Thursday, June 28, 2012

Making Jelly With Grandma

Making Jelly With Grandma
Sometimes I forget how fun the library is.  It's been so hot lately (over 103 yesterday), so earlier this week we went to the library in the afternoon.  While we were there, Munchkin Girl picked out several books, one of which was Berries to Jelly, which describes something this culinary-challenged Mom has never even considered doing: making home-made jelly. 

Munchkin Girl was very intrigued by this book and we read it about 10 times that first day.  That night, she was cuddled up in Daddy's lap reading it and she looked up at him and said, "I'm not super good at making jelly."

We had to try not to laugh because she looked so distraught and sad at her inability to make jelly.  He replied, "Don't worry.  I'm not super good at it either.  But you know who is?  Grandmother!"

I called Grandmother that night and invited ourselves over for a jelly-making party.  My Mom went too, and once we got there, I couldn't believe how silly I was for not doing this kind of thing more often.  I'm not usually the sentimental type, but there is something truly special about spending time with four generations of women, and doing something memorable, like making strawberry jelly.

Munchkin Girl helped us stir in all the ingredients and she was so thrilled to make jam after she had read about in her book so many times.  We left Little Buddy at home so that we wouldn't risk him trying to tackle us while we cooked.  (You laugh.  It's happened before.  He's a wild man.)

preschooler cooking with grandma

My Grandma's recipe is really easy and doesn't require any long cooking of strawberries, so if you want to make your own jelly, give this a shot:

  • One 20 ounce bag of frozen strawberries (My grandma says they stopped making 20 ounce bags, but you really need the 20 ounces so you might need to buy two bags)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 package Sure Jell (you will find this by the canning section.  Here is what it looks like)

  1. First, thaw the strawberries.  You can try microwaving them on PL-5 for about 4-5 minutes
  2. Blend them in the blender until there are no chunks
  3. Mix with 4 cups of sugar, and then let sit for 10 minutes
  4. Now, in a small sauce pan, mix 3/4 cup water with the Sur Jell.  Bring to a boil and then stir constantly for 1 minute
  5. Next, pour Sure Jell mixture into Strawberry mixture and stir for 3 minutes
  6. Pour into jars and let sit for 24 hours at room temperature to give time to set up
  7. Refrigerate or freeze as desired
I know this is a day I will always remember and hopefully Munchkin Girl will too.  Mostly because I think we made enough jelly to last us for about three years.  Anyone out there need some strawberry jelly??

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Easy Craft: Paper Tissue Flowers

Easy Craft for Preschoolers: Make Tissue Paper Flowers

If you want to thrill a 3 year old girl, let her make some paper flowers and then leave them on the table for a centerpiece!  We did this last week and Munchkin Girl even used them for her tea party with her dolls.  I heard her telling them, "You see, if you want to make a flower, you just pull this here and here.  It's really easy.  Don't worry...You can do it later, when you get bigger."

For this project, you need to buy some flower wire from Hobby Lobby.  Other than that, all you need is tissue paper.  First, you will to cut down a piece of tissue paper into a bunch of squares (probably about 12 inch by 12 inch).  Depending on your child's age, you might have to do this part yourself.  Then you will fold it over itself several times until it is a long skinny rectangle.  Then you will wrap the wire around the middle and around itself.

things to do with little kids include making paper flowers

Now you can give it to your child and have her pull the pieces apart.  They have to slowly peel them apart one by one.  This takes a lot of concentration and was great for working on her fine motor skill, which as I've learned is what makes kids ready to write later.  It also makes it prettier if you snip off the end before you start, into a circle or something fun, to give the flower more texture.

preschooler makes flowers from tissue paper for easy craft

And now, the finished product...I do realize this might seem confusing and weird, but it really is fun if you can figure it out.  To help you, I made a video.  Just click the photo below and it will take you to the video where you can see step-by-step instructions.  

As you all probably know by now, my baby-sitter is a miracle worker.  She took our paper flowers a step further and I asked if I could share it with you.  She also makes roses from crepe paper.  This isn't really something that little kids can help with, but if you have that creative gene, you might enjoy doing this part too and then it makes for an even cooler centerpiece when you add them all together.  For this part you will use crepe paper instead of tissue paper.  Ins't that amazing that the roses below are made of paper??  Just click the photo below and it will take you to the video on how to make these paper roses.

