"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Monday, November 28, 2011

make-your-own felt Christmas tree

Oohhhhhhhh, Pinterest. 

As much as you waste my time and fill my to-do list with things I'll never actually do....I still love you. Because of things like this...


So here's what you need:
*1 yard green felt (the fabric is folded in half on the bolt so this will give you enough for two trees...but definitely get a full yard, a half would yield a skinny Charlie Brown tree.)
*sheets of colored felt (I found some 9"x12" sheets in a ton of colors at Hobby Lobby that 25 cents each...I think I bought 7 sheets, which, at about 6 ornaments per sheet, made plenty of ornaments for two trees.)
*scissors
*glue gun
*ornament-shape templates (I used cookie cutters, you could free-hand them or print something out, I'm sure.)

Step 1: Trace your ornament shapes onto the colored sheets of felt.
Step 2: Cut them out.
Step 3: Using the scraps left over from cutting out the ornaments, decorate them. Use the glue gun to adhere the stripes and squiggles to the ornaments.
Step 4: Cut out a Christmas Tree shape (or two) from the large sheet of felt.
Step 5: Let the kiddos play!


Lesson Learned:
For LESS than $9 and in LESS than 2 hours, I made two of these great play-with-able decorations. (I gave the other set to my sister's kids in exchange for some crafting she's doing for me at her sewing machine this holiday season....) It's worth the money and time. So stop pinning and start DOING.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

thanks, and...the return of Bear Ticklish

This weekend, we were thankful for...

cousins,

cornhole,


swings,

aunts and uncles, 

fall leaves,



and more aunts and uncles.

We were thankful for "All the trucks," (Evan) and "Treats," (Max) when my mini-me Evan required everyone around the Thanksgiving table to say their Thanks. And we were thankful for new opportunities, a healthy pregnancy, and family. Always family. We're lucky to have spent time with my family on Thanksgiving and then an afternoon and evening with Sam's family today on our way back into town.

And it was perfect.

And then....the icing on the cake (whipped cream on the pie?):

As we drove home from Sam's parents' house tonight, we noticed that a lot of people have already put up their Christmas decorations. "I wish we already had our Christmas decorations up," Evan lamented. "We will soon, buddy," I assured him, "We haven't put them up yet because we've been out of town. Now that Thanksgiving is over, though, it'll be fun to get out all of our decorations over the next few days."

"I don't want to wait a few days. I wish we could decorate tomorrow."

"Maybe we can! All of our decorations are up in the attic. Daddy can easily get them down for us."

There was a brief discussion of how Molly, in my "big, fat belly," could help me carry down the bins, and then we were home.

And we saw this:

ALL of our CHRISTMAS DECORATION BINS!!! Somehow, they had MAGICALLY come down from the attic ALL BY THEMSELVES!!!

On closer inspection:

It was BEAR TICKLISH! Our Elf on a Shelf had thoughtfully brought our bins down from the attic when he returned to our house from the North Pole! (He didn't want Mommy and Molly to have to carry them, Evan supposed.)

It was Magical. It was perfect. I couldn't have scripted it better if it had been in a movie. Evan stood, jaw dropped, staring at him. He's been questioning lately, "I know, Mom...but is Santa really real?" And this was all the answer he needed. Christmas is Real. Bear Ticklish is Real. Santa is Real. Magic Really Happens.

Max, although fuzzy on the whole "Bear Ticklish" thing before this weekend, was quickly brought up to speed when we watched "An Elf's Story" on CBS last night. He immediately knew to look in awe and to Not Touch when he saw our Elf tonight. 

We spent a few minutes thanking Bear Ticklish for bringing down our decorations from the attic, and a few more thanking him for coming back to visit us. Evan, when he regained his ability to speak coherently, asked him to please deliver his Letter to Santa. Max, wanting equal representation, ran to the counter and grabbed a Thanksgiving Handprint Turkey picture he made last week and asked Bear Ticklish to please deliver IT to Santa.


And then, the boys blew him kisses, wished him a safe journey back to the North Pole tonight, and went up to bed.

Lesson Learned:
This is going to be the Best. Christmas. Ever.

And Bear Ticklish is going to have a lot to do with that. I'll post periodic updates (weekly?) about our Elf's shenanigans with pictures of the hijinks he gets into this year. In the meantime, feel free to share your own suggestions for our Elf on a Shelf....we're always looking for new ideas, and we have a lot of nights of Elfing between now and Christmas...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

motivation

Evan, my won't-pick-up-a-pencil kid, did this today:


If you can't read it, it says, "DER SNTU, I LIC THE POLS CRN RSQ TRUC. LOVE, EVAN" Or, "Dear Santa, I like the police crane rescue truck. Love, Evan."

OMG, right? 

This kid can do anything.....with the right motivation.

Today, the motivation was a $6 Tonka truck in the Target toy aisle. He coveted the thing. But we wouldn't buy it for him. Not even after he offered to use his own money. But he talked about that silly little truck the entire rest of our Target trip. EVEN through the highly-distractable Christmas decoration section.

