D.C. love

March 18, 2008

This blog post is original to Toddler Planet and may not be reposted without permission. 

Some mornings I am so grateful that I live so near Washington, D.C.

For instance, this morning, our playgroup was cancelled due to a couple cases of the sniffles.  The sky was overcast, and the babies were restless.  I sat down by my three-year-old and said, “Mommy wants to do something fun with you today.  What would you like to do?” 

Widget said, “Ride in a rocketship, Mom!”

We can do that.

I bundled them into the car, with jackets and snacks, called a friend with two girls, and we all headed out to the Goddard Space Flight Center’s Visitor Center for a fun morning with huge pictures of stars, planets, and galaxies; a model of the Hubble Telescope and the instruments inside, and the piece de resistance … an actual Gemini capsule.

They’ve added a preschool area with legos, helmets, models, and dress-up outfits, but everyone’s favorite is still the Gemini capsule, with all the flippable switches, and the outdoor rocket garden.

Is this the right button, Mom?

Even Little Bear climbed right in the capsule, leaned in towards the control panel, and wanted to play.  Atta boy, LB!  And atta girls for the two girls that came with us!  And of course for my little Widget, my dreamer and my doer, the little boy who wanted to ride in a rocket ship today more than anything.

This blog post is original to Toddler Planet and may not be reposted without permission. 


A Hullabaloo at our house!

November 27, 2007

We hosted playdate at our house today.  Seven moms, a dozen or more kids (they move so fast, I lose count), two bags of goldfish, a pack of juice boxes, an armful of sippy cups, 80 decibels, and tons of fun later, I have to say, it was a good day.

A very good day.

The pack descended on our home with intent to play Hullabaloo, the preschooler game from Cranium.  We had invited everyone over just for this … but we never expected so many friends to be able to come this week!  As it turns out, the game was both way too loud (for polite conversation between the moms) and way too soft (for the dozen preschoolers and toddlers bouncing around to hear the directions.  And what’s worse?  There is NO off switch to this game!  Or if there is, mine is defective.  Anyone?  Anyone?

But there sure was a hullabaloo at our house today!

Make-Your-Own Party Games

April 12, 2007

Another post inspired by a question on DC Urban Moms.  A fellow mom wants to buy or borrow the following items for her son’s birthday party.  I say, why not make them?  Here’s how my folks did it for me when I was a kid:

1. Bean bag toss game

There are two main approaches to making a bean bag toss game.  The first is to take a large piece of plywood or cardboard, cut several holes in it, and prop it up against two patio chairs at a 45 degree angle.  This works best with a piece of wood about 5 feet x 5 feet with 5 to 7 holes cut in it.  The holes don’t need to be in any particular location or pattern — which makes it much easier to create!  The plywood or cardboard can easily be painted with targets, bright colors, or something relating to the party theme if there is one.  Or … why not make painting the backboard a craft for the early part of the party or a playdate leading up to the party?  Sounds like fun to me!

The simpler approach to creating a beanbag toss game is to gather up 5-7 buckets from around the house (or buy clean ones at Target or Ikea for a couple bucks each), line them up in a row, position the kids a few feet away, depending on the age of the kids (toddlers get very close, 5 year olds about 5 feet away), and let them aim into the buckets.  Assign each bucket a point value for extra fun for older kids.  Remember this one?  Bozo’s words echo in my head every time I think about it — it’s the GRAND PRIZE GAME!

Beanbags can be simply sewn out of scrap fabric with beans, rice, or something similar inside to give it weight.  Or you could consider using those lightweight plastic balls that many of us have lying around from a toddler ball pit of some sort.

2. Some type of ring toss game or horseshoe game.

Great idea!  There are plenty of sites on the net for teaching simple horseshoe games.  A ring toss game might be cheap and easy to make using shortened tomato stakes for the targets and a child’s outgrown plastic ring toy for the rings.  Or not.  Anyone else have good ideas for this one?

3.  Pin the Tail on the Donkey

Another fun game!  Generations of kids have played homemade versions of this, using a donkey (or car, or princess, or dinosaur) drawn on a large piece of paper and hung on the wall.  Make your own “tails” out of construction paper (could be headlights for the car, crowns for the princess, or tails, again, for the dinosaur), either ahead of time or as a group craft, and have the kids put them on with sticky tape.

Kudos to you for making wholesome, active entertainment for your kindergartner’s birthday party!

Milk Allergies

March 21, 2007

Little Bear (or not-so-little bear, as a new blogfriend suggested yesterday!) is allergic to milk.  Not my milk, that is, but to any milk or milk products that I might ingest during the course of an otherwise-normal day.  If I have a sip of milk, bite of cheese, anything more than the tiniest bit of butter on a bagel in the morning, he becomes wildly uncomfortable and fusses all day and night.

