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Disney in March!

June 22, 2014

This is about that one time we randomly went to Disney World on the fly.

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Mama bear and I had been dreaming of a warm spring getaway, but I have commitment problems.  It’s nearly impossible for me to give a definite “yes! I’ll be there!” to anything in advance — even FL after a long, cold winter.  But when mama bear suggested she was still into planning a trip just four short days before we’d actually leave for said trip, I thought, “yes! I’ll be there!”  And so, the girls, my mom, and I drove the 24 hours to Orlando where the rest of my fam met up with us a few days later.  (Poor Jason was left at home to work and take care of the dogs.)

Surprisingly, 24 hours in the car over two days with a two year old and 7 month old wasn’t terrible.  We made great time on the way down, and hardly used the in-car TV/DVD system.

 

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We spent our first day in FL relaxing by a pool.  It was kind of windy and chilly, but that didn’t stop Lil from enjoying the pool.  She swam all around and made a few new friends.  Two preteen girls were kind enough to follow her around the pool for at least 45 min.  I didn’t catch their names, but she referred to the older, red-headed girl as “my mermaid friend”.  Eleanor and I did a bit of swimming together, but we got a little cold and weren’t as into it.  We also made a midday trip out for food and princess dresses/shoes/crowns.

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On our second day in Orlando, we picked up my brothers, sister, and dad from the airport, and headed to the Hard Rock Hotel.  We messed around for a while getting hotel rooms (the place was booked but the room they first gave us reeked of smoke so we switched).  We ended up in a nice room on the top floor, which gave us access to the little clubhouse that served free drinks, apps, and desserts (score!).  After happy hour, we ate at Margaritaville, which was exciting because a plastic model of Lilly’s fave shark – the hammerhead – was hanging from the ceiling.  But Lil started feeling sick partway through dinner, and ended up running a temp later in the night.  We left dinner early, but fortunately my bro and sis stayed out a bit later and were kind enough to run to the store for Tylenol before coming back to the hotel.

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We spent the following day at Universal Islands of Fun.  My siblings, dad, and I went over early to check out the Harry Potter ride (awesome, but nearly made me motion sick) and go on a few rollercoasters before my mom showed up with the kiddos.  Luckily, Lil seemed to be feeling better.  We played on the Dr Seuss playground for a while, and Lil found a little “house” and made herself right at home (note her shoes off above!).  We rode the carousel, and Lil was sufficiently freaked out the ENTIRE time.  We had a brief brush with fame, riding the carousel with no other than AC Slater, who is as terribly tan in person as he is on whatever celebrity talk show he hosts (Extra?).  Eleanor was her usual sweet, quiet little self, just taking everything in from her happy little Ergo perch!

Later in the day, we headed over to Disney, and checked in to the Port Orleans hotel.  Lilly seemed better that evening, but was running a temperature the next day, and vomited (twice!) in the restaurant when we went for breakfast.  So the girls and I hung out in the hotel room watching Disney Junior for the rest of the day while my fam had a relaxing day by the pool.  That night we visited Downtown Disney, where grandpa spoiled Lilly with a very lovely Cinderella dress!  She. was. THRILLED.  Like dancing her way through Downtown Disney THRILLED.  It was too cute!

The following day, we made reservations to see the princesses at the Magic Kingdom.  These pictures pretty much sum up exactly how our princess-visiting went.  Yep, I have some very -ahem- lovely pictures of myself with the princesses.  Also, baby E did her share of posing adorably (while I hope hope hoped she didn’t spit up on their dresses).  Tiny sister had to take one for the team — because we were there, and SOMEONE was going to get a photo with the princesses!

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This last photo makes me laugh so much.  Ariel was a very hilarious princess to visit, and she was really sweet about the fact that she was terrifying my toddler.  Later Lilly told me that she would not sit with Ariel because she needed her mermaid dress and we did not pack her mermaid dress.  Which makes perfect sense since she had just visited Cinderella while wearing her Cinderella dress.

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The stroller situation at Disney is insane.  They keep moving your stroller, too, so you’re never really sure where you’ll find it.  A million points to my sister for climbing in there and finding the cheap umbrella stroller we bought just days before.  If we went again, I’d be tempted to just baby/toddlerwear and pack as little gear as possible.

