Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving Crafts and Traditions

Thanksgiving is coming up next week, and it's a wonderful holiday.  With the December Dilemma around the corner, I like to make a big deal about Thanksgiving.  As an American it's a wonderful story about the founding of our country, and about overcoming the long shot odds.

Both of my girls got to participate in craft projects this holiday season.  EG did her project at school, which I absolutely love.  It's simple, easy to do, and a 2-year old is perfect at being able to do the project and keep their hand print nice.

I could totally see doing this, and them making it into a nice photo frame to put a Thanksgiving portrait in.  My family always used to do family photos over Thanksgiving. At my cousin Lezlie's house we would all gather up the stairs, and my dad would take the photo.  It's nice to have those photos through the years, and it would be cool to do a photo frame with the kiddos prints to hold them.

Yes, I know, EG's face isn't looking too good.  She keeps picking at her boo-boos. Moving right along...

Ocho's project was done at her school too.  Okay,fine, at her Mommy and me class. But still, it's also something you could do at home.  We started with stamping the hand and footprint, then cut them out and made a turkey.  You can get better directions here...

Here it is with just the footprints and the hand prints.  I think it might have turned out more turkey'ish if I had only used one foot, rather than two, or if I had turned them the other way, so the feet come together, rather than apart.

Here she is all done up- with a beak, some eyes and a waddle.  I'm going to put this in Ocho's portfolio, but if you were hosting thanksgiving you could also have your child make different ones for each person, attach them to toilet paper rolls and use them as name places.  Or as part of the centerpiece.

The other Thanksgiving tradition I'm about to start is to change up how we say we're thankful around the table.  My teacher in Ocho's class gave me this idea, which is to use M&M's.  People pick an M&M or two, and then they have to be thankful for something which corresponds to the color of the candy.

Red- Serendipity (this is probably the hardest)
Blue- People
Green- Things
Yellow- Funny things
Orange- Adventures
Brown- Places

We went around the room and shared one or two each in class.  Here's what I'll share here on my blog.

Red- I'm thankful for the serendipity of my neighbors Joe and Michelle and their kids.  They have shared a lot with us, and I'm thankful that they are there (most of the time, wink wink)

Blue- I'm thankful for my family- which is what people usually say on Thanksgiving.  But this year I'm extra thankful for my Dad, my sister, my in-laws.  Having lost my mom, having them means so much more.

Green- I'm thankful for my scrapbooks and my photos.  I'm thankful that I'm making some sort of order for my kiddos, but also thankful for all the ones my mom kept in a drawer.  It's even more important to have these mementos now.

Yellow- I'm thankful for 2-year-old Amelia Bedelia-like EG.  Yesterday we were learning about baseball with her baseball set.  I told her to swing the bat.  She ran over to the swing hanging from the tree, put her bat on it, and swung it.  Love that girlie!

Orange- I'm thankful for our camping trip when my mom died.  As I mentioned earlier, I had to be somewhere, and I'm glad I was there.

Brown- I'm thankful for EG's school, Growing Garden.  It's a safe, warm, loving environment that she's been growing-up in for over two-years now.

What about you?  What are you thankful for?  Care to take a virtual M&M?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Camping Part 1

This past Labor Day we took a great risk and went for a great adventure as a family.  We went to our favorite camping spot in Big Sur- Limekiln State Park.  A beach site with a mountain atmosphere, we were  interrupted due to the death of my mom.

However, I thought I would write a bit about the trip, and culminate in some tips and tricks for camping with toddlers and babies.  First, part 1: a general overview of the trip.  Then, Part 2: tips and tricks and things to think about.

First things first-Choosing a camping spot is half the battle.  I recommend that you choose a place you or your friends have been to before.  Nothing is worse than walking into a totally new situation with no idea what's happening.   Things that we think are important- running water and showers, flushing toilets, more than one thing to do in the campground.  Additionally, I don't recommend going more than 5-6 hours from home, and more than 1-2 hours from the nearest town/city with amenities.

Once you get at the campground, you have to set-up.

We are big fans of packing and organizing in large tubs.  They make keeping things bug, bear and critter free much easier.  They also make it easier for larger groups to work together to enjoy camping.

On this trip we had two other families- one with a 2 year old and a baby, another with an almost 3 year old.  We did joint dinners, but decided that everyone would do their own snacks and lunch.  In hindsight, I would have done joint snacks and lunch.  Everyone brought goldfish, pouches, etc.  We had a lot of doubling-up.

