Monday, July 11, 2011

Easy as 1, 2, 3?

To be honest, teaching Caleb his letters and numbers was almost completely off my radar until his second birthday neared. I'd seen some FB friends share videos of their not-quite-2-year-old boys identifying letters on keyboards and even saying entire Bible verses aloud, but I just knew we weren't quite "there" yet, ya know? I had ordered a Melissa and Doug magnetic chalkboard (reviewed here), complete with letter and number magnets, for his birthday, though. No problem, right?

Well, I thought we'd focus on "A" and "B" and "C" the first day. That was a little much. The next day, we narrowed our focus to just "A." Not only would Caleb not repeat the sound, but he didn't seem interested in the least. I think we tried "A" every day for a week before . . . I decided to give it a break for a while (I won't say I gave up!).

A couple weeks later, out of the clear blue bathwater, Caleb started picking up all his rubbery bathtoy letters and saying--you guessed it!--"A"! Great, now he thinks all letters are "A"s, I thought.

Next, we started on numbers. This time, Caleb initiated the lesson. He has a vintage Little Golden Book about numbers (circa 1977), and he brought that to me one day. Here we go: Numbers, he will learn! After several days of my pointing to the large, brightly colored numbers on the title page and repeating "1, 2, 3," in what was the most sing-songy, attention-keeping voice I could muster around nap time (when we usually read), I saw--or, rather, heard--some progress. After I said "one," Caleb would respond with "two, three." Cheers, hugs, and high-fives all around!

The next day, I tried so hard to get him to say "one." If I said"one," he always responded with "two, three," but try as I might, the kid would not say "one." Maybe he thinks that since he's past that age, he doesn't have to say it anymore?

I do like this idea for teaching counting, too. With the idea of finding pictures of familiar objects, I think since we're moving in 3 weeks, I may use boxes, bins, and rolls of packing tape. :) I must admit, though, that my favorite part of Tere's article is the fact that she mentioned teaching 3 to 5 year olds the skill of counting. Right now, I'm only trying to teach Caleb how to identify the numbers, but perhaps I'm trying to make him an over-achiever, early on.

What do you think? Have you started teaching your kids how to count, yet? If so, what methods have you used?

This is

reminding you that the days and counting lessons may be far too long, but the years are far too short, no matter how you count them!

Friday, July 8, 2011

5 Fabulous Bathtime (Multi)Tasks

I know I've been MIA for a while, and there are reasons for that, some of which I'll mention in Monday's post--and yes, there will be a post!

Okay, if you're a responsible baby-mommy (and I'm sure you are, if you're a baby-mommy at all!), you know that it's terribly unsafe to leave your preschool aged kiddos unattended in the bathtub. Truth be told, I've actually left mine in there for over an hour while I completed various tasks around the house, only popping in on them occasionally, but then, I didn't have any water in the tub that time. (I had you going there for a minute, didn't I?!) And yes, my Caleb likes bathtime playtime that much!

If your older baby (at least able to sit up unsupported on his or her own) or toddler enjoy bathtime as much as my two little guys do, you want to give them as much time to soak in all the splashing suds they can. But if you're like me, you get a little . . . um . . . bored. You also may feel irresponsible for not getting much done in that hour or so of bathtime fun.

Now, if you really need and will enjoy letting you mind wander as you stare into the bubbly bath toy hullaballoo (and yes, that's a real word--I even looked it up to make sure!), by all means, do not let me deter you from a visit to La-La Land. But in case your mind is a little less
wonky-wooed (I did make that one up!) and you want to actualy accomplish something during bath time, here are a few--five, actually--ideas:
  1. Floss your teeth.
    This was actually recommended to me by a dental hygienist. I guess she knew I wouldn't start doing it every day, so this was a pretty good suggestion. And yes, I do follow this advice . . . once in a while.
  2. "Blitz" the bathroom.
    Cleaning the floor is clearly a dangerous idea, and cleaning the tub is out, but you can at least wipe the mirror and vanity down, put away the clutter, and scrub the commode.
  3. Make a list.
    Put the lid down, have a seat, and make out that grocery list, to do list, or whatever organizational outlet you need for all those stray bubbles of information you have floating around inside your mind--quick, before they pop!
  4. Organize your toiletries.
    At one point, I was so bad about this, that I discovered 5 full-sized cans of hair spray. I just kept buying them, thinking I was out, when in reality, the others were just stashed way under the bathroom sink. (I think now I'm down to 2. It's been over a year, I think; I really don't use much.)
  5. Do your toenails.
    Notice that I did not say to paint your fingernails. If your luck is anything at all like mine, there is no way in bathdum that you would possible avoid having to pick up or otherwise provide assistance to your child without messing up wet fingernails. Toenails are a much safer bet, though.
By the way, don't forget to wash behind your kiddos' ears! (And here's a bonus bathtime thought--you know those classic rubber duckies your baby likes to try to eat? Make sure to check them for mold growing inside--I guess you could call them yucky duckies, and I've thrown away more than my fair share! The yellow ones make it easy to spot the black mold, but you'll want to check out your darker colored toys, as well.)

