Monday, August 30, 2010

The Great Minnesota Get-Together 2010

Hey Minnesota Mommies and Daddies!  The MN State Fair is going on right now and you need to get out there and enjoy it with your kids!  We went today, and it was very hot.  Unfortunately we didn't get to do EVERYTHING we wanted to, but did our traditional must-do's and made it home for nap time (me included).

We always (since having Sammy) start out at the "little farm hands" area, probably because we park on the north in and walk by it, and it's not usually busy in the morning.  Here our little farmer got to go through the process of planting and harvesting milk, eggs, and crops, then sell them to the grocery store, earn his "dollar," and then spend it on a treat at the end.  It was fun to see how much more he could do this year at age 2.5 compared to last year!  It's fun and all free.

 Had to take our photo in the plywood cutout at the end too!  This is one thing I love to do with the kids too.  There are so many of these things all over the fair, it's like going on a treasure hunt to find them.  I got photos of me and Sammy in probably more than a dozen of these things in previous years!

 When we found out that Choo Choo Bob's was at the fair this year, we decided we HAD to go.  We only made it just under 3 hours that day at the fair, and around 45 minutes of that was spent at Choo Choo Bob's!  We were there around 9:40 and they were not charging (normally it's $2/person), so we lucked out and got in free.  We would have paid though for that amount of entertainment with our train-crazy little boy.

 The model train inside was great, and there was a huge setup of wood tracks for the kids to play with too.  We stayed for a live show with Choo Choo Bob himself, which they have regularly throughout the day.
 Engineer Paul even stopped by and picked Toby right up out of my arms.  I have a feeling he's an experienced grampa.  ;-)  Toby liked his beard and glasses of course.

 Yup, another cardboard cutout photo-op!

In addition to Choo Choo Bob's, we did our usual traditions...ate some Sweet Martha's cookies, rode Ye Old Mill (now 97 years old!), and got our photo taken in the photo booth at the arcade.  I also got to ride the giant slide with Sammy, which was equally as fun for both of us.
(That's him in the orange shirt)  It's really not a bad deal at $2 per person.

The fair can get very expensive very fast.  I got my advance discount tickets at Cub Foods, but wish I had known that one advance ticket also works as a parking was $11 for parking at the fair this year.  Ouch!  Of course, you don't have to park there.  You can park and ride the bus for FREE!  Last time we did that we waited 45 minutes for our bus to show up though, so in the interest of time and our tight schedule today, we coughed up the 11 bucks.  It can add another whole fun adventure though if you have a little kid who loves buses like ours does.  ;-)

You can also save some money with the Blue Ribbon Bargain Book.  It's nice they list the coupons online here, so you can see if it is worth it for you.

Once you're in there is always a ton of stuff to see and do for free...climb on the tractors, see all the animal barns, and collect free pencils, stickers, buttons, etc in the Education building.  That's barely scratching the surface of course.  We were not there nearly long enough to scout out much else, but then discovering cool stuff and great deals is part of the fun too!

One way we save some money is by bringing our own water jugs.  I fill a few water bottles/jugs with ice and water, and when they run out, we re-fill them and have more ice water.  It leaves us with more cash to spend on food, rather than over priced pop and lemonade!  We even saw a family having a meal out of their cooler in the parking lot this afternoon on our way out.  One way to do it if you'd rather skip the food altogether, but then again food is a big part of the fair too!

Moms Like Me has a list of ways to enjoy the fair on a budget.

Hope you all are able to get out there and enjoy the fair, and if you're in another state, enjoy yours too!  The fair comes but once a year!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

ID Mommy Projects: DIY Baby Burp Cloth

I've always enjoyed making these crochet bunny blankies and nursing covers as gifts to my new mom friends, as well as afghans and other amigurumi toys..  The babies just keep on comin' so I'm always looking for more fun baby items to make as gifts.

It seems my friends have all had a fresh batch of babies lately so I've been doing some new gift projects.  The latest is this set of three coordinating monkey-themed items for a friend who has a monkey themed nursery.  The stuffed toy is a monkey rattle that I designed and crocheted.  (The pattern is available here for $2)  I made a pacifier clip using the same ribbon as the monkey's bow.  (You can see my tutorial to make your own, here!)  The third item is a burp cloth, which I'm going to show you how to make right now!

Step 1: Get some coordinating fleece and flannel, and cut a piece of each that measures 18" x 9".  I got a flannel with a monkey print on it, and some coordinating cream colored fleece for the back.  Terry would also work well to soak up spit-up!

Step 2: Trim the two short ends of the flannel piece so that they are slightly curved.  To make it symmetrical, fold it in half (a) and then half again (b).  Cut a curve on the short end from the folded side to the open side (c). Unfold and see your curved ends (d)!

Step 3: Fold in all of the flannel edges about 1/4" and iron.  (folding the wrong sides together)

Step 4: Lay the flannel piece on top of the fleece piece (a) with the right sides out. Sew the two pieces together, following along the edge of the folded flannel, about 1/8" in from the edge (b).  Iron the flannel side (c) and it should look like this! (d)
Step 5: Trim the fleece around the edges.  Be careful not to cut the folded flannel.  You may want to do another optional zig-zag stitch around the whole thing at this point for added durability.

