Monday, March 31, 2008

Letter Writing

My girl had a great school project that I thought I would share as a fun activity for kids. Her first grade class read a book called “Flat Stanley” by Jeff Brown, which is about a little boy who is flattened by his bulletin board (that falls off the wall while he is doing his homework) and about the adventures that he has after being flattened. I know, sounds strange – but it’s really cute, and the kids got a kick out of it! Anyway, the assignment was to color and cut out a picture of Flat Stanley, and to mail it to an out-of-town friend or relative. Each child also enclosed a letter that they wrote, explaining Flat Stanley’s story, and requesting that the recipient take Stanley on an adventure and then mail back a letter and perhaps some pictures to be shared with the class.

We have a number of relatives living out of the area, and my daughter ended up sending her Flat Stanley to her grandmother who lives in Long Island. My mother-in-law was so delighted to be asked to participate in this little project, because she lives so far away and doesn’t get to go to school functions or share in day-to-day homework, etc. She took Stanley to work with her and took him to the family Easter celebration at my sister-in-law’s house, so the whole family was introduced to Stanley! Over the weekend, we received pictures of the family with Stanley on Easter, as well as a great letter that Grandma wrote and mailed to my girl. She was so thrilled to get mail addressed to her – she gets cards from relatives, but this was a whole letter with a story that she was able to read by herself! After reading it she said, “Let’s e-mail Grandma to thank her!” And I said, “Well, Grandma doesn’t have e-mail” and she said, “What do you mean? Why not?” So I said, “Well, Grandma doesn’t have a computer – not everyone has a computer. But we can write Grandma a letter – she’ll love that!” So we will be writing a letter to Grandma this week!

Let me tell you – my girl was SO excited about creating her own Stanley, and then writing her letter and mailing it off to Grandma. And my mother-in-law and even the other relatives in Long Island were so excited to get in on the fun of this project – I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun and different activity for your child. You can check the book out of the library for no cost, and surprise a friend or relative who lives out of town. And I can’t think of anyone that I know who doesn’t have a close relative living out of town.

Not to mention that with today’s technology, letter writing is becoming a lost art. I think it’s great to show kids that writing letters can be fun – and what a nice surprise for the family member who receives the letter!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Sing A Song!

My sweet little baby (ok, she’s 20 months, but she’ll always be my baby…) LOVES music! She will literally dance to anything – cd’s, tv theme songs, commercials… Her new favorite song is “Itsy Bitsy Spider” or as she refers to it, “Wash!” I started singing this song to her quite a while ago, but it finally struck a chord with her in the past few months. When I first started to sing it to her, I did the hand motions that go along with it, but when I started to move my hands she grabbed them and so to this day, when we sing the song she holds my hands and moves her hands along with mine. She particularly loves the part of the song where we sing “and washed the spider out” and our hands go out to the side, illustrating the spider being washed off the spout. Hence her calling the song “Wash.” The other night, my husband was working and it was just my girls and I for dinner. In the middle of dinner, my little one says, “WASH!” And so, on cue, my older daughter and I start to sing, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider, climbed up the water spout, down came the rain and washed the spider out, out came the sun and dried up all the raid and the Itsy Bitsy Spider climbed up the spout again!” And as soon as we finished she again said, “WASH!” So, we sang the song again. “WASH!” Now, at least she says with a big smile on her face, and she’s so cute about it that you can’t resist – my daughter and I sang “Wash” EIGHT times in a row! Finally after the eighth time she and I were laughing hysterically and at this point my littlest one said, “E I E I O!” Which meant that she was ready to move onto “Old MacDonald!”

If you are anything like I was as a new parent, I felt totally out of the loop on kid’s song lyrics – I panicked over Twinkle, Twinkle when my first daughter was a baby – couldn’t remember the lyrics to save my life! Of course, I went to the trusty Internet and searched for song lyrics! One site you can check out is part of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences which has an index of songs, children's song lyrics, and they even play the music so you can hear what the tune is, if you are unfamiliar with the song. Websites like this were great for me with my first daughter, because she had a lot of sleep issues and finally I found that singing her songs while she was in bed helped her drift off to sleep (my soothing, melodic tones, I’m sure!). But she was interested in songs like “Puff the Magic Dragon”, some of the Disney songs, “Rainbow Connection”, “Return to Pooh Corner” – you name it! She would even make requests. But from looking those songs up and singing them to her literally hundreds of times, I have quite a number of songs in my repertoire!