Unfortunately, we arrived at Disney midmorning with approximately 3.2 million of our friends, and it was HOT out there.  So we ditched the crowds and heat around noon, heading back to the hotel instead.  We rallied after dinner – Lil took a nap in the stroller and Elli slept in the Ergo on the way back to the Magic Kingdom.  We walked the park, riding our fave rides — both kids slept through Pirates of the Caribbean, then Lil woke to enjoy It’s a Small World, the new Little Mermaid ride (three times!), Winnie the Pooh, and Peter Pan.  Lil had a BLAST riding the rides, and we had the benefit of cooler temps and no lines!  I think that we’ll have to attempt this strategy again next time — nap in the afternoon and stay late into the evening.  We saw the fireworks over Cinderella’s castle (still talked about to this day) and fit in another princess visit – Belle.

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She got over her princess fears for this picture, and then told me she wanted to go back to see Cinderella “to tell her I’m feeling better.”  Very sweet and a little sad!  (Also, seconds after this picture was taken, E vommed all over me in front of a room full of people. Classy!)  We went on a few more rides, then watched the light up parade and left as the park was closing.  It was a really fantastic time!  I can’t wait to bring both girls back when E is a little bigger and knows what’s going on.

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We stayed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom resort the last two nights of our trip, and it was amazing.  We were somehow upgraded to an amazing two-story suite with three bedrooms, four baths, a two-story living room, and a kitchen/dining room.  It was very lifestyles of the rich and famous.  So that was awesome.  And the view from our patio was even better: tons of different African animals moving through the large courtyard — zebras, giraffes, oh my!  I think we were all pretty captivated with the animals, and it was so cool to hang out on the patio just watching.  Lilly was fascinated.  She was also drinking from a plastic cup that she placed on the patio ledge even though she was warned that it would fall down.  So moments later, no one (except Lil) was surprised when it did fall into the animal enclosure and I had the distinct pleasure of calling the front desk to let them know so they’d send someone over to find it.  I was pretty impressed when an upset Lilly suggested that she could fix it if she got a rope and climbed down… it was the first time I’d heard/seen such problem solving from her!

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We spent much of our last two days at the hotel pools.  Elli was my tiny buddy, swimming with me and napping on me.  She is such a sweet, content, happy little thing!  And while E was cuddling up a storm, big sister Lilly was swimming her little heart out and mastering the water slide.  She had such a blast!  And made a few friends while she was at it.

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On our last afternoon in town, my mom, the girls, and I headed to Animal Kingdom.  We had time to quickly go on the animal safari, but didn’t get to see many of the other animals.  We quickly walked the park, saw a 3D bug movie in the tree of life, ate some popcorn, and hopped in the car to make the long, long drive home.  Lilly cried – she didn’t want to go home.  I didn’t really want to return to snowy, cold MI at that point either, but we were missing Jason and it was time to get back to reality!

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winter 2014

March 31, 2014

A (long, boring) summary of our winter, complete with pictures.

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This would have been a heck of a winter to be out skiing daily.  It snowed almost every day here in SW MI, and although it was cold (a real Minnesota winter, I like to say!), it was so beautiful.

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Playing peek-a-boo with her sister

We owed our plow guy a small fortune.  Massive snows here at least once/week.  In fact, by the end of January, we had so much snow in the back yard that Lilly couldn’t even walk.  It was higher than her waist, so she’d sink in and be completely unable to move.  Daddy had to carry her all over the yard to play, which is kind of not the point of outside play.  (The point of outside play, if you were wondering: to tire out the kiddo so much that they a) go to bed early and b) sleep through the night.  Oh, and I guess if they learn something or have fun, that’s good, too! :) )

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But many days it was too cold to go out, and especially too cold for baby sister to go out, so we have been playing inside a lot.  I am so very very thankful that these two little ones seem to enjoy each other.  Lilly will often say “Baby Eleanor!  I love you!” and when Eleanor giggles at some of the silly things Lil does (e.g., roaring like a lion), it pretty much melts my heart.  I’m certain there are no better sounds.

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 This silly little pouty face!

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Elli got her first taste of food, and I bought my first box of baby food.  Although the picture looks promising, this is not going so well.  She doesn’t seem to like the taste of baby cereal.   We quickly switched to other real foods, but she’s not overly enthusiastic about you spoonfeeding her.  She IS enthusiastic about shoving anything in her mouth, and has stolen pieces of food from me.  So we’re having a lot of fun watching her explore lots of different foods.  Also?  We are cleaning up a lot of vomit — she’s got an easy gag reflex which seems to be triggered by even the smoothest of blended foods.  Wondering if anyone else has had similar experiences and how your baby’s vomit issues resolved?  We’re in (occupational) therapy now, but I am actually mostly convinced that she just has to grow out of it.

