Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Our Read-Aloud Advent Calendar

We started doing a read-aloud Advent calendar after I saw the idea in Family Fun magazine. If you're not familiar with what a read-aloud Advent calendar is, here's how it's done: you collect 24 Christmas or winter-themed books, wrap them up, and allow the child to unwrap one each day in December leading up to Christmas. Then you get to read the books together as they're unwrapped. Even as infants, Linus and Veda enjoyed it, so I know that they're going to have a blast with it this year.

Linus and Veda's granny was very generous last year in getting us started with our Christmas book collection, and the rest of the books are books from my childhood. Some of those are *ahem* pretty fragile, so we'll have to be very careful with them. If we still needed more books, the library would be my next choice.

Here are the books Linus and Veda will be unwrapping this year:

  • Funny Felt Faces (pub. Sandy Creek)
  • 10 Trim-the-Tree'ers: A Holiday Counting Book by Janet Schulman
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas by Charles Schulz
  • The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
  • The Sweet Smell of Christmas (Golden Books)
  • Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney
  • Frosty the Snowman (Golden Books)
  • The Berenstain Bears Trim the Tree by Jan & Mike Berenstain
  • Yes Virginia There Is A Santa Claus by Chris Plenal
  • Nutcracker by Hoffman & Innocenti
  • One Snowy Night by Butler & MacNaughton
  • A Sesame Street Christmas by Pat Tornborg
  • The Night Before Christmas (Golden Books)
  • ABC Is For Christmas (Golden Books)
  • Santa's Runaway Elf by Jean Lewis
  • Troll's Twelve Months of Christmas by Jill Wolf
  • Jingle Bells (Golden Books)
  • The Very Special Night by Ruth Odor
  • The Santa Claus Book by Eileen Daly
  • The Animals' Christmas Eve (Golden Books)
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Golden Books)
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas (Golden Books)
  • Santa's Toy Shop (Golden Books)
  • Christmas Peekaboo! (pub. by DK)

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Our "It's the Thought That Counts" Advent Calendar

Today I would like to share with you an important lesson learned. Sometimes Pinterest lies. What am I talking about? I saw an adorable Advent calendar on Pinterest made out of twine, socks, and clothespins and thought, "I can do that!". I rounded up the materials, worked on it for a couple of evenings, and voila - here's the result. It started out above the fireplace. But, no. Just no.


In retrospect, I think it would look (somewhat) better if I had done something more monochromatic, but darnit, that wasn't what was in the picture!

So if you come over to my house and wonder why I'm drying socks in the playroom, that's the sorry back story.

Next year I'll be making something else.

That's the unfortunate part of this post. The cheery part of this post is this list of the toddler-friendly activities I'm stuffing in those socks. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Christmas Dinner at Nana's and Granny's
2. Make a gift for Daddy
3. Watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
4. Make a hand print ornament
5. Color a Christmas picture
6. Make a craft
7. Watch the Charlie Brown Christmas special
8. Write a letter to Santa (obviously with a lot of help)
9. Make Christmas-colored play-doh
10. Attend a local high school's Christmas choral concert
11. Attend a local high school's Christmas band concert
12. Learn "Let It Snow!"
13. Drive around to see the lights
14. Drink eggnog
15. Watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas
16. Finger paint with Christmas colors
17. Drink hot chocolate
18. Make grandparent gifts
19. Learn "Jingle Bells"
20. See Santa
21. Go to a Christmas parade
22. Make Christmas cookies
23. Put up our Christmas tree
24. Visit elderly relatives
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Thursday, November 24, 2011


The follow-up appointment for Veda's testing was yesterday, and the official word is that all of the results were normal. So that means no tethered spine, no celiac, no CF, no million other things that could have been wrong. I was afraid that we'd be told to go through another round of testing, but it seems that we're through, at least for now. Our new prescription is to feed Veda enough calories for one and half toddlers. Did you just say, "Good luck with that!"?

We'll be going to see a dietitian in December to get some new strategies for sneaking more calories in her, and I'm hoping to get a professional opinion about how to address her finicky eating habits while also not enabling pickiness. I've also been concerned about finding the balance between doing what has to be done to get enough calories in her for proper development and not overriding her innate ability to walk away from food when she's had enough.

We're certainly relieved to know that everything seems to be in order with our little lady. Thanks for thinking of us and sending positive vibes our way.
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Pee Pee in the Potty

A while ago, I wrote that I anticipated Veda would be potty ready in the near future. Then the strides she made in that direction more or less disappeared after our trip to the beach. The potty talk resumed, though, within the last month, so a couple of weeks ago we all packed up and made a family trip to Babies R Us to make the all-important potty selection. Since I knew that a potty adaptor seat could be a safety issue at some point (I was picturing me having to chase somebody down and leaving another somebody perched precariously atop the big potty), we went with a freestanding model. The potty sat in the bathroom, just building some curiosity in the kids without any other real interaction. Well, unless you count all of the playing they did with the removable cushy seat.