Whatever your method or your talent (I will NOT be singing at Carnegie Hall any time soon…) – it’s a fun activity for you and your children to sing together, and music is always a wonderful thing for children to be exposed to. Not to mention, it makes for nice memories for both you and your kids!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Happy Easter!

Gosh, it seems like it was JUST St. Patrick’s Day! Time sure is flying by… We had a lovely, but hectic Easter, which is par for the course with us for holidays. Our Easter celebration for this year began last week when we went to my mother’s for an early Easter dinner. We also go to see her this past Saturday when she and I took my girls to my grandmother’s (Dad’s mother) for the annual Easter Egg Hunt. The girls had a great deal of fun with that – my older daughter got to “pal around” with her younger cousin, who was also there, and my youngest was big enough this year to actually carry a little basket and look for eggs on her own! Of course, she was nowhere near as fast as all of the other kids (and there were tons!) and even though they set a limit of 10 eggs per child, there were none left to be found by my little one. Not to worry though – one nice woman walked by and dropped one into her basket, and another woman saw her near empty basket, and said that her kids had taken more than their 10, so they had us walk down the hall and they hid some for her to find. So that was very sweet of them! And really, she couldn’t have the candy, but she had a ton of fun finding the eggs and putting them in her basket.

On Sunday, our girls got up and searched for their baskets. My littlest one’s basket was out in plain sight, but for some reason she was a little shy about walking over to it. My older girl’s basket was hidden in the front hall closet – the closet door was open, but the door to our family room was open next to it and that was obscuring it from view – the Easter Bunny was trickier this year for her, than in years past! I had put together and hidden plastic Easter eggs for my girls to have another egg hunt – something that I started last Easter – and they both enjoyed that. I’m sure the Easter Bunny would hide eggs for me, but I figure it’s easier for me to do it, and then I can tell them how many eggs they are looking for. We left a plate with carrots on the counter – my 7 year old’s idea – she was very concerned that the Easter Bunny must get hungry making all of those deliveries! And sure enough, he ate the carrots and left a little bowl filled with jellybeans, so that was nice! Fortunately, the Easter Bunny leaves more little toys and things, and not a huge basket filled with candy – my husband and I appreciate that! This year my girls each got a stuffed bunny, a dvd, and a couple of books – board books for my littlest one and a couple of “chapter” books for my 1st grader. Our older daughter also gets some candy, but thankfully she is not a big candy eater, so hopefully that will save us some cavities in the future!

Finally, we went to my Dad’s and enjoyed brunch in two shifts – first with my stepmother’s family, and second with my Dad’s side of the family.

My girl was sad this morning, that Easter is over and we’ll be taking down all of the Easter decorations soon (because you know I have a ton of them!), but I reminded her that we have some family birthday celebrations coming up soon, and in a few more months it will be the 4th of July, which is one of her favorite holidays! There is always something right around the corner to look forward to!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

St. Patrick’s Day is traditionally thought of as an adult holiday – going to the bar, having a few “pints” with friends… I mean really, if there isn't a Charlie Brown special about it, then it's not a kid's holiday, right? ;) But my husband and I are both proud to be Irish, and over the years we have instilled that same pride in our older daughter. (And we're working on our youngest, as you can see!) I think our girl was 3 or 4 when she really started to get into the idea of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve always told her that it’s such a neat holiday because while we are actually Irish, on St. Patrick’s Day EVERYONE is Irish for the day. I remember her standing in the kitchen and stomping her little foot and saying, “I’m NOT Irish! I’m (insert first, middle and last name here)!” ;) That one went in the book that I try to write her funny sayings in.

