Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Flashlight Hide and Seek

This game is a fun evening activity for when we are trying to stretch Mercedes until bedtime, or an anytime game if we play it in the bathroom or closet.

Supplies: A dark room
                basket
                10 balls

"Hide" the balls (scatter them around) in a dark room. Give your child a flashlight and let them find the balls and collect them in their basket. This is also a good "learning to count to 10" game.



Saturday, February 25, 2012

Finger Paint Prints

This is definitely a project we will do over and over again. Mercedes had so much fun she didn't want to stop!

Supplies: washable paint
                cookie sheet
                paper

Let your child finger paint on a cookie sheet. Use different shapes of paper and press them on the cookie sheet. Remove and let dry. Paste or tape to a bigger piece of paper to make a collage.




My daughter's beautiful works of art.


Borax Crystal Snowflake


Making a shiny, glittery snowflake was our very last wintery project for the season. Also my way of celebrating that it is almost spring. =-)

Supplies: 2 cups water
                1/3 cup borax
                pipe cleaner
                pencil
                string
                glass cup or jar

Instructions: Boil water. Pour in glass jar. Add borax and mix. The solution will not fully dissolve. Shape your pipe cleaner into a snowflake or whatever shape you want. Attach one end of the string to the pipe cleaner and the other end to the pencil. Put pipecleaner in the water with the pencil at the top of your jar or cup. Let it soak in the borax water for about 12 hours. Let it dry.



We did it in the morning so we could watch it all day, then I took the snowflake out to dry overnight so Mercedes could play with it the next morning. I wash her hands whenever she is done playing with her snowflake since it is made of borax.


It turned out so pretty, we are definitely making more for Christmas decorations next year! I'm sure it would have looked more snowflake-like if we'd used a white pipe cleaner, but Mercedes wanted a blue one so a blue one was what she got. =-)


Instructions from: http://deliacreates.blogspot.com/2011/01/snow-and-ice-activities-for-kids-part_11.html

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mess-Free Painting

This project is great for a day when you just don't need another mess to clean up.

Supplies: tape
                zip-lock bag
                paint
                q-tip (optional)

Instructions: squeeze paint into the zip-lock bag and tape it to the table. Let your child squish it, spread it and write on it with fingers or a q-tip.


Valentine's Day Cards

This year I helped Mercedes make Valentine's Day cards for her Gramma and Grandpa. She loved doing the projects and we talked about Gramma and Grandpa the whole time and about how much they would love the cards and how excited they were going to be when they saw them. I think it's important to teach Mercedes about giving things to other people, especially when it's something she's made herself, is proud of and has invested time in.


Hand prints and feet prints for Gramma with a sweet note


The outside of Grandpa's card we stamped toilet paper roll hearts all over


The inside we made hand prints with a heart in the middle. We did this by putting a heart sticker on the palm of Mercedes' hand, painting her hand, taking the sticker off and then stamping her hand to the page.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

How Chamomile Tea Saved My Life (Or At Least My Sanity)

My daughter has been the queen of sleep issues since birth. There are several reasons for this. 1) Every ounce of her little personality screams "LIFE IS AMAZING, I MUST BE AWAKE EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY TO ENJOY IT!!!" 2) For the first 6 months of her life she was having stomach aches from the dairy products I was eating but I didn't know it. 3) I hold the ever so unpopular opinion that no baby should EVER be left alone to cry for ANY amount of time, for ANY reason or under ANY circumstance (I know most of you reading this disagree with me and that's okay).

For months and months every single night of my life I spent more time trying to get my daughter to fall back to sleep than I spent sleeping. She'd either wake up every 45 minutes all night long so I was constantly leaning over the bed to soothe her back to sleep (when she wasn't co-sleeping she slept in a toddler bed next to ours) or she'd wake up wide awake at 2 in the morning and spend anywhere from 2-4 hours rolling around in our bed wanting to play. I spent hours and hours researching on the internet, reading books and seeking doctors' and other moms' advice about different ways to get babies to sleep better and tried absolutely EVERYTHING...except the popular cry-it-out method which I refuse to try no matter how sleep deprived I become.

