A little at a time - part 2

I was feeling pretty good about my toy organization and thought that would be the end of it but then I started noticing all the books and art supplies. Then I got my copy of Simplicity Parenting from ILL and I knew I had a bit more work to do.

But if I wanted to put more things up, I had to create more "up" to put them. I had been keeping most of the art supplies and extra "school" supplies in our living room closet on a bookshelf and that worked but it wasted quite a bit of space Plus things often fell behind or to the sides of the bookcase and it was really hard to keep the dusty bunnies at bay because a broom didn't reach the crannies. But I assumed that installing real shelves would be expensive or a lot of work. But then I saw this post over at YHL and thought, I could do that. So I did. I braved Home Depot with both kids and despite a little issue with the scary halloween decorations, picked up everything we needed. Craig did cut my shelves down for me but I did the tracking installation all by myself. (That is less bragging and more "If I can do it, so can you.")

Since I am the world's worst blogger, my before picture was taken when I was already half way done emptying the closet but imagine it full of bins and art supplies towering in piles.

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And here is the after. We did get rid of a few board games since we always play the same few. I didn't get rid of any art supplies but I did move some into this space from the armoire. And the books were an addition. I only got donated a few but moved them from the bookshelf on the left to inside the closet. I left about a dozen or so of Lucy's out and half a dozen for Jonah, divided between the living room, gutter shelves in Lucy's room and Jonah's potty spot.

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Top row is my camera bag on left, then a container with future activities, mostly things Lucy did that I'm holding onto for Jonah. And a basket with sensory bin items and bright green hanging file folder container with folders labeled yearly for kids art storage. Next row is paper and painting supplies. Below that are more art supplies and nature bin containing posters and handouts, binoculars and magnifying glasses. Bookshelf is next. I want to add a few magazine boxes to put seasonal books into so I can keep them special and be able to find them easily but that hasn't happened yet. Board game are below and look, you can see the floor! Which means I can sweep - at least until I fill that space :-)

I really like how the shelves are adjustable so I could maximize my space and I also like how easy they will be to remove if I need to. I've used this closet for kid storage almost since we moved in so I didn't mind committing to shelves but I also realize that we have very limited closet space in this house and neither children's clothes are occupying any of that so if they need to in the future, we may need to take this back. But if that happens, I'll adjust and Craig, well, he'll just need to buy more pizza.


The sweetness of three

I feel like this might be a dangerous thing to say but I am going to admit that I am loving "three." Two was really hard on me. I've heard moms say that you get one really tough year, the "terrible two" year but sometimes it's two, sometimes its three and sometimes its four. We haven't made it that far but I'm really hoping two was it and we have a bit of a break. Not that we don't have any discipline issues but about two months ago things got SO MUCH EASIER. I have to remember that in another year or so when I have to do it all over again (oh dear, I'm already tired).

And in the middle of all this "twoness" I was dealing with, I kept hearing about Charlotte Mason's idea of focusing on one habit and could not wrap my head around it. But now that things have settled down and I no longer feel like I'm dealing with a small but crazy person, I'm starting to understand that concept.

One little issue we have had lately was the "I can'ts." (And while I had this post half finished in my draft box, Karen over at Candid diversions posted this so it doesn't appear to be an issue that is isolated to my three year old which is a comforting thought). As I mentioned here, we've been working on some bible verses that address that issue. I also realized that the only chores she was doing were the voluntary ones she's had for a while now - helping me unload the dishwasher, folding cloth napkins and kitchen towels, dusting. But nothing formal. So that changed. Now she has her table chore which is taking a little hand broom and dustpan after every meal and sweeping under the table. With Jonah being a "I'm done so let's just toss that down" kinda guy, under the table clean-up is actually a pretty big job.

I think Craig thought I was nuts at first and that first time, I worried that maybe I had overestimated her. But with lots of encouragement she did it. And while she may still pout a bit after particularly messy meals (I love how concerned she gets when we eat something messy or crumble and she sees Jonah start to drop it), she's starting to really be proud of her contribution. And I'm proud of her too because it is an actually contribution to our family. I hated dealing with that area every meal and now I don't have to do much at all. Win-win!

I also stopped "helping" her do her morning tasks (brush teeth, comb hair, get dressed, make bed) and now ""check" them. Sometimes that means I really don't do much at all, other times  its more a case of semantic, like how I now scrub each tooth "to check and make sure its clean." But in the last week, she's just blossomed. I can even say "Go get your shoes and socks and put them on" and she'll come back with them on! That never fails to make me smile. She just seems so much older all of a sudden.

And here is a little tale from last week that pretty much sums up how sweet she is getting to be. She and I left Jonah and Craig at home while we went to storytime. It was a specific request of hers to have some alone time with me but once we got there, she asked to go home because she missed Jonah and wanted to play with him. I tried to convince her to stick it out but once I could see that wasn't working, I told her that I thought daddy and Jonah were going to go out and play in the rain and maybe we could join them and she got so excited about going home and "being a family." So we did. Later that day she kept talking about how she liked him and likes hanging out as a family. Yep, three is the place to be.

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And yes, I know realize that this picture would be much sweeter if I cropped the toilet out but I'm too tired to do that right now. 


Small town livin'

I really like were we live. It's close enough to the big city that we can easily drive up there to spend the morning at the zoo, nature center or one of the free museums. But we aren't in the city. We have space and we live close to a cute little town and get to experience their homecoming parade and fire station open house, both of which we did in the last few weeks.

I forgot my camera for the homecoming parade but it was Lucy's first parade and she just loved it. Being a small town, we left about 10 minutes before it started, parked close by and walked a couple hundred feet to park our chairs. She played "run down the hill" with a couple of boys she met there, in which they ran down the hill and she slowly crept down the hill while crouched down so as not to accidentally go too fast. Jonah on the other hand was quite anxious to run down the hill and not too happy that we insisted he play on the sidewalk.

Then the cars started coming and along with the cars, the candy. Lucy was in heaven. She also got a couple glowsticks that Jonah later bit into and caused glowing staining liquid to spill all over my comforter and some Mardi Gras beads that she keeps choking herself on. And when it was over, we packed up and were home by bedtime. Much better than some of the long traffic filled parades I've attended.

A few days later we went to the fire house open house. We got there right at the beginning because Craig had to go to work afterwards and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. A few others trickled in before we left but there was lots of time to

Sit in the helicopter - Lucy wouldn't get in.
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Sit in the firetruck - we finally got Lucy in for a few minutes after reassuring her it wouldn't go anywhere.

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Then a fireman came up and offered to take them for a spin which scared her so she wouldn't go back in again. She would go in the boat since it couldn't go anywhere without water and she knew she would be safe.

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But for all her nerves about the vehicles, she loves mascots and Smokey was no exception.

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This guy pretty much scared everyone though. Craig took one for the team and tried to show Lucy and the other children there that he was friendly but most would only get close enough to get their cookie before retreating again. 

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And no trip to a fire house is complