Sunday, December 15, 2013

mixed tape: bodies in motion

ah, cassettes. i can still summon the feeling of black plastic ridges on my fingertip as i imagine re-winding the black tape that, inevitably, came loose in my crappy tape player. i still have a Heart cassette somewhere. and remember mixed tapes? i rocked Paula Abdul on one of mine. in college, a friend made me a mixed tape of electronica—it was on a cd, but we called it a mixed tape anyway. that mix of nostalgia and habit stayed with me into the era of mp3's and Pandora. i can't get used to this whole "playlist" lingo, despite its grammatical superiority. so for this first silly = sane mix, i'm sticking with old-school—it's a mixed tape we're offering up here. on the blog, anyway. on our YouTube channel, of course, a playlist it shall forever be.

our inaugural theme is all about bodies, and not just that kiddie stuff of head, shoulders, knees and toes (although that's there too). we've got blood and guts, boys and girls. not to mention a bodily function thrown in for good measure.

find the list of songs below with links to music files (affiliate links on Amazon). head on over to the YouTube channel for the free version with our bodies in motion playlist. (parents, take care. i don't put ads on my videos, but others do and they are not always appropriate for children. most of these videos do not have ads. but some do, both overlay banners and commercials you have to click to skip. so be aware of that...)

Heywood Banks, "Hey Pancreas"
They Might Be Giants, "Bloodmobile"
Caspar Babypants, "Funny Bone" (only 50 cents on his website!)
Ralph's World, "Wiggle Your Lah-De-Dah"
Barenaked Ladies, "A Word For That"
Moey's Music Party, "I Gotta Go Potty"
Justin Roberts, "Henrietta's Hair"
Caroline and Danny, "Germ Attack!" ("Holy flu germs, Batman!"... trust me, the kids like it...)
John Hadfield, "I'm Your Brain"
Animaniacs, "Bones in the Body"
A Japanese show to apparently help children learn English: "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes"

since this is a YouTube-driven playlist, there are a few that would be on a normal mix but didn't make this particular cut. a few more songs we like in the bodily theme:

Caspar Babypants, "Them Bones" (only 50 cents on his website! no, i'm not paid to tell you this. we're just big fans!)
Ralph's World, "Finger is the Singer"
Justin Roberts, "Get Me Some Glasses"

got one to add? suggestions for our next volume? throw it in the comments!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

it's dinovember at our house

those silly dinosaurs are up to some fun-loving hijinks

every year, writer Refe Tuma and his wife devote the month of November to convincing their three young children that their plastic dinosaurs come to life. they take a snapshot, capturing the feisty fossils in various escapades (jamming, getting into the candy jar, unrolling the TP, breaking stuff, interrogating Michelangelo the TMNT, and occasionally cleaning up after themselves). i came across Tuma's post at Medium, and then quickly became a fan of Dinovember on Facebook as the fun concept went officially viral. "Childhood is fleeting, so let’s make sure it’s fun while it lasts," Tuma writes. amen! i dove right in. (and thus ends a too-long hiatus from this blog. i have many drafts that have remained just that. i promise to bring them to light soon. they involve mixed tapes and slugs. and maybe some silly-sanisms or two. but back to the dinosaurs...)

my cousin gave me her son's hand-me-down Dinosaur Train figures. Sweet One and Small One love this show. my oldest gets excited to tell me about what she's learned. my youngest giggles. we sing the song. it's good times. so now the familiar dinos are breaking out of the toy cupboard while the girls sleep.

the first night, the dinos decided to get all crafty and make secret messages to hide in the girls' lunchboxes. they snapped a photo mid-action (see above) and sent it to Mommy to share with the girls. at first, the girls were convinced this was daddy's doing (sigh). then the idea that dinosaurs came to life while they were sleeping really set in, and Sweet One became Detective Sweet One. "i have to figure this out!" she commenced to steal the camera while i was finishing up dinner and took some video. then she snapped photos of evidence.

