Friday, September 19, 2014

Five For Friday

- It's fair weekend, and I spent yesterday evening and this morning enjoying one of my favorite events. :) Last night it was all about the cotton candy (which was totally amazing after thirty days with no sugar), miniature horse pulls (hysterical!), and bunny rabbits. This morning we met up with Abby and Natalie and saw the rest of the livestock and rode rides. I still haven't made it to the photography exhibit or the kids section, so I'll be returning at least one more time this weekend. :) (Some other posts about the fair, from 2009 and 2010.)

- My Whole30 ended on Wednesday, and although I had the best of intentions concerning reintroduction and not going nuts and all that, I basically threw it all to the wind and indulged in some of the things I've been missing the most. Surprisingly (or not surprisingly? I'm not really sure anymore) I've ended up staying mostly Whole30 compliant since then. I have enjoyed very small amounts of cheese, reintroduced legumes and soy, and had some condiments, etc with added sugar (though I've become a habitual label reader and have swapped out several of my favorite foods for versions with little or no added sugar). I'm excited about my new tastes and healthy eating habits! :) Hoping to do a full Whole30 wrap-up post soon, but for now, that's my two cents.

- Speaking of Whole30... One of the things I was really craving was a good creamy salad dressing, and I bought some Caesar dressing on my first "free" shopping trip, but they all had added sugar and dairy and preservatives and after having some on my salad I decided it was delicious but too guilty to be enjoyed. So today I made my very own homemade Caesar using this recipe from SimplyScratch (love that site), except I added extra garlic and black pepper and left out the parm (because, again, trying to limit dairy) and it was fantastic. No additives, no sugar, no dairy. I am happy.

- I can't believe it's more than halfway through September. In fact, there's only one week of swim left in this session before the break. And it's almost time to put together a new sensory bin for the triplets and start a new monthly theme. We've been doing tons of crafts lately and the kitchen has started to look like a children's art museum LOL!

- I had today off, and since it's been FOREVER since I've had a Friday off, I kept thinking it was Saturday, and tomorrow I'd need to dive back in to the business of church and rehearsal and getting ready for the week ahead, etc, etc, etc. But it isn't. It's Friday, and I have tomorrow to do all the necessary stuff. So today, I took a nap, watched TBBT, cooked bean soup, and generally relaxed. So needed, and so amazing.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Wrapping Up

- It was a really, really crazy and stressful week. Last Wednesday was the first "official" day of my new promotion to manager of the swim program, and this past week has been crazy as I frantically shored up various issues. I will totally admit it, there was a moment where I stared blankly at my roster and thought, "There might not actually be a solution to these problems..." and it was a really, really discouraging thought. I care so much about the program and I want everyone to be happy and succeed! But by the middle of the week there was a glimmer of hope, and as of right now, I have 75% of the issues sorted and we have a plan in place for the other 25%. It will get better.

- I also had four days with the triplets this week, and while I love them and am thrilled to be working, it made for a long week. One day I got up to be at Abby's by 7, took her to school, went to the triplets, worked until 4, ran to swim class, ran class, then ran to drama rehearsal (praying the whole way I wouldn't be late - ended up being only 5 minutes past). By the time I got home, I was completely ready to just crawl into bed and collapse.

- But - tomorrow I have a whole day off. This is so exciting I could cry. I'm going to bake chicken with lemon, give the house a good cleaning (Lord knows it needs it badly!) and decorate the front steps. :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

#7: Take Back To School Photos

My great big grown-up first grader. *sniffles* How did she grow up so fast?!
She told us she was "scared" of first grade the week before school started, then she went to open house, met her teacher, and declared "I'm not scared anymore."
She worked so hard this summer, "keeping my mind sharp."
She told me for six months that she wanted a leopard backpack - never asked for one, just made sure I knew lol - so Maggie and I got her one for her birthday. :)
Also, who wouldn't want that adorable unicorn lunchbox? ;)
Who's number one? :)
"Sweet face!"
"Now funny face!"
Off she goes!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Fall Bucket List 2014

Oh, Fall. It's here now (I don't care if the thermometer reads 90+ degrees - September is the start of fall!) and I'm glad. It was a good, hard, long, amazing, stressful summer and now it's over. I'm more than ready to settle into a routine and enjoy the (hopefully!) quieter pace of Autumn.

