What to Do – Pour Rice

I  first read about dyeing rice on The Crafty Crow, who got it from Colorfool. I’ve been meaning to do it for quite some time but when I realized that yesterday was Monday (my usual post day) and that I was late (again) with posting my activity o’ the week, I figured now (yesterday) was the time.

Of course, once I bothered to read the setup directions, I realized that it wasn’t going to happen in one day – you gotta let the rice dry out first. Bummer. But on the good side, once you create your dyed rice then you will be the proud owner of a nice container of dyed rice that can be used/enjoyed for years to come.

Core Activity: Pour or scoop lovely dyed rice from one container to another.

  • Age appropriateness: 15 months & up (whenever you think that your kids won’t just cram the rice into their mouths)
  • Materials needed: a bag of rice (I used regular long grain white rice that I found in the pantry, which happened to be 6 years old – yuck!), food coloring, rubbing alcohol or white distilled vinegar, and a big plastic baggie.
  • Setup: put desired number of drops in the baggie (I ended up using about 10 drops of red and 10 of blue) plus about 2 teaspoons of alcohol or vinegar (brightens up the color) into the baggie and mix together. Then add the rice (I had about 36 ounces ’cause that’s what came in the package I had on hand), MAKE SURE THE BAGGIE IS WELL SEALED, and then shake, shake, shake your booty, ahem, I mean, baggie. Spread it out on a cookie sheet (a jelly roll pan is best ’cause it’s got a rim) and let the rice dry overnight.

Activity: Set a cookie sheet out in front of your kids. Add various random containers, spoons, scoops, cups, whatever you’ve got around. Add the rice. Let the kids pour, scoop, spoon, draw lines with their fingers or pick up individual grains.

I was inspired to do this after reading (too many) blogs written by homeschooling moms and Montessori teachers. The concept of pouring and scooping as activities is not only fun for kids but it teaches some of the Practical Life skills that the Montessori method advocates. (I’m currently half considering homeschooling my kids. Primarily because the public schools in my town aren’t good. At all. And private schools for three kids is waaaaay too e.x.p.e.n.s.i.v.e. But I digress.)

Anyway, Katie seemed to enjoy this quite a bit and I’m glad I have something on hand that I can quickly stick in front of her and get an extra 5-10 minutes of distraction.

Read.

Eat. Well, uh, duh. How about some rice? Some nice sushi anyone? Although I don’t recommend eating the dyed rice. I suppose if you made it with the vinegar it’s probably safe enough. Still, you won’t catch me eating anything my 3-year-old has been playing with for 25 minutes!

What to Do – Paint the House

I’m going to shamelessly borrow this activity from my friend EO. She thought up this very clever idea to do at her son’s 3rd birthday party last month. She had an adorable construction theme, complete with a very cute cake. (Pictures of cake at the end of the post.)

She and her hubby got their hands on a refrigerator box and transformed it into a house. All of the kids who attended the party got their own toolbelt and hard hats. Finally, the cuteness continued with paint trays filled with tempura paint, paintbrushes and even paint rollers. The kids went to it and had a great time.

Core Activity: Paint cardboard (sounds dull, but it’s tres fun for the kiddies)

  • Age appropriateness: 15 months & up (whenever you’d feel comfortable giving your kids a paintbrush & paint)
  • Materials needed: cardboard box, paint brushes, paint roller, tempura paint

Activity: We’re painting the house. If you can’t easily get your hands on a giant cardboard box, just use the box your kids’ diapers came in. (I swear we have at least 6 of them hanging around the house at any given moment. Perhaps that has to do with having twins in diapers plus a 3-year who REFUSES TO USE THE TOILET. End of rant. Sorry.) If you need to, cut up a box, draw the outline of a house with a permanent marker, and give one to each kid. Have them “paint their houses.”

Sing.

Make. Another very fun, and very, very easy alternative to this activity is to have your kids paint your actual house. No, seriously. With water! I can give my daughter a paintbrush and a bowl of water and this will keep her occupied for 10-15 minutes easy.

Explore.

Read.

Eat. I can’t exactly recommend that you serve your kids cardboard. But…you could draw a plate, napkin, flatware, etc., on a relatively clean piece of cardboard and then serve your kids a snack or a meal on their pretend table. For style points, add a vase with a flower in it. Just a thought.

