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Archive for July, 2008

From the North Woods

The kids and I are mid-way through an extended trip visiting various branches of my family in the Midwest.  We flew into Chicago on Wednesday morning, stayed with my dad for a few days.  Friday night, we drove six hours (with three adults, two kids, and a dog with a bladder infection!) to Northern Wisconsin, where I currently sit on my mom’s laptop, stealing the neighbor’s wireless connection.  We’re at my mom’s house on a lake, with my stepdad’s family.  We had 16 people for dinner on Saturday night, 21 on Sunday.  We drive back down to civilization tomorrow, and then go to Central Illinois on Friday for my dad’s family reunion, before flying back to Boston on Sunday night (my kids’ first birthday!).

 

We’re surviving, and even doing quite well. The key, I think, has been to stick to my kids’ normal schedule and routines as much as possible.  We spend a lot more time outside than we usually do at home, and there’s seemingly a million people who want to hold and play with them.  But naps and meals and bedtimes remain the same, and I think that has helped a lot.  Not 100% smooth sailing, but pretty darn good.

I’ll give a full recap next week when we get back, but I thought I’d check in from our crazy Midwestern adventure.  And, of course, I had to share a few pictures!

 

Enjoying breakfast at the lake.

Enjoying breakfast at the lake.

 

Rebecca suddenly enjoys assisted walking

Rebecca suddenly enjoys assisted walking

 

Daniel looks out the window with his grandma

Daniel looks out the window with his grandma

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As my girls are growing quickly, i’ve realized that it’s time to get them started on art projects(mainly coloring and scribbling). As i studied Elementary Education in College, i found that the earlier you introduce your children to coloring(scribbling) and different forms of art, the better. So with that being said, as soon as my girls were old enough to hold a crayon, i let them scribble away. There are many different items out there for young children, colors, markers, finger paints and more. Crayola has always been my brand of choice, as i know that they make non-toxic products and all but a few are washable.

For younger children i really like the plain ole’ crayola washable finger paints. Using finger paints is not only fun for the child, but helps them with fine and gross motor skills. The best way to use them is to get your child un-dressed out of anything except for a diaper and put them in a high chair and let them go crazy. You can give them a few colors at once…or just one at a time. Of course, you still have to supervise them and make sure they don’t just sit there and eat the paint. I love letting my girls finger paint and they really seem to love the feeling of the paint on and between their fngers. They also enjoy it because it’s nice and messy. BUT i think even more fun, is the bath they get AFTER they finger paint! Here is a link to the finger paints my girls like.

http://www.crayolastore.com/product_detail.asp?T1=CRA+55%2D0005

While talking about baths…i have to say we LOVE the crayola tub colors. The only issue i have with these colors is that…why would you put a WHITE crayon in the mix of colors when most bathtubs are WHITE??? I just take that color and throw it away since you can’t see it on the tub. BUT, the girls LOVE these crayons most of all..and they wipe right off your bathtub. Just be careful not to let them have more than one at a time because if they fall in the water they slowly melt away. My girls are really bad at wanting all the crayons to hold on to, in the tub. But after we went through one entire set of crayons in one bath setting i learned my lesson and only give them one color at a time. Here is a link to the crayons. I know you can get them at Target and walmart…i think i’ve even seen them at grocery stores and different pharmacy’s!

http://www.crayolastore.com/product_detail.asp?T1=CRA+023002

Another idea is just a set of big crayons. They are harder to break and the child has more to hold on to when coloring. These are great on working on fine motor skills. Here is a link to the crayons: http://www.crayolastore.com/product_detail.asp?T1=CRA+52%2D008T

Along with the giant crayons, we’ve found the following coloring pages quite nice for small children. They are big and the chances of drawing on anything other than their paper is small. http://www.crayolastore.com/product_detail.asp?T1=CRA+80%2D8302

