Monday, October 31, 2011

Do not underestimate Nate Thomas

I learned some things about my son today:

  • If he tells me that he is going to be Curious George for Halloween, then that is what he is going to be for Halloween. No back up costumes needed.
  • If he is asked on a normal day what his name is, he acts shy and doesn't usually answer. If he is in costume and asked who he is, he will answer, "Nate Thomas!"
  • He feels that trick or treating should include being invited into all our neighbors homes to play. Whether we know them or not. 
  • He appears to love Halloween as much as I do.

I love my little monkey.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Plan C

A few weeks ago Nate and I were in Target and we went by the Halloween costumes to see what they had. I didn't really intend to buy anything that day. But Nate saw a monkey costume ("CUR'OUS ZYORGE!") and got all excited to see one of his favorite characters. I didn't put it in the cart initially, but when we got to the checkout, he insisted we go back and correct that error in judgment. Nate was a monkey his first year, but who am I to dissuade monkey love? And how many more years I am going to be able to put him in a cuddly costume?

So I bought it and couldn't wait for the cuteness. 

And then we got home and he WOULD NOT TRY IT ON. A week passed and he still would not try it on. And another. And maybe another. But if you asked him what he was going to be for Halloween, he would claim, "CUR'OUS ZYORGE!"

And then it was time to wear costumes to one of our mommy and me classes. All the toddlers were decked out in their fuzzy finest.

Except this guy.
He did however get to enjoy his first lollipop. The teacher handed them out and before I could get over to help him with it, he had already torn off the wrapper and proceeded to the licking part. Innate lollipop abilities. Or he just watched the other kids. Either way, brilliant.

The next day we had a different class and another opportunity to wear a costume. I gave up on Giorgio Curiouso and stuck him in his birthday party outfit. He was very pleased to be a fireman. In fact he might have bathed with his helmet on.

So now it's three days before Halloween and I find myself back at Target desperately looking for a fireman's coat. And I find myself purchasing my worst nightmare. A toxic vinyl coat, so big it covers his whole body. It is off-gassing like crazy, but I figured - sigh - it's just for one day.

Except he put it on as soon as we got home. And wore it just about all day. And it came with props! I might have been asked ten different times today, "Mommy, where's my ax?!" He is thrilled with his new costume. THRILLED. R.I.P. fluffy costumes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

You know how I said I wasn't into making cutesy kid food?

I lied. I really should have said that I do like it, I'm just not very good at it. See this sandwich below?


It is supposed to be a jack-o-lantern. I'm not fishing (or phishing) for compliments, so don't bother telling me it looks good. I'm not losing sleep over it. I'm just saying. It's kind of ugly. Also, see how it looks sort of dark brown? There's nothing wrong with the peanut butter. Nate wanted some Nutella on it and we were just about out, so I smeared a Nutella crumb on there for him.
Anyway, Nate was pleased, which was the whole point. And the endless peanut butter sandwich parade in our house is getting pretty boring, so it made me happy to mix it up.  I think I did a little better with the ghost sandwich today. 

Nate liked it so much he demanded politely requested another.

How about you? Are you doing anything ridiculous creative with your food?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

BPA free packaging by Fig Food Co.

Obviously, it is always better to buy fresh, whole foods, but sometimes you need food in cans and jars too. I am always on the lookout for food in BPA free packaging. BPA is still in most canned and jarred food even though the "FDA shares the perspective of the National Toxicology Program that recent studies provide reason for some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children." Although the chemical industry claims the evidence is inconclusive, it seems like every day there is a new study about the effects of BPA regarding long term health, fertility and behavior.

I recently discovered Fig Food Co., which has a line of organic soups and beans in BPA free packaging.

We tried the baked beans, which were really good and better than my go-to BPA-free bean brand, Eden Organics. Our dog is particularly psyched about my find. She doesn't get blamed for enough around here.

What are your favorite brands in BPA-free packaging? I'm also a big fan of Pomi strained and chopped tomatoes.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Baby sign of the week: PANCAKE

Over a year ago I discussed some common baby sign language pitfalls and helpful strategies.  For example, I discovered that Nate was more apt to pick up on a sign quickly if the sign was for something that really interested him. When I realized that Nate liked loved pancakes, I taught him the sign and the very next day he was using it to request them for breakfast.

