Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sleepless in Upstate NY

Well, my little one was up to her "old" tricks again! Two more nights of the Late Show, live from my little girlie's crib! Last night was better, so I'm hoping we're on an upswing again and that I can catch up on some more sleep tonight!

Three nights ago my husband had to work late, unexpectedly, yet still had to be up at 2:45am to be at work by 4am!! And that, of course, was the first night the my little one started the late night routine again. It had been a chaotic night at our house with my husband at work and me trying to get dinner made and kids ready for bed and lunchs made and toys picked up and school bag packed -- I'm sure you know the drill! Anyway, when I was trying to get the girls ready for bed I realized that all of my baby's warm pj's were in the wash! So, I'm running around trying to get my older daughter (who's been fighting a cold all week) to bed so that she could get up for school the next morning, and at the same time I'm running around trying to find something warm for my younger daughter to wear. And I swear, at some point during that 15 - 20 minute whirlwind, she went from tired to overtired. If you have kids, certainly you have experienced this phenomenon. They can be tired, and you push it just a little farther than you should -- you don't get them to sleep during that tired window of opportunity, and then BOOM -- now you've done it, they're OVERTIRED and there's very little you can do to rectify that. Some kids just get completely miserable at that point, some kids catch a second wind and won't/can't fall asleep.

Overtired is a big thing in my husband's family. At some point a number of years ago (after my first niece was born, but before my kids came along), the "Great Overtired Debate" began. I'm not even sure how it would come up in conversation, but it came up fairly frequently, and the two sides were my mother-in-law and her sister completely understanding the concept of a child being "overtired" and my brother-in-law (my husband's sister's husband -- does that make sense?) pooh-poohing this idea. At the time he thought it was ridiculous -- you're either tired or you're not tired. You can be REALLY tired, but what the heck does OVERtired mean? He just did not get it. There were others of us who agreed with Mom and Aunt Nancy's side, but we tried to stay on the fringes of this debate. For quite some time, there was no winning my brother-in-law Joe over to the other side. And then something changed -- his daughter (my first niece) got a little older, and then came her sister, and at some point there the light switched and Joe was introduced to the overtired experience. He's a firm believer in the concept now!

Anyway, my baby girl was just WIDE awake -- she had caught a second wind and was ready to play all night. I would lay her down in her crib, she would immediately pop right up on her feet again and walk around her crib, talking, laughing -- everything but sleeping! The next night we tried again, and my husband had put her pj's in the wash (5 pairs) that morning and yet neither of us remembered to put any of them in the DRYER -- what were we thinking?! So again, this dawns on us at bedtime last night and he runs down and throws a pair in the drier and we wait for it to finish, hoping that we will not round that bend of overtired again. We get her dressed, I lay her down, tuck her in, and she seems like she is off to sleep -- hooray!!

Until I am heading to bed an hour or so later and I am in my older daughter's room trying to wrestle her legs back under the covers (honestly, there could be a blizzard in her room and she would still want to sleep on top of the covers!) and I'm not making a sound when I hear from my little one's room, "HEY! HEY!! Ya-Ya! Ma Ma!! HEY!!" (She sometimes calls her sister Ya-Ya) And that was it, she was up. And as tired as I was -- overtired, one might say -- I had to stifle a laugh because it was so funny to hear that loud "HEY!" break the silence. I tried to get her back to sleep and I'm not sure who fell asleep first -- probably me, because the last thing I remember was hearing her laughing hysterically -- in her crib, in her room, in the dark -- and I couldn't imagine what she was finding so funny in there! She definitely cracks herself up -- and me too, even in the middle of the night!

I have to say, no matter how tired or crabby I feel, it's so wonderful to be able to listen to her or look at her and to almost feel this light turn on inside of me. She is such a great spirit-lifter -- a very sweet soul in a cute little package!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

What a Theme!

Ok, completely off the subject of motherhood, but every once in a while moms should get to throw a party that does not involve cone-shaped hats and pinatas, don't you agree? I mentioned my impending "Pub Night" dinner club theme the other day and I had so much fun putting it together that I just had to share it! Part of the reason I am so pleased with it, is because I was feeling in a real rut with what to do for this dinner party. We have been getting together once a month for the better part of 8 years and it rotates between 4 couples, so it is at my house close to 3 times a year. We've done murder mystery parties, fondue night, Caribbean night, Hawaiian night, Italian night -- you name a country, and we've probably done a dinner around their food! We've also covered some of the holidays -- Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day and I'm pretty sure there was a Cinco De Mayo in there too. We usually do favors that we give out at these dinners, but after one garage sale where we were all selling the many kitsch-y plastic glasses that we had acquired as dinner party favors, we decided to keep it to things that we could easily use, but that would also not clutter our houses. With all of that in mind and the fact that frankly, having this dinner fall after Christmas and between my daughter's and my husband's birthdays, I was feeling less than inspired about coming up with a theme that we hadn't already done, that would also not break the bank (because, as you may have guessed, I can go a little over the top sometimes...).

