Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ice Block

Just a super fast post to show you this fun activity I had for the kids this morning...I found this link on Pinterest the other day and thought it was just the thing for Zoe and Owen to work on together.  As I said in my last post,  I'm enjoying finding things they can do together while I'm hanging laundry, washing dishes, etc...I'm sending them outside while the weather is still nice so this sounded like the perfect thing.  I was so glad to find out that it was a big hit!  I prepared it the day before and it was soooooo easy.  I threw them ideas here and there when it seemed like they were getting too frustrated but other than that I just let them have at it and they kept busy with it for a long time.

Giant Ice Block!

When I first got it out to show them, Zoe noticed some squinkies  and was really distraught.  As she lamented over them being trapped, wondering if they would ever get out of the ice, I told her it was up to her to free them.  Perfect unplanned setup!

She was really sure for a chunk of time that this would somehow be helpful.  She was trying to tie one end to Owen at one point and he just kept screaming. I asked her to think of another plan of attack that didn't involve tying her brother up.


Water proved most helpful

Those that have been rescued thus far on the boat, a piece of ice yet to conquer on the table...

Taking stock

Cleaning and caring for the survivors after the big rescue

This was a really easy activity to prepare and they loved it--I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

So long, summer!

I know that for a lot of you, this time of year means more running around and hectic scheduling so I'm sorry to rub this in your face, but aaaaaaaaaaaaahhh.....this may be the last year that the start of school makes me feel this way, so I'm soaking it up as best I can.  Zoe goes to school in the afternoon, so we don't have to rush out of the door in the morning to get there on time. That coupled with the fact that most of her friends are in school in the morning makes it even easier to just hang at home and make our own fun.  We had a great summer, but surprisingly it was very hectic for us.  We had some amazing trips and did a TON of swimming but it's a bit of a relief to be back into more of a consistent schedule.  Last year, Zoe and I spent the mornings working on  projects while Owen napped and I've been bummed for a while that we'd both somehow lost interest in doing that.  I thought it might have something to do with the fact that there was always somewhere more exciting or fun to be than at home. I hoped we might rediscover our imaginations once school started again, but I was also a little worried that it would be hard to do that with Owen no longer napping in the morning.  I love involving him but he's at a hard age for that kind of stuff.  He wrecks other people's stuff, grabs at things and screams if he can't have other words, he is fully embracing his soon-to-be-two-year-old-self.  We will still have some swimming adventures and outings in the mornings for sure, but for now I'm forcing us all to slow down and relax.  There's plenty of time for rushing around.

Speaking of Owen embracing his age: W.O.W.  He is still the sweetest little guy, but man can he throw a fit.  I'm grateful that this is the second time around for me so it doesn't all seem so shocking.  When Zoe was in this phase (although I'm not sure her tantrums were quite so....volatile) I would worry that every tantrum was a sign of my life to come and that soon I'd be dealing with that kind of behavior all day every day.  Now I know how quickly they go from stage to stage and that even when they are in a difficult one, the days are an intricate blend of impossible tantrums, melt-your-heart sweetness and hilarity.  Also, what I didn't have that first time around was an older sibling that is more than willing to play and surprisingly really great at helping quell those impossible tantrums.  Yesterday as I was unsuccessfully and literally wrestling Owen to get his diaper on, Zoe was the one to come along and figure out a way to get him to stop screaming and hold still long enough for me to get him dressed.  I felt so grateful and told her that about five times in a row.  I even stopped her, crouched down, looked her straight in the eyes and said "Seriously Zoe, sometimes I don't know what I'd do without you.  I'm so grateful for your help--THANK YOU."

Anyway, so the kids and I have really been enjoying our quiet mornings together at home.  The absolute best thing I've found for the kids to do together is sensory play.  This link is a good example of what I mean, but basically to us it just means making a huge mess.  I try and come up with a new or different material for them to mess around with, but when in doubt I fill containers up with water or dirt or just let them go nuts with paint.  It keeps them busy all morning and although it is admittedly a lot to clean up, I feel like I have the time to so I don't mind.  We will have to be a little less free with the mess when it's not so warm out but we're making the most of the weather for now...we'll figure winter out when it gets here.