Step 6: Sew a couple stripes across the burp cloth.  (This helps keep the two pieces of fabric together and flat, especially when it is put in the washer and dryer.) I sewed two stripes parallel to the long sides, each about a third of the way in from the edge.  For this one I used a stitch that looks like a vine with leaves:
You can do this however you want...go in the other direction, do more stitches, or even do criss-crossing lines for a quilted look!

Done! I also sew a little custom label on mine, which I purchased from Name Maker
You can make one of these to coordinate with other handmade gifts like I did above, or even make a set of several.  They'd look nice folded in thirds and stacked on each other with a little ribbon to hold them together!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

ID Mommy Tip: Sammy's Snack Mix

Here's my latest little mommy shortcut...

I used to have a bin full of Sammy's snack would hold a rotating selection of raisins, peanuts, pretzels, goldfish, cereal, etc.  Every time we went out and I wanted to pack a snack, I'd open every container and sprinkle a little bit of each into his snack trap.

Well, most recently I've decided to just mix up my own snack mix for him. I use this big plastic jar that originally had some of my husband's trail mix in it, and fill it with a little of everything.  Now all I have to do is open the jar and dump one thing into the snack trap.  It works great and saves a lot of time.  This is probably one of those things that I'm the last to think of, but just in case you didn't either, I thought I'd share!

I also realized that snacks don't really have to be shaped like fish or teddy bears for your kids to like them.  I'll break up little pieces of graham cracker and Sammy gets just as excited as he would over Teddy Grahams, for a fraction of the price.  Same with pretzels...above you see the goldfish pretzels but now I have the huge jug of pretzels that he likes just as well.  Cereal also adds a little sweetness and color, and every now and then I'll sprinkle in a few chocolate chips, which he loves to discover in his snack!  M&M's or marshmallows make great little surprise treats too that I use sparingly if on hand!

Monday, August 23, 2010

All Aboard the Poo-Poo Train!

We've reached a huge milestone this past week in a certain 2-year-old's development...he finally made his first "deposit" into the toilet rather than his pants!!  I finally understand why my mom took that photo in my baby book of me with my pants around my ankles, proudly pointing at the potty chair.  I photographed every moment of this big day too, although I'll spare you the photographic "details."

I know that different rewards work for different friends have successfully used dollar store toys, stickers, candy, high-fives, and my favorite so far: a chance to blow out a birthday candle!  The only thing I'm certain of with potty training is that every kid learns at their own pace and is motivated by different rewards.  Here's what's worked for us.

Chugga-Chugga POO-POO!

Our little 2.5-yr-old has been going "#1" wonderfully for months, but #2 has been a challenge, and I just couldn't seem to catch him in the act soon enough.  It became clear to me early on that this was going to be the biggest challenge, and call for the biggest reward.  One afternoon last week it must have clicked.  I think that all the planets had aligned just right at that moment...the mounting excitement of our promises to go pick out a new train toy, the fact that I got out the little potty chair again so he wouldn't have to stray too far from his toys to go, "the Poopsmith Song" blaring on the stereo, the tummy full of food, and the favorite pair of Thomas undies we didn't want to get dirty.  When he ran to me saying he had to go potty about 5 minutes after he had just gone, I knew it was something more...the "movement" we've all been waiting for!!

I figure, if I'm going to spend any money on a reward for him, I'd like it to be something that will really last, that he can keep and play with for years to come, as a reminder of his "accomplishment." We had a few wooden Thomas cars already, and I knew I had a box of Brio wood tracks stashed away from a garage sale for after we move, so I thought maybe individual engines would make a good reward for a little while.

After my huge fanfare of dancing, clapping, cheering and high-five-ing, we piled in the car and made a mad dash for Toys-r-us.  Little did I know that those wooden Thomas engines I had found at garage sales for $0.25 cents were actually around $10-$25 brand new.  Sheesh!  The average accessories ran from $40-$60.  This poop thing was going to get expensive fast.

After enjoying the ability to roam free in the train department and check out everything, we decided on an off-brand but well made wooden track set for the big first poop.  Mommy was sold on the fact that the 50 piece set cost less than one Thomas accessory, and it would work with both the Brio and Thomas tracks and trains.  Sammy was sold the minute he saw that a bridge was involved.

Aaah...enjoying the fruits of his labor!  I wanted to make sure that we'd have a repeat success the second time, and Sammy couldn't hardly wait to go again when we told him he could not only get a new train car for his track, but could go to Choo Choo Bob's to pick it out.

It was two days later on a Saturday afternoon when he did the deed again...perfectly timed between our morning and afternoon plans, where we actually had just enough time to get to Choo Choo Bob's and back.  It's much farther than our local Toys-r-us but is a fun destination in itself whether you buy anything or not.

First we checked out the model trains in the entrance.

Daddy lifted him up to check out all the engines. I think we were just as excited as him, if not more.  It was clear that he enjoyed the trip to the store with Mommy and Daddy just as much as picking out his new train. 

After much deliberation, and distraction by the fun train tables set up in the store, he chose Emily and carried her up to the front counter to pay.  Emily has gone EVERYWHERE with us since.

