Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Our Waldorf Birthday Ring: An Evolving Tradition

Sorry that this blog has become almost exclusively about kids birthdays.

But the truth is that our actual life is pretty much exclusively focused on celebrating kids birthdays around this time of year (one down, one to go). So bear with me for a few more birthday-related posts.

Last year, I bought a Waldorf Birthday Ring for our family birthday celebrations. I love the idea of a family birthday tradition. But as with all traditions, we have modified how we use our birthday ring over time.

Last year, I set it out on our dining room table as a sort of centerpiece and I switched out the pieces for Eleanor and then Brendan's birthdays. It was more of a look-but-don't-touch -situation.

This year, I put the ring out on our kitchen table at the beginning of April and I have let the kids play with it and change the pieces in and out themselves. I wanted it to be more of an interactive activity.

And touch they have. In fact, Brendan just spilled his strawberry yogurt smoothie all over it (not sure it will ever be quite the same, but whatever).

I added a few new ornaments to signify some of the events of the past year -- notably a blue pram for the addition of baby Colin and a snowman to remind us of the many snowmen Daddy and the kids built during the endless winter.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What She Had to Say on Her Fifth Birthday

Kids change so fast. I am always trying to capture them the way that they are right now. So I photograph them. And I videotape them. I save their artwork. And I have decided that I am going to start "interviewing" them on their birthdays to find out what is going on in those little heads (I want to fess up and say that I stole this idea from Farrah's blog).

My plan is to ask them the same questions each year so we can look back and see how the answers changed (and laugh at all of the funny things they said).

Here is a little snapshot of what Ms. Eleanor is thinking right now.

Cereal- Mighty Bites
Vegetable- broccoli
Drink- water and juice
Toy- Belle doll and my knuffle bunny
TV Show- Dragon Tales and Caillou
Game- Old Maid
Book- Kit Kittredge
Dinner – noodles
Lunch – grilled cheese
Breakfast - cereal
Holiday- summer, Easter and spring
Animal – cat and dog
Doll – Kit Kittredge
Color – red, purple and pink
Toy at school – art area
Sport – baseball

What do you want for your birthday? A rocking chair that rocks so I can rock babies to sleep, more baby clothes.

If you could change your name, what would you choose? Ella

What do you love about each person in our family?
Daddy – building a snowman with us
Mommy – because you always take us fun places
Brendan – because he is so silly with me all of the time
Colin – he is always so smiley and happy

Where would you like to go on vacation this year? Pittsburgh

What are some of your wishes for this year? I will get bigger every day.

What makes you happy? That everybody in my family teaches me new things

What makes you sad? When people push me (Me: "Who pushes you?" Her: "Nobody. I am just saying that.").

How old is Mom? 41

How tall is Mom? 28

What is Mom's favorite thing to do? Play with us.

What does Dad do for a job? Works with lots and lots of phone calls and documents

What is Mom's favorite food? trout

Dad’s favorite food? trout

What does our family like to do together? Play a lot together.

What going to be when you grow up? A mommy and I am also going to be a doctor and ballet teacher and I am going to dance in Swan Lake.

Who are you going to marry? My cousin Finn.

Check back next week to find out what is on Brendan's three year-old mind.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Summertime Swaps

The trees are barely budding and I am thinking about summer already.

I wrote a craft story for the May issue of Chicago Parent with ideas for keeping in touch with school friends over the summer.

You know how it goes. The last school bell of the year rings. One kid heads off to summer camp. Another spends most of the summer at grandma's house. Before you know it, weeks have passed and the kids haven't been able to catch up with their buddies.

If you are looking for a fun (and educational) end-of-school project, check out my suggestions.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Absolutely everything about her is beautiful and bright.
I am so grateful for my front row ticket to the Ellie show.
Happy Birthday sweet girl.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Don't Forget About Those Big Brothers and Sisters

Believe me when I tell you that older brothers and sisters can have some trouble adjusting to a new sibling in the family (I will spare you the details).

I know that I really appreciated when friends and family brought a little something for my older kids when they came to see Colin for the first time.

