Thursday, June 28, 2012

Birthday Chain

Mercedes is turning 2 years old at the end of next month. We've been talking about her birthday for weeks, but it's hard for an almost 2 year old to grasp the concept of the number of days it is until their birthday. Calendars are kind of abstract at her age. So we made a birthday chain (my mom did this for my siblings and I when we were growing up). We cut strips of construction paper and made one link for each day leading up to her birthday (33 days to go!). Every morning she tears off one link. She gets to watch the chain get shorter and shorter. When the links are all gone, that means it's her birthday!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Muffin Tin Crayons

Mercedes had so many broken crayons that we decided it was time to recycle them by melting them together and making big, colorful, beautiful crayons.

We started by painting vegetable oil onto aluminum foil muffin liners (you could also use muffin tins).

Then we sorted out the good crayons from the broken ones.

Once we found all of our broken crayons, we tore the paper off of them
 and put them in the muffin liners.


 We preheated the oven to 250 degrees.

Once the crayons were in the oven we checked them every 5 minutes.


 They ended up taking about 20 minutes to melt.


We let them cool completely.


And then tested them out. Success!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Patriotic Play-Doh

Today Mercedes and I celebrated the fact that the 4th of July is coming soon by making red, white and blue stars and flags with play-doh.





Saturday, June 23, 2012

Sidewalk Paint Popsicles

We used our sidewalk paint recipe (8 oz water, about 2 heaping tablespoons cornstarch and a few drops of food coloring) and froze it to make homemade popsicles. The cornstarch sank to the bottom of the popsicles in the freezer but even so I think the results were perfect. The colors were bold and beautiful and when they dried they still had the same chalky look that sidewalk chalk and sidewalk paint do. We will definitely be doing this over and over again this summer!



Learning with Gummy Bears

This morning we practiced color sorting, counting and shapes...with gummy bears!


 Sorting colors.


Counting bears...1 green, 2 yellow, 3 white, 4 orange, 5 red.


 Making shapes...triangle.


 Circle.


 Square.


 Rectangle.


 Oval.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Toothpick Fireworks

I absolutely love the 4th of July. So even though it's still a couple weeks away, I couldn't resist doing this project with Mercedes today. We used toothpicks dipped in paint to make fireworks! We made our fireworks red, white and blue to be as patriotic as possible. =-)



Idea from:http://www.toddlerapproved.com/2011/06/toothpick-fireworks.html

Monday, June 18, 2012

Father's Day

I'd like to take a few moments to brag on my husband.

He is by far the best husband I ever could have imagined for myself. He loves me and takes such good care of me. He works hard for our family so I get to stay home with our girls. He's kind and sensitive to my feelings and my needs. He makes me laugh all the time. In the almost 3 years we've been married he's never raised his voice at me. He's patient with my crazy pregnant and postpartum hormonal mood swings. He always tries his hardest to make sure I am happy. He supports my parenting style and the techniques I use and whatever decisions I make for our girls. He loves to spend time with me and misses me when we don't get enough alone time and date nights. He is constantly striving to be a better spiritual leader for our family. And did I mention he gives me a back rub every single night? =-) He is my best friend and I couldn't ask for a better husband.
In addition to being the perfect husband, he is also the world's best father. He spends every waking moment that he's not at work with one of the two girls. Every day and all day long, Mercedes is constantly talking about daddy and what she's going to do with him when he gets home. And every day after dinner (and all day long on his days off), he and Mercedes have special daddy daughter time, either at the park, at the store playing with toys, at Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead, outside on the patio blowing bubbles or playing with water, swimming, "exploring" outside, cuddling and watching a movie, etc. etc. etc. Then every night he puts her jammies on, brushes her teeth, reads her stories and cuddles her to sleep. After she's asleep, he spends time with Emerald while I get ready for bed. He cuddles her, walks around with her, talks sweetly to her and sings to her. When Emerald cries, he helps me figure out what's wrong with her. On his days off, he goes with me to all of the doctor appointments, WIC appointments, grocery shopping, and any other errand we need to go on, and helps with the two girls.

Seriously. He really does all of that, I'm not making it up. Our family is incredibly blessed to have him in our lives.


