Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Family Date: Minnesota State Fair

It's important to me to have regular dates with my husband. But since he works long and hard to support our family on one income, we don't always have the time or the funds for a fancy night out - not to mention the added cost of a babysitter! So we are always on the lookout for fun, inexpensive activities that we can do together as a family.

This week, my little family went to the Minnesota State Fair! The fair has a number of deals and discounts each year, such as pre-fair discount admission tickets, Thrifty Thursday, Seniors and Kids Day, Military Appreciation Day, and Read & Ride Day when you can get discounted admission for showing your library card! And because Emma is under 5, she is free every day!

It was a memorable day and we had a wonderful time together as a family.

My 3 good things from the MN State Fair are:
  1. Emma had a great time seeing the many farm animals and hearing their different sounds.
  2. Derek got to have cheese curds, and I got to have an ice cream cone!
  3. We got a lot of exercise walking around to see all the sites, so we probably burned off the calories from the aforementioned treats. Right?

What creative "baby dates" has your family done together?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Baby Activities: 12 Months Old (Part 3)

Here are a few more simple activities that you can do with your 12 month old. You may also be interested in Part 1 and Part 2.

Pillow Highway: If you have a rambunctious little one, this is a great way to expel some energy! Form a winding path or "highway" out of pillows or couch cushions on the floor of your nursery or playroom. Let your baby crawl or walk down and around the highway. Emma also gets a kick out of it when I lay down and become a "speed bump" that she gets to crawl or climb over!

Bubbles: Sometimes I feel like I am in a rut as I try to come up with fun activities to do with Emma. When that happens I always have to remind myself "Don't over-think it!" Even something as simple as blowing bubbles can be a real treat to your little one. If it's a nice day, bring your baby outside and blow bubbles for them  to watch, crawl or chase after and, of course, POP! Even on rainy or cold days, you can blow bubbles in the tub during bath time!

Ocean in a Bottle: This mesmerizing toy is sure to capture your baby's attention! All you need is an empty plastic water bottle. Fill the bottle about 1/3 full with water, then add a few drops of food coloring. You may also drop in some small beads, glitter, or sequins if you have them on hand. Then fill the bottle up to the top with baby oil. Tighten the cap securely, and let your baby watch the waves!

Highchair Peekaboo: This is a great diversion to keep your baby entertained in their highchair while you're making dinner. Take three stands of ribbon, each about two feet long, and tie one end of each to three small toys. Then attach the other ends with suction cups or tape to the tray of your highchair. Demonstrate to your baby how they can pull the ribbon onto their tray and the toys will come up and say, "Peekaboo!"

And, of course...

Read! Reading is one of the best activities you can do with your child at any age!

A few of Emma's current favorites are:

My 3 good things for today are:
  1. We had clear skies this morning, and played with bubbles outside.
  2. We had rain this afternoon, and got to listen to the thunder go boom-boom.
  3. I made a delicious meatloaf for dinner while Emma played Highchair Peekaboo!

A Couple Date: Vikings v. Chargers Preseason Game

Having a regular date night with my husband is important - especially since Emma came on the scene. But because we now live on one income, a fancy night out isn't always in the budget. So we are always on the lookout for fun, inexpensive activities that we can do together as a couple.

This week Derek and I went to a professional football game!

Normally that wouldn't be affordable for us on any given day. However, it's still preseason and we got a great deal on the tickets. Some of you are probably thinking that a preseason game is not as exciting as seeing a live game in regular season. You won't get any argument here. All I can say is:
  1. The stadium was less crowded than a regular season game, so we had plenty of room to spread out; we even got to move down to the 4th row for the last quarter.
  2. The stadium was also a lot less noisy than a regular season game.
  3. We didn't break the bank! In fact, we even had some money left for a pretzel and ice cream!
(Those are my 3 good things, if you couldn't tell! We had a terrific time!)

What is your favorite cheap date night activity with your spouse?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Baby Activities: 12 Months Old (Part 2)

Here are a few more simple activities that you can do with your 12 month old. You may also be interested in Part 1.

Lots of Socks: Emma likes to "help" me fold laundry, but sometimes her help is not so helpful. Letting her play with the socks in each load gives her something to do while I finish folding. The next time you're folding your clothes, pull a few socks out of the laundry basket and see if your baby is interested in trying one on. Sometimes I put a sock on Emma's foot and let her work at pulling it off. Your baby may enjoy tossing socks into the air. You can also fold socks inside themselves to create sock balls. Show your baby how to throw the sock balls into the laundry basket.

Icy Toys: This is a fun activity for bath time. Freeze a solid (not plush) toy in a plastic container filled with water. At bath time, put the frozen block with the toy inside in the tub with your baby and watch them play as the ice melts.

Easy Shakers: Making dinner just got a lot easier (and maybe a little more quiet)! Like most babies, Emma enjoys playing with pots and pans while I am busy in the kitchen, but she can get bored with that, and some days it is honestly too much noise for me. We all know how much babies love to make noise! Making a simple shaker is a good compromise. All you need as an empty plastic water bottle filled with rice or dried beans. Your baby will have fun making music, and you can get dinner on the table without getting a migraine!