If you are looking for ideas on how to shop for those big brothers and sisters, check out my story in the latest issue of Chicago Baby.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Watch Out World

Check out the neck control.

As soon as my Mom put the camera down, I rolled over.

I can even sit up in this crazy Bumbo thing. I don't like it -- but I can do it.

I have this great, chubby smile that makes my crabby, tired Mommy smile back at me every time.

Life is good.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Spring Break Breakdown

We went to Room2Play.

We've been to Day Frog.

We recycled our old crayons.

We checked out every Biscuit book at the Bucktown/Wicker Park Public Library.

We've played game and after game.

We made (and then devoured) homemade soft pretzels

(Insert dramatic panting sounds to indicate total exhaustion).

And spring break is only halfway over.

Up next . . . checking out Hobbitland, a picnic lunch with friends at the park, planting lettuce and radish seeds, a fairy princess tea party, a sleepover, and much more, no doubt.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009


This morning Eleanor discovered a bird's nest on the light fixture right outside our back door. We have front row seats to some pretty exciting stuff here. These little birds are busy.

After consulting with our field guide, we are pretty confident that we are watching house finches.

We figure that they must have seen the Easter Bunny bringing us our new bird feeders and thought that this would be a good spot to bring up their babies.

Can't wait to see the baby finches. We'll be watching.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Fishing and Babywearing

My friend Steph at Adventures in Babywearing is asking the question, "How do you wear?"

And that gave me an excuse to post this picture from our recent trip to Florida. This was the first time I had been fishing since I was a child. And this was also my first time wearing my baby while fishing. (And by fishing, I mean standing on the beach holding a pole for five minutes -- no actual fish were caught and someone else did the casting for me so no hooks were flying around or anything.)

I am wearing Colin in a Moby Wrap -- which we both love. I borrowed the Moby Wrap from my sister-in-law and am (reluctantly) returning it to her in a few weeks because she will need it for her new babe.

I think that Colin is big enough for the Ergo now so we will be transitioning to that.

Visit Steph's site
for more cute pictures of mamas and their babes.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Review: How to Discover and Develop Your Child's Strengths

"When you look at a child, you can either see her strengths or her weaknesses. The choice us yours."

That is the central premise of the new book How to Discover and Develop Your Child's Strengths: A Guide for Parents and Teachers by Jenifer Fox, M.Ed.

This message is so simple -- but also revolutionary at the same time.

Fox says that instead of focusing on weaknesses and the areas where kids don't excel, we need to focus on their strengths. Rather than label kids as learning disabled or "dumb," we need to examine the curriculum, school settings, and teaching styles that prevent them from learning. Rather than destroy their self confidence and curiosity, we should empower them to use their gifts. "Most of the labels we ascribe to children overlook what is right about children. We prefer to concentrate on labeling weaknesses. The problem is that eventually the label begins to inform the child, rather than the other way around."

Fox says that the traditional school environment tends to weaken children by sending them a message of disapproval if they are not able to excel in every subject area. She also points out that we teach the same subjects in our schools today as were taught one hundred years ago and kids aren't motivated because they don't understand why they need to learn the things we are teaching them.

So what is the solution to this complex, entrenched problem? Fox says that parents, teachers, and students all need to participate in a dialogue about education. She points out that every child starts out wanting to learn and it is the responsibility of parents and teachers to discover how to make that happen -- we can't place the entire responsibility for learning on the child and then label him a failure when things don't work out.

Fox also points out that it is unreasonable to expect children to excel at everything. Do you know anyone who is good at absolutely everything? Of course not. We need to find out what each individual child's strengths are and help them to develop those skills. To that end, Fox includes a "Strengths Inventory" that helps us pinpoint what our Learning Strengths, Relationship Strengths and Activity Strengths are (I had a lot of fun filling this out and thinking about my own strengths).

Fox's approach leaves me feeling empowered to help my own children develop their strengths. In the way that we interact at home, in the school settings that we choose, and through my participation in their education, I can focus on what is beautiful and unique about each of them.

This book may be about education, but the decision to celebrate strengths rather than weaknesses begins at home. I am grateful for her message.