yes, a photo of a photo

she interviewed suspects.

ok, maybe just one suspect

she tried to determine their next target.

not the pumpkins!
for a while she was plotting to sneak downstairs in the middle of the night and catch them in the act again. but then we reminded her of the consequences for getting out of bed. so she shifted tactics, and instead left the dinos some notes of her own. the dinos did not disappoint...

this time, they raided Small One's Basket of Things That Go. ho, boy...

something tells me these dinos are enjoying their life brought back from the brink of extinction. (hand-me-downs rock!)

something tells me this cryolophosaurus is going
to be trouble. sigh. theropods will be theropods...

the look on this kentrosaurus' face ... and the fact that he's
riding backwards ... lead me to think he may not be the brightest
stegosaurid in the Jurassic time period

the ornithomimus checks under the hood of the '64 Dodge
(darn if that one isn't always failing to turn over for Little One),
while a velociraptor gives some velocity to the wind-up bug

there was no tank for Tank.
so the triceratops settled for the dozer.

the pteranodon siblings race.
Tiny is on a Mini... snicker

a mini maiasaura gets a lift

phew! no crash landings. Buddy the little T-rex shows he may
just belong in a pteranadon nest after all

what will they get into next time...? watch the silly = sane Facebook page for more of our Dinovember photos.

climbing back into the toy cupboard to sleep off
the mayhem... and plot their next move...

how about you? are you participating in Dinovember? don't have dinosaurs? how about Barbies, or princesses, or army men, or Lego dudes... the possibilities are endless, really. let your imagination go wild, and then watch your kids' imaginations blossom too.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

summer cup time! easy thrills to put everyone at ease

it worked so well last year, i'm at it again this year. it's summer cup time! the red plastic drinking cups are being recycled for another year of "what's it gonna be?"-kind of fun. i'm even reusing most of the slips, although i dumped some and added others.

so far, we've flown kites, had a tea party, gone to a park (other than the normal park excursions, of course), and went for a hike on a new-to-us trail that led to a lovely little beach. new slips drawn so far this year have had us make our own volcano and sent the girls on a scavenger hunt. the last one was an homage to my own childhood summers. i still remember the summer that my mom and aunt sent us on a scavenger hunt, using clues in rhyme. i don't remember what was at the end, but i do remember thinking it was the coolest and funnest idea ever. my girls seemed to enjoy this year's simple hunt enough that it will definitely be an annual treat.

but also new this year are some momma-focused slips. things that remind me to slow down a bit and remind myself of just how good i have it (why do we always have to remind ourselves when it's so obvious?). these include slips that direct us to look at each of the girls' baby albums, as well as "look at mommy and daddy's wedding photos." the girls enjoyed this as much as i did.

another new slip was to each create a list of "5 Happies." this is something two of my high-school friends and i did together by passing a notebook back and forth, usually during our boring math class*. at the time, many of the happies went along the lines of "5 more minutes until math class is over" or "2 weeks to summer!"

*  (the school-lover in me requires this disclaimer: math is useful, beautiful and worth your effort, kids!)
when my daughter drew the "5 Happies" slip, i was curious to see what she and her sister would come up with. appropriately, they both listed their own names as things that they were thankful for or that made them happy. my youngest, who has a habit of drawing all over the furniture and her own body parts, dictated "markers" as one of her happies. my eldest, surrounded by her favorite stories in our home library, listed "books." we had just visited my grandmother, and the comfort of being doted on was fresh in my spirit, so "Nana's soup" made my list, as well as "a willow tree outside the window."

these for-me slips have proven to be peaceful interludes to what is more often an upbeat activity to fill our summer and make our times together more fun and fulfilling. goodness knows a parent like me appreciates those moments of peace, and the reminder of how awesome it is to spend a summer with my young kids -- and it's not even over yet!

