Practical Life Activities for Toddlers: Meal Time

As I mentioned in our Bathing Baby Blue post, we have been encouraging Sweet P to do more of her day to day routine on her own. She LOVES to help prepare meals and pulls her chair over to help me make things like pancakes, granola, muffins and anything else that doesn't involve a burner. 

At breakfast I've started putting her food into smaller containers so that she can create her meal on her own. The meal below is granola in a measuring cup with a handle, soymilk in a pitcher, and blueberries and almonds in stainless steel bowls. I almost explained the order to her, but then decided to let her figure it out on her own because does it really matter if she puts the milk in before the blueberries? Nope. 
She loves getting to do this on her own and at the end of her meal she brings each item to the sink (usually one at a time). Sure it dirties up more dishes, but the joy on her face as she prepares her own meal is worth a few extra seconds of loading dishes in the dishwasher (which she has also started helping out with). 

Do your kiddos help out with mealtime?

The Aftermath of Art

Who says art has to end after the project is complete?
We made a guitar Valentine for the Farmer (silly me forgot to take a picture of the final project and it is now at his office) and painted the pieces. Sweet P loved to paint so I knew she'd enjoy making this. What I didn't know is that she'd have more fun cleaning up the aftermath of the art than she did actually making the art.

I laid down a drop cloth (it's a plastic sheet from a Potty Party we had last year) and when we were finished, I asked her to help me clean it up. I handed her a wet washcloth and she happily scrubbed off the paint that had dripped onto the sheet during our project.
Sweet P LOVES playing in the kitchen sink and would happily wash dishes all day long (think I can bottle that for the teenage years?) so I asked her to pull a chair over so we could wash the paint brushes. This turned out to be the highlight of Sweet P's day! She poured out the water we had used to rinse the paintbrush while we painted and after we'd cleaned up our breakfast dishes, I plugged the drain.
I handed her the foam brush and watched as she marveled over the water changing color while she rinsed the foam brush.
Once the brush was clean she moved on to the smaller brush and said, "He is taking a  shower!" as she rinsed it with the sprayer.
Sweet P also loves to pour so I handed her our painting cup, her pitcher, a measuring spoon and medicine cup for some water transfer fun.

I'm slowly learning to encourage Sweet P to be part of the entire process because each step of creating art has something to teach her.

Family Bible Time: The Armor of God

A few weeks ago we began Family Bible Time on Sunday nights. We'd tried this previously, but didn't really have much structure. We don't really have much structure now, but the Farmer and I alternate on who comes up with the scripture and activity for the night. Our activities are simple and the verses are pretty short because Sweet P is at an age where she loses interest quickly if there aren't pictures to look at! 

Making the activity as applicable as possible helps her better understand what we read and actively participate in the Bible time. Here is what we did last weekend: 

The Reading:
The Armor of God: Ephesians 6:10-17
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

The Activity:
While Sweet P and the Farmer went to the playground I gathered everything we'd need for the activity and made a shield. Here is what we used as our props:

Belt of Truth: a super cool belt I saved that resides in Sweet P's dress up box
Breastplate of Righteousness: her vest put on backward
Boots of Readiness: cowboy boots
Shield of Faith: a shield I made out of cardboard, paper, paint and some stickers
Helmet of Salvation: her bicycle helmet
Sword of the Spirit/Word of God: a Spanish Bible (because she loves it!)

The Farmer read the passage, pausing after each section while I helped Sweet P put on each item. We talked about each item and she thought it was pretty neat. It didn't stay on long though, she was ready to take it off after she finished looking at her Spanish Bible (this is the Farmer's, but Sweet P is really attached to it for some reason!).

Baby Brother's Birth Story

FINALLY! Baby Brother's Birth Story...oh come on, it didn't take me that long!

Let's just start off by saying, I LOVE my doula! Thank you so much to Katie and all she did for us during the birth of Baby Brother.

We decided to have a doula when I was about 12 weeks pregnant with Baby Brother and it was the best decision we could have possibly made as we prepared for his birth. I had an epidural with Sweet P and hoped to avoid one this go round. It wore off when I began pushing (and I pushed for 3 1/2 hours). I really wanted to have a natural birth this time and having a doula was our first step in that direction. As you read our birth story, I hope you'll see why a doula is such a great person to have with you during birth.

