Paper Plate Turtle — A Collage Activity 

I’ll be honest. This was intended to be a handmade puzzle activity. My goal initially was to trace puzzle pieces and use them as the turtle’s shell. Well, that got old fast and I abandoned ship and opted for a simple collage. 

Despite the last minute change of plans, this was a big hit. Mateo loved the chance to decide which piece should go where and put a significant amount of consideration into the decision. Once the puzzle piece idea was abandoned, the prep was minimal and I glued the turtle parts and the paper plate to the card stock paper ahead of time to allow Mateo to focus on making the collage (and to cut down on mom participation in the process). Mr. Turtle now resides under Mateo’s trampoline because apparently that’s where he likes to sleep. 


Materials:

  • Paper plate
  • Blue card stock paper
  • Green construction paper
  • Colored construction paper to make the shapes for the collage 
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Sharpie marker 

Directions: 

  • To prep: Use green construction paper to cut out the arms, legs, head and tail. Draw toes and fingers on the limbs and add facial features to the head. Cut shapes out of various colors of construction paper. Glue the paper plate and turtle parts to the blue card stock paper. 
  • Let your little one pick and choose which shapes go where to cover the shell. Let them use a glue stick to adhere the shapes to the plate. 
  • The end. Enjoy! 

Easter Crafting : Bunny Hats and Hatching Chicks

IMG_4887.JPG

Despite the fact that the weather seems to be confused, Easter is right around the corner! To get in the spirit, we – of course – crafted. In the first two of what will surely be a host of Easter crafts, we made some rabbit ears to hop around in and painted a hatching chick with our fingers. While both were a huge success, the bunny ears gave Mateo a chance to practice his hopping skills and that was simply adorable. Read on to see what we’ve been up to and stay tuned for some more ideas. This morning included a restock trip to Michaels Craft Supply store, so we are READY for a week of rain!

Bunny Ears Hat 

mateo bunny hat collage

Today was one of those mornings when I was praying to the gods of toddler sleep for a late wakeup. Not only did I get an early wakeup, but he was especially excited about life from the moment his eyes opened. There was no snuggling up with coffee, my toddler and Moana. It was “GO GO GO” from the get go. A whopping 10 minutes into being awake, he asks to “make craft and glue?” While I love crafting, I generally prefer to do so after 9am. Thankfully I had planned on making this adorable hat yesterday and had already cut and prepared the items. So, crafting and coffee it was!

In the end this was a HUGE hit. Since he’s never really made a hat before and the pieces didn’t look like a bunny before being assembled, it took a little warming up and coaxing to get him into it. Once he grasped what was happening here, he was far more excited about the idea and once the hat was complete and he caught wind of himself in the mirror it was GAME OVER for him. He hopped around like a bunny for a solid 20 minutes, showed his hat to the fish, told the fish that hats are for big boys and not fish and then promptly displayed the hat right next to the fish so they could be friends. Be still my heart, be still.

Materials: 

  • White cardstock paper
  • Pink construction paper
  • Googly eyes
  • Pom Poms in bright colors
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Tape (for the hat)

Directions: 

  • To prep: Cut out two ovals for the rabbit ears. Use white cardstock for these, with smaller ovals cut from pink construction paper for the insides of the ears. Fold a pice of white cardstock paper over lengthwise and cut down the middle to create two rectangular pieces to use for the headband. Cut two small rectangles for the teeth and set out pom poms in dish.
  • Have your little one glue the pink ovals in the center of the larger white ears. Once that’s done, have them glue pom poms around the pink oval to decorate the ears. Mateo and I are running into some glue issues lately. Mainly, he’s fond of eating it and sticking glue nozzles up his nose. So, for this craft, I used a hot glue gun. I applied hot glue dots around the smaller ovals and he placed a pom pom on top after I had let it cool a bit. This was a lot of work (complete with regular reminders that the glue is hot). Ideally this phase will pass quickly.
  • Once done, apply the eyes and teeth to the appropriate part of the headband. Tape the two large rectangles together and measure your child’s head with the paper. Tape where appropriate.
  • Let them try it and let the fun begin!

