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Monthly Archives: August 2010

games we are loving now

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My daughter is a board game nut and as a result I spend a good portion of my days hiking through Candy Land (always hoping for Princess Frostine) and forever picking then spilling cherries. So,when games come along that are fun for Pia and me it is like finding heaven in a box. As luck would have it, the two games in heavy rotation lately are two of my favorites.

The first is “Tier auf Tier” (German for “Animal Upon Animal”) which is made by Haba. It is a basic stacking game with a crazy assortment of animals (penguin, sheep, toucans, and collared lizards? odd.) that is loads of fun to play. The hedgehogs are the best. Since we play this nearly every night we have gotten quite good as a family and we dorkily take pictures of our highest animal pyramids.

The second game is “I Never Forget a Face!” by eeBoo. I like any memory game, but this one is quite exceptional. To begin with, the cards are thick and super sturdy and they feel divine (as do the wooden animal pieces in tier auf tier. hmmm). And instead of objects, the cards have pictures of kids from around the world. This is what our games sound like:

“Mongolia. Haiti. Not a match.”

“Bolivia. Myanmar. Not a match.”

“Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico! I got a match!”

Trust me. It is quite amusing to hear a four-year-old say words like ‘Tanzania’ and ‘Albania’ just as she would say ‘ball’ and ‘car’.

What games are you loving right now? We’re always looking for suggestions!


Frogtown, USA

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So Kyle just stepped on a frog.

In our bedroom.

On the second floor of the house.

Lucky for the frog, Kyle was barefoot and the frog doesn’t appear to have sustained any injuries.  Lucky for me, it was Kyle who discovered him.

I think Kyle may have suffered a mild cardiac event, however, as the lights were out and he was on his way to bed when I heard him jump and exclaim, “WHAT did I just step on!??”

Why are the frogs in this neighborhood so careless with their lives?

Now, it would be easy to blame this on the 3-year-old boy in the house, right?  But Tea would take at least 10 minutes to warm up to the prospect of touching a frog, let alone carrying one into the house, and he’s never out of my sight for more than 30 seconds.  Besides, Tea dashed across the hall to get a look at the intruder and I saw no hint of guilt or recognition cross his face.

I can only think of 2 explanations, both equally disconcerting:

  1. The frog came home from camp with us somehow and has been living in the house for more than a week.  How much water do frogs need to survive?  He wouldn’t still be kicking, right?  Because this frog had a LOT of kick during the subsequent Frog Relocation process.  If he’s been here for a week, there’s more frog excrement to discover than what we’ve already found.  I’m going to start wearing shoes in the house.
  2. The frog hitched a ride into the house on the dog.  I’m thinking this is extremely likely.  Punkin likes to water the flowers near the busiest frog population of the yard.  But would a frog really hold on all the way to the second floor?  Would Punkin not notice the huge amphibian clinging to her fur?  If this happened once, it can happen again.  Courtney, are you sure you still want to consider dog-sitting for our frog-toting pooch?

I did not photograph the frog, as it was busy trying to escape by defecating all over whatever I tried corralling it in.  I like frogs, but this guy was gross so I was as frantic as he was.

On a barely related note, in researching whether there actually *is* a Frogtown, I discovered that it’s a neighborhood in St. Paul, MN that sounds great.  We just happen to be heading in that direction soon, and I am soooo going to this deli!  So thank you, little frog, for leading me to wonderful Thai food.

chickens on the brain

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Yesterday we went to the library in a nearby town (I adore visiting ‘other’ libraries) and brought home several pounds of books. Among the many kids books that Pia picked out was “The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County” by Janice Harrington. Besides being a fun book to read, it has chickens in it and I love chickens. Indeed, I am always thisclose to bringing home a couple of chicks to live in our backyard (years ago we had two hens, Val and Betty, who lived with us and they were much fun even though they pooped almost exclusively on our back patio). The chickens in this book are done collage-style, with different fabrics and patterned papers making up the feathers and bodies. Very cool. And on ninth reading of the book it occurred to me that we could make chickens just like the ones in the book. Well, almost just like. On a totally different plane of cool, of course, but still.

The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County” by Janice Harrington

We hauled out the glue sticks and the scissors and magazines and went to work. We cut ‘feathers’ out of magazine pages (our feather shape was ovals with pointy ends and little snips on the side to make them more feather-like). Then I drew a big chicken on paper and we happily glued feathers on to the bodies. We colored in the heads and feet with crayons. Such fun.

These are, of course, the very rare purple-spotted chicken and the turquoise-shimmer chicken of eastern lake country. I know Pia really likes a project when she requests to do it again when daddy comes home, as was the case tonight. So we now have three more chickens roosting in the hallway.

This is why I don’t plan craft projects

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Tea has never shown much interest in doing anything crafty.  For him, craft time is strictly an excuse to create a mess (smearing ink and paint on himself instead of paper) or build/destroy things with art supplies (like making towers of markers, stacking rubber stamps, and peeling all the paper from crayons).

Despite this, I thought I could entice him to make a finger puppet theater, similar to the one Courtney and Pia made.  I cut a long oval out of one side of a small shoe box – my plan was to have this hole be the access point for the finger puppets into which they could peek up into their theater.  I cut some rectangles of paper for Tea to decorate with different “back-drops” so we could do scene changes.  I had additional, more elaborate plans for making it all cute and very theater-esque if Phase One went according to plan.  It did not.

