Family Summer Bucket List: Week 3 and 4

I love that I’m able to see exactly what we’ve done this summer and relive those fun moments through these blog posts. So, we crossed off the following bucket list items: Make Gak, Find a New Playground, Have an Adults Only Monster Golf Date and Make Stained Glass with tissue paper.

gak collage

1. I found a bunch of different recipes for Gak (aka goop, slime, silly putty) online; most use Borax but there are also creative versions made without borax too. I decided to go traditional since this is our first time. Surprisingly, even though there are only like 3 ingredients, there’s more than one “right” way to do it – so I had to try 2 different versions (we needed 2 colors anyway). Both recipes are below for you. First we tried making Gak using the recipe from The Magnolia Barn. I used some leftover purple pigment from Glob Natural Paints to color the Gak which also made it smell fruity and amazing . The end result wasn’t as stretchy as I assumed it should be; it tended to break off in nice chunks instead (which was still cool looking), but it took on shapes easily and held them for a while (hand prints or shapes of things left on top of it, for example) and it had a nice feel. O immediately asked for her rolling pin and began making tissue paper-thin sheets of Gak and then started methodically punching out “cookies.”

Next we tried the recipe from Come Together Kids. I was able to get almost 6 half teaspoons into mine (see step 4) but I was trying to get as much Borax as possible to really see the difference in these recipes. We made this batch orange. It looks like the Borax helps make the Gak stretchier. I put a small bit of each Gak version over two outstretched fingers about 12 inches from the top of the table and timed which one would blob down to the table first. The orange recipe (from Come Together Kids) stretched down to the table in about 10 seconds but our purple version (from The Magnolia Barn) was barely starting to feel the pull of gravity. The downside to the orange version though is that shapes formed are quickly gone (hand prints almost immediately flatten out) which might be frustrating to some.

So both recipes are good but each might be better for different ages and/or different personalities. For kids who are tickled by gross things and boogers, for example – I recommend the orange. For kids who like to mold shapes and flatten with rolling pins – the purple might be better.

Gak Comparison colored

2. Our goal to find a new playground was actually fulfilled by accident. I had signed us up to go to an annual ladybug release event sponsored by our local Junior Women’s Club and that meetup just so happened to be right next to a cool new playground. Releasing the ladybugs to help local gardens and doing ladybug-related crafts was fun too though. And yes, I’m playing with photo editing software again (addicted!!).

ladybug collage
ladybug park dance

3. As I mentioned when I made our summer bucket list, we added in a few Adults Only items to ensure that daddy and I made time for our date nights (which always seem to get pushed back for some reason or another). A new Monster Mini Golf place open up near us a while ago and we’d been wanting to go for months – thanks to our bucket list, we finally made it happen. We were hoping we could go back with O, but it was lucky we tried it out alone first – the place was way too scary for a 3-year-old (large animated monsters, loud music, monster paintings on the walls, etc). But it was fun for us (and mommy won by 9 strokes). For the future, clearly we missed the memo and should have worn white shirts.

monster golf collage

4. I’d been waiting to do tissue paper stained glass with my daughter since before she was born – I clearly remember doing it myself when I was little. When the activity came in one of our monthly craft subscription boxes and I didn’t have to do any work to make it happen, I was even more excited. O and I peeled the backing off a piece of contact paper and laid it sticky side up on the table, then we placed the black paper frame over the top to hold the contact paper down (and make it look nice). I cut pieces of colored tissue paper into small squares and O applied them with the concentrated precision of a focused preschooler. It was a quick project but at least our art can stay up in the window for as long as we like.

stained glass collage

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FREE DIY Summer Reading Camp

PBS Kids Summer Reading

My daughter and I read before bed every night but I am always inspired by contests and pledges – and any motivation to read more and seek out new books is always a good thing. So when I found out about a free 10 week DIY Summer Reading Camp sponsored by Education.com and PBS kids, I was excited to learn more. And when I discovered there are activities appropriate for kids as young as preschool age (and up to fifth grade), it sounded even better.

