Monday, December 17, 2012

Sandy Hook

My love and condolences go out to the families of those affected by the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. I have young children. For every 1 bad guy they learn about, I plan to teach them about 3 heroes. I hug them often, but you can't prevent evil from happening. All you can do is teach them not act on evil.
But one thing is really bothering me about it. This should not be a gun control issue. The shooter did not own or purchase the guns he used to carry out this awful act. He killed and stole them from the owner. This should be a mental health issue. We need to address the mentally ill. There are literally NO options for them to receive help. All you can do is keep alerting the police and keep a record, but that does NOTHING for prevention. My mom is mentally ill. I've had police involved with her before. Will that keep her from getting off her meds and doing things again? NO. Would a state run facility be able to take care of her? YES. Does my state have any facilities? ONE. Is their facility overwhelmed and understaffed? YES. What happens when I try to send my mom away for help? She comes back 1 day later.
So what can you do? Press your local governments to fund mental health programs and facilities. As for gun control.. The only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Gun laws will only create more criminals. The US already has more citizens in jails than any other country in the world. And those aren't safe either.. they're just full of the mentally ill because they have no where else to go for help.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Quick Update

The twins have been doing great in school, and are excited for Christmas!
They have been making so many projects, more than I can keep up with daily. I've given them an arsenal of stickers, glue sticks, scissors, masking tape, construction paper, crayons, markers, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, foam kits, etc. My house looks like a school inside! They can hang their own projects up now.

One of our favorites has been this traffic signs printable pack - http://livinglifeintentionally.blogspot.com/2011/12/traffic-signs-free-preschool-pack.html.
We also use http://www.activityvillage.co.uk and their amazing printables. Santa's going to need to bring some printer ink! They also have an online advent calendar.

We've been watching so many Christmas movies. Mickey's Christmas Carol is huge favorite this year!! L is really into Mickey right now, while K is into The Walking Dead. True, not typical for a 4 year old, but he knows more about the show than Mom and Dad! Here's a sweet video clip. I may have shared it last year as well, but it's a timeless classic.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thanksgiving

We're planning on some good crafts for Thanksgiving, so stay tuned. We're making Indian hats and a special family project that involves hand turkeys.
In the mean time, here's some of our favorite Thanksgiving things online..





Thanksgiving Crafts & Printables from ActivityVillage.co.uk
Free autumn printable scrapbook paper that you can save, but is password protected ("ActivityVillage.co.uk" is password)

Thanksgiving DIY Projects from Martha Stewart, like below
Free downloadable project PDF from HowDoesShe.com
- This is great, my kids are at the age where they like to cut and glue

Free Thanksgiving dinner kit from paperglitter.com
also free labels!

Thanksgiving printables from spoonful.com, has Disney stuff!
I hope you enjoy those!! Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sick Day Activities

One of the twins is home sick from school for a few days. To bust the bored blues, we've been coming up with some activities found on some of our favorite blogs. We went with an aquatic theme today.

Jellyfish in a Bottle- how to @ http://bhoomplay.wordpress.com/2011/09/09/diy_jellyfish_eng/
Materials needed: empty bottle, water, food coloring, piece of plastic bag, string (to tie off water-filled body, see the how-to)
Note: I added glitter to the water after the photos


Magnetic Fishing- how to @ http://www.minieco.co.uk/here-fishy-fishy/
Materials needed: construction paper, hole punch, paper clips, magnetic fishing pole (we have one from our magnetic fish puzzle)



I was trying to see if they could catch certain colors. I said pick only Halloween colors, they chose orange, black and yellow. You can even write numbers on them, or see who can catch the most!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Happy 4th Birthday!

