Nurse Loves Farmer


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Sunday, 07 July 2013 21:42

I'm Still Here

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Clearly when my family life gets busy - the blog takes a back seat. This past week, my church hosted an annual convention for our church conference, and there were people from all over Canada and the USA in attendance. I volunteer as administrative support for our congregation, which meant it was an extremely busy week for me. Top that off with the highest temperatures we see in this part of the world, so all I want to do is hide in my basement with an iced coffee and not. move. at. all. 

So my brain was chaos, and my house was in shambles by the end of the week, because I did only what was absolutely necessary. Thanks to the FlyLady, however, my bathroom is spotless and my sink and countertop are clean and shiny, so bring on another week of hot weather! 

I've been missing the blog though, and since it's something I do for myself and for my girls (who will someday hopefully each have a printed hard-copy to keep), I'm glad to be back.

Among the crazy, we did get some time to enjoy ourselves. Here are some pictures of a day we spent with friends at our small nearby zoo.

This peacock kind of followed us around looking for food. We probably weren't supposed to, but we gave it a bit of bread from our lunch...

I hope everyone's having a great summer so far! 

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Tuesday, 25 June 2013 13:14

One Year of Mourning

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This morning the phone rang just before 10am. It was my Grandma calling to see how I was.

Last year on this day, at around 10am after a long weekend spent next to my Dad's bed at his care home, I had been awoken by the sound of the telephone ringing. It was my Mom with the shortest and heaviest phone message I have ever experienced.

"He's gone."

My Dad was gone. 

As odd is it may be, that following week was one of the most blissful weeks of my life.  Dad's awful journey had begun on June 1, 2010 and the following years - particularly the last three months of his life were nothing less than horrific. 

The last conversation I had with him was in spring of 2012, and I documented it here on my blog, because I had asked him to allow me to interview him about parenthood. Only days later, I wrote this update on his situation. It was the beginning of the end, for my Dad. Soon afterward, he was moved into a care home, and while he was there it felt as though our world was falling apart. My family was devastated, and everyone mourned differently - in the process we were tearing each other apart. The emotional toll on all of us was huge, and I was trying to juggle being a new mother while pregnant, helping to advocate for my Dad amongst the healthcare system as well as in our family and not lose my mind in the process. 

When my Mom called to tell me that Dad was gone, my only thought for a number of hours was that it was 'finally over'. This was even the text message I sent to many people that day who had been prayerful and supportive of us, and were constantly awaiting updates.

"It's over."

I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders - as though I was free for the first time in a long time. I spent that week thinking about my future - because although Dad didn't have one, I still did, and it was as though my life had suddenly begun again. After spending months trying to sort out the appropriate amount of time to spend with my Dad - not knowing if each time might be the last, or if he were to live in his near-vegetative state for years to come - and juggle this with all of my other roles and responsibilities, my time was suddenly my own again. It was thrilling. 

I wrote this tribute to him and read it at his funeral, and although I cried on the morning he died as I stood and looked at the body he no longer inhabited, I didn't cry again until after I had finished reading it. 

I felt guilty, and I was certainly sad, but I knew that my Dad would have been glad to know that I was ok. That he would want me to be ok. I had a really great week.

The next week was ok, as were a few after that, but soon after I think the truth of losing my Dad - forever - really hit me. I would sit on the bathroom floor and cry until I couldn't breathe, feeling more pain than I thought was possible. And because I had been handling it so 'well' for weeks already, I didn't want anyone to know that I was suddenly struggling with dealing with the situation.  

Then, gradually, things got somewhat better, although I chose to ignore my faith completely. I certainly still believed in God, but I was too angry to talk to him. For the most part, I avoided thinking about Dad.

When Audrey was born, I was flooded with memories of Dad when Clara was born. When I called to tell my parents that they had a granddaughter, it was my Dad who answered, and I'm so glad for that because this time, he wouldn't answer the phone.  I struggled again, because this was an event that Dad was supposed to be there for. He was supposed to see the births of all of his grandchildren - that was simply the way it was supposed to be. 

Christmas was a blur, and I again struggled with all of the moments that my Dad should have been there to share.

Shortly after Christmas I started talking to God again. I was still angry, and I still struggle with not knowing why he took my Dad from me, but I knew that simply not liking my situation or what God had done didn't mean that God had changed. If he existed before my Dad died, God still existed now. If God was a loving God before my Dad died, he was still a loving God now. If everything in my life so far had given me reason to believe that God was a God who 'had my back' and knew better about everything than I did - then I had to trust that all of this was still true.  I know there are times when my daughter will think my choices as a parent are horribly unfair because she won't be able to see the big picture, and I believe in a God who is far greater from me than I am from my daughter, so I know there will be times when I can't see the big picture. 

