Friday, October 30, 2015

44/52: A Weekly Photo Series: The Night of the Great Pumpkin

Tory, Aden and I are visiting my parents in Nebraska this weekend while Andi is working in California. We flew into town yesterday afternoon after a long day at the airport. Traveling solo with the kids doesn't usually get me frazzled, but yesterday did. We had one issue after another; a delayed flight, stroller issues, seat re-assignments. Tory and Aden behaved wonderfully once we were in flight (probably because Aden had so much extra time in the airport to run off some energy!) and most importantly, we finally made it to Nebraska.

Shortly after we arrived to my parent's house, my sister Ashley and I dressed our kids in their Halloween costumes with plans to go downtown to the annual Night of the Great Pumpkin event. But, first, a front yard photo shoot just because...

Elmo Aden and Butterfly Neeley

Side-story about this Halloween costume: I thought Aden would love being Elmo because he's fairly obsessed with him right now. I borrowed this full-body costume from my friend Lindsey (her daughter was Elmo when she was two) and tried it on Aden for the first time the night before we left for Nebraska. The minute he saw the Elmo costume, he cried "No please, no please!" and demanded I take it off him. Uh-oh! I threw a superhero cape in my suitcase as a last resort and hoped Aden would feel differently about Elmo come Halloween night.

Fortunately, Aden was just fine being Elmo for the Night of the Great Pumpkin event last night. And, oh my gosh did he look cute!

Tory is dressing up as Princess Aurora (from Sleeping Beauty) this year. My sister Ashley curled her hair and Tory felt so special.

All the grandkids together: Cheerleader Brooke (age 8), Elmo Aden (age 1), Princess Tory (age 4) and Butterfly Neeley (age 3)

The Night of the Great Pumpkin event was super fun! My sister and I took the kids to this holiday celebration last year, too. Downtown businesses handed out candy to trick-or-treaters, the local cosmetology school hosted a face painting table and the Main Street association gave away free pie pumpkins to every child. I love safe, non-spooky Halloween events like this for kids. We had a great time.

Aden was so focused on collecting as many real pumpkins as he could and stuffing them into his plastic pumpkin. It was so cute! The minute I'd take one out (because the pumpkin limit was one per child), he'd pick up another one and concentrate on putting another one in his bucket.

Tory was excited to have her face painted again, as it was the first thing she remembered about going to the event last year. She chose a pink heart (surprised?) to match her pink princess dress, pink shoes and pink Halloween bucket. 

Brooke, Tory and Neeley decorated their free pumpkins with stickers and markers. Brooke wrote "I Love You" on her pumpkin and upon sight I exclaimed, "Did you write that by yourself?!" She looked at me like I was nuts. I guess I forget she's eight years old (and not four like Tory). Ha!

More trick-or-treating ...

The kids collected about 20 pieces of candy each and were thrilled. "We got a MILLION HUNDRED pieces of candy!" Tory exclaimed. Glad they all had such a great time.

Afterwards, we went back to my parents for Shepard's Pie and apple salad. So happy to be home celebrating Halloween with my family this weekend.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Our Favorite Children's Halloween Books

I checked out several Halloween children's books from the library this month to read with Tory and Aden. The local library has an online reservation system, and it's my favorite way to find holiday-themed books to read with the kids. First, I search Pinterest for books (and coordinating crafts) other bloggers have recommended, then I pop over to the library's reservation website and request copies for us to read. So simple!

This Halloween holiday season, we checked out some duds ... oh, yes, we did. A few recommended books were either too weird or too scary for the toddler / preschooler set.

We've also had some great Halloween books in our reading rotation this month. Here are some of our favorite Halloween-themed children's books:

Fancy Nancy's Fabulous Fall Storybook Collection

Oh Fancy Nancy, how I love you! This book series is one of my favorites to read with Tory. They're silly and fun, but also educational as she learns new vocabulary words. In this particular storybook collection, there are six books about Halloween, apple picking, fall activities at school and Thanksgiving, and all six stories are on constant rotation in our home right now.

Room on the Broom

Room on the Broom is a fabulous Halloween story about friendship. I like how it's *just* spooky enough for Tory without being too creepy, and has a good message about asking to participate in something and kindly welcoming others in a situation. (It's too advanced / there's too many words to hold Aden's attention.) Tory and I used these free printable worksheets one afternoon as our rest-time activity which allowed us to deeper analyze and discuss the book together.

The Itsy Bitsy Pumpkin

Itsy Bitsy Pumpkin creatively follows the tune of Itsy Bitsy Spider, and both Tory and Aden adore it. I'm a big fan of children's books that mimic nursery rhymes because kids learn to "read" the story by themselves following a familiar tune. The story is cute and cheery, and the perfect Halloween story for young kids.

