Sunday, February 26, 2012

Popping Bubbles

Who knew a simple piece of bubble wrap could create so much happiness?

This smile was accompanied by shrieks of delight each time a bubble was popped. Sometimes it's the smallest things that bring the most joy to our lives. I hope something was able to make you smile this much today!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Conversations With Stephanie

My daughter loves to talk. From the minute she wakes up ("Mommy! Stephanie awake! rattles doorknob incessently. Go other room now!") to the moment she lies her pretty little head down on her pillow ("Goo Night Mama, I la loo!") she is chatting. Half of the time I have no idea what she's saying, but she has infinite patience with me and will repeat herself over and over until I get it. (She has that little sigh down, which is a clear indication that she thinks I am completely dumb for not getting it right away.)

My favorite conversations with her happen during car rides. Today we took a 10 minute trip to the gas station, and this is a snippet of our conversation.

Stephanie: Mommy a tractor!

Me: I see that tractor.

S: MORE tractor!

M: Lets keep looking.

S: Eyes.

M: Yup, we have to use our eyes.

S: Riiiiiiiide

M: We can't ride, or we'll hit the car in front of us. We're stopped because of the light. What color is it?

S: Red

M: And what does that mean?

S: Stop. Green! Go!

M: Yes, green means go, but it isn't green yet.

S: Gooooo mommy!

M: Not yet.

Long Pause

S: YAY! Green.

M: Yup, here we go.

S: Christmas lights!

M: Well, those are actually just somebody's outdoor porch lights. But sure, you can call them Christmas lights if you want.

S: MORE Christmas lights!

M: I don't know if we'll see anymore.

S: Stephanie look. Eyes.

M: Good idea, use your eyes to look for more.

S: Siren!

M: I did see that siren. (Any car with a flashing light is considered a siren. Police cars, ambulances, tow trucks, etc.)

S: MORE siren!

M: Keep looking.

S: Eyes

M: Yes, use your eyes to see the siren lights.


M: We can't. We're stopped at another red light.

S: Green go.

M: Yes, when the light turns green, we'll go.

S: Yay, green go. Nana's house!

M: No, we're not going to Nana's house today.

S: Stephanie go Nana's house!!

M: Another day.

S: My water!

M: Oops, we forgot it at home.

S: My water (sob fest).

M: Stephanie! A siren!

S: Siren! MORE siren!

And that's pretty much how it goes every time we're in the car. And as much as I get tired of repeating myself, I love that she's so observant. And it's much more preferable to when she used to scream the entire time she was strapped in her carseat...

*I linked up with Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop today. The prompt was "Capture what it's like to spend a moment talking with your kiddo."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Toddler Crafts

The internet is full of fun craft ideas to do with kids. As a former preschool teacher, I have books and folders stuffed to brimming with activities and crafts that correlate to almost every possible theme out there. So it should be easy for me to find ideas and activities to do with Stephanie. But the problem i've run into is that she's two.  Most of the craft ideas out there are not developmentally appropriate for two-year-olds, and that makes the educator in me cringe.

I definitely agree that it's fun to do parent-directed activites with children. (Meaning that I come up with a craft, decide it's what we're going to do, prepare all the parts, and help Stephanie execute it.) I even think it's perfectly fine to do these types of things. But I also feel like I need to balance that with child-directed, toddler appropriate activities.

Two year olds need to explore and engage all 5 senses. They need activities that will foster their creativity and allow them to learn and grow. The best way to do this is to provide materials that enable her to do these things. To be there to help guide her, but not directly give her instructions. To not have a "final product" that she needs to create. I have noticed that when I try to do a craft with a finished product in mind, Stephanie gets frustrated and bored fairly quickly. So I've had to dig around in my brain for some of the things that I did when I taught toddlers. Below, I share five of my favorite, simple crafty/sensory ideas for toddlers.

Shaving cream on a tray.
      Children love to squish it, play with it, feel it, and smell it. (And, admittedly, taste it. You have to make sure you're giving 100% of your attention during this activity). If you add a drip of food coloring, your toddler can make colorful designs by swirling it all over a tray.