 

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Also, this winter, I taught a new class.  Prep work was extensive — I have to fill about 4 hours of class time each week, and although it was in a subject that I know and love (biopsychology!), it’s been a few years since I’ve examined current research on some of the topics that I wanted to cover.  Probably the coolest part of my job is that I get to learn new things that are incredibly interesting to me.  Probably the worst part of my job is that there is endless amounts of interesting psychology research out there… which means that narrowing my focus sometimes takes a lot of hours, and I’m a chronic over-preparer anyways, so I make more work for myself than I really need to.

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Another difficult thing about a new course is that I’m constantly critiquing myself.  When I teach a course I’ve taught several times, things go smoothly, I know which questions to anticipate, how to link topics so that everything flows for the students.  Teaching a new course means that sometimes, things go less smoothly, research that makes sense to me seems contradictory to students, I’m not as efficient at linking themes, some of the readings don’t go as well for students, etc.  So this, in combination with my over-preparedness, means that I spend hours upon hours preparing for each lecture, then walk away from the class feeling like I didn’t really do a, b, or c as well as I should have.

 

Baby E decided back in December that she would not, under any circumstances, take a bottle.  Which is fine, except I am trying to do this little thing called “work” at least two days/week.  Fortunately, I have an amazing department, a flexible job, and the ability to be on-campus in the morning, head to daycare to feed E around lunchtime, then over to Panera or another place with free wifi for a few more hours.  This was manageable (and I guess, still will be manageable), but not ideal.  I lose about 1.5-2 hours of my work day with all of this monkeying around, and then have to make up that time at night and on weekends.  This led to many many nights of up-till-2-am, then up again at 6 (with Elli waking to eat at least once in there).  Ahh!  allusive work/life balance, I desperately seek you!  The sleep deprivation has most certainly taken its toll on my memory, and I am absolutely, positively looking forward to next term, when I get to teach my most favorite (and most well-prepared) class (a class on drugs & addiction).  I add new data, studies, reading, etc to my class each term, but it is so nice to have a solid base to start from!

 

Despite the craziness of my teaching gig this winter, we did manage to have a few fun adventures.  We showed up in MKE at least once, a special appearance to congratulate my BIL on a new job, and to wish him and sister best of luck on their move to a new state.  Grandpa, uncle T, uncle R, cousin Haley, Lil, and I went skiing (while Nanee and baby E supervised).  In true Lil form, she was hesitant on the first run and did NOT like it.  So I dropped her off with Nanee and took a few runs with my bros.  When Lil came out a bit later, she was much MUCH happier about skiing.  (So happy, in fact, that I took her again the following day!)  In one weekend, she went from being completely unsure and not putting much weight on her feet to skiing out in front of me (I held a harness/leash that was wrapped around her waist) and asking to go faster!  I hope we’ll get so much more time on the hill next year, and that she’ll continue to be my little ski buddy!

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The four of us went swimming together once (with plans to go more!).  I’ve been taking Lil swimming nearly every week, and she is becoming quite the little swimmer.  Strap a little froggy float thing on her and she goes!  She barely needs my help, but we have fun playing mermaid (Lilly) and fish friend (me).  I have a bit of mama guilt about having such fun with Lil while E is hanging out in the gym’s daycare, but E is getting big enough that perhaps I’ll be able to take both of them soon.  During E’s first swim, she didn’t seem very impressed, possibly a little grumpy.  But she LOVES bath time, so I’m confident that she’ll come around sooner or later!

 

 

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Lilly has become mermaid and princess obsessed this winter, so when we go swimming, we play mermaid and fish friends.  It’s pretty sweet, and involves lots of swimming around the pool chasing each other, followed by breaks at her mermaid castle (aka the ladder positioned in the corner of the pool).  Her imagination is really taking shape, and it’s so fun to see what she’ll come up with next.  Usually, she happily plays by herself for what seems like hours at a time, but occasionally, we get roped into a game of “singing with my daughter”, in which Jason or I am her “daughter” (not sure she actually knows what that means) and we hold hands and sing and dance in the kitchen.  If you’re not doing it right, she’s all, “mama, like this!” and then demonstrates the pose that I should take (usually on one knee, with the other foot out and the arm high in the air).  We’re having so much fun with her.  We’re having so much fun with baby Elli, too.  There are many days that I’d just like to freeze this time in our lives, to keep the happy carefree playful kiddos…  then again, I’m always eager to see what they’ll come up with next!

