Thursday, December 6, 2012

More Elf Business

Pin It Oh, that silly elf, Bernard!

A few days ago, he appeared riding a reindeer!

Late that night, I caught him doing this:

Then, yesterday, he showed up with a note.
(He had also been coloring again. He traced the cookie cutters he dug out of our cookie cutter bin.)

The note (on a snowflake, written in red and green sparkle ink, of course) reads:

Dear Crazypants,
I left cookie dough in your refrigerator! You and Mommy can bake and decorate some cookies today! Remember to be a good listener!

This note is for a 22-month-old, so simple is good.

(Also good, she forgot about the "decorate" part. Not only did it not happen that day, but Bernard was inspired later on.)

Here's a tip from Bernard to your elf:

Refrigerate cookie dough in small batches. Not only does that help keep it from getting too soft when you are working at toddler speed, but you may find that by the end of batch 2 that the next batch or so would be best if unassisted.

Bernard left us both plain dough and dough dyed green. We assumed that was for the trees.

While we worked, Bernard drank some (my) iced coffee and read A Feast for Crows.

The idea that Bernard would read Mommy's book was The Funniest Thing to V., so he read for a while.

That is, until he fell over into a mess of flour.

V. would not give up that he was dirty and needed a bath, but elves are somewhat modest, and Bernard was not about to just jump down and strip right there to hop into a bath.

While we were in the other room, this happened.

Personally, I was relieved that he didn't go for the traditional elf bath of marshmallows, because marshmallows are synonymous with crack in this household. Bernard would have found himself bubbleless and I would have been peeling a toddler off the vaulted ceiling. He's a smart elf, I tell you.

Cookie decorating didn't happen yesterday, so Bernard brought us a little inspiration this morning:

Cookie decorating supplies! How thoughtful, Bernard!

(Due to some last-minute holiday shopping that turned into a "run around the mall" fiasco and a nap boycott that ended 2 hours later than nap started, they did not get decorated today, either.)

We'll get to them. Eventually. Thanks to Bernard, we have all that we need save some time!

Turkey Time!

Pin It I'm going to take you back in time a few weeks.

I have the joy of being part of an amazing playgroup. We get together at least once a week to have fun, and the kids seem to enjoy it, too!

The Monday before Thanksgiving, we started up a new thing - Toddler Book Club. Adults have book club, so why not toddlers?

The structure is simple. Every other week (because holiday season is upon us!) a mom and toddler hosts. They choose a story to share, and base a snack and project around that story.

Week 1: Our house.
Theme: Thanksgiving
Book: The Night Before Thanksgiving
Craft: Turkey Hand Paintings
Snack: Turkey rice krispy treats

I didn't get any pictures of the painting in action (something about 10 kids under 4 with paint in your house put photos at the back of my mind...) but basically I had precut turkey bodies (or peanut shapes) and beaks. The kids used their hands to make the feathers, then glued the bodies and beaks on.

Sort of like this, which I borrowed from Redesign Revolution.

Then we moved on to creating snack. I had prepared Rice Krispie Treats using cocoa cereal, and shaping them into turkey bodies. If you are going to use pretzels for some of the treats, stick them in when the treats start to cool, but not before they completely solidify.

Then I used a marshmallow on a toothpick for the head. I cut a slit (use kitchen shears) into each marshmallow and shove a candy corn in. Some blue frosting eyes and we're good to go.

We also used toothpicks to make feathers out of some things that didn't fit on pretzels.
Our feathers consisted of:
Fruit Loops
gummy rings

You could add other fruits to make this healthier. (In fact, I got this idea from something on Pinterest that used an apple instead of rice krispy treats. Sure, it would have been healthier, but that wasn't my objective here. It's a Monday morning. Have fun, kids.)

Once the turkeys had moved from the decoration stage to the consumption stage, I took advantage of the seconds between happy silence and sugar rush to read the story.

All in all, a pretty good Monday morning!

I know what you're thinking. "I would have gone to more book club meetings if they were that awesome."

