Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Why this Dirty Oatmeal Dish Made My Morning

If you're thinking Seriously? Ew. Why would anyone open up a blog post with a photo of a dirty dish?? then, please bear with me! And, um, go ahead and scroll down so you don't have to look at it any more :)

That nearly-finished oatmeal bowl was a very happy sight for me because it wasn't my nearly-finished oatmeal or Calvin's nearly-finished oatmeal... it was Henry's! Henry ate almost a whole bowl of oatmeal for breakfast! Minus the dried blueberries. Not ready for those yet.

Here's why Henry's nearly-finished oatmeal bowl is a big deal. At 17 months old, Henry's diet is still primarily formula and purees. This would be a typical diet for, like, a 6-month-old. Typical kids Henry's age can eat a wide variety of table foods - they can generally eat what the rest of the family eats. Calvin could at that age (although he wouldn't, picky-eater that he is...). I realize that given Henry's medical and developmental history of course he doesn't eat like a typical kid his age. But it is so exciting and such a huge relief to see him make progress!

We've been working with a feeding therapist since April of this year. In the spring, he progressed from plain purees to thicker purees, to being able to eat purees with cracker crumbs sprinkled on top. From there, I tried feeding him more textured foods that were still similar to puree: things like couscous in tomato sauce, rice in thick soup, and oatmeal. But when offered those kinds of foods that had little particles unlike a smooth puree, he kind of panicked and hated it because he just couldn't seem to move those little pieces to the back of his mouth to swallow a bite. His oral motor skills couldn't deal with those textures yet. So I backed off.

And then he had his surgery. 

Immediately following his surgery he took few steps back to really thin purees until he was fully recovered. But since mid-November, he's been making much faster progress! His feeding therapist feels that his breathing difficulties before the surgery were making it uncomfortable for him to eat - totally understandable! - and this was keeping him from developing his oral motor skills. Now, with his airways opened up, he has progressed to thick purees and even pieces of very soft foods. We started with cubes of banana and avocado, which would essentially mush into a puree in his mouth. But this week he was even able to eat small pieces of pasta! Rotini pasta!

So Tuesday morning I went for it with the oatmeal. I was like, Ok, Henry. It's time to try this again. You're gonna do great. You're a much better eater. You ate rotini pasta. You eat guacamole. You can eat oatmeal.

And he did!!! He ate almost a whole bowl of instant blueberry oatmeal - minus the blueberries :)



I realize that oatmeal is not actually a huge deal when it comes to developing oral motor skills... even for Henry. But the oral motor development part is not the only reason I am excited about him eating oatmeal. Here's the other thing...

Oatmeal is big people food.  It's a "table food" as I've heard our docs and therapists and nutritionists call foods that are not specifically for babies. And the more table foods that Henry can eat, the fewer batches of fruit and veggie purees I have to blend up! The fewer jars and squeeze packs of organic baby food I will need to buy! The more foods he can share with the rest of the family! The fewer foods I will have to prepare for a single meal! We can all eat oatmeal for breakfast!! Hallelujah!

So here's to that dirty oatmeal dish. I washed it with pride.

If only all our dirty dishes were that exciting to me! Ha!

What did your kids do this week that made you say "Hooray!" ?

Monday, December 15, 2014

It's Tradition!

One of the most wonderful things about parenting has been making seasons and holidays feel special by starting our own family traditions. I love the ritual of it. I love how traditions make big, broad things feel close and personal. I love how traditions keep us engaged in why certain days or events or seasons are special to us. So I wanted to write about the things we do to make Christmas special for our little family.

We start the season with the story of Christ's birth. 
I've already shared that this is my favorite picture book version of the nativity story. The text comes from scripture, and the illustrations are really touching and lovely to me :)

I just love this little picture of newborn baby Jesus peeking out!

We count down to Christmas.
This year I made our first Christmas Countdown Calendar. This was a way for me to fit in all the big and little things I wanted to share with the boys this Christmas season. Frivolous and fun things like making gingerbread goodies and making holiday crafts, but also acts of service to help us remember that this is a season of giving.

Calvin hands over a toy as a gift for a foster kid at Sleep Train.