The tubs also make it easy to know what's for what meal, and what belongs to each family.

We are also fans of organizing your camping spots together- decide on a community table, a community kitchen and a community fire/fun area.  You go camping not only to get away, but also to enjoy the company of friends.

Camp chairs are totally critical- and thanks to the Goldmans for Ocho's lovely sweatshirt- perfect for the trip!

When setting up camp, I recommend thinking about where the fire/sound will be coming from in realtion to the kiddos.  For us it made the most sense to put the car between the kiddos and the campfire.  The other tents were on the other side of the community table, but not a spot we were likely to be hanging out later at night.

We own a great tent- we had Ocho inside the main tent with us, bundled and sleeping in her car seat.  That worked totally well.  I thought I took some photos of inside the tent, but I guess not.  We had EG sleep in her own little tent outside of the main tent, but under the rain fly.  I realize as I write this that this seems harsh and mean, but the reality is that she needs her own space, and her little KidCo Peapod, does the trick.  She napped in it each day, and then slept in it each night.  It has it's own mattress, and it's a totally great little tent for her.

I don't think I've discussed the crazy drama that took place as we were supposed to be leaving- because if you've seen other pictures of our family, you might remember that we don't have a white car- we have a black Tahoe.  On the day before we're set to leave, Working Dad realizes that there's a problem with his transmission.  Between that and the Tuesday decision to outlaw fires in camp, we had a rough time getting going.

No worries- EG figured out how to get us there....

One of the best things that we did was bring along a bunch of spots for the baby to safely hang out.  Here she is on her bouncer down at the beach.  We had a great time at the beach on Saturday morning- watching dolphins and whales.

It struck me as really tragic that I was having such a good night and a great day when my Dad was discovering my mom.  But I've come to realize that I had to be doing something, and whatever it was I was doing that day will be indelibly preserved in my mind. So it's nice that we were having such a lovely time, because it really was nice.

In this picture you can also see the little sunshade tent that we brought along.  Since this is such a rocky beach we weren't able to let Ocho sleep in there, but it was still a great place for the older ones to get out of the sun for a bit.

One of the best things about this campground is the stream that runs by almost all the campgrounds. It's absolutely wonderful, because it lets you sleep in with the natural white noise it creates.  Additionally it creates an interesting play space for the kiddos down by the beach, where the river meets the ocean.  It's the best of all the possible beach scenarios in my opinion.

The other great thing about this campground is that there is a great hiking trail right in camp.  After spending the morning down at the beach we all walked back to camp, had lunch and let the littles take naps.  Then we geared up to go on the hiking trail to the waterfall.

Some of the other kiddos didn't go in a backpack, but walked the whole trail, so it's definitely doable for a 2-3 year old (if you want to walk really slowly!).  It's a great trail with the water running towards it.  I don't have any pictures of EG there this year, which is so sad because I have this one from her first visit at 1 year old...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Why Google sometimes stinks

I love my Google account.  I love Gmail, and all that it does for me with organization, it's almost unlimited storage and of course, the fact that it's free.  But sometimes it pisses me off.  Especially when bad things happen.

Take, for instance, me mourning my mom.  I'm writing what should be a happy, inconsequential e-mail about exchanging recipes with friends.  And what does google do?  It asks me if I want to add my mom.  As if I didn't know who I was e-mailing...  Thanks Google. why yes, I would LOVE to e-mail my mom.

But I can't.  Especially about recipes.  One of the things I will never forgive myself for is how many of my mom's recipes are lost to the wind.  Her tzimmus... gone.  She had this great oven potato dish...gone.  Apparently my sister and I had the exact same tasts, since the only recipes we have are ones my mom shent to both of us- her soup, her leftover beef. 

She was an amazing cook, and because I can't call her, I'm writing this e-mail.  Yup, Google, you've hit it on the head exactly.  I did mean my mom.  I really did.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ocho- 3 months

My darling Ocho- what a time it's been with you so far.  I can't believe you're already 3 months old. It's like you new it was your birthday and you immediately decided to grab your hands, start to giggle and follow me around. 

You kick you feet- find your hands- grab onto toys.  You're still in love with hanging out on your back, and that face of yours has become even more precious...

You are an intensely expressive and happy child.   While you go from happy to not in about 60 seconds flat, your smile and your expressions are totally infectious.  People stop in stores to stare at you and you 'ham it up' for just about everyone you meet.

