January 31, 2010

Super simple activities for busy days!

As I've mentioned before, Hubby and I have been very busy and feeling kind of stressed lately. Although I feel like I should be doing more planned learning activities with C, we haven't been doing many, as I've been trying to squeeze in a lot of errands and work before I leave on my trip to Ottawa tomorrow.

We all have those days (or weeks, or more) sometimes, so I thought I'd share a few super simple, low-prep activities we've been done:

C is fascinated by measuring tapes. We measure everything - toys, books, people... here you see her measuring Little People. On this day, she ran back and forth from the kitchen to the living room, bringing in Little People one by one to be measured, and she put them all in a big semi-circle. She must have brought in almost 30! It gave me tons of time to make dinner!

Rolling coins
C's piggy and froggy banks were full (and heavy!), so we rolled all of the coins this week. Hubby and I did most of the rolling, but she was entertained for quite a while with filling up a roll and emptying it over and over again! When her banks get a few more coins in them, I think we'll fill up a basin and wash them!

Watercolour painting
A classic low prep, low mess activity. Look, no paint shirt!

Just don't expect to get a whole design set up! We normally just line them up and knock them down, although we sometimes do some matching.

In our house it's mostly about hats, but necklaces, receiving blanket dresses and C's Little Red Riding Hood cape are popular too.

Beanbag toss
Toss beanbags into a basket from various distances and locations, and count them as you go. Parents have to try, as do favourite stuffed animals and dolls!

Well, cooking isn't actually low prep or low mess, but making peanut butter sandwiches is!

Shape it, cut it, roll it, and use cookie cutters! C had a great time making up stories about Alice the Mouse the other day (but I had to keep reattaching her ears and nose!). This is my favourite playdough recipe.

Sorting cards
I must remember to stick a pack of playing cards in my purse!

Laundry Basket pretend
Never underestimate the power of a laundry basket paired with a child's imagination. This week, our laundry basket has been a crib, a train, and on this day, Nova Scotia! We flew all around the house to different places. The basket was Nova Scotia, the nook between the loveseat and end table was Quebec, PEI was her bedroom... what an imagination!

If you like these ideas, also check out Super simple activities for lazy days!

January 29, 2010

Mommy's Having A Baby! Books to help your child understand what will happen

I'm expecting my second child at the beginning of May, and my almost-3-year-old daughter is very excited. We've been diapering, burping and rocking her dolls a lot, and she's entirely fascinated with the idea of having a new baby (let's hope the reality goes as well - maybe I should get a CD of a baby crying to play every now and then!).

To prepare, we've been reading a lot of books about babies. Our local library has a pretty good selection, and we've bought and borrowed some from friends as well. We've been reading a mix of fiction and non-fiction books. I always like reading book recommendations from other parents, so here are my reviews on a few of the books we've read so far.

Two real-life books that we really like are:

The New Baby by Fred (Mister) Rogers

I love the Mister Rogers 'First Experiences' series of books. The photos are definitely from the '80s, but kids don't know or care, and as a parent it's kind of fun seeing those blast-from-the-past photos!

In terms of content, the text in this book is very straightforward and respectful towards children. It tells them about what will happen when the baby comes home, how some children feel about having a brother or sister, and it has lots of large, engaging pictures of black and white families. It also shows photos of babies being bottle fed and nursed (all photos are very tasteful).

Mommy's in the Hospital Having A Baby by Maxine Rosenberg

This is another book with dated photos, but this is a great explanation of what happens in the hospital. It doesn't talk about labour and delivery, but focuses on the mother's stay in the hospital after the baby is born. It shows pictures of hospital rooms and nurseries, and explains that the hospital staff will take care of the mother and baby. It shows children visiting the hospital, and explains how they should behave (no running or yelling, hug Mommy gently, etc.). The book also shows different methods of feeding. Some of the information may not fit with your hospital's policies (for example, there is no nursery in my hospital anymore - babies stay in their mother's rooms for the whole hospital stay), but that is easy to edit when you're reading. Amazon doesn't have this book for sale anymore, but we borrowed a copy from the library. My daughter really liked this one!

Some illustrated storybooks that we've read are:

I'm a Big Sister and I'm a Big Brother by Joanna Cole

This book is short and simple, but I really liked how it didn't assign a gender to the new baby, explained things that babies can and can't do, and most importantly, talked about how the big sister (or brother) is special and loved. I love the lines:
"Mommy loves me. Daddy loves me. I am special to them. I'm the only me in the whole world! I'm special in a new way, too. I'm a big sister now!"

