Monthly Archives: October 2012

Baby, Don’t Cry – We’re Going On An Adventure

When I was a new mom and I had a bad day I would wallow in how awful it was. I would isolate myself on Baker Island and think of how miserable it was that my child would not stop crying. “Oh I can’t wait for this [cold, teething, craziness, allergies] to go away so that my sweet little babe will return. I would lament the horrors of the day for my poor husband as soon his worked-all-day feet crossed the threshold. I would call my mom and ask her what I was doing wrong. Sigh. It was tough, but I made it through.

But then that second child came along. And when he cried his sister would get the same crazy-eyed look I remembered getting during her baby days. And she would cover her ears and scream, “Chill out, Buddy.” And then I would have two screaming children. So, in a moment of desperation I drove to the mall. I stuffed that screaming baby in the ergo and awalkin’ we went. And he didn’t cry. He napped. It was amazing. And the lightbulb went off. Dude, motherhood is not [all] about surviving. Maybe those old ladies who stare at me in the grocery line before saying, “Enjoy every moment; it goes so fast” were on to something. So I stopped waiting for the weekend to go on adventures with the kids [I think Chuck totally prefers this over a ‘pack it in, it’s the weekend’ adventure round-up.]. I stopped putting a pause on life when one of the kiddos got a case of the grumpies. I bought a one-way ticket away from Baker Island.

I mean yes, there’s two of them and one of me so they’re totally winning the numbers game, but with a little preparation [snacks, a game-plan, and adventure-ready clothes] it’s pretty easy for us to have some lovely mid-week adventures. And it’s even better when we have friends to share adventures with. So today we bundled ourselves tight and took a trip to the botanical gardens with one of Lucy’s very favorite friends [whom she refers to as My Bella].

It makes me really happy to see them together; they just love each other so [so] much. So I’m going to spread some lovely love for all of you to see. I know I’m biased but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t get much cuter.

Having older cousins the same ages means having lots of matching [or similar] hand-me-downs!

I’ve been really enjoying this roaring like a lion thing lately. What I really love is when she combines things like “monster lion” and “t-rex pirate”.

I think she’d follow B anywhere!

The key to a successful outing is a mid-romp snack.

Then you can get back to the silliness.

We looked at the flowers. I mean, we were at the botanical gardens, and yet out of the 100 [I know,excessive] or so pics I took there were six of something other than children. It’s official- I’m the mamarazzi.

And look, like magic, he’s smiley, happy Landon. That is until it got a little too close to nap time. Can’t win them all…

So, next time your baby is a little more bananas than sweet loveliness strap ’em on and take ’em out.

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Kid Art: Wood Bead Necklaces

I spotted this tutorial a while back on pinterest and knew my sweet girl would love it [and she did. So much].

It’s a pretty straight forward project: take some painter’s tape and tape off half of the bead. Pick out some colors. We used Martha Stewart’s paints [love]. Let ’em dry and string ’em up. We used waxed cotton cord. Easy peasy. And a fun project for about $5.

As with any kid art project, the true measure of success lies in the process and kid approval rating. Did she have a good time?

I don’t think she’s going to take it off anytime soon.

I wish this was a video so you could hear her adorable little voice saying, “And I painted here. And I painted here. And I painted here…”

And she asked me to make one with her. Um… yeah!

The paint we used dried really fast so this was a fun project that we were able to wrap up in one morning. I loved doing it with Lucy. I want to make sure she knows that art [even if it’s just coloring] isn’t just for kids. You’re never to old to get those creative juices flowing!

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This Week’s Meal Plan and A Husband’s Perspective

Starting the post off with a little laugh: clearly I couldn’t make my mind up about what to eat on which days. I don’t think Mr. Baker was surprised one bit. I just couldn’t help it. Oh well [and hey, we still ate!]. I’ll order the meal plan as it’s seen on the board because I think if I told you what we actually ate on which day I might really confuse you.