This sweet expression is one of my favorites- it's like your eyes are so full of love I almost don't know what to do with myself.  

Your sweet little giggle is infectious- and you give it to us all the time.  It's like you know sometimes when momma is sad, or hurting, or could just use a laugh.  You give that smile, that giggle, without hesitation.

It's amazing to be your mother, and I'm so glad you are here with us.  I love you, all of your smiles, your tears, your crys and everything in between.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wrapping Paper project

My mom didn't believe in wrapping paper- at least not in the traditional sense of the word.  She used to give me cards that she hadn't signed, and when she arrived at Ocho's party the week she died she was so proud of presenting the present to me in a bag she had actually bought.  (if you got a gift from my mom, it was likely put in a bag you had already given her once).

So it's sort of funny that I'm a touch obsessed with gift wrapping.  When I say a touch, I have tons of bows and twine and ribbon.  I love the look of a nicely wrapped present- it's quite nice to be a part of my husbands family- since they invest in similar things.

Since EG loves to do all sorts of art projects, I decided to make something special and unique for this year's holiday season- hand made wrapping paper.

 One Sunday morning, while Ocho napped and Daddy took a breather I set us all up.  A long roll of white paper (this one from Ikea, but available at almost all the kiddo and craft stores) taped to the walkway of our front yard.

Washable finger paints (thanks Tanner!) and a place mat for her to put her feet on.  I'd been doing this for a while, but I'd never let her walk on the paper before, it was always just a bit of coloring here and there on the same paper.

Boy did we have fun.  EG is completely into it- totally messy and of course wanted Mommy to help too.  I would pick her up, put her down and help her make nice footprints.  We did at least three sections of paper this long.

 Biggest challenge- to much paint on her feet and slipping. It was a bit difficult to get enough paint to have fun, but not to much to be slippery.  Add that to an occasional gust of wind off the ocean, and it could be a bit of a challenge.

Then of course, it was a touch hard to dry.  Lots of saturated paint, and so I was trying to lay it out in the sun so she could keep painting.  It ended up ripping off the roll, which isn't a bad thing.

As you can see she's wearing a bathing suit top.  I misjudged how messy everything would be and we started out the painting in her regular clothing. While the paint said ultra washable, it still took two washes and a stain remover to get the dress back to normal.  But this bathing suit from Hanna Anderson held up great, is SPF 50 and made clean-up super easy; just let her jump straight on into water play!

If you'll be getting a gift from us, maybe you'll luck into some handmade wrapping paper from EG.  If not, don't think that you're not loved- we just haven't made that much.

This is a great project for anytime of the year, and if you keep with crayons/markers, etc then it would even be easier.  Can't think of a nicer way to involve the kiddos in all the gift giving coming up in a few weeks.

Are you ready of the holidays?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Rock N Brews

My husband loves beer.  He really really loves beer.  So much so that he has three different beers available on tap in the garage, and that doesn't include the bottled varieties.

So when we heard about Rock N' Brews in El Segundo, which claims to be a kid friendly establishment, and also right across the street from an actual brewery, we knew we had to check it out.  It's a bit of a chain, not really, since there aren't to many places, but a bit because there are at least 5 to 10.

It's an interesting place. It's claim to fame is a huge beer list, and a sort of 'rock n roll' vibe.  The one in El Segundo is a huge outdoor pavilion type place, and we went during their version of Octoberfest. 

And it was a great choice.  I took some photos, of course not thinking about a review on my blog, but I thought it would be a great place to talk about.  They have a great climbing space for the kiddos, and a nice kids menu.  The hot dogs are huge, and definitely enough to feed two kiddos off of one plate. 

And they are so friendly.  They have kids cups, let the kids run around like crazy.  It was the first time that EG got to play with Tegu, which was extremely cool.  

If you are into beer, interested in a decent (though not spectacular) dinner, it's a great place to check out!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Remembering Mom

One of the things that I've been doing is trying hard to remind EG about my mom.  I keep asking her who my mom is in pictures, and trying hard to ask her about the gifts my mom gave her.  Somehow I've been trying to keep the memories that EG might already have alive in her mind.  Which I've come to realize might not be the best plan.

Sure, the picture thing is great, but the way that EG is going to know my mother the best is by my stories, memories and the way I talk about her.  Which, right now, is generally way to difficult.  But a few nights ago Working Dad had to go out for dinner, leaving me at home with both girls and an hour or so to kill before the time for dinner really began.

So I took my mom's memory and made it a reality- welcome Monster Toast.