My daughter loved that the character in this book looks like Ashley from Joanna Cole's book My Big Girl Potty (which was a favourite around here for a while).

By the way, it looks like she's released new editions with another illustrator. From what I can see in the preview, it looks like the story is the same (girl edition, boy edition).

Big Sister Now: A Story about Me and Our New Baby by Annette Sheldon

We received this book as a Christmas gift, and it was an immediate hit. It tells the story of Kate, who just became a big sister. She loves her brother Daniel, but finds it hard to understand why things are so different now. She has to wait for her parents' attention, and she sometimes feels like she's been forgotten. But her parents praise her for being such a good helper, and she gets to do fun things that the baby can't do. I really like the illustrations in this book, and some of the frazzled parents' facial expressions are hilarious. It's also nice to see a typically messy house - who has time to tidy up when they have a new baby?!

Annette Sheldon also wrote Big Brother Now. I haven't read that one, but I imagine it's pretty much the same story.

A Special Something by Jan Fearnley

This book is very cute, although it doesn't explain much about babies! It's the story of a little girl who wonders what the "special something" in her Mummy's belly could be - a crocodile? a monkey? a kangaroo? At the end she meets her baby brother, and now her parents have two special somethings.

There are several different covers to this book.

What to Expect When Mommy's Having A Baby by Heidi Murkoff

This book is an illustrated non-fiction book. It answers many of the questions that children have about pregnancy, like "where is the baby?" "how did the baby get in there?" "what does the baby do all day?" and "can the baby hear me?" It contains diagrams and some medical language, and if you're uncomfortable with that (or if your child is too young for a detailed explanation), you may want to skip parts of the book while you're reading. My daughter is not yet three years old, so I found that we glossed over some of the topics. It's nice to see a book that gives kids the facts though, and I'm sure it will be a useful teaching book when my daughter is a bit older and asking more questions about the mechanics of pregnancy!

Angelina's Baby Sister by Katharine Holabird

This book was my least favourite new baby book. After Angelina's baby sister is born, she feels ignored by her family. She has a hard time dealing with her feelings, so she has a tantrum and trashes her room, breaking a special statue in the process. She also says at one point that she hates her baby sister. Although I'm sure some children feel and act this way, my daughter often repeats things from books, and I didn't want her using this kind of behaviour or language, so I edited it quite a bit while reading. By the end of the book, Angelina likes her baby sister and feels loved by her family again, but that wasn't enough to redeem it in my eyes. We returned this book quickly!

I hope these reviews are helpful to those of you going through your own pregnancy journeys, and looking for books to prepare your children for a new baby! I'll review another batch of books soon.

January 28, 2010

Four tips to a more enjoyable winter

Hate the cold? Join the club! But here in Canada, I have to make the most of it, because I can't hibernate all winter (especially now that I have a child - Mommy Guilt sets in)!

Read my guest post on Because Babies Grow Up for Four Tips to a More Enjoyable Winter, especially written for those of us who aren't snow bunnies!

    "I’ll admit it; I don’t like winter very much.

    I could happily hibernate for much of the season, but my February-born little girl is finally embracing her birth month and has been having a lot of fun in the snow this year. So, I’m trying to give us some more active time outdoors. Here are my tips on making winter more enjoyable for those of us who aren’t snow bunnies!..."

January 26, 2010

Lots on my plate!

Busy, busy here! I've been occupied with so much this week! Helping Hubby prepare for a silent auction at church, brainstorming birthday party ideas, working on crafts (stay tuned!), and preparing for a business trip to Ottawa next week (we have a couple of contracts with the Canadian Breast Cancer Network right now - it's such interesting work!). Whew!!

C has decided that she wants her strawberry cake to be in the shape of a kitten, so I've been trying to get ideas. Thank goodness for Google and Flickr! I also found a great cake decorating website called Coolest Birthday Cakes.com.

We took C ice skating yesterday, and it was SO much fun! She wore her bobskates (skates with two blades), and we brought a little broom to help her keep her balance. She loved it, and actually glided a bit on her own!

Speaking of winter activities, have you checked out the Winter Wonderland Blog Carnival at Because Babies Grow Up? Amber is celebrating winter with music, crafts, activities and giveaways to perk us up this winter, and tips to celebrate with our families. The prizes are running until January 31. I've written a guest post that you'll be able to read over there on Thursday. Check it out!