My party ideas always spark from something small -- in this case, I thought about the favor -- as I've mentioned before, my husband and I love music and we love to burn cd's, so I thought that we could make a cd mix to give out as our favor. We have tons of blank cd's and tons of music, so that would be free, essentially, and hopefully something that our guests would enjoy. For some reason, that made me think of all of the British groups that we have on cd, which led to thinking about having a pub night. My husband started working on the music and I started working on decorations. From the internet I found and printed pictures of some of "the Royals" (the Queen, Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince Charles, Diana) along with other famous Brits -- Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, and of course, David Beckham! I went around my dining room and living room and I stuck these pictures into frames that I already had out with pictures of my girls and family. I searched on the internet for other ideas -- found a recipe for pickled eggs which I made for the novelty, but there were actually a couple of guests that were brave enough to try them! I also read online that most pubs have frosted windows so that patrons can't be seen from the outside. On our trip to the dollar store, I bought a white plastic tablecloth that we taped up on the front window of our dining room which made it look like a frosted window. I also took some of my daughter's "window paint" and I painted the name of the pub that we had come up with -- "The Bull and the Nag Inn" (nagging, get it? that was mostly my husband's idea, I suppose he's the bull).

Here's a great tip for working out a party theme with limited expense -- talk to your friends and family about what you are planning! Just from sharing my idea with my office mate, she came in with trays and beer steins and plastic pitchers for me to use for the evening! And my father let me borrow his dartboard and his new Union Jack flag (which I hung over the portrait of my daughters that hangs over my fireplace)! My best "find" for this dinner party, was truly a find -- I knew that when we bought our house from my grandmother, that she had left some china for us in a tub in the basement. When I went down to look for it (I thought it looked slightly more British than mine) -- I found 2 sets down there, one that I had never seen and it went perfectly with my theme! Not to mention it's a great set -- full service for 8, so I cleaned it all up and put it in my kitchen cupboard to use on a more regular basis.

The most fun part of the decorating for myself and for my girlie, was that we took dry-erase markers and wrote on the (non-porous!) tiles on the walls of our bathroom! It was a silly thing that I thought of to get a few laughs from our guests, but I got my girl to help me and she had a great time writing "Liv was here!" and drawing pictures on the tiles. Maybe that was stretching the theme a bit, but sometimes you just have to have fun, and I think it's great to let my girl do something a little "crazy!" Don't worry -- she's well aware that we don't normally write on the walls! And, with the non-porous tiles, the dry-erase markers wiped right off! Easier than the paint on the window -- it came off, but it took MANY wet paper towels!

It was a fun night for us, and I think our friends had a good time too. One of the most important things that I have learned as a parent is that while we love our children and want to spend as much time as possible with them (especially when you are a working mom, like I am!) it's also so important to get to have some time with grown-ups, too! This dinner group is actually a great idea for parents -- we rotate between our friends' homes and our own home, and when it's at our house we don't need to find a babysitter! Our girls were great last night -- with the way dinner was timed, we got them to bed right around dinner, so it wasn't a late night for them, and before dinner they were both a little in on the theme -- my older daughter was all dressed in green (for Ireland) and she put a tiara on, and we had our little one dressed in a little Scottish/English-looking outfit. Hey, everyone has to participate in the theme, right?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

"The Daring Book for Girls"

I have to tell you about this great book that I got for Christmas this year. It's called "The Daring Book for Girls" by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz and I just happened to see it on while doing some early Christmas shopping this past year. It was just published in 2007 and it's kind of an "everything a girl could possibly ever need to know" book -- great for a young girl, or like me, the mother of girls!

This book contains all sorts of interesting information from a list of essential gear that no girl should be without (including a Swiss Army knife, hair band, duct tape, and patience to name a few), books that will change your life, how to change a tire, yoga, and campfire songs. It also has craft ideas, games, and information on famous women -- Joan of Arc, modern women leaders, famous women inventors, women spies, and so on.

I can't wait to finish reading this fascinating book and more than that, I cannot wait to start sharing some of these things with my own "Daring Girls"! I'm not sure which my girl will be interested in trying first -- palm reading or making friendship bracelets. It will be a few years before we get into the chapter on boys and the chapter on how to negotiate a salary!

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Things We Hand Down...

So I have to tell you about my deep "soul-searching" around my daughter's birthday. While preparing for her party, I had to pick out a cake for her -- nothing super fancy from the bakery anymore. I find that for the kids parties that she likes to have now that she is in school, the traditional sheet cake decorated with the latest popular characters is the best way to go. When I went to the store to place the order, I looked through the book with all of the cakes and there were a few she's already had, and a few that are now too "baby-ish" for her (in her opinion), and there were a few that she would have liked and I chose one of those -- a "Bratz" cake. Now, I am NOT a huge fan of the Bratz dolls, and my girl has "suffered" because of this -- ALL of her friends have them, and some of her cousins -- she was like a social outcast (in her mind) because up until last year she did not own any. If you have ever seen a Bratz doll, you will know what I am talking about -- I feel as though they look very similar to a cartoon prostitute, which I do not really find to be super appropriate for a 7 year old. Well, Mommy will not buy them for her, but Santa has given her a Bratz doll each of the last two Christmases -- but at least he has picked out the most tasteful, least obnoxious that he could find...

With this in mind, I was talking to my best friend Christine after I ordered this cake and I said that they also had a cute Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean cake that my father would love, and a Harry Potter cake that my mother would love. And I mention that I was torn, because my girl also LOVES Harry Potter -- LOVES him -- and has mentioned having a Harry Potter themed party the past 2 years, but I have kind of swayed her into a different direction. Christine then calls me on the carpet about ordering a cake for a character that I am mostly opposed to, and not letting my child have the Harry Potter theme party that she would really like. I say, "Well, I know, but the Bratz cake actually is the least offensive Bratz product that I have seen, and she does really like them, and I think that my girl would be the only one at the party that would like Harry Potter." SO? It is HER birthday! "Yes, I know, but it's all little girls and I don't want them to think she's odd because she likes Harry Potter and they don't." And Christine told me, "If SHE doesn't have a problem with it, don't MAKE HER HAVE a problem with it!"

