Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Behavior Chart

Remember my sweet, helpful, Sound of Music obsessed four year old? You know, the one who helps with the baby and lets me dress her up in big hair bows?

Remember that one Sound of Music song "16 going on 17"? Well, these days my darling daughter is often 4 going on 14. I was starting to think that bouncing between sweet child and attitude filled tyrant was solely due to our attentions being diverted to the new baby. However, several friends with four year olds are experiencing a similar testing of boundaries combined with a frustrating desire to be independent even in situations that require help.

For Lydia, these issues come to a boiling point most often when it is critical that something get done in a short defined amount of time. She wants to dress herself, but can't work the closure on the outfit she chose. She gets SO frustrated but does NOT want ANY help! I'm panicking because getting dressed is turning into a tantrum that we don't have time for. She is either headed for complete melt down accompanied by screaming and lashing out or she is about to give up and I will inevitably find her playing (naked) with her toys 20 minutes later.

I realized that all I was doing was threatening, yelling, micromanaging, and taking away privileges. (That's in addition to getting an ulcer, pulling out my own hair, and being late to everything!) I decided that it was time for a behavior chart. I hastily scribbled out a few categories on a piece of paper and started drawing smiley faces for each thing Lydia did RIGHT that morning. It felt so good to focus on the positive AND it was much easier to take away a smiley face for small issues than to constantly come up with appropriate punishments. My kid is sweet and does want to please so it worked pretty well, but it was exhausting to keep up with the chart!

My mom got on board with the smiley face plan by purchasing a pack of four smiley face magnets. When Lydia was at Grammy's house this summer she spent the day earning and loosing smiley faces. I couldn't believe how easy it was. Do the wrong thing and Grammy moves a magnet to the top of the refrigerator. Do the right thing and she moves the magnet back where Lydia can see it. No chart. No counting or tallying. No real rewards. Just the guilt of loosing a smiley face and the pride of gaining one back. I was impressed!

So we got a set of magnets and even a dry erase board for our house, but somehow the idea never really stuck. It worked fine for a while but then Lydia started asking about her old chart and wanted to know how many smiley faces she had TOTAL! She also wanted to know about the rewards beyond just having all four magnets on the board.

Introducing behavior chart version 2.0! I googled "behavior chart" and found several free templates. I opted for a multi-behavior chart that lets us list all the things that are our concerns and then check them off for each day. We ended up with 9 items a day. I decided that 50 good marks would equal a bigger reward. That way, a good (not perfect) week leads to a treat. A rough week will still have some good marks that can carry over to the next week as a running tally. I didn't want it to be all or nothing because no one is perfect and I didn't want her giving up for the week once there was a bad day.

I added small pictures because Lydia can't read yet. We end up catching up every few days and I have given her a few small treats, things we would have done anyways like ice cream for dessert, but told her it was because she had 15 stars on her chart. We have also used it as a counting opportunity. Lydia counts her stars and then writes the number tally for the day. For now it is working, but I have to be the one to do a lot of the work. I do well if I give her a concrete criteria, like having 3 minutes to brush her teeth if she wants a star instead of the judgement call of how much prompting from me to quit dancing and finish is too much and costs her a star. It feels like a lot of work, especially when she IS behaving well, but I know that this is part of WHY she is behaving well. When she isn't behaving, I hope that the chart might help me notice a pattern or a trend. Ultimately, I hope we won't need this, but for now I just hope that I can be diligent. After all, this is as much about my behavior and consistency as it is about hers!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Darling Dress from Grammy

My mom surprised me with this dress for Lydia over the summer. It took me a while to get my brain adjusted to the idea that Lydia really is big enough for this dress. I mean, it has an actual waist with darting and everything!

The fabric is SO sweet and, even though I don't dress Lydia in a lot of red, I do LOVE the checkered red trim with this fabric. It seems so perfect for school themed photos that I wanted her to wear it on picture day. (Luckily her preschool class takes pictures first and then the teachers let the kids change into play clothes so the dress remains pretty for another special event.)