We collect Christmas books.
We have lots of Christmas books, but each year each kid gets a new special book for his own special collection (which of course he has to share with his brother :)). Calvin's first one was Christmas Parade, then last year he added Dream Snow and Henry got Christmas Peekaboo. This year, Calvin chose The Dinosaurs' Night Before Christmas because he loves dinosaurs so much! The best thing about this book is the elaborate dinosaur carols at the end including "Hark the Pterodactyls Sing" and "The Allosaurus Chorus!" Henry's book this year is Richard Scarry's The Night Before The Night Before Christmas. (And that is not a typo, that is the title.) Calvin actually picked out Henry's too because Henry thought all the books looked delicious and couldn't decide for himself ;)

We collect Christmas ornaments.
Our Christmas ornaments are special because not only do they make our tree nice and pretty, but they tell something about our lives each year. The boys each get their own every year and James and I get one together. James and I started our collection in 2006 when we were engaged and we have added to it every year since then. Here are our new ones for 2014!

Go Giants!! World Series Champs!! We <3 our home team.

A sweet sleeping raccoon for our sweet Henry and his journey this year to sleeping safe and sound.

This is Buddy the T-Rex from Calvin's current fave show: Dinosaur Train! Buddy even has a train ticket in hand!
I am so obsessed with our ornament collection, I just might give it its own post...

We play Nativity.
Sometimes with a train... because trains. Last year I agonized over finding just the right nativity set for our family. James remembers playing with a plastic nativity set that he had when he was a kid, so we wanted something kid-friendly, but I just wasn't feeling the Little People nativity and I really wanted a set that at least made some effort to be ethnically plausible. Turns out that was a lot to ask, but we settled for this one from Bible Toys. Most of the people in the set still look European, but at least Joseph and one of the magi are a little tan...

In the future, there are other traditions I'd like to start. When the boys are old enough, we will start taking them to an evening church service on Christmas Eve. And starting next year, I'd really like to do an advent wreath with candles. I kinda wish I'd done it this year... oh well. Next year! And when they're older, I would love for them to tell me what things they want to include in our Christmas Countdown.

But enough about the future! It is already amazing to see how much they have grown since last Christmas. Last year, Calvin was really interested in all the animals in our books about the nativity story, but this year he seems to actually get that the story is about a baby being born. It's really touching to see him understand the story on a whole new level. And Henry was just a teeny thing last year! This year he is crawling around, reaching for ornaments on the tree, chewing on the nativity figures... I realize that those things may not sound that great, but for Henry's delayed development, crawling around and selecting toys are a big deal! Henry is also starting to attend to books with more focus and his Christmas Peekaboo book from last year is a big hit with him this year! He sure loves a game of peek-a-boo.

Here's one more tradition: We see Santa!
I seriously hope that one day Calvin and Henry have a collection of Santa photos to rival those two brothers who were featured in Huff Post Parents for their 34 years of Santa pictures together.

Is your family getting into the holiday spirit? What are your favorite holiday traditions?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Snow Dough and Cloud Dough

For day 9 of our Christmas Countdown, I made Calvin some very special (and really really weird) Snow Dough!

Found this on Pinterest and when I saw the ingredients I was like "Whaaa??? Seriously?"

That's right, people. Toilet paper, Ivory soap, and water. (Glitter was my own addition. I used the recipe from this post on Modern Mommyhood.)

You start by tearing the TP up into little bits in a bowl or plastic container. This part is kind of annoying. You need about half a roll, so rip away. The smaller the better, but it was driving me crazy so my pieces weren't that small. That huge piece you can see in the picture was Calvin's contribution. He had even less patience for the ripping part than I did. I ripped it up into smaller pieces after I took the pic.

We used more TP than what you see in the container here. I used about half the roll.

Next you microwave the Ivory soap. I know, right. I told you this is weird. Microwave it for 1-2 minutes. And it must be Ivory soap. Apparently other soaps don't do this crazy thing you're about to see...

Microwaved Ivory soap

It looks foamy, but it is actually papery and you can rip it up just like the toilet paper and add it to your container. When I had ripped up all that I could, there was still a hard piece in the middle that hadn't puffed up, so I put it back into the microwave for another minute.

And it puffed right up again! I ripped that one up and added it to the rest. Then I sprinkled glitter all over it! 

I am sorry about these blurry photos! I must have had too much coffee that day... 

