This isn't the fun picture filled post I had wanted to put up today. I'm here visiting my parents and my mom's not doing very well. My dad wrote an update here. She's home from the hospital now, having been released a few hours ago. We still don't really know much, just playing a waiting game. I feel like I've got about a dozen emotions blasting me right now but I can't really articulate anything so I'm gonna go get ready for bed, snuggle up with my baby and try to get a good nights sleep. Prayers for my family would be appreciated.


16 months!

Dear Lucy,

This month was all about independence. You made huge strides with potty training but I see it in other ways too.

We went to the park last week and you wanted to do all the activities by yourself too. I was a bit nervous at first but you can go down the slide all by yourself – and if I didn’t stop you, you’d go up it too!
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You can run now. You used to think you could but now you actually can!
110924 Renovation 036 You also like to walk on whatever balance beam you can find, whether it is a brick wall (scary for mommy!), a piece of leftover 2x4 lying on the ground or a rolled up rug (not quite so scary for mommy).
100910 Montessori and Home Blog 017And I shouldn’t even think about helping you with stairs. You can walk up and down them on your own, thank you very much! Sometimes if they are really big ones, you might let me hold your hand, but you have to ask, I can’t offer or you get quite offended.

You have an amazing memory. You still “talk” (sign) about alligator you got to pet last weekend and the ducks you saw last week and the caterpillar that used to live in our backyard that we haven’t seen for over a month!

You will play with your trays and put them up by yourself too. Last week you carried your tray over to your playdough spot, then layed out your tools before bringing the playdough over and opening it up. I watched you play for a few minutes then got distracted but when I looked back, you had picked everything up and it was all back on your shelf! If I wasn’t positive I had seen you playing with it, I wouldn’t have believed it.
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Of course, you have your messy moments as well but in general, you like things neat and tidy. In fact, you’ve decided a couple weeks ago that you don’t like anything dirty or sticky on your hands. You were given a donut treat after church this past Sunday and wouldn’t eat it at first because you didn’t want to touch the stickiness. You finally gave in and picked it up but every other bite you would hold out your hands for me to wipe them down. And if your spot at the dinner table gets messy, you ask for a rag so you can wipe it down. I call you my little helper and you nod and smile and point to yourself.

You don’t want help eating. You would rather me just hand you your utensil and plate/bowl and let you go to town. It is really nice to be able to give you a bowl of yogurt and leave you there for a few minutes while I put other things away or do dishes and not have a yogurt explosion waiting for me when I turn back around.
Overall, you're just getting to be such a big girl!


Toddler Tuesday: Desperate times

They call for desperate measures. Last week, I really really really needed to get a few things done before we started the renovation but Lucy was not cooperating. It probably had something to do with the strep and ear infections she had but I knew she was on a pain reliever and was feeling mostly better, she just needed a distraction. So I got out a couple plastic containers, a spoon and gave her some wheat to play with.
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It was messy. Really really really messy. But it worked. She had a blast and played with it for quite a while. She didn’t even notice when I finished my tasks and got the camera out. And it only took me a couple of minutes to sweep it all up. I won’t be doing it very often but in a pinch, it works.


Week one update

As Craig mentioned, we started demoing last Friday. One week later and we’ve made pretty good progress.
It started out looking like this: 110918 Renovation 005
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And after a week of this:
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It looks like this:
110924 Renovation 047 (taken from the same spot as the first picture above)
The first few days went better than expected. The next few, not so much. We had trouble turning off our water to remove the sink. The cold water valve under the sink was broken so we planned on turning it off to the whole house to remove the sink and its plumbing then replace the valve. But it wasn’t so easy, we kept turning the main water valves but the water kept coming. It was odd and discouraging. We aren’t planning on moving any plumbing so while it isn’t our area of expertise, we didn’t expect problems and were beginning to feel really stupid. We finally realized that one of several valves in the basement must also be broken so the next day we called the plumber for help.

Turns out, our system is more complicated than it should be and one valve was broken so even the plumber had difficulties figuring out what was going wrong. Twice he came up and said “that should do it, let’s just make sure nothing comes out” only to then turned on the faucet and have water came out.  Luckily Lucy can’t read lips or she might have picked up some new vocabulary I didn’t want her to have :-) But a couple hours and $230 later, we had a couple new valves, a better understanding of how our water system is laid out and a renewed sense of confidence.

