Three New Year’s resolutions I won’t be making (and a few I maybe will)

This time of year seems to be all about what you are not going to do next year and your plans to change those bad, bad ways. Everyone’s buzzing about making New Year’s resolutions – even my friends over at the Motherboard! After reading their suggestions and checking out what some real ladies are discussing, I got to thinking…

There are three New Year’s resolutions that I will NOT be making this year. Hey, if they happen on their own, that’s great. But, I’m not adding them to my list of things I’m up all night obsessing over. Nope. I’ve got enough to worry about.

So, here goes.

1. Losing weight. Yeah, it would be awesome to lose 10-15 pounds, but I’m not going to starve myself getting there. I love food and think I eat pretty well (no junk-food at my house). Cooking is my stress relief and the idea of having someone deliver my daily calorie-reduced food or laboriously counting food points makes my head hurt. I also live with a toddler who loves cheese and a husband that needs red meat and pasta to survive. I might be seriously maimed if those things aren’t available in the house….

2. Drinking less. With the aforementioned toddler and husband, I’m driven to drink here and there. I’m not downing a bottle of chardonnay by 2 in the afternoon, but yes, (gasp) I like a big drink at the end of the night. I think I deserve it. And, if that turns into another adult beverage after that first drink, I’m all good with that.

3. Saving money. This idea makes me twitch. Not only does it include lots and lots and lots of things (like saving for the wee tot’s college career, saving for a new car, saving for a pair of shoes, saving for a bathroom remodel), it makes me realize that there isn’t enough money to do all these things. Even if I made a boat load of cash it still wouldn’t be “enough,” because you always want more, more, and more money.

So, with that being said, there are a couple of things I’m planning on doing this new year, including:

1. Slathering as much love on my wee tot and other loved ones as possible. One thing I took away from this year is that life is precious and can change without discussing it with you first. I lost a friend, a cat, and had some interesting twists and turns along the way. The last thing I want to think about in the middle of the night is how I haven’t shared with others how much I love and care for them.

2. Cooking more and eating out less. This is good on all fronts. By cooking more at home and using lots of the healthy stuff, we are all eating better at my house – and cutting the costs of all those tasty lunches and brunches on the weekends (AND those extra calories)! So, the end result will be less eggs benedicts for me (win), more cash in my pocket (win), and more stress-release cooking for me (WIN)!

3. Paying toward my daughter. While paying those annoying bills each month, I’m going to start paying toward my wee tot’s future by putting X amount of money into her account. I’m just going to act like it’s another bill – it’s as easy as that. And, I think it’s only fair, too.

4. Putting myself first.

(This may take a couple of years to work on.)

5. Not worrying about what others think and say. Hey, I love you all, but you aren’t living my life. I value your opinions and suggestions, but I’m going to do what feels right for me.

So, are you making any resolutions this year? What’s at the tippy-top of your list?

Fine-motor skills

 

There’s something amazing about watching a small child navigate a new toy or pick up a pencil and quickly transform that white wall in the living room into a masterful work of art (before you can get to her in time to snatch that pencil away). Fine-motor skills are developed through manipulating, playing, and experimenting with small toys, objects, and mark-making tools. Those wee little muscles in your child’s hands are honed while she is squashing play dough, drawing with a marker, or turning the pages of a book.

Most babies begin exploring the wonders of fine-motor skills through clenching and un-clenching their fists. Those little hands sure seem to have the ability to tug your hair or pinch that tender skin under your arms from birth! Encouraging fine-motor coordination at this age is as easy as offering things to your babe for her to reach, hold, and pull on – other than your hair and arms. There are tons of toys that will encourage her to grasp, but using simple around-the-house items, such as a clean rubber spatula, offers great picking up potential, as well as safe mouthing exploration.

As a child ages, her fine-motor skills advance, too. She’s able to pick things up, grasp and manipulate objects, and use items in ways you can’t even imagine. I think every mommy and daddy remembers that fateful day when some mark-making tool was left out without concern and was discovered by the babe to be used to mark up the new white sofa, freshly painted wall, or the carpet. Just about every mark-making tool the child can get her hands on is put in the mouth or used to scribble on everything! Offer your child lots and lots of art materials, which encourage her first experiences in art. Chalk is a wonderful option, and easily wipes off walls!

