Friday, April 24, 2009

Over The River and Down 80/94...

Over the river, yes...woods, uh...not so much! Even if we have to change the lyrics a bit, the rest of the phrase is correct: To Grandmother's House We Go!

Keith had to go to Canada for work, so Alex & I spent a week with Grandma & Grandpa. I think Alex totally enjoyed his week; his grandparents kept him very busy! We got there on Monday night, and Alex walked right past my parents & directly to the spot where they keep the remote control pickup truck. He knows what's important, ha ha!

Throughout the week, Alex spent a lot of time exploring all of Grandma & Grandpa's toys. Aunt Deb came over to play for a while, and we all went to Baker's Square for pie. (Thanks, Grandpa!) Mom made some of my favorite foods for lunch & dinner, and I sure appreciate that! (Thanks, Grandma!)

Grandpa and Alex had lots of fun with wagon rides through the neighborhood & remote control cars in the driveway. Alex asked for his grandpa each morning when he woke up. One morning, Grandpa was out for a morning walk when Alex woke up. Alex searched every inch of the house for his grandpa. Since we've been home, he's been carrying a beat-up picture of Grandpa around the house almost every day. I think Grandpa is his new best friend! ;)

Grandpa & Alex hung out one afternoon while Mom & I ran errands together. (Alex is an excellent shopper, but it's kind of nice to shop without a baby in tow!) She & I also stopped at Walgreens that day to get our free cloth bags for Earth Day. You had to make a purchase, so I got a 24 cent egg coloring kit for next year & a pack of bubble toys for Alex. Oh, and a bottle of Tums...not that you care! I laughed because the sales clerk (out of habit, I'm sure...) put our purchases & free cloth bags inside of a plastic shopping bag.

Grandma & Alex had a lot of fun together with sidewalk chalk and bubble blowing. Grandma has the neatest kit of bubble toys. I doubt they even make the exact toys anymore, as they're about 15 years old, and I know that our new bubble toys aren't quite as cool as Grandma's.

Alex is IN LOVE with pull-string toys. Grandma has the old Fisher Price pull-string telephone & Humpty Dumpty. Alex dragged those toys all over the house with a big smile on his face. I realize that strings on children's toys aren't considered safe, but Alex just loves them! I'm glad these are a special treat for him at Grandma's house.

We went to visit Uncle Dave, Aunt Janice, Kate, and Josh on Wednesday night. Jess Bell was over for dinner, so we got to catch up with her, too! She & I taught together for several years, and I miss seeing her every day! She's such an encourager, and such a positive, fun person! Poor Alex was tired & grumpy that evening, but he loved the foster puppies that Dave & Janice have right now. (He also loved Jess' homemade cookie...mmm!)

On Thursday, my sister Donna & I spent the whole day together while Grandma watched Alex. They took a wagon ride to the park, played at the playground, blew bubbles, used sidewalk chalk, and who knows what else...but Alex was sure a happy kid! He learned to say the word "park" that day! He didn't even really get excited when I came home, so I know he loves his grandparents! I loved having a day with Donna, and I hope that Grandma enjoyed her day as much as Alex did!

Donna & I went to Archivers scrapbook store. Donna bought me a $20 gift card on the day Alex was born. That shows you how much I've scrapbooked since Alex's birth. Alex's baby book is the last scrapbook I made. I used the gift card yesterday to buy the materials for "Baby Bob's" baby book. (Poor, nameless child...)

We also stopped at Joann's and Carter's (my boys now have big brother/little brother shirts -so cute!!!), went out for lunch, and went to Trader Joe's. Ha! I got to say "my boys"! That was kind of fun! :)

Donna raves about Trader Joe's all the time. Now I know why. I wish I could shop there regularly...not for all of our groceries, but for certain items. They have some very reasonably priced healthy foods! And where else do all the grocery store employees wear Hawaiian shirts?

We got to play with Emma for a little while before Daddy got back from the airport to pick us up. (Alex sure was happy to see his Dada again!)

It took a little adjusting for Alex to get used to sleeping in an unfamiliar bed in a strange room. The first night was rough, but it got better all week long. We need our sweet boy to learn how to sleep away from home before the new baby makes an appearance, and he seemed to do all right!

I think Alex's grandpa is right - he'll do fine, and he's pretty comfortable hanging out at Grandma & Grandpa's house now. That's good - now he loves both of his Grandparents' homes!

Thanks for giving us a place to stay for the week, Mom & Dad! We had fun, and I hope you did, too!

Happy (belated) Earth Day!

We did nothing special for Earth Day other than spend a LOT of time outdoors with Grandma & Grandpa, but that was a bunch of fun! When I get the pictures loaded to the computer, we'll tell the story of our week with Grandma & Grandpa.

