Sunday, May 31, 2009

Macaroni Meal Winners!

 The Macaroni Grill Meal winners are... commentors 2, 4, and 53.

So, Monica (2), Edi (4), and Naddez (53) need to send me an e-mail at familymusings @ gmail dot com with their mailing addresses so I can get these sent out ASAP!

Some New Charlotte Stories

Charlotte is now exerting her independent self and can get very upset if we try to help her do something that she thinks she can do on her own.

For example, now that she knows how to climb up into her high chair, she insists on doing it every time. Not only that, but she knows how to buckle herself in and won't stand for any help, even if her shirt is stuck and it won't work. Charlotte just doesn't realize it and won't accept help.

Speaking of climbing, Charlotte can now also climb into her car seat without help. I am a bit more apprehensive about this one though since it involves her loose in a parking lot for a few seconds. Overall, it seems to be working pretty well. I can watch her step into the car and then load my bags or start the engine while she climbs up.

Despite my apprehension, this last step of independence is a good one with the new baby coming. I hope it will make life easier when I am out with both girls, trying to juggling baby carriers and diaper bags.

I forgot to blog about it, but Charlotte uttered her first 3-word phrase on Mother's Day. It was like music to my ears to hear her shout, "Happy Momma Day!" Now, she uses 3-word phrases regularly, such as,
"Dadda bop-bop please," or "Momma have it." When prompted, she can say other 3-word phrases, and even incorporate the sign language with it.

I am sure there are some other stories I want to document before my brain really forgets them, but as of right now, my brain is tired... Maybe some pictures and more stories later this week.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day at Sea World

We spent the first half of our 11th anniversary showing Charlotte around Sea World. I took WAY too many pictures so, I'll just let them tell the story for me.

Excited that G-ma and Grumpy have arrived!
Letting us know she is serious about getting into this park
Intently watching "Melmo" Live with the rest of the Sesame Street Gang (Melmo=Elmo)
Playing the timpani(?) at Shamu's Splash Park (Ms. Debbie would be proud!)
Going down the slide...
Finally, the Splash Pad! She was timid at first, but it didn't take her too long to get into it.
It was a great morning and I am looking forward to taking Charlotte back to play at the Splash Pad. Hopefully, when it is less crowded!
What did you do on Memorial Day?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Anniversary My Love

Every year that we spend together, I discover more about you,...

...and I have an even deeper appreciation for you, our marriage, and our Lord. 

He directed our steps, blessed our love,...

 ...and made us one in a way that only he can - giving us something incredibly special.

You are the gift God chose for me, and the moment He revealed it my heart overflowed with joy, and still does.

I'm in love with you and always will be!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Rainy Day Fun Activities

If you follow the news, you know that last week, Florida was inundated with rain, getting more than 7 inches in some part of the state. It is quite an unusual start to our rainy season, in which we normally get a few quick showers each afternoon. I'm sure I don't have to tell you which we prefer.

The weather last week required me to get pretty creative on our usual 'go to the park' day. So, I grabbed a bag and started pillaging my art closet before we headed to a friend's house. All of the items were pretty random but sure to provide a decent amount of fun for whatever set-up and clean-up effort they required.

In no certain order, here are some of the events that filled our rainy day.

Silly Photo Session (even more fun if you have a new camera!) - Just let the kids go making faces, dancing, doing somersaults, jumping, holding hands, whatever they enjoy doing. You can take pictures with their favorite toys, or of them imitating their favorite animals.

Temporary Tattoos - Never underestimate the cool factor of a full sleeve of these temporary images. I spaced the tattoos out over the entire morning, giving the kids one before or after each activity. There were several to choose from and the picking out each time, as well as the application time, gave us several 5-minute breaks of activity.

Dot Art - Pretty simple idea here. All you need are bingo stampers and paper. Kids can draw with the stampers or make dot designs. You can use paper with pre-printed designs to be filled in, or just let them go crazy with abstract designs of their own. I limited each child to two different colors at a time and when they had filled a page (or before it got too crazy!) I made them switch their color combinations and work on a clean sheet of paper.

