27 January 2020

Favorite Toddler Activities (For 2 Year Olds)

Toddlers are busy little creatures, full of energy. I've learned that Cyrus does best when times of free play are balanced with more structured activities and times when he is given a purpose to live up to. He is not yet two years old, so most of these activities are aimed at a very early "2 year old" stage...I know during these years kids change so fast.

A lot of my activities around this age have largely involved giving him new tools he doesn't know how to use yet and letting him figure out what to do with them. Here are what our favorite activities have been lately:


At first, he was using this little cardboard puzzle every single day, vehemently encouraging family members to come and assist him in puzzle building, because he definitely didn't know where each piece went, but he knew if he could get a big person to help him, they could come and build enough of the puzzle to the point where he could figure out the rest. He especially loved to build the puzzle with Grandma. The cardboard puzzle wasn't holding up well under Cyrus's use, however, but I found a set of little 12 piece wooden Melissa and Doug puzzles, and bought a set that featured animals because he loves animals...these have been working well. He still doesn't do a whole puzzle individually, but it's a good activity that he loves to do with a family member, and he has already learned the 'trick' of hiding the last piece by sitting on in, and then triumphantly bringing it out with a mischievous grin when his partner can't find the last piece of the puzzle. haha!


Of course, this is the most classic activity with toddlers. We've kept up our storytime routines with a couple storytime sessions throughout the day, but lately he has really begun to listen to longer stories and interact more and more with the books. He loves pointing out things he knows the word for on the pages. He gets emotional in responding to the tense drama of some of our little stories ("Bubble Trouble" is a highly dramatic book that we read about once a day....I wish I could record his responses to the different pages, they crack me up!) Angel has been bringing home library books from his school library about once a week sine last August and that's been a really fun addition to our storytime routine for me, the onc who has read the same books hundreds of times.


Cyrus's gift from us this Christmas was a glider bike, and during the first week or two I thought we had maybe planned a little too ambitiously, because it didn't really seem like he was getting the hang of it. I thought we might have to put it away for a few months, but then in the past week or so, he's been asking for his bike and getting it out and it seems like every day he's getting a little more confident and a little bit closer to really riding the bike the way it's meant to be used. For now, we just let him ride the bike in the apartment, or else take him out into the apartment's hallways (large, open-air hallways with a tiled floor) and let him ride his bike up and down the long hallway.

Matching Bears (Osos)

We have this cute set of cardboard bears that's intended to be a game of memory that we've been using in different ways over the past couple months. Since this photo was taken, we've actually started playing memory in the traditional way, taking turns turning over two bears, but just with 4 or 5 pairs of bears in the game at a time, and he's really starting to get it. I feel like everytime I think the first time that I introduced something a little too hard and I should slow down, but usually, if I just keep giving him a chance to figure it out, he gets it. So don't be afraid to introduce things that are too hard! The first time I got out these bears and showed him the idea of matching pairs that were the same, he didn't do it at all. But a week or two later, when we had them out again and I introduced the idea, he picked them up by pairs and matched every one. Who knew? Toddlers are pretty amazing with all the connections they can make. We usually use this game as Spanish practice, I can use different describing words for each pair, I try to narrate in Spanish because this one's pretty easy for me.

Blocks/Building Toys

We have wooden blocks and duplows and he is loving the classic build and destroy type of activities. He was actually given duplos for his first birthday, but only in the last month or so has he really started building with them on his own. He likes to build them on the rug in his room, and already I'm getting visions of a little boy building legos in his room for hours at a time, haha!


This is a great age for bubbles! At least as long as you're okay with them putting the bubble wand in their mouth once in a while. 


Okay, hear me out on this one. It's mostly because he loves figuring out new tools. I've been giving him a pair of child scissors and a piece of craft foam (because I think it's a little easier to hold and cut than paper), setting him in the high chair, and letting him work at it with scissors. I stay close and keep a close eye on him. He really enjoys working at it and figuring out how to hold the scissors...and chopping the foam into tiny bits.

Stick Collecting

Or rock, or leaf, or whatever the most interesting bit of nature is that day. He loves to go on walks and find interesting things to carry about and make piles of...


We do some 'drawing' every day. His most favorite utensils to draw with are pens and pencils, because he can sense that those are for big kids, not for him. haha! We're working on skills like "Only draw on paper." We also use chalk, watercolor paint, and crayons (but crayons are the least exciting...obviously...).

