Thursday, October 31, 2013

31 Days - The End

Where have I been? It's amazing what people visiting, colds for the entire family, and scheduling my prospectus defense for November 1st has done to the end of the month.

We spent a lot of time outside this week to make up for staying home from story time and play group due to the aforementioned colds. Yesterday I pulled out the paints for a change of pace. (Of course, painting ended with her dumping out the water bowl and being sent to time out, but it was fun until that point.) Today was rainy, but Piper-girl had fun making a cocoon of sheets on the couch. I'm convinced that blanket fort building is instinctual in all children.

As for where I'll be after this? Well, Piper-girl and I still have a lot of time on our hands.

Friday, October 25, 2013

31 Days - Gardening

Fall weather has arrived with a vengeance! We had low enough temperatures that many of the plants in the vegetable garden died, so I decided to clear out one of the garden beds to prep it for winter. I spent all summer trying to prevent Piper-girl from pulling plants out of the garden, so it was nice to be able to say, "Pull out any plants that you want, today." She definitely enjoyed herself. And, yes, wearing a pair of Mommy's gardening gloves was absolutely necessary.

I had a scare while outside: I was picking peas and Piper-girl went to the other side of the yard to get one her basket that was on the ground just within my sight. I looked down to pick a few peas, looked up again, and she was gone! I ran around the side of the house and didn't see her. I circled the house a couple of times, ran onto the path behind the house to see if she was there, and looked in the trees, all while calling her name. I was running around the house again when she came out smiling from behind the car. When I asked her what she was doing, she said, "Dirt!" Apparently it was quite an interesting patch of dirt, such that she completely ignored my frantic yelling. We had a talk about where she is allowed to go and how she has to make sure that she can see me when she walks away from me. I learned to keep her on a shorter leash in the backyard.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

31 Days - Sick Toddler

No picture, no story. My blogging time tonight has been taken up by a slightly sick toddler. She woke up coughing, and coughing up junk almost always leads to worse outcomes for her. Lots of cuddles, some nursing, and hopefully back to bed soon.

Tomorrow you'll get to see a happy toddler playing in dirt, but I'm going to bed as soon as I get her settled back down to sleep.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

31 Days - Play Dough

We did it - we made play dough. I wasn't planning on making play dough yesterday, but the promised playground trip got rained out, so I had to come up with something to make up for that.

I used a recipe that uses vinegar instead of cream of tarter since I don't have any cream of tarter on hand. I was originally planning on making play dough some evening after Piper-girl had gone to bed and then pulling it out the next day to play. But, this was in impromptu experiment, so Piper-girl got to help make the play dough as well. Amazingly, she listened and followed directions! No burns! Of course, it helped that I had my hands on hers while she was stirring the play dough in the pot, giving her some additional stability.

We waited until the play dough cooled down enough to touch and then started smooshing it. The texture was a bit off, but I'm not sure if it was due to the recipe or to not letting it cool first. We'll have to get the play dough out again to see if there are any differences once it's completely cool.

It wasn't a trip to the playground, but I think that I managed to salvage the afternoon at least somewhat.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

31 Days - Birthday Cookies

Yesterday was so full of activity that I completely forgot about blogging when the end of the day rolled around. I'm going to consider that a good thing.

The day was filled with laundry and dishes and stories and, I'm sure, many other things of little importance to this story. Interspersed throughout the mundane activities were the steps to making a surprise treat for Daddy's birthday - sugar cookies!

Piper-girl poured and Piper-girl scraped and Piper-girl helped cut out the cookies.

Since Monday is the day that Daddy gets home from work right before bedtime, Piper-girl got to have a cookie for her afternoon snack.

She greeted Daddy at the door just like we practiced: "Appa Birbay, Da-die! Da-Die old!"

Happy 30th birthday, husband!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

31 Days - Hot Chocolate

Chocolate is my manna. Hot chocolate? Manna in liquid form. And since I don't drink coffee, or tea, and very little soda, it's my only source of a caffeinated beverage. Though I'm pretty sure the sugar has more impact than the caffeine.

When I was in college, I consumed copious amounts of Swiss Miss (and, under my influence, so did my roommates). Sometime during grad school I switched to cocoa and sugar or honey in milk. Right now my preferred proportions are a tablespoon of cocoa, a tablespoon of sugar/honey/maple syrup*, and a full mug (my Mt. Washington cup - approximately 12 fluid ounces) of milk. Cooking on the stove is preferred, but the microwave will do if necessary.