Lately my biggest struggle has not been anger at God, but at other people. I am angry when someone slights my Dad, or my feelings about my Dad, in any way. I am angry when someone feels sorry for themselves about anything less than dying young. I want to scream "Just be glad you're still alive!!!" Lately a family member voiced their pity for someone who's birthday had been ignored at this time last year - because of my Dad's death - and I want to shake that person and yell "Do you understand how blessed they are to even HAVE another birthday??? Because my Dad doesn't. My Dad's mother spent her birthday last year watching her son die. I have a long list of people I can feel sorry for in reference to last June, and someone who didn't really get a birthday party doesn't quite make that list." 

I know I need to deal with my anger, because it only hurts me and I can't control what anyone else says or does. As time goes by the tragedy of my Dad dying seems to lessen - when I say my Dad died last year, I am met with calm 'Sorry to hear that's, and 'oh, that's too bad' instead of the gasps of shock and hugs I got at this time last year - and it's funny because then I thought it was an overreaction because I thought I was fine. Now I feel less fine, and could use a hug. 

I don't know how long it takes to mourn the death of a close family member, and I don't know how my stages of mourning will play out from now on. This is how my last year has been, emotionally, and although I know it's slowly getting better, it's still very hard. 

My daughters will never know the man who gave me my life - in more ways than one - and that tears me apart.  

But there's nothing I can do about it. 

Monday, 24 June 2013 07:00

Strollers, strollers, strollers...

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My current advice to parents looking for a stroller to purchase is this: "If you can, buy the big expensive fancy stroller with all of the attachments... because in the end, you'll have spent that much money anyway..."

I could be wrong, but we seem to be forever on the hunt for a stroller that will actually meet all of our needs, and in the process we have amassed quite a collection. 

When we were expecting Clara, my parents bought this Graco travel system for us (it cost somewhere around $350-400, if I recall correctly) and I absolutely adored it. We didn't think at all about the future, because although someday we knew we wanted more than one baby, it seemed excessive to buy for that already.

It's still a great stroller, although it's pretty worn out in places, but obviously it only works for one child at a time. I had also considered that when we were expecting our second, I might wear the new baby a lot and therefore only need a seat for one child in a stroller still. I have this awesome baby carrier, that I still love and use a lot, but it's not really enjoyable to carry a baby on really hot days, and after awhile it gets pretty heavy - if I have the option, I'll often prefer to have Audrey ride in a stroller of some kind as well. 

One thing I did think ahead about was the bike trailer - we had a number of family members inform us that they were considering purchasing this as a gift for us, and my only request was that it be capable of carrying two children. So, we got this...

It works great for two kids to sit side by side, and came with a handle so it didn't have to be used behind a bike. The wheels are just like bike tires, so it rides over anything and everything really easily. It also folds down really simply to fit in the trunk of the car - although it would take up the entire available space and wouldn't be good for travelling or grocery trips if you wanted to put anything else in the trunk also. It also has almost no room for carrying anything along - only a narrow space behind the seats. Due to the easy-to-fold nature of the trailer, the structure relies entirely on the fabric, so there is nothing stabilizing the seat from either the back or the bottom.  This means that when the girls sit side by side, they kind of slide into the middle of the seat toward each other. They don't seem to mind just yet, but it might be annoying when they're both a little older. Also, anything you try to cram into the back storage space will jam into the children's backs - so only soft stuff works, and it also limits the available space. 

So, we got one of these...

I bought this from a friend of mine shortly before Audrey was born. We wanted something that worked kind of like the Graco, but allowed for two children. This one has the bar in the front that the baby pail can snap onto, and although Clara can't nap in this one, the toddler seat is decently comfortable for her. 

She wouldn't nap in a stroller anyway.

The first time I used this stroller Audrey was still quite small, and I was not at all used to taking both girls out. So, of course, I was stressed to begin with and the weight of the baby pail at the front of the stroller made this thing nearly impossible to steer.  I - who was used to a single stroller - became exceedingly frustrated and vowed never to leave the house with this thing again. I intended to sell it, but couldn't come up with a valid reason except 'because I hate it' and figured I might have a tough time selling it until I learned how to lie... 

I decided I would prefer to take out the single stroller and carry Audrey. We continued to struggle with the fact that our Graco was quite large, though, and because we were planning some longer vacations in the summer we wanted something that would take up less room in our trunk. So we bought this thing...

