Continue Your Journey Together

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Friends come and go in life, but one extraordinary thing I’ve noticed about parenthood is the way it can facilitate reunions with old friends. You may just find that the common ground of raising children brings back people from your childhood, high school, or other points in life.

So if there’s someone you’ve lost touch with who is now a parent (or if you’re new to parenthood yourself!) consider reaching out to that old friend and continue this new stage of the journey together.

To wit, Veronika and I joined an old friend of mine and her two children today on an excursion. Adults can pick up right where they left off… And meanwhile, the kids get to play! Being the same age isn’t a prerequisite; big girls loved helping with squeaky toys for eight-month-old Veronika or helping to push her stroller.

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Another idea is to keep in touch with parents from your childbirth classes, if you attended them before birth. Then, all your babies will roughly be the same age.

Consider making it a point to touch base once a month, or whatever frequency works for your schedule. It will be amazing to watch all your kids grow on the journey together.

ABC Hop

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Yes you can fit in letter writing, alphabetical order learning, and gross motor skills in one activity… With ABC Hop! This simple game requires no more than a paved surface and a piece of chalk.

We headed outside early before the afternoon summer heat sets in. I asked Travis to write the alphabet. This was fantastic practice to write the letters from memory, not following a tracing line. He faltered on only a few, like K, but had a firm grasp of many others.

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I quickly realized his letters were going to be too small to hop on, though, so wrote out a second set for him. Once the alphabet was complete, we began to sing the ABC Song. With each note, he hopped from letter to letter.

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Whoops, occasionally he had to run from the end of one line to the start of the next.

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I thought he might get tired, but he hopped to the very last Z.

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To make this harder, you could even try mixing up the letters or putting them in zig zags occasionally!

Roast Corn on the Cob

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Perhaps it’s not quite as authentic as grilling ears of summer corn over the grill, but here’s a corn recipe kids can help with from shucking to finish! This was the third of a BBQ side dish trio from Raddish Kids, and Travis’s favorite of the three!

What is about shucking corn that exemplifies summer? I took Travis out to the back patio and taught him the steps, first peeling off the outer husk so only a thin layer remained.

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Next I showed him how to peel back the silk from the top until the kernels were exposed; grip the silk and pull down firmly. We discarded the scraps in paper bag, just as I remember doing as a kid!

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Travis was enthralled with the process! He needed help as we got down toward the silky layer, but loved peeling back the outer layers and pretended it was the Earth; he was the scientist heading in to the inner core!

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We took our corn inside and combined 3 tablespoons butter and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a bowl. Microwave just for about 15 seconds, until softened, and spread the butter mixture evenly over 4 ears of shucked corn. Wrap each cob in foil and place on a baking sheet.

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Bake at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes.

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These were perfect alongside our watermelon salad and barbecue beans!

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As we dined, we enjoyed some American Flag Trivia on the recipe card, as well as a quiz matching BBQ side dishes with their descriptions. I loved watching Travis eat his corn right off the cob, a formerly cautious eater growing more adventurous every day.

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Mango Popsicles

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Popsicles aren’t just for big kids on hot days! Try this easy recipe for your baby or toddler so he or she can share in the icy cool fun, too.

Peel and chop 1 mango, and transfer to a blender. Puree until smooth.

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Add the juice from 1/2 a lemon and stir to combine. Pour the mango mixture into cups. Small dixie cups would have been ideal but since I only had larger paper cups, I poured in just a small amount to each one. Add a popsicle stick to each cup and freeze until firm.

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At first I thought this might be easier to enjoy on the floor with wax paper underneath Veronika to contain the mess. But it turns out the wax paper itself was a distraction!

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Up to the high chair we went! From here, watching Veronika figure out the popsicle was a delight. First she just wanted to feel it.

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The cold mango received alternating expressions of surprise, nervousness, and amusement.

When she finally figured out how to get the mango up to her lips, her look was pure delight!

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Truth be told, she didn’t actually eat much of this, but food is really still practice for Veronika. She did get to enjoy fantastic sensory play, banging the popsicle on her tray, sliding it around, occasionally getting a sweet taste, and smiling up a storm.

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Indoor Hide-and-Seek

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This stay-put version of hide-and-seek will introduce your baby to the concept of the game… and is sure to get a whole lot of giggles!

First, I set up a tent. Place two small chair nears each other, and weight each one down with a heavy book to avoid topples or accidents.

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Drape a sheet over the chairs. Your tent is ready!

Outside of the tent, I had Veronika play with a stuffed animal friend (named Marshmallow), much to her delight.

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Then, I placed him behind the sheet. She looked around, suddenly confused.

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“Where’s Marshmallow?” I asked. Together, we shined a flashlight on the sheet.

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She seemed quite curious. I lifted up the edge of the sheet and… There’s Marshmallow!