My hope was that I'd be able to labor as much as possible at home, however, my body didn't agree with that and my water broke at 2:30am. I was dead asleep and shot of bed. I yelled at the Farmer and quickly called Katie. Since Auntie RoRo had gone to Nebraska with Uncle Will, I called our backup Kate and her husband to come sleep at our house. Needless to say I was a tiiiiny bit stressed that it was happening this way.

We scrambled to get everything together and got to the hospital at 3:15am, checked in and got hooked up to the monitor. Water was definitely broken, contractions weren't doing much and my blood pressure was high so I had to stay hooked up to the monitor for a bit longer. I was finally allowed to walk the halls so Katie and I walked while the Farmer got some sleep. After 30 mins, they rechecked BP. No good and I had to stay in bed for awhile. They gave me a bag of IV fluids to see if that would help (it didn't) and then I was allowed to bounce on the ball. Sometime during all of this, I progressed from a 4 to a 5, there was a shift change and we got new nurses and 2 new midwives.

My BP was not cooperating and my contractions weren't consistent or close. The midwives started talking pitocin and I started to stress. Once everyone left the room, I cried and told Katie and the Farmer I didn't want pitocin (and I was worried about Sweet P). Auntie RoRo and I texted for a few minutes and when I found out she was coming back, my stress level went down about 90% (unfortunately that didn't help my BP). During this time, Katie was looking for ways to speed up labor and lower my BP. We asked if I could take a shower and Katie suggested nipple stimulation. Before this situation, I thought nipple stimulation was awkward. I can now say that nipple stimulation sped up my contractions, helped me avoid pitocin and led me to the natural birth I had hoped and prayed for.

The midwives allowed to me to take a 15 minute bath and between the bath and nipple stim, the contractions became 3-5 minutes apart. And away we went. The only problem? My BP.

Because of my BP the midwives wanted me to stay in bed and this made contractions excruciating. After another check, they decided to try the Texas Roll to get his head to move into position. My BP did NOT like this and luckily we only had to try it once. Because it was hurting my back to lay on my back, I began contracting on all fours. This really helped take some of the pressure off my lower back, but I really just wanted to stand and way with the Farmer! There were several times I felt like I needed to push, but when they checked I was only an 8. To help me get through each contraction I'd talk positively to myself saying "You can do this" and "God, please help me." "Damn you, Eve!" was another popular thought in my head during contractions! Katie was really helpful with encouraging words and allowed the Farmer and I to work together during contractions.

The nurse finally allowed me to stand because my BP wasn't getting any better in bed or out. Standing during a contraction really helped him move into position and finally I said, "I feel like I have to push. Actually, I'm not pushing and he's going to come out." The next few minutes were a blur as they rushed in to prepare for the delivery. Because of Sweet P's birth I thought we'd be pushing for awhile so I geared up for a pushing marathon. After the second push, the midwife asked if I wanted to feel his head. I never thought I'd be one to want to do that, but when I felt it, it helped me realize he was right there! I pushed 2 more times and he was out!

He didn't cry right away and I remember saying "Cry. Please cry." (The Farmer thought this was funny because no one else seemed concerned that he wasn't crying). And he finally did! They laid him on my chest and checked him while I delivered the placenta. The feeling of relief and joy that comes after delivering the placenta is indescribable. Baby Brother was born at 12:49pm and weighed 8 lbs 15 oz. (3 oz. more than his sister).

And here he is, already 4 months old and 19 lbs 14 oz. How did we ever exist without him?

Practical Life Activities for Toddlers: Bathing Baby Blue

We are slowly, but surely trying to add more Montesorri methods to our tot preschooling. There are several practical life activities that we have been encouraging Sweet P to do on her own and with us. It's been really neat to watch her do this things by herself and to see the light in her eyes as she realizes it. Some of these might seem really simple, but she gets really excited when she gets to help or do them on her own.

Bathing Baby Blue (this is her new name for Baby Brother so I'm changing it in the blog!) has been something that she really enjoys doing with me. We have a very small bathroom so she usually gets pretty wet in the process! Baby Blue is outgrowing his bathtub so he splashes a lot of water everywhere! She's learned to be very gentle and helps clean him with a small wash cloth. She also likes to help me empty the water into the big bathtub when we are finished. He is smitten with her and loves to have another face to smile at while we bath him.

Don't you just love that little patch of hair on Baby Blue?! I had a lady call it a reverse goatee. Sweet P calls it his baby mullet.

Next time she is awake to help out, I think I'll ask her to help me fill the bathtub with a large measuring cup. What do your toddlers help with?

