was so depleted by the movie that I didn't have anything left to put into cleaning the house.  Spence helped me get it a little bit presentable, I got the dishes taken care of, and I went to bed.

Of course things were a bit cluttered with toys when my first kiddo arrived at 7:15 but once my kids woke up and after I gave them a few minutes to relax and have breakfast, I put them to work.  I told them they needed to have the upstairs picked up all the way and their room cleaned before they could go to the movie they had planned with Nana.  That worked great!  I was able to feed and change the baby and keep an eye on the 1-yr-olds while they did in 5 minutes what would have taken me 15 (actually more since while I would have been picking up, the toddlers would have been right behind me dumping more toys out.).

Moral of the story: See the movie Warrior because it is better than you might think, please and thank you.  Also, sometimes it works to your advantage to put off till tomorrow what could be done today... just as long as you've got good little helpers with plans they don't want to miss out on later!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Our First Christmas Dinner

Alternate title "It's About Dang Time!"

Since Sweet Pea was a baby, 10 Christmas's ago, Spencer and I have been trying to fit in our family's Christmas celebration on Christmas morning.  But there has never been enough time.  We would come downstairs to the tree and our stockings and open our Santa presents.  Then we would open our presents to each other.  After that we would eat a quick breakfast (though one or two years I made a special breakfast, but it was rushed) and spend the next couple hours getting everyone ready, food for 3 locations ready to go, presents for 3 locations ready to go, and hope we don't forget anything.  Then we'd head over to my mom and dad's, second we'd go to my dad's side of the family, and finally spending the evening with Spencer's relatives.  It was a long day and very very rushed.

Finally this year I gave up on trying to celebrate on Christmas day and planned a special Christmas with my family for the evening before Christmas eve!

I wanted to make a big special dinner, have plenty of time to open and enjoy presents with the kids, and have dessert, followed by more family time.

The morning of the 23rd the kids went with my mom and mother-in-law to Macy's 8th floor display of "A Day in the Life of an Elf" and have lunch at McDonalds, while Spence was out working.  That time alone in the house was a life-savor because I wanted to have the house clean for the weekend and it's harder to do that with kids around!
 I made Pioneer Woman's "Perfect Potroast" and "Creamy Mashed Potatoes", salad, homemade hot chocolate, and a thaw-and-serve cookies & cream pie for dessert!
 People listen!  This is the best pot roast you will ever eat in your life!  Combined with the creamy mashed potatoes (which I put too much butter on but it was extra awesome that way!) it is perfection on a fork!
 When the girls saw the table all set pretty they were so excited, they could tell it was something special and that just made me feel so good!  Everyone loved the dinner, even Little Man who didn't really eat any of the other Christmas dinners we went to all weekend (he's a stinker like that).
 After dinner we opened presents.  Spence and I didn't have the cash-o-lah to buy for eachother so we had just planned on watching the kids open their gifts, but the girls had gone to the dollar store with Spencer's mom to shop for eachother, their brother, and Spence and me!
 I think we got a bigger kick out of watching them open the gifts they got eachother than the gifts we got them!  They were very thought out presents!  They got me bright pink nail polish because they know I like that color on my toe nails, nail clippers (constantly clipping my and the kids' nails) pretty ornaments, cd holder for the car (needed) and some other goodies!

Just Dance Kids

After all the presents were opened and enjoyed at a leisurely pace we had our dessert, and more playtime before heading to bed.  It was truly my favorite Christmas!  I cherished that relaxed quality family time together and can't wait to do it again next year!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sensory Play is Important and Fun!

Although it can be really messy, sensory tables or bins are great for preschoolers and toddlers, and fun for older kids too!  Infants and young children learn by using all of their senses.  You put something in front of a baby and what will the baby do? They will put it in their mouth, see how it tastes, how it feels in their mouth and hands, smell it, shake it and see if it makes noise!