This is a wet but clean(ish) bathroom-boasting

reminding you that the days are sometimes far too long, but the years are far too short.

P.S. Sorry I didn't include any bathtime pics. I guess I'm a little splash-shy about it after this incident. I'm pretty much over it, but still.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Fabulous 5 Summertime Funtime Ideas

Okay, so I know I've been terrible about posting on here, lately. One of my excuses is that our internet connection has been spotty. Hopefully the technician that came out today was more effective than the one that came out last week! Ugh! I won't bore you with the other twelve. (You're welcome.) :)

My sister sent me this awesome list of summertime activity ideas, and I'm totally logging it away for future reference, but honestly, many of the ideas are much more suitable for older kids. (By the way, if you have them, I'd love to see your pics of any of these ideas that you use!)

So these Fabulous 5 Funtime Ideas are specifically tailored to the toddlin' tots out there:

1. Blow bubbles.

Seriously, this is Caleb's favorite pastime, lately, which is great because we don't have to go any further than the bathtub or our little balcony to do it. Usually, I blow the bubbles, and he chases them, yelling "no, no." It's really quite amusing. We got some professional pictures taken this week, and some have pics of him chasing the bubbles, so hopefully I'll post some of them, soon.

Grammy got him a sword-style wand that he likes to swing around, too. It's a little scarey, but since he doesn't get the whole blowing gently thing yet, it's great! (He spits forcefully or puts the smaller wands in his mouth. Yuck!)

2. Buy miniature ice cream sandwiches.

You can imagine what happens to the big ones, but the mini ones seem to be just right--for Caleb's little hands, small apetite, and short attention span. Unlike popsicles, when kids bite into ice cream sandwiches, they don't get that icky feeling when that cold stuff hits their teeth.

3. Freeze yogurt on sticks or (even easier) Gogurt tubes.

Actually, since Caleb likes to bite things off, I have to break off small pieces for him. It's worth it on hot days, though, when juice or water seems more appealing to all of us than dairy does. Josh (who's 8 months old--yes, already!) loves to suck on the frozen yogurt and slobber all over the messy tube, once it's empty!

4. Make smoothies.

You don't have to do anything fancy, here, folks. This is another way to get both dairy and fruit in, too. Here's what I use:
  • 1 can of orange juice concentrate
  • about 2 cups of frozen fruits or berries (We've used blueberries, strawberries, and peaches!)
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 2-3 cups milk
  • Sugar or sweetener, to taste
Simply thaw the frozen fruits in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, until they're somewhat soft but not warm, and then put all the ingredients in a blender and puree! (I use a plastic container and a cheap-o immersion blender, which makes for easier cleanup.)

5. Allow for spontanaity!

Okay, this goes both ways: You want to allow for flexibility so you can all enjoy those days when the weather is just right, and you want to be willing to abandon your plans for special outings when weather or moods just don't cooperate. The second part is really easier to do with little ones than it will be in a few years.

Don't tell them that you're going to the zoo, the beach, or whatever, ahead of time, so you don't have to feel guilty for "lying" if plans change. But if the weather is really too hot or muggy or whatever, or you little tike is just plain out of sorts, do yourself and your kid a favor, and switch the "fun time" to another day. You'll both be glad.

With little ones, you also need to be flexible enough with your own plans to realize that they might not exactly have the same idea of what's fun. I'll post about how I learned (and applied!) that lesson on our recent trip to the zoo, on Monday. (The above pics are from that trip. If it looks like I think my "boys" are more photo-worthy than the animals we went to see, well, looks aren't always deceiving!)

I hope you're already planning some unplugged time to enjoy the summer with your little darlings. I know I am!

