5 month activities with Luke

Luke will be 6 months old on Friday, it doesn't seem possible.  The other day I was telling Kevin that it feels like he will always be this little.  Kevin quickly reminded me that was not going to be the case.  I know, I know, Luke will grow up and go to the prom and have a girlfriend (yikes) and get married...someday.  But, that someday is not today, thank goodness!  
This month we have been working on his language development and continuing to foster his sensory stimulation.  We have continued many of the activities we did during his 4th month of life you can see here, but here are a few new ones we added this month.

  • BL (Before Luke), I purchased some stacking cups from a local children's thrift shop for a couple of bucks.  You can find them on amazon here for about $12.  I love these cups and believe they're a classic that will never go out of style.  I put his play keys or ball or anything else that will fit and then stack two of the cups together so the item is covered up.  I then ask, 'where are the keys?'  This helps with object permanence, as does peek-a-boo.  Luke loves this little game and it's always fun to watch his face because I just know those wheels are turning!
  • Luke is now sitting up on his own, but is still a little wobbly.  We practice his balance by sitting him up and putting a few toys in front of him.  He will tolerate this for short periods of time with Mom and Dad are right there to cheer him on.
  •  This next activity is my favorite.  Luke and I or Kevin and Luke or all three of us head outside for a walk.  Sometimes we carry him, sometimes we put him in his little carrier that straps on to us.  Luke loves the outdoors, praise God!  I mean, can you imagine a little boy living on a farm that doesn't like the outdoors??  Me either.  We would have a problem on our hands, when would I get all the gardening done?  But, Luke enjoys looking around at the flowers, insects, grass, and definitely our puppy Abel.  Kevin and I talk to him about all that he's seeing and try to let him smell the flowers and touch the grass.  The outdoors is like a buffet for his senses...all the smells, sights, noises, and things to touch.  
basket of fun

you've gotta watch this kid...he's a monkey

he thinks he is sooooo big


What this city girl misses

Life in the country is peaceful, serene, quiet, and just lovely.  I get to listen to sweet birds chirping when I wake up and view stellar moons before I go to bed at night.  I am one lucky country girl.  
Life in the country is just peachy, but there are a few conveniences I miss about city life.  I was thinking about these conveniences this weekend as I had lunch with two of my friends at a delicious Italian place.  I miss these girls a lot and wish I was closer and able to see them more.  

These are some things I took for granted living in the city.

#1: Coffee shops.  I miss spoiling myself with a latte every now and again.
#2: Grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations.  Missing a cup or two of sugar means a trip into town or a trip up to my sweet in-laws. (Thank goodness for them.)
#3: Target.  Sometimes a nice stroll around Target is just plain fun.
#4: Church.  We have a great church in town and we still make the trip on Sundays, but sometimes it's hard to make it to all the fun events they host.  We also have a great Journey Group (Bible Study) with amazing people that we have grown to love so much, but we struggle to make it to every study session.
#5: Pizza delivery.  This is a big one.  Who doesn't love pizza delivered to your front steps on a Friday night?  Every chance I get, I order it when I'm staying in town.  A 10 minute drive for Casey's pizza will suffice on nights when we really have a craving for some hot slices.
#6: City friends.  Yes, you're now considered city friends.  Ha.  I miss seeing all the wonderful friends Kevin and I have in town.  We still try to see them as much as we can, but it just doesn't happen as often as I like.

I understand that these conveniences are quite trivial and silly, but I still miss them.  After having lunch with the girls and driving on 80 thinking about all I miss about the city, I came home to find our friends and neighbors Todd, Kara, and sweet Amelia hanging with Kevin and Luke.  We went on a short car ride to the Dairy Queen (the closest 'fast food' place) about 15 minutes away and enjoyed some tasty treats on a warm night.  And then I began to think about how lucky I am to have friends that I can have lunch with in the city and friends I can go for car rides with in the country.  Yes, I am one lucky country girl.  

the babes and the dads


Treasure Basket

Heuristic play 'consists of offering a group of children, for a defined period of time in a controlled environment, a large number of different kinds of objects and receptacles with which they play freely without adult intervention’.   Elinor Goldschmied and Sonia Jackson coined the term heuristic play in their book People Under Three.
Treasure baskets are tools to invoke heuristic play.  A treasure basket is composed of natural found objects.  The child then explores the objects using the senses, without any adult help.  Experts in heuristic play suggest starting when a child is able to sit up on his/her own.  Luke has just started doing this, so I thought I would put together a treasure basket for him.  He is not too interested, yet, so I have just been putting it in front of him about once or twice a day.
Lots of moms out there make 'themed' treasure baskets, including 'circular baskets', 'metal baskets', 'beach baskets', 'nature baskets'.  My first treasure basket includes items I had laying around the house.  

