How many hours should a toddler sleep? (because mine isn’t)

It seems the nights are getting shorter and shorter at my house instead of the opposite. Our lovely daughter has decided sleeping is for the cats and she would rather ramble for hours and hours like some crazed coffee drinker in an all night cafe than peacefully slumber. This means the hubs and I are both starting to slowly go insane.


Sure, we had the no-sleep thing when she was really young, but that was different. She was small and cute and sweet and fresh and new. Sure, she’s still cute, but she can talk now. She can say NO. She can say things like HELP ME, HEEEEAAAALP MEEEEEEE! after being tucked in tight for the night, which causes me to go crashing down the stairs in a split second imagining broken limbs and swallowed pennies.

Nope. She needs her blanket just right.

And now there’s the whining. And the repeating. Whining and repeating, repeating and whining.

No one is having a great time at my house right now. This makes me feel like a horrible parent and doesn’t encourage those lovey-dovey mommy and tot moments I know everyone else is having.

There’s no definite declaration for amounts of slumbering time for kids, but there are a few suggestions. KidsHealth finds most tots sleep around 10-12 hours a night. That’s just a crazy dreamy amount of time for my house. On a good night my daughter averages 8 hours of sleep.

Nope. She’s not napping all hours of the day. She’ll maybe doze for about 90 minutes in the afternoon.

Nope. We’re not keeping her up late or changing up her nighty-night routine. Every evening about 7:45 I trot her downstairs, read her a bedtime story, and tuck her in. The husband and I are lulled into a false reality that she’s snoring away, but usually by 8:30 we hear a little giggle. I ignore the noise and it progresses. Eventually she rolls out the big guns and I go down (I don’t make eye contact or conversation), tuck her back in, and walk away.

Maybe by 10 she’s asleep.

She’s awake by 6.

Let’s just say no one’s real cheery at our house lately.

Maybe tonight she’ll sleep.



Flowered t-shirt headband

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

The other day the tot and I were getting ready to head out for a play date and I thought we could toss together something cute to give her friend. I had just finished putting away the laundry and pulling out a few of my daughter’s t-shirts that were too small and got an idea. I’d seen some really cute ideas for making paper flowers and wanted to give something a try.

Why not create t-shirt flowers and cozy them up on a headband?


This is a super-simple project, and let me tell you, somewhat addicting. After finishing the adorable wee headband for our friend, I made several more in hopes my daughter would be enticed to wear one. Nope. She’s still anti-anyone-or-anything-touching her hair. Serious bummer because these little headbands are totally adorable, and even us big girls can wear them, too. And, hey, if you’ve got a junior ms. crafty at your house, she can create her own unique flower headbands all on her own.

Start by cutting a strip from the center of the t-shirt about 1 to 2-inches in width. This will be the base of the headband after some adjustments.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Now cut several squares from the t-shirt of various sizes. I cut about 12 2 by 2-inch squares for this headband.Transform the squares of t-shirt into flowers by cutting organic flower shapes and then staking several together.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

To create the base of the headband, use a length of string the measure the circumference of your (or the headband recipient’s) head and then subtract 2-inches. That should be just about right for the length of your headband. Go ahead and cut one of the seams from the strip cut from the t-shirt, and then trim to the correct length.

Sew through the middle of a stack of t-shirt flowers and then secure with a knot. I added a little bead just for fun in the center of the flowers. Then sew the seam of the headband with a length of string and a needle with a basic straight stitch.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Now attach the flowers to the headband by simply stitching through the center. You can gather them together in a happy cozy collection along one of the seams.

Your flowered t-shirt headband is ready to wear!


Sunday spectacular: Summer in the city

Yesterday the husband wanted to run some errands in San Francisco. We live just a touch north of  the city, and the hubs works there during the week, so I was a bit surprised he wanted to head back into the dreariness over the weekend when at our house it was toasty and sunny. While driving about going from here to there, I grabbed the hub’s phone and got some pictures. By the time we found the perfect lunch spot, the sun had pushed its way through that fog and everyone came out to bask in its glory.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011
© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011


Flower sun prints

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

The last couple of days have been nice and warm at my house, almost as if summer is making its last-ditch effort on some hot, sun-filled days. I figured we’d take advantage and head outdoors to use that sun for an art activity with an end result we would both love.

The sun is hot, and along with offering us warmth and energy, it also has the ability to fade items left outdoors basking it its glow. So using a piece of construction paper as a base for some flowers is a simple way to create a sun print that will remind your child of the long summer days.

