Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On Coffee

I like coffee. As I write this, I am enjoying a delicious cup of decaf, sweetened with Splenda, and full of sugar-free vanilla caramel creamer. Mmmmmm...hardly any calories or carbs, and YUM. Occasionally I like to put a spoonful of whipped topping on the top of my coffee & eat it as it melts...it tastes like ice cream - so good. :)

The other morning, Z & I were out, to my nutritionist appointment and then playing at the park, and I needed to stop by a local grocery store to grab one ingredient for dinner on the way home. As we entered the store, I noticed a sign that said "Tim Horton's Express". oooooooooooo... I think I need two things now.... :) I wandered around the whole store looking for the Tim Horton's Express counter, and then I finally realized it was actually a little bar-type area near the deli, with some self-serve cappuccino machines sitting on a counter. But these weren't your gas station cappuccino machines, no, they were real Tim Horton's coffee machines! You could order a cappuccino or a latte...or both... :) And you could add flavoring & your own sugar (Splenda for the diabetic, please). I ended up getting a medium hazelnut latte...and wow, was it good. :) It definitely carried me through the rest of the day! What a great idea - a self-serve Tim Hortons! Wonder how much it would cost to have a Tim Horton's Express counter set up in my house??? :)

I love iced coffee drinks, too, but they typically have so much sugar in them that I haven't been able to have them since developing gestational diabetes. So I have been searching and concocting and have found my own new favorite iced coffee recipe - homemade! I thought I would share! :) I love the versatility of making it myself, because I can do decaf in the evenings or half-caff in the mornings, and I use Splenda to sweeten it so I don't have to worry about carbs. :) So here we go, enjoy!

Carrie's Favorite Iced Coffee Recipe

1. Make double-strength coffee. I usually use a cup and a half of water (5-oz. cups) with 3 T. of coffee for my double-strength.

2. Add the sweetener, as I said, I use Splenda, and I use a lot. :) Probably 2-3 teaspoons per coffee drink.

3. Cool the coffee. It can cool for just a few minutes or even overnight before you add the ice, it doesn't really matter.

4. Add ice - about 6-8 cubes, depending how strong you like your coffee...and how much room there is in your mug... :)

5. Add whole milk to taste - I suppose you could use half & half or liquid creamer, but I always use whole milk - a little less than 1/2 cup for my taste.

You can add your own flavorings to this recipe - a little vanilla, or a pinch of cocoa can give it a different flavor, or you can just use flavored coffee to begin with.

Let me know if you have good luck with this recipe or find a better way to tweak it & make it even more delicious! :)

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On a much sadder note, Stellan is back in the hospital with persistent SVT again. And it's his first birthday tomorrow. Poor little guy. I hope we can all take a minute to pray for his family, they've been through so much in the last year. Visit www.mycharmingkids.net for updates, or follow MckMama on Twitter. And whatever else you do, please pray!!!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tot School - Fall Fun Edition!

This week, we were able to do a lot of Tot School activities! But before we get to the projects we did, I thought I'd share a couple of 'normal' activities that are just as much a part of little Z's classroom as the planned activities are! Every morning, Z has 'water play time'...as I do the dishes. We have a double sink (no dishwasher, boo hoo), so I separate the dishes with all the breakable & sharp items in the left sink next to the dish drainer, fill this sink up with soapy water, and leave all the plastic dishes in the right sink, with a cool stream of water coming out of the faucet that Zachary can play in - he dips the dishes in it, dumps the water out, pours, and sometimes even holds his hands (or head) under the faucet for fun. :)


He has his own little broom which he likes to use while I sweep, which is fun unless he starts sweeping in the middle of my dirt pile...I usually ask him to sweep in another part of the room. :) It's pretty cute when he waves it around to get the 'copweps' like Mommy does, too...and nothing's gotten broken yet... :)


So, as far as Tot School this week, we did several normal activities throughout our days, including coloring, reading books, playing with our stuffed letters, and playing with his favorite 'shapes' puzzle. We did two 'crafty' activities during the week, with a fall theme.

On Wednesday afternoon, we baked peanut butter rice krispy treats - Z helped me count out the 6 cups of rice cereal, and I handled the rest of the 'boiling goo' part. Then we waited for them to cool down, and attempted to use cookie cutters to cut out fall-shaped rice krispy treats. It was WAY too hard for Z to even cut them at all, but he had fun trying. It was almost even too hard for me to cut out anything with a plastic cookie cutter, so after we did a few, I switched to a metal cat-shaped cookie cutter & did a few more. Then I made some orange icing (just powdered sugar, vanilla & milk until it looks right), and let Z paint the cutouts with the frosting.