When I was a child my dad would go out of town fairly often.  I don't want to say he was gone a lot, but I know it was a fair amount.  And sometimes my mom was tired of cooking, and tired of us.  So we'd do what was easy- breakfast for dinner.  But when we got to be 7/8/9 or so (I don't know exactly, I'd have to ask my sister) she decided that it was time for things to be more interactive. 

So she invented monster toast for us.  She'd take regular toast from the toaster oven, and she'd mix up a few colors of die with a bit of milk.  And we'd paint faces and whatever we wanted to on the toast.  It was one of my best memories, and my most favorite dinner experiences.  Just like I did with EG- right on the floor of the kitchen (sanitary, I know...)

It was magical.  It was like she could be a part of their lives.  Like it might be possible to go through being a mother myself, without my own mother to have and hold and call and talk to.  To remember the experience, to remember my mother.  My memories blending with her experiences.

My sister used to make us cinnamon toast crunch on these nights too- since we didn't get to eat the sugary cereal she would take toast, cover it with sugar and add some cinnamon.  To delicious- so warm and yummy.  We would play candy land on the kitchen floor too....

I want both EG and Ocho to have these memories. To have the memories of my mom, as well as warm, loving, comforting memories of me.  It's been so rough these past few months.  The days have been hard, the nights fairly sleepless.  But I keep trying to move forward- move towards something...that smile makes it possible some days.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Natural History Musem

There were a lot of posts and things that I had been working on when things got thrown into turmoil and my mom passed away.  So, I've decided to share those things from earlier in the summer anyways in some Throwback Thursday posts.  This is the first installment....

Natural History Museum/Butterfly Pavilion
When the kiddos had the week off from School for summer break a few of the moms decided we would take the trek down to downtown Los Angeles to check out the Natural History Museum's Butterfly Pavilion.  And boy was I glad we did.

You have to sign-up for a specific ticket for the Pavilion, with a time stamp.  They only let in a certain number of people at a time, and it's only for a specific block of time.  We were lucky in that one of our group had a different time slot, but they let her come in with us anyways.

They don't allow strollers in the pavilion, which was a bit of a shock.  With all the stuff we brought for the day (snacks, diapers, etc.) it was a bit hard to just leave it outside.  Luckily I had brought the ergo carrier for Ocho, otherwise I'm not sure what I would have done to carry Ocho through the whole experience and keep a close eye on EG.  They had a security person outside, so our stuff was safe, but it was still a pain to get the tiny children out of car seats and into another thing.

You buy a ticket for the museum and a ticket for the pavilion.

The pavilion is made of lots of little pathways, and is fairly to very child friendly.  It's a bit difficult to follow all the rules (touch nothing, stay on the path, be sort of quiet, etc.) but if you are diligent and you have a child who listens, it's not to hard.

There are lots of little places for the kiddos to sit, and the butterfly's really are everywhere.

Our gang of kiddos was just the right size.  Enough kids that they kept each other occupied, but not to many that we had to wrangle them every which way.

They ranged in age from 21 months to 2.5 years, but it was good for everyone.  Both the boys and the girls enjoyed the butterfly's, and the eggs.

The butterfly's are really close to the pathways, so it's really easy for them to really see the butterfly's. They even landed on one or two of the kids at least a few times, which was really amazing to see.

Once we had our time in the pavilion (30minutes) we went upstairs to level 2 and explored the Discovery Center. This was perfect for our rambunctious kids.  They had all sorts of fossils you could touch and play with, as well as magnifying glasses and microscopes.  It was bright, airy and an enjoyable time for everyone.

Best part for the kids- these movable chairs/building blocks. Totally fun for them to roll around the hall.  Very musemey....

Face to face encounters with animals was fun- some of them bronze statues, like the turtle below, and others actual taxidermy.  I was surprised that none of the kids seem scared of the taxidermy animals, because they can be sort of overwhelming and scary.

We also walked around some of the panoramas with the other animals.  That was a nice empty hall for the kiddos to run around and spy the different animals. 

We also ended up eating lunch at the restaurant, which was delicious. They have a good kids meal with a hot dog and applesauce for about $5.  That was really nice.  I wish I had a picture of it.  It was a touch crowded, and they didn't have a ton of high chairs. Fair warning- EG fell off the adult chair, so be careful!

Overall, a good experience.  I don't know if I would have made the trek if the pavilion wouldn't have been open.  The exhibits by themselves didn't do that much for EG.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Rosh Chodesh Classes

Starting tonight is the JCC Rosh Chodesh womens' class series. This series focuses on relationships. 

