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Art

11 Apr

Alex loves to say,”No.”  Ask him almost any question, and the answer is usually no.  Just because.  So when I asked him the other day if he wanted to paint, I could see the no on the tip of his tongue, but right before he said it, he realized what I’d asked.  An emphatic, “Yes!” came out instead.  He loves to paint.  Part of the thrill is getting to sit at my table in my craft room.  The craft room holds such wonders for him, and he loves to explore, digging through all my drawers, delighting in the things he finds.  I really should be better about taking the time to let him use my materials, but because his art projects usually make a huge mess, I’m too often unwilling to take the time to deal with it.  I need to just get over that.

I changed him into his painting clothes.  He refuses to wear a smock, so he has an outfit I bought super cheap that he wears and can slop paint all over.  Then I set him up with several brushes and paint colors (I let him use my acrylics) and let him go at it.  He gets very serious about his paintings, and I just love watching his little face as he thinks about what colors he wants to use, which brush he needs, and where he’s going to place it on the paper.  I’ve shown him how to use a few things, but beyond that, I let him do whatever he wants without coaching.

Child art is a beautiful thing.

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Cardboard Stove

26 Jan

We bought Alex a really cute little cooking set and play food for Christmas.  He enjoys it, but he hasn’t really known how to play with it.  When I cook, I use a stove.  He’s great with imagination, but I realized the cookware would make more sense to him if he had his own little stove for cooking.

What I didn’t want to do is spend money on a play stove.  Alex has so many toys as it is.  I didn’t want to put down cash on even more stuff.  I figured a cardboard box could work nicely, so I searched Pinterest to see if anyone else had had the same idea.  I found several cardboard stoves on there, and used a few different photos for inspiration.

I started with a large moving box.  I did have to buy this, as we got rid of all our moving boxes last year.

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I hot glued the top of the box to keep it closed and give the box its shape while I worked on it.  I used a box cutter to cut out a door for the oven.  I also cut a window into the door and hot glued a piece of clear vinyl over it.  (The vinyl was leftover from one of Steven’s projects.)  For a handle, I used a cabinet pull that I’d bought shortly after we purchased our house.  I’d brought it home to see if I liked it for our cabinets.  I did, but after counting how many we’d have to buy and replace, that project was tabled for a while.

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Ninja and Theo can't resist a box

Ninja and Theo can’t resist a box

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Steven got involved at this point.  He was concerned about the structural integrity of the cardboard.  It’s for a rambunctious 2-year-old, after all, so he figured it should be reinforced.  He grabbed some vinyl slats leftover after he shortened some window blinds and cut them to fit around the door of the oven.  He also fitted slats on the inside of the box around the door so that the door can’t be shoved in.  Additionally, he added a magnet and a small piece of metal to keep the door latched shut.

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I’ve been crazy sick lately and on a ton of prescriptions.  That meant that I had a lot of medicine bottles I’ve recently emptied.  I used the lids to make knobs for the stove.  I had some leftover chalkboard spray paint from another project, so I used that to paint the lids, then I used a metallic sharpie to write on them.  Steven drilled holes for me.  Then he figured this would also need reinforcement, so he used more blind slats inside the box where the knobs would go.  This meant he had to use his drill to make holes in the box for the knobs.  For the knobs to spin, they needed washers or nuts or something behind them, and Steven didn’t have any small enough, so that did require another trip to Lowe’s for a 99-cent bag of thingamajigs.

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I saw on Pinterest that several people used CDs for burners on their homemade stoves.  I thought that was brilliant, so Steven dug up some unused CDs for me to hot glue on the top.  I didn’t do anything fancy to the top of the stove, so it’s not terribly impressive with the obvious line across the top, but I’m okay with that.  It’s just a little play stove, and Alex doesn’t care.

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I’m quite pleased with the finished result, and Alex thinks it’s pretty fun, too.

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Of course, the best part about it is getting to climb inside.

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This was a lot of fun to make, and I love that it was so inexpensive.  The total cost was under $3.

Two

3 Oct

Our handsome little Matthew Alexander turned two recently.  Unlike his first birthday, I didn’t go all out with a theme or decor or a color scheme.  I didn’t really do anything besides make one of his favorite meals, bake a cake, and buy him presents.  I think if he were a girl, he might someday look back at the pictures and wonder why I didn’t have a color-coordinated candy bar and decorated water bottles, not to mention practically everyone we know in attendance.  But  he’s a boy, and I suspect he won’t care in the slightest.  And that’s assuming he ever goes back and looks at the pictures.

Score one for boys being easier!   Granted, we haven’t tried potty training yet, so I may eat those words in the future.

We didn’t even invite anyone other than my parents, who drove in from Texas to celebrate with us.  And dinner was nothing more than homemade macaroni and cheese, peas, and carrots.  Humble, for sure.  But I had a very happy boy, as he got to eat a favorite meal with some of his favorite people in the world.  What more could a little boy ask for?