Here's where I got a little lazy and I'd do it differently next time. I just kind of threw everything into the container in layers and then poured the water over it and tried to mix it. The result was that it was hard to incorporate the toilet paper with the soap and glitter and I had to pull apart big chunks of wet toilet paper in order to get a consistent mix. I'd recommend mixing the TP, the weird soap flakes, and the glitter really well while they are all still dry. Then when you add the water I think it will be more even. I only used 1.5 c. water, but the recipe from Modern Mommyhood says she used 2.5 cups. I feel like it was plenty wet and pliable and it felt like if I added more it would have been too liquid. Maybe I had less absorbent toilet paper than she did.

Ok, so all that work and here was our beautiful, slightly blue and slightly sparkly Snow Dough! Here ya go Calvin! Now you get to play with it! 

You wan't me to touch that?

Um. no. Bye bye.

Mo-ommmm... noooooooo....
Or not.

Yet again, mama strikes out with her brilliant idea. #facepalm #everybodysacritic

Well, I made a super cute snowman out of it all by myself thankyouverymuch. Meanwhile, Calvin requested to play with his Cloud Dough instead. 

Fine. Cue the Cloud Dough!

So, Cloud Dough is way easier to make. It's just two ingredients, though you can get fancy by adding food coloring, glitter, or even scented oils. But the basic recipe is just oil + flour. And from what I've read from the collective wisdom of Pinterest, you can use any kind of oil that is liquid at room temp (so, not coconut oil, but pretty much anything else). I opted for canola oil. 

All the recipes I have read for Cloud Dough, like this one from Happy Hooligans use a 1:8 ratio of oil to flour. However, when I was making ours, apparently I got distracted or something because I only used 4 cups of flour and I didn't realize it until we were already playing with the dough. It was plenty fun with our 1:4 mix, so I was like, why use more flour? And I left it as it was. So ours is probably wetter than typical Cloud Dough. 

The oil makes the flour stick together slightly so you can mold it and shape it. Calvin likes to bury little plastic jewels in it and have his dinosaurs dig them out :)

That batch of Cloud Dough has lasted us since August. I keep it in a tupperware container. I'm not sure how long the Snow Dough will last. Anybody know about saving Snow Dough?

Calvin absolutely will not touch the Snow Dough, but he loves the Cloud Dough! Go figure. Maybe if we pretend the dinosaurs are building a snowman... 

Do you wanna build a snowman? :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Oh My God So Tired.

I feel like this blog paints a misleading picture of what an active and energetic mom I might be.

I assure you, I am not. I am kind of lazy and I am always tired.

Monday morning, after the first weekend of our Christmas season and Christmas Countdown, I felt like I had been run over by that holiday train we went to see Sunday night. For real. My entire body ached. Do I regret our busy weekend of Christmas tree cutting, hiking with friends, and holiday train entertainment? Of course not! It was awesome and the kids loved it. (Well, Calvin loved it. Henry is less enthusiastic, but generally happy to be along for the ride.) And I loved it! I love fun and busy weekends with the fam. But Oh. My. God. So. Tired. 

I try to do lots of fun stuff with Calvin and Henry. Day trips and art projects and sensory play and all that. I'm a SAHM and they don't go to daycare or preschool, so it's on me to give them chances for different kinds of learning and experiencing, and I want our life to be more than just a string of doctor appointments and therapy visits. And I love it.

But oh my lawd it is exhausting. I cannot do everything and I do not try. So don't expect your Christmas cards early this year, friends and family. And I'm still sorry I haven't sent thank you notes for the gifts you gave my children. Ever. And don't be surprised if you come over and our sink is full of dirty dishes and our laundry basket is overflowing (because I am drowning in dishes and laundry, people. Drowning, I tell you!). Or Calvin is running around with no pants because he had a potty accident and I just didn't want to take the chance of him peeing in another pair today (drowning in laundry!).

I am definitely not Super Mom 24/7. (Arguably I am not Super Mom ever. Though I like to think we all have our super moments.)

I recently came across this post from ScaryMommy, 37 Reasons I'm Not Embracing The Moment. And when I read it, I was like, This. Is. My. Life. I mean, minus the two older kids and the breastfeeding. But still.

I really do appreciate being a mom and our family life. The big family outings, our special traditions, and many little tiny moments that happen every day. But in between those magic moments... Holy Cow I just want to veg out on the couch and play Candy Crush while binge-watching Pretty Little Liars on Netflix. Which is why I spend precious naptime doing exactly that instead of cleaning or working out or something else productive. (Did I mention I am kind of lazy?) Because those magic moments worth embracing come along with a whole lot of work and patience and dirty diapers, am I right?! 