Bug Play - I had a new dollar store pack of plastic bugs that entertained even my 21-month old daughter. Bugs can go on a parade. Bugs can buzz and fly around the room. Bugs can play hide and seek. Just make sure you know how many buggy friends you have so they all get picked up at the end.

Stringing Cheerios - Pipe cleaners in assorted colors and cheerios. It's a snack and an activity all in one! Even Charlotte can manage to get a few cheerios on her pipe cleaner all by herself. I used the pipe cleaners instead of string so that young hands can manipulate the materials better. This one is great for building fine-motor skills and is also very entertaining when you are eating out at a restaurant. You could take this to the next level with Fruit Loops and have your child sort them by color or put them in a particular pattern.

Creative Lunch - Instead of just slapping a sandwich and fruit on a plate, I prepared lunch with a little more attention to detail and tried to make a more attractive layout than normal. Both plates got cleaned! This didn't really entertain the kids any longer, but it was another fun element to make them forget we weren't going on a picnic.

I never did get to making pipe cleaner animals or to using the finger paint, but there were handy in case we needed them. Of course, also had story time and clean-up time in between each activity. Overall, it was a very full and busy day.

What do you like to do on Rainy Days?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Relationship Between Books and Music - Part 2

Today is the last day for our Spring Kindermusik session and I am definitely going to miss it once class ends. Charlotte has had a lot of fun learning new songs, playing new instruments, and having songs sung just about her.

One way in which I've been encouraged as her mother is in using different voices and tones in reading to her. I knew it was good to get silly with my child, but sometimes, well, some of us more reserved types need positive examples to reinforce the silly behavior. Ms. Debbie isn't embarrassed at all to get down on Charlotte's level and model age-appropriate silliness. Kindermusik helped me break out of my shell a little more and experiment with my voice more while I am reading to Charlotte.

And I also knew that using different voices would help her understand dialogue and different ways to manipulate her own voice. Being able to get the non-verbal part of communication down will be important as she gets older. Sometimes what people say is more about the HOW than the WHAT. As a side note, I hope it will better equip her use her own voice as a communication tool, not just with the words she chooses, but with how she chooses to say those words.

Now that I've been to Kindermusik for almost an entire semester, do any of you have any questions about the experience from a mother's perspective? I'll be happy to answer them in a future blog post!
Photo Credit: Debbie Mondale

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Are you tired of reading about my hair yet?

I hope not, because I have one more post...

Throughout my no'poo experiment, I kind of knew I should probably be adding some conditioner to my hair on an occasional basis. I even did so during the first week, but then, well, forgot about it.

Then, over the weekend, I read about a special promotion going on this week for Kerastsae salon products. They were offering a free in-salon ritual plus blow-dry, so I looked up my nearest salon and scheduled an appointment. It was so relaxing to be pampered while there, and Charlotte behaved like a perfect angel while she watched from her stroller. It helped that some of the other clients and staff doted on her a bit.

My hair is definitely conditioned, and I love the job that Lizzie did blowing it out and giving it some big, soft curls. Bruce had fun playing with my camera when he came home and I narrowed down the 30ish shots to these 4. (I have no idea why the color is REALLY off on one of them!) What can I say, having a new, fancy camera is fun!

What do you think? Could I win a role in a throwback version of Charlie's Angels???

Completely Random Nikon D40 Photos

I am getting picture happy. I can't help it. The most satisfying part of my new camera might just be the 'click' noise it makes each time I press the button to take a picture. That, more than anything else, makes me feel like I know what the heck I am doing with such a fancy-schmancy camera!

Here are a few random photos I've taken recently. Which one is your favorite? Any tips for making any of these better? (Click for a larger version if you want to.)


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

30 Days Without Shampoo - Week 4

My 30 days ended last weekend and I have no plans to discontinue my baking soda/apple cider vinegar hair care program. I made it the entire month without using traditional shampoo. And you know what, it wasn't any harder to use BS and ACV than it was to use the drugstore stuff. Plus, I like my hair a lot better!