There's been lots going on lately (hopefully lots of posts coming in the near future!), some good, some not so much, but for now, here's my latest bucket list:

1. Winterize trailer (put up insulation, install heat tape, unpack space heaters, etc)
2. Take coffee to Professor Maloney
3. Get a fall drink at Starbucks
4. Start a Christmas fund
5. Take a road trip
6. Go to the fair
7. Take back to school photos
8. Crochet something
9. Clean out closet and donate unused clothes
10. Buy pumpkins
11. Visit the corn maze
12. Make hot apple cider
13. Sit around a fire
14. Buy a new sweater
15.Unpack winter bedding
16. Make apple butter
17. Go to the farm
18. Burn a new CD
19. Wear boots
20. Binge-watch Bones, Castle, and NCIS
21. Eat honeycrisp apples
22. Make chili
23. Go to Artsfest
24. Buy an autumn candle
25. Buy a succulent for indoors
26. Decorate for fall
27. Make birdfeeders with triplets
28. Host a party
29. Buy a new pair of socks
30. Go to First Friday
31. Go dancing
32. Stop for donuts before school with Abby :)

Monday, August 4, 2014

It's Geek Week, Y'all!

I just got back from taking my BFF to the airport where she boarded a plane back to Alabama and "real life." My own house is blessedly empty except for me and the girls, and I get to sleep in my own bed tonight (yay!). I'm kind of a little sad that this weekend is now officially over, and back to real life I go... but mostly, I just feel peaceful and happy and so, so glad for the incredible memories I made this weekend.

This weekend was Shore Leave. I realized last week that in the four years I have attended Shore Leave, I have never ever done a post about it (how does that even happen?!) so this week I'm mostly going to be posting about our experience at the con. We had some really fun things happen this year, like scoring hotel rooms in the actual con venue (finally!), singing karaoke late at night with Robert Picardo, and bumping into Teryl Rothery in the hall, and I remembered to take really good notes so I'd remember it all. :)

Until then... I hope everyone is having a great August so far. For me, August is one of those "in between" months, not quite summer and not quite fall, that I use to tie up loose ends and get ready to transition into the next season (which just happens to be my favorite!), so I'm hoping for a restful, low-key month. :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Things To Do - Our Favorite Activities (18 Months - 2 Years)

Did anyone else have the "Things To Do" books when they were growing up? If I remember right, they were a series, like "Things To Do... With Science," "Things To Do... With Art," etc. I loved those books. (I'm pretty sure my mom got rid of them, which kills me, because I can't find them on Amazon and I want a copy for myself!)

One of the things I've been kind of stumped on since starting with the triplets is what to do during our time together. I mean, we do all the regular peek-a-boo, gonna-getcha, naming-objects kind of play... plus the routine snacks, naps, diaper changes (which takes up a surprising amount of time when everything is x3, lol!). But with them getting a little older and their coordination and attention span increasing, they're also a little more easily bored and really appreciate a new game or activity.

Unfortunately, it feels like this is also the hardest age to find appropriate and interesting activities for. :( They're still putting things in their mouth when tired or distracted (or just ornery, lol), their coordination is improving but not very steady yet, and we're not good at sharing at all. (Like, at all at all.)

I would totally appreciate more good ideas from others caring for children of similar ages... but in the meantime, here are our favorite ways to play so far:

1. Water table and sand box - I begged Amy and Ryan to get a water table, figuring that it would be a mess-free, easy way to entertain the babies for endless hours. I was right - it does keep them occupied for seeming hours upon end - but I was wrong in that it still requires a change of clothes, as their favorite ways to play involve lots of dumping on heads, splashing, and making puddles to sit in. :) In view of the hours of happy play, however, I consider it well worth the mess. Here's an amazing tutorial on how to make an easy, elegant water/sand table that I think is just brilliant. :) Or, if you don't happen to have $50 and a couple of hours lying around, follow this link and create a makeshift table from storage bins.