One last great product made by crayola that we really enjoy, are the color wonder, coloring books and markers. They are nice and clean and mess free. I’m not sure at what age you can use them…but all 3 of my girls love coloring on these coloring books. Here is a link to the color wonder coloring books we use. They are great and so nice and clean.

http://www.crayolastore.com/product_detail.asp?T1=CRA+07%2D2404

One product i did not find i liked for smaller children, were the following markers for children 18 months and up:

http://www.crayolastore.com/product_detail.asp?T1=CRA+80%2D5800&SKW=CRA18MON&menu=&subcat=&hdr=

The reason i don’t recommended these markers, is because they drip color/marker. I had originally planned to use these in the car while we were on our trip to Florida, not to long ago. THANK GOODNESS i didn’t pull those out for the kidos in the car. One day not to long ago i pulled them out to let the girls color with them and they were a mess! I mean color all over the place. To be quite honest, when i tried them myself, they dripped so much color I made a mess, myself!

When i bought the markers, i also bought the crayons that are marked 18 + months. These crayons are ok, but just not all that they are made out to be. I brought them out for my girls and they tried to color, but the round bottoms are so big, its hard for children with small hands to hold on to them. My suggestion is to stick with the old fashoined big crayons and not even bother with the markers or crayons that are made for the 12+ & 18+ children. They cost more and definitely aren’t worth the money.

While checking out the crayola website i found a great book on childrens artwork and celebrating the scribble. I have yet to read it…but i’m going to check and see if they sell it on amazon and check it out myself.

http://www.crayolastore.com/product_detail.asp?T1=CRA+1893622

While talking about coloring and different coloring products, i also thought i’d share this cool website. We visit this website on rainy days and normally i let my 4 year old go through and choose a few pics to color. I also let her pick out a few pics for her sisters to color. These pictures are great because they aren’t just “coloring book” pages…they are educational. So, while your children are coloring, you can teach them about the number or letter they are coloring.

http://www.coloringcastle.com/number_coloring_pages.html

If you have any other great art items you can’t live without, please leave a comment so we can all try them.

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There was an interesting article in the Boston Globe this morning about the decision around separating or keeping your twins together in school. I’d already been thinking about this issue, due to the interesting post about it this week—and then, there was an article about the same issue on the front page of the Globe this morning. 

http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2008/07/26/together_until_they_are_ready/

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As always, if you have a food related topic you’d like to see discussed here, or a great resource you’d like to share with other moms, post it in the comment section. We love to hear from you!

Here at Foodie Friday, we got the following question from a MOT reader:

“I would love to see recommendations on getting fruits and veggies into toddlers. My two-year-olds loved vegetables of all kinds until they learned to turntheir noses up at them at daycare. Peer pressure starts young! I make a variety of vegetable pancakes, vegetable breads, and veggie nuggets that are successful with one of my girls, but hit and miss with the other.”

Ah, peer pressure at age 2. Life can be tough sometimes, even in daycare! Although, I know that lots of kids get to be picky eaters around 18-24 months. There are several schools of thought on this issue. One school of thought, which you can see reflected in some recent publications, focuses on hiding fruits and veggies in other kinds of food.

Danny LOVES him some chocolate banana smoothie

Danny LOVES him some chocolate banana smoothie

Check out this book or this one for examples of ways to do this. Of course, it doesn’t hurt the popularity of these books that one of these authors is married to a celebrity.

I tend to be more of a fan of veggies that are recognizable (yes, spinach brownies, I’m talking to you!). That’s just my opinion, and I acknowledge that at 15 months my kids have not yet hit the super picky stage. A couple of ways we get veggies in to their diet is mixed in with pasta, with lots of melted cheese on top. Peas, broccoli or spinach are good for this. I often see that the veggies are not eaten as thoroughly as the cheese or pasta, but they do eat some of them.We eat a lot of frozen small mixed veggies that are a mix of lima beans, green beans, carrots & peas. They are easy to prep and the kids seem to be amused by the choices. Oddly, the favorites are lima beans.

