Things to Do - A Day At The Park


It seems like awhile ago, but Thursday, February 17th was such a beautiful, warm winter day. We spent the afternoon at the park with friends and the kids ran and ran (no coats needed). After the park, a close friend hosted a picnic dinner in her backyard and we watched the sky fade from blue to lovely shades of yellow, pink, purple and, finally, black. Then on Friday, I flew home to see my dad. On Saturday he died.

My dad spent the last three years fighting stage 4 esophageal cancer, so I had plenty of time to prepare for his passing. Unfortunately I still wasn't prepared. My father taught me two major lessons in life. First, knowledge/education is a gift, never an obligation. I never HAD to go to school, instead I GOT to go to school. My dad, a high school history teacher by profession and an avid fan of Trivial Pursuit, loved learning. always. Once when I was in law school my parents came to visit on a night when my neighbors, one of whom was working on a PhD in Anthropology, were throwing a dinner party. I'll never forget the conversation my father had with this man, my dad had read more books on anthropology than the PhD student had. Or when I was in high school, my father decided he needed to learn about biology, so he hired my friend's sister to tutor him for the day, and after that he started reading Scientific American. He was never dogmatic, at least not until the later years of his life, and taught me to look at the world from all sides and never accept simple answers.

For my father, physical exercise was also a gift rather than an obligation. Until his illness, my dad was the only person I've ever met who worked out every day of his life. Well into his 60s my father went on 10 mile walks around the neighborhood, always discovering new things. One of the hardest parts about my father's struggle with cancer was watching him gradually lose his ability to walk long distances.

As cheesy as it sounds, my father was seriously one of the nicest, kindest people I've ever met (I can remember waiting on street corners as a child while my dad helped little old women that we didn't even know cross the street) and I will miss him more than I can express.



Things to Do - Take A Week Off

Taking the week off - I'll be back next Monday. Have a great week everyone!


Things to Do - Buy A New Kitchen (well, a little one)


I, of course, love all my kids wholly and unconditionally and think they are the three most amazing little people ever. But I must say that of the three one has been a little more shall-we-say difficult than the other two. Some days life with T is just plain tough. He wants me to hold him, constantly, as in EVERY SECOND. On the upside, he has a huge heart - of all three kids, T, by far, is the most likely to run up and give me a giant hug the moment I walk in the door. And at these moments, my heart just melts (pardon all the cheese). But still other moments are trying. During our various outings I've noticed that T loves play kitchens. So for Valentine's Day we finally bought him this one (yes, if you're wondering, I chose it mainly because (1) it's not plastic, (2) it's aestically pleasing, and (3) it matches the other furniture in our kitchen) and what a happy little boy he has become. Now when I cook he cooks - less crying, less fuss. yay! The only problem being that he keeps stealing food from our refrigerator and hiding it in his kitchen. Messy food. So it goes.

HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND EVERYONE! I'm not sure how often I'll be posting next week. After a three year battle with stage four cancer, my father isn't doing very well, so I'm flying home today to be with him.


*Mumford and Sons, wow, just wow. Best music I've heard in a long time.

*The perfect winter salad recipe here.

*I love the idea of making your own birthday candles and it appears relatively easy. "Appears" being the key word.

*There's something so perfect about this picture. Just perfect.

*BadHausfrau has an etsy shop - YAY!! check it out!



Things to Read - Amazing Photography Blogs IV - Jonathan Levitt & Annette Pehrsson

A few months have passed since I last posted on Amazing Photography Bloggers (click here to see past posts), so today I thought I'd share some images from bloggers that I'm a little obsessed with lately. On his blog, Grassdoe, Jonathan Levitt posts incredible photos (presumably from his life in Maine), beautiful shots of the surrounding countryside and everyday items, every one of which makes you catch your breath for a second. They really have an almost majestic beauty to them - the colors, the light, the composition . . . just pure magic.

(Images above courtesy of http://Grassdoe.blogspot.com)

In the last few years, Annette Pehrsson has become an internet superhero, I continually run across her images on a variety of different blogs and publications. She definitely deserves all the hype - her photographs, many of which are self-portraits, have a dreamy surreal quality that isn't quite like anything else I've seen. Whenever people say "I just can't think of anything to take pictures of" I think of Pehrsson who can takes amazing photos in an almost empty room.

(Images above courtesy of http://blog.annettepehrsson.se/)


Places to Go - The US Botanical Gardens & The National Museum of the American Indian (Washington D.C.)

(The girls had a great time imagining the empty fountain into a fairy castle. And P enjoyed sniffing the sculptured flowers which were full of different spices).

