Archive for the ‘Toddler’ Category


Playing through Winter

January 22, 2013

For me, January, February, and March are the toughest months of the year. The holidays are over. Sunshine is scarce; the days are short. It’s cold.  Stinkin’ cold. So stinkin’ cold that a two-year-old might walk outside and promptly say, “It really cold. My teef (teeth) hurt.”

On top of all that, it’s flu season. We really don’t want to risk getting sick again, which means this mama is about to go stir crazy!

It’s time to get back into fun, creative, at-home play. Here’s what we’ve done so far:

Cotton Ball Snowman

Inspired by an online tutorial (here), we made a snowman.

I drew three circles. The toddler helped me squeeze out glue. She added the cotton balls.


I drew a little hat. She cut it out. (Yes! By herself!)

I drew one arm. She drew the other.

We added buttons (pom poms).

We added eyes.

The toddler saw no reason to stop with just two eyes, so our snowman has five eyes. None of them actually made it on his face.


Colored Snow

We’ve had one notable snow storm so far, and it melted so fast we hardly got to enjoy it. Oh well, I’m sure there will be more. Probably in April or something. This is Indiana, after all.

One day we had a few minutes to kill while we were waiting for Daddy to get home for lunch. We grabbed the condiment bottles we use in our water table, filled them with water, and added a few drops of food coloring.

Then we went outside to “color the snow pink.”

It didn’t take long for her to empty the bottles and ask for a refill.

PicMonkey Collage1

At one point she said, “Look, Mommy! I make heart!” What do you know? That does look like a heart.


Are you collecting ideas for toddler play on pinterest? If so, send me the link to your board!

Any other winter activities you think we should try?


Don’t Get the Puppy

January 15, 2013

Young Couples Everywhere,

Here’s a bit of unsolicited advice: don’t get the puppy.

Even if that two-pound bundle of cuteness is on sale. Even if you discover it’s hypoallergenic.


Don’t get the puppy. 


Because if you do get the puppy, that little puppy will become your child. She’ll go with you everywhere.


Literally, everywhere–church, weddings, walmart, football games, and on airplane rides.


You’ll buy puppy sweaters and special puppy chew toys. You’ll go to puppy class, and you’ll teach her tricks. You’ll brag to everyone that she is the smartest, most-talented dog ever. She jumps through hoops! She puts her toys away! She dances! She’s probably even smarter than Lassie.


360_540412591994_3772_n (1)

You’ll take her on long walks, and you’ll watch the Dog Whisperer. You won’t mind when she eats a whole package of birth control pills or chews through a leash. She’s just a puppy, after all.



Eventually that puppy will get older. You’ll still love her, because she’s your dog daughter. But you start to notice how inconvenient she is. You’ll still travel (because you swore a dog wouldn’t hold you back), but it’s a pain to find someone to watch your (usually) sweet schnoodle pup.


You’ll get annoyed when she has accidents. You’ll look for ways to get her to stop barking and to stop eating poop. She’s no longer a puppy. Shouldn’t she have outgrown those bad habits by now?



And then, if you’re like most couples, one day you’ll decide a dog daughter is not enough.


You start to want a real daughter.


And one day that daughter will be born, and you’ll wonder how the dog will do. Will she like the baby? Will she growl? Will she bite?


But then you realize it’s not the dog’s behavior around the baby that bothers you. It’s that the dog eats Kleenexes out of the trash, licks the lotion off your legs, and barks at all the visitors. And every day she needs silly, inconvenient things like walks and dog food.




Gradually, the dog will stop going with you everywhere. Not because you don’t love her (although you may begin to doubt your love), but because you just don’t have enough hands or energy to manage hauling around a dog and a baby. 



A few months later, you’ll come home with a second baby. And you’ll struggle to even find a picture with the dog, because the dog gets even less attention now that there are two babies. The dog is no longer important.


And one day your dog may escape the house and disappear for awhile, and (to your surprise) your first feeling is relief. (One less thing to take care of.) And then guilt. (She was/is your dog daughter.) And then sadness. (Because deep down you believe there is something good about kids growing up around a dog. They learn to love animals and have fewer allergies.)


But, still. This parenting thing is hard. Maybe there’s a compromise? Your husband takes the dog to work and tries to convince his coworkers they need an office dog. And it seems to be working.

Until one day your two-year-old cries as daddy and dog are leaving and says, “No, Daddy! You can’t take Sofi. I miss her.”

And that’s when you realize…she’s no longer your dog.  Although it will be a few years before they can walk/feed/care for her, the dog belongs to your kids. You can’t (ever) get rid of her.  Because she’s part of the family. Your babies love her unconditionally. They need you to keep her. They don’t know life without her.

So young couples, make it easy on yourselves. Don’t get the puppy.

Or do.

But don’t say I didn’t warn you.