The next night, with the water successfully shut off, we finished removing the sink and lower cabinets. Underneath that cabinet we saw just what we didn’t want to – asbestos tiles. Before we even had time to contemplate what that meant, we accidently nicked a copper pipe. It was at that point that I began to worry and wonder just what we had gotten ourselves into.

But Craig made a quick trip to Home Depot for a repair clamp (which was cheap, simple and worked great) and I did some thinking. I was planning on taking Lucy to my mom’s soon anyway so we just extended the trip to ensure that Craig has plenty of time to finish the tile removal and thoroughly clean up before we bring the baby back so it has all worked out okay so far. Just another reason to keep my eyes on the prize.
My goal was to have the demoing done so we could schedule the electrical work. Thursday night we finished up the last bit of drywall removal so we are right on track and we’ve already got the electricians and drywall installers scheduled and on the calendar so onward we go!


Wrecking Crew

Back in our younger days, MacKenzie used to make me watch renovation shows on HGTV. I did not enjoy them (too bad they didn't have Holmes on Homes back then), especially since I was not a homeowner.. I really didn't like how they always gave the homeowners sledgehammers to swing around with wild abandon. Often, the stuff they smashed could easily have been salvaged. At the very least, it is much easier to haul one or two pieces outside instead of 45 pieces, which is what you get from smashing. But I guess smashing makes for better TV.

One particular incident, though, made my week. This guy went to hit a closed toilet lid with his sledgehammer (yeah, why would you do that?). The lid shattered into shards, one of which sliced into his arm or leg (I can't recall which), bloodying him up. I definitely LOL'ed. I tried to find the video on Youtube, but a search for "toilet sledgehammer" comes up with a lot of videos.

Anyway, we are in the demolition phase right now, and I can assure you that I swung no sledgehammers with wild abandon. Here's me at work:


Toddler Tuesday – Pom Poms!

Aah, the pom-pom. Small, colorful, full of endless possibilities. I picked up a pack a couple months ago but never thought Lucy would get so much use out of them.

I started by setting up a transfer activity. One tray with two bowls, one empty and one with 15 or so pom-poms. She would sit and transfer them back and forth, back and forth, at first just using her hands but now she likes to use a spoon. In theory, I start her going from the left bowl to the right since that is supposed to help prepare them for reading but she switches back and forth and I’m not going to micromanage her pom-pom fun.
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Another activity I made with pom-poms is her drop bottle. Its just a small plastic soda bottle with a hole cut out of it. I wrapped the edges of the hole with duct tape so they wouldn’t scratch her. She stuffs pom-poms down the neck and uses the hole to get them back again. It isn’t the pretties thing but she uses it a lot.

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Those the only official pom-pom activites I’ve set-up but that isn’t the only way she uses them. She also likes to:
- Roll them down the slats of the rocking chair so they fly off the back. This really wears her out since she likes to roll one down, run around the chair to pick it up then back to roll it again. Never mind that she has 14 still in her bowl, she has to get that one back.

- Hide them around the room, stuffing them into crevices in the couch, putting them in the corner of shelves, etc. Then she will go around and collect them again. Its like an Easter egg hunt anytime she wants!

- Place them over the air ducts (when the air conditioner is running) so they fly up in the air.

-Rub them on her face, our face, her baby dol'l’s face, the cat’s face. She likes how soft they feel and assumes everyone else must too. The cat is the only one of us who has issues with this.

- Give up trying to put them on the cat’s face and just watch the cat bat them around. This one brings on lots of giggles, especially when the cat looses control and goes skidding across our hardwood floors.

So far, this has been one of the best $2 investments I’ve made. And I’m sure we’ll be using them more in the future. Sorting by color, counting activities, art projects, are just a few of the things I can think of right now but Lucy will probably come up with better ideas anyway.


Potty Progress

During my sabbatical, I knew I would be writing a potty update when I started writing again but I thought it would be all about our “potty strike.” Luckily that is not the case but I do want to talk about it.

Potty strikes are apparently pretty common for EC/early pottiers, especially during the 12-15 month range. They can last a week or two, or a month or two. Lucy’s lasted a few weeks, during which she only went on the potty one time.

At first, I mistakenly let myself get frustrated. It wasn’t that she wasn’t going, it was that she knew she needed to but refused to sit down. She would sit any other time I asked her or sometimes just because she felt like it but if she started to go and I took her to the potty, she would become a stick and refuse to sit down. This was unlike previous “down” times because I knew she knew what to do which is I why I call this a true “potty strike.”