If your child is already signing back to you, try learning some signs for specific things he really enjoys. For Nate, WASHING MACHINE and VACUUM were big early hits.

While Nate is making the sign for pancake by clapping his hands together vertically (an approximation), the ASL sign is actually more horizontal. Click here to see. Babies often perform signs a little differently, especially when they are younger and their motor skills aren't as developed.  Caregivers should continue to make the sign correctly and in time, the baby will likely perform the sign more accurately as well (just like with verbal speech).

What were some of your baby's first signs?

If you are new to baby sign language or want to know more, you should check out my baby sign language page here.  I also recommend Baby Signing 1-2-3: The Easy-to-Use Illustrated Guide for Every Stage and Every Age.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Punkin' painting perfection

You may not be able to tell from the state of my home or person, but I am kind of a perfectionist.  I thought it would be fun to paint pumpkins (or PUNKINS, as Nate calls them), but I wanted to make sure they were really cute and Martha Stewarty to impress the neighbors.

We needed the right materials, so we used our Clementine Art Natural Fingerpaints and pumpkin-only paintbrushes. It was the first time Nate got to paint with a brush and he got a huge kick out of it.

I put on my arts & crafts mask and outfit, because I find that I simply cannot create unless I am in the proper attire.

Nate followed the stenciled design I chalked onto the pumpkin so it would look just like the magazine. Perfect, right?

Daddy joined in too, so it was a family affair. I'm extremely proud of our work, but I'm not going to put an "after" shot on here, because you'll totally be jealous and I don't want you to hate me. Hope you understand.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cradle of Aviation & Firefighter Museum

I recently discovered that in addition to having free passes to the Long Island Children's Museum, our library also has passes to the Cradle of Aviation Museum.  I didn't really know what to expect. While Nate loves all things transportation, I wasn't sure if we would just be looking at a bunch of airplanes that we couldn't touch and whether that would keep his attention or not.

It turns out that there is plenty for a two year old to touch, climb into, watch and appreciate. Nate hopped up into all kinds of cockpits and simulators. He pushed buttons - engines started, hot air balloons filled up - and pulled lots of levers.  There were volunteers around most corners (generally elderly gentlemen) to offer background into the exhibits. I would have loved to listen to all of their history lessons, but Nate preferred to hide from them or dart away in search of more things to "get in there, Mommy!" After a quick hour (hour and a half?) had passed, I decided to pay the extra nine dollars so that we could also hit up the Firefighter Museum (which is inside the Cradle of Aviation).  I didn't mind paying the extra fee, especially since our main admission was free, but good luck visiting the museum with a little kid and not going in. The way it is set up, they might as well have a trail of cupcakes and matchbox cars lining the path.

We passed another hour trying on fire fighter's gear, climbing into a fire engine and putting together puzzles that set off sirens upon completion. After lunch at the Red Planet Cafe and three "one more time"s in the helicopter, we were done with our tour. Great way to spend a few hours with your toddler.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Super trendy toddler fall fashion show at lunch

Suddenly Nate has become much more opinionated about what he will - or will not - wear on a given day.  I try to let him have choices and pick out his clothes as often as I can.  He usually finds the ill fitting, stained shirts that I've been hiding in the back of his drawer (you know, good shirts to play in the mud or for painting) when I ask him to pick something out. Some days he really just wants to wear nothing but his diaper - and those days he is extra fast, zooming around the house, completing lap after lap at top speed. I guess those heavy t-shirts are really holding him back.  And other days he doesn't want to take off his pajamas...


Which is how you end up with awesome outfits like this one.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Halloween baby signs: SCARECROW, CAT and SPIDER

As I've mentioned before, now that Nate communicates well verbally, we continue to learn signs just for fun. And barring my unforeseen early demise and Dave's remarriage to the cutie at the liquor store, it is the closest Nate will get to growing up in a bilingual household. I would love to be able to speak another language, but sadly I have no ear for it. 

When I looked up the sign for SCARECROW, I discovered that there is no official ASL sign for the ubiquitous autumn decoration. So, we adopted the suggestion here, which is to hold your arms out straight and tilt your head scarecrow style. Here is the sign for CAT - we use the two handed version. And SPIDER can be found here.

If you missed PUMPKIN, click here to see Nate demonstrating the sign at 14 months.

