Monday, April 30, 2012

no mess (yeah, right) painting

I was really excited to try this no mess painting idea with Genghis. Read below to find out how much it didn't work.

1 gallon ziploc bags

Put a piece of paper in the plastic bag. Squirt some paint onto a few sponges and drop in the bag. Give the zipped bag to your toddler to squish the sponges around and make mess-free art.

What Actually Happened:
Genghis immediately was deeply attached to the sponges. He carried them (sans paint) all around the house while I got everything ready. Needless to say, he panicked when the sponges were stuck inside the plastic bag. Did mom really do these awful things on purpose?!

We soon took the sponges out, put on a smock, and got to painting the messy way. Genghis absolutely loved it. The sponges were just right for him to stamp on the paper. We continued our lesson on color, and he happily called everything yellow.

One of the best parts of the activity was having him help wash up afterward. He particularly enjoyed getting into the soap while I stepped away for a moment to tend to Xena.

Friday, April 27, 2012

friday photos

They totally look like siblings. I love it!

Captured part of a smile. She is super smiley but haven't managed to get much documented.

Genghis giving Xena a kiss.

Genghis telling her to smile. I guess he's picked up on the fact that we poke and prod the corners of her mouth to get her to smile.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

pipe cleaners and colandars

On my good days, when the planned kid's activity fails, I can laugh about it and remember life isn't always (or usually) perfect. This was such an activity, although we did this long enough ago that I can't remember if I managed to laugh or not.

Pipe cleaners

Try sticking pipe cleaners through the holes of a colandar, to practice fine motor skills. Loop the pipe cleaners through several holes to create fun weaving patterns.

What Actually Happened:
Genghis was nowhere close to having the dexterity for this activity, and that frustrated him to no end. Finally, he decided he just wanted all of the pipe cleaners to sit inside of the colandar. That wasn't a very fun activity for me, so I took a few pipe cleaners and formed a pair of glasses for him. Unfortunately, he kept grabbing them before I could finish and when he finally got them on he poked himself in the face with the sharp end.

We compromised by forming the pipe cleaners into different shapes (fun for me) and putting them in the colandar (fun for him).

Note: my husband formed these shapes later that evening, without Genghis's hands grabbing at them every two seconds. My shapes were much less ... discernible.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


We've been slowly piecing our lives back together since Xena's arrival. I have June 9th circled as the day things will start to feel normal (3 months old) and March 9th as the day things will really be back to normal (1 year old).

Genghis has gone back to his babysitting routine so I can get work done with Xena at home. This has been only moderately successful, since she doesn't take very long naps anymore. But Monday I got a full morning of work in while she had a super nap in the swing. Side note: She gradually slumped down lower and lower in the swing over the course of the nap and the tray wasn't attached. While I did go in often to make sure she hadn't slipped onto the floor, I didn't move her for fear of interrupting the awesome nap. I think this is a decision that a second-time parent is more likely to make.

That's all to say that I sit here tonight, with both children being asleep for the past 2 hours (and counting) and having spent that time making 30 percentage points of progress on my latest Kindle book, and I now wonder if I should try to do something more productive. But then I go through my checklist and things don't look too bad.

1) Somewhat well-rested (tonight's the night she's going to make it all the way through, right?)
2) House not a disaster (ignore piles of clean laundry that have been sitting around for 2 days)
3) Work mostly caught up (push back feeling of anxiety that I don't have any contracts lined up after the summer is up)
4) Church responsibilities at a minimum (enjoy it while it lasts)
5) Miscellaneous projects (I've sworn off of these for the time being - only the essentials until I start feeling bored multiple days in a row)

The fall-back option is to make some time for a thoughtful and witty blog post. But that seemed like a lot of work. So you got this instead.

And now I'm going to log a few more percentages on my book.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

just so you know, the movie "The Net" is still not very good

Do you remember when "surfing the web" became a way to waste time? I think it was about the time I was 15. I have to admit, I never really figured it out. I remember sitting down at the computer a few times, ready to while away the hours in pointless meanderings around the 100 or so website that existed. But after 5 minutes staring at a blinking cursor wondering what the first step to "surfing" was, I'd give up and go watch a re-run of Family Matters instead.

