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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Tree

Several years ago a friend of mine posted on her blog about a Thanksgiving tree she'd made. Each day in November she and her family would write something for which they were thankful on a paper leaf and stick it onto the tree. I fell in love with the idea and I knew that I wanted to do something similar when I had kids (though it's not a bad idea for anyone to do whether single, married, childless etc...). There are so many variations of this around the inter webs that you really can't go wrong.

But I wanted to do something that I could do the prep work for one year and then use the pieces year after year. Here is what we ended up with:


Last year I had a family friend from church, who is a carpenter, cut this tree out of plywood. I had intended to use it last November. But, as I was learning at the time, when you have children (or possibly just when you're me) sometimes things that you think will only take you 10 minutes will actually take you a year to get around to (I had this problem before children too so I can't totally blame it on John although he makes for a convenient excuse. ;o) )

This year we stained the tree, Peter installed hooks and I cut out and laminated what seemed like approximately 7,000 leaves, poked holes in them and tied ribbon through the holes. We wrote what we are thankful for on the leaves with dry erase markers so they can be erased and used year after year. If there are any special ones that I'd like to save I can use a permanent marker and put it in a scrapbook.

My goal was to do this each day in November. We got around to it once. (In all fairness we didn't have the tree in working order until about the 15th and then I went out of town on the 21st!) But it's a start! John's still too young to recall any of this so we're having a few practice years!

I have big plans for the tree. I also, in coming years, hope to use it as a resurrection tree leading up to Easter and possibly an advent tree as well.

I'm looking forward to when John will be able to participate more and we don't have to guess what he's most thankful for. Though we did guess for him this year and I'm pretty sure among his top three are his mama, his lovie, and bananas (bananas might be number one but I'm just vain enough to put myself first).

I think this is such a fun way to cultivate thanksgiving and contentment! There are so many things to be thankful for that a leaf for everyday in November wouldn't even begin to cover it!

"But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise." Ps 79:13

Monday, November 28, 2011

Entertainment for Minutes On End

I've been combing through the book Slow and Steady Get Me Ready to get ideas for toddler activities. It's a book of weekly preschool activities for children from birth to age 5. There are 260 activities total. Someone gave me the book when John was very young. I have not by any means followed the program week by week. I've done probably less than a dozen of the activities with John. For the last several weeks, though, I've been following the schedule more closely because he's becoming much more interested in simple preschool activities. I've been researching things to keep us busy and out of trouble!

Today, I was pleasantly surprised to find that some common household objects provided John with minutes of endless entertainment (bearing in mind that 15 minutes to an 18 month old is like an hour or more to the rest of us) and, I'd like to think, an opportunity to develop cognitive and motor skills:

Spice Containers

This activity isn't directly from Slow and Steady but since I've been looking through the book, some concepts from it were in my mind. Just marvel at all the things that these spice containers can teach us (or, at least, can teach you if you are an 18 month old):

  • The containers can demonstrate the concepts of big and little
  • The tops can demonstrate open and closed
  • You can practice fine motor skills by opening and closing the lids and also attempting to screw them on
  • You can match the correct lid to the correct container
  • You can drop small objects inside, also developing motor skills, while discussing what fits and what doesn't
I mean, really, is there even that much to do at Disney World!?

I started writing this post back on the 18th and since then, he's gone back to these several times to play. I love things like this that are 1) economical, 2) simple, and 3) hopefully developing skills and knowledge.

I feel like a year ago I would have been at a loss to come up with something to do with spice containers to entertain a toddler. And now I'm all, "what can't you do with spice containers?!" It takes a special kind of knowledge to see so many possibilities in a spice container. I don't inherently possess such knowledge but I'm getting better! The best person to be around to develop such an appreciation is John because he's not old and sophisticated enough yet to realize that spice containers aren't spectacular. Maybe he'll never get to that point. Instead I hope he keeps his sense of wonder and curiosity about the world!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

18 Months

Sweet John is 18 months today. (And it also happens to be my mom's 29th birthday! Happy Birthday mom!) I thought that development happened rapidly in the first year but it has continued as quickly this year. I'm constantly amazed at the pace at which he picks up new things. There are too many cute things to mention but here are a few that I can think of at the moment:

He answers "no" to almost every question we ask.

"Did you sleep well?"
"No."

"Are you having fun?"
"No."

This is charming because he shakes his head while smiling so sweetly and he doesn't understand the conversation. I imagine "no" might become more frustrating in the future when there's actual defiance behind it.

Handily, I've already taught him what we say to a crying baby. When asked "what do you say when a baby is crying?", he puts his pointer finger to his lips and replies "shhhhhh." This should be useful come spring.

He's added elephant and monkey to his animal sound repertoire. It's so cute!

He continues to add new words and signs to his vocabulary. I'm so glad that we did baby signs because, though he has started saying words now, he has a much broader vocabulary with the signs. They have been hugely helpful over the past 6 months.

I know there are a ton of things I am forgetting. I sometimes wish that I could videotape his whole life so that I'll remember every little precious thing. I guess that's not really practical but here are two videos that Peter took this weekend. One is of him hobbling in his cast. He just started walking on it this past weekend. The other shows him doing his elephant sound. Enjoy!

P.S. As you will see, the cast has not curtailed his ability to climb in the least!



Thursday, November 10, 2011

Update

Pregnancy:

I've heard that two things happen earlier in your second pregnancy: feeling fetal movement and showing. And both are true for me! I've really enjoyed feeling the baby moving more this early. I don't even think I'd felt John move at this point yet. The fact that strangers have started to ask me when I'm due is also exciting, though about two months ahead of the time when people started to take note that I was pregnant with John. This isn't a bad thing, yet it has me wondering: if I'm two months bigger than I was with John at this point, am I going to end up looking and feeling 48 weeks pregnant by the time this is all over!? Rationally, I don't think things quite work that way. But I'm hoping all my maternity clothes hold out!