Sunday: Leftovers. Ahhhh. They don’t happen a lot because someone whose name rhymes with Buck Chaker loves leftover lunches [and I think his students love that he’s not attacked by a case of the hangries at the end of the school day]. Love that guy. We ended up having one of my favorite guilty pleasure meals: cheese and spinach quesadillas. And seriously, I swear, they taste better when someone else makes them for you. Yum yum.
Monday: Vegetable stew that I posted about here. I really, really enjoyed it.
Tuesday: Red Lentil Coconut Curry from the cookbook Simply in Season. It’s one of my favorite cookbooks because even before I enjoyed cooking I had success with the recipes in it. This was no exception. It was great. It’s fun to throw a completely different flavor into the week. I roasted the cabbage separately. And next time I’m definitely going to add in the optional green peas.
Wednesday: Veggie burritos from here. If you want to make your friends forget about meat serve them these burritos. Oh.My.Goodness. They were delicious! I only roasted the sweet potatoes before baking the burritos. The onions and peppers were still snappy and I was okay with that.
Thursday: Pizza! Homemade pizza! Here’s my favorite crust recipe. We had one with mushrooms and onions, one with chopped sweet mini peppers and onions, and one half pineapple half cheese. They were very tasty and we got to share them with some favorite friends, even better. We had this [vegan] pumpkin ice cream with homemade magic shell for dessert.
Friday: When the fridge is feeling a little full or you have some veggies that are barely holding on: fire up the oven and put some quinoa in the dutch oven. We’ve thrown green peppers, onions, tomatoes, carrots, squash… every kind of veggie imaginable into our quinoa. It’s always lovely.
Saturday: Joy the Baker for the win again! As the temperatures are dropping our tomatoes are busting with the last of the season’s harvests [and we have lovely friends who share their spoils] so tonight we feast! Tomato Cobbler with blue cheese. Eeeeek. I have such a foodie crush on JtB.

Sidenote: I didn’t even realize the menu was meat-free until I started typing it up. I think that means we’ve officially wandered to the “other” side. The stegosaurus has always been my favorite dino… herbivores unite!

Today I asked my wonderful husband to give me his perspective about how he’s been impacted by our diet change. [I wrote a little about how I feel I’ve changed here.] I am glad he agreed because I honestly could not imagine implementing the changes we’ve made to our diet without his support. I greatly appreciate his “all-in” attitude and the way he’s trusted me to feed our family what I feel is best. I’m a lucky girl.

3 things I Do (and 3 Things I Don’t) in Our Food Revolution

Depending on how you grew up eating, making a switch from meat, bread, and potatoes (and processed snacks in between) settles somewhere on a range from uneasy, unrealistic, uncomfortable, unbelievable, and unwilling. If you are anything like me, you’re pretty uncomfortable with change, and that can manifest negatively and (sort of) unintentionally at someone who’s trying to change up the menu. (grumpiness, anger, seclusion, denial, etc.)

The best thing Beth did for me was to walk me through this with kindness. I witnessed her evolution in perspective as she read, watched, and researched food, bad food, and what it does to our bodies. She shared with me along the way. She sprinkled interesting facts at me in the middle of a book. She found movies for us to watch together. She taught me some of what she was learning about the science of our nutrition. She spoke one of my love languages: statistics! She weaned me from meat-dependence with first one, then two, three, or four nights a week. This period was a couple of months long. She made amazing food.

1. Most importantly in this, I think, is that I tell (and show) Beth that I trust her. I think most people think I’m joking when I call Beth my domestic engineer, but I started doing it because of the way Beth approaches her role. She’s all business about playing with kids, making cool stuff, and preparing (and learning how to prepare) amazing meals. Once Beth knew she had reign to run the home, I saw her creativity and fulfillment increase. Translation: If you don’t feel like your husband is trusting you in this, do what you can to build that.

2. I take interest in what she was doing. If Beth is watching something on Netflix about food, I ask her questions. When the night’s meal had an ingredient we’d never had before, I let her tell me all about it. I asked her to let me go shopping with her so I could learn about ANDI scores, too. I gave her freedom to make these food changes, but I DIDN’T shutdown and tune out. Translation: Invite your family along for the ride. If your kids are older, share with them all you’re learning, too. Let’s be honest, they’ll probably change their habits sooner and easier than your husband, anyway. :)

3. I eat. This one is easiest. Beth always feels really proud and encouraged when I get up from the table for a second bowl. On the flip side, I give her grace if a meal doesn’t turn out as well. Even when we were eating a traditional American diet dinner didn’t come out right sometimes, so it was easy to get over expectations for perfect dinner every night. Translation: If the food is tasty, your tongue and your stomach won’t miss the meat.