And so I've been pondering that for a while now... Where did this come from? Aren't I the mom who bought my girl the "Free to be You and Me" dvd that I watched in the '70's? Didn't I sit there with her, watching it countless times (she LOVES that dvd, by the way!) and talk about the story/song "William has a Doll" and how it's perfectly ok for boys to play with dolls and for girls to play with trucks and what have you? Don't I think that women can do anything that men can do (and better, sometimes...)? Aren't I trying to raise my girls to be strong, confident, independent, free-thinking women? So where is the disconnect with the Harry Potter cake?

After a lot of thought on the subject, I don't think that it has anything to do with "girls should like girly-things and boys should like boy-things." I think it comes from a fear that I always had growing up that I was not going to fit in, and that I didn't want to be different from everyone else. Was I different? Well, everyone is different, which I tell my daughter now, because if we were all the same the world would be a very boring place. But, was I really some stand out from the crowd, weird child? I would definitely have to say, no. In fact, looking back I think I was terribly boring and average -- I wanted to blend into the crowd -- I would about keel over if someone noticed me! And interestingly, I think I blended fantastically -- I am quite convinced (and although my friends would disagree, there is mounting evidence to the fact) that almost no one that I went to school with remembers me! I think I am much more outgoing now -- still not interested in getting up on stage by myself and performing for a crowd, but much better with meeting new people -- yes, I am definitely more confident as an adult.

And my husband has told me time and again about how when he was growing up he was so shy that he would sit in the car at family functions and would at some point after the party started, slip into the shadows, trying to ease into being noticed -- by this family!

So, the fact that we have this daughter who, at times has a hint of shyness, but for the most part seems to relish having a spotlight turned on her 24/7 -- really, beyond me! And not only is she not as shy as her parents were at her age, she really does not seem to give a hoot about what people think of her! She loves Harry Potter and she doesn't care if she is the only girl in the first grade who knows about Harry Potter. She loves the "Laura Ingalls" bonnet that her "Aunt" Chrissy gave her, and she'll wear it to school, or out shopping at the mall -- doesn't bother her one bit if she looks different from other people!

I'm so proud of her for being her own person and being confident about who she is -- I just pray that I keep my ancient insecurities to myself and I don't pass those on to my daughter! I always try to encourage her creativity, and I'm going to make it a point to encourage her confidence and her uniqueness, as well! Oh, and on her actual birthday, I surprised her with the Harry Potter cake, and she loved it -- just like I knew she would!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Special Birthday

Happy 7th Birthday to my sweet girl! I can't imagine where the time has gone -- it has literally passed in the blink of an eye. She's getting to be such a big girl -- very independent, very headstrong, but still my sweet, little love! This morning she was awakened by a phone call from her cousin in Long Island who will be 7 in March. That was a special treat for my girl, because she considers this cousin to be one of her very best friends -- they are two peas in a pod, for sure! She took a shower this morning so that she would be "birthday clean" as she put it, and she had gym today so she could not wear a pretty dress as she would have liked, but she did get to wear a cute, new casual outfit that we gave her for her birthday.

For breakfast (terrible mother that I am...) I offered her a special birthday cupcake, but good for her, she chose Cheerios instead (and she even eats them without sugar!). We let her open one of her birthday presents before school, and the one she chose was a "Groovy Girl" doll, to add to her collection -- she just loves them! She had the ultimate (to her) in birthday luxuries -- she was a "car rider" today! Daddy drove her to school, partially as a treat for her birthday, and partially because he was helping her carry in her birthday snack for the class. Instead of cupcakes or cookies, she chose (for the 3rd year in a row if you include preschool) pudding cups to share with the class! It's funny though, as much as she enjoys NOT riding the bus to and from school, when we heard the bus go by this morning, I saw a brief flicker of panic on her face, as though she had missed it!

Daddy picked up her up from school today, and tonight we had a little family party with her Nana, Grandpa, Great Gram, Great Uncle Mark, Great Uncle Dave, and Aunt Charlene -- we have quite a "great" family in every sense of the word! She so enjoyed having everyone come out for her special day -- and on a snowy Tuesday night, to boot! It was a little bit of a bittersweet day for us, because last year on my girl's birthday, right before my father got to his parents' home to pick them up for the party, my grandfather suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. Today, while our girl was at school, my husband and I went with a few of our family members to pay our respects in memory of him. As sad as it is that we lost him, and as difficult as the timing was, I think it is nice that we are able to come together as a family and remember him, and yet also have the happiness of my little girl's birthday to focus on. She was blessed to have her great grandmother at her 7th birthday and I think that my grandmother finds her (and her sister!) to be a special blessing too!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Goody Bags & the Great Dollar Store

Yesterday we were out running errands, getting ready for this weekend's birthday party, and I was reminded of something... I LOVE the dollar stores!! Every year when I have to put together "goody bags" for my daughter's birthday party, I struggle with having a cute bag to give out. I want it to be filled with things the kids will like (and that my daughter will not be embarrassed by, heaven forbid!), but I don't want it to break my budget! This year I was able to get a 20 pack of clear cellophane goody bags with smiley faces printed on them at -- and they had all sorts of designs of these bags -- for under $3 at Factory Card Outlet. I thought this was a great price!