Turns out, I'm still really bad at surfing the web. Other people are always sharing hilarious, totally time-wasting websites, photos, and videos and I look at them with envy. I mean, I didn't even know what lolcats were until a few months ago (MAH LIFE HAS NEVR BEEN TEH SAME SINCE*).

But today, I have something wonderful to share with you that I promise will make you laugh and waste your time. Without further ado, the National Aerobic Championships, making me feel lazy, flabby, and so grateful that I was only 4 years old in 1988.

(found at

*I did that using the lolcat translator:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

learning shapes but mostly tape

Another toddler learning activity that Genghis and I tried out.


Cut simple shapes out of paper and then tape them to the wall with your toddler. Talk about the shapes as you cut and tape them up. (When I originally saw this idea, it instructed parents to prepare the shapes in advance, but that seems totally unnecessary.)

What Actually Happened:
Genghis was mostly interested in the tape. He loved getting a tape roll on his finger and trying to put it on a shape. He also enjoyed putting the papers up on the wall, but didn't ever quite get that the tape side had to face the wall. He was less interested in the shapes, but I'd said about 1 in 3 times he'd correctly identify a shape. (I won't mention that we were only working with 3 shapes.)

He was also flummoxed when the shapes got stuck to his feet. He would bend over to try to pull them off, but that just made them stick even more.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Just when my hair got long enough to pull back in a ponytail, I started pulling it back in a ponytail every single day.

That, combined with several people I saw who had super-cute short hair styles (including my friend Mary), resulted in this ...

Friday, April 13, 2012

friday photos

I finally got around to decorating Xena's bathroom suite.

What it looks like from her perspective.

On another note, I have had a lot of questions on how Genghis is doing with little Xena around. Here are a few of the interactions they've had.

- When Xena is in her swing in the living room, Genghis will either A) grab the swing and vigorously rock her back and forth or B) go to the piano and play the pre-set "jazz organ" demo song, which is set to a sort of funk-calypso beat, for her listening pleasure.
- When Xena's pacifier is in sight, Genghis will either A) pluck it out of her mouth, B) attempt to stick it back into her mouth, C) try it out himself or D) all of the above.
- Genghis regularly checks in with Xena when she is hanging out in her bouncy chair by stroking her head and saying "sooooft".
- If Xena has been napping for a while, Genghis will look up at me and say "Xena? Xena?"* Today during her nap the door to her bathroom nursery was open. While my mom and I were commenting on how well Xena was napping just then, Genghis ran into her room and gave her an energetic wake up call.
- If Xena is wearing socks, Genghis will considerately remove them for her.
- Throughout the day, Genghis will repeat our family names - Mama, Daddy, and Xena. After each name I am supposed to tell him where each family member is (Mama is with Genghis. Daddy's at work. Xena is sleeping.)
- Sometimes if I'm not at home, Genghis will cry out for Mama, Mama, Mama. If that doesn't get results, he'll switch to Xena.
- Genghis walks around the house naming Xena's things - Xena's chair, Xena's bath, Xena's socks (laying discarded on the floor wherever he last pulled them off).

We are so proud (and surprised) at how welcoming and loving Genghis has been of little Xena. He knows she's a permanent part of the family, and he's very happy about that.

*Except for some reason he uses her real name instead of her blog name. Go figure.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

someone please explain to me

what is with the last line in this list of features for diaper wipes?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

flashlights and forts for a rainy day

On a rainy morning, we pulled out our largest blankets to construct a fort over our table and then crawled inside to explore the wonders of flashlights. This is another top of the list activity for being simple and easy to pull off with no prep beforehand.

Heavy books
Colors shirts or tissue paper (optional)

Construct a fort over the table using blankets and heavy books to keep the blankets in place. Here's a photo, for reference.

(Okay, I won't patronize you anymore. You don't need me to tell you how to build a blanket fort. Do whatever you want for this step.)

Crawl inside with your toddler and some flashlights and have fun exploring.

Advanced version: Bring in a few colored shirts or tissue paper and put the flashlight in the shirts or under the paper and watch how it makes the colors glow. Talk about different colors. Perhaps explain the physics of luminosity.

What Actually Happened:
I build the fort - it was key to close up all the openings with blankets so it was totally dark inside. Genghis only crawled inside once I demonstrated how cool it was. We had two small flashlights, which he was completed enthralled by.

