“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in." - Rachel Carson

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Retta's Advent Calendar

What is eliciting the most excitement at our house right now? What reduces my girls to squeals of pure kid joy, grins from ear to ear? It's not Santa's impending stopover at our house with his reindeer, or the piles of new-fallen snow...it's a $3 Rudolph chocolate advent calendar from Reny's! I remember thinking the chocolate advent calendar was just about the best thing going when I was a kid too. Every morning Retta wakes up at some ungodly hour when it is still dark out and bellows in her deepest baritone, "ADVENT CHOCOLATES!!! ADVENT CHOCOLATES! ADVENT CALENDAR MOMMY?" At which point I usually concede in a sleepy haze and say, "Yes, you may go in and wake up Rowan and Daddy (who inevitably ends up sleeping on Rowan's floor sometime in the night, reporting for monster/ scary shadows patrol) and eat chocolate. She goes in, rips the calendar off the wall and opens a door that never corresponds with the number of the actual day. She somehow manages to make that small piece of chocolate last for far longer than I would think possible. She starts to eat it, then retrieves a half eaten, melty blob, mushing it in her hands, decorating the walls and everything else she touches with that lovely, greasy brown...and her face, oh her cute little face--totally covered, to the point that I wonder if any of that chocolate actually made it to her stomach. She then proceeds to carry the calendar around for the better part of the day, opening and closing doors, then eventually just ripping them off all together. The thing has been jostled around so much I'm pretty sure all the remaining chocolates have popped out of their spots and are just settled down in the bottom of the calendar. She also manages to sneak about 3 extra chocolates per day, so at best we've only got a couple more days with this thing before she realizes she's all out. It's not going to be pretty. That's when you'll see me at Reny's, frantically trying to find one in the Christmas clearance section in an attempt to appease my little chocolate-fiend's deep-voiced demands for "MORE CHOCOLATE!" I vow to someday buy these for my sweet grandchildren,  just as my mother has done for me. And I will sit back and laugh as their mothers wash their faces and the walls at 6 am each morning, marking the days until Christmas.

***Update: Since I wrote this post yesterday afternoon, the calendar has met its demise. This morning she dumped a glass of water in it and after hanging it upside down to dry, she found it again and ripped off all the doors and finished off the chocolates when I wasn't looking. Once it sunk in that this calendar had nothing left to give her, she said, "Rowan's calendar?" and proceeded to march up the stairs in search of her next chocolate conquest. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tortilla Snowflakes

One of my favorite easy-but-fun holiday snacks to make with kids is tortilla snowflakes. Simply take a warm tortilla, fold it into quarters or eighths--whatever you can manage without breaking it, and then use kitchen shears to cut shapes out of the tortilla, just as you would making paper snowflakes. It is fun to unfold the tortilla and see your edible snowflake! Arrange tortillas on cookie sheets, then brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, or drizzle honey over them--season however you would like. Bake in the oven until golden brown- the tortillas should be getting crispy, but not burned. Let cool and then enjoy them with a mug of hot cocoa or a glass of egg nog!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Project: Egg-Gathering Aprons

Last week while the girls were cycling through a round of fall colds, I found myself home a lot and with some free time while they took extra long naps and watched movies on the couch. So, I dusted off my long-dormant sewing machine and set to making the girls some aprons. I recently found some old fabric scraps at my grandparents house- gingham and this retro-looking purple and orange chicken print. I liked the idea of making something with my grandmother's fabric, but there wasn't much of it, and then I thought maybe I could make something small and chicken-related. The girls are always wanting to collect the eggs from our chicken coop, but they often get dropped or squeezed a little too hard, or there are just too many to carry in those little hands. And so, these egg-gathering aprons were born, with special padded pockets to hold eggs!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Rowan: On a Mission for Dolphins

Rowan holding up pictures of Winter the dolphin

Last week, on a rainy day with nothing to do, we watched one of our library movies, "Dolphin Tale." Rowan has been telling me how dolphins are her favorite animal now, so I thought she might like this one. It turned out to be a wonderful family movie (like one I could tolerate and even enjoy watching too). It is the story of a boy who finds a dolphin washed up on the beach in Florida with a rope and some sort of trap wrapped around it's tail. He uses his pocket-knife to cut the rope, and some people from a marine mammal hospital arrive and take the dolphin back to their center. The boy visits the dolphin often and they form a special bond. The dolphin, named Winter, has to have it's tail amputated, but eventually they find someone willing to design a prosthetic tail, and she can swim again.