Of course, then you have to put something IN the bag... I had a TON of leftover "Dum-Dum" lollipops from Halloween, so that was the first thing I put in the bags. I "splurged" a little on lip gloss party favors -- (2) 12 packs (of course, we have 15 kids coming...) that were $3 each, but this wasn't too bad and my girl REALLY wanted these for her friends. I got some candy necklaces (5 for $1) and bracelets (10 for $1) in the bulk section of my grocery store -- it's great to buy bulk because you can buy exactly what you need!

I was still looking for something else to fill them up a little, but not at great expense. Enter the dollar store -- Dollar Tree to be exact! We have a great one by our house, and I hardly ever think to go there. And of course we went after my husband had gone grocery shopping, and we saw so many things there - name brand - that he had just spent much more than $1 for... But back to the goody bags... They had such great stuff -- colorful pencils (10 or 12 for $1), cute erasers shaped in hearts and flowers ($10 for $1), all sorts of great stuff for goody bags! They had the cutest packages of crayons with Disney Princesses, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Tinkerbell & Fairies -- 4 packages of 8-pack crayons for $1 -- but I was told in no uncertain terms that "crayons are babyish" (to a 7 year old, apparently) so I had to pass that deal up...

We also picked up Valentine's cards for both of my girls to send out, and these would have easily been $3 or $4 at the grocery store! And I found 2 things I was looking for for my "Pub Night" next weekend -- all in all it was a very successful trip, and my husband was able to steer me out of there before my eyes started to glass over and before I went overboard trying to "save."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

To Theme or Not To Theme...

“Hello, my name is Deanna, and I am a party theme-aholic.” Ask almost anyone who knows me – they will vouch for this. I don’t know where this comes from, my parents enjoy a party, but neither of them is really into the theme thing… Anyway, ever since my husband and I bought our first home, we both really enjoyed entertaining. Some friends of ours invited us to be a part of a monthly “gourmet” club, where we take turns rotating each month with 3 other couples and that seemed to spark the inner event coordinator in me. This month we are having “Pub Night” at our house and I am getting a little overly excited about the theme – I’ll just leave it at that.

Well, what started with an interest in throwing nice dinner parties pretty much exploded into an obsession with children’s birthday parties once my oldest was born. For her first birthday, I was a LITTLE excited and I bought this beautiful “princess-like” dress for my girl to wear to her party, along with a birthday tiara. And then I needed to send out invitations and plan the party, of course! I made these cute invitations – a pink piece of paper folded into a little “book” with a picture of her on the front in her birthday tiara, and a story that I wrote on the inside, in the style of a fairy tale. I even put little pink ribbon bookmarks in each invitation. So “storybook” was my theme and I went with it! I invited everyone to come dressed as their favorite storybook character – we had Dr. Doolittle, the Cowardly Lion, Little Bo Peep (that's me, in my own interpretation), the Hobbit, Harry Potter, Captain Hook, Little Red Riding Hood – you name it! (If you are a “theme-aholic” your addiction will only continue to grow if you have a bunch of people who enable you!) Her birthday cake that year was an open storybook, and it was totally adorable, totally fit into my theme!

The theme for “2” hit me on the expressway on my way home from work one night (having a long commute also adds to a “theme-aholic’s” problem – your mind wanders to all of the party themes that you could plan!) – “Tea for Two” of course! This involved a cute, inexpensive dress with teacups & teapots in the print, adorable (if I do say so myself) invitations in the shape of a teapot with a dangling handmade label in the style of a tea bag, and a beautiful teapot birthday cake.

For my girl’s third birthday we bought her a “big girl” bed and so in keeping with the theme, we had a pajama party (during the afternoon, but some brave family members came in their pj’s) with an amazing cake in the shape of a bed, with a throw pillow and everything, and I handmade the invitations – soft flannel material glued down on cover stock paper, cut into the shape of a pj top, with little tiny buttons down the front and when you opened it, the invitation was printed inside. Those were labor-intensive, to say the least! That burned me out a little and fortunately by the next year my girl was into character-themed parties and pre-printed invitations!

I thought that I was done with big theme parties – I kept telling myself that even if I had another child, I was not going to go crazy on birthday party themes! No more of these extravagant cakes from the bakery (that made my wedding cake…) – no more crazy invitations! But even when you think you have kicked the habit – sometimes you just can’t say “No!” When my youngest’s first birthday rolled around, I did scale back a little – I opted to do a sweet invitation through Kodak Gallery ( with a picture of her surrounded by Winnie the Pooh and Friends. I invited all of the guests to come dressed in their favorite red t-shirt, just like Pooh wears – very cute and in keeping with the Pooh theme, but not overwhelming for the guests (and of course, they all came in red!). And then there was the cake… I had made an agreement with myself that I would not get a cake from the fancy bakery – unless it really went well with the theme. Well, again, I had an epiphany – while trying to fall asleep one night, I believe – if the bakery took the round-ish shape of their teapot cake, and some of the adorable bees they put on some garden-themed cakes that I have seen of theirs – they could make Pooh’s honey pot! Well, of COURSE, I had to go with that! I don’t know that I’ll be able to top that cake – I really may need to go into retirement after that one. I even had them make a single, small cake (as I had done years 1 – 3 for my first daughter) so that my baby could stick her hands in it and make a mess without affecting the cake that we were serving to guests. And didn’t the bakery throw a couple of little bees on that little cake too? (See – enablers, all of them!)
Anyway, this year we went to get my girl’s birthday invitations, and what does she tell me? “Mom, I DON’T want a theme this year!” Unbelievable – my own child – all themed out by the age of 7! We are having an ice skating party at a local rink, she chose smiley face invitations (and I was at least able to persuade her to use smiley face bags for the goody bags!), and I broke down and ordered a "Bratz" cake for her (she loves them, I don't). I'm breaking out in hives a little over the whole thing -- I may need to find a meeting! ;)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A Star is Born!