Scrap paper and glue.
     Stephanie adores glue, and squeezing the bottle is great for strengthening the muscles in her hands, which in turn helps develop her fine motor skills. She squeezes the glue onto paper, and then picks up the little pieces of paper and puts them on the glue. So simple, but it creates abstract art that she is proud of, and I get to sit back and just watch her, instead of directing her on when and where to put the pieces.

     A piece of paper, some paint, and a paintbrush (or finger paint) are all your toddler needs to create a masterpiece all on his own. (Markers, crayons, chalk and paper can achieve these same goals.) It's always fun to ask your child about the painting when he's done with it, too. It's highly amusing to listen to him describe the elaborate scene he sees on the paper, when to your eye it merely looks like a blob.

3-D Art.
      One of my favorite things to do with my preschoolers was save bits of recycling (bottle tops, plastic baby food containers, paper towel/toilet paper rolls, etc.) and have them create works of art. Throw in some yarn pieces, googly eyes, and a few markers if you want, and see what your child can come up with.

Bingo Markers & Coffee Filters.
       The thin material of the coffee filter is what makes this activity unique, and bingo markers are great for little hands to grasp and manipulate. The colors will bleed across the filter, creating fun and colorful designs.

All of these activities are fun, and developmentally appropriate, and none of them have a pre-designed finished product that the child should strive to make. This allows for plenty of freedom of expression, and the opportunity to engage the senses and practice fine motor skills. If you decide to try any of these with your kiddos, let me know, and post pictures!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Joseph's 4 Month Letter

Dear Joseph,
Happy 4 Month Birthday! You actually turned 4 months 5 days ago, but you and your sister have been keeping me so busy that I haven't had a chance to write your letter until now.

This past month has been a busy one for you. You've grown and changed so much, you hardly resemble that tiny newborn I brought home from the hospital just 4 short months ago. You want to sit up all the time now, so that you can see everything that's happening around you. You still need to be supported when you sit, but I know it won't be long before you're doing it all on your own. You've started making the funniest growling noises when you want our attention, and as soon as we give it to you, you flash us your trademark grin and giggle at us. You also shriek for attention, which makes your sister laugh hysterically. That in turn makes you shriek more. Ours is definitely not a quiet household, that's for sure!

You actually got a tooth this month, and it wasn't a typical first tooth. Your top left canine started to come through, which caused you several days (was it only days? It felt like weeks) of pain. It pushed its way through your gum, but stopped there. When we took you for your checkup two days before you turned 4 months, the Dr. said that your little brain must have realized that the tooth wasn't really ready to come in, so it stopped where it was. Strange!

Speaking of the Dr, we found out that you weigh 15lbs, 10oz! You are 75th percentile for both height and weight, and 50th for head circumference. You're growing like a weed my little boy.

Your biggest milestone this month was rolling over. You worked hard on it for days, and then finally flipped from your back to your front. You haven't been able to go back the other way, which causes you such frustration. Your favorite game is to flip onto your belly when I put you under your gym, and then fuss until I come and turn you back over. We do this all day long.

You still don't sleep. Daddy and I have started to wonder if you ever will. You wake up multiple times throughout the night, with horrible gas pains. We haven't found anything to ease your discomfort, but the good thing is that you go right back to sleep as soon as we turn your sleep sheep on and put your paci back in. At least you aren't demanding bottles in the middle of the night anymore!

You continue to amaze and delight us each day, as you slowly discover the world around you. I love to see you learn new things every day, and I am proud of each little accomplishment that you make. Thank you for being such a sweet baby. I love you a million billion!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Finding Room For All The Kid Stuff!

We live in a small, two-bedroom apartment. I try so hard not to complain, because it's part of my husband's job which means we live here rent and utility free. It's the reason I get to stay home and raise my little ones, so I count it as a blessing. However, with the blessing comes plenty of aggravations. Especially with two little ones who come with a LOT of gear.

One of the biggest problems with our apartment is figuring out where to put all the stuff. Our living room floor is littered with a baby swing, bouncy chair, play-gym, and child's rocking chair, as well as shelves full of baby toys and books. The "master" (I use that term very loosely!) bedroom has Joseph's pack n' play shoved under the window, and I have down-graded from a closet to an armoire, which is in the kids' room, so that they can have the closet in their room, and Dan can have the one in our room.

