Monday, October 28, 2013

31 Days of Halloween (Part III)

With all the craziness from the past week or two, I wasn't quite able to make it to 31 activities. Nonetheless, I thought it was a pretty good effort -- and Brayden had a lot of fun with everything. Here's our final round of Halloween festivities.

(See the first set of activities here and the second set here.)

18. Visiting a Pumpkin Patch

Since we're planning on carving pumpkins, we took our little guy to a local pumpkin patch so he could pick one out. He had quite a bit of fun running around all the pumpkins!

19. Holiday Apparel

I love getting festive outfits for Brayden for holidays. The night before a holiday, I always put him in special pajamas for the occasion. I know it's not Halloween Eve yet, but I'm sure I'll do about twelve loads of laundry before then so he can wear these cute PJs again. :)

20. Shadow Puppets

Brayden loved this activity. All I did was sketch some Halloween shapes on black cardstock, cut them out with a craft knife and then tape a wooden skewer to them (I did cut off the pointy end just to make sure Brayden didn't hurt himself somehow). We sat in the living room with the lights turned off and a flashlight handy and made the shapes come up on the wall. My little guy was SO into this. He eventually grabbed the puppets, walked to the wall and started making them dance across it himself. ♥

21. Halloween Egg Hunt

Hubby gave me a hard time for using "Easter" eggs in October, but it was another great activity. I took a dozen plastic Easter eggs and found some leftover Halloween stickers from an earlier craft project. Brayden and I sat down together and decorated all the eggs with stickers to make them (somewhat) holiday appropriate. Then we took his pumpkin bucket to his room and I had him sit in the middle of it while I "hid" eggs all around (in plain sight). Brayden understood the nature of the game almost immediately (after I told him to put an egg in the bucket and cheered when he did so...) and was running through his room finding and collecting them. So much fun.

22. Neighborhood Party

Our community has a little Halloween party for the kids so we dressed Brayden up and took him over. It was low-key for adult party standards, but Brayden had a great time. He loved spinning the little prize wheel they had (and kept cutting in front of all the big kids to spin it and run away) and was stomping through the party growling at everyone.

The rest of this week are "traditional" Halloween activities...

23. Carving Pumpkins

So long as Daddy can make it home before bedtime one night this week, we'll be making some nice faces on the pumpkins we got from the patch.

24. Halloween Library Time

Our local library has a few weekly "rhyme time" and "story time" activities for kids. This week is a Halloween theme, so I'm going to try to get him out there one of the days they offer it.

25. Trick-or-Treating

Because how could we not?

...And now onto November for some Thanksgiving themed activities! ...

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Beauty Amid Chaos

The last week and a half has been hard. Really hard. Hubby has two huge projects he's been working on so he's been spending more time at the office than at home. Consequently, I've been feeling a bit like a single mom and Brayden has been missing daddy a ton. Translation: I'm tired and Brayden is grumpy. His crankiness was through the roof for a few days and I felt so down and out.

Despite the exhaustion and difficulty of the last week though, two of my favorite things ever happened. Sort of a beauty amid the chaos type of situation, I suppose. And since half the point of writing this blog was to record the little things I may not remember in a year, I want to make sure they go down somewhere. Because really, they just made my heart melt. (And since I'm six months pregnant, they even made me cry a bit)

A Sweet Good Night

One day last week hit a high point of crankiness for Brayden. Nothing was making him happy (it was the whole "crying-to-be-picked-up-and-getting-angry-once-he-was-being-held" type of mood...). I did my best to be patient and have fun with him, but it was definitely one of the rough ones. Bedtime rolls around and I start his routine myself (daddy was working real late that night). We read some books. He takes a bath. Then he gets his half-cup of milk.

I'm rocking him in the chair in the dark - just like usual - and realize he's being a bit fidgety. He's finished his milk and is just playing with the cup now. I gently take it away and set it on the nightstand. I ask him "do you want me to sing you a song?" He gives me his adorable, whispy "yeah... yeah..." response. So I sing to him. And he holds my hand and just sits there quietly for about ten minutes while I sing to him. Finally, I ask "are you ready to go to bed?" Another "yeah" whisper. I pick him up and walk over to his crib.

I say "I love you... good night" and go to put him in his crib. Before I do, though, he gives me a kiss and then puts both hands on the side of my face (it's what he thinks a hug is). I put him down and then walk out of the room teary-eyed. My sweet and adorable little boy who just gave me an unsolicited act of love and affection.

A Big Brother

The other moment came a few days later. Several times a week, I take Brayden for a couple-mile run that passes a playground in our neighborhood. It's at the end of the route, so I always let him play there for a while before walking the rest of the way home. We went to the park that day, and since the weather was nice, it got somewhat crowded. A little boy - maybe about 4 years old? - comes into the park and walks by Brayden. He pats his head, looks up at me and says "He's cute! What's his name?"

