Toddler Activity: Easter Watercolor Cards

Hello again today! I’m actually surprised I’ve had time to write twice today and get everything that I’ve gotten done, done.

SO the title of this post is a little deceiving. Mila didn’t actually make this completely by herself. I did the cutting, taping, and lettering. She did the painting part and then went to play. If she was a little older, like preschool age, I think she would have been able to do a lot more. The cutting is a little advanced, but I love perfectly imperfect crafts made by kids.

This was her first time experimenting with watercolor. She loves to paint, but usually uses craft paint. I was pretty impressed with how she did with the extra steps. She kept wanting to put her brush in the water, then paint, then back to the water. I ended up painting with her to show her how it went. For some reason, she was feeling the cool colors.

While she was off playing, I traced a bunny onto the paper. I used the same bunny outline as the one she did in her painting a few days ago. Then, I taped it on the back of Kraft paper and that onto random scrapbook paper too.

I took scrap white paper and taped it on the scrap paper to write on it as well.

This card turned out so cute. I actually am going to make myself one tonight, without the writing, to just have a keepsake for the year. If you find yourself missing family or have some free time tomorrow, this is a fun, easy craft that can be made adapted to any age.

It would be nice to send to relatives if you can’t see them tomorrow. Maybe I should’ve posted this earlier, but there’s always next year!

Again, wishing you all a happy and safe Easter Day.

Mila’s Easter Basket 2020

Easter is tomorrow and since Mila is napping (finally today), I decided to put together her Easter basket and share it with everyone! I might have went a little overboard this year… I’m blaming it on her birthday and Easter being so close together AND I went to this new (to me) store in a nearby town that I went overboard in.*

*Although getting Easter/birthday presents for Mila might not ‘seem’ essential, it made me feel better to keep the magic alive. We were safe! Social distancing and lots of hand sanitzer were used!*

Why did I go overboard in this store? They had really cute little wooden toys for not a lot of money. I’ve been into wooden toys instead of plastic the last few months for environmental reasons and I’ve noticed Mila plays for longer amount of times when she plays with simple toys. Wooden toys can be super expensive so just finding these small ones made me happy and it was nice to my debit card. Last year, Mila got a book, stuffed animal, and maybe one or two small things. I don’t really like making gifts a huge deal and she doesn’t need anything, but I think the lockdown has inspired me to get new toys and stuff for her rotation.

ANYWAYS, here’s all the items in her basket laid out.

  • Black and white ‘M’ leotard – Witts End Design
  • Pete the Cat: Big Easter Adventure Amazon
  • Bowling Game – Legacy Learning
  • Chocolate Bunny, Pink Bunny Chocolate Sucker, and Small Chocolate Bunnies – Eiler Candy Shop
  • Other Random Chocolate and My Little Pony Chocolate Egg – Local Grocery Store
  • Bath Bomb, Sticker Sheets, Chalk, Wooden People, Wooden Puzzle/Blocks, Stuffed Animal – New Local Consignment Shop

Honestly, this is everything Mila loves in a basket. The two items I ordered from Etsy and the Pete the Cat book were ordered before the lockdown. Once I realized everything was going to take a long time to get, I just hurried and ordered. I love her leotard and got her another one for her birthday (WHICH IS ON TUESDAY!!!). The material is so nice and I love the fluffy sleeves. I can’t wait for gymnastics to start up again so Mila can wear them, although she’ll probably wear them before then when we do at home practice moves. The toddler bowling game is made so nice. I absolutely love it and Mila’s really been into figuring out how games work, so I know this will be fun for us to play tomorrow. Legacy Learning’s Etsy shop has so many different learning toys and activities. I actually bought her a threading toy for her birthday too. They came in these cute little storage bags that we’ll use to keep everything together. Would so recommend them!

I’m a tiny bit worried about all the chocolate, but she obviously won’t eat it all in one day. She’s obsessed with M&Ms, but I think she’ll be super excited about the little ‘bun buns.’ Can someone come hide all the chocolate in my house so Mila AND I don’t eat it all.

When I find out the name about this local consignment shop, I’ll make sure to add it in here for my local friends. I got the wooden people (and there’s two dragons too), the wooden puzzle/blocks, the bath bomb, the stuffed bunny, and sticker sheets for under $15. I did snag other things for her birthday too, rolling my eyes because I’ve went overboard this year, but I didn’t spend more than $30 for everything I got her.

