Making Play Dough–Turns Out It’s Easy

Yesterday I made play dough. It feels like I should get some sort of mom award. Turns out it’s really easy, though, and I already had everything I needed: flour, salt, water, oil, cream of tartar, and some food coloring. Mix everything together in a pot, stir it until it turns into play dough. (For more specific directions you can see here).

The recipe seems pretty forgiving, too–I forgot the salt at first so just added it at end with a little water, reheated a bit, and it turned out great. Actually it seemed like it was coming out fine even without the salt, but I thought I better add it just to be sure I wasn’t wasting my time (and flour).

Side note: as it cooked the smell of the play dough suddenly gave me an acute flashback to being in kindergarten. I found myself huffing over the pot, transported back to that time. playdough2 Anyway, M and E loved playing with it. I took a couple plastic shapes out of their shape sorter and they particularly enjoyed using those as stamps. They were thoroughly entertained for at least 45 minutes stamping all the play dough. E also enjoyed ripping it into little tiny bits. They both liked making makeshift bracelets and hats. It was also, as it happened, the perfect activity for our new toddler table.

Also, if you bake play dough in the oven it hardens and you can paint it, which means theoretically I can finally make some ornaments with their handprints on them…

The only downside was they kept wanting to mash all the colors together and I kept trying to peel them back apart. Guess I’ll just have to let go of the whole red, green, yellow blue idea and allow that it’s all just going to turn into a purple blob. At the end I put it back in a tupperware and a plastic bag. Hopefully it will last us for many more hours of entertainment. playdough1

On Getting Our Car Keyed

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March. They say it comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. I’m not sure the lamb part applies to Pittsburgh, but the lion seems right. Though actually, I don’t think I’d characterize it as a lion or a lamb, but something in between, more like some teasing, pink-faced monkey that steals your glasses and disappears with them into the trees, infuriating and magical. Or maybe an exotic bird you can hear calling but which refuses to be seen.

Last weekend, as the thermometer pushed 43 degrees, D and I found ourselves sitting with the kids on the front porch, soaking in the rays of sunshine warming us through the bare branches of the sycamore across the street. M decided it was warm enough for no jacket and refused to put it back on. D and I had a beer, sitting at the little white metal table taking turns eating saltines straight from the roll.

On Sunday I was suddenly taken with the need to organize the basement, getting rid of junk and excess furniture. And I’m gripped with a passion to take up home repair projects which have lain dormant for months–build those radiator covers I’ve got the supplies for, repaint the walls, re-tile the fireplaces, try out stencils, hire contractors.

The other day, on the first sunny 50 degree day, I take the kids on a long walk. I spot the first leaf buds on a bush, not yet green, and the scraggly trees are suddenly full of cardinals. Snow melts into icy mud; the roads are full of gaping potholes. The kids scream the whole way home, refusing to sit in the stroller but too tired to walk, hungry but impetuously pushing away snacks.

And today we wake up to find someone has keyed our car, a ragged, angry zigzag across one entire side, from front bumper to back, like a thunder bolt. A spring electric storm, March’s idea of a joke.

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7 Minute Workout With Toddlers

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My sister turned me on to this seven-minute workout. The idea is you work really hard for seven minutes–pushups, planks, jumping jacks, crunches, etc–but it’s only seven minutes and then you’re done. Seems like it should fit my toddler-twin-mom, freelance lifestyle. So far I’ve done the workout twice. The first time I did it M and E were asleep. The second time, I tried it when they were awake…

I started up the app, which I’d downloaded onto my phone. A Siri-like voice instructs what exercise to do while the screen shows a little animation of a “wall sit” or “side plank,” whatever the exercise is, and beeps when the time is up. “Now rest” it instructs after each exercise, as a yellow timer ticks down ten seconds.

The first exercise was jumping jacks. When M saw me doing them, she jumped right in. She’s been working a lot on jumping and is pretty good at it now, but trying to put her arms in the air at the same time was an exciting new challenge.

Next up was the wall sit. I rushed to find a place on the wall as the timer ticked down. M came and leaned against the wall next to me. E did, too, and for a second we were all leaning against the wall together in the living room.  But then E got distracted by my knees and trying to climb in my strangely suspended lap. Wall sit ended a bit early.

