Friday, March 24, 2017

My Ladybug Girl and her Birthday Party

The Ladybug Girl series of books has long been one of Clara's favorites. The sometimes shy and nervous protagonist, Lulu, becomes brave and courageous whenever she puts on her ladybug costume. Clara loves reading about Ladybug Girl's following her on all of her spunky adventures. 

These are one of those rare children's picture books that transcends the passage of time. Clara discovered the books as a two-year-old and even though she is reading much more advanced chapter books now as an eight-year-old, she is just as happy to settle down with one of the Ladybug Girl books today. David Soman and Jacky Davis, the husband-and-wife team behind the Ladybug Girl books, are masterful at capturing the whimsy and everyday imagination of children.

My Ladybug Girl at the Beach
Whenever Clara is asked to pick a favorite book, she always returns to one of the Ladybug Girl books. In PreK she chose to dress up as Ladybug Girl for Favorite Book Character Day. Last summer, totally unprompted, she decided to emulate Ladybug Girl at the Beach. She surprised her friends and confused some fellow beachgoers by showing up in full ladybug garb on a 90-degree summer day.

My Ladybug Girl's 7th Birthday Party
For her 7th birthday party, Clara decided to continue her passion for ladybugs by hosting a ladybug-themed party for friends. She had showed a preference for winged creatures in the past. Her fifth birthday party was butterfly-themed. Clara invited a dozen friends to celebrate her magical day with her at a local party spot.

The birthday girl in full ladybug regalia.

Butterfly wings served as a party costume as well as a favor.

while she munched on marshmallows and other treats.

The girls created their very own Ladybug Girl dolls, making a red gauzy dress and drawing eyes, lips, noses, and rosy cheeks for their dolls.

The guests gathered in a circle to play some party games.

My very favorite part of the party was seeing my sometimes shy daughter come to life as she read Ladybug Girl to her friends. 

She took the time to make sure everyone could see all of the pictures. 

The owner of the party shop was skeptical when I said that my newly turned seven-year-old was going to read as a party activity. She thought that a young reader may not be able to keep the attention of all of the guests. However, Clara stayed poised, reading enthusiastically and with great emotion.
Clara read the story to a sea of fellow ladybugs. 

A tired and happy ladybug ready to blow out her candles. 

I love that Clara is still able to enjoy the magic of childhood even as she creeps closer to tweendom. I am happy that the Ladybug Girl series presented an opportunity for Clara to learn how to become a brave and self-empowered girl.


Choosing chores for a child

One of the highlights of Clara's day is the moment each morning when her teacher shuffles the job chart to reveal each students' job for the day. There is a very clear hierarchy in terms of the prestige of each role. Being the leader is by far the most desired role. When Clara is leader, she gets to do everything first from being the line leader to going first at morning meeting to reading aloud the schedule to all of her friends. 

During one auspicious week with multiple snow days, Clara ended up being the leader three days in a row due to other students' absences. As you can imagine, this was one of Clara's favorite weeks of school all year. 

Each of those three days, Clara came home incredulous and wide-eyed, proclaiming, "I was the leader... AGAIN!"

At school, the least desired role in the class is that of caboose, the student who has to go last in line when the students are traveling to other locations. At home, it seems that any task we assign is met with a similar reaction of disdain as though we are assigning Clara to be the caboose. 

When Clara was four years old, we started to give her chores around the house. I thought it might be good to capitalize on her love of most jobs at school by calling these chores "jobs." 

However, Clara has a firm idea of what is a job vs. a chore, and she is quick to roll her eyes at what is merely a chore when she would much rather complete a job. I am still trying to figure out a way to make all the chores seem like jobs!

Putting away the silverware was the first chore we gave Clara. When I sometime get mixed up and call Clara to the kitchen with a reminder "time to do your job"... she quickly corrects me and reluctantly trots out to the kitchen to complete her "chore."

Another chore low on Clara's totem pole is cleaning up her toys. This is probably the biggest daily struggle we face since she plays with toys every day. Surprisingly, one of the tasks that proved to be most enjoyable to Clara is washing the dishes. She likes to fill a sink with soapy, warm water, and scrub big pots and pans. Clara is a good negotiator, and she knows that washing dishes is not one of my favorite chores. One day when I was reminding her to clean up her toys, she offered to wash the dishes instead if I picked up her toys! This arrangement worked out quite favorably for both of us.

We haven't yet tried an allowance or a sticker chart. I'm hoping to reinforce the idea that these are helpful things to do around the house that Clara does as part of our family. I would rather not reward her for behavior that I consider being a part of our community, although when she is older I probably will give her an allowance. 

