Saturday, August 30, 2008

This week in review...

Musical Monday - Not too much in the way of music today... Just some time spent seeing what different bags of rocks sound like when shaken. Big rocks, little rocks, shaking, dropping... We played with sound. She played her recorder some, too. Mostly we just spent the morning at the park playing with Caedmon, though.

Tactile Tuesday - Puzzles. Lots of puzzles and shape matching today.

Wordy Wednesday - Played Starfall and did a really good job with it! She's learning to push the correct letters when asked and has now learned to hit the right arrow key to advance to the next page. It's great!

Theatrical Thursday - Dress up. Lots of dress up. Hats, sunglasses, and purses. A toddler girl's dream! Oh, and we spent a good chunk of the morning at the park playing with Zach and Kat. There was quite a bit of imaginative play going on with Ellie in the afternoon, too. She climbed up on the furniture and told me she was climbing on rocks, and she'd "look" for birds and then tell me when she "saw" one - all imaginary, of course!

Fun Friday - Finger paints outside and water colors inside. It was a painting day!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Week In Review...

Musical Monday - We spent some afternoon time clapping out rhythms and counting our claps. Clapping our hands, clapping on our laps, and clapping on our bellies. Ellie got a big kick out of it, though she didn't repeat the pattern more than once in a set. (e.g. Clap hands twice, clap belly twice, hands twice, belly twice - she would just repeat by clapping her hands twice and then her belly twice and stop.) Still, I thought that was pretty good for her and better than she has done in the past.

Tactile Tuesday - We spent the morning picking raspberries, which I think is good exercise in fine motor skills! =D Though she wasn't fond of getting poked with the thorns and stayed to the edge of the bushes, Ellie was pretty good at picking (and eating!) the ripe red berries. She took a nap after being out in the sun for so long and when she woke up we did a couple shape matching and color sorting activities. I participated in a toddler activity swap a couple years ago and this was the first time I've used any of the activities! But she did great with both and I know we'll use them again!

Wordy Wednesday - We started the morning out by reading books together, and we worked on finding letters a little later in the day. It wasn't too word-intensive of a day, but it works.

Theatrical Thursday - We spent the morning at the Children's Museum (including some dress up and role playing) and had playdate time (including a tea party!) with Zoe in the afternoon. I didn't do anything specific with her because she was pretty shot by the time we got home, but she had plenty of imaginitive play time.

Fun Friday - Ellie made a piece of artwork on Friday! Nothing too fancy, but I gave her a sheet of cardstock, a gluestick, and some tissue paper squares. I demonstrated once what to do (put the glue on the paper and then stick a tissue square to it) and after that she had a blast glueing colorful squares to the paper! She told me what colors she was using and repeated the steps over and over while she did it ("glue... now stick a square!"). I'll have to take a picture of her art, but that will come later. Right now it's hanging on the fridge. =D

Friday, August 22, 2008

More thoughts on the co-op...

The more I think about the co-op idea, the less I think it's a good idea for us, for a few reasons. Here are the things that trouble me...

1. As stated before, the co-op would have to be in the mornings due to kid naps. Really, what I want is someone to watch Ellie in the afternoons, as we already have a routine for mornings. I have time and energy to clean in the afternoons, but not in the morning.

2. I feel like I would be tied to a co-op and not have the flexibility to do something different if I wanted to. If I had a babysitter, there would be more flexibility in the schedule. I realize that a co-op would really only tie me down on the weeks that I had to watch the other kids, but with a babysitter there is the flexibility to change days if I need to and still have Ellie watched. I can't do that with a co-op.

3. Perhaps this is the selfish point, but it factors pretty largely. The truth of the matter is that I don't really want to watch anyone else's kids, even if it means free sitting for Ellie on other weeks. Really I just want to pay someone to watch her so I can get my stuff done without having to worry about watching other people's kids.

So there you have my most recent thoughts on the co-op. It sounded like a good idea when we were first talking about it, and maybe if things were different with us right now it would be a good option. But right now it's not what I'm looking for.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Co-op kid swap...