After I tell the boy his name, he befriends my little 16-month old child. "Brayden! Watch this!... Brayden! Come over here and play with me! ...Brayden! What do you want to do now?" He follows Brayden around the playground, showing him different things and talking to him. Holding his hand, helping him up the stairs or down the slide. He brings him over to an area of the playground covered with leaves. "All you have to do is push all the leaves together, pick them up, and then THROW them in the air!" Immediately, Brayden giggles and the two boys stand there throwing leaves in the air together.

At one point, the little boy -- who was there with his grandfather --  tells me "he would be an awesome little brother!" before running back over to play with Brayden again. When we leave, the boy comes over to the fence and yells "Bye Brayden! I love you! Hope to see you again soon!"

I love how children embody all of the joy and goodness in the world. It's such a pure, untouched and unquestioned goodness. It can turn even the most difficult day into a amazing and joyful one. ♥

Friday, October 18, 2013

31 Days of Halloween (Part II)

Let the 31 Days of Halloween continue! Our second batch of pumpkin-filled fun included...
(See the first set of activities here!)

8. Pumpkin Stencil Painting

A few weeks ago, as a gameday project, I cut out a Michigan "M" and taped the negative space to a blank sheet of paper. I let Brayden fingerpaint (in yellow and blue, of course) over it and when he was finished, I took away the stencil. It turned out to look pretty darn awesome, so I employed the same method here with a pumpkin. This time, I let him use a paintbrush though, since he's been playing with mine lately and seems interested.

9. Halloween Coloring

An easy activity day: just a Halloween coloring book and some over-sized crayons for our little guy.

10. Spider Handprint Art

When we did the ghost footprints, Brayden was a bit confused. When I put the paint on his hand for this activity, he giggled the whole time! (I wish the set of baby paints I bought had a black, though! The spiders would have looked much cooler a bit darker)

11. Halloween Bath 

(& Bonus Pumpkin Painting Activity!)

So this activity was a bust. I found these 99-cent "grow-your-own-Halloween-creature" toys at Michaels and decided to give them a try. They were those tiny objects you put in water and watch expand to 600 percent their original size (or so says the package). I figured that putting a few of them in the bath as toys for Brayden would be fun... and watching them grow would be exciting for him. Not only did they hardly grow at all, but they were covered in this nasty, slimy gel that Brayden was of course, fascinated with.
At least a friend of mine had set up a bonus activity for the kiddos earlier in the day. She set up an art table with paintbrushes, sponges and other materials for painting pumpkins and let them have at it. The boys loved it!

12. Festive Ornaments

I'm not sure why this one was such a winner, but Brayden threw a major fit when it was time to quit. For 99-cents, I found a set of wooden Halloween "ornaments" and markers to color them in. Brayden had a great time coloring the wood with his markers and just did not want to stop. Color me confused (but happy!). 

13. Fun Halloween Photos

Since I'm hoping to send a few photos to family members next week, I won't post the adorable pictures I took of my little guy for the holiday. It was a lot of fun having him pose for a few festive snapshots though. 

14. Pumpkin Mosaic

(So many pumpkin projects!) Another easy activity. I took a few different shades of orange cardstock and cut shapes out of them. Cut out a pumpkin from white cardstock, covered it with glue and let Brayden put the small pieces where he wanted. We'll go back to this next week and see if we can't fill it in more, but his attention span the day of this activity was relatively short. :)

15. Cotton Ball Ghost

The same premise as the pumpkin mosaic. Brayden was pretty interested in the cotton balls and really liked pressing them down hard to make sure they stuck. It doesn't quite look like a ghost, but he still had fun. 

16. Halloween Bowling

Holy cow, was this one a winner. It was so great that I actually had to take some video of the activity. It's a straightforward activity: toilet paper rolls with ghost faces (I made them with black cardstock) and a pie pumpkin that I took the stem off of. I set up the toilet paper on one side of the living room and we tried to roll the pumpkin across the room and knock them down. I tried this in the afternoon (just before Daddy came home from work) and Brayden was immediately intrigued. He got the idea pretty quickly and started stacking the rolls himself after we rolled the pumpkin. Once Daddy got home, one of us became a pin monkey and made the game WAY more fun (not nearly as many breaks in the action... and one of us was guiding his hand so he could "roll" the pumpkin himself). We yelled and fussed every time the pins came down and Brayden would squeal with delight each time. After that, he started picking up the pumpkin himself, walking over to the "pins" and just bombing them (which was just hilarious). By the end, even Lauren was squealing with delight. :)

17. Felt Jack-O-Lanterns

Another activity that hubby (and mommy!) ended up playing with just as much as Brayden. I cut a pumpkin out of felt and then a bunch of random shapes that could become its eyes, nose, mouth, etc. (I put the pumpkin on foam board I had left over from something else just to make it sturdier). I made a face for him first (on the left) so he could see what to do, then I handed him shapes and let him put them on the pumpkin however he wanted (on the right). He enjoyed the activity the first two times, but got bored with it much quicker than Mommy and Daddy (we're still playing with it!).