Tea humored me for 12 seconds and slap-dash scribbled one of the pieces of paper.  He then piled all of the puppets inside the box and covered it with multiple sheets of scratch paper.  I was instructed to “be quiet – they’re sleeping in their house”.

He spent the remainder of the morning caring for the animals in their new home.  The puppet theater-turned house became a cave, then a zoo, then a home again, where the animals apparently feasted heavily on marshmallows.  My child does not lack for creativity; I just need to give up and toss the art supplies.

this has worked for two whole weeks

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We have bedtime struggles. As parents of a 4-year-old I suppose this goes without saying. There is much stalling and much ignoring of desperate parent pleas. Finally, after a few days (weeks?) of really horrible bedtimes where the process from bath to sleep was upwards of 3 hours Jim and I sat down and came up with a plan. It was actually a plan that had been marinating in my mind for ages, but finally put into action at this point.

We made a list of all the things that had to be done at bedtime, making sure to include a couple of fun items. This is what our list looked like:

  • Eat a good dinner
  • Do a chore (this is actually a fun item, Pia loves doing “chores” and she often would use them as a bedtime stall tactic)
  • Take a bath
  • Brush teeth
  • Put on pajamas and a pull-up
  • Play a family board game
  • Read books in bed (5)
  • Snack
  • Sleep

Ridiculously long list, I know. And I’m sure some people raise and eyebrow at the snack right before sleep, but after two years of trying to break the habit we have made peace with the fact that Pia simply needs to eat a snack right before dozing off. Anyway. With the list laid out, Jim and I found some sturdy cardstock and cut out 4×6 cards. We busted out the markers and drew pictures of each item on the list (this was loads of fun), punched holes in the cards and slipped them onto binder rings. I had an old picture frame that was shaped like an easel so I took the glass out and replaced it with the cards-on-rings. The cards can then be flipped through in order. These pictures will explain much better than I am doing with words:

The next night we held our breath as we unveiled our new bedtime strategy to Pia. And lo and behold she ate it up. She adored flipping through the cards and the anticipation of what would come next. Each item was exciting. Brush teeth!! Yay!! And since we had included a family game and a ‘chore’ in the routine we had basically called her stalling bluff and those things stopped dragging on forever… because she was more excited about seeing what the next card would be.

But anything can be exciting and cool once. I didn’t blog about it at first because I was certain the novelty would wear off. But here we are, two weeks later, and she still loves the cards (and still acts surprised when she flips the cards, even though nothing ever changes in the line up). She even initiates the process right after dinner, saying “I gotta do my cards”. So, hopefully we can ride this wave of bedtime bliss for at least a while longer. Though I am sure by writing this I have just jinxed us.


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I’ve been without internet access in the north woods of Wisconsin – four generations of our family spent the week at family camp together.  For perhaps 20 years of my life, starting at age 2, we’ve gone together.  I love that my sister and I are continuing the tradition for our kids.

At camp Moon Beach, circa 1983

Tea's cousin Cricket with her proud Great-Grandma

We relished the relaxing break of having someone else prepare our meals and wash our dishes.  We had fun swimming (sometimes 3 times a day) in a clear lake, hiking through woods and bogs, canoeing, sailing, blowing bubbles, toasting marshmallows, star gazing, singing songs, puddle-stomping, square dancing, fishing, playing silly games, eating too much ice cream, and watching eagles, loons, and deer.  Most of all, we enjoyed spending time with our family and our camp family.

Tea sailing with his Granddad

Tea was a mean Pass the Pigs player

Grandma rolled an impossible 100 Pass the Pig points in *one hand*

This was Tea’s second year there, and he really thrived on the chance to interact with other kids and play more independently than last year.  He attended his morning classes without a backwards glance at us.  This is by far the easiest, most relaxing way to vacation with small kids that I can imagine.  There were always kid-friendly choices of things to do and great people to help watch Tea.  And as if that’s not enough, Kyle and I had a wonderful time, too.  At the end of the week, Tea didn’t want to come home.  I didn’t either.

Rachel, my hero, square danced with Tea

Tea and his partner in crime, moments before he got *very* wet

Bubbles on a windy day with 100% humidity

I'm so glad I packed those boots

I’m telling myself that we’re now refreshed, recharged, and ready to face the start of a busy school year (for Kyle, and therefore by extension, for Tea and I), but I still don’t quite feel ready to say goodbye to summer.

Tea played hard and slept even harder


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Since I can’t do anything in moderation, I sewed something else before the sewing machine cooled off.  I’ve had this project in the back of my mind for awhile and just hadn’t gotten to  it yet.  My goal was to streamline the packing of picnic lunches, since we eat them often.

I sewed individual place-mats for each person in our house with pockets to hold (thrifted, so we don’t lose the good stuff) silverware and a cloth napkin.  The top folds down a bit so when it’s rolled up nothing falls out.  Ribbons on the sides facilitate tying up the roll.  Ultimately I’d like to make a few extra so we always have a clean set ready to go.  This will keep the dreaded should I pack plastic forks or risk losing our everyday silverware, and which drawer are the napkins in today, and does the likely dirtiness level of our meal-site require a picnic blanket or tablecloth questions at bay as I’m trying to get out the door.

An added bonus is Tea is getting bit by the sewing bug:

“When I’m big, I’m going to take your sewing machine to my house and sew.”

“Which house are you going to live in when you’re big?”

“The neighbor’s house.  Bonny’s.  But you can come and visit me.”

“Where will Bonny and her family live?”

“They can live with the other neighbors.”