Tonight Shannon and I were talking about kid-swapping and co-oping. I've been thinking lately that I really need to find someone to watch Eliana one day a week or something just so I can get stuff done at home. Since she quit taking naps I have found it very difficult to complete household tasks like laundry, dishes, cleaning, etc. She likes to "help" or wants me to play with her, and I don't do well with the distractions. She went from taking a 4 hour nap each afternoon to no nap at all, and I'm finding that I really miss those afternoons to get things done! So I've had a few thoughts about what to do with her. Here are some of the ideas I've had...

* Babysitter - I could pay someone to watch Ellie for one day a week while I clean the house or run errands or get some scrapbooking done.

* Mother's Helper - I could have a younger (too young to "really" babysit, but ready for some of the responsibility of playing with and watching a kid) girl come over to play with Ellie and keep her occupied while I get things done around the house. I'd still be available if a need came up (like diaper changing or whatnot) but wouldn't have to deal with the constant barrage of interruptions. I could pay her a small amount, but not as much as I would pay a babysitter.

* Kid Swap - Erika and I already do this, though we took a break over the summer. Every other Friday I take Eliana to Erika's house for a playdate with Zoe from about 10-2. On the off Fridays Zoe comes here to play with Ellie. The down side to this is that I pretty much have to stay in town during that time (I just can't justify making two trips to town just so I can clean the house during that time) but it's a good time to run errands or bring scrapbooking supplies with me and get some crafting done at Keepsakes.

* Co-op - This is what Shannon and I were talking about this evening. Getting a group of SAHMs together and arranging a kid co-op type of thing. Two moms would stay with all of the kids, while the other moms were free to go out and get stuff done. We'd rotate weeks that we watched the kids, and (ideally) we'd have 3 weeks free during the month and one week on duty. Shannon and I are definitely interested, but we'll have to see if we can get enough moms together to do it.

* After Bed Swap - This is something we did with the Richters and it worked pretty well for a while. After the kids went to bed (around 7:30 or 8) one of the Richters would come down and sit in the house while Ellie slept and we went out for a date. The next night (we did it on a Friday/Saturday combo) one of us would go down and sit at their house while their kids slept and they went out on a date. It was a good system while it lasted, and it was nice to have the time away to read or watch TV or even craft (because I would take crafting supplies to their house and work on projects). Kids go to bed later in the summer and they're expecting twins, so I don't think we'll go back to doing this, but it's worth mentioning.

So those are the ideas on kid swapping/babysitting/and co-oping to have Ellie-free time. Since we were talking about the co-oping tonight, here are the logistical details I have rolling around in my head:

  • It's got to be on a day that works for everyone, and it pretty much has to be mornings because toddlers (at least most toddlers) still take afternoon naps. For me, Tuesday is really the only day that works, and that's really only if I find sometime other than Tuesday morning to exercise with Taylor. Of course, we keep saying we're going to exercise on Tuesday morning and we haven't yet, so that may resolve itself yet.
  • There has to be an understanding that the moms on duty can in no way decide not to watch kids that day and leave one mom in charge or leave everyone hanging. That's just not fair and it won't work if people do that.
  • You can choose not to send your kid to co-op, but that doesn't get you out of your week on duty.
  • There has to be a set time to watch the kids, like 9-1 or 10-1. 1 should probably be the cutoff just so kids get home in time to take naps.
  • I think keeping the co-op at homes within the Belgrade/River Rock/Landmark area is a good idea, just because that way we're all localized instead of having to drive all the way to Bozeman some weeks.
  • Depending on how many moms we get to participate, doing it for 3 weeks out of the month and then taking a week off might work.
  • It's a good idea to have a single person coordinate and to have a central form of communication, such as email. Google Calendar is a good tool if enough people are willing to use it.

Music Plan...

I have been thinking that I want to start teaching Ellie music. She's only just barely two, but she is very interested in music, and has recently taken to spending time at the piano, playing and singing happily. I want to foster this love of music in her and have years of music background myself, so I figured now might be a good time to start the music program.

But what IS the music program for a 2 year old?