John:

Since he got his cast, it's like John has started over in his motor skills development. Last week he could only scoot and roll around, then he started to crawl, now he's pulling up and starting to hobble. Overall he's handling things really well. He hasn't been in pain. The worst part is that he gets frustrated that he can't be as mobile as he'd like and we haven't been going outside much because I don't want him crawling around in the dirt and getting grit inside the cast. Generally he's a happy little camper.

We've been watching way too much tv, however, in lieu of not being able to do much outside. We'll have some habits to break when this month is up! (I have all of the songs on the Baby Signing Time dvd's memorized!)

We attempted a first real bath last Friday and it did not go well! Prior to that I'd just been wiping John down. Friday Peter and I wrapped his cast in plastic bags, ran water in the shower, and attempted to give him a good old-fashioned scrubbing. Also, his hair really needed a washing because it had been smeared with mashed potatoes at a recent meal. I think this was the least fun bath time of John's life. He was miserable because he wanted to play in the water but could not. The plastic bags fell off mid way through and at some point while wrangling a slippery baby, Peter actually thought he might've accidentally broken John's arm (he didn't!). Yet I suppose we can consider it success because it did not result in a trip to the orthopedist to get a wet cast replaced with a dry one.

Food:

I found a good toddler (and mom!) snack. We've been getting some pears from the farmer's market that are very good but hard, like apples. John will eat them but he's not great at it, not having his full complement of teeth and all. He kind of has to shave away at the slices. So, I've been baking the pears with honey and cinnamon on top. Baking them makes them soft enough for John to eat. They're delicious! Like dessert. In fact, if I can convince him that fruit like this is dessert, I will be very happy!

As far as actual desserts, I think I found my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe. They're very simple but really good. And there are a lot of variations included in the recipe.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

A Not -So-Subtle Announcement

I made a subtle announcement in this blog post. But only one person commented on it. (You got it, Susie!) So, here's something a little less subtle:

18 weeks pregnant with baby number two and showing a little earlier this time!

Pregnancy FAQ:

Due: April

How am I feeling: Much better now.

Will we find out the gender: No. Well, not until the birthday.

Do I want a boy or girl: Boy. Of course I'd be thrilled with a girl. But John has been such a joy that if he'd been a jellyfish, I'd want another jellyfish. And thank goodness he wasn't a jellyfish because can you imagine carrying around all of that saltwater aquarium equipment?! Peter says he'd be happy either way. We have this conversation all the time:

Me: What do you think it is?
Peter: I don't know, it could be either.
Me: I know but what do you think?!
Peter: sigh

I think it's another boy. And so far I'm 100% on gender predictions in my pregnancies!

The knowledge of this pregnancy was much more sobering than the first one. I was feeling quite discouraged for a while chasing John around while dead tired and sometimes queasy. I questioned how I was ever going to add another child to the mix without ending up in the loony bin- even if I just checked myself in for a nap! These days, the first trimester cloud has lifted, my energy is rebounding and I'm a lot more excited about things. Plus I've noticed that many of my friends have two children (or more) and none of them have had to check themselves into the loony bin. Not even for a nap. Don't get me wrong, I was always thankful and excited about the new baby. But I was doubting my ability to cope with it all. Now that I can make it through the day without either throwing up or having to take a nap, I have a much sunnier outlook!

Incidentally, I want to say that the term "morning sickness" could only have been coined by a man. Someone who had merely theoretical knowledge of such a thing. Mine was never just in the morning and it was worse at night.

We waited longer than I'd anticipated to tell people for various reasons. One was that we could never decide how we wanted to do it (we ended up putting him in his big brother t-shirt and seeing who noticed). After I got a stomach virus at the end of the first trimester, I wanted to go to my next doctor's appointment just to make sure he didn't have any concerns. After waiting all those weeks, we didn't let the baby out of the bag a moment too soon. When the news was out several people informed me that they had noticed that I was getting a gut. And they're very right. Like blowing up a balloon, things give more easily the second time around!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Word Wise Wednesday

I was recently politely taken to task about my use of the word anyways on this blog. (And, please, do correct me! By all means!) The commenter said that since I'm into correct grammar she was surprised that I was using it. First, let me point out that though I do indeed appreciate correct grammar and often wish I had an excuse to do more sentence diagramming, I do not claim to be good at it! I'm certainly an amateur. I'm like those guys that drink beer, eat junk food and watch every single football game. They're not actually good at football. They just like it. All they can do is yell at the screen, admonishing the players to "focus!," but they have very few, if any, football skills.

Today was the first time I had ever heard that the word anyways might not be proper usage. But it appears to be true. I have not consulted a formal style manual (I actually don't have one and I am too cheap to buy one for the sake of writing occasional grammar posts on my blog, though it would be helpful!) but according to a brief online course through Google U, anyways is a colloquial corruption of anyway. It is considered nonstandard usage and therefore should be avoided. If you are really die hard or having a conversation with an English professor, perhaps you should avoid it altogether. If you're more lax with your grammar you can get by with avoiding it in writing, especially any professional writing. And if you're texting with someone from my sister's peer group, you must, of course, use the tech-savvy generation's spelling: n e way.

I learn something new everyday! And sometimes it's a little embarrassing that I'm just now learning these things. Like when I didn't learn until game 7 of the World Series that St. Louis wasn't in Minnesota! I don't know what I was thinking...