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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

An Open Letter to Parents Checking Out Library DVDs

Dear PCOLDVDs,

Is it really necessary to run a chainsaw over the discs before returning them to the library? I mean, I get it. I have two three-year-old girls. Things happen. Sometimes a scratch is inevitable. But even if there are scores of us eagerly awaiting returns so that we can gain a few minutes of peace here and there with the aid of a free movie or show collection, the discs shouldn't look like they've been chewed on. Seriously.

It's to the point where the girls and I check out five DVDs at a time in the hopes that one of them will play at least halfway through before stopping entirely. Skips, freezes and pauses don't even phase us anymore. If that DVD is playing at all, even haltingly, we are thankful.

And I know now not to hype up any DVD we take out. Because it won't play. They never do.

So, in the interest of all of us, I thought I'd post a little how-to. This will help you, other parents and children, and the librarians with librarian degrees.

How to play a DVD from the library that other people will eventually also want to use:

1) Open the case. Stick your thumb in the indentation, and pry open. Don't use too much force. You want it to pop open, not spring. You don't want the DVD to come flying out.

2) Press the popper in the middle of the DVD case down gently with your thumb. This should loosen the DVD.

3) Insert your thumb into the hole, and wrap your fingers around the outside of the thin rim. Wait! Not too much. You don't want your fingerprints on the bottom of the disc. You see, that's where the disc's information is.

4) Open your DVD player by pressing the on button, then the eject button. No! Not with the hand holding the DVD. Use the other hand.

5) Carefully place the DVD (shiny side down!) into your player, then press the eject button again (you can use either hand this time).

Your DVD should be ready to play!

Here are some things you should not do:

- DON'T let your child play with the DVD.
- NO sitting on the DVD, scraping the DVD against the wall, floor, dollhouse or toybox.
- REMEMBER, DVDs are not paper for coloring!
- DVDs are not Frisbees.
- DON'T take your DVD outside. It's an inside toy.

A few reminders:

- Keep DVD away from power tools.
- Tape and scissors are not appropriate around DVDs.
- DVDs are not mirrors.
- They're also not nail filers.
- Although it will be tempting, don't use your DVDs as plateware. On that note, remember, DVDs are not food. Don't let your children chew on them.

Most importantly, if you have accidentally ruined your borrowed DVD, it's okay! Things happen. Have some decency and report it to the librarian instead of putting it back on the shelf, please.

Using this as an instructional tool, I feel confident we can all start borrowing DVDs from the library with the confidence that they will work as intended when we get them home.

I thank you for your cooperation,




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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Little Mommies

Something that my girls love to do is be mothers.

I don't know why. I certainly don't make a particularly good showing of it most days. But, nonetheless, they love to take care of their toys, put them down for naps, soothe their fears, and feed them. They scold them when they're bad. They hug them when they're good. My girls think being a mommy is the end-all, be-all. Just today they compared their heights to me.

"I'm almost as tall as you! And, look! My hands are almost as big as yours! And my arms are almost hairy like yours!" (Mental note, check into Ideal Image as soon as we're rich.)

So, when the Little Mommy Baby So New dolls came, my girls went wild.


They looked just like normal dolls to me, but, really, do you need anything more than a normal doll? My kids don't. I don't know if it's their age, or personalities, or both, but they took to the dolls as if they'd been missing their best friends their whole lives up till now.


They immediately started feeding their babies. Obviously the dolls would be hungry after such a long journey.











Notice, no automatically filling bottles, no eyes opening and shutting, no annoying baby gibberish or motorized parts. Just a doll. They loved them.

After breakfast, it was time for a nap. The girls put their new babies down with care.



For me, it's a perfect toy. It doesn't make noise, it keeps my kids busy. They get to emulate practices they've had used on them for their entire lives, and they get a chance to be in control. They use their imaginations to come up with troubles and problems for their babies that they can then solve. It teaches responsibility and sharing.

As far as it "smelling like a newborn," though, I'm not sure about that. There is a baby-powder smell when they're fresh out of the box, but it's not necessary, really. Newborns rarely smell like that, in my experience, and without any other gimmicky bells and whistles, this little add-on seems out of place.

Still, no complaints here. A baby-powder smell isn't really a drawback, is it?

Check them out here.