I found myself 6 months pregnant with a 17 month old who wouldn't sleep. I was miserable. At this point I realized I'd exhausted my resources about baby sleep solutions and needed to try something else. I decided to just research sleep remedies in general instead of focusing specifically on baby sleep remedies. I came across a bunch of articles that talked about drinking chamomile tea before bed to help soothe and relax you. It sounded natural and safe to me, so I researched if chamomile tea was safe for babies to drink. I found several websites (links posted below) that said not only is chamomile tea a safe and mild sedative that can be used to help calm and relax babies, toddlers and children, but it also soothes teething pain and gas pain and can even be used to treat colic in tiny babies. I decided to give it a try.

I mixed a teaspoon of honey with 8 oz of tea and offered it to Mercedes with her bedtime snack that night. She drank maybe 1-2 oz. Magically, she slept through the night! 8 hours straight, for the first time in her life. I thought it might be a fluke so I tried it again the next night, and the next, and the next...she went from getting 7 hours total of interrupted sleep (constant night wakings or being awake for 2-4 hours in the middle of the night) to sleeping 10-11 hours straight through the night. It's been about 6 weeks since we've incorporated chamomile tea into our bedtime routine, and with the exception of a few very rough teething nights (8 teeth popping through all at once...ouch!) Mercedes consistently sleeps 9-11 hours a night. If she wakes up, she wakes up groggy and will almost always put herself back to sleep, or ask to cuddle me and fall asleep in less than 5 minutes. Both our lives are happier now that neither of us are sleep deprived.

I would not recommend this for a baby under 11 or 12 months. There is a slight chance that babies could have an allergy to chamomile flowers (this is common for people who have seasonal allergies to things like ragweed) and have a reaction. Also there are reasons why small babies NEED to wake up several times a night and God made them that way....their sleep cycles are naturally shorter than adults , they need to eat during the night, they need to sleep lighter to reduce the risk of SIDS, etc. so in my opinion feeding a small baby chamomile tea would not be wise. But once a baby is maturing into a toddler if they are still having sleep issues, especially if those issues are due to a high strung personality, teething pain or gas pain, chamomile tea is a safe, natural and effective remedy.

Note: We have also made chamomile tea popsicles for teething nights...huge success!

I know some of you are shaking your heads as you read this, thinking I could have saved myself from the whole 17 months of no sleep thing if I'd just done what most doctors, books and parents are recommending these days, which is the cry-it-out method. And I want to say that I am incredibly proud of myself for never resorting to that. In my opinion, the cry-it-out method is the easiest, fastest, and most convenient way to get a baby to sleep through the night, but it is NEVER the best thing for a baby. I love knowing that my daughter sleeps through the night not because I ignored her cries for so many nights in a row that she doesn't bother asking for me anymore, and not because I forced her to "self-soothe" before she was ready, but because she feels safe, secure and loved, and because she knows that I will always be there for her when she needs me. Every night of the first 17 months of her life was a challenge. And every night was worth it knowing that I did the best thing for my baby.

 I also want to add that my amazing husband has been 100% supportive of every method I've used to try to get Mercedes to sleep better, and has never complained about the co-sleeping or the many, many nights where he's resorted to sleeping on the couch so that me and Mercedes could sleep better in our big bed. I'm so thankful for what a great daddy he is. Being a mommy is so much easier with his support.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or medical professional, just a mom doing research and through experience finding out what works best for my kids. And maybe helping out a few other parents along the way! If you are nervous or have doubts about feeding your baby chamomile tea by all means please speak with your doctor or do further research!

Resources I found helpful:
 http://www.holistic-medicine-md.com/chamomile-tea.html
http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/herbs-for-kids-feature
http://www.buzzle.com/articles/chamomile-tea-for-babies.html
http://www.naturalfamilyonline.com/go/index.php/59/natural-treatment-for-childs-stress-and-pain
http://www.whattoexpect.com/toddler-health/alternative-medicine.aspx

Friday, February 17, 2012

Homemade Window Clings

Mercedes LOVES window clings, so when I saw these on Pinterest I had to give them a try. This project is super easy and fun and they turned out great! They stick to windows better than the store bought ones, and they are really pretty.