I could never show him how much I appreciate him all in the one day a year dedicated to celebrating dads. I wish I could say that I show him how much I appreciate him every day, but since he deserves the best of the best from me every day, most days I fail at that. Still, I think he had a good Father's Day.

Me and the Mercedes (with a little help from Emerald) made him salt dough footprints, a simple and cute keepsake that he will cherish when the girls are older. 1 cup salt, 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup water. Mix and mold into whatever shape you want. Make the footprint. Poke holes at the top with a straw if you want to hang it on the wall. Bake at 200 degrees for 3 hours. Let cool. Paint with washable kids' paint (Mercedes helped me paint hers). We used thin wire to hang them. You could also use ribbon. These turned out super cute. Recipe found at: http://www.theimaginationtree.com/2011/06/salt-dough-footprint-keepsakes.html


We went to Perkin's for breakfast and then church. We spent the afternoon at my parents' house with my 3 brothers, my oldest brother's wife, my sister and her husband, visiting and playing games. We grilled for dinner. Check out my husband's super manly 12 oz. steak!


For dessert we grilled banana boats. Slit the banana in half lengthwise, stuff with your favorite toppings (we used chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, heath bar pieces, butterscotch chips, marshmallows and coconut shavings). Wrap in foil and cook on the grill until the toppings are melted. Serve with ice cream! These were incredibly delicious. Recipe found at: http://lickmyspoon.com/recipes/banana-boats/





I am looking forward to enjoying so many years of watching Ben constantly becoming a better and better daddy for our girls. He is amazing.

Dear Ben: Thank you for being amazing for your family. We love you! I hope you had an incredible 2nd Father's Day!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

When Babies Cry

There is no sound in the world I hate more than my baby's cry. It makes me literally sick to my stomach. Every ounce of my mom instincts scream at me to pick up that baby, immediately, and to make whatever problem she has disappear as quickly as physically possible.

There is an automatic checklist that parents go through in their heads when their baby cries. Is my baby hungry? Does she have a dirty diaper? Is she tired? Too hot? Too cold? Does she simply want to be held? Usually one of those things is the culprit. But what about when it's not? What about when we've tried everything we can think of, and my baby won't stop crying??? Nothing is more nerve wracking to me than when my baby is crying and I can't help her.

When Mercedes was a baby, she went through a phase when she screamed constantly all night long. She'd fall asleep crying, and wake herself up 10-15 minutes later and cry some more. All night long. For 3 months. During the day she wouldn't sleep either. She'd just fuss and fuss and fuss. I took her to the doctor. Her advice was "let her cry it out". I took her to two more doctors. They had the same advice. My mom instincts told me she was hurting. So I kept researching and finally found out that she had a dairy allergy. My poor baby had a terrible stomach ache all day and all night for 3 months and the doctors told me to let her cry in the dark all alone until she was so exhausted that she passed out. It makes me sick to think about it.

Crying is the only way a baby can communicate to us. What kind of parents are we if we choose to ignore our child who is telling us that they need something from us? There are a ton of hidden causes for babies crying that doctors don't talk about and you won't read on a "how to get your baby to stop crying" checklist. Maybe my baby is scared or overwhelmed. There are a million different noises, lights, objects, etc. that babies have to get used to after they are born. Some of them must be terrifying for a tiny baby. Maybe my baby is having growing pains. Remember those? They were TERRIBLY painful for me when I was a kid. But I've never read or heard anyone talk about babies having them. And yet I'm sure they must hurt from growing so fast the first year of their lives. Along those same lines, maybe my baby's muscles are sore. Babies are constantly learning new skills and exercising muscles that they've never used before. They must have terribly sore muscles a lot of the time. Is my baby thirsty? Sure she just nursed 30 minutes ago and shouldn't be hungry for another hour and a half, but maybe her throat is dry and she needs a drink. Or maybe she's on a growth spurt and needs to eat more often. And then there's the hidden food allergies that doctors rarely suggest. Even if you are only breastfeeding, babies can have allergies because of something you are eating that is getting in the breast milk (that was the case with Mercedes...I eliminated all dairy products from my diet for the last 5 months that I breastfed. Even a few bites of something with cheese in it would cause her to scream all night long). The other day I was researching about baby acne since Emerald is breaking out. I read an article which said something to the effect that acne didn't bother babies so parents shouldn't worry about it either. Excuse me? Acne doesn't bother babies? What medical genius came up with that one? When my face was broken out as a teenager it hurt like crazy. And yet when my baby has red, swollen, pussy pimples all over her face she supposidly can't even feel it? Maybe my baby is crying because the acne is hurting her face. Or maybe she's just frustrated because she wants to do something or go somewhere and can't tell me what she wants. My mom told me of a time she couldn't get one of her babies to stop crying. So she took off all his clothes and searched from head to toe...and found out that there was a piece of hair wrapped around one of his toes. Maybe my baby has something like that somewhere hidden on her body. Maybe she has an itch  that is driving her crazy!