Survival Mode–Cold and Flu Season

January 8, 2013

All families have seasons when they’re surviving rather than thriving. Sometimes it’s because of something tragic, but let’s not go there today.

Today let’s talk about the everyday life kind of things that kick us into survival mode: weekends when Mom shivers and shakes on the couch. Nights when Daddy brings the toddler to the guest bed with him because that’s the only way to get her to stop crying and coughing, and it takes the tot four hours to fall back to sleep. Afternoons when the five-month-old worries her parents with her raspy cough. Mornings when the two-year-old screams and cries, “Go, Mommy! Go! I don’t want to see you! Daddy! Dada? Daddy! I. WANT. MY. DADDY!” But Daddy’s not there because he goes to work so that Mommy can be there on days when her kids wake up tired and sick and want nothing more than their mommy… daddy?


Yep, the worst cold ever has hit our family, and we’re simply trying to survive. What does that look like for us?

1.) We put relationships ahead of tasks. Actually, “relationships over tasks” is a family motto. But it becomes even more important when we’re sick. The laundry baskets are overflowing. The counter has crumbs. The house is filled with post-holiday, post-vacation chaos. And a poopy pair of the baby’s pajamas may have been thrown on the hallway floor this morning. (Both girls were crying! My head was about to explode!) But that’s okay. Because giving myself permission to ignore those things helped me to feel calm when I picked my screaming toddler up out of bed and rocked and held her (which, unfortunately, did not stop the screaming. I told you it was bad around here.)

2) We accept help. I was about to turn to freezer food when my parents offered to give us a meal for the second time in one day. And then the next day I texted them to ask them to take the toddler for a few hours so we could rest. Shameless or smart? You decide.

3) We avoid our (young) friends. As desperately as I’d like to have the distraction of my toddler’s friends, it’s so not cool to expose them to our nastiness. Granted, the girls haven’t had a fever (yet?!), but from the first day of symptoms, we avoided places with little people–like church and play dates with friends–until we’re officially on the mend.

4) We make exceptions. From the moment she opened her eyes this morning, the toddler cried. And screamed. And wailed. After thirty tortuous minutes, she asked to go back to bed with her “bobby” (her word for pacifier). Are we trying to lose the paci for good? Yep. Has it been almost a year since she’s had a morning nap? Yep. Is today a day for exceptions? Yep.

5) We try natural remedies. Dang it, people! I want some NyQuil! I’m so sick of the pressure and congestion. But I’m nursing, and I can’t take those kinds of drugs. And, ultimately, that’s okay, because I’m certain that nursing has protected the baby from the worst of the cold. And really, this cold is likely caused by a virus and what can you do for a virus? Treat the symptoms. So the toddler gets warm water with honey and lemon juice. (Does it help the cough? Maybe?) I’ve tried a heating pad, a bag of frozen peas on my forehead, vapor rub (with caution since it’s not approved for babies and the baby is on my chest when she eats), nasal spray, Breathe Right strips, and even tylenol and ibuprofen. I didn’t need any medicine for my delivery or postpartum recovery, but the pressure is too much! What else would you recommend?

6) We choose convenience. While I believe good nutrition helps keep us all healthy, I just had a protein bar and a can of diet coke for breakfast. True story. The toddler will probably get a frozen waffle (which is, honestly, not that unusual). For lunch, we’ll do leftovers–cut up cantaloupe, yogurt, oatmeal (yes, we have leftover oatmeal.). Anything somewhat healthy that we can pull out of the fridge or freezer. Desperate times, people, desperate times.

7) We look on the bright side. (And use clichés! Clichés are allowed in survival mode.) The toddler’s extra nap gave me extra play time with the baby and a free moment to take care of those poopy pajamas. And since both girls were asleep this morning, I had time for some much-needed, therapeutic blogging.

8) We pray. Am I proud of the fact that I don’t pray as much when I’m healthy as I do when our family is sick? Absolutely not. But there’s nothing  like sickness and weakness to remind me of my need for God.

I wanted to come up with a nice, even list of ten tips But that’s just not going to happen. Because we’re in survival mode. But, hey! The toddler is awake after her morning nap, and SHE’S HAPPY! Are we on the mend? Let’s hope!


Traveling with Two to the San Diego Zoo

January 6, 2013

The adults loved San Diego because we love travel, the ocean, adventure, and sunshine. Our two-year-old loved “Sandy Eggo” because of the airplane ride, the sand, unlimited access to grandparents, and the animals. Oh, the animals! What toddler doesn’t love animals?

For animal-loving tots, the San Diego Zoo is a must-see. It’s famous. It’s huge. It has cute (rare, famous, giant) pandas.