We're more than halfway done with the month and are still having a blast trying new activities and projects. Things are getting pretty chaotic in our household  (Daddy is supremely busy at work right now), so I hope we can keep up the daily activities. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

24 Weeks!

Baby: Is moving and grooving! We certainly have another active one on our hands (hooray!). He or she isn't quite as sporadic and insane as Brayden was, however. Brayden was all movement, all the time (and most of it made us wonder what the heck he was doing in there!). Somehow, this one's movements feel more focused and directed. A bit less "look-at-me, here-I-am!" than his or her brother, but still very active and energetic. I have truly been loving getting to know the personality of our new little one! 

We're still reading Charlotte's Web (albeit at a slow pace) and the little one now has the joy of not just hearing my heartbeat or voice, but also how annoying Kinley can be (so much barking lately!). The baby just came off of a growth spurt (though my belly looks pretty similar to the picture from four weeks ago...) and now weighs about 1 1/3 lbs. I'm curious if the little one is still measuring large for his or her "age" and sometimes wish I could have another ultrasound to see baby again. :) In the coming weeks, baby will be adding a lot of adorable baby fat to his or her lean frame. 

Me: Doing great! ♥ I had such a wonderful pregnancy with Brayden and am remarkably blessed to be having another healthy and happy pregnancy with this one. I'm still out jogging three or four times a week (though my mileage has substantially decreased) and am doing prenatal yoga regularly. It's getting a bit difficult to carry Brayden up and down the stairs (the curse of living in a four-story townhouse has really set in!) so my only real complaint is a bit of back pain. But honestly, I shouldn't complain at all; things have been fantastic on the pregnancy front.

Daddy: About five weeks ago, he felt the baby kick for the first time. These days, it seems like old news to him (how quickly men move on!). ;)

Next Up:The always tasty Glucose test comes at my monthly appointment in November. I'm finally starting to think about Brayden's new room (since the current nursery is gender-neutral and already set up for a baby, we're going to put the little one in there and give Brayden a bigger, toddler room). Right now, we're aiming to move Brayden into his new crib (pun intended, unfortunately) in early December. I'm also hoping to get back to the name game soon so we can start whittling down our lists.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

31 Days of Halloween (Part 1)

For the month of October, me and my little man have embarked on a "31 Days of Halloween" journey. I'm trying to do something Halloweeny (ha!) every day of the month with him. If all goes well (and I keep my sanity during this fun-filled marathon), I'll probably do it again for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas. It's already been so much fun to watch Brayden do various activities. Some of the things I didn't think he'd be that into were his favorites... and he just didn't want to stop. Here were this week's activities:

1. Halloween Gift Pumpkin

I bought Brayden a basic trick-or-treat bucket (he was too young to go last year) and filled it with a few fun items for the month. A Frankenstein sippy cup, monster bib, toy car, activity book, etc. Brayden immediately grabbed for the cup and started sucking down air.

2. Colored Pumpkins Activity

I've been working with Brayden on his colors recently, but I think he's still a bit too young to grasp the idea. Regardless, I made him this little activity to help him learn his colors (and to just play around with). I took foam board and pasted colored cardstock squares down in a checkered pattern, bought little wooden pumpkins from Michaels, painted them various colors, and stuck Velcro squares to each pumpkin and square. Brayden has been having a blast with this activity. He loves ripping off the pumpkins and handing them to me, then trying to put them back on again. (And a bonus here is that when I say the color, he tries to say the first letter of the word... so sweet!)

3. Halloween Sammies

Used my festive cookie cutters to make a special lunch for little guy. I usually don't take the crust of his sandwiches so he thought he was getting something really unique here. :)

4. Ghost Footprints

With a little help from Daddy, Brayden made some adorable ghost footprints for his family members. He had the greatest puzzled expression on his face when I painted his foot white, but seemed to enjoy stamping it down on the table.

