She’s Two

Meghan turned two.  This is officially a non-baby year.  I’m officially sad.  She says these 6-word sentences like she’s always been a bossy girl.

“I DON’T want it THAT way!”

“I DON’T like THAT song either!”

The boys were never this definite or particular at that age.  Honestly, they’re still pretty chilled out.  We all are, which is a good thing because she is currently high-strung and demanding.  We are working on patience and self-control with her.


She adores Cheetos, Bubble Guppies, Care Bears and the great outdoors.  She loves a good adventure and has just learned how to jump.


We do quite a bit of crafting.  This must be some sort of requirement to be a child in this household.  Must create enormous mess in the name of art.  Hourly.  Monday’s have become painting day.  She’s a budding artist.


She actually has hair.  We curl her bangs every morning to keep it out of her eyes.  She detests bows and headbands.  But, will wear a tri-cornered hat for President’s Day in the name of crafting.  Of course.


Meghan turned 2.  There’s just no looking at it any other way.  She’s opinionated, resolute and quite goofy.  She’s almost potty-trained and needs to be doing whatever the boys are doing.


She’s quite big in her own eyes and very enthusiastic.  She’s been helping with the garden and I am very excited about her involvement this year.  So far she’s planted seeds and sown mischief.


Two is going to be a good growing year.



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Three Kids On a Plane

We successfully flew on a plane with all three (little) kids.  This was new to us, as we have only ever flown with either both the boys (ages 6 & 4), or just Meghan (almost 2).  Taking all three on a relatively small plane meant that 1.  we could not all sit together and 2.  someone would be stuck with just Meg.

Zach got the boys.  I got Meg.  She’s very attached to her mommy and we agreed it would be best to let her have her way.  She’s a lot of work but very content when she gets her way (obviously).


Our plans were sabotaged before we even got out of the gate, as our flight was cancelled out of  PA.   We had to schedule a new flight in OH the following day, stay at a hotel in Ohio that night, wake everyone up at 4am and hope for the best.  Everyone was fairly reasonable for the 7am flight.  The boys are always up for an adventure, and Meghan was only slightly grumpy.


Everyone had their individual backpack, filled with items that I only pull out when we go on really long car rides or plane trips.  This time, a new addition was Nuun tablets & sippy-type cups.  Nuun tastes like Gatorade without the sugar.  Once we got through security, I bought a bottle of water & divided up the water/tablets in their cups prior to take-off.  Everyone had a snack and “bubble water” as Meghan calls it.  No one had ear-popping issues, which gives me great anxiety even though we’ve never had a problem with it.

I had made up these really sweet felt characters, which were a huge hit with Meghan and completely picked apart by the boys.  They made pointed comments about the lack of villains and proper weaponry.

The boys did enjoy their Lego boxes.  I also had them pack whatever they wanted to bring, which included simple stuff like paper and crayons, a few small handheld toys and a beloved stuffed animal.


Meghan loved her pom-pom stuffer.  I took old play-doh containers and cut a hole in the middle.  I melted the edges of the hole with a lighter & let her stuff pom-poms into them.  I made several different sized lids, including one with a slit for coins.


Luke actually did homework on the plane at one point.  He was very proud to have responsibilities.


The best 1-year-old time waster was Meghan’s tried and true mini animals in pill boxes.  I’ve collected these silly things over the years.  They are 40 cents each, which I consider to be cheap travel items.  I like to take things that are fun but not expensive in case we lose something.  Amazingly enough, we have never lost one permanently.  I have had people return them to me a whole year later.  “I found this mini panda in my driveway.  It must be yours.”

Meghan loved to feed them tic-tacs.  Obviously she would eat them after she fed her minis.  I’m okay with going through half a box of tic-tacs in order to keep the baby happy on the plane.


Overall, we had a really nice flight there and back.  The boys even got to check out the cockpit.


Great flight.  Next time, I want the boys.  Zach can have Meg.

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The 5-Minute Record

It’s that time of the year again.  Snow bibs, hats, gloves, mittens, gators and boots.  Frigid temperatures and biting wind.  It’s when going outside is the toughest and when I tell my kids, that’s exactly why we’re going outside.  As a family, I have made it our goal to be outdoor people, almost every day.

We’re totally meeting that goal.  Meghan has embraced the outdoor chill and manfully suits up just as quickly as her brothers.   Her dexterity in poking her thumb into the mitten thumb is amazing, and we have gotten down the dreaded outerwear routine to a short five minutes.  Three kids, five minutes.  If you have little kids, you know that this is nothing short of a miracle.


When the kids are little and frostbitten cheeks are a concern, quick dressing time is everything.  Some days we are only out there for 20 minutes, and if it takes over 10 minutes to prepare, we all get frustrated.

Meghan gets all the credit for the quick out-the-door spirit.  Luke is fast and gets ready on his own, as expected, and Benjamin needs minimal help.  The key is that everyone is motivated to go play…unlike when we get ready for school.  Somehow that takes much longer even though it’s just shoes and jackets.