I don't know. I'm sort of making mine up as I go. So far the music program has consisted of sitting at the piano with my daughter and having her tell me what songs she wants me to play. I play. She sings. And she "plays" the high keys along with me. She really enjoys it. She likes the guitar, too. She strums it (in tune or not!) or I finger the chords and she strums and we sing. I need to learn some kid songs, though, before we do too much more of it. Singing is more fun when she knows the songs. =D

Somewhat at a loss for where to go from there, I decided to sign Eliana up for the fall session of Kindermusik this year. The program is designed to introduce 18mo-3yo kids to music and instruments. The program and instructor come highly recommended from a friend of mine, and I'm looking forward to doing this on Musical Mondays. I'm hoping to pick up after the session with my own instruction, and think this will be the perfect way to jumpstart our formal(ish) music program.

Today I had a few moments to walk around while Leif and Ellie were in Costco, so I stopped in Eckroth Music. It's the first music store I've been in for years. Literally. I'm pretty sure I haven't been in a music store since we moved to MT, and that was 5 years ago. So I walked around and looked around and found a couple things I'm excited about using with Ellie as we practice music together. The first is something I was planning on making, but am happy to find someone else has made for less than $5! They're music note flashcards. For some reason I really really want her to learn to read music early on instead of learning how to play by ear or by memory before she can read music or knows what notes are. And since she's in shape-matching and flashcard loving land right now, I figure this might be a fun way to start. Here's what I got:

Some of the flashcards are definitely too advanced for her, but the basic ones (starter notes like middle C and those surrounding) I can certainly introduce her to now. I also got a piano book, designed for ages 4 and up beginning piano students. It's called Piano Party by the Bastiens.

I love this book already. It starts by teaching kids right and left hands (which Ellie already knows, so we're good there!) and numbers 1-5 and high and low and stuff like that. And the workbook pages are very little kid friendly, plus it includes teacher notes in the back with the tunes for little memory aid songs, rhythm clapping songs, accompaniment pieces to add to what they play... all that fun stuff! The activity pages look like this:

So that's my plan. Kindermusik, and starting in on the book and the flashcards. Who knows... it may take Eliana 3 years to go through the book. But it seems to me that this is a good way to start, so I'm going to try it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Daily Activity Guide

I am organizing the box of activities I have for Ellie right now, so I figured it might be a good idea to write down what activities work well for each day. Then when I am at a loss for an activity to do I will have a reference guide to look at.

Musical Monday
  • Kindermusik (September through December)
  • Recorder*
  • Piano
  • Guitar
  • Singing songs and doing motions
  • Tapping out rhythms
Tactile Tuesday
  • Playdough
  • Match the Bead sorting game*
  • Clip the Square sorting game*
  • Shape matching*
  • Puzzles
Wordy Wednesday
  • Alpha spoons*
  • Alphabet puzzle*
  • Tracing letters on the alphabet placemat*
  • Letter puzzles*
  • Starfall
  • Alphabet coloring pages (print from starfall)
  • Puzzle Number Shapes
  • Word flashcards*
  • Read books
Theatrical Thursday
  • Children's Museum playgroup
  • Dress up
  • Puppets
  • Little People
Fun Friday
  • Tissue Paper Collage*
  • Paint
  • Coloring pages*

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bento Box Size...

Well, after a little searching on Lunch in a Box, I figured out about how big my bento box should be. She has a handy calculator on there, and using that this is what I figured out:

I am in my 20's, so I should start with a 600 ml box for calculation purposes. I am shorter than average, so I should subtract 100 ml, and I have a low activity level, so I subtract another 100 ml. (I think... either way I am trying to lose weight, so a smaller box isn't a bad thing.) So my bento box should be about 400 ml.

So I just went and checked the box I used yesterday to pack my lunch and Ellie's lunch together and... it's like 1600 ml. HUGE. And not huge at the same time. But that explains why we only ate about half the food in it and felt plenty full. Weird. So that must be the family size box. Good to know.

A 400 ml. box is small. Very small, by my normal lunch packing standards. But if I could fit a whole lunch in that teeny tiny box, it would fit in my purse. That would be convenient! So I'll try again sometime soon. Maybe packing my lunch alone this time to see if I can do it. Right now I'm off to sort through the Tupperware and see what containers I already have that will fit the bill. How fun!

This week in review...