All that grasping and scribbling serves an important purpose – handwriting development! As the child begins to tire of scribbling all kinds of scribbles, her fine-motor abilities can be explored through drawing shapes above a line, following dots to form letters, or lacing string through holes or threading buttons and beads. Along with getting those small muscles moving and grooving, your child is developing her hand-eye coordination, which also benefits artistic endeavors, advancements in handwriting, and abilities for making cool stuff with her hands.

Remember that all kids develop differently and at their own pace. Some will be ready to use that pencil as young as one year of age while others may not be excited about drawing until the age of three. Go with the flow and provide lots and lots of positive feedback along the way. And, it doesn’t hurt to model positive behavior by spending some time doing fine-motor activities with your child, too. Rolling and squeezing play dough is fun (and great stress relief), and a wonderful way to bond with your wee-tot.

Don’t hesitate to contact your pediatrician if you feel your child isn’t excited about exploring her fine-motor skills. Everyone has more fun learning through play, so keep things light and enjoyable when introducing new fine-motor skills to your child. Take the pressure off by doing the activities with her and incorporate learning into everyday situations – such as being in charge of holding the grocery list at the store! Even if she drops it, she can use her fingers to pick up and grasp that list as tightly as she can!

The “second child” syndrome

© Sarah Lipoff, 2010

During these days of Christmas, I remember a couple of years ago when we were waiting on our daughter to make her arrival. She’ll be two in January, and you know what that means. When’s the next one coming? Are you thinking about having more kids? How many years are you thinking between kids? Have you thought about having another one?

Yup. It’s the second child syndrome. No matter who you talk to, how well you know them, if they are someone standing in line with you in the grocery store – they ask. Are you thinking about having another one?

I finally freaked a bit about it when an elderly gentleman at the grocery store became utterly enamored with my daughter while waiting in line at the meat counter. You know how those old folks get, they want to waggle fingers at babies and oogle and google. I love it and always welcome interaction with strangers that want to chat with the babe – but then things get all messed up when the ADULT conversation starts.

How old is she?

Almost two.

Is there a little brother or sister on the way?

Hmmmmmm.

Well, I don’t really know you, and am not sure you want to know my whole pregnancy/birthing story so, sure, if you want I can totally go into detail about the three years it took to get pregnant with our daughter and my fear that it will be challenging for us to get knocked-up again and cause TOTAL un-imaginal heart ache when it doesn’t happen.

Happy?

And, no, I’m not pregnant.

I love our daughter so much and know that all you mommies and daddies out there understand what I’m saying. I can’t imagine what life would be like with another one.

But, I also totally understand that “if and when” that other little one potentially comes along that I couldn’t imagine life without him/her either.

Such a hard decision.

For now I’m going to soak up all the wonders my wee tot has to offer. This is a special time of year with Christmas and her birthday just about wrapped up in one.

When did you know it was “time” for second baby?

Holiday treats

I would love to say that I’ve been sticking to my weight-loss plans and eating healthy, but it’s pretty hard this time of year. And, I really have no self control at all. I love cookies, chocolate, cookies, chocolate, and cookies. So, this is my super favorite time of year and I’m eating those cookies and chocolates, and pretty much anything else you’ve got, too.

Every year I make a couple of fun and different treats for friends and family as gifts. I figure it’s an opportunity to find holiday recipes I haven’t made before, create yummy goodness to share with others, and I get to keep a stash just for me. Win, win, win! I always make toffee (sorry, not sharing that recipe) and then something else.

While we were out picking up our Christmas tree (yes, we took the plunge), the babe had her first taste of a candy cane! Let me tell you, it was love at first lick! Watching her enjoying that sticky thing got me thinking about my plans for making delectables. Maybe it was time to mix things up. And, I was thinking candy canes might do the trick…

Well, I found a winner this year – pepermint sticks. I loved the idea of something peperminty, chocolaty, and salty – super YUM! But, I wanted to put my own spin on things. So, I figured why not use pretzel sticks instead? I followed the recipe and made half with pepermint sticks and the other half with pretzels. I even crumbled up some of the pepermint sticks to coat the chocolatly-dipped prezels.

Tasty.