All you have to do is sign up for an account at Education.com and then take the pledge to read at least 10 books this summer. Mom and dad will also be entered to win one of 5 a Kindle prize packs valued at more than $350 – Bonus! Education.com asks you to select your child’s grade and then gives you a great list of summer “Must-Reads” at your child’s reading level to start you out.

But wait, it gets better. Each of the 10 weeks of Reading Camp has a theme (“Bugs”, “Heroes”, “Get Wet”, “Dragons and Dinos”, etc) and at least a dozen activities per week to do with your kids using materials you likely already have around the house. There are free worksheets to download in the weekly activity sets too. They even give you weekly print outs with all the activities and supplies on a checklist so you can collect everything in advance and pick and neatly choose which activities you want to try. All 10 weekly activity sheets and all the activity instructions are already posted online (no waiting!) so you can do them in any order you want. And did I mention it’s all FREE??!!

Here are the books O and I picked (some based on the cover pictures, but that’s okay):

  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
  • Caps for Sale
  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon
  • Flat Stanley
  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
  • I Stink
  • Harry, the Dirty Dog

We will probably add in extra books that work with each week’s theme also. And for older kids it would be cool to make a chart to tape to the wall so that they can mark off each book and see their progress. Maybe get some star stickers involved – what kid doesn’t love stickers on a chart?

Poking around the Education.com site I also found that you can download 10 additional free printable worksheets every month (more if you want to get a paid subscription to Education.com). Why haven’t I been using this site more often?!

Family Summer Bucket List: Weeks 1 and 2

We’re participating in the 2013 Summer Bucket List Challenge. Here’s what we’ve checked off so far:

1. Ride a Carnival Coaster – Technically not a coaster but our local carnival didn’t bring one this year so we worked with what we got. O was not disappointed in the slightest to ride the spinning dinosaurs.

coaster collage
2. Play with Water Balloons – Take that 90 degree day! (unfortunately Daddy and I were too caught up in trying to get each other that we forgot to take more pictures). Our purple Pumponator worked like a charm and O loved pumping and counting (exactly 7 pumps was perfect for us). P.S. the Pumponator is also great for shooting water at unsuspecting victims but it’s not fast on the refill so it’s easy for the other party to get revenge.

water balloon collage 2

Yes, I was playing with cool photo effects.

3. Go to a New Museum – We visited the Museum of Science in Boston over Memorial Day weekend (The Dead Sea Scrolls special exhibit tipped the adult votes away from the Children’s Museum). Since none of us had ever been there before, I was worried it might be better for older kids but it turned out there was lots of stuff O found fascinating and that was totally in her skill level. We attended a free show about Lightning where the world’s largest air-insulated Van de Graaff generator created lightning bolts indoors for us (recommended for grades 3 and up but O has never had a problem with loud noises) and a free live animal presentation on geckos. We also bought tickets for the Butterfly Garden exhibit which rewarded O, after being unbelievably patient and still, with 2 butterflies landing on her knee. We also loved the full dinosaur skeletons and life-size T-Rex model, and the Science in the Park exhibit (included with ticket price) which was basically a playground (The museum site explains it as: “Run, jump, swing, and use familiar objects to investigate the pushes and pulls of everyday life.”). Highly recommended. P.S. If you ask the info desk, there’s a private nursing room (not on the museum map) that you can use if unoccupied!

Boston museum collage 2

Clockwise from top left: 1. Don’t worry, the baby was “driving” at a rest stop. 2. O started with a green elephant then said she was building a house around him. 3. Have you seen these optical illusions where the object looks like you can grab it? 4. The view from inside the Butterfly exhibit. 5. Waiting patiently for butterflies. 6. Mommy had a brown butterfly land on her the moment we walked in.

