Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Where the Wild Things Are: A Scary Bit of Children's Lit.

I love the imaginative element of this classic storybook by Maurice Sendak. Max is sent to his room without supper after acting like a "wild thing" and threatening to eat up his mother. Once in his room, though, his punishment becomes a foray into a young child's imagination. The walls become the world all around and vines hang down from the ceiling. Max steps into a private boat and sails off over days, weeks and years to the place where the wild things are.

Faced with these wild creatures with terrible claws and terrible roars, Max tames them by staring into their yellow eyes without blinking once. The wild things crown him King of All Wild Things and the wild rumpus begins. (This is where my children jump up from the couch and start dancing and marching around the room like wild things.)

Many times this year I have suggested we read this book, but our four-year-old consistently declined, "No...I don't like that book." And I'd think what's not to like?! I LOVE this book! Then I figured it out: It's too scary for him.

I tend to be a bit dramatic when I read, using voices and facial expressions to make stories come alive for the kids. [Back in B.C. times (Before Children), I was very involved in theater...I love to act and sing. Now my only outlet is storytime!] They usually love it, but it was probably a bit much for this story. I don't think they liked seeing Mommy become a wild thing! Now when I read this story, I leave the acting to the kids, and they like it a whole lot more when I just read it straight.

Our son turns five this week, and he is having his first birthday party with friends. And you know how I love a theme party (especially book themes!). I just finished his Max suit, complete with long, furry tail. His party starts at dusk with a boat ride across the lake to look for wild things. Then we'll have a wild rumpus around a bonfire on the beach. The kids will be invited to wear some wild things like animal print tails and scarves and decorate wild masks. Hopefully we won't traumatize any small children...I'll let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Christmas Booklist: What We'll Be Reading This Year

I'm taking a little bloggy break while I reassess how and why I am writing. I've always intended to write a book and do freelance articles on the side...but with my blogging, it's just not happening. It may not happen, despite a blogging break, but blogging is keeping me from really giving it a try.

I wish you the best of all holiday seasons and hope that you are able to stay focused on the "Reason for the Season," especially with your little ones. It's not about how much you buy, or bake, or decorate...though these things hold some of the joy and tradition of the holidays. Enjoy it, have fun with your traditions, and read lots of Christmas books!

Here are a few of our favorites:

The Night Before Christmas (several illustrators have brought Clement C. Moore's classic Christmas poem to life with beautiful images: Tasha Tudor, Jan Brett, Grandma Moses, and Robert Sabuda are all worth collecting. I just ordered the Tasha Tudor version and can't wait to get it in my hands!)

Peter Spier's Christmas! : This wordless book is sadly out of print, but available through several booksellers in both softcover and hardback.

The Sweet Smell of Christmas: Recommended to me, and after seeing (and smelling!), I knew I had to have it for our Christmas book collection!

What Star Is This? by Joseph Slate, Illustrated by Alison Jay

The Animals' Christmas Eve (a Little Golden Book) I still have my childhood copy, but it's missing pages and falling apart...I might have to replace this one!

The Year Without a Santa Claus by Phyllis McGinley, pictures by Kurt Werth

You Are My Miracle by Maryann Cusimano Love and Satomi Ichikawa

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

Paul's Christmas Birthday by Carol Carrick, pictures by Donald Carrick: This one has special meaning for us, as KID 1 was due on Christmas Eve, but waited until December 28th to make his grand debut! We always have a separate birthday party for him, but he forgets that he's already had his birthday by the time Spring rolls around. I think it just gets lost between Christmas and New Year's for him.

Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale, by Martin Waddell and Jason Cockcroft: Beautiful illustrations and the sweet, classic story of the Savior's birth, as told from the animals' perspective.

Dream Snow by Eric Carle

Geraldine's Big Snow by Holly Keller: A little pig looks forward to the first big snowfall of the season.

Snowmen At Night by Caralyn Buehner, pictures by Mark Buehner: What do snowmen do at night? Beautiful illustrations with hidden pictures throughout. This one is just winter themed, but it comes out with our Christmas books.