And then, as we were browsing through the books and movies, it dawned on him: "I can ask Santa for the Police Crane Rescue Truck!" 

"That's a great idea, buddy!" I agreed, "You could even tell Bear Ticklish about it. He can deliver the message to Santa." (Aside: Bear Ticklish is our "Elf on a Shelf" Elf. Yup. BEAR. TICKLISH. Named by the same child who once had a fish named Training Pants.)

"OR..." Evan thought aloud, "I could WRITE a letter to Santa! Bear Ticklish can deliver it to Santa!"

And so he did.

I gave him word lines to help with word spacing, and I modeled how to write some of the trickier letters, but the phonics? He sounded every one of those words out all on his own.

He even drew a picture.

Lesson Learned: 

"So do you think Santa will know which truck I mean?" he asked when he was finished with his letter.
"He sure will," I reassured....because Santa has very strict orders to return to Target on his way home from work tomorrow to buy that Police Crane Rescue Truck.

And Evan's letter to Santa is going to get wrapped up with the truck with a response: "Thank you for your letter, Evan. Bear Ticklish delivered it to me so I would know exactly which truck you wanted. I know you'll have fun playing with it! Love, Santa."

Christmas is so magical.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

rainy morning hopscotch

Because one rainy day + two jumpy boys + one sick and cranky mommy = recipe for disaster...


We got a little creative with our painter's tape today.



Max got an A for effort....


...but it wasn't long before Hopscotch was forsaken for the Beloved Dump Truck.
But he did count the numbers as he drove over them!


And then, just before the sun dipped behind the roofline anyway, the clouds parted. Was that the sound of angels singing? No? Oh.


Lesson Learned:
It was a nice 15-minute break from the loud and accident-waiting-to-happen Chasing With Trucks game the boys had been into all day. Bonus points for a little number recognition practice for Max and Counting Down From 20 practice for Evan. An all-around Win.

Monday, November 14, 2011

preschool diaries: bribery works...and....the admirer

Just a quick update on the Happy Drop-Off "Incentive" Program we started a few weeks ago: Bribery Works. Now to figure out how to rein it in...maybe just wait until the Halloween candy is gone? For now, we're just basking in the tear-free, pleasant goodbyes....even if I do have to respond to the comment, "But saying goodbye is just So Hard. And I just miss you and Max So Much," 47 times every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning....

And on a completely different Preschool Subject....

So, apparently, there's this girl.

???
I know, RIGHT? Last Friday, Evan got into the car talking about a little girl in his class. I'll call her A. He mentioned her several times in retelling the activities of his day, prompting me to say, "A sounds like a really nice friend. Do you play with A?" He shrugged his shoulders and said, "I guess." Then he said, "We should have a playdate with A at our house." !!! He's never asked to play with a friend before. All playdates happen because Mommy makes them happen. "That sounds like a great idea, buddy! Maybe I could call her Mommy and set up a time for them to come over." He didn't respond and I didn't belabor the point. The subject changed to other topics and we didn't mention A again all weekend.

Today, I arrived to pick him up a few minutes early. When I popped my head in the classroom, Ms. B was reading a story and the kids were seated on the rug. "A" was sitting thisclose to Evan, who appeared completely oblivious to the physical proximity of this little girl. When she saw me, she started (gently, but firmly) pulling on his arm and pointing to me, indicating that it was time for him to leave. Evan, again oblivious to the physical contact, instead looks at me, silently points to the story, and asks me with only a look "Can we stay and listen to the end?" So Max and I take our seats on the rug.

For the rest of the read-aloud, A sits with the entire left side of her body touching the entire right side of Evan's body. Every so often, she glances back at me and offers a shy, sweet smile that I can only read as, "Um? giggle I like your son," and then....periodically PLACES HER HAND ON HIS ARM and once even HOLDS HIS HAND. And all the while, Evan is so engrossed in the book that he is COMPLETELY oblivious to her advances. Either that or this is such a regular occurrence that he's used to it by now. (?!)

As we're walking out to the car, Evan says, "Well, A wants to play at our house."
"Sure! Did you invite her over?"
"No. She said it."
"Oh, well, would you like A to come over to play?"
"[Sigh] I guess. She said she's going to."

I asked him if they play together at school.
"Sometimes. She plays with ALL the kids, though."
"And sometimes you play with her?"
"Yes. And I'm the puppy and she feeds me carrots."

Then we shared a good laugh about Who Feeds a Puppy CARROTS?!

Lesson Learned:
I'm not going to rush to set up a playdate. I think I'll wait to figure out if this is a friendship he wants to develop or if she's pursuing him one-sidedly. And if she is, that's not a bad thing: Evan is used to being the Decision Maker when it comes to play around here. It wouldn't be terrible for him to experience what Max experiences on a near-daily basis. And besides Max and his cousins, Evan doesn't really play with other kids. He watches what other kids do and sometimes plays alongside his peers, but he rarely engages WITH other kids. So this is a really Huge Step in his social development. And can't you just picture it? "A," a sweet little, blonde-ponytailed girl saying, "Okay, Evan. Now you're my puppy and I'm going to feed you carrots," and Evan rolling his eyes at the absurdity of the game....yet still playing along. Because that's what socially well-adjusted kids do.