(Ha! I love this cartoon on the left I found at Babs blog. It cracks me up!)

I didn't think to take a before picture, but just imagine it a lot frizzier and less manageable than the following picture. I assure you anyone who knows me in real life can vouch for that!

So, this is no longer experiment. It is now going to be my way of life. Yes, I will still have to fight the almost 100% humidity of  Florida, but that is okay... I now have better tools.

Let me know what you think? Anyone other than Luke or Babs going to follow my lead?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Giveaway: Macaroni Grill Meals

The Macaroni Grill is one of my favorite places to eat. I can't recall ever having a bad meal there and have always liked their make your own pasta idea. Now, they have an at-home option for those of us who, um, maybe can't afford to eat out right now.

I'll keep this one simple. I tried the Creamy Basil flavor featured on the right and my husband agreed that it was great! I think you'd like it too, so I have 3 Romano's Macaroni Grill Gift Baskets to give away. Each basket includes a sample of the Creamy Basil Parmesan Chicken Pasta variety, three coupons for you to try the other varieties the next time you visit your local grocer, a colander, serving spoon and cheese grater.

How to Enter: There are four ways to enter and you can do any of them you like, for up to four entries:

  1. Leave a comment telling me what your biggest struggle is when preparing dinner for your family,
  2. Subscribe to my RSS feed, and leave a 2nd comment telling me you did so, or already are subscribed,
  3. Link to my giveaway on your own blog, leaving another comment with the permalink to you post, or
  4. Share this giveaway on Facebook and leave a 4th comment letting me know you did (honor system).
That's it. 4 ways to win and 3 lucky winners. This giveaway will end at midnight on Sunday, May 24. Read all contest rules here.

Don't miss any of my upcoming giveaways -
Subscribe to Family Musings by Email or Subscribe in a reader
Sponsored by My Blog Spark

Oh, and here are the winners of my two most recent giveaways. Comment #22 won the Evenflo Comfort Select Breast Pump. And comment #2 won the $10 Amazon Gift Card for listing a playspace on the KaBoom Playspace Finder.Winners have been notified.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Charlotte went to her first baseball game Friday night. It was supposed to be a double-header until it got rained out, but that didn't matter to her. She had fun watching a few at bats and learning how to sign baseball. Here are a few photographic highlights.

Batter up! (I think this picture looks cooler if you click on it and blow it up.)

Game called for rain. The tarp looked really heavy as all those young men were pulling across the field.

Learning the sign for baseball, from her daddy. And now, she isn't picking her nose, she is pushing her think button, just like Momma does.

Enjoying the view from the seats, safe from the rain.

This is Charlotte shouting, "stop taking pictures with your new camera and come sit down next to me!"

And now she say, "of course I'm grumpy, I am soaking wet from the rain and I want more baseball!"

Don't worry Charlotte, we'll go again soon. Our tickets are good to be used as rainchecks since the game was called with only 2 outs in the top of the first inning!

Shared as a post for NAtural Mommy's Meet-and-Greet Monday!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

My New Favorite Bean Burrito Recipe

Last fall, I checked out several "diabetic" cookbooks from the library in hopes of finding newer, healthier recipes to enjoy with my family.

My favorite recipe so far comes from The All Natural Diabetes Cookbook, by Jackie Newgent. Everything seems easy enough to make and comes with the nutritional informaton and exchanges for each recipe.

The recipe that is now a new vegetarian favorite (we try to eag vegetarian at least once a week to save money) is called Uno, Dos, Tres Bean Burrito, on page 198 of the cookbook.

Here is my modified version of the recipe:
  • 1 tsp canola or peanut oil
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 can white beans, drained (I used northern beans)
  • 1 can pinto or roman beans (I used pinto)
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 4 10-inch tortillas
  • 1/3 cup cheese (or more if you are like me!)
  • 2 cups of mixed baby greens (I just used spinach)
Saute onions in oil until lightly carmelized. Add the beans and saute 2 minutes. Then add salsa (and cilantro if you like it) to heat through. Remove from heat. Sprinkle some cheese down center of each burrito then top with bean mixture and greens. Roll the tortilla and serve immediately.