But after I reminded myself that 1) I wasn’t going to do this unless it was fun for us both, and 2) based on all my readings, this was really a good sign that she was close to making the independence leap,  I let my frustrations go and we plunged ahead with lots of naked time. It also helped when I realize that wiping up an accident on hardwood is actually easier than changing a toddlers’ diaper (I can’t believe I just admitted that but it is true!).

So I was all prepared to write about the strike and how I was dealing with it but Lucy had a better idea. Last week, the strike ended, something clicked and she really got it. Now we are on a potty roll.  She happily sits and goes whenever I remind her it is time, and she will tell me when she needs to go as well. She sometimes starts but then realizes and signs potty and runs (well, the best she can – it is really more of a walk with fast arms) to the potty. The last few days she has stayed clean and dry until early afternoon and even then only had 2 accidents each day (including through naptimes!). And when we do have “accidents,” she comes and shows me then will go get a diaper and help me mop up. I’m so proud of her!


Laying it out for you

One of the main reasons I had the confidence to do this remodel is because we are going with Ikea cabinets. Ikea is really diy friendly and their kitchen designer program made it easy for me to design the layout. We also turned to the ikeafans.com forum and got quite a bit of help. I definitely could not have come up with these plans without them. Between those two sources, we ended up feeling like we could get a good usable space even in our small area.
Here is the current kitchen and dining room. Well, our current kitchen doesn’t use ikea cabinets or countertop so this is the closest I could get using the ikea planner but you get the picture – and it isn’t pretty.
Now beauty is as beauty does but its not just aesthetically ugly but practically too. There is very little cabinet or countertop space. The door on the bottom left is the entrance from the garage and the main way we enter the house. Carrying a bunch of grocery bags through the small space between the fridge and oven is not fun. There is no countertop anywhere near the oven which means I often balance a plate of hot pancakes on the little ledge cutout on the yellow wall. And if I want to drain spaghetti, I have to walk across the kitchen, but first I take Lucy into the living room then run back and try to finish before she gets underfoot again – because I care about safety and not dropping boiling water on my small child. So we are pretty much gutting the place. The drywall on the ceiling will remain as will a few electrical outlets and one window. I think that’s it.
My main obstacle during the design process was thinking outside the box which is where ikeafans helped out. My original idea was to do a peninsula but I had several problems.
1) The dishwasher would butt up against the penisula, making it awkward to put away dishes when the dishwasher is open. It would also be squishing our already small dining room more than I wanted to.
2) The window. I really really wanted to keep it. Having a natural light source from two directions was one of the few things I loved about this kitchen and it hurt my heart to think about losing that. But that window does look out onto our garage wall (with about a ~8ft path between) so it wasn’t exactly a pretty view.
Here is the new layout.
It solves both problems. We ended up convinced that an island was the way to go. The island will mean a more open flow, but that is okay with Mr. anti-open floor plan Craig because we still have a bit of separation from the living room. The end result will be more of a eat-in kitchen look compared to a formal dining room but with a small casual house like ours, I think it will work well. And I can already imagine little people sitting at the island building volcanos or creating playdough art while I am working away at my own science experiment-y kitchen projects (home fermentation, anyone?)
The window issue was a bit tricker but we got it too. I was getting stuck because the window overlapped the fridge and the new stove location but I couldn’t find another place to put the stove. Turns out, I didn’t need a new place to put the stove, I needed a new place to put the fridge. Moving the fridge to the other side of the dishwasher does mean it encroaches into the dining room a bit more but it is just a fridge and not a whole line of cabinets so it won’t feel as smooshy. And it allows us to move the stove down to be centered over the new, slightly smaller, window. 
I know what you are thinking…a stove in front of a window? Is that to code? In our case yes because the window is going to be a glass block window. No venting issues or trying to work with a downdraft system and we get the light without the ugly view!
Here is a side view.
newkitchenlayoutimage That is the image I have to force myself to remember when I start hyperventilating. If only remodeling a kitchen in real life was as easy as creating it on the ikea kitchen planner!