This is why most preschools and day cares will employ some sort of sensory table/bin/box or other forms of sensory play.  Sensory play can be found in sandboxes, pools and water buckets, walking barefoot in the grass, picking up snow with bare hands, crafts with ribbons, sand paper, pom poms, scented markers, cotton balls scented with essential oils or baking extracts, dry rice, bird seeds, pebbles or aquarium rocks, cooking, and when babies are involved - mouthing everything they can find!  Obviously keep your child's age in mind when you plan what you will use so your little one doesn't eat something or choke.  For little ones who still put everything in their mouth you can use edible things like finger painting with pudding, or playing with jello.  There are tons of other things to use as well, google Sensory Play or Sensory Table Ideas.
 I recently filled our small sensory bin with red and white beans.  It was a huge hit!  I provided measuring cups, small cups to scoop with and into, spoons, kitchen set toys, and little ladles.
 They were able to practice scooping, pouring and transfer skills.  They learned what happened when they filled a larger dish with beans and then tried to pour the contents into a smaller dish, and why that happened.
 They made patterns and pictures with the beans, they counted beans, they made hand prints in the bin with the beans, and ran them through their hands and fingers.  On day two of the bean bin we put the whole bin in the fridge for a couple hours and played with them cold for a new experience!

Sure I spent a lot of my time scooping beans back into the play area and bin, but the extra clean up is well worth the learning experience they had!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I Remember...

Care to join me while I reminisce?

Did I spell reminisce right? I must have because spell check didn't say anything.   Moving on...

I remember:

When I'd be excited to get back to my college campus so I could have high speed internet instead of dial-up.  Remember dial-up internet?

When the only way to access the internet was with America On Line and your minutes came on a CD.

When the cool thing was to have pagers in high school.  Now middle-schoolers have cell phones. So weird.

When DVDs started getting popular and a friend of mine had to explain to me what made them so much better than a VHS.

Same with CD's, but I didn't need explaining on that one.  I think it was my Aunt Debbie S. that got my my first CD.  If I remember right it was a Mariah Carey one.  I could be totally wrong there though.

When I heard they were making a new TV show about a show-choir, and being the choir geek that I am was excited and hoped hoped hoped that enough people would watch it so it wouldn't get canceled in the first season.... that was Glee.

When we only had one child and it seemed difficult to leave the house with her.  Now we have three and when we only have one it feels almost like none.

When my little sister was really little and she would pronounce the word "remember" as "renember".  My cousin and I made a bet with her that we could get her to say "renember" by the end of the day.  I won that bet during a "spontaneous" dinner time game of "I Remember..." where we all went around the table saying what we remember.  I felt like quite the clever little thing that day ;o)

When Christmas involved going to one place on Christmas Eve and one place on Christmas Day.  Oh how simple those holidays were!

When we had to haul pack 'n plays with us everywhere for big holidays so that whoever our youngest child at the time could nap.  Now they all sleep in beds.

When I last saw my half brother, it was Christmas day, 15 years ago.

Getting pulled over when I was 18 for speeding.  I was on my way to my college choir and I was so engrossed in my Christmas music ("The Christmas Song" in case you're wondering) that I wasn't paying much attention to my speed.  Oops!

When I was only ever expected to bring bread or juice to Christmas's because of a combination of multiple parties to go to in one day, having young children, and not really knowing how to make stuff.  Although people don't ask me to bring hard stuff (thank you family!) I have slowly branched out in my Christmas food!  This year I am bringing Cinnamon French Toast Bake, along with some simple things like a frozen pie, cinnamon rolls, and yes... buns!

How every year Spencer and I would try to cram our family Christmas with the kids into Christmas morning, only to wind up stressed out by the time we got to our first location.  This year I'm excited because we are having our family's Christmas on the 23rd!  I'm making Pioneer Woman's perfect pot roast, creamy mashed potatoes, a salad, and a thaw-and-serve cookies and cream pie!  Then we'll open presents and maybe sip some hot cocoa!  Can't wait!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cookie Baking MY Way

Last week I made sugar cookie cutouts for the kids and I to frost, because Christmas is coming soon, and if you know anything about me it's that I love cookies!

Because my Christmas tree and snowman cookie cutters were dirty, I decided to make candy canes and snow flakes!

 But, even with an excessisve amount of flour they were kind of sticking and getting messed up... so I changed it up a bit... because I can.

Yes those look like Pumpkins, yes they are supposed to be pumpkin cookie cutters, but because it is a highly dependable cookie cutter I used them anyway and called them "bulb ornaments".  Works right?

