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

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Glow Box Witchy Brew

Here's a little Halloween sneak peek for you...

That's Ninja Evan on the right. And on the left? Why that's my little Witch, Maxwell. He's a good witch, most of the time. But sometimes, when he's feeling particularly wicked, he'll mix up a batch of brew in his Target dollar-section Cauldron. He'll cackle a witchy laugh and fly around on his witchy broom daring you to try his Witchy Brew. It's ingredients change on a daily basis, but have included frogs' legs, toads' spots, rattlesnake eyes, broccoli, mucky dirt, slimy peaches, mouse tails, and lollipops.

Today, however, the brew-making got a little more Magical. A little more real.....

It started as another way to use our Glow Box (see the original post here). We have had great success with Mixing Colors in the past, I thought the effect of the light table would just increase the fun. That it did...

And then Max saw an opportunity. "Tee Hee Hee!" he cackled, (not unlike a leprechaun, but don't tell him that). "Would you like a taste of my Brew, Witch Mommy?" And so it began. And we spent the next half an hour playing Witches while Molly slept.

And then Evan came home from school and we did the whole thing all over again.

Lesson Learned:
This really was a very cool and beautiful activity. I'll just be happy when EVERY activity we do and EVERY game we play doesn't involve witches and ninjas.

Monday, October 22, 2012

make-your-own light table

I have been reading preschool blogs featuring Light Tables a lot lately (I'm looking at YOU, Play at Home Mom). I wanted one. For the kids, of course. I wanted to be able to set up a visually inviting, quiet, independent activity that the boys could use in a darkened, quiet room. Maybe while Molly was napping. And I was in another room, oh, I don't know--on the couch, enjoying a cup of coffee and my Us Weekly?

Or something.

Plus, I have some inside information about a certain Jolly Old Soul bringing a certain Wild Thing some Light Table Fabulous presents in a few months. (Magna-Tiles. I can NOT wait to play with them. I mean play with Max with them.)

But light tables are expensive. At least the pretty ones with a decently large play surface are....and are my kids REALLY going to use it enough to justify the expense? Before I spend the money, I have to be sure. So, I figured we'd test out a DIY Light Table and then, maybe someday, if we see the need, we'll upgrade.

I only needed to buy the bin ($11 on sale at Target) and here's what we came up with:

Those are Christmas lights inside the box, with parchment paper taped to the inside of the lid to diffuse the light.

Not bad for a DIY (in under ten minutes for less than $12) Light Table, or Glow Box, as Max dubbed it. Which, by the way, I think is a much better term for it, so from this point forward, Glow Box it is.

Max jumped right into this one. (You hear that, Santa? It's a Yes on those Magna-Tiles!) He especially loved the colorful glass beads (aka, according to Max, Candy Drops).

Evan was mesmerized by the primary color panels...

Particularly when he made this "toucan."  "You've gotta come see this!" he called, "The toucan's eating some seeds!"

Lesson Learned:
Oh, Pinterest. How I love you so. Now go make your own Glow Box. You'll be glad you did.

And now, for some gratuitous cuteness:

Saturday, October 20, 2012

the most annoying thing

It's 1:30 on Friday afternoon. I need to feed Molly, change her, and wake up Max from his we-only-had-time-for-a-45-minute nap in order to get to Evan's school on time. I need to pick him up early so we can get to Molly's doctor's appointment at 2:40. She's coughing, and had been up all night coughing...and Baby Coughing makes me nervous. Respiratory infection in those teeny tiny lungs can get scary quickly.

We were headed to the doctor anyway this afternoon. All three kids are getting their flu shots. When I called the nurse in the morning about Molly, I "innocently" asked if we could just "give her lungs a quick listen" while we were there for the vaccinations....I knew the answer, but hoped anyway. "Nope," she countered, "We'll need to set an appointment for that." Sigh. Okay. So, 2:40 for Molly. 3:30 for the three. A bit of waiting, but not too bad.

Only....when we get there (a few minutes early!), we're the only patients in the entire place. The doctor comes in to listen to Molls and says to the nurse, "Why don't you go ahead and prep the vaccinations while I do the exam? Let's get all of this done at once," then he smiles at me, "so we can send these kiddos on their way to enjoy the day." Yes! Common sense prevails! Why SHOULD we have to go back to the waiting room and SIT for an hour when there's NO ONE else there? Get these kiddos on their way!