Making Plans

I have a post up today at the Chicago Moms Blog called A Girl and Her Plans about all of the things I would do if I had more time.

Speaking of plans, Ellie's eleven-day-long spring break begins tomorrow and I need to start planning. I am not the kind of mom who can wake up, make breakfast and then say to the kids, "So what should we do today?"

Spontaneity and three kids under the age of five don't mix.

If I don't think ahead the night before, the next thing I know the kids have watched three episodes of Curious George and it is almost lunch time.

I need to make a plan (eleven of them, actually).

Next Monday, I thought that we would go to the Morning Glories for Preschoolers Program at the Garfield Park Conservatory.

And that is all I have so far.

Anybody been on a spectacular local spring break outing with your kiddos? Share. Share.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I Think I Am Going To Try To Be a Little Bit Prettier.

Based on my limited experiences with spa treatments, I have concluded that there are two types of spa service providers.

There is the lady who says that you are beautiful and she is just going to do a little bit of this and a little bit of that to make you all the more lovely. After said service, you walk out thinking, "I am pretty."

And then there is the lady who reacts with complete horror when she learns that your skin care "regime" doesn't include toner and suggests that you enlist the services of a dermatologist to tend to your myriad of skin troubles. Unfortunately, during a facial last weekend, I came into contact with a flawless-faced lady who wreaked havoc on my already shaky, postpartum confidence. I walked out feeling pretty dumpy (and also a bit perplexed by how I could have so many pimples AND wrinkles on my face at the same time).

My skin care "regime" is very similar to my hair care "regime," my body hair control "regime," and my nail care "regime" -- I don't really have much time to tend to ANY of it. Sure, I get a pedicure from time to time. I haven't had my hair cut or highlighted in four months. Most days I shower and brush my teeth. Maybe moisturizer if I remember. That is about it (except for under eye concealer which I never leave the house without).

These personal care activities often take place with a little person in the bathroom with me who is either asking for help wiping his bum or causing the sink to overflow.

My facial experience has prompted me to schedule some "mommy maintenance" time into my schedule. My goal is to spend ten minutes a day doing something to make myself a little bit more attractive and clean.

Maybe I'll take the disgusting, cracked nail polish off my toes or slather a little lotion on my cracked knuckles. I even hope to break out the tweezers and tend to my eyebrows. (I am painting a pretty picture for you, aren't I?).

I believe that the other moms out there know of what I speak, right?

Here is to a prettier week.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Oh, It Is So Good.

I found this bread recipe on Ohdeedoh the other day and I have to tell you about it because it is amazing.

You mix ingredients together in your mixer, put the dough in a container and let it rise on the counter for a few hours. Then, you store the dough in the refrigerator and pull off a section whenever you are ready to bake a loaf. Shape it into a ball, let it sit for an hour and then bake it. The rest of the dough stays good for two weeks and makes a total of four loaves.

It is so simple.

And then you have homemade bread that your whole family will love. Your kids might even say things like, "Mommy, this is delicious." Or "Will you make this for us again? It is so soft and warm!" Maybe even "You make the best bread Mommy!"

Trust me, try it. It will make your day.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Do Your Kids Love Dan Zanes?

I have a great giveaway going on over at Being Savvy: Chicago that I wanted to tell you about. The very popular and very fun Dan Zanes and Friends are performing in Chicago at the Harris Theater on May 30th. And I have a set of four tickets to give away. But that's not all. I am also giving away five copes of his CD Nueva York.

Does this sound like something your kids would love? Go on over to Being Savvy: Chicago and enter to win. All entries must be received by midnight (CST) on Friday, April 10th.

Easter Eggs -- The Better Way

What is so fun about dipping eggs in store-bought tablets dissolved in water? Kinda boring, if you ask me.

Why not try a new take on an annual tradition? Experiment and make your own dyes. Learn how in my craft story in the April issue of Chicago Parent.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Baby Baptized

Colin at his Christening on March 29, 2009.

I feel like there are a million different possible captions for this photo, but I can't decide on one. How would you caption it?