So don't be fooled. I only post the things I think are worth sharing. Maybe you weren't fooled anyway! After all, some of you see me in real life :)

What about you? Other parents? Fess up. What would you rather be doing when you're not embracing the magic of parenthood? Is it Candy Crush?? I knew it. ;) How do you cope with the tired?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Snowflake Pinstrosity

"Pinstrosity" = Pinterest monstrosity... Usually a handmade item that was inspired by something that looked awesome on Pinterest, but turns out much less than awesome in real life.

Like this snowflake artwork.


I'm not blaming the kids here. I am responsible for those poor torn and tattered snowflakes.

It's called "tape-resist painting." I got the idea from a "pin" I saw from the website Play, Create, Explore. And not only did I think "Hey, I can totally do that with Calvin," I actually thought "Hey, I can totally do that even more awesom-er!

Mmm hmmm. 

My brilliant plan for a more awesom-er tape-resist snowflake was to use my favorite skinny washi tape to make beautiful and delicate snowflakes. Washi tape, in my experience, doesn't have very strong adhesive and I've always appreciated that it's pretty easy to peel off. So I thought it would be great for tape-resist painting. 

I only had one piece of nice, shiny fingerpaint paper left so I made Calvin a beautiful and delicate snowflake with my skinny washi tape on our last piece of shiny fingerpaint paper, and then I made Henry a slightly less beautiful snowflake on printer paper. I wasn't optimistic about peeling the washi tape off of the printer paper. I expected it to be problematic, but I also knew that Henry was probably going to do his share of destroying the paper in his artistic process so I wasn't too worried about it. And I was completely certain that my favorite skinny washi tape would peel off beautifully from Calvin's shiny fingerpaint paper. 

Mmm hmmm. 

After Calvin finished with his big snowflake, he wanted to do more, so I made him another snowflake picture on printer paper. 

So at that point we had 3 snowflake pictures drying. I decided to start peeling the tape off while the paint was still wet because I thought that the longer the tape stayed on the paper the harder it would be to peel off. I didn't think the wet paint would be a problem. 

I started with Henry's, which (as predicted) he had crushed and crunched with his little hands and teeth - yes, teeth. That's just how Henry does art, ok? Next time we'll do yogurt again, or something else that's more edible than fingerpaint ;) Anyway, as I tried to peel the tape off of the printer paper, chunks of the paper were peeling off with the tape (as predicted). Kind of a bummer, and it looked like a pretty bad mess, but I was still looking forward to doing Calvin's because I was still sure that it was going to work out beautifully thanks to my favorite washi tape and the shiny paper.

Henry's masterpiece

As I started peeling the tape off of his big snowflake picture, Calvin came over to watch me. And as chunks of that shiny, fancy fingerprint paper started peeling off along with the washi tape and his beautiful blue, sparkly paint... Calvin saw exactly what was happening and in his precious tiny voice he exclaimed, "Oh no!" 

I felt like a monster. 

I was destroying his snowflake picture. And I didn't stop, either. I went for it and peeled all the tape off and, well, you can see the result.

I mean, you can still tell it's a snowflake...

Only then did I get on the interweb to look for advice on tape-resist art. And only then did I read that it's better to wait for the paint to dry before peeling off the tape. Um, hee hee. Oops. 

So, ok. There was still one more picture that I hadn't yet destroyed at that point, so I left it to dry. Meanwhile, Calvin and I had a conversation about how Mama was sorry she messed up his picture and how sometimes we try things and they don't work out and we can try again. To which Calvin responded with an enthusiastic "Uh-huh!" (meaning yes, let's try again). 

So I racked my brain for another brilliant idea. I didn't have any more fingerpaint paper and I just didn't trust that darn printer paper to work well with the tape. I knew canvas or wood would work, but I didn't have those lying around to use for a little Christmas Countdown art project. I do have a lot of scrapbook paper, though, especially cardstock. And I figured, cardstock is a little hardier than regular paper, and the kind I have is a little bit glossy, so I thought maybe it would do the trick if I followed the advice to let the paint dry. 

I made another beautiful and delicate snowflake for Calvin, this time on a big sheet of white cardstock. Calvin did his thing with the paint and the glitter. (He loved getting to use glitter!) And this time, I hung it up to dry and left it alone until the next day. 