Sorry for the last minute post. Since the hubby was home, I was thinking all day that today was Sunday… Hope your 3-day weekend was as relaxing as mine was! And isn’t this cake amazing?!

What to Do – Tin Foil Wrapping

My 3-year old was driving me c-r-a-z-y yesterday. She didn’t want to read, didn’t want to go outside, didn’t want to do puzzles, didn’t want to do anything except whine at me. So, in desperation, I picked up a favorite activity book and let it randomly open to an activity. And voila! Tin Foil!

What I love best about this activity is that it requires absolutely nothing special in terms of supplies other than tin foil. And we all have tin foil. Luckily Katie found it lots of fun and it got her out of my hair for about 20 minutes.

Core Activity: Foil Wrapping

  • Age appropriateness: 18 months & up
  • Materials needed: a roll of tin foil and any random collection of little things (harder, solid things work best)
  • Preparation time: 2 minutes to tear off strips of tin foil about 6″ long and then cut in half

Activity: Go around the house and gather up any small, hardish items that are age appropriate for your kids. I grabbed a couple of wooden blocks, wooden shapes, a toy truck and even a random old gift card. Stick the pile of objects in front of your kids, along with some tin foil squares and tell them to wrap the objects up in the tin foil.

I figured this would be too dull or too quick of an activity, but I was pleasantly surprised with how much Katie enjoyed this. This combined Katie’s extreme love of wrapping things with exploring a new material that she hadn’t really played with before. She even enjoyed unwrapping everything and trying to smooth out the tin foil wrinkles.

I think she would have wrapped for hours but I was eventually unwilling to let her use up the entire role of foil.

Read.

Eat.

  • Present your kids’ meal entirely wrapped in tin foil. They will get to unwrap each food like a little gift.

Explore.

  • Google Images: it’s hysterical that the image that pops up the most is people/animals wearing tin foil hats to ward off the government from reading their thoughts…
  • Wikipedia

Create.

  • Why not have your kids create tin foil hats of their own?

As always, please comment with additional tin foil activities and/or ideas for future posts!

What to Do: Ice

We hade a brief period of hot weather last week and I was stumped trying to think of an activity that would be fun to do outside but wouldn’t mean sitting in sand box under the hot sun. Then I found this fun activity online!

Core activity: Ice Treasures

  • Age appropriateness: 18 months & up
  • Materials needed: A container of some form, water, and smallish treasurers that can handle being wet and frozen (plastic animals, coins, dominos, etc., whatever is a safe size for your children’s ages)
  • Preparation timing: Best done the night before

Activity: We’re digging for treasure! Freeze a number of small toys or other treasures you have around the house in a block of ice. Then give your kids a spray bottle, eye dropper, old toothbrushes, whatever you have handy to dig them out. I recommend freezing the treasures in several sessions so that they aren’t all in one layer.

I filled my plastic bowl with a couple of inches of water, dropped in a plastic Cookie Monster, a domino and a peg thingy. Then I let it freeze for a couple of hours at which point I added more water and a little doll and some other toys. I let the whole thing freeze solid overnight and then gave it to Katie to play with this morning. She had a great time spraying water on it to free the doll and the domino.

Katie hunting for treasure

I will say that she gave up before getting everything out. I recommend for younger kids not doing too big of an ice block as they don’t have the, uh, greatest of attention spans… You could do individual toys in ice cubes.

Later that morning...

Sing.

  • Ice Ice Baby – just sing the chorus as the song lyrics are not so ideal to sing to young kids

Explore.

Read.

  • Yellow Ice (I kid you not, that’s the name of the book!) by Angie Sage
  • Curious George Goes to an Ice Cream Shop by H. A. Rey

Eat.

  • Uh, ice cream anyone?
  • Make simple orange creamsicles – in a ice cube try, fill ½ of them with vanilla yogurt and the other half with orange juice. Freeze. Then blend or let them get slushy and enjoy!

As always, please comment if you have other ice-related things to share or if you have ideas for future themes!

