Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Two simple ribbon toys

Two quick little projects you can whip up after the little ones are in bed tonight!

My sister made this sensory ribbon for Sweetpea for Christmas 2008. She loved it and now it keeps ArrowBoy entertained during little trips in the car. Both my children familiarize themselves with objects by mouthing it, so this has been thoroughly chewed on over the past year and a half! Make sure you sew your buttons on securely!

Sweetpea insists on dressing herself, but battles with buttons, so I made her this button snake.

I sewed the very bottom felt square to the end of the ribbon with a zigzag stitch- hope you can see it in the photo below..

Then I just cut slits in little squares of felt and she can now practice 'buttoning' them onto the ribbon. Nice quiet little activity, perfect for church!

Mini paintings

I was inspired by a recent post by The Artful parent to do some

mini paintings

with Sweetpea.

We had SO much fun!!

I couldn't resist making some mini paintings of my own...quick and non-intimidating creative outlet for a sometimes slightly frazzled mom!

We'll turn these into gift tags for Daddy's birthday, I think!
To see the inspiration for these, visit The Artful Parent - she has the most amazing ideas to stimulate your child's creativity!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My son's first birthday

I would like to thank my friend Georgia from Love and Lollipops for the beautiful photographs she took of our party! You can view more of her work on her blog - click on the link above.

We invited four little friends and I set up our party table in the living room.
The party favours are pinned to the front of the tablecloth, and the polka dots you see on the floor is a vinyl tablecloth which I stuck to the carpet with maskig tape so little people (read "their mothers") wouldn't have to worry about spilling juice.
Some of the goodies on offer:

And the birthday cake! I baked a double layer chocolate cake using my all-time favourite recipe, and then decorated it with lots of yellow butter icing, a cheerful paper rosette and mini Smarties. I had tons of help - Sweetpea's job was taste testing two mini Smarties for every one that I stuck on, and ArrowBoy was perched on my hip for moral support during the entire operation. Yes, I decorated it with one hand! (It was just before supper time last night and he just would not be left on the floor while all the action was going on at counter-top!) 

We served freshly made popcorn in ducky paper cups - I just glued on some googly eyes and a cardboard beak. Isn't he a cheery little fellow?! The best part was having Sweetpea on her stepstool at the stove while the corn was popping - she shrieked with delight!

We had pretty polka dot party hats. Arrow's had a little No.1 label to make him feel extra special!

I handstitched this name banner from felt. I am redoing his bedroom in bright, cheerful colours, and the banner will get a special place above his bed. I copied the little animals from a website which I love, and though I am always happy to support businesses selling good quality handmade goods, the exchange rate just puts their wares way out of our league, so I decided to make it myself.

ArrowBoy was a little overwhelmed and very surprised  when we started singing the birthday song...

Someone recently remarked that Arrow reminds her of Noddy, so my youngest sister gave him a small Noddy doll and this gorgeous Mr Plod, which he hugged close all afternoon!

Each little guest also received a felt friend sewn onto a felt version of their initials, with a bright little ribbon so they can hang it on the door!

We couldn't have asked for a more perfect day and the children loved being out in the sunshine!

A few battle-weary troops...naptimes were not far off...

When I found out that I was pregnant with Arrow, my husband and I unanimously agreed that we could not be bothered with obstetricians and the whole medical system again. Although I gave birth to Sweetpea in a beautiful, state-of-the-art private hospital, we were left disillusioned with the way things are done in this country when it comes to birth choices. Although we were very clear about our choices regarding the birth, we felt that our wishes were bulldozed, and I ended up having an emergency C-section. It seems that most gynaes talk mothers into C-sections even fairly early on in their pregnancies, since it can be conveniently scheduled...I have enough to say on this topic to cover pages of posts, but I will constrain myself at this point.

Anyway,  I started researching homebirths, and specifically VBAC's (vaginal birth after cesearean) and we were very soon sold on the idea of having a midwife-assited water birth in our home. I read and researched and prepared myself physically and spiritually for what was going to be the most beautiful, peaceful home-birthing experience. I kept a special journal in which I recorder all my prayers about the birth, and shared with my unborn child my longing to hold him in my arms.