We have more time to play outside and the kids take full advantage of the short outdoor sessions.

We definitely have some new issues this year.  Meghan’s fine motor skill is the double-edged sword.  She is stubborn, independent and quick.  While the boys always, always put their minds to either building or destroying snow formations, Meghan is insistent on undressing herself.  Outside.

While the boys happily play, Meghan will discard her hat, gloves and unzip her jacket.


She’ll throw her jacket off and make a run for it.


Once the jacket is off, she will take off her neck gator.  She has to touch and eat all the snow.  In short, she gets cold very quickly.  We go through different mittens and hats, but usually the end result is the same – she takes them off.


I put everything back on and she’ll cry.  We repeat the entire process maybe 5 times before I get exasperated and tell the boys we’re going in.


We’re definitely an outdoor family.  Exceeded that goal.

We now have a new goal.  Keep the baby dressed. 

It’s going to be a chilly winter.

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Felt Figures with Faces

We’re planning a trip, which means that this is my opportunity to freshen up our busy bag of traveling toys.  The kids love felt.  Our busy bags include felt boards and an assortment of random felt pieces.  The boys have marvelous imaginations and can play with felt pieces that don’t look like anything at all.

It pains me to say that Meghan is not the same.  She is almost 2 years old, and I have learned that if it doesn’t have a face, she is unwilling to pretend that it does have a face.  It’s not that she’s unable to imagine, it’s that she wants the real deal.

I’ve decided to “up” my felt game and provide more realistic felt dolls.

I made a Sesame Street batch.  I tried sewing them, but the felt kept bunching up under the sewing foot, so I switched to a hot glue gun.  The boys have given their approval and I can already tell that Oscar will be the favorite.


I made a set of superheros.  The boys wanted more detail, but I think that adding any more detail with a Sharpie would look sloppy.


And finally, I made some Star Wars characters.  Meghan fights the boys to get the Star Wars plate at dinner time, so I’m confident these will be a huge hit with her.  The boys wanted weapons, but I didn’t have the stiff felt, so no weapons.


I’m very hopeful that Meghan will play with these on our trip.  Zach gave me the dubious answer, “Yes, she’ll play with them…like pulling off the eyes and eating them.”

The boys will use them.  As long as Meg is happy, I don’t care if she eats them.

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Utilizing Preserved Herbs

At the end of the summer, we made the commitment to preserve as many herbs from our deck garden as possible.  I decided to chop them up & freeze them with olive oil in ice cube trays.  This was no small task.  I made hundreds of herb cubes with the help of two eager assistants.

I use the term “help” loosely.  Ben did a lovely job filling his tray (tray displayed on the left).  Meghan did a haphazard job (displayed on the right).  She can make quite the mess.


After every session she was in charge of vacuuming.


While the boys are natural cleaners, she is definitely not.  A girl after my own heart.


I would like to say that subsequent sessions were more productive, but aside from her increased excitement, every herb picking, washing, drying, chopping, distributing event turned into quite the headache for me.  The cubed herb output vs. time input was crazy disproportionate.

We made about 12 dozen trays of various weeds.  Meghan learned that dangling handfuls of herbs off the deck turned me into a nervous wreck.  “DON’T DROP THEM MEG.  You come back here with my sage.  We’re going to eat those.  Please don’t let go.  Can you obey?  Yes.  Good girl.  Come back.  Oh.  You let go.  You dropped them.  Awesome.”

With all the hassle, I am completely surprised to say that we are definitely doing it again next year.  They turned out great and everything is gone, except the chives.  The thyme, oregano, basil and sage were incredibly fresh and the best part was that they were already chopped up.


I’m hoping to double my output, banking on Meg being twice as useful.


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The Harper Fine Art Gallery

At the beginning of this summer, I decided to take back my kitchen.  It has always been “the place” for the kids to display their artwork.  I love what they make and they are always so proud to put it up.  We don’t really have a place for it, so it ends up taped to the door, the window, the fridge, etc.

I finally decided that their artwork deserved a better home.  After doing a little research, I bought a 1″x12′ plank from the hardware store and had the store cut it into 12 pieces that were 12″x12″ (The last piece was only 11″x12″).  We sanded them down & stained them.


The kids initially helped, but the wood squares did not stain well with brushes.  I ended up using old rags instead.

After hanging hardware was added to the back and clips to the front, they looked excellent.  Zach recommended that I hang up three…one for each kid.  I told him that he was crazy, each kid needed four, if not more.  I hung them all up.  I know he thought that I was crazy.


The boys have never been so excited to hang up their art on the “art wall” as we now call it.


Based on Ben’s preschool crafts alone, he honestly needs his own wall.  They’ve completely blocked out Meghan from her art boards, and she does just as many crafts as they do.  I’m sure this will be an issue once she gets older.  The unheard 3rd artist.

We put the final touch on last week – the lettering.


It is super cute.  The kids are pretty critical of the fancy script “Harper” and have trouble sounding out the word “GALLERY”, but Zach was impressed when he saw it.  The first thing he said?  You need to add more art boards.

