Thursday, April 10, 2014

Toddler Project: Spring Tissue Paper Duck

I've been scrounging Pinterest for toddler-appropriate Easter and Spring crafts. Have I mentioned my apprehension with glue and my 2-year-old? I think she's not quite ready for that responsibility yet. But I still want her to get in on the crafting fun as much as she can. She has already had enough experience that she is quick to eagerly ask me, "Are you making me a project?" every time I go near my craft shelves. Yep, no question she is my kid.

Incidentally, here was some dialog during our project:
Me: "What does a duck say?"
Bugga: "Quack! What does a duckie say?"
Me: "I don't know, what does a duckie say?"
Bugga: "SQUEAK!"
Can't argue with that.

Tissue Paper Duck for Spring

Our first easy project required the following items:

  • thick craft paper
  • scissors
  • yellow, orange and black tissue paper
  • contact paper
  1. Draw a duck shape on the craft paper. You can find images online, but I just eye-balled it. Cut out the duck. 
  2. Cut your tissue paper into small pieces. Ask your toddler to help crumple each piece into a teeny, tiny ball.
  3. Add contact paper behind your duck cut-out, sticky side up.
  4. Start sticking the tissue paper to the contact paper.
  5. Show off your finished product!

It's Not About Gwyneth

This is a repost from something I shared with my friends on Facebook. Hopefully my blog readers also know what I'm trying to say.

So this Gwyneth Paltrow working mom thing is all over Facebook. Yes, she said her job is harder than other working moms. And then a gajillion people responded that, no, their jobs are harder than that of a celebrity. 

On other days I see people post links to blogs about someone trying to attempt to equalize the struggles of working moms versus stay-at-home moms, and it just results in a Battle of the Miserable (seriously, read the comments on any of these posts). 

Am I the only person who is tired of hearing everyone try to tear each other down by one-upping others about how hard their life is? 

Of course the grass is often much greener on the other side, but everyone has their struggles, whether it be 9 months on a movie set away from your family, or working 2 daily jobs away from your kids to make ends meet, or struggling to find professional success. 

Yes, celebrities have a lot of money and freedoms that regular people might not have, but they are also people too, with families they can't be with all the time and marriages that fail no matter how many nannies they hire. Stay at home moms and working moms all have their own reasons to be jealous of each other's lives. 

I guess the bottom line I get from all this is stop spending so much time tearing down the Joneses and find your own happiness.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Baby Data

It's probably no surprise that I am motivated by statistics (the core of my undergraduate degree in Industrial Engineering). I really find data fascinating and eye-opening...and baby data is no different.

A lot of people will tell new moms not to "watch the clock" when feeding a newborn, stressing over naps, or counting the minutes of what seems like endless crying. Well that doesn't work for me. I NEED the data. I need to see trending to find some hope of optimism in what is a very challenging period in my life with a newborn.

There are a lot of methods out there, but I think the easiest way to track the baby data is through an app (I use Total Baby), since nowadays your phone is always within arm's reach. Most programs will keep track of when and how long your baby eats, sleeps, and needs a diaper change, along with doctor visits, milestones, and even pictures.

Here's where I've noticed the big advantage of tracking: when you use it for more than one kid. I used the app with Bugga, and I'm now using it with Bella. As I go through the daily and weekly challenges with Bella, I am finding that I very much forget exactly how things went down with Bugga. Did Bugga wake up this many times at this age? When did we move Bugga to the crib compared to Bella? And I can just look it up in seconds. There's nothing like an instant point of reference when going through all these stressful moments where you feel like you will NEVER come out the other side because this moment is just the WORST...only to see that your first child acted the same way at this age and you lived to tell the tale...or at least the data did.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Toddler Crafts & Fun for St. Patrick's Day

Our family isn't Irish (except maybe a teensy bit on my husband's side) but I love celebrating St. Patrick's Day. In college this meant heading to Savannah for parades and green beer. Nowadays it's more about crafts, cookies and some creative meal planning. 

