The Apple Tree

When we found out that I was pregnant with Evelyn, Michael planted an apple seed.  When I asked him what prompted him to do it, he tells me that it was just a random thing, but then went on to say that he thought it would be cool to see Evelyn and the tree grow together. He had visions of her climbing it and playing in its shade.

I have to admit that I sometimes scoff at Michael’s ideas.  I didn’t really think that the tree would grow, and even if it did, I was sure it would never produce fruit.  And what would we do with it anyway?  We lived in an apartment at the time. I guess I kind of thought it was a silly idea, but I let him have his dreams.

Well, the apple seed grew.  At first I wasn’t even sure if it was the apple seed that was growing.  It could have been a weed or some other tree seed that might have blown into the neglected pot.  That pot sat on the patio season after season.  I think at one point, Michael wanted to bring the pot into the house during the winter, but I didn’t allow it. When we bought our house and moved, the pot came with us, but I was still certain that nothing would come of it.  Still, Michael seemed to treasure his apple tree, so I went along with it.

I’m not sure how it survived.  Year after year, the pot sat in some corner of the patio, away from everything.  Weeds grew in the pot and Michael would eventually pull them out.  At one point, he wanted to move the pot into the middle of my landscaping beds so that the tree would get more sun.  I sighed *that silly apple tree* and let him do it.  That was last year…or maybe the year before…I can’t remember…that’s how much I paid attention to this tree.

This spring, the tree exploded with white blossoms. Michael mentioned that we should probably put the tree into the ground.  Then the weather got cold for a few weeks and the gardening was neglected once more.  Now the tree is covered with little apple buds and the weather is warming up again, so today we decided to free it from the pot and put it in the ground.  I have no idea if it will survive this transition.  We waited too long to move it.  But, I figure it survived everything else it’s been through, including my lack of faith in its potential. It’s a tough little tree. It’s become a permanent part of our landscape now, just like the little girl who inspired its existence.

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Our Summer Bucket List

So Evelyn and I decided we wanted to make a summer bucket list.  Ok, maybe I was a little more excited about the list than she was.  Since I decided to apply for a teaching position at work (and I got the job), I am going to be off for the summer and I am more than a little excited about it.  I have struggled with the work/stay at home debate ever since Evelyn was born.  I have done both and neither option felt 100% comfortable for me.  So now, I get to work while Evelyn is at school and be off when she is off.  It’s the perfect balance and I actually really love my job.

Aaaannyway, I could probably come up with a crazy-long list, but I decided to keep it sort of short, so that I don’t kick myself later if we don’t get it all accomplished. Evelyn did contribute a few ideas, but I had a hard time getting her to understand the concept of a bucket list.  When I asked her, “What do you really want to do this summer?” her response was, “Have a movie day!” So then I had to explain that we should put things on the list that we couldn’t do any other time of year.  We could have a movie day any time.  So then she came at me with…

Eat lunch at Odd FellasWell, we really can eat there any day, except for Sunday when they are closed, but she rationalized it with, “Well, we can’t eat lunch there any day because we have to eat lunch at school.” Ok, makes sense to me.  Lunch at Odd Fellas for the win.

Go camping: I already have 2 camping trips booked for this summer so, easy peasy.

Make a fairy garden: We spent quite a bit of time pinning ideas for this during the winter when we were home sick or on snow days.

Outdoor movie: I just got a flyer from Evelyn’s school about some free movies in the park this summer.  Now I just have to add the dates to my calendar so we don’t forget!

Paint Rocks: I really want to paint some story rocks to use in my classroom next year, and I think this will be fun for Evelyn too.

Go berry picking: We do this every year, so this one shouldn’t be a problem.

Have a paint day: Michael got me an easel and paints and brushes for Christmas, so I have been painting every now and then.  Evelyn likes to paint with me, so this will be a perfect rainy day activity.

Make popsicles: Because summer.

Swing painting: Saw this video circulating around Facebook.  We’ll have to drag our supplies to the park, but that won’t stop us!


I could probably come up with more, but I think I better quit while I am ahead.  Evelyn is doing a headstand on the couch, so I think she’s finished contributing to the list.

The Crayola Experience

The middle of winter always inspires in me an urge to escape.  Yes, a tropical destination would be lovely, but, since we’ve been together, Michael and I have yet to find ourselves in a position to take a week-long vacation in the middle of winter.  So, we make do with little weekend jaunts to nearby attractions, just to break up the monotony a bit.