Pinkalicious: Pink or Treat!

Tory loves Pinkalicious, and the Halloween-themed Pink or Treat is no exception. In fact, she loves the book so much she dressed up as Pinkagirl for Dress-up Day at her gymnastics class.

Ten Little Pumpkins Sing and Read Storybook

We were gifted 10 Little Pumpkins as a gift last year, and I believe it was only released by Scholastic. I did find it on Amazon, so I linked to it here because it is hands-down Tory and Aden's favorite Halloween book. The book is sung to the classic tune and it's so cute! Tory reads the entire book to Aden at least once a day ... and listening to one child read to the other might be my favorite thing about parenting to date.

Pippa the Pumpkin Fairy

This is another favorite Halloween book of mine, er, I mean Tory's. It's so adorably written and includes cute little puns that scale over the kids' heads but are completely relevant to adults (aka: Twitter = Flitter).

Where Is Baby's Pumpkin? (Karen Katz Lift-the-Flap Books)

Definitely a favorite of Tory and Aden's ... what kid doesn't love lift-the-flap books? The other day I was reading this book to Aden in the living room and Tory was eating lunch nearby in the next room. I could hear her reciting the book right along with us. Love!


So many Halloween-themed children's books to choose from! I personally love hearing what others are reading. Any favorites you'd recommend?

*Amazon affiliated links

Monday, October 26, 2015

Halloween Sensory Play

It occurred to me last week that Aden is at the PERFECT age for sensory play, and I have yet to introduce him to it. Digging and scooping in dry beans and rice used to be one of Tory's favorite indoor activities when she was his age, so I set out to make a Halloween-themed sensory bin both kids would enjoy.

To make a Halloween sensory bin, I procured the following items:

1 lb.  bag of dry white great northern beans
1 lb.  bag of dry black beans
1 lb. bag of red lentils (that really look orange in color)
1 bag plastic spiders
1 bag plastic pumpkins

Target had everything I needed for under $10.

I let Tory dump all the supplies into an oversized Tupperware, and playtime was ready to begin.

The thing is with sensory bins, which I quickly remembered as soon as the kids set into play, is it's messy. Oh, it is messy. The moment you decide to clean the floors - WAIT - and let the kids first have their fun.

Because, fun, they did have.

They dug and scooped, and dug and scooped some more. Tory filled the plastic pumpkins with beans, turning them into shakers and soon Aden followed suit.

Eventually, Aden got a little crazy and started throwing dry beans all over the kitchen. Little rule-follower Tory nearly had a fit! "Aden's making a mess!" she shouted. It's okay, I reassured her. The great thing about dry beans is they sweep up easily.

A little bit of mess for some learning and a lot of Halloween fun. Totally worth it.


Linking up with Sweet Turtle Soup for a Countdown to Halloween

Sweet Turtle Soup

Friday, October 23, 2015

43/52: A Weekly Photo Series

Jumping in the leaves is one of Tory and Aden's favorite things to do at the cabin during the fall season. Why wouldn't it be? The ground is covered in a thick blanket of crunchy leaves along the trails and in our backyard by the lake.

Tory spent hours (yes, hours!) raking leaves into a giant pile last Friday. I'd say she had more fun raking the leaves than actually jumping in them. "Just a few more leaves ... " she'd say, until the pile was almost as tall as her.

Aden reaped the benefits of her labor, of course. He stood around and watched Tory rake, rake, rake ... and, then took a running start from the top of the hill in the backyard, landing smack-dab in the center of the pile.

Is there anything more simple and sweet than jumping in the leaves as a child?

I love these two to bits. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Letters to Aden: 23 Months

Aden Boy,

You're 23 months old now!

I read a study recently describing the attention span and typical play of a two-year-old child. The chart showed zig-zag lines in every direction as the observed toddler in the study bounced from one place to the next. "Yes! This!" I thought to myself, because this is SO YOU right now. You're a walking, talking toddler tornado. Our living room is almost always littered with toys and fingerprints smeared along the walls and appliances show you've passed through.

You weigh 28 pounds (according to the home scale) and are so heavy to carry around in my arms these days. I'd love to let you walk, but the second I put you down you run away from me as fast as your little legs will carry you ... laughing all the way, of course. When I catch you and pick you up, you throw yourself backwards in my arms and scream to high heavens. We're quite the scene, I tell you. You've also started climbing out of the grocery cart, so now I wear you in the Beco Carrier most places we go.

In typical toddler fashion, you've started to physically display frustration when you don't get your way. You'll say, "No! Hit!" and slap your hand my way when I ask you to do something you don't like. We're working on this, little buddy, as hitting is definitely not an acceptable way to communicate. Though, I also realize it's completely normal behavior as you learn to interact with others.

