Toddler Activity: Salt Dough

When I first thought about doing Easter crafts, I wanted to get wooden Easter eggs to paint. With everything going on, I didn’t want to leave my house with Mila and chance anything. Instead, I started seeing recipes for salt dough and knew I had everything on hand. I just didn’t realize they were going to be such a labor of love.

The salt dough recipe I used was:

1 cup flour

1/2 cup salt

1/4 to 1/2 cup of water

Then, preheat over to 200 and bake for hours*

Simple enough right? I measured out all the ingredients the night before we made the dough so it was ready to go for Mila and me.

Mila loved mixing the ingredients together. She insisted on pouring everything in and using the spoon to mix it. When I told her to use her hands, she gave me a weird look and ran away. Funny enough, she went to put her hands in the dirt, which I guess is better in her eyes? Anyways, I kneaded the dough until I thought it was good enough. Since it was our first time, I wasn’t exactly sure how it needed to be, but we went with it. It reminded me of pizza dough.

After I had rolled it out and was ready to cut, dilemma there… mila was ready to help out again. I wanted to make eggs shapes, but it turns out I only have Christmas cookie cut outs and rainbow/unicorn/magic ones. I ended up using the top of a mason jar, grabbing the top of it to stretch the dough out in an egg-like shape. Obviously it wasn’t perfect, but it worked out for us.

Along with a few weirdly, shaped eggs, I had Mila make two little handprints as well. I only have a few hand and foot prints of Mila since she’s been born. I thought it was a perfect time to do it for us, since she turns two here so soon. She kept saying ‘hand’ and wanted to make more prints. I do think I’ll try to make salt dough hand imprints every year since she enjoyed it and to mark her growth.

Anyways, the handprints and eggs were formed and ready for the oven. Up until this point, I thought it was all going really well.

I kept checking the ornaments every hour. After a couple hours, I still didn’t feel like they were done completely. They still felt mushy and maybe I just didn’t do it right? Or maybe they would’ve hardened up after I took them out of the oven? I’m really unsure where I messed up, but I had them in the oven for a crazy amount of time. Probably like seven hours in all. Next time I try to make something like this, I’m going to see if it was just a first time fluke or maybe I’m just bad at making them.

After they were finally done, I spray painted them white and let Mila paint most of the eggs and her hands, but one, because I really wanted to join the fun.

I think they turned out amazingly, especially after everything and all the time we put in them. Mila loves holding her hand. This Easter craft will be something Mila and I look back on in the future and smile about. I feel like it’ll always be excited to pull them out and see what she did when she was almost two!

Ever since she was born, I knew I wanted to make these type of memories with her. I missed so many with Jensen. Plus, Mila has fun with them so it’s not completely in vain.

Instead of just stringing them up in the house, I did something a little special. A few days ago, I read something about how communities are putting eggs in their windows for kids to go on ‘Easter egg hunts’ amidst social distancing. I thought this was so cute and I’m hoping some other people in our town have done the same! This is what I have strung in one of my windows.

If you live by me and are hunting for eggs, your kids will definitely be able to find them! I can’t wait to see everyone else’s.

So, although we had a little trouble with our baking, I love how everything came out. Mila had a blast and we were able to create some magic for Easter this year.

If anyone has made salt dough in the past, did it take ages for yours to bake? If not, do you have any tips or idea in what I did wrong? LOL. Just trying to get better for next time!

Mom Tip of the Week: Grazing Boards

Sometimes it’s a struggle to get Mila to sit down and eat a meal. She’s always been an on-the-go snacker, which definitely blurs lunch and snack times so much. We do sit down for breakfast and dinner everyday, but between then, it’s a free for all.

I worry as a mom… Is Mila getting what she needs? Is she eating enough? Is she eating too much? I’m constantly questioning her food intake and it’s honestly something I don’t want to stress about on top of everything else.

A couple weeks ago, I saw some Instagram posts and pins about grazing tables. It’s a way people can have a spread of different kinds of food and be able to eat at their own pace. I was excited to try it with Mila to see how she responded to it.

Top row: grapes, baby carrots, cheese, goldfish

Middle row: pretzel sticks, ham, pistachios, pear

Bottom row: M&M’s, Cheetos, turkey, green olives

I picked things Mila LOVES and asks for all the time, as well as, healthier options that I convince her to eat. Obviously, you can customize the food options to what best works with your child or even themed trays with the cheese and fruit being cut out in fun shapes. I’d love to do a rainbow board!

When Mila first saw her grazing board, she was definitely curious and picked at every item. The longer it was out, she ate her favorites first. I liked that I could pick at it too and since it wasn’t just on ‘her plate,’ she was happier to share.