Here are some pictures of the fun we've been having:

This morning's sensory bin material was oatmeal...

Playing with oatmeal made them both want to eat some so we took a break to do so....don't worry I used the oats I had tucked away in the kitchen.

Another reason I love playing out back at our house is that we are inevitably joined by neighbor friends who happen upon our mess.  Ruby is a regular at our place and we always love when she has time to stop and join in...

With my kids, no matter what we are doing outside, water usually becomes a part of the it or not.  I'm happy to oblige, Zoe had a lot of fun making the oats into a dough and forming it into shapes and adding color with chalk...

I just love the peacefulness of this kind of play..they both get so sucked into what they are doing...

I don't remember where I originally saw this idea so I don't have a link but I've seen it in a couple of can easily make a little river with tin foil and experiment with how different materials make their way down...also, the kids can play around with changing the course of the river.  We were going to make boats out of newspaper, but we didn't really need was interesting enough for them to send leaves, acorns and sticks down.

 Another day (although I just realized the kids totally have on the same clothes as they did today--weird!) we started with some flour that had been sitting around in the kitchen for too long...soon, we added baby oil and then (you guessed it) water and then, I think our rainbow rice, although I can't find the pictures I took of that so I'm not sure if that was this day or another, it's all one big mess so who cares anyway, right?

"Birthday Cake"

...finally, potting soil.  I had a huge bag of it that I wasn't using so we dumped it into the water table.  It was a chilly morning so I, for once, said no to the water.  They didn't stay interested in this one for as long as I expected (maybe because they weren't allowed to add water) but we've kept it around on the patio and they've been having fun with it here and there...

So, if you are in the neighborhood one weekday morning, feel free to stop by--just make sure the kids aren't dressed in their Sunday best!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Paint Party!

I can't believe it's already time to say things like this, but we wrapped up the Art Group/Young Scientists summer with a paint party today.  Jessica and I have been thinking it might be a good idea to just have our group meet during the summertime when we can spread out outside like we have been..we were also starting to worry about keeping ideas fresh and enthusiasm up year round, so both of us have chosen other programs to run during the school year.  We both felt good about the decision but are now having second thoughts.  The families that have been coming to AG/YS have grown to love it and ALL the kids keep saying things like "OOO, next time can we...?"  It's hard to tell them all we're taking a break and to see their disappointed little faces so one or both of us might do a "lite" version of AG/YS in the months to come. It's too late to do it next month since the deadline for the FH newsletter and fliers has passed but maybe if my next program is a total flop next month I'll do it...or Jessica....or both of, we don't know.  I know you are all DYING to know so don't worry, I'll keep you posted.  ;-)

Anyway, here are some pictures from the party.  We let them go hog wild outside with the paint and painted a few faces...inside we had materials for t-shirt painting.  We had talked about prepping the shirts with transfer paper and "FH Art Group/Young Scientists, Summer 2012" on the backs but we ran out of time and I'm now regretting not making the time to do that.  Would have been really cute.  Oh well!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Little Heroes: Project Linus

We had a small Little Heroes gathering today,  but we managed to be productive and are proud of what we ended up with.  This project is worth a look in your area because they have chapters all around the country.  It's a really great way to do something for others and you can make it as simple or as complicated as you want to:

Their mission statement is: 
  • First:  Provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer “blanketeers.”
  • Second:  Provide a rewarding and fun service opportunity for interested individuals and groups in local communities, for the benefit of children.
Our group set a time and meeting place and agreed to purchase our own materials and bring them to the meeting.  We planned to make the blankets with the kids there and possibly drop them off together.  As we were working, most of the kids quickly lost interest in actually helping and sort of hung around and played.  Personally I think it's all worthwhile, even if the kids don't seem to be interested.  I believe strongly that providing a model and frequently attempting stuff like this with and around your kids is a great way to pass the message along to them.  It sinks in, even if it doesn't seem like it is at the time.  That said, we feel compelled to make the "drop off" experience memorable for them so they can make the connection between going to the store, using our own money to buy materials, taking the time to make something for a person in need and then delivering the goods ourselves.   So, one of the group moms, Maggie is going to do some research and find out if there is a hospital or shelter in the area that would take a donation from us if we aren't associated with a specific organization.  If not, we will take them to the Project Linus drop off location with the kids and just talk it all up a bit.