Here’s a picture of the fishie and the bunny hat bonding.

mateo bunny hat and fish

Hatching Chick Finger Painting 

mateo hatching egg collage

Lemme start by saying Mateo was having a day today. So if you’re perplexed by the lollipop break, that’s why. Sanity reigns supreme in my house. If sanity means you need a lollipop and a craft to hold it together emotionally, a lollipop it is.

I settled on this craft because of his recent love of finger painting. He’s SO over handprints and now loves making dots with his fingers and some paint. Therefore, this seemed ideal. Generally, I would cut all the parts ahead of time and let him glue them each on. Today, however, he was cranky and full of complaints about life. To make our lives easier and get to the fun part, I glued the shell and the chick’s head onto the egg ahead of time and let him focus on finger painting. Happiness ensued (with a small break for some lollipop comfort).

Materials: 

  • Orange, yellow and white cardstock paper
  • Black and orange construction paper
  • Glue
  • Paints

Directions: 

  • To prep: Cut out a large oval from orange cardstock paper. I used a giant serving bowl as a guide for my oval. Trace another oval (the same size) onto white cardstock paper and draw a zig zag line across the center. Cut along that line to create a cracked shell.
  • Glue the egg shell and chick’s face to the oval background.
  • Set out paints and let your little one dip their fingers into the paint to decorate the egg shell.
  • Glue on the eyes and a nose.

mateo hatching egg final

Hatching Chick Craft

mateo egg collage

Spring is here. Thank the good Lord! To celebrate, we opted for a craft I’ve been excited about for months. Mateo’s fascinated about the idea of animals hatching out of eggs. It all started with a book called Dinosaur Farm. The little baby dino poking its way through the egg quickly became his favorite page and kicked off his interest in learning about this phenomena. Therefore, I knew this craft would be a huge hit. In fact, when I asked if he wanted to make a baby chick and help it hatch from it’s egg, his face lit up! Simple, adorable and educational… this craft gets two thumbs up from us.

To get started on the endeavor, we read the Hungry Little Caterpillar and talked a little about the various animals that hatch from eggs. Mateo took it upon himself to practice hatching himself out of a pretend egg by curling himself into a ball on the floor, popping up and yelling “TEO HATCH.” I chose not to correct this… mostly out of laziness and a lack of interest in explaining where he came from. Judge away, folks! From there, we got started by painting the chick’s body. I explained that he had to help the baby chick grow by painting the egg. As more and more of the egg was painted, his excitement level grew and he kept exclaiming “It’s growing, mama!” From there we proceeded with the rest of the craft.

mateo painting egg

Materials: 

  • White card stock paper
  • Yellow paint
  • Brown construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Googly eyes (or a marker to create eyes)
  • Orange construction paper for the beak
  • Pipe cleaners for the hair

Directions: 

  • To prep: Draw an oval on the white cardstock paper. Cut out a similarly sized oval from brown construction paper. Cut a triangle out of orange construction paper and fold the two sides into the middle to create a raised beak. Set out some yellow paint.
  • Have your little one paint the egg yellow with their finger to help the chick grow.
  • Once painted, let dry.
  • Once dry, glue the eyes and beak on. Glue the brown construction paper egg shell on top by squeezing glue around the perimeter of the egg shell. At this point, I told Mateo that the chick had to take a nap so it can grow before it’s ready to hatch. I busied him with another activity and made a small slit in the eggshell (on top of the beak) to give him a starting point for ripping the paper.
  • Show your little one the slit in the paper and explain that this means the chick is ready to hatch. Have them pull off the paper and discover the baby chick. If they are so inclined, they can add pipe cleaners for hair. We fed our chick cheerios because Mateo felt strongly he was hungry.
  • Display and enjoy!

mateo peeling egg

 

Paper Plate Faces 

Today’s craft stemmed from learning that it is the International Day of Happiness. 