Well, maybe a tricycle.

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And getting to ride facing forward in the car for the first time.

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And a super-awesome playset for the backyard, complete with assembly by Grandpa and Daddy.

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(They weren’t able to get it done, but Steven has since gotten the playset several steps closer to finished.)

Homemade cake with a bad icing job made Alex quite happy.  He’s such a big boy that he’s now able to blow out candles.  He got practice ahead of time at church with his new job.  He’s now the unofficial candle-blower-outer.  He takes his job very seriously and scans the sanctuary for every lit candle in the place.  Apparently, getting to blow out candles is a Big Deal when you’re two.

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His favorite gift of all, though?  Helium balloons.  Steven brought them home while Alex was napping, and you’d have thought the kid hit the jackpot when he woke up and found them downstairs.  Open presents?  Why?!  There are balloons, people!

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Once the balloons lost their helium, his new toys became interesting.  Bob the Tomato goes everywhere with us now, and Alex shows off his new bubble mower to any neighbor he sees.  He even showed it off to the dogs next door.  Because dogs care about these things, you know.

Life is good when you’re two.

Rainbow Rice

10 Sep

I wanted to make a new activity for the toddler.  He has piles and piles of toys, yet all he wants to do is color at his craft table and tear my house apart.  Pulling things out of cabinets and drawers is utter fascination.  Then there’s the action of putting stuff into other stuff.

Toys?  Pshaw.  What does he care?  He turns 2 next week, and we really didn’t even look much at toys for his birthday gifts.  Or even books.  I find myself having to read the same Veggie Tales book over and over and over that I have fantasies of throwing it in the garbage can.  So he’s getting a stuffed animal, a matching game, and a tricycle.  And of course, crayons.  My word, the boy loves crayons.

So, that leads back to my desire to come up with a new activity for him.  Perusing Pinterest a few weeks ago brought up the idea of rainbow rice.  That’s nothing more than rice colored with food coloring, then given to a child to play with.  Cheap and easy.

I started with a inexpensive bag of white rice.  I measured 2 cups of rice into 4 loaf pans.  (That’s 2 cups per pan for 8 cups total.)  I added several drops of food coloring to each pan, plus 1 tsp. of vinegar.  Stirred it all up to get the color nicely mixed in and all the rice coated.  Then I stuck the pans in a 200-degree (F) oven for about 30 minutes to dry it all out.

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Next, I went on a search in the house for a large container with a lid.  I discovered a plastic bin full of bank statements from 1999 and figured those could be shredded and tossed, so I dumped them out on the guest bed and commandeered the bin for another, more interesting purpose.

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I added some tubs from Alex’s Box of Trash (a bin full of old containers, mayo jars full of rice or beads or water or some other thing to shake and make noise, milk jugs, etc.) and some dollar-store measuring scoops.  Then I let the little man go at it.

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Alex got busy scooping and sifting and having a great time with the rice.  (And if you’re wondering why my kid is shirtless, it’s because he has started to freak out if he gets any food on his shirt, which means it must come off right now or there will be a meltdown, people!  Nevermind that this wouldn’t be an issue if he’d stop ripping off his bibs during meals.  So, the shirt gets removed, and Mommy is too tired to go upstairs and get another one from his drawer.)

This activity was a big win with the toddler.  It was a losing proposition for the floor, though.  Thank God, we have a whole lot of tile, rather than carpet.  And I have a stick vac.  I nearly lost my mind trying to clean my tile before I bought that thing!

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The bad thing is, rainbow rice cannot compete with a bag of flour while I’m cooking.  I set Alex up in the kitchen yesterday with his bin, hoping that he’d happily play with that while I cooked.  He was good until I turned on my electric mixer (too exciting!), and then I got out a bag of flour, which looked like the Most Exciting Thing Ever.  That turned into a full-on tantrum when I became Mean Mommy and wouldn’t let him play in flour.  I have my mess limit, after all.

Summer Recap

30 Aug

While it hasn’t been a terribly busy summer, it has been eventful.

We took an awesome family trip to Vail, CO.
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Alex received a craft table and chairs from his grandparents.  Coloring is now Alex’s favorite activity.  I’ve loved it, too, once we worked past his desire to color all the furniture, the windows, and the TV.  (Thank God for washable crayons!)

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Alex has been having a blast with his little pool in the backyard.

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Alex met his cousins for the first time.

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I set Alex up in the bathtub with shaving cream mixed with food coloring and let him go at it.

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My long-suffering cats have been hugged and pretend fed by Alex.  Doogie usually runs away, but he got hugged by Alex a couple of weeks ago when he was frozen in place, puking.  Insult to injury.  Alex saw an opening to hug a cat, and he took it.  Poor Doogie.  That’s okay.  He’s enjoyed playing Lord of the Dogs with the new craft table.