So, Molly is just the perfect little patient and lets the doc listen to her slightly wheezy breathing. He prescribes a puff of Max's albuterol as an emergency treatment for wheezing but, because it's slight and because I haven't yet heard the distinctive barking cough of croup, he determines that it's probably just a virus that needs to run it's course. "But keep a close ear on her tonight," he instructs, "if you hear that barking cough, call first thing in the morning. I'll have a prescription ready to be signed in her chart. The doctor on call can just call it in and save you a return visit." Okay, this is beginning to sound a little too good to be true.

The three kiddos are vaccinated with relatively little drama (because I have SEEN flu shot drama, I have LIVED flu shot drama. I have crawled under chairs to retrieve a screaming, writhing child to get his shot kind of drama.). But today, we are on our way. I strap the seat belts, wipe and sanitize the hands, open the "Happy Flu Shot" lollipops, turn on the music to track number one...no three....no one...we finally all agree on four, and I pick up my cell phone to call Sam and tell him of Molly's good prognosis. I check the clock. It's 3:07. We should still be sitting in that waiting room. Instead, I glance over my shoulder, double check that straps are strapped, and look out the back window as I throw the car in reverse. And we are on our way to enjoy the day, I tell Sam on the other end of the phone...

And then.
I hear it. The unmistakable sound of metal scraping metal. I take my light foot off the gas and look in my mirrors. Damn it.

I backed into a parked car. I BACKED INTO A PARKED CAR.

Me. I've never gotten a parking ticket. I sweet-talked my way out of the one speeding ticket I should have gotten (I was 19). I am careful. I am aware. I pay attention. Only....I hadn't been. I was on the phone with Sam. I was distracted. I had two whimpery just-got-shots little ones behind me and one big boy in the way back who was professing his love for FluMist because "I just Really Don't Like getting the pokey kind of shots. You know, like the one Max and Molly had to get? I sure am a lucky guy that I don't have to get THAT kind. Man, those pokey shots HURT. But not the nose spray! Nope, not one bit!"

I wasn't paying ENOUGH attention.

And so, I repark the van. I leave three kids in their seats while I run 20 feet away to the pediatrician's front door. From there, I confess my sin to the now-filled waiting room (and want to, but don't, tell them of my otherwise stellar driving record). The car doesn't belong to anyone in the office, though, so back to the van I go to write a note.

As I'm writing, the peanut gallery behind me is abuzz with questions and comments:
What are you doing?
Why did you hit that car?
It isn't nice to break other people's cars.
Why do you have to tell them it was your fault?
Are you going to have to pay to fix it?
Is it going to cost too much money?
Next time you should check behind you before you start driving backwards.

It is a teachable moment to be sure....taking responsibility for your actions....being honest...hanging up the damn phone before you start driving...etc.  And I try to capitalize on it. Also, talking helps me to focus and not feel so shaky. It's so unnerving, I'm learning, to hit another car with your own. Even if the damage amounts to just fairly superficial scrapes on a bumper. I'm shaky the rest of the day.

And, I'm on pins and needles all afternoon and evening awaiting the phone call. I have a feeling I'm going to get yelled at and I really don't like getting yelled at. Finally, as I'm reading to Evan at bedtime, the phone rings....I let it go to voicemail.

The message is short, but understanding. The woman has a thick accent and says she is looking forward to my return call.  I piece together, following our phone conversation and email exchanges, an incomplete picture of her life.....she and her husband are here in the states for graduate school. One or both of them are students at the University. They have a little boy who attends daycare while they are at school/work. They only have one car between them that they rely on to get to school, work, and daycare.

Unbelievable. Could I have hand-picked a WORSE family to inconvenience with my negligence? Had the roles been reversed, we could have managed EASILY without a car for a day or two while repairs were made. We have THREE cars. For two drivers. I only HAVE to leave the house by car on Tuesdays and Thursdays and Sam can walk or bike to work. Evan's school is within walking distance in the event of an emergency. But, no. I'm such a jerk. I'm just so thankful that they are being very gracious and understanding during this process. That isn't over yet. And won't be for some time.