He had a great time, and really enjoyed painting the cookies...


and on his highchair tray.


Here is the finished product (notice I gave up halfway through the pan, partly b/c it was so hard to cut the treats & partly because I was too tempted to eat ALL the surrounding 'extras' - as you can see, there are no longer any in the pan...). :)

On Friday, a rainy afternoon, Z & I tried pumpkin printing: hat tip to No Time for Flash Cards for this cute activity.


First, I cut a (white) mini-pumpkin in half. It was actually REALLY hard to cut the pumpkin, keeping it straight so that we could stamp with it - I had to cut it & then straighten/flatten each half.


Then Z & I used spoons to clean out the 'yuckies'. Z actually didn't do much in this part - he touched the seeds a couple times & fussed because he thought it was so yucky.


Then we 'blooped' some finger paint on a paper plate, and dipped our pumpkin halves in it, and stamped them on the paper. Z's favorite part was mixing up the paint with his fingers, but he did dip & print a couple of times.


Here is the finished product - note Z's pristinely clean appearance. :)

So that was our week! We also spent a LOT of time outside, since the weather was beautiful! On our rainy Friday evening, we also watched an episode of Clifford (if you're a toddler, it's pronounced Kyipperd) for a special treat. Z enjoyed the parts with all the dogs, but wasn't quite as into it as he is when he watches Sesame Street.

And, in conclusion, I have a question for you all - when should Z start using a real cup at meals, and real silverware & all? I try to give him a fork or spoon (little plastic ones) when it's appropriate for his meal, but I pretty much use a sippy cup all the time, and I still feed him in a highchair, with food just on the tray or sometimes in a bowl (suction bowls for messy stuff like soup/yogurt, regular plastic bowls for eggs, hot dogs, etc). Should I be feeding him at the table instead, with a plate, more like a big kid? What age did you start that 'big table' training with your kids?

To check out more Tot School posts, head on over to the Tot School website!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Love Him Anyway

8 weeks from today, my little girl will be here!!! It seems like such a long time, but we still have so much to do in order to get Z's new room ready, and I am SO looking forward to organizing all of her sweet little clothes in her room, and adding a few pink accents here and there!

Zachary and I have been enjoying the fall weather as much as we can - I think the snow we had last week reminded me that fall won't be here forever, and soon it will be more difficult to get out - so we've been spending lots of time outside. We even had a picnic by the creek in our yard after MOPS on Tuesday morning.


I'm not sure if Z is starting his 'terrible twos' a few weeks early, or whether he's just showing the lack of discipline (because, really, I am NOT that great at discipline, I really struggle with consistency vs. laziness most of the time), but he has been a real challenge these last few days for me. He doesn't want his daddy, which makes me sad, sometimes he has been a real stinker for him, refusing to even go to Daddy and give him a hug sometimes. I know he loves his daddy, and he talks about him when he's not here and looks forward to him getting home, but he just gets this glint his eye and refuses to go over there. And he has been hitting/pinching/pulling my hair a lot again lately. I am really trying to teach him to obey the first time, but, oh, it is so HARD sometimes!!!

He's been saying a lot of funny things lately, just repeating things he's heard which are rather hilarious coming out of his little mouth. When struggling with something in the living room the other day, I overheard him exclaim, "Oh, Man! Oh, Boy! Oh, Guy!" :) Then, as we were walking home from camp another time, I was getting rather frustrated with the fact that my maternity pants ALREADY will NOT stay up (seriously, people, it is RIDICULOUS how often I am hiking them up. A couple people have suggested suspenders and I am rather open to the idea at this point - with 8 weeks to go, it should not be THIS bad yet!!!). Anyway, I uttered some exclamation like, "Oh, I am so TIRED of these PANTS, can't they just stay UP for goodness SAKE!". And the next thing I knew, he threw his little blond head back and yelled at the top of his lungs, "SAKES, Mommy's Pants, SAKES!!!". Which of course made me laugh hysterically in spite of the fact that my pants were around my knees. :)

And tonight as I was helping with some dishes in the camp kitchen, I realized I hadn't seen him for a few minutes, so I went around the corner, and there he was behind the baker's table. He had a measuring cup in his hand, and was scooping brown sugar out of a bin, and into the large mixer, one scoop at a time. I guess he was cooking. :)

And, oh, in spite of the fact that he knows how to push my buttons better than anyone else sometimes, and seems to enjoy when Mommy gets flustered and frustrated, how I love this little guy.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tot School

Well, since our family was on vacation, we haven't been doing MUCH for Tot School, but we did color while on vacation, and play with some new lacing cards, which I will have to get pictures of this week. The lacing cards are animals, and you can also use them as puzzles & match them up with the cards they fit in.