At the end of the movie, we found out this is all based on a true story. I thought Rowan was going to come unglued with glee when she found out that Winter actually exists, and it is possible that she might visit this dolphin someday. We went to the website for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium and found out that they have a live webcam where you can watch Winter swimming. You can also "adopt" Winter and donate money to help with her care--and if you do, you receive monthly updates about the dolphin as well as a photo, etc.

Rowan immediately decided she wanted to set a goal of raising enough money to get mail from Winter, which costs $50. We brainstormed a bit to come up with a way for her to raise the money and decided on an art sale. She has spent the last week making a variety of drawings and paintings and telling all the grown-ups in her life the story of Winter and how she has decided to help this dolphin. All I can say is if she ever joins the Girl Scouts, she is going to kick butt in cookie sales. She is like this mini marketing maven. The kid has already raised most of the money in under a week. Of course, when she tells her grandparents and aunts and uncles and the neighbors that the paintings are 3 dollars they tend to give her a few extra to help with the cause, and we donated the contents of the family change jar. I just love seeing this ethic of helping out a good cause blossoming in her. The other day out of nowhere she told me she wants to volunteer at the animal shelter for her birthday party this year...we'll see if it actually materializes, but the fact that she would consider it at age four makes this mama proud!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sidewalk Chalk Stencils

We tried out another easy-but-fun project from Pinterest the other day...we made our own sidewalk chalk stencils and decorated our driveway with hearts! I just used some cardboard from a box in the garage and cut out a couple of heart shapes. Both girls had lots of fun with these and we saved them to use again.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Craft Project: Halloween Bats

Time for some Halloween crafts! This is one of my favorites--take a toilet paper roll and paint it black, and while it's drying, use black construction paper to cut out some wings and ears. You can also use white paper to cut out two little fangs. Once dry, glue googly eyes and construction paper parts to the painted toilet paper roll. If you have any magnetic tape you can cut two little squares of magnetic tape and peel off the adhesive and stick it to the ends of the wings so you can make the bat's wings close around it's body if you'd like. Rowan drew a mouth and designs on hers with crayons and chalk too. This is fun for preschool-age kids, and when finished, you can either hang them from the ceiling or let the kids run around with them!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


A girl's gotta have cool accessories, right?! Well mine have really been donning some interesting choices lately...here are a few I've managed to capture on camera. As a matter of fact, while we're on the subject of fashion, I think I need to blog post on self-dressing as well, because we're in that phase where some pretty crazy outfits are leaving this house each day!

Don't forget to wear your readers before eating oatmeal

Always wear ear protection when Mommy uses the noisy blender to make smoothies

Let's go for a bike ride! Bike? Check.  Helmet? Check. Creepy baby in the trunk? Check.

Every nature girl needs a flower crown...

And a little chef  must have the proper attire!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Loving the Kitty

Although each day Retta seems to be learning and progressing at lightning speed, there is one area she could use a little help in...kitty interactions. I feel bad for our cat, but it is also hilarious to witness the relationship between Wendell and Retta. She desperately loves the cat, and since she can't say "Wendell" she calls him "Towel" instead. So, Towel will just be sleeping away minding his business and doing his cat-thing, when Retta yanks on his tail, or lays on top of him with her full body weight. Luckily he is the world's gentlest, most forgiving cat and most of the time he just lies there and takes it. We keep trying to teach her how to pet the cat softly, but she really goes at him with gusto every time. I also never suspected I would utter the phrase, "Don't rub your cheese on the kitty" ever, let alone multiple times in my life.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Retta at 18 Months

  Holy heck, how is it that Retta is now sliding on toward two?! Or should I say running full throttle at it? Little Miss is so loveable and yet SO FULL OF IT. This was the summer of just keeping her safe. Forget about clean faces and cutesy crafts and lots of photos and blog posts, this kid has been keeping me on my toes...and if she's sleeping then probably I am passed out somewhere as well, or I am drinking a glass of wine and rocking maniacally back and forth in a corner. Seriously though, when I'm not cleaning up messes or making sure she's not drowning, she is downright adorable, a real joy. She's a spitfire and yet can also be very calm and even-keeled. She's now able to put herself to bed which is a first for our offspring, so I am grateful for that. Retta has also started potty training. She loves to spend lots of time sitting (with her clothes on) on her training potty and shoving armfuls of toilet paper into the real toilet. She also just got FOUR teeth at once...she now has all her fangs just in time for Halloween. She would spend all day brushing them if I let her- she likes to chew on her toothbrush and then say "Clean?!" and have me check her teeth. She even took her first few real pedal-pushes on her tricycle the other day!