I sure wish I could say that I'm one one in that video, making those superb roses.  But alas, I'm not a magician.  I'm just a Mom with zero artistic skill.  If you are like me, my advice to you is to stick to the easy ones.  If you are brave enough to try the fancy roses, send me a picture...just because I can't do the art doesn't mean I can't appreciate it!

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Friday, June 22, 2012

I'm Addicted to Sugar but With a Cleanse Diet, I Shall Overcome

Mommy Overcoming a Sugar Addiction With a Cleanse Diet
Hello, my name is Katie and I'm a sugaraholic.  This is pretty off topic for my what my blog is usually about, but I'm feeling so hungry by this point that it's all I can think about right now!  My basic problem is that I have to have a dessert every single day.   Every night I tell myself that I won't have any dessert cookies, no cupcakes, no CHOCOLATE!!

Then I wake up, and I convince myself that it's not a problem if I want a dessert here or there.  I'm good at eating in moderation so I don't really gain a lot of weight, but my eating habits are terrible.  Yes, I'm lucky that I can eat cookies every day and still not be obese, but the truth is that my Mom had a heart attack at age 55 so I clearly have some genetics that I'm fighting.  Good metabolism?  Check.  Heart disease in family?  Also check.

Not only that, but I'm always feeling bloated and yucky.  Probably TMI but I want you to have all the facts.  So now that I'm in a vicious cycle, I've decided I need to do something drastic.  I have elected to do a "cleanse" diet.  I have heard of one where you only drink cayenne pepper and water for three days.  I've heard of ones where you only drink lemon water.  At first, I couldn't believe I was even considering this.  I remember mocking Gwyneth Paltrow so badly when I read that she had done this.  What a weirdo!!

But the problem is that all my good intentions aren't working, so I need to get totally out of my comfort zone.  After much research, I have selected the Dr. Oz 48 hour weekend cleanse.   It's only for 2 days and I figure...I can do anything for 2 days, right?  Basically he says you shouldn't starve yourself, but should only eat things that naturally get rid of toxins, such as fennel bulbs, cabbage, quinoa, and flaxseed.  If you are anything like me, your first question was, what the heck is a fennel bulb???

They give you very specific recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with an extensive shopping list.  I took Munchkin Girl with me to Whole Foods.  I felt as out of place there as Shrek would have felt if someone elected him to be the cook in The Little Mermaid.  We wandered around the store looking for flaxseed and pomegrante juice.  This might be normal for some of you, but not for me.  Let me put it to you this way.  When I pulled the radishes off the shelf, my hands were covered in mud.  This is very confusing for me.  What are you supposed to do at the store when your hands are covered in mud?  There is no sink.  I didn't bring any paper towels??

Moving on.  We gathered up all my ingredients and we giggled through most of it.  Then it came time to go home and prepare everything and again, I just very confused.  After literally two minutes of washing the radishes, I was still getting mud on my hands. Seriously?  I'm a grown woman, not a 2 year old boy.  I don't really like eating mud.

Then I got to the fennel bulb.  Here were the instructions: 1 fennel bulb, fronds and stalks included, roughly chopped

What the heck is a frond?  And which part is the stalk? 

I did my best and everything simmered for an hour and didn't actually smell that bad.  Then I opened up the pot.  The instructions were to serve this soup with a side of apples and sauerkraut.  Yikes.

I am proud to say that I forced this meal down after a full day of similar weirdness.  I lost one full pound the first day, which wasn't exactly the point but is always a bonus.

Do I consider this experiment a success?

Absolutely.  I really do love being stretched outside my comfort zone, even if I have to eat fennels and muddy radishes.  Plus, just about anything sounds good now.  Even a regular salad sounds like heaven.  Whether I'll be able to kick my cookie habit is still to be determined, but one thing is for sure.  Munchkin Girl is glad I'm done with this craziness.  This morning she came downstairs and I had already made myself my quinoa with prunes and rice milk.

She looked all sleepy and said, "Mommy, what smells so bad?"

