Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

Having fun when it’s freezing

Since moving to Alaska it’s become clear that finding winter activities for kids is a must. Not only is it snowy and cold for around 7 months out of the year here, but it’s also dark for as much as 21 hours a day. Cabin Fever takes on a whole new meaning! Since my son started preschool I’ve learned that the school district continues recess down to -20 degrees fahrenheit! It sounds almost cruel, but there’s a good reason- if they didn’t, kids just wouldn’t get recess for most of the school year. Our first year here it was in the -20 in September and held steady through February. March “warmed up” into the zero range and by April it was pratically sweltering hanging in the teens. It would be cruel to NOT let your kids play outside here.

First thing you need to do is invest in good cold weather gear if you haven’t already. Start with a good first layer- thermals are awesome and I highly recommend spending a little more and getting silk if you live somewhere really cold. For kids, two pairs of socks keeps those little toes toasty. The second layer can either be your normal clothes or specialized winter clothes; we have fleece lined jeans and sweaters from Old Navy and LL Bean. The third layer is your waterproof layer- snowpants, thick jacket, mittens or gloves and a hat to cover your ears. If you’re living somewhere frigid like us, add a scarf (or a neck gaiter) to cover the neck and lower face and some glove liners. Also, make sure your shoes or boots are rated for the correct temperature. Mine are good to -60.

Now that you’re dressed and ready to brave the cold, check the thermometer. This is where I’ll tell you to use you’re own discretion. I’m not about to take my newborn out in anything under 0 and even then it’s only for a few minutes at a time. My older kids can handle it a little better, we’ve played in the snow down to -22. That being said, you need to be extremely careful and make sure they take a break every 15-30 minutes, depending on how cold it is and watch for signs of frostnip, frostbite and hypothermia. Things to watch out for: white, blue or bright red skin, waxy looking skin, excessive shivering in older kids and difficulty breathing. Anyone out in the snow is going to get a little blush, but you know your kids best. This last December it was in the -40s and I ran my son from the car to a building. He almost immediately started saying his hands hurt and in that short amount of time he got frostnip. He’s not a big complainer, so I knew something was wrong. My daughter went out to play in the snow yesterday for about 30 minutes and was laughing and screeching with delight the whole time- a sure sign that she’s okay, since she’ll complain at the slightest discomfort.

So now you’re all dressed and ready to go and it’s not too cold for your family to play. What are you going to do? There’s always the go-to snowman building, snowball fights and snowforts. But have you ever tried snowshoeing? Ice skating? Dog sledding? Before you roll your eyes, Alaska is NOT the only state with dog sledding, so do a Google search for your area! Can’t find anything? Grab your own dog and a pair of skis or a sled and make your own mush team (again, use your own discretion- if you have a chihuahua this might not be the best idea). A fun idea for smaller kids is to fill a few squirt bottles with water and food coloring and go out and paint the snow. Yellow not recommended.

I’m a little embarrassed.

I just realized my last blog post was from JUNE. That’s pretty bad, but one could say I was a little busy. Between a trip home to California to visit family, the holidays, welcoming our third Perfect Child to the world, Monkey Boy starting preschool and my GI Joe leaving for a few months, I’ve been running around like a chicken with my head cut off. All that running around, you’d think I’d be in great shape. HA! I managed to gain a respectable 70 pounds this pregnancy, apparently most of it in my ass. Not only did I outgrow my maternity jeans not once but TWICE, but it was a few weeks before I could fit into the largest pair AFTER I had my son. Pretty sad. Usually losing 30 lbs in 3 weeks would be a spectacular accomplishment, but when you still have 40 lbs to go before you fit into your regular clothes, it starts to seem hopeless.

And so, at 4 weeks post partum, I purchased a treadmill and got to work. I was told I could walk if I felt well enough, so that’s what I did. Of course, with two energetic preschoolers and a newborn who eats constantly, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Thirty minutes of walking turned into an hour of running between the treadmill and the baby swing to stick the pacifier back in while he smiled and giggled his evil baby giggles. I guess he wants momma to be nice and soft.