On Sunday we joined some family friends in taking our kids to the Chocolate Festival at the National Museum of the American Indian. Unfortunately, once we arrived it became obvious that our kids only wanted to run. and run. and run. So we changed our plans and decided to spend the morning across the street at the US Botanical Gardens. During the winter the outdoor garden's beauty is somewhat more subduded than in the summer months, but the pathways and bridges gave the kids plenty of room to roam and explore (they also loved playing in the empty fountain). The adults grew exhausted just from watching them. For a rest break we ventured to the indoor conservatory of the gardens where the kids enjoyed the spice exhibit, talking and laughing about all the different smells emanating from gorgeous sculpted flowers. Ideally we would have ended the afternoon with lunch at Mitsitam (by far the best cafe on the National Mall, if not the best in DC itself) but the line was too long. Next time. If you're interested in a great indoor/outdoor adventure combination I highly suggest checking out the Botanical Gardens and the National Museum of the American Indian; paid street parking is usually available.



Things to Make - Doll Slides & Castles (from the Recycling Bin)


A few weekends ago, F had a fever and my husband was out of town, so I spent the weekend homebound with the kids. In order to move the day along I asked the girls' to peruse Look What You Can Make With Dozens of Household Items!: Over 500 Pictured Crafts and Dozens of More Ideas! and find some projects, preferably with cardboard rolls as I've been hoarding these lately (so many project uses). Regarding our newest craft book, on one hand, I love the plethora of projects described (there are thousands, all of which require very few materials). However, the book includes photographs of the finished projects, which can be nervewracking with kids because they want their results to look as good as the books' results and, in my experience, unless MAJOR parental intervention occurs such perfection rarely results. Luckily, P and F picked two relatively simple projects - a slide for dolls and a "castle".

The slide proved super easy to make. All we needed was an old paper towel roll, a paper plate, and some scrap cardboard to glue the paper towel roll onto. I cut the plate into a spiral and, voila, a doll slide. The girls loved their slides as is but I really wanted to stretch out the afternoon, so I asked F & P to paint them. Unfortunately, once the projects dried, F complained that the paint made the slide too "bumpy" for princesses. Oh well, she had a fever, which means, in her eyes, I couldn't really get anything right.

(The prepainting pics on the "smooth" slide)

Basically we just painted rolls of different sizes (T loved this part) and once they dried the girls drew in windows and doors for a castle-tower effect. We made roofs by tracing circles onto construction paper and then taping them together teepee style. I actually think the castle came out pretty cute. Plus, all three kids actively participated, which made me happy (well, until clean up started).



Things to Make - Valentine's Cookies


As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm not a baker. And in the realm of baking nothing terrifies me more than cookies (I actually make a killer cupcake). It's sort of embarrassing, I consider myself a decently intelligent person, but cookie dough and I don't mix. The dough always ends up not sticky or too sticky. I just don't get it. I think I need lessons. But F has declared her favorite holiday as Valentine's Day and, once you have children, you really appreciate a holiday that doesn't involve expensive gifts and preparation (and I'm sufficiently old enough that I've forgiven Valentine's Day for the tearful nights and tequila shots of my college years). With all this in mind, I promised F we could make special cookies to celebrate her favorite holiday. And we made it through, though P kept saying "wow, mom, you're really bad at this."

The Scoop:

Materials - Store bought refrigerated cookie dough (is there any other kind?), cookie cutters, a rolling pin (or, in our case, a wine bottle), Wilton Pink Sparkle Gel and pans.

1. First I tried to roll the dough out. But it kept flaking. So I added flour. My husband came in and explained to me that this made the problem worse (who knew?), so I added oil. What a mess.

2. The girls liked placing the cookie cutters in the dough and separating out the cookies. But they couldn't understand why everything was either too sticky or not sticky enough. Nor could I.

3. Finally we cobbled together some cookies. Some were thick some were thin. What a mess.

4. After the cookies finished baking, I let the kids decorate them with cake decorating gel (and T used sprinkles). This part was fun.

5. The results actually ended up pretty yummy. Though next project I'll probably jump back into my comfort zone. In the future, my husband promised he'd teach me how to make chocolate chip cookies, from scratch nonetheless. I'm excited about it, so at least something valentinesesque came out of the day.



*Today's Groupon - only $15 for spaworld. I love this place, click here for my review.

*These decorating ideas for kids' rooms are just lovely. I want to buy them all (especially the rug).

*Are these the best pictures of the year? According to World Press Photo they are. What do you think? Definitely worth a look.

*Wow, these birds in winter are breathtakingly beautiful.