 

 

Jason’s family visits

March 25, 2014

Jason’s family visited for a few days after E’s baptism. As I mentioned yesterday, I have very little memory for anything these days (7 months of sleep deprivation, I blame you!), but I do remember lots of happy chaos during our time together. Oh yes, and my daughter the ringleader told the other kids it was okay to draw on our walls. (thank goodness it came off easily!)

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L & E are so lucky to have cousins that are so close in age – together there are 7 cousins, all under 7. And they played together wonderfully.

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This was really the first time Lil was able to play with her older cousins – last Christmas she was only 18 months and she was sick for half of our time together. This year, though, she’s more interested in playing with other kids and she had SO much fun with them.

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Elli P then got to meet all of her older cousins, including new cousin Mary who is only a few weeks older than she is. The babies were pretty cute together, and I caught them checking each other out quite a few times. It’s so amazing how different babies are — personality, stage of development, etc.  Even at only 4/5 months old, these two little babes were so very different.

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Other happy memories from our few days together: there was real conversation with other adults (while the kids were upstairs drawing on the walls), Christmas presents, meals out, meals in, and sledding. A good time, indeed.

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(And Elli P got in a photo or two in her christening gown with her godmother!)

Eleanor’s baptism

March 25, 2014

I’m returning to this little neglected space, and its overwhelming. So much has happened since I left, and also, so little has happened since I left. Isn’t that life with little ones, though? Every minute seems to be simultaneously everything and nothing, important then forgotten. Life is full and (mostly) happy. I’m going to start with our little story where I left off, but I’m afraid it may be void of lots of cute and important-at-the-time details — not because I want to tell a boring story, but because I simply cannot remember anything. It’s sad, really… but I guess that’s at least 85% of why I write things here anyways… memories.

E was baptized the Sunday after Christmas. Not really a popular day for baptism, but we managed to find a time when both of our (scattered across the US) immediate families could (somewhat easily) be in Michigan. That is sort of an impressive feat, and most definitely one worthy of a special occasion. So, E was baptized.

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We chose E’s aunt Brey & uncle Robby to be her godparents. Unfortunately, aunt Brey caught a terrible terrible stomach bug on the way to MI, so she wasn’t able to be at the baptism. She did cuddle E later in the week, though! And uncle Robby did a great job filling in, even though he looked waaaaaay nervous when I passed the baby to him to hold during the baptism.

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After the baptism, we had a little lunch at our house. Somehow we crammed nearly 20 family members into our tiny house for pulled pork sandwiches and cake (thanks to my in-laws for picking up food for us to serve!) It was a quick and easy meal, but nice to have so much love for baby E in one place at one time!

Christmas 2013

January 27, 2014

Is January over?  Yikes.  I’m back at work and life seems to be moving quicker than ever before.  I’ve been using all of my computer time for work, and actually trying to step away from the computer more when I’m not working, so blogging is likely to continue to be sporadic… like it always has been here! :)

We had an absolutely amazing, busy, wonderful, hectic, lovely holiday.  We were lucky enough to get to see BOTH of our immediate families at the end of December — amazing since everyone lives out of town (and in the case of Jason’s family are split between the East & West coasts!).

I took the girls to Milwaukee on the train.  It’s a 5.5 hour trip, which includes an hour and a half layover in Chicago.  They were great – Lil got a little freaked out just moments before we were to board the train, but once we were on it, she chatted excitedly and watched out the window for a solid hour before needing other activities.  Elli mostly slept.  I packed just a backpack for the three of us — I didn’t want to wrestle with more things than I could carry at one time.

We arrived in Milwaukee a week before Christmas, and spent lots of time hanging with family.  (Jason made the trip on Christmas Eve Eve, after work).  We spent a wonderful day with my grandparents, did some last minute shopping, and made Christmas cookies with my mom, sister, and grandma (good thing my sister was motivated because EVERY cookie I tried to make was a giant FAIL!).

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On Christmas Eve, we played broomball with aunts, uncles, cousins, and second cousins.  Because nothing says “Merry Christmas” like trash-talking your cousins’ broomball skills!  Baby E met my second cousin’s baby who is just two weeks younger than she is.

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After broomball, we got dolled up and headed to church and then to my grandma’s house.  It was so amazing to have all of my dad’s family there together, especially as we’ve all gotten older and moved farther away from each other.