There is BIG excitement in our house this week! Our little first grader has been anxiously awaiting this monumental moment ALL school year, and FINALLY it has happened -- FINALLY, she is -- STAR OF THE WEEK! What is that, you're asking? Well, it is only THE most exciting, prestigious thing to happen to a first grader (in her class) all year!

On Friday afternoon, my girl came running off the school bus and up the driveway yelling, "I'm Star of the Week!!" She was so excited! She sat right down at the table and immediately began to fill out the questionnaire that was sent home, asking her about her favorite things -- food, toy, book, movie, etc. We also need to gather up 12 pictures to send in to school with her tomorrow, which her teacher will put up on the big "Star of the Week" display board. She is also allowed to bring in her favorite book which they will put on display, as well. In addition, this week her teacher will pass out a sheet of paper to each student and they will draw pictures and write about how they feel about my special girl. At the end of the week her teacher will present her with these papers, which will have been made into a special book.
This is such a nice way for my girl and her classmates to get to know each other, and it's wonderful that each child walks away with a treasured keepsake to help them remember their first grade friends!
We're off to gather pictures!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Calendar Girl

It's the beginning of a new year, and I am trying to get organized this year -- and help my daughter to get organized in the process! As some of my family and friends would agree, this past year I began losing my mind as far as remembering dates of events and activities, sometimes forgetting altogether, sometimes overbooking... Partially I attribute this to having a second child -- honestly, with the birth of each of my girls, I have lost a little bit of my formally fantastic memory skills. I'm sure this has more to do with having more to remember, and less to do with childbirth itself... Add to this the fact that my husband works a rotating schedule which affects our day care situation with my parents and I am constantly having to keep track of what everyone is doing -- my husband is watching the kids this day and this day, Dad is watching this day, Mom this day, and heaven forbid someone needs to swap a day for some reason! Whew -- a lot to keep track of!

And that's just daily things -- I have a terrible time remembering birthdays lately and getting cards out -- our family has grown so large over the years!

So, I have a new calendar in the kitchen that we can all see every day before we walk out of the house, and I have a pocket calendar in my purse for the first time this year. My daughter got a Disney calendar as a gift this Christmas, and when I saw it yesterday (we're still putting the Christmas stuff away!) I got an idea that would be fun for my girl and help both of us, hopefully!

When she got home from school yesterday, we took out her calendar and we went through and I helped her write in a bunch of family birthdays on the calendar. We also used the stickers that came with it to mark holidays, our family vacation, the last day of school -- things that she will be looking forward to! Our plan is also to add the birthdays of a few of her close friends, and I would like to use this calendar as a tool to help her get into the habit of a) using a calendar to keep track of important dates (birthday parties, class trips, dance recital) and b) sending out cards to people that she cares about. As a bonus for me, I'm sure that she will help remind ME to send cards out as well!
Another great thing about having your child use their own calendar, and hanging it somewhere that they can look at every day, is that it helps them conceptualize time. When I was pregnant with my second daughter, my girl was SO anxious and excited and as we got closer to my due date every day she thought that was the day the baby was coming. It was hard for her to grasp how long a month was, so I made a calendar for her with the last two weeks of June and the first two weeks of July and we added in all of the things that we had planned -- trip to the zoo, Mommy's last day of work, 4th of July bbq, and finally the baby's arrival. It helped her to count down the days until her sister arrived (late of course...)!
And it's working with this calendar as well -- this morning she informed me that there are 8 days until her birthday party and 10 days until her actual birthday! (See, it's helping me already -- I still have a few things to get ready, and apparently only 8 days to do them in!)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Rudolph Cups

I realize this is not as timely as it may have been, oh say, BEFORE Christmas, but these were too darn cute not to share! So file this away for a fun project to do with the kids in preparation for the holidays next year!

For those of you who missed my post in November with the Thanksgiving cups, these are just a variation of an idea that my nana used every Thanksgiving. She would put out little cups filled with candies and nuts to keep us occupied while we were waiting for dinner, or while we were waiting for dessert! At Thanksgiving, my daughter and I made turkey cups with paper feathers, and when I was writing the post about them, I thought about making reindeer cups for Christmas.

A couple of days before Christmas, my girl and I got out our arts and crafts supplies and I traced her hand and her little sister's hand, and we used cut them out and used them as templates to make all of Rudolph's antlers. We taped a set of hands (little hand on some, bigger hands on others) to each cup and then cut out brown squares which we folded in half to make a triangle. Then we took a red circle that we cut out for a nose (could have used red pom-poms if we'd had them!) and glued that onto the the brown "face" and taped that to the cup as well. My girl drew on the eyes and wrote each guest's name on the back, so that we could use them as place cards as well as treat cups. And, being resourceful, I used styrofoam cups that I already had on hand, and after discovering we were out of brown construction paper, we got out brown lunch bags and used those for paper!