This was the most deluxe stroller we could find for under $100. We went to Toys R Us and looked at a bunch of them - this one included the best mix of things; easy to fold, had a snack/drink tray as well as a drink holder for me (must have coffee holder) and it also has a pretty good basket below the seat that isn't shown here. It takes up about half the space that our Graco does. 

In the meantime, I started walking around town more and realized as Audrey got bigger that I would not want to carry her forever. Also, because I had intentions of walking LOTS in the city - hours worth of walking for an adult - it wouldn't be fair to expect Clara to start walking these distances until she was much older. I began thinking we would need to buy yet another stroller - one that would carry both girls, but also be narrow enough to fit through shop doors, hopefully fold small enough to fit in the trunk occasionally, and withstand a serious amount of walking for up to 3-4 years. 

Then one day, one of our babysitters decided to take the girls for a walk, and found the sit & stand stroller in the garage. She put the girls into it - Audrey was now big enough to sit in the seat instead of her pail - and walked them to the park.

When I asked her how it went, she said it was fine.

When I asked her how the stroller steered, she seemed slightly confused but said it was also fine.

I asked if it was difficult to turn and she said 'A little...'

So I thought maybe I should give it another try.

I put Clara into it, and strolled around the street in front of our house. It was super easy. 

A friend came over with her sit & stand stroller that she uses with her 2 and 4 year old constantly - and out of curiosity decided to take mine around the corner with my girls in it. She came back and pointed out all of the reasons why mine was better than hers. It steered better. It had a better basket below the seats. It was a bit longer which was slightly more difficult for steering and packing into a car, but also better for space for the kids. 

So, in the end, we will keep the sit & stand because it works well and it turns out that Clara loves her backward facing seat. If we had purchased all of these things new for ourselves, however, we would have spent well over $1000. And, in the end, we will have used each and every single one of them. And I didn't even mention our wagon... 

When shopping for strollers - plan ahead! The fancy strollers with the crazy expensive attachments are not actually that expensive when you consider all of the uses they may have, and what you will want to be able to do with them, and how well they will hold up to a lot of use. 

Those are my thoughts - what are your perspectives on strollers? How many do you think you need, and which uses are important? Have you ever bought a stroller you hated? 

Friday, 21 June 2013 08:31

Planning the Week Ahead Late on Friday

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I don't want to stop doing this, because it holds me accountable to do activities with my kids, so here goes - what we did this past week...

Clara helped me bake the cake for her Half Birthday Party last weekend, which mostly meant she helped me stir, and taste the batter...

We finally fingerpainted! Well, sort of... I brought out the paper and finger paints and then Clara demanded a brush.

And at the same time, I set Audrey up with some coloured yogurt on her high chair tray. Clara was about 10 Months Old the first time I tried finger painting with her, and she loved it! Audrey didn't get quite as into it as Clara did that time, but then Audrey is a couple months younger so maybe this made all the difference. Or, possibly, Audrey won't be as interested in painting as I might hope... :)

She does look pretty interested in these photos, but I watched her pretty closely waiting for a smile. 

To be fair, she didn't hate it... she's Audrey, she doesn't hate anything... but seriously check out the psycho grin on Clara's face when she was 10 months old! 

When Clara was about 18 months old, I tried a homemade recipe and she painted outdoors. The homemade recipe was easy enough, but it did require some cooking and in the end I decided that considering the clean-up involved already, for Clara I prefered to use store-bought paints. 

With the 'Color of the Week' theme, I tried to find opportunities to point out 'green' to Clara. She actually has no trouble recognizing green (unlike her orange/yellow issue), so I also started introducing her to colour mixing. For example, when she was fingerpainting, I put some yellow and blue paint close together and asked her to mix the two colours and tell me what colour they made. She easily said 'Green' as if she knew what was coming so I asked her what yellow and red would make and before I began mixing those two she was already yelling 'Orange!'. She must have learned this before somewhere... Also, Audrey's yogurt was died blue and yellow, to use as an additional example for Clara.

The coolest thing we did this week (I think) was dying the shaving foam with food colouring to use as bath paints. The paint looked so yummy we had to remind her not to eat it...

I was worried, because of my recent obsession with keeping my house - particularly my bathroom - clean, that the food colouring in the shaving foam would stain the walls, but I wiped everything down immediately afterward and it didn't leave even a hint of colour behind. 

It turned the water a crazy colour of green, though (more on the 'green' theme) and in the end when bathtime was soon to be over I used globs of mixed foam to make little islands in her 'ocean' bath.

I had never played with shaving foam before, so this was entirely new to me, and I can't wait to experiment with it some more!