We have been experimenting with smoothies lately. Banana, frozen strawberries, vanilla yogurt is great. Or, for a more watery smoothie, use milk. Inspired by my new favorite drink at Starbucks (yes, I may as well direct deposit my paycheck there), we made banana/chocolate smoothies with whole milk, a little sugar, ice and cocoa powder. Those were a HIT! (See photographic evidence.)

Fresh fruit always seems to go over well—fresh raspberries picked off the bush out front were hugely popular, until the raspberry season ended. Fresh strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, melon….what’s not to like? We also do a lot bags of frozen blueberries, defrosting

Notice Danny in the background, still REALLY enjoying that smoothie.

Notice Danny in the background, still REALLY enjoying that smoothie.

the frozen blueberries one at a time. Chunks of veggies in tomato sauce offer tomatos and other veggies. Chili is also popular, and will give them both tomatoes and red pepper.  Maybe fried rice? Make it with some egg and add some veggies?

What do others do? If you have had great success getting fruits and veggies into your two year old, let us know your secrets!

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With one-half of our vacation over, I’m certainly a lot wiser now than I was a week ago. My preparations were handy, but it was clear very early on that what was planned wasn’t all going to work out. 

First of all, leaving the first day was challenging. Even though we had packed mostly everything, we still had a lot of stuff to load into the car. Next time everything really needs to be in the car two days ahead of time so that the last-minute stuff is done the night before.

The tip of going to a place to wear them out first thing is very good and one that we will try and do next time. Timing for this trip is tough because of it being two long, long days and we really just wanted to get to our destination. Plus, they only sleep an hour in the car, tops.

We have to stop every two hours when sleep has not happened and can stretch it to three hours when a lucky hour-long nap has occured.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

Rest stops are not for rest: No, you need to run them, jump them, spin them, toss them in the air, explore with them, and everything else you can think of before getting them back in that car. We ate lunch at our stops, too, in order to avoid big messes and more turning around in the car.

Bring sweets: I have been using lollipops as sanity-savers for awhile now, but this trip they have been worth their weight in gold. When it’s only been an hour and a half and they are starting to get restless, time for a lollipop. Other goodies include fruit roll-ups, or a box of raisins that, yes, will get dumped. But each sweet treat provided another few minutes of peace.

Toys are not toys in the car: The very things I thought would be magic in the car were not at all. Things that were a hit: Pom Poms. These were perhaps the best thing I brought. Also, those toy microphones that Target sells and that Gymboree uses in music classes. Also, wooden beads for banging together, musical instruments like maracas, and natural elements such as sticks, rocks and leaves. Things that didn’t work for this trip, for this age: most art supplies and drawing toys except one white board and dry erase marker. Perhaps on the ride home?

Not all kids are created equal: Like this needs to be said. But, as it turns out, one of my girls could ride all day and not play with anything. She turned her nose at just about everything except the pom poms and tossed EVERYTHING else to the floor within a second. The other one was happy to play with just about anything and kept it all in her lap, too.

Never underestimate organizational materials: We weren’t organized enough and that will be different going home. Toys easily got lost in the back, especially the smaller ones. By the end of the trip, it was pure chaos back there. Toy storage units that could fit on the floor would have been ideal. I never considered it because I thought a couple toys would entertain for at least a few minutes and then get returned to their little bag or box. Instead, those toys were quickly tossed to the side, the floor, or even in the back.

DVD player with two screens is nirvana: No joke; the creators of this should be proud of every cent they make because it means a half hour of quiet. I used these way more than I thought we would, especially on Day 2 when all bets were off, every snack had been used, and every toy presented and turned away.

All in all, the girls have traveled very well, but those 600 miles were very long miles. Some states seemed to drag on forever (Virginia) and others were a breeze.

Amazingly, though, the trip has been easier than I ever expected. I think we’re all just happy to be away and letting go of all rules.

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