This is

reminding you that the days may be long, but summer is always way too short!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Self Esteem & Siblings

I think it was before we'd started "trying" for our second son that I'd read "warnings" in my pregnancy and baby books: They instructed me to consider carefully the prospect of giving my baby a sibling too soon--or at all. My immediate thought was "How ridiculous!" (Now, before I continue, I in no way want to offend anyone who has been unable to give a child siblings; that's far from my point.)

Now, I do believe in nurturing my child's self esteem, mind you. I praise him for good behavior and achievements, including putting away his toys, showing me the "all done" sign, or even getting up from a minor fall without a tear--or in hopes of no tears! (Yes, we're crazy like that. Our kid falls down and we shout "yea!" and clap. But guess what?! He usually gets up clapping, too, instead of crying, so it's totally worthwhile!) I want him to know I love him and will hug and kiss him and hold him often. And when he's hurt or sick, I'll drop everything to care for him. (Clarification: I won't literally drop Josh! I will, however, sometimes let him fuss a bit while I prioritize Caleb.) I believe giving him that kind of security is truly foundational.

That said, the words of warning that I read and promptly dismissed as silly, have cropped into my my thinking many times in the past year. Yes, year. Before Josh was even born, he was crowding Caleb out of my lap space and taking some of Mommy's energy. I've thought that in some ways, having them so close together robbed Caleb of some of his own "babyhood."

Well, that idea is quickly giving way to a new perspective on my little man. I watch with wonder as he brings his brother his favorite toys or brings his pacifier to him when he cries. He lets me know when Josh has something "not for Josh" (a phrase I try to use instead of "no"). In his own little way, he shows loves his brother, even now. He seems to truly understand when mommy can't hold him right now, because she's feeding Josh. Increasingly, he's learning to "man up" to his new(ish) role, and his dad and I are, well, impressed. (Okay, we're proud.) His seemingly premature status as a big brother is giving him a chance to develop a side of him that other 25-month-olds might not have quite yet.

Here's where I guess I'm different from the typical cheerleaders of self esteem: I believe that Caleb's learning to esteem others and their needs above his own is even more important than his having his desires met. It's beautiful, really, and it's preparing him for real life and caring about others. Couldn't this world use a few more people like that in it?

Warning, schwarning, I say! Do you agree? I'd love to read your thoughts.

This is

reminding you that the days may be long, but the years are oh-so-short!

(For some reason, my server wouldn't let me post last night, but it was done by 11:55!)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Carpe Tractorem

Okay, so after a fabulous belated anniversary overnighter (my parents watched our boys for us!), we returned to a major dose of "welcome back to real life." I'm taking no poetic license here; these circumstances are quite real. But my husband is teaching me that even on days like these, the idea of "Carpe Diem" still applies.

For one thing, Josh (my 7 MO) had taken a 3-hour morning nap; I knew this would mean a very slim chance of his taking a decent afternoon nap, making the hoped-for bliss of tandem napping a dream I knew wouldn't come true today. He'd also failed to poop the entire 24 hours we were gone, so I knew a real doosey was in store. (By dinner time, we'd change his clothes, just as I had laundry finished up.)

Since we'd left our minivan at my parents' house, we took two separate vehicles home. My hubby wanted to get a nap in before he went to work (I guess I wore him out!), so he headed home first.

We already knew that the parking lot at our apartment complex was being replaced this week, but we didn't know that they'd be working right outside our building this afternoon with heavy (read LOUD!) machinery. So before I even got home, I'd talked with Jonathan and learned that not only was the noise nap-prohibitive, but our internet connection was down. Great. I was pretty much thinking it was the kind of day that had made Alexander want to move to Australia, and my attitude wasn't much better than his.

After a slightly longer walk from the van to the apartment than usual, I was greeted by a still sleepy but smiling Jonathan. He took the boys from me and sat down on the step. "Look, tractors!" he said. "Cackers," Caleb echoed (sort of). Both boys smiled. All 3 watched the yellow giant effortlessly use its claws to peel the pavement back, then smash it with an iron fist and scoop it up into the waiting dump truck. Peel, smash, scoop. The rhythm seemed to transfix all of us.

I can learn a lot if I just pay attention to my hubby. Even though he would have preferred to be napping, he seized the moment, "Carpe Tractorem," if you will.

I have to admit that when my toying with the router didn't work, I returned to my terrible tizzy, but my hubby again calmed me. He wasn't gone to work an hour when he called to say his breaks were acting up. (After the funeral we attended last week, this was not something to take lightly.) I made an appointment for tomorrow, and went to follow him to the shop to drop it off. He took us home, just in time for bedtime rituals to start.