As we're entering the year with a two-year-old, I am adding a bit more structure to our days, and have certain priorities that I want to make sure to hit each day. It's not quite 'preschool' yet, but it's the beginning of it, and I made a video about what our focuses are for learning each day:

What are your favorite activities to do with toddlers?
09 January 2020

Christmas Break Festivities

Particularly when your lives are tied into a school schedule...something about the couple of weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year's feels a bit if they are quite disconnected from the rest of the year completely, because the way you're living at that time looks almost nothing like life during the rest of the year.

As soon as Angel finished school for the year, the fun began! His school has a yearly staff Christmas party, which was Glenn's first visit to the school to meet Angel's coworkers and he dressed up for the occasion:

Cyrus loves holding "baby" but they have some work to do when it comes to posing together...

On Sunday before Christmas, we had our own little family celebration, opening gifts together.

Cyrus got the hang of opening presents really fast, and was happy but not terribly excited about the new t-shirts and shorts he got. I was happy, though. Some of the shorts he'd been wearing were 9 month size was well past time that they were retired. :P

Glenn only got one present, which Cyrus opened and did get pretty excited about--this little set of jungle animals. Sorry Glenn, that's just life when you're 6 weeks old for Christmas. Cyrus will happily play with your toy until you are old enough.

We also got Cyrus this little set of construction vehicles which came with a puzzle piece wooden train track. All of us wonder why contruction vehicles are riding around on a train track...but whatever, it was a good discount, I love wooden toys, Cyrus loves "dump trucks," and he has played with it multiple times a day ever since. He loves building the track in different ways. One time he brought the set to Angel at around 7 in the morning while Angel was still in bed--no sense wasting any time not playing with new toys!

We had a couple outings to the beach, pictured is Glenn's first-ever time visiting the ocean!!

Christmas with my family was celebrated on Christmas Eve. Pictured is a gift from grandma--a treat that Cyrus's mom would NEVER buy, haha! Leave it to Grandma to repeatedly introduce snacks that Cyrus never knew existed...

My sister and her husband came into town to spend the holidays with us, so we had a big crew--11 of the family around for Christmas breakfast at my parents (technically, Glenn doesn't count since he wasn't eating at the table with everyone else...but he is still counted in the number of family present!)

Another reasonable attempt at a family of four photo! Not too shabby, everyone looking!

My artist sister gave notebooks with handpainted covers to everyone in the family, each one suited to that person's personality and likes. Her notebook for Angel was especially perfect--a "close up" interpretation of the scene from "Road to Emmaus," Angel's favorite painting, along with the words, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road" lettered beneath. I'm not sure there could have been a more perfect gift for him--he told me later that he very nearly cried when he opened it.

Cyrus and Glenn's big gift from Grandma and Grandpa was a toy kitchen! This is pretty special to me, as I have many happy memories of the Fisher Price toy kitchen I had as a kid, playing with my brother and sisters. So far the kitchen has been a huge hit in this house! The first morning that he woke up with the kitchen in the house, he played with it for two hours straight! His most favorite thing at the moment is reorganizing the kitchen equipment in the shelves (ultra-practical mom confession: I wrapped up some kitchen utensils that he's already had and played with for about a year and let him re-open them on Christmas to go with his kitchen. Also the bowls I gave him to play with are plastic bowls that were already in my kitchen cupboards. The kind of things you can get away with when your kid is 21 months old for Christmas...) He also got a little set of play pancakes and burger because my mom and I chanced up them on mega-clearance at Toys'r'us, for $3 a set! Score!

My sisters definitely spent more time playing in the pool during break, and Angel took Cyrus quite a few times, as well!

My big surprise for Christmas was a Lego gingerbread house set. The funny story behind this was, I had seen that it existed online,  and thought it looked really cool. I had never had a big Lego set before, but always liked the concept, and this one, that seemed to be designed like a dollhouse with a Mom, Dad, and Baby gingerbread man, seemed too adorable! I could already imagine that if I had it, I could set it up every year as part of my Christmas decor. But that was when I was in confinement with Glenn after he was born. I asked Mom to check it out at the Lego store and see if they had it in stock, if it looked nice in person, etc.
Some time later, I asked my Mom if she'd had a chance to get to the Lego store and see the gingerbread house and she told me, "Yeah, I saw it...but it was kind of disappointing. Maybe I had just been imagining something too amazing after your description, but it wasn't as cool as I expected it to be."
Which seemed like a kind of weird response to me...from what I had seen online, I couldn't imagine what she'd been picturing for a Lego gingerbread house that was so amazing that this one would be a big disappointment...because it sure looked awesome to me!
But I left it at that...until Christmas! It took me about three days to build in between taking care of my babiesm and is in no way a disappointment. It's my only piece of Christmas decor that I still have on display because I haven't been able to bear to put it away for next year yet. It was quite a special Christmas gift and one I will always remember! The first big Lego set that was all my own!