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Felt Board On the Go…Literally

We’ve continued to have good success with kindergarten pick-up and preschool drop-off/pick-up.  I checked out some felt story kits at the library a few weeks ago to add to our busy bag assortment.  The felt story kits come with a short story and the felt pieces.  No felt board, but I thought I could hold up the pieces or let the kids dance them around.

When I pulled the felt pieces out to read the story for the first time, I had a rare flash of genius insight:  We have cloth seats.  Instant felt board! 

It was like I won the lottery.  The felt pieces stick to the seats of the car!  The kids are completely enamored with them.  Meghan can retain complicated stories and remember what happens next because of the concrete pictures.  Ben and Meg are at that great age where they want to hear the same story…again and again.  The three little pigs are so much better when you can act everything out with cute, soft figures.


Everyone loves the felt pieces and the kids cannot wait for the next story…which I only do during pick-up or drop-off.  It’s so crazy to me that this dreaded confinement has turned into the magical moment of the day.

So now I have a 6-year-old that is climbing into the car…while it’s still parked in the garage…and is asking for felt stories.

Yes, that’s a magical moment.

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Kindergarten Pickup and Carpooling

All summer, I had been dreading the start of the school year, because this meant I had to participate in the awful thing called kindergarten pickup.  The idea of driving to school, sitting in my car with 2 little ones for an undetermined amount of time, and then driving home, sounded simply awful.

In Luke’s case, he got AM kindergarten, so the bus picks him up in the morning, and then I pick him up just before lunchtime.  Ben is in preschool, so he needs to be dropped off and picked up in the AM.

We’re about a month into school, and it is honestly going GREAT.  I am in complete shock.  I haven’t had a mental breakdown, I’m not double-picking up kids and Meghan is not sitting in a car all day.  We are in 2 carpools in order to avoid the whole double-pick up thing, and the other moms are the biggest blessings in the world.

I do occasionally have 5 car seats completely filled with young kids in my car at the same time, so the van looks pretty crazy but all the kids love it.

The real surprise is the kindergarten pick-up line.  Ben LOVES it.  What in the world?  I have been reading The 5 Love Languages for Children, and it seems that Ben’s love language is Quality Time.  Yes, we can go ahead and file “sitting in a stopped car with family members” under Quality Time.  Meghan does not see eye-to-eye with Ben on that one, but maybe she’ll come around.  In the meantime, she is learning patience.

I let Meg get out of her car seat while we wait in line.  I read them a few books and they get a snack.  The snack is dear to Ben’s heart because I rarely give the boys morning snacks.  They have a small busy box filled with play items.


We drive 10 min to Luke’s school, sit in the car for about 15 min, pick up Luke and a friend and drive home.  Meghan does have her cranky moments, but it’s usually because she thinks she should be supplied unlimited tic-tacs, and I only give her 2.

This will probably become a real drag in the winter but so far everyone is thriving on our new schedule.

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Garden Update: Harvest Time

Well, we’ve done pretty good this year.  After a slow start, the garden produced a surprising amount of lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes.


We made refrigerator pickles out of the cucumbers.  They were the wrong kind of cucumber to pickle, but they still turned out well.


We’ve only got two ears of corn growing, but we’re excited to have any corn at all.  We’ll see how big they get.  I’m not really sure when we’re supposed to pick them, but I keep telling the kids we’ll know.


Two cantaloupes were harvested before an early frost killed out my cantaloupe plants, as well as my cucumber and heirloom tomato plants.  Darn raised deck.  That has never happened to me before.  We’ll keep it the same way next year because of the deer and rabbits, but putting the garden in the ground with chicken wire around it is looking more enticing.


The kids really liked the cantaloupe but it was definitely low on the flavorful scale.

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Meghan has turned into an avid gardener based on cherry tomatoes alone.  She is reaping all the boys’ hard work in handfuls of red, round treats that she is reluctant to share.  She gets up on the deck and starts squeaking “Ready! Ready!” until we hand her a tomato that is “ready”.

We’re preserving herbs and hoping it stays hot through September.  Maybe our corn will be “ready” soon.  We are all loving the mini-harvest.

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The Justice League

We get these awesome cardboard tubes from my mother-in-law.  We’ve made all sorts of things with the tubes, and I really, really wanted to make a chair with our last batch.

I made the mistake of involving the kids in the research process.  Luke came across a cardboard tube Superman, and it was over.  Ben wanted a cardboard Batman, so we decided to make the Justice League.

I traced the different parts on construction paper and the boys cut them out while I hot glued them into place.  They all look really good.  I was going to wait to blog about them I until we had more cardboard tubes to finish the Justice League, but the superheros took a real beating under Ben’s creativity.  Flash came down with a bad case of the “alphabet sticker bumps”.


We’ve since finished Martian Manhunter (the green tube with a red X on him) and now we have a fresh set of tubes to finish Wonder Woman and Hawk Girl.

My cardboard furniture will have to wait.

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