4. I don’t keep a secret stash of junk food somewhere (or grab it while I’m out). Generally, I do my best to eat “good” food with less/no processing, and no chemicals in the ingredients list. Your mom really was right about not spoiling your appetite. I’m not perfect at this, but having leftovers for lunch at work helps, and we have a “one-vice” rule, too. I use mine to eat “normal” cereal for breakfast.

5. I don’t question every food purchase she makes. This is related to the financial side of our lives – I know that Beth isn’t going to spend more than we have, and that she’s going to put together a good meal plan as cheaply as she can (getting most of our produce at Aldi really helps here).

6. I don’t have a double standard for grown-ups/kids or man/woman diets. Did you ever see that show on TLC called Honey, We’re Killing The Kids? I’m sure those parents would always say they wanted their kids to eat veggies, but they sure weren’t showing it. If your kid wants to be grown-up so fast, show ’em that grown ups eat lots of vegetables. Our culture says that manly men eat a ton of meat, but I remember Daniel leaving out the meat and being okay. (Daniel 1:8-16) This guy and this MMA champion are doing alright for themselves, too.

Bottom Line: Changing a family diet takes a whole family. It takes just as much leadership and servant-hood as finances, child-rearing, work and spiritual discipline – aspects of life where teaching and training are most commonly devoted.

What a guy, huh. Anyone else have advice for getting the family on-board with a new way of eating?

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Sweet Harvest Stew

I love stew. But I have this issue with it. I want my stew to pack some flavor in each bite. I mean, surely you’ve experienced it before, too: bland stew, not good. So I started working on a stew and what kind of flavors I’d want. Lots of flavor was the answer.

Inspired by autumn’s leaves and harvest [and this recipe by The Curvy Carrot] I set to work to pacify those papillae.

Sweet Harvest Stew
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch collard greens [10-12 leaves]
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
black pepper

1 1/2 – 2 cups sliced button mushrooms
1 shallot, diced [or 2 garlic cloves]
1/2 cup white wine

2 1/2 cups broth
1 can diced tomatoes
4 carrots, sliced
1 large sweet potato, diced
1 red onion, roughly chopped
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans [1 can, rinsed and drained]
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley

optional:
3 tablespoons flour [cornstarch or arrowroot]
1/4 cup water

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a hot dutch oven and saute collard greens until soft. Set ’em aside.
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the same dutch oven and saute the carrots, celery, and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until the onions began to turn translucent. Reduce the heat to medium and add the mushrooms and shallots [or garlic] and saute until the mushrooms start to soften. De-glaze the dutch oven with 1/2 cup white wine. Continue cooking [and stirring] until the wine is reduced by half.

Add the broth, diced tomatoes [I use Muir Glen fire roasted], carrots, sweet potatoes, red onion, garbanzo beans, and seasonings. Make sure you’ve added enough broth to cover everything. Bring the stew to a boil, cover it, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Let it simmer [or stew, ha] for 30 minutes or so until your carrots are softened. If you like your stew a little thicker, mix the flour and water together and add it in now. Stir it for a couple minutes while it thickens.

Remove from heat. Add the collard greens back in. Taste the broth and add more salt or pepper as needed.

I served these with some [vegan] pumpkin cornbread muffins. I made them with a Bob’s Red Mill mix of gluten-free cornbread, 1/2 cup of pumpkin, and 1/3 cup of coconut oil. They were delicious!

Feel free to get creative with your mix-ins: zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, lima beans, green peas, green beans. Go crazy here, folks.

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Lately.

I’m in this weird place right now. It’s a hard place.  It’s a new place. It’s a place where you can’t help but be so thankful.

Your kids are sick? But they will be well soon.