Then the girls and I frosted them!  Little Man didn't want to decorate, he's not into that artsy fartsy stuff that we are.  I made the frosting with powdered sugar and milk.  I like to start with it a little runny and then add more powdered sugar until it thickens up.  It's still a bit runny, but that's what the paper towels are for!

And because I'm kind of a freak, and because it's delicious, I threw some chocolate chips on a ball of sugar cookie dough and popped the whole thing in my mouth.  YUM!

And yes... they are all gone, and have been for a few days now.  But we made a bunch more (different kinds) last weekend so I'm all good!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Mini Photog

Little Man got my camera again...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Little Man Hams it Up

Hamming it up after bath time!

He was getting his hair cut soon after that bath, so I wanted some pics of those curls before they were chopped!  Don't worry though, they keep growing back :o)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Video Game Obsessed

My husband likes to brag about beating video games since he was the age of, well, nearly a fetus.  It is his favorite recreational activity... well, one of them.  Some guys play golf, some guys play music, some guys camp, Spencer plays video games.

When we were dating we'd often hang out either playing video games together or I would watch him play (some are indeed fun to watch for a while, I genuinely enjoyed it back then).

Fast forward to these last several weeks and I'm thinking...

Why did I agree to have three children with an obsessive enthusiastic gamer!?

My kids, particularly my younger two, are obsessed with video games!!

Babydoll, who is barely five year olds is kicking butt on Zelda Twilight Princess on the wii.  Also most recently she has become obsessed with watching Spencer play the new Batman game.  He's not even all the way in the door after work and she asks, "Can we play Batman now!?"   They actually beat the game yesterday, but now they are playing it again on the harder level.  That's right, she sat through the entire game with him!

Sweet Pea, who is nine years old, has had a long-lasting love affair with Viva Pinata.  She wakes up in the morning and heads down to the basement to play, and plays again after her homework is done in the afternoon.  Not as often really as her younger brother and sister, but she is currently on another viva pinata kick.

Notice how the nine-year-old is playing a game for ages 3+, and the five-year-old is playing a game intended for ages 12+.  

And they aren't the only ones.  The most video game crazed child in my life is currently Little Man.  I have to force him to stop and play with real toys and eat meals or he would just keep on playing his computer games.

He's been playing two games, but his current favorite is a Tonka Construction game.

Tonka Construction

In this game he is using construction equipment to build skyscrapers, castles, parks, clean up a ski resort after a blizzard or avalanche or something, and something involving a quarry that I've never caught the beginning of to know what it's about.

He and I have both been learning about excavators, front loaders, graders, and other equipment.  I particularly enjoy hearing him say, "front loader" and "scoop"... pretty damn cute!

He's a wiz with those computer games, knowing how to navigate all over several of them.

What does it all mean?  When I want some peace and quiet, they can play their games and I can catch my breath.  When I want to spend time doing other things with them.... I'm in trouble.

Yes they have limits, and yes they must wait to play until after school/preschool activities are completed.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's Random and I Make Up Words

Get ready for the random vomiting of info you didn't know you needed to know and really don't need to know.


1.  Little Man was up surprisingly late last night just talking to himself and anyone who'd listen in his bed.  Spence and I were watching season six of How I Met Your Mother on dvd when the phone rang at about 8:50, and we immediately hear LM call out in his most cheerful and helpfullest voice, "Phone ringing!!", which of course caused us to laugh our butts off for a good 10 minutes.  

Fast forward to this morning and he's just not quite himself.  By mid morning he was crying and telling me in his most saddest and desperatest voice, "My ear hurts!"  I gave him a dose of Tylanol and but it didn't help, he was in too much pain for the meds we had on hand and it would be a while before one of us could get him to the clinic.  After a few hours Spence was able to get home and got him checked out... double ear infection.

Between emotional pain and physical pain, I have to say one of the hardest parts about being a parent is when you can't take the pain away.  But hopefully by morning, once he's had a few doses of antibiotics, he'll be feeling better.

2.  I feel like I might possibly be falling apart.  Between recurring back pain, a weird puffy-eyed allergy thing, and my achy knees, one of which is worse than the other, I may be falling apart.  I've had on and off knee problems since I fell in the garage almost a year ago, and right now it's behaving strangely.  It doesn't hurt to squat or bend down, it doesn't hurt to kneel, it mostly just hurts to lift my knee up in front of me.