The following week we had a bit of luck- a friend of a friend happened to be selling their spin bike so we snatched it up. My GI Joe had been wanting one for a while but they were so expensive that he just couldn’t do it (he has a phobia of spending money). It seemed so perfect until they brought it over and I realized that not only does half my living room now look like a gym, but there really wasn’t even room for the treadmill and now we’re adding a spin bike? I have to say, though- getting up and seeing all that equipment staring you in the face makes it hard to “forget” to exercise.

So now, two weeks into getting back in shape and I’m down a whopping 1.5 lbs. Really?! Two weeks of working out 6 days a week and that’s all I lost?? Now I’m starting to remember why I hate this whole weight loss thing. I suppose I figured that if breastfeeding burns 300 calories a day PLUS I’m working out 20-50 minutes a day I really should be able to not worry about what I’m eating. Not the case. So while it was fun to eat whatever I wanted while pregnant, it’s back to watching those calories and giving up my weekly package of Hostess SnoBalls. *Sigh*

Of course, it’s not all about seeing those magic numbers on the scale. I really want to be healthy. We ran a 5k two years ago and actually had fun (I know! “Running” and “fun” in the same sentence!) and I’d love to do it again. In fact, what I’d really love is to do the Midnight Sun Fun Run, a 10k that happens at night during the summer solstice when it’s light out pretty much all the time. I want my kids to see that BOTH their parents are in shape and healthy and that exercise isn’t a four letter word. I know that the Princess had a blast running that 5k and she’s already excited about doing it again this year.

When I first sat down a few minutes ago to start typing this out, she came up to me and asked if we could all go for a walk tomorrow. I started to make up some excuse- it’s too cold (well, it’s actually unseasonably warm at 7 degrees with a forcast of- GASP!- a POSITIVE 14 tomorrow), Monkey Man is getting over a cold, the baby has been fussy- but then I realized that I really don’t want to set an example of making up excuses not to exercise. So I said sure and I’m actually kind of excited about it! Yes, I’ll have to bundle us all up which will probably take a good hour of searching for lost mittens, chasing after kids, zipping zippers that have been zipped and subsequently unzipped by little fingers and I’ll be fried before I even step foot out the door, but they say exercise is a good stress reliever. We’ll see about that.

My newest obsession

I’ve always had a thing for ribbon. I must have caught the fever from my mom- she still has ribbon we used at my wedding over 6 years ago. Recently I was going through a box of sewing paraphernalia and came across 6 or 7 rolls of gorgeous ribbon I had purchased (and never used) about 2 years ago. I immediately got on the computer and googled “ribbon crafts” and was struck by the gorgeous girls’ hairbows that I saw. I don’t know why it never occured to me before; we had just moved from Alabama, where you can see little girls with ginormous ribbon bows on a daily basis. My Princess has super long blonde hair that tends to curl into little ringlets at the end. It’s so pretty and she gets a lot of compliments, but I think she’d get more if she let me actually brush it or pull it out of her face every once in a while. I figured a gorgeous bow might be the perfect bribe: “if you let me brush your hair, you can wear this pretty princess bow!” It totally worked. I’m a genius.

So I got to work and quickly realized that this would be my new obsession. It’s fun, fairly easy and you need to have a little creativity to do it, which I like. I can only make 2 or 3 in one sitting before my fingers start to cramp up, but that’s usually all the time I have anyway. It’s the perfect craft for me! So without further ado, pictures!

Fourth of July bow (she also wore this on Flag Day/the Army’s birthday last week)
Fourth of July bow

Fishing bow, for trips to the lake with Daddy
Fishing bow

Blue and yellow bow
Blue and yellow bow

Pink and green bow (which perfectly matches the ButterflyBabyPlace dress the Princess picked out)
Pink and green bow

Orange stripes and polka dots (orange is the Princess’s favorite color)
Orange stripes and polka dots

Blue and green loopy bow
Loopy bow

Dainty lavender and antique white bow
Dainty lavender and antique white bow

Funky green and brown mini bow
Funky green and brown mini bow

Crazy bow (this has so many layers! It took a while to figure out, but it was fun!)
Crazy bow

I’m going to have to come up with a better way to store these. Keeping them in a box squishes all the little loops down. Not to mention I’m totally running out of room to store these things. Maybe I’ll sell them?? They’ll be hard to give up!