This week didn't get very warm, so no painting on the deck with Clara. I also didn't remember to build an obstacle course for her - that would be a fun activity to do when she has a friend or two over, I think. She did have a lot of playdates, and during one of them although we didn't quite do this 'Outdoor Play Cooking' idea that I found online, I did let her bring her toy dishes outside to use inside her awesome new playhouse. 

For Audrey specifically this week I was finally able to easily find some tissue paper. Actually, I was cleaning up from Clara's gift opening and instead of throwing away the tissue paper, I tossed it to where Audrey was playing on the floor.  She enjoyed it for awhile. I also was quite conscious of letting her hang out on the floor more this week - either sitting down or on her belly - and she's definitely showing improvements already in her movement. She can't crawl yet, but she can swivel herself around on her belly and push herself backwards with her hands. You can tell when she wants a toy that is out of her reach that she's trying to figure out how to get to it, which is a pretty good start I think. 

This week has been mostly rainy, and I'm expecting more of the same, so most of my activities will have to be for indoor play.

For Clara, I would like to...

  • Set up an obstacle course (we'll try this again, since we could do this indoors or outdoors)
  • Paint with water on the deck (only if the weather improves)
  • The 'Color of the Week' this week is red, so somehow I would like to highlight that colour for her
  • Since I have shaving foam, I might try this 'Fluffy Stuff' recipe for a sort of molding clay

No great ideas for Audrey this week, although I need to continue letting her sit and have tummy time every day as much as possible.  

I think I hear the girls stirring...

Monday, 17 June 2013 07:00

Toddler Party

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Clara's 2 1/2 Birthday Party was yesterday, and despite my nervousness - I think it was a great success! 

We started at 10:30am, and for the first 20-30 minutes we just let the kids play with the toys in our play area downstairs. We had 6 young guests, which made 7 kids between the ages of 2 1/2 and 4. Because all of Clara's friends at this point are children of our friends - and because I don't think a toddler party would be nearly as successful without the help of parents - we invited the families of each friend as well. All of the Moms came, and most of the Dads as well. With the 7 party-goers, we had 5 Moms chaperoning while we chatted and had coffee (it was a great time, actually) and the Dads stayed upstairs in our living room with the babies.  

In the way of activities, I had hoped for nicer weather and had thought about taping a giant roll of art paper to the side of the garage and letting the kids go wild with paint or markers or whatever, but that didn't quite work as planned. The day before, I went to a nearby toy store and found these large sticker sheets by Melissa & Doug. I bought the 'Play House' one and the 'Habitats' one.  Naively assuming the girls would be more into playing house, I had picked up the one with animal habitats mostly for the sake of the one boy who was invited, but the animal habitats were gone much sooner than the house sheets were. I brought these out at about 11:05 and they kept the kids busy for 10-15 minute. 

I also had considered buying a set of facepaints - whether we ended up indoors or outdoors - but only found the ones that used a paintbrush and were really quite professional. When I saw this glitter tattoo set, I decided that it would probably be simpler - and require less artistic ability - and I was right! This set was $20, and I have a ridiculous amount of glitter left over. The stencils are supposed to be completely reusable, but some of them don't survive use very well. The turtle in this photo didn't survive his first use because the spiral in the center wouldn't stay in place. The star and flower and sun, however, were used repeatedly and there were a lot of stencils that weren't used yet, so I'm sure I can use these again and again. 

We 'tattooed' the kids one at a time starting at about 11:20, while the rest of the kids just played. Even some of the parents put tattoos on themselves, and some of the kids enjoyed helping their parents to brush the glitter onto the parent's tattoo. It was fun all around for everyone. 

At about 11:40, we called everyone upstairs to open gifts. I was so excited about everything she got - a Melissa & Doug wooden dress up princess set, a small stuffed Dora doll and some beautiful dress-up butterfly wings that strap around her arms and fingers so that she can even flap them by herself. 

With everyone upstairs in the living room, it was a bit crowded and noisy. Our cat, China, held her ground on her favourite chair and kept a very close watch on all of the little people. 

We had been unsure of how to end the party - considering it was set in the morning to avoid a conflict with naptime, we weren't sure what was appropriate regarding the serving of food. We chose not to serve cupcakes at the beginning of the party, which would typically have been around snack time, but didn't think it made sense to serve cupcakes at lunchtime and then send everyone home. So, we served Kraft Dinner, hot dogs and chips and invited people to stay if they wished or take a cupcake or two to go. Almost everyone stayed for the lunch so if I were to do this again, I might just include that time in the party. 