___

Little Mommy dolls sent to us for review, but the thoughts in this review are my own. As you can see from the pictures, the girls agree.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Recipe Monday - Fancy but Easy Stuffed Shells





I halved this recipe and it served four adults and three toddlers.

1 box of jumbo shells...cooked to package directions 
32 ounces of ricotta cheese 
3 cups mozzerella cheese 
1\2 cup of parm.cheese 
2 eggs 
1/2 tbs.onion powder 
3cloves of garlic chopped 
1 tsp. of pepper 
1 teaspoon of seasoning salt 
1 box of chopped frozen spinach..thawed and sqeezed dry 
2 tbsp. of sundried tomatoes (the ones in the oil)drained and chopped 
2 cans of tomato sauce...whatever is your favorite. 
2 pounds of ground beef 
1 large onion chopped 
2 tbsp. of brown sugar 

*brown ground beef with your onion until there is no pink

*preheat oven to 350'F

*while thats cooking, mix your ricotta cheese in a big bowl with *1 1/2 cups mozzerella, parm.cheese, 2 eggs,onion powder, garlic, pepper, seas-salt, spinach (I used fresh spinach and steamed it), and sunndried tomatoes...



*add the spaghetti sauce

*add the brown sugar

*and simmer for the time you are stuffing your shells

*stuff your shells with about 2 or 3 tbsp.of cheese mixture or to your desired amount



*in 9x13 dish add about one inch of spag.sauce

*place the shells in the bottom of the dish and cover good with sauce and remaining mozzerella cheese

*cover with foil and cook in 350' oven for 30 to 45 min







Sunday, February 26, 2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Toddler Tricks - 81: Get Out of the House

Problem: You have so much to do. So much. And at every turn, your toddlers stand in your way. You pick up the crayons, they splay the videos out on the floor. You wash the counters, they finger paint the walls. You vacuum, they spill sugar in the kitchen. And forget about doing any adult work that's not house cleaning. Your children insist that you will be paying all of your attention to them today, all day. Otherwise, you'll be sorry. But with all of their antics, your rate of progress is so slow that you can't stop to play with them. You can't go outside. You'll never finish your workload.

Solution: Yes, you will. Take them outside. Especially if you find yourself particularly annoyed by them, or they are insisting on ruining your home. The 30 minutes to an hour you spend with them out in the open, letting them run out a bit of energy will save you two to three hours in the long run. They'll come back in a little more calm. Their minds will be more centered and more amenable to organized activities. They'll be (if you have more than one) more tuned to playing with each other and may continue to do so once the party is moved inside. You will think you don't have time to take them out. The truth is, you don't have time to keep them in.


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Friday, February 24, 2012

Shared Suffering

There's a phenomenon I've noticed since the girls were quite little. Unless they're fighting with each other, only one gets upset at a time. If one is sad about something, if one is angry about something, if one is tantruming about something, the other usually will not. The other usually will remain calm, even if the problem the first twin is experiencing is something that would upset them both. It's as if they figure one crying about it is enough.

For instance, they take turns grieving when a visitor leaves. When my brother left last week, Dulce was inconsolable. She wailed for about two hours, so upset. Natalina was calm and collected. It was as if it didn't matter.

My mom just left yesterday (she visited for a day on her way to the beach), and Natalina went beserk. She spent 45 minutes in her room begging Nana to come back, looking out the window for her car. Dulce accepted her departure with grace and serenity.

This is a nice pattern for me. Even when both of them have reason to be upset, I only have to work on calming one of them. I'm wondering, though, if it doesn't speak to something different.

With twins, how much is shared? Toys are shared, routine is shared, television is shared, games are shared, imaginative wanderings are shared. Are feelings shared? Is anguish shared? When one feels deeply, does that sate the other's need for those feelings?

Twins are something else, sometimes. It's a joy going through parenting with them.

___
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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Guest Post - Crayon Crafts for the Win

My good friend, amazing artist and even better photographer has graciously given me an any-time craft good for kids of all ages (so long as you're right there, helping!) She's so creative! Her blog has so many more crafts and beautiful photos, definitely go check it out!

...

Hi, my name is Alex and I'm the mom of two little (and active!) boys ages 3 and 6. You can follow our adventures on my blog, Alex Nguyen Portraits. Here is a fun and simple craft to do that's good for toddlers and elementary school kids with just a little adult supervision. It also helps use up the broken crayon bits you have laying around. It will create beautiful stain art like art projects.