Recently Dan moved his office out of our apartment, so I've turned that room into a playroom. It's been a life saver, because all of Stephanie's toys are in there. It gives her a special place to play that's all hers. (For now.) However, even with the extra room, I was overwhelmed when we came home from her birthday party and I had to figure out where to put all the new toys that our friends and family so generously gifted to her. (It feels like I just found homes for all the Christmas stuff.)

I've looked up storage solutions for small spaces on the internet, and there are tons of great ideas. I have big plans for the playroom and the kids' room, but I just haven't implemented them. In the meantime, I've come up with a few ways of storing things without feeling like i'm constantly tripping over toy clutter.

-Under-the-bed bins. These are great to store puzzles, out of season clothes, and things that I just need to get out of sight.

-Cube shelves. I bought this  shelf for the playroom, and plan to get more (another 6 cube, as well as a 9 cube). I put bins on the shelves to collect the toys with many pieces, and use the others for some of the medium sized toys.

-Plastic drawers. I use these for so much all around the house. For the kids, I put a set in the entry way for hats, mittens, and scarves. I use one for craft supplies, and one in the their closet for pajamas, pants, and skirts. (There isn't room for bureaus in their room.) I also plan to get one to keep all of Stephanie's kitchen toys. (She got a kitchen for her birthday.)

-Toy rotation. This is a great way to create more space, as well as keep Stephanie from getting bored with her toys. If there are things she hasn't played with in a while, I put them in our storage room. (We have a small room in our building where we keep bins full of holiday decorations, stuff we don't have room for, outgrown kid stuff, etc.) After a few weeks, I'll rotate these toys with others, and the ones I bring back in seem like brand new.

-Utilize every single space. There are diaper sleeves under the changing table, magazines lined up between the couch and end tables, DVDs stacked three deep in our entertainment center, etc. It drives me crazy because it makes it look cluttered, but honestly, using every possible space is the only way I can keep all the stuff from just...being in the way!

-Find a home for everything. This goes along with using every single space. Everything in my house has a place of it's own, and I try hard to put everything away at the end of the day. (It doesn't always happen me.)

-De-clutter! Several times a month I weed through toys (some to rotate), books, clothes, tupperware, the pantry, etc. I always seem to be able to fill a few bags of stuff to donate, sell, or trash.

These are a few of the ways that I've found to help keep the kid clutter under control. I'd love to hear any tips that you have for storing children's toys or cutting down on clutter! I know that even in a house, people deal with these issues, so please share your solutions!

Monday, February 13, 2012

I Lost the "Weight Loss" Drive...

I was doing so well with my health routine. For the entire month of January I ate right, exercised 5-6 nights a week, did ab workouts 4-5 times a week, and lost 10 (!) pounds. I was so excited, because I have never successfully started a weight-loss "program" and kept at it for more than a day or two. Sadly, the drive didn't last into February.

For some reason, I totally lost it this month. I started slowly, by dropping a workout here and there. Then the ab work started slipping. Then I started snacking more frequently. Then we had several nights in a row where we went out to eat. Then we had Stephanie's birthday goodies. And then last night, I hit my own personal rock bottom.

I've mentioned before how proud I was for not snacking at night anymore. No matter what other healthy habits were slipping, that one stayed strong. But then last night I started eating and just ate and ate and ate. I felt so gross and disgusting afterwards, so right then and there I made the decision to jump right back up and start the healthy habits all over again.

I woke up this morning even more determined to get back on track. I feel so much better when i'm eating right and exercising. I have more energy and patience, and i'm a much happier wife and mommy. It's good for me both mentally and physically, and it's also a morale boost to know that I can achieve my weight-loss goals.

I've done well so far today, and once all of the birthday and Valentine's Day treats are out of the house, I know i'll do even better. It's an uphill battle for me, and one that i'm determined to conquer. But I know I can do it. My goal is to be at my pre-Stephanie weight by the time Joseph is 7 months old on May 13th!

Here are some of the things i'm going to do to ensure I reach that goal:

~Drink water all day long

~Stock the refrigerator and cupboards with healthy, quick snacks

~Have a filling breakfast

~Portion out my snacks so that I know exactly how much i'm eating at a time

~Work out every night. (By saying this, I won't be able to put it off one night and say "oh, I don't feel like it tonight, which is ok since I only need to do it 3 nights a week. This is a recipe for putting it off and putting it off, and then missing an entire week. If I plan to do it every night, then it's ok when I have a night where I really can't.)

~Ab work every afternoon (Same principle as the exercise every night theory.)

~Plan healthy meals in advance so that I have all the ingredients in the house (There's nothing like going to start a meal and realizing i'm short an ingredient. That's a sure-fire way to ensure i'll eat an unhealthy dinner.)

I know these are small things, but I believe they will make all the difference.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Happy 2nd Birthday Stephanie!

Dear Stephanie,
Two years ago you came into this world, and just like that I became a Mommy. This is a special bond that you and I will always share. We've spent the past two years learning and growing together, and you are one of my favorite people to spend time with.

How is it possible that in two short years you have gone from this:

to this:

You are a smart, energetic, loving child. You never cease to amaze me with the words you say and the things you know. It only takes one time for you to commit anything to memory. If you listen to a song you like, i'll hear you singing it a few hours later. If we go on an adventure, I can ask you about it days later and you'll give me a full recap of where we went and what we saw. If I tell you we're going to do something, you'll remember and not let me forget!

Your favorite places to go are the library for storytime, the restaurant (where Nana works) for breakfast, Nana's house, and E's house. Your energy can sometimes make storytime a struggle, but i'm slowly teaching you the value of sitting still and listening to the librarian read stories. You are very well behaved at restaurants, and I credit that to the fact that I've been taking you out since you were 3 weeks old.

You love to run, jump, and dance. (Also to watch TV.) We have dance parties on rainy days to burn some of your never-ending energy. You finally enjoy curling up in my lap to read books, and I love introducing you to my favorite children's authors and books. You aren't a huge fan of baby dolls, but you do love to carry around your Sid the Science Kid doll.

You have always been a fantastic eater. Everyone loves to watch you eat because you truly enjoy your food. I have never once had an issue with you being picky. Your favorites are pasta with red sauce, meatloaf, chicken pot-pie, any and all fruit, peas, and goldfish. You don't like apple juice, but devour watered down orange juice.

One of the things that make you such a wonderful little girl is the way you love and protect your baby brother. You love him so much, and ask for him as soon as you wake up in the morning. When he's playing, you'll give him hugs and kisses, or tickle his feet. You ask to hold him, and then tell us you want to have your picture taken with him. We are working on reminding you that you have to share his toys with him. For the past four months, you've pretty much had free reign over his stuff, but now that he's starting to play, you're having some difficulty understanding that he gets a turn with his toys. Your favorite phrase is "he's too little!"  But in general, I adore watching the two of you together, and the smile that lights up both of your faces as you interact.

Every night, our routine includes cuddling in your big-girl bed and talking about our day. You recap all of the adventures we went on, and the fun you had. I love this quiet time, just the two of us. You snuggle under the covers, with Taggie and Pooh, and I savor these quiet, peaceful moments.

Sometimes I look at you, and it's hard to imagine the baby you once were. At other times, I can't understand how you're a walking, talking toddler when it seems like just yesterday the nurses put you on my chest less than a minute after you made your entrance into the world.

I am so proud of you and the way you have grown into a beatiful, happy, polite, and compassionate little girl. I hope you are always surrounded by happiness and love, and that you never forget how special you are to me. I love you a million billion!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Power of Friendship

Yesterday was a challenging day.

I prefer to start my days quietly. I crave a few minutes of alone time first thing in the morning, before the rest of my family wakes up. I drink a few sips of hot coffee, check my email, facebook and twitter accounts, and read a blog or two. This early morning peace stays with me throughout the day, and helps me be a better wife and mother. I didn't get that time yesterday, and thus began a downward spiral.