You're quite verbal for your age, I'd say. You speak in two and three-word sentences saying things like, "Where'd Daddy go?" in the mornings when you wake up, or "Bye! See you later. Coming?" as we're getting ready to go somewhere. You're very polite and almost always say "please," "thank you" and "welcome" in the appropriate situations.

You love to sing songs like Itsy Bitsy Spider, ABC's, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Wheels on the Bus. We're enrolled in music class right now and you'll often be walking around the house singing "Hello ... to Mommy!" (the song we sing at the beginning of the class)

The first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is give Tory a great big hug, and overall you're very affectionate to those you love -- Mommy, Daddy, Tory, Grandma and Grandpa specifically.

You're growing increasingly picky at meal times, which I suppose is another toddler trait. You refuse most meats (namely, chicken, one of your past favorites). You won't eat ground beef, anything with a sauce (like beef stew, for example) or breads. Like, don't even try it; you'll throw it on the floor in two seconds flat. Current favorite foods: buttered noodles, strawberries, mangoes, oranges, applesauce, smoothies, green beans, corn, frozen waffles, Cheerios cereal, and breakfast sausages.

Other favorites this month: bouncy balls, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Elmo, riding your push-trike outdoors, going for walks in the neighborhood or in the woods at the cabin, playing alongside Tory, dogs and brushing your teeth. You are obsessed with your blue blanket and pacifier and have to have them with you at all times - or else!

Next month, you'll be two years old! I can hardly believe it. Life with you is messy and fun, Aden Boy, and I cherish every minute.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015


I don't have a favorite child, but I will admit I'm often more smitten with one of my kids over the other. Right now, it's Tory. She's so sweet and helpful most of the time, and downright comical. I can't get enough of her.

That's not to say I don't love Aden a whole bunch ... because I do! His current Terrible Two's meets Walking Tornado stage, however, might be why I'm exhausted just thinking about him.

Anyway, back to Tory. She's a kill. Here's a few "Tory-isms" as of late:


Andi, watching Deadliest Catch on television as Tory walked by:

Tory: "Holy crap, that's a big fish!"

Now, this might not seem all that funny as stated. You have to imagine the words said in Tory's cute little voice, so it was more like "Ho-we crap!" We'd also never heard her say a bad word before, so it caught Andi and I by surprise. We couldn't help but laugh.


Tory and I were saying prayers together one night while Andi was traveling in Tennessee and Louisiana on business:

Me: "... and watch over Daddy in Louisiana."

Tory (with a quizzical look): "Wait, he moved?"

I know, Tory, I have a hard time keeping up with his travel schedule too.


Andi: "Are you throwing me under the bus?"

Tory: "No, Dad! I'm not strong enough yet."


Walking in a busy parking lot with cars tailing us:

Me: "Hurry up, Tory!"

Tory (annoyed): "I told you several times, I live slowly."


Upon sight of Nickelodeon's Little Charmers costume characters at the Minnesota State Fair:

Tory (with wide eyes): "I wasn't expected them to be so big."

She muttered that phrase over and over again for abut 20 minutes afterwards.


In the children's area of the library:

Tory: "Mom, come look, I have something fascinating to show you!"


My brother's girlfriend brought a hammock to the cabin over Labor Day weekend:

Tory: "Carley, can I use your hammond please?"


One weekend this summer, we were swimming in the lake and Tory flipped under the water. She was okay, but drank in some lake water and it caused her to vomit.

The second after she threw up in the lake, about 30 sunfish swarmed around her and started eating the floating vomit.

Tory (stunned): "I wasn't expecting that to happen!"

Neither were we; it was pretty gross, but what made the situation funny was that afterwards Tory repeated that phrase over and over again. Now whenever something doesn't go as planned, Andi and I always say in our best Tory impression, "I wasn't expecting that to happen!"


Over Labor Day weekend, I commented how heavy my heart felt since the summer season was coming to a close.

Tory: "Mom, your heart doesn't have to be high because it's not summer anymore. There's only two more times and then it'll be summer again!"

Ugh, I wish kid.


Just before Tory's 4th birthday, she was talking about how she'd soon be four-years-old and then five, six, seven, etc. I responded with something like, "I don't want you to grow up too quickly!"

Now every so often she'll turn to me and say, "Don't worry, Mom, I'll always be your baby."

Oh, sweet girl. You melt my heart.


Tory was making a craft at the counter and Aden was making noise with a toy nearby in the living room.

Tory (annoyed): "While Aden's being so noisy, it's hard for me to enjoy this!"

*Tory is 4 years old