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Santa made a special appearance and Lilly was SO excited!  “Santa brought me blue camera!”  She’d been writing Santa letters all December that went, “Dear Santa, please bring me blue camera.  And bring tiny camera for tiny baby Elli cause she’s tiny.”  So when Santa pulled the first package from his sack, Lilly said, “That’s tiny present for tiny baby Elli!”  And was equally pleased when Santa pulled a second package from his sack for her.  Unfortunately, Santa was unclear as to exactly which camera Lilly was talking about and picked up other cameras (one for her, one for E), so she was still mentioning the blue camera a few days later.

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Christmas morning, we woke surprisingly late (I think it was after 9 before Lil woke) to a wonderful breakfast with my immediate family.  Then we opened presents!  Lilly was so happy to get a dress and baby carrier for the Bitty Baby doll she had gotten from my grandparents the night before!  Both girls were showered with gifts, which are really gifts for me, too, since it gives them more options of things to play with and more activities for us to do together.

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We had lunch at my grandma’s house on Christmas day.  We played pass baby Elli and Lilly had a blast with all of her “new friends”.
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The few days after Christmas were pretty quiet.  J and I went out on a date while my aunt, cousin, and mom babysat.  It was then that we discovered that baby E will not take a bottle… and we’ve been working on that ever since, with no luck.  We also took Lilly ice skating while Grandpa and auntie Ashley played with El.

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And then Saturday following Christmas, we visited with my mom’s side of the family.  It’s always so fun to see lots of family that we don’t see often enough!  We had so much fun that we ended up leaving a bit later than anticipated…

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We ended up getting back to MI a bit late.  The girls slept for most of the ride, so we were able to make good time, but Lil was up so very late that night, which was only a problem because we had to get up early the next morning to baptize Elli. (How’s that for foreshadowing?!)

happy new year! (but I’m still wondering where the second half of December went)

January 16, 2014

So, Christmas happened.  And New Year’s, too.  Were yours great?  I hope so!  Mine were pretty wonderful, but, as predicted, happened faster than a blink of the eye.  And now I am in the early parts of 2014 with about a million Christmas pictures to share.

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Let me back up to early December for a second.  As is tradition, we waited for some of the first signs of snow, and set up a Christmas card photo shoot.  The Christmas card photo seems vitally important to me, if for no other reason than to mark the passage of time.  I save all of them in a photo album, and flipping through it is a good opportunity to reflect on who we’ve been and where we are now.  Luckily, my three partners in crime are willing participants in my insanity.  This year: candy cane hats and a wooden sled (to contain the toddler!).

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Once we snapped a cool hundred or two photos, we bundled up further and hit our fave local tree farm to buy half of a tree (the front half).  Lilly was totally into it, and we made sure that she had a say in picking the *perfect* tree.  Her main criteria was that it would be SO BIG, which really made things easy because when you’re two years old, just about any tree on the lot is SO BIG compared to you.

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Elli hung out in the Ergo, keeping me toasty warm.

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Once we chose and cut down a tree, Lil drank some hot cocoa, and we all sang Christmas carols the entire drive home.  Lil is really loving Christmas carols this year — she’s got “Jingle Bells”, “Away in a Manger”, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”, and the Christmas Monkey song from Curious George’s Christmas special.  She’s pretty tone deaf, and the phrasing isn’t quite there yet, but the girl really knows how to bust out the lyrics — eyes closed, jazz hands spread wide above her head.  It’s the best.

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stringing beads

December 13, 2013

Lest you think baby Elli is the only one benefiting from mama’s cheapness DIY skills, I present Lilly’s latest homemade toy: a dowel mounted on a wood block.

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Thrilling, no?  Lilly seems to think so, which is good because putting beads on this dowel is a good way to use her fine motor skills.  And now that she’s mastered the dowel-in-a-block, we sometimes string beads on pipecleaners, too.  She hasn’t quite mastered that one, yet.

(Other activities for hand strength and fine motor skills that we’ve been working on: cutting with a scissors, and using a pipette or syringe to pour vinegar into baking soda.  I’m really enjoying the amount of concentration all of these activities require!)

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And an in-depth tutorial, in case you want to make it yourself: sand down a wood block, drill a hole in it, insert a drop of glue & a dowel.  Tada!

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You’ll also notice that we’ve entered the era of dressing-up.  “I want to wear my dress!” she says.  Sure, Lil!

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