For pushups, M lay down on the floor next to me, doing her own version of pushups (something like a seal) while E tried to climb on my back. Then they both tried to climb on my back, giggling. Abort.

Stepping on and off a chair, E came right up to the chair and put her hands on it, wanting to climb up, too. This is the chair next to the sideboard, the one the twins like to climb up on and press all the stereo buttons. I kept pausing to make sure I wasn’t going to step on her fingers. I also worried I was encouraging this climbing-on-chairs behavior. Suddenly Siri was saying, “now rest,” but i hadn’t done enough stepping up and down. To continue and cut short my ten second rest, or abort? Quick time is ticking!

Triceps dip on chair, in which you face away from the chair, feet on the floor while gripping the seat with your hands and lowering your bottom slowly up and down, stopped very quickly because E was trying to climb onto the chair behind me. The chair is a bit wobbly even without me straining at a precarious angle off the end of it. Visions of disaster. Next!

High knees running in place. This was more like it! “Who wants to run with me!?” I yelled, getting into the spirit of this collaborative toddler workout. But by then M and E were starting to lose interest.

Around five minutes, when we got to the second round of pushups, I ended the seven minute workout early because I was breaking a sweat and didn’t want to leave the house smelling like a dank underarm (I was fitting the workout in before we had plans to go out, which is the whole idea, right?). I still consider the workout a success and I love the seven minute concept. Maybe that’s what I should be doing right now, while M and E are napping, instead of eating cookies and writing this blog. Hm.

How Toddlers Are Like Pelicans

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My kids are like pelicans. This realization struck me yesterday when I went with my sister to see the movie Pelican Dreams at the Regent Square Theater. I love birds, and pelicans hold a special place for me, having grown up watching them on the California coast.

I love everything about pelicans: The way they glide in threes over the water like cargo planes, the way they bob on the surf like ducks, the way they throw their impossibly long necks back to swallow a fish whole, and the way, gliding through the air, they suddenly twist and rocket down into a school of herring with a splash. Pelicans, with their long, prehistoric faces, clicking bills, waddling feet, and small, sensitive eyes are the exact shape they need to be. They are beautiful.

Of course, all birds are beautiful. That must be part of the appeal of bird-watching: seeing a soul so at home in a body, so unconscious in its pecking or hopping or singing that it makes us feel more alive just to see it.

In one part of the movie the filmmaker followed juvenile pelicans learning how to fly. A group of two-and-a-half month old pelicans heads to the top of hill. One climbs onto a low stump and starts vigorously flapping its wings as if it might take off straight up. Another just balances awkwardly on a rock. But then a third gets a clumsy, running start and jumps off the side of a hill, and suddenly it’s just floating out into the air, graceful.

I was reminded of my twins, now eighteen months. M no longer walks anywhere, she runs. She runs runs runs runs runs, and it is such a joy. Now she is trying to learn how to jump. She lifts one foot and then the other, she bends her knees and then straightens them, then reaches up to the sky as if it might pull her up. She is like that bird on the stump flapping its wings. She is learning what it is to be human, what this body of ours can do.

Watching the twins is like watching birds. E squatting down to look at some books on the bottom shelf, or working to fit a puzzle piece into a puzzle, or lifting a sippy cup to her mouth with her two chubby hands. This is what we are made to do. Our bodies are evolved for this. What a joy, a body, what a joy to be in the world, to be creatures here, like pelicans.

Last weekend we took a family trip to the National Aviary. M and E loved seeing all the birds. E stood for a long time at a window where you could see the penguins swim by underwater. Each time one flapped past it was like a small miracle, she was so thrilled. And now, when anyone talks about birds, M looks up in the air waving her arms as if pointing to them flying around up there. “Bee! Bee!” they say in high little voices, with wonder.

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A Dictionary of Babble (Toddler Edition)

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To the uninitiated, the twins’ babble might sounds like…babble. But I tell you, something essential has changed. Slowly, from out of the chatter, language is emerging. The words so far are mostly one-syllable interpretations of the world around them, but the list grows rapidly. For those of you venturing to toddler-land, or at least to our house, I’ve compiled here a Spacemonkey/Common English dictionary. Following are the words M and E, now 18 months, have down pat:

Ah!” (Hat): Especially fun to say while pointing at head in a questioning way, as in, “Why am I not wearing a hat? Please bring a hat,” then said more and more insistently until said hat appears. We’ve been having many meals wearing hats.