Toddler Tuesdays – Treasure Basket

One of my favorite Montessori baby activities is the treasure basket. Its was cheap and easy to put together and best of all, has been loved for quite a while. Although its been tweaked a few times since then, I originally put it together back when Lucy was probably only 8-9 months old. She loved it then and she loves it now.
The concept of a treasure basket is simple. Its a basket filled with treasures for a baby or young toddler to explore. Babies naturally explore the world with all their senses and Montessori believed it was important to build on this by giving babies and young children a variety of sensorial experiences to stimulate those senses and help develop the ability to focus their attention and discriminate between items. You want to help them learn how to learn. Keeping this in mind, you will want to select a wide variety of textures, scents, colors and sounds when picking items for your basket.
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When I first put it together, I only had 5-10 items in mine but How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way recommends between 50-100. I still don’t think I have 50 (just counted, hers has 30) but I did notice that Lucy took a greater interest in it after I added more items.
And think outside of the box basket. They don’t need to be baby items. Here are a few of the things I put in Lucy’s:
avocado pit
boning tool (for basket making, very smooth texture)
little canvas bag
ribbons of different colors and textures
glass jar
pine cone
velcro (she just figured out last night how to pull the pieces apart and she loves the sound that makes)
wood sample (from picking out our kitchen flooring, haha!)
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You’ll see that many of my items would not make it on a list of baby proof items. I’m okay with that. I’m not advocating giving your baby a basket full of knives, use your own judgment and common sense, but try to keep an open mind. The best way to fill a basket is to just start looking for fun items through the day.
Another Montessori concept is freedom and in many cases this is seen by leaving items out for a child to select what and when he wants to work on an activity. But since, as I said before, I want to be present if she is playing with it, I only take it down at select times when I know I can keep an eye on her. She doesn’t have to play with it when I take it down, but she normally does.
The first few times I would pick out items on my own and look and explore them myself, and that was enough to get her interested but now she knows it is fun and I can just take it down. She wants me nearby but doesn’t want, or need, my interaction so I use that time every afternoon to sit next to her, relax and listen to my German lessons (but I kept forgetting to take pictures so these are from last night, I let her play after bathtime, hence the wet hair and pajamas :-)
100910 Montessori and Home Blog 034 She normally plays with it for 20-30 minutes. Now that she is getting older, I can tell I need to add or switch items more so recently, I’ve been on the lookout for new things to throw in there. Let me know if you make a basket and stumble upon something really toddlerific!


What we’ve got cookin’

I believe I’ve mentioned once or twice that out current kitchen is slightly outdated. While we could wait around hoping that pink and grey laminate countertops are coming back in style, we’ve decided to take the renovation route instead.
When we first looked into remodeling the kitchen, we did what seemed normal, we went to a big chain store, in our case “orange,” and met with a kitchen designer. We know it works well for some people, especially those who don’t want to have to be involved with the nitty gritty details but also don’t have the money, or time, to find and hire a local general contractor on their own. And others have found their kitchen planner services to be invaluable (the Young House Love couple swears by theirs).
But in our case, we left less than impressed. One of the main draws of the big store was the knowledge and expertise when it came to design but the kitchen designer didn’t have anything useful to say about our layout issues. She basically told me that I was screwed and should just let go of the idea of keeping a window that I really wanted (and in the end, do get to!) keep.  She also almost doubled the budget we went in with and I felt a lot of pressure to accept that. And the few design decisions I was pretty sure about, she rejected (I was told nobody does white cabinets and black countertops. Really? I don’t think she has spent any time on pinterest.)
So I did a little research and realized that it wasn’t our only option. In the end, we decided to go rogue and be our own general contractors.
The upside is that we will be getting a lot more bang for our buck, quality wise. Since we aren’t willing to go into debt for this kitchen but we still want it to be built to last, that one is a biggie. Another plus is that we will be in control of every aspect so I know we will be getting just what I want. We won’t be totally alone, we’re calling in contractors for several area (electrical, drywall, etc) and I’ve found a few internet buddies to help me along the journey but all the decisions and responsibility rest with us. And to be honest, we like it that way. The downside – its a lot more work. But I think we are up to the challenge, or I at least I hope we are.

The plan is for us to start the demolition process in a couple of weeks, which means we are really busy planning, ordering, putting together cabinets (in the basement) and trying to organize and prepare for many weeks/months of living a kitchen-less lifestyle. I’m nervous but excited!


15 months

Since Lucy is well on her way to being 16 months old now, I almost skipped this post. But then I remembered how much I forget about all the ways she is changing even after just a few months have passed so I decided to be a good mom and just get it done before more memories escape.