I think this would be perfect for multiple kids and at all ages. It’s easy to put together and didn’t take long either!

If I get really creative, I’ll have to share if I make a fun board. But the grazing board is here to stay.

Toddler Activity: Easter Painting

One of my favorite activities to do with Mila is her seasonal painting.

Since she was eight months old, I’ve had Mila paint with festive colors. Her first one was Christmas inspired. She had so much fun doing it, I wanted to keep on going. I’m unsure how many paintings I have now, but there’s no plans on stopping. The wall where her paintings hang has transformed into this seasonal activity wall, which is fun to update throughout the year.

The last one we did was for Valentine’s Day and I was up on the air of doing an Easter or birthday inspired one until summer. After I brought my spring decorations up, I figured I could combine the two with my other things.

Mila loves animals and lately (thanks Pets 2) has loved ‘bun buns’ or bunnies. I decided to incorporate a bunny in her painting and use colors that she enjoys so it wasn’t just Easter inspired.

To do this, I cut out a bunny head and taped it on a canvas. I let Mila choose the colors and where to put them on there. After I got the paint out, she brushed where she wanted to as normal. She picked blue, purple, pink, and yellow. After each color, I had her go play while I let the paint dry, so thankful for hair dryers.

Some of the paint did leak through the paper, so it wasn’t a perfect blanked out spot. After I got it dried and pulled it off, I put some white paint to touch it up. It turned out really cute and I like it not being ‘perfect.’ She was so proud of it too and kept pointing to the spot yelling ‘bun bun.’

She did such a good job with it and I really love the layered look. This can be altered to any color and image you’d like to blank out. I think tape would be easier to use, but harder to make a specific shape. This worked best for us and like I said, it’s not supposed to be picture perfect, an almost two year old made it!

I think this would be a great, quick project during quarantine to do with kids of all ages.

We’re doing more Easter crafts this week that I didn’t get to quite finish up this weekend. We’re finally decorating our salt dough ornaments and they turned out pretty good. I’ll be posting about that, my new gardening venture, and some Earth month things!

Meatless Monday: French Onion Grilled Cheese

Scrambling about what to make for dinner tonight? How about a meatless option that doesn’t lack any taste? Well, I’ve found the perfect recipe for you.

On Instagram, I found a guy named @nishcooks. He makes videos of all kinds of different meals that are pretty simple to make. He provides the recipes and the videos shows how he quickly makes them. One video that jumped out to me was his French Onion Grilled Cheese.

The ingredients he uses are :

  • Whole onion
  • Sour dough bread
  • Cheddar (preferably Swiss)
  • Provolone
  • Butter

Well, I didn’t have everything he had specifically so I modified mine a bit. I used one yellow onion, Gouda cheese, and regular wheat bread. It’s what I had on hand, so I figured it’d be fine. I also used salt and pepper to spice the onion.

These were my ingredients after I sautéd the onions. That part took a little while, like forty minutes and lots of butter… so worth it in the end. I grated the Gouda and honestly, I know traditional French onion soup uses Swiss, but the cheese paired so well the the onions and everything.

If I knew how good it was going to taste, I probably would have made way more. Mila had soup, her favorite lately, but stole a few bites of my sandwich. When I last went to the grocery store, I grabbed extra onions to make this sandwich again.

Just looking at the pictures again makes me want to make it right now. I love grilled cheese normally, but the onions just elevated it to the next level.

You guys should definitely try it and let me know how you liked it. If you’re looking for some dinner inspiration and are on Instagram, check out @nishcooks. Happy making!

FOUR.

Jensen is officially four years old.

Four years of loving, grieving, and learning who I am post-loss. It’s also four years of wondering what he would be like through every stage and how amazing of a big brother he’d be. I wonder about small details like his smile, the sound of his voice, and how deeply I could look into his eyes. Of course, I wonder about the big things too. Every day I think about him and what we’d all be doing. I don’t think that’ll ever change.

This birthday was a lot harder than the previous three. I was not mentally in a good place on Saturday and it carried into his day. Every year, I try to just search for the light. I allow myself to be sad because this is unfair. A child shouldn’t die and they shouldn’t miss birthdays or hugs or any of it.

Instead of being sad, I just got angry.