These were really cute and everyone got a kick out of them. And once we were done with them, I took a set of each girl's handprints to add to their baby books, for a keepsake.

Recipe for Homemade Play Dough

Here is a great recipe that my friend gave me for homemade play dough. She swears by this – says it is great because it does not stain, and best of all does not stick to your carpet! And my “frugal friend” will love this – it’s very cheap to make, because most of us have these items in our pantry!


3 cups flour
1-1/2 cups salt
6 tsp cream of tartar
3 cups of cool water
3 tbsp cooking oil
Food coloring

Mix together the dry ingredients. Add food coloring to water (you can easily cut the recipe in half or thirds and make different colors at this point). Stir water and oil into dry mixture until smooth. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until you can pinch mixture and it does not stick to your fingers. Knead material while warm. Store in an airtight container or plastic bag. Keep in the fridge – just take it out 20 minutes before you are ready to play!

My friend said that she has had two containers of this in her fridge for at least 8 months and it’s still in great shape! Enjoy!

Memory Book Project

As I mentioned earlier, before Christmas I was busy working on a “secret project”, which was really a gift for my grandmother. My grandfather passed away in January last year and this was our first Christmas without him, so I wanted to do something extra special for Gram. I got this idea from my older daughter, who is constantly doing projects – each week she is on a different kick. Currently she is in a writing and illustrating phase – she creates her own books almost daily (I’m trying to recycle paper from work instead of throwing it out, because the child could easily take out a small rainforest with her paper consumption!). But, before Christmas she was doing what she called “Mommy & Me” books and she would make little books from one dolly to their “mommy” dolly, recounting some special memory of time spent with the “mommy” dolly.

My parents, who take turns watching my girls while we are working (God bless them!), are frequently recruited to participate in her projects, and I think it was when she made my father put one of these books together for his mother, that I thought, “What a great idea!” I enlisted help from all of the members of our family – great grandchildren up to Gram’s four children, and I asked spouses and soon-to-be spouses to join in as well. I asked each person to e-mail me a little write-up of a few of his or her favorite memories of time spent with Gram, and to send any pictures they would like to share, as well.

I gathered up all of the stories that the family sent me and then I found pictures that would go with each person – black and white photos of my dad and his siblings growing up, pictures of my cousins and I when we were younger, family wedding photos, etc. I scanned these in and inserted them into the write-ups. I wrote up a cute little story from my toddler about her great grandmother, and my older daughter wrote out her own memories in her handwriting and she also drew some pictures. Once I had the whole book – with memories from everyone in the family – I printed it all out and put it into a binder that would be easy for Gram to flip through. I even added a cover page that had a picture of the whole family that my father took on Mother’s Day this past year. We gave it to Gram on Christmas Eve at our annual family celebration, and a few of us were even brave enough to read our stories out loud to her in front of the family. I could tell that she really loved it and I was happy to have taken the time to make it for her.

It took some time to gather all of the stories, but I think it’s a great idea for a gift for anyone, at any time! Also, you can make it as simple or elaborate as you’d like – if I were into scrap booking, I could have gone crazy with this!

I am thrilled that Gram enjoyed this, but I have to say that it turned out to be just as much of a gift to me as it was to her – I had the opportunity to read some great stories that I had never heard before! The time my grandmother drove my dad and his date to the prom, got pulled over for having a broken taillight and was let off without a ticket, but in her nervousness, she ended up backing into the police car! My father was mortified, needless to say! And the story of my grandfather taking my cousin out “to the bank” but going to Dunkin’ Donuts instead and swearing my cousin to secret about the 2 donuts he (Grandpa) would eat! There were some really funny memories and some really touching memories and sentiments and it was such a special gift not only for Gram, but for all of us. And, of course, it will be a wonderful keepsake to share with my girls. In fact, my sweet girl would get so excited every time another relative sent their story in – she loved reading them just as much as I did!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Enjoy the Silence!

(Ok, some of you may recognize the title of this as a nod to one of my favorite '80's groups...)

Anyway, truly, for the past two nights I have been enjoying the silence of a peacefully sleeping baby, and I am just shooting off a quick post to check in and then I will hopefully enjoy the silence for another blissfully, sleep-filled night! I attribute this to a combination of things -- the diligent napping schedule, and the removal of the extremely effective yet possibly too invigorating VaporPlug. I think an additional part of the sleep deprivation problem (hers -- not just mine!) is that she's been sick and not getting enough sleep is not helping her to get over her cold.

I have lots of things to catch up on that I will share later this week -- the Christmas project that I did for a special someone -- it's a simple, yet thoughtful gift to give a family member or friend for any occasion.

Also, it's late for this past Christmas, and early for next -- but I have a picture to share of the cute Rudolph cups that my girl and I made (a variation on the Thanksgiving cups we made that I shared with you in November) -- they came out even cuter than I imagined!

And, the bustle of our soon to be 7 year old's birthday party preparations!

But I'll save all of that for later -- right now, I wish you and your children a peaceful night's sleep, and I'm looking forward to the same!

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Late, Late Show - Part II

So, today was my first day back to work after being off for about 2-1/2 weeks. I had it all planned out yesterday -- if my little one was up for her late show again, I was going to pass "baby duty" on to my husband! He did not have to go in until 11:00am today. What do they say about the best laid plans?