A Wish to be a Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe, illustrated by Michael Glenn Monroe

The Tale of Three Trees: A traditional Folktale (Hunt)

I would like to add to our collection:

Jotham's Journey: A Storybook for Advent by Arnold Ytreeide
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski (Author), P.J. Lynch (Illustrator)
The Clown of God, Tomie De Paola
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, Gloria Hunt and Barbara Cooney

Any other Christmas favorites I should add?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Tricky Chocolate Truffles Kids Will Love

I tried another recipe from Jennifer Carden's Toddler Cafe, but I changed it up a bit. Going off of the "Toddler Truffles" recipe, which uses a can of black beans, butter, sugar and eggs (to name few of the basic ingredients required), I created actual chocolate truffles.
Instead of black beans, I used kidney beans, drained and rinsed (that's what was in my cupboard) and I added 6 Tablespoons of cocoa powder to the recipe. My kids love these! They look, smell and taste almost exactly like brownies, but don't have any flour in them at all!

And apparently scooping anything into a ball for snacktime makes it an instant sensation amongst the preschool set. My son never eats as much fruit as when we scoop melons into balls, and he especially loves to scoop it himself!


1 can dark beans (I used dark red kidney beans)
4 Tbsp. softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (I chopped some peanuts in my coffee grinder)
4-6 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Grease an 8x8" pan.

I blended the first 6 ingredients with my stick blender, then added the eggs.

Pour into greased pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the edges begin to look crisp.

As it cools, use a scooper or your hands to form 1" balls. Dust with powdered sugar to make "snowballs." You could also just cut these like brownies.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Homemade Toy: Montessori Style

Here is our new practical life activity for November:

We painted these wooden beads this morning with cranberry-colored tempera paint. Both kids helped and they dried really fast.
I put them on a tray in a small bowl, set an empty bowl next to it, and demonstrated how to use our toast tweezers to pinch and transfer the "cranberries" into the second bowl.
Both kids LOVE this new toy! It's pretty challenging for our 2-year-old, but she really stuck with it, putting all 40 cranberries into the other bowl one by one.
When she was done, she reset the station by carefully dumping the cranberries into the first bowl...this was self-motivated. I didn't ask her to do this, but when she finished, she announced, "Your turn!" to her big brother. So sweet!
Check out Works-for-Me Wednesday for more great toy ideas!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Take me to the polls!

Can I vote, too, Daddy? 14 years.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Very Hungry Party...Finally!

KID 2 turned 2 a couple of weeks ago, and after postponing this party TWICE due to illness, we finally celebrated her birthday in Very Hungry Caterpillar Style!
Some Party Prep:
I made mini cherry tarts the night before the party

Nectar-Sipping Cups...made from foam circles
(I had way too much time to plan after cancelling this party TWICE!)

These little bookmark pals turned out so cute! These were our party favors.

They actually fit through the holes in the book!

Party Day!
Birthday Girl is Looking for Some Fun!


Hunting for Caterpillars

Found One!

The Dramatic Reading of The Very Hungry Caterpillar...With the Puppet

The Very Hungry Table Spread...we made apple-cheese muffins instead of cupcakes

Our Very Hungry Birthday Girl!

KID 1 in his salami disguise

Grammy's setting a good example...

Sipping Nectar Like a Butterfly!

Free-Play in the Backyard

Happy Birthday To You, Little One!

Served with a cherry on top, just like the story!

Some activities not shown here:
Feeding the hungry caterpillar (a beanbag toss game)
Decorating butterfly crowns (it was too windy to wear them and I slacked on the photo op)

The party was so much fun! The kids were great and the adults even enjoyed "eating what the caterpillar ate!" Now I need to start planning for KID 1's "Wild Rumpus" (his birthday is right after Christmas, so if I don't plan now, it might not happen!)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tying One On...No, It's Not What You Think!

Don'tcha just love play scarves? Our little SuperKIDs sure do!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Favorite Storybook Characters

We love Frog and Toad around here! In fact, the minute I heard that a local shop was selling miniature plush Frogs and Toads, I went right out and got one of each. We love these little guys.

The kids each get to hold one as we read, and when their character has a line, they hold him up high and bobble him around to make him "talk."

I'm always on the lookout for recreations of our favorite story characters. I find puppets, stuffed/plush dolls, and even china dolls (I have Anne of Green Gables, thanks to my mom's eBay addiction!). My kids love it! It really makes storytime come to life!

I do whatever works to make reading fun around here! For more great ideas and tips, check out Works-For-Me-Wednesday!

Brrrrr...Break Out Your Warm Neck Ties!