The birth pool arrived two weeks befor my due date and I was SO excited!

Then, finally, on the night of 19 July last year my contractions started. I was thrilled and excited and yet also so peacefully contented with the fact that our baby was going to be born in the comfort and protection of our home.

I will spare you the details about the 36 hours of labour and just cut to the part where, by 12 noon on 21 July, my husband, midwife and I all agreed that it would be best to call the gynaecologist. (He was really sweet about the whole thing when I told him about our home birthing plans and graciously offered to be on stand-by should we need him). Long story short, our precious son was delivered via emergency C-section an hour later - healthy, gorgeous and completely unawares of all the drama that came before. The doctor found that my pelvis opening is simply too narrow to let through even the smallest little baby.

As much as I was COMPLETELY SMITTEN with my little boy, my heart was also broken about the dream that had shattered: I knew that all subsequent births would now have to be C-sections. I could not understand it - I had prayed so many times asking God to give me a clear answer as to His will for the birth, and was so certain that the home-birth was what He wanted for me. I really struggled with some serious trust issues for a month or so after Arrow's birth. I just could not get myself to pray., and when I tried I broke down in hopeless tears, feeling that God was not going to listen to me anyway.

But true to His Word he never left nor forsoke me. Instead He gently guided me back to a place where I could find rest in the knowledge of His love and the assurance that He is in control and that all things work together for those who trust in Him. I am still sad sometimes when I think of just how much I had wanted to have natural birth at home. But looking back, I am immensely grateful that He had given me the opportunity to labour - that although I didn't actually have a natural birth, I do know what it is to be in labour, and to breathe through those contractions, and to know just how painful they are, and about the almost hilarious 'normality' of those moments between conractions! And I also know today that had I been able to have the birth I dreamt about, I would probably have become proud, even scornful of mothers who chose C-sections. God was gracious and used that birthing experience to teach me about being gracious to other mothers; to remain humble and trust in Him alone; to not judge others for their choices., and to be grateful for good midwifes and doctors and nurses.

Today, one year later, I look at my precious son and my heart rejoices in the goodness of my God.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A lovingly hand-made birthday gift for our big boy!

The heater is turned on to hot in the middle of a sunny winter's day...bedlamps are burning at 12h00 noon...the soup I thought was gently simmering on the stove is bubbling ferociously...the washing machine is the middle of the long cycle - without any clothes... yes, the ArrowBoy has come of age: The Pressing Buttons Age, that is., and not a single switch or latch or handle or button that is within the reach of this tiny tot, is left alone for very long!

So it didn't take much effort to come up with an idea for a birthday gift: it had to have buttons and other super cool things to keep tiny little fingers *legitimately* occupied! I really don't like the so-called interactive busy boards that most toy shops sell, because although they light up spectacularly and make plenty of noise, the child can't see WHY they do. I have said it before: if you want to give a child something that makes a noise, give him a bell. Then he can see where the sound comes from.

A trip to the hardware store for latches and things, and a quick look around the garage for off-cuts of wood, and we were all set. I painted and planned, and the Dad sawed and drilled and glued!

And this is what our darling boy woke up to on this morning of his
first birthday!

A little more detail..

We had tons of fun making this, and as I am typing this, my two little bean sprouts are busily occupied opening latches and fitting the key into those key holes - it is a hit!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Felt food for a brand new play kitchen!

If I have been particularly quiet lately, it is because:
1. We've all suffered a bad bout of flu, and
2. The Dad and I have been playing at being elves who make beautiful things for little ones while they sleep!

One of those things is a very special play kitchen for our very special little girl...and as soon as I have added the final details to this little project in the next day or two, I will be posting some delightful pictures. In the meantime, here are some of the felt foods I've made to stock the play pantry with:

You can find the tutorial for this peelable banana at a blog called Just Stuff.

I made the carrots using a tutorial I found at Shelly Inspired, but made my own version of the leaves.