(The picture represents the leftover burrito I made when I was out of greens, it is even prettier with the baby spinach! Oh, and I took that with my new Nikon D40... isn't it pretty?)

First Pictures With My New Nikon D40

They aren't anything fancy, we had just sat down to dinner when my battery finished charging... I'll have more to post later... Gotta run!

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Relationship Between Books and Music

As I mentioned previously, Charlotte has been able to attend a Kindermusik class for the last several weeks and I've been so impressed by it, I really want to share some of what we've learned during this time.

Even though I've read Ms. Debbie's blog for several months now, I  wasn't ever really sure how to integrate posts about how reading and music go together. After seeing it in action though, I know that reading can help teach students about the rhythm of the written word, much like music helps us hear the rhythm of a song lyric or about the tones of music when we change our voices to imitate certain characters in a story. I'll share about the reading today, and the tones in a future post.

In fact, there are many books that are based on popular children's songs. Charlotte already loves books because we've been reading to her from the very beginning, so it makes sense that I can use a research-based approach (which seems more like common sense the more we do it) to transfer some of that love to music.

So, to the practical part of what I've learned about music and reading.

It doesn't matter if the book is based on a song, or that you even know the song if it is. Most children's books have a natural rhythm and beat that we can hear as we read the words. We can encourage interaction with the story by patting our legs to the natural rhythm of the story. This helps the children understand kinestetichally what they are hearing and involves their whole body in the learning process.

And if you know Charlotte, you know she needs to keep moving! She can't hardly bear to sit still while doing anything.

Ms. Debbie has recommended several books for helping to develop rhythm on her Musiconnix Recommends blog, and I've listed a few below that Charlotte and I have read together.
  • Any Dr. Seuss book
  • Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boyton
  • You and Me, Baby by Lynn Reiser and Penny Gentieu
  • A to Z by Sandra Boynton (really any Boyton book will work)
  • Sunshine On My Shoulder by John Denver
I love to add new books to our growing list of favorites. Do you have any books that are particularly rhythmic? Is there one certain book that always gets your child moving?

Edited to add: Debbie has also posted a series on developing steady beat that might be interesting to those of you who like the idea of using music to reinforce reading skills, and visa versa.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Paper Butterflies

I am now way past officially behind on our Alphabet School. I imagine I'll be picking it up again in a few weeks when school gets out and I have more free time.

But that doesn't mean we haven't been doing crafty things. Here is our latest fun craft. (Sorry for the cell phone pictures, my new camera is supposed to arrive tomorrow!)

These are super easy to make. Start with a coffee filter, markers, and a pipe cleaner.

Let your kids make all sorts of doodles and scribbles on the coffee filter with the markers. I chose to limit the kids to just 3 colors so they wouldn't get too crazy or end up brown.

Then, with a spray bottle preferrably, or a damp sponge, wet the coffee filters so that the marker ink is somewhat difused.

Once the filter is dry, scrunch up the middle a bit and twist the pipe cleaner on into the shape of a butterfly body and antennae.

These are super quick and fun to make. Charlotte liked seeing how the color faded and the color combinations are endless. And oh, I just had an idea! You could use the same coloring and water technique then scrunch these into the shape of flowers for corsages. We might try that one some day too.

Let me know if you make some and be sure to share pictures!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Kindermusik Is So Much Better Than I Expected

When we first moved to Lakeland last summer, I started to meet this lady named Debbie Mondale at various children's events around the city. She was a nice lady and Charlotte seemed to like her, or at least all of the cool musical instruments she always had with her.

We talked several times about joining one of her Kindermusik classes, but I never really could justify the cost of the classes, even though they did sound like fun. Finally, one day this spring, Debbie offered me a barter - in exchange for some help with her blog and website, I could bring Charlotte to the remainder of the Spring session of Our Time (for children 18 months to 3.5 years old). I love the internet and I also love the system of bartering where we can exchange talents and skills, so I jumped at the chance.