4. ADULTS ONLY – Zip Line Date with Zoom Ziplines at Mountain Creek, NJ. I bought tickets for this from LivingSocial back in December as a Christmas Gift for my husband. They operate year-round (so yes, you can zip line in the snow!) but since the trip there and back would take half the day, we needed to wait until Number 2 was a little older and nursing less often – luckily we had until June to use the deal. We rode a Gondola lift up the mountain, did a short training zip line and 3 big zip lines, walked across a suspension bridge and sat in a Unimog back to the Gondola lift down. Our guides were competent, friendly and I felt very safe with them. Although I’m not totally sure it would have been worth it at full price, my husband and I had a blast.

Zipline collage 2

The gondola lift and the view of NJ as we went up the mountain

Zipline collage 1

Left: The longest zip line (our barely visible landing deck marked with an arrow) and Right: my husband and I in our gear.

How to Bake With A 3-Year-Old

My daughter O loves this Fisher-Price app called the Little People Learning Market. One really cute part asks you what type of treat you would like to bake: an apple pie, cookies or cupcakes, and then has you 1. add items from your shopping list (matching) 2. prepare the treat (drag, tap, tip to pour, etc) and finally 3. put it in the oven to bake. Ever since she started playing this game, she regularly runs into our kitchen, announces it’s “time to bake!”, and grabs the flour and a mixing bowl. It’s adorable and it got me thinking – she’s already doing it in a game, why not in real life?

I decided to turn a simple recipe of ours for banana bread from my hand-written index card into an image-loaded, kid-friendly version. Here’s how:

I went to Google Docs and opened a new Drawing. Google Docs has this handy tool where you can search Google images right from the drawing document page and easily add them. So I just went through my recipe and found a picture of each ingredient. I added large text in a text box for the exact amounts needed of each and put the steps in order. Then, I used the shape option to group the wet and dry ingredients together visually in their own boxes. Last, I just printed it and O was ready to help me bake “all by herself” in less than 5 minutes. Here it is (a downloadable PDF is also at the bottom of this post):

banana bread for kids image

O was so happy to have her own recipe. She took her job of reading me the ingredients very seriously and was pretty good at filling up the cups (using a second cup to fill the first is easiest). Just make sure you’re ready to intercept when your preschooler runs to the fridge and tries to carry out the eggs to you (lesson learned!!).  O can identify numbers but is not getting fractions yet so I’m still trying to think up a way to help her be able to identify and use the correct measuring cup or spoon all on her own. I could just add a picture of the correct measuring device on there next time so then it’ll be more matching. Or maybe color code the measuring cups with a piece of colored tape on the bottom (while still putting the measurement on there so she can see both and still learn it). Let me know if you have any ideas and enjoy!

Banana Bread recipe for kids PDF download

banana bread

So good we couldn’t even wait for the picture to be taken before eating it. We made ours with cinnamon chips.

Orange Butterfly 3rd Birthday Party – Part 2

birthday countdown collage 2

construction paper birthday chain countdown

To start off O’s birthday celebration, I found this awesome idea for a paper chain countdown from Big Day Chains. Due to my extreme procrastination, I didn’t have time to order one from them and had to DIY a version for myself, but if you can, I highly recommend ordering from Big Day Chains – their printed version is super adorable, can be colored by the birthday kid on one side and comes with a commemorative card for the scrapbook. O LOVED tearing off a chain every day (I recommend adding a little pre-tear to the day’s chain link before your child gets to it if they’re younger or just a really enthusiastic ripper or else you might need to keep scotch tape handy for repairs).

Moving on to the party planning. We decided to do an orange themed party with butterflies this year. I wrote a little about my ideas in a previous post here. But when I showed off my cake idea, my husband, mother and multiple friends all vetoed fondant (really? you want the cake to look good and taste good? geez. haha). So, the cake design had to be changed. I also found some amazing edible butterflies from SugarRobot on Etsy (made from potato starch) that I just had to use (originally I was going to put 3 frosted butterfly cookies on the cake).