Maybe it’s a mix of what’s happening in the world and just the constant realization he’ll never be here… or maybe it’s because it’s just sad and hard. We’re not supposed to talk about how angry we get. Anger is such an ugly emotion. It can show the worst in a person and it’s hard to control. Usually, it’s reactive and not the deeper emotion, but it’s hard to let go once you have a hold on it. I’d go through bits of being angry and then weeping. Honestly, I just miss him and I think my brain didn’t know how to cope with grief this year. This birthday was a lot harder than the previous three. I was not mentally in a good place on Saturday and it carried into his day. Every year, I try to just search for the light. I allow myself to be sad because this is unfair. A child shouldn’t die and they shouldn’t miss birthdays or hugs or any of it.

I’m scared about going into year five. It’s insane to think that it’ll be half a decade since he’s been born. Before I started writing this post, I wrote my annual letter to Jensen. While writing, I kept remembering the last time I felt him; to the point where I felt like a residual movement in my body. I wondered when they would go away and realized I wanted to keep that feeling forever. It’s hard to think one day I’ll lose that and I don’t want to lose any more of him.

The day did lighten up a bit as it went on. We had cake and sang to Jensen. That made me so happy. When I get to hear and say his name out loud, my heart feels at peace.

So, a little fun fact. On Jensen’s first birthday, I baked him a cake from scratch. It was cute. All blue and two or three-tiered and I tried so so hard. Honestly, it wasn’t the best tasting cake, but I loved that I made it for him. For the last two years, I’ve bought a cake for his little party. They’ve been much tastier and better looking, to be honest.

Well, this year, with COVID, I decided to make another cake for Jensen. I could’ve ordered one or whatever, but I’m glad I didn’t because I needed the space to create instead of being mad. This time, I had the help with a box cake but spiced it up a little bit. I put chocolate chips in the batter and decided to use fresh strawberries in between the layers and on top of the cake. Well, I didn’t have my two circle cake pans and had to use a rectangle one. I planned to cut it in half to make two layers… it crumbled while I was getting it out of the pan. The horror right?

I made it work. It might not have been the prettiest cake… but it tasted AMAZING. I feel like I redeemed myself from year one and that Jensen would have approved of all the chocolate. Mila sure did.

I’m happy I could celebrate Jensen and his life.

Four whole years of loving this amazing little boy who never ceases to amaze me. I wish he was here every day and in so many ways he is. This year of grief is going to be different than in previous years. I don’t know this part of my journey. It feels like a new ‘step’ or part that I’ve not encountered before. Maybe shock has finally worn off? Or reality has cemented in? Grief is so hard to explain, especially with it being different for everyone.

I just know I’m trying my best to be a good mom to Jensen and Mila. I know how much I love them both and miss my little man. I’m ready to evolve and have Jensen guide me through this next stage.

He’s always right here with me.

Happy Fourth Birthday, Jensen! You are so very loved and missed. Thank you for always being the light in my life.

Mila Tries Internet Activities: Easter Egg Sort.

Another day, another toddler activity to try with Mila.

For the last week or so, I’ve seen so many Easter inspired activities. Since we’re going to be quarantined until Easter, I thought I’d tackle one activity a day. A lot of them used the little, plastic eggs that you can put things in. So I got a bag of them for a dollar at the dollar store and thought I’d give it a go.

Turns out, Mila loves the eggs as they come. She will just sit there and open and close all then over and over. We’ve played little games where I have her give me certain colors or we count them. I think an easy, independent activity to do would be a basic color sort.

Since it was so nice out yesterday, I figured we could do something with them out there. I grabbed painters tape, a tub from an organization bin, tongs and a spoon, and her basket of eggs. You’re supposed to make a crazy pattern for your toddler to maneuver around with the tongs, grab the egg, and put it in a basket or even color sort. I got the inspiration from this activity from The Ever Co’s Instagram page (@theeverco).

After I was done getting the tape on there, we went outside. Her and Max ran around for a while and played fetch. When they were over that, they ran to me, but I already had something for her to do.

At first, I just watched to see what she’d do. She stuck her hand in there and got it caught on the tape, which really surprised her. After I told her to use the tongs and put them in the basket, she was on a mission. She played independently for about forty-five minutes with it. When she realized she could put the eggs back in there, she would open them up and try to pick them up that way. To challenge her further, I’d definitely do different colored bowls for her to place the egg into. Maybe next time.

One thing I would have changed if I didn’t throw it together in five minutes… instead of painters tape, I would have used different sizes of yarn and ribbon. Sometimes the eggs or tongs got stuck on the sticky side. She worked around it, but it might have been nicer if that wasn’t in the way.

Hopefully if you get to try this activity, it works a nicely as it did for me. Today, Mila and I are going to try to make salt dough Easter eggs and paint them. Wish us luck!

April… We Meet Again.

