Thursday, July 31, 2008

Muffin Pan Meal

I've been wanting to try out serving food in a muffin pan ever since I came across the idea from Sycamore Stirrings via The Crafty Crow. Today we finally did. It was so much fun to put the pan together and allowed me to make a complete meal out of odds and ends. Sabrina was thrilled, advising on placement and food selection: pretzels, cream cheese, kiwi, walnuts, smoked salmon, carrots, olives, more smoked salmon, pears, more kiwi, whole wheat goldfish, red pepper. "It's a paint palette dinner!"

It's a fun and healthy way to get variety and even sneak in a few new items or non-favorite things that may be gobbled up in the process. Sabrina and CC shared this pan (ok, I had some too!), but I think I'll try to find two 6-cup ones for the future so I can tailor them to their needs and also keep track of how much each one ate. Great idea for play dates too, I think!

And by the way, have you noticed the new button on my blog? Cassi at The Crafty Crow recently featured a few of our projects, which I am so thrilled about. The Crafty Crow collects great kid activity ideas from all over the blogosphere and I am honored to have been tapped!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Self Body Portrait

It's been done before, at home and preschool, but this time Sabrina really had such a great time decorating her body tracing and it came out so... fancy, in her own words! And we were able to put to good use one of the rolls of paper we bought for our IKEA easel that has not been used in months. Next up is CC, if she can lay still long enough for me to trace her!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Presents for Me

A few lovelies came in the mail this afternoon, making my day. Notecards from Sugar City Shop so nicely packaged and with such a sweet thank you card, I felt like I had received a gift from a friend, not something I had ordered in the mail and paid for. Also, a new journal for my ongoing lists and plans designed by the awesome Nicki McClure and a baby journal and card for a friend who will be having her first child soon.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Beach Break

We just returned from a long weekend in the cute beach town of Cape May to celebrate 11 years of marriage en famille... it was a fun little break for all of us, filled with lots of beach time, lunches by the shore and dinners at nice little restaurants. And best of all, it turns out CC adores the beach as much as her older sister. Wish we could have stayed longer because we were just getting settled in when it was time to pack back up and go!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Flying Solo

I’ve been on my own with the girls since Sunday night, the longest we’ve ever been without Patrick. And it’s becoming ever more clear who keeps us running on schedule in a tidy house living a life of pleasant rituals and routines. Not me.

Want to know more? Go to BabyCenter to read my latest Week of Wonders feature. It's about my week of flying solo with the girls and how we ignored our usual routines and got super creative. And while you're there please leave me a message!

Among other things we collaborated on a series of drawings of pigeons inspired by Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by our new favorite author Mo Willems.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wildflower Garden

It's raining hard and I'm so glad because it means we won't have to water our new little garden planted some months ago. We had a big empty flowerbed in need of color and a four-year-old girl in need of a garden to tend. After preparing the soil and pulling weeds for two weeks, we shook nearly a whole can of wildflower seed onto the flowerbed. We watered and watered and pulled weeds, and just when we were sure nothing would come of it, big stems and leaves were growing and now some flowers are blooming. Sabrina had almost lost interest in the project, but now that she has armfuls of calendula flowers to pick she's enamored with her garden again. Next up I see some pink and purple buds starting to show! I love that this was nearly effortless and that I can let Sabrina and CC pick these flowers to her heart's desire.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Green, I Love You Green

Mommy and Sabrina at the Park

Alex and Sabrina Playing with Ducks

The best art experiments are those Sabrina makes up herself. She drew a picture all in greens and blues, and when I pointed that out to her she decided to try to do it again. I'm not sure if her first one was deliberate or not, but I love the results.