*The Coveteur blog resembles a fashion-focused Selby. Lots of fascinating/quirky/lovely stuff, check it out (link via http://finetingogsjokolade.blogspot.com/).

*Loving these pics of the 1969 women of Princeton.



Things to Do - Win an Award! YAY! YAY!!


Wow, so I recently received my first blogee!! Thank you so much to Bad Hausfrau for the honor. I'd like to thank, well, the kids because this really is my kids' blog and my husband for "going to office so we can have toys" (as P likes to say). I've really had a great time writing this and I love the fact that readership is slowly growing. And comments, i LOVE comments.

In order to receive my award, I must:

1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this award.
I love you Bad Hausfrau, I love you. Seriously, I highly recommend checking out Kelley's wonderful blog, lots of great links and fun stuff over there.

2. Share 7 things about yourself.
Ugh, so this is harder. I wish I was more interesting. Here goes:
*My absolute favorite food is tabule. I eat it by the gallon.
*My favorite nonfiction book is The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, which changed my life. My favorite fiction books are probably The Coast of Chicago: Stories and A Bend in the River (I think, maybe, ugh, there are so many).
*I used to have a doberman/boxer/mutt named Dostoevsky and I still miss him very very much.
*I'm named after Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice (Restored Edition)
*I don't think I've ever watched an entire football game.
*My guilty pleasure is Us Weekly (6-month auto-renewal), I even have a subscription.
*I'm addicted to silver hoop earrings and have been for years.

3. Award recently discovered great bloggers.
*KidFriendly DC
*Go Out and Play!
*A Passion for Play
*Charleston Newbie
*Jelly Jar Daisies
*un arc-end-ciel dans le lavabo
*The Sleepy Time Gal
*Tornados in Brooklyn
*Wit and Whistle



Things to Make & Read - MOMA books & Imitation Art


When the girls were younger we spent quite a bit of time at art museums. Why? Well, mainly because, as a new mom, I didn't know where else to go (I seriously think that DC hospital maternity wards need flyers referencing KidFriendly DC and Go Out and Play!). Further, I like art and in DC very few museums charge admission. I think P learned colors while pointing at various works of abstract art in the Hirshhorn's galleries. Then came T (whose current nickname is "the tornado"). And we tried visiting art museums with him but that didn't work out so well (read about our past experience here).

This winter, in place of museums I decided to buy the girls some art books, figuring we could talk about the paintings. Unfortunately, I came across several art books geared at older children and quite a few geared at young toddler-age children, but not so many for preschoolers (if anyone knows of any PLEASE let me know). Finally I discovered Philip Yenawine's set through MOMA and lately we've been reading these quite a bit. The books all operate interactively with questions such as "What is happening in this place?" and "Can you tell how this woman feels by the look on her face?" Reading and discussing them with the girls has been great; I love to hear their stories - "I think this girl is sad because her friend won't play with her . . . " Each book ends with an easy project, for example "Can you use colors to make a noisy picture? A funny one?" We usually forgo the suggested projects and instead I ask the girls to pick out one of their favorite pictures from the books and reinterpret it (an idea I read about on A Passion for Play). I was a little apprehensive that recreating masterpieces would intimidate my children, but they jumped right in (F in particular) and lately we've been repeating this project while I make dinner. Often F likes her version better than the original. For example, in the pictures below F felt that a person was needed in order to appreciate the butterflies and wondered why the original artist didn't think of that.

If you live in the area and are interested in other "artful" experiences with your children, KidFriendly DC has a great review of the National Gallery's Stories in Art Program (the winter session is going on now, I really want to check it out). Plus, the Corcoran has a preschool program (weekdays only).



Things to Do - Dance Parties & Vampire Weekend


F has been really into music lately. My friend recorded some kids' CDs for her (thanks Deb!) and as of late she likes to just sit in her bed and listen to Ziggy Marley's Family Time. It has been pretty fun to see her develop her own tastes and interests. In the car F now knows the lyrics to my music better than I do, unfortunately this can lead to tricky situations. For example, I had to stop playing this song (which I find hysterical, though I see how reasonable minds could disagree on this) after F called it funny and asked "why do people make fun of pregnant women?" Sort of hard to explain "smugness" to a preschooler or, even worse, the phrase "so you went ho'ing and now you're glowing cause you're pregnant." I never thought of myself as a music banner, but times have changed. So for now we're sticking with Vampire Weekend's Contra and Vampire Weekend (yes, I know liking them is hipster-cliche, but they're just SO GOOD), perfect for dance parties. Throw in a little Best of the Laurie Berkner Band and Rocknoceros' Pink!- we're all set.