This particular trip was inspired by a statement Evelyn made in the car one afternoon on the way home from work/school.

“Mom, I never stayed in a hotel before.”

“Sure you have, you’ve stayed in a hotel three times before.”

“Yes, but I don’t remember it.”

A few days prior to this, my co-workers had a conversation in our shared office about staying in hotels just for the heck of it, just for something to do in the middle of winter, even if it’s right in your own town.  My practical (and wandering) mind could understand the appeal, but has a hard time justifying spending the money for a hotel, when it’s just down the street.  I also really like to travel and see new things, so I thought, sure, let’s stay in a hotel, but let’s do something new too.

So, I started looking around online for some ideas.  Enter, The Crayola Experience.  Evelyn is the perfect age to enjoy this right now.  We have a 3 day weekend for President’s Day.  Let’s Go.

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Let me preface this review by saying that I am not particularly fond of crowds.  On their website, Crayola does give some tips on how to avoid the crowds.  Basically, go on a weekday, after lunch time (2:00-5:00pm is ideal).  We went on Valentine’s Day (a Sunday this year).  As we approached the building and entered a nearby parking garage, I could tell that my crowd anxiety was going to be kicked into high gear.  There were families with little kids everywhere, braving the coldest day of this winter.  I mentally prepared myself for the afternoon and  I think I managed to keep it together for most of the time.  We spent about 3 hours there and only got to experience about 1/3 of what they had to offer.  There were long lines for many of the activities and Evelyn spent a lot of time at just a few activities that she enjoyed.  The trip was for her entertainment, so it really seemed pointless to pull her away from the things she was enjoying to make her try other activities that she might have had to wait a long time to do.

The Meltdown – We decided to go straight to the fourth floor to start, where  there were huge stations full of melted crayons.  The kids could dip long cotton swabs into the wax and paint with it.

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Next we ventured into this play area, which was fun for Evelyn, but a nightmare for me.  Once the kids got inside here, it was nearly impossible to see them and instead of only one way in and out, there were at least 4 ways in and out of the thing, on all different sides of it.  My guess is that someone loses a kid in here, if only for a few minutes, on a daily basis.

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Of all things, this was probably Evelyn’s favorite feature.  It was a series of interactive videos projected on the floor.  For example, the floor appeared to be covered with leaves and as the kids walked around on it, the leaves moved away from them, as though they were really walking through them.  The picture changed every few minutes to something new (balls that they could “kick”, etc).  We had a hard time dragging her away from this one.

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She enjoyed a variety of other features…a computer-generated display of her own artwork, watercolors, a water/boat feature, a diy puzzle, and we got free crayons with our names on them.  Overall, she had fun.  It was a bit too crowded for my liking and the long lines at many of the activities made it hard to do everything.  We were exhausted by the end of it all and since she was so looking forward to staying in a hotel, we didn’t have to fight with her when it was time to leave.

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Michael put me in charge of planning the itinerary for this trip, which was awesome, by the way.  I’ve always fancied myself a travel agent or a tour guide.  Anyway, I found this great little Lebanese restaurant for dinner.  It got great reviews online and it was something very different from what we would find in the culinary desert that we inhabit.

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I know, “Daddy’s Place” sounds a little…I don’t know…   BUT, the food was amazing…AND apparently it was named as such because the owner’s 4-year-old daughter thought that’s what it should be called.  So cute.

We got a mini pie sampler and every single one was delicious.  Michael got the lamb shawarma and got the falafel/hummus plate.  There was seriously enough food to feed six people and every single thing was so amazing. I had to finish it off with a Turkish coffee. If you ever find yourself in Easton, PA, definitely stop here.  Did I mention that they have 250 beers to choose from?

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And finally, Evelyn got to stay in the hotel.  We went for a swim and had some Valentine treats before heading off to bed, which turned out to be a two-hour long process.  I’m going to blame it on the coffee that Michael let her guzzle before dinner.  She told me multiple times that wanted to stay there for at least 10 days. Maybe next time, love.