what fun activities are helping your family celebrate summer? share your best and easiest ideas in the comments. let's help each other make this last month the best month of a sun-filled interlude, yes?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

book pick: Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy

every family has their own sense of humor. i remember the self-conscious moment when my husband and i realized that not everyone finds "$9.99" to be the funniest kids song ever and equally hummable even when the kids are not around. in books, our humor is found in anything by Mo Willems and now, apparently, anything by Jan Thomas. i sigh with disgust every time a giant Richard Scarry book is brought forward (more on that another time), but i'll happily read about Elephant and Piggie or the Dust Bunnies over and over again (probably thanks to brevity as much as hilarity).

the latest repeat-read for us from Thomas is Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy. my cowboy voice for this one is eerily spot-on to the voice provided on the website, although the tune i use is more "Rock a Bye Baby" (note: the MP3 follows the book very closely but is different). a wolf makes a "surprise" appearance at the end, and for him i've settled on a nice mixture of Huell Hoswer's The Backson with a dash of Nathan Lane's pretty-much-anything-but-this-will-do-for-the-kiddos.

are your kids afraid of shadows in their darkened bedrooms? home on the range, this cowboy isn't much different. in fact, he's not very brave at all. but he is golldurned funny. let's just say a recurring line in this book, besides the lullaby, is "Eeeeeeek!"

what about you? what authors or books strike your family's funny bone?

this post contains affiliate links.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

bubble birthday party

Sweet One turns 6 this year and requested a bubble birthday this year to celebrate with her friends. awesome! so we did just that. simple idea, simple execution. it's the ultimate fun and easy party idea.

until you start looking at other blogs, of course.

do you ever have this problem? i'm having fun, coming up with goofy ideas, looking forward to giving my daughter some happy times for her special day. and then i do a Google-image or Pinterest search for what other folks have done for bubble parties, if only to feel good about the awesome ideas i've come up with and that are surely completely original... and, lo and behold, i start feeling inadequate looking at these professional photographs, slick printables, elaborate decorations, and -- gasp! -- the super-bubble recipe i've been wondering about that involves specialized ingredients and mail-ordering from veterinary and medical supply stores! oh no! i was just planning on having a lot of bubbles and recycling my kid-in-a-giant-bubble trick from last year, maybe buy a pack of donut holes and call it good. but now...

put on the bubble brakes, Momma!

good gravy. thank goodness i caught myself this time.

people, i do not have the time to make this blog my life. i barely have time to do this post. in fact, there are three things i can think of off the top of my head that i most certainly should be doing right now instead of this. mostly i'm keeping this blog alive for two reasons: (a) writing posts like this feeds the premise of the blog by reminding myself to be silly and therefore remain sane and (b) as a professional writer it is one more way to keep myself "fresh" and "in tune" with today's digital landscape, at least in a vague way. and, if i'm lucky, there's also: (c) you readers still get something out of what i and my friends post here! so when my thoughts turn to "oh, that would look awesome on the blog" -- even for half a second -- instead of "oh, Sweet One would LOVE this simple-yet-fun idea and i already have what we need" ... then the focus is way off.

bubble birthday party
she's happy = success
silly = sane.

super-blogger-momma-slickster-hipster-look-at-me = insane.

can i get a bubble booyeah?

so for this birthday party, i did what i usually do (or usually try to do). i slapped together ideas as they came to me, ditched others when they became even remotely complicated, lived by my season-of-life-mantra of "good enough," and sought out my daughter's giggles and smiles for affirmation and confirmation of success.

the result? score massive bubble points for Momma.

now, this was not lazy momma. trust me when i say that this is, for me, going all-out for my kid. when it comes to my girls' birthdays, i put on my creative hat and take things to the next level. but i'm doing it for them. i'm their Momma and i'm doing something extra-special for them -- and they know that and appreciate it. i'm not doing it for you! so on this blog, you get no printables, no fondant tips, no recommendations for a hired bubble professional (or even a link to veterinary gel). instead, here is a breakdown of where we ended up, maybe giving you some ideas to get your own creative juices flowing for a birthday party without the headaches of parental inadequacy. and for you other bloggin' mommas out there, here is the larger theme of this post: live first. blog later.