Your kids have food allergies? At least there’s food to put on the table.

You have to clean the house? You have a house.

The place I’m at: this challenging season. It’s serving to remind me how truly blessed I am. It’s enabling me to trust in the Father. Where there was once only worry there now stands hope and peace. This place where friends pray for you and you cry all over them. Not a sad cry; a woah-my-emotions-are-running-bananas cry. When I talk about how life is going it doesn’t sound very positive. But it totally is. Challenging on the surface; clarifying underneath.

Just keep smiling. Trusting. Following.

And have a dance party in the kitchen.

And then make some cookies with some of your favorite people.

And then have a pizza party with some more faves.

Life is good, even when it’s hard. Hey, that’s a lot like parenting…

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19

We’re like, totally, hippies!

I remember a looooong time ago I was at work with some of my favorite friends [who both happen to have art degrees] and they were talking about trading art for art. My boss told them bartering was totally a hippie thing to do. And I think they were sort of offended by the hippie moniker [correct me if I’m wrong, girls]. I, on the other hand, have totally secret ambitions to become a hippie. So, to further my ambitions, I traded family portraits with a friend. I love the ones she took of us [and I sprinkled in a few of the kids from our backyard]:


Is there anything better than little girls with big hair bows? Nope. Nothing.


Is this meme-ready or what!?


Let’s get out of here!

Maybe I’ll convince Melonnie to let me share the ones I took of her family [and share some more cute baby love]!

This Week’s Meal Plan and How I Made It

Sunday: Farro with Broccoli Crunch from 101 Cookbooks. Not my favorite meal of the week but I try to have easy dinners on Sundays and easy it was. I switched the farro for quinoa because I had a bit of a time crunch [time crunch, broccoli crunch, heh].
Monday: Roasted Turnips and Southern Greens with bacon [because bacon salt weirds me out]. When Chuck got home from work I asked him to take us for a Trader Joe’s run [crazy, crazy day] so we had a late, late dinner of whole wheat pitas stuffed with spinach, carrots, tomatoes, and spicy mustard. It was delish!
Tuesday: Veggie burgers and sweet potato fries. Since sweet potatoes have a longer shelf life we ate the greens tonight. With bacon. The irony is not lost on me, my friends.
Wednesday: Penne with root greens. I didn’t have a recipe for this. When I got home from the farmer’s market Saturday I removed the greens from my radishes and turnips and put them in a ziploc bag with a damp paper towel. The plan was to saute them down and add them to a penne dish [probably with red sauce]. This meal didn’t happen because I forgot Chuck had conferences this week and I didn’t want to cook a big meal without him. The kids had sweet potatoes with some corn and peas from the freezer. I saw someone on facebook making veggie muffins and I couldn’t get it out of my head so we whipped some of those up too [I used spelt flour]. I did add half a cup of almond milk to the batter because it seemed a little thick. It made 18 muffins.
Thursday: Chuck was at conferences again but I wizened up and invited a friend over for dinner. And then I couldn’t find the recipe for the tuscan cabbage and white beans. I didn’t pin it [my usual way to keep the ‘to-try’ recipes in line]. So I sauteed the cabbage with a mirepoix [kind of like here] and then added mushrooms and brown rice.
Friday: Vegetable Corn Chowder. I didn’t use a recipe but I used 8 ears of corn, a couple green bell peppers, 6 mini sweet orange and yellow peppers, an onion, 6 cloves of garlic, 2 stalks of celery, and the leftover carrots and zucchini I had from the veggie muffins. Yes, I packed 8 vegetables into my corn chowder. I seasoned it with salt, pepper, chipotle chili, and cumin. It was really yummy and we’ll have some leftovers.
Saturday: Eggplant Parmesan sort of like this one, but we use real cheese. Because I love cheese. And I don’t love fake cheese. We are going to make Lucy some noodles and give her some of the eggplant. Oh, and we’re using almond meal in place of breadcrumbs.

[I think this week is a good example of having some flexibility in your meal plan. If you have to switch things up just try to prioritize based on which veggie will hold out for you and which need to be used up sooner.]