So the following morning, I peeled the tape off of the last printer paper picture, and the one on the cardstock. 

printer paper


Ta-da! Not perfect, but much better, I think. Calvin didn't say "Oh no!" this time :) And now I know, if I ever decide to do tape-resist paintint again... Wait until the paint is dry to peel off the tape, and it's probably best to stick with painter's tape or masking tape. 

Not my first "Pinstrosity" and won't be my last, I'm sure! Poor Calvin! The things he has to put up with from me trying to be all crafty and artsy! #smh

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Countdown: Day 1!

I have such fond memories of last December with Calvin and Henry. Henry was doing pretty well health-wise at that time and Calvin was starting to use sign language and learning new signs as fast as I could teach them. I remember listening to holiday music and playing with the boys in the house that was all decorated for the season. I remember reading lots of Christmas books to them and spending lots of time trying to find just the right Nativity set for Calvin to play with.

With warm fuzzies thinking about Christmas time last year, I'm so excited about this Christmas season. We started decorating the day after Thanksgiving, but we haven't bought our tree yet. This year Calvin and Henry will get their first real Christmas tree! But not 'til this weekend ;)

This year I put together a Christmas Countdown calendar with something special for us to do as a family each day from December 1st until Christmas! There are tons of cute ideas for how to craft up a Christmas Countdown calendar on Pinterest. I decided to do a paper chain where each link is numbered 1-25 and has our special Christmas activity for the day written on it. Although yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, our countdown started today.

I made a list of some ideas of Christmas activities that I wanted to do with the kids. Some were big things like a trip to the zoo to see the reindeer, and some were small things like reading a special Christmas book. Once I had some ideas, I planned out our December calendar and then wrote the events and activities on the strips for the paper chain with the countdown numbers corresponding to the days of December. I decorated each strip of paper with washi tape and put the chain together.

Here's the list:

1. Read the Christmas story.
2. Make a snowflake picture.
3. Read The Gingerbread Baby and bake gingerbread cookies.
4. Watch a Christmas movie.
5. Shop for new Christmas books.
6. Bring home a Christmas tree!
7. Decorate the Christmas tree.
8. Make a Christmas tree picture.
9. Play with snow dough!
10. Donate toys to Toys for Tots.
11. Make a clothing donation.
12. See reindeer at the zoo!
13. Take a photo with Santa!
14. Decorate a "gingerbread" house. (We'll probably use graham crackers.)
15. Make holiday cards for friends.
16. Make a food donation at the library.
17. Bake Christmas cookies.
18. Watch a Christmas movie.
19. Drive around to see neighborhood Christmas lights.
20. Go to a holiday party.
21. See reindeer at the Academy of Sciences.
22. Make beaded candy canes and taste a candy cane!
23. See the holiday lights at the zoo.
24. Leave out cookies for Santa.
25. Merry Christmas!! Read the Christmas story from the Bible.

It's hanging in our living room near the Christmas stockings.

We started our countdown today with #1: Read the Christmas story! We read my favorite picture book of the Christmas story, The Nativity, which tells the story of Jesus' birth through excerpts from the King James Bible with lovely illustrations by Julie Vivas. Although we've already been reading Christmas books since Thanksgiving, I saved this one for today. I just love it. Julie Vivas' illustrations are so heartwarming and I think she really captures the joy of the story without being silly.

I won't post every day of our countdown (yikes, that would be a lot of blogging!), but I'll post a few of them :) Happy December! And Happy Holidays!

What? You don't have a train running through your nativity scene? I'm pretty sure this is historically accurate ;)

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Happy Little Turkey Day

Hope everyone had a very happy Thanksgiving yesterday! We had a great day. We watched the parade with our Krispy Kreme breakfast and after naptime, we headed over to our cousins' house for a family dinner. James fried a turkey like he does every year and, like every year, it was deeeelish!! Though we always miss our far-away East coast family, we had a nice time with our California cousins :) 

So many things to be thankful for, and we try to live each day with gratitude. 

We are laying low this "Black Friday." James is doing some home repair stuff for my grandmother upstairs. The babies are listening to Christmas music in their jammies and playing (Calvin has been climbing and jumping on the couches like a monkey - and is taking a much needed nap at the moment - and Henry is playing with his toys like an angel.) And I am ready to whip out our Christmas decorations!! Let the Christmas season begin! 

Happy Holidays :)