Thursday, November 15, 2012

Homemade Happy Meal

My five year old has been bugging me to make homemade kids’ meals for the past week or so. I think it’s because we never buy kids’ meals at the fast food joints – it’s much cheaper for me to just get the 4 piece nuggets and value fry – not to mention I don’t have to worry about them getting some crappy cheap toy. Today I finally had the time to get everything prepared, so we had chicken nugget kids’ meals!

IMG_2641We invited some friends over for lunch after kindergarten and got to work.

I printed out templates for the french fry boxes from this website. The template had two boxes on each page, which was perfect because we did one for french fries, and one for chicken nuggets. I pulled out the crayons and stickers and let the kids decorate their boxes (before they were folded and taped – I figured it would be easier that way).

For the bags we used brown lunch bags and the kids stickered and colored those as well. Decorating their paper goods may have been their favorite part.


While the kids were decorating, I got busy making lunch. I cut a bunch of Russet potatoes into shoestring fries (by hand – you could also use a fancy kitchen gadget). I rinsed them in hot water and IMG_2639dried them off before putting them in the oven. Supposedly that makes them crispier, but you probably have to not use so much oil. Oops.

Chicken nuggets are easy – I cut some chicken breasts into bite sized cube, doused them in some scrambled eggs, and tossed them in a baggie full of flour and seasoned salt. Shake and bake? Then I fried them in a little oil in a frying pan on the stove. you could use a deep fryer, or you could even do them baked styled in the oven (how I usually do them, but since I was doing fries too I figured the stove would be easier).

Once the food was cooked, we loaded up the fry boxes and the bags, I served up some ketchup, we doled out juice boxes, and the kids felt like they were at their favorite fast food joint! IMG_2650


I meant to let the kids pick out some toys or crayons or something for their kids meals. Or books, like Chik-fil-A. Next time.

This may become a tradition (once a month?) because it really was a lot of fun, and it made lunch time that much more enjoyable!

What’s your favorite lunch time tradition?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It’s a Zoo Out There

Or in there. Where? The playroom.

So we tamed the animals and put them in a real zoo.


Well, a zoo made of 1x2’s and dowels.*

Inspired by this $160 zoo that holds way more stuffed animals than I would ever allow our children to own. And ours cost about $20. That’s approximately $140 savings. And Mr Einstein and I got to work on a project together. Which we love doing. Okay, I’ll be honest, which we’re learning to love doing together.

How do you tame the zoo at your house? Do your kids love stuffed animals as much as mine do? Do you have a stuffed animal quota?

* sorry for the lame picture. This picture was showing the aftermath of General Conference in April. I’ll replace it with a better picture of the zoo when I get a chance.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I'm Going Camping

My siblings and I played a word game when we were young called "I'm going camping". The "moderator" would start out by saying "I'm going camping, and I'm bringing ...." and then say something that fit into a category they had chosen. For example, sometimes we went through the letters of the alphabet, sometimes it was big things, or red things, or food item, or things that start with one of your initials, etc. Then the other players would take turns saying, "I'm going camping and I am bringing ... (fill in the blank). Can I come?" If the think you guessed was in the moderator's category, you could come. If not, the answer was no. Kind of like a convoluted game of 20 questions.

On your turn, rather than "bringing something" you could offer up a guess of what the category was. If you guessed correctly, you became the next moderator. It was a great rainy day or in-the-car game.

My kids aren't quite old enough for that game (although V is getting pretty good at abstract thinking games - for example, "Who Am I?/What am I thinking of?" games are some of his favorite).

That doesn't stop us from "camping" on rainy days.

This morning we built a tent in the living room using all the extra sheets.

It took up almost the whole living room.

The three playmates in the "entrance" of the tent.

I left a convenient "mommy-spy" spot by the railing where I can monitor all the action inside the tent. A few seconds after I snapped this picture, these two little guys got into it... I ended up having to remove them from the tent. Ah, children....

Funny thing about awesome tents... They only played in it for about 10 minutes... Then they were off to the bunk bed with their "lassos" (work out bands they had taped loops in).

Gotta love preschoolers.

What do you do with your preschoolers on rainy days?

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

On a Golden Springtime

On a day like today who could stay inside?

Food always tastes better at a picnic!

Where are you eating lunch today? Where is your favorite picnic spot? How are you enjoying spring?