Supplies: white school glue
                liquid dish soap
                food coloring
                paper with page protector
                shape templates

Instructions: On paper, use templates to draw desired shapes. Slip paper in page protecter. Mix a couple Tbsp of glue with 3-4 drops of liquid dish soap. Add food coloring. Paint or spoon a thick layer of glue onto page protecter to fill in the shapes. It's fun to mix the colors and swirl them around with a toothpick. Let dry. This takes at least 24 hours. If mixture runs past the border of the shapes you can use a pen and the template to re-draw the desired shape directly onto the window clings and cut them out with scissors. Stick to a clean window.


Supplies


Drying


Completely dry after about 36 hours




Baby Belly Painting

One evening when my husband was home to supervise, I asked Mercedes to paint a picture for the baby on my belly. It was such a beautiful way to let her be involved in my pregnancy and help get her excited for her new baby sister to become a part of our family. <3


My toddler's gift to her unborn sister...so precious! <3

Salt Painting

Salt painting was so much fun and the results were beautiful! Mercedes and I both had a blast.

Supplies: Salt
                glue
                paper
                food coloring
                water
                paintbrush

Instructions: paint, spread or squeeze glue onto a piece of paper. Sprinkle salt onto wet glue and shake off any extra salt from paper. We did this on a cookie sheet to avoid extra clean up. Mix food coloring and water and paint the salt with it. You don't have to wait for the glue to dry before painting. Once salt is painted, set aside to dry. This takes an hour or two but it's fun to watch as the salt crystallizes and the colors turn bright.






Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Homemade Bouncy Balls

This ended up as more of a science experiment than an art project and didn't really turn out like I expected. The balls didn't bounce as well as a normal bouncy ball and they never fully hardened, but it was fun to do and Mercedes had a great time playing with the goopy balls as they dried.

Supplies: Borax (found in the laundry detergent section of the store)
                cornstarch
                white school glue
                warm water
                food coloring
                measuring spoons
                spoons to stir mixtures
                2 small plastic containers
                pen and tape
                zip lock bag
                food coloring (optional)

Instructions: Label one cup "borax solution" and the other cup "ball mixture". Poor 2 Tbsp warm water and 1/2 tsp borax powder into cup labeled "borax solution". Stir the mixture to dissolve the borax. Add food coloring if desired.

Poor 1 Tbsp glue into cup labeled "ball mixture". Add 1/2 tsp of the borax solution that you just made and 1 Tbsp cornstarch. Allow the ingredients to interact with each other on their own for 10-15 seconds and then stir them together to fully mix. Once mixture is impossible to stir with a spoon, take it out of the cup and start molding it into a ball with your hands.

The ball will start out sticky and messy, but will solidify as you knead it. Once the ball is less sticky, go ahead and bounce it!

Store the ball in a ziplock bag when you are done playing with it.

Avoid contact with eyes and mouth. Wash your hands and work area when you are finished.






I Spy Sticker Book

My daughter LOVES stickers, and her favorite sticker activity is sticking them all over her face and clothes. While I encourage her creativity and let her decorate herself as much as her little heart desires, sometimes she gets really pretty (and really expensive) stickers in the mail from her Gramma and other admirerers that I know she'll want to keep more permanently. For these special stickers, we created an I Spy book.

Supplies: Paper with plastic page protecters
                stickers
                binder

Instructions: Let your child decorate an entire page top to bottom, front to back with their favorite stickers. Collect the pages in a binder. Play I Spy by asking your child to find different stickers on each page.


Food Painting

Food painting is a great way to add a little creativity to snack time!

Supplies: Snack (we used graham crackers, mini marshmallows and gerber banana puffs, but you could use any number of foods...animal crackers, bread, saltines, etc.)
                milk
                food coloring
                paintbrush

Instructions: Mix milk and food coloring in small bowls and let your child paint their favorite snack!
         

Monday, February 13, 2012

Colored Ice Cubes

This project is awesome because not only does Mercedes get to play with ice cubes which she LOVES but it's also pretty...and messy. The perfect combination. =-)

Supplies: ice cube tray
                water
                food coloring
                A few clear containers filled with water

Instructions: Fill ice cube trays with water and mix with food coloring. Freeze. Fill 2 or 3 clear containers with water and let your child drop the ice cubes in the water and watch the colors blend together as the cubes melt. We did this in the bathtub but it would also be a great summer project to do outside on the porch!