The items included in my basket:
  • wooden spoon
  • shell
  • cork
  • handmade sensory bottle with sprinkles
  • cookie cutters
  • piece of fleece
  • wooden bangle
  • fabric bunny
Even though heuristic play is supposed to be done without adult intervention, I still think it's vital for adult supervision, especially when children are very young.  Here are some of pictures of Luke with his little treasure basket.

luke loves this bottle, it is definitely his favorite 'toy of the moment' right now

as you can see, luke explores with his mouth all. the. time.


Bite-Sized Peanut Butter Brownies

I love things that are bite-sized.  Bite-sized things are perfect for the person who wants to taste yummy things, but not feel guilty about it...I am that person.  The problem with this notion is because they're bite-sized I end up talking myself into the fact that I can eat more because they're bite-sized.  I mean four five bite-sized peanut butter brownies are equal to one regular sized brownie...right?!  

These little morsels of goodness are pretty darn peanut buttery.  I was surprised when I bit into my first bite-sized bite to be met with lots of peanut butter flavor.  I thought there would be more chocolate brownie to it, but, nope, definitely peanut butter.  These have been all over Facebook and Pinterest and I am so glad I got on the bandwagon and tried them.  I found the recipe at baked perfection.  I didn't really alter it at all, but I do suggest really greasing the pan and using the Dark Chocolate brownie mix from Pillsbury.  And, if you're impatient like me, you can pop them in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes so they cool faster.  

These were so incredibly tempting that I drove into 'town' to the bank where Kevin works to deliver a container of these bite sized yummies for him and his co-workers.  Hope you enjoy!


1 Brownie mix and ingredients for mix
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips

Cooking instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Make brownie mix as directed and plop in greased mini muffin pan.
3. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
4. Push middle of brownie down with small spoon.
5. Melt peanut butter in microwave.
6. Drop teaspoons of peanut butter on brownies and finish with chocolate/peanut butter chips.
7. Cool in pan in refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.


Book Review: NutureShock Part II

The next few chapters in Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman's book, NutureShock, are a tad bit controversial.  Or at least one of them is.  Before the chapter even begins, the title makes me (and I'm sure others) a little uneasy...'Why White Parents Don't Talk About Race'.  Hmmm, okay.  My uneasiness quickly subsided and my curiosity took over.  This chapter opened my eyes to a topic not many people want to tackle.  Here are my take aways from 'Why White Parents Don't Talk About Race' and Why Kids Lie'.

  • Does race need to be discussed in school and our homes?  If we don't point race out to children will they even see it?  Researchers say yes and yes.  Kids will see it and we need to discuss it.  Children developmentally like others that are similar to them.  These similarities can include liking the same toys, liking the same colors, liking the same foods, and yep, being of the same race.  
  • When and how do we talk about race?  Gosh, I'm so glad I read this chapter.  Bronson discussed how parents get embarrassed when their child blurts out statements about race or color that are not politically correct.  That would totally be me, shushing Luke if he made a comment about race, but instead of shushing, researchers state we should be explicitly discussing those comments with children.  Children tend to overgeneralize and when a child makes a comment like, 'only black people are good at basketball', it needs to be taken seriously and discussed.  The brain's need for categories in order to understand topics is stronger at age 7 than at age 5, so it might be better to start talking about race sooner.  Saying 'everybody's equal' is not explicit enough.  
  • As a teacher, I thought I could always tell when a child was lying.  Now, that I've read this chapter, I question how good I thought I was.  Dr. Victoria Talwar has been studying children and how they lie.  Bronson and Merryman sat down with Talwar to watch eight videos of kids telling a story about being bullied.  They had to decide whether the child was lying or telling the truth.  This same test was given to both parents and teachers and the average score is 60%, a little about chance.  So, maybe I'm not so good as I think.
  • Talwar warns parents: kids grow into lying, not out of it.  Kids that know the difference between a lie and the truth are more likely to lie.  Scary, I know.  Basically, longitudinal studies suggest that if lying becomes a successful strategy for six year olds (for example if it helps them in social situations), the child will continue to lie.
  • The million dollar question: how do we get our kids to stop lying?!  First, recognize when a child is lying and call them on it; even if they are lying to be polite in a social situation (i.e. white lies). Second, kids are parent-pleasing little humans.  If you suspect your child is lying, offer them immunity (if possible) and tell them if he/she tells the truth it will make you happy.
I just brushed the surface of what there is to offer in these two chapters.  These two chapters challenged my current beliefs and made me think, really think.

You can find the the first book review for NutureShock here.

Bronson, Po, and Ashley Merryman.Nuture Shock. New York: Twelve, 2009. Print.