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pancake Art


I bought a turkey baster at the local thrift store the other day for $.75 so I could make pancake letters. Tonight, V decided he would make us pancake shapes for dinner. He asked everyone what their favorite shape was, and then he proceeded to prepare the pancake batter DSCN6391(with help). He actually did really well “reading” the directions, and by the last ingredient (Eggs) he knew to look in the right column for the amount. I was really impressed with his ability to read a chart and sound out some of the words on the package!

I let him do a few shapes (a triangle, and a star, and a heart) and then I took over and tried my hand at some fancy pancake shapes. I had way too much fun, but the kids got a kick out of it. Our little friend who is staying with us (and is 3 months younger than J) told us his favorite shape for pancakes was “circle” and even when I made airplane, train, and dinosaur pancakes he still opted for a “circle” pancake. I’m not sure he realized what a novelty it is to have pancake art for dinner!



Do you play with your food? Do you let your kids help in the kitchen? What is your favorite “breakfast for dinner”? What is your favorite pancake shape?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Preparing for Sleep Training–or Sleep Training for Newborns

(Note: this post was originally written in April 2009, and is kind of a follow-up to another post I wrote about sleep. Since most “experts” will tell you that it isn’t really possible to sleep train an infant younger than 6 weeks, but I believe that any kind of training starts in the womb – or at least when the baby is born – these are my thoughts on how to “prepare” your baby for sleep training. Just like we have to teach our children how to use the potty, we need to teach them how to sleep. Sure our bodies need sleep, but how many of us really listen to our bodies anyway? We need to teach ourselves and our children how to listen to their bodies and take care of them. Here’s how we taught our #2 how to have good sleep habits)

I think J is finally figuring out the whole day/night thing. She still has her evening "fussy time" as I call it, but yesterday it happened earlier in the day - which means bedtime ends up being earlier! (and I'm hoping it will do the same today!). She's starting to be more alert when she's awake, and sleep less easily during the day (i.e., she doesn't guaranteed fall asleep in the car on the way somewhere. She may nod off, but will wake right back up when we get wherever we're going. Last night she fell asleep at 8:30, stirred around 9:30 (i.e., woke up, sort of) - I was able to soothe her back to sleep without picking her up! She slept until 6am, with a feeding around 2am.

I'm hoping this will continue tonight. So far things are looking okay!
Now, I'm no expert on newborn sleep, but I've been reading a lot about sleep, and looking specifically ways to teach your newborn how to sleep. Unfortunately, because babies aren't usually developed enough to figure out the sleeping thing until after 6 weeks, most sleep books say just that - "Your baby will probably not learn how to sleep well until after 6 weeks, so don't worry about it now." Okay, so they don't say it just like that, but basically, that's what all of them are saying. Most books on sleep training don't even give any practical advice until your baby is around 4 months old. So I have been scouring every bit of reading material for things to do to help your newborn sleep well - because I believe that you can at least do something. Most sources had one or two good ideas, but none of them had enough to give you an arsenal of ways to get your baby to sleep. I think hitting them with everything you've got is usually the best way to go.
First, before I continue - three very important points to convince yourself of. Do whatever it takes to really REALLY believe these three things, and you will save yourself a lot of frustration and tears:
  • Newborn babies are not really sleep-trainable until six weeks after their due date (now, before you get all discouraged, READ ON!)
  • There are some things you can do to try to help your newborn's sleep organization mature a little faster - just don't hang all your hope on it.
  • The term sleeping through the night, for a newborn (i.e. younger than 4 months) is 4-5 hours.
Okay, now that you've got that through your head, here are the things to do to help your newborn sleep through the night earlier (while these things may not necessarily work right now, be assured that they will eventually help - and if you get used to doing them now, you may avoid problems later):
  • Turn on the lights/open the blinds during the day (when the sun is shining), and when the sun goes down, keep the lights low (or off) where your baby is in the house. It's really tempting to keep the lights on in the evenings when you wish your baby would go to sleep, but she's not, so you're up doing things like the dishes, watching a movie, playing on the computer, etc while you wait for baby to decide to go to sleep. I'm not saying doing these things are bad - just try doing them without the lights on (okay, doing the dishes will probably be kind of hard). This will help baby adjust faster to light=daytime, dark=nighttime. Remember, baby just game from 24hr darkness, so the more you can do this, the faster baby will figure out the light/dark thing. I think this is the most effective idea I found.
  • Keep stimulating activities to a minimum after "bedtime." You get to decide what "bedtime" is - Since I would eventually like J to be going to be around 9pm, that is what I call "bedtime." The most surprising thing I found out about stimulating activities is that eye contact is a stimulating activity for babies! Making eye contact with a baby causes their pupils to dilate, raises their heart rate, and all that other crazy stuff. So, no eye contact with baby after the time you want them to fall asleep.
  • Put your baby in his/her bed to sleep. This idea was from The No-Cry Sleep Solution. I didn't have any problem with this, but her experience convinced me that this is pretty important - she always let her baby sleep in her arms during the day, and so her babies wouldn't sleep in their cribs at night since they just wanted to sleep in her arms. So, the best way to get baby to sleep in his/her bed at night is to...? You guessed it - let him/her sleep in his/her bed! So during the day, for naps, make sure your newborn naps in his/her bed.
  • Try to soothe without picking them up after you've laid them down to sleep. It makes sense. Just let them lay in the crib/cosleeper/bassinet/whatever and try to get them to go back to sleep without picking them up. It worked last night for me, I'll let you know if it keeps working.
So, I think for newborns, those are the key ideas. There's not much else you can do for your newborn (and remember, J is only 3 weeks old, so by newborn I mean REALLY newborn). After 6 weeks, basically any sleep book will have good advice for helping your baby develop good sleep habits. Most people don't give advice for how to help your newborn sleep through the night starting from day 1, so this is the list of what I have found that is really newborn sleep advice.
Oh yes, and one more piece of advice - make sure your husband is as convinced as you are of the first three facts (mostly the one that says pretty much no matter what, you can't expect your newborn to sleep through the night until after 6 weeks).
Note: I would add that you need to remember that you should cuddle your baby ALL THE TIME when he/she is awake! Just not at sleep time. Sleep time = sleep time, not cuddle time. I have found that doing a LOT of cuddling when baby is sleepy but not asleep is very effective to getting baby to calm down and go right to sleep. Just try to resist the urge to always be holding your sleeping baby.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

