Thursday, October 30, 2014

Garbage Truck Play

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This garbage truck play was a spur of the moment activity that ended up filling our entire morning! We were spending some time playing in the living room and after watching Skyler quietly make several laps around the room with his toy recycling truck, I asked him if he wanted to make a road for his truck. He looked at me like it was the best idea ever, so we quickly got out the black tape and started making a curvy road for his truck. Every time I ripped off a new piece of tape Skyler would giggle and say "Oh! Good one, Mama!" He had a great time helping me place the tape around the carpet to complete the road.

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I grabbed a few small toys to act as the 'garbage' for his truck. We had been listening to his Kindermusik CD earlier in the morning and had to pull out all of his shaker eggs after the song "shake your eggs" came on. In addition to his eggs, I got some balls from his ball ramp and fabric block set, and we had plenty of garbage to set up around on the side of the road!

This activity was such a hit with Skyler! He drove his two trucks around and around (this recycling truck from Green Toys is one of Skyler's absolute favorite toys!), stopping to fill the trucks with toys and then setting the garbage back up just to do it again. Every time Skyler looked at me he flashed me this huge smile. His very cheesiest - I love it!!

Over a week later, his black tape road is still going strong on the carpet! He just loves it!! This was our first time making a tape road, and I know it will not be the last. It is such a simple way to extend play time with his vehicles, which are Skyler's absolute favorite toys. The size of the road doesn't matter at all either. He likes it just as much with his small construction vehicles and wooden trains, or with his big riding train too.

Such a fun morning with this sweet boy!

Taking a break from his busy job!

Watching Skyler carefully open his garbage truck and fill it with the toys was a lot of fun to watch. It is always exciting to set up an activity that makes him so happy. Especially when it was completely unplanned! Makes you feel like Supermom :)

It couldn't have been a more perfect day to do this activity either. It was garbage AND recycling day, so we took breaks from playing with our garbage truck track to watch the real trucks do their job. Once the truck was done doing both sides of our street (Skyler's favorite part is when it has to back up to get out to the main road - the beeping is just so fun for a two-year-old!) he would quickly turn around and start playing with his track again! Skyler told me for days after playing this that he was going to drive a garbage truck like a garbage truck man!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Care Packages and Coping

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Going into this month, I didn't know if I would write about this, but I started Minne-Mama not just for the crafts and activities I do with Skyler, but as a place to show what we do as a family. The military has been, and especially right now is, a huge part of who we are and how we live. We had to say goodbye to my amazing husband this month in preparation for his deployment. It was a hard week away from home as we went to going away ceremonies, and in the week he has been gone, we have just been trying to get into our new routine for the next several months. He is gone a lot, so Skyler and I are used to being at home just the two of us, but I am trying hard to make life feel normal for us before the baby arrives and our lives change drastically again. 

My husband is my best friend, and has been for over ten years since we met in high school. I like to think of myself as pretty independent, but being without my person still sucks. We were apart for four months when he went to basic training, but that was before we were married, before we had Skyler. Not only will this be a longer time away, but now Skyler and baby E are a part of the mix. I have been using most of my extra energy to prepare myself and our children for Joe to be away.

...and then I started looking up care packages, how to best send them, packaging baked goods...and I stumbled across care packages on Pinterest and realized how fun they can be! People decorate the inside of the boxes and do all sorts of amazing things with them. It has become my biggest distraction and is the one thing I feel like I can control with the deployment. I can send Joe a piece of home and show him how much we miss him in the care packages I send him. I am hooked!! Even though he just left, I made sure he had a package to open when he first got to his stateside training.

Since I knew he wouldn't need a lot for his stateside training, the majority of the box space was stuffing the Halloween-themed box with his favorite candy. I also bought him a calendar to use as a countdown and journal, and I had a lot of fun going through and leaving him messages on important days or just at random.

For my first care package, I went simple with the inside of the box - just using black, orange, and striped paper to write out "Boo! We miss you!" and "Happy Halloween" for him to find on the bottom when all of the contents of the box are emptied (I sent a lot of candy, knowing that Joe will not be the only one eating it!) On top of the candy went the calendar and Little Pumpkin Craft Skyler made for him, and I covered the top with spider web and plastic spiders (and used the leftover to make our spider web sensory bin). 

I have already started working on the next care package, and will probably create a side tab for them in the future, not keeping them in the main part of the blog.

Other ways I have been preparing for the deployment have been mostly for Skyler. The night we got home after watching Joe head to the airport by bus, I set up Skyler's deployment wall that I have been piecing together for months. 

His little red table has become our deployment zone and other than the lettering of "We Love Daddy" that I made, it includes two clocks for our time and daddy's time (more for me when the time different is greater, but Skyler is always saying "I like my clocks!") and "Army Bear" which was a gift that Joe brought back after a recent training.

The bin includes a variety of books on deployment and separation that I researched for months. We have read a few and I may do a later post of our favorites. The specifically deployment book we read the most is "Over There" which was given out at a family briefing I went to and it is great for a toddler! Skyler  loves the version of "Guess How Much I Love You" which is a recordable book from Hallmark that Joe did before he left (I also took some videos of Joe reading some of Skyler's favorite books for him to watch when he wants to hear a book from daddy).