Goodness, what WOULD I do without twitter in my life??? 

Using this as a jumping off point, I chose to take the crafting opportunity as a chance to work on feeling recognition in hopes that it will reinforce my constent attempts at getting him to name his feelings rather than simply dissolve into tears. Given a two year old’s limited focus time, I stuck with happy and sad as our emotions and cut out facial features to indicate both feelings. 

To launch ourselves into feeling exploration, we read The Pout Pout Fish book he has taken a shining to and practiced making pouting faces (I assure you this requires little additional practice- he’s an expert). 

“Mateo, show mama your sad face?” 


We spent some time showing each other our happy, sad and angry faces and then got crafting. 

The craft was a huge hit. He loved the eyebrows most of all and the crazy hair went over big! Once the hair was attached, we talked about the various things that make him happy and sad.

“Mateo, what makes you happy?”

  • Trains
  • Goldfish 
  • Mama
  • Milk

There ya have it. Those are my kid’s priorities. 

Identifying what makes us sad was a little harder. I’m not sure he’s ever considered what makes him sad (hence the need for feeling recognition). After a few prompts (“Mateo cries when..” “when mama does …. Mateo gets sad?” “What makes you not happy?”) he was able to come up with a list of things that would bum anyone out, really. 

“Mateo, what makes you sad?” 

  • Night night time 
  • Mama bye bye 
  • Bath done (he really doesn’t like having to get out of the bath)
  • Not have knife (it is downright offensive to him that I won’t let him play with knives). 

I’ll attest to the fact that these are generally the things that trigger tears. 

The craft was a big hit, super fun and incredibly easy to make. Get our vote! 

A note: you may notice that we now use a paintbrush when gluing. This is a conscious choice that resulted from an inability to not stick the glue nozzle up his nose. Fun times. 

Materials: 

  • Construction paper
  • Scissors 
  • Paper plates
  • Pom poms
  • Google eyes
  • Glue 
  • Popsicle sticks 

Directions: 

  • To prep: cut out facial features for your desired expressions. I did eyes, a mouth, tears and eyebrows. And then crimped some strips of paper for the hair. 
  • Discuss the concept of feelings with your little one. Ask them to show you their happy and sad faces. Show them yours. Get a silly! Why craft if you can’t be silly? 
  • Guide your little guy through gluing the various parts of the face by asking prompting questions “which mouth looks happy?” Etc
  • Let them add as much or as little hair as they like. Glue a Pom Pom for a nose and a set of googly eyes on each face. 
  • Let the glue dry and then talk about what makes your little guy happy and sad. As they name the items, list them on the hair strips. 
  • Glue (I used hot glue Bc it sticks better) a popsicle stick to the back to make a mask. Let your little one enjoy! 

Entertaining the Easily Distracted… Our Top Toddler Activities

color sorting

Between the snow, the cold and the recurring bouts of congestion, this winter has seen far more days spent indoors than I generally enjoy.

Obviously, we’ve crafted with abandon but our crafting is a team effort that requires careful supervision, regular reminders not to eat the materials and lots of dialogue. Part of the reason I love crafting with Mateo is the conversations that ensue. The end results are generally adorable but the process is what makes my heart swell. It’s a bonding experience involving laughter, messes and the occasional naughty word mumbled under mama’s breath. Enjoyable? Yes. Independent play? No. Absolutely not.

Any mom will attest to the fact that there are many, many hours in a day and any opportunity to get their kids to play on their own for more than 5 minutes is a welcome one. My particular tiny human revolts at the idea of playing without mama. Sadly, I have a house to run and sanity to keep in tact. Therefore, I’m on a never ending quest to find activities that will keep him occupied and happy and playing on his own safely.

To achieve this, I will do almost anything and tolerate nearly any level of mess. An hour of independent play while I get stuff done or simply sit down with a cup of coffee is worth 20 minutes of cleanup for me. Hands down. So, without further ado. Here are our favorites.