the cake

i'll have to share in another post some day all about birthday cakes. i am not a cake maker. i have a few friends who are professional-grade cake makers. they are incredible. i don't even like cake, to be honest. but for my girls, i become my own good-enough version of an Ace of Cakes. a harbor with a shark. a moat-encircled castle. a huge ball gown. a muddy construction site. this time i went for something resembling bubbles to keep with the theme. i bought a Betty Crocker rainbow cake mix (the first time, actually, i haven't done it from scratch -- you now officially have my permission to cut corners), borrowed a friend's cake-pop maker, and made batch after batch of little round cakes. actually, since i used a cake mix, most of them did not turn out very circular and of course they were more brown than rainbow-looking after being baked. so i tore off the outer shell of the worst duds, revealing the spherical, rainbow insides and put those "bubbles" on top. i was going to use a big bowl, but then saw my husband's old travel humidor and had one of those a-ha moments. cleaned it. lined it with plastic wrap (which, incidentally, looks like bubble solution too), filled it with cake bubbles and bubble wands, then made a bubble label from scrap paper, Post-It notes and highlighter pens to complete the look. (seriously people. i didn't even bother going upstairs to get the construction paper, fancy markers and circle cutter -- although i own all of those things.) one of those slap-it-together ideas that actually turned out pretty darn good. or at least -- say it with me now -- good enough!

bubble cake

bubble birthday party favorsthe favors

we aimed for bubble-focused treats with bubble solution (shaped like ice cream cones, which is perfect for a birthday party), bubble gum, squares of bubble wrap, and a straw. everything except the gum came from the dollar store, and the gum was bought in bulk for less than 50 cents at the grocery store, making for a very affordable yet fun treat for her little friends.

the decorations

we also planned a toy swap in lieu of traditional gifts,
a special addition to what her friends were able to take home
with them while making it easier on the parents, too
i hadn't planned any decorations. i knew i wouldn't have time to get balloons, and honestly didn't want the hassle with stores being out of helium more than half the time anyway. i considered cutting out a bunch of circles and suspending them on strings -- an idea i saw during that infamous Google-image search -- but between work and baking all those little cakes, i would have been staying up to 2 a.m. doing that. uh, no. so here was another part of the party that came together on a whim an hour before the party. we had leftover bubble wrap, so i gave Sweet One the squares and some tape and let her decorate with those, which she loved. she also started drawing a bubble path on the patio with blue chalk for a game she thought of, giving me another "oh yeah! duh" moment. so i put the chalk to work myself and just drew a bunch of fun bubbles everywhere. botta bing botta bubble.

kid in a giant bubble

the fun

bubble recipe in bulk
a bucket full of our two-ingredient bubbles
plus some sugar for strengthening such a large batch
makes for easy and big bubbles!
just a ton of bubbles. i splurged on a bubble machine and regretted the purchase -- i don't recommend the kind we bought, which fans them out the top. we had to constantly wipe the top so the bubbles would still come out, and then it decided to completely stop working even with fresh batteries and it was brand new! we had much more success with a battery-powered fan you hold in your hand -- and boy did that thing pump out the bubbles. otherwise we just put out a bunch of wands and let the kids go nuts. i put out a bucket filled with our homemade bubble solution, adding sugar since it was a big batch. we also did our kid-in-a-bubble trick, which turned out to be a big hit. and we tried some giant bubbles with a string-and-pole style wand that Sweet One received for a previous birthday. i'll put links to some of the things we enjoy at the bottom of this post for reference.

what about you? what fun and easy birthday parties have you come up with? what did your kids best enjoy?

the following are sponsored links, as if you couldn't tell, of some of the bubble-fun items we bought or others bought for us that worked and are consistently used by our family. in most cases these are not the exact items we have but very, very close:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

book pick: Commander Toad

part of me hopes you know already of the "brave and bright, bright and brave," the preeminent Commander Toad. the greater part of me hopes you don't so that i can have the pleasure of introducing you.