Then last weekend Veda tucked a roll of toilet paper under her arm, lifted the potty lid, and indicated that she wanted to try it out. She sat there for about 15 minutes and did a little reading in the meantime, but it wasn't really *ahem* "productive". The other interesting development from this little anecdote is that Linus was overcome with jealousy when Veda was on the potty. He wanted to try it out TOO!

Clearly these kids are ready to get going. We now have two nearly identical potties side by side in the bathroom. As of last night, we've initiated pre-bath potty time. I added it at that point in our daily schedule because I think I'll be able to be most consistent with a time when we're already getting stripped down anyway. BONUS: Instead of kicking and screaming when it's time to head to the bath, last night we couldn't run to the bathroom fast enough when I announced that it was potty time.

Oh, and let the record show that THIS guy was the first of the two to pee pee in the potty. Not what you expected, huh?

We'll continue on with pre-bath potty time as we get the hang of sitting on the potty and understanding what's supposed to happen on the potty. More on the next step for us later.

**Disclaimer: Yes, I am aware that there's a two (or three) day strategy. I'm training two at a time here, so we're going the slow and steady route. That's that.
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Veda and I rolled out of the house this morning at 5:45. That would be a.m. Yeah, it's been a while since I've been up at that hour. At least on purpose, anyway.

Waiting in the radiology department, we watched the last half or so of the Tinkerbell movie and waited for the numbing solution that was placed over possible IV sites to do its thing. When we went back to get the IV started, we stayed in a holding room stocked with toys and a tv. Here's Veda sporting her IV bling.

By the way, the drug used to sedate her? Propofol. I bet the medical community is 150% percent ready for people to forget about Propofol and its connection to Michael Jackson. Moving on...

I was allowed to hold her until she was put to sleep. I'm not sure that I can tell you why, but watching your child going under is "unsettling", which the doctor and nurses warned me of. She went from crying to being still and limp within a matter of a couple of seconds. Then I had to place her on the gurney, give her a kiss, and walk away. It was scary, and it was hard.

According to the nurses, most kids who wake up from Propofol are disoriented, silly, and dopey. Not Veda. She was cranky, grumpy, and mad. The protocol is that the kid wakes up, says cute coming-out-of-anesthesia-type stuff, drinks something, and goes home. Veda, on the other hand, kept ripping her O2 monitor off, maintained a grumble cry, and fought away all attempts at consoling her with stuffed animals, cartoons, and stickers. Long story short, they eventually gave up on her drinking anything and let us leave.

Luckily, getting out of the hospital changed her mood, and by the time we made it to Shoney's (which serves breakfast all day on Tuesdays), she was ready to eat. She licked a lot of syrup off of French toast (and ate exactly zero bites of French toast) and shoveled in half of a biscuit, gravy (which she ate with a spoon), some eggs, and some fruit

So minus the whole MRI thing, it was a fun mommy-and-me morning. And that, Veda, is the story of your MRI. I'm so glad this morning is over and so glad that you came through it okay.

While I couldn't get her to look at the camera for a together shot, I think what was going through my mind comes through anyway: I wouldn't trade this girl for anything.

Where was Linus this morning? At home with Granny. This is the first morning he's ever woken up without Veda. My mother-in-law said that he didn't want to leave the nursery without Veda and kept looking for her around her crib. Melt.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Update on Little Miss

We've knocked out just about everything from the lab work and testing to-do list.

Four vials of blood taken? Check.

Contents of two stinky diapers squished into unmercifully skinny lab containers? Check. (At least they provided gloves.)

X-ray of a tiny hand? Check.

Sweat Chloride test? Check. In fact, here's a snapshot I took of Veda wearing the pack for the test while we passed our morning away in the Family Resource Room. I was grateful to the lab lady who gave us the code to this "secret" room. It got us out of the third-hand-smoke-stinkin' , mange-scratchin', tuberculosis-riddled general population.

There was no real crying, but plenty of puckering up during the electrode-requiring portion of the test. Hence the puffy eyes.

So far, no calls, which is probably a good thing. The general rule for the office is no call unless the results are abnormal. The thing I thought was most likely was celiac, but nobody called after the blood work for that, so I guess we're in the clear. Our big follow-up appointment is coming up next week, so we'll get confirmation that everything was normal then.

The only thing that's still on the checklist is the MRI. I had a small freak out when I learned that she would have to be sedated (i.e., put to sleep) for about an hour to have it done, but with a little time, I'm freaking out less. This MRI will be checking for tethering of her spine that could be obstructing her intestines. That's tomorrow, so put some positive energy out there for us in the morning.