Awa” (Flower): When I walk in with an orchid bought on sale from Home Depot, E points and says excitedly, “Awa!” “Awa!”

Ba!” (Ball): Imagine E, holding a red ball, then yelling “BA!” and throwing it down forcefully. Balls are their favorite toy, and “ba!” is definitely their favorite word to say. They point out balls everywhere we go. Ba! Ba!

Mih” (Milk): I love the way M says this, with her four little beaver-teeth showing in the front when she enunciates the “ee.” E’s interpretation is closer to “mah.”

Wa” (Water): Thank goodness they can tell me when they’re thirsty. Major life improvement.

Chzz” (Cheese): Very important to be able to ask for cheese. M is particularly good at this one.

Bee” (Bird): Said while gesticulating wildly at sparrows chattering in a bush, or recently, M pointing out a hawk overhead, “Bee! Bee!”

Bee” (Bear): Distinguishable from ‘bee,’ bird, because pointing at a bear.

Na” (1) (Nose): I love the way E says this, curling up her nose into a very nasal ‘n’ while putting one finger on a nostril, “nnna.”

Na” (2) (Snow): Said while pointing out the window at snow. Or M, being carried out to the car in a light snow, her face lit up with joy, “Na! Na!”  and pointing all around.

Na” (3) (Snack): Said while making the universal hand sign for ‘more.’ Most often while sitting in stroller, occasionally while staring intently at whatever food you walk into the room eating.

Ma” and “Da,” (Mom, Dad): M has these down. In addition, E may also be saying “Ma” to refer to M (which is correct). E is also occasionally calling Daddy Ma, though, which makes me wonder if she thinks “Ma” means, “person I love” or “Person in the family”?

Da” (Duck): I remember when E was pointing to everything and calling it Duck… Now we’re in a different era where we know what a duck is, but there’s no more ‘k.’

Shz” (Shoes. Not to be confused with “Chzz”).

Ba-Ba” (Bye -bye): Said while waving goodbye, most often after person has already left the room and can no longer see.

Though maybe not proper words, sounds are definitely a forte. Following a list of sounds:

VROOM!” (Car): E does this with particular gusto.

BA BA,” (Sheep): Often E will point at a picture of a sheep, say “ba ba” and then start dancing–she’s waiting for you to start singing “Ba Ba Black Sheep.”

BA BA” (Chicken, ie “bock bock”)

WOOF” (Dog): This one was probably both of their first words. They would say “Woo Woo” whenever we’d pass a dog.

UH OH!“: This one is a new favorite.

BZZZ” (Bee)

AAA!” (Lion’s roar)

There are also the occasional moments where we think they are saying multiple words together. Yesterday, E crying and pointing to M who was playing with a ball, saying “Ma ba”…D and I look at each other. Did she just say “My ball?” Or M putting her hands in the air and saying “Pi Uh” (Pick up). Lately M likes putting both her hands in the air palm up, as if to say, “Who knows?” or “How funny is that?” and at the same time she chuckles to herself and babbles as if she’s telling a really funny story. This goes on for a long time sometimes at dinner.

We’ve been told by other parents that when kids learn to speak they can remember things from when they were a year old, before they knew how to talk. What will they say? How will they remember this time?

Love in a Time of Toddlers

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At dinner I look over at E to find her craning over sideways in her highchair, toward D, making her lips into a kiss.

I’m in the kitchen, chopping something at the counter, and I feel two little arms hug my knees. I look down to find E and hug her back.

M wakes up crying from a nap. When I lift her from her crib she squeezes me tight. I hug back.

Holding both twins in my lap I give them each a kiss on the head. M looks at E and leans over to give her a kiss. E kisses back.

Seeing a cat at a friends’ house, M tries to give it a kiss.

We’re reading a book, Panda Bear Panda Bear, What Do you See? M leans down to give the water buffalo a kiss, and E kisses the lion.

We’re reading a book about shapes. M gives a kiss to the square.

At first, seeing that, I feel disheartened. Maybe they don’t really understand.

But on second thought, I think that square feels better.  I think they know about love.