I tried to get to bed early last night, because I was feeling quite tired and rundown, and I had an early morning ahead of me. Well! 11:00pm and the "show" starts! A little singing, a little fussing (not too much), a lot of babbling, and some name calling -- "Dada! Yaya! (That's what she calls her older sister) Mama!" Like she was calling us in to join the party... My husband slept through this, and I being Mrs. Nice-Guy, decide, well, I'm still awake, I try to get her back to bed. Yeah. I tried a few of the usual tricks that work -- picking her up for a quick snuggle, tucking her in under her blankets again, putting on her soothing "go to sleep" music. At one point I tried rocking her in the glider (lights off, of course) -- that garnered a number of "What is that's" which kind of runs together as a one cute word, along with the finger, pointing around the room. I was good -- I only went in twice, one trip included a diaper change, and one trip included a half of a bottle of milk. Mostly I laid awake willing her to go to sleep and thinking about how to get her to sleep, and then thinking about how I would write about this on my blog today, and then thinking about my older daughter's upcoming birthday party and what I am going to put in the goodie bags... This is how my mind works in the middle of the night (well, any time, really!).
And at 12:40am, I was getting back into bed after the diaper change and my husband rolled over so I decided he was awake enough for me to say, "It is 12:40 in the morning and I have not slept at all because she is WIDE AWAKE and I have to go to work tomorrow, so I vote that the next time someone needs to get up with her -- you do it!" Which was received by a sleepy grunt, and then I got into bed and proceeded to lie awake until about 3:00 - 3:30am -- I did not go in there again, but she was completely awake the entire time, as was I. Sigh... I just cannot seem to go to sleep while one of my children is up -- whether I'm "on duty" or my husband is -- I still hear everything, occasionally think "why is he doing it that way?" and feel as though I should just take care of things myself. Terrible, I know!
I made sure that she got 2 nap in today, so that when I put her down to bed tonight she didn't think that that was her second nap! And, she does not seem congested today, so I took the Vapor Plug out -- I was wondering if perhaps that was too "invigorating" of a smell for her! So wish me good luck -- I'm hoping for the best, and we'll see how it goes! I welcome any advice that anyone has to offer!
But really, regardless of the lack of sleep, you can't look at that sweet little face and be too irritated! :)

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Career Aspirations

One of the many funny aspects of parenthood, is watching your children from a young age and musing on what they will be when they grow up. We see our kids do almost anything and we start wondering, hmm, maybe she will be (fill in the blank). With our older daughter, she has always loved playing with water -- pouring it back and forth into cups, mixing up water and shampoo concoctions in the bathtub, etc. So my husband and I would look at her and wonder, "Maybe she'll be a scientist! Or a bartender..." She likes to save EVERYTHING -- she can look at anything that you are trying to throw away -- candy wrapper, napkin, empty box, you name it -- and she will want to save it "for a project." Well, we of course are wondering if she will grown up to be an antique collector, a garbage person, or one of those people that end up on Oprah because they won't throw anything away and they can't leave their home. And our imaginations just go on and on!

Our littlest girlie has been a little young for us to really start forecasting her future career, although recent events have me wondering if she may have a burgeoning career as a late night talk show host... We have had quite a few instances lately, of her waking up in the middle of the night, apparently feeling well rested and ready to put on a show!

From time to time my little one seems to get a second wind during the night -- after bedtime, and after sleeping for a few hours -- she will be WIDE AWAKE holding court in her bedroom. I'm not sure what triggers these late night antics -- sometimes it could be that her nap ran late and then we tried to put her down to bed at her usual time. Or maybe we've had a hectic day out and about and we were unable to get her down for an afternoon nap, and perhaps her body thinks that bedtime is really naptime... This past week I think it's because she has been sick with a cold and an ear infection and her sleep schedule is off, or maybe the medication is keeping her up -- hard to say!

Regardless of the cause of this, when she is up like this in the middle of the night, she is not crying and fussy -- she is pretty darn entertaining, until her mother is so exhausted that she wants to collapse, that is. In spite of the exhaustion, it's difficult to keep a straight face and and not laugh at how cute and funny she is!

For example, the other night, she was awake from about 12:00am until at least 1:30am! Lying on her back in her crib, feet up on the slats of the crib, chattering away, singing, laughing, you name it! It's like she's a late night talk show host entertaining her dolly audience!

So, who knows, someday our little girlie may be the next Letterman or Leno! We'll have to wait and see!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Back to School Blues

Ugh -- I put my sweet girl on the bus this morning and felt her pain as she trudged out of the warm, cozy house and out into the cold January morning. She did not want to get out of bed this morning, after a week of sleeping in (not always late, but she enjoyed not having Mom or Dad rustle her out of bed in the morning!), and then that struggle was followed by the memory of Daddy telling her she couldn't bring her new "Webkinz" dog to school! She likes to bring some stuffed animal or doll with her on the bus each day, an last night she was gearing up to bring one of her favorite Christmas gifts from Santa - a Webkinz bulldog (for those of you not yet familiar with the Webkinz phenomenom -- they are simple stuffed animals that come with a tag that has a "secret code" and your child can register their pet online and then play with them in a virtual world. She played with this dog online all weekend and it's quite cute, quite harmless.). But, her dad made the point last night that these things are SO popular with the kids right now, that he would hate for her to take it to school and something happen to it. He compared it to her Game Boy, another toy that will never take the bus ride to school...