A brand-new park recently opened up in our downtown area, and we took Cyrus and my youngest sisters to go check it out! (a big theme of Christmas break was visiting different parks...I think we visited a total of 6 different playgrounds during the break).

Two things we did a lot of on break were film videos and make delicious food. Here, they combine, into the video about a strawberry dessert recipe we "invented"/"adapted" and have been making a little too often lately. We usually make two dishes of this dessert every time, and my joke is that one is for Rachel and one is for everyone else (it's not a joke). Warning: this dessert is not healthy at all. It is also addicting.

It was a lot of fun having my sister in town and hearing about her adventures in China. However, as a mom, clearly the focus of this photo is actually Glenn. camera is just full of pictures of my babies.

Proof. Cyrus has figured out the quintessential toddler smile. Saying "cheese!" and making this exact face that looks nothing like a smile. It's a childhood milestone, right?

It was really fun having extra family around...and especially nice to have Angel around for 2.5 whole weeks! This next season is track season, which means he'll have later work days and will be traveling with his team a couple times, so it was especially nice to recharge before the new semester, and for him to have a little extra time to get to know Glenn as we've been getting into new rhythms as a family of four!
05 January 2020

First Time at the Zoo!

I ought to and will blog more about Christmas break and the adventures therein, but one adventure deserves its own blog post. Angel and I decided to take our first mini-roadtrip with the two boys to visit a zoo on the mainland. One of the things I get really excited about when I think about our kids is how they have so many "first" amazing experiences ahead of them. Everything from something as simple as a first watching of a great a first visit to their own passport country. Going to the zoo is another big first to experience with them!

I had very hazy memories of visiting this zoo about a decade ago...and said memories primarily involved the fact that there were wild monkey ON and IN one of the public bathrooms (not zoo monkeys, but the monkeys that are native to our region).  That was a somewhat alarming memory. The ticket price for the zoo is very low compared to "touristy" attractions in our local region, which also had my expectations low, but I figured if there was any time to visit, it was with a 22 month old who has never seen "zoo" types of animals. Perhaps it was my already low expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised by the zoo, and found the overall experience one of the highlights of the semester break. It was such fun to just be able to take our little family on an adventure!

We were up and out of the house before 6 a.m., so we stopped at McDonald's for breakfast once we reached the mainland, and then proceeded down the road. Cyrus doesn't really eat much at McDonald's, so it was a good thing I'd packed a bag of snacks for the road.

We arrived right before opening, which was our plan, as we knew that dealing with wandering the zoo during the heat of the day would not be fun. I carried Glenn in the Ergo while Cyrus rode in the stroller, but I think he really had no idea what was going on. The chimpanzees were the first big animal we came to that he could see, and they were very active. An employee walked by, clapping and shouting at one chimp, who was responding to him, and Cyrus watched closely and then tried to follow him and mimic his clapping at the chimp. It was so cute how excited he was getting!

When we passed by the playground, of course we had to stop. Isn't there some old adage like, "A kid's favorite part of the zoo is the playground equipment"? You can see in the photo it's pretty dingy...but Cyrus had a blast, before we put him back in the stroller so he could actually see more animals.

This is what most of my photos from the zoo are: my baby standing and staring in wonder at some cool creatures. I've got a video attached below that has a pretty funny scene with him and this giraffe.

I didn't take any pictures, but throughout the whole zoo, Angel was antsy to find the lions, because we kept hearing occasional roars. I thought maybe it was just some taped audio being projected around the zoo, although that seemed a little bit too high tech...but no, when we finally found the lions (we didn't have a map, so were just wandering the trails), they were indeed roaring!

Glenn was perfect for the which, I mean that he slept in his carrier the whole time.

We took some video--I think the highlights are Cyrus's giraffe encounter and his moment of sheer bliss as he attempts to run through a flock of birds (you may recall he's had a fascination with birds for most of his life thus far).

Also, to go along with the video and news from Christmas break, over the break, my family decided to resurrect the youtube channel, so if you haven't already, you can go over to youtube to subscribe and see more--plans are to include a variety of travel/life abroad vlogs as well as homeschool and DIY-type videos...basically blending our passions and skills along with just life as a big family.