The first class is tonight, and I'll be there if anyone wants to come and check it out with me.

Last year's classes were well put together, thought out and really enjoyable for me.  Each night I would come home from class eager to share whatever insights I'd had with my husband.  It was a lateish night (class ends around 9pm) but totally worth it. 

This year, I'll be interested to see if it's a good class for a solidly married woman.

The class takes place at 7:30pm at the Manhattan Torah Center, 1003 Sepulveda Blcd (right by Baskin Robbins)

The class is supposed to discuss the root of love and marriage in Jewish thought.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sleep...or that elusive event that doesn't happen...

Well Mommas and Daddy- you survived.  The saddest part about Fall- the time change that Fall's back- also known as "They were waking up at 5am, now it's 4am- WTF."

Did that happen to you this weekend?  Did you wake up on Sunday only to realize that it wasn't even 6am, but it was 5am?

Well, here's to sleep training....

I had started a post a few days ago with a happy letter to the swaddle.  It started to intone my joy and love of the swaddle, who I was going to credit for my happy 7 hours of sleep that I finally got from my adorable Ocho.

And then it didn't work.  It worked for only one night, and then quit on me.  Another example of how the only thing you have to rely on with sleep and with children is constant change.

So, I'm stepping back.  Going back to the basics of sleep training, and I thought I would share our plan with you- in case some of you also need to rely on a plan in hopes of ever sleeping again.  (PS- sleep training doesn't have to mean Cry-it-out.  There are LOTS of ways to 'train' and even if you aren't doing anything, you are.  It's the same way you've trained your child to understand that going in the car means a carseat, etc.  Everything is a type of 'training' if you will....)

I want to preface all of this with the thought that everyone needs to do what's right for their family.  Until EG was 3 months old that was co-sleeping for us.  Yup, right in my bed.  Every family needs to discuss and decide what will work for them, and then make attempts at doing that.  And yes, your family includes your husband, child, other children and yourself.  It likely does not include your mother-in-law, sister, or brother.  But, who knows who lives in your house... With that in mind, here's the plan.

1. COMMIT:  Children can sense your weaknesses.  They know when you aren't committed to the process.  And no matter what process you have decided to go with- commit to it fully.  For at least a week.  I recommend starting on a Thursday- since things usually get worse before they get better it allows for only one work day before you have a few days to get through the nights.

2. SLEEP ASSOCIATIONS:  If you search online for sleep training one of the things you'll hear over and over again is sleep association.  That your child associates something with sleep is very likely.  The usual culprits are nursing (ding ding in this house) and walking/falling asleep on mommy/daddy.  These are wonderful things we do for our children.  They are nice and natural and totally find if you want to continue doing them.  It's when you don't want to do them anymore that they become negative sleep associations, rather than just an association.  So you have to create new associations.  One of the best ways to do that is to create a routine.  And stick to it over anything else.  Yes, this means that you need to be in your house, doing your routine at whatever time is bedtime.  For us, it's 7pm.  We nurse, do bath, get PJs, nurse again, then read a story and sing a song.  Then it's lights out and in her crib.  No, it's not magic the first time you do it, but give it a week or two, and then see what happens.

3. NIGHT TIME NURSING: This one is probably the most controversial to discuss, and it's also a really delicate concept.  For us, I want to make sure that my daughter needs to eat, and that she's not just eating because she's been eating before.  How do we know if she's hungry?  Mostly by how she eats when we let her eat.  If it's 10pm and she's nursing like a champ, then falls asleep contentedly, then she was likely hungry.  If she nibbles then falls asleep on the nipple, then still fusses when you put her down, likely a sleep association.  It's totally a tricky situation, but it can make or break you at 3am.  It's also hard because they could be reverse-cycling, which means eating at night rather than during the day.  This usually happens with a kiddo in daycare, and when they get really distracted at around 4 months, but it can also happen if you continue to feed each night.  It's important to make sure you really feed during the day to ensure this isn't happening.

So we've started swaddling her, have refined the routine with two kiddos, and have committed to not feeding her the moment she wakes up.  Currently Working Dad gets up with her and spends at least 20 minutes putting her back to sleep.  If that's a total failure, he gets me up and we see how she eats.  As long as she's eating, we'll keep nursing, but I'm hopeful that will change.

How's sleep going for you?  Do you have a plan?
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