Amidst everything happening in the world and the personal things too, I’ve not been looking forward to April. It’s the fourth one since everything changed. That feeling of grief climbing out of my chest is present.

Some part of me thought this April would be different with the coronavirus, Mila being a lively almost two year old, and dealing with things happening closely to me that I can not control. Yet, here I am. The last few days, it’s weighed on me more heavily. I just can’t believe it’s been another year without him.

I’m trying to be positive, but it’s just unfair. All the things I ‘should’ be doing for Jensen are more present around these days. I keel thinking about how much different quarantine would be with him. Life in general just would be… different. It’s so hard to explain. There’s no word or explanation that would make sense to other people. Here we are almost four years later and I can’t quite find the words to describe how sucky it is to not have your kid with you.

Mila helps. I’m weary of typing that because it’s unfair to her and parents who can’t or choose not to have more children; but she helps me. She makes me smile and I remember April is her month too. Jensen wouldn’t want her to be sad or for us not to celebrate how beautiful this month is even though it’s filled with sadness too. I know Mila senses the sadness. She’ll come over and flash her smiles, stroke my face, and just give me a kiss. I know deep down he picked her out for me.

One thing I’ve learned through it all is we’ll make it. Somedays you just have to take it second by second, but we’ll survive.

Like I’ve said in the past, the days leading are always worse than the actual day. Grief makes anticipation feel like dread. This past weekend, Mila hasn’t felt well and I was scared that it’d roll into April. So when she woke up fever free and happy, I knew it’d get easier.

We actually went and picked up a picnic table/bench that we’ll probably use frequently in the next few months (social distancing was practiced). She’s immediately taken a liking to it and it just makes me feel better. Finding happy moments when everything feels heavy makes the day a little nicer.

I’m hopeful April’s will get easier. I’m hopeful that I’ll start celebrating them again. I’m hopeful that Jensen’s day will be seen as happy and I won’t be as sad. I know I’ll always carry the grief and heaviness of losing him, but I’m getting to a part in my journey where it can coincide with happiness simultaneously.

Today I’m just grateful for Jensen, Mila, and watching her cheesy fingers throw Cheetos to Max. I’m hopeful for peaceful April’s and breakfasts our on our new picnic table. This year, I’m ready for April and going into year five of grieving.

Mom Tip of the Week: Water Works.

Today was absolutely BEAUTIFUL outside. We had sunshine and warmish weather this morning and afternoon. Mila and I were outside for like three hours and I feel so refreshed. We try to get outside for a little bit every day, but it’s just different when it’s perfect out.

ANYWAYS…

Since it was so nice outside and I needed to get some things done, I knew I had to get Mila doing an activity. We had brunch, the she free played in the yard while I started on my homework this week. It’s like she has this alarm in her head when I get my laptop out. As soon as I started typing, she ran over to me and sat in my lap. It happens and I can’t be mad at her cute face. I asked her to go rake the leaves back in the pile and I’d get a sentence or two done and she was yelling at me.

I was looking around at what I could distract her with and all I could see was her water table, which I would 100% recommend to anyone. The big thing with getting the water table is she would have water everywhere and it’s not that warm out.

But I know water works; especially with Mila.

I went inside my house and went to get a big tub from my storage container to put water in. Then, I filled it up like a quarter of the way and had her pick up all the balls in our yard. To make it fun, I put Dawn dish soap in there to make bubbles. She loves swishing water around to make them bigger so that was a hit. I also got different cups/containers, utensils, and her bath baby.

With all the parenting blogs and instagram accounts I follow, they all recommend using tongs to promote fine motor skills. I finally got Mila do use them and she was picking up all the balls. She played with just the tongs for like thirty minutes. When she was over that, I told her to give her baby a bath and to make sure all the balls were squeaky clean. She was occupied for about an hour, which gave me plenty of time to write my discussion board posts and replies. j

Water works! I think it’s so cool how interested toddlers, and kids in general, are so into playing with water. Mila will fill up a cup and empty it in the bath for such a long time. Anytime she’s grump, I’ll put her in the bath or put a towel under a tub so she can play inside when it isn’t nice out.

After playing and cleaning everything up, Mila was ready for her ‘nack’ (snack), watched Moana, and is still napping. I’d say it was a pretty successful morning and afternoon playing in the water.

Peep the Nutella on Mila’s face…

Yeah, my ‘mom tip’ might be pretty weak, but being under lockdown can feel overwhelming for parents and that thirty minutes to an hour can truly make it or break it. Although we did it as an outdoor activity, don’t be afraid to bring it indoors. I’m feeling a lot less stressed today with some me time and checking items off my to do list today.