Since we returned from vacation earlier this week, we have done a couple of activities. We 'made a punkin' on Wednesday afternoon, which made Z very excited. Actually he wasn't too into the whole process of ripping the construction paper (I ended up doing most of the crafting part of it), but he loved using the glue stick, and he really loves seeing the 'punkin' up on the fridge. He looks at it and says, "Made a punkin. Make a punkin 'gain." And I assure him that we will...sometime soon. :) Here is the much-loved pumpkin:


So that was our big activity for the week (and I didn't even have the camera handy during the process, so this is the only picture I got!) - other than that, we've spent time coloring, playing with puzzles and our stuffed letters, and identifying colors and numbers and reading fall books. I am really slacking on getting Tot School pictures, though, while we're learning - I'll try to do better this week. :) Zachary is just amazing me with all he's learning, though - at 22 months, he can count to twelve on his own, identify the numbers 1-9 (except he gets 6 mixed up with 9), identify several colors, and identify most of his letters. His vocabulary and sentence structure is just exploding once again with all kinds of new phrases that really resemble adult speech, like, "Daddy driving to house", or "punkin with face on it". This stage is so much fun!!!

He also loves music & his daddy & I have been teaching him a bunch of songs, leaving out the end word of each phrase, and he'll supply the missing word, for example: "Row, row row your " (then he says, "Boat!") "gently down the" ("Stream") "Merrily Merrily Merrily Merrily, Life is but a" ("dream"). It is super cute. :) He has also learned that music comes out of the computer speakers, while Mommy checks email, so he'll point to them and say, "Music come out!" :)

In other kid news, two months from today is baby girl's due date!!! I have been rather uncomfortable with a lot of pain in my tailbone area whenever I sit much lately, and this afternoon and evening I've had some pain all down my side, so hopefully that will go away soon! Other than that, everything is perfectly healthy - baby girl had a great heartbeat in the 150s at my appt. on Thursday...and I now have to go every 2 weeks since I'm 31 weeks along - this whole pregnancy is passing so fast - I can't even believe she'll be here in less than nine weeks!

So I guess this is more of an update on my family - next week I'll have more pictures of our favorite tot teaching tools to share, I hope! :) To make up for my lack of pictures, I will simply close with a couple of gratuitous adorable pictures of Zachary in his Mickey Mouse sweatshirt. :)


And for more Tot School posts, head on over the the website - lots of great ideas!!!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Shower Day

I was able to have a little bit of 'away time' today - and went to a friend's baby shower at a cute little bed & breakfast near our church. It was a beautiful place, and the shower was catered deliciously, including these amazing pumpkin cupcakes - they had caramel cheesecake frosting. MMMMmmmmmm.... :)

My friend Jen's baby boy, is due just a couple of weeks after my little girl, and she is such a cute pregnant lady! :) She has this adorable basketball belly on her front and that's all! :) She got lots of nice things for the baby And Jen got LOTS of nice gifts for the baby, so that was great.

It was a SURPRISE shower - so that was lots of fun. When Jen opened the door, she saw her sister & mom from Ohio & then rounded the corner to the other 20 of us who had come from the area to celebrate. She was totally surprised & super excited. :) I was rather nervous about the whole thing (actually had a bad dream about it a couple days ago), because I didn't know that many people that were going...but it turns out I recognized a few people & got to know a few more!

When the B&B owner opened the door for me to enter, she said, "Oh, you look familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?"

"Oh, you look familiar, too", I responded. And then it clicked. "Um, you used to be my gynecologist," I said. Teensy bit awkward!!! :)

MORE awkward than that was the fact that one of my friends had pulled into a really muddy part of the yard & gotten her van stuck - trying to keep the shower a surprise for Jen & all, she didn't want her to see her car. And the B&B owner (and former gynecologist) was NONE too happy about the stuck van. My friend's hubby had to come in his truck at the end of the shower & attempt to pull her out - and he was leaving HUGE ruts in the yard as he tried to get her out (and eventually succeeded). I felt so bad for her as they worked on getting the van out while the owner stood watching with her hands on her hips! I guess my friend has to go back and fix the ruts at a later date now!

But all in all, it was a wonderful, relaxing time. It was great to get together with friends & ooh & aah over adorable baby clothes & discuss our own experiences. Don't we moms just LOVE to discuss childbirth & babies???

And now I really want to go bake some pumpkin cupcakes...or I'd settle for just a tub or two of that frosting...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vacation Hilarity

Here are some of the ‘highlights’ of our family’s vacation earlier this month - we spent a week in VA at a condo, relaxing, and then two BUSY days in Washington, DC, seeing the sights. We had a great time, but it is very nice to be home as well.