Four years ago, I was miserable and huge, pregnant with twins. It was summer, we had no AC in the car, and September marked "bed rest." I made the mistake of going to a Labor Day party. Sitting in the hot sun when you're in your last trimester is pretty awful. The boys were due October 13. They came September 19. I thought they might have been early, but I wasn't anticipating the day they actually did come. I had to have an emergency c-section. I was in the hospital for a rash. Turns out, my water had broken at some point and I was having "serious contractions" which I never noticed. You don't notice much else when you have 50 pounds of extra weight all centered in your belly (I had actually lost weight everywhere else). The boys were both breech. K was supposed to be first, but they somehow got L first, who was on top. How does a mother know this? L had the hiccups most of my pregnancy and guess which baby had them after he was out. They were 2 minutes apart. K was born with pnemonia and spent a total of 8 days in the NICU. L came home with me after recovery. They were 5 lbs 8 oz & 4 lbs 7 oz. K ended up needing a lot of physical and speech therapy and was diagnosed spastic. You'd never know now. L needed some developmental/behavioral therapy and was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, the mildest form on the autism spectrum. We still struggle with that at times, and probably always will.

This month, they're 4. Today was their first day of Head Start. K's favorite part was sleeping during nap time. L enjoyed the interaction, and he also apparently ate some orange rind too. Not sure if that's better than the crab apple he ate this summer.

We celebrate their birthday this month. (notice the balloons?)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Better than lost treasure

I found a big box at work. Moms don't see garbage, we see kids toys. After all, they really just want the box, not the expensive toy inside. I've seen plenty of boxes become car garages over the summer. So why not a clubhouse?

I remember, as a kid, my mom getting a new fridge. She put the box out on the front porch until garbage day came. I cut a door and a window in it, and before I knew it, we were trying to fit 5 neighborhood kids inside. We had the whole thing colored with markers, we wrote no boys allowed on it. We, girls, did let in 2 boys at the same time by themselves, but we kicked them out after a minute.
Kids love places to call their own. Growing up in the 80's, I had a tent for over my bed that looked like a pink house. I lived in that thing. The box came later, but I was old enough to appreciate the lack of privacy you get in a family household. It only lasted a couple of days, it got too waterlogged after a good rain, and went out with the trash.
I brought the box inside and decorated it while the kids were asleep, so they didn't see it til morning. I drew on this with crayons, and let them do the same. I drew a door on the front, made a back window, flowers on one side, and a tree on the other. I'm surprised that it's still standing and not completely wrecked after about a month. It's even taken some not-so-pleasant tumbles off the couch with a kid in it. They thought it was hilarious, Mom did not. It's been called Mickey Mouse's clubhouse, as well as a zombie house. And yes, it fits both twins.
So if you ever find yourself in possession of a large box, they make the best gifts and memories.

Train Engineer, City Planner, Mom

If you know boys, you know they like trains. We initially found a used train table on craigslist cheap, which we purchased for their 3rd birthday. (Their 4th birthday is right around the corner!) Luckily, it included the original instructions for set-up, so we had a guide on how to set up the tracks. After a year of the boys taking the tracks apart, we eventually figured out how to put it back together from memory. We then acquired another train table, and extra tracks from a family member. Just in time too, ours was falling apart. We moved it upstairs and downstairs too many times. So we get the new table in the house, and stare at it puzzlingly. It's smaller than the last one, which means it doesn't support the last set-up. But now, we have approximately 2 1/2 tables worth of tracks, bridges, etc. Time to get creative! This is what I came up with.
 We have 2 stations (yellow on left, red at bottom), a mountain (center) with 4 connecting tracks under it, and 2 "bridges" (top and top left) that we didn't have the space to add ramps to.
 We also have tons of trains and signs now for their city. Check out the helicopter and helipad (bottom right).
 More than 4 cars causes a derailment, as depicted by K on the red overpass going into the mountain.
I told the boys they can't take this one apart. This is the third from-scratch set-up we've done on this new table, and, by far, the best. They love lots of turns and hills. This has been set up for a couple weeks now, they really, really enjoy it!

I also had enough extra tracks that I set up more on their floor. It spanned half of their room, and was pretty basic. It was taken apart almost immediately, and I never got a picture to show just how many tracks we have now. They use up both drawers, and store larger pieces underneath. We have 2 turn tables, a round house, and a big bridge just to mention a few.