My mom & I got a free roll of Reynold's Recycled Foil thanks to my dad, who was awake in the night & printed the rebate form! We also got free cloth bags from Walgreens and I got one from Trader Joes. (Walgreens - with coupon, Trader Joes - because my sister mentioned it was my first trip to Traders...but hopefully it won't be my last!)

I hope when Alex and "Baby Bob" are bigger, we'll be able to do some fun earth day activities each April. But for now, Alex is too little to understand it. I'd love to do things like take a walk to pick up trash, use items from the recycle bin to create a robot or sculpture, etc. (Alex DID find a plastic milk jug ring in the recycle bin and use it as a bracelet last night...does that count? LOL!)

I'm working on a compromise between frugal and green, and think we're doing okay. I'm not aiming for perfection, just to use what we can to make a difference in little ways. Here's my Earth Day post...just like last year.

Here's a list of the cleaners we currently use. I love that it's such a short list...keeps the cabinets much tidier!

  1. Palmolive Free & Clear natural dish liquid

  2. Arm & Hammer Essentials detergent and dryer sheets

  3. Clorox GreenWorks toilet cleaner

  4. Sunrise or CVS brand recycled paper towels (along with cloth kitchen towels & microfiber cleaning rags)

  5. Advanage all-natural, all-purpose spray cleaner (which also works for windows, mirrors, spot-cleaning carpets, and more)
  6. baking soda (sprinkled on the glass-top stove, scrubbed with a really wet sponge or scrub brush)

  7. Electrasol or Cascade (yeah, so not 'green'...but usually cheap!)

Other things...

  • we cloth diaper about 95% of the time, although I have about 10 packs of disposables for the first month or two with "Baby Bob". We'll probably use disposable with Alex for a few weeks at that time, also. We're at about 95% with cloth wipes, too. Daddy prefers disposable wipes, and we keep them in the diaper bag, too.

  • The lady who made Alex's cloth wipes also makes a larger size that is designed to be used like a paper towel. I love them! They're such a cheery print that I'd prefer to use these simply because they make me smile! :) (There's usually a roll of recycled paper towels in our kitchen, as well, but it lasts a long time.)

  • We rarely use paper plates or ziplock bags, but I can't give up paper napkins. Why cloth diapers are okay, but cloth napkins are gross is beyond me. Go figure.
  • We've got a stash of Palmolive Free & Clear that I got for $1/bottle, but I'll still use Dawn dishsoap if it's free at CVS. And we still use Electrasol or Cascade because I can't find a reasonably-priced, readily-available "green" dishwasher detergent. Any suggestions?

What do you do that's earth-friendly? Any fun projects with your kids? Do you plant a garden with your kids? Any advice on keeping away the tomato worms? The tomato worms have taken over my tomatoes & peppers every time I've tried. I don't think I'm even trying this year unless someone wants to walk me through the process all summer long, but I wish I could teach my kids to garden...and I'm dying to make homemade salsa from my own garden someday!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


I feel like lunch repeats itself around here, and I'd like to add a little variety. I need some good, easy toddler-friendly lunches. Any suggestions? Here are "the rules":

1) We avoid lunchables and Gerber toddler's just pricy junk food!
(not that I always do much better with making my own lunches for him...)

2) No peanut butter or peanut products, although my friend Trish suggested sunbutter as an alternative

3) preferably has some sort of dairy/calcium content since Alex doesn't care for drinking milk, so I aim to get calcium in his food

4) I'm disgusted by the smell of tuna, and I won't feed it to my kid(s)...because then I have to smell it as I prepare it, lol!

Here's what he currently has every day:

1 - always yogurt (half his daily calcium need)

2 - always fruit (canned peaches or pears in fruit juice, applesauce, sliced grapes or strawberries, blueberries, melon chunks - whatever is available)

3 - one of the following:

  • tomato soup & grilled cheese (he LOVES this!!)
  • jelly & cream cheese tortilla roll-up
  • deli ham & cream cheese tortilla roll-up
  • jelly on bread (our biggest "hurry-up" lunch)
  • macaroni & cheese
  • dinner leftovers
  • rarely: chicken nuggets or beef hot dogs in small chunks with BBQ sauce
  • rarely: spaghettios/mini ravioli

Since a few of you are nutrition-oriented, you might like to know:

jelly is all-natural, fruit-juice sweetened, no sugar or corn syrup
bread is Aunt Millie's whole grain wheat bread (or sometimes homemade)
applesauce is all-natural, unsweetened - just apples & water
mac & cheese/spaghettios are usually Annie's if I can catch it on sale
if you know of a GOOD, creamy tomato soup that contains no corn syrup, let me know!