2. Bubbles - I tried this for the first time yesterday and the kids loved, loved, loved it! I simply pumped out a good amount of Johnson's Baby Shampoo into the water table and added a little bit of water (just enough to make lots of suds!) using the hose on high pressure. The babies started giggling as soon as the suds appeared and couldn't wait to dig in! When the bubbles (or water) get low, refresh with another pump and a whisk. :) I also did the same thing in a couple of aluminum roasting pans we have for water play, but I added a drop of two of food coloring to the suds and swished it around for bright colorful bubbles. Lucy especially thought this was amazing; her play was short-lived because Miles immediately dumped all the colored bubbles out so he could walk around banging the pans together (lol!). We'll be doing this again soon.

3. Ice cubes - Such a simple thing, but it's absolutely fascinating when you're so little! :) Addie loved grabbing the ice cubes and pushing them through the water, feeling them melt when she held them, putting them all in a bucket and then dumping them out again, etc. So far we've only played with regular ice cubes, but I made some colored ice cubes yesterday and stuck them in the freezer for next time. :)

4. Sand Table (or sandbox) - I'm going to be real here: I dread the sandbox. We have a sandbox, and the amount of sand that gets in hair, legs, diapers, etc, is horrifying. But the kids love it, and if they're in the right mood (not obstinate enough to want to throw it everywhere just because I said not to, and not fussy enough that they'll fall to pieces if a sibling accidently throws a little sand in their face) it's a sure-fire way to keep them happy for awhile. I can't wait to try playing with some Moon sand (we'll probably do this in the water table) - I remember Abigail absolutely loving this when she was just a tiny bit older, and I love the fact that it's 100% edible (just cornstarch, salt, and oil) but also discourages eating (because, hello, it's almost 100% salt).

5. Edible finger paint - (1 part flour to 1.5 parts water, and enough food coloring or Jello powder to create the desired hue) We tried this for the first time just yesterday, and while the kids definitely played with it differently than I expected (they wanted to dump it all out and then sort of smear it around, squish it between their fingers, etc), it did seem pretty fascinating and kept them busy for awhile. Next time I will add some baking powder to the mix and give them paper to smear and paint on; when they're done, just pop the paper into the microwave for a few seconds, the "paint" puffs and dries instantly, and voila! Artwork is preserved. :)

6. Dress-up - We only have a few hats and vests, but the babies love putting them on, taking them off, trading them, etc. One of these days when I have a little spare time (HA!) I would like to make a bunch of felt vests (like these) in different colors and styles so they have more to choose from. If I can find some cheap hats, too, all the better. (The other benefit of this sort of play is that they get great practice putting clothes on and off, and handling snaps, buttons, Velcro, etc.)

7. "Rock Band" - My music teacher grandmother would call this "ear training," but I jokingly referred to it as "Rock band practice" and Amy thought it was pretty funny, so the name stuck. :) This is a great activity for when it's too hot (and I imagine this winter, when it's too cold) to be outside, or when everyone is bathed for the evening but still has energy to work out, in that it involves nothing messy. I generally pull out several bowls of different materials (plastic, metal, wood, etc), and several "drumsticks" (wooden spoons, metal spoons, plastic spatulas, etc) and let them go to town exploring the different sounds. Often this is total free play while I fix a meal, clean up after a meal, or do something else that needs my attention, but just as often I sit on the floor and bang with them. :) They love to hear and try to copy different rhythms! And just a warning: once you hand a kid a drumstick, almost everything - cabinets, walls, plastic trays, baby gate, the floor, etc - becomes a drum. There's nothing they can hurt in the kitchen, but if you don't want to turn your house into a giant drumset, teach "only on the drums" early and consistently. :)

Some other things we haven't tried yet, but hope to soon:

Sensory bottles - All the babies like things they can hold and manipulate (shakers, toys with bubbles inside that move, mirrors, etc) so I imagine they'd love a set of sensory bottles with lots of stuff inside to find and experiment with! I've already started a collection of bottles, and I just need to make a shopping trip for stuff to put inside. :)

Fine motor skill activities - Specifically, I'm thinking of this and this. We only have one "shape sorter" and it is high on the list of favorite toys; in fact, whoever finds it usually drags it over to me to play with so that I will fend off greedy siblings from taking it (although we've also used it a few times to practice sharing LOL).