On the way to our resort (about a 7-hour drive for a normal person…slightly longer with a 7-month pregnant woman and an antsy one-year-old), we had been driving for about 4 hours, Z was getting tired, and VERY bored of being in his car seat. We had been talking all weekend about ‘vacation’ and how exciting it was to go on ‘vacation’, and how we were driving all this way to go to ‘vacation’… Well, Z decided that he had had enough already, and let out a wail: “All done vacation!!!” Hubby and I have been laughing about it ever since. :)

The next morning, as we were eating breakfast, Z was ready to get down from the table, and he came up with even a new excuse to be done eating…a rather good one at that. “My belly SO full” he informed me, and then followed it up with a loud belch. So I assume he was telling the truth. :) But don’t believe that he won’t use THAT one again. :)

We went to a little ‘rescue zoo’ where they take in animals that are abandoned & then either keep them or give them to individuals who will keep them for life. They had all kinds of neat animals - lemurs, lots of snakes, wallabies, monkeys, and even a tiger! They had a petting zoo with goats, deer & a camel, and Z was excited about petting the goats…until one of them popped out from in between the fence slats & came to join us on our side of the fence- that was a little too scary for him! When I asked him later that day what his favorite thing was at the zoo, he said, “Man”. Apparently the zookeeper, who came and talked to us for a few minutes, was the highlight of his day. :) He did talk about the tiger again later, though.

Zachary made up a new word in the last week - “arounding”. It means turning around. When we’re going around a curve in the car, we’re ‘arounding’. When he’s running around in a circle, he announces that he’s ‘arounding’. It’s pretty funny, and it actually makes sense. :)

We have seen many deer wandering around on our resort, including several right off the back porch of our room. Zachary asks to go out on the porch all the time, saying, “Look for deer.” At some point, I must have exclaimed that it was ‘fun’ to see the deer right there, and so now he calls them ‘fun deer’.

Out of the 8 days that we were on vacation, we visited our favorite consumer wonderland, Wally World, at least 4 times. One trip was solely because our baby monitor broke, and we had to get a new one (which ended up working for approximately 24 hrs before petering out…don‘t get me started on that). Z always gets excited about shopping and enjoys riding in the cart. One day, as we were driving to the store, Z was talking in the backseat, and let out a contented, enraptured sigh: “Wal-mart…” We’re raising a future WM shopper. You’re welcome, Sam Walton! :)

We visited a small children’s museum in the area - Z’s first time at one of these, and we had a lot of fun there. I had a lot of fun watching Z enjoy it, and I think his favorite part was either the lawn tractor that you could sit on, or the little plastic slide…rather like the one he has at home… :)

After getting all relaxed for a week, we headed down to Washington, DC for a couple days. I will recommend to ALL pregnant women, if you’re going to see DC when you’re 7 months pregnant, DO NOT WALK IT. Your hips and back will hate you for days. Also, I can recommend many great public restroom stops around the city, as well as a comprehensive tour of each park bench in the vicinity. Take a tour bus between the sights or something - it would definitely be worth it.
Also, if you take a rather active toddler with you, who is unhappy being stuck in his stroller all day, your recounting of the trip may go something like this: Hubby taught Z to sing several fun silly songs while I toured the Holocaust museum. I sat with Z while he slept in the food court at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, then fed him lunch, and we walked through the room with the big ‘spaceships‘ and walked through an airplane exhibit twice. After torturing Z by making him sit in his stroller and sing silly songs while we waited in line & then toured the exhibit of the First Ladies’ dresses, Z & I played on a bench in the Smithsonian museum of US History, eating goldfish crackers and making friends with every person who came to sit on our bench. Disclaimer: My son is NOT shy. Especially if you have a phone. Or if you’re wearing a hat - he really likes hats, and will exclaim, “Man! Hat On!!” He went up to seriously every person, and one sweet foreign lady was even hugging him & cuddling him & he didn’t even mind.

I think Z would say his favorite part of Washington, DC was riding the ‘train’ (the metro/subway). Every time the door would open or close, the train would beep & announce, “Door opening” or “Door closing”, so Z started saying that, too.