Josh and Nate – The Birth Story

I was convinced that I was going to carry the boys until well into the next decade. This was the pregnancy that would never end. I would sleep forever more in a recliner. I would get up to pee 14 times a night for the rest of my life. I would never be able to eat ice cream because my gestational diabetes would never go away. I tried my hardest to convince my OB, Dr. J-W, that she should go ahead and schedule my c-section for earlier than the 38 weeks she declared would be “long enough.” I begged, I cajoled, I bribed. Nothing worked. And to add insult to injury, technically the day I turned 38 weeks was a Saturday. No elective c-sections on weekends. So I would have to wait an additional two days! I think I actually started to cry in her office. She smiled, patted my knee and told me to come back next week. Hmph! That was on a Friday.

Monday morning, I went in for routine U/S at 36w, 3d. The radiologist, who was not exactly known for his bedside manner, but who was well known for his well deserved ego, offhandedly told me that he thought Twin A’s amniotic fluid looked low and that he’d like for my OB to take a look at it. (Luckily her office was right next door to his.) Dr. J-W popped in and they quickly started talking and pointing and then all of a sudden, Dr. J-W looks at me and says, “They’re coming out today, my dear. I’ll schedule your c-section for later tonight. Go to the hospital right now. They’ll admit you to L&D for observation.” And I said…nothing. I remember my heart rate shot up and my jaw dropping. I asked if I could go home to get my bag and was given the green light. But she told me not to take longer than an hour to get to the hospital.

I was so freaked out/excited that I had to pull over so I could start calling everyone. First I tried my husband, Scott. Didn’t reach him on his office line. Ok, I’ll try his cell phone. No answer. I leave a message and then call him right back. Still no Scott. Hm. Ok, I’ll call my mom, who’s babysitting my daughter. I call my dad. I call my sister, who is a pediatric resident. I call Scott’s mom. Still no Scott.

By this point, I arrive home and start crying. Where the %$@&^ is Scott?! Even the receptionist at his office isn’t answering her phone. So I get crafty and start to dial extensions randomly. The first person who picks up is the admin to one of the senior VPs. I start to explain what’s happening in a high pitch voice, super rapid fire. I’m pregnant with twins, they are going to be delivered today, I can’t find Scott, he works on the other side of LA and it will take him at least 40 minutes to get to me. I’m freaking out. I stop to take a breath and she says in the most lovely and calm voice, “Don’t you worry, I’ll find him. He’ll call you.” I swear I had barely hit the end call button when my phone rings. Scott was in a meeting and had left his cell phone at his desk. Uh, what?!? Any way, he’s heading to the hospital.

I get there, I check in all by myself. They know who I am and have a lovely bed for me in L&D. I get hooked up to a fetal monitor with about 400 belts wrapped around me. Well, I guess just three. And then I settle in for a long afternoon of waiting. Various family members flow in and out. Scott arrives. I’m not allowed to eat or drink, but that’s okay, right? I only have a few hours to wait until my c-section is scheduled at 5:30pm. A nurse comes in to check me out and trailing her is a brand new nurse, freshly graduated from nursing school a week ago. I kid you not – a week on the job. The older nurse wants to start an IV for me. She wants newbie to do it. I figure, why not. And newbie does a fabulous job – I barely felt it.

Me and my belts

It was right about now that the nurses started to play with my mind, telling me that the OR wasn’t going to be available until 6:30pm, then it became 9pm. I was not thrilled with the thought of having to wait, but hey, whatever. The only thing that concerned me was that this was all occurring on September 10. I really, really, really didn’t want the boys to be born on September 11. Everyone promised me that they would be born sometime today.

Ok, I settle down to wait some more. I’m thirsty & tired, but not allowed to drink anything. I think I tried to bribe the nurses to let me get water chips. But noooooo. Then I realize that I’m feeling sorta uncomfortable. But then I feel better. But then it happens again. Oh good lord. I’m having contractions. I’m going into labor. Don’t they realize that I’m going to have a c-section?

For the first hour the contractions are a piece of cake. But then they start to get a little more, uh, pronounced. I get measured – 3cm. More contractions, more pain, more time passes. I’m 5cm now. They give me something to stop the labor. It doesn’t work. More drugs, still don’t work. They call my OB. One last try with the drugs. Still in pain, still contracting. Dr. J-W waltzes in. “Okay, my dear. They are coming to come out right now.”

Ohmigod.

I’m not ready for this. I’ve been dying for this day, this time to come. And I’m not ready. I’ve been uncomfortable for weeks. Haven’t slept through the night in months. I’ve been in L&D anticipating this all day. Still not ready. But off we go. I say goodbye to the family. Scott puts his scrubs on, as does my sister, who will join us in the OR.