[*I haven't tried the maple syrup yet, though one of my college roommates would use it when she made cocoa this way. I'm guessing that a tablespoon would work.]

Is it any surprise that Piper-girl loves hot chocolate too? I dilute hers half-and-half with milk, because she doesn't need that much sugar. And it means that I don't have to share as much of my hot chocolate with her. I picked up some mini marshmallows while grocery shopping last week, so we've been enjoying "mah-yallow" in our hot chocolate this weekend.

And, yes, giving a two-year-old an open cup of hot chocolate while she was wearing a white shirt was a mistake. Once she was finished her hot chocolate, I immediately put the shirt into the sink to soak with some Oxiclean.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

31 Days - Baking Cookies

Repeat after me: it will get easier, it will get easier, it will get easier.

It will get easier, right?

Please tell me that putting in the effort now will yield my own little sous chef by the time she's four, making all of my patience worthwhile. Because baking cookies with a two-year-old definitely requires patience. And situational awareness to make sure that all fingers and tongues are clear before turning on the mixer. Yes, when I told her that she couldn't touch the beater with her fingers, she leaned forward and tried to lick it ... while it was still on the mixer.

 I'm being good ... you only told me that I couldn't touch the beater.

Being the taste tester is a very important job. 

I approve! 

Om nom nom!

Friday, October 18, 2013

31-Days - Oo-Oo Monh-monh

Sometimes I need to pull out the big guns while the husband is at work. It might be because I desperately need to get work done, or it might be because we are exhausted and need a break from each other. On this day, a few weeks ago, we were very tired. We had done all sorts of things together that day, yet the afternoon still wasn't over. I decided to have a special treat and I popped some popcorn and turned on Sesame Street.

I think it's fitting that Piper-girl's favorite character is Cookie Monster (Oo-oo Monh-monh, as she says). Yep, that describes her personality quite well. I'm not certain, but I think that her second-favorite character is Ernie's rubber ducky.

Often the television will only keep her occupied for ten or twenty minutes, but she lasted almost a full episode on this occasion. Though I'm glad I took the pictures when I did, because not five minutes later she stripped completely naked. It's tough keeping clothing on a two-year-old.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

31 Days - Playing in Leaves

What can I say? Jumping in piles of leaves is fun at any age.

Mommy, put down the camera and play with me!

*We're not having typical fall temperatures - ideally, one would be wearing long sleeves and an additional layer when playing in the leaves.

**Note to self: play with camera settings more, particularly with focus options. Some of those leaves are in really great focus! The toddler, not so much.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I love you, too

It was such a trying day today. Piper-girl slept horribly last night, getting up at least four separate times after midnight. As a result, both she and I were very grumpy and prone to temper tantrums all day. I had a research group meeting this afternoon (during which time a fellow grad student watches Piper-girl), and we had to go grocery shopping afterward. Liberal application of the standard cookie bribe* made grocery shopping tolerable.

[*Atkins Farms has an amazing bakery, and it's our last grocery stop. If Piper-girl listens and follows directions well during grocery shopping, she gets a cookie that she can eat when we get home (or after supper if it's too close to suppertime). Mommy always gets a doughnut.]

The trip home from the grocery store gave Piper-girl a 15-minute nap, which was probably worse than no nap at all. Commence wailing, mostly on her part, subsiding only when I convinced her to eat by offering her half of my bean fajita instead of making her one of her own. We split two bean fajitas for supper - whatever works.

Bath time was good. There were a few temper tantrums after Daddy got home, but eventually Piper-girl's mood evened out.

I heard the two of them talking together when he was putting her to bed. Then Piper-girl came out and said, "Ya you, Mama."

"Oh, sweetie, I love you too."

"Ya you, too, Mama."

Today was a good day.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

31 Days - Rice, Everywhere

Sometimes my ideas are not so great: Piper-girl enjoyed playing with rice so much at playgroup, why don't I get some out for her to play with so that I can get some work done?

Um, no. It was successful for maybe five minutes before Piper-girl started scattering rice everywhere. And Mommy was required to play with her. Playing alone is UNACCEPTABLE. Unless I'm not home - she'll let my husband get work done when they are home alone together.

The rice was scattered a lot more before I gave up and we cleaned up the mess. I should just stick with playing outside.

How do you teach or encourage your toddlers to play independently?

Monday, October 14, 2013

31 Days - Picnic at the Playground

I have learned that the day that Grandma and Granddad leave can be very rough for Piper-girl. Perhaps it has something to do with the departure of two people who spend hours upon hours playing with her, taking her to the playground every day, reading her numerous books, and letting her play with the iPad*?