Heart-shaped Pancakes

I know Valentine's Day is done and over, but that doesn't mean you can't have heart-shaped pancakes year round! I made Sweet P pancakes for Valentine's Day along with a blueberry smoothie (it would've been strawberry, but I used them all in the pancakes!).
Shaped pancakes are such a simple and creative way to make meals fun for kiddos. Sweet P loved these heart-shaped pancakes and asked for them again and again and again (so I made them again on Saturday). These were made with a little bit of almond flour (we get ours at Trader Joe's) and SO yummy!

The Recipe: Heart-shaped Pancakes

What you need:
1 1/2 c of whole wheat flour (organic if you've got it)
1/2 c of almond meal/flour (if you don't have/can't find almond meal, use another 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour or oats)
1 1/2 c organic soy milk (or regular milk)
1/4 c water
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 c frozen strawberries (without syrup and organic if possible)
1 organic egg
1 tbsp flaxseed (optional)

Turn on skillet to medium-heat. Drizzle olive oil in the pan. Heat frozen strawberries in microwave for 1 minute. They should soften and make juice. Blend strawberries with immersion blender or leave whole (I wanted them juicier). Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in egg, milk, water and strawberries. Stir until moistened and easy to pour.

Pour into metal cookie cutter to form heart (or cut after you've cooked the pancakes). Allow pancakes to cook for 1 minute, then flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes or until cooked thoroughly. Yields 6-8 medium sized pancakes

I only had 3 frozen strawberries so I added some MonaVie to try to make the batter pinker. It never really did get as pink as I had hoped, but I blame that on the whole wheat flour (and lack of strawberries). The strawberries gave them a good flavor though, so I'd like to try it again when I have more.

My Lenten Resolution

I chose a tough one this year, but one that I know will challenge me. I'm looking forward to the challenge and really excited to see how my faith grows through this Lenten season while giving up the internet. Yep. I'm giving up the internet. Because I can't quite go without checking my email for 6 weeks, I'll pop in on Sundays to check emails, update the blog, check meetup (that's how we schedule our playdates!) and print out any recipes I need for the week.

When I first mentioned that I was thinking of giving up the internet for Lent, the Farmer said, "I don't think you can do it." Right after that he said, "No, I think you can do it, but it's going to be a really big challenge." It's definitely going to be a challenge, but isn't the point of a Lenten resolution to abstain from something we indulge in? When I think about the suffering Jesus endured, giving up the internet seems petty. My hope, however, is that this 6 weeks of abstaining from the internet will strengthen my relationship with God. Giving up internet time will also increase the amount of time the Farmer and I spend together while the kids are asleep.

Giving up the internet will also encourage me to plan and organize our weeks a bit better. I've already started menu planning (something I haven't been good about) so that I can shop for the items I'll need for new recipes we'll be trying. I've also started making a list of things from Pinterest I want to make, try or do with Sweet P. At first, I was really anxious about giving up the internet, but the more I thought and prayed about it, the more I realized that it was definitely the thing I needed to give up. It's something I rely on, turn to and obsess about from time to time. I stay up too late and get mad at myself in the morning.

Because to be honest, I spend too much time on the internet. I'm hoping that by giving up the internet 6 days a week, I'll be less reliant on it. I do have a few concerns, especially if it involves a recipe or directions, but I've also reminded myself that mothers have lived for thousands of years without the internet! If I need directions I can pick up the phone and I can always choose another recipe.

I don't have a smart phone so that's a plus. I do, however, have Facebook on my phone and the ability to check my email so I will be disabling the internet on my phone for the next 6 weeks. This is HUGE! I check my email constantly from my phone so that'll be difficult!

I'm doing my best to schedule posts so that the blog continues while I'm away and I have a few awesome guest posters lined up as well. I can't wait to share them with you!

Have a great Ash Wednesday! This post was scheduled on Sunday so my internet break has already begun!

Happy Mardi Gras!

We've never been to Mardi Gras (and don't intend to), but New Orleans is special to us because TK went to LSU and Auntie Maria lives there! Sweet P was in Auntie Maria's wedding in New Orleans last year and we also spent a few days there when Sweet P was just 5 months old. Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday, which is the day before Ash Wednesday. We found this fun idea at Handprint and Footprint Art. Here's what we did to celebrate:

We took these to do at a playdate today, but if you think 5 2-3 year olds are going to stop long enough to craft you are mistaken! We left the materials with our friends so they could make them on their own and we made our Mardi Gras mask after naptime!

Did you do an activities to celebrate Mardi Gras?