So, finally, at the end of a seemingly endless day, I lay in bed ready for tomorrow. Ready for a good night's sleep. I close my eyes.

And then.
I hear it. The unmistakable sound of Croup. It's a tough night.

I call at 8:30 Saturday morning to get that prescription filled...the one the doctor left, just awaiting signature, in her file.

I call back at 10:30 when I still haven't heard back from the doctor on call confirming that he's filled it.

And then again at 2:30.

And then, finally, at 4, when I call for the fourth time and stop being polite, the prescription is called in and I can start to heal my baby. (After Sam waits another hour at the pharmacy for the damn thing to be filled.)

Lesson Learned:
Karma's an unfair little diva. I'm SO SORRY about the car. Take it out on me, Universe, not my poor sweet baby girl.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

make-your-own FIND-IT game

Have you ever seen those Find-It tube games? They're cylinders filled with multi-colored pellets and tiny things. You need to shake it around to find the objects (there's a list of hidden things, I think, on one of the ends of the cylinder). They're pretty cool. And would be great, I thought, to toss in the diaper bag for waiting rooms, restaurants, car trips, etc. They're also $20. And if I'm going to spend $20 on a waiting room toy that the kids may or may not get bored with in five minutes, it's going to need to be awesome. And something I couldn't in a million nap times make myself.

This? Oh, yes I can. And I did! And you can, too:

Step 1:
Make Rainbow Rice. I bought a HUGE bag, divided it evenly among six Ziploc bags and dyed big batches of each color. I only used a small amount of each (3/4 cup each color?) so I have plenty left over for a rainbow rice table, or I was even thinking of making Rice Art in a clear vase (you know, like Sand Art that you made when you were a kid? But with rice.)

There are many methods to dye rice/pasta, but the easiest, in my opinion, is to add a small amount (a squirt) of rubbing alcohol to each bag, followed by a few drops of  your desired color (or colors for orange and purple), then squish and squeeze the bag around until the rice is evenly colored. Leave bags open over night to dry (I needed to toss mine around a few times to get them to dry thoroughly).

Step 2:
Assemble your Tiny Things. You have everything you need in your house. Find maybe 20-25 things.

Step 3:
Lay out your Tiny Things against a white background and take a photo. 

Step 4:
Print the photo....large enough to easily see each object, small enough that when you attach it to the container it won't block too much.

Step 5:
Put it all together! I used a tennis ball container (thanks for the idea, Uncle Mikey!). Put your tiny things in, followed by roughly equal amounts of each color of the rice. Using Contact Paper, attach the photo of the objects (or, for older kids who are reading, a printed list of objects). I sealed the lid shut with a hot glue gun. I put glue on the rim of the canister before putting the lid on and then hot glued around the seal once the lid was on. It feels like a pretty good seal, but I did tell the boys how boring it would be to have to clean up all that rice if the lid "accidentally" came off.

Step 6:
Find-It! Oops. Trademark violation. I mean: Find the Things!

Step 7:
Because you so cleverly attached the photo/list of objects with Contact Paper, you can have your Finder cross of what they've found with a Dry-Erase marker. It wipes right off for the next game (actually, it wipes right off DURING the game, so if your kids are real handsy with it, maybe use a regular marker and then wipe it off with Windex).

Lesson Learned:
Send $20 on a Find-It Game? No thank you.  Spend $4 to make it yourself, AND you get the tennis balls to throw around, too.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

three. THREE.

By this time a year ago, we were three months into Max's Second Birthday Party planning. He had already chosen the theme (Mickey Mouse) and the menu (Mickey Mouse-shaped chicken nuggets (ew, but whatever), grapes, strawberries, and "Mickey Mouse Cupcakes") and the guest list (Mom Mom and Pop, Grandmother and Grandpop, ALL the aunts and uncles, and ALL the cousins). We were ready, we were excited.

Not so, this year.

"Max! Your birthday is coming up! You're going to be THREE!" I began a few weeks ago, "Have you thought about your party?"
Max, with arms crossed across his chest and the poutiest lip you've ever seen in your life, EVER: "I'm not having a party."
[....?....] "Uh, why not?"
"I'm not having a party and nobody is coming to my party and nobody is singing to me at my party."
"Oh. Okay, well, can we have just a little Just Family birthday party for you at our house?"
"Can we go out for a special Birthday Dinner?"
"Oh....so no birthday? No cake? No presents?"
"Ack-uh-gee....yes, cake. And yes presents. But still no party and still no singing."