Ponder Before You Plant

In my quest to be the Perfect Housewife, I decided it would be beneficial to teach my children where their food comes from. The easiest way to do that, I guessed, was to have them plant seeds and watch them grow. Off to the store we went to buy seed packets and little fiber cups to plant them in. I let the kids pick out whatever they wanted, which turned out to be zinnias, nasturtiums, sunflowers, pumpkins, tomatoes and watermelons. Three flowers, three plants that eventually we could harvest. We spent one sunny spring day planting, Monkey Boy filling the cups with dirt and Princess pushing seeds in one at a time. It was surprisingly fun and the next few weeks were spent checking the cups every day for new growth, squealing any time a sprout had pushed its way to the top.

Now we’re about a month out and anything that’s going to sprout has. In fact, our little pumpkin sprouts have outgrown their tiny cups and GI Joe, who diligently checks our plants on his way to and from work, has been telling me they’re actually dying and need to be replanted. So I packed the Perfect Children up and off to the garden store we went in search of larger pots for our fruits and veggies.

I picked out two long, oval shaped planters and bought them up to the counter only to have the clerk laugh at me when I told her it was for pumpkins. She said I needed something a little bigger and came back with the equivilent of a 5 lb bucket- the largest faux terra cotta pot they had. I said “do we really need something this big? There are only 3 plants!” She said “oh, you have three pumpkin plants? In that case…” and went and got two more. When I reluctantly held up my medium-sized terra cotta planter for our tomato plants she laughed and got a fourth. Apparently those buggers can grow to be 6 feet tall. Who knew? Not me. I’ll probably end up having to replant the tomatoes into three separate containers, one for each plant, but for now my truck (and my wallet) have limited us to one planter for all three plants.

All of this is new to me. My grandma, aunt and mother must have stolen all the green thumb genes from the rest of the family and left none for me. My grandma has the largest, most beautiful backyard in Redding, California, complete with meandering pathways, overhanging wispy trees and flowers as far as the eye can see. It would make the editors of Home and Garden magazine drool. My aunt, an award-winning journalist, writes a blog and column for the Chico, California newspaper The Enterprise Record called “Sow there!” (get it?) and keeps a small but glorious garden herself. My mother, while an apartment dweller now, grew a pretty fantastic floral landscape in our yard while I was growing up. I remember the smell of fresh-cut lilacs filling our house in the summer and I think of my mom whenever I pass a flowering purple or white bush.

And then there’s me. I pretty much kill every thing I plant. I blame it mostly on my forgetful nature- plants, apparently, can’t live without being watered. If I want my house to smell like fresh cut flowers, I buy a bunch at the supermarket. The idea of growing my own food is pretty laughable. I can barely manage to get a seed to sprout, let alone grow to the point where it starts producing fruit or veg. So you can imagine my surprise and excitement when all but a few of our little seeds sprouted and seemed to be doing well… until, of course, they started to outgrow their small containers which had me realizing that I might be a little over my head here. First of all, the thought of replanting these fragile buds is terrifying. Secondly, these plants are going to be HUGE. There’s going to be a lot of growing going on and I’m going to have to keep them alive during that time. I’m starting to wish I had done a little research, picked out some seeds that were death-proof, grew super fast and didn’t get bigger then a foot high. Is there such a thing? I highly recommend this little seed experiment to anyone, especially those readers out there with young kids, but before you buy, do some research. The old saying “look before you leap” comes to mind, but I have decided gardeners need their own saying and since alliteration if fun, “ponder before you plant” will have to do.

The kids are making dinner tonight!

Here’s a fun and easy recipe that even the younger kids can help with. The Perfect Children (ages 2 and 3) helped me make these tasty treats for a special lunch the other day and we had a blast!

What you’ll need:
1 can of biscuits
1 can of tomato paste or sauce (or you can use slices of tomato)
shredded cheese
mini pepperoni

any veggies you think your kids will actually eat

layer the ingredients on any way you like and then pop them in the oven for the amount of time specified on the biscuit container. These kid-sized pizzas are super yummy and good for mommies who want to keep track of portion sizes.

My 3 year old took this lovely picture before I put them in the oven:
mini pizzas