Autumn Ice Cream

Let's welcome much-anticipated autumn, while still stretching out the last days of summer. We've had our first couple of evenings where you need a hoodie. We still have nice warm days where you need the AC on in the car. I like this time of year, and we're soaking up the last weeks of nice weather. I'll be trading in flip flops for pumpkin patches in no time. Not a bad transition. This is a delicious treat for both the hot afternoons and the chilly evenings.

Autumn Ice Cream  serves 1
2 scoops vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt
2 drops orange extract
Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon, clove, pumpkin pie spice and nutmeg. Blend thoroughly with a spoon and enjoy.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Healthier Buffalo Chicken Dip

Food allergies lurk around my family. Two of us are allergic to dairy fat. One of us is allergic to soy and tomatoes. Soy is in so many foods, listed as soybean/vegetable oil and soy flour to name a few. That cuts out anything with flour or oil, because soy is cheap and added to everything. That also cuts many options at the kitchen table, and 99% of dining & snacking out.

One of the family's favorite recipes is buffalo chicken dip. We make it for parties and just for us too. Normally it contains canned chicken, cream cheese (dairy fat), blue cheese crumbles (dairy fat), blue cheese dressing (dairy fat, soy) and hot sauce (soy). I had always played around with the recipe. We're not big fans of blue cheese, so I would replace it with ranch dressing and feta or gorgonzola cheese. I managed to find a soy-free hot sauce, thank goodness, that's a staple in our house. But most salad dressings contain soybean oil. I tried to make ranch dressing on my own, having to make mayonnaise from scratch too. I'm not too crazy about adding raw eggs to make mayo. But I've tried this recipe with homemade ranch because I figured it's going into the oven. But the ranch smelled pretty gross, I guess I need a better recipe. So some more tweaking to the recipe... and I've come up with the best version. It's so good, my allergy-free husband says it's his favorite. And it's low-fat too! Win-win.



Healthy Buffalo Chicken Dip
- 2 cans of Underwood canned chicken
- 8 oz. Neufch√Ętel cheese (found next to the cream cheese, 1/3 less fat)
- 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
- 1/2 cup hot sauce

Mix all ingredients in baking dish. Bake uncovered at 350F for 20 minutes. Serve with veggies, crackers or bread.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Nature walk, part two

Here are some more interesting things that we found on one of our last walks.

 Crab apple tree
 The boys love dandelions.
 Not sure what kind of berry this is. They're not wild blueberries or poison ivy berries.
 Maple leaf
 "Helicopters" Maple seed pods
 Ladybugs love fennel
 These are interesting, not sure what they are
 Fennel
 English Ivy. Our woods are full of it in one part. I'm sure that somebody a long time ago planted some of this and it grew out of control, taking over some parts of the neighborhood.

So there you have it, a botanical view of a typical southwestern PA neighborhood. My sons can usually name different plants and berries already, and can tell if they're toxic or edible. We've been working on kinds of birds lately too. If I can get some good photos of them, I'll be sure to share!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Let's go for a walk

Take a walk with us around our neighborhood
 I believe this is a form of clover
 Today, we found a cool rock
 Then we pass a mulberry tree
 and some cute white bell shaped flowers growing among some succulent plants
and pretty fuzzy purple flowers
 Wild lillies bloom along the tracks
 This is a relative of Queen Anne's lace or fennel
 Red berries make a delicious treat for the birds. I believe they are toxic to humans.
 Some pretty wild grass
 A mossy wall
 This hole used to be a tree stump, but it's a regular stop on our adventures
The boys can tell you about tree bark
Patch of clovers
 pink smartweed
 We always stop!
 Purple nightshade with berries, poisonous
 Queen Anne's lace
 always delicious blackberries
 We're lucky to leave near the woods
 Wild daisies
 clover flower
 chicory growing wild
 last stop: small garden
Good day, black eyed susans!