I cut a candle in half and put two and a half candles on her Rainbow Birthday Cake and we all sang. She needed some help blowing out the candles, and she was allowed to sit in the high chair which is Audrey's now so she's typically not allowed to use it anymore - she was pretty excited about that. The cake was small and so I had made cupcakes to make up the difference, and everyone ate way less than I expected so I had a ton leftover. 

Sigh. I guess I'll have to eat them... 

Instead of traditional loot bags filled with candies and cheap breakable toys, I went out looking for some kind of small toy or activity of some kind that I could wrap to give to each child. We found these small books for $5/each, and bought the lollypops for $0.35 each. I also found a package of squiggly straws that had 8 for $2 and I attached one of those to each book as well.  We are big fans of books, and it is my personal opinion that you can never have too many (until you run out of space on your bookshelves and have to buy an e-reader... ). We hoped that our friends would enjoy something like this more than the traditional loot bags, and of course we wanted to encourage kids to read. 

In the end everything went really well. Last week I blogged about Planning a Toddler Party which included some thoughts and tips on the process.  

Here are some of my thoughts on these tips afterward:

We had planned the time to be from 10:30am to 12 noon which is typically suggested amount of time, but because the parents joined their children and we ate lunch at 12, the party went right up until 1pm with no meltdowns at all. I would suggest that if you have a couple of activities, want some free play, gift opening AND plan to serve food - plan for at least 2 hours so you don't feel rushed. 

For kids this age, definitely ask parents to stay. It would not have gone nearly as smoothly if I had not had the help of other Moms - even just to help their own child. I had one friend help me with the glitter tattoos, because it went faster with two of us, but it was nice to have the other Moms just to be with their child. One little girl was quite shy for the first little while and stayed close to her Mom until she was more comfortable, and most of the kids had a bit of trouble peeling their stickers from the sticker sheets and so the Moms were very helpful here. 

Plan back-up activities in case your situation changes - for example, if you plan an outdoor party, have a back-up plan in case it rains. Or, if you have activities that require a certain number of children, have a back-up activity planned if some don't show up... I think it might have been a good idea to have a back-up activity planned in case the kids had gotten bored with the first two before we were out of time, but as it was 2 activities was perfect! 

I actually had a lot of fun planning this, and although I'm sure she won't remember this party as being really any different than any large playdate, I'm really happy with how everything went.  This will make me much less nervous about planning future parties! 

Any tips and tricks or ideas to share on planning toddler parties? 

Sunday, 16 June 2013 07:00

Making a Rainbow Cake

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This is all over Pinterest and I wanted to try it myself. 

I just took a plain white cake mix and mixed the batter as per the directions on the box. 

Then I divided it as evenly as I could into six small bowls and coloured it with Wilton icing food colouring. I used a ton of colouring, because I wanted to make sure the colours were nice and bright. Clara helped me mix the batter...

After the batter was mixed, I poured it into two 9" cake pans. Because I wanted to get good solid block colours, I put three colours into each pan. I started with red and poured it into the bottom of the first cake pan. I then poured the orange batter into the center of the poured red batter, and then poured the yellow into the center of the yellow. I did the same with the other three colours, starting with purple, then blue and then green. 

I then baked the cakes as per the directions on the box.  As I was doing all of the pouring, Clara was 'tasting' the batter that was left in each bowl after I had scraped them into the cake pans. I was a bit distracted by the batter pouring, so I didn't notice how messy she was getting... 

The cakes came out looking just as bright as when they went in. I covered them and put them in the freezer until the next day when I planned to decorate them. Cooling them is a good idea anyway, because cake is soft and difficult to work with when it is fresh from the oven. 

I took them out of the freezer about an hour before I planned to work with them. When they were thawed enough to work with, I cut the mounded tops off of each cake to level them. I didn't do a perfect job of it, but you couldn't really tell on the finished product.  

This is where I made my icing. I found a recipe for Buttercream Icing online that used both butter and shortening. It was my first time making buttercream with my Kitchen Aid, and it was also the first time I felt as though I had really succeeded in making a good buttercream icing. Coincidence? I don't think so... 

I iced the cut side of the red/orange/yellow cake and placed the green/blue/purple cake on it cut-side-down so that the rainbow pattern could be accurate. I then cut the cake in half, since I intended to have two 1/2 cakes for two 1/2 Birthday parties. 

I iced the entire thing in light pink icing, and trimmed it in white. There wasn't a whole lot of room on the top of each cake, so I just wrote '2 1/2'.  The hardest part to ice was the flat cut side, since the cake was pretty soft and kept wanting to come off into the icing. The light pink of the icing ended up being a bit flecked with dark-coloured cake crumbs. 