Water Play 

trains water play

Water is some form of toddler crack. Adding water is the easiest way to take a morning from ho hum to “WHOA NELLY” in my kid’s eyes. He loves nothing more than getting his hands in there, reveling in the cool feeling of being wet and sifting water from one bucket to another over and over again. He also lives for trains. Therefore, our two favorite water activities are train oriented. In the above pictures, he used triangle blocks to send his trains into the pool before using a kitchen spoon to move them from one bucket to the next. Both activities were huge hits. (Please note: he did then GET IN THE BIG BUCKET) the minute I turned around. In the picture below, we made a car wash for his trains with bath soap and a paintbrush. He used the brush and soap to clean his trains and then dried them off with his big boy towel. An hour. This occupied him for an hour.

Pantry Fun

pantry fun

This is our go to favorite and is absolutely NOT for the mess adverse. It is by far the messiest of our activities. It is also his favorite thing in the world. In a nutshell, I lay a sheet down and fill bowls and his pots and pans with anything from my pantry that I have no immediate need for. Flour is favorite. But everything from oatmeal to spices and pasta works perfectly. I give him four or five ingredients and he will entertain himself for absurd amounts of time. The cleanup is extensive for this activity. But, for an hour of solo play, I’m fine with that. My mom, on the other hand, would have a heart attack.

Play Dough Counting and Sorting

play dough counting activity

Play dough is his jam. We play it multiple times a day. So, in an effort to combine something he loves with some numbers practice, we tried counting with play dough balls. I made a dozen or so little balls and asked him to put the appropriate number of balls on the appropriate rectangle. He enjoyed the activity and got the counting correct about half the time and them tried to eat one of the paper rectangles. This is less of a solo activity than the others since we are working on counting but, after a few practice runs, I let him play with the circles and place them where ever he wanted. Which he happily did for a half hour.

Sponge Painting

sponge painting

This is an experience rather than a craft. Adorable results were not achieved. Nothing was hung on our fridge but he has a blast and it couldn’t be simpler. I simply laid out three colors of paint and gave him a sponge brush. After a brief tutorial on how it worked, he got the hang and really enjoyed seeing how the sponge made cool effects on the paper. I finished an entire cup of coffee and did the dishes while he worked on this!

Shamrock Rice Krispies 

baking

We bake A LOT. Not because I particularly love to bake. But because he adores the activity. It involves pouring and mixing and laughing and pots and pans. It just includes so many of the things he enjoys. And it kills a solid hour. We bake everything from pancakes to muffins. Pictured above, we made green Rice Krispy Treats in the shape of a shamrock for St. Pat’s day. Some tips for baking with a wee one.

  • Pour everything in advance to measure. I’ve taken to measuring out the ingredients and placing them in bowls prior to involving him in the process.
  • When cracking an egg, have your little one crack into a bowl and then pour into the mix to avoid egg shells in the batter. (A tip a friend was nice enough to pass along to me).
  • SUPER VISE THE HECK out of this. This is not independent play and it’s also one of the areas where Mama doesn’t play. If you cannot listen, you cannot help. The reason for this is fairly obvious. We are baking — which involves being in close proximity to the stove. Strangely, Mateo enjoys helping so much that he is remarkably well behaved when we bake together.

Here are our top activities. Lemme know what you and your littles are up to!

Paper Plate Flower… Because I Hate Snow

paper plate flower collage

Day 2 of a March snow day seemed like the perfect time for a Spring themed craft. In fact, I’m gonna make the rest of our crafts Spring themed in hopes that our dedication to the cause will bring warmer weather. This paper plate craft served two purposes: it reminded us that Spring will be here eventually while giving me a use for what one might call an alarming number of Popsicle sticks that reside in my craft closet. Simple, fun and cute… this meets all my conditions of a solid craft.

Some helpful hints from this crafty mama:

  • Maybe your toddler is different but mine struggles to remain focused on a single color when presented with a host of options. To ease this struggle, I lined each of the sections with the designated color as we worked our way through the craft. This gave him a purpose and clear direction. “Can you color from this orange line to the other orange line?”
  • Pinterest made the flower petals smaller. Because I’m no fool and I know my child, I made them a little wider and used less colors. This gave him room to enjoy painting without causing me a hernia as he missed the designated petal.