After I got all the goodies packaged and ready to be passed out, it was time for the final preparations for my parents arrival. If you remember, last week I went crazy cleaning the house, and I wanted to get the guest room feeling cozy for them. And, it took the most part of the week to actually procrastinate myself into DOING the cleaning. The guest room was feeling more like an unused dusty library than a nice visitor retreat. I needed some motivation on how to turn those boring old bookshelves into an inviting environment.

Well, low and behold, I fell in love with a Motherboard storage idea that would make our lame-o bookshelves become a much happier home for clothes, extra blankets and maybe even a spot to sit and take off your shoes. With a quick coat of paint, a couple of squishy pillows, and the removal of lots and lots of books, the room looked more like a nice sleeping-spot for the parents than a dumping ground for old text books. Love it!

Whatever your plans for the holidays, I wish you health, happiness, and time with those you love!

Season’s Greetings!

Eclipse

And, I’m not talking the vampire, werewolf, human-type drama stuff (you know what I’m saying). This is real-life, people.

I am so ready for winter this year and everything it has to bring. My daughter’s second birthday, another year with my husband, happy-healthy friends and family, and lots of great stuff right around the corner. When the clouds broke to let the amazing moonlight shine through, the hubs and I couldn’t resist standing on the deck and belligerently whooping like high-schoooolers.

Happy winter!

Things I’ve learned while potty training

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve given potty training a half-hearted attempt with my daughter. Yeah, she’s young (just shy of two), but I think she’s ready for it. As a preschool teacher, I totally helped rock the potty training world of many a parent and child, but am finding this whole potty training thing in MY home to be a bit different.

And not for the better.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Putting a potty seat in the bathroom isn’t going to magically invite your child to run and pull down her pants to pee. In fact, the potty seat is the coolest toy ever. You get to sit on it, make pretend peeing noises, tear bits of toilet paper off to toss into it, and get attention whenever you go near it. Seriously, that’s like a kid’s biggest happiest thing ever. Actually going POTTY isn’t at the tippy-top of her mind while she’s hanging out with her new toy.

Peeing with your kids wont make it happen. I’ve peed with my daughter so many times I feel like she knows more about my peeing habits than I do (yeah, gross). She tears the toilet paper for me, likes to make sure I flush, and wont let me leave the bathroom without washing my hands. AND, you have NO idea the fun that happens when she gets to hang out with the hubs when he pees.

Pull-ups are a pain in the ass. Not only are they challenging for kids to pull up and down on their own, they can be super disgustingly gross to deal with when babe has gone number two. FUN.

I’m lazy. Potty training takes diligence and I am the Queen of Procrastination. This means that taking the wee tot to the potty every 20-30 minutes to give it a go just isn’t happening. And, I don’t have her trained to get in that bathroom on her own – yet. I do have visions of ringing a bell and the babe instantly stopping whatever she’s doing and robotically heading straight to the potty….

Going free-willy isn’t happening at my house. There’s a small part of my brain that has shorted out remembering my words to potty training parents, “hey, just go without those diapers and see what happens.” Seriously? What was I thinking. I let the babe run about for just a smidge too long the other night after bath time sans diaper and she left a wonderful surprise on her bedroom carpet.

So, those are my potty training pearls of wisdom. I’m sure you’ve got your list – especially if you are in the middle of potty training at your house, too. There’s no quick fix and some kids pick it up easily while others sure take their time.

I’m hoping my wee tot figures it out on her own and one day whips off her diaper declaring herself perfectly potty trained.

I can dream, right?

Handmade Christmas ornaments

© Sarah Lipoff

In anticipation of getting our first Christmas-tree-with-child, I totally admit to having some concern that the tree will just be a glowing full-of-lights tree devoid of any ornaments. We have some lovely ornaments from my husband’s side of the family and I would hate for this to be the year that they are no longer family heirlooms.

So, I got to thinking and remembered a crafty project I’d done with students in the past. It’s simple, easily accomplished at any age, and you can make lots and lots of them!

Squishy shiny balls of fun – which would make PERFECT unbreakable Christmas tree ornaments!

You probably have what you need around the house, and you can get the kids to create an assembly line if you are wanting to make a gazillion of them. Just make sure to cover your work table – this project gets messy! I made a couple with my daughter and gave them a test-run on a tree outside to see how the wee tot would treat them. She spent a good amount of time ooooohing and aaaaahhhhing while looking at their glittery coolness!