Musical Monday - we played the piano (We would sit together on the piano bench and she told me what songs she wanted me to play (mostly the ABC's) and we'd sing together or she'd sing alone and she "played along" at the high end of the keyboard) and I got out the guitar for her to play with. We did a little bit of guitar playing where I held the chord and she strummed. That was sort of fun, I just have to figure out how to play some children's song on it. Most of the guitar songs I know are praise and worship songs from college.

Tactile Tuesday - I have to admit that I didn't do much with this this week. I had ideas, but she mostly wanted to play the piano and guitar again, so I let her. Maybe next week we'll pull out the playdough or something. Leif did try to teach her somersaults today, so I guess that counts.

Wordy Wednesday - Leif (who is home from work this week) played starfall with Ellie, and we did an alphabet puzzle on the floor. It is a new puzzle for her and it might be above her skill level, but it was good practice at matching up letters.

Theatrical Thursday - I didn't do anything specific with her today, but she spent a good deal of time at the Children's Museum playing with the other kids, including dress up. So I count that as good imaginative play.

Fun Friday - No art projects today, just a couple hours spent at the splash park with the Danielson and Morales kids! She was pretty worn out after that so she actually took a nap today!

Friday, August 15, 2008

My First Bento!!

Today I had the opportunity to make my first bento, so I did!! Ellie and I were going to spend some time at the splash park with friends, so I decided to pack a lunch for us to share. Perfect time to try my hand at this new technique, right? So here it is... my very first bento:

I think my container might be a little big, but I don't really know how big a bento box is supposed to be. And maybe, if I weren't calorie counting and trying to lose weight, this might be the right size box, but it seemed like it was a little deep. Anyway, it worked well, and I'll use it again for bento-ing when Ellie and I need to take lunch somewhere. I'll also let her eat the leftovers for snack this afternoon. Here's what I packed into it...

1. Strawberries. These are actually placed all the way across the box and the silicone cup is sitting on a layer of them. Then I filled in around the silicone cup with more strawberries to finish off that section. We shared the strawberries.

2. Macaroni and Cheese. This is leftover from yesterday, so I just threw it in a silicone cup for Ellie to eat. I made it a smiley face by adding hot dog eyes and a fruit leather mouth. I just cut off pieces of the hot dog and fruit leather that are also in the box.

3. Fruit Leather. I used the fruit leather as a barrier between the strawberries and the proteins. I think the proteins might have been just fine against the strawberries, but it was an easy place to put the leather and I wanted to use it for the smile anyway. =D

4. String Cheese. This is at the bottom of the box, right next to the fruit leather. It's still in its wrapper, so I wasn't worried about it getting contaminated.

5. Turkey Hot Dog. This is right on top of the cheese and under the turkey rolls. It's in once piece, except for the two slices I cut off to make the smiley face eyes. This is Ellie's protein.

6. Turkey Deli Meat Rolls. Instead of rolling each of the slices up individually, I just rolled all 5 together and figured I'd roll them separately when it came time to eat. It was laziness. =D This is my lunch protein, so I figured I'd just make do. It worked pretty well.

7. No Sugar Added Blackberry Jam. This is in the little pink Tupperware container at the top of the picture. It's my dipping sauce for the turkey rolls. Weird, but it's low calorie and good. =D

8. Carrots. We were pretty much out of vegetables that I could take along, but I found a little bag of carrots in the fridge, so they came with us at the last minute. They help form a barrier between the proteins (which are cold and lunchmeaty, so they're sort of wet) and the dry goldfish crackers.

9. Goldfish Crackers. These are sort of a filler for the box and snack food, and the carb portion of the box. I put them on the opposite side of the box from the macaroni to help balance out the colors a little. These are Ellie's snack for this afternoon, too, since she didn't really eat them with lunch.

10. Ranch Dressing. I put the ranch in another Tupperware container (the taller, old style midge containers) for dipping carrots. Ellie loves to dip her carrots, so this was *her* container.

I admit, this was more food than Ellie and I needed for lunch. I was sort of shocked by that, because if I'd packed everything into separate containers like I normally do, it would take a lunch box at least twice the size of the bento box to fit it all in. But this was extremely compact and held plenty of food. And I only had a couple lids to keep track of (the lid for my bento box fits right underneath it, so that is nice) instead of 6 or so! I opened it up and held it on my lap while we were at the park and I didn't have to worry about ziplock bags blowing away or gathering together all the containers every time I wanted to stand up. AND the bento box fit nicely into my bag (which also held a towel, change of clothes, sunscreen, nalgene bottle, sippy cup, and diapers) so I only had to carry one bag and my purse (oh, and my chair) to the park and I was set for a couple hours! Easy to do in one trip!