Materials: 

  • Paper plate
  • Paint (in whatever colors you choose)
  • Popsicle stick (either green or painted green)
  • Green card stock paper
  • Hot glue
  • Scissors

Directions:

  • To prep: Cut the desired number of flower petals in your paper plate. Cut out 2 leaves for the stem. I glued the leaves ahead of time because I wanted to use hot glue and didn’t want to field requests to help from the little one.
  • Lay out the paper plate. Ask your little one to paint the middle one colors. Then work your way around the center to paint all the petals.
  • Let dry and glue the stem on.
  • Enjoy!

paper plate flower close up

 

When Mama Falls Apart… An Honest Look at Momming When Tears Are More Frequent Than Laughter

mateo crib

Crafting this post wasn’t a decision I made lightly. More honest and vulnerable than anything I’ve published before, this is a continuation of my commitment to honestly portraying what my parenting journey looks like with the hope that it helps someone else not feel quite so alone. Judge if you must, you do you.

Depression is a sneaky little fucker and it snuck right into my life without fanfare. Quietly, masking itself as parental exhaustion, it nestled in and made itself comfy nearly a month ago. After a stretch of sleepless nights with the toddler, I found myself more tired than I’d been in a long time. Constantly stressed, rarely hungry and always feeling like I was on the verge of a meltdown, I called a friend and ranted about everything from my child to the fact that I constantly felt like a failure.  After listening to my complaints about parenting, the never ending housework and the sense that nothing would ever be good enough for weeks, she was done and very lovingly pointed out that perhaps something bigger is going on with me. Initially I brushed her off. She’s not a mom. She doesn’t understand. Anyone who knows me (or follows this blog) knows I’ve experienced mental illness before. I’ve been depressed. This isn’t that. I’m fine. I just need more help. I need more hours in a day. I need a housekeeper. I need more money. Depression doesn’t look like this.

I wrote it off as the exhaustion that comes from parenting a two year old, a lack of funding for more daycare, a never ending pile of laundry and a new part time job that left almost no time for me to relax. I got more daycare and I felt worse. I met all my deadlines and saw much needed cash start flowing in. I felt worse. My kid was alternately adorable and insane. I felt worse. Suddenly, nothing was working anymore. I was feeling every hour of every day. I was watching my pride and joy be ridiculously cute and feeling a detached sense of moderate amusement. I was constantly complaining. I was lying awake in the middle of the nights staring at the ceiling and crying for reasons I could not articulate.

The tipping point came when my eyelid started twitching and wouldn’t stop for a week. That’s when I realized something was seriously amiss with me. I surveyed my surroundings and was stunned. It became immediately clear that while I was functioning, I was barely doing so. My son was being parented. Hell, we were crafting. He ate, bathed, napped, played and generally ran amok around the house. We went on play dates and posted to Facebook. But, in between those periods, I struggled to find an interest in anything. I struggled to do much of anything not directly related to keeping a toddler alive and occupied and wondered when the day would be over. Every day.

Compounding the ache of depression, guilt crept in. Who in God’s name am I to complain? Where is my gratitude? Look around, Lizi. You’ve got it pretty damn good. A healthy, happy, adorable child. A house in the ‘burbs. Money to pay the bills. A family you love… the list could go on and on. I’ve watched enough mom friends struggle through trials I can’t even imagine to know my life is anything but woeful. I’ve lived an unconventional life full of personal crisis and mental illness. The simple fact that I am successfully parenting and paying my bills is worlds more than I expected for myself. Why can’t I just enjoy the gifts that have been bestowed upon me? This guilt and self-hate did little more than work to eat me alive and leave me feeling even more depleted emotionally. And kept me from sharing my pain with anyone.

neverthless

Finally, this week, I raised the white flag and asked for some help. Enlisting my mom to take the small one for the weekend, I watched as my mom and aunt got busy cleaning my disaster of a kitchen and struggled to pack my child up for the weekend because most of his clothes were in the wash – where they had been for days. Suddenly, it was incredibly evident to me that I was staring depression directly in the face and needed to call in reinforcements. Calls have been made to a therapist and this train’s path is on the way to being righted. But the experience left me desperate to understand how it happened. Where had this started and how can I prevent another bout in the future?