Circle time - Lucy especially really loves sitting next to each other and singing with hand motions. I think Circle Time is a really great activity in general, since it teaches kids to sit and pay attention, listen for instructions, copy, etc in a low stress way, so sometime in the very near future I'm going to burn a CD of easy songs and finger plays (Eensy Weensy Spider, I'm A Little Teapot, If You're Happy And You Know It, Where Is Thumbkin, etc), and start introducing this as an activity. :)

More water fun - Since the water table is such a sure-fire hit, I'm starting a list, including this cool idea (gotta pick up some pool noodles at the dollar store and hack them into giant "beads"), water balloons (I think they kids would love this, even though it falls into the "closely supervised play" category), making our own sprinkler (or finding a cheap one on clearance somewhere), and maybe even making a "water blob." Until it gets too cold to spend afternoons soaking wet, I'm gonna rock it for all it's worth!

If you're looking for more details on these or other fun activities for kids, you can check out my Pinterest board where I collect fun ideas. :)


Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

... not to be all "Where did the time go?!" again, but, really - it's July already? It feels like summer just started and now it's almost halfway done. 8(

The summer has already been pretty full though; here's a little mid-season recap:

Maggie and I had an awesome time with Abigail and her parents at the beach. I have seriously never been so pampered in my life, and I just can't thank them enough. :)

Every morning I would sleep in, then wander out to our balcony to eat my breakfast of muffin and orange juice (in a goblet - because I could) while listening to the ocean waves crash.

Our hotel had a Starbucks in the lobby - hallelujah!

I'm not normally much of a sun worshipper, but the temperature was just perfect all week, so one day I chilled out under the umbrella and worked on finishing a book I'd been working on all spring, while Abby played in the sand a few feet away.

Abby loved the water. :)

One night we went to the boardwalk and let Abby do rides, then ate dinner there before playing miniature golf (Maggie beat me, but only by one point!).

The swim-up bar at the hotel made the most amazing virgin mojitos. I got one at lunch one day and Maggie and I snuck in one last one before we had to check out.

I turned twenty-seven and had a little bit of an identity crisis which was, thankfully, short lived. My mentor Susan gave me the most wonderful birthday card that really spoke to my heart just when I needed it.

Abigail started piano lessons!

She's doing so well and practices so nicely. :)

Summer means random "Where are you? Wanna meet up for Sweet Frog?" calls to cousins. ;)

We do lots of arts and crafts together.

She's also taking swim lessons.

She really enjoyed our VBS this year.

The drama program was easily the most challenging one we've pulled off, but we pushed through and the cast did great! I'm looking forward to putting in on for the church in a couple of weeks.

Inspector Noclue and Flo

Inspector Noclue

The Chancellor and Hans

Our three secret agents, Casey, Jess, and Dresden. Ignore Jess's stocking feet; her boots hurt and we were just rehearsing ;)
 My poor damaged, dry hair was driving me nuts...

... so I cut it off! Love, love, love. So much easier to care for, so much cooler, aaand...

... I can wear it curly now. How awesome it that?!

The triplets have grown. (Solution: rolled up paper towels placed just above the doorhandle. They stiffen it just enough that little hands can't open the door.)

We spend lots of time outdoors, which I love!

Finally managed to get a picture of all four of us together...

... after multiple tries.

I had a really bad day, and one of my cast members made it better by showing me this:

A Sonic opened by our house and I am over-the-moon happy! I also discovered how to ask for a "mojito" slushie! Amen!

First pedicure in over a year. My feet thanked me! (This color is called "Eternal Optimist" and makes my heart happy. :) )

The green bean plant I started for the triplets has little tiny green beans growing! So cute! Can't wait to harvest them and feed them to my babies!

So, that's been my summer so far. I hope yours is going great too! :) I'll have dinner with my family, including shrimp and the pound of Conecuh sausage I brought back from Alabama. Then we're planning on watching the fireworks tonight from my uncle's boat (wish we could take ours, but we're not quite there yet) with some friends, so I chocolate-dipped some strawberries for the occasion. :) Looking forward to spending some time with friends and family!