The little book in the front that says "Skyler and Daddy" is filled with pictures of the two of them and is Skyler's favorite part of the deployment table! He is always carrying his picture book around and talking about what him and daddy are doing together in the pictures.

The shelf above Skyler's table has calendars (that I made and decorated the backgrounds of) for all of the months Joe will be gone. I planned on putting them all up on the wall to the left of his table, but am not ready to see the empty calendars yet. When we fill a few, I will probably put them up. Skyler puts a sticker on every night. This picture was taken a week ago, we are caught up :)

We are also sticking with our countdown tradition, with a monthly countdown. The only change I am making is when I take off a link I write the date and a note to Joe on the back. I am going to save all of them and give them to him when he comes home. The little picture of him sticking out of the cup is a "flat daddy" that Skyler made at one of the going away meetings. He is on a little Popsicle stick and we are supposed to bring him with us and take pictures with him. Skyler and I are already talking about all the places we want to take flat daddy while Joe is away!

The biggest way that Skyler has coped with Joe being gone is with "Bear." We went to build-a-bear a few weeks before Joe left and he recorded his voice for both Skyler and baby E and Skyler made the bears. He talks about putting in the hearts and stepping on the pedal ALL the time! Skyler takes Bear with him almost everywhere and sleeps with him. It has been so helpful since Skyler hasn't been able to talk to Joe at all since he left. He loves to press the foot and hear daddy talk about how much he loves and misses him. Skyler will be bringing the camouflage bear that he made for his brother to the hospital when he meets him!

I swear the camo shirt was completely accidental!

I am hoping these coping techniques will help Skyler through this time, but honestly I have no idea how to help a two year old understand how long it will be before his daddy comes home. We are just going to take it one day at a time.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Spider Web Sensory Play

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When I picked up spiderweb material and plastic rings for a care package topping, I knew I wanted to use the leftovers in a sensory bin. I couldn't believe that a sensory bin so easy to throw together would keep Skyler so entertained! This bin is a lot of fun!

All I did to put this sensory bin together was pull out handfuls of the web material and fluffed it up a bit before layering it in the bin. It doesn't look like much, but once you pull on it a little, it takes up a lot of space! I scattered the plastic spider rings on top and we were ready to play!

I was pleasantly surprised with how much the spiders grip to the web material. The little legs and ring hold on to the web so whenever you try to pull a spider out it brings a lot of the webbing with it!

The webbing stretches really far! Skyler loved just pulling little bits of it as high as he could reach.

Of course, the spider rings are fun all on their own as well!

The longer you play, the more tangled the rings become. By the end, Skyler would pull up bits of webbing and there would be spiders hidden all throughout the part he pulled. Such a fun peek-a-boo game!

This simple sensory bin is a lot of fun and very festive with Halloween coming up. Just playing with the webbing and spiders was fun for a toddler. Picking out the spiders and carefully picking off all of the webbing stuck to them was great fine motor practice, and older children could do it as a color sort or counting activity. This activity could be extended to many other learning activities.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Fall Leaf Painting

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We have been really enjoying our walks around the neighborhood lately. With all of the beautiful colored leaves and the perfect weather we have been having, it is such a wonderful time of year! Skyler will often talk about the colors he sees and the sounds he hears (stepping on crunchy leaves and listening to the leaves blow around are such great noises!), but then he will also say things like "The leaves change colors and fall off before the snow comes! And then the snow plow will come!!" in the most excited voice. It is adorable, but I am just happy to enjoy this beautiful fall weather before that season that shall not be named arrives!

During a recent walk we saw the most amazing red colored leaves, so we grabbed a bunch to take home and had a lot of fun with this simple painting activity. 

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To start, I put a loop of tape on the bottom of the leaves and Skyler stuck them onto his paper. I loved how it looked like they were blowing around and he was so proud of setting this up on his own!

Next I squirted some yellow and red paint into a cup without mixing them, and let Skyler mix the paint as he went so we would have different shades of yellow, red, and orange with our leaves. I thought that Skyler would mostly paint on the leaves or on the white portions of paper, but I was happily surprised when he did big strokes from the insides of the leaves and out. He carefully filled up his paper and the resulting picture is so festive and fun!

When Skyler told me he was finished with his painting, we went through and carefully peeled off the leaves and tape and were left with some amazing resist leaves! The final product is even more beautiful that I thought it would be and I just love it! Such a festive painting that we will use to decorate for the season for many years to come!

This simple painting activity is a lot of fun, between the leaf collecting, deciding where to place the leaves, and watching the colors mix on the paper to resemble the leaves we see changing outside, we enjoyed this craft from start to finish!

I have been asked about Skyler's paint cup and smock, both of which we love and use ALL the time. His spill proof paint cup is from Melissa and Doug, and I got his Crayola art smock at Target in the craft aisle. I do not see it on their site anymore, but it is on Amazon!