Amen, sister.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Win $25 toward some Very Fab jewelry

This is probably a good time to share with you something about the logistics behind my blog.  I do (surprisingly) receive lots of requests from advertisers wanting to do giveaways and product reviews but since I really want this blog to be mostly about our daily life, I have started to really limit this and be selective with who I work with.  I have decided only to work with companies where I truly like the product and feel it is something I would want to buy and something that my readers would want to know about.

The company I want to share with you today is a small but growing jewelry business called JayAmy Creations.  First and foremost, I have to say that the reason I chose them is because I really do like everything they have.  They sell on Etsy and they let me pick out anything I wanted.  I chose a pair of silver earrings.  They were comfortable (and I have pretty sensitive ears) and I got three compliments on them the first night I wore them!   Here are a few of my favorite items they sell (The ones I got are on the far left).

Silver Wrapped EarringsRed Stone NecklaceHammered Copper Wire Wrapped Earrings

This company also really appealed to me because:
  • A husband and wife make the jewelry together and I think that's really cute
  • They give 5% of the portions to help couples going through the adoption process.  They struggled for years trying to have babies and they want to make their business not just another Etsy shop, but a thriving business that also gives back to those in need (They help one couple at a time and I like to think that I'm helping people too, even though my portion is a small amount)
  • Their stuff is very unique and quite affordable
I would really love it if you would stop by their shop and consider buying something from them.  They have also kindly offered to give $25 to one of my readers, toward the purchase of any item.   This giveaway will go until Saturday at midnight, so enter now and good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Please note that this was a sponsored post but all the opinions are 100% my own.  Please see full disclosure and sweepstakes rules in the Rafflecopter form.

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    Monday, June 18, 2012

    Make a 3D town with trash from your house!

    The other day I had to leave for work and Munchkin Girl was clinging to my legs and begging me not to leave.  Talk about kicking in the Mommy Guilt.  I worry all morning that they are at home, crying and feeling traumatized by my absence. Fortunately, when I walked in the door later that day, I realized that I should have stopped worrying minutes after I left my house because they had gotten along fine without me.  They spent the entire morning happily creating 3D town with their babysitter.

    old boxes used for making a toy town made by toddlers and preschoolers

    The town consisted of:
    • 2 trees (made from green construction paper and a paper towel holder)
    • A big house (made from a diaper box.  It's the one with the red roof)
    • 3 stores (made from various boxes)
    • A street where they drove cars
    • A swingset and slide
    • Several people, dogs, trains, etc
    She took a bunch of old boxes from around the house, and took them to the garage.  They covered each box with a different color of paper and made each one into a different building and then decorated it.  She said this literally took the entire morning and they were happy and fully entertained for several hours, so if you're looking for something to do, this was a big hit!  My daughter (4) helped her make everything and Little Buddy (2) came over occasionally, but she also had the baby pool nearby so he went back and forth between the water and helping with the toy town.  Since they were in the garage, this worked really well.

    The long box above is a Coke box, the big one is a diaper box, and the small two are cereal boxes. 

    The details she did were amazing.  She wrapped a bunch of pieces of green paper together and taped them together.  Then they used scissors to cut a bunch of slits (great for fine motor) 

    preschooler makes a tree from a toilet paper roll

    closeup of the scissors used to make tree from a toilet paper roll

     They got to help decorate all of the houses.  They colored, they glued on stuff, they painted, they used stickers, all great fine motor and strength, not to mention concentration.

    little kids spending time glueing stuff

    close-up of toddler coloring

    The finished product was quite a masterpiece. Now, I would never claim that I could do anything as creative as my wonderful baby-sitter.  She was born with a different creative geno-type than I was.  But if you're creative like her, you could consider using colored popsicle sticks to make a slide and a swingset.  For the swingset (below), she cut the tops off the sticks and then glued them to the horizontal one.  Then she wrapped some yarn around the top and looped it through a bead.  For the slide, she just cut up the sticks and glued them together. 

    fun with little kids making swingset out of colored popsicle sticks

    And for her final magic trick, she used a bunch of beads to make that little doll!  She used a pipe cleaner to hold them all together and glued a button to the bottom to make it stand up.  The hat is a small pink bead, the arms are beads, the face is a bead with a face drawn on.  WOW.  She is amazing.  And the kids adore their new little town, where they can play with their dolls and trucks, knowing that they helped to build it!