I'm pretty sure that it all does NOT mean that I need to, oh I don't know... exercise more or something.  What I'm pretty sure it DOES mean is that I need to take naps and eat more cookies.  Which is fabulous timing since it is almost cookie season Christmas time.  

3.  This year for Thanksgiving we split it up so that we celebrated with Spencer's family a couple weekends before and with my family on Thanksgiving day.  It was fantastic only having one place to go that day!  It's just so much easier to enjoy family time when you're not watching a clock so you don't show up at the next place too late.  It. Was. Wonderful.  I wish Christmas could be the same way, but we have a lot more people to try to see during that holiday so I can't even imagine a time in the nearish future where we only have one place to go to on each day (Christmas eve and Christmas day). 

4.  We're pretty hooked on How I Met Your Mother and have been waiting a long time to watch season 6 on dvd because during the actual season 6 we were watching seasons 1-5 on dvd.  We like to try to figure out who of our friends are each character on the show.  I wonder if every group of friends can think of someone who kinda sorta closely resembles each of those characters.  

5.  If this random post is extra random and the run-on sentences drove you nuts, I apologize.  I typed it all while watching Parenthood (the nbc tv show) which is pretty much an awesome show.  The only thing that really bugs me is that all the characters seem to have the same "voice".  Not sure if that's an acting issue or a writing issue, but I still love the show.

Now if you'll excuse me, we need to go finish the last disc of HIMYM Season 6.  And it will most certainly be Legon....wait for it.... Dary!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Homework - Asking for Advice

When Sweet Pea started Kindergarten she only had a tiny bit of homework every week.  She had to read or be read to for 5-10 minutes every night and had a worksheet to do once a week.  That worksheet always came on the same day so it was easy to remember that that was homework night.

As she's gotten older she's had more and more homework, and now that she's in 3rd grade, it seems to have bumped up considerably.  It's also random throughout the week based on what she wasn't able to finish in class.  She also has chores to keep up on at home, which aren't too time consuming but add up.  And we like to hang out with her as well, and she likes to go to friends' houses.

Homework is getting harder to keep up on.... and I know it's only going to get worse.

Until now we have agreed that after a full day of school, the kids deserve a break away from school stuff to relax at home for a little while before jumping back into it.  The problem arises when that break goes too long and nobody remembers that there is homework to be done.  We thought that after dinner would be a good time to remember to get it done, but it isn't working because fun things tend to come up after dinner causing her to either rush through it or forget all about it.  By the end of the day we're exhausted too and it can be hard to remember to get her on her homework.

So in order for her to get her homework done and out of the way so she can do other fun things that may come up later in the evening, she's going to have to get her homework done first thing after school.  I'm not happy about it, because I think she needs a break, but doing at other times doesn't seem to work right now.  Maybe as she matures and becomes more responsible and can focus on her work better?

My Question to all parents with school-agers, especially if they are older and you've been through this stuff before:  How do you handle homework?  I need some advice on homework policies and what works for other people.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

You Never Know

We've all seen it.

You're at the store, just trying to get a little shopping done, and there is a woman with her kids nearby.  And the kids are acting like little boogers.  Maybe they're crying, maybe screaming, maybe demanding one thing or another, but they are just being boogers.

You've probably seen this scene and thought to yourself why can't she get a handle on her kids? These kids must have no discipline at all!  What little snots, just get them out of the store and ground them already!
Don't even try to tell me that thoughts like that haven't passed through your brain, because we're human and we can't help but judge once in a while.

The thing is, and you'll know this if you are a parent (especially the parent who does most of the child-rearing)...

You just never know what happened earlier that day. or week. or hour.

Maybe those kids are normally very well behaved.  They could be at home right now sitting quietly doing calculus while dreaming up ways to better the world, but at that moment they were tired/hungry/teething/going through something rough.  Kids have bad days just like you.  Only we are adults and have (hopefully) learned how to control our emotions and moodiness a little better over the years.  And honestly?  Have you never lost it and acted like a fool because you had hit your breaking point?

Perhaps you're reading this and not blaming the kids for acting like the boogers they were being, but are blaming that mom who seems to not care.