Yup. He's going to be Just Fine. I'm keeping my eye on A, though.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

magical mousse

I saw a link to this recipe on Pinterest because everything is on Pinterest. I can't seem to track down the original link, though, so I'm extending my apologies and thanks to the genius who came up with this.

This is homemade, dairy-free, soy-free, potentially even SUGAR-free CHOCOLATE MOUSSE.

So you start with a can of full-fat coconut milk (the reduced fat won't yield as much). Stick it in the fridge overnight. The next day, when you open the can, you'll see that the coconut milk has separated into a thick paste on top and the coconut water on the bottom of the can.

Scoop out the paste (per the hints on the original post: save the water to add to smoothies). Add to it some vanilla, some cocoa powder (a few tablespoons), and, if desired, some sweetener to taste (I used sugar, but would have used agave nectar if we had any on hand).

Whip it up. I just used a whisk and whipped it by hand. It yielded a creamy, pudding-like consistency. I'm not sure if using an electric mixer would have made a fluffier texture.

And you're done!

(The original recipe was for whipped "cream." Instead of cocoa powder, they added a bit of cinnamon and omitted the sugar.)

Lesson Learned:
I really hyped this one to the boys. And for good reason: I LOVED it. Them? Not so much. I don't know if they didn't like the coconutty flavor (which was mild, in my opinion) or if I added too much cocoa for their tastes. (Oddly enough, neither are huge chocolate kids--Evan because dairy-free chocolate just isn't as good and Max, probably because we just don't usually keep it in the house...well, we do, I just eat it all after they go to sleep. I guess it's time I introduce Max to the good stuff.) Whatever the reason, though, they each took one bite of this delicious treat and turned up their noses. Max said, "I don' like chocolate mousse anymore." Evan said, "I was picturing chocolate in the shape of a moose."

More for me!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

brothers that play together

I asked for ten minutes. I wanted a few minutes to get ready for the day, a few minutes to throw in some laundry, and a few minutes of peace this morning. "Just two things: No jumping on beds, and No Rough Hands."

It started the way most Independent Playtime begins in this house, purposeless running up and down the hall with narrow misses, shrieks of delight, and breath-holding by me, waiting for the cry and the "MMMMOOOOOOOOMMMM!!!" But then, Max said, "Oh no, Evan! Dragons are coming!" To which Evan responded, "Dragons, Max?!" and Max replied, "Yes! Dragons! THREE dragons!" More running ensued, which I assumed to be the start of the Dragon Hunt, but then Evan said, "Max, you're not going to believe this! They're baby dragons! And they need our help! We're Baby Dragon Rescuers!"

I listened and waited for Max to dissent...he had clearly been imagining something a little more medieval folktale-ish. But instead heard, "Oh! Tiny baby dragons! So sweet babies!" The Dragon Rescue continued until all were accounted for...and then the Martians arrived.

The boys hid. The dragons were in danger. The boys faced the Martians to protect the dragons. The Martians were scared off. The dragons were safe, and were later reunited with their mothers.

And all the while, I stood quietly in my bathroom, afraid that my appearance would disrupt the play. And I listened. I was amazed that the Little One so easily followed the story line of this imaginary world and that the Big One so readily accepted the input of his brother to change the direction of the story (the Martians were Definitely Not his idea). I can't believe that we're already Here: where they can play together without toys and understand/accommodate/follow the direction of pretense set forth by the other.

It was a beautiful thing to witness.

***

One of my favorite courses in college (one of many favorites...NERD ALERT!) was a seminar I took as a graduate student called "The Child's Discovery of the Mind."  Throughout it, we read a book by the same name, written by Janet Wilde Astington.  We discussed how children (beginning in infancy) learn about the mind, mental states (including desire, fear, and sadness in particular), perception vs. reality, pretense, imagination, and metacognition (thinking about your thinking), among other things. It was a fascinating book then, but so much more so now that I'm watching this Discovery of the Mind happen in my kids.

Lesson Learned:
Isn't it amazing that a two-year old can imagine a world of dragons, Martians, and baby dragon rescuers when he's had no real-world experience with any of the three? They weren't playing house or even fire fighters. It was completely imagined...yet this world "existed" simultaneously in two little minds with relative synchronicity.

And isn't it interesting that my then-three year old could understand and explain, with scientific accuracy, that dinosaurs lived a long time ago and are now extinct, yet demanded that we serve his Imaginary Dinosaur Friends dinner every night? There was a divergence between his reality and his "reality." Evan could explain that No, Annie et al. Really Couldn't Be Real. But still, they were hungry and sad and...real.

And how is it that you can pick up a banana and place a "phone" call without severely stunting the vocabulary acquisition of your baby?

Kids, and their hard-working, ever-growing brains, are unbelievable.