Category Archives: Fun

She makes this face a lot

And she’s eight months old! (Can you believe it?)

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The passage of time

For Lydia, the past tense is encompassed by one broad category: “last year.”

Sometimes, this is a legitimate distinction: for example, “I turned two last year!” Sometimes, it isn’t: she might say, “We went to breakfast last year,” when we all know that she means we went to breakfast this morning.

Certain things that must be learned I take for granted, because I feel now as though I have always known them, and it isn’t until my pint-sized shadow announces that “a bird flew by the window last year” that it hits me: Lydia doesn’t know the shape of the calendar.

She’s only beginning to understand – much to her disappointment – that she’ll never be a baby again, and that she will always be older than Sarah. When I tell her that her birthday is on May 11th, that’s a simple fact, unattached to the understanding that those words function like an address. They tell us where her birthday fits into the year.

As lovely as it must be to have little concept of time, I came up with this idea for teaching her about the flow of months and years and seasons.

The idea is simple: every morning, we put a button into the jar. At the end of the month, we empty it out, count the buttons and put next month’s name on the front of the jar. We begin again.

The construction is simple as well, and you can tune it to your family’s needs. I wrote the month names out in letters large enough for Lydia to read and, as an afterthought, numbered each month, but you could use different colored paper for each season if you want to (by the time I thought to do that, it was too late.)

Jar of Days

You will need:

  • blank mailing labels
  • card stock
  • one ribbon
  • hole punch
  • a pen
  • a Mason jar (I used a quart-sized jar)
  • 31 small objects. We’re using buttons for this month, but dried pasta or beans would work, too, as would large beads, rocks, or origami boxes (if you happened to go on a memorable origami binge a few years ago, and still find yourself with a surplus of boxes). You could also number some squares of cardstock and reuse those each month. Lastly, I know I don’t need to say this, but I will: don’t let your child play with these unsupervised if you use something small enough to be a choking hazard.

Now, this next part is really easy. Ready? Write “May” and/or the number 5 on a mailing label. Stick it to the card stock and trim card stock to your desired size.

Punch holes on either size of the mailing label and thread ribbon through the holes. Tie label to a jar and drop some stuff in it!

Repeat for remaining months, and stash those in an envelope for later.

[This post is a part of Works for Me Wednesday]

The Box Library

When we received a library kit, a large box and a collection of dilapidated picture books last week, inspiration struck. Remember our cardboard kitchen? I present to you our cardboard library:

The library kit included an old-school library stamp (which I seriously considered keeping for myself), along with some adhesive book cards. I taped those bad boys into the covers of our books, handed the stamp to my little head librarian, and opened the doors for business.

A few hours later, she’d learned words like “renew,” issued library cards to the baby and stained her fingers red with what turned out to be un-washable ink. From there, she turned her desk into a house, invited Sarah inside for lunch and shut me out.

Oh well. I had plenty of library books to peruse, so I was in no danger of feeling left out.

The assistant librarian covers for Lydia while she takes a nap break.

Here’s the How-To:

For Lydia’s desk, we took a big box, tucked in the top flaps and turned it on its side. She pulled up a chair from her little table, I topped it with a name plate (cut from a spare bit of cardboard) and voila! The little girl turned into a head librarian.

For her desktop organizer, I used an old dayplanner with pockets. Into those pockets we tucked her stamp pad, purple sparkly pen and library cards – one for each family member plus a few blank ones, should grandparents or friends happen to stop by.

The cards are just “Ex Libris” stickers (from the library kit, of course), backed with cardboard. If you don’t have an awesome library kit, you can decorate the cardboard itself, or use blank mailing labels in place of the name tags.

For the bookshelf/returns bin, I used an old milk crate (leftover from the early days of our marriage, when I worked at a gas station) topped with an office-style inbox. Simple enough, and the beauty of it is that everything but the big box will fit into the milk crate when we’re finished playing, so we can build the whole library again some day, should an opportunity (and box) present itself.

Lastly, the books themselves: the ones we were given are too well-loved to have much of a lifespan on our bookshelves (some of them went straight into my art stash, where they will eventually be “re-purposed”), but they’re perfect for stamping repeatedly with a library stamp.

You could hit up the free shelves at your (real) library, or stop by the free/discount boxes outside your favorite used bookstore. Don’t overlook your own shelves, though: I’d be lying if I said that a few of our books hadn’t been demoted to “box library” status – namely, the ones that I’ve never liked, and wouldn’t mind packing up into a milk crate for the majority of the year.

Restocking the shelves in an outfit that is decided NOT "Librarian Chic."

Another perk: all of the sudden, Lydia was presented with a dozen books that she had never seen before. That made for one content little librarian.

[This post is a part Works for Me Wednesday]

On shelves now

“Shelves” is an extremely general term in this case. If I were to be specific, I would say, “On my shelf now.” But I could be referring to your shelf as well, for reasons that will become clear in the next sentence or so.