Chances are, she cares a lot.  You don't know what happened before that moment.  Perhaps the kids have been cranky and unbearable all day, should that stop her from picking up something she needed?  I'm SURE she wouldn't have chosen to go to the store with cranky children if there was a way to leave them home.

You have no idea what her life is like, you have no idea what the kids' life is like, you have no idea because you are not the one walking in her shoes.  What may seem like obliviously ignoring a child's tantrum in public, may actually be her straw breaking the camel's back and it's all she can do to not scream bloody murder herself right there in the store.

My kids are generally pretty great in public, but there was a trip to a local thrift store semi-recently in which Little Man lost his ever-lovin-mind and turned into a child I did NOT know.  He was screaming, crawling/rolling on the floor, and crying.  I was so not used to that that I really didn't know what to do!  There was no talking him off that ledge, he really just needed to GO, but I needed to make my purchase before I could get the hell out of there.  I tried to look like I was doing something about it, tried to calm him down, but the only thing I really could do was check out as quick as possible and run for it.  I probably looked calm... I usually do... but inside I was dieing.  People around me were probably thinking some of the things from that third paragraph up there, but they weren't in my head, they aren't in my house, they are not me.

So instead of jumping to harsh judgement when you see the next public outburst of naughty child behavior and seemingly oblivious parenting, stop.  Think about what might possibly be going on in that families life that day, and instead of a look of horror, give her a look of  "I feel for ya" sympathy, or better yet - pretend it's not happening so she can get on with what she needs to do and get those kids home to bed!

Support each other, don't judge each other.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sweet Pea's Hair Feather Alternative

This past summer, hair feathers were big!

When Sweet Pea asked for some of her own, and I told her no, she got creative.

 All on her own she came up with her own version of hair feathers using colorful yarn and little barrettes.  She also made some using bobby pins instead of barrettes so she could give them away to friends!
Just clip in and go!  She made me the pink and black one. :o)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

New Blog Name - The Reason

Like I mentioned recently I wanted to change the name of the blog, so I did!

What do you think?

It's common knowledge to any woman who's birthed children, and I imagine any mother who adopted as well, that babies and young children suck the brains right out of your head.  They aren't even nice enough to wait until they are born either, they suck it from you in utero.

When you have children there is just SO MUCH to think about at all times and so many distractions (just now Little Man is whacking me on the arm to get my attention because he wants more candy) that it's hard to remember little things like where did I put my keys?  Or When is that meeting again?  Or What's my name?

My brain is so jam packed with child-related information that it is literally bursting at the seams.  Well, not literally... that would be a pretty gross mess, a mess that I most likely would have to clean up myself.

Once upon a time I was a smart person, with a great memory, straight A's, you get the picture.  Then I became a Mom and had to fill my brain with things like which ointments/creams work on what kinds of rashes, safe fever temperatures and other illness related cures, discipline strategies, sleep and eating schedules, sports and girl scouts schedules, who needs what items of clothing, who wants what for birthdays and Christmas, and all the other stuff that piles up in a mom's brain throughout the years.  If you're a mom, you know that I haven't even covered the tip of the brain-crushing iceberg in this paragraph.

So there you have it, the reason for the new blog name...

I used to have a brain.  Now I have small children, and although I miss my brain and hope to hear from it again some day, I love it!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from us!

Once again, couldn't get a decent picture of Little Man, but my mom did so maybe she'll send it to me ;)

 Sweet Pea was a "cute witch", Babydoll was Rapunzel, and Little Man managed to agree to wear a pirate vest... but wouldn't pose for me.
I really have no idea why we don't get trick or treaters

 Little Man made it about an hour before Spence took him home for a pack of M&Ms and bedtime.  The girls made it another half hour or so before they told me they wanted to go home because their bags were too heavy!  I don't remember that EVER being a reasonable excuse to want to go home!  I remember my mom trudging through a few feet of snow with me and my sister during a huge blizzard 20 years ago! I also remember coming home from several hours of trick or treating, in the freezing cold, with friends feeling like a popcycle! I don't EVER remember coming home because my bag was "too heavy".  I was pretty sure I had birthed them both until tonight.

Little Man told everyone "thank you" after getting his candy, and only a few times asked for more :o).  One girl handing out candy said, "yep!" after he thanked her, and he kind of looked at her like why didn't you say your welcome? and told her very cheerfully, "thank you, welcome!"
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