I made Lydia an extra big hair bow (following the steps that I explained in this Hair Bow How-To). Much like the dress, I also worried that this bow was way too big, but I liked the look so much that I went out and bought more super wide ribbon the next day. Anyway, back to Grammy's dress. As long as she was dressed up, I took a few pictures of Lydia in her new dress to share with my mom right away via Facebook.

We even tried a few photos with baby brother but he wasn't really ready to pose for the camera yet! Lydia looks great. Maybe I can photoshop a house plant into that wagon! (Just kidding Joshua but we will keep working on your poses... Think "Blue Steel" like Zoolander!)

It was a busy morning, but I am really glad that we took a few minutes to take a few pictures to document Lydia in this special dress. Thanks mom!

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Making of Mayor Burchett's Krystal's Cupcakes!

It's Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett's birthday this weekend and my husband wanted to be sure Tim had some homemade treats this year. Late last night, he asked me if I could whip up some cup cakes. I decided that in honor of Mayor Burchett's love of Krystal's, I would use that as my theme.

I remembered seeing a tutorial for hamburger shaped cupcakes on Bakerella's blog. She baked a plain cupcake, cut it in half and added a brownie for the burger and icing for the fixings. They look just like mini hamburgers, but not exactly like a Krystal's hamburger.

Krystal's burgers are small, so the cupcake size is pretty accurate, but they are SQUARE. Also the burger part is REALLY THIN. I needed to solve both of these problems to create a convincing gift.

To make a square cupcake, I started with a round aluminum foil cupcake liner. I folded in the top and the bottom and created a creased edge.

Then I used the corner of a baking pan to smooth the corners into the correct angle. I lined them up on the pan do that each rectangle cake edge could support the one next to it.

I filled them with white came batter and baked according to the directions. I turned the oven to broil at the end to get a gwen brown top to the "bun".

Now came the fun part, decorating the burgers. I colored white frosting to look like mustard. I also bought sour patch watermelon candies for pickles and no bake chocolate oatmeal cookies for the thin burger.

The no bake cookies were flexible enough to flattened but mushy enough to stay together. Plus the oats really looked like meat chunks! I used one no bake cookie to make each burger patty. The burger on the left shows the original shape of the cookie. The one on the right has been flattened.

I ended up being disappointed with the watermelon candies. Krystal's have pickles and the way the candy was pictured, with a green edge and a red center, I thought they would work great. (only the round edge was going to show so the red part would be hidden on the inside of the cupcake.)

What I found inside the package was more of a watercolor effect of mixed up red and green. I was able to cut a few green pieces off and just didn't put a pickle on every cake. Then I just added the frosting and the top half and the cakes were finished.

I asked PJ to go by Krystal's for real hamburgers for lunch and to ask them for a few unused burger boxes.

I arranged a platter of Krystal's cupcakes and had them at Mayor Burchett's office before he returned from lunch!

Happy Birthday Tim!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Summer of The Sound of Music

Last spring, my mom took Lydia to see The Sound of Music at The Cumberland County Playhouse. Since then, she has become a little obsessed with the show.  My mom has it on DVD and so whenever Lydia stays at my mom's place, she usually wants to hear a few of her favorite songs.  This summer, with my parents driving to Tennessee for an extended stay in anticipation of Joshua's arrival, Lydia has gotten to stay with my mom a lot. Consequently, she has been listening to her favorite songs from The Sound of Music a lot.  She can sing large sections of My Favorite Things, The Lonely Goat Herd, and 16 Going on 17, but her all time FAVORITE song so far has been So Long, Farewell.

I will often hear her singing it in the car or while playing in her room. If I ask her to sing it for anyone, though, she clams up and acts shy.  This morning she started singing it before we left for preschool. She was standing near the stairs and so it wasn't long before she started acting out the song and running up them each time one of the kids says good night.  I was caught completely unprepared for the show and ran to get my camera for the last verse.  Lydia decided to start again from the beginning! (OK, she MAY have been stalling on leaving for school) I decided that I didn't care if we were late.  It was so stinking cute and I am so glad I got it on tape.. or phone.. whatever!  There should be a link to the video below, Enjoy!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Celebrate the Season Finale of Craft Wars with a HUGE Contest!