After his Carpe Tractorem example, I was able to Carpe Daddyem and appreciate the rare chance for the boys to see their daddy on a weeknight.

Even in the midst of an Australia-move type day, there's always a way to seize it and make it yours and make a happy memory for your kids.

This is

reminding you to carpe whatever-um today, because even if it's long, the years will still be oh-so-short!

Friday, May 13, 2011

5 Fabulous Excuses for my Still Full To-Do List at the End of the Day

Okay, here's my pa-the-tic list of excuses for not having my home cleaned up or my other goals accomplished for tonight. And that vlog I'd planned to do? Well, my excuse fot that is that my home is not cleaned up, and it was one of the goals that I just mentioned. (If anyone starts paying me to write this, I think I might be able to move it up a notch or two on my priority list.)

1. I keep staying up late and waking up early, hoping somehow the two will magically switcharoo someday, and I'll get to go to bed early and wake up late, someday.

2. I have a baby who seems to think I'm the only one in the world that can feed him. (Well, in his defense, I am nursing exclusively.)

3. I have a toddler who thinks "entertain yourself quietly" is an invitation for him to throw his toys at his brother's head.

4. I keep cleaning the dishes and the kitchen, but then I cook a meal, and *poof!* It's like I'm right back where I started.

5. I started drinking a cup of coffee sometime this morning, but then I found a mug of cold brown liquid after lunch and realized I never had my caffeine. Since I hadn't had my caffeine, though, I wasn't mentally awake enough to make a fresh cup, then.

So that's my list of 5 Fabulous Excuses for my day. What's yours?

This is

reminding you that the days may be long, but the years, they tell me, are still oh-so-short.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Work-from-Home Wednesdays--Getting Organized as a WAHM

Why is it that I forget I need to create a banner for my Work-from-Home Wednesdays until it's dangerously close to being Thursday?

I guess that leads me to my topic for today. (I'll give you another week to answer all those questions about your own at-home business, okay?) My life is currently a multitasking nightmare--or is it a dream? Anyhow, I'm currently going into overdrive to get my freelance writing business started, in addition to taking a related online class and--of course--being a wife and mom and friend and all of that!

In the class I'm taking, one of the first suggestions was to establish a "writing routine." This concept can apply to any at-home business. Basically, the idea is that I need to set aside blocks of uninterrupted time in which to focus on the main event--in my case, writing. For you, it might be creating new designs or painting plaques. The point is that the other aspects of your business--and mine!--can be worked in randomly throughout your day. You can reply to client e-mails, do some marketing, or blog about your latest gig just about anytime, from anywhere. But the major part deserves some good priority time.

That concept alone has helped me a lot, this week. So have the following tools:

1. Tick Tock Timer This can provide great motivation and a competitive aspect to any item in your to-do list, whether it's racing to see how much tidying you can get done in 15 minutes or aiming to get an article done in less than an hour.

2. Remember the Milk To-Do List I love this thing! Not only is it available across various platforms as an iPhone or iPad app (I'd love to have an iPad someday!), but it allows you to list work, school, and personal items separately, while still allowing you to view items for today as a single list. LOVE IT!

3. Online Fax Service Freebies This is a listing of various fax services you can use to send and receive faxes without a fax machine. I signed up for eXtreme Fax, and I used it for the first time today. (You'll want to use the link embedded in the list I linked above, to get your 30-day free trial, though; normally, they offer only 7 days for free.)

I had to sign and fax a couple W-9 forms this week for new clients. Basically, they need that kind of paperwork on independent contractors who earn more than $500 through them, and some companies like to get it out of the way when you first start earning with them. I also had to sign a non-compete agreement for one firm.

Seriously, with these tools, I would be way ahead on all my deadlines, if I hadn't agreed to make dozens of cookies for one friend and bring a meal to another one, besides creating bridal shower invites and . . . well, you get the idea!

I hope thse tips help you (and me!) to get a little better organized, this week, whether you're starting your own business or simply trying to be an effective home manager.

This is a wired but tired

reminding you that the days may be long, but they're longer if you stay up late and get up early!

P.S. In lieu of my missing out on posting a Mommy Moment this past Monday, perhaps you'll appreciate this eloquently written piece by a friend of mine. Somebody pinch me, too! :)