Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Christmas Is Coming!

Buddy the Elf - I'm so excited for Christmas!  Christmas is my favourite!!
Christmas with kids is way better than Christmas with no kids. And Christmas just seems to be getting better as they get older. I love that for a whole month I get to focus on making life magical for Linus and Veda. The thing about magic, though, is that magic doesn't often happen on its own.
All that magic-making requires some organization and lots of planning. No problem. That's my specialty.
Last year I made the mistake of trying to plan an activity out for each day on my calendar. It sure did look nice and neat, but it didn't work. Nope, not at all. As soon as somebody had sniffles or the weather was bad, the plan didn't work. Lots of activities never got made up, and at the end of the season I felt like we had missed out on a lot.
This year, I've decided to do a checklist instead. It's hanging on the refrigerator, and we'll cross things off as we tackle them. A few things do have to go on the calendar because they're scheduled by someone else (like a parade), but otherwise, it's all completely flexible.
Here it is - our 2012 Christmas Activity Countdown:
It's going to be a great Christmas season! I hope all of you are able to make lots of magical memories this year as well.

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Toddler Lunch Idea and Ode to Cookies

Okay, here's a recent lunch photo:

It's  sliced vegetables, vegetable dip, apple slices, string cheese, and letter cookies.

What I really want to talk about are the letter cookies.

Until I found the letter (and number) cookies at Trader Joe's, I was having a hard time teaching letters to Linus and Veda. It would seem that for all the reading we do, they just didn't see the fun in learning the letters of the alphabet. Puzzles were meh. The Leap Pad alphabet phonics toy on the refrigerator was meh.

So I bought these cookies, and we've made a game of it at lunch time. I pull a cookie out of the bin and ask what letter or number it is. They love it, and better yet, they're alphabet pros now.

Never underestimate the power of a cookie.

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Christmas List 2012

Here it is - the third annual post about Linus and Veda's Christmas list! In case you're new here, the idea is that I try to make a few picks that you won't see in all the toy catalogs - stuff that's at least a little off the beaten path. Linus and Veda will be turning three soon, and I think they'll be playing with all of these for several years.

1. Darda Upside Down Overpass Racetrack Set

My husband's parents kept a small racetrack for the kids at their house. I was amazed by how quickly  barely-two-years-old Linus learned to place the car in the motor socket. Alas, the track didn't last long, and an online survey of product reviews quickly revealed a similar fate for all the motorized tracks currently on the store shelves. <Insert grumble about the shoddy quality of toys on the market today> So, I found this alternative. Now hear this... there IS no motor on this track. So there's no motor to break within a few weeks of use. Instead the little car does the work of shooting itself through the loops and curves. Genius.

2. Parachute

Remember this day in P.E.? Magic. Just think of the possibilities of a home parachute... tossing leaves in the fall, hauling it out for playdates and birthday parties, making forts... There's a lot of childhood fun to be had with a parachute.

3. Playmobil Grand Mansion

I looked at every dollhouse on the market before I decided on this one. I even briefly considered building one. Then I remembered that I have toddlers. So why this one?
  • Durability - I've been extra pleased with the quality of all of the Playmobil toys we've purchased. In particular, the 1.2.3. farmhouse the kids received for their first Christmas. That thing has been used as a step stool, dropped, and played with A LOT, but it still looks like it just came out of the box. Pretty amazing considering how much toddler love it's endured.
  • It's a grow-with-me sort of toy. Take a look at the example room I posted here. See all that detail? While we're still in the carry-random-stuff-around-the-house-for-no-reason-at-all stage, I'll keep most of the little detail pieces packed up. But when the kids get older we can add all those little pieces to the house. Voila, it's like a whole new toy! There's also an expansion floor that can be added to the middle of the house and a lighting set to add electricity. Fun!

  • It's fairly gender neutral. I'm sure that both Linus and Veda will want to play with the house. And I'm not a fan of the strict gender roles being pushed on kids through toys and merchandising these days.

4. Viewmaster and reels

Thirty years ago, there was a viewfinder in everybody's toy box. But these days they aren't so ubiquitous. There are some great reel choices out there. Characters, animals, natural landmarks, and SPACE. And, just like the good old days, no batteries required!

5. Melissa and Doug Write - a -Mats

I love Melissa and Doug's Write-a-Mats. These reusable place mats will give the kids something positive to do while they aren't eating the meals I painstakingly prepare for them. (That's a joke. Sort of.) There are lots of options, too - alphabet, numbers, dinosaurs, states, planets, doodling... and those are the ones I remember.

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Halloween 2012, DIY Adult Rocket Ship Costume

This year's costumes were Plan B... and that's okay.

Plan A was Little Red Riding Hood. Veda was to be Little Red, Linus would have been the Big Bad Wolf, and I was going to be Grandmother. I actually made one of those costumes - a red hooded cape for little Veda. But after all the time I invested in knitting love into every stitch, Veda refused to wear it. Yeah, I was slightly crestfallen. In case you're interested in what wasn't meant to be, here's a photo of the cape on Ravelry. Ours looked just like it, and I'd post my own photo of ours, but... you know... no one to model it.

Linus never got into the wolf, either. I checked an age-appropriate version of the book out from the library and read it to them. At the end I tried to stir up some excitement for the idea from Linus, but he just shook his head, stuck out his lips, and said, "No, I'm astronaut," like he thought I'd never paid attention to anything he'd ever told me, which in this case is sort of accurate since he tells me many times over every day that he's an astronaut.

I decided to give the people what they want.

So here we are:

The astronaut costumes were not homemade, which bums me out, as I'm a fan of homemade costumes. But if you're going to be an astronaut, you really do need authentic-looking gear. We first spotted these take-off suits in the gift shop at Kennedy Space Center, but they were crazy expensive. Luckily, Amazon had them cheaper. And they'll use them frequently for dress-up, so I feel better about shelling out the money. 
My costume, though? My costume cost about five or six dollars to make. Here's what I used:
  • Glittery scrapbook paper, cut and hot glued into a cone ($1 on sale at Hobby Lobby)
  • Hair elastic I already owned (what the paper cone is mounted to)
  • Black dress, camisole, leggings, and ballet flats I already owned
  • 1/2 yard orange flannel (about $4)
  • 1 sheet yellow felt (.25)
  • 2 sheets red felt (.50)
And that's it. It took a couple of evenings to cut out the felt/flannel, glue it together, and sew it to the underside of my dress. But nothing hard.
By the way... when I was looking around on Google for rocket ship costume ideas (that I never really found), the first search result I looked at was for "Adult Rocket Costume". You know what it was? A "crotch rocket" costume. I'll leave that one to your imagination. It was being modeled by the sort of man I imagine might enjoy all of the ridiculous "sexy" costumes out lately. You know... like "Sexy Hamburger" or "Sexy Rooster". Am I turning into a prude, or is that trend utterly stupid and UNsexy?

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