Of course since babies can't come right out and say what's bothering them and there is no physical way of telling if most of the problems I just mentioned are really the cause of a baby's crying, what in the world are we suppose to do when our babies cry and we don't know what's wrong? My answer: Love them through it. The rule I've given myself: Never make my baby cry alone. No matter how frustrating and heartbreaking it is that she's crying. No matter how long she cries for or what time of day or night it is. No matter if it seems on the outside like everything is fine. When my baby is crying something is wrong. When my baby is crying, she needs me. When my baby is crying I am holding her. Cuddling her. Swaddling her. Dancing to music with her. Singing to her. Praying for her out loud. Giving her a soothing massage. Doing what I can to let her know that I love her, that I'm sorry she's sad or hurting, that she's not alone and that I'm trying to help her. My babies get through their first year or so (before they can tell me what's wrong with actual words) knowing that their voices are heard and respected and that mommy cares about their needs and their feelings. When they cry, they cry knowing that I love them.

My advice when your baby cries:  Never let your baby cry alone. Don't listen to doctors who tell you nothing is wrong (the whole point of a baby's cries are to tell you that something is wrong!). Don't listen to friends or books who tell you to let your baby cry it out (don't get me started on the dangers and stupidity of the "teaching babies to self-soothe" cry-it-out method). When you've tried everything and your baby is still crying, simply love them through it.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Coin Rubbings

Mercedes loves playing with coins so I decided to show her how to do coin rubbings. The "correct" way to do rubbings is to strip the paper off a crayon and rub with the entire crayon, but Mercedes thought that was a weird way to color, so we mostly just put a bunch of coins under a piece of paper and scribbled all over it. =-)


Monday, June 4, 2012

My "Fun List"

I know I'm not the only mom out there who, after having Baby #2, feels guilty because Baby #1 is no longer getting Mommy's attention 100% of the time. At the end of every day, all I can think about is all the times I had to tell Mercedes "we have to wait until Emerald is done nursing" or "not until I change Emerald's diaper" or "I can't right now because I have to take care of Emerald". Then I remember all the times that day that Mercedes refused to give me a hug, ran out of the room crying or hid in her bed under her covers after a temper tantrum. She also watches way more TV these days than I care to admit. At the end of every day, I feel like I've failed her and neglected her. Every day feels like a bad day.

I'm working on remembering the good moments. Focusing on the happy parts of the day. To help, this morning I started writing down every time me and Mercedes did something fun together. Now the day is winding down. I'm about to start cooking dinner and my husband will be home soon. As I review my "Fun List" I realize that, even though there were tempter tantrums, hurt feelings and times Mercedes had to wait 15 minutes for a snack until I finished nursing the baby, there were many, many good moments throughout our day. We spent a lot of time together and we had fun. Today was similar to most of our days, but, with help from my list, I am able to focus on the happy parts of the day instead of only remembering the bad parts. For the first time since I brought my new baby home, I am ending the day feeling happy instead of guilty. Today was a good day.



Sunday, June 3, 2012

Toddler Spa

Yesterday Mercedes was sad and needed to feel a little extra special. And what better way to make a girl feel special than a day at the spa? While Mercedes was eating her after-nap snack, I turned on a movie for her and snuck into the living room to set up her spa treatment area. 





 First I had her lay down on her couch bed for a back, arms and legs lotion massage.

I wrapped her in a cozy blanket, put a pretty bandanna on her head, and let her soak her feet in bubbly baby bath soap water.
 I gave her a warm, wet washcloth for her forehead to help her relax.