January 20, 2010

Birthday prep, and a few online freebies!

My gal's 3rd birthday is coming up on Valentine's Day, so I have some party prep to do! Due to my Hubby's schedule that weekend, we may have to have an evening party, which throws a kink into the party planning, but I've been brainstorming ideas until we finalize the time and how many people will be available to come.

She has already informed me that she wants a strawberry cake. Not the Strawberry Shortcake character, but a cake made with strawberries. The problem is, she doesn't eat strawberries. Unless they're in pie or a smoothie. If I try to give her a strawberry in its natural state, she won't eat it. So, I searched the Internet (what did I ever do without the Internet?!), and found a recipe for cake made with strawberry puree which got fantastic reviews on allrecipes.com. Now I just need to decide what shape to make it in! Does anyone know of any good websites for cake decorating? I don't know how to use fondant icing (and I do't have time to learn), but I can hold my own with using different shaped icing tips (The picture is of last year's birthday cake).

I plan on making some of these felt-covered barrettes for party favours (I've been meaning to make them for ages, using our many mis-matched barettes!). I may also try larger versions that are just a flower or a heart, instead of the almond-shape. I found heart cookie cutters at Michael's, and I'm going to try to make drawstring bags for loot bags. My other thought is to make homemade chocolate-on-a-stick. I'll let you know how the crafts go!

While searching for decoration ideas, I found an amazing papercraft on Little Acorn - A squirrley valentine! (there is a second version as well) Mine will be going up on a window tomorrow! I may make a few more, but I pressed the exacto knife so hard while doing the cutting - d'oh! -that I have a bruise now, so I'll wait a few days. You can also find cute printable valentines on Inside a Black Apple and Arian Armstrong's blog. Arian also has a bunch of other great free downloads, including a weekly planner, Christmas tags, a children's reward chart and stationary. I love her art!

That's about it for me! Until C's big day I'll be busy working, helping Hubby with a fundraiser for church, celebrating my own birthday (30!), and going to Ottawa on a business trip. I'm looking forward to some down time in the spring with our new family of 4!

January 18, 2010

To all the crafty people out there...

I've been saving potential craft materials from the recycling bin, and while cleaning up our craft closet, I discovered that I've accumulated quite a collection of empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls!

Do you have any ideas for crafts that will use a bunch of them at one time?

January 14, 2010

New music for our collection

Last month I was lucky enough to win a contest on Because Babies Grow Up - for a CD! Rock and Roll Garden by the Bari Koral Family Rock Band is a great addition to our children's music collection. Although it's about child-friendly topics, the songs have a good beat, which makes Mummy & Daddy very happy! I think the song "Hey Ducky" is super cute, and C loves "The Backpack Song". Whenever she hears it, she goes running to get her own backpack. There are a couple of fun action songs on the CD too, and for urban dwellers, "Subway" is really cute. You can listen to some song clips on BariKoral.com, and the CD is available on Amazon.com (but not Amazon.ca yet!).

Another CD that I just discovered is A Family Album by The Verve Pipe (Remember "The Freshmen" on top 40 radio in the 90s?). I haven't played it for C yet, but I've been enjoying it! So far my favourite songs are "Complimentary Love", "When One Became Two" (about having twins), and "Be Part of the Band" (about different instruments). I downloaded the album from emusic.com (my favourite digital music site), but you can download a digital version the CD from Amazon.com or order a hard copy from The Verve Pipe website. You can also preview the entire album on their website - check it out!

January 13, 2010

Freezing breakfast

We're a family of three, and whenever we make a batch of waffles or pancakes, we always have some left over. Instead of composting them or keeping them in the fridge to get soggy and never eaten, we freeze them for later! We wrap two or three in tin foil, label them, and then pop them in the freezer. Then we can eat them another morning when we're in the mood for something sweet - voila, quick breakfast! You can toss the whole foil package in the oven, or if you're short on time, pop them in the toaster or microwave (unwrap first!). This is also a great fix for those days when I've forgotten to buy bread and I'm craving carbs!

Freezing breakfast - it's a simple thing, but it works for me!

January 12, 2010

Time for games again!

We were so busy over the holidays that we didn't do many new learning activities at home. Outings, cooking, puzzles, books and songs were about it, so it's time for me to introduce a few new games for C!