Monday, December 3, 2012

Bernard the Elf

Pin It On December 1st, Bernard arrived.

Bernard is our family Elf. Sure, kids love their elf on the shelf, but it is every bit as much for the sanity and enjoyment of moms as it is for children. At least, that is how I justified getting one for my 22-month-old.

So Bernard arrived. I've been planning Bernard's arrival for months. (Thanks, Pinterest!) The issue is that many of the ideas on the internet are for older children. I would love to replace our stockings with toddler underwear or have Samwise Gamgee and Bernard renact Mordor, but she wouldn't get it.

Here are the first three days of Toddler-appropriate Elf on the Shelf. Stay tuned for more!

Day 1: He appeared. He was on the mantle, but the mantle was boring and it was snowing outside, so he migrated before anyone woke up. For a toddler, appearing in an unreachable place is a great start. It was more than enough for one day.

Day 2: I flew downstairs because Bernard so enjoyed his perch, he hadn't left it. Oops. Good thing there were scissors, paper, and crayons nearby.

Coloring is an all-time favorite right now, so V. immediately joined in. She even offered some other colors to Bernard, who silently declined.

The table appearance posited an issue. Bernard is in prime toddler snatching range. Everyone knows you can't touch an elf or they lose their magic. So I advised Bernard to move somewhere safe when nobody was looking.
He did just that.

Day 3: The warmest day we have had and will have in a while. Never mind that, Bernard wanted cocoa. He brought everyone a cup of cocoa (in special mugs!) topped with a marshmallow! He even put some coffee in Mommy's cocoa. How kind! V. had never had cocoa before. Not only did she chug it, she didn't spill a bit. Now I know that she is perfectly capable of drinking from a cup without a lid. The fact that water hits the floor is a choice, not lack of motor skill.

There's a rule - you wear the elf hat while drinking elf-made cocoa. Bernard's rule. Not mine. 

Bernard chose to hang out on a shelf without the mini wine glass. However, he chose a cabinate with wine glasses. I didn't even realize it until we were in Target and I asked my daughter what we needed. She told me Bernard needed wine. Maybe tomorrow he'll be doing something in a different room. Apparently my subconscious thinks that Santa needs a drink.

Another thing happened in Target. V. picked out a Hanukkah plate. It was $1.50, so I was happy to let her have a special Hanukkah plate. Then she picked up a second, different plate. I asked her to chose, and she handed me the second plate and said "chose plate for Bernard." Then she put back her first choice and said "Not B. (her name for herself)" Well. That was selfless. She wanted Bernard to have a plate!
Yes, we got both of them. Bernard the Elf is the proud owner of a Hanukkah plate, gifted by a loving little girl.

Stay tuned for more toddler elf ideas!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Santa Claus is Coming to my living room.

Pin It I know it is early November, but hopefully this will help some of you that, over the next few weeks, will be hunting for toddler toys.

Last year, I bought stuff that my previous nanny kids used to love. Now that I know my kid a little better and now that she's really defined her personality, I can do a bit more personal shopping.

So if you are stuck, start with what your kids currently love.
V's favorite toys are Duplo, trains, dolls babies, Little People (also babies), books, musical instruments, and things with wheels, ride on or push toys.

Since we have a birthday right after the holidays, we'll be dividing the pile. I have no idea how we'll do this just yet, but we will. It will likely be random, as in "I forgot where I put half those gifts, and need a few more days to find them."

First up, the toy on every toy list this year:

Symphony in B by B. Toys.

I like B. Toys products, usually for the combination of being educational and battery-free. This one does have batteries, but it is awesome. It plays 15 different full songs, and you can alter the songs by adding or taking away instruments. It comes with a lyrics book as well! Unbeknownst to me until a few minutes ago (while Google searching for the image) you can store the pieces in the base. The recommended age is 3+, but my kid loves music and shape matching, so I think this will be a big hit. If not, I'll keep it warm for a year for her. The only hesitation I would have about giving this to a young child is that some of the instruments would make awesome chew toys. They aren't huge, especially the banjo arm, so if you had an exuberant chewer, they may eat some of it.

