Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Monday Review: December 30

A busy Monday requires it's own review....there's that and then there's the issue that I'll never remember what happened on Monday by the time Friday rolls around (especially with two days off in the middle of the week). Without further ado, here was our Monday:
Elizabeth really wanted a "piggy ride" so she hopped on big bro Maxie's back.
This girl sure knows how to bake: a heart shaped pan and whiskey.
The kids colored snowflakes with the boy's new neon and metallic marker pack. I've been really happy with Target's Up & Up brand art supplies. The markers wash out just as well as Crayola and they're quite a bit cheaper.
Paper plate snowman. Cut three paper plates, glue them together, have kids color them, pony beads used for eyes, nose, and buttons, and pipe cleaners for arms. Easy enough for a two year old to do and cute too!
Max reading "Hop On Pop" to the kids.
The kids LOVED these.

A surprise snowy day.
Cooked spaghetti sensory activity.
They "cooked" with it, smooshed it, and even ate a good deal of it. Some of the kids didn't want anything to do with it, but these four were entertained for almost 2 hours. The pasta left the kids with very sticky hands, faces, and clothes, but it washed easily.
There was just a slight mess.....
Easy clean up once I let the pasta dry out a bit.
The biggest hit of the day was the new Wheelies mat.

The rest of the week consists of New Year's celebrations, relaxing, a few more snowman and snowflake activities, new sensory activities, and we'll be breaking out the foam balance beam for a "gymnastics day."

Surviving the Day

I am constantly asked "how do you do it???" when I tell people I spend my days raising my 3 kids and taking care of 6+ other kids. Well, I'm ready to share my secret. I survive everyday, not always unscathed, but crazy and alive nonetheless. The great big secret of getting through every day: Thinking outside of the box. Be creative. Think like a kid. Don't always worry about messes, worry if there's not a smile on the kid's faces.

Before I had kids, I would have never dreamed of the things I would be doing and let my kids do. I have potty training chairs in my living room. Three of them. Just sitting next to my couch like it's nothing...and it is nothing to us. They've been there for almost three years now. I love it, like it's my favorite reaction ever, when someone walks into our house and says "oh...you have potty chairs. In your living room.....wow." I really, really want to tell them to spend a day in my shoes and try to do things the way they think they should be done. I suspect they'd be praising the "potties in the living room" idea within an hour.

How is having potty chairs in my living room thinking outside of the box you ask? Well, here's how the potties in the living room started. I was potty training our oldest (and a few other kids who weren't far behind him). He never wanted to stop playing long enough to sit down and go potty. The results were accidents and more clean up for me. With six other kids to look after at the time, it wasn't exactly possible for me to sit in the bathroom with him for hours each day until he could go on his own. The solution to both issues was to put the potty chairs in the living room. I suddenly had the easiest time ever potty training my kids and numerous daycare kids.

When Max was around 18 months, I was pregnant with Harrison and extremely sick night and day from "morning sickness." I was absolutely exhausted (think having the stomach flu for 24 hours a day for 20 weeks). It was cold and snowy out, and whenever we went anywhere Max would run from me. We stayed home  A LOT that winter. To break up the days, Max created "swimming lessons" in our bathtub. Up to three times a day. Our water bill wasn't fun to open, but I had a happy toddler on my hands who could hold his breath under water. That was also the winter we discovered  Color Bath Fizzies. He seemed to learn his colors quite quickly that winter as well.

In this house toothbrushes aren't just for brushing teeth. They've been used to paint with, clean with, as a scrubbing brush during a "car wash" for the kid's hot wheels, and more recently, used as a doll brush when Elizabeth's went missing.

Pasta noodles aren't always for eating. They can be used to play with, paint with, smoosh between little fingers, glue to paper, and dye them.

In the middle of winter, when the kids have a ton of energy and it's too cold and/or snowy to leave the house, I've been known to drag our bedroom mattress out onto the living room floor and let the kids jump on it like it was a trampoline. Much less dangerous than jumping on a bed when they're just inches away from the ground.