Tot Preschool: President's Day Activities

We've been talking about presidents for a few days in preparation for President's Day. I have to be honest about something: I didn't know Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president! I kept telling Sweet P he was the 5th until my mom said "He is NOT the 5th President" and rattled off the first 10. I guess because he is on the $5 bill I thought he was number 5! Silly me. 

In addition to our activities, we watched The President! and President's Day 2012: Washington to Obama videos on YouTube.

Here are our trays from today:
These are President cards I picked up at Target's $1 Spot in the fall. I picked out George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama to show her. There are facts on the back, but we just looked at the pictures. She picked up the Obama card and the Washington card and drew them on her dry erase board.

Build a Log Cabin: We got this idea from Carrots are Orange and Sweet P had a great time with it! I filled a small bowl with water glue (a mixture of water and glue) and she used a paint brush to brush the glue onto the page. I numbered the sticks and she glued them down in numerical order. We talked about triangles and rectangles as she glued on the door and chimney. Sweet P loved the door and said "Someone is going to come out!"

George Washington Cotton ball Wig: I printed this color sheet from Twisted Noodle on card stock, cut around his head and glued the card stock to a piece of black construction paper. She used a paintbrush and water glue to glue the cotton balls onto the paper as George Washington's hair. We both thought this was so funny and when she was finished she announced "He has pigtails!" She asked to color his shirt so we got out markers. Pink polka dots of course! She also colored one eye pink. Wonder if they had pink eye back then!

Washing and sorting coins: The small boxes held pennies and quarters since we were talking about Abe Lincoln and George Washington. Sweet P spread out the towel on her table and then brought the water bowl over without the tray to avoid spilling. We added another towel to dry the coins and a bowl of just water (the glass bowl had dish soap in it).

After she tired of washing the coins (she wasn't super interested in brushing them), she wanted to do water transfer so I brought her a little lid (it's a Gatorade lid).

Sorting: After she was finished with the washing and water play, she dried them off and sorted them back into the quarter and penny boxes.

Making a Pizza: This doesn't have anything to do with President's Day, but when she was done playing with trays she wanted to play with her grocery store. Then she told me she went home to make lunch. What did she make for lunch? A big pizza, of course! It was fun to dump it all out, but she wasn't thrilled about picking it all up! Cleaning up was a great sorting activity, though she dumped out so many different containers.

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Linking to:
 Montessori Monday
Tot School

5 Days of Outdoor Play: Sledding!

We did some sledding in our backyard last year with Sweet P, haven't had enough snow to really go sledding with Sweet P this year. That didn't stop the Farmer from making a sledding slide in the backyard after a great snowfall last week!
make gifs

Sweet P was unsure about it at first and then wanted to do it again and again! A few days later we played in the backyard snow again and she wanted to slide on her tummy down the sledding slide. It was too funny watching her army crawl down the slide. That girl LOVES the snow!

Have you been sledding this year?

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5 Days of Outdoor Play: Nature Walks and Pockets

It's been in the high 30's and low 40's this week, which for Iowa means it's nice enough to go to the playground and take walks! We play outside in lower temperatures, but reserve extended activities for warmer weather. Yesterday we brought Sweet P's lunch to a playground and later that afternoon we took a family nature walk that ended up at the library!

Sweet P took her stroller, Lionel Messi (a soccer bear named after a soccer player) and a little bag to collect stuff in, and we headed for the path near our house.
She picked up several items along the path to put in her bag and stomped in a few puddles.

Her nature items
  • Green pine needles
  • Tan pine needles
  • 2 tiny acorns
  • 2 large acorns
  • 1 pecan shell
  • 1 leaf
  • 1 tiny pinecone
  • Berries
  • Berries on a stem

When we got home (after she put on her swimsuit, of course) I taped contact paper to the table and she stuck all of her nature items to it. She really liked that the table was sticky.

After she finished, I cut another piece and laid it on top, forming a nature pocket. We talked about how each item felt while it was in the pocket.

Then, I got out some markers and a piece of paper, and encouraged her to draw the nature items she found. We talked about the color of each item as she drew. She made some pretty cool pine needles! In addition to her nature drawings, she told me she wrote my name and she also drew a funny man. And after loading my pictures, I realized I didn't take a picture of her drawing.

This activity was so simple, but allowed her to explore, pick up, feel, draw and see different items in nature. I'm excited to do this again when there are even more items outside to pick up!

Linking to the Outdoor Play Party!