Best of all, she's had an explosion of words over the past few months, and can now pretty much copy anything anyone says. Today she spent most of the day roaming around the house saying, "hummus," and "soap." Those were the words of the day, but yesterday it was "mazing" as in amazing...and she thought everything was amazing, especially the contents of my mom's purse. Earlier this summer she would say "special" in this cute quiet whisper that made my heart melt- she would always say it with this wonder in her voice. She also started saying, "Love you!" which is a wonderful thing to hear. Her calling her sister "Ro-Ro" has given way to a full-fledged "Rowan" now and each day I am amazed at how these words get more refined, more precise in their description of what she wants. Suddenly she has the words "broken" and "scratched" and "bossy"...hmm, that last one might be related to a frequent conversation we have with the big sister. The acquisition of language is fascinating. Our favorite Retta-ism right now is that instead of saying "oopsies" when she drops something on the floor she says, "OH-PEE-SEES!" So cute. She is so much fun and I'm so proud of what a kind little compassionate baby-turned-toddler she is.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Homemade Bubble Wands

Here's a fun and easy activity I stumbled upon while wasting hours of my precious life on Pinterest. Really, Pinterest is like crack for me. I'm just going to scroll through and pin a few more ideas, and then a few more, and then before I know it I've forgotten how to blink and it's two days later. AAAHH! Anyway, we used some of my old beads and cheap wire to make our own fancy bubble wands yesterday afternoon. Why would you make your own bubble wand when bubbles always come with a free, fully-functional wand you might ask? Good question. I don't know, but these are cute and it kept my little cherubs busy for a little while.

I cut a wire for each wand and let the girls choose and string their beads on. Okay- I made Retta's for her, but she had fun playing with the finished product! Then, leaving some wire at the top, I twisted it into either a circle or heart shapes. They don't work quite as well as the plastic wand included in the bubble stuff, but they are capable of making bubbles. It seems like maybe a thicker wire would have worked better. At the very least, they make fun fairy wands too!

** Disclaimer: Sometimes these projects aren't all fun and games for us. The girls look happy-ish in these pictures, but make no mistake, they were actually grumpy as all get out. Retta dumped the bubble stuff out of the dish several times, Rowan cried because she got a fuzzy caterpillar on her foot while she was engrossed in bead sorting, and then Retta smashed the plate on a rock...anyway, there was broken glass and tears and my pants were covered in bubble solution, but I'm sure someone somewhere might have fun making these. Just keepin' it real here on Wonder Parenting...you know, it's not all unicorns and rainbows here :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Superstar Breakfast

This is one of our favorite breakfasts lately, and with fall days ahead, we'll definitely be having this comfort food more often. We call this breakfast Toad-in-the-Hole, but I think it's known by many names. Today it was a superstar breakfast though, because we have a star cookie cutter, not a toad.

First, use 1 piece of bread per person. We used Ezekial Sesame sprouted bread. It is organic, flourless, low glycemic, and preservative-free, but does contain gluten for those of you who are gluten-free. 

Use the cookie cutter to cut out your desired shape in each piece of bread, and save the cut-out too. Heat up a pan on the stovetop and melt a little bit of butter. When the pan is hot, place as many pieces of the bread you can fit and let it toast for a minute or so. Scramble one egg per person in a bowl and sprinkle in some sea salt and pepper, and a little pour of milk (we use almond milk).

 Once the eggs are ready to go, use one hand to press the piece of bread down into the pan and the other to pour the egg mixture in the cut-out space. Pour the egg in until it is level with the top of the piece of bread. Let cook in the pan for a few more minutes until the bottom is cooked. Use a spatula to flip and cook the other side until the egg is cooked through and the bread is toasted.

Serve with the cut-out shape placed on top of the egg or on the side. Eggs packed with protein, and sprouted whole-grain bread- a healthy breakfast and the kids LOVE it!