Joseph has not been sleeping. That is not an exaggeration. He will, at most, give us two hours at a stretch. Oftentimes it's more like 20 minute stretches before he fusses and cries. I am incredibly sleep deprived, and it's starting to affect me in negative ways. I'm less patient that I'd like to be, I don't have the energy to cross tasks off my to-do list, and I'm snappier with my husband. Yesterday morning, after getting roughly 3 hours of sleep total, I had to stay in bed until the last minute to catch every last second of sleep that I could. I didn't get up until I heard Stephanie knock on the door at 6:45, and from the minute my feet hit the floor I had to be "on."

Dan left for the gym as soon as he got out of bed, so I was by myself for the breakfast and getting dressed routine. While these tasks typically fall to me anyway, it's hard when there isn't another adult in the house for at least a few minutes in the morning. The kids and I left before he returned, heading off to the baby store for diapers and formula, the mall, and a stop at my sister's house for lunch.

During our errands, the kids were relatively well behaved, but Joseph was fussy off and on. He never took a solid nap, waking every time the car stopped. We didn't head home from my sister's house until 1:30, and while the kids were fed, I hadn't eaten anything since the banana and strawberries I had at 7am. This, combined with no sleep, made me irritable, but I was pretty proud of the fact that I didn't take it out on Stephanie. I actually made sure to chat with her the whole ride home so that she wouldn't fall asleep and ruin nap time.

I was able to get her in bed fairly quickly, but Joseph had no interest in going to sleep. Finally, in a desperate attempt to get some food in my system, I let him stay up and play in his bouncer chair. I devoured a bagel with cream cheese and a bag of chex mix. Not healthy, and not conducive to losing the weight that i'm determined to lose. This just brought my mood down a little more, because I was disgusted with my lack of self-control.

I attempted to put Joseph to bed again, but still no-go. So I fed him, made a chicken pot-pie for dinner, and tried again. Still nothing. Finally I decided to just put him in bed and see what happened. The second I laid him down, I heard Stephanie wake up. I sighed wearily, because that meant I hadn't had one minute to myself all day. I don't require much...just 10 minutes is plenty for me, but in that moment I knew that I wasn't going to get any. I also knew that Dan would be going to a meeting at 7:30pm, and Joseph has been staying up crying until sometime after 9, so my day wouldn't end until at least that point.

I got Stephanie up, and to her credit she was fantastic. Not whiny or cranky at all. Joseph on the other hand, was a different story. He screamed and screamed in his bed. I kept going in to him, to no avail. My heart was breaking at this point, because I could not help him. If I held him, he wriggled and screamed, pulling my hair and scratching at my chest. I had no choice but to put him in his bed and let him scream it out. (I am not a fan of the cry-it-out method of sleep training, and do everything possible to avoid it, but these were desperate times.)There is nothing worse than an overtired baby who can't be calmed, and it made me feel like a horrible mother to listen to him.

As I sat on the living room floor, listening to my poor baby scream, and my toddler playing innocently in her playroom, I felt a wave of anxiety and panic start to wash over me. All the weeks of exhaustion, the looming to-do list, the screaming baby, and the way our day had turned out started to overwhelm me. It was at that very second that my phone beeped, indicating that I had received a text message. I grabbed it, and saw that it was from my best friend.

She was texting  me with some info she needed to tell me, and as we shot texts back and forth, I explained what was going on and how I was feeling. In a few short words, she managed to talk me off of the ledge. She told me it was ok. She said that she has days like that too, it's awful and frustrating, but it will end. Tomorrow will be better. I am a good mom. She understood. Those powerful words were enough to snap me out of the funk I was in. They let me know i'm not alone...i'm never alone. Motherhood can be isolating at times, but there are people out there who support me. With that powerful but simple text message, I was able to breathe again. I stood up, brushed myself off, and repeated her phrases over and over in my head. It's ok. I'm not alone. Someone understands. I'm not a bad mother.