(Note to self - wash daughter's face before photographing her)


Things to Make - Wax Paper Hearts


Last weekend, F, was home sick with a fever. After the tylenol kicked in, I thought we'd try making wax paper hearts (project idea from the Artful Parent) while T napped and P playdated at a friend's house. I couldn't quite gauge how much F liked this project, she seemed a little bored by it. But then a few days later, when she felt better and P returned, she asked, "can we please make window hearts again? P you're going to love this project, it's so BEAUTIFUL." And they both really seemed to love putting the hearts in the window and watching them glow (the ironed paper produces a lovely stained glass effect).

Here's the scoop:

You'll need: Crayon shavings (I used a cheap cheese grater, but you can also use a pencil sharpner), wax paper, an iron, and scissors.

1. I asked the girls to make patterns and designs with the crayon shavings on the wax paper. I tried to prolong this part as long as possible by saying things like "wow, that's beautiful! What were you think of when designing it?"

2. We then placed a new piece of wax paper on top of the decorated sheet.

3. Iron the wax paper on low. I placed a kitchen towel between the iron and the paper to make sure that the paper didn't melt onto the iron.

4. We then traced hearts onto the melted paper using our heart stencils. After cutting the hearts out, we taped them to the window. Originally I planned on making a heart mobile, similar to the Artful Parent and Martha Stewart, but my motivation was not high enough.

What about everyone else? Any creative Valentine's Day ideas?


Things to Make - Project Ideas for Sick/Snow/Rain Days


In case anyone needs some inspiration for the sick/snow/rain days of February, here are some ideas of projects to do with kids:

For Toddlers (and Big Kids too)

1. Goo - is it a liquid? is it a solid? Always a surefire hit in our house, plus really easy to make (you only need two ingredients).

2. Homemade playdough - Obvious but fun, nonetheless. This recipe is super easy and uses ingredients you already have around the house.

3. Water painting - If you don't want to deal with too much mess, you can't go wrong with water, paintbrushes, and construction paper.

4. Never underestimate the recycling bin - toilet paper rolls and old boxes (you can stack them on top of each other) can occupy toddlers for long periods of time.

For Kids 3 and Up - Craft Projects

1. Craft table ideas- you can't go wrong with just putting scissors, different types of paper, glue sticks, markers, and stencils on a table and seeing what happens. Kids like to create. For more of a specific, focused craft construction paper ice cream cones are pretty easy.

2. Teepees and pueblo villages - A great opportunity to have fun while learning about native americans. Make some paper dolls to go in the new homes.

3. Shrinky Dinks - Timeless.

4. Cook something together - we like making oatmeal blondies, sorghum cookies, and popsicles. What's your favorite kid-friendly recipe?

5. Make some marbleized paper with household ingredients - using either oil or shaving cream. Or use watercolors/food coloring with salt and glue to create lovely designs.

For everyone:

1. Dance parties

2. Homemade forts out of couch cushions

3. Try a board game or card game (War and Crazy 8s)- my kids love Candyland, Feed The Kitty, and Briarpatch Madeline In Paris.

4. And if TV is in the plans, make it a "special occasion" with popcorn and dimmed lighting.



Things to Do - Make a Grateful List (January 2011)


Every month I make a "grateful list", sort of a summary/"best of" for the month, which (for me) serves a a great way to remember key moments and general things that make me happy. For past lists, click here.

And on the topic of gratefulness, this passage from Rick Bass really resonated with me:
"We ski into and through the blue light. I hold my breath, hoping that the girls will remember the strange sight - though, perhaps better still, the conscious part of them might forget it, might take if for granted, assuming such wonder to be a daily occurrence in the landscape up here. That would be all right: would be more than all right. Nonchalance and wonder, right next to each other. On the way home, Mary Katherine stops and picks up a handful of that strange micro-flaked snow and tosses it up at the moon . . . . Yes, I think. Take it for granted, please." - The Wild Marsh: Four Seasons at Home in Montana