Do you remember Little Red Riding Lu? Well, I put a picture book together for the girls through Blurb, and I thought I would give you the opportunity to order one as well. If you’re interested, comment below and I’ll get in touch with you, and give you further instructions.

I keep a notebook

I keep a notebook of the quirky or memorable things that Lydia says clipped to the fridge with a magnet. Every few days or so, she gives me something to add to it (most recently, “It’s not time for eating people!”), but I’m realizing that, really, Mitch deserves his very own notebook.

From the early days of our marriage, he has won my heart over again and again with his charming misuse of idioms. For example, he said “peachy king” for years, instead of “peachy keen,” until his mean-spirited English major of a wife came along and corrected him.

Instead of “voluptuous,” he said “volumptuous,” a change that we both agreed was an improvement and have permanently adopted. (Imagine our delight when Gloria made the same mistake on Modern Family!)

There are many, many more examples that are even better than those, but I have tragically forgotten them. Because I did not write them down.

For a while, I thought that we’d reached the end of the misuses: perhaps we’d been married long enough that all of  them had been outed and corrected, but the other night, he did it again: while discussing something serious and probably stressful, he unintentionally lightened the mood by saying, “Well, we’ll burn that bridge when we get there.”

I giggled, and could not stop giggling for the longest time, but when I did, I wrote it down. In my notebook.

Cardboard Kitchen

The flu. It’s been here. It’s come and gone, and while it was here, life wasn’t pretty.

But, on the morning that I woke up queasy and feverish, this project saved the day. So, how did a bunch of boxes save a sick mama’s sanity, you ask?

One week earlier, I’d come across this project in an issue of Family Fun magazine. Smitten, I began saving boxes right away, and by the time our fateful morning rolled around, I had accumulated a decent stash. So, with the help of box tape, crayons and a few odds and ends (including, yes, some sterile breastmilk storage bottles), we created our cardboard kitchen.

The original plan was this: after an initial investment of queasy, feverish work, I would set Lydia up with a brand new, deliciously elaborate toy to occupy her for the rest of the day while Sarah amused herself with a teething ring and I languished on the couch.

I say “original” because what really happened was this: I got so absorbed in our project that I kind of forgot to be sick. In fact, I made a few interesting discoveries about myself, namely that I can get just as carried away with a few cardboard boxes as a two-year-old can, and that “crayon on cardboard” is, apparently, my new favorite medium.

So, this delightful set up has been occupying a substantial fraction of our living room for over a week now, and we’re both still enthralled with it. In fact, we’ve added to it as the week goes on. And the best part, in my book, is the fact that we can tear this down when the thrill wears off and then build it anew some other day, when some novel occupation is called for.

(I wish I could do that with a lot of her other toys, honestly.)

When that next time rolls around, I have plans to add a refrigerator. For now, I content myself with turning cardboard scraps into play food (yes, Lydia is cooking up a bacon and cookie saute, liberally seasoned with olive oil and paprika. And who doesn’t crave a cardboard muffin every now and then?).

Little Red Riding Lu

Once upon a time, in the distant land of Living Room, there lived a girl named Lydia Lu. Because of the red hooded sweater she occasionally wore, her mother called her Little Red Riding Lu.

One day, Mother sent Little Red Riding Lu out with a basket of food to take to Grandmother, who was ill in bed.

(Just for good measure, let’s look at that grandmother again.)

Little Red Riding Lu’s grandmother lived all the way on the other side of the forest. To get to her house, Lu had to brave the dark and sinister Christmas Cactus Wood, but she hummed a bright tune as she walked along.

Unbeknownst to her, however, the Big Bad Wolf lurked nearby.

He was a bad seed, with a reputation for upsetting dishes, shredding origami boxes and pilfering baked goods from the kitchen counter. On this day, he was hungry for a helpless, elderly snack, so he hurried ahead of Little Red Riding Lu to Grandmother’s house.

He prepared to strike.

Once he finished with Grandmother, he decided to lie in wait for Little Red Riding Lu. The Big Bad Wolf was as clever as he was bad, so he disguised himself in Grandmother’s clothes, curled up in her bed and waited for Lu.

But though he was clever and bad, The Big Bad Wolf was not brave. When Lu burst into Grandmother’s cottage and cried, “Hi, Kitty!”, he coughed Grandmother back up like a hair ball, and fled.

(It was fortunate that he did so, by the way, because Sparrow the Woodcutter was fast asleep by the radiator in the Land of Bedroom. She would have been no help at all.)

With her grandmother restored to life and health, Little Red Riding Lu gave her the food that Mother had packed, and they feasted with great joy and thanksgiving.

Then, suspecting that it might rain, Little Red Riding Lu prepared to return home.

The trip home was uneventful, with chocolate milk waiting for her when she arrived.

(Note: This endeavor was inspired by these wonderful photos, which a friend sent to me in the midst of a rough morning. We dropped everything to play dress up for a while. We thought it was lovely, though Gunner disagreed.)