All in all, we had a great time as a family. I remember when Hubby & I used to take vacations before we had kids, they mostly consisted of sleeping in late, lounging around, and then taking naps, and going out to eat. So last year when we went on our first family vacation WITH Z, it felt less vacation-y to me - since, you know, I still had to get up early, nurse & make baby food for him, and change diapers & all. This year, I adjusted my expectations and my goals for vacation, and Z pleasantly surprised me by sleeping in until 7:45 a few days, and Hubby watched him so I could take several naps. Our condo had a dishwasher, too (I’ve never had a dishwasher in any house we’ve lived in yet), so I took FULL advantage of that rare perk. Also, I took full advantage of the Jacuzzi tub - it was wonderful. :)

It’s always nice to be home, though, to our own beds, our own cozy home with fogged-up windows and falling leaves (and today, snow!) outside. Being away from home is nice for a few days, but it’s even nicer to be home again, and more appreciative of all we have here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Tot School

A few months ago, I found this AWESOME website called Tot School. I wanted to do some kind of learning activities for Z this fall, without getting too serious or advanced for him, since, you know, he is only one. But I am just a teacher at heart, and when I see him starting to get interested in learning letters, numbers, colors, etc. my mind immediately jumps to preschool curriculum and intense learning times. Knowing in the back of my mind that he truly wasn't ready for those kinds of activities, I searched and came across this great website. It is chock-full of all kinds of activities and suggestions and resources for teaching your toddler informally at home! Tot School is basically activities that will help toddlers learn in an informal and fun environment. I have learned so much about teaching the different 'subjects', along with fun and relaxed methods, just from browsing the site.

So I wanted to share a little bit about what we do each week for our version of Tot School. In our daily schedule, when we happen to be home all day, our mornings are usually filled with cleaning up the house, watching Sesame Street (while I take a shower), hanging out and doing housework, and taking a walk to the mailbox. Then we have lunch and nap, and Z typically wakes up around 2:30 or so. After he wakes up, we read a book or two together, and then I try to have some kind of informal 'learning activity' planned. It can be something as simple as blocks or Play-Doh, playing with a puzzle or lacing cards, a craft like finger-painting or chalk drawing, or a specific time set aside to study numbers (from his favorite Baby Bop counting book), letters (from a set of stuffed letters that we were given - my FAVORITE teaching tool so far), or shapes (using a book or shape sorter).

Since Z is so very active, I like to do activities like coloring and Play-Doh on the kitchen floor, so that if he gets bored, he can get up, run around, and come back to our activity a minute later. If I had him strapped into a chair, he would not last nearly as long before asking to get down, but as it is, I usually have to cut off our Play-Doh or coloring time before he's even done (or when he starts eating the crayons or coloring on the cupboards). I also read a tip the other day to do finger-painting in the bathtub with your toddler in just a diaper, and that sounds like SO much fun, but I haven't had a chance to try it yet.

I would also add that absolutely EVERYTHING is a learning activity at this age. Our children are learning from every word that comes out of our mouths, and every activity we do together (whether it's washing the dishes, going to the bathroom, dusting, or going on a walk). But I know that my son has amazing potential and is very interested in learning, so I am trying to provide him with opportunities now...especially before our new baby arrives in JUST ELEVEN WEEKS!!! Because who knows how much time or how many brain cells, if any, I will have at my disposal during those first 3 or 6 months after she moves in! :)

I hope to do a Tot School post about once a week, highlighting different learning activities we do, (and hopefully including some pictures) and letting you all know how they work for us.

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I also feel like I should update everybody on what Z's been up to lately...and our family. :) We are having a busy fall, but I am loving staying home for every minute of it. It is actually fall here in NY state, rather rainy lately, and we've transitioned to pants and sometimes even long-sleeved shirts - it seems to be happening so fast, it's hard to believe it's October already! And our little girl will be here 11 weeks from today!!! Yay! :)

Zachary is at a delightful stage of development, I really enjoy the new communication he's developing - even little sentences keep coming out. Yesterday was, "I goin' stinky. I goin' stinky in diaper." and things like "Elmo sitting on pillow." A couple of his cutest new words are: "wookin' " as in..."not wookin' " when a toy isn't turned on, and "wookin' " when it does start working; and "goo-ness", as in "Oh, goo-ness", usually when something gets dropped or he falls, and I exclaim, "Oh, goodness!" :) He's also started to tell me that he's "tired", when he really is tired, or when he doesn't want to do something. Yesterday at snack AND supper, he wasn't really hungry, and he kept saying to me, "I tired, I tired", and then he started fake-crying, and saying, "I cryin, I cryin" over and over. It was pretty funny. I eventually let him get down. :) He also has learned the word "like", so he'll tell me what he likes, "Like ta jump!" is a popular one (usually followed by a lot of jumping and "Jump! Jump! Jump!"), or he'll tell me what foods he likes. :)

I still can't imagine taking care of him, and also taking care of and nursing a newborn, but I know it will all work out, and before long, I'll be a seasoned mother of two. :)