(Note: This post was originally written on our private family blog on April 14, 2009. J was a few weeks old, and V was about 2 years old. I thought I would edit it for a this blog and post it because I really love this book and will still swear by it, and I wanted to share some of these things with others. The best thing about this book is that Dr. Weissbluth doesn’t endorse any one method of “sleep training” – the book mostly talks about why sleep is important, and the science behind sleep, and then talks about basically every possible sleep problem, and potential solutions. He seems to be very flexible and he seems to acknowledge that kids all have different temperaments, and what works with one might not work with another. These are the kinds of parenting books I like the most – ones that teach principles rather than methods. Although there are plenty of methods in here, too, but you will have the understanding of the principles to make up your own methods, or make your own adjustments that will work for your family. I wrote another post about sleep that I am going to publish on this blog as well.)

A friend of mine read this book – Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child -  to teach her baby good sleep habits. She wrote a very positive review about it on her blog, and so I recommended it to a friend of mine whose 3 month old is having a hard time sleeping longer than 2 hours at a time at night.

Then I thought, hey, maybe I'll check it out from the library and read it myself. It turned out to be a very good investment... I guess the fact that I didn't pay anything makes it a very good investment - gotta love the library.
Well, I read it at first with the idea that it would help me make sure J developed good sleeping habits. V was already sleeping 10+ hours at night and taking a good 2-3 hour nap during the day. I learned a LOT about sleep and the need for sleep and how our bodies develop sleep habits. I discovered that when I delay V's afternoon nap for any reason, it makes him overtired and that explained the reason he was waking up throwing a tantrum after late naps. Dr. Weissbluth says that he is confused and disoriented which causes him to be emotional and inconsolable after a late nap. The reason I was ever postponing V's nap was mostly that I was just waiting for him to become so tired that he would crash on his own. V has always been really good about soothing himself to sleep at night, but has never been very good at soothing himself to sleep for a nap. That was never a problem when he was a little younger, because it was fairly easy to get him to fall asleep by rocking or whatever. But now that he's a little older, he fights and fights and fights sleep. Well, Dr. Weissbluth recommends doing the "silent return to sleep." It works for little toddlers who won't go to bed at night, and I discovered that it works for little toddlers who won't stay in their bed to take a nap during the day. Basically it works like this - when your little sneaker gets out of his bed at night, you pick him/her up without a word, without even looking at their faces, and put them gently back into their beds without a word. You don't scold them for the behavior, you don't talk AT ALL. This clues them in to the fact that night time (or nap time) is not "play with mommy/daddy" time - it's go to sleep time. Now, I am of the mind that if your kid gets out of bed because they've had a nightmare, it's totally okay to soothe them and love them and talk to them, but I think Dr. Weissbluth would say the same thing. The "silent return to sleep" is just for the curious little toddler who won't stay in his/her bed. Like V - he just likes to get out to play.
Yesterday, V and I laid down for his nap, I read him a book, sang him a song, and said "Have a nice nap." Then left his room. I heard him get up and start playing with his toys, so I went back in, picked him up, and gently put him right back in his bed. The second time he got out of his bed, I went in to get him, found that he was poopy, changed the diaper and put him back in bed without any interaction and without acknowledging him at all. I went in a third time. On the fourth time, I thought he was out of bed, but he was just laying there quietly in his bed. So, not to have him mistake good behavior for unacceptable behavior, I gave him a quick kiss, softly said "Thanks for staying in your bed," and left. A few minutes later, he was fast asleep. It was amazing.