So here’s a behind-the-scenes look on how our meal plan comes together. [I talked a while back about how we started meal planning.] It all starts Saturday morning with a trip to the farmer’s market and grocery store [or just the grocery store]. Conveniently, they share a parking lot. The kiddos and I hit up the market while Chuck is working [he teaches a Saturday morning enrichment program]. We have some favorite booths at the market but in general we do a quick sweep to see what looks good and what’s the best value. We spend between $10 and $15 and fill up a couple reusable shopping bags! After that we run to the grocery store and pick up anything we couldn’t get at the farmer’s market. I then come home and prep the veggies and put them away. I have some baskets from the dollar store in the fridge. Usually there’s one for green leaf veggies, one for the rest of the veggies, and one for apples [they like to keep to themselves].

I don’t wash anything but I do prepare the green leaf veggies like I mentioned earlier. And I also check my fruit to make sure there’s not a trouble-maker in the bunch, trying to go bad early.

After everything is settled in the fridge or on the counter [here’s a pretty thorough look at what goes where] I write a list of what I’ve got to work with. Usually I’ve been busy during the week pinning recipes that have come across my google reader so after my list is written I check there first to see if I’ve pinned anything that matches up with my ingredients. Usually there are a few overlaps because the farmer’s market produce matches up with the seasonal dishes other food bloggers are whipping up. I next do a few ingredient searches in google reader. I really like this because it’s only searching blogs I read so the results are a lot more relevant than a google search, which is my last resort.

Once I decide which dishes I want to make it’s a matter of ordering them according to what will go bad first. [Here’s a good resource for checking vegetable shelf life.] Then it goes up on the menu board, which I share with you guys each week.

I would say the most challenging part for me is finding new and different ways to cook different vegetables. I love to try new dishes and Chuck doesn’t mind it so it’s rare that something hits the menu more than once in a month. But, if you don’t enjoy wild and crazy culinary adventures quite as much it would be a great idea to list out 20 to 30 of your favorite meals [you could be really crazy and do it seasonally] and then use that list to create your meal plan.

I make my meal plan in this order, rather than choosing dishes and making a shopping list because this way I can generally find the best produce deals and make my meal plan around that. Just one way I try to keep the food budget lower.

Anyone else have any tips for how your meal plan comes together?

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Mama Confessions

There’s not much I miss about working full-time, if we’re being honest. I love staying home with my two lovelies. I love the adventures we have every day. But I realized this week there is one thing I miss a little: Yearly Performance Reviews.

I mean, there were an endless supply of people letting me know how they felt about how I did my job as a retail manager. There was my boss who gave me those reviews, there were the people who worked for me who let me know when they thought what I asked of them was nuts, and there were customers, the most vocal of all. In short, every day people gave me positive and negative feedback about my job.

So, staying home, there’s not as much feedback. Sure, Lucy let me know today that she did not want to take a nap. And she let me know how she felt about the leggings I picked out for her. Chuck will tell me if he likes dinner or wouldn’t be sad to never see it again. Obviously, the feedback is not the same [and there’s never a raise or bonus involved].

I think that’s where moms get caught up, at least I do. There’s no annual performance review so I give myself [a lot] of self-reviews. And I am a tough critic. I have lofty goals for how I want our days to go, what I want my kids to learn, the kids of dinners I want on the table.

I’ve been enjoying reading this blog lately. Specifically this post where she talks about the lack of middle ground in motherhood. If everything is going well we give ourselves an A+ but if things go awry it’s right to failing. We need to have grace with ourselves if we expect it to be extended by others. It’s nice when you realize other people feel the same way you do. It’s even better when mamas tell each other.

And that’s how Pinterest spoke truth into my life this week. What?! Unexpected. It started with this C.S.Lewis quote:


via

It was right on track with this crazy good sermon series we’ve had this month called, “We Are The Church”. We have to keep our thoughts on what we know to be true. We have to speak truth to ourselves. And we have to surround ourselves with people who are going to encourage and build us up. Friends who are on the same quest.