Then gave her a sparkle snowflake for her hand (this lasted about 6 seconds before she started picking off the sparkles) =-)


After she'd soaked her feet for a few minutes, I gave her a foot massage with my special smell good sweet pea and lavender lotion, then painted her toenails.


I rubbed her hands with baby oil and painted her fingernails...she picked the colors.

Then I put a pretty bow in her hair and my lip gloss on her lips. I think I succeeded in making her feel super special.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

When Being a Mom is NOT Fun

Confession time: Being a mom is NOT always fun. Many times it's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. Contrary to what this blog suggests, my life does not consist of constant hugs, cuddles, special moments and fun projects and activities all day long with my beautiful and precious daughter. And as much as I appreciate all the encouraging words from my friends and family, I have to admit...I am NOT always a good mom. Sometimes the only way I know how to respond to a problem with my toddler is to leave the room and burst into tears. This morning, my day started at 6:30 and within 2 minutes I was faced with a temper tantrum. How did I respond? By saying "I can't do this" and going back to bed.

My 3 week old is a jewel. She is the world's most perfect baby. Sleeps well, eats well, loves to cuddle, rarely cries. My 22 month old is, as defined by Doctor Sears, "High Needs". Always has been, always will be. She demands constant attention and from birth has constantly been testing me with different problems and extra needs that are not really normal or common for most babies and toddlers. While I have accepted this as part of her personality and learned to adapt with creative parenting techniques, it really doesn't make it any easier to deal with.

Our most recent challenge is adjusting to life with the new baby. I have been doing everything possible to keep her life "normal" and keep her routine the same. This is pretty easy since Baby Emerald sleeps almost all the time. And yet no matter how much love I give to Mercedes and as many fun projects and activities I try to do with her, it almost always ends in disaster...toys being thrown across the room, projects dumped onto the carpet, Mercedes running to her bed to pout. She is almost always angry. When I hug her, she pulls away. When I talk to her she won't give me eye contact. Almost all of my questions get ignored. When I play with her it lasts 5 minutes before a meltdown or a disaster takes place. I am trying to make her life fun and she refuses to let me. It is hard. It is emotionally draining. And more often than I care to admit, I find myself thinking "I can't do this".

Today, in tears, I had some prayer time, begging God to tell me what to do and how to handle this phase in my high needs daughter's life. I grabbed a pen and started scribbling a list. This is what I came up with:

What Mercedes Needs From Me:

Love: I need to love her through this phase just like I loved her through middle of the night screaming, gas and teething pain, car ride tantrums, milk allergies, and every other tough baby phase so far.

Patience: I need to give her unconditional patience and keep calm during even the worst days.

Affection: No matter how much she is hurting my feelings by refusing my love, I need to keep offering her plenty of hugs, kisses and cuddles and telling her how much I love her.

Time: No matter how frustrated I get with her I need to keep spending time with her and trying to help her have special and fun days.

Space: During her angry times I need to step back and give her time to calm down. During her most angry days I need to give her LOTS of space and leave her alone to play by herself instead of trying to do projects or play games that will only provoke more anger (this is probably the hardest for me since when I am not actively involved in her play time I feel like a really terrible mom)

Dwell on the happy moments: Even the worst of days have good, fun moments. I need to focus on the 5 minutes of fun time we have instead of focusing on the tempter tantrum that followed.

Prayer: I need to constantly be praying for her and praying for strength to be able to give her what she needs from me

What Mercedes DOESN'T need from me:

To give up on her.

To be angry with her.

To melt down in front of her.

To become depressed or discouraged.

To focus on the bad moments.

To take her behavior/attitude personally.

How will I accomplish this? Prayer. Lots and lots of prayer. And strength that can only come from God. During every tough phase that my daughter goes through, I need to remember to ask God for supernatural strength and wisdom to help her get through it. And during every tough phase I need to make a "What Mercedes Needs/What Mercedes DOESN'T Need list to help keep me focused.

Also, I need to keep focused on the ultimate goal of being a mom...to raise kids who love God. No matter how tough her phases are, if I can manage to show her God's love through them, I'm doing my job.