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Not only was she clearly delighted at the reveal, but she wanted to be the one to hold the flashlight and “find” him.

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We played several rounds of the game like this before it was time for advanced hide-and-seek: where’s Veronika!

I put her under the sheet with Marshmallow, and lowered it down. Very quickly (so she didn’t get startled or scared), I lifted the sheet and said, “I found you!”

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Needless to say, this version was also a big hit.

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I hope you and your baby love this one as much as Veronika and I did!

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Saying Hello for the First Time

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As Veronika navigates the “stranger danger” phase, a very normal developmental step for babies, I’m thinking a lot lately about the best way to introduce her to new family and friends. This week, she even did drop-off day care which was excellent practice!

When we entered the facility, I first held her in my arms so she could see the caregivers from a safe place. I pointed out toys that were familiar and that she likes best from home. At the top of her list these days: an “exersaucer” or anything musical.

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Her face did crumble when she was handed off into the caregiver’s arms, but I returned to hear that she had been “totally chill” and calm!

She was happily sitting on the caregiver’s lap, involved in a storytime for the bigger kids. These kinds of gentle first hellos make a big difference and I’m glad I’m tackling “stranger danger” early instead of letting it linger.

Here are a few other tricks, whether you’re placing your child in a day care setting or inviting people over to the house.

Encourage guests to get down to your baby’s level. I sit Veronika down in her favorite play area and let her get busy, pointing out a few favorite toys.

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Pretty soon, she’s not only playing happily but also engaging shyly with visitors.

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She does a lot of looking to me, as if to say, “Is this ok mom?”. Make sure to reassure your little one with smiles.

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In no time at all, there was a happy storytime taking place, her back turned to me, clearly at ease.

 

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Questing Stone

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This painted rock craft is sort of a DIY riff on a “Choose Your Own Adventure Book”! Travis and I followed Highlights magazine’s suggestion for the two sides of our first stone, and also created our own alternate versions.

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All you need for the craft are rocks and puffy paints.

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For the suggested version, one side was a unicorn head. The opposite side was a dragon’s tail. Mommy’s art skills are noticeably lacking, but I like to think that adds to the DIY charm.

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Give the puffy paint ample time to dry. Then, instead of a traditional story time, we made up a tale together. Because Travis seemed antsy just sitting still, we turned it into game with action figures. Here comes Iron Man to the castle…

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Whenever we came to a crossroads in the story, Travis flipped the stone. We decided the unicorn would represent a good outcome and the dragon’s tail was bad outcome. Yay, Iron Man got into the castle!

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Oh no, the next flip was the dragon, so he was swarmed by enemies at the next turning point of the story.

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Travis didn’t like this turn of events, so decided the blob of paint he’d made on another rock represented¬† “water power.” If we flipped to the water symbol, Iron Man would win.

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And so on! Big kids can get truly sophisticated with their storytelling, perhaps even writing down the all the possible junctures. My 5-year-old just loved the novelty of flipping the stone and acting out a tale as we saw how it all played out.

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Barbecue Beans

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This smoky side dish is the perfect compliment to your barbecue tofu pups and veggie burgers this summer. It’s the second of three BBQ side dishes presented in Travis’s latest Raddish Kids crate. He doesn’t always love beans, but this time he gobbled them up!

Ingredients:

  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans white beans
  • 3/4 cup BBQ sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
  1. Peel and dice the onion; set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Travis was so proud to stir at the stovetop!BBQ Bean (1) 
  3. Meanwhile, drain and rinse the cans of beans. BBQ Bean (2)
  4. Add the beans to the pot, along with the bbq sauce, brown sugar and mustard.BBQ Bean (3)
  5. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes, until heated through.BBQ Bean (4)

Pair with your favorite veggie burger and a watermelon salad!

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Red, White, and Blue Fruit Salad

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This quick fruit salad (from Travis’s Backyard Barbecue Raddish Kids kit), is great for a summer get-together. And leftovers are perfect with breakfast the next morning!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 small watermelon
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup crumbled non-dairy feta (such as Violife)
  • 8 mint leaves, minced
  • 1 lime
  1. Cut the watermelon into wedges, and then dice. Transfer to a large bowl.BBQ Salad (2)
  2. Add the blueberries and feta.
  3. Sprinkle the mint leaves over the watermelon mixtureBBQ Salad (3)
  4. Cut the lime in half, and squeeze over the fruit, then stir to combine.BBQ Salad (4)

I had one very proud chef!

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Shoe String S

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S was a speedy letter for Travis’s tracing today. With an ‘s’ at the end of his name, he has worked hard on this one over the past year, initially tending to write it backwards but now a pro.

He polished off his tracing and then was intrigued when I pulled out a shoestring to form the letter on the ground.

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I thought he might need some guidance with all those loops and curves but…

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Nope!