We all opted to make a simple, no-sew fleece blanket but you can do almost anything as long as it's clean and in good shape.  I went to JoAnn's and headed straight for the remnants bin, found a couple of great pieces (enough for a crib sized blanket and a small "lovey" type) for only $6 and that's honestly all I needed besides a pair of good scissors.  I based my blanket off of a pattern from a book called Crafty Mama but just ended up winging it.  It's really easy to find a pattern online if you feel  more comfortable working in measurements, but it's also easy to look at the pattern once to get the idea and never look at it again.

If you are in the area and would like to join us for the rest of this project (and/or any future projects), please let me know and  I can keep you posted about when and where we plan to deliver our blankets.  You can make a blanket on your own time and join us when we drop them off together.

Zoe started out strong, but faded fast...

Emily and Sammy working together...

Most of today's small but dedicated crew.

I decided to let Zoe "design" her own blanket...which she thankfully decided on her own to keep at the house

Working together to finish up the last one!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Well then.

Just getting this down before I forget it, although I'm not sure I ever will.  When I told Nathan it happened he told me if there was a way to frame it, I should...this is the closest I can get so...

Zoe was having a moment just before dinner.  She got it in her head that she really wanted to cut up some scallions from our garden that we weren't going to be using today and Nathan asked her not to.  She stubbornly kept doing it and when I walked in the room, I also asked her not to do it.  She broke down in tears and I sat down to talk her through it, hoping I could help steer her away from a complete meltdown right at the end of the day.  I was talking and looking at her, she was crying and looking away from me.  All of the sudden she looked me in the eye, gently grabbed my arm and quietly asked me to go into the living room with her.  She sat me down on the couch and cuddled in with me, nestling under the crook of my arm and said (not exactly like this because she was struggling a bit to find her words and once in a while I'd ask her something,  but she said all of these statements at one  point during our talk):  "Mommy, I love you because you do really good things for the Earth.  You take care of the Earth, and all the animals on it.  You take care of people we don't even know and you are really brave.  Today on the playground, I felt mad at my friends and I thought of you.  When I thought of you, I wanted to remember to tell you all of this later and I just love you.  When I'm upset you know how to help me feel better."  I was practically speechless and could only hug her tight and thank her for telling me.  I'm not 100% sure I totally deserve that moment, but I'm taking it anyway.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I Won!

Okay, so actually I got 1,998th (out of 2,500 or so) but if you were reading at the beginning of the journey you will understand what I mean.  When I signed up to run the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half Marathon at the beginning of the summer, all I had in my head was "This is probably crazy, but I feel like I HAVE to do it....I have no idea how I'm going to fit in the training but I just know I will."  As I've mentioned, before kids (or as my friend Mariah dubbed it this past weekend:  "BK"), I got really into running after quitting smoking.  In the beginning, my goal was to run a 5k but I found myself going farther and farther until I made my way up to the half marathon distance.  I did that a couple of times before getting pregnant and then spent the next four years adjusting to motherhood and adding to our brood.  I never "quit" running but had trouble finding my motivation and drive with it and while I was thriving as a mother (and feeling very proud of and happy about that) my running was taking a clear backseat.  I just couldn't figure out how to get it closer to the front seat...I've never been interested in ousting the kids and Nathan from the front and there just never seemed to be enough room to squeeze anything up there with, for four years my running life was the annoying preschooler in the back, constantly asking, "Are we there yet?"