As a seven-year-old, Clara became responsible for folding her own clothes after I washed them. This is probably the biggest way in which she helps with household responsibilities today. I feel a sense of relief as I divide up the warm clothes from the dryer and know I'm not alone in the final steps of folding the clothes and putting them away. 

Have you found any good techniques to encourage a child to participate in jobs and chores at home?


Friday, December 11, 2015

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer cupcakes

One of my favorite things to do during the holiday season is baking-- better yet, decorating. This wasn't always the case. When I worked at a bakery, the holidays meant early mornings, long hours, lines of customers, and never-ending racks of cakes and pastries to decorate. Now, I happy to satisfy my creative interests in the kitchen at my leisure. Here is one of my favorite cupcake creations that is easy, fun and adorable. Who doesn't love Rudolph?

Use your favorite chocolate cupcake recipe and decorate as follows...
Supplies Needed:
  • Chocolate Frosting
  • Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
  • Red Gum Drops
  • Red Food Coloring
  • Chocolate Chips
  • Pretzels
  • 2 Ziploc bags (or 2 piping bags
What to do:
  • Frost cupcakes with chocolate frosting.
  • Fill one Ziploc or piping bag with white buttercream frosting.
  • Add the food coloring to a separate bowl of frosting to make red frosting.
  • Fill the second frosting bag with the red frosting.
  • If using Ziploc bags, snip a small hole at the bottom corner of each bag.
  • Use the white Ziploc/piping bag to make two dots. Place chocolate chips (top down) onto the white dots.
  • Place a red gum drop in the center of each cupcake.
  • Use the red Ziploc/piping bag to make smiles.
  • Break off pieces of pretzels for the antlers.
  • Share with friends and family and enjoy!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Grandma's Crustless Pumpkin Pie

One of Lila's favorite seasonal desserts by far is pumpkin pie. Savoring the spicy pumpkin filling she will usually scoop it all out and leave the crust. If she could just have a bowl pumpkin pie filling, she would be in heaven.

And so, Grandma's Crustless Pumpkin Pie was born! Taste-tested and approved by Lila, this light, simple pie is sure to remain part of the holiday tradition for years to come. From our kitchen to yours. Enjoy!

  • Butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 (15 oz) can of pumpkin
  • 1 (12 oz) can of evaporated milk
Be sure to use organic ingredients!

  • Preheat oven at 325 degrees.
  • Lightly butter a glass baking dish (preferably a 9 inch round pie dish).
  • Prepare filling by blending all of the ingredients. Scoop and smooth the mixture into the dish.
  • Bake for about an hour or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Cool and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (The longer it stays in the fridge the better it gets!)


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Place cards on our Thanksgiving table

One of the most important elements of our Thanksgiving dinner is the personalized place cards for each guest. As a child, this was my responsibility. By the time Clara was four years old, she was ready to carry on the legacy. 

The format is usually the same. We fold in half a blank index card (or sometimes colored construction paper). On the front she draws a decorative Thanksgiving image, usually a cornucopia or turkey. Inside, we write why we are thankful for that person. Now, Clara can write the whole card herself. When she was younger, she would dictate what she wanted to say, and I would write it for her.

One of my favorite name tags of recent years was Clara's drawing of her grandparents as two sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top. 

These place cards provide such a simple and yet nourishing tradition. We have hosted Thanksgiving in our home for many of the past ten years. I keep some of the name cards from year to year, and they serve as a reminder of that time and place as well as who our guests were around the table that year.

Besides enjoying the place cards, I do also like to eat on Thanksgiving. My favorite recipes remain those passed down by my grandmothers. My maternal grandma's pumpkin bread is always a great appetizer to have on hand although with the amount of sugar in it, it might better qualify as dessert. We often serve it with cream cheese on top to make it feel a bit more savory rather than sweet.

My paternal grandma's cranberry relish is the right combination of sweet and tart. My stepmother's sweet potato casserole was probably the inspiration for Clara's yam-focused place card from last year. I like this dish because it is easy to do most of the preparation the day before and just heat it up with the marshmallows and raisins right before sitting down for the Thanksgiving meal.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families! 


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Top 10 Tuesday: 10 ways to make working out feel like child's play

For the past 6 or 7 years, my mornings have been my "me time." I am generally not a morning person, but with a kid, career, and other responsibilities, I have found that I have no other choice but to take advantage of the early morning hours when the house is quiet and asleep. It's best to wake up early because, once the little one rises, I am compelled to shift gears into mommy mode.