Originally I was also thinking of doing an orange and blue color theme, but I realized that finding the exact shade of blue I wanted was probably going to take some special ordering. Since I wanted to stay on budget, I decided to change the party colors to orange and pink instead. Every store with party supplies has at least 2 shades of pink stuff, a pastel and a hot pink – so that made stocking up on basic things like balloons, streamers and utensils from the dollar store super easy.

cake design collage

Left to right: the original cake idea, the final cake design, the party table layout

Referencing my party table drawing above (yeah, that amazing piece of art is all me), I also decided early on that I had to have these adorable glass mason jar sippers from the Acme Party Box Company and their orange striped paper straws. I filled them with Celestial Seasonings Country Peach Passion tea with ice which everyone loved and without a drop of sugar added.

To make the peach iced tea:

  1. Take 6 tea bags and steep with 1 cup boiling water for about 10 minutes.
  2. Then add cold water to fill your pitcher.
  3. Add ice to each mason jar right before serving
  4. Note – other brands of peach tea are not as good.
  5. Note – Do NOT use Celestial Seasonings Peach iced tea – it’s caffeinated black tea with peach flavor added. The Celestial Seasonings Country Peach Passion tea is herbal, caffeine-free, safe for all ages and tastes way better.
birthday morning collage

O discovering her butterflies on the morning of her birthday

On O’s birthday morning, complete with butterfly PJs, we hung a curtain of butterflies outside her room (from Oriental Trading) which she loved (and then had her toy dinosaur eat, haha). We went out for a pancake breakfast and by the time we were done, the weather had warmed up enough to kick everyone outside to play while I set up the house for the party. We bought a bean bag toss and a ring toss from Oriental Trading, bubble wands (dollar store!) and we had a ball pit from last year to bring out too. The bean bag toss was a huge hit with the adult guests by the way.

For food, my former-chef sister chopped up an amazing goat cheese and mixed veggie salad which we paired with this recipe for an Olive Garden copycat salad dressing which turned out fantastic and a fruit salad that I’m pretty sure included every fruit known to man (she even stuck fresh figs in there). We ordered BBQ pizza too for the meat-eaters in the group.

party table collage watermark
Next, the party table. I ordered a strawberry sunrise (love that!) butterfly mobile kit from littledreamersinc on Etsy which took WAY longer to put together than I anticipated, but turned out really lovely (no wonder she charges $75 for the completed versions). I also found some amazing orange buckets with a number 3 on them completely by accident at Michaels and filled them with white and yellow daisies, orange carnations, and something pink – youthful (and, by happy coincidence, cheap) flowers. My amazing sister baked and decorated a bunch of butterfly shaped sugar cookies for us (which was actually what Olyla wanted instead of cake). But we did have cake: one layer of yellow cake, one layer of strawberry cake (from this recipe) with cream cheese frosting and fresh strawberries in the center. (In hindsight, you should never layer fresh strawberries in a cake – it makes things mushy, and even if you layer it between frosting on both sides, the sugar from the frosting will make the strawberries start to leak juice). The mango flavored number 3 lollipop was from the awesome VintageConfections on Etsy.

birthday gifts collage
Normally I wouldn’t show off the gifts my daughter got, but my sister took the prize for most creative wrapping job and I just have to show it off. I was a little worried O wouldn’t want to tear open her robot, but I guess she was just caught up in the paper-ripping moment. All in all it was a spectacular birthday.

outdoor party collage big

Left to right: 1. When told she had to wait for her cousin to finish eating before we could go inside for cake, she responded with the stare down. 2. Oren wanted to celebrate too. 3. Grown guys in pointy party hats is always fun, but that O decided to pass out the “drinks” from the ring toss to everyone was even better.

3rd birthday 077

One more of the cake – cause I love it!

 

Planning O’s 3rd Birthday Party

This is the outfit she picked today (she's also recently mastered the stink face)

This was today’s outfit choice (she’s also recently mastered the stink face)

I just realized that having complete creative freedom (which I love) over my children’s birthday parties isn’t going to last much longer. Actually, I’m pretty sure this is the last party I’ll be able to dream up all on my own. O is turning 3 in a few months and already enjoys issuing commands and expressing her strong opinions (one of my favorites, complete with finger wag, is “No no no, Mama. No singing!”).