Something else I added to my bento box was a cloth napkin... I layed it out diagonally, folded in two opposing points, and tied the other two points around the box to create a handle. It was cute in its presentation, functional as a handle, and meant that I had a cloth napkin with me while I was eating - something I was glad to have since I forgot a fork for myself and at strawberry quarters with my fingers! I remembered a fork for Ellie (for the mac and cheese) and just tucked that inside the box on top of the carrots. Here's what the finished, packed up bento box looked like:

So there you have it. My first foray into the land of bento. I like it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bento Mania!

I was recently introduced to the idea of bento and immediately fell for them, mostly based on cute-factor. Really, really adorable lunches. And then I started thinking about why I would want to take the time to pack a bento. Are there any real benefits that align with my priorities (other than cuteness, ha ha!) and how I want to spend my time?

Turns out there are. See, one of the things that I hold important is stewardship. Not just of money, though I think we are to be good stewards of money as well. I think it is important to be good stewards of EVERYTHING we are given - our time, our minds, our bodies, our children, our earth... And bento fits right in with at least a couple of those, so I think it's worth a look.

As for being stewards of our bodies and our children, there is a lot to be said for the food we eat and the food we use to nourish our children. Bento encourages a colorful, balanced meal consisting of the 5 food groups. By packing your food in a bento box, you just WANT to incorporate different fruits and vegetables, because, let's face it... a bento box containing a single pbj sandwich just isn't as fun to look at as sandwiches cut into stars surrounded by blueberries and a banana moon. When it comes to adult bento, it's easier to control portion sizes and balanced nutrition when you pack it all into a single box. You can easily see what proportions you have of carbs, fruits, veggies, and protein. Bento encourages balance and moderation.

Because bento boxes are designed to be stuffed full of food (so the food doesn't slosh around and mix with other foods) it is done in a way that uses "neutral" foods (like celery and carrots) to form a barrier between other foods. You might not want your blueberries to juice up your sandwich bread, but place a few carrots as a barrier between them and you've got a problem solved! AND you've got grains, protein (sandwich filling), fruit and vegetables all right there! In a traditional lunch sack, you'd have each item (sandwich, blueberries, carrots) in its own ziplock bag, which just get thrown away. Even if you go for the reusable approach, you'd have 3 separate containers, all in a lunch bag. This way you just have everything in one container, which serves as its own lunch bag. Fewer things to wash (less water used) and fewer things to throw away!

Really it's a great idea. I can't believe I hadn't heard of it until now, but today I picked up a box to use as a bento box, and some silicone baking cups to keep wet foods off of other foods. I still have a few years before I have to send a lunch with Ellie, so maybe I'll have time to perfect the art. In the meantime, I'm excited to give it a try for our weekly picnic lunches after the hikes. It sounds so... fun! =D

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Recipe Review: Deceptively Delicious Aloha Chicken Kebabs

I tried my first Deceptively Delicious recipe the other night, so I thought I'd share my thoughts on it. I made the Aloha Chicken Kebabs made with sweet potato puree. They were really good! I will make them again!

Once you have the sweet potato puree (I recommend making up the purees ahead of time for these recipes), the chicken is very easy to make. I didn't have any short wooden skewers, like the recipe calls for, so I just used the long metal ones we use for grilling. That didn't work. Because they didn't fit in the pan I was using to cook the chicken, the chicken didn't rest on the bottom of the pan and therefore didn't cook. I just pulled the chicken off the skewers and cooked them in the pan. It worked just fine. It didn't look as festive, but it worked just fine.

The chicken had a nice Polynesian flavor about it, and tasted very different from what I usually make. I really liked it! I think it would be really good served with rice or stir fry with pineapple and almonds (like a Polynesian stir fry). I definitely recommend this recipe if you have the cookbook!