When nothing seems to be going right for the kids, no one wants to share, play together, and emotions are running high, jumping jacks and other exercises in the living room work great. Or races in the backyard when the weather allows.

When something's not working, switch it up. Lunch isn't until 11:30/11:45 but it's only 10:30 and the kiddos are more than ready for naps. What to do? Early lunch and early naps never hurt anybody....and it saves sanity rather than dealing with crying, overly tired kids at the normal lunch time.

My favorite line that I use that makes some people's jaw drop is "would you want me to do that to you?" I use this in response to a child that is hitting, biting, not sharing, says something mean, etc. I'll never forget the first time I used this line and it was an "Ah-ha!" moment for both of us. My middle child, who was two at the time, had bitten his older brother for the third time that day. I remember being completely frustrated and picking him up, setting him on my lap so he was eye level with me and sternly saying "would you want me to bite you? Would YOU want someone to do that to you?" The look on his face was priceless, as if to say "what the f*#k??!!? No!" It was at that moment that I realized this line works. Toddlers and preschoolers don't understand empathy (that doesn't really kick in until grade school age). They don't understand that throwing a toy at a friend hurts, or biting, or hitting, but this one simple line does cause them to think. I use this line all of the time on my 18 month old daughter now and it is the one thing that really works and stops bad behavior. I'm at the point where I don't even see the alarming looks on people's faces when we're out and about and they hear me say to my 18 month old "do you want me to hit you?" I found something that works and as long as it continues to work, I'm sticking with it!

I have no issues getting the laundry done, it's the putting away part that gets me. The solution? My kids have a mesh laundry basket in their room's that holds all of their clean clothes until I (or they) can put them away. If I had 30 hours in a day, laundry might just get put away more than once every week and a half. But there's not and there's many other things I'd rather do than putting away the clean laundry. I have no shame and no regrets about this. As long as we've all got clean underwear on, I'd say we're winning.

Breakfast for dinner one, or more, night(s) a week is always an option and always okay. It's quick and delicious. Not everyone can make savory pot roasts every night of the week.

The most important thing I've learned in thinking outside of the box is that imperfection is simply perfection.
Take for example my New Year's cookie clock I made for the kids (kids who can't tell time at that). I have witnessed that my kids don't care how imperfect my cookies look. They don't care that the cookie cutter numbers don't look like numbers at all, that I forgot to make cookie clock hands and instead dove into our stockpile of candy canes to make do, or that the cookies aren't perfectly decorated. They also don't care that I've stayed up until midnight doing this for them. They'll think it's cool tomorrow morning when they see it and I'll then have to explain why I even made a cookie clock for them for NYE. BUT this stupid cookie clock will be the topic of conversation for the day, probably the rest of the week, for my kids giving me several minutes of sanity each day.

Think outside of the box and I can promise the days won't seem so long. Try a little coffee too.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Just the Weekend We Needed

After six Christmas's, we needed some relaxation this weekend and that's pretty much what we got. Saturday morning we had a playdate with friends (and much needed mommy talk for myself), which was followed up by long naps, a family dinner night out, and a few errands rounded out our day.

Silly faces with friends! Seeing these girls was definitely a post-holiday thrill for these boys.
Family dinner night.
While we waited for our food, Harrison practiced his winking skills for the girls sitting behind us. This is how he winks apparently.

Saturday evening the hubs and I had our weekly date/movie night in. We drank tea (we're huge partiers these days) and watched "Craigslist Joe." I've been into watching documentaries lately and this was the Saturday night "movie" of choice. It was very entertaining documentary and definitely recommended. Next up on the documentary list is a 6 part series on National Parks.