So, even though I have another baby who’s still too young to tell me he doesn’t want to wear the adorable faux suspenders and bow-tie I picked out, I’m sure by the time Number 2’s first birthday rolls around, O will have gained the ability to telepathically communicate his desires for him.

Soon, I imagine I’m going to have to come up with amazing parties based on vague but intense requests like: a big green garbage truck, sparkle magic, flying sharks or tomato soup (I had a nightmare about that last one). But for now I want O’s party to just be a reflection of her personality and interests at this time in her life. Last year I did a moon and stars birthday party because she was obsessed with seeing the celestial bodies every evening on our summertime walks. This year almost spoke for itself. Here’s a list of our most common exchanges:

  • What do you want to wear today? “This orange shirt,” grabbing well-worn Halloween t-shirt (pants are always optional in her book).
  • What do you want for breakfast? “Orange juice.” (repeat answer at all meal times)
  • We’re at the grocery store, what do we need? She points to a package probably containing candied octopus or something equally disgusting and says, “Orange box. In the cart, please.”
  • Here’s your lunch, honey. “Nooooo, orange bowl!!!!”
my rough but awesome cake idea

my rough but awesome cake idea

But, a party just based on a single color seemed a little boring. So, after looking around online for ideas, I found a gorgeous orange and blue party invite that inspired an accent color. And I kept my ears open for any new favorites cementing in my preschooler’s mind. Luckily, (since we’re t-minus 2 months for this party) more inspiration came quickly: O started talking about butterflies randomly and then non-stop. She makes everything from her toy train and pirate to her princess figurine and squeaky frog fly “with the butterflies” during playtime, and at night, if I tell her the butterflies are going to sleep too, it seems to make bedtime easier for some adorable reason. So it’s now officially an orange party with butterflies (Note: not just orange butterflies because in my mind that = monarchs = Halloween colors. I know, I’m difficult).

VintageConfections Large number 3 hard candy lollipop

VintageConfections Large number 3 hard candy lollipop

I’ve (very badly) sketched out a cake idea above – feel free to share your thoughts and ideas. My fabulous chef sister has offered to make butterfly cookies so I plan on showcasing her talents by sticking 3 or 4 on the cake. And, I think the number 3 is going to be a yellow hard candy lollipop from VintageConfections on Etsy (pictured left) – they have so many drool-worthy flavors, I might end up getting more to hoard and eat use as favors.

The rest is still in the brainstorm stage but follow my Pinterest board for more cool ideas as we get closer to B-day.

Hello Again!

someecards.com - Sorry I kept you up all night, mommy. On the bright side, we get to do it all over again tomorrow!
Hi again everybody! Sorry it took me so long. While I only took 12 weeks maternity leave from work, it look me quite a bit longer to completely regroup enough to make time for blogging again – having 2 children and working full-time is WAY harder than it was the first time around with 1 baby! Plus I really wanted to devote every free moment for a while to getting to know my new little baby boy and introducing him to my preschooler and the family :)

Here are the highlights from my time away from here:

  • Number 2 (which was his pregnancy nickname – we’re still waiting on something better) is holding steady at about the 50th percentile which (I’d forgotten) is still much bigger than his big sister was. While O was always a little behind the clothing sizes (at 9 months, she’d still be wearing her 6 month onesies), Number 2 at 5 months is comfortably wearing 6-9 month outfits. In comparison, he’s huge!
  • O has taken to being a big sister like a champ – my only real fear is that she’ll accidentally smother him during a hug.  We made her the official diaper disposer, a job she takes very seriously. And O often asks if she can play with the baby, meaning she wants me to put him on the floor next to her in her room while she places all her toys around him one by one (asking approval from me for each toy in case some are too small – adorable).
  • Number 2 goes from fine and happy to head-on-fire screaming in 2 seconds flat. No warning whimpers or warming up. It’s fun times.
  • I’m pretty sure Number 2 has a milk sensitivity so I’ve given up (most) dairy until I stop breastfeeding. I’m not positive that’s what was causing his fussiness, but it didn’t bother me any since I like soy products anyway.
  • O corrected me when I tried to call both my babies my “honey bunnies” so I’ve lately learned my nicknames are no longer interchangeable. “No Mommy, baby’s Sweetie,” she said. So I guess that’s that. Sweetie wasn’t necessarily the nickname of the hundreds I probably use daily that I would have picked to stick, but clearly it’s not my choice. (Luckily it’s still my choice in the blog so Number 2 wins out over Sweetie for now).
  • I swear Number 2 makes this high-pitched coo that is identical to the canned baby sound used for TV shows.
  • It may be just the difference between personalities or it may be because of their gender, but while O would lay happily on her tummy time mat or in her crib and just play to herself for 20 minutes at a time, Number 2 wants to be entertained constantly.
  • In related news, I’ve found I can do tons of stuff one-handed that I never thought possible. For example, when both my children decided they were dying of starvation at exactly the same time, I discovered I have the Olympic ability to nurse my baby while standing up and making lunch for my preschooler.

I Could Not Have Said It Better…

My husband is dyslexic so we knew that our children would automatically have a 50% chance of having dyslexia too. This blog post by Lyn Pollard from the New York Times website, Can A Daughter With Dyslexia Learn to Love Words? (link below), conveys exactly what I’ve been wondering as my daughter gets older and while awaiting the birth of my son. Well written.

http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/12/can-a-daughter-with-dyslexia-learn-to-love-words/?smid=pl-share

Narrated Playtime – Whoa, I Totally Do That!

or, A Review of Bringing Up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman

I just finished reading Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman. I almost didn’t bother, but when I read reviews that it is more autobiography than parenting manual (which I generally try to stay away from), I changed my mind and I’m glad I did. The book logs her efforts to first define the Parisian/French parenting style (which turns out to be more work that it sounds) and then to understand why it is so different from the current NYC/American style. You can tell from the reviews which people actually read the book and which just assumed it was just another American parent bashing tirade.

I appreciated that Druckerman clearly states her upper-middle-class and central Paris/elite Manhattan biases in the beginning and reminds us of them throughout the book so you know that not everything she describes necessarily applies to all of France or all of the US. But don’t let this dissuade you from reading; wherever you are, I can almost guarantee you’ve seen or done many of the parenting acts she describes in this book and will be able to relate.

The book was clearly well researched with tons of footnotes documenting the studies, articles and people she pulled from (I hate when people just write, “experts believe…” and leave it at that). And Druckerman was careful to interview and compare experiences between persons both native to each country with those who immigrated to the US or France, and between experts and regular moms  – all things I also appreciated and expected coming from a former journalist. But the book also felt very honest (she shares quite a few embarrassing parenting experiences) and was pretty amusing in many parts too. This book is an opinion piece, it is not straight investigative journalism, but even so, it seemed balanced and reasonable (not at all pushy). So whether you agree with Druckerman by the end of the book or not, you won’t regret reading it and it may give you some things to think about too.

But here is the excerpt in question that totally caught me by surprise:

American-style parenting and its accoutrements – the baby flash cards and competitive preschools – are by now cliches. There’s been both a backlash and a backlash to the backlash. So I’m stunned by what I see at a playground in New York City. It’s a special toddler area with a low-rise slide and some bouncy animals, separated from the rest of the park by a high metal gate. The playground is designed for toddlers to safely climb around and fall. A few nannies are sitting French-style on benches around the perimeter, chatting and watching their charges play.

Then a white, upper-middle-class mother walks in with her toddler. She follows him around the miniature equipment, while keeping up a nonstop monologue. “Do you want to go on the froggy, Caleb? Do you want to go on the swing?”