Tomorrow morning is going to be so magical when she has to hunt for her basket. I think she’ll be so excited when she sees it too. We’re going to be coloring eggs tonight and I have another craft I want to do when she wakes up from her nap. I’ll try to post our craft tonight because it’s definitely Easter appropriate and might be nice to do tomorrow.

If I don’t get to sharing the Easter craft tonight, I hope you all have a happy and peaceful Easter. I know it’s way different than past Easters, but we can do it.

I’d love to see your Easter baskets too. If you’d like to share, feel free to in the comments.

My Toddler Stay Up Past Her Bedtime… This Is What Happened.

Toddlers and bedtimes, don’t really mix. They put it off and find any excuse they can to stay up just five more minutes. It can be so frustrating when they don’t sleep. For some of us, it’s our only alone time during the day. It’s the time we need to stay sane, especially being cooped up inside all day.

Last night, I let Mila stay up way past her bedtime. It wasn’t even the ‘let’s just go lay down’ stay up. She was cleaned up and in her pajamas. We put all her toys away and put the unfolded laundry she threw around today back in the basket. When all of that was done, I asked her if she was ready for bed, which she simply replied, “no.”

I just looked at her and she was so sure of her answer that I complied.

Did I need a break last night? Absolutely. We had a full day and I was mentally exhausted. I needed to continue writing my final papers and fold all the laundry and everything else that had to be cleaned up before the start of today. And just because it’s good for your mental health to have time for yourself.

But her big eyes just stared into mine as she waited for my response. I surprised her with my answer… I asked her what movie she wanted to watch. She finally decided on the live-action Lady and the Tramp, thank you Disney+. I turned it on, she climbed up on the couch, while I went to get snacks… pretzels and Nutella. Both of our favorite snacks, except she’d just prefer to take a big spoon and eat all the Nutella. Somehow she gets it all over her face no matter what; can’t say I blame her though.

Pinky out, of course.

Guess what happened next?

We enjoyed the movie, laughed together, and snuggled. I noticed her new words that she picked up and how she is starting to put together more complex sentences. She watched my expressions during certain parts of the movie and mimicked them. When there were sad parts, I saw how she reacted and during the funny parts, I think anyone would smile if they heard the sweet sound of her laugh. When the movie was over, I gave her a drink of water, told her to brush her teeth, and that it was time for bed.

There wasn’t any fight or pouting. She did what I asked of her and was asleep within five or ten minutes. When I went to get up, she didn’t even flinch.

Did I get as much time to myself as I wanted? No, but what I experienced was so much better.

It’s hard being a mom. Sometimes I can get so in the moment of feeling lost or overwhelmed that I don’t realize what the moment is actually about. I got to focus just on Mila and, I guess, the movie, but mainly on her. She got my undivided attention without a craft in front of us or at dinner or any agenda. It was just her and I in our magical moment. I get ahead of myself, a lot, and just being right there with nothing else on my mind was so relaxing. I’ll never get tonight back, but I’m thankful for the way I spent it.

Will her staying up later (on purpose) be an everything occurrence, probably not. She gets grumpy and so do I. Again, we need our time apart because we spend all day, everyday together… not that I’d have it any other way.

What I did learn was the laundry was still waiting for me and will never, ever end in my entire life. The mess was still there, but cleaned up quickly. My papers are still unwritten and if I’m being honest with myself, I probably would have found something else to do anyways.

The reality is there’s no rulebook on parenting. There’s no rulebook on being an adult either. We’re all just making it up as we go and do what’s best for us. There are days we do what we can to get by and others where we have to structure the entire day to get what we need done. One isn’t more right than the other, it’s just how it is.

Our other reality is time isn’t slowing down. Sometimes I look at Mila and can’t believe how grown up she’s gotten, seemingly overnight. I feel like I say this over and over again, but these days don’t last forever. Before I know it, I’m not going to have a toddler that loves to cuddle with me and just wants to see my reaction to Lady and the Tramp. She’s never going to be this little again and as much as I try to make memories. they’ll only be that so soon. No matter how she grows, I hope that radiant smile and booming laughter always stays with her. Deep down, I hope she always wants to share pretzels and Nutella with me while we have a movie night, I’ll keep on letting her pick the movie too.

I let my toddler stay up past her bedtime and it was one of the best nights.

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.