    If you liked this post, you will LOVE my new book (which is currently ranked#10 on Amazon in the category of Motherhood!).  My co-author and former Kindergarten teacher, Susan Case, gives dozens of ideas on how to introduce letters in meaningful ways and we have an entire chapter on preparing your child for Kindergarten.  We worked together to give a Mom's point of view and a teacher's point of view, so that we could give you activities that not only keep the kids busy, but also keep them motivated to learn and develop their natural curiosity. 

    Did you enjoy my post?  PRETTY PLEASE click below so I get a vote for Top Mommy Blogs!  I really want to get back into the top 5!!     I really appreciate your support!!  Oh, and if you think of it, I'd love a G+!

    most creative mom blogs with stuff to do for toddlers
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    Friday, June 15, 2012

    10 Things I do for the Kids that I Should Do for Myself too

    10 Things I Do for the Kids That I Should Do for Myself Too

    The other day, after I put the kids to sleep, I felt all tired and dehydrated, and I realized that I'd hardly had anything to drink all day, I'd skipped breakfast, and I wearing an old ratty sweatshirt.  I had to laugh because I would NEVER allow my kids to pull that @!$@!  We Moms do such a great job of caring for our kids and making sure that they are healthy, well-fed, and well-behaved.  Yet sometimes we do such a poor job of taking care of ourselves. So, here are 10 things I do for my kids every day that I really need to start doing for myself too.
    1. Take vitamins every day.  You would think this would be easy...but they make my stomach hurt if I don't have a full tummy so I always procrastinate until later in the day...and then of course I forget.
    2. Drink Plenty of Water.  For me, this is a practical thing.  If I drink lots of water, I have to pee a lot.  Where am I going to pee when I'm out and about all day?  And then by late in the afternoon I don't want to be up all then I tell myself I'll do better tomorrow...but I do feel so much better when I'm hydrated so I really need to prioritize!
    3. Make time for socializing with friends.  I've pretty dedicated to making sure my kids get quality time with other little kids their age...Why don't I do the same for myself?  Because Mom is never the priority, but I'm going to work on it.
    4. Eat plenty of veggies.  I'm just going to be honest.  There are days that go by and I don't eat a single veggie.  It's absurd really.  I sit and watch the kids eat carrots.  Why don't I just join them and have a few myself?
    5. Make sure the kids never leave the house without looking presentable.  i.e. My daughter always has her hair done nicely and is wearing a dress.  I think I own about 2 dresses currently.
    6. Say my prayers.  Sometimes I'm so tired I just forget.  Shame on me.
    7. Say Thank You.  I really don't say this enough.  To my husband, to my Mom, to my Baby-sitter, or to any of the wonderful people in my life that do so much for me.
    8. Read a Book.  It's probably equally important for Mom to read books.  It's good for the soul.  Plus it really relieves my stress and on top of that, it shows the kids how much I love books too. 
    9. Eat Breakfast.  I find that by the time I get the kids their breakfast, their milk, the correct color of fork, napkins, etc., I forget to sit down and eat my own breakfast.  Again, shame on me.  This is terrible for my metabolism.
    10. Drink Milk.  I really don't want to end up like one of those hunch-back old ladies.  But I might if I don't get my act together!
    The bottom line is, my health and well-being really should be a priority.  When my kids get married, I'm sure they will want me to attend the ceremony on my own two feet, without a hunch-back, and without having recently been in an insane asylum due to stress.   Since I love my kids, I am going to print out this list and check these off each day so that I can be a happier, healthier Mom.

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    Tuesday, June 12, 2012

    The Benefits of Playing Cards With Little Kids

    I find that a large part of being a Mom sounds so easy: Just find ways to kill spend time.  However, some days this can be easier said than done...Munchkin Girl's attention span can be smaller than a gnat with ADD.  So, the other day we were at my parents' house, when my Mom suggested that we play cards with the kids, I was skeptical.  My daughter is almost four and my son is only two, and every time I've tried to play games in the past it has been a bust. 

    However, we chose a very easy game: Slap Jack.  For those that don't remember, here is how you play:

    1.  Pass out all the cards and have each player put down one card at a time (Face-up).
    2.  If anyone puts down a Jack, the first player to slap the deck gets all the cards
    3.  If anyone puts down two numbers in a row, you can also slap and whoever gets there first gets all the cards
    4.  The objective is to get all the cards and anyone who runs out of cards is out of the game

    Of course, when you play with little kids, these rules get a bit fuzzy.  We found ourselves reminding them when to slap and whenever an adult got low on cards, we secretly passed them some new ones.