And here’s a little extra credit from Ephesians 4:29-32:
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

When days seem to be going in the wrong direction. When it seems a challenge to muster up positive thoughts. These are the moments when I need to call upon the things I know to be true. Or at least call upon an amazing friend [or mom, or sister] that God has put into my life when I need a little perspective for my short-sighted report card.

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[I can’t believe it’s a] veggie burger!

So I wasn’t going to post this recipe. There were a few reasons. One, I very hastily took a picture of it on my way to my third burger [which was a mistake- my mind said yes and my stomach said no]. Also, it was not too long ago that I believed veggie burgers should be left to the hippies [and now I’m spreading veggie burger love!? Really?]. Finally, I’d almost given up on veggie burgers. They take a long time. They’re hard to make. They fall apart and misbehave. Bad, bad veggie burgers.

But, then I made these burgers. Wowzers. I mean, really. Party in the U.S.A.

So, I’ll share. And maybe you, too, can replace your go-to veggie burger recipe. Or give them a try if you’re a veggie burger newb.

Quinoa Veggie Burgers
adapted from allrecipes
Makes 9 burgers

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup dried black beans, cooked [about 2 cans]
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup feta cheese*
1/2 cup sweet potato, cooked and mashed
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Add the quinoa and salt to water, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook for 20 minutes. Rinse your sweet potato, pierce it with a fork and use that amazing ‘baked potato’ button on your microwave [or go it the old-fashioned way and cook it in the oven, giving yourself a little more time for prep].

While the quinoa is going get your black beans ready [either by cooking them in your pressure cooker or draining and rinsing the canned beans]. Mash the black beans as much as you’d like and set aside. Dice up the pepper, onion, and garlic to about the same size and add to food processor. I processed the mix until it blended together and was chunky, but before it was pulverized [technical term]. Add the green pepper mix to the black beans. To that add the cheese, sweet potato, and seasonings. Mix well.

When the quinoa is finished cooking let it sit with the lid on for 5 minutes. Fluff it with a fork and add it to the burger mix. Mix everything well and shape into 9 burgers.

Place the burgers on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes. Baking them will help to keep them from crumbling.

*Since feta is made with a salt brine I didn’t add extra salt to the burger. If you replace the feta with another cheese you may need to add salt.

We had our burgers with these homemade buns from Taste of Home. Ener-g Egg Replacer works great in this recipe to keep them vegan. We added spinach and ketchup. So delicious!

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50 ways to [engage] your kiddos

1. Make a superhero armband out of a toilet paper roll, a piece of cardstock, or anything you can find lying around.

2. Convince your kiddo that her superhero armband will make her swing higher.

3. And that superheros can blow really big bubbles.

4. Set up a tub outside [or inside with some extra splash protection] and let them wash all the dishes of their play kitchen. Or some plastic plates and cups from your kitchen. Use bubble bath instead of dish soap to protect those little eyes.

5. Go for a walk. Talk about what you see.

6. Eat your snack outside. Maybe after your walk. Change the scenery.

7. Play with blocks. Ask them what their building.

8. Go for a bike ride. Or a trike ride. Or a car ride. Or a stroller ride.

9. Make paper hats out of newspaper. Or paper crowns. Let them decorate the hats. Let them make one for you [and wear it!].

10. Try out a new playground. Invite some friends along.

11. Let the kiddos try on your clothes. Your shoes, your jewelry, your hats. And then feel flattered that they want to be a little like you.

12. Build up your play clothes bin. It doesn’t have to cost a lot. Some silk scarves, hand-me-down crowns from older cousins, and a few random dollar store finds make up our play bin [princess robot anyone?].

13. Blow up a balloon. Use your imagination.

14. We love these kid-friendly tweezers [We split a pack with some cousins]. Here’s a transfer activity using some erasers we found at the dollar store.

15. Cars! I think almost every kid loves them. We like to get out all of our cars and sort them [i.e. Can you find all the red cars? What about all the cars with people in them?]