The potatoes are also inspired by Shelley Inspired, while you can find instructions for the felt strawberries at Pink Tea.

Next on my to do list: a felt sandwich! I will keep you posted!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Joyful Mama's Favourite Finds: Me and Marie Printables

I just have to share with you about this super cute Baggie Game I downloaded for Sweetpea from a delightful website called Me and Marie Learning! (Thanks to Georgia over at Love and Lollipops who introduced me to Me and Marie!)

Me and Marie is the brainchild of Ashley, a mom and ex-school teacher with a Master's Degree in Reading and Literacy. She designs beautiful games and early-learning printables that you can download from her site. Categories include Baggie Games,  Pretend Play, File Games, Circle Time, Colours, Shapes and more, all for under $4 (that's about R30!) I love the Post Office and Library sets under Pretend Play - those will definitely be finding their way into our home soon!

But the first pack I bought was the Farm Baggie Game. What is a Baggie Game? Well...here is how Ashley describes it:

Baggie Games are fun, educational and fit in a sandwich bag! Learning materials can take up a lot of room, but Baggie Games are a great solution. Each set of Baggie Games includes three games featuring the same theme but, different skills.

Great uses for Baggie Games: ~travel ~waiting rooms ~restaurants (waiting on food) ~gifts ~preschool classrooms ~home school ~ANYTIME you need a quick and fun game!

The first game I printed out was the E-I-E-I-O Match, where you have to match the heads, bodies and feet of farm animals. It was great fun, but my daughter is all about precision at this stage, and it frustrated her that the pieces moved about on the table, so I quickly turned the Baggie Game into a File Game. I glued one part of each animal's body to a file folder, which helped them stay put. I cut open a small seed envelope and glued it also onto the folder to keep the loose matching cards. This has been a great hit!

I have been struggling lately to get my pictures to upload correctly - sorry about the odd angle of this one!

The other two games that are part of this pack are Barnyard noises and Animal count, and as soon as I get a chance between a mountain of ironing and a teething baby, we'll be playing with them, too! In the meantime, why don't you head on over to Me and Marie and get your little one in on the fun! Enjoy!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Honey, don't forget to pack the baking sheet!

I have had several frantic calls and e-mails the past two weeks from mothers who were facing the daunting prospect of keeping toddlers entertained during a long trip in the car. They didn't necessarily call because they thought I am a wellspring of wisdom and creative ideas. No, I think it was more a matter of knowing that I have recently returned from such a trip myself...and survived to tell the story!! I realize that the extra long school holidays are now at an end, so this post may come a little late for some of you, but before we know it, it will be December and many of us will be making long trips again!

I will admit that of all the preparations I made for our holiday, preparing activities for the long ride in the car took up most of my time. My children, and especially little Arrow, do NOT like being strapped down in their car seats for anything longer than 15 minutes. I am glad to say that he slept beautifully for most of the six hours it took us to reach our destination, and when he was awake he was kept cheerful with raisins! I also kept a bag full of small toys at my feet and 'fed' it to him through the slit under my headrest - he thought it was hilarious! I think the trick with really little ones is to be armoured with PLENTY of little playthings that will capture their attention, and to rotate it with something new as soon as the novelty wears off.

The 'bag of tricks' I took along for Sweetpea took more time and energy to prepare, but being older she was busily occupied for longer stretches of time during the ride itself, making it all worth while. I will share some ideas that she enjoyed, but first allow me to interrupt myself with this little observation:

We were about an hour and a half into our journey when we had to make a potty stop for Sweetpea/nappy change for Arrow at one of the large service stations on the route. Many other families were also stretching their legs and fueling up, and as I was on my way back from the rest rooms with the children, I noticed how many cars had small TV screens on the back of the front seats. One family had two toddlers in car seats, each with his own screen, and it struck me that while mom and dad were standing cheerfully outside the vehicle enjoying a cup of something hot and steamy, the little ones were still glued to those screens, wholely disinterested in anything going on outside the vehicle.