Her appetite has decreased pretty sharply in the last couple of weeks, which is discouraging. I know that it's normal for kids to go through fluctuations in the amount of food they eat, but when she was barely gaining anything even when she was eating like a horse, it's kind of hard not to worry about what this little phase is going to do weight-wise.

On a positive note, there are some developments in progress in the potty training arena. More on that later.
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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Christmas List - Year 2

Last year I wrote a short list of cool toys the babies had on their very first Christmas list. It turned out to be one of the all-time most popular posts on this blog, so I thought it might be fun to make it an annual thing. I'll try to avoid the really obvious stuff and make this more of a fun, not-everybody-is-talking-about-this-toy list.

Without further ado, here it is:

Some Cool Stuff from Linus and Veda's Christmas Wish List

1. Pirate Sandbox - Having a sandbox as a kid is cool. Having a cool boat to play pretend with in your yard makes it even cooler. I'm also digging the built-in sun shade. Not digging that it doesn't come with a cover, but that can be remedied somehow, I'm sure.

Product Details

2. Melissa and Doug Magnetic Fishing Set - Veda has been OWNING her peg puzzles lately, and Linus is pretty good at them too (when he actually sits still long enough to work on them). This puzzle adds another dimension of motor control to the puzzle game. And also, I love Melissa and Doug toys so much. They're super high quality and always cute. It's more like the stuff we grew up with, as opposed to all of the dime-a-dozen plastic crap being manufactured now.

Melissa & Doug Deluxe 10-Piece Magnetic Fishing Game
3. Retro Play Kitchen - I must have looked at every play kitchen available on the Internet before I landed on this one. Isn't it GORGEOUS?! The Amazon reviews are great, and it sounds like if there's ever a problem, KidKraft has great customer service, a rarity these days.

4. Kumon First Steps Workbooks - This year we'll start working on preschool skills. Former teacher me wants to tell you that young children learn best and develop the healthiest attitudes about learning through play (not drill-and-kill, not lecture, and not flashcards). At the same time, I like having a little structure to get me through the days.These handy little activity books seem like the perfect addition to our current arts and crafts time. In addition to the cutting paper title, there are also titles for folding paper, pasting, and coloring. In case you can't tell from the picture of the cover, these books are incredibly colorful and cute.
Let's Cut Paper! (Kumon First Steps Workbooks)

5. Season passes/memberships - Who says that kids have to only receive things for Christmas? Getting a membership to your local zoo, children's museum, amusement park, or aquarium will provide an entire year's worth of fun. Bonus: You don't have to find room in your house to store adventurous outings.
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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Our DIY Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker Costumes

When I was a kid, store-bought costume choices were limited. There was half of an aisle of costumes at Walmart. Not that that applied to me, because my mother always made our costumes, by which I mean that she actually used a sewing machine.

At the time, I thought it would be pretty nifty to don one of those ready-to-wear costumes. But looking back on it, knowing that my mother put so much time and work and, well, love into our costumes makes my Halloween memories even more special. And while I'm throwing some much-deserved appreciation my mom's way, let me also tell you that she made several costumes for me during the high school years for theatrical productions and the like. I think I had her thiiiiis close to sewing a Little Women-esque dress for me, though thankfully she thought better of my "Just to school" response when she asked where I would wear it.

That's what was on my mind when I decided that homemade costumes are the only costumes for us. Unfortunately, I'm not quite as skilled with a sewing machine as my mom is. No matter, though. The costumes I devised for this year require ZERO sewing.

A few words on costume selection: I determined that this year would very likely be the last year that the costumes would be MY choice. No doubt, next year Linus and Veda will have opinions of their own. So I knew that I had to make this year count. My criteria? 1. I wanted something with a twin theme. As much as I hate talking to strangers about having twins, I love their twinness.  2. I knew it had to be the thing that I would otherwise always regret that they had never dressed up as. 3. I wanted to make their dad smile. The perfect fit? Boy/girl twins Luke and Leia. Their Star Wars-obsessed father loved it.

Oh, and another thing to love about homemade costumes? Almost everything you'll see here on the materials list will be used again, either for other crafting projects or for future wear.

Now, the Materials List:

fabric tape for temporary hems (though I might use fabric glue if I was going to do this again)
belt-size strips of brown felt
hot glue gun
toy light sabers (our tiny ones were actually M&M dispensers from the checkout lane at Toys R Us)

For Leia
white turtleneck, at least two-three sizes too large (teeny Veda's was a 3T)
white tights
brown crochet hat (Veda's is from The Ribbon Retreat)
two large brown silk flowers (also from The Ribbon Retreat)
brown ribbon
two alligator clips

See his left sleeve? Use more tape than you think you need. Then use some more.

For Luke
white t-shirt
karate jacket (ours was purchased on Amazon)
beige leggings, sweat pants, or khaki pants
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