Now, fast forward to today's naptime (I just put V down about 10 minutes ago). I read him a few books, sang a few songs, and said "Have a nice nap." He got out of bed once, trying to get some more books. While I want V to have a desire to read, I also want him to be a well rested child (this has become even more important to me after reading this book). So I gently put him back in his bed. He sat awake in his bed for a few minutes, talking to himself, or singing to himself. Just about two minutes ago I heard some noise, I thought was him playing with toys in his room. I cracked the door to check, and there he was, eyes closed (still sort of awake), snuggled in his bed with his blanket. He put himself to sleep even faster today than he did yesterday! It was amazing.
Anyway, so Dr. Weissbluth's book has done two things 1.) taught me a LOT about sleep, and how important naps are for babies and young children, 2.) helped me teach V how to stay in his bed at nap time - GONE are the days I spend an hour (or more!) laying with a crabby V while he fights sleep. I hope I can keep consistent, so this will stick. And I'm much more convinced that it is SO important to allow V a nap at 1 or 2 pm every day. Too bad Church interferes with that on Sundays. Maybe making the weekdays more regular will help with Sundays. I'll let you know!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Raising Readers

Our kids love books. They will sit for hours "reading" books. And this little girl - sneaks out of bed every night to get some books from their bookshelf:

It's kind of messy, but it is also one of our favorite spots in the whole house.

Do your kids love books? How did they develop that love? Do you read to them? Do you have books where they can easily pick their own books (and put them away)?

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Simple Pleasures

We were walking out of our local club warehouse store with the kiddos. J got the receipt and looked frantically for the smiley face on it.

The receipt-checker lady pointed it out on the back and all was well.

Contrary to a few weeks ago on a similar shopping trip where the receipt-checker forgot to draw a smiley face and the world ended.

Seriously! How hard is it to just draw a smiley face on a receipt!

But then, I guess I could teach my kids that it's okay not to have what you want all the time...

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sometimes the TV is the best choice

Not all the time, and really, not very often.

But today is an unusual day. Today is the day my almost 3 year old found a pill box that belonged to a friend who was living with us until a few weeks ago.

The pill box had 3 clorazapan pills. After J found it, it had 1. I called poison control right away. Well, after I got through panicking. We don't ever have prescription pills and if we do they are hidden away and out of reach (and locked up).

Poison control wasn't too worried - they told me what to keep an eye out for, and said they would check back in an hour. They have actually called twice.

We're pretty sure she is going to be fine, but we're watching her very carefully just to make sure.

YouTube Video

And until then, miss drugged-cranky-pants is snuggling with me while we watch Pingu.

What are your sick-baby fallbacks? Do you watch too much tv when the kids are sick?

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Building Blocks... er, cups

You can have all the toys in the world, and the dishes in the kitchen are still the most entertaining.

Apparently this one below is the "Eiffel tower of winona." I have no clue where he gets this stuff.

But hey, imagination, motor skills, stacking, he's even learning a little 1-1 correspondence here stacking the cups with their openings together.

Even J wanted to get in on the action, even though her creations weren't quite as sophisticated.

What do your kids play with in the kitchen? Do you let your kids play with dishes? Are there "off limits" cupboards, and then some that are free-for-all?

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Play Food

V has been feeding me play "food" and bringing it to me in a cardboard "magic box".

This is ice cream. Mint maybe? Or cotton candy?

Donuts and "square apples" - I am unfamiliar with that type of apple. Now Braeburn, Gala, Fuji - I know those. But square apples are completely new to me.

Pretend play is really important for kids. It is linked to the development of a lot of cognitive skills in children, including self-regulation (which any mother of a tantrum-throwing two-year-old would agree is a very important skill).