I get wheeled down the hall and have to hang out in the hallway because they aren’t quite ready in the OR. The scrub nurse is still getting things sorted out. They wheel me in. I get my epidural and immediately fall in love with my anesthesiologist. They let Scott and my sister in. And then I swear half of the hospital streams into the room. There are two teams from neonatal, two respiratory teams, a neonatalogist, my new loverboy anesthesiologist, my OB, another OB, a few random surgical nurses, the scrub nurses. I think there were 13 people besides me, Scott and sis. C-r-a-z-y. This is because the boys were considered preemie as they were being delivered before the 37 week mark.

Me and Dr. Loverboy

I barely have time to start to worry, something I do well and often, when Dr. J-W starts cutting. I remember that Norah Jones was playing and thought that was nice as it was one of three CDs that Scott & I took on our honeymoon in Belize. I feel the usual pressure and then I hear a bunch of commotion, including a baby crying. It’s 6:25pm, and Joshua Christopher Mencken has entered the world. My sister looks over at Twin A’s team and tells me that he’s looking good. More pressure, more commotion, but no baby crying yet. I start to panic. Finally a hoarse cry. But still, I’m getting anxious.

Brief intermission to bring you up to date regarding Twin B. When I went in for my NT scan, Twin B’s back of the neck measurement was slightly higher than they wanted to see. The odds that he had some form of chromosomal issue became 1 in 142 or something like that, versus Twin A’s odds that were around 1in 10,000. I got genetically counseled, I was recommended an amnio, we got a double echocardiogram (another reason why the NT measurement is sometimes high). My blood work came back within normal ranges as did the echo’s. We elected not to get the amnio and just wait to see what would happen. (Even with an increased risk, 1 in 142 odds works out to being a 0.7% likelihood.) I decided to not worry about it again until there was something to worry about. And surprisingly, I was able to stay calm for the rest of my pregnancy. And now back to the birth story…

So at this point, I know that Josh is out and doing well. I know that Nathaniel Paul Mencken was born at 6:26pm. I do not know how Nate is doing. I gather up my courage and ask my sister in a very quavering voice, “Is he okay?” She gives me a very quick response, “Sure.” I push harder, “I mean, does he have Down Syndrome?” My sister gets up (against the orders of the anesthesiologist) and peeks at him. She runs back to my side and says, “Absolutely not, he is a perfect baby boy.” Whew! I’m not a particularly religious person, but at this point I say a prayer of gratitude.

The Cast of Thousands

Scott is allowed to take a couple of pictures. We’re ready for him and for my sister to be able to follow the boys to the NICU if they need to. However, as the teams examine the boys, great news! They are doing so well – no breathing issues, nothing else to be concerned about at all. Their APGARs are both 8 and then 9. It really doesn’t get much better than that. The neonatal teams and the respiratory teams for both boys leave. As does the neonatalogist who looks pissed off somehow. As if we have inconvenienced him. Whatever. My boys don’t need you anyway, mister.

From this point, I don’t remember a ton. I’m tired, I’m relieved, I’m so thirsty that I’m about to jump off this gurney and try to find a drinking fountain. I start feeling a lot of pressure in my chest. Huh. That can’t be good. I look for my boyfriend, Dr. Feel Good Druggy Man, and ask if I should be worried. He looks at me for a minute and looks over the curtain for a minute. “Nah,” he says, “They’re just stuffing your guts back in.” I kid you not, that’s exactly what he said to me.

We learn all of the facts about the boys as they are weighed, measured, cleaned up and otherwise inspected:

  • Joshua Christopher Mencken weighed 6 lbs, 12 oz, and was 20” long. He was born with no hair except for a ring of hair around the back of his head, prompting my mother to start calling him “Friar Josh.”
  • Nathaniel Paul Mencken weighed 7 lbs, 4 oz, and was 19.75” long. He was born with a very big and very bald head that turned red when he cried, giving him the nickname “Nater-the-tomater.” His voice continues to be very husky.