    After a few minutes of this, I was pretty shocked.  This game kept us all busy for 45 straight minutes.  The kids cheered for each other and for us and every single time someone slapped the deck the kids laughed hysterically.

    Not only was this a really fun way to spend an hour, I quickly realized that it was largely educational too.  They were learning:

    1.  To recognize letters.  My daughter (almost four) kept almost slapping when she saw a queen or a jack, but then she would pull her hand away since it wasn't a "J".  She would grin and was so proud of herself for recognizing a "Q" instead of a "J".
    2.  To recognize numbers.  She had to keep an eye out for two 7s or two 8s, etc.
    3.  To wait their turn.  At first, they both kept trying to just put down a bunch of cards at once, or skip in front of people, but by the end, they were waiting patiently.
    4.  To be a good sport.  They cheered for each other and for us when we won a round of cards.

    Now I'm excited to teach them poker!  Then they can learn about money!  Haha.  Do you have any card games that little kids can play?

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    Friday, June 8, 2012

    The Logistics You Need to Know Before You Travel With Little Kids

    14 Things You Need to Know About Traveling With Little Kids
    the logistics of traveling with small children

    Traveling with little kids is an art form.  Really, there should be a PHD course because there are so many things you need to remember to have a smooth trip.  The first time we traveled, we quickly realized there was so much we didn't know, including that babies need a lap pass to travel with Mom!  I wished someone would just make me a manual on everything I needed to know and remember.  Of course, there are no guarantees.  You never know when there might be delays, bad weather, etc, and some things you can only learn through experience.  If you are planning to travel with your little kids, here is the manual I wish I'd had: 14 things you need to know before you travel with little kids:

    Logistics for the plane:
    1. If you are taking a lap child, have you called ahead for your lap child pass?  Most airlines will require this so calling ahead will save you time at the airport.  They just need to know the name and date of birth of your child.  Most airlines allow children to travel free if they are under 2.  Keep in mind that if the flight isn't full, Southwest Airlines will sometimes allow you to bring the infant carrier on the plane, even for a lap child, so it might be worth it to bring the carrier to the gate and ask if it's a full flight so that your little one can just sleep in their carseat next to you if possible.
    2. Do you have copies of birth certificates?  Not every airline requires this, but some do.  It's better to be prepared.
    3. If your child is over 2, consider taking their car seat on the plane with you.  I highly recommend this, especially for children between 2 and 4, because it forces them to stay strapped in and you won’t be fighting them the whole time.  Trust me, they will want to get down on the floor and play around and bump into the seat in front of them.  If they are contained, you will have a much more peaceful flight.  However, keep in mind that carseats need to be approved for air travel.  There is usually a small sticker behind the car seat that says that it is FAA approved.  Also, keep in mind that if your car seat is extra wide and large, it might not fit very well.  We used an Evenflo Tribute 5 Convertible Car Seat, Saturn, and it fit just perfectly, but if your car seat looks much bigger than this, that could be a problem.
    4. Consider bringing a carry-on bag that contains everything you can't live without or easily replace, such as: Your baby monitor (You will feel much more comfortable sitting on your patio at night while your kids are asleep in a strange place if you brought your baby monitor), the chargers for the baby monitor, any DVD chargers you might need, your child's blankies and special sleeping buddies, etc.  It might seem like a pain to have to carry this through the airport, but we've had our luggage lost more than once.
    5. Take empty kid-friendly water bottles in your carry-on bag that your child is already used to sipping from.  If you have any liquid, it has to go through special screening at security, which takes extra time.  If you put empty bottles from home in your bag, it won't delay you, and then you can buy water bottles once you get through security and fill up your child's water bottle.  If you don't bring their special cup, you're stuck with the water bottles you buy, which can very easily leak and a wet kid is never a happy kid.
    6. Even if your child only uses a pacifer in bed, consider bringing one on the plane.  They will be more likely to doze with their paci, and it might also help with the discomfort in the ears caused by the altitude of the flight.
    7. Find a way for them to watch TV.  Buy a small DVD player.  Or, if you have an iPad, download their favorite shows and movies.  Even an old iPod might work.  This is one time where watching TV won't hurt them and it could make it much more pleasant for you and the people around you.
    8. If you do choose to bring a car seat, consider getting this snazzy little device for it.
       Our is a GoGo Babyz Kidz Travelmate. and it literally turns your kids into a roller suitcase.  It's a great way to get them around the airport without a stroller.  Our daughter loves riding in her car seat around the airport!  If you just want to check your car seat and not have to mess with it through the airport, the J.L. Childress Ultimate Car Seat Travel Bag is a good option.
    Logistics for when you Get There
    1. Make sure you do some research before you leave so that you can get your bed/crib rented.  Almost any tourist destination will have companies that specialize in renting any baby equipment you could need, such as full cribs, high-chairs, and even baskets of toys so that your kids aren't stuck playing with the expensive, break-able coasters in your rented condo.  Most of the these companies will deliver the cribs and set them up before you even arrive. Some hotels also offer Pack and Plays, but if you want a full crib, you're better off renting one. 
    2. Another option is a toddler travel bed, which a small mattress that inflates and can be placed on the floor.  We have a Tuck-Me-In Travel Bed with Removable Mattress KIDS - $99.95 made by One Step Ahead and it has worked really well for us. 
    3. If you decide to bring your baby monitor, don't forget a thumb-tack.  Sometimes it's hard to find a place to hang up the baby monitor in your hotel or condo.  Obviously, it's important to make sure that all the cords are tucked away and it's up high enough so they can't reach it.  Having a thumb-tack allows you to hang your monitor on the wall and tuck the cords away from your kids. 
    4. If you don't bring your car seat on the plane and plan to rent one from the rental car company, make sure you call and reserve it in advance since they do run out occasionally.
    5. When you get there, make a quick lap around the place and put away anything breakable.  We have even moved the coffee table when it's sharp and glass and looks like a prime target for head-splitting.  Make the condo as comfortable and safe as you can for while you are there.  You can move everything back later.
    6. Does your rental place have stairs?  Make sure you find that out before-hand, and if needed, try to rent a baby gate if your kids are at that age.  Sometimes the rental place will even provide one for you. 
    I hope you have a great trip and if you can think of anything I forgot, please add it for me!!

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    Tuesday, June 5, 2012

    Kids Really Can Entertain Themselves if You Let Them

    Kids Really Can Entertain Themselves if You Just Get Out of Their Way
    I read a very wise book one time.  It was something about cleaning houses for dummies, which is right up my alley.  In this book, it said that if your husband gets in a cleaning mood, don't get in his way.  Don't argue with him about how you try the best you can it's insulting how he thinks the closet needs to be cleaned out in the first place.  Instead, embrace it and allow him to do it.  That way, you get a clean closet and a happy husband at the same time.

    I am realizing that this applies to kids too.  We had so much fun doing our egg carton boat experiment that Munchkin Girl has been begging me to do it again.  So, the other day when Little Buddy went down for a nap, I got out the tupperware container and we filled it with water again.  However, this time, she asked for a towel, which I thought she was going to use to dry off her arms.  Instead, she promptly threw my clean dish towel into the dirty water.  My first reaction was to direct her back to the boats and put my towel in the laundry.  Instead, I realized that we were outside, so it didn't matter one bit whether she got everything wet.  So, I got out of her way and let her use her imagination.  I even timed how long she kept herself busy.  It was literally an hour.  First, she used the towel to wash one of her babies.  Then, she put the towel on the deck and poured water onto it over and over again.  I have no idea why.  I also have no idea whether this held any educational value.  I do know that I got a lot done during that hour and it was very entertaining.

    After she got done with cleaning the dolls, then cleaning the towel, I gave her a couple of cups and she did that for another twenty minutes.  She just kept dipping it in the tub and pouring the water back and forth and back and forth.  (You might have noticed that she is now in a new outfit.  She really likes to change her clothes.  Especially when they get even a teensy bit wet).

    So, in conclusion, if you want to keep your kid busy for awhile, give her a big tub of water, some cups, a towel, and anything else you don't mind getting wet, and sit back and read a book while they entertain themselves.

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