A number of researchers have focused on the relationship of play to specific cognitive strategies such as self-regulation, narrative recall, divergent problem solving, and rule understanding. Following Vygotsky (1978), who theorized that young children use private speech in play to regulate their behavior, eventually transforming this private speech into self-regulation through internal thought, Krafft and Berk (1998) compared the private speech of preschool children in Montessori and traditional play-oriented programs and found that more private speech occurred in the play-oriented setting, especially during pretend play with fantasy characters

How often do your kids engage in pretend play? Do you ever join in?

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I grew up on the Suzuki Method of teaching (teaching music, sure, but in general, just teaching).

Shinichi Suzuki's method of teaching children how to play the violin was a "mother tongue" approach - children learn how to play the violin by hearing/seeing the violin played, and then mimicking what they hear.

Another important part of his philosophy is "talent education" - Dr Suzuki believed that you aren't just born with musical talent, but that musical talent could be taught and that teaching children how to play music would make them better citizens.

I am in the process of observing some Suzuki violin teachers so we can get V taking lessons. We bought him a violin for Christmas but it is slightly too big so we are going to exchange it. In the meantime, we have been listening to a lot of the "Twinkles".

This morning while V was at preschool, J asked to listen to "Tahka-Tahka-tah-ka" (also known as "mississippi hot dog", "huckleberry hello", "everybody down up" among others) - which is "Twinkle A" in the Suzuki books.

Here she is enjoying her Twinkle A music...

Have you heard of the Suzuki Method? Do your children take music lessons? What benefits have you seen from music lessons with your children?

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sam I Am

I don't know about your kids, but one of mine is a picky eater. The pickiest eater I have ever known. If he hasn't eaten it before and loved it, he will have a meltdown at the thought of even putting a "foreign" substance in his mouth.

Meltdown. Complete meltdown. I need to get it on tape one of these days.

My awesome parents give my children books for birthdays and Christmas (thanks, mom and dad!) and this book was added to our collection this Christmas.

So far it hasn't had a major life-changing effect on V's feelings toward new food, but today I think I had a minor breakthrough.

I fell in love with starfish when I was in Puerto Rico with my husband (yum yum fresh fruit) and the other day when I saw some at the grocery store at an affordable cost I had to buy one. We tried it for lunch today. The kids got a kick out of the fact that the slices looked like stars, and J was more than happy to devour her share of star fruit - but the cool star shapes didn't fool V. "I don't like it!!!" waaaaaah!!!

I had used the "Remember green eggs and ham, how the guy tried them and then he liked them?" before, but it wasn't working this time.

Then I said, "You can't say you don't like it, because you haven't tried it."

Of course, that kid is too smart for me... "Then I don't want any."

Definitely more accurate than not liking it, but I still wanted him to try it. I told him it was kind of like an apple (which still didn't sway him) and that he could have some fruit snacks if he would try the star fruit (that did the trick).

He told me after he tried it that it tasted like a pear. My bad.

And of course, J loved it and wanted more.

I'd say we did pretty well.

How do you get your kids to try new foods? Are some of your kids picky eaters, while others would eat anything?

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Play and Sort

I am a big fan of sorting.

And a little obsessive.

Of course, like any good obsessive mother, I have to make sure the kids are obsessive, too. And then, there is the fact that sorting is good for kids cognitive development. You don't need fancy games or worksheets or projects to teach kids about sorting. In fact, all you need to be slightly neurotic about the playroom being organized, and then you will have an opportunity every day to sort with your kids!

I made these toy bags for Christmas one year when V was getting too old for just baby toys and I felt like the toys were taking over the family room. There was an animal one, too (with an elephant on it!) but our animal collection quickly outgrew the size of the bag.

I also realized that the bags are only really good for toys that are better to play with in a set (train tracks, blocks, dishes) where these plastic drawers work better for "categories" of toys (robots/people/machines, building blocks, animals, etc). If the kids are looking for a lion, they just pull out the animal drawer and get a lion, instead of dumping out the whole bag.

And when it's time for clean up? Sorting practice!

I made signs from pictures I took of the kids' actual toys for the front of each drawer - to make it a little more personal, and to help them with sorting. I was thinking of printing them in color, but I think the black and white is less distracting. I am pretty happy with our system for now, but I want to build a toy shelf/cupboard that I can lock up (when the kids don't clean up their toys or when we don't want them out all over the place). However, I think I will keep a lot of our current system when I build the cupboard.

How do you organize toys? Do you have to convince yourself that having all those little toys everywhere is actually good for your kids? How do you get your kids to clean up their toys? Do you play games with them?

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