This Tuesday night TLC is airing the LAST TWO episodes of Craft Wars!
On Aug 21at 8/7c pm the "Blinded by the Light" episode will air. Then at 11/10c pm the FINAL CRAFT WARS EPISODE "Pilgrim Plumbing" will air with a special guest host (Producer Steve Piacenza).

To celebrate the end of the show, the producers (Cathie and Steve) are hosting a giant giveaway! This grand-prize package is worth $800.00 and it is loaded with tons of supplies to get your creative juices flowing! They also have 5 bonus prizes, provided by Craft Wars contestants, worth more than $150.00.

If you aren't familiar with Cathie and Steve, you can find them on Facebook and on Twitter (@cathiefilian). You can even follow their live tweets during both shows using #Craft Wars. OK, back to the BIG giveaway.....

Since the use of glitter has been such a trend on Craft Wars, it seems completely fitting that you could win this huge collection of Cathie Filian glitter.

There are also TONS of Mod Podge products in the prize.

I had never used these glue gun mats and glue spreaders until I went on Craft Wars and now I LOVE them! I may have to use some of my Craft Wars winnings to buy myself one!

Along with the glitter, you also win a bunch of sparkly gems.

Seriously, there is TOO MUCH stuff for me to showcase it all! For full details on all the prizes (along with an explanation of the contest rules and regulations) go to Cathie Filian's website (Cathie and Steve Like to Make Things). OK Back to the prizes....

There are MULTIPLE ways to enter:

1. Leave a comment right here, right now, on this post, on MY BLOG! (Be sure to leave contact info in your comment, as Cathie Filian will collect the comments to select a winner and even though I might know you she does not!)

2. Leave a comment on Cathie Filian's website telling her what you want to craft next. (Make sure you leave contact info!)

3. Posting twitter shot-outs with a link to Cathie's website- @cathiefilian #craftgiveaway will count as 1 entry.

4. Facebook shares with a link to Cathie's website will also count as 1entry.

5. Between now and Tuesday other Craft Wars contestants (#Craft Wars Vets) will be posting on their blogs about the show. Leave a comment on each their CRAFT WARS posts to enter. (Not all the posts are live keep checking back to enter.) One comment counts as an entry on each of the following blogs.

Margot Potter The Impatient Crafter (Margot Potter)
HandMAKE My Day (Andrea Currie)
All Things Luci Rae (Traci Remley)
Lisa Liza Lou (Lisa Fulmer)
Ten Seconds Studio (Megan Darrow)
radmegan (Megan Andersen)
Nikki In Stitches (Nickki
Foo Foo La La (Pattye Duffner)
Mindful Making (Marylena Seigney)
And don't forget to comment on THIS POST on MY BLOG (Liddy B and Me)

Thank you Cathie and Steve for this amazing giveaway AND for the opportunity to appear on (and win) the premier episode of Craft Wars! Best wishes to all who enter to win the loot!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cloth Diapers

Last week I began using my stash of gdiapers on Joshua! We bought a selection of gdiapers for Lydia because because they were a hybrid and advertised that you could flush or even compost the soiled part and then wash the cute cloth cover.

Somewhere in my research, I discovered that the flushable liners to the gdiapers would reek havoc on our septic tank (they should be fine for non septic tank set ups). Fortunately, I also learned that I could purchase cloth liners to use in place of the flushable inserts. I opted for the gdiapers because I liked the idea if being able to use cloth most of the time and still have the option for flushable if I was out and about (and did not want to carry poo soaked liners with me all day).

I was still a little overwhelmed about exactly where to begin and what to do with the cloth diapers in terms of storing, soaking, and washing them. A new friend was very kind and invited me into her home to check out her cloth diapering set up and that made a HUGE difference in my decision that I could try it.