But this isn’t a post complaining.  I’m good with it now.  I’ve found some solutions to help me get proper nutrition and stave off the shakes (snacking on almonds and nuts that don’t grow on trees, drinking almond milk with my cereal, skipping cheese toppings, eating chips with salsa instead of nacho cheese (oooh, I miss nacho cheese), feeding the yogurt to my toddler and enjoying his smiles instead of the yummy goodness myself, that sort of thing).  What I want to talk about is the prevalence of such allergies.

I had no idea that milk allergies in infants were so widespread.  The first person to mention it to me was my NYfriend who had to cut out milk, cheese, soy, eggs, wheat, most vegetables, and most good-tasting food while her children were nursing.  She told me about this while I was still pregnant with my first — I couldn’t believe how dedicated she was!  Now I see that her incredible dedication is even more widespread among moms than I would have ever expected.

Of the six moms in my postnatal yoga class, four of us are dairy-free.  Three of us are really struggling with it, though, in terms of feeding the rest of our families and keeping enough protein in our bodies to help us feel strong again.  The fourth is a nutritionist at the hospital.  She says this is more common than anyone realizes.  It must be, for four of the six of us to need to be dairy-free to keep our babies comfortable!

Of the four moms that happened to come to Widget’s playgroup today, three of us have had to go dairy-free with at least one of our kids.  The fourth is expecting her second child and was intrigued with our stories, as her first one had colic (or, as I’ve heard it called, “the baby hurt”).  Another mom then related her story and said, “You know, we thought my first had colic, but when I went dairy-free, her disposition improved almost as soon as the milk proteins were out of her system!”  I’ve noticed the same thing with Little Bear. 

I wonder if it’s not that so many more babies HAVE milk allergies as that we’re learning to label their fussiness as such, find the root cause, and help them improve their moods such that they don’t seem to “have colic” as much as “have sensitivities to milk (or other foods)”?

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we were actually finding solutions to colic in a percentage of newborns?  Now, if we could only find a way for them to communicate their other (non-yes/no) preferences!

Salt dough ornaments

December 27, 2006

I know, I’m awfully chatty today, but I’ve finally found some time where a) I feel half-decent and b) I’m alone with time to write.  Hopefully I’m making sense and these words are going down on paper in the right order.  🙂 

After a morning in the hospital yesterday and an afternoon and evening home in bed, I was able to take Widget to playdate at Titan and Rhea’s house this morning.  We had a wonderful time.  It was really nice to get out and see them and their mom (and dad!) and we had a great time building things, learning how to operate the screwdriver and drill with their new Motor Works set, climbing and sliding, and racing all their Scoop and Muck trucks around on the carpet.  We also made salt dough ornaments, that childhood holiday standby, and it was an absolutely lovely old-fashioned fun time.  Their mom had mixed and baked the ornaments in advance, so all we (two 2 year olds and a 3.5 year old) had to do was paint.  It was the perfect activity for these active kids and they all had a good time.  Rhea (the 3.5 year old girl) painted two stars and an angel, one green and two red.  Titan painted six different ornaments — all at once! — bright red.  Widget painted one large and one small star with a mix of colors.  He dipped his paintbrush in the green first, and painted, and then very deliberately dipped it again in the yellow.  It swirled the paint tub a little bit, but he doggedly put the paint on the ornament and dipped it back in the yellow again for more.  Rhea gasped in shock and said, “Mommy, he’s mixing the colors!”  Apparently they don’t do that at her preschool, where she made similar ornaments last week.  It was a real paradigm-shift moment for her!  Both moms reassured her that it was okay, that he could paint any way he wanted.  We watched as he took a spin with the brush in the red paint, and she calmly took it in and then relaxed.  She followed up with, “He’s mixing the paints, and that’s okay.”  Way to go!

I was reminded of this moment by a post over at Not Quite Crunchy Parent about unstructured painting of salt dough ornaments and unstructured play in general.  There are some nice articles linked over there — I won’t repeat them, but I do applaud the sentiment!  Looks like we’ve got some parallel play of our own going on!

Winter playdate

December 13, 2006

We had a wonderful winter playdate yesterday!  We had Titan and Rhea and their Mom over for a morning playdate, and we had such a good time!  We played with trucks, and trains, and puzzles, and cars and ramps galore!  Then when the natives got restless, they went over to the table and we made pinecone birdfeeders.  The kids had a fabulous time, and so did the moms!  It was a nice relaxing morning.

