Monday, January 28, 2013

Activity: Baby Safe Finger Painting

Finger painting is a great way for kiddos to learn about textures, colors and their creativity. We tried this when my daughter was just around 10 months, so every activity had to be baby-safe. With regards to an activity like painting, this meant that anything she could possible put in her mouth would not hurt her.

Here is an "edible" fingerpaint recipe that I found online and decided to try. The quotes are because it only uses ingredients that are safe to digest, but I avoided any sets of instructions that included sugar - the last thing I want to do is encourage Bugga to eat the paint. I can only imagine that retraining I will have to do down the road when she's older! So this is safe to eat, but certainly not tasty.

2 cups of cornstarch
1 cup of cold water
4.5 cups of hot water
Food coloring

Mix the cornstarch and cold water together, then add the hot water, constantly stirring the mixture. Separate mixture into smaller containers. Add food coloring as desired and mix thoroughly.

Some comments: OK, I'll admit my knowledge of cornstarch is pretty limited. So stirring this mixture was kind of fun - it acted like flour, but then all of a sudden it became this wild translucent gel-like goo. The colors came out a lot brighter then I expected once mixed. As far as using this for painting...because it is a gel-like consistency, it doesn't paint like regular paint, but it still works for this activity. It's probably also good to know that it will dry pretty thick on the paper you use, and in our case at least, the painting cracked and wasn't really something to save in Bugga's brand new art archive.

The Actual Painting Part
If older children are doing this activity, you can easily incorporate brushes, but for us, it was not question that we would be using our fingers (and feet and elbows and get the idea).

I cut open a kitchen trash bag so I could cover as much space as possible. Then I used packing tape to tape the trash bag to my floors. I don't recommend doing this over carpet - anything that somehow gets off the trash bag might be difficult to get out of carpet (but I'm sure it's possible...I just have no advice on this!).

Then I grabbed a couple pieces of paper, the paints, and my child and started experimenting! 

She was definitely hesitant at first trying to figure out what this colorful stuff was, and what she could do with it. And oh yes, a couple handfuls went into her mouth. But it was also a great teaching opportunity for me to say, "Hey, that's not food!" and teach her not to put it in her mouth and instead, put it on the paper. We had a great time!

Here's something that was somewhat important: as expected, this makes a MESS. I kept a roll of paper towels and a wet washcloth very close to this activity. I recommend either clothes that are colorful and/or old, or just a diaper-only situation. And of course, she went straight into the bathtub once we were done.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Activity: Baby Chatter

This is an easy one: talk to your baby. All the time. No matter what it is about. I have heard this advice here and there, and let me tell you, it does WORLDS for your child.

Here's a little secret of mine: before Bugga came along, if I was home alone or in my car - I talked to myself. I could call it "thinking out loud" but honestly, I thought I was my own best listener, so there ya go. Well now my first born is my audience, and my constant chatter is actually GOOD for her.

I pretty much just narrate our day, and make an effort to ask her questions all the time. Even if she's working on her independent play and running around the living room with her toys, I am constantly asking her, "What color is that ball?" or "Do you want Teddy to sit in your chair?" just to see if she's listening.

At 13 months, she doesn't do much talking in terms of coherent words (although if you are around long enough, you can hear "Dada", "cheese", "bath", "ball", "shoes", "tissue", "dog", "kitty", and "milk"*) but she babbles incessantly. And I know she's listening: the other day I asked her if she wanted to go for a ride (in the car) and she responded by climbing onto her rocking horse. Since she still only has two teeth, we are just now starting tooth brushing but when I suggest a tooth "brush" she puts her hand to her hair for hairbrush. This kid GETS IT.

So I will continue to chit-chat with my toddler until she's old enough to say, "Give it a rest, Mama."

*Notice "Mama" is still not on the list yet. Sigh.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Activity: Muffin Tin & Plastic Eggs

I am finally getting back into the swing of things with regards to finding new activities to do with Bugga between naps during the day. 

I have been pouring over ideas I keep finding online, and found one similar to the one below that used plastic balls instead of easter eggs on Kids Activities Blog. I had more eggs on hand, and my 13-month-old has shown quite an interest in the plastic eggs we have brought out for play in the past, so this worked for us!

All you need is a muffin tin and enough plastic eggs to fill each of the muffin holes. We used 12 for our games, and it was great to practice counting, matching the colors (I had 6 pairs, so that worked out well), taking them in and out of their spots, and opening and closing the eggs. 

I will definitely pull these out each day this week, and remember to come back to this one when we get closer to Easter so I can tie in the decor I imagine I'll have around the house in March and April. 

Maybe she'll come back around to eating eggs by then too. A mom can dream!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Parenting Support #20

Could no one have been straight with me about how hard parenting is?

Just try to remember what her smile looks like, because I'm sure she lights up when you walk into a room, and what it feels like when she grabs ahold of your finger. It helps make the bad days not so bad. 

