Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Daily Craft - Sensory toys, overload!

Yet another thank you to Pinterest for introducing me to the world of sensory toys.  After perusing a variety of pins and written down ideas for those that I liked, I decided that this was going to be a weekend of making sensory toys for Owen.  I settled on the idea of some bottles and some bags, and set off to the local dollar stores for supplies.  I may have gone a little overboard, and I think Husband was surprised/amused by the variety of things I brought home.  He was quickly swayed though because these sensory toys are just as much fun for us adults as they are for the little ones.  (In fact, I think it's fair to say that these could totally work as office items for those moments when you want to drop kick your computer and need to put yourself in a quick time-out.)

Step one is to gather materials.  Not pictured here are the bottles and the freezer ziploc bags.  That being said, everything can be purchased at a dollar store, which makes these really inexpensive to do.  I think the cost of each was in the range of $0.50 to $1.  The "recipes" I used are below each picture, but there really is no limit to what you could put together.  I still have a ton of other materials, but I'll be putting those together at a later time.

First up, the sensory bags!  For each of these, I used a quart sized freezer bag and colored duct tape to reinforce the edges/closures.  It is recommended to use freezer bags as they're more durable against little teeth but, if you don't have any on hand, doubling up regular bags should work.  I used enough hair gel that the bags felt suitably squishy but wanted to make sure that it was still possible to manipulate the items inside.
For the sensory bottles, the hardest part might have been finding the right bottles.  I've seen people use Voss bottles, which are the perfect shape, but not super easy to come by.  I ended up finding small Vitamin Water bottles, which were 2 for $1 at the dollar store.  To remove the sticky residue from under the labels, I ran the empty bottles under warm water for a minute, then used some vegetable oil on a paper towel to gently rub away the residue.  Then, I gave the bottle a good washing.  I preferred that method of removal over others because at least oil isn't toxic should Owen lick some (based on the assumption the bottle is going to end up in his mouth at some point!)  Also, to ensure that little hands don't take the top off the bottle and ingest what's inside, you'll want to super glue the lid on once you've filled them. 


This one is like an ocean wave and the glitter stays in the oil, which makes for a fantastic effect when the occasional oil bubble breaks off into the water!


It took a little bit of shaking for the glitter glue to properly absorb into the water so use that an excuse to play with this one for a bit!  What I love about this is that it's like lava.  The glitter will start to separate and swirl both upward and downward.  The more glue you add, the longer it will take for the glitter to settle.  I also like that the glitter in the glue is finer than the other glitter that I added, which gives the appearance of multiple textures.


This one is definitely the easiest, but still has a ton of appeal because the beads also make noise while you swirl them around, plus there are lots of different colors to look at. 

Of course, this post wouldn't be complete without an action shot, so here's Owen enjoying his new toys.  I enjoy the guilty look he's got in that picture on the right!

Have you heard of, or made, these sensory toys before?  When he's older he can help me make them but, until then, I think all of us in the house will have the opportunity to enjoy these!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Daily Dish - A little Brownie

I told you a couple of weeks ago about a baby shower I threw for my friend.  I finally got off my butt and pulled the photos off my camera, so now I can finish telling you about the favors!

The mom-to-be's last name is Brown, and she's having a girl, so the pink and brown shower "theme" was created.  I had spent several days thinking about favors, which are always a bit of a challenge as I always prefer favors to be either practical or edible.  I had an a-ha moment when I realized we'd been joking for months about how she's "baking a little Brownie", and brownies must therefore be the favors!  My original thought was to make a full batch worth of brownie mix in a mason jar, but this was turning out to be incredibly cost prohibitive on account of needing excessive amounts of cocoa powder.  That's when my friend made the genius suggestion of doing a brownie-in-a-mug.  Now, I should note that I didn't even know such a thing exists.  I'm also quite sure my waistline doesn't need to know that I can make a brownie...in a mug...in 60 seconds...in the microwave.  Too good to be true right?!  Of course, Husband and I had to taste test the recipe (several times) and it has a consistency that is more like the center of a molten chocolate lava cake, which means it's deliciously rich.  Ice cream or milk is a requirement!