Sunday morning was.....well, freezing cold. We put away Christmas decorations, organized, cleaned, planned, watched football, cooked, napped, had a dance party, hair cuts for the boys, and played games. Perfect winter Sunday.
Elizabeth nabbed Harrison's sunglasses and put them on her doll.
New living room wall picture.
My biggest project for the day: cleaning the boy's room. Before I started cleaning, you couldn't even see their floor let along walk in their room.
My winter project: decorate this wall. I plan on blowing up and framing some of their art work for this wall.
This is the dresser we bought for Max's nursery. We searched and searched for the "perfect" dresser and I couldn't find one I was happy with the quality and price. We happened upon this dresser on a random "lets see what they have" trip to Goodwill and paid a grand total of $30 for this solid oak dresser. Still one of my favorite pieces of furniture we own--this dresser has the deepest drawers I've ever seen and can hold so many clothes it's amazing.
Max discovered he could easily climb the playhouse....
and of course Bup wanted a turn too.
Trying out their new spin art.
Hair cuts in the summer are so much easier than winter haircuts! In the summer we do them outside on our back patio--much easier to clean up than when their done in the bathroom!
Tried a new recipe for dinner. Spicy, flavorful, creamy, and the minis loved it. Recipe can be found here: http://rita-may-recipes.blogspot.com/2011/11/crock-pot-cream-cheese-chicken-chile.html
Playing with the new Wheelies mat.
The minis in their new jammies they got for Christmas.

This weekend was so nice and relaxing that I'm hopeful for much of the same for next weekend.

2 Day Week Review: December 23 & December 27

Only two daycare days this week due to the Christmas holiday, but it was a VERY busy two days:

Testing out his new Spirograph with jealous little watchers.
Candy cane experiments.
How to keep a Christmas tree safe from lots of kids. I actually got this idea from an old episode of "Jon and Kate Plus 8"  and it worked out great! 
The Monday Christmas movie of choice. The kids loved it!
Nothing like a little snowman mac & cheese to get into the spirit of Christmas.
Monday for lunch I served the kids some mac and cheese and then set out this veggie tray. I was so surprised and pleased to find hardly any of the kids ate any mac and cheese but they destroyed this veggie tray that was overflowing with carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, and snap peas. As you can tell, the kids loved the snap peas (which are totally gone), broccoli, and peppers the most! 
On Friday, the kids spent a good majority of their time investigating all of the new toys. We broke out the kid's new neon paints to paint "hats."
Painting paper plate hats.
Brightly painted, all cut, and ready to be worn!
A big discovery was made in the afternoon hours: new Magformers with "new shapes!"
When daddy got home from work, it was instantly time to build their new Lego sets.
H loves his!
Dr. Elizabeth helping with the Legos.
Paging Dr. Elizabeth in Harrison's doctor outfit

Next week will be another short week with the New Year starting in the middle of the week. There will be lots of playing with the new toys, some science experiments with Max's new Science Kit, painting, and coloring. I am thankful for all of these new toys to keep the kids entertained! January always seems like the toughest month to get through as it's too cold to go outside and run around and the kids have too much energy from being cooped up. I've got some tricks up my sleeve to combat those long winter days.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Candy Cane Experiments

What do you do when you have tons of candy canes that you know will not get eaten??? Why, experiment of course.

Our dissolving candy cane experiments were done with water, vinegar, and baking soda and vinegar.

We put the candy canes in each cup and then Max poured vinegar (dyed red for a more Christmasy effect) over the candy cane on top of the baking soda. The kids LOVE the fizzies it makes.

The baking soda, candy cane, and vinegar fizzing. 
The cup with the water and candy cane (left) turned the water pink. It took about an hour for the candy cane to fully dissolve. The cup with the vinegar and candy cane (right) didn't change color at all and took almost two hours for the candy cane to fully dissolve.
The coolest was the baking soda, candy cane, and vinegar combo. It didn't take quite an hour for the candy cane to fully dissolve and it left this behind. The kids all thought it was really cool to see the shape of the candy cane after it had dissolved.

That concludes our daycare equivalent of science class (which is what Max requested we have during the day). Definitely a fun experiment to do with the kids. I had them draw pictures of the experiment too, which was a good way to talk about what was happening with the candy canes. I did this with kids ages 1 to 5 and they all enjoyed it!