This project is super easy and can be accomplished by any age level. Just offer some assistant with the second part of the project if working with younger kids. Start by heading outdoors and collecting any summer flowers that your child thinks will leave a nice print. Once she’s got a nice collection, she can place a sheet of construction paper (any color works fine) in a sun-filed spot that isn’t breezy – you don’t want everything to blow away while the sun is doing its job!

Now she can think about placement of those flowers. Sure, she can plop them down willy-nilly, but encourage your child to think about how the flowers can be positioned to create an arrangement of shapes that move the eye around the paper.

Leave the paper in the sun for at least two hours. Once time is up, your child can carefully lift a flower and check how much the paper has faded. If she’s happy with the results, she can remove, and save, the flowers and then get ready for the next step. Or, if she wants things more faded, let the paper sit for another couple of hours – if you are all that patient!

Create a fun frame for the sun print by glueing together four craft sticks into a square and then positioning and then gluing (or hot gun glueing) the flowers around the craft stick frame. Using a hot glue gun is hot, so offer adult supervision as needed with the older kids if wielding hot glue guns.

Once the frame is dry, invite your child to cut out her favorite section of the sun print and glue to the frame. Tie a length of ribbon or wire to the top corners of the frame and find the perfect place to display. Everyone will remember what a sunny summer it was when they look at the flower sun print art work!

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Tana French: Faithful Place

faithful place tana french

Ever read a book so entrancing you can’t put it down and then nothing gets done? Yeah, after reading the first few pages of Faithful Place by Tana French, our laundry piled up.

Head on over to BlogHer to check out the rest of my review of Faithful Place, and then go pick it up or download it.

But, be warned.

Nothing else is going to get done. Plan on reading, reading, reading all day (and all night) long!



Leaving the tot to play while taking a shower wasn’t the best idea.

Forgetting that black permanent marker on my desk was a worse idea.



*This week’s assignment was simple: write a story of your choice. The catch? Write it as a tweet. Use only 140 characters – including spaces.

**Oh, and it’s totally a true story.

Caramelized onion basil rolls


© Sarah Lipoff 2011

My garden has decided to produce quite a bit of basil. I love basil – the way it smells, how it freshens up a salad, and its smooth flavor in sauces. But, by this time of year, I’ve gotten a bit tired of chopping up basil and adding it to this-and-that.

I needed some inspiration.

Well, the other day, I was pursuing Pinterest (You don’t know about Pinterest? Well, I caution you, because it’s ADDICTING, but, sure, go ahead, check it out and then come back) and found a lovely and pretty recipe for caramelized onion gorgonzola flat breads. I love gorgonzola. The rest of my family? Not so much. But, those flatbreads were the total inspiration I needed to create something yum with all that basil. They just needed some tweaking.

Caramelized onion basil rolls.

You can make your own dough or used a pre-made bread dough from your frozen food section. Either way is totally fine. And, other than waiting for the dough to rise and the onions to caramelize, this is a super easy and tasty recipe perfect for snacking, cute appetizers, or in place of dinner roles.

I started the process by caramelizing the onions, which really is easier than you think. I had half a red onion and another half of a white that I sliced thin and placed in a sauté pan with 1 teaspoon oil, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, a couple shakes of salt and pepper, and a sprinkle of fresh thyme. You can use one medium onion, red, yellow, or white. Put your sliced onion over medium-low heat and stir every once in a while for about an hour. You can toss in a splash of water if things get dried out.

For real. That simple.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

If you’re making homemade dough, now is the perfect time to get things started. Put a package of yeast in a large bowl and add 1 teaspoon brown sugar and 2 teaspoons oil. In a separate bowl, add 1/2 milk to 1/2 hot water and mix together to create a warm liquid and pour over the yeast, sugar, and oil. Let things bubble for about 2-minutes and then stir in 2-cups flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add another cup of flour and then dump everything on a nice clean work surface. Kneed the dough for about 5-minutes, working the rest of the flour into the dough. Then return to the bowl, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rest for an hour.

Now it’s time to get rolling! Punch down the dough and roll into a nice big, long rectangle. Turn off the heat on the caramelized onions and gather the rest of the ingredients:

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup fresh spinach leaves

4 ounces room temperature cream cheese

1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 cup caramelized onions (or however much you’ve got in your pan)

Salt and pepper

Olive oil for brushing the tin and tops

Muffin tin

Spread the cream cheese around the rectangle of dough. If it doesn’t cover the whole thing, that’s okay. Tear the leaves of spinach and basil and sprinkle over the top of the cream cheese. Evenly distribute the caramelized onions and then the cheese. Give the whole thing a sprinkle of salt and pepper and then roll, starting at one of the widest edges of the dough and rolling to the other edge. Pinch the edges together to seal and grab your muffin tin.