It retails at $60, but check Target online - they have it as low as $40 occasionally. I went to 3 stores looking for this last week and all were sold out. Online is the way to go.

Next, the Little People Animal Talkers' Zoo.
We have a collection of Little People that Toddler loves. I actually bought this last March. I hit a sale and had a variety of coupons at just the right time, and got this for $17, tax included.

Another deal I scored (thanks to Zulily and a friend who shared an awesome coupon!) was a balance bike:

We will need to get her a helmet, too.

We've told our family that we are getting Toddler the Melissa and Doug train table and basic figure-8 set. We're hoping they will get on board (har har) and get some more M&D tracks and trains. Even though M&D can be harder to find, it is all the quality and half the cost of Brio.

Lastly, she might get some more Duplo blocks (there's never enough of those) and she'll be getting an Elmo doll (even though I'm not happy about it, she'll absolutely love it).

 The circus always came to town right after my sister's birthday, and she always got tickets to the circus as part of her gift. It was awesome. The circus isn't going by any time soon, but Elmo Live will be here for her birthday. Given her obsession, we pretty much had to.

So, what is on your list this year?

Stocking Stuffers - Oy Vey.

Pin It
As a kid, I loved opening my stocking. It always involved one of those milk chocolate oranges you smack on the ground to break apart, and any time my stocking doesn't include that (hint hint, SANTA), I'm a little disappointed.

Then I started stuffing stockings, and realized that Santa has it rough. I was tempted to go out and buy the smallest stockings I could find, just to make it easy. However, I knitted all our stockings (fair isle, in the round) and am fiercely proud of them. The first one came out a bit larger than intended, but I wasn't going to make the other ones smaller and I certainly wasn't going to reknit a whole stocking. So they are a bit large. And a half-filled stocking is just sad. Awesome.

So what do you stuff a nearly 2-year-old's stocking with?
I've been thinking about this for a ridiculously long time.

Here's what I've got (in ideas, at least) so far.

1) Bath stuff. We own these cool Elmo color-changing bath fizzies (I got a much smaller container at our grocery store for $2.50), and were we anywhere near the end of the container, I'd get more. I'm also going to get some awesome bath crayons. Bubbles (the blowing kind) are also awesome for bathtime, but I went crazy this summer and bought a few giant containers. Whoopsie. I'll be buying some actual bubble bath, and I might make bath bombs, so I'll toss one of those in there.

2) Socks. Because she always needs them.

3) Bows, for the exact same reason. Where do they all go?
     (Edit: I found about 7 in the car today. All in a slightly chewed, gross condition.)

4) A few Chubbies Trucks. These are amazingly durable and adorable. Our local Learning Express has them for cheaper, too. I think they are $4-6, depending on size.

5) Stickers or a sticker book. She loves them all. 

6) Snacks. Last year, I stuffed her stocking with squeezie bags. This year, maybe some dried fruit snacks or Annie's Gummy Bunnies.

7) I'd love to find a small kaleidoscope. I'm not sure if she'd understand it at first, but kaleidoscopes are awesome.

8) I would put in a musical instrument (maybe a harmonica or maracas) but I'm making Jingle Cuffs for all the kids to wear on Christmas morning. (My husband can't even stand to hear me knit them. It's going to be awesome.) Santa is going to have to sit that one out.

9) Art supplies. I'm just going to need to go to the store and see what we don't have, because we have a bunch. For those looking, Dollar Tree has Bingo stamps (my kid loves these, and they come in many colors, for $1/each) and coloring books. We have a ton of Play-Dough, crayons, chalk, markers, and paints. I don't think I want to introduce her to window markers (as awesome as they are) because I know I'll turn around and find her coloring an entire room, window and all, with Sharpies, all because I wanted to cook dinner. Maybe some awesome paint brushes and rollers? These look cool: 

10) Toy bracelets. I know it won't stop her from borrowing mine, but it is worth a shot.