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And finally, we’ve survived a bout with scarlet fever, regular strep, a stomach bug (me), and a very nasty mystery illness that resulted in high fever followed by a blistered, oozing rash.  That last one took down both Alex and my husband.  It’s been a not-fun couple of weeks around here.  Hoping for better health come fall.

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Vacation

9 Aug

We packed up the family, baby’s antibiotics (*sigh*), and seemingly half our household goods and headed to Vail, CO for a family vacation.  Instead of doing their usual 3 weeks in Vail, my parents opted for 3 condos for 1 week (they have a timeshare there) so that my sister’s family and my family could all go on holiday together.

It was wonderful.

While Steven loves his job, he was ready for a break.  And even though I still had to make some meals and do laundry and attempt to keep chaos and clutter from drowning us in our condo, it wasn’t anywhere near the same as being at home with a 4-bedroom, 2-story home to clean.  So yes, it was very much a break for me, too.  Sometimes when Alex took his afternoon nap, I read a book.  Bliss!

I don’t think I mentioned this before, but my sister’s family, who has lived in London for the past 7 years, moved back to Texas this summer.  Alex got to meet his cousins for the very first time in June when he and I went home for a wedding.  He adores his 4 beautiful cousins, who adore him right back.  So a week spent with them in Vail?  He was in heaven.   Those girls doted on him and all vied for his affections, and he ate it right up.  We often went swimming with the girls in the evenings.

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In the past when we’ve vacationed in Vail, Steven and I were childless.  So we went spelunking (on a tour), whitewater rafting, hiking.  With a toddler, things were very different.  Sometimes we’d head into town just so Alex could ride the bus.  He thought the resort’s shuttle bus and the in-town bus were the most fun things ever.  I guess when every other ride you’ve ever taken has involved being strapped into a carseat and riding backwards, the freedom of a bus ride is exciting.  Who knew that making a 22-month-old kid happy could be such fun?  Oh, how life has changed!

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We did buy gondola tickets and ride up and down the mountain.  That wound up being a whole-family activity.  Alex was quite nervous about the gondola at first, but then he got comfortable and loved it.  Even better, he was with his grandparents and cousins!

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Steven spent a morning hiking, I got to visit a fun little bookstore (and bought a new cookbook to add to my other 50 or so cookbooks), we ate out a few times, took Alex to a children’s garden and various playgrounds in Vail, and just generally had a nice time being away from home and in the beauty of the mountains.  We are so blessed to have opportunities like this.

But it’s always nice to come home.  I missed my cats like crazy.

Oh, and if anyone wants to know a great way to keep a toddler entertained in a hotel room, just blow up a bunch of balloons and toss them into his pack-n-play.  This seriously kept Alex happy for an entire hour one day!  And he wanted to do it every day, never tiring of his makeshift ball/balloon pit.

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Days of Duck Ponds and Bubbles

14 May

Spring has hit with all its glory, and we’re spending time outside more and more frequently.  Alex has taken to bringing my shoes to me and attempting to mash them onto my feet.  It’s his way of saying he wants to go out.  I’m loving our little town in Oklahoma for its outdoor beauty and opportunities.  We walk the Pathfinder, a trail that goes through town.  We visit the duck pond to feed the ducks and geese.  We spend time in our backyard and the field beyond.

I have days that being the mom of a toddler wears me out.  It’s easy to feel inadequate.  My child was born to older parents, and he has a mother with chronic migraine and an autoimmune disorder.  To say that I’m tired is an understatement.  And often I have the doubts that plague modern mothers: Am I teaching him enough?  Is he properly stimulated?  Is he doing what other kids his age are doing?  Why doesn’t he have more teeth?!  (That last one might be unique to me.)

But somehow, when we’re outdoors, I’m unaware of these concerns.  Instead, I’m entranced watching my child experience the world around him.  Seeing his delight as he tosses bread, and ducks swim up to eat it.  Blowing bubbles for him to chase, as he giggles with the sheer joy of it.  Tossing maple seeds so he can see them twirling back down to the ground, then watching him try to make them spin, too.

He is busy, always busy.  He grabs his bucket, which I’ve conveniently taught him to fill with weeds, and he wanders the yard, picking dandelions to place inside.  Sometimes he brings them directly to me, grinning with the praise  he receives for picking the little yellow flowers.  He finds sticks and wanders the yard, waving them about, as if conducting a symphony that only he can hear.  He bobs his head a little, then his whole body follows, as he dances spontaneously to the music in his head.

This is the stuff of childhood.  These are the days that will be seared in my mind to become precious memories in the future.  Because I know that someday, the world will cease to be new to him.  It won’t be a big deal to see a duck eat a piece of bread.  Bubbles will not be worthy of chasing.  And he may stop noticing the seeds and sticks and dandelions all around him.  But I hope the music he hears, the song in his heart, will never truly change, and he’ll still want to dance for the sheer joy of it.

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