Little did I know that all this time, all I had to do to get my ass in gear was to sign up for and (financially) commit to something that seemed impossible.  I don't know why that was surprising because as I've told you before, it's how I got running way back in the very beginning.  While talking with my sister, I laughed out loud at the thought of me running 3 miles without dying.  I suddenly realized, in that moment, that that was exactly what I HAD to do and my running life was officially born.  So, although I'd run 2 half marathons "BK", I thought the long distance, endurance stuff was in the past for me...I looked back on those days as the "when I was in really good shape" days and was half heartedly soul searching (if that's even possible) for my next goal.   I'm so glad I finally realized I needed, at this point in my life, to just stick with what I know.  I mean, I already HAVE the shoes and the roads and trails are literally right outside my door and free.

I'll admit I kind of skimped on the training a bit.  I started out in full force, incorporating the cross-training days my training guide suggested but ended up in the second half of the journey with a 4 day running week...partially because I've been struggling a bit emotionally these past few months, and working out all those days seemed to be making me feel worse instead of better in that department.  It seemed that 4 days of running every week was sufficient for my goal of making it to the finish line and I felt less pressure that way, so I went with it.

I also have to admit that the race itself was oddly a strange sort of comforting way.  Don't get me wrong, it was really fun...heading up the night before with Nathan and the kids and going out for a special dinner and staying in a hotel...Owen had the time of his life and it was so fun to imagine it seeming like a huge adventure to him and Zoe, staying in that Super 8 the night before Mommy's big race...Owen giggled and acted silly throughout the whole dinner and as we were looking for our (first floor) room, we walked by a flight of stairs and he yelled out "OH YAY, STAIRS!!"....having to run out to a local shop after closing hours in my pj's and beg them (successfully) to let me in because I'd forgotten to pack a t-shirt...walking to the starting area from the hotel the next morning and soaking up the beautiful mountains completely surrounding us as we waited to start the race...seeing Nathan and the kids smiling and cheering for me here and there along the course....overhearing special moments in other people's lives as we were all running along, in our own little worlds finishing up chapters in our own personal stories:  The two friends reminiscing about the first half they'd run together, years ago when one of them was sick.....the older woman and young teenager bonding as they ran, the older woman saying "None of your sister's thought you could do this" and the teenager quietly responding "Well, I'm doing it."...running past a dog kennel and imagining the 15 or so barking dogs were actually cheering us all on...reading inspirational poster after inspirational poster set up by the local high school cross country team....running past a shooting range, imagining they were shooting at me:  RUUUUUUUN!...watching someone take their ear buds out to encourage a struggling stranger in the last 1/4 mile: "Don't give up now, we are coming up on the best part of the whole thing...everyone will be cheering for you and you get to cross the finish line!"....and then, catching sight of Zoe, waiting for me in the shirt I'd made for her to wear in her race back in June...I wasn't sure she'd actually jump in with me, but as soon as I saw her I knew she was more than ready...I grabbed her hand and we headed to the finish together, smiling the whole way.  I was squeezing her hand so tight, and she was squeezing right back, once in a while sort of snuggling up, her cheek to my hand...when we crossed the finish line I hugged her and thanked her for helping me to the finish right when I needed it and she handed me a little plastic trinket-y medal she'd been holding and saving for just that moment.  It was a really great morning and I am so proud of myself.

This half was so different than the "BK" halves in a few ways...for example, I actually felt overall much better this time around which was really satisfying.  The most interesting and surprising difference for me though, was that crossing the finish line didn't feel like the biggest accomplishment of the whole experience.  The accomplishment this time wasn't necessarily running all that way that morning, it was everything leading up to it.  Fitting in the training on a regular basis without feeling like I was sacrificing my life with my family.  Although I worry about "what's next",  only because I'm afraid that without the end goal, I may lose focus, I have hope that I'll be able to keep  on truckin' now that I've proven to myself that it's really not that hard to fit it in once I set my mind to it.
Our awesome kids, having an absolute blast at dinner the night before...


So exciting!!!

Off to the finish...