Everyone at the party was quite impressed. (Including me, if I can admit that...) Luckily for me, I spend more time on Pinterest than anyone else, so the rainbow cake idea was new to almost everyone. 

It was great! I will totally do this again! 

Saturday, 15 June 2013 16:19

Planting Flowers!

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Last week my friend brought her two preschool-aged kids over and we walked over to the nearby garden center with our pink wagon (You can kind of see it in the background of this photo... totally should have taken a picture of it loaded with flowers.)

Anyway, we let the kids go crazy in the $3 annuals area, letting them each pick out some plants and flowers to bring home for these planters that we had kicking around in our garage. 

I started by filling each with some dirt from our yard, and then bought a bag of potting soil to mix in with it. We had one planter filled before any of the others, so all of the kids were digging together for a bit, but as we filled the next two planters the kids naturally distributed themselves among the planters so they each had one. No fighting! 

We had enough metal trowels for each kid to use one, but they seemed to prefer the plastic toy ones anyway. 

It was mostly my friend who helped the kids split up the flowers (luckily the kids couldn't remember who had picked what at the store, because we certainly couldn't) and they randomly planted their flowers in the planter. I had overestimated the size of the planters, so we could have done with quite a few less plants, but the kids made it work. 

Clara was a little bit stressed about getting dirty...

It was a really great activity for this age group. I thought Clara might be a bit young, and she wasn't really able to stick the flowers in by herself, but she really enjoyed it! 

For Clara's 2 1/2 "Birthday", her grandparents bought her this super awesome playhouse, and I thought the planter was a perfect addition to it. 

Thursday, 13 June 2013 09:35

Planning the Week Ahead Thursday

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This week has been a bit overwhelming for me, with Clara's 1/2 Birthday Party coming up this Saturday. I've also been doing a lot of extra work for our church and I feel like I don't have a ton of free time.

However, from my task list from last week, I have done at least a couple of things...

From the 'Color of the Week' series on 'Play, Create, Explore', I decided to try to focus a bit on the colour 'yellow' for her. She's pretty good with her colours, but yellow and orange she routinely mixes up.  Although we didn't do any of the more involved activities involving yellow, we did go downstairs and sort through all of her toys one day, picking out the 'yellow' items and talking about them. 

We also planted flowers! I think I'll blog more about that day tomorrow...

I also tried out the 'Monoprinting' idea that I found online last week. I had found some postcard sized pieces of yellow cardstock that I figured would be a good size for Clara to work with. She had a blast playing on the cookie sheet with paint and random sticks and sponges, but she didn't want to do the 'printing' itself, so I did that for her. It didn't keep her occupied for a super long time, but it was fun while it lasted. Either my daughter has a short attention span, or I expect too much from a 2-year-old sometimes...

Now I have a stack of painted cards that I'll have to remember to use sometime...

Clara and I also 'Walked on the Hose' one day when we were hanging out in the yard together. I made a big ridiculous deal out of pretending to be struggling to keep my balance and Clara seemed think it was hilarious. We then played tag around the yard with me running from her and pretending to hide behind really small things... sometimes being silly is really the best way to connect with a kid. 

For Audrey, I had given myself the task of handing her random 'sensory' items to play with, and although I didn't photograph most of them and probably don't even remember everything I gave her, this was a neat thing for me to think about. I was hunting for tissue paper and found these bows in my gift wrapping supplies. It just occurred to me now that because of the staples this may not have been the safest thing for her to play with... but I was watching her, and she seemed to enjoy them. I also picked up one of the girls' small plastic coat hangers one day and thought "Why not?" before I handed it to Audrey.  I also for the first time placed a glob of mashed potatoes (I've never done this with any food for her before) on her tray and let her go crazy. She actually ate quite a bit of it...

The things I missed for Clara included the Fingerpainting (again), Painting with water on the deck, 'Outdoor Play Cooking', and making an obstacle course. For Audrey I also didn't set up finger painting, although playing with her mashed potatoes was similar... and I never did find my tissue paper. 

So, for the next week I would like to attempt to do those things again. With Clara's party on Saturday and all the craziness involved, I will be wildly preparing for the next two days - Clara will even be spending a day with her Nana on Friday so that I can get the house cleaned - and I won't have a ton of opportunities to do out of the ordinary stuff with the girls until Sunday or Monday.