So it's actually 39 degrees outside this morning! We can't believe it! I don't remember it getting this cold this early in my lifetime...I think I heard the newscasters say last night (as I struggled to keep my eyes open) that we haven't had a cold snap like this in October since the late 1800's! This is sub-tropical Central Florida...crazy!

Cold weather is so unusual that my almost-5-year-old asked me excitedly this morning, "Mommy, do I have a neck tie?!!!"

Bleary-eyed and still rumpled from bed, I shuffled into the room and responded, "You don't like the clip-on ties you had, so we got rid of them."

"NOOooooo, I mean, warm neck I have warm neck ties?"

"Warm neck ties?"

I'm pretty sure he was asking if he owns a scarf...which he does not. I think I finally may have to learn to knit...something I've never felt necessary, since we barely get sweater weather here, never mind scarf-and-mitten weather. Or maybe I'll just wander over to Etsy and see what I can find over there!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mmm, Mmmm, Good!

My friend Rachel recently loaned me a great cookbook titled Toddler Cafe, by Jennifer Carden, and I have to tell you, it's been fun trying some of her recipes! She even shares some recipes on her blog. Her book has beautiful, full-color pictures of many of her recipes, so it's fun just to look through it...I love picture cookbooks!

One cool idea was to use your waffle iron at lunchtime to make your own paninis. The kids LOVED this! The cheese melted inside and the bread got all textured like a waffle! I even sauteed some sliced apples in butter to go in them with the cheese...mmmmmm, so good!

Yesterday, we made "Peanut Butter Globe Globs" for our afternoon snack. The kids loved rolling this squishy stuff into balls and then coating them in crushed cereal. And they were tasty!

Today I think we'll try the "Toddler Truffles," which look like real chocolate truffles, but are actually made with black beans (and some other stuff!). I've had a sweet treat like this in Asian restaurants and they are GOOD!

If you have an opportunity to pick up Jennifer's cookbook, you won't regret it! I think I need to get myself a copy!

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Very Hairy Pair

The Very Hungry Caterpillar birthday bash is coming up! Here's how our little party favor experiment is going:

KID 1 filled each section of a knee high with grass seeds and soil from our compost heap, layering them in and then tying each section off to form a caterpillar (I did the tying). He then soaked it in a bucket of water and set it on a clay tray filled with water. After just 4 days, we had grass shoots! He can't wait to give his caterpillar a trim! Here it is:

For KID 2, we tried filling the nylon with soil, tying each section off, soaking it in a bucket of water, and then rubbing the grass seeds on top. Hers is pictured below on the right.

Both ways worked, but I think putting them inside the nylon with the soil is safest. Some of her seeds blew off as they dried. We tried sticking them back on, but only the ones on top stayed put.

If and WHEN her little birthday bash happens, each guest will make a Very Hairy Caterpillar and then we'll slip it into a plastic goody bag for them to take home. They will soak it in water at home and find a plate or tray to set it on and watch it sprout!

I'm thrilled that my idea worked! This will be a great hands-on activity at the party!

Materials required:
  • old pantihose, cut into 2 foot sections and tied at the bottom
  • rye grass seed (a 5 lb. bag cost us $3.75)
  • some colorful pipe cleaners for the legs and antennae
  • A bucket of water
  • As take-home party favors, we got 12 goody bags for $1

This was so much fun and cheap and EASY!!! See more of my Very Hungry Party ideas here.

For more frugal ideas, check out this site...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The EXTREMELY Hungry, On the Brink of Starvation, Shriveled Up Little Caterpillar Saga

Remember all my great ideas for the Very Hungry Caterpillar party for KID 2's 2nd birthday bash? And this cute little concoction for the birthday girl to wear? I would love to say the party was a hit and my brilliant visions of caterpillars and butterflies became a reality in my backyard. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

TWICE we have had to postpone this party due to illness. And TWICE I have had to deal with our older son's wrath upon learning the party was cancelled. On Friday night, as I made the cancellation phone calls, several friends heard screaming and crying in the background of my home. That was not the 2-year-old girl whose party was cancelled, was her older, bitterly disappointed, social butterfly brother. First he screamed, then he cried, then he subjected us to stony silence (that part was kinda nice after the first two rounds).

The bright side: Saturday ended up being a rainy day, so we couldn't have had the party outside anyway.

We're pretty much all sick right now. Ugh! Maybe we should just put the starving little caterpillar out of its misery...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

One More Way to Attack Germs

Did you know you can microwave your toothbrush to sanitize it? And you should throw it away after you've been sick?