I actually put more effort into celebrating than I had planned. Aside from the themed mantle, Bugga and I made Shamrock Suncatchers to decorate our windows. She is very proud of the result and was excited to tell her dad repeatedly, "I made that!", pointing at her masterpieces.

We also attempted the Fruit Loop Rainbow craft that you see all over Pinterest. I think she had fun, but the glue concept was new to Bugga, and she preferred to glue the cereal pretty much all over the page. Oh, and by the way, there are no blue Fruit Loops, so I think that just threw us off anyway.

I tried some new recipes for our St. Patrick's Day Dinner (which I actually made last night because all bets are off on Mondays) - corned beef, colcannon and shamrock chips. It was actually all pretty good, and my husband ate every bite (which is saying something).

Bugga helped me make shamrock sugar cookies - everything from helping me bake them (she mixed the ingredients together and helped with the cookie cutter) to decorating, to of course EATING the cookies.

We had a lot of fun - Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Evolution of a Play Kitchen

When Bugga was around 11 months old, I started to notice that every time I picked her up from the gym daycare she was happily "cooking" in the daycare's miniature kitchen. Because I spend my days with my children, Bugga is in the kitchen for every one of her meals, and can watch the preparation from her learning tower. As children love to mimic what they see, my little monkey naturally wanted to "cook" in a kitchen.

I found this fantastic kitchen made my KidKraft at Costco. I am starting to like this brand for the creative designs, and they offer alternatives to all that kid plastic. Anyway, once I put it together (hear the pride in that, as it took awhile, but was worth it) Bugga has pretty much been playing with it ever since.

There are also about 7 billion kitchen accessories that are on the market for play kitchens. Between what we've bought for Bugga and what she's been gifted from others (pretty much the perfect gift for a 2-3 year old of any gender), here are some thoughts on what we have:

27 Piece Cookware Set - This is another KidKraft item (yes, it is plastic). My parents gifted this to Bugga this past Christmas. She uses it every time she plays in the kitchen, and the cups get dragged all over the house. This kid loves cups. To an obsessive level. Anyway...

Green Toys Tea Set - This is what started our home collection of dishes. I'm pretty sure most of the spoons have vanished at this point, but every single other piece is still in regular rotation. And it's GREEN - BONUS.

Just Like Home Toaster from Toys R Us - Not even going to give you the link for this piece of junk. We use a toaster every morning for Bugga's waffle breakfast so of COURSE she needs one for her kitchen. This one is great in concept but is terrible. An adult needs to push down the lever and it works 1 time out of 10. And the noise is horrendous. Don't buy this.

Pop-Up Toaster by Hape Toys - I bought this as a replacement for the first one. It's made of wood instead of plastic so even better. Plus, it has this cute stick of butter that can be "sliced" - I thought this would be a great way for Bugga to safely practice using a knife.

Duktig Fruit Basket and Duktig Vegetable Basket from IKEA - So many play food sets you see in toy stores include junk food, which is not what I want Bugga to be too used to. These fruits and vegetables are soft, healthy, and they've been very helpful for helping us talk about things like what goes into a salad, onto a sandwich, etc.

Just Like Home Everyday Cookware Set - This is a great all-inclusive set of pots, pans and accessories (despite the review of the toaster from the same toy line above).

Melissa & Doug Food Groups - Last week I noticed Bugga was serving less of her "imaginary" pasta and more "butter" as a meal. Yeah, so that had to stop. So I ordered this food group set to give her some common healthy proteins that she can learn more about without limiting herself to a bland butter-only pretend diet. Ha.

The final touch: the other day I quickly made some felt bow pasta for Bugga to put into her pots and she loves it. As I expected: she eats pasta several times a week, so this is a no-brainer for a toy. And SO east to make. Let me know if you need the instructions.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Tips For Traveling With a Baby/Toddler

I need a vacation. Like, immediately. However, going on a vacation today means now managing the logistics of traveling with TWO children. As I'm trying to wrap my head around how to possibly climb this mountain, I thought I'd offer my advice on how to travel with one child under the age of two. Bugga traveled almost 25,000 air miles in her first year of life, and many of those miles included family vacations (we also moved to Alaska for a bit so those miles are a chunk of her total). Either way, we got to be seasoned parent travelers and lived to tell the tale.