Apparently, I was a little fuzzy on the No Birthday Concept, though, because I scheduled not one, not two, but THREE birthday parties for this kid. Oops.

But only because our big family is quite busy this time of the year and finding a day that worked for everyone was just too hard....so, we divided and conquered: the first birthday party was for the Keenan bunch, the second for our Nuclear Five, and the third for the Harrises. This way, my Wild Thing got THREE cakes, THREE days of presents, and...yup, people singing to him at his not-a-party THREE times.

But three was an appropriate number of parties....after all, my Wild Thing is Three. THREE! Three?!

Evan was three, like, yesterday (and it was hell). And Max was just my chunky monkey baby boy. But all of a sudden, Evan is a cool and funny Five, Molly is my roly poly on-the-cusp-of-crawling baby girl, and Max? Oh, boy is he three.

But he's three with flair.

When Max is deliberately not listening to me, he's not sulking with a pouty face like his brother did, he's twirling with his arms outstretched and his eyes closed.

When Max is deliberately not cleaning up his toys, he's not stomping his feet as he runs away screaming, he's prancing around with the box from our new vacuum cleaner on his head.

When Max is mad, he's not yelling and screaming....oh, wait, yes he is...but he's SO dramatic and exaggerated that I can't help but smile at his efforts. He's mastered the art of the pout....the crossed arms, the jutted bottom lip....his posture alone is so demonstrative, you can guess his mood from behind...

Three is easier when you've already seen your way out of three once before...when you know your kid isn't broken (like I tried to convince my pediatrician when Evan was three) but is just figuring out how to stretch those Wings of Independence a little bit further.

And Independence IS what Max is seeking....
He's insisting on dressing and undressing himself....even picking out his own clothes...and accessories (and no, the socks never match these days...intentionally)

He is jockeying with Evan for control of the pretend play scene-setting.

He, my once Wonder Eater, is becoming picky and choosy at mealtimes....refusing previous favorites and insisting, "No. I don't prefer to eat broccoli anymore. I only USED to like it when I was a tiny baby like Molly."

He is curious, inquisitive, playful, and stubborn as hell.

And, this second time through three, I can see it better for what it really is....He's ALREADY three....but really, he's ONLY three....still little enough to curl up on my lap and reach up to hold my ear when he needs a snuggle. Still little enough to work so hard assembling and piling his books on the couch, only to knock them all down as he maneuvers his too-big body into the too-little space he's allowed himself. Still little enough to play hard, and crash hard (even while insisting that he's Just Not Tired)...

Still little enough to laugh hysterically (to the detriment of our Bedtime Wind-Down Routine) at the same silly tuck-in game we play Every. Single. Night:
Me: I love you.
Max: I love YOU.
Me: I love you more.
Max: I love YOU more.
Me: I love you, Max.
Max (already cracking himself up): I love you, MAX!
At which point I close my eyes and start snoring, because I, "Max," am now asleep in "my" bed.  Oh, the simple joys....

Still little enough to wonder....
"What do pink and lavender together make?"
"Why do the clouds move?"
"Why is a car called a car and not a truck or a van or a jeep?"
"Why are the mountains so beautiful?"
"Why do girls only have bums and not penises?"
"Why do we have two Uncle Mikes?"
"Why is purple all purpley?"
"Why is Pop your Daddy and also a Pop?"
"Why does Halloween give you candy?"
"How do you spell 'candy'?"
"How do you spell 'yummy candy'?"
"How do you spell 'I want some yummy candy'?"
"Why is candy so yummy?"

Still little enough to cry at preschool drop-off, but then tell me how proud he was to have a Happy Day at school when I pick him up at lunchtime.

Still little enough to wear diapers and use his binky at bedtimes...even though he says that when he turns three he'll be big enough to give them both up....I'm not holding my breath.

Just little enough.

Just right.

Oh, I love him so.

Lesson Learned:
The world is a more colorful place because of him...
Happy Happy Birthday to my to-the-max Maxwell. Three-year old Love.