Preheat the oven to 400 F and brush the bottoms and sides of the muffin tin with olive oil. Cut the loaf into 1 to 2-inch sections and nestle into the muffin tin. Go ahead and brush the tops with oil, too. If you fill up the tin with rolls, save the rest of the dough for the next batch. Or, if you’ve got another muffin tin, go ahead and fill it, and then pop in the oven, too.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Bake your caramelized onion basil rolls for about 20-minutes or until the tops have turned a bubbly brown. Let cool for about 5-minutes and then pop out of the tins with the help of a butter knife.


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Old new table

I’m a total sucker for stuff on the side of the road. Just a couple of months ago, I found the perfect dresser to finish one of the last house projects I was working on. So, once that was tackled, I really wasn’t eyeing the corners or turning my head looking for random things.

But, once again, at the end of our street, just around the corner, there was something lurking. A peak of curved wood and some rustic texture caught me off guard and I had to pull over.

The problem was my new find was too big to toss in the back. Without shame, I jumped out of the car, yelled to the hubs to sit with the babe, popped the table on the top of my head and trekked it home.

Yes, a couple of my neighbors pointed and laughed, but I didn’t care.

Free table!

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

While we were out doing our Saturday morning errands, I was totally distracted while thinking about that table.

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

I’m no expert or anything, but I’ve learned a lot from watching my dad do fun stuff with wood and also from being at the far end of the school building while teaching art, which meant I was usually next to shop class. I’m comfortable using power tools and getting my hands dirty. And I knew that funky, dusty, dried out table was going to be perfect after a bit of love.

Instead of going the painting route, I decided that taking things down to the natural wood and layering on several coats of Minwax Satin Wipe-on Poly would be best. Sure, those colorful ideas were lurking in the back of my mind, but, I had a bit more of a reserved idea for this table. I recently purchased a desk to actually plop a computer on and needed a nice table for the corner to place a wonderfully distracting TV for when I needed a moment to zone out.

Once the table was situated in the yard, I used a medium grit sandpaper (80-120) to work off the really dry areas and any stains and marks while trying to preserve the details. I worked the top, the sides, legs, and base. Yes, this was messy, and there was tons of wood grit floating everywhere, which made working outdoors less of a mess – and less of an inhalation ick.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Then I used a nice, damp rag to dust and wipe away any remaining dust and wood bits and used a fine grit sandpaper (150-180) to finish off any areas still needing a bit of attention. Sure, I could’ve used the power sander while doing this, but I think when working on an item with any details, there’s potential for sanding everything fun away. Sanding can be a bit addicting, so with this project, I felt working by hand would ensure those unique details would remain intact.

Next I popped on some latex gloves and dug my wipe-on poly, and began pouring it on and then using a clean rag to carefully rub and smooth the shellac on the table. Using gloves guarantees your hands won’t smell like a gas station for the rest of the day. And that table was so dried out it sucked up almost the entire 16 ounce container! As soon as I finished with one coat, the top was dry and ready for more!

Now, if you want things to be super high gloss, by all means, keep pouring, rubbing, and layering (or use Gloss Poly) – but after about four rounds, I was pretty happy with how things were looking. The rustic wood was showing through, but there was a nice sheen to the table and no dry or rough spots. All that was left was a cute and clean table with a happy finish ready to be placed in the perfect spot.

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

And, I love it.

Sunday spectacular: Train Town

This weekend was all about doing stuff with the tot, which made the hubs and I both really feel like parents. Yeah, we do things all the time with our daughter, but it’s mostly going here and there while shuffling her with us. She enjoys it, or at least tolerates it. So, for the last couple of days, we celebrated our daughter and put aside our regular errands to bask in the wonders of a toddler exploring new things for the first time.

There’s this place called Train Town not too far from our house. We’ve been there before, but our daughter was pretty young and we were with some wonderful friends, so everything was a bit of a blur. We headed back for another go around, and let me just say, the smile on her face was precious.

As we stuffed her kicking and screaming back into the car, we knew a fantastic time was had by all.

(Thankfully, she fell asleep quite promptly after we started the drive home.)

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

 © Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

 © Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

Self-reliant preschoolers

© Sarah Lipoff 2011

“NO, I do it.”

Whether it’s walking up the stairs without holding someone’s hand, putting on (and selecting) her own clothes, or carrying the way-too-heavy grocery bags, my child has a case of the “no, I do-its.”

