Thursday, July 19, 2012

3 Reasons why "Playing Ice" is Better than Disney World

I hit a gold mine as far as toddler entertainment. One rainy day last week I gave some colored ice cubes and a little water to John and let him pour the melting ice and water back and forth in a few small bowls. Since then he's asked to "Play Ice" twice and I have gladly obliged. Upon reflection I realized that Playing Ice might even be more fun than a trip to Disney World.

1. Disney World is expensive. Playing Ice is free.

2. At Disney World you must brave the sun and throngs of sun burnt, sweaty and cranky Mickey Mouse fans. You can Play Ice safely within the operation of your AC and away from the multitudes of mouse ear-wearing crowds (though, if that's your thing,  you could invite lots of people wearing mouse ears to Play Ice with you.).

3. At Disney World you must accompany your children on nausea inducing rides and be accosted by grown men dressed as cartoon characters. Playing Ice does not trigger motion sickness and allows you to finish a pile of laundry, take out the trash and drink an entire cup of coffee while it is still hot! And write a blog post!

It's obvious to me which is the superior entertainment.

One note of caution, Playing Ice can be messy if you color the ice because the food coloring can stain. I put John in a bib and a towel in his lap and so far he's stayed pretty dry and stain free.

John started Playing Ice inside last week when it was rainy, but it might be even better as an outdoor activity as seen here as ice cube painting, which is where I originally got the idea.

Playing Ice can be a good way to discuss and experiment with colors. You can talk about the colors of the ice cubes as well as mixing colors (yellow and blue make green, etc.).

If you don't want water all over  your floor you could also do this in the bathtub.

Have fun and I'm glad we could all save that $3,000 dollars we were going to spend on a Disney World Vacation!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Olympic Cuteness and Gold Medal Muffins

It's happening. The curse of the second born is unfolding before my eyes. We spent Sunday evening with some of Peter's family. It came up in conversation with his sister that she has vast montages of her first child, while the third and youngest, is not equally represented among their memory files.

Since her first and third are both girls we joked that she could simply tell them that they looked alike, and no one would be the wiser.

Unfortunately that won't work for me since I have a boy and a girl. Isla might wonder why I always dressed her in clothes sporting construction vehicles. So today I pulled out the camera to document Isla's growing charm and also existence. 

I've been looking forward to the Olympics. I mostly care about the gymnastics but once I start watching, I get pulled in. Pretty soon I'm equally absorbed in archery and shooting.

If there were a Head Control Event in the Olympics, Isla would no doubt be to it what Michael Phelps is to swimming:

I believe she would also win the individual all-around for cuteness:

Though Isla might be a few pictures short of John at the same age, the  benefit of being the second born is that you have someone who is a lot more fun than mom to keep you entertained whilst you hold your head steady:

John, who likes to join in tummy time, is also a contender in the head control event: 

I am one muffin away from completely depleting my freezer stockpile of baked goods. I had that freezer packed before Isla was born. Not only with muffins but with entrees galore to help me get through those initial newborn weeks with a minimum of slaving over a hot stove. And now there's only one lonely muffin left. 

Of all the muffins I made these were the gold medal favorite: Thousand-Seed Banana Date Muffins. I highly recommend these! They're relatively healthy. They were very sweet so I think the sugar could be reduced and they'd be even healthier. Most appealing is how well they hold up to the freezer. They were still so moist and delicious after freezing and thawing. I love having muffins in the freezer for easy breakfasts and snacks.

 I'm slowly working my way back to a stocked freezer. Do you have any recipes to recommend? 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Rainy Daze

It has been damp around here! I'm thankful for all the rain, it is an answer to my prayers. We certainly need it to get out of our drought. And it is much preferable to raging wild fires. Even aside from that,  I love rainy days. I love the sound of the rain. I love the darkness. I love the feeling that I'm removed from any obligation to go outside. Don't get me wrong, I also love to go outside when the weather is nice, but a rainy day is an excuse to curl up and read a book all day long in my pajamas.

And that's what I'd be doing if I had no children. Since I do have two little dumplings that I wouldn't trade for all the books in the world, all-day book reading has become the stuff of my wildest dreams. In reality, I've been racking my brain trying to keep us busy with indoor activities. It's been fairly successful. By that I mean that we've been cooped up all day and managed to enjoy ourselves. Incidentally, I am in my pajamas. So, that part of the dream came true!