DIY Wedding Flowers

On Friday my mom and I worked on flowers for my brother's wedding in a few weeks.  We made the bridal bouquet, the bridesmaids' bouquets, the boutonnieres, and corsages.  We used the waxy artificial flowers from Hobby Lobby and I think they turned out beautiful, especially considering two amateurs put them together.  

Here is what we did for the bouquets!

Artificial flowers
Wire cutters that are actually sharp (our wire cutters were not sharp)
Florist tape
Florist wire

1.  Cut flowers to desired length with wire cutters that are actually sharp.  Arrange flowers together.
2.  Wrap wire around flowers at top and bottom of bouquet.  
3.  Wrap florist tape around the wire. (We learned this is an important step.)
4.  Wrap ribbon around bouquet.  Use the video found here.  It's a super easy technique!  When wrapping the ribbon I had my mom hold the bouquet while I wrapped.  It was much easier this way.

With the bridal bouquet we used satin ribbon and added some pearls between the ribbon.  I am not posting a picture of it, yet, because the bride wants it to be a surprise!  

the boutonnieres for the groom and his little guys...all we did was use a rose, a leaf, and little white sprigs and wrap with floral tape...super easy!
bridesmaid bouquets-we ended up cutting the ribbons off at the end


Photo of the Day: Sweet Baby Luke

Luke loves rolling over.  Problem: our rug is uneven and he can't roll over very well.  Solution: playtime in Mommy and Daddy's room!

my child is not always naked...i promise!!!!


Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

While I was pregnant, I was obsessed with cookies.  I had at least one cookie everyday of my third trimester.  I don't want to even think about how many Oreos entered my body, it was ridiculous.  These cookies are not Oreos, but something I think are are so much better.  They are peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies.  I found them over at averie cooks.  The reasons I decided to try these cookies are 1) there were only 6 ingredients and 2) two of the ingredients were chocolate and peanut butter.  Easy decision. I hope you try these because they are melt in our mouth good.  The swirls of chocolate goodness intertwined with the peanut butter is just scrumptious.  And please, please have one right out of the oven.  They are heavenly.

A few things I would highly recommend: don't substitute chocolate chips for the chocolate, it's worth the extra step of cutting and the Honey Roasted peanut butter helps this cookie a lot; try it!

1 cup Skippy Honey Roasted Peanut Butter (any store bought peanut butter can be substituted)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg 
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 oz. chopped baking chocolate (I used bittersweet)

Cooking instructions
1. Mix peanut butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla together using a mixer until non sticky dough forms.
2. Add baking soda.
3. Slowly stir in chopped baking chocolate.
4. Refrigerate dough for 2 hours (or longer).
5. Drop balls of dough onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Flatten the balls slightly.
6. Bake at 350 for 4 minutes, rotate, then bake for 4 more minutes.
7. Let cookies cool on sheet for 5-10 minutes, then remove and place on rack.

You can print the recipe here!

yes, i did swipe that chocolate up with my finger


Book Review: NurtureShock

Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman went seeking the greatest minds in children's research to ask some hard questions.  They came to some startling results and wrote NutureShock, informing parents all over the world about their findings.  I learned a lot while reading this book, more than my brain could handle.  NutureShock is broken down into ten chapters, each covering a specific issue.  Because this book was jam packed with information, I am going to break this review down into a couple posts.  There are tons of research articles cited and data overflowing from the pages.  I will have to go back to reread some chapters when they're relevant to Luke's development because I don't know if everything sank in.  Below are my take aways or the big ideas from the first two chapters of the book.

  • Telling a kid that he's smart is like telling a kid he's good at basketball because he's tall.  It might not be true and it doesn't help the kid get any smarter (or better at dunking).  Researchers studied the effect of praise and found that students praised for effort rather than intelligence sought out more challenging problems and did better on those problems.  Remember John Medina from Brain Rules for Baby said the same thing!  You can find that review here.
  • Researchers also found that praise for effort needs to be specific and sincere.  No more 'great job, you worked hard!' meaningless compliments.  Psychologist Wulf-Uwe Meyer found that by age twelve students believe that praise from a teacher means you're not doing well and the teacher thinks you need extra encouragement.  Wow, this is a wake-up call.  Kids are so smart.  I remember praising student effort as a teacher, but I probably did it a little too much.  Bottom line: praise your kid for effort in a sincere, specific way.
  • Lots of sleeping makes you smarter.  Yes!  Finally, a study out there that approves of me going to bed ridiculously early.  Dr. Avi Sadeh of Tel Aviv University along with sleep experts from Brown University studied fourth and sixth graders and found that one lost hour of sleep is equal to two years of lost cognitive maturation and development.  
  • U.C. Berkley's Dr. Matthew Walker explains that for kids a good night's sleep is vital for long term learning of vocabulary words, time tables, historical data, and all other factual information.  Another fact that is c-r-a-z-y is that sleep deprived people have a hard time recalling pleasant memories, but remember bad memories just fine.  Yuck! 
  • We all know this already, but teenagers are a special breed all their own.  Mary Carskadon from Brown University explains that when it gets dark outside adults produce melatonin that makes us feel sleepy.  Unfortunately, adolescent brains don't produce melatonin until 90 minutes later.  That's why they have a hard time going to sleep at a normal hour, like the rest of us.  This creates a big problem for the teenage population because they have to be up and out the door early for school...when their bodies are still producing melatonin and telling them to go back to sleep.  Many experts in the field have fought and continue to fight hard to get school start times moved back. 
  • Did you know that when a middle or high schooler loses one hour of sleep the odds of obesity go up 80%?  It seems that sleep is kind of a big deal.