My mornings used to be sacred. This was when I would get in my much needed exercise routine-- taking time for myself and my health. Well, this year, my little motivated second grader has decided that she should take advantage of early mornings too! So, as I am beginning my workout, I hear her door open and it's all over. Next thing I know I am getting my "exercise" by multi-tasking and running up and down the stairs.

Some mornings I barely get any real concentrated workout time, which really puts a crimp in the rest of my day. One day recently, I was feeling particularly stressed and in desperate need of a good sweat. But, when I got home Lila asked if we could do something together after dinner. Tired and giving up on the idea of getting my workout in, I asked her what she would like to do. Her suggestion was "racing down the hill across the street."

"Really?? O...kay."

I threw on my sneakers and we headed outside. For the next 45 minutes or so I had the most hilarious, fun, exhausting workout ever.

As much as I have love my morning routine of yoga postures, push ups, and lunges, I must admit that it does get kind of boring after a while. In fact, I've been finding it harder to get motivated to wake up in the morning. I still do think that making time for myself is important and I am not willing to give that up. But Lila, once again, has turned my "planned time" upside down and showed me that "play time" can be so much more fun offering the same, if not better, results. The laughing that ensues is a great bonus abdominal workout!

Here are Lila's top 10 ways to make working out feel like child's play:

10) Have a race-- over and over again.

9) Run up and down a hill, until you can't breathe. Repeat until completely exhausted.

8) Blow up a balloon. Hit it into the air and chase it around the living room as if your life depends on keeping it off the ground.

7) Go on a nature hike. Climb things.

6) Have a frog jump contest.

5) Play basketball (outside or indoors). Break rules. Travel. Roll on the ground holding the ball while your opponent tickles you until you let go. Chase them.

4) Play hop scotch and jump rope. Sing while you do it (if you're not totally out of breath).

3) Play hide and seek and run like crazy when you're found.

2) Play on the monkey bars. Work on becoming a bad a** mama who could do pull ups.

1) Have a wild dance party which involves jumping on the bed like two crazy people. Collapse and laugh until your stomach hurts.


Monday, September 28, 2015

the seven (or eight) year itch

According to wikipedia, the "seven-year itch" is a term that suggests that the happiness in a relationship declines after around year seven... The phrase originated as a name for irritating and contagious skin complaints of a long duration.

This summer, my husband and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary and so I thought we had dodged the dreaded seven-year itch. Well, in the midst of being utterly irritated with my husband recently, I started to itch... on my wedding ring finger! Oh, the irony.

I removed my ring to find my finger chapped, red and, like my mental state, completely irritated! Was my finger suddenly rejecting my wedding ring? Was this a sign?? Could this seven-year itch be true???

Apparently, wedding ring dermatitis is a common condition that is caused by soap build up under the ring or the allergic reaction to nickel found in white gold. 

I love my husband. I do. I am one of those rare gals who married her high school sweetheart. We made it through a long distance relationship in college, a major diagnosis and illness, the deaths of our fathers, many, many stupid arguments, and big, "That's it! It's over!" blow outs. We went from living together and thinking our quirks were cute to being married and getting on each other's nerves on a regular.

I know I make our relationship sound oh so {not} wonderful, but I do believe that all of the tough stuff has strengthened our bond even more than the good stuff (of which we have plenty as well... really!).

But, after seven to eight years, I have found that marriage can be really, really difficult. Things that used to be easy between us have become major work. We are so busy and crazed that we have to remember things like speaking to each other in a kinder tone (i.e. "Could you please put your dish in the sink, sweetie?" versus "Would you put your damn dish in the sink for once!"), kissing good bye, saying "I love you." We seem to do all of this very well with Lila. We simultaneously shower her with hugs and kisses and "I love you's" but sadly we don't always treat each other with the same amount of affection.

I could argue that we don't need to do these things because the love between us is a given. Perhaps it is displayed in more practical ways. For instance, my husband will anticipate me rushing back into the house in the morning because I have forgotten something (again) and he will be ready to pass this item into my hand (cell phone, water bottle, travel mug... car keys) like a baton, making my morning a little smoother. And, despite the fact that I am a vegetarian, I will clean, trim, and prepare my husband's chicken, gagging at the raw gross-ness, so that he has something to eat after working late. We will do these things for each other even when, at a given moment, we can't stand each other. Isn't that love? Couldn't that be considered affection?

But, when looking at my irritated finger, I realize that I can't just wear the ring and ignore what's going on underneath. Relationships need care and attention. This is something we can't ignore or take for granted because what starts as a minor irritation can quickly spread and become unbearable. 

As my finger heals, I am emailing my husband date night ideas. He is arranging the child care. In time, all will become healthy once again... and we will take good care to keep it that way.  -Tara