Wednesday, October 19, 2011

New Things #52, 53 & 54: In which we buy Hallowe'en costumes, have visits, play on the floor and do some activities

Three posts in one! Welcome to our busy fall. Some people say summer is their busy season. For us, it has been autumn. I'll skip the pleasantries and just get right to it.

I think we all have people in our lives that keep us on track. I am blessed to have many such people. Daddy is good at making sure my eyes are at least open before he leaves in the morning. Because I know that the most faithful readers of this blog are Nan and Grandad, it reminds me to get to it (no offense to anyone else out there, but I know for sure that they check it daily), although sometimes I am late. And Auntie K is the one who often not only reminds me of things we need to do for the LP, but she always offers to help. On Monday she came through yet again. She reminded me that I have been saying for nearly a month that I need to find Hallowe'en costumes for the LP, noted that costumes were half-off at Old Navy and noted she was available to come with us on a shopping trip. And not for the first time this month. She has, in fact, offered several times. She even sent me a message the last time she was in the US for business, stating she could pick them up there if I wanted. Obviously it was time to take her up on it.

This was a first experience for both LP. For LP1's first Hallowe'en, I made her costume myself with the help of my aunt. She was the cutest little monkey in the history of the world. Last year I happened to be in New York with Auntie K and I picked up her costume there. She was the cutest little flower in the history of the world. I figured she was finally old enough to choose her own costume...or to be steered towards one with subtle hints. I decided that whatever costume LP2 didn't have an obvious problem with would be the winner.

We picked up Auntie K and made our way into Old Navy. I don't get out much these days to places like malls. I forgot just how big they can be. I probably sound like such a yokel but it is true. Old Navy seemed positively enormous. We eventually found the costume section. There were two costumes available in LP1's size: a cupcake and a butterfly. At first she wanted to be the cupcake but after viewing the butterfly, she was sold. She will be the cutest little butterfly in the history of the world. There were more costumes in LP2's size. His choices were a robot (LP1's preference), a chicken and a shark. I loved the chicken but the shark had that certain je ne sais quoi to it, too. A quick message to Daddy to help led to the decision to go with the shark. We tried it on LP2 to make sure it would fit and surprisingly, he really seemed to like it. He even let me pull up the shark head hoodie and take a picture of him. He will be the cutest little shark in the history of the world.

Coming a doorstep near you. Give them lots of candy. Mommy likes chocolate.

On Tuesday the LP had a half-day at daycare again. Shortly after we came home, Grandpa, Uncle L and Auntie K popped in for a visit. Given that they are usually tired out after a full daycare morning, the LP did very well. They were happy to play with everyone and once again, Uncle L was bossed around by LP1. Once everyone left, they went down for naps (simultaneous naps! What a rarity!) and slept for at least two hours (another rarity!). It wasn't until after dinner that our "new" thing really happened. The LP were playing while I tried to get the dishes done. I came into the living room to round them up for their usual evening baths when two things happened: LP1 asked me so very nicely if I would please come sit and draw with her on the floor and LP2 pointed up to the ceiling, looking for me to get the helium balloon down for him. I was about to refuse both requests when it hit me: why was I about to say no? What would happen if we just stopped and played? Would the world end if they had their bath later than usual? And so I stopped. I got the helium balloon down for LP2 and I sat on the floor beside LP1. I alternated between colouring various Dora pictures and playing with the balloon. I guess I should explain the balloon. It was from my uncle's retirement dinner on Thanksgiving weekend. The LP have a tremendous love for balloons (or "banoons" as LP1 calls them), but particularly helium balloons. We could probably get rid of all the toys and just have a house full of ever-changing balloons and they would be thrilled. They have certainly loved this particular balloon. The ribbon attached to it is gone. It has been through every room of our house. They like to play with it, get bashed in the face with it and let it loose. LP2 delights in pointing up at the ceiling and bouncing up and down with anticipation that someone will bring it down for him.

And so we played. I don't know for how long but I do know that we had fun. It was a good reminder to myself that I need to stop doing all the time and just work on being. I've probably said that before but it remains true. The whole world can wait. Colouring on the floor and hearing giggles of delight over a helium balloon won't last forever.