What You Need:

  • wax paper
  • crayons
  • (cheese) grater
  • iron
  • towel
  • scrap/construction paper (optional)

    I use a cheese grater (use hot water to clean off the wax), and get small shavings of the crayons


    your grater will look like this afterwards


    You want two pieces of wax paper. Put down the towel, then put down one piece of wax paper. Sprinkle some shavings on top. Keep the shavings to a thin layer, otherwise it won't melt easily


    then, put the second piece of wax paper on top of it.


    Put a towel on your wax paper/crayon shavings sandwich and then iron. Put the iron on low and let bigger kids iron it themselves! check it every so often (I had the kids count to 30)


    This is what the melted crayon will look like:


    After that, let your kid's imagination roam free! We did hearts for Valentines Day.

    First, we cut out hearts from craft paper


    Then, we glued on the crayon melted wax


    and voila, pretty stain glass like heart!




    There are tons of other things to do depending on what colors you use.

    We used orange, red and yellow shavings here:


    To make suns:


    And autumn leaves
  • Wednesday, February 22, 2012

    Like Humans Do

    At three and a half, my kids are experimenting with the frivolities of human life. They are moving beyond a grasp of vocabulary and simple sentence structure. They've got subject, verb, object. Now that they can order me around, ask multiple questions and argue like enraged banshees, they've decided to expand their repertoire in an attempt, I can only assume, to be more charming. I welcome this.

    Small Talk:

    "It's a nice day out there, Daddy."
    "Hey, mommy, how is your day?"

    Compliments:

    "Mommy, you have pretty hair. ... and a pretty necklace. ... and pretty eyes."
    "Daddy, you smell nice. ... you've got pretty hair."

    Bargaining:

    "Mommy, I don't need to go to the doctor anymore. My butt doesn't hurt now."
    "Okay, will you keep going potty?"
    "Well...I'll keep brushing my teeth."

    Haha, oh, okay.

    Still, about seventy-five percent of what comes out of their mouths includes the phrases "I want" or "I need."

    A startling look into human nature. I'm pretty sure 75 percent of what most people think is "I want" and "I need" though they don't verbalize it as much as they get older, nor do they actually expect to get most of it.

    Now that I can hear my own thoughts echoed back to me, I can strive to bring my percentage down to 50 percent. I can try to make room for thoughts more important than desires.

    Yeah, good luck, huh?



    Tuesday, February 21, 2012

    Target Targets Pregnant Women

    You're pregnant! How do you break the news? Some women buy baby balloons. If there's a child already, they can put him or her in a big brother / big sister shirt. Some women actually bake buns and put them in the oven for their partner to find (I saw this somewhere. I never would have thought of it myself.)

    I decided on "crying, sit down when I tell you this, oh my God, what are we going to do" approach, but I realize not everyone can be that romantic.

    Or, you know, Target could accidentally spill the beans before you get around to telling anyone.

    For the link-shy, basically, Target connects all purchases you make to your name and uses the information to determine what is going on in your life. They then send you coupons for things you might need based on your recent and overall purchases.



    One of their biggest gains using this technique is the "baby on board" campaign, where they send pregnant women coupons for baby stuff. They've gone full-throttle, and as a reward, gained much of the baby market.

    On the one hand, it's brilliant. I love their ingenuity. On the other hand, it's creepy. Really creepy.

    Hospitals and doctors are required to keep medical confidentiality, patients sign HIPAA consent forms and have strict limits on who can access their files, and pregnancy is one of those medical issues that spans over the guardian - child relationship so that the child, if under 18, has the right not to inform her parents.

    But Target can.

    In the case referenced by the story, an irate father stormed to Target customer service with the coupon packet in hand, demanding to know why Target was sending his underage daughter baby discounts. He later returned and apologized. His daughter was pregnant. Target knew, but he didn't.

    And I'm not the only one side-eyeing them. Target's marketing committee found that when the store sent out pamphlets containing nothing but coupons for items they actually need, people didn't use the coupons. They were too freaked out.

    So, Target began interspersing the useful coupons with random coupons and ads for things that the customers wouldn't need. A lawnmower next to the baby bag, making it appear like a random assortment of coupons that everyone on the block received.

    Bingo.

    They started using the coupons again.

    So now, Target knows everything about you, and is pretending that it doesn't. ...stalker.