Included in our multi-park pass was a bus tour around the park. Do it! You see 70% of the zoo in just over half an hour. We walked the first day and rode the bus the second. With two strollers, lots of hills, and two tired little ones, it’s no surprise that we were all much happier on the second day. One of my favorite things about the bus ride was seeing the zoo’s animal ambassadors. We saw an arctic wolf out for a casual stroll with its trainer. On other days, you may see a cheetah or a blue-tongued skink.

The Skyfari was also included in our pass. It’s a four-minute ride over the zoo forest. Strollers that fold can ride, too!


With little ones, the petting zoo is a must. There aren’t any really special animals in there, but when was the last time you got to pet a sheep or a goat?


Like SeaWorld, the zoo has live animal cameras–pandas, polar bear, ape, and elephants. Check them out before and after you go!

Parking at the zoo is free! It’s located in Balboa Park, which is also home to a Science Center. Our local museum membership got our family of four in for free because of the passport program. Score!


The best bang for your buck is definitely with the multi-park pass. (Did I mention kids three and under are free?) With that option, how can you go to San Diego and not visit the zoo? Next time we’ll be sure to visit the Safari Park as well. Has anyone been there?


Traveling with Two: SeaWorld, San Diego

January 4, 2013

I’m a travel optimist. Nothing will stop me from having a good trip. Not even a stomach bug, a coughing toddler, an infant growth spurt, a three-hour time difference, or  an impending blizzard–all challenges we faced on our first cross-country trip with two little ones.

Was I phased when our normally happy baby was fussy on the plane? You bet. Did I wish for death when my guts were trying to explode before the captain turned off the fasten seat belt sign? Perhaps. Was I frustrated when my babies melted down during dinner because it felt like midnight to their little internal clocks? Of course.

On the other hand, how fun was it to watch my toddler wave to and clap for dolphins, birds, and whales? Will it ever get old to hear her tell people that she saw “animals SPLASH”?! Or to watch her waddle like a penguin? Or to hear her ask to “ride the fish” (kiddie roller coaster) again and again? Or to see the baby smilingly happily as her daddy talked to her and pointed out animals from the comfort of her Baby Bjorn?

And it was pretty cool to see an arctic wolf casually walking around the San Diego Zoo. And it was pretty nice to pass the babies off to Mamaw and Papaw when the girls woke up early. And I loved having a beach instead of a back yard.


See? Like I said–travel optimist!

As we were preparing for our trip, I had trouble finding travel tips for San Diego with a toddler and a baby, so I’ll write a few of my own. Keep in mind that our oldest is just over two and the baby is five months.

SeaWorld with a Toddler and a Baby

Get the pass. 

This trip was a Christmas gift from my parents (thanks, Mom and Dad!), and we knew the whole family (including my brother, a college student) would like the San Diego Zoo. Nate’s Christmas gift to me and the girls was to add SeaWorld into the mix. He purchased a pass that allowed us unlimited visits to SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo, and the Safari Park for seven consecutive days. This allowed us to come and go as we pleased. We went “home” for lunch and naps. We went back to the parks multiple days. Bonus: purchasing through ebates gives you cashback (ours was 2.5%)! If you haven’t signed up for ebates yet, I’ll send you my referral link. It’ll be a good deal for you and for me.

Prepare Your Kids

Did you know there is a live Shamu cam and penguin cam you can watch online? How fun is that?! The live feeds helped prepare and excite our little one for the animals she was going to see. And as I’m typing this, I have the penguin cam open. I’m watching the trainer feed the penguins. Cute!

Even if you’re not going to Sea World any time soon, this is a fun at-home activity.



A lot of Sea World reviews bemoan the heat and lack of shade. With a December trip, the weather was quite nice. It was in the sixties during the day. The So Cal folks wore scarves and gloves. We wore short sleeves and sunglasses.

One evening it rained. We brought our stroller cover, but mostly went to the indoor or covered exhibits (polar bear, penguins, manta rays, etc) when it rained. Bonus: the lines were short and the park felt empty!

There was also a special Christmas exhibit. We visited the reindeer but decided to pass on the sledding area. We get enough snowy goodness here in the Midwest, why spend our vacation time in a man-made snow rink? Sorry, SeaWorld. We came to California to escape the snow.

Sesame Street Bay of Play

This kiddie area was a hit with the tot and Uncle Wade. I worried that introducing a kiddie roller coaster at bedtime would be disastrous,  but our girl loved “flying” with her daddy on Elmo’s Flying Fish ride. The uncle used the toddler as an excuse to spend twenty minutes climbing through a somewhat complex rope course. In the summer, it appears as though there’s a little splash park.  There are also a few other spinning rides for kids and parents with strong stomachs.