Caleb ignores these questions. He evidently plans to just bumble around. But his mother tracks him, continuing to narrate his every move. “You’re stepping, Caleb!” she says at one point.

I assume that Caleb just landed a particularly zealous mother. But then the next upper-middle-class woman walks through the gate, pushing a blond toddler in a black T-shirt. She immediately begins narrating all of her child’s actions too. When the boy wanders over to the gate to stare out at the lawn, the mother evidently decides this isn’t stimulating enough. She rushes over and holds him upside down.

“You’re upside down!” she shouts. Moments later, she lifts up her shirt to offer the boy a nip of milk. “We came to the park! We came to the park!” she chirps while he’s drinking.

This scene keeps repeating itself with other moms and their kids. After about an hour I can predict with total accuracy whether a mother is going to do this “narrated play” simply by the price of her handbag. What’s most surprising to me is that these mothers aren’t ashamed of how batty they sound. They’re not whispering their commentaries, they’re broadcasting them.

When I describe this scene to Michel Cohen, the French pediatrician in New York, he knows immediately what I’m talking about. He says these mothers are speaking loudly to flaunt what good parents they are. The practice of narrated play is so common that Cohen included a section in his parenting book called Stimulation, which essentially tells mothers to cut it out. “Periods of playing and laughing should alternate naturally with periods of peace and quiet,” Cohen writes. “You don’t have to talk, sing or entertain constantly.”

Whatever your view on whether this intensive supervision is good for kids, it seems to make child care less pleasant for mothers [footnote to a 2009 study]. Just watching it is exhausting. And it continues off the playground. …”

(I wanted to copy more but I’ll stop there)

Now, I know I’m definitely not narrating just to flaunt what a good parent I am because I do it when we were completely alone at the park and, as Druckerman mentions later, off the playground as well. But reading this and suddenly realizing that she was describing me, had me searching for the real reason why – at least my reason why.

So I think part of it came from reading that hearing language (reading and speaking to your child) is good for them and will help build their vocabularies. And since I suspect my 2 year old is dyslexic (her father is so there’s a 50% chance right away) and since she seems to have trouble saying the small sounds in words – I guess it was très américain of me to think the more the better, right?

And the other part was probably because we were alone. I’m a talkative person so I was  probably just chatting to fill the silence and to keep my daughter company. I’ve realized that this could be heading her down a path where she’d become one of those people that has to be stimulated constantly (like some of my college classmates who couldn’t write a term paper unless they had both headphones on and the TV going). Being able to handle quiet time is a skill that needs practice too.

So I went to the park today with my newly 2 year old and I consciously didn’t narrate. And guess what? My toddler was chattering away half the time and quiet half the time but still content the whole time. I also didn’t go up onto the actual playground tower with her this time (she usually asks for my hand to go up the stairs, etc.) but I didn’t sit on the sidelines since my little daredevil monkey loves the big kid area which is pretty high off the ground. I stood near every opening she approached just in case, but I was happy to be of no use there – we didn’t even have a near close call. And she handled every staircase, obstacle and maneuver with ease.

Things were going great! Then, my daughter then decided she wanted to try climb this terrifying (to me) curvy ladder instead of taking the stairs. Think a repeated S shape with a straight bar down the middle of it. Then bend that entire form from the top of the playground to the bottom and add an undulation to it. Fantastic.

Even though she could barely get her foot from one rung to the next, I let her try it (while holding a hand both in front and back of her lest a foot or hand slip, with visions of bloody lips and broken arms trying to force their way into the forefront of my thoughts – as is the normal state of my brain) and didn’t encourage her constantly along the way (which is much easier when you would really rather they back down, haha).

When she reached for my hand to help, I calmly said “You can do it.” And she immediately, without any kind of fuss, tried it herself – if she’d asked a second time, I would have helped or gotten her down, but she didn’t. She climbed that stupid thing 3 times all by herself. She even got stuck at one point and I watched her figure it out. Despite mommy almost having a heart attack, it was pretty cool. If I had been coaching, cheering and helping the whole time, she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to use her brain a bit and it actually might have distracted her.