[*"Granddad book," as Piper-girl calls it.]

Anyhow, I decided to take some initiative to try to head off the temper tantrums by filling the day with activity. We packed up some food, walked two miles to the playground, and enjoyed a picnic lunch of peanut butter sandwiches, apples, carrots, celery, and pretzel chips (a treat that Grandma brings with her and leaves behind almost every visit).

We decided to go to the playground on the other side of the school from the community playground. Piper-girl and the grandparents had checked out this one on Saturday and she wanted to go back to it. The color-coordinated clothing was unintentional.

I had checked out this playground last year, but at that point Piper-girl was too small for it. Parts of it are still a stretch for her legs.

We managed to spend almost three hours at the playground and were gone from the house for somewhere between 4.5 and 5 hours. Mission Minimize Temper Tantrums accomplished.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

31 Days - Apple Picking

I love New England in the fall. We went apple picking today and got to see this gorgeous view:

Granddad carried the bag of apples for me.

Grandma was brave to give a shoulder ride to a two-year-old holding an apple in her hand.

Piper-girl held onto her apple for the entire time at the orchard.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

31 Days - Grandparents!

Visits from Grandma and Granddad are extra special when your grandparents live several hours away. Today's activities included setting up a new bed for Piper-girl, going to the playground (and trying out a new one too!) and eating supper at the train restaurant.

Grandma gives me chocolate.

Friday, October 11, 2013

31 Days - Sleep is for the Weak

If my daughter has a mantra, it is this: "Sleep is for the weak ... AND I'M NOT WEAK!"

It wasn't always this way. No, we look back on Piper-girl's newborn days with nostalgia. She slept for a couple to several hours, woke up, nursed, and fell right back asleep. By the time she was four months old, she had settled into a routine where she woke consistently twice during the night, nursed quickly, and fell back asleep. We co-slept, so the wakings were hardly intrusive. And then it all went to hell.

Multiple night wakings, fussing, crying, screaming; she gave up her second nap before she was nine months old and she gave up napping entirely by 18 months old. We've had very few nights of good sleep. It hasn't all been terrible ... she likes to lull us into a false sense of progress and security. We'll have a stretch of time when she'll go to sleep well, or she'll only wake up once (or even not at all until 5:30, when her clock light turns on and she's allowed to climb into Mommy and Daddy's bed). And then we'll have nights like last night.

She came back out of her room multiple times after being tucked in for bed ...

She woke up at 11:45. She wouldn't go back to sleep. She tried climbing into bed with me. She screamed. She ran back and forth between our rooms. We gave her the standard offer of sleeping on the floor in our room - she refused. She screamed some more ...

Repeat until 1:15, when she finally decided to sleep on the crib mattress on the floor of our room ...

She woke up at 3:30 and decided to go back to her room ...

She woke up at 4:30 ...

She woke up sometime between 5:30 and 6, at which point she knew she could come into bed with us because, "LIGHT ON!" At which point she nursed on and off all morning until I dragged myself out of bed at 9.

What do you do with a toddler who won't sleep? I feel like we've tried everything. Sometimes something works, but then it stops working and we're back to battling sleep again. I wouldn't mind co-sleeping, but then she begs to nurse all night long, which doesn't help either of us get any sleep. (I like to pretend that she's night-weaned, but really it's only that I don't let her nurse during the night.)

Sleep is for the weak ... but Mommy really wants sleep.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

31 Days - Playgroup

I'm horrible at making friends. The few that I have are awesome, but they all live many hours away from me (with the exception of my husband, of course, but he doesn't count for the purposes of this story). And I don't have any friends with kids the same age as mine (except for my sister, whom I am lucky enough to have as a friend, but she also lives many hours away from me). Anyhow, since I don't have any (near-by) friends, Piper-girl, by default, doesn't have any either. One of my goals is to try to make some friends this year.

Enter: playgroup at the library! One of the early childhood organizations in the area received a grant to start a play group at our library (yep - story time and playgroup are in the same room - we spend a lot of time in that room at the library). We missed the first week but have gone the past two weeks. The first week we were there had four kids show up and this week had about eight kids. In both cases, we already knew some of the other kids from story time at the library, so it wasn't all new faces for introverted Piper-girl.

[We've been calling Piper-girl our "baby anthropologist" since before she was a year old - she always needs to study new situations and people before she will join in any activity.]