Dear Lucy,

 You are my sweet baby, but I fear you are also becoming a daddy's girl. Daddy was away from us for a couple weeks this month and every morning you woke up asking for him, and every time you saw my camera or the computer, you would ask and ask to see pictures of him and every time the phone rang, you would get so exciting thinking it was him. The night after we got home, you woke up after just a little while and the only thing that consoled you was being held by your daddy. And several times since then, you have rejected my snuggles and just wanted him. Its so sweet to see you two together that I can't really be hurt though.

Walkin' in daddy's shoes

 You've added a few more signs to your vocabulary plus you've made up quite a few of your own signs like cold, phone, quiet (you say this when we go to watch the birds eat, you will make lots of noise but if I say anything, you turn to me and put your finger to your lips). But more than the number is the quality. You're moving beyond just basic nouns like dog and cat to more abstract concepts like cold, sad, hurt, wind, wait. Your actually kind of obsessed with things being sad or hurt.

 You've started telling "stories". You will repeat a group of 3-5 signs over and over and over again to relate something that happened earlier. Like when I hit my head on a shelf one morning, that night at dinner you kept signing "hurt, head, sad, then pointing to me and the shelf." When we went to the petting zoo, you spent the rest of the week telling me "horse, pig, sheep, outside" and when the caterpillar you and daddy used to go visit on the bush out back disappeared, every time we went outside it was "caterpillar, outside, daddy, all-gone, sad." And sometimes you will intentionally hurt your baby so you can tell us all about how she is hurt and sad.

The top one shows your sweet smile, but this one shows your squinty smile. Both are cute!

 But you are also sweet and love love to snuggle with your baby. She is a constant part of our life now and it is so much fun to see you act our your life through her. Now that you are a big girl, you get to walk sometimes instead of always being carried. A few days after I started being intentional about letting you walk, you started taking your baby by her hand and walking with her her instead of just carrying her. You like to have your legs stroked/scratched with the snappi and I've caught you sitting with baby in your lap, stroking her legs with the snappi too. You always make sure to share your snack and water with "baby," she often sits on your lap during story time, and you love to make your baby dance when I put on some music.

You and your dolly are dancing along to Wicked. 

One of the few things you love as much as your baby is frogs. I don't even remember where you first learned about frogs but they became an instant hit.You love books about frogs. You love it when we make froggie noises. When I tell you it is time for pajamas, you sign frog and unfortunately, have been known to throw a fit if your frog pajamas are not clean. We saw a couple frogs last week at Grandpa and Bubbies house and you just got so excited. I love seeing you develop your own interests and this one is definitely your own since neither your dad or I did anything to encourage your froggie fixation. Who knows, maybe you will grow up to be a herpatoligist!

Another thing you currently love is nursery rhymes. You can sit for 30 minutes listening to me read your nursery rhyme book and you even have signs to describe your favorite ones so I know which one you would prefer next, like "Doggy, Eat, All-done, Sad" (Old Mother Hubbard),"Fishy" (Little Tommy Tittle-mouse), and "Mama, Daddy, Baby" (The Lion and the Unicorn - the illustration for that one shows a man, woman and little girl watching the fight). "Sad" could mean The Old Women Who Lived in a Shoe, Little Boy Blue or The Queen of Hearts, all of which, much to your delight, involve some sort of sadness. Its funny how much sad things interest you, because you aren't normally sad my happy little girl!


And I'm back...

I really enjoyed my time off but I can't exactly say I took it easy. Here are just a few of the things I've been up to:
  • took three trips, which had me spanning three states and taking Lucy on five different flights - it wears me out just remembering that!
  • spent hours upon hours on the big house project we are planning that is threatening to take over our lives. If you are my pinterest friend, you might already have an inkling as to what that is, if not, well, you should be my friend! (but if pinterest isn't your thing, just wait a few days and all will be revealed 
  • read enough books to finish my historical fiction challenge and still maintain a pretty good fiction/non-fiction ratio.
  • threw a party which made babies on the other side of the world happy 
  • finally found a way to make the homemakers journal work for me - and boy am I keeping it busy now
    So after my month off, I still feel like I need a nap, but at least I have things to write about. And I'm exciting to start writing...but first, I have to unpack some suitcases and catch up on laundry. Some things never change :-)