I’m so glad she’s excited about exploring her abilities and finds cleaning up her messes and putting her own clean and freshly folded laundry away. But that laundry ends up as a big clumpy pile in a corner of her room and the mess turns a bit messier from her cleaning efforts. While resisting my urge to do these things for my tot (and wondering why this I Can Do It attitude magically disappears on the potty-training front) I remembered an article I created for Funderstanding about self-reliant preschoolers.

I figured the article deserved a good re-read, especially because we are heading back to preschool in a couple of weeks. And, if you’ve got a toddler at home returning or starting preschool for the first time, you might find these ideas and insights helpful, too!

Self-reliant preschoolers

As parents, we want to encourage our kids to think for themselves and make smart, positive decisions. But sometimes we get stuck on wanting things to be done to our own expectations and a helping hand is offered before the child can think or do something or themselves. And then there are those moments we become “helicopter parents,” where more time is spent focusing on directing the child’s behavior than nurturing it. The toddler’s developing brain is an amazing thing, and all these aspects play a role on how it advances.


Self-reliant behavior is the concept of encouraging one to feel confident, able to make decisions, and do things for themselves. Ralph Waldo Emerson spent some time contemplating the understanding of self and the importance of trusting one’s self-being. For parents of toddlers, this can be a challenging concept – especially when preparing for preschool. Taking the time to nurture the child’s growing abilities and interests can be overwhelming and exhausting. But it is an important step for creating self-reliance in toddlers and preparing them for what is to come in preschool.

Most preschoolers are expected to accomplish simple tasks throughout the day.  From putting on their own jackets to knowing their numbers and letters, a preschooler is inherently interested and excited with new tasks and concepts. Sometimes the simplest mission an adult might take for granted, such as selecting a spot to sit for lunch, can be a big challenge to a child. As adults, offering children the opportunity to build their self-confidence and self-reliance makes those moments a bit easier for the child, and often with wonderful results.

Helping your toddler

Before heading to preschool there are a few simple ways you can help your child build his self-reliance. Understand that this may be a frustrating time for everyone involved, but with some dedication, and a lot of patience, the outcomes speak loud and clear.

Encourage your child to do simple tasks on his own. As much as you might want to hurry things along and put those shoes on for your toddler, it is a good idea to let him do it himself – and the way he wants to. This means if he gets them on, but those shoes are on the wrong feet, do not correct him. While he is working through the task, offer lots of encouraging words as well as giving him some space. Instead of offering praise such as, “you are doing a good job, “ use direct words such as, “I am pleased you are spending so much time concentrating.”

Let your child make decisions. This does not mean letting your child be the decision- maker on big things, but encourage him to pick out his own clothes in the morning (even if things do not match) or select dinner one night a week. When your child feels he makes decisions that are respected and taken seriously, he is building his self-confidence encouraging his self-reliance. As the child ages, he will continue making smart decisions, helping to build a well-rounded adult.

Stand back. When your child is about to take a risk, stand back and watch what happens. Obviously, if your child’s well-being is in danger, step in and redirect his behavior. But if he is making the decision to try his bike without training wheels, maybe it is time to see if he really can do it. Preschoolers are daredevils and learning everyday what their bodies can and cannot do. By allowing your child to healthfully explore his abilities without hearing a constant, “NO,” he is learning you trust him and his decisions.

Give your preschooler responsibilities. Even young kids are capable of doing small tasks. Allow your child to be in charge of doing something he can do regularly, like wiping the table after the family meal. Kids like to feel they are contributing successfully to day-to-day living. His sense of accomplishment is his reward, and the more he understands this, the more smart decisions he will make, along with wanting to take on more responsibilities.

Be confident and model positive behavior. The first day of preschool is often hard on parent and child. Expect to endure separation anxiety at some point from your child. As an adult, model positive behavior and stay confident, even when feeling overwhelmed. Your child will be encouraged to do the same. Talk through concerns with your child before the first day including time for your child to share his worries, thoughts, and questions. By answering his concerns and talking out all his reservations, he is learning his thoughts are respected and heard, building his own self-confidence and understanding of what the preschool experience will be.

Trust others. Remember, the preschool teachers are there for help as well as others in your community. Encouraging your child to trust others builds his understanding of community and his role within it. When he sees adults sharing and communicating, he understands he should, too. This will build his ability to make friends, continue making positive decisions, and build relationships he will have for the rest of his life.

As a parent, and a preschool teacher, I have experienced the ups and downs of both sides of this topic. I am no expert, but have had wondrous results encouraging self-reliant skills in my own child, and many others. Take the time to spend some time with your preschooler encouraging his self-reliant skills and you, too, will see positive results both at school and at home.