Anyway, after she got over that and started embracing her Irish heritage (we’re not just Irish, but that is one thing that she has from both sides of the family), she started getting more into the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day.

This morning my girl started her day with Lucky Charms cereal (what else?) and a glass of milk that I turned green with a couple of drops of green food coloring. She thought that was so cool! (She's already requested blue milk for Easter...) And just to make it a little more holiday-ish for her, I pulled out one of the "Happy St. Patrick's Day" napkins that I have in with my holiday "supplies." I pulled those out and used one for my daughter’s breakfast, one in her lunch box, and then we used them at dinner. Honestly, you can probably go and get any holiday decorative napkin so inexpensively after the holiday has passed, and if your kids are like mine – everything is more special to her with a “festive” napkin! (Kids are easy to impress if you put even a little effort into it!)

My girl went to school dressed in 4 different shades of green, including a cute green t-shirt with a big, sparkly green shamrock on the front, and I put a shamrock pin on her and did her hair in “Laura braids” (her name for braids, in honor of Laura Ingalls Wilder) with green rubber bands.

Another tradition we have is that I always make corned beef and cabbage – this afternoon my girl even drew a picture of Mommy cooking our St. Patrick's Day dinner. You can make it a number of different ways, but for you busy moms, I find this to be another fabulous Crock-pot recipe:


½ bag of baby carrots
1 corned beef
1 cup water
wedge of cabbage

Throw the carrots in the bottom of the Crock-pot, put the corned beef on top, pour in the cup water. Turn this on low for 8 – 10 hours, or high for 5 – 6hours. Then throw in some cut up cabbage and cook for another 2 – 3 hours on high. I always make mashed potatoes, and this year I surprised my daughters (and husband) and put some green food coloring in the potatoes!

Anyway, we traditionally have that for dinner, and for dessert I always bring home a special decorated cookie or cupcake for my girls (Irish Cream cheesecake for my husband and I!). This year I brought home these silly little green things... frogs? Not sure, but there was a cupcake in there somewhere. My creative girl unwrapped 2 chocolate gold coins that the "leprechaun" brought her at school, and being the huge Disney lover that she is, she turned her "frog" into a Mickey head, much to the delight of her little sister!

It’s nice to make even the smaller, less "kid-friendly" holidays festive for your children, and the fact that for us it helps instill a sense of pride in our girl’s heritage, all the better!

***Kudos to my friend Catherine who traditionally has a “leprechaun” visit her house in the morning on St. Patrick’s Day. Her daughter wakes up to green water in the toilet, green milk with her breakfast, her green underwear hidden in silly places in her room, and all of the green things in the house piled up on the kitchen table! God bless her for putting up with that pesky leprechaun – I personally would be exhausted having to pick up after that little guy! But, it’s worth the excitement that builds for her daughter in the days prior to St. Pat’s Day, when she is wondering if the leprechaun will visit!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sweet Sister!

I have to tell you how sweet my 7 year old was yesterday – and in light of my last post, that is really something! ;) We have a bunch of snow here in upstate NY, and on Monday afternoon she and her dad went outside to play and they built this great snow fort, off of our back deck. Yesterday when we all got home (parent / teacher conference day!), she wanted to go outside again to play. She got all bundled in her snowsuit and her little 19 month old sister was watching and clearly wanting to go outside to play as well, but could not because she is still battling a cold. So my older daughter went out, and instead of playing in her cool (pardon the pun), new fort, she played in the snow on the deck in front of the sliding glass door where her sister was watching. She threw snowball after snowball at the window, and I videotaped as her little sister was laughing hysterically – she thought this was the funniest thing! And my older girl was laughing and having a great time “playing with” her sister. She danced and made funny faces through the glass – she genuinely enjoys being able to make her little sister laugh.