11) A cd. She loves music. 

12) Books, if we have any small ones left over from Hanukkah.

13) A Yearly ornament. I don't know which one. I'm not sure if we got her one last year... Growing up, we always got a Precious Moments ornament with the year on it. I love them all, but I'm going to need to get a separate tree if I ever want to hang them all.

14) Finger puppets. She still has scrawny little fingers, but likes the concept. That, and she's not going to have tiny hands forever. (sadface)

If she were older, I'd give her an iTunes gift card, since she loves music and apps, but right now she doesn't get it.

I'm also considering putting a toy train in there, since she'll be getting a train table. Maybe.

Now, if half of this pans out, we'll be in good shape.

And who knows. Maybe she'll get a milk chocolate orange, too. 
(Right. Like I wouldn't end up eating that.)

After the holidays, I'll tell you what I am going to stick in hubby's stocking. Because I got to say, I nailed it this year.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Tis the season... Part 1

Pin It We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas (in the Santa sense) in this family. With V.'s birthday being less than a month after Christmas, it makes for a very... stuffy season in our house. We love it, it is great, but good heavens, the TOYS. They just take over.

One thing we do to handle this is give suggestions. Last year, we were saving for a swing set, so we asked that people give to the swingset fund. Some of them did, and it was so helpful! This year we'll be asking for pieces to the super awesome train table Santa is going to bring. I'm hoping people get on board with this. Train tables are awesome.

I'm posting to talk about The Lists. My husband is a planner, and it is a good thing because without his careful training and guidance, I'd be raiding Target for marked-up goods on December 23rd. The kid would end up with a set of hand weights and a soap dish.

Last year's system worked really well, so we're sticking to it. I thought I'd share some of our planning and ideas (toddler will be 2 after Christmas, so we're aiming for the 2-3 years range... I always put a few "older" toys in there and hide them until early summer, when the old new toys are getting ignored and in need of rotation), incase you are already thinking about what you're going to get your kiddos.

(Revised: I'm going to do this in three posts, because it is about to get HUGE.)

Hanukkah. Eight nights of beautiful tradition, latkes, and gifts. Some families do trinkets, some do full-on Toy Of The Year gifts. We do books, and I love it. After we've lit the candles and eaten our brisket, Toddler gets a (wrapped, so even I'm surprised... I don't remember what I wrapped!) book, and we all snuggle on the couch for a good read. This year, I've been buying them all along. I get books at the library, gently used (really they are like new) and 3 for $2.75. I usually give them $3 because it goes to the library and it is a dollar per book. You can't beat that with a stick. I've accumulated more books than nights and have a few more I want to get, so I may put a few of the smaller ones in her stocking.

If you don't celebrate Hanukkah and have a library with such an awesome program, maybe you can use books as an advent calendar. It is better than candy, and you'll have something new to read every night! That, and it will build a great library for your kids.

Here are some of the books Toddler will be getting this year:

Animals should definitely not wear clothing by Judi Barret

Stars by Mary Lyn Ray

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett
(This book is ridiculously gorgeous, like Stars.)

I'm also looking for a great book about celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas, like The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Pollaco (which we have, makes me cry every. single. time I read it, and is way, way above my child's head) on a toddler level. Most books I've read have some factor of the protagonist being embarrassed by celebrating two holidays (usually Hanukkah) and that is really not the idea we want to plant. Last year we focused on Hanukkah books specifically, so we have a bunch of those and some non-religious Christmas books (only a matter of days before I bust out Polar Express. I'm obsessed with Chris Van Allsburg. It's bad.) so if you have any ideas on merging the two, please share!

Be sure to read the other parts!

Stocking Stuffers - oy vey!

Santa Claus is coming to town!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Glitter Gak

Pin It Both the Homemade "Gak" and Floam were a huge hit (we actually still have and use the floam!), and today after lunch, V. wanted to do "science."

This is the quickest experiment I can pull together (in fact, I was busy working on some science for after nap, but don't tell her that) so I headed to the learning closet to get the stuff.