Bronson, Po, and Ashley Merryman.Nuture Shock. New York: Twelve, 2009. Print.


Cooper's 3rd Birthday!

I love celebrations...baby showers, bridal showers, weddings, and birthday parties.  Most of these celebrations include cake,  which is why I love them so much!  This past weekend we headed over to Iowa City to celebrate my godson, Cooper's, 3rd birthday.  I seriously can't believe he's 3 already.  I remember cuddling with him and taking him for walks when he was just a wee little baby like Luke, which makes me think Luke will be that big someday...doesn't seem possible.  I'm not going to think about that right now, that's wayyy into the future, right?!  (I'm sure Cooper's Mommy, Paige, won't agree.)  

The party was on Sunday, but we went over Saturday to spend a little extra time with Paige and Coop.  We made a pit stop in Grinnell to visit Kevin's grandparents and family, but unfortunately I didn't take any pictures.  I was too caught up in learning all about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lego sets from Kevin's cousin, Dalton.  I love him!

After having lunch in Grinnell, we made the remaining trip to Iowa City and when we arrived noticed there was a loud shhhhh-ing sound coming from one of our tires.  Yep, we had a large screw in our tire.    We decided to go check into our hotel and then get a kit to fix it.  Our room ended up not being ready, yet, so we did what any couple with a baby would do...Kevin fixed our tire at a gas station while I breastfed Luke in the backseat.  Super awesome.  Super multi-tasking.  

After finally getting checked into our hotel room, we bee-lined it for the pool.  We swam and ordered a good 'ole Papa Johns pizza, the garlic sauce made my day.  Pizza that gets delivered is a little luxury that we don't have on the Trail.  

When Sunday rolled around we enjoyed Cooper's construction themed birthday party, which was too darn cute.  Paige did an amazing job with all the decorations and the cake.  She made everything herself, she is super mom.  My friend, Shelby, and her little cutie Scarlet were there and it was fun for Luke and Scarlet to 'play' together.

After enjoying some cake (yum), Kevin and I headed back to the Trail and Luke slept the entire way.  It was a fun getaway, but it went by way too fast.  Happy Birthday Coop (and Paige), thanks for letting us share your special day!

getting ready to swim!

swim time

paige holding both boys

birthday boy!

how talented is paige...she made this all herself!

happy birthday to cooper!

shelby, me, paige, and the birthday boy...scarlet and luke were already on their way to dreamland in their carseats


5 month schedule

The other night I headed on down Pioneer Trail to my friend Kara's house to have dinner.  Living in a place where there is no pizza delivery, we opted for take-out from the local restaurant/bar.  Tuesday night is taco night and The Back 40 serves the yummiest, cheapest tacos within a 25 mile radius.  We tried to get our two little babes to 'play together' and not have crying contests in between bites of beef tacos.   
I was talking about how it's so hard to remember what Luke's day was like a few months ago and we both agreed that we should write it down.  So, here I am...writing it down.  This is Luke's current 5 month schedule.  These times can vary by 15-30 minutes and this schedule is not set in stone, but flexible.
My hope is that in documenting Luke's monthly schedule, my 'Mommy brain' will have a place of reference for my next child (yes, yes, I know all kiddos are different).  I've heard it's a little bit more, um, complicated, with two.  

7:30 a.m.           Wake up for the day

7:45-8:15 a.m.      Nurse

8:15-9:15 a.m.      Play time

9:15-11:00 a.m.     Nap in crib

11:00-11:30 a.m.    Nurse

11:30-1:15 p.m.     Play time

1:15-3:30 p.m.      Nap in crib

3:30-4:00 p.m.      Nurse

4:00-6:45 p.m.      Play time

6:45 p.m.           Bedtime routine (bath, books, nurse)

7:00 p.m.           Bed

i had to add a picture of this kid
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