Monday, August 30, 2010

First Day of First Grade

She's back already -- just a half day. So far, so good. Nice teacher. Lots of buddies.
Off to another good start.

For those of you who are inclined, here is a little retrospective of Miss Ellie heading out to school. (It's true what they say about time flying by.)


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Another example of the benefits of play

In my 6+ years as a mama, I've found that one of the very best (and also hardest) parts of parenting is letting go of stress and worry and totally committing to playing with a child.

When I am sitting on the rug with familiar blocks, puzzles, and toys in front of me, my mind sometimes wanders -- to my grocery list, freelance deadlines, and bills.

That being said, periods of focused play with my kiddos are also some of my happiest times as a mom. I love to sit and watch a quiet, focused child work on a new skill.

It is largely for this reason that I just signed Colin up for a Parent/Toddler class at our Montessori School. With my older two children, I have adored that hour-and-a-half a week where I am 100% focused on playing with the perfect little being before me. I can't wait to do the same thing with Colin in just a few weeks.

While I am on the topic of play, I wanted to tell you about a new book I just read called Everyday Play: Fun Games to Develop the Fine Motor Skills Your Child Needs for School by Christy Isbell.

This book was written by a pediatric occupational therapist. She advocates the very sensible view that kids can work on their oh-so-important fine motor skills by engaging in a variety of creative activities at home. I love the idea that learning critical skills should just be another part of the many types of play that a child engages in on a daily basis.

Isbell has some great suggestions for fun and creative activities that will get your child working with his hands. I am particularly fond of the following ideas (and many of them remind me of the activities in a Montessori environment):
  1. Use a wooden mallet to hammer golf tees into Styrofoam.
  2. Using tongs and tweezers, challenge your child to pick up a variety of small items (like Legos).
  3. Squirt two colors of fingerpaint into a resealable plastic freezer bag. Encourage your child to use his index finger to make lines or shapes in the paint and mix the colors together.
  4. Use play dough to teach your child how to use his thump, index and middle fingers to create small "peas."
Everyday Play also includes a helpful "Frequently Asked Questions" section for parents who want to know more specifics about their child's fine motor skills.

This book has been a helpful reminder to me of the many benefits of sitting down one-on-one with a child and engaging them in an interesting "play activity." Plus, I love the idea that you can accomplish this by simply using items you already have around your house.

And with that thought . . . I am off to dig out my mini-muffin tins, tweezers and some small items for a sorting activity I have planned for Brendan tomorrow afternoon.

Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of this book. That means I didn't pay for it myself.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Giveway from Stonyfield Farm (yes, that means delicious free organic yogurt)

My kids are huge yogurt eaters. Me? Not so much. Well, until recently that is.

Although I have long believed in the many benefits of feeding organic yogurt to little people, I've never been the biggest fan of the cold, creamy stuff myself -- until I had lunch with the Gary Hirshberg , the CE-Yo (ha!) of Stonyfield Farm.

Back in February, I received an amazing invitation to join a few other lucky Chicagoans for lunch with Gary at Frontera Grill. The meal was amazing. I learned a lot (you can read all about it here).

Anyway, at the conclusion of this lunch, everyone was served an Oikos Caramel-flavored Greek-style yogurt. I was certainly not going to decline a Stonyfield product while being treated to lunch by the head of the company. So I dug right it. And it was amazing. I ate every bit and walked away wondering why it was that I thought I didn't like yogurt.

So now it is unanimous. We are all Stonyfield yogurt eaters (even Daddy gets a bit of yogurt in his fruit smoothie sometimes). The babe is a fan of YoBaby and the new YoToddler. The big kids eat YoKids like it is going out of style. During the summer, I freeze tubes of the YoKids Squeezers to make "popsicles." And Mommy eats the Oikos Greek-style yogurt (which I have to hide in the back of the fridge or Ellie would eat it all).

If you also have a family of yogurt-lovers, I have a giveaway that you might be interested in. Stonyfield Farm is giving one lucky A Hen and Two (now Three) Chicks reader the following goodies:

  • A YoKids Cape
  • 2 coupons for FREE YoToddler multipacks
  • 2 coupons for FREE YoKids squeezers/multipacks
  • 2 coupons for FREE Oikos multipacks
  • An Oikos tote bag (which is super versatile and sturdy)
  • A Eric Carle growth chart
So how do you win? I am going to keep it simple -- all you have to do is leave a comment on this post before midnight (CST) on Tuesday, August 31, 2010. If you feel like telling me about your favorite Stonyfield product, go for it. If not, that's fine too. Don't forget to leave me your email if it isn't part of your Blogger profile so I can get in touch with you if you win!