Here’s how I would design a winter playdate if I were able to walk around with the kids:

1.  Take a nice long nature walk in the woods.  Talk about the changes in the local trees, plants, and animals now that Fall has gone and Winter is here.  Little kids will appreciate that the leaves are gone and some (but only some!) shrubs are leafless as well.  Bigger kids might notice the spotty patterns on the deer and whether squirrels are hustling for nuts to pack away for the winter.  Pick up an assortment of nature bits, but be sure that each kid finds a pinecone.

2.  Come back inside and read a nature story or sing a song about winter.

3.  Move over to the table for craft time.  Each kid should have a pinecone and a spreader (baby knife, cheese spreader, or flat stick).  Put out a jar or two of peanut butter, and let the kids go nuts.  Help the littlest ones to spread the peanut butter on the pinecones (our 2 year olds needed help, but the 3.5 year old did just great on her own!).  Then bring out a shallow bowl full of birdseed, and encourage each kid to roll the peanut butter pinecone around in it to thoroughly coat it with seed.  Tie a ribbon or piece of yarn around the top.  Tying it between two of the rows of scales is best, as a quick tug will make it tight so that even the squirrels won’t be able to pull it down!

4.  Seal the guests’ pinecones in individual ziploc bags with the yarn hanging out for them to take home.  Put on coats and take the host child’s (or a sample one) outside and hang it on a tree or porch overhang for the birds and squirrels to enjoy!

The advantage of doing this last step, as we discovered yesterday, is that the kids can really visualize what to do with them at home, and then they already have coats on — perfect for a rambunctious outdoor play session or for going home for lunch.

P.S. I was so excited to do this craft with my own kid, as I had such good memories of doing this with my mom and friends!  My mom did give me a quizzical little look about halfway through the peanut butter, though — apparently for us this was a Brownie project — grades 1-3!  Oops.  We had a good time anyway!

Hooray, Hooray!

December 11, 2006

Hooray, hooray, good news today!

1.  Gramma and Grampa arrived last night for a 2 day visit, and Widget is having SUCH a good time playing with them!  He’s been up and down the stairs about a million times, and they go right along with him!  They’ve played with the wooden peg and shape game; rebuilt the train tracks; played hide and seek in some tissue paper and boxes (we’re going to wrap presents during his naptime!); had first breakfast, second breakfast, and elevenses (so far!); fallen all over themselves in the ball pit; danced with a ribbon; and chased the trash truck up and down the street.  They even went outside earlier to follow some crows that Grampa saw in the recycling bin!  My active, active boy is having an active day!  What a relief and a nice change of pace, and I soooooo appreciate the help. 

2.  We’re having friends come over to play tomorrow morning — a toddler and a preschooler, and an awesome mom friend to keep me company too!

3.  I’ve already figured out a craft for us to do at playdate tomorrow.  We’re making birdfeeders out of pinecones, by slathering peanut butter on them and rolling them in the big birdseed bin out back.  Gramma brought us a present today (a BEAUTIFUL hand-knit shawl for me and baby to use over the next few months!), and the red piece of yarn wrapped around it will be perfect to use to hang the peanut butter pinecone outside our playroom window.  Gramma and Grampa will be here to help with the rolling of the pinecones in birdseed and trips up and down the stairs, so we can actually do this tomorrow!  Whoo-hoo!

4.  Although I’m not getting enough pain relief (hard, hard weekend), I was able to move up my appointment with the pain specialist to tomorrow afternoon.  Grampa will take me there while Gramma stays with Widget in the napping house.  I’ll be able to pick up that funky electrical device that’s supposed to help relax the muscles in my back as well.

5.  What else?  Oh, yeah.  My Christmas cards are DONE!  That is, except for the very few that are missing some essential piece of data, like zip code or spouse’s name.  Got to do those today.  All the rest have been ordered, received, addressed, signed, signed by Daddy, and they’re out for the mailman!  I’m hoping he’ll take all 75 away today … he’s been a much better mailman to us since we started waiting for him outside and greeting him this summer, so the odds are good!

6.  I’m just really excited about our New Year’s Eve Party.  I invited our playgroup and MOMS Club by email last night, and I’m just tickled to think of hosting a party again.  I love love love to host parties and playdates, but haven’t been able to do much in quite a while, and it’s been awfully quiet around here.  Daddy has offered to host, and make snack, and do whatever’s needed to make it a success, so we’re going to try it!  We are so lucky to have such a great Daddy!

7.  The only thing that would keep us from having that party would be if OUR BABY comes early and I’m actually in labor on New Year’s Eve.  I’m hoping that won’t be the case, as I’m looking forward to seeing friends, and the baby would be preterm (barely), but if he just can’t wait, then we’ll be delighted to see him early!

Today is a good day, and I’m so happy to share it with you!