There’s a school of thought (which I totally understand) that suggests waiting until your kids are old enough to remember before seeking out (and paying for) big adventures and experiences. While it’s true that our two-year-old won’t have any actual memories from this trip, the experiences were valuable. She learned that an otter can be taught to wave, and whales can splash.  Dolphins jump really high, and sometimes people get to ride on their backs.  Sea lions growl like her dog (“Mommy, when I pick up Sofi, she growl too”), and Santa Claus is just as scary in California as he was back home in Indiana. All of that from the famously fun SeaWorld shows.

(For the record, the dolphin show was my favorite. The sea lion Christmas show was funny. We missed the domestic pets show. The whale show was okay. But it’s SeaWorld–you have to see the whales.)

Know Before You Go

The official SeaWorld policy is no outside food or drinks. However, all bags are searched at the entrance  and there was no objection to our snacks and water bottles. Parking was $15 per day. However, one evening we had my parents drop us off at the gate so we didn’t have to pay to park.


Conclusion: the adults, the two-year-old, and the baby all enjoyed the fun of our winter trip to SeaWorld. If and when you go, I hope you do, too!

Next up: stories from the world-famous zoo!


Cooking with Kids at Christmas–Molasses Crinkle (Gingerbread) Cookies

December 21, 2012

It’s the last weekend for pre-Christmas baking! One Christmas goal for this year was to make gingerbread cookies. But we don’t do well with the waiting for the cookie dough to chill. (When it comes to baking, we’re instant gratification people.) So we made molasses crinkle cookies which, like real gingerbread, call for a good deal of ginger and molasses. So they count, right?

Here’s the recipe we use with ZERO better-for-you changes. It’s Christmas!



  • 2 tbs butter or margarine softened
  • 2 tbs oil
  • 1/3 cup dark molasses
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla (or more if your little one is helping you pour)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbs cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • extra sugar for rolling

When it comes to spices, all of our measurements are approximate. I let the little one spoon and pour.


  1. Oven to 350.
  2. Combine ingredients. (I know the original recipe said to mix dry and wet ingredients separately, but we don’t bother with two bowls. Time is of the essence, and we REALLY don’t need one more thing to clean.)
  3. Roll dough into 1-1 1/2″ balls in sugar to coat. Place about 2″ apart on a greased cookie sheet.
  4. Bake for 12-14 minutes.
  5. Eat, store, make some more.

I let the toddler taste the molasses cup. I thought she’d hate it, but she licked it clean. And SHE reminded ME not to eat the batter once we added eggs: “No eat it! Make me sick. Make my belly hurt.”


“Gingerbread” cookies done. Now on to the salt dough ornaments!


Christmas Bucket List and Giveaway Winner

December 19, 2012

Thank you for the impressive response to the Elmer’s Craft It giveaway! I wish I could send a crafting set to each of you. Do you think Elmer’s would go for that? If not, maybe they’ll at least let me do this again in the future! It’s fun to give stuff away!

According to, out of the 86 entries(!), the giveaway winner is….comment #14–Erin “would  love to craft with the little guys” Fortune.  Congratulations! (Word to the wise–Erin took advantage of the multiple entry opportunities, and it worked!)

Again, a huge thank you to everyone who entered. Please continue to read, share, and comment! Why else would I blog if not for friends like you who faithfully stick with me?

Anyway, on to the Christmas content! Did you make a Christmas bucket list? We have a copy of ours on the refrigerator to help keep us on track.

So far we have:

  • Had friends over to playPlay date
  • Made graham cracker houses (Instead of gingerbread and icing use peanut butter, graham crackers, and dried fruit. It ain’t pretty, but it’s healthier!)Graham cracker house
  • Purchased gifts for another family for the Salvation Army Christmas Party
  • Colored a Christmas picture (or two. or twenty.)
  • Read the Getting Ready for Christmas book. (I think we’ll have more fun with this next year when our oldest is three.)
  • Made ornaments (These are out of borax. Instructions from Martha Stewart. Not surprisingly, Martha’s are way prettier.) 
    ornaments 5
  • Attended a few local events (picture with Santa, reindeer at the museum, downtown festival)
  • Local
  • Read the Christmas story in the Bible
  • Made jello in our Christmas molds
  • Jello
  • Watched Elf
  • Played with our felt Christmas tree
  • Tree
  • Read through our collection of Christmas books
  • Danced to Christmas music
  • Wrapped a few gifts
  • Taken a few quality pictures of the girls

Girls2And in the few short days before Christmas, we’d still like to:

  1. Make star and hand print ornaments
  2. Drink hot cider
  3. Spend time with extended family (this weekend!)
  4. Look at Christmas lights in our pajamas (well, the girls will be wearing pajamas. But mom and dad? Probably not. Well, unless it’s “one of those days” in which I never make it out of my pajamas to begin with!)
  5. Post a Christmas letter/update (coming soon!)
  6. Talk about and play with our nativity set
  7. Bake gingerbread cookies

How about you? How are you doing on your bucket list?