If you are new to baby sign language or want to know more, you should check out my baby sign language page here.  I also recommend Baby Signing 1-2-3: The Easy-to-Use Illustrated Guide for Every Stage and Every Age.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

26 months old: Letter to Nate

Dear Nathaniel,

Know what I love doing with you right now? I love having our conversations. They usually take place at mealtime, bath time or potty time (I guess the trend is that you are stuck and can't get away from me).  In order to make conversation, I ask you what your favorite parts of our day have been, or what we should do on the following day. Sometimes we discuss what your options are in different scenarios. (Like when a friend hypothetically grabs something from you. Hint - the answer never involves yelling or hitting.) Or we discuss examples of good manners.  I know you love it too, because without fail, you'll always request, "MORE QUESTIONS," "MORE TALKIN'" or "MORE MANNERS."

And during these conversations I am often struck by your incredible memory and your ever developing sense of humor. For example - you remember very vividly, with no prompting from your parents or from pictures, that I took a flight to see GG in Florida while you enjoyed a bachelor's weekend with Daddy.  That was four months ago. And the other day, while we discussed the different things the doctor would do to me during my upcoming checkup, you kept pressing for more examples and I had run out. I sighed and said, "I don't know, maybe I'll pee in a cup." And you burst out laughing. Accused me of teasing you. I protested, "No, I'm serious. They don't drink it! They test it." You kept laughing and refused to believe me.

Daddy and I still think you're out-of-this-world cute. I think you'll have to be a verbally abusive teen with horrible skin and weird hair before we think of reconsidering - even a tiny bit - this opinion. One of the cute things you do is end most of your sentences with the name of the person you are speaking to. It is especially cute when you are addressing adults other than your parents. For some reason you called me "Momma" all day yesterday (and it is continuing today) instead of your usual "Mommy." So all day I heard things like, "Watcha doin' Momma?" or "Watch Fireman Sam, Momma" or "Watchyou say, Momma? or "Playin' doctor, Momma. Make noise, Momma." (You wanted me to make the thump-thump heart beat noise while you checked my back and chest with your round wooden block.) 

Your verbal skills are really filling out. You're adding those small words to sentences - like prepositions - that make your sentences even clearer.  You surprise me when you use words that I didn't even know you knew - like "Kindle."  I don't know what your longest sentence is, but I think it was around nine or ten words.

You continue to tell us the sweetest things - like, "I MISSED YOU TOO, DADDY" (even though you said it first) or "You're my best, Mommy."  You are full of love. You are a sweet, sweet boy. Not a day goes by where you don't hug me and tell me you love me. It makes me melt every single time.

And I love you too, Natey. I love you more than tongue can tell. Even when you hit me in the head with a ball. You sure do have a great arm. Just please make sure I know you're throwing the ball to me. Thanks.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I don't trust parents who are above bribing their children

I know that there are camps of parents that are anti-praise and anti-reward, especially when it comes to potty training. I am not one of them. I think that thoughtful praise can be a powerful thing.  And I'm all about rewarding good behavior and effort - especially when the family is working to modify a behavior. I don't think kids should have treats shoved at the them in exchange for decent behavior on a regular basis, but I certainly wouldn't judge a mother for occasionally coaxing her child into his stroller with the promise of a munchkin (um, not that I would know anything about that).

At twenty months, Nate expressed an interest in using the toilet and potty training started out with a bang. After a few months, his interest waned - which was fine for me, because I was in no hurry to rush him. But lately Nate has been expressing a new interest in wearing big boy underwear (aside from on his head). While I know he physically has no problems getting to the toilet on time, he seems less interested in regularly stopping play and using the potty to achieve his new underwear goal. I recently read an article about using sticker charts on The Baby Sleep Site and decided to give it a try with Nate. So here is our new strategy:

One successful time on the potty equals one sticker. Two stickers equals one little toy car.  So far, so good. After two days, almost everything has been on the toilet. I think he is just as excited to put the sticker on the chart as he is to receive the car.  We will see where we are a week from now. Hopefully out of cars.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pumpkin picking at Colonial Springs Farm

Two years in a row at Colonial Springs Farm for pumpkin picking - it's officially a tradition. 