I am not a fan of loose glitter, but glitter glue is pretty awesome, and we had some. All the recipes for Gak that I've seen specify white glue, but really, how different can they be? A quick Google search showed me that several other mothers had already realized that glitter glue is by far more awesome, and that white glue has no magical properties that make it super Gak-like.

The recipe is the same (1 bottle glue, 1/4 cup water, 1 tsp Borax) , the outcome is more sparkly. I wish we had the light table together, because this would have been even more awesome to do on a lit surface. I did end up putting it back into the borax water because it was stickier than it should have been. I don't think this was the result of different glue, just our impatients.

Glitter, without it invading every crevice of our home. I love it.

Sensory Bin: Snow!

Pin It

Yesterday, a Nor'Easter hit, and brought snow! Hooray! V. played in the snow last year, but that was different. She was a year old, and stomped around a bit, tasted it, cried because it was cold, and was over snow. (I built a snow man while she supervised. She was unimpressed.)

This was IT - the First Real Snow. We played in it a bit yesterday, but it wasn't until the sun went down that the real snow started to take hold, and turned into a winter wonderland, not just a dandruff field.

I ran down the stairs when she woke up, ready to play in the snow. Who needs breakfast? It's SNOW. 

Guess what? It was raining. Big, fat, wet, warm drops of rain were coming down, and V. hadn't even gotten out of her crib. I did the only sensible thing I could think of - I dumped out the sensory bin we had going and ran outside (in my pajamas, in the rain, without shoes...) to fill it with snow. I wasn't going to let rain ruin our fun.

I got V. out of bed and showed her the snow. She loved it! We made a snowman, which she insisted have ears and a snow hat. 
The tool bucket for the sensory bin table hasn't changed, but she had no interest in using anything but her hands. It is very packable snow, and she prides herself on making snowballs. That, and she's currently obsessed with all things baby, so making a baby out of snow was far cooler to her than using tools.

Then she remembered that yesterday we busted out her brand-new winter coat (I bought last spring for $12 from The Children's Place. Heck yes.) that I told her was for playing in the snow. Well, she had been playing in the snow and hadn't been wearing her special coat. She refused to play without her "No Kaket."

We wrote a big letter S along with some snow-related s-words on our chalkboard wall. (Oh yeah, that happened while on break, too. Awesome. I highly recommend finding a spare wall and painting it with chalkboard paint. I keep a grocery list there, and suddenly I can make dinner without trying to keep her busy or putting on Elmo.)

I drew the snowman, and let her draw the parts on it. She drew eyes, ears, arms, and was babbling about other things I didn't understand. Then she stood back and proudly reported that it was her uncle, Ben. (Looks just like him, really.)

While all this was going on, I cooked breakfast. I made the snowflake by cracking an egg into a cookie cutter, and it worked surprisingly well. I recommend spraying the cutter first. I didn't think of that until I was poking the egg out and wishing I had. Whoops.
(And the hash browns are from Trader Joe's. Seriously delicious.)

I hope if you have snow right now, you enjoyed it as much as we did!

We DO exist!

Pin It Well, it has been a crazy few months!

My husband and I went to France for an adult family vacation, and my brave, dear friend stayed with the Toddler, the Dog, the Cat, and the whole house. She did a great job, and my kid and puppy didn't break her. That accounts for two weeks, plus a week of recovery.

So, what have we been up to? Well, Toddler started gym class, and has been absolutely loving every second of it. She's 21-months-old, and she climbs up on the 3' tall balance beam fearlessly. She can walk down the beam with little support, but she wants to run (as all toddlers do) and that causes balance issues. It's gymnastics, not parkor, kid. She can even walk backwards and do a forward roll on the beam with help. If you have a tot gym class nearby, it is worth it. Just be aware that there are many things in your house that look like gym equipment (crib mattress, backs of couches, the chandelier above the dining room table...) and that your toddler may want to show off her new skills at home. I'm pretty sure I have a grey hair for every time I've found her reaching for the "swing bar" while standing on the table. Next week, How To Dye Your Hair During Nap.