Stuff you need:
Mod Podge (or plain ol’ white glue)
Brushes
Tissue paper
Glitter
Balloons
Tinfoil
Scissors
Large craft needle
Fishing line

Start by blowing up the balloons until each is about 3 to 4-inches in diameter. To help the balloon from slip-sliding away, you can form a little nest out of tinfoil to keep it steady.

Go ahead and invite your kids to tear several sheet of tissue paper into bits about 1-inch in size. You can use one color of tissue paper or mix and match. Tearing encourages your child’s fine motor skills, which is great for developing all those small muscles in her hands!

Your kids can coat the balloon with glue and then layer on the tissue paper! If you’re using Mod Podge, this stuff is awesome – but a bit smelly. If you can, work in a ventilated area, or open up a window and let the fresh air flow. This is also the super-messy part, and if you’re working with colored tissue paper, your fingers – and clothes, may get a bit colorful as well!

Keep gluing and layering tissue paper until the entire balloon is covered except for the upper tippy-top where it’s tied. Now give each a quick sprinkle with glitter and let dry overnight.

The next day, cut the top of the balloon with a scissors and watch as it shrinks up the shell of tissue paper. You can gently pull out the balloon and then poke and squish the shiny tissue paper shell back into a round form.

Take that big craft needle (or a push-pin would do) and make a hole on either side of the top opening of your shiny and glittery ornament. You can thread with fishing line, tie, and then hang!

These are great to put on the tree or let your youngsters play with! What’s great is they wont break! They may get all squished up, but you wont have any broken bits of cherished ornaments to clean up….

The holiday cleaning

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

The guests are coming – THE GUESTS ARE COMING.

That means the whole house needs a complete cleaning and sprucing, but then it needs to STAY clean. When you’ve got a wee tot walking about, short of closing all the doors, the whole place is going to get dirtied up the minute you’ve finished buffing the faucets. Along with a big clean, I’ve got to make some extra room for our holiday guests and find a proper home for all those baby toys.

And, did I mention the guest are my parents?

Yeah, mom, I know you’re reading this and told me not to do too much, but the place really needs a cleaning. Really. It’s amazing to me the amount of mess a small child can create – and a husband, and newly-single whining cat. Add to that a Christmas tree, a lovely collection of ants that have decided to move in, and lots of glittering decorations, the whole place is mess-tastic.

I have big plans for cleaning and decorating this week, but how am I supposed to keep it up until my parents arrive? I found a couple of helpful cleaning and de-cluttering tips that motivated to stick to my cleaning plans (ugh) and feel confident I can keep those faucets shining for weeks to come.

You know, it all comes down to multi-tasking, and I KNOW I’m good at that!

Along with wiping the counters while waiting for my morning water to boil, I’m going to offer the babe a damp towel, too! She’s at the age where she loves observing and copying behavior, so why not model (and encourage) cleaning skills? I’ve also found using baby wipes are an easy go-to when the bathroom needs a quick scrub. Now that we’re working on potty training, I’ve got a container of wipes in each bathroom. All I have to do is open a drawer and I’ve got easy access to shiny bathroom countertops!

I’m not a big fan of air fresheners, but with the holiday season upon us, it’s nice to have a fragrant scent (other than diapers and cat box) drifting through the air. I picked up some cinnamon scented candles, you know, the really smelly ones, and found safe spots out of our daughter’s reach to place them. I don’t know about you, but hanging out in a house that smells like fresh-baked cinnamon rolls is a-okay with me.

So, now that I’ve got the game plan set for cleaning – and keeping things clean – it’s on to decorating! I’m leaning toward some sparkly gold decorations this year and found some lovely ideas from my friends over at Better Homes and Gardens that are super simple and so pretty. I’m also planning on creating some crafty child-safe golden and glittering ornaments, too.

But, more about that later.

I have cleaning to do.

Happy Mondays: Living

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

This was a crazy weekend. Our daughter is at a stage where she doesn’t sleep because she’s afraid she might miss something. This means at 5:30 am I have a very awake and verbal babe in the other room going, “mama, mama, mama, mama……dada?” Your heart melts even though you’re so pissed about being awake at 5:30 am YET AGAIN.