It was a very sweet sight to me – my two girls playing together, and my older daughter caring enough about her little sister to limit her play area so that she could include the little one in the fun! She waited a long time to have a sister, and I can tell already that she'll be looking out for her baby sister for a long time to come!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Survival Techniques

This has been one of those weekends where I feel like, what business do I have writing a blog about "The Fine Art of Motherhood?" My husband has been working long hours since Friday, (he's on his way home now, God bless America!) and I have been in the house since Friday with a rambunctious 7 year old going on 16, and a sick 19 month old... The entire weekend has been a tennis match between my older daughter and I -- volleying back and forth for control of the game. We get along, we're having a nice time, then Sybil (did you see the movie with Sally Field, about the woman with multiple personalities? My daughter must have!) comes out of nowhere with one of her other personalities. We get upset with each other, I try to reason with her (have you tried recently to reason with a 7 year old? Yeah...), and we both end up frustrated and cranky. I have tried all weekend to explain to her that our underlying issue (no, I did not use those words!) is that she does not listen to me. I would be concerned about her hearing, but I am fully aware of the difference between hearing and listening... Oh, and she likes to say, "Sorry" in a really sarcastic, "I'm not sorry at all!" sort of way.

A few things that I came up with to break up the monotony of crabbing at each other all weekend -- we had movie night -- twice! Friday night I rented the Bratz live action movie, which was surprisingly cute and un-Bratzlike. We got in our jammies, made popcorn, turned down the lights, and snuggled up for the movie. Saturday night we rented Ratatouille, which she and I saw at the movie theater, but still enjoyed the second time. Today she helped me to give her little sister a bath, which is always entertaining, and this afternoon while her sister was napping, she and I made a cake to surprise Daddy with. I let her do all of the egg cracking, pouring, and stirring, and then she picked the color that she wanted the writing to be and she mixed the food coloring and frosting. After I wrote "We love Daddy" on it, I turned over the "pastry bag" (Ziploc baggie with one corner cut off -- works great!) over to my girl and she made all sorts of hearts and squiggles all over the cake. I also spent quite a bit of time fixing our computer so that she could play Webkinz -- her favorite!

It's easy to be a mom when there are fun things to do and everyone's healthy and in a great mood. But on those occasions where you are feeling unappreciated or feeling like you are speaking a foreign language that your children just don't comprehend -- muscle through and try and find a couple of fun things to do that will entertain both you and your kids. And just keep reminding yourself that bedtime is right around the corner! ;) Oh, and you love being a mom and tomorrow will be a better day!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Double (Play) Date!

We were scheduled to have an “adult evening out” (nothing racy – just our monthly dinner club!) this past weekend, but as I am sure happens to many parents, found ourselves without a babysitter! We ended up having a few good friends over that we don’t get together with as often as we should. One of these was my officemate, who brought her 7-year-old daughter (the other smiling, 3-D glasses-clad girl from the Hannah Montana movie photo below), and my other friend brought her toddler – so both of my girls had friends to play with.

What started out as an impromptu evening, salvaged out of cancelled plans, ended up being a really fun time with good friends! And best of all, the adults got to hang out and enjoy adult conversation, the 2 little ones enjoyed playing until we put them to bed (mine in her crib, my friend’s in a pack ‘n play in our bedroom), and the older girls kept themselves entertained late into the evening! My officemate and I were commenting on how relaxing it was to not have to worry about the girls – they had their dinner and a few snacks, they played Barbie’s, Polly Pocket’s, baby dolls, and had a short dance marathon to the High School Musical and Hannah Montana cd’s.

I may have said this before (I’ve found that some of the side effects of having children is loss of memory and a tendency to repeat myself…), but before we had our kids, my husband and I went out nearly every weekend – out with friends, out to dinner, out to the movies, out on wine tours, you name it. When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I had a minor panic attack partially brought on by a (well-meaning?) relative who told me that once I had kids I wouldn’t have any of my current friends anymore and basically made me feel like we would lose our social life. Well, certainly it has changed – we still have the same friends that we had back then, but most of them also have kids now – we go to family-friendly restaurants or wait until we have a babysitter to go to the movies or out to a “big person” restaurant. But, we still have a great time with our friends and we especially enjoy the fact that we can get together with our friends and their kids, like this past weekend, and have a “double date” with our kids!