Shaving Cream Bathtub Painting

This project is a super fun, cheap and easy way to keep my daughter entertained and to give her a chance to be artistic and creative.

Supplies: shaving cream
                food coloring

Instructions: mix a few drops of food coloring with shaving cream in a plastic container. Stick your kid in the tub and tell them to make the bathtub beautiful! Mercedes likes to decorate herself too. But don't worry, even if they dye their hair with the food colored shaving cream it's only temporary...it washes out in a couple days. ;-)

Window Painting

One thing I never want to be guilty of is limiting my daughter's ability to learn. I want to give her every opportunity to stimulate her brain by introducing her to new things, by playing fun and educational games and yes, by letting her get her little hands dirty. Okay, hands, feet, clothes, hair, whatever. Kids learn with ALL their 5 senses so why not take advantage of that and give them a chance to learn learn learn? Even if they (or you or your house) get a little messy in the process. Here is the first of many projects that we've been doing to keep her little mind and body active.

Supplies: Washable Paint
                Clear dishwasher liquid

Instructions: Mix paint and dishwasher liquid together. I used about 1/4 dishwasher liquid to 3/4 paint. Find a window that needs some color and let your kids have fun! I gave Mercedes a paint brush but she quickly decided her hands were better for painting with. Avoid contact with eyes because that dish soap stuff can sting! Windows should wash easily with a paper towel and a little water or window cleaner.


Mercedes' window masterpiece.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Confessions of a Stay At Home Mom

Five years ago, as a sophomore in college, if someone would have told me that I would one day be a stay at home mom I would have laughed in their face. I had big dreams for myself. Huge dreams. I wanted to make a difference in people's lives. I wanted to be a social worker, and rescue kids from abusive homes. Or a teacher, and touch the lives of thousands of students. Or a missionary, and maybe even one day run my own orphanage overseas. I wanted a life of adventure, risk and danger. I wanted challenges and to be put in life threatening situations. But God had a very different plan for me. He called me to something harder. Something even more challenging. At least for me. He called me to something that involved giving up my dreams. Something that involved selflessness and sacrifices. He called me to make myself vulnerable, willing to love someone so much that I hurt when they hurt. He called me to risk being isolated and lonely. And to make someone else's needs, comforts and happiness more important than my own. He called me to be a stay at home mom.

I admit I did not accept this calling enthusiastically. Even though I loved my daughter more than life the second she was born and I never would have been able to place her in anyone else's care so I could go to work every day, adjusting to the hidden life of a stay at home mom was hard. After being a full time college student, then a missionary in Haiti, then a preschool teacher, as a stay at home mom I constantly struggled with a feeling of worthlessness and shame, a feeling that I was wasting my life away and that I was a burden to my husband who was financially supporting me. The first few months of my daughter's life I was lonely, claustrophobic and depressed.

My daughter changed my heart. Falling more deeply in love with her all the time, I started to realize that she was worth changing my life for. With every smile, every giggle, every hug and every kiss, every time I held her in my arms or cuddled her to sleep, I realized that being the best mom I could for her, loving her with all my heart  and giving her the best life I could possibly give her was more important to God than any of the plans I had made for myself.

 God has called me to be the best wife and mom I can possibly be. To love my husband and my daughter unconditionally 100% of the time. And to raise my daughter to love God and love people. I want to give her every opportunity to learn and grow and I want to make the most of every single day that I spend with her.

I created this blog for several reasons. 1) To document all the fun activities, games, projects and special moments that I share with my daughter. Because I know that every day that passes I will never get back again. 2) So that my family and friends who live far away or for whatever reason are not able to be involved in my daughter's life can still get a tiny taste of what a beautiful little blessing and joy she is. And 3) To be an encouragement and inspiration to other moms out there who may be stuck in a rut, who are not sure how to make the most of their time with their children, who may be struggling with loneliness and depression, who count down the hours and minutes until their husbands get home from work every night...I hope to share new and exciting ideas about ways to make each day special for you and your precious children. I pray this blog makes a difference in your life.