Here's how we did it:
1.) Always bring a stroller. You will need this at some point. Even if you are totally into the baby-wearing thing (bring your sling too!) - the stroller carries both your child, and all of your child-related STUFF. And your stuff. And lunch to go in the airport. You get my point. When Bugga was still in the baby bucket we used this stroller, which I cannot recommend enough. You can even open and close it with one hand and it has a huge basket. When she was no longer in the bucket we used this stroller, which comes with a travel bag (for checking) and is still in great condition now after 1.5 years of a LOT of airports.

2.) Always bring a car seat. Sure you can get away with not bringing a car seat. But if you are traveling anywhere other than New York City or somewhere similar (and then plan to limit your transportation to subway or foot) your child should be strapped into their car seat. No, you won't get arrested for trying to get into a cab with an infant without a car seat, but if you get in an accident (and you KNOW how the cabbies drive) you will regret it. There are car seats on the market that double as strollers. Or you can get a backpack to carry the car seat in while you go through the airport (if baby isn't in the bucket already). Make sure you have a cover either way so the seat isn't nasty if you end up gate checking it.

3.) If traveling by plane, check your baby gear at the gate, NOT at check-in. Yep, you can check your baby items for free in both areas. Maybe you think it's a pain to drag all these things through the airport, especially if you don't have a ticketed seat for your baby and won't be using the car seat until you arrive at your destination. Doesn't matter. When you gate check these items, they are out of your sight and have a chance to be damaged by someone else for a mere MINUTES before they are put underneath the plane. Hand them over at check-in and they are out of your sight for potential HOURS that someone might drop or damage your goods in any number of ways that are undetectable to you when you pick them up at Baggage Claim. You will regret this too.

4.) Pick your flight carefully. If you are booking early enough, pick a time that coincides with the time your child sleeps. I now prefer red-eye flights with my child because I KNOW she will sleep then. We ran out of luck after awhile booking during nap time because it was just too exciting for her to sleep, and then we had NO nap. Not my preferred way to vacation. And avoid layovers whenever you can. Just GET THERE.

5.) Pick your seats on the airplane even more carefully. If your flight isn't overbooked, you might be able to avoid paying for a ticket for your baby, then find a row with an empty seat. Gate agents will even move you to a row with an empty seat if you ask nicely because they know as well as anyone that no one wants to sit next to a baby on a plane. Don't be offended - use this to your advantage. And try to get these seats next to a bathroom so you aren't waiting behind 5 other people who got there first when your kid has a loaded diaper. If your child is moving around on his own and can maybe even stand and walk, get bulkhead seats, so you have the extra space in front of you. My daughter loved to sit in her own "space" once we reached cruising altitude and didn't have to be constrained.

6.) If budget allows, book a suite at a hotel. A lot of inexpensive hotel chains nowadays have suites for great rates. It pays (in dollars and sanity) to do your research. A suite gives you the freedom to not be sitting with your spouse in the dark when your child is sleeping. And remember how much they sleep, day and night. With a suite you can essentially set your separate room up as a nursery and keep it dark, use white noise, etc.

7.) What if you can't book a suite? It happens for any number of reasons, but you can still survive. (First world problems, I know.) First, try to get a balcony. We didn't feel like forking over the hundreds of extra dollars on our Hawaii vacation with Bugga so the next best thing was a balcony where my husband and or I could hang out while the baby took naps. I spent plenty of relaxing vacation name with a book, a cocktail, and a view all while Bugga napped safely just mere feet from me in total darkness in our room.