I've already purchased a couple more trains online cheaper, so we don't go broke buying trains.  I'm thinking I'll give him a couple more engines, then gradually ease off on the rewards to things he loves that are cheaper or don't cost, like a movie night with popcorn (at home), a trip to the splash pad, a phone call to Gramma, a walk to the park, a cartoon, a game on the iPhone, etc.  We'll see how it far we're at 4-for-4 in the toilet... knock on wood train tracks... and hope to keep the momentum "going!"

Got any tips or tricks that have worked for you little one when it comes to going "#2?" Please do share!  Different things work for different kids and I'm sure we all could use more ideas...I know I'll probably need some other motivation for Toby when he gets to this age!

UPDATE 8.25.10
So today I decided that we are going to earn our way to the other rewards that I have stashed away with a chart, so that he has to "go" a few times to earn something, adding a little more to the challenge.  We know he can do it now, so can he do it regularly?  We call this "the hippo chart," because when he went for the first time he said, "Mommy, I made a hippo!!"  We'll just leave it at that.  ;-)

I didn't put any words on the chart because he can't read anyway and it's really for him.  Instead I found an image of a hippo online and put that on there. Instead of just boxes, the "chart" is made up of train tracks. He has a clear visual now of where he is headed and what his rewards are along the way.  We put one star sticker on right away and since I told him the next time he goes he gets a toy station (I've had one stashed away for a while now from a garage sale).  So, there is one empty box to fill with a sticker before he gets the station.  After that, three more stickers will lead him to the James engine (currently in the mail and on the way from Amazon), and 3 more times after that he gets the Harvey crane engine (also on the way from Amazon!)  So far he's got an every-other-day schedule going so this should last a good couple weeks.

The minute I explained how the chart works, I saw it click in his head.  He immediately took the chart and ran to the potty chair to work on his next "hippo" so he could get to the station.  While he sat there he pointed to each square, saying "this one, this one, this one, then James!" I was pretty amazed that he caught on so fast.  I wasn't sure a 2 year old could really grasp the whole sticker chart thing but when put in his choo-choo terms, he got it right away!

This is something anyone could do, just by drawing tracks or some other imagery (squares, circles, a road, whatever) to represent each "square", and you can glue images along the way to represent the rewards, whatever they may be for your child (google images works great for this!).  Anyway, I thought I'd share this update as it seems to be a great motivator so far!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Family Fun at the County Fair

Sunday marked the end of the Dakota County Fair, in Farmington, Minnesota.  I have not missed a single fair in my 30-some years of life.  (I'm not being sensitive about my age...I'm just so old I honestly don't even remember how old I am off the top of my head anymore!)  For the past 13 of those years, I've had a booth at the same fair for my face painting business, which you may have read about in an earlier post. If you're a follower of my other blogs and multiple Facebook identities, then you've seen all these photos, but just in case, I thought I'd share a few here from "Fair Week 2010!"

Me and Sammy at my booth:

The midway:

We always have some rain storms during the fair...I liked how this reflection looked in the puddle, framed by the traffic barrier.

New food vendor this year: spaghetti sundae!

I always love to touch the pigs' noses!  I'm going to do a painting of this if I ever get some more free time...

Future farmer!  That's not a piece of grass in his mouth though, which would be very's a sucker. ;-)

I love to take my breaks from work over in Dakota City village.  It's peaceful, there are lots of shady benches to enjoy ice cream on, and cute little old guys admiring the tractors.

Sammy got Thomas and James engines painted on his legs from Mommy and asks me every day where they went.  He says "Mommy's fair's all done."  I told him we will get to go to the big STATE fair in a week, and he's pretty excited!

If it isn't too late in the season, be sure to check out your local county fairs...they can be a great source of inexpensive fun for your whole family!

See 'ya next year, Dakota County!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

ID Mommy Project: DIY Recycled Magazine & Cereal Box Flash Cards!

School is coming soon!  Here's a fun and educational recycling project to make with your kids...flash cards!  This idea came to me last time Sammy and I were making a recycled magazine collage.

Supplies: Old magazines, Cardboard (cereal boxes, used cardboard envelopes, etc), scissors, glue
Optional but nice to have: Rounded-corner scissors, cutting baord

Step 1: Cut up your cardboard into cards.  I made mine 3.5" x 5", from a used cardboard shipping envelope.

If you have some corner rounding scissors, they add a nice touch...

Step 2: Flip through magazines and cut out letters and pictures of objects. Make it an extra challenge for your kids by telling them to find objects that start with a certain letter.  Or, ask them what letter each object starts with.

Can't find a letter?  Find a cool pattern in an image and cut the shape of a letter out of it!

Step 3: Glue the letters to one side of the card, and objects that begin with those letters on the other side.
Big H!  Little h!  What begins with "H?"

A Hand and a Hot Dog!  Hooray!  Hooray! (bonus points for guessing which Dr. Seuss book I'm thinking of!)
This can easily be an ongoing project, that you add to while making your other collages too.  You can even glue actual objects to them too, if they are flat, such as a paperclip for "P!"  Have fun with it!


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