Now mind you, this was during the first week of the Soccer World Cup, and the atmosphere at that service station was electrical! Sweetpea laughed at the petrol attendants blowing their vuvuzelas, and we stood chatting to a group of Australian fans who were travelling to the next game in a luxury bus. I pointed the bus out to Sweetpea and we counted its many wheels, and during the rest of our trip she would very excitedly pick out more buses at every stop.

My point is this: there is so much to be seen on a car trip, be it to the shop around the corner, or to the other end of the country. There is so much to talk about and discuss - even with young children - about the world they live in: See that big excavator? What colour is it? Do you see how much further they are with this road since we drove past here yesterday? Oh, look at that blue crane in the field! That is our national bird. See that cloud that looks like a huge teddy bear?! Here we are passing a donkey cart!

I have so much more on my heart about this, but I will save it for a future post and get myself back onto track by ending with a quote I heard recently: "Let's not sacrifice the eternal on the altar of the immediate..."

So how do I keep my toddler *meaningfully* entertained during long car trips? Here are a few ideas:

  •  Bend me, shape me...A pack of coloured pipe cleaners have found a permanent home in our glove box. I fold over the ends for safety's sake, and pass one to the back at the first signs of irritability. Sweetpea loves bending it into all kinds of shapes, and Arrow also likes playing with these bright, bendable fluffy sticks!

  • Stuck on you...Magnetic books are great for the car, because the pieces usually stay put quite well! I bought a few from Bargain Books where the child has to match colours, numbers, shapes and even letters by placing the magnetic pieces over the corresponding pictures in the books. We also have one on Noah's Ark: one page tells the story, while the opposite page is a colourful backdrop on which the child can stick the magnetic characters and 'act out' the story.

  • The main 'attraction'...An inexpensive baking sheet from the Crazy Store has been a great hit with Sweetpea on long trips. You can get really creative with this for older children, too, but my two-and-half year old was happily satisfied with simple magnetic games: The first was a bag of colourful pom-poms glued onto small round magnets.  (NOT for babies who might swallow them!) I printed out some simple colouring pages and drew circles on them with a black marker. Sweetpea then had to stick a pom-pom onto each circle!

 I also gave her some inexpensive fridge magnets with a garden theme (flowers, bees, butterflies) with which she could build a 'story'.

Small magnets glued to the back of some of Smile's  Logi Shapes is another favourite. For older children you can do the same with a Tangram set (click here to read my Tangram in the kitchen post!)

  • A large clipboard serves as a handy lap easel for a toddler in a car seat who wants to do some drawings or colorouring pages.
  • We also keep a ball or pinwheel windmill handy for when we get out for bathroom breaks. We have such an abundance of beautiful, well-equiped farm stalls in this country, and it is worth it to keep your eyes open for one with a nice stretch of lawn or other safe, open space where little ones can spend some pent up energy running or kicking a ball for a few minutes.
  • I packed a set of Finger puppets and we had many giggles as the Dad did the voices for the characters while I told the stories!
  • And why not make smaller versions of my I Spy Jar (click here to read about it) to take along on your journey?
Hope there are one or two ideas in here that you can use on your next trip. I would love to hear about your tried and tested toddler boredom busters, so be sure to drop me a line!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Up to our ears in white glue!

As far as my two-and-half year old is concerned,
some of the bestest things in the whole wide world are
so when I brought both out for craft time today, 
my little girl was in heaven!

We were feeling particularly creative this morning and decided to explore *some* of the creative possibilities of the humble toilet paper roll.

We collected a nice little pile of craft supplies to spice things up....

and here is what we came up with:

First, we dipped pieces of cut toilet paper rolls in paint and used it to print circles on a white page.

We glued a grassy fringe onto blue card.

We then painted the rest of the roll...

and used generous amounts of white glue to paste those TP rings onto our background.

The 'petals' of our TP roll flowers were stuffed with scrunched-up tissue paper...

ArrowBoy had the VERY IMPORTANT job of tasting the tissue paper to make sure it was purple enough:

By the end of it all we were sticking to our picture...and everything else...

...but oh, we were so happy and proud of the result! I just wonder if we shouldn't have used just a tad more white glue, though...just to be sure...


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