Archive for September, 2011

This is my latest nerdy obsession: blocks made of milk cartons.


I know, I know, you’re thinking that I have way too much time on my hands, and who bothers to make blocks out of milk cartons when you can just BUY blocks, for gosh sakes.  Well, first of all, never ever accuse me of having free time.  And second, I would like to defend these blocks by saying they’re shockingly easy, practically free, and fun to play with.   They make use of empty milk cartons, which most families have in abundance, and every time I make one I feel like a creative genius.  Five minutes of measuring, cutting and taping is absolutely worth the pleasure these blocks bring.

I came across the idea when I was trying to find affordable toys and fun activities for the cooperative preschool that Miles started yesterday.  So I turned to this book — a resource that every parent of a toddler should own.


In case you can’t read that tattered cover, it’s The Toddler’s Busy Book, by Trish Kuffner.  She also has a busy book for preschoolers, if your child is a bit older.  A neighbor gave this book to me, and it is amazing.  Some of the ideas are a wee bit obvious, like “Let your child pull every kleenex out of the box!”   (We’ve got that covered, Ms. Kuffner.)

Yet sometimes we need someone to remind us of opportunities for creative play that are right beneath our noses.  I wanted to slap my own forehead when I read her entry on draping a bed sheet over a table.  I played under many a makeshift tent in my childhood, but I had yet to introduce Miles to the pleasures of the hide-away.   Now we have a little celebration every time we change the sheets, and I have this book to thank. 

But back to the blocks.  I was trying to convince you to join the milk-block party, but I can see you’re still skeptical.  Do these blocks even stack, you ask?  Why yes, yes they do.


I was considering posting a detailed demo of how to make them, but I decided against it for two reasons.  One, these are so easy you could probably figure it out without a demo.  There’s not exactly a wrong way to make blocks out of milk cartons.  Two, it turns out that I didn’t even follow her directions properly.  She uses two milk cartons per block, but I use only one.  (I cut one side longer and fold it over to make the sixth side.)  Here’s a peek at her simple directions, though, in case you want them.  She even suggests covering them with wrapping paper or photos.  I’m not that fancy.


  Even the tops of the milk cartons are useful.  I would have tossed them all in the recycling bin, but Miles pointed out that they make lovely houses.  And train stations.  And barns.

Now, pardon me, I have three blocks-to-be waiting in my sink.


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(I couldn’t resist, guys.)


...he's gotta wear shades!


Okay, quick informal poll.  Should I update the photo of Miles that runs across the top of the blog to be something more current?  I have a good prospect, one that would fit the weird horizonal shape.  Or should I keep little baby Miles up there?  Thoughts?

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I would like to state for the record that some things about being (almost) 2 are not so terrible.

Around 2 years old, children develop symbolic play.  That’s fancy child-development speak for, like, pretending and stuff.  They personify their stuffed animals and use toys to act out little scenes.  For reasons I don’t fully understand, this is closely tied to the development of language.   Which means that Miles is able to tell us a little of what he’s imagining, and we get a peek into his inner life.

There’s lots of hugging and kissing in Miles’ inner life.  His toy animals hug and kiss each other ardently, with little regard for preserving the purity of species.  You’ve heard of the lion lying down with the lamb?  Well, in our house the chameleon lies down with the monkey, and the giraffe lies down with the bear.  The animals are quite promiscuous, actually.  The animals also have conversations.  The stuffed dogs will not shut up. (“Ruf!” “Ruff Ruff!” “Ruff… ruff.”) 

There’s lots of cooking and eating in Miles’ inner life.  In his play kitchen, he unloads groceries, washes his hands, munches on grapes, and drinks pretend coffee. 

Other rituals confuse me a little.  Cows take naps inside houses made out of cut-up milk cartons and then wake up to endlessly climb invisible stairs.  (“Upstairs!  Downstairs!”) Huh???

And yesterday, this happened.

"Doggy read. Miles read. Book."

He put his little stuffed dog in his lap, nestling it in, the way he nestles into my lap when we read before naptime.  Then, patiently, struggling with the pages and smushing the dog somewhat dreadfully, he “read” the dog  several books, pointing out significant objects on each page.

"Truck. Fire truck."

Did I die from the cuteness?  Yes.  Yes I did.

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Guess what I did?


He pooped in the potty!  He pooped in the potty!  Stop the presses: he pooped in the potty!

Think this is a weird thing to get excited about?  Then you have obviously never raised a toddler.  This is a situation of location, location, location.  A fresh steaming pile of excremement smeared around in a diaper? Quotidian.  A fresh, steaming pile of excremement in a gleaming, never-used Baby Bjorn potty?   Victory!

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not hardcore potty trainers over here.  It’s not like we marked a date on a calendar and said, “Miles must be potty trained by this date!”  (Nor do I think one poop in the potty means we’re bidding diapers adieu.)  We’re also not doing the “boot camp” style of potty training in which you teach a kid in three days by abruptly going diaper-free.  We’re kind of taking the approach that he’ll learn to use the potty the way he learned to use a spoon — gradually, through imitation, and with often messy results.  So we show him how to sit on the potty seat and give him lots of practice sitting on it while we read him books.  And that is about the extent of our potty training.

He has peed in the potty exactly twice.  The first time, when the urine started to flow,  he looked frightened, jumped up, and tried to hold the pee in with his hand.  The second time he sat down, grunted, peed, and acted like it was no big deal.  But the first time was over a month ago, and we haven’t been very focused on the potty lately with all of our travel.

So we weren’t expecting much this morning when Miles wandered over to his potty, sat on it still wearing his diaper, and said conversationally, “Miles potty!”

I took his diaper off just in case, and Robin sat down to read him a book.  After awhile, Miles became completely engrossed in the book — a favorite of his, Richard Scarry’s “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go” — and seemed to forget his purpose.

“Okay Miles, go ahead and poop,” Robin said.

So he grunted and pooped.

And we both lost our minds with delight.

We’d been intending to be low-key about any potty victories in order not to put pressure on him, but we couldn’t help ourselves.    Robin cheered, and I took photos of the poop and high-fived him.  I was just so proud — and certainly not of us.  We didn’t do anything.  But Miles did something amazing.  He wanted to poop on the potty, and he did it.  Without anyone forcing or bribing or stickering or cajoling* — with his parents basically being lazy about it, in fact — he decided he was ready and stepped up to the potty.

I mean, come on, what’s not to get excited about?  

See? There it is.

*I am not promising we will never bribe or sticker or cajole, for the record.

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