5. Fall Festival

Last weekend, Lauren and I went to a nearby farm with a few friends. The farm does this amazing Fall Festival with tons of pumpkins, animals, slides and games. Brayden had a great time (though I think Daddy was more excited than him!) looking at all the animals and seeing all the sights. He was a bit uncertain about the giant slides we went down, but I think he'll warm up next time we visit. (More pictures are posted in the Photo Gallery)

6. Halloween Cards

Along with the colored pumpkins, this was Brayden's favorite activity so far. He had SO much fun making cards for family members. I put together a bunch of Halloween-embellishments (stickers, stamps, ribbon, paper, etc.) and put them out in front of him. I showed him how to use the stamps and would hand him stickers to press down. He immediately understood the nature of the game and had a fabulous time making them. (In fact, since he didn't want to quit, I think we ended up making way more cards than family members)

7. Holiday Books

I went around and found five different Halloween themed books for my little man. I've been reading them to him at naptime and I think he's already made me read Halloween Bugs a hundred times. He adores the book (just like all his other bug books) and giggles every time he gets to a certain page. So adorable. ♥

Loving all of our activities so far and excited about the next round. :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

10 Things Tuesday: Smile Worthy

Between my pregnancy hormones, the "regular" chaos an active toddler brings, and having minimal free time to do things for myself lately, the days have been extremely short and occasionally difficult. Since I'm pretty big on gratitude (and am a firm believer in the mantra "what you appreciate, appreciates"), I've been looking on the bright side of things. Not surprisingly, there are way more blessings in my life than difficulties - which is nice to keep in mind on these recent extra-hard days where my darling son decides he suddenly isn't keen on naps again. Just a few of the things that have made me smile lately...

1. Husband of the Year

Lauren is really trying for that title. Not only did he get me some pretty amazing flowers-for-no-reason this week, but he also gave me one of the sweetest compliments ever. When discussing how awesome our little guy is one day, Lauren said, "I attribute at least 95 percent of it to you. Brayden is as happy, active and smart as he is because of the way you are with him and all the things you do with him." Aw, sweetie. You've got my vote. ♥

So pretty...

2. Good Friends

Loved the girls-night-in I had this weekend (it felt like an old-fashioned sleep over!) as well as the impromptu dinner with some other friends the following night. Brayden also enjoyed the dinner, since he got to play with one of his buddies afterwards!

3. Grand Ambitions

I'm always up for a challenge (especially ones that I come up with!), and I've been enjoying getting ready for two in October. One of them is a set of ambitions that will hopefully help me do more things for myself. The other is 31 Days of Halloween Fun for Brayden. I've been busy coming up with different holiday-themed art projects and activity ideas that I can do with my little guy each day throughout the month.

Making a colored pumpkin matching game

4. A Boy and His Dog

This weekend, Lauren and I took one of our dogs to the playground with us. We left her tied up to the fence so we could play with Brayden for a bit. I got a rough case of Mom-Rage when a couple four or five-year old boys started taunting her (going up to her barking, waving fists and yelling at her) while their parents said nothing. Still, it was super sweet when our 15 month old son walked up to our seemingly angry, barking dog and stuck his face against the chain link fence... only to be greeted with a giant kiss from our pup.

5. Yoga

I always love yoga, but seem to feel the benefits even more when I'm pregnant.  I did prenatal yoga with Brayden for most of the pregnancy and have recently resumed with baby #2. I absolutely love the chance for peace that it gives me as well as the lasting effects it has on my body and mind throughout the day.

6. This Picture

He looks so devious... like he's plotting something amazing!

7. Great Purchases

Bought a few adorable pieces of maternity attire this week and plan on getting an awesome pair of shoes I was eyeing on one of the ladies at my girls-night-in.

8. Yummy Treats

I'm always trying new recipes and experiments in the kitchen. Had a wonderfully successful one last week when I came up with a fantastic zucchini bread (a healthy version made for Brayden with tons of vitamins and nutrients for a growing tot) that the whole family ended up loving. I also had a great time on Saturday baking cookies with my little guy. He had a quintessential "mommy-moment" where he couldn't have acted more like his mother. Sitting on the counter with a spoonful of peanut butter while baking cookies and listening to The Who. ♥

9. Developing Abilities

Brayden has been experimenting with more sounds and noises lately and it's just precious. I love seeing him try to say the words I'm saying and find it just adorable when he says his newest addition: bear. (Except, he doesn't really pronounce the "r" at the end, which makes it extra cute) Lauren and I are also getting a huge kick out of Brayden's "social laugh." When he sees me and Lauren laughing at something (which happens a lot), he doesn't want to be left out and joins in with his own laughter.

10. Lunch Adventures

Lauren and I often lament not being privy to what Brayden is thinking sometimes. His rules for eating... the way he comes up with some crazy game that only he seems to know the rules to... it's like watching some crazy genius at work. While we were at lunch this weekend, Brayden decided to play musical straws with the water glasses on the table.