I found myself pointing things out or mimicking back the words my daughter said (“That’s right, a car”) as we left the park. I was narrating our walk, I guess. But I know the intention of this part of the book is not to say that you should stop talking to your kids, of course not! The point is just to make sure there is balance. And I’m glad this book gave me the opportunity to think it through.

The MommyBites Summit Review and Gift Bag Tell-All

The Gift Bag (cell phone just for scale)

I had the pleasure of attending the MommyBites Summit, a.k.a. the Ultimate Mom’s Night Out, on Wednesday night which was fantastic (and not just because of the amazing goodie bag, although we’ll get there too).

The night began conveniently after work at 6pm at The New Yorker Hotel (which has a Starbucks right across the street from it! – I got tea) with a very simple sign-in process, raffle tickets and free food!! Attendees were given access to a table full of free samples from PopChips, Pretzel Crisps, Nutri-Grain cereal bars, and even ice cream!

So I sat there, my pregnant belly happy, while listening to an intro describing the newly designed MommyBites website, and then listening to the charming guest speaker Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project (which thankfully was included in our gift bags because after listening to Gretchen speak, I really want to read it!). She spoke about all the ways that people (even super busy moms) can and should try to make themselves happier starting from just making your bed every morning to the more thought provoking – finding a spiritual leader to emulate. And she successfully argued away the thought that it might be selfish to try to seek personal happiness.

I’ll add my wish here for a future event with just speakers (and food and gift bags) because clearly MommyBites knows how to pick interesting topics with knowledgeable, engaging speakers. I’d absolutely attend!

But I am not at all complaining about what happened next. The doors behind us opened to a hall full of vendors selling and describing their services for anything from book filled gift baskets from Baby Book Baskets and innovative magnet closure onesies from Magnificent Baby to kids yoga classes at Lil Yogi’s NYC, and luxurious skincare for mom and mommys-to-be from Mama Mio Skincare. And get this, more food!! There was a buffet table with pasta dishes, servers walking around with plates of hors d’oeuvres, and sample boxes containing 3 mini cupcakes from Baked by Melissa (soooo yummy, btw).

Unfortunately, I didn’t win anything in the raffles :( but I wasn’t sad for long because I was handed an enormous gift bag soon after. There was so much inside I had to divide it up between the large items and the equally-as-cool smaller samples (see below).

Gift Bag Contents – Big Stuff

Gift Bag Contents – Small Stuff

Although I cannot use the Perler Beads Biggie Beads set for 2 more years (it’s for kids ages 4+ – remember the beads you make a design with and then iron to fuse them together?), I was happy on behalf of my fellow attendees that the gift bags included products not just for newborns and pregnant ladies since this was an event for ALL moms. The big stuff also included a pair of organic newborn Babylegs legwarmers, a Britax stroller organizer/ cup holder (included for the first 150 registrants), a full size MAM bottle and 2 pacifiers set, a full Safety 1st baby grooming kit, Giggle’s Guide to Baby Gear, and 4 full books: Brain Rules for Baby, The Happiness Project, ABCs for Expectant Dads (the author, Todd Barrett Lieman, was there to sign it!), and Crave -The Urban Girl’s Manifesto.

The smaller items in the gift bag included more coupons and flyers to mention, a water bottle, 2 kids music CDs, a SquareSpot card (included for the first 150 registrants), grape scented Boogie Wipes, Boob Tube from Mama Mio Skincare, Mabel’s Labels, an issue of New York Family magazine, LemiShine machine cleaner, Dapple toy & surface wipes, NurturMe baby food, C-Spray (vitamin C supplement spray), CleanWell hand sanitizer, VMV Hypoallergenics Mommycoddling All-Over Lotion, and a tiny stuffed toy (with coupon) from Polarn O. Pyret.

Overall an amazing gift bag and amazing event, especially for the $25 admission price. I’m absolutely going next year! And I’m excited to see how the rest of the events this month compare!

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