Paper Play: Playing with paper is a great way for your baby to explore their sense of touch. Give your baby some different types of paper materials, such as plain printer paper, aluminum foil, wax paper, tissue paper, wrapping paper, etc. Let your baby crumple, tear, fold each type of paper. You might be surprised how long this activity can keep your baby entertained!

Empty and Full: This activity is similar to the Dry and Wet Sensory Learning in Part 1. Simply fill a plastic water bottle or other clear container with some small objects such as buttons, dried beans, or pom-poms. Replace the lid tightly. Take a second water bottle, but leave it empty. Let your baby hold the full container and say, "Full." Then hold the empty container and say, "Empty." After playing for a while, ask your baby to hand you the full or empty container.  

And, of course...

Read! Reading is one of the best activities you can do with your child at any age!

A few of Emma's current favorites are:

My 3 good things for today are:
  1. One load of laundry is finished - including folding, putting away, and even ironing Derek's work clothes!
  2. I was able to make meatballs, rice, steamed broccoli and fresh rolls for dinner while Emma was playing in the kitchen.
  3. Emma got a new pair of shoes!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Baby Activities: 12 Months Old (Part 1)

 One of the challenges of being a stay at home mom is finding activities for your little one to keep them entertained throughout the day. These are a few of our current favorite activities:

Animal sounds: You can help your baby to learn animal sounds by asking, "What does the sheep say?" And answer, "The sheep says baa!" I started this by reading books such as Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See, and also singing songs like "Old McDonald Had A Farm." Emma loves listening to me make goofy sounds, and mooing and oinking herself.

Shapes Ball/Box: I've read that playing with various shapes can help with early math learning. Tupperware actually makes a great toy for shape play, but you can also make one very easily with an empty shoebox and various wooden blocks. This works best if your blocks are different shapes - cylinders, triangles, and rectangles as well as squares. Simply trace your blocks onto the shoebox lid and cut around your shape outlines. Then return the lid to the box and enjoy putting the shapes through the holes, shaking the box full of blocks, and taking the blocks in and out of the box.

Dry and Wet Sensory Learning: You will need two new (or clean) sponges for this game. Leave one of the sponges dry, but get the other wet. Let your baby touch the dry sponge and say, "Dry." Then touch the wet sponge and say, "Wet." After playing for a while, ask your baby to hand you the wet sponge or the dry sponge. Speaking of wet...

Water Play: Playing with water is a great sensory experience for your baby, and another great way to introduce the concept of "wet." Place a plastic bowl or tub of water outside, (or on a towel if you are inside). Let your baby splash! You can also use stacking cups or measuring cups to scoop and pour the water.

Clapping Games and Songs: At this age, babies love to mimic your actions. You can do simple pattern clapping with your little one. Sit with your child facing you and clap your hands 3 times. Encourage your baby to clap the same pattern. Repeat with different rhythms. We spend a lot of time singing songs such as "If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands" and "Baby's Little Hands" which goes to the tune of "The Wheels on the Bus."

Baby's little hands go clap, clap, clap
Clap, clap, clap; Clap, clap, clap
Baby's little hands go clap, clap, clap
Clap your little hands. 

And, of course...

Read: Reading is one of the best activities you can do with your child at any age!

A few of Emma's current favorites are:

My 3 good things for today are:
  1. Emma said "birdie" today (a new word) when she saw a bird outside with Derek.
  2. We got some new books from the library.
  3. The weather was beautiful today, so we got to play with water outside.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Why Three Good Things?

When I was a little girl and was in a bad mood, my mom would always ask me to name three good things. The conversation would usually go something like this:

Me (sulking): I can't think of anything. Nothing good happened today.

Mom (dead pan serious): Well, did your hair catch on fire?

Me (reluctantly, but with less sulking): No.

Mom: So that's one good thing. Did an elephant sit on you?

Me (maybe smiling a tiny bit now): No.

Mom: So we have two good things. Your hair is still intact, and an elephant didn't squash you flat. Can you think of a third thing now?

I'd always manage to come up with some equally ridiculous third thing, and would walk away from the exchange with a smile and a brighter attitude to carry me through the rest of the day.

I have a daughter of my own now - a quirky and rambunctious one year old named Emma. After celebrating Emma's first birthday, my husband and I started trying for Baby #2 and now a dark cloud seems to follow me around. Don't get me wrong - I enjoy the "trying" (wink, wink). But we went through two years and three consecutive miscarriages before our little miracle was born.

The idea of going through that process again honestly fills me with dread, and a certain amount of fear has been added to my everyday life. Then, last Sunday, the message at church was on a verse from Philippians 4:8 (NIV, emphasis added), "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." The verse reminded me of my mom's three good things, and of all the good things that God has blessed me with in my life.

I don't know what the weeks and months ahead will hold for me and my family, but with God's help, I will choose to focus not on the scary things, or the bad things that may happen, but on the good things, the funny things, and the beautiful things. So, that is why I am writing this blog; to document this next journey and to hold myself accountable for seeing the good each day, starting with the following three BEST things, for which I am always grateful:

1. I am a child of God.
2. I am the wife of Derek.
3. I am the mother of Emma.