And I just love sharing how Mila’s growing with you all. If any activities help you as well, then it’s even better.

I hope you guys are keeping sane throughout this madness! As always, if you have any fun toddler activities, I’d love to hear and try them out!

Rainbow Hunting.

One of Mila’s favorite things to do is paint… hence the paint still on her face.

She knows exactly where all the materials are and goes up to them and says, ‘I paint!’ We usually try to paint twice a week, but it can be a lot sometimes. She’s not super into coloring yet, but I’m going to keep pushing it.

Anyways, while looking for activities to do while we’re locked down, I actually got invited to a random Facebook group. It’s called 518 Rainbow Hunt – Spreading Rainbows Worldwide. If you look it up on Facebook, it’ll pop up and you can join the group.

It’s really cool actually. There’s a Google link that you can add your house or whatever to show that you are participating. You can also just post a picture too. I loved looking at everyone rainbows and really enjoy how someone created something so creative to spread hope during this time. Plus, I love rainbows. They mean so much to me and Mila will always be my rainbow personified.

Well, this morning, Mila asked if she could paint. I had already planned out to do this craft Monday night, so we jumped right into it. So, I low key feel like a weird person because I made one too, but Mila thought it was so cool that I painted with her. She hyped me up by clapping every time I painted another layer to the rainbow. Just as I did for her too.

They both turned out so good. I’m so proud of Mila and how well she did keeping the colors where they needed to be. This is one of my favorite little projects we’ve done. I had fun with it and Mila did too. She got it all over herself and face. Some age was doing that, I added clouds and a string to each so we could hang them up in the windows.

While Mila napped, which she did immediately after this, I went and hung them up. I am SO proud of how they turned out and that her painting skills are getting more consistent.

I love the symbol of rainbows and how they instill hope. Through this time of isolation, I think we all need a little hope and to know there’s an eventual end in this craziness. I also love that my rainbow made one for herself too. She has no idea how special she is and what she means to me. Here’s a closer look at Mila’s little rainbow. If you’re local and know where I live, you’re able to see it in the window.

Our next craft is going to be salt dough Easter eggs. I wanted to start a tradition with getting wooden eggs and have her decorate one every year, but I can’t go to Joann’s this year. So instead, we’re going to make a bunch of the salt dough ornaments and decorate them. I’ll make sure to share when I do that and the recipe I use too!

As always, if you have any recommendations of what Mila and I should do, let me know! I’ve been trying to look at some of The Mama Notes activities. It’s a really good blog with a ton of different things for toddlers to do. These rainbows are inspired by her posts earlier this month. There she talks about using other supplies on hand rather than just paint. Some used ribbon, paper, and other supplies that made beautiful rainbows. Mila just likes paint so, that’s what we went with. Also, if you decide to make a rainbow for the rainbow hunt, posts in the comments or in the community Facebook group. I love seeing all the rainbow pictures and knowing we’re not all alone through this.

From 'Beast' to 'Nice Mama.'

Funny story…

A few weeks ago, Mila went to bed early and I finally had some time for quality self care… or so I thought.

I ran the hottest bath I could muster, poured myself a drink, and played non Disney music. It was so relaxing that I just shut my eyes and could have been there for all eternity.

Then, five minutes into the most relaxing moment I had in weeks, I hear Mila crying and yelling for me. Her little footsteps were running all over the house searching. I ended up yelling for her and she sounded to relieved to her my voice. She came in and immediately stripped her clothes off to jump in the bath with me.

While she was getting undressed, I put a face mask on and she must have not seen me do so. After getting all her clothes off, she looked up at me and it was like I had disappeared and the ‘beast’ had taken my place.

She kept saying ‘back beast!’ I don’t think she thought I was me until I said her name and let her know it was just me in the tub and I only had a face mask on.

Lets just say she didn’t get to close to me with the mask on and when I took it off, she was shocked. She wouldn’t touch the mask or anything. When it was off I told her to touch my face and see how soft it was. She said ‘niiiiice mama.’ Then pointed back at the mask and said, ‘bad beast.’

Yes, I’m totally aware that that particular mask is a tad bit creepy and although I did feel a little bad she was scared of me in it, I totally laughed at her.

Mila would 10/10 not recommend sheet masks.

So, last night, Mila and I were in the bath and I was feeling stressed. I got a mud mask to put on and was worried the same thing was going to happen. Thankfully, the complete opposite happened and now I think I made an even bigger girly girl out of her.

She definitely knows how to brighten my day, even when it feels like everything in the world is going to hell.