I snuck out and grabbed the "advanced version" shirts and tissue paper. Genghis was even more enthralled by the flashlight under the shirt. But he didn't quite have the fine motor skills to get the light in and out. He was a bit frustrated with that, and I, in turn, was a bit frustrated that what started out as a potentially wonderful independent play time turned into a mother-assisted play time. (Oops, did I admit to wanting less play time with my child out loud?)

Next time we'll probably just stick with the flashlights.

Trying so hard with the shirt. (Note: As I recall, we actually never got around to putting pants on Genghis the whole day. I think he counted that as a victory in the ongoing "I only want to be totally naked" battle.)

Without the flash, you can see Genghis's eerily glowing face on the left.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

friday photos

Some photos from two weeks ago, when family was in town for Xena's blessing.

Genghis and Grandma.

Xena, Grandpa and Great-Grandma.

Genghis and Uncle Chris discussing cars.

Genghis and Uncle Sam, or "Yam" as Genghis says.

Genghis giving Xena a kiss.

Xena and Grandma. (Xena looks a bit like a pirate.)

Xena and Grandpa.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

a simple color learning game

Genghis has been totally uninterested in color identification. So I was thrilled to find this super simple activity that actually got him saying colors - often, correctly. I love, love, love, how little supplies and set up are needed for this. Perfect for a quick, go-to game.

Colored construction paper (2-3 sheets per color)
Largish bowls

Set out the paper and bowls. Together, tear up the paper and crumple it into balls. Sort the paper balls into different bowls, depending on the color of the ball. Direct toddler to pick up different colors and put them in appropriate bowls.

What actually happened:
Genghis couldn't quite tear the paper on his own (probably a good thing, considering the number of our books we keep at his level), but if I got it started for him he did pretty well. Same for crumpling the paper. He was very into putting the paper balls into various bowls, though not too concerned about matching the colors. However, for about 90 seconds, he listened to me talk about the names of the colors, repeated them back to me, and even identified some of the colors correctly without prompting. Success!

Also, he enjoyed walking around the room with the bowls on his head.

Video intended to show off his new color skills. Instead, just shows off his independent streak.

Monday, April 2, 2012

getting inventive with a toddler

Before Xena came into our life, Genghis and I often passed the morning time by going out to the library, museums, gardens, grocery stores, and the like. But now Xena often drops off to sleep in the morning and I feel less keen on packing two kids off on some new adventure.

So once Xena is down for a nap, I put away my list of chores and Genghis and I get creative with stay-at-home activities. This has turned out to be pretty fun, because he is just at the age where imagination, vocabulary, and fine(r) motor skills are all starting to take off.

Here are a few of our recent favorite activities. If I feel ambitious (which I don't, particularly, at the moment) I may try to make this a semi-regular feature on the blog.

Index Card Memory
Recently, my friend Janssen talked about playing Memory with her daughter, who is a smidgen older than Genghis. It had never occurred to me that Genghis might be ready for this level of intellectual activity. I put "Memory" on my list of things to buy, and then realized that if I bought it I'd also have to buy another plastic tub to start a game storage box, and then looked around at how many toys in plastic tubs we already had, and finally decided I didn't want to buy anything more just yet.

Instead, I drew simple shapes on index cards. Genghis quickly insisted that the square was a car and the circle an airplane, so the shapes turned into modes of transportation. He loved flipping the cards over and placing them on the ground again. A few times, he even got the "memory" part of the game (but that may have just been the law of large numbers at work).

Genghis and Xena Ride on the Airplane, Or How I Learned About "Fast" and "Slow"
We finally branched out from ball and snake with playdoh. I made Genghis an airplane, car, and slide out of playdoh and then shaped two little figures to represent Genghis and Xena. They rode on the slide and the airplane. With the airplane, we zoomed it around and practiced going fast and slow. Genghis preferred fast.

Bunny Goes Down the Slide
Abe gets credit for this one. While we were watching General Conference (8 hours of talks from our church in one weekend, streamed over the internet), he constructed a slide out of a shoe rack and a leaf from our table. Genghis rolled a ball, truck, and roll of tape down the slide. But he thought it was most fun to watch Bunny go down.