We also took advantage of the beautiful autumn weather, spending most days playing outdoors. We got a swing set (and a beast of one, too. It is a Creative Playthings) and we've spent many mornings using it. I like to sit in the tower and drink coffee while Toddler runs around like crazy, collecting acorns for our "ship house." It works for me.

Halloween happened. Last year, for Toddler's first Halloween, she was 9 months old, and we had just closed on a house days before. Since all our stuff was in storage, sewing machine included, I had no means of making a costume. This year, I made my first costume, and it was easier than I had hoped, even if I did sew the arm on inside out the first time, then upside down the second. Third time was a charm. Toddler was Madeline, and adorable.

Lastly, we've been counting. More than anything, it seems she wants to count. So we do. We count books, we count socks, we count leaves, we count beads, we count anything there is to count. One morning we went up and down the stairs at least 5 times, just to count all the stairs.

Now we are gearing up for the holidays. We have a ton of travel coming up! It will be so nice to see our family and friends over the next few months.

Welcome back, sorry for the break, and stay tuned, because a ton of posts are coming!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Play with your food!

Pin It

One of my very best friends introduced me to tofu back in high school. Rather, her mother introduced us to tofu when she made some kind of amazing stroganoff with it. I thought tofu was the bees knees, but then my friend and I tried to replicate the stroganoff and it turned out ... scary. Then there was an incident with a tofurkey. I tried a few more times to understand tofu, but it just didn't happen. My tofu-loving days were over, or so I thought.

I was feeling brave a few weeks ago, and I purchased a block of extra-firm, organic tofu from Trader Joe's. I put it in our cheese drawer so that it could judge me every time I opened the refrigerator and told it today was not the day. I don't know what to do with tofu! I did consider carving a turkducken out of it, but I don't have the time or skill. My aunt told me of how at her local Farmer's Market there was a stand that sold "fried chicken" tofu, and even bought us some to try when we visited. It was neither fried or chicken, but V. devoured all of it. Now I knew I had to face The Block.

Today was the day. (The tofu and the toddler were both very excited.) I did not want to make some meat substitute, thinking I might have better success at enjoying the tofu if it wasn't impersonating something I already love. I also realize that I enjoyed it more because it wasn't burnt to the bottom of a pan, covered in some Lipton Secrets powder and sad, over-boiled noodles.

First I set to making cubes out of the tofu. I sliced it into quarters, pressed it with a towel, and cubed it up. Then I set to making a marinade.

I used:

about 4 TBS soy sauce
1/8 tsp dried mustard
1 TBS garlic (the kind in the jar, already crushed to a pulp)
1 TBS rice wine
1 tsp toasted sesame seed oil
a few cranks of fresh black pepper
2 TBS water

and I intended to add dried ginger, but I became distracted by my lovely assistant's demands for "noke!" - or milk. 

(It is a marinade, and I know I used a little extra soy sauce at the end. Just wing it.)

I let that sit for about 40 minutes. Longer would have been better, but I wouldn't have let it sit for more than a few hours. These are pretty strong flavors.

Then I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper and baked them for 25 minutes at 400F on convect. I considered turning them half way through, but that assistant of mine is pretty clingy today. They came out just fine.

While those were baking, I boiled the marinade down into a sauce for dipping. Mmm.

And wouldn't you know it, they were delicious and fun. 

I used chopsticks, and started to stack mine. V., not to miss out on a block party, started stacking hers using her fork! That's one step closer to getting her to actually use the fork to eat, so I was pretty excited.

Lunch did take unusually long to eat because we were playing with our food, but it was delicious and we both worked on our fine motor skills. Building a tofu castle with uneven cubes with chopsticks is harder than you think.

This was quick, easy, and delicious. That's the kind of meal I like.