I bought cute pink polka dot cone bags at Party City, brown ribbon, and plain white mugs at the dollar store, then added all the dry ingredients to the cone bags.  I think they turned out nicely!  For those of you curious about making this, here's the recipe card.  Your mouth will thank me even if your hips don't.

While we're talking dessert, you should drool over the desert bar that was on offer.  Pink lemonade cupcakes with chocolate ganache, super cute sugar cookies, and my friend Paige's infamous cake pop babies.  Cutest thing ever!

So, congrats to the mama-to-be (pictured here with Owen who is trying to eat her childhood doll).  We're thrilled for the arrival of your little Brownie!  :)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Daily Baby - A girl and a pump

This one is truly a blog rant from mommy-land, so people who are unnerved by discussion of breast-feeding beware!

When I became pregnant, there was no question in my mind that I wanted to breast-feed.  After all, it's the most natural thing that has kept our species alive for centuries right?  I'd heard about the struggles that come with nursing - problems with milk supply, pain, engorgement, and a plethora of other issues.  I was still determined and knew I could get myself into the mindset to overcome anything that would put a bump in the road to success.  Owen is now 8 months and we have had our fair share of bumps to get over, from an over-active letdown (resulting in him having gas pains) to a tongue-tie that wasn't corrected until he was 5 months old.  Don't even get me started on the leaking.  Regardless, I can happily say that, so far, he has only had my milk, no formula, and for that I am both grateful and proud.

Upon my return to work, I started pumping to supply Owen's bottles while at daycare.  The first couple weeks he was there, despite our best efforts to get him to take a bottle, he was stubbornly refusing.  His first day at daycare, he drank about 4oz in 9 hours, which sent me into a tailspin of guilt and panic.  On the upside, it allowed me to add the milk he wasn't drinking to my frozen stash for later.  Sure enough, as the little one settled into daycare, his appetite settled at a point where he's actually drinking more each day than I am able to pump for him.

Pumping sucks - literally and figuratively.  I'm fortunate enough to have an office where I can close my door and listen to the dulcet tones of the pump "speaking" to me in a funky, hypnotic voice that others have liked to Darth Vader.  My old pump (we'll get to that in a minute) sounded like it was saying "black heart" over and over.  Appealing when you're trying to squeeze out the life source for your child right?  Although, I sometimes feel like it's pulling the air out of my soul, so maybe it's appropriate.  In attempts to keep supply up, I have shoved a variety of different herbs and supplements down my throat (none of which made a significant difference I should add), I've made lactation cookies (which Husband quite enjoyed because they taste delicious, but he didn't start lactating so not sure if it was much help), drank gallons of water (which sent me back and forth to the bathroom reminiscent of my third trimester of pregnancy), and various other tricks.  The worst case scenario was when my pump output suddenly dropped to half and, having exhausted all possibilities as to what was wrong with me, I came to a disturbing realization that my pump was losing suction. (Maybe Dyson should get into the pump business, being experts about never losing suction and all.)  To their credit, the pump manufacturer (Medela) sent me a replacement overnight and I had a crazy weekend of being attached to the pump and baby simultaneously to try and send my body the simple message - MAKE MORE MILK!

I didn't know that boobs were as emotional as they are.  While they may respond happily to relaxed baby thoughts, they also respond negatively to stress, tiredness, anxiety...  Husband, and my girlfriends (who are huge nursing advocates) have talked me off a ledge repeatedly over the last few months.  My goal is to get to one year of pumping, which puts me at T minus 15 weeks.  Owen can nurse all he wants after that, but the days of anxiety over a bad pump output, repeatedly counting the bags of frozen milk in the freezer in the hopes they can cover my daily pump deficit, washing bottles and pump parts with scalding hot water every night, will all be over. 

I know that breast-feeding isn't a possibility for all.  I do feel fortunate that I have been able to supply my little guy this long, despite it being one of the toughest personal challenges that I have had to face.  What I'm trying to do now is just let go of the anxiety that I'm not producing enough, or won't make it to a year.  Let go of any guilt in case I do fall short of my goal.  The end is in sight and when I'm finally able to pack up the pump and put it in the closet, I'm going to do something whacky like drink whiskey at lunch...mid-week.