One thing I don't like about this book is that it doesn't include all the nutrition information. As a calorie counter (my choice for dieting) I like to know all the specs on my food. Thanks to, though, I can now tell you the nutrition information for this dish! You'll have to buy the cookbook for the recipe (and I recommend it!) but the nutritional details per serving (3-4 kebabs) are...

Calories: 315
Fat: 8
Carbs: 32
Fiber: 3
Protein: 30

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Now that Eliana has given up her nap, I have been wanting to use that time to do a little organized learning time with her. Nothing too structured, just something to add a little consistency to our afternoons. She functions much better on a schedule and, truthfully, so do I. We typically have things scheduled in the mornings from around 10-noon, but I want to do something together each day in the afternoon as well. So here's what I've come up with so far...

Musical Mondays - activities focusing on music and rhythm. We'll explore instruments (piano and guitar for now), sing together, dance to music, and play rhythm games.
Tactile Tuesdays - activites focusing on motor skills. We'll play with playdough, blocks, bubbles, etc. Anything to get moving in big and small ways!
Wordy Wednesdays - activites focusing on language. We'll read books, work on the alphabet, play Starfall, and color alphabet activity pages.
Theatrical Thursdays - activities focusing on pretend play. We'll dress up, play with puppets, play with baby dolls, and do animal imitations.
Fun Friday - activities focusing on fun things, but mostly art! We'll paint, draw, color, and create! It'll be fun!

I haven't thought it out too much, but this is my basic scheme for right now. I figure we can do a couple activities for 15 minutes each and we'll vary the activities depending on weather, energy levels, and what we want to do that day. It will give us some semblance of schedule in the afternoon without being too rigid, and it will give us organized time to play together! Some days we may just be busy and need to skip it because we're in town or whatever, but this way I know what we'll be doing on which days so we can pick up when we need to.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Scripture Memory

Eliana is 2 years old and has been soaking up information like a sponge. She knows her famous landmarks (20 of the them, at least!) and all of the letters of the alphabet, both upper and lowercase, plus the sound most of them make. Dr. Benda said this would be a good time to introduce her to a musical instrument. It occurs to me that this would also be a good time to start her on scripture memory.

I have been thinking a lot about what I want I want Ellie's mind and heart filled with. As she absorbs information so much right now, I want to make sure that she is absorbing what is good and true and right, and not what the world says is fun for toddlers. According to what I see all around, my 2 year old is supposed to be obsessed with Dora, or the Disney Princesses, or Blue and they are to be the primary moral influences in her life. I don't want that for my daughter! Girls who start out being obsessed with Dora and Disney Princesses turn into teenagers obsessed with Britney and Paris. But I want a daughter who grows up to be obsessed with the Lord and His ways!

So I have to be careful now what her mind and heart is filled with. I'm not saying there's anything necessarily wrong with Dora, the Disney Princesses, or Blue's Clues. But I don't want to fill Eliana with something just because it's not bad. I want to fill her mind and heart with things that are GOOD! I want her to think on things that are good and true and right, and that starts now.

Right now she basically has my favorite CD memorized. We listen to it in the car all the time and she sings along. You know, if we had been listening to scripture set to music, she would know it by now! Wouldn't that be wonderful to have God's Word hidden in her heart so young?! So I have been searching for a good way to approach scripture memory for a 2 year old. I came across this blog that lists abbreviated verses for each letter of the alphabet and I thought that was a pretty cool idea. A family friend suggested Scripture Memory Fellowship, which actually has a preschool scripture memory program! AND the preschool memory books also have CDs for purchase with the scriptures set to music. That sounds perfect for us! I might even get one of the adult memory books since I have fallen out of the habit of memorizing scripture and would like to get back into it.

So that's my new goal to work on with Eliana - scripture memory. I'll let you know how the Scripture Memory Fellowship products are. I trust the source that recommended them, so hopefully I'll have a good report!

Update on Crudites

The "no snacks before dinner except veggies" rule has been going great! Last night I offered her carrots and she didn't want them but requested bread. I told her that she couldn't have bread because we were only going to eat vegetables before dinner. She paused a minute and then said, "Hmmm.... I want cucumbers!" So I got out a cucumber and cut her a spear and she ate it and then came back for a second spear!

So far so good!

Tonight I'm trying my first Deceptively Delicious recipe - Aloha Chicken Kebabs.