Obviously, this playgroup is more structured than it would be if it were just a few friends and their kids getting together, but it's not as structured as story time. The playgroup organizer brings toys and activities and the kids can play with whatever they choose for an hour or so, then they have a snack followed by a story or two and a couple of songs. Piper-girl has been interacting with the other kids more during play group than during story time, presumably because it has been a smaller group.

If nothing else, I've learned that Piper-girl loves both play dough and playing in rice. I'll have to stock up my supplies at home so that I have more distractions available in my bag of tricks.

I have a question: how do you make friends?

Just because: fun pictures taken outside the library.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

31 Days - Her First Food Mill Experience

Getting out the food mill stirs up very specific memories for me: a fall evening - it's dark outside - cooking apples on the stove and running them through the food mill to make applesauce with my mother. Pink applesauce, the only proper kind of applesauce. My food mill is one that I picked up at a yard sale (my mother still has hers), but it works just as well. And, what do you know, it's useful for other things in addition to making applesauce. Like tomato sauce from the tomatoes that we rescued from the garden.

I have to tell you - letting Piper-girl use the food mill was the easiest kitchen activity that I have done with her yet. It was easy for her to manage with only a little help from me, and there were no sharp or high-speed parts that I had to worry about. She didn't even get any sauce on her!

We're hoping to get to the apple orchard this weekend, so we might have another occasion to use the food mill. If so, I'm sure Piper-girl will manage make a proper mess to make up for the cleanliness with the tomato sauce.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

31 Days - Playing in the Garden

Hey, Mommy, do you see this big bowl?

I think we should put all of these leaves into it. Tasty!

We ventured forth into the soggy outdoors to pick tomatoes before the next rainstorm arrived. I let Piper-girl help with minimal supervision, since it's the end of the season so the green tomatoes that she inevitably picked probably wouldn't ripen anyway. She did unexpectedly well, picking mostly red and orange tomatoes instead of mostly green tomatoes, unlike the last time she helped with the harvest.

Trying to teach her the difference between basil leaves and tomato leaves was an exercise in futility since she was unable to reach the basil, yet wanted to help pick leaves.

This spider has had a several-foot wide web strung between the raised bed and marker in the ground since at least last Thursday. Sorry, spider, for not reminding Piper-girl to go around the web.

Monday, October 7, 2013

31 Days - ZooBorns!

Due notice - the Amazon link in this post is an affiliate link. Click or not as you so desire. Money earned through affiliate links in my blog help to support my family.

This book might be in good condition from the outside, but the pages tell the truth - wrinkles and tears and taped-together pages are a sign of a book much loved by a toddler. A friend gave us ZooBorns! before Piper-girl turned a year old and the book is now one of our favorites. Piper-girl can name every animal in the book, from the gorilla to the wombat to the okapi. I learned that there exists an animal that looks like a cross between a zebra and giraffe (it's more related to the giraffe, though).

"The more you learn about animals, the more you too can help protect them," says the introduction to ZooBorns!. We're well on the way to learning about all sorts of animals. One of the times that we read the book today (it's been a frequent request the past couple of weeks), we searched online for other pictures of the animals in the book to learn what the adult versions look like. There is a great ZooBorns website with lots of animal stories and pictures and, of course, there are videos on YouTube. I haven't spent much time exploring either of those sites with Piper-girl, so I'm definitely adding them to my toddler-distraction arsenal.

I just added some of their other books to Piper-girl's Christmas list for her grandparents. She loves ABC books.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

31 Days - Fall Fairs

This is my seventh year living in western Massachusetts, yet this is the first year that I've gone to the Garlic and Arts Festival in Orange, MA. I realized that this was likely to be my last opportunity to go to it (yay for grad school being almost over!), so I packed up the kiddo and drove north.

I think that Piper-girl would have been perfectly happy playing in the dirt of the corn-field-turned-parking-lot all day long, at least until she learned that she was going to RIDE A BUS! ("Buh! Buh! Ri Buh!" as she says.)

We got there just in time to catch the last few sets by the Irish dance troupe, so both Mommy and Toddler were happy. I love Irish dancing and Piper-girl seems to as well.

Hula hoops were next. We play with them whenever we visit Grandma and Granddad's house, so Piper-girl knew exactly what to do, except for how to stay out of other hoopers' ways. We didn't stay there for long.

I wonder which Piper-girl liked more: riding the bus or eating the caramel apple*?

*That thing was huge - she shared it with me and we still only made it through three-quarters of the apple.