The balloon...right before the green ribbon on it was lost for good. See how worn out and tired it is? This thing is like the Velveteen Rabbit of party accessories.

I don't know if it was just stopping to play or the fact that the LP are doing trial days at daycare now or what it was, but last night before I went to bed I decided it was time to start doing what I guess can be called "learning activities" with the LP. I'm not a teacher and I don't think I would make a particularly good one. I am, however, a nerd. A nerd who loves to learn and who has always enjoyed playing school. Before LP2 was born, I used to think up "units" that LP1 and I could work on...a Hallowe'en unit, a Christmas unit, an Easter unit, etc. I would print off colouring pages, we would read books about the topic, watch educational songs online and really dive into the topic. I know I enjoyed it because we would just stop everything and be together. I think LP1 enjoyed it, too. We hadn't done anything since last Easter. I decided it was time to start again, especially now that LP2 is a little older and can participate more. I realize he might not fully grasp everything but that's no reason to leave him out. Children don't learn unless you do stuff with them.

Obviously today's focus was on Hallowe'en. We had picked up two mini pumpkins earlier today at the grocery store. I gave one to each of the LP. While LP1 and I discussed the pumpkin's colour, shape and texture, LP2 played with his, poked at it and touched it and then eventually threw it out of his high chair. He roared with laughter at the noise it made when it hit the floor. Good enough for me. Since LP1 was insistent that only Daddy can carve a pumpkin, she settled for letting me cut shapes out and helping me tape them to the front to make a jack'o'lantern. I let her pick what shapes the eyes and noses would be on both. 

Once our pumpkins had been turned into construction paper jack'o'lanterns, we read a story about Hallowe'en that we had picked up last year. Both LP clapped at it and LP1 wanted it read again. So we read it again. Hey, if they want to hear a story again, I'm going to read it again. But not two more times. Even I have my limits.

I had wanted to bake cookies with the LP. When I was growing up I think we had cookie cutters for just about everything. I remember baking cookies for every holiday and decorating them. While Christmas was always my favourite, I always enjoyed decorating Hallowe'en cookies because you could do it wrong and just say it was "spooky". Generally I enjoy making most things from scratch. There's something very satisfying to me about following a recipe from start to finish. However, the LP are too young to really bake with. I don't think they have the attention span to get through measuring and mixing ingredients, rolling out dough and cutting out shapes. And also? I don't have cookie cutters for every occasion. I will have to raid Grammy's baking drawer next time I'm out there. It occurred to me that from the LP's perspective, putting anything into the oven qualifies as "baking". A solution suddenly presented itself:

LP1 chose these. Nothin' says lovin' like putting pre-made cookies in the oven!

We put the cookies on the cookie sheet together and put them in the oven. While they were baking, I gave the LP pictures to colour. I put a pencil crayon in LP2's hand, put my hand around his and dragged the pencil crayon across the page. Once he realized we could make lines, he was hooked. It wasn't long before he was tapping his pencil on the page and making dots all by himself! LP1 loves to colour and needed no encouragement. She went to town on hers. When the cookies were done and cooled we wasted no time in trying them. I give that Doughboy full marks. He makes a great cookie.

As the LP love music, we each took a cookie, snuggled together and fired up my laptop. There is an educational website we love, full of songs about what seems like every topic from the ABCs to the times tables. We found the "Pumpkin, Pumpkin" song and continued on with our Hallowe'en theme. We watched some other songs about Hallowe'en and then eventually decided we wanted to watch some ABCs, a song about the days of the week and those five little monkeys jumping on the bed.

What was the point of all this? I don't know. Part of it was to help the LP discover and understand Hallowe'en. Part of it is that if we have an actual activity to do, it helps all of us to focus. Maybe a part of it comes from some desire to teach (but only my children). Or it could be that I like something with a beginning, middle and end. Again, I don't know. But I know it gave us all time together and that we had fun. Oh, and I know I think we'll be doing it again soon!

When I look at this picture, I think the theme of today was "THE MANY FORMS OF THE PUMPKIN!"

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