Commander Toad is at the helm of Star Warts, a "lean, green" spaceship that star-hops through "deep hopper space." he is the creation of the equally preeminent Jane Yolen, one of the most prolific and talented children's authors out there (or down here). you may know her best for her How Do Dinosaurs... series, or perhaps Not All Princesses Dress in Pink, or Owl Moon, or any of the over 300 books she's authored. (did i mention she's prolific?)

there are seven Commander Toad adventures, each riddled with pun-ishing humor (the best kind, in my DNA-driven opinion. anyone else out there appreciate Pearls Before Swine?). one of the books, for example, is called Commander Toad and the Dis-Asteroid. bah-dum-ching!

the series is illustrated by the wonderful Bruce Degen, who is the author-illustrator of another favorite of ours, Jamberry. he also illustrated The Magic School Bus series of books. i love his interpretations of Yolen's descriptions.

these are exceedingly fun read-aloud books. i've endeavored to give each character a unique voice, with emphasis on the goofy aspects that get the girls giggling. we've read these enough that they now join me in proclaiming together "COMMANDER TOAD!" a'la "Pigs in Space" when appropriate (complete with trailing off, yes. we are wonderfully ridiculous readers).

in any case, i hope you have the pleasure of meeting Commander Toad and his stal-wart crew soon (snigger), or perhaps remembering your own toadally fun adventures (snigger) in deep-hopper space with the "brave and bright, bright and brave," COMMANDER TOAD!

ps... there apparently was a really horrible tv show made based off the books. i saw a clip on YouTube and had to stop it, it was so bad. it's not remotely like the books (different characters, including one made into a human, no puns, ugh!), so on the off-chance that's how you've heard of Commander Toad, do your best to forget it forever and find the books for the real story!

this post contains an affiliate link somewhere. you know. just in case.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hand-washing song

Everything is easier with a song! Here's one of our favorites that (I think) we made up, to the tune of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"...

Keep in mind this is a demonstration of the song, not of hand-washing (I'm usually helping) nor of singing (except maybe the munchkin's cute li'l voice).

Scrub, scrub, scrub our hands
Scrub them every day
Scrub, scrub, scrub our hands
Scrub the germs away
Rinse, rinse, rinse our hands
Rinse them every day
Rinse, rinse, rinse our hands
Rinse the soap away
[and then we...]
Dry, dry, dry our hands
Dry them every day
Dry, dry, dry our hands
Dry the water away!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

book pick: the day the goose got loose

you know those stories where one thing leads to another -- that mouse chasing a cookie, for example. sometimes i feel i'm stuck in one of those. the Small One slept in. so she didn't take a nap. so i didn't get all my work done. so in goes the movie so i can. which pushes back dinner. which means more leftovers the girls refuse to eat. which means crying and whining until, finally, bedtime. and then, of course, "Mo-m-my?! I ha' t' go PO-TTY!"

the day the goose got loose is an elevated sort of tale, and not just because it involves migrating geese. this rhyming tale is by Reeve Lindbergh, who until this post i did not know was the youngest of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. the words are wonderful, and delightfully over-the-top. but it's the illustrations by one of our favorites, Steven Kellogg, that are a key reason we come back to this book time and again. he has a wonderful talent for interpreting stories and taking them to the next level.

in this book, a goose gets loose (you probably got that part). and then all hell breaks loose. "When the goose got loose / She caused a riot. / Nobody ever thought she'd try it! / There wasn't any more pace and quiet. The day the goose got loose." and what can come at the end of such a day? a dream, a dream of something rather wonderful.

and now that my own two daughters are in bed dreaming, i have the space to remember that a part of me will miss loosey goosey days such as these.

this post contains an affiliate link.