They get whisked off to the nursery for their first baths and for the family to get their first views. I get 4,000 stitches and staples and wheeled off to recovery. I know from when my daughter was born, that I probably won’t get to see the boys for at least an hour. The nurse in recovery tells me that I can go to my room in Maternity when I can feel my legs. Scott comes back in to tell me what everyone says when they see the boys. I ask the nurse for some water. She asks my OB who gives her the thumbs up. I think I drank about a gallon of water. It takes about 45 minutes of waiting and then it’s time. As they wheel me to Maternity, my family gets a brief minute to say hi. We’re all excited and grateful that everyone is okay.

And then suddenly I’m in my room. The reality of my life hits me. I’m a mother of three. I have twin boys. It’s funny what went through my head. The thing that I was really fixated on was whether I would be able to tell them apart. I was pretty sure they were fraternal, but still! How embarrassing would that be if their own mother couldn’t tell them apart! There’s a knock on the door and a nursery nurse is there wheeling in two isolettes. The boys have arrived!

Mommy, Daddy and the Brudders


What to Do – Rainbows

My daughter is almost three and often has more energy than I can handle. I’m constantly struggling to find something that she can do – something that will hold her attention for longer than the 3.865 seconds that she typically spends – so that I can deal with my 8 month old boys. I thought it would be helpful to fellow multiple mommies to have a go-to list of stuff to do that you could whip out like the mother-of-the-year that you are (or in my case, that I wish I had the time/energy/patience to be). If your kids enjoy the beginning activity, I’ll provide more things along a theme. Stuff like related songs, books, snacks – you get the drift. The first theme is rainbows. (Why rainbows first? No idea. It’s just what appealed to me. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a child of the 80′s, when rainbows, unicorns and the Preppy Handbook reigned supreme.) Anywho…let’s get started.

Core activity: Rainbow hunt.

  • Age appropriateness: 18 months & up
  • Materials needed: Nothing special, just stuff around the house!

Activity: We’re hunting rainbows! Or at least we’re looking for colors in the rainbow. The object of the activity is to have your kids look for objects around the house in each of the colors of the rainbow. When Katie was little, I used to take cups and bowls of several colors and then find little toys that would fit in each of the cups. Then we’d work together to match each thing to its “home.” For example, a blue ball would go into a blue cup, and a yellow ducky from the bath would go into a yellow bowl. Now that she’s older, I take different colors of construction paper and tell her to go find toys that match the colors. You can adapt this to your own kids’ age and interest level. I’ve tried this with kids stuck in chairs waiting for dinner to arrive at a restaurant. Each kid gets a magazine and then has 20 seconds to find as many colored images as they can. Here is Katie’s collection of treasures. She’s pointing to her favorite color (yellow) with her foot.

Note two things, if you will. Number one: I didn’t have purple construction paper in the house. I improvised with a marker. Number two: the foot that so gracefully points to her favorite color is still in pajamas. Today is a family sick day. We are all in our pj’s, including yours truly.

Sing. Here are some songs related to our rainbow theme. I did a simple search on YouTube to find clips of the songs so that you can hear the melodies.

Make. More rainbow-themed activities from other blogs that I found.

Explore. I did a couple of online searches and came up with some cool resources. My dad often sits a grandkid on his lap and does a Google images search for such favorites as helicopters or lions. Then they click through to whatever looks interesting.

Read. I’m a book-a-holic and children’s books are my favorite by far. Here are just a few – some are old favorites and others new ones to enjoy.

Experiment. Here are a couple of “scientific” activities that I found trolling the internet.

  • Fill a spray bottle with water, look at the mist in the sunlight.
  • Create an indoor rainbow with a prism
  • Make a rainbow in the dark

Eat. Fill your kids’ plates with fruits & veggies from a rainbow of colors. And you can use a drop or two of food coloring to turn milk or water into your kids’ favorite colors

  • Red: apples, strawberries
  • Orange: orange, mango
  • Yellow: banana, yellow bell pepper
  • Green: kiwi, celery, grapes
  • Blue: blueberries
  • Purple: grapes, eggplant, plums

Well, that’s all folks! I’m hoping to have a new activity every other Monday. You know, Monday, when you are chock full of energy and resolve that this week the kids are not going to watch so much TV and that you’re actually going to eat a piece of fruit or something that passes as a vegetable at least once every day and that you will, for sure!, get the minivan cleaned. Oh wait. That’s me.

If you have any more bright and colorful rainbow ideas, please add a comment. And if you have an idea for an upcoming theme, I’d love to hear about that too!