You are a great mom, otherwise you wouldn't be stressing out about how you feel...a bad mom wouldn't care and definitely wouldn't feel guilty about it. It's ok to take a break if you need it - you definitely deserve it and she may need a little break too (and don't feel guilty about it - it will make you a better mom, which is what you are trying to do). 

Kids are tough - especially at that age where they can't tell you what's wrong or why they are acting a certain way. But I bet her smile lights up your day too, and at the end of the day, she's going to come to you and you can take comfort in that. In the meantime, have a glass of wine after she goes to sleep, read a good magazine, and recharge. Yomorrow will be better...I promise!

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Recipe: Healthy Baby Mac

My 13-month-old kiddo - though she started out a great eater and would gobble up anything - is no longer a fan of most foods. Meals are starting to stress me out because the variety is really limited and I'm shocked how fast she will push aside a favorite that she used to eat every meal (like bananas...what??). I thought a healthy twist on macaroni and cheese would include all things she loves (or at least did) right now and maybe give us another option to plain pieces of pasta.

This recipe is both toddler (and baby, depending on your child's eating skills) and grown-up friendly. I actually made two simultaneous batches of this, substituting the whole milk ingredients for skim ingredients. Us parents don't need all the extra fat, so this can be made pretty decent for your waistline versus the classic recipe. 

Though these are the ingredients I used, some of the organic items might not be available in your area, and you can always mix it up to work for you with the types of cheeses and pasta.

Healthy Baby Mac


1/2 lb of organic whole wheat macaroni
1 1/2 cups of cubed organic butternut squash
3/4 cup of organic fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup of organic whole milk
1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic
1 Tablespoon of plain organic whole greek yogurt (this took FOREVER to find - most are low fat)
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 cup of shredded Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup of shredded Pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 cup of whole wheat breadcrumbs

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray. Sprinkle a coating of the breadcrumbs in each muffin spot.
  2. Cook the macaroni as suggested by the box directions. Mine said to add macaroni to boiling water, cook for 5-7 minutes, then drain.
  3. Meanwhile in a medium saucepan, add the squash, chicken broth, milk and garlic together and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes until the squash is very tender.
  4. Pour your squash mixture into a blender and pulse until smooth. Add the yogurt and pepper and pulse a little more.
  5. Pour blended mixture into a large mixing bowl, and fold in both cheeses until melted and mixed thoroughly. Then fold in the pasta and make sure all ingredients are mixed well.
  6. Spoon pasta mixture into the muffin tin. Sprinkle any remaining breadcrumbs across the top of the macaroni mixture in each cup.
  7. Bake macaroni for 15 minutes. If you want the browning on top, turn on the broiler for another 3 minutes.
  8. Serve once cooled. If you want to freeze for later meals, pop the muffin tin into the freezer for a bit to "lock" these into cup shapes, then pop out and drop into a Ziploc freezer bag.
I'll be honest, my husband was a little confused by the butternut squash taste in the grown-up (lower-fat) version of this recipe - he's used to what I call "crap in a box" and was expecting the faux cheddar that is typically mixed with the macaroni. I am NOT a mac & cheese fan (I know, I'm weird), but THIS recipe was delicious.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Last week I posted about our issues with separation anxiety, and I am happy to report they are getting much better. Though now that I'm more confident in what it takes to get this to work, I'm scared to rock the boat (read: different daycare lady on Fridays/weekends that doesn't know our "process").

So here are some of the factors that play into my child being happy enough to leave in the gym daycare for 90 minutes:

  1. Transitional item: This was the best piece of advice I received from my mom friends when I posted our daycare drama on Facebook. (We are all guilty of venting on Facebook once in awhile right? This is actually, in my opinion, one of the primary reasons to have it - a quick way to get personalized advice from those who have been there, done that, and know you. Anyway...) The transitional item suggested was a snack, which might have worked great, but since this is just a gym daycare and not a full-blown regular daycare, I wasn't really comfortable with her having food in this place (they probably felt the same way). So instead we brought in a small white bear, "Baby Bear", as her friend to keep her company.
  2. Someone to play with: We go to the gym in the morning, which is the only time that works with our nap schedule and the daycare availability. Not to mention the rush hour shift (5-8pm) can have two dozen kids in there with ONE adult. No thanks. A CUTE little boy started going to the gym daycare in the morning so it seems to help if there is a little friend for Bugga to play with when she gets there.
  3. A special toy: My daughter has developed an obsession for purses. No joke. Not sure if she's just mimicking Mommy or just NEEDS to have something slung over a wrist, but she takes a purse everywhere. And the gym daycare has one for her to carry around too. Oh and the daycare lady also hands her a little baby doll wrapped in a blanket which Bugga promptly tosses into a grocery cart and pushes around the room. But I digress.
  4. Leaving: OK I am still waiting for all the above distractions to keep her happy long enough that I can back out of the room. I am scared to say good bye at this point, just to remind her I am leaving and start the tears. It helps to know that she is fine when I leave now (I peek), and when I come back to get her, she lights up when she sees me, and blows kisses to the daycare lady as we head out. So she is clearly having fun in there.
We've made a LOT of progress in the past week, and I am very proud of my little kiddo. It would have been so much easier to just give up and work out at home when she naps and not put her through all this, but then what kind of parent is THAT? Obviously I can't keep her at home with me forever (I wish!) and the benefit of staying home with her is I have the flexibility in my schedule that I can be patient with her need for adjustment time. I feel it is my job, and honestly my preference, to help her through this.