It would be a nice art lesson, to give a child only shades of one color to draw with and let them discover how much they can do with that one color.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Summer Notes

"Making Mail" is a favorite activity lately. At least a few times a week we have been sending out postcard-size drawings with little notes dictated by Sabrina. You can tell she misses her preschool friends and teachers because she has mostly wanted to reach out to them. Sometimes she makes mail for me, Patrick or CC, and we use stickers instead of stamps then, although I think I'll get some one and two cent make-up price stamps to make it more authentic. It's become such a part of the week that on my list of things to do is create a little mailing kit for her with envelopes, precut cards, stamps and those romantic par avion stickers.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Funny Love

Sabrina has a new literary love, Mo Willems' Elephant and Piggie books about the mismatched pair of best friends. The great thing about these books is that they are laugh-out-loud funny, in a way both a preschooler and an adult can appreciate. I find that most funny kids books are either facile potty or slapstick humor, which I don't get and Sabrina often doesn't seem to either. It's a wonderful thing to be reading to Sabrina and have her laughing and laughing uncontrollably next to me. These books are great, and have inspired a number of activities: drawings and paintings of the protagonists, plays based on the books (Mommy, you be Piggie and I be Gerald), and lots of exploration of emotions that are at the heart of these books (I am MAD, Mommy, so MAD!).

We have read them all now over and over again and are waiting for more to be published... it kind of reminds me of my first intense literary loves in college when I read every single one of Alice Munro or Margaret Atwood's books and then tried to write stories like theirs and waited with baited breath for the newest book to come out.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Butterflies in my Bonnet

A very lovely outing to see live butterflies at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. We spent a nice morning surrounded by butterflies landing on us. We were able to identify the different species thanks to a colorful chart. Sabrina was delighted... she loves butterflies and remembered that one of her new heroines, Fancy Nancy, goes to a similar exhibit in the book Bonjour Butterfly.

If you don't know the Fancy Nancy series and have a girl, check the books out but be warned they may bring out the fancy girl in you. I mention the books in today's feature post on BabyCenter about Sabrina's new penchant for girly fancy clothes and decor. The post is the 4th in a new series I am writing for BabyCenter every Thursday titled Week of Wonders. If you visit BabyCenter, please leave me a comment so I know you came!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Girl and a Pretzel

As if I needed a reminder of my child's infinite creativity. My big idea was to make letters. Sabrina's was to make a girl holding a balloon. "It's like the gingerbread boy! Except she's a girl and a pretzel."

This is one of many times we've made pretzels. It's great fun and easy! You probably have all the ingredients at home already. Happy snacking.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fresh Start

Sometimes simplicity is not about taking away, but adding one more thing to the day. I've been buying huge bags of oranges and hand squeezing a glass for each of us on most mornings. There's something about the smell of oranges. About the simple, honest effort. And that taste. It makes us feel so alive! And if you're going to add something perfect to the day, it might as well be early in the morning, to set the tone. What small, simple, perfect act could you add to your day?

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Little Time Away

A few months ago I spent three days away from home on a work-related trip. I had been dreading it because I hate being away from my family and home. Even more annoying, I had to travel all the way to Los Angeles for just a few short meetings, but the time difference meant I had to get there a day early and stay an extra day. Three days away from the girls, my first trip away since CC was born. I felt pretty crummy about the whole thing.

But, it turned out to be the best thing that has happened to my parenting in a long time. I missed the girls, Patrick and home, so I thought about them a lot. But because I had a lot of time and was alone, I actually was able to reflect on them, to be thoughtful in my thinking. To evaluate, brainstorm, daydream and plan with a distance I usually never have. Even when I am planning our weeks or making lists of projects or catching up on scrapbooks or photo editing or blogging, my girls are right there. We have just been together, or are just about to be together again. It's hard to gain perspective on what's going on that way. It's hard to see the big picture and not get caught up in today's events alone.

I love living in the moment, and parenting really requires it I believe. But what I realized during this trip is how important it is to have time away from parenting in order to gain perspective on it. I'm not talking about time for myself or a break or vacation. I have already learned that I'm a better person when I make sure I do lots of things for myself and by myself. But it never occurred to me to take breaks, retreats if you will, to think about our family, my parenting, my goals and dreams and plans for this most important aspect of my life. Artist retreats. Spiritual retreats. Couples retreats. I have always had my eye on those. But a parenting retreat seemed like a contradiction until now.

During the trip I started a notebook that I am using for planning and dreaming, but also for gaining some perspective on family life and childrearing and making sure my goals and dreams are eventually met. The notebook is the first step, and next I want to incorporate a regular time or day when I take a little retreat to think about my family in ways I can only do when I have some time and space separating us.

The title of this post has double meaning of course, also referring to my two-month break from Good + Happy Day. I think I'm back, and so happy to be here!