And I just want to say, Kindermusik has been a million times better than I ever expected! Charlotte enjoys the class maybe more than any other kid there and I have really seen some growth in her understanding of music since we began attending.

If you'll be patient with me, over the next few weeks, I'll share some of what I've learned about children and music from Debbie and the Kindermusik experiences.

Have you ever been to a Kindermusik class? Why or why not?

Happy (Belated) Birthday Family Musings

I'm bad when it comes to remembering birthdays. I get Charlotte and Bruce's birthday mixed up all the time! And they were born almost 30 years apart (well, 29 years and 362 days apart to be exact).

So, even though I planned to do some kind of birthday party when my blog reached 2 years old, I forgot. The Baby Brain may be getting worse now that number two is incubating inside of me.

But, from my first lame introductory post to my first giveaway ever, from my posts about nursing to my posts about Charlotte's crazy sleep habits, I have loved having this piece of broadband (or dial up if you are old school), to share my life with all of you. I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have.

So to celebrate, enjoy a piece of birthday cake, raise a glass, or hit the little 'x' in the upper right hand corner of your screen... do whatever this little blog inspires you to do! But before you go, make sure to leave a comment what kind of present you would give to Family Musings. Two year olds like gifts!

Happy (Belated) Birthday Family Musings!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Saltimbanco Came to Town

Just a quick note to finally tell ya'll about Charlotte's second trip to see a Cirque du Soleil show.

If you'll remember, a posted a while back that we received some complimentary tickets, courtesy of Mom Select. I was grateful for the tickets, but bummed that Bruce couldn't come with us due to prior obligations in Alabama. But that was okay, because my mom got to come with us instead.

Because the show didn't start until 7:30 pm and Charlotte normally goes to bed at 6 pm, I put her down a little bit early and then woke her just before 7 so we would have time to drive to the Lakeland Center. It seemed to work until after the intermission.

For the first half of the show, she pretty much sat enthralled. Ocassionally, she would recognize something like a bicycle, balls, or dancing and gleefully share her enthusiasm with the rest of the audience. I know she entertained the people sitting behind us with all of her enthusiasm for the various acts.

Saltimbanco is a little different than a traditional, non-traveling Circue du Soleil show. It seemed to be more focused on the individual or small groups acts. And of course, the stage is a litle smaller since they perform in smaller venues.

My favorite act was the Boleadoras. It was amazing to me the skill that these two people had in beating their drums, feet, and "ball on a string" percussion instruments together to sound like one person. The other amazing act we saw was the Duo Trapeze. The strength these two women have in their ankles probably surpasses the strength in my entire body!

While, we had to leave part way into the second act because Charlotte was getting grumpy, we still enjoyed the show. I can say that, based on my previous Cirque du Soleil experience, I would have bought tickets for us to attend even if I hadn't received the complimentary ones. (But they would have been Friday night tickets instead.)

There are still several shows left, including in FL. If you want to take advantage of the special family discounts, the links are still up at my original Saltimbanco post for the remaining shows.

Let me know if you decide to go! I'd love to hear someone else's perspective on the show.

Monday, May 11, 2009

30 Days Without Shampoo - Week 3

Just wanted to check in and let ya'll know I am still happy with my no 'poo experiment. My hair is most definitely less frizzy and I find I can go longer until my hair reaches the ball cap stage.

It used to be that my washed and styled hair would last about 2 days and by the third day I had to wear a ball cap if I didn't want to wash it again. I only did the baking soda rinse one time last week and the ACV rinse twice and I ended not having to resort to wearing a hat at all.

My hair is definitely into the more greasy than usual phase, but yet, it isn't yet gross. I found that when I did the baking soda rinse this week, I had to rinse and repeat. It may be that I didn't use enough baking soda for the initial rinse, so I repeated it and got that squeaky clean feeling again.