I was torn this morning, completely relating to the fact that it is bad enough to have to go back to the "grind" after being off for such a long vacation (I, in fact, am home again today because our youngest has been very sick), and then when you are a child you are excited about showing off your new Christmas gifts to your friends. Especially if you got something that you just know your friends are going to think is "cool!" But, I could also see my husband's point of view, and I certainly was not going to give in without discussing it in private with him first -- never a good idea to let the kids "divide and conquer" you! ;)

Anyway, we compromised on a cute new, mini Doodle Bear (stuffed bear that you can write on with a special pen and then throw in the wash and start drawing all over again -- honestly, I don't know where they come up with these things, and it is truly bizarre to me that someone would think of this particular concept...), and the crisis was averted!

Motivating my girl about doing something that I would not even want to do -- get out of bed on a cold morning, leave the coziness and comfort of my house to go out to school (or work, for grown-ups!), take the long bus ride to school (or commute to work) -- it's a hard sell! But, that's one of my jobs as a parent, so I try to be encouraging, I always try to point out the good parts of the day -- seeing her friends, seeing her teacher (who she likes), maybe it's pizza day, or maybe she has art today. I also remind her of fun things coming up, like her birthday is less than 3 weeks away, or the fun things we have planned for the weekend. Or for today, reminding her that it's only a 3 day week and that Friday, Daddy will be off of work and she will be a "car rider" -- her favorite thing -- no bus!! This is also where my lunchbox notes come in handy -- they are a nice pick-me-up for my girl during the day, and another chance for me to remind her of things to look forward to when I am not there with her at school.

It's hard to always be upbeat and encouraging, but that's one of our roles as a parent -- to be your child's cheerleader. And wouldn't it be great if we could all have our own personal motivator to move us along on the path to having a good day?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Sharing the Wealth

I just love Oprah -- I don't always get to watch her show, but from time to time I TiVo it, if I see a topic that looks interesting. I enjoy the fact, that from what I have seen, mostly her show is about real people -- yes, she has celebrities on her show, publicizing their latest book or movie, but even then, she talks to them more about their real lives -- they always seem more down-to-earth than on other talk shows. Also, I love that her show is often about giving things to people in need. I can't tell you how many times I have watched Ellen's show and seen her give this lovely, but ridiculously expensive pram away to some expectant celebrity -- someone that could certainly afford to buy their own baby supplies... Not that other shows don't give things away, or do charitable acts, but not like Oprah!

Sometime this past week, I taped an episode of Oprah that in the tv guide was listed as being about "a man who walked away from millions, and getting more for your money." Well, I've never been offered millions that I could walk away from, but I certainly can always learn more about getting more for my money, so I taped it. After watching it tonight, I just found it so inspiring, I have to share it with anyone who will listen!

There were 3 individuals on, each sharing their own inspiration story. The first woman was talking about how she had been looking for a "calling", something that she could do to help others, and she knew that it had to be involving children. She started by just going to shelters and reading to kids, and as she was working at the time, she would go and read at night, after work. Well, after she was done reading, the workers at the shelter would say to the kids, "ok, time for bed" and the kids would just go to bed in the clothes they were wearing. This woman, Genevieve Piturro, thought this was strange and hadn't thought about the kids not owning pajamas. The next time she went to the shelter, she brought 12 new pairs of pajamas, one for each of the children, and her idea just sparked from there. In the last 5 years, Genevieve and her Pajama Program have gathered over 80,000 pairs of pj's for kids in need! And in preparation for this show (which apparently first aired back in April - how behind the times am I?) Oprah's staff called the audience and asked them to bring as many pj's as they could -- all new -- but they could only BUY 1 pair. One woman got 10,000 pairs of pj's donated by BJ's Wholesale Club! All in all, the audience brought this woman over 32,000 pairs of pajamas! Ths story in particular really touched me, because the woman was talking about something that so many of us take for granted -- a warm pair of pajamas, a bedtime story for a child, and a parent to tuck that child into bed. Unfortunately, so many children are not blessed with all of these things. My own daughter received 5 new pairs of pajamas for Christmas this year, and I saved the Oprah show to share with her, and after watching it, together we will go online either to the Pajama Program website or to Oprah's website, so that we can donate to this worthy cause.
Another one of the stories was about the man who walked away from millions -- a great job with Microsoft -- after taking a trip to Nepal and seeing the horrendous conditions of the schools there. In particular, he saw that one school only had about 20 books which were all cast-off books of people backpacking through -- nothing appropriate for a child. He promised to come back with books, and he kept his promise -- coming back with 3,000 books. And from that little promise, he decided to quit his job and jump fully into this literacy project that he started. Now his non-profit organization, "Room to Read" has distributed nearly 3,000,000 children's books, constructed 287 schools, and established 3,600 libraries! This is another amazing story that I want to share with my daughter, and together we can do our part to help with this amazing project! Again, something most of us take for granted -- we are tripping over books in our house, and we can easily go up the road to the library to take more out, any time we desire. Not to mention the fact that our daughter is fortunate enough to attend a beautiful new school that not only has a library, but computers that are available for her to learn on as well.
Oh! The "getting more for your money" story was about a woman who started a food pantry in her community, simply by getting her friends, neighbors, and church parishioners to collect coupons! She saves an amazing amount of money and has even persuaded her church to donate a building to her for a community center!
I think one of the most important jobs that a parent has is to teach your child empathy, compassion, and charity. My husband and I are always trying to instill in our girl an understanding of how blessed she is and that not all children are so fortunate. Anything that she and we, can do to help make life a little easier for another child -- that is an amazing gift that we can give -- not just to the person in need, but also to ourselves and to our children!