8.) What if you can't book a suite OR a room with a balcony? Here's what you need to add to your luggage: a dark-colored, full-size (or bigger) flat bedsheet, two command hooks that can hold as much weight as possible, and a couple chip-style clips. Use these to drape over the hotel crib you stick in the corner of the room to create a dark area for your child when she sleeps. The command hooks (attach them to the wall) and clips hold up the sheet, and the hooks can be taken down later when you leave. You still need to be quiet in the room, but it's nice not to need to be in darkness. Now you and your spouse can at least watch a movie with headphones on the iPad or something. Wink, wink. Oh, and don't forget crib sheets from home.

9.) Bring a white noise machine. I mentioned it above, but this is an essential piece of kid gear in my book. Even if you don't use one at home, outside noises can be unpredictable when traveling (especially in hotel hallways) so if you can block out anything that might disrupt your child's sleep, your life is better! How many times have you been stuck in a hotel that has construction going on above or below your room?

10.) Baby's gotta eat. If your child is eating solids, don't forget to grab a banana from the breakfast buffet to have in the diaper bag later. Boxes of raisins travel well too. Kids under 3 usually eat at buffets for free, so take advantage of that. And don't forget to ask your server what the chef is able to do. We ordered plain pasta with olive oil off the menu from a higher-end Italian restaurant when we were there for their breakfast so we could have lunch ready to go later for our daughter. Oh, and bring bowls with lids to refrigerate any leftovers so you always have something. (Most hotel rooms have a refrigerator lately, I have noticed.)

I have tons of other suggestions for all parts of travel if anyone has any additional questions. Also, if anyone wants to offer up any tips for traveling with more than one kid I am ALL EARS!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Project: Homemade Valentine Picture Frame

I've been chomping at the bit waiting for Bugga to be old enough to do arts and crafts. Yes, I know, even babies can start pretty much from the womb with the art projects. We even tackled finger (body!) painting last year when Bugga was 10 months old; I'm sure many moms jump on it far earlier than that.

Another point to note: I am not a huge fan of messiness on purpose. Let's be honest, kids are a lot of work and mess without TRYING to make a mess. So painting with a toddler kind of scared me.

With Bella still so small at 7 weeks, she still hasn't had her vaccinations yet so we aren't leaving the house for much more than Bugga's once-a-week gymnastics class. And a bored kid is hard on everyone (all you parents on the East Coast know exactly what I'm talking about right now since you've all been stuck inside for days due to the snow with school cancelled). So I bit the bullet and pulled out the paint.

Grandma had gifted Bugga some fingerpaints and a smock for Christmas, so this was as good a time as any to try them out. Plus with Valentine's Day fast approaching Bugga could make a homemade gift for Daddy on behalf of her and her sister. I even managed to stretch this into a TWO DAY PROJECT which is always good.

So I dressed Bugga in clothes I don't like (we all get those gifts) and her new smock, and taped down some newspaper to our kitchen counter. She climbed up into her learning tower (best invention ever) and we proceeded to go to work. 

I squirted some of the paint into paper cups left over from her 1st birthday (we are slowly and finally getting through those) in Valentine colors. Since the Crayola Fingerpaints only come in red, blue, yellow, and green I had to incorporate some white from my collection to make pink. Oh, and trying to make purple with the red and the blue was a bust so nevermind that. 

I used several sponge brushes (yep, still not in the mood to handle more painting with our hands) I had left over from another project of mine, and we went to work.

I purchased a simple wood heart frame from Michael's for barely $1.00 and Bugga had a blast painting it with the various colors. 

She also seemed to love the different effects she could make with the brushes, taking advantage of the sponginess (huh, that's actually a word). 

Once she was done we let it dry overnight. in the meantime, the other colors had grabbed her attention so I found some paper and let her create another masterpiece. 

She had a blast and it wasn't too difficult to clean up. 

Oh, and meanwhile, the baby hung out in the bouncer next to us and watched.

The next day I pulled out a bag of foam heart stickers and the frame so we could decorate. Bugga quickly figured out how to use her fingernails to peel of the backings, and we were in business. I had a giant flat foam heart she could also decorate as well.

Seriously, she decorated this all by herself with no guidance from me whatsoever. Such style.

And here is the final result, all ready for Daddy!