Here's what kept John entertained today: 

Bean scooping. I'm always amazed at how such simple ideas can be so entertaining. I think later on this would be a good counting activity.

Ice Melting/water pouring. John loves ice. At first I gave him plain ice. Then I got the idea to make colored ice cubes. I thought he might like to "paint" with them. I gave him paper that you can see in the first picture. He quickly dispensed with the paper, though, and preferred to let the ice melt and then pour water back and forth. These days I can't keep very good track of time but I think this kept him busy for at least 45 minutes. 

Baking. I was hesitant to try this because I didn't want a huge mess. I know a lot of other people who let their kids help them in the kitchen so we gave it a shot. I let him dump a few of the measuring cups into the bigger bowl. He was interested in the stirring, and he especially enjoyed picking the chocolate chips and dried cranberries out of the batter to eat them! We made these chocolate peanut butter energy bars.

What are your favorite rainy day activities?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

May/June Books

The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever. This is a very short, basic book about what actually constitutes sharing the gospel, and the hows and the whys of sharing Christian faith. 

Speaking of Jesus by Mack Stiles. This one is also about evangelism. It is longer and has more anecdotes. I'd recommend this one and the one above because I remember feeling like I got a lot out of them at the time. However, I should reread them both. I initially read them in early May not long after Isla was born and most of  what happened during that time is pretty hazy.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. I couldn't put this down! In this book Malcolm Gladwell argues against the idea of a self-made man and posits that success is the intersection of hard work and opportunity. I love Malcolm Gladwell's writing, he has a way of upending conventional wisdom. In this book, I'm very nearly convinced, he's revealed why I never succeeded in math. However, even though I think his ideas are superbly intriguing, upon reflection, I also think he oversimplifies and makes some dubious connections. For example, he suggests that Asian countries produce many mathematical geniuses due to the skills built during centuries of tending rice patties. Maybe it's true, but it also seems a little fantastical. I have no knowledge that any of my forbears tended rice patties. But I do have some relation to the Hersheys of the Hershey's Kiss which explains why I'm not good at math and why I love chocolate. His overarching point, which I readily agree with, is that our histories, backgrounds and cultures often play much more of a role than we realize in our lives. 

Into Thin Air by John Krakauer. I also couldn't put this down and finished it in two days. It's the true story of the Mount Everest climbing disaster of 1996 in which 12 people died in a storm while attempting to summit. Peter is a mountaineer at heart, if not in practice. We have a small collection of mountaineering books and this is one of them. It's pretty exciting (but sad) even if you're not a mountaineer (which I am not.).

The Other 8 Hours by Robert Pagliarini. This is a time management book. It is an easy read, engaging and had some good suggestions. I'd suggest it as a helpful springboard to begin thinking about time management. I was most interested in the time management aspects but he also gives entrepreneurial advice as well. 

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam. This is another time management book. It also is an easy read, engaging and has some good suggestions. She argues that you should focus on your core competencies (things that you do well that cannot be done nearly as well by anyone else) and minimize, outsource or ignore everything else. This is an interesting approach. But many of her suggestions seem to be better suited to two-career families who can afford a laundry service, cleaning service and cooking service. I'd love to outsource cleaning my ridiculous shower which I'm never sure is actually clean, but that's not really feasible right now. 

To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild. Peter and I both listened to this and it was great to be able to discuss it with someone. I found this book fascinating. It's about WWI from a British perspective and particularly from the position of war resisters in that country. This author definitely has a bias. But I knew nothing about WWI before I listened to this so I learned a lot. It is amazing how many threads of history tied into that event including the women's suffrage movement, the Bolshevik revolution, the international socialist movement, and the end of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Very interesting.

Divergent by Veronica Roth. I'm undecided on this one. Like the Hunger Games, it is a dystopian young adult trilogy. I felt that it didn't have nearly the insight that the Hunger Games did (perhaps it's not fair to compare the two.) but I liked it enough that I'm going to read the second book in the series.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This is probably my favorite book out of this list in terms of sheer enjoyment. The characters feel like they're your friends, the writing is clever and the story is thoughtful. It's also an easy read, and  I'd definitely recommend it!

Thunderstruck by Eric Larson. I listened to this. It's about the intersection of a famous murder mystery and the advent of wireless telegraphy. I liked the end where the two stories actually came together but in general it sounds more interesting than I actually found it to be. There were a lot of dry sections on the ins and outs of telegraphy.