In an attempt to do something similar, here is a look at my diapering set up. I don't do cloth all the time, so I am set up for both cloth and disposable. Due to space issues, our changing table is in a bathroom that is right next to the nursery. It works great for cloth because I do have access to running water if needed, but I mostly operate without needing to soak anything (more on that later).

On my changing table, I have one bin full of disposable diapers and one that is full of cloth.

My cloth set up consists of about 5 gdiaper covers and 20 or so washable liners. I will usually have 2 covers that I alternate between on a given day. I will pre-load a liner in a cover so that it is ready for me when a change is needed, making it closer to the disposable experience. Then AFTER the diaper change, I pull the soiled liner out of the recently used cover, send the liner off to the wash pile, and re-load the cover with a new liner. It's a few extra steps that I do NOT want to tackle while hoping that baby doesn't pee on me!

Here is a quick look at the gdiaper construction. They consist of a fabric cover (left) with Velcro closures and a snap in waterproof liner (right). The other thing that you can see here is the difference between the "old" gdiaper's sizing and the "new" style. I don't know how long ago they made the style change from old to new. I bought my gdiapers four years ago and I bought used ones (from a website called diaperswapper). At the time EBay had rules against selling used cloth diapers. The idea never bothered me (they get sanitized in the wash) and I saved a ton of money! Anyway, the old style is pretty old by now, but if you run across them, they are about a half size smaller than the new style gdiapers. The other issue is that the snaps for the waterproof liners changed so I can't mix those between styles.

Other than that, the old and the new work the same way. They Velcro closed so that part is very similar to using disposables. They do Velcro in the BACK so that takes a little getting used to, but means that baby can't unfasten his own diaper as easy.

OK, back to the set up. When I change a gdiaper, I toss the soiled liner into a large trash can that is lined with a special "wet bag". I do NOT have water or anything in this bag and I don't normally soak the cloth diapers. (when baby gets bigger and poo becomes more solid I may shake it off into the toilet but thats it) The wet bag is lined to make it water proof, so diaper moisture (and smells) are contained. It will get stinky if left too long, but with my set up I need to wash every 2-3 days to not run out of covers or liners and that is about the time limit on my bag getting stinky. (I also have a smaller regular trash can near the changing table for baby wipes and disposable diapers to be thrown away) When it is time to wash, I take the wet bag out of the trash can and turn it inside out into the washing machine. I then wash the cloth diapers AND the wet bag on a normal cycle (usually hot water). I haven't had any problems with detergent build up and I even sometimes wash diapers with clothing and everything comes out fine. I also dry my diapers without any problems, but I try to remove the waterproof gdiaper part before drying just to help them last longer.

I try to use cloth diapers as much as possible when we are at home. When we go out I sometimes use disposables. If we aren't going to be out for long and I want to use the cloth, I have a travel sized wet bag. This works the same as the big bag near my changing table. It just means that when I change a gdiaper while out, the dirty liner goes in this wet bag and stays there until I get home. The clean covers and several clean liners must be stored in my diaper bag and the whole system takes up a bit more space than disposable, making it easier to commit to for short outings.

Finally, when I started this four years ago, using cloth liners in gdiapers was relatively novel. I only found a few places selling cloth liners that fit my gdiapers. Today, even gdiapers sell a cloth liner. Even more exciting, you can find DIY tutorials for making your own cloth liners! The tutorial on See Kate Sew is particularly nice if you are interested.

In closing, here is one of the few pictures that I have of Lydia in a gdiaper. Sadly, it is also a picture of her annoying herniated umbilical chord! The gdiapers had nothing to do with the hernia and (thankfully) it was healed relatively quickly!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Fire Fighter Fifth Birthday Party!

A very close friend is throwing a Fireman Themed Party for her soon to be Five year old daughter (so technically I suppose it is a Fire Girl party?). Anyway, I LOVE party prep and would be happy to dive in and help, but the party is the same weekend as Joshua's baptism. I won't be much help the weekend of the party, so I thought I would gather a few of my favorite ideas AND explain how even a crafting newbie can get great results without much effort.