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The Dollhouse Remade

A few years ago, I posted about my dollhouse.  When I was about Evelyn’s age, I got a dollhouse for Christmas.  Despite the fact that it’s not in it’s pristine original condition, I have been hanging onto it for roughly 35 years.  I can’t even believe I am typing that number.  Makes my head want to explode.  Anyway, I always imagined that one day, I would refurbish it and give it to my own child. Since Evelyn is almost 4, I decided that I have been procrastinating long enough.  This will be the year that I give her my dollhouse.

I started ordering the furniture long before I started working on the house itself.  I chose some sturdy wooden furniture made by Hape.  I wanted the pieces to be durable and appropriate for a preschooler’s hands.  Sure, I love the elaborate dollhouses with delicate Victorian style furniture, but I wanted her to be able to really play with this.

I think I had originally planned to take my time and work on it slowly.  Yeeeaaahhh, that didn’t happen. I am a master procrastinator.  I started working on it approximately one month ago.  I removed the wallpaper and discovered that the walls are a little rough.  I bought some wood filler to try to smooth out the texture of the wood a bit, but soon discovered that working in the tiny spaces was challenging and I didn’t have enough time or patience to bother with it.  So, I just started painting.

At one point, I invited Evelyn to help me work on it.  I showed her how to dip her paintbrush just so to prevent drips from getting on the carpet. Even though we had a moment when she came close to tears after she accidentally started painting the floor instead of the walls, we mostly worked side by side and just chatted about our work.  I told her how I had received the dollhouse when I was her age and that I had been saving it just for her for 35 years.  I told her how I was going to paint the walls to make it look like our house and she started to verbally plan out the rooms.  She even wanted to add a toilet to the basement, just like we have.  I knew that I had made the right decision to invite her to help when she told me, “I love helping you, mom.”  All the dreams and plans I had for this dollhouse were right there in that little statement.

So basically, I just painted all the walls, reattached the borders around the windows and doorways, and gave the exterior a good coat of paint.  The dollhouse used to have a balcony and a staircase. The opening where the staircase used to be left a huge hole in the floor, so I got the idea to cover the hole with carpet to make better use of the space.  Now, I am not so sure that I like the look of the thick carpet, so I might eventually try to rebuild a staircase and try some different materials for the carpet.  I would also love to try to rebuild the balcony someday, but for now the master bedroom has a big doorway to nowhere.

Once I finally got everything painted and felt like I was close to being finished, I started looking at dollhouse tutorials on Pinterest.  That opened a huge can of worms.  The possibilities are endless and I had no idea.  After seeing some of the beautiful dollhouses out there, I am almost embarrassed to post pictures of my own.  I decided that I just had to at least add some wallpaper and some little artwork on the wall.  Eventually, I would also love to make some curtains and add some other little touches.  I imagine this is something that Evelyn and I can do together for as long as she is interested.

It’s not perfect.  I wish I would have started working on it sooner and done a little research ahead of time, but I know she will love playing with it and we can make changes to it as often as we want.  I was already looking for tutorials on how to make a little Christmas tree!

The pictures are a little dark…it’s hard to get in all those little corners, but without further ado…

the Dollhouse

That room at the top was my nemesis last night when I was trying to wallpaper it at the eleventh hour.  I could not get the paper to stick.  I will eventually have to pull it out and start over.  Maybe we’ll turn it into a nursery or a game room.

The living room…

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The dining room….  I think this one is my favorite.

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The kitchen….   I had a blast picking out little pictures to hang on the walls.

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The bathroom was one of my biggest challenges.  It’s the narrowest room in the house and the furniture doesn’t fit very well.  We probably could make do with just the tub and no shower, but the set came with both.

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The kids’ room…

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The parents’ room…

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I think it’s safe to say my girl loved it.  Now, I wonder who’s going to play with it more??

Sensory Fun with Ivory Soap

Evelyn loves sensory play.  I think that most kids her age do, unless they are averse to the new sensations.  Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to provide a sensory experience in your home for very little money.  I just purchased a plastic wash tub at Walmart for a few dollars and that’s where she plays with most of the materials I give to her.  In this instance, I happened to have several bars of Ivory soap around because I use it to make my own laundry detergent and I decided to try this fun activity using a bar of the classic soap.