I wash mine pretty often, but I never knew you could microwave it! I'm totally gonna start doing this from now on with all of our toothbrushes. The kids' toothbrushes are usually very questionable looking...even when they're new. Maybe microwaving them will help us fend off more germies!

Click here to read the entire article at FitSugar. The comments below the article question the safety of microwaving the plastic, so read and decide for yourself if this is something you think might help you and your family through this cold and flu season!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Having a "Tt" Party!

I took a new perspective on blogging recently: I only do it when I am not completely stressed, or sick, or have a sick get the idea. When I have a great idea to share, I will share it (as long as I can do it without detracting from my time with the kids).

Anyway, two weeks ago when I wasn't posting, the kids and I spent the morning spontaneously preparing a "Tt" party luncheon to surprise Paul when he came home for lunch. I had recently acquired a train cake pan at a terrific yard sale, so the kids helped make pumpkin muffins shaped like a train (our table centerpiece).

I cut up some leftover seasoned chicken breasts, mixed in some chopped celery and mayo and voila! Chicken salad "Tt" sandwiches were born! I just cut off the crusts of the bread, cut the sandwiches into 4 sections, and arranged them in an Uppercase T on their plates.

The kids helped wash and set the table, and we were ready to go! Lunch never looked so good here!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hungry for a Party!

These little guys are hungry for a fun birthday party!

KID 1 and KID 2 helped decorate these little egg carton caterpillars with permanent markers (I helped with the eyes). We'll hide them on the day of the party (and probably every day after that) and let the kids hunt for the caterpillars to win a prize.

I have a caterpillar party favor idea involving knee highs, potting soil, pipe cleaners, and grass seed, but I'm not sure this will work yet. It would need some sort of bottom container, I think. Maybe it could go into a cellophane baggie and parents can find something to set it in at home before they water it...I have an annoying jingle in my head now: Ch-ch-ch-chia!

Using my pinking shears, I cut each piece of junk food from the Hungry Caterpillar fabric I ordered from The Carle museum. Then I sewed one piece of food on each side of these denim bean bags. These will be the "food" for the "Feed the Hungry Caterpillar" game. We'll draw or paint a big caterpillar with a red face (like Eric Carle's caterpillar) on the paved driveway for the kids to toss the food into. The number of feet they need to stand from the line will correspond to their ages. Gotta keep it challenging!

I've got to find swirly lollipops like the one the caterpillar eats through in the book. I just don't want the HUGE kind that are bigger than the kids' heads! I may have to go with regular boring.
Check out these cute butterfly cupcakes...they are just darling. I can't decide whether I want a caterpillar cake/mini cupcakes or a butterfly cake/cupcakes. I have several ideas. But I really like these cupcakes! And they look easy!

Can you tell I LOVE planning kids' parties? The fun is in the details!

A Good Day

Yesterday was KID 2's birthday. She turned 2. Unfortunately, she and I have both been sick. Her party should have been Saturday, but we had to postpone it.

Monday was her official day, and so in honor of her birthday and Letter Dd week, we walked to the park by the lake and read Make Way for Ducklings (a Caldecott classic). Then we loaded those little ducklings up with stale homemade bread.

This one was not my idea: I was inspired by the leader of our Children's Lit. forum who just loves book adventures, or turning a beloved book into an activity/adventure.

A few friends met us there, and afterwards we played......Duck, Duck, Goose! Of course!

Happy Birthday, Little One!
You're beautiful, inside and out.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hansel! Gretel! Say "CHEESE!"

Hansel and Gretel appeared today for their final fitting. The lederhosen bribe worked!
I love 4-year-olds!

Gretel was not cooperating for this photo shoot. Hansel's patience is running thin.

Hansel and Gretel find their path and they both make their escape.

See you little urchins at the Fall Festival!

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Very Hungry Little Dress

A Pretty Little Package!

This is the birthday dress for KID 2's Very Hungry Caterpillar party. I think it turned out so sweet!

This is a very simple, comfy design, made from a borrowed pattern. I have some talented friends who sew beautiful dresses for their girls...and they love to share!
This dress is roomy enough to grow with her. When it gets too short to wear as a dress, it will be adorable with leggings or bloomers. I'm proud of myself...sewing is not my forte! Thankfully, this mostly required sewing straight lines. I can sew a mean straight line!