I went into my  bedroom, picked up my baby, and rocked him to sleep. I spent the rest of the afternoon playing and cuddling with my toddler. And I thanked God over and over again for putting my friend in my path right when I needed her.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Bowl Weekend: A Photo Recap

Every year my family gathers at my parent's house to eat a lot  watch the Superbowl. This year my Dad had to work on Sunday so we all got together on Saturday. My mom, my sister and I made a ton of food. Football pizza was one of my contributions.

Stephanie just wanted to dig into the Patriot's brownies.

We had a lot of fun together, despite the fact that there wasn't a football game to watch. (I think we actually had more fun because of that...) We also celebrated my brother-in-law's birthday.

On Sunday, I made chili and threw it in the crock-pot to cook all day. This is what was left after we devoured it:

I had planned to make brownies too, but all the food and dessert from Saturday really threw off my whole eating healthy thing, so I kept it to the chili, some tortilla chips, pretzels and beer. (For Dan...I abstained.)

Joseph had a major meltdown just as the game started. This is because he doesn't sleep at night. Ever. So he gets overtired at the end of the day. Stephanie just kept yelling "MORE FOOTBALL!!!!" every time a commercial came on. She doesn't get that the Super Bowl is really about commercials, not a football game.

Once the kids were in bed, I started working on crafts for Stephanie's 2nd birthday party this upcoming weekend. I made Dan help me.

I have no comments on the commercials, because I honestly didn't pay any attention the television at all. However, I do know that our Patriots lost. Oh least the food was good!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Five Sweet Mommy Moments

1. Whenever I hold Joseph, he clutches my shirt in his tiny baby fist. It's as if he's holding onto me, making sure I don't put him down. Makes my heart melt every time.

2. Every night at bedtime, Stephanie asks me to lie down with her. We cuddle together (the only time she'll let me cuddle her) and talk about our day. She has an amazing ability to recall everything we've done that day, from the places we went to the food we ate. Right before I kiss her and climb out, I ask her how much I love her and she says "A million billion!" I've always told her I love her a million billion, and I love that she knows it by heart now.

3. If someone else is holding Joseph and he wants to get to me, he throws his entire body in my direction. He doesn't have the ability to put his arms out yet, but he knows that if lunges towards me, I will scoop him out of the other person's arms and cuddle him close. As a mom, there's nothing quite like knowing that your child prefers you to everyone else in the world.

4. Dan and I always make a point to give each other a hug and kiss before he leaves for work in the mornings. No matter where Stephanie is in our apartment, she hurtles herself towards us the second she sees the hug, yelling "Stephanie hug too!" We pick her up and form a little hug circle, and it's a wonderful, calming way to begin our day.

5. Joseph started rolling over this week, and as I watch him maneuver his little body, a bittersweet pride washes over me. I'm so happy that he's reached this milestone, but at the same time I can't believe he's already old enough to roll. (Yes, it's a cliche, but as I've said before, time just goes too quickly!) He is now fully adept at going from back to tummy, but he can't quite figure out how to maneuver himself back the other way. He's trying though!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Changes to my Project Happy

I haven't been keeping up with my Project Happy posts, but it isn't because i'm not participating in the project. I've been taking time every day to pause and reflect on the small moments that make me happy. It's just hard for me to remember to write them down, and then I get mad at myself because it's something I really wanted to participate in.

I've been trying to decide whether or not to focus energy on writing these weekly posts, and I've spent way too much brain power on the decision. Then this morning I jumped onto Karma Continued to read Jenny's latest post, and she solved the problem for me. Her version of Project Happy is to snap a daily picture based on Fat Mum Slim's photo a day prompts. What a fun, quick way to chronicle the small moments of happiness in my daily life, but not worry about writing them down and forming them into weekly blog posts.

I've decided to copy Jenny and take the daily pictures. Today is February 2nd, my first day, and the prompt is words. I see so many word pins on Pinterest that I love, and after browsing through a ton of them tonight, I chose this one:

Such a true quote. The happiness of our household is fully dependent on love, laughter, and LOTS of coffee!

I will post the pictures on Twitter daily, and then at the end of the month do a recap of my favorites. (Another idea stolen from really should read her blog, she's an amazing writer and a sweet, caring person who I would love to be real-life friends with if she didn't live across the country.)

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