The gym uses one woman most of the week (Mon-Thurs) for the morning daycare, and then Friday and Saturday are two different women. And right now, this is reason enough for me to not have to workout on Fri-Sat because I'm scared to rock the boat this week! Maybe next week she'll be established enough to have a new variable in her morning plans. Kids love a routine, so I just need to stick with it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Separation Anxiety Hits Our House

We are currently going on Day 5 (including a weekend) of my husband having to go back to Alaska for a work emergency. I suppose the weekend part is irrelevant, but even a stay at home mom looks forward to the weekend when we can finally do things as a family. Oh, and split the kiddo duties.

Things have been going relatively well with the exception of my brilliant plan to get back into the swing of things again with our daily morning visit to the gym. This worked perfect for us October/November after we first got back from Alaska, but we took off several weeks for a family vacation and some holiday travel.

Oh what a mess we have now. Today was the third day I attempted to drop my 13-month-old off at the gym daycare. She was NOT havin' it. Not one bit. The separation anxiety is apparently at the top of her development milestones right now and it is kicking us in the face. I tried everything, distraction, staying for awhile and playing with her, sneaking out, doing the "I'll be back soon!", etc. If I made it out the door somehow, I would lurk nearby where I could still see and hear, but was out of view of my daughter.

This kid would just WAIL. The poor daycare lady would try to distract her with all the new toys that filled the room, and she would take a breath for a second and look, but then start right up again. I hear about these other children that cry only when their parents are around and then they're fine. Not mine, these three days anyway.

So my workout plans for 2013 are still pretty elusive. I ended up working out at home during nap time, which is nice to have that option, but it isn't quite the same.

Anyone go through this? Any advice? My approach is to keep trying and hope she gets used to it. But in the back of my head, I'm worried she's learning that this place makes her cry. Period.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Project: 2013 Memory Box

I saw a cute and easy idea on Pinterest (of course), so this is my variation of it...

This is a bit of a year-long project, but it is an easy one. Keep a box (or a jar if you go that route) in an easy location, like the kitchen counter, and fill it with fun/happy/touching memories that happen throughout the year. Then, open the box on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve and relive those great moments with your family.

Memory Box

Supplies Needed:
  • cardboard box (I used a recently-emptied Kleenex mini-box - it already has a hole in the top, and reusing is my favorite way to go with trash)
  • fun paper
  • scotch tape
  • hot glue gun
  • decorative items (punches, paint pen, etc.) - optional, whatever you have!


    1. Wrap the box in the decorative paper like you would a gift box. In my example, I used two different designs (black & white polka dots, and teal & white stripes), and split them over the opening so I did not have to cut too much. Use scotch tape to hold down ends.
    2. Since there are now 2 scotch-taped sides, those are the sides I used for the "2013" signs so as to cover up my tape mess. In this example, I used purple cardstock cut to almost cover an entire side, punching out the corners to give it a more tailored look. Then I cut a glittery foam sheet slightly smaller and stuck it straight to the purple paper. I then hot-glued the sign over one scotch-tape side. 
    3. Decorate the signs, and boxes, as desired! I might dress mine up some more, but for now, I'm keeping it simple.
    4. Add memories throughout the year!
    5. On New Year's Eve (or another night at the end of the year), open the box up when your family is together and read each of the memories. This is a great way to remember how the year went, while adding more reasons to celebrate!

    Wednesday, January 2, 2013

    New Year...More of the Same!

    This is the time of year where people usually make really elaborate plans to be better, do better, live better. And I suppose everyone could use a little personal improvement on some level.

    However, thinking this over, I really don't want too much to change in my life. Well, except maybe to slow down the growth of my daughter - she is getting way too big, way too fast. My husband and I are truly loving every minute with her, and with each other, and realize that we are very lucky to have what we do, and to live such full lives.

    So my New Year's Resolution for 2013 is to continue to take time every day to really LOOK at my husband and really LOOK at my daughter and acknowledge how I feel in those moments and all the moments before and after.

    Oh, and I would also like to resolve to go to bed before midnight on weeknights. I had to get that in there too.

    Happy New Year everyone!