Monday, March 18, 2013

flipping out? flip a coin!

it doesn't seem to matter what i make. unless it's a hot dog or some other talent-less dish, my girls generally refuse to eat. Sweet One complains. Little One just dumps her milk over everything. for the most part, i don't care. don't want to eat? fine. next meal is breakfast! still, it would be nice to see some of that nourishment reach their bellies. enter my friends to the rescue...

my friend Julie shared this strategy recently on Facebook (where else?) that her ever-silly husband Jason came up with, and it's too good not to share.

The kids were not into eating their dinner, so Jason grabbed a coin out of his pocket and made a game "Heads; 1 bite, Tails; 2 bites" the kids totally did it - and when they started to lose interest he had one of them call it and whoever won took 1 bite and whoever lost took 2 bites. I love how creative he is with the everyday struggles. You're the best Jason! I am so glad God made us partners in raising our children. Oh! and did I mention he let me leave for the last 1/2 of the game so I could go tanning. Seriously love the man!

i could see this working in a lot of whiny situations, as long as it's not overused. put on jacket or coat first? go for a walk or blow bubbles in the backyard? let mommy go tanning or send mommy off to her room with her book club book...? oh, wait...

photo credit: "Uncertainty" by Nicu Buculei via Flickr

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

book pick: Peanut Butter Rhino

i may be an quilt-appreciating gal of two little princess-loving daughters. but around this house, we appreciate a good butt joke. and poop. boogers. snigger, snigger.

enter this week's book pick, Peanut Butter Rhino, a simple and colorful brite from Scholastic ca. 1994 and written and illustrated by Vincent Andriani. Rhino is going on a picnic with his friend Elephant. but along the way he misplaces his peanut butter sandwich. his jungle friends try to help him find it. in the end, the squished sandwich is found. but let's just say it's not edible anymore. snigger, snigger.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

meme mommy: peanut butter jelly time

you know where it at, yo.

my husband and i have been having fun flashbacks introducing our girls to the one-hit wonders of our youth (and sort-of youth). because this is easy, downright ridiculous (and because it's what lazy bloggers such as myself do), i'm turning it into a new feature called "meme mommy."

this started because of the success of the song that inspired that dancing banana. we've been hearing lots of "peanutbutterjelly, peanutbutterjelly, peanutbutterjellywithabaseballbat" from our girls since i started layin' it down over an actual peanut-butter-jelly sandwich (although along with the dancing banana, i'm thinking our Mr. Rogers snack might be a good pairing as well).

the Peanut Butter Jelly Time animation came out in the early 2000s but didn't catch on right away because, believe it or not kids, smartphones (as we know them) didn't exist yet -- so things moved at a slower pace back then. but, oh boy, once it did catch on...

it went with a song by The Buckwheat Boys who had one other hit off their lone album, about cake and ice cream, which sounds remarkably like their other hit.

what memes of our era have you relived with your kids?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

book pick: The Flea's Sneeze

eg'scuse be. i think i goddo sdeeze. it's that time of year, so this book pick seems appropriate. first it's Sweet One. then me. then Small One. then Sweet One again. her poor nose. but there's an endearing quality to it, you know. that gargantuan pile of tissue, only one tiny corner of each sheet used before a new one is pulled from the box. her little sniffling nose. i just smother her with kisses for it all. and then, of course, i get it again...

enter The Flea's Sneeze, where barnyard animals are bedded down in the barn for the night, all sleeping peacefully -- all, that is, except for the flea. "No one heard his garbled plea, / 'Does eddybody hab a tissue for be?'" it goes without saying that soon all his friends are awake with him, including "the mouse / He used for a house; And the rat, and the cat, / And the black-eyed bat..."

soon enough they all get back to sleep. "Everyone slept just like a log-- / Except the hog..."

now. does eddybody hab a tissue?