Reading & Arts
1. Downton Abbey (usually I'm not a fan of BBC productions, but this is SO GOOD)
2. Bob books - F loves these, every night she wants to try reading a new one (Bob Books, Set 1: Beginning Readers and Bob Books Set 2-Advancing Beginners).
3. The Armageddon Mama article in Brainchild
4. A Widow's Story - Joyce Carol Oates' New Yorker article about the death of her husband (not available online)
5. Second City's A Girls' Guide to Washington Politics at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre
6. Loretta Lynn (we can't stop listening to her since we watched Coal Miner's Daughter) esp. The Pill Song (so progressive, so funny, so awesome).
7. Peggy Orenstein's princess article
8. Pomegranate seeds
9. Mulled wine at Twisted Vines
10. Aveda tea (I seriously think I'm addicted)
11. My homemade sweet potato "chips"
12. My new Tom's shoes in Gilded Herringbone (I know it's cliche, but I just love them)
13. Rosewood fortifying oil in the diffuser
14. Starting off the year with a 2 hour yoga class and meditation at Journey Yoga
15. Our afternoon as a family at MD Science Center
16. The Wizards game at the Verizon center
17. P making "rides" for all her dolls (and flying them around the room)
18. F's "essay" on ways to stay healthy (one day she randomly decided to make a list of ways to stay healthy and she tried to write it all herself, despite the fact that she can't really spell yet, so it took a lot of work)
19. T with his blanket always over his head, walking into walls and laughing
20. My birthday mom happy hour (thanks to everyone who came)
21. A night at the Ritz and dinner at Michel for my birthday (thank you Jesse & Amie for watching the kids)
22. T wearing a viking hat at At Play Cafe
23. F's princess drawing (using stencils)
24. F and her "diary" (all her "secrets" go in there, despite the fact that she can't spell yet. She makes P cover her eyes whenever she walks past)
25. P finally writing her own name (for both the girls I've had such a struggle getting them to practice writing their names, so this is a big accomplishment for us)

I thought I'd also include some of the highlights from the girls' lists (every night before they go to bed, I ask them to look back on the day and think of what they're grateful for).

From F (5 years old) - backrubs, coloring pictures, making valentines, my friend Ella, nature, ham [note - we never eat ham, i have no idea where this came from], bike riding, reading books, rides in the sled, and my family.

From P (4 years old) - Dr. Barbie, my family, my ladybug nightlight [Cloud b Twilight Constellation Night Light, Lady Bug], and my strawberry shortcake doll.



Things to Read - Kids' Books II

20101202-december2 (10 of 12)

Winter = lots of snow days and sick days = lots of book reading. It has been a few months since I wrote just a general post on the books we've been reading (click here to see the last post), so scroll down to see the books that we can't get enough of:

For Toddlers:
Clap Your Hands (Sesame Street) (Puppet Book)
A friend bought this for T when he was a baby and he still loves it. It's a book, it's a puppet, it's a song . . . For T it's the best of everything.

For Kids Ages 2.5-6:
City Dog, Country Frog
We love Knuffle Bunny so much that I figured we'd try more of Mo Willems' books. Though very different from Knuffle Bunny, this short, simple, gorgeously illustrated story of a dog/frog friendship is a favorite of all three kids. Plus, the ambiguous ending (what happens to the frog?) leaves openings for parents to talk about death with their kids (if you choose to do so).

The Quiet Book
The perfect going-to-bed book. Gorgeously illustrated, full of simple statements documenting different types of quiet - Hide-and-seek quiet, Lollipop quiet, Top of the roller coaster quiet, and, of course, Sound asleep quiet.

Lost and Found
Another beautifully illustrated, simple, short book (I find that now that F is learning to read, she really likes these simple books as they help her practice sounding out words). The plot centers on the friendship of a little boy and a penguin. It's so beautiful that we bought the sequel Up and Down, which is also quite good.

For slightly older kids (ages 4-8):
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs
First of all, the book and the movie have little in common. Rather, the book tells the story of an imaginary place (the town of Chewandswallow) where meals fall from the sky. Everyone is happy until unforseen weather catastrophes force the townspeople to abandon their land. I'm convinced the whole thing is really a metephor for global warming. But even if you're not an environmentalist, you'll love the well-told story and beautiful illustrations.

The Sneetches and Other Stories
A close friend bought this book for the girls when they were little because it was her favorite story as a child. The plot centers on the exclusion of non-star-bellied sneetches by sneetches with "stars on thars." It's a great story, but the girls didn't seem to quite understand the moral until this year. Now we've been reading it a lot and F likes to talk about the how ridiculous people (or sneetches) can be.

Where the Sidewalk Ends 30th Anniversary Edition: Poems and Drawings
I remember reading this book as a kindergartner and loving the "funny poems." So I bought it for the girls and they can't get enough of it, every night we keep hearing "read one more. PLEASE!"

Bob Books, Set 1: Beginning Readers
F's been reading a lot of Bob books lately. They really are perfect for beginning readers, as they give them just the right amount of confidence to keep trying new books and reading more. We've moved onto this set - Bob Books Set 2-Advancing Beginners and hopefully we'll keep moving forward to more difficult sets in the series.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...