However, I can get Clara involved in some stuff, so here is my list for her:

  • Bake cupcakes/cake together
  • Fingerpainting (I'll keep this on the list until it happens...)
  • Painting with water on the deck (if it gets hot next week)
  • 'Outdoor Play Cooking', which will be even more fun after the 1/2 Birthday gift she received from her Grandparents... more on that later.
  • Make an obstacle course. 
  • Because this week (for me) the Color of the Week is green, I want to do some of the activities for that color. Clara's pretty clear on the color green, but she still mixes all of the colors up occasionally, so I don't think it's a bad thing to reinforce. I like the split pea sensory bin from the Week of Green as well as the green themed bath, which I didn't do last week for yellow. I even bought some shaving foam which I have never before used for kid purposes, so I'm curious to try it out. I also love the colour mixing ziplock bags. 

For Audrey, I would like to...

  • Try again with the tissue paper - I know I have some here somewhere!
  • Fingerpainting... again... but not until next week after all of this party stuff is over!
  • Make sure she spends time daily sitting up, and on her belly - I've been pretty bad at that...

That's all for this week, with the party and everything I'm a bit overwhelmed.  Check in again next week! 

Tuesday, 11 June 2013 22:22

30 Months Old!

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I walked into my daughters' room tonight, for what felt like the hundredth time, to reswaddle Audrey. Both girls had been struggling to fall asleep, each challenging thein their own way. Tired and frustrated, I hear my toddler sweetly say "Do you want a hamburger?". 

I laughed. and kissed her on the forehead. "Yes, my dear... I would love a hamburger."

Today Clara 'turned' 30 months old. Or - in normal-people-speak - 2 'and a half' officially. It seemed as though the day she turned 2, her vocabulary started increasing exponentially. She has changed so rapidly in the past six months, and when I think about how much she has changed since the day she was born - only 30 months ago - it nearly blows my mind... 

She started here...

Then only six months later... (I promise this is actually a picture of Clara - I had to double take, because it looks so much like Audrey does now...)

And by her first birthday she still didn't have any hair. 

She didn't walk until she was nearly 18 months old.

And by her second birthday she was already a big sister! 

Lately it seems as though I can't keep up. How quickly she catches on to things, how cleverly she sidesteps almost everything we tell her to do - often without us even noticing - and how much she remembers, is absolutely incredible to me.  The greatest evidence of her growth lies in her conversation skills. I have people every day asking "How old is she...? Only 2?"

Today we brought Audrey in to her immunization appointment and Clara walked squarely up to the counter. The woman at the counter addressed her directly and asked her if she had brought 'her baby' to be immunized. 

"I did" Clara said confidently. The woman then asked what her baby's name was. "Audrey". She replied and then asked. "Are you the lady?" I had informed her that a lady would be giving Audrey a needle. She then started rambling on to me about how she had been sick, and went to the hospital and got a needle. This all happened months ago, and she still seems to clearly remember it. 

She is goofy and has an unbelievable amount of energy. She makes me laugh daily, and challenges me constantly as a parent. She routinely says the strangest things - most of which I forget only hours after she's said them, despite how insistent I am that I WILL remember this one... 

She loves going on the swings at the park, but is still too scared to go down the slide. 

She bosses everyone she knows around, but still takes a lot of time to get comfortable in large groups. Until she gets to know everyone - then she's suddenly the boss!

She still loves, loves, LOVES her sister, and despite all of our warnings: "Be careful Clara, be gentle Clara, don't pull on Audrey's arms Clara..." she still gets excited every time she sees her. She wants to be around her constantly, and is always telling us what Audrey does and does not want.

"Her doesn't want to go to bed!"

"Her DOES want more food!"

"Audrey needs her gummy! Audrey needs her toy! Audrey needs a blanket!"

I'm slowly getting better at this 'Mom' thing, I think, and in the process I'm loving this crazy 2-year-old stage more and more.  She drives me insane and I still sometimes want to shake her, but more and more she makes me love her so much it brings tears to my eyes - that emotional kind of love that doesn't necessarily go along with the practical kind of Mom-love that I have had for her since before she was born. 

This is our Pickle. She is 30 months old today. 

Monday, 10 June 2013 07:00

Planning a Toddler Party

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Last December, on Clara's second birthday I wrote this post on how I wanted to throw her a 1/2 Birthday party in June.  Now it's June, and we have the party set for next Saturday, June 15th.  I'm kind of freaking out, while I try to organize all of my thoughts on this! 

Some of what I need to do has already been done (like sending out the invitations - phew!), but I need to plan out my steps for the week anyway, so I thought I'd jot down all of my thoughts on planning a toddler birthday party from start to finish!