Yesterday we made shapes with popsicle sticks. I've seen this on quite a few blogs, and figured it was a quick and easy way to make a new game! C caught on really quickly, but the camera battery was dead at the time, so I didn't get a picture of her playing.

Some other plans:
  • Making more recognizable things for C's felt board (more than just the basic shapes we have now)
  • Spelling (she can spell a few words unassisted, and a few with help sounding out the letters. I figure I'd better go with this while she's interested!)
  • "Painting" snow with coloured water in a spray bottle
  • Tracing letters
  • Music practice (we started a music class last week and learned some rhymes and exercises to practice)
  • More practice on the balance beam, and practice jumping
On the jumping note, does anyone else have a child who can't jump?C is almost 3 years old, and she can't seem to master the mechanics of jumping. She'll get right up on her tippy toes and think she's jumping, but nope! Not even on the trampoline at gymnastics class. She can balance and stand on each foot, and her doctor thinks her coordination is fine otherwise, but she just hasn't figured out jumping yet. Any ideas for jumping practice (but not on the bed)?

January 8, 2010

New year, clean house?

I'm in the midst of a New Year's organization urge combined with pre-baby nesting instinct. I've been putting away Christmas decorations, organizing our new combination office/guest room (complete with fabulous new built-in cabinets which just need the doors attached), brainstorming ideas for decorating the baby's room, and trying to rearrange our living/dining area to fit in C's (huge) new train table.

In short, I've been driving my husband nuts.

But with the organizing, of course, comes the cleaning. Inspired by Sab's post about January organizing, I've decided to try to sticking to a weekly cleaning list. I work part-time around my Hubby's shift work, so I can't stick to a "Monday is laundry day, Tuesday is errands day" kind of schedule, but maybe a checklist will help me keep on track (and keep my house cleaner)! I searched the Internet for various cleaning lists, and found some good additions on Newlywed Home.

I didn't bother with a daily list, but I drafted one for weekly, monthly and seasonal. Of course, some things will need to be done more often (like laundry and the never-ending basket of ironing), but here's what I have:

Weekly Cleaning Tasks:

Clean downstairs bathroom

Clean upstairs bathroom

Dust downstairs

Dust upstairs

Empty compost bin

Empty garbage bins before garbage day

Empty recycling bin



Meal planning

Recycle old flyers from magazine basket

Shine kitchen sink

Sort mail

Sweep downstairs (and mop tile when necessary)

Sweep upstairs

Tidy bedroom

Toss old leftovers and wipe fridge shelves

Vacuum downstairs (including stairs)

Vacuum upstairs

Wipe doorknobs and light switches

Wipe microwave

Wipe telephones

Monthly Cleaning Tasks:

Change sheets (twice a month)

Clean windows

Donate Salvation Army bags

Dust air vents

Hand wash delicate laundry

Mop floors

Retire children's clothes and pull out new clothes

Scrub shower

Scrub stovetop

Test smoke alarms

Tidy garage

Tidy storage room

Wash kitchen cabinets

Seasonal Cleaning Tasks:

Clean air exchanger filter

Dust or wash curtains

Vacuum furniture

Wash screens

Do you use lists to keep on top of housework? What are your biggest cleaning/organizing challenges?

January 7, 2010

Holiday Rewind

Wow, it's hard to believe that it's been a month since I last blogged! We were so busy with Christmas preparations and had family visiting through the New Year, that I'm just now getting things cleaned up and put away! Here's a glimpse of our holiday.

Decorating the tree:

 Christmas cookie exchange packages, all ready to go! I made "fudge puddles" - peanut butter cookie cups with chocolate in the middle - YUM! I ate way too many cookies over the holidays though!

The finished Christmas wreath. I was pleased with the wreath, but less than thrilled with the store-bought bow. I need to learn to make pretty bows with ribbon! It's made with Christmas balls and a wire hanger bent into a circle (tutorial here).

C, walking on her Daddy-made balance beam, wearing her Mummy-made pajamas (which turned out very well, if I do say so myself!).

Dinosaurs - Roar!! Hubby also made her a dinosaur puzzle on his scroll saw.

More baking with Mummy!

We had a great holiday, filled with family, fun and food! Happy New Year to you all!

Now my mind has turned to baby prep and creating storage solutions throughout our house - more on that another day!
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