I will notify the winner on September 1, 2010. That lucky, lucky individual will have 48 hours to provide me with their mailing address so that Stonyfield can get their goodies out to them.

Go enter to win some free organic yogurt (for you and your kiddos!).

The disclosure part: Stonyfield provided me with coupons for free yogurt. Other than that, I was not compensated for writing this post or hosting this giveaway. We just like Stonyfield yogurt.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Me! On WGN Radio on Monday Morning!

If you are up and at em' bright and early on Monday morning (and really, what parent of a young child isn't awake before 7:00 a.m every single day of the week), tune in to WGN Radio to hear my thoughts on packing great back-to-school lunches. I'll be on around 6:39 a.m.

I'll be sharing my suggestions for the very best reusable school lunch supplies you should have on hand in order to get the year off to a great start. Plus, I will be offering some tips on how to "cheat" and not have to make lunches at all. Intrigued? Listen in on Monday!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Attention all deal-lovin' Chicago Mamas!

If you are a Chicago-area mom who loves saving money on ALL OF THE STUFF you buy for your kids and family, then I have great news for you. There is a new mom-centric, daily deal site in town called mamaloot.

Mamaloot generally operates like the other big daily deal sites in town (like Groupon, You Swoop, etc.). You subscribe to the mamaloot email list and receive emails offering discounted deals from family-friendly businesses.

If the deal interests you, go for it! If the deal doesn't ring your bell, click delete and move on with your day. That's all there is to it. And you can unsubscribe at any time if you find that these deals aren't for you.

The big difference between mamaloot and the other daily deal sites is that they are going to offer you deals for things that moms actually buy. I don't know about you, but I'm not really in the market for tickets to sketch comedy shows or go cart racing (no offense to those of you who go crazy for discounted go cart racing).

To start, mamaloot will be featuring businesses from Chicago and the surrounding suburbs but will soon showcase a variety of mom and kid centric internet services and retailers as well. The site officially kicks off today with its first deal -- 50% off a session with a local family photographer.

I love this business idea because it is totally mom-driven and mom-focused (and these are Chicago moms so that makes it even better). Lindsay Cohen, Co-Founding Mama of mamaloot says, "We cater exclusively to moms in everything that we do. Our deals, our writing, the way we partner with local businesses all exude a mother's touch. We are excited about bringing new customers to local businesses and educating moms about appealing products and services in their area."

So how do you get in on these deals, head over to and add your email address to the list. And let the deals begin!

Disclosure: Mamaloot is a new sponsor here on A Hen and Two (now Three) Chicks. You can check out their cute new ad over there on the right-hand sidebar. To be clear, I am working with mamaloot to spread the word about their launch (and by working, I mean services in exchange for money).

Friday, August 6, 2010

Scenes from our summer

The baby and the Bean at Millennium Park.

At the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond in Lincoln Park.

Wow. August really snuck up on me. The clock is really ticking on summer 2010! We've been busy checking off activities on our summer must-do list. If you click on the links above, you can see expanded accounts of our most recent adventures.

Monday, August 2, 2010

My Magical Green Beans

My little backyard garden is a source of a lot of happiness. Today, I thought I would share some of my special gardening "secrets" with you. {cough, cough, giggle giggle}

First, I plant way too much stuff in too little space. I start with good compost-rich soil, but then I forget to ever fertilize and rarely weed. I water -- but in a lazy, distracted way.

My trick is to basically ignore the plants, allow children to trample them at will with their flip flops and soccer balls. And somehow despite all that, most of my little seedlings actually manage to grow. I am always sort of amazed when I root around out there and find things like zucchinis and jalapeno peppers.

This year, I really outdid myself in the overcrowding department. We've got:
  • 3 tomato plants (2 grape and 1 big boy)
  • 3 basil plants
  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • Lots and lots of haricot vert (pictured above)
  • Thyme
  • 3 basil plants (pesto, pesto, pesto)
  • Lemon verbena (which is totally amazing --- hoping to have a lemon verbena tea recipe to share soon)
  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • Chives
  • Rosemary
  • Cucumbers (the tastiest, little thin-skinned things)
  • Zucchini
And that's not counting the lettuce, spinach and 2 varieties of snap peas I grew in my Earth Boxes in the spring.

Today, I found myself at the Home Depot filling my cart with arugula, Romaine, and Bibb lettuce seedlings for our fall salads. I need to exercise some self control.

So the truth is that I am no master gardener. But I can grow green beans in my backyard in the middle of Chicago and my three children devour every single one on their dinner plate.

Doesn't get much more magical than that.