So, here is a collection of tips and steps for planning a toddler's Birthday party:

  • Choose your location, and make sure you have enough space for what you want to do!  We are planning the party at our own house, and hopefully the weather will be nice, because we want to be outside! We have a swing set in the yard and some other good toys for kids to play with. We do have a pretty good set-up downstairs for kids if we have to, but there isn't a lot of room for anyone else so the 'grown-ups' would mostly have to be upstairs and our house isn't very big... that was actually a big part of the reason we wanted to do a 1/2 Birthday party in June rather than a big party on her actual birthday in December.  Really hoping for nice weather! 
  • Choose your time, because we are planning a party around a group of people who probably need to go home and nap by about 1pm, so we chose a time in the late morning so it could be all over well before 1pm.  Late afternoon would work for this same group of kids, and if you know that none of your invitees are still napping you have much more flexibility!
  • Decide who to Invite. This year Clara actually has quite a few friends in the 2-4 year old range, so we had a lot of kids to invite! We have 6 kiddos on our list this year, which is quite a bit considering their age! Two year olds can get a bit overwhelmed at times, so fewer is probably better for this age.  Also, because 2 and 3 year olds might want their parents to stay with them (and you might too!) keep the families in mind when you are inviting. Our 6-person guest list actually means we need to find space for 20 people not including ourselves. 
  • Purchase or make invitations. There are so many possibilities here, from store-bought dollarstore or fancy custom cards for mailing, to online invites via email or facebook, to homemade cards. I almost always look ideas for this kind of thing up on Pinterest, but in this case, Clara and I made invitations to hand out to her friends. I had a pack of blank cards & envelopes from a $1.50 bin at Michael's, and we just used crayons, markers and stickers to decorate the fronts.

  • Send the invitations! This seems like a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many cards I've found around my house that were intended to be sent at some point, but never were... 
  • Plan the food! Because we are having a late morning party, we will be serving a quick lunch for the kids and families (Kraft Dinner - Clara's favourite). If you had a party mid-afternoon you wouldn't need to serve any kind of meal, but you probably want some kinds of snacks and desserts. And birthday parties just aren't birthday parties without some kind of cake!
  • Plan the drinks! Another thing that should be a no-brainer, but I did most of this post before realizing I was missing drinks!  
  • Plan the activities. Pinterest is full of great activities for toddler parties - here are just a few good resources:
  • Have a way to play music. Because we'll be partying outdoors (hopefully), we will have to set up a player and speakers in the garage so we can listen outdoors. We might skip this entirely out of simplicity, or to avoid creating extra noise, but it might be a cool thing to include. You will, however, need this if you plan to play a game like hot potato or musical chairs. 
  • Party Bags. The general consensus here seems to be that no one really appreciates these bags (except the kids, of course!), and I have seen atrocious amounts of money spent on trying to create bags that kids will really appreciate. My plan is to stick to things that are useful and consumable - like playdough, crayons and colouring books, bubbles, and possibly some candy or homemade treats. Including small toys can be a good idea, but I would stick to things that are cheap in cost but still of a decent to high quality so the parent isn't just trying to find the first opportunity to chuck it. 

Did I miss anything?

Overall, keep it simple. A 2 or 3-year-old will be perfectly happy playing with their friends in an unstructured environment, and planning too much will only serve to make your day more stressful. Decorations are also something that are unneccessary as far as the child is concerned - they really won't care if you forget to hang the big 'Happy Birthday' banner, so don't stress too much about that kind of thing. 

A General Timeline:

1 Month Ahead: Decide on the location, time and attendees - more time would probably be better for your sake and to make sure your attendees keep the day free.  If you need to book a location, you need to plan early enough for this venue to be available - this could be up to 6 months or more depending on the type of venue you're looking at. 

2-3 Weeks Ahead: Purchase/Make and send out invitations. 

1 Week (or more) Ahead: Plan out your food and activities in detail, jotting down how far ahead (or close to the date) certain things need to be purchased. You may want to buy certain things at one location a week ahead, but still require produce that should be purchased the day before or day of - keep track of these things! 

Also, if you're hosting the party at home, you may want to start thinking about cleaning up the space you will be using to make it company ready!

Day Before: Purchase activity supplies, prepare any food that must be made ahead or frozen. Make as much as you can ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until party time. Finish cleaning the party space. Put up decorations if you'll be indoors and if you can. 

Day of the Party! Put up decorations, set up activities and dress up the party girl/boy! As the toddlers are arriving, give them some free play while you set out any food and drinks from the fridge.

Take lots of pictures! 

Hopefully I didn't miss anything, because I'm at 1 week ahead (less, actually, so I'm already behind!) and I'll be detailing all of this stuff this week! Wish me luck! 

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