    Apparently, it realized this practice, while ridiculously successful, is also a little off, because the reporter doing the story got one great interview with them, and then they shut off communication entirely, even prohibiting him from going to headquarters.

    Of all the flags raised by this story, that right there, for me, is the biggest one. Whatchoo doing, Target?

    Anyway, I'm not saying don't shop there. I know I like their products. I'm just thinking maybe I'll use cash next time.

    ___
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    Monday, February 20, 2012

    Recipe Monday - Berry Cobbler

    This cobbler is delicious and easy, no lie.



    1/3 cup butter
    1 1/2 cups flour
    1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
    1 1/2 cups milk
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    5 cups chopped fruit
    1/3 cup pecans
    1/3 cup brown sugar

    Preheat oven to 375F. Add butter to a 9×13″ baking pan and place in oven to melt. 


    In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, granulated sugar, milk, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Whisk together until a thin batter forms and is without any lumps.


    In the baking pan with melted butter, pour in the batter. Do not stir – the butter will ooze up around the batter and may pool on the top. It’s ok.





    Sprinkle berries evenly over batter, then sprinkle with nuts and brown sugar. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until it tests done. The top will be a beautiful golden color. (I didn't have pecans so I didn't use.)





    Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream. (I just ate it plain!)


    ___
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    Sunday, February 19, 2012

    Moment of the Week - 80: Daddy Reads Madeline

    My husband reads the girls a story before bed. With help from the girls, of course.

    video


    ___
    If you like this blog, please vote for it here at Babble's Top 100 Blogs list.   


    Saturday, February 18, 2012

    Toddler Tricks - 80: Use the Television

    Problem:

    Twofold...one, your kid continues to do something she's not supposed to do. Two, you're not sure if all your talking at her is sticking. She seems to understand everything you say, down to the very subtle nuances of conversation, but when it comes to "don't do that," she pulls a blank face. Maybe she really doesn't yet understand? Haha, no. Maybe she's reached the age of selective hearing. Time to gear up.

    Solution:

    Use those mindless TV shows to your advantage. Your child is going to remember little fun details about pieces of the shows, and Lord knows, you'll have memorized them too at this point. These days kids' shows are always trying to teach some lesson (unless it's Max and Ruby, which, don't get me started). In our house, we watch primarily PBS, so those are the shows we all know the best. Use a few lines of the dialogue from the show or one of its songs to get your point across and make it memorable.

    In my case, my child did this for me. I told her not to touch my wine glass.

    "But, Mama, I have to touch the wine glass, it's in my story, see? Dulce touches the wine glass."

    This is Super Why, and luckily for me, the point of that whole bit is to change the story and save the day!



    Knowing this, I was able to step right into character, and what would have been tense discipline turned into a fun game in which no wine was spilled.

    "Okay, then," I said, "let's change one of the words in the story. Should wine glass be "couch," "oven," or "shelf? Let's try oven. Dulce touches the oven?"

    "No!" the girls shout delightedly.

    "Dulce touches the couch?"

    And they gleefully ran and touched the couch.

    "With our power to read, we have changed the story and saved the day!"

    And in this manner, not only did I get across to them that they couldn't touch the glass, I was also able to check on other lessons I had taught them throughout their lives.

    And they got to play the whole time. Double win.

    ___
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    Friday, February 17, 2012

    Kids Say the Darndest Things

    I used to do posts outlining what the girls were saying as they grew up and started grasping the language. Now that they're three and a half, it's not what they say but what they say, if you know what I mean.

    Anyway, here are some gems from the past two days alone.

    "Mama, do you know any princesses?"
    "No, do you?"
    "Um, yes, my cousin is a princess."
    "Who, Annabelle?"
    "No...make me a cousin that's a princess."

    "Daddy, you have a pretty watch."
    "Oh, thank you."
    "And pretty glasses."
    "You think my glasses are pretty? Thanks!"
    "And your hair is pretty."
    "Oh, wow, thanks."
    **Then Dulce has a fit of compassion.
    "Don't worry, Mama, you're almost pretty."

    "WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"
    "Why are you crying?"
    "My nose is wet!"
    **I dry her nose, but she's still crying, which means, you guessed it.**
    "WAAAAAAH! It's still wet!"
    "Well, it will only dry if you stop crying. The more you cry the more your nose will keep being wet."
    "WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"

    Lilly: "My favorite food is meatballs!"
    Dulce: "And my favorite drink is wine!"
    Lilly: "Noooo! Your favorite drink is orange juice!"