It’s no secret that I wasn’t 100 percent convinced I was cut out for momming when I found out I was with child. I also was not the only one harboring this concern. Multiple people have recently copped to wondering the same thing. In fact, a couple months into this parenting journey someone commented that I seemed like the least prepared mom they’d encountered. A comment that stung, for sure, but wasn’t lacking in truth. As a result, I threw myself into being mom. I jumped in head first and busted my ass to parent the hell out of my son. The fact that I have never loved anyone or anything as much as I adore that tiny human certainly helped! I mean, he’s pretty spectacular – if you ask me. But, I made him my world. So worried I would fail as a mom, I let every other aspect of my identity fall to the side. Slowly but surely, I stopped going out with friends. Given my son’s adorable dislike for sleeping through the night, I rarely read for pleasure anymore. Any free time for reading was spent devouring the parenting section of the library in a desperate search for all the answers to all the questions that came up all day. Suddenly all I concerned myself with was mom life and housework. Given the enormity of both those tasks, it was relatively easy to get lost in the day to day of keeping a home and raising a human. And, dammit, I parented like a beast and kept a fairly decent home.

On paper, I was succeeding.  Inside, I was rapidly losing me. Anyone will attest to the fact that I’m a damn good mother to that boy. I live and breathe for him. I love on him all day. We play. We craft. We sing the clean up song and practice our letters. We repeatedly review proper etiquette for mentioning one’s penis (AKA: PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT YOUR PENIS!). I’d challenge anyone to take issue with my mommin’. On any given day, my home looks presentable. Is it spotless? Fuck no. But it looks presentable.

I needed a “me.” Having recently moved to a new state where I knew no one, I had done little more than make a few halfhearted attempts at making friends. Now, being an hour away from the comfort of the women I love, I was isolated and lonely and this lack of a personal identity was becoming alarmingly clear. I had become a hermit who rarely left her home. I had stopped writing creatively. I had stopped reading for pleasure. I parented. I worked. I cleaned my house and I slept. The end. Suddenly I understood what everyone had been saying all along. A happy mom is a good mom.

I’d been hearing this since his birth. “Your happiness is crucial.” “You can’t give when you have nothing.” “The bigger your life is, the better your parenting will be.” “Put your oxygen mask on first.” I’d nod politely and go about bathing in mom life. My son disliked sitters so I rarely went out. Bedtime was always a shit show so I insisted that no one could manage it but me and never went out before bed. Once bedtime passed, I was too tired to go paint the town red so I’d cuddle up with the latest parenting book until I passed out. Rather than ensuring I had funds to take myself out for a night or two, I’d make sure Mateo was enrolled in gym and music classes. And, I truly believed I was doing what was best for my kid. Until I looked in the mirror at 3am and realized I desperately needed an oxygen mask.

The last couple weeks have been filled with more “me time,” mascara and solo outings. A therapist has been called and I’ve opened up to close friends and family and have started accepting help. And I’ve learned a valuable lesson. We, as humans, are meant to be more than one thing. We are meant to have more on our resume than “mom.” Wrapping my entire identity up in my son is fair to neither of us and it’s my job to show my son what a whole and fulfilled woman looks like. If I’m his blueprint for what to look for in a woman, I need to make it my business to show him more than someone who circles around him cleaning and catering to his every need without any care for her own needs. It is my job to show him that women are more than Mom and do more than clean and sing songs. Here’s to finding a personal identity and reveling in it! I’ll keep y’all posted and stay tuned tomorrow for a new craft.

mateo pancakes