The first hurdle to any great party is choosing a location. My friend happens to have a GREAT location. Her husband has been a firefighter so she is able to have her party at the local fire station! With a location like that she won't need much decorating. If you aren't so lucky as to have access to a fire house of your own, I recommend sticking to a fiery color scheme and make a focal point of your main food table or activity area. I love the mix of colors and patterns in the image found on Stop, Drop, and Blog.

I recommend covering a wall or two in paper that fits your theme. I love the brick paper used on the buffet shown below from Crazy for Design. A 50ft roll of brick paper used to cover bulletin boards can be found for around $15. Or you can simply buy wrapping paper in your party colors (I would suggest red, orange, yellow, black, or maybe polka dots or stripes in those colors) and use it like I did here.

I like to continue the color scheme as far as I can and the food is often an easy next step, especially at a kid's party where you can get away with lots of candy (which can always be found in specific colors). Any candy (or food) in red, orange, yellow, black, white, or silver will add to the decorations but also fill your guest's little tummies. Walk the candy aisle of your favorite store just looking at packaging and colors, for example Reeses Pieces are the perfect fire colors. I would also play up the theme as much as possible, using food in the color scheme that also have (or can be given) names that fit the theme. For a fire party I would serve Red Hots and Hot Tamales candies in snack sized packages with the original packaging. Red and yellow sweet peppers would be an easy color fit for a veggie tray. Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero all come in cans that fit the fire color scheme. (image below from Amy Atlas)

Hot Dogs would also be a great choice but with a sign emphasizing the word hot with flames or something. (For Lydia's 4 and Fabulous party I did something similar, but wrote "Haute Dogs") Doritos and barbecue potato chips, either in a bowl or in individual size packages, would fit both the colors and the fire theme. Finally, I would make some signs giving foods theme related names. Pretzel sticks can be labled match sticks. Licorice could be firefighter ropes. Squiggly straws to drink out of can be fire hoses. Tootsie rolls could have a sign that says "stop, drop, and roll"! Water bottles can have labels that say "fire extinguishers". You can easily print one sign for each item to place in front of or on the food container. Play up the theme by adding coordinating ribbon like in the image below.

Fire hats and badges are a must for this party. If you aren't up for cooking, I would check into buying a party tray or two of sandwiches from Firehouse Subs and ask them to throw in free hats for all the kids (they give them away at the restaurant). Otherwise, you can order hats for around $1 each and fire badges for less than $1 each. Or you could print this free badge template onto sticker paper and let the kids color their own badges. If you are computer savvy, you could customize your own badge stickers, or order customizable stickers like the one below available here.

If I were to suggest one semi-homemade project it would be adding candy "fire" to cupcakes. The cakes could even be store bought if you aren't feeling up to making a lot of stuff. Then it is really easy to melt hard candies, let them cool, and break them to look like flames. Really, no artistic ability needed! (full set of directions here)

Finally, there are lots of fire themed printables available, both through party websites and fire prevention sites. Check out the Free fire themed maze shown above . Here is a fire truck coloring page with room for the kids to draw themselves in the window. Here is a cute fire truck printable. It was meant to be for a bingo game, but could also be used for name tags if cut apart. If you are feeling a little crafty, check out this free multi page printable to make a 3D paper fire truck!

Activities for a fire themed party are easy if your location is a fire station. Ask if the kids can climb inside the truck, turn on a siren, take a spin on the fire pole, or have a firefighter talk to the kids. Otherwise, you could play a fire themed version of Simon Says where the kids stop, drop, and roll but only if the fire fighter says. If your location has a second story, find or make a net and have a grown up drop stuffed animals for the fire fighters in training to practice catching. Finally, an outdoor water game relay race, where you fill a large bucket of water by running smaller cups of water back and forth would be fun. Tryout a few of these ideas and with minimal effort, you're guaranteed one "hot" party!