    "That's not Belle's Daddy. Beast is Belle's Daddy."
    "No, Beast is going to be Belle's husband."
    "No, once he dead, he's Belle's Daddy."
    "Well, who's Papa then?"
    "Papa can be her Pop Pop."

    "Uncle Tommy! You have a beard."
    "A little beard, yes, I do."
    "Like Mama."

    (This was corrected immediately and the girls changed their stance after feeling my chin. I can laugh at a lot. Apparently having a little beard is not one of those things.)

    ___
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    Thursday, February 16, 2012

    I Owe My Brother

    Can you help me?

    My brother is in the car right now headed to a plane to go back to New York City after taking a vacation to come visit the girls and me.

    It was the worst visit ever.

    First, he flew into Orlando because I told him I'd come pick him up and we'd spend the evening in the city before heading home. Then I realized I had a Civic and we wouldn't all fit. I could go with the girls without my husband, but we all had the stomach flu and I didn't want to drag them that far.

    So, he has to rent a car and drive up here. Adding another 3 hours to his trip.

    He gets here and the first night is nice.

    The next day, the girls are monsters. And still sick. We do little things around the house, like flying kites on the pavement. I can't imagine it was a fun day for him.

    The second day, the girls are better, but still iffy. We go to the library and the store, but they start breaking down. They're still acting out all over the place. So we don't go out anywhere else that day. I don't really hang out with my brother too much because I figure we'll have the next day and we'll bang it out of the park. I've been fighting this stomach bug, too, and I was finally feeling like, okay, I wasn't going to get it. I had been quite blah before that day.

    The next day, I think we'll go downtown, get yogurt and coffee, shop at a farmer's market and hit the Natural History Museum. Finally, a good day.

    Except my brother got so sick that he never got out of bed that day. That was yesterday.

    He left this morning at 9:30 a.m. to drive back to Orlando, where he'll board a plane for New York after returning the car he didn't want to rent, thus wrapping up the worst vacation ever recorded in the history of vacations.

    I'm sad that he's left. I'm sad that I didn't get to talk to him much. I'm sad we got him sick. I'm pretty bummed all around.

    What can I do to make this up to him? I want to make things and send things and just generally say, I'm so sorry, thank you so much for coming, I wish we were better.




    Wednesday, February 15, 2012

    Day in the Life - February 2012

    Last year I did a Day in the Life on Valentine's Day. I invited a lot of bloggers to take part and got a really good response. This year my three year olds have sapped away my soul and I didn't have the energy to organize something like that. Thankfully for me, Navigating the Mothership does something like this quarterly, so I did another ditl, exactly a year later, and I'll link it to her.

    Anyway, here's last year's.

    And here's this year's.



    We're already starting the day out well. It is rare that I get to wake up and shower without having to tend to toddlers. So, banner day!














    Then I go downstairs to meet my bundles of joy and happiness.










    Next stop: Breakfast.



    Then I start tidying up, and the girls see me taking pictures with the camera. They kindly agree to document me. By which I mean they grab the camera and demand a turn. At least they were kind enough to use soft focus.

    My brother's visiting this week! They weren't as kind to him.














    Time for Daddy to go to work.


    Then some computer time with Tommy while I tidy up.



    We're off to the library!










    We're hungry, and I don't feel like cooking, so to the Waffle House!




























    We need to pick up some bread for me and some beer (for my brother) at the Publix. I forgot to take pictures because the girls were being major pills by this point. So here's a shot of my brother's back and his beer as we wrangle them back in the car.


    Nap time! No pictures of them because I don't want to disturb the beasts. I used the time to do some editing and some chores.







    They wake up from their nap all beauty and grace, of course, and to keep from killing them, I plop them in front of the TV while I set to work cleaning the living room.


    That only holds their attention for long enough for them to get over their bad selves, and soon they're using pencils as wands and turning me into a juicebox. Which is really what I deserve for trying to check my email while they're awake.



    Next on the list...more cleaning! We tackle the bathroom. The girls love to help.



    I have more editing to do, and I realize I'm not going to get an article done that needs to be written by today. Guess I'll be doing that sometime today. I set the girls up with coloring.



    Then they play with Uncle Tommy's feet while I make dinner.










    Daddy is home...time for cuddles before bed.




    Then we fly into sleep!





    ____
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