I have reached the conclusion that my hair may never be completely frizz free. I live in Florida ya'll. It is humid here, like walking around in a swimming pool some days. Of course, if I used the ACV vinegar rinse on a daily or bi-daily basis, I might have a better chance of combatting the puffiness my hair is prone too. But, I just don't feel like fixing my hair and going through the whole mousse routine that often. KWIM?

I know ya'll are dieing for more pictures, but I still don't have access to a decent camera when I need to take the picture. The good news is, I ordered my Nikon D40 this morning and should have it in time to post a picture for the end of my 30 day no shampoo experiment.

Has anyone else been inspired to try this?  How is it working for you so far?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Charlotte's First Bubble Bath

To celebrate Charlotte turning 21-months old, I wanted to take Charlotte swimming this afternoon, but wasn't sure we'd have enough time. So instead, I plopped her in the tub at 4 pm and let her experience the joys of her first bubble bath.

You've never seen this child so excited! It was crazy and she stayed in the tub for 45 minutes. The only reason she got out was because I made her. Otherwise, who knows how much longer she would have played with the bubbles. They just never got old to her.

I am still camera-less, so this picture came from my cell phone.

Oh, and if anyone knows where I can find an awesome deal (less than $400) on a Nikon D40 (with a lense), please let me know. Hubby recently informed me that I could have this camera for Mother's Day, but that I was responsible for finding the best deal.

Friday, May 08, 2009

This is what it means...

I enjoy listening to the local Christian music station and every day they play these short "commercials" with people saying how they always hear the right song at the right time and what a blessing it is. And, while I like the music, I can't honestly say I was similarly encouraged - until Wednesday that is.

I got in the car to pick up our $5 pizza for dinner just 30 minutes after Bruce came home and told me he had lost his job. I was shocked and thought he must be kidding, but, if you knew Bruce, he doesn't kid about these things. He was dead serious and the very tight hug he gave me spoke volumes.

So, when I turned the radio on, Natalie Grant's song, Held,came on.
Who told us we’d be rescued?
What has changed and why should we be saved from nightmares?
We’re asking why this happens
To us who have died to live?
It’s unfair.
Unemployment can happen to anyone, at any time, when you least expect it. And in this economy, it can feel especially scary, particularly for people in my generation who have not experienced things like this.And even though the Bible tells us it rains on the just and the unjust, it still doesn't lessen the sting.
This is what it means to be held.
How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life
And you survive.
This is what it is to be loved.
And to know that the promise was
When everything fell we’d be held.

And then the chorus comes, reminding us that God uses our circumstances to draw us to Him, that we might now how it feels to rest in His promise and larger purpose for our lives. Bruce's job isn't sacred, but when you are faced with not having one, it feels pretty darn close.

This hand is bitterness.
We want to taste it, let the hatred numb our sorrow.
The wise hands opens slowly to lilies of the valley and tomorrow.
It is even tempting to just give into any anger or hatred we might experience. Sometimes it does feel good to just let the bitter feelings stew and stimmer. But Proverbs teaches us that only the fool handles adversity this way. The wise man knows that peace does not come from letting the bitterness take over, but from letting God take over, and surrendering to His will, whatever physical, earthly hardships it might bring.
If hope is born of suffering.
If this is only the beginning.
Can we not wait for one hour watching for our Savior?
The temporary "suffering" of our single-income family can not compare with the suffering of Christ on the cross. I even hesitate to call it suffering, though it felt that way in the first few hours. We are most likely going to be "okay" in an earthly sense. As a teacher, Bruce will still have a paycheck until July, and an additional five weeks worth of sick leave that will cover our August expense. Our insurance will last through July as well and since I'm not on it, the medical care for Babin won't be compromised.

To all who have already lifted up prayers for us, thank you. They are sustaining our faith and encouraging us to look at other opportunities for our lives.

Summer Has Arrived!

I think these pictures of Charlotte eating my favorite fruit, coupled with the 90 degree temps this week, mean that summer has come to Florida to stay!

Want some?

Hey, these might be some of the best quality pics I've ever taken with my cell phone. Full sun really makes a difference!