Future brainstorms for tofu:

A marinade including honey. Maybe even apples, for Rosh Hashanah. 
Next time, I'll make vegetables to go with it. I dropped the ball this time.
Cut the tofu into different shapes. It was firm enough that cookie cutters would work, and maybe a melon baller, if I pressed the tofu a bit more. Great for learning shapes! 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Contact Paper Masterpiece

Pin It
Last week, I found cheap contact paper at our local hardware store. I was waiting for a rainy day to bust this out, but I get impatient when I'm excited.

So I did this today, instead of catching up on any one of the 10 or so saved blogs I need to polish write in front of this one. Just don't be surprised if in 12 years you see posts featuring a craft I did with 19-month-old V. "just yesterday!" ... it will happen.

Contact paper is cool. I also envisioned this being done on a window, but we have screens in the doors right now and my child likes to dump things. Instead, I taped the contact paper sticky-side-up to our "learning table" and let her at it.

First she just stuck her hand to it. Then she compared the sticky paper to the table, which is not (usually) sticky.

After she had a good time with that, I gave her little applesauce containers with tissue paper squares, colored rice, cut-up pipe cleaners, a cotton ball, and a little glitter. Thankfully she dumped the glitter right out onto the contact paper, where it stayed.

 Once she was done sticking and resticking everything, I folded her masterpiece in half, taped around the edges (because honestly, it had lost most of its stick by then and I didn't want glitter and rice everywhere) and we hung it in the window.

V. also hung a piece of paper under it, to finish off the look.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

TWO sensory bins! "Invisible Fish" and shaving cream!

Pin It We've had a busy week! This week our water beads came in the mail (thank you Amazon!) and we dared step foot in the Dollar Tree. (I love that place, and now they have all the "Back to School" and teacher goodies out.)

So we had a long-term and short-term sensory bin.

The former is the water beads.
This is a spin my admirable mom friend put on water beads. Her children named it "invisible fish" and they were spot on.

The trick is to get water and water beads to be about the same hue. The "big things" you see are large, blue glass rocks. The bin is full of blue water beads, and I used food coloring to turn the water equally as blue.

Note to self and you: My friend did this with clear water beads and clear water. Good idea. My millions of beads didn't come with packets of clear, so I dyed the water and, in the end, my child blue. So either use clear beads or don't do this when you need to go anywhere nice or while your child is dressed.

Rockin' the fine motor skills!
V. doesn't have a great "surprised" face, but she was thrilled to find that it was more than a tub of blue water!

I mentioned revamping our tools bucket. That's it on the floor there, and it holds a rolling pin, a set of dry measuring cups, a set of measuring spoons, a set of those slotted bath cups you get a million of at your shower, a big spoon, various gauged strainers and funnels, bowls, "cheater" chop sticks, tweezers, a mini spatula, a liquid measuring cup, some Duplo and Clippo blocks (for textures and to hold fine items, like water beads), cookie cutters, and a toddler knife from her cutlery set. Most of these things I got at the Dollar Tree.

And we do call them tools, same as when we are cooking or gardening. She knows when to use tools or toys, and it makes it easy that I can tell her not to put her toys in the water beads. She would be very sad if she turned HER baby blue. (I would, too.)

Now, on to the next bin.

Dollar Tree has shaving cream. OH heckyes. They had regular ol' Barbisol and then a massive can of BRUTE. I bought the Barbisol because BRUTE said "Fresh BRUTE Scent!" on the side, and I didn't want my kid smelling like BRUTE, whatever that smells like. It is the Dollar Tree...

I put some pool and tub toys in the bottom. Because at the end of this, it was all going to the pool or tub anyway.

That's most of the can. And I'm not going to lie, it was more fun than you think it would be.

The first few grabs, she wasn't sure what to do.

And this is why we did this outside...

Have I mentioned how much I love having a pool? I love having a pool.

But just for more fun later, I took the bin inside and hid it in the tub.

Even more fun! (And it lasted all that time!)

She slowly added water and stirred it, telling me she was cooking. "I Ook!"

And then it all went down the drain.

So very worth $1.