16. Trains! Set up little towns. Talk about all the roles the people in the towns have.

17. Read a book. Set up a book nook so that there’s a comfy spot whenever the desire to read strikes.

18. Wrestle with daddy [or mommy, but I am more of a tickler].

19. Plan an outing with some friends. Pick somewhere with lots of hands-on activities. We love our zoo.

20. Then plan the same outing with different friends. Say you went to the zoo with a friend who has kids the same age as yours. The next week go to the zoo with a grandparent. It will be a much different experience for your kiddos in an environment that’s not totally unfamiliar.

21. Kid art! We love kid art around here. Set something up. Prepare yourself for the fact that it might get messy.

22. Hang out with Dora. Or any of your favorite characters. Set up a bunch of pillows and blankets on the living room floor and watch a show [or two]. It’s good. Watch it with them. Talk about it. If Dora tells you to march in place… well, march in place.

23. Create your own board game. Make it as easy [or hard] as your lovely needs it to be. Make it perfectly align with their interests. Try to learn something. Be okay if they don’t.

24. Set up a tent. Build a pillow fort. And keep it up for a while. It’s okay if it’s a little messy.

25. Have your kiddo help you create a new-to-them snack. Lucy loves a corn tortilla topped with steamed broccoli and vegan cheese. Play with food.

26. Be creative [or google it] and create scenes on their lunch plates with food. Trees, cars, spell their name.

27. Toddler trust exercises. I’m kidding, sort of. He looks scared, right? Do something they’ve never ever done before. And be right there with them. And then talk about it.

28. Let them help you with the laundry. Yes, maybe it will take longer but you’ll get to hang out and they’ll begin to understand that household chores are something to share.

29. Let them help you sweep the floors and clean the mirrors. Even if you have to go back and do it again you’re showing them all the things you clean and you’re spending time with them [something you want to do] doing something you have to do.

30. Lucy loves to sort. Look through your house and find cups and bowls in a variety of colors and let them sort their toys. Make sure to tell them what important work their doing. These counting astronauts are from the thrift store and Lucy likes to assign names to them. So I ask her who each one is and see how many names of friends and family she can remember.

31. Do some puzzles. Over and over and over and over.

32. Add some food coloring to foam shaving cream and let them paint the bathroom walls. *Warning: this dyes my grout for a few days, but it bleaches out.

33. Go pick something. Take them to a farm. Show them where food comes from.

34. Give a doll a bath. Let your kiddo take care of the doll just like you take care of them.

35. Put on some music and dance. Dance with them. Dance together. Dance individually. Dance silly. Dance serious.

36. Stamp with stamps. Stamp with toys. Figure out shapes.

37. Make them a sensory bin. Have it be about something you’ve done lately [gone to the beach]. Listen to them play. Ask them if they remember anything about the beach.

38. Give Barbie a check up. Talk about things that really happen at the doctor. Let them create some things that don’t happen at the doctor.

39. When Barbie is all healthy invite her to a tea party. Make invitations. Sit at the “real” table. Make a menu.

40. Bake something together. If it’s vegan let them lick the bowl. Talk about what you’re doing. Let them do stuff.

41. Open up a juice bar. Or a smoothie bar. Be wacky. Ask for ingredient suggestions. Doesn’t always go over well. :)

42. Give them their own shopping list and go to the grocery store. If they can’t read have the list be pictures or old labels.

43. You probably noticed we do a lot of activities and not so many worksheet type things. But Lucy does love it when we create worksheets together.

44. Video chat with someone you love, close by or far away.

45. Play with play dough. Give them lots of “tools” to manipulate the play dough.

46. Make play dough together. Here’s my favorite recipe.

47. Give them some dried beans and let them pour them from one container to another.

48. Make your own construction site. Get out your trucks. Get out some poms. Use your blocks to create buildings.

49. Play catch. Play catch outside or in. Even if you’re just throwing the ball in their direction while they giggle.

50. Create shapes and patterns with the blocks and have them copy.

Whew, tired yet? Parenting is a lot of work! This list came about because Lucy asked very sweetly, “I want to play, Mommy.” And at that moment my brain was empty of any activity to play together. I’m certainly not saying you should be engaging those sweet little lovelies all day [that wouldn’t be healthy for either of you] but next time we’re looking for something to do I’m sure I’ll be glad I made this list. Are there any activities that are favorites around your house?

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