Yes, we eat junk, but Keith & I aim to keep most of it out of the kiddo! ;)

So, any suggestions? Please?! :)

What Alex Loves Right Now...

  • swiffering the kitchen floor (we shortened the handle & he loves it!)

  • "So Big" tickles after his bath (oh, you should hear that - best giggle ever!)

  • cars & trucks

  • Racing Ramp toy

  • helping Mama put clothes in the dryer, then shutting the door

  • handing me towels & washcloths to fold

  • randomly giving kisses

  • playing with belly buttons (you've been warned, and I apologize in advance!)

  • cell phones (we gave him Keith's old phone, charged up but without service)

  • walking backward

  • playing blocks at his bedroom table (Mama builds a tower, Alex crashes it)

  • reading books together (when he feels like it, but always before naptime...and often one or two in the evening after dinner) Current favorites are Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Bear Snores On and Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type. He's also doing a good job of destroying Aunt Deb's Ten In A Bed pop-up book, but he loves when I sing him that story.

  • going "bup" (upstairs to the playroom)

  • riding his toy train (for which we'll forever be grateful to Karen for the loan...I dread the day we have to give it back!)

  • feeding Maggie

  • putting his clothes in the hamper after his bath (yay! we've been working on this!)

  • just starting to understand scribbling with crayons

  • putting real coins in his piggy bank (with constant supervision, of course) and then shaking the pig

  • making funny, scrunchy faces to get us to laugh

  • remotes & real phones (which are no-nos, but try & stop him!)

  • attempting to play with the dog

  • strings, ropes, dog leashes - anything he can drag behind him around the house (I'm thinking of attaching a long ribbon to an empty box so he can drag around his little people or cars

  • carrying a paper gift bag filled with little toys

  • wearing his toy stethescope and being called "Dr. Alex"

  • playing in the dog's cage

  • playing with a small tub of colored, uncooked macaroni (although I still have to watch closely so he doesn't eat it)

  • playing with a small tub of soapy water

  • eating bananas - first thing he asks for in the morning, and he continues to ask for bananas all day long. It's a sad day if we're out of bananas. He signs 'banana' and looks longingly at the spot where we keep our bananas. He will beg anyone, anywhere for a banana. When we grocery shop, he MUST hold the bananas...and attempt to eat them through the peel.

  • asking us to "puh" the electronics in our house. I don't know if this is Alex-speak for 'push' or something else, but he asks us to "puh" the TV, the stereo, the cell phones, the light switches...anything that can be turned on & off

I try to encourage him to spend a good amount of time each day with the 'unplugged' variety of toys. I love all our Fisher Price toys, but I'd like Alex to use creativity & imagination, too...something that battery-operated toys don't always allow for.

We've got the Toddler Busy Book by Trish Kuffner (free, thanks to Paperback Swap!), although Alex isn't quite ready for most of the activities yet. We're working on making a few, though. If anyone uses frozen juice/lemonade with the metal lids (small Durkee onion containers with metal lids, too) we'd love to have your lids, please!

A couple favorite toddler activity websites right now are listed below. I look forward to Alex growing into many of the activities found here:

What were/are your kids favorite things to do at this age? Favorite stories to read? Chores they could help you do? I'm open to suggestions for active ways to keep Alex busy during the day.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

We Love Baby Signing Time!

Every baby is different. My friend Bonnie's little guy, Sam, loves Praise Baby videos. I can't get Alex to watch one for more than 2 minutes. Alex loves his Baby Signing Time video, but Sam has no interest in those.

That said, Signing Time videos are GREAT for Alex! He is totally captivated by watching Baby Signing Time. We only have volume 1, but I'd love to splurge a bit and buy him Volume 2. He has learned SO MUCH by watching this video.

The funny thing is, we're not totally aware of how much he's picked up from these videos. Sure, he has his signs (milk, dog, banana) that he's learned from the video and uses pretty regularly. There's a lot more stuffed into that little mind that we realize, though!

Here's an example:

Last night I had a meeting at church, and Alex had to come with me. There was a bird chirping somewhere in a bush outside the window. We couldn't see the bird, but Alex heard it. He turned to me and signed "bird"!

Now, first of all, he couldn't see the bird. That means he recognized it by sound. Second, I had NO CLUE he knew the sign for bird. I've never signed it with him or practiced it. I tend to use more practical signs with him. That means he picked it up simply by watching this video twice a week. Wow. Soaking things up like a sponge!

Doesn't it just make you wonder what all goes on in the mind of a toddler? What's he storing up in there? When he really gets the hang of talking, what's going to come pouring out of his mouth. That little mind is always working, and I think it's pretty cool!