So, this weekend, the husband had great plans for keeping the babe busy and awake during the day so she would sleep blissfully until 7:00 am – because that’s totally sleeping in for us. There were hopes of some morning hubs/wife time, coffee in bed, the child serenely awakening, you know, the whole happy-family thing. The husband and I made a list of all the fun items we needed while shopping and cozy-ed in for the night on Friday.

None of that happened.

None of it.

Bright and early Saturday morning (4:30 am) our daughter was awake and singing the ABC’s in her crib. The husband was still snoring, so I just waited it out. By the time he awoke at 5:30, she was singing itsy-bitsy spider pretty loudly and very off-key. Yes, cute, but not so cute when we had gone to sleep at 11 the night before. Oh, and I had been sprouting gray hairs since 4:45 am.

So, the husband did one of the most Amazing Things and took the babe upstairs so I could get a bit more sleep. In the almost two-years of our daughter’s life, he didn’t wake up once during the night to help feed or soothe her (mainly because he might be the soundest sleeper I have ever met). Which means I’m more than happy to let him hang with her a couple of uber-early mornings and not feel bad about it.

Then, we tried to run errands and didn’t make it far. Our back tires needed replacing, it was raining, the car was spinning. We also needed to meet with future-photography clients in the afternoon (with the child) and ended up having to ditch the shopping for tires.

Boring.

After we met with clients, got the baby to bed, and finally ate dinner, it was time to plan the next day. We had a model coming for a photo shoot, which meant the house needed cleaning, clothes selected, and ideas sorted out. It also meant getting the babe to really SLEEP. Otherwise the next day would be a disaster.

Well, 5:00 am rolled around and the ABC’s came tra-la-laaaaaaaaing out of the babe’s room, which almost went to the beat of the hubs snoring. I grabbed the wee tot, tossed her in the bed, and we all actually snuggled and snoozed for the first time ever! In the past, our daughter would just grab, pull, poke, and prod. But, this morning, she blissfully hung out allowing me a seriously needed couple of hours of dozing.

While grabbing my coffee, I received news that a friend had gone missing. This is a friend I’ve known for almost 10 years. The last thing you ever what to hear is that someone you know and care about is missing.

The day went by in a daze. The photo shoot went smoothly. The hubs did his job, our make-up artist was totally amazing, and the model was hot.

I stood in the corner trying to be motivational but I just wasn’t there.

Life is precious. We so take it for granted.

You never know what might happen

Please. Love your life, and love each other.

*We received word our friend was located and transported to the hospital late last night. I have no idea what happened and really don’t know if I want to imagine what did.

TV and your babe’s brain (a bit of a rant)

© Sarah Lipoff 2010

This morning I came across yet another article telling us mommies and daddies that plopping our kid in front of the TV diminishes language development. There are quotes from research, fancy important people sharing facts and ratios, and a couple of big words tossed in, too.

Really? I think most of us KNOW that using television as a babysitter isn’t the best for encouraging our wee tot’s brains.

What I did find interesting was that the article states that the stuff we like our kids to watch, like Sesame Street or Yo Gabba Gabba, weren’t taken into consideration in the study. Just shows not geared for kids.

Hey, guess what? My daughter doesn’t watch anything other than PBS kid shows and maybe an occasional Disney movie. I’m not cuddling up on the couch with her to catch a couple of episodes of True Blood.

And, if a parent IS watching that with their young child, that’s just not cool.

I think we are all aware that the television isn’t the best for encouraging brain development, stimulating learning, or motivating interaction. But, when a parent is watching WITH the child and enjoying the bonding time together, doesn’t that count for something? Stating that it is recommended that all children under the age of two aren’t exposed to ANY TELEVISION AT ALL seems a bit unrealistic, doesn’t it?

How about some research on which shows motivate kids to learn new things or develop language skills? Maybe some uplifting information on how Sesame Street is one of the longest running television shows dedicated to educate and inform? I’d love to hear about new and exciting educational children’s programs like Juno Baby!

So, until then, I’m letting my child enjoy her allotted 60-minutes of daily television, which usually includes our favorite, Sesame Street. Sometimes we get in some Sid the Science Kid, and a bit of another goodie, The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That!.

What television shows are you watching with your kids – or do you keep the TV off in your home?