But this year it wasn't just about picking pumpkins. There were cow trains, mazes, slides to fly down, and vision obscured pony rides.

When it comes to new adventures, Nate has no fear. I'm thinking next year he will be ready for the zip line. Three years old is not too young, right?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

V for zebra, W for shark

Nate's been able to recognize his capital letters for quite some time. He gets confused on  occasion and usually thinks that Ks are Xs, but generally speaking he has a solid grasp on the alphabet. So now we've been working on learning the little letters and the sounds they make too. He was pulling out some felt letters from a bag yesterday and surprised me by spontaneously giving examples of words to go along with them. I think he offered, "X for x-ray, Y for yo-yo and Z for zebra" before I realized I should try to get it on video.

He rarely lets me tape him for any significant period of time while he is acting like himself, so I couldn't bring myself to stop the video. It is therefore very long (I think over seven minutes) and don't expect anyone outside of family will actually watch the whole thing. (But mom - enjoy!)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Toddler obstacle course - ONE, TWO, FWEE!

In an effort to curb spending and waste, I've been trying to be more creative when it comes to reusing household objects to keep Nate busy.  The problem with being a non-toxic freak is that a lot of the ideas I read about (like in the The Toddler's Busy Book: 365 Creative Games and Activities to Keep Your 1 1/2- to 3-Year-Old Busy -which I love) involve the reuse of plastic items that I don't particularly want Nate playing with. It's really a shame, because cheap vodka bottles make awesome musical shakers.

Nate is a big fan of jumping (and running, climbing ...and somersaults), so I put together a complex obstacle course yesterday for Nate to expend some of his seemingly inexhaustible energy supply.  We used the following equipment:
  • one blanket, rolled up
  • a second blanket, rolled up
  • a third blanket, rolled up

The object was to jump over each blanket, without touching it. And while counting.


It was a big hit. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cave dwelling

When Nate was born, I thought I would be lucky to stay home six months with him. I never imagined I'd be able to stay home with him for this long, and I am so grateful.  Sure staying at home is super glamorous - when I'm home I get to wear comfy drawstring pants (Nate thinks it's hilarious to pull them down - repeatedly), when I leave the house I usually have food or boogers on me, and I am rollin' in munchkins (the donut holes, not the little people). That said, it is not for everyone and it can certainly be far more challenging than my paying jobs ever were. But I love it. I feel like I'm doing something really important, something I'm good at doing. But I've never referred to myself as a stay-at-home mom. Probably because it has never felt permanent. I've been looking for work for quite awhile and if asked what I do, I define myself by saying - well, I was that and now I want to do this - rather than go for the SAHM title.

One of the more annoying results of my staying at home is that for the past two years I might as well have been living under a rock. I am now shamefully unaware about what is going on in the world. It's embarrassing.  I'm not even quite sure how I got my news before Nate. I've never been an actually paper newspaper person - newsprint makes my skin crawl - so I guess I got my info from a mixture of online papers, television and public radio. And you know, talking to other adults regularly. I had a pretty good grasp on current affairs.  But now, I have no idea what is going unless my husband mentions it. Horrible.

See how responsible and aware I was before Nate?

I have no excuse for this behavior. But I do have several logistical reasons. These are some of the problems: I don't want Nate to watch too much tv and the only shows he is usually allowed to watch are Sesame Street, Fireman Sam and Blue's Clues.  Other than Nate's tv time, I try to keep it off. So morning and evening news are out. I suppose I could DVR the evening news and watch it when I'm "off duty" at 8:30pm, but by that point I am so beat that I'm craving happy things and/or mindless entertainment. Like catching up with Dave or watching Vampire Diaries.  Even though I blog regularly, I feel like I'm on the computer very little - usually during Nate's always short nap time. Aside from blogging, searching for jobs and uploading my hundreds of pictures of Nate, I don't have the patience or time to sit at my desk. I really need a laptop.

Since I finally upgraded to a smart phone recently, I thought the answer might lie in finding a good news app. But if Nate's occupying himself for a few moments and I have time to play on my phone for a minute, I am much more likely to pull up Words with Friends than the BBC.

Again, totally inexcusable and I need to take action. I need to make time for important things. Don't even get me started on the lack of exercising. Maybe I should just buy some thin gloves so I can hold the icky newsprint while I do crunches during nap time.
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