First we put the bar of soap in the microwave (in a bowl) for about 2 minutes.  We watched as it grew and grew into a big, puffy cloud of soap.  After it cooled slightly, I put it on an old cookie tray and let Evelyn play with it for awhile.  I encouraged her to break it up.  I gave her some tools to use, but it took her a few minutes to get accustomed to the texture of it and to figure out how she could manipulate it.  Awesome discovery and problem solving opportunity! Ivory soap

The next day, we added some water to the soap pieces and I gave her a whisk  and some scoops.  This was definitely the coolest part!  After the soap had some time to dissolve, the mixture became slimy and soft and slippery and gloppy.  Evelyn described it by saying, “It looks like slobbery mayonnaise!”  Michael described it as “viscous” (gotta introduce those new vocabulary words!)

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We got about 3 days worth of play out of this.  We probably could have kept it around longer but it started to get bits of dirt and grass in it, so I just decided to get rid of it.

Have you tried any new activities with your little ones?

*Just a few words of warning about this activity:   At one point in the process after we microwaved the soap and before we added water, the cloud became very dusty and I was concerned about her breathing in the particles, so we stopped playing at  that point.  Also, we did play with the slimy, soapy mixture indoors and it made our linoleum floor very, very slippery.  Please use caution and place a towel down if you plan to play on a hard, smooth surface.*

traveling with a twosie

 

traveling with a toddler

This week we set out for a 12 hour car ride from Pennsylvania to Georgia (and back again a few days later) with our 2-year-old.  I was dreading it for several weeks and seriously considered backing out and sending my husband on his own.  I just hated the idea of having her stuck in her car seat all day long.  It’s hard enough for me to travel and, for the most part, I have control of my own destiny.  I knew it would be that much harder for her, so I did my best to plan ahead.  Fortunately for us, the trip went really well.  We managed to keep Evelyn entertained and she fussed very little during the hours on the road.

Are you thinking about a long trip with your toddler?  Here are some things you can do to make it as painless as possible for everyone.

Overlap travel time with sleep time.  For our departure trip, we left home around 3:30am.  I am not the type of person who can leave at 8pm and drive all through the night.  I would be dozing off behind the wheel.  But, if I can get a few good hours of sleep first, I’m fine.  We went to bed early and packed the car before bed.  Then we only had to fill our travel mugs with some strong coffee and transfer our cherub to her car seat.  We managed to get about 4 hours under our belt before she woke up.  She also napped later in the day for about 2 hours, so that cut off a considerable amount of travel time for her.

Take frequent breaks.  I think you have to enter into a long trip like this with a laid-back attitude.  Of course we wanted to make good time on our trip, but we stopped frequently to eat, use the restroom, and just walk around.  Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to arrive by a specific time.  Stop when you (or your child) need a break.  If you have a very active child, that might mean more frequent breaks.  Many rest stops have large, grassy areas where your child could run off some energy and everyone can just stretch their legs.

Pack plenty of snacks.  A hungry kid is a cranky kid.  Normally, I would be a bit nervous about allowing Evelyn to eat in the car.  I always worry about choking, especially if it’s just the two of us and I am driving.  But, since one of us could sit in the back seat with her and monitor her, it wasn’t a problem.

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Ok, I didn’t take this pic on the road, but it was too cute not to post. 🙂

Pack an activity bag.  I packed a bag with books, crayons, paper, stickers, and playdough.  I purchased an inexpensive clipboard that she could use as a work surface.  I also packed a few of her favorite games that could be easily manipulated on the road.

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Embrace technology.  I’m not gonna lie.  I’d love to tell you that we didn’t rely on our devices to entertain Evelyn, but we did use the iPad to show her some downloaded movies when we had exhausted the other activities.  I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy watching Frozen and Brave with her.  I offered her my phone to play some memory and matching games that she likes, but she wasn’t interested at the time.  What kind of kid is this anyway?

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Involve the kids in the conversation.  It’s easy for the adults in the front seats to get caught up in conversation and ignore the little ones in the back.  The few times that Evelyn whined during our trip were when Michael and I were busy chatting away and she wanted to get in on the conversation.  Involve them!  Point out trucks, buses, or interesting vehicles on the road.  Ask them to tell you what they see out the window.  Talk about where you are going and what to expect there.  Listen to music and sing songs.  Make them a part of things.

Be patient with them.  It’s really hard for kids this age to sit still for long periods of time.  There are bound to be some tough moments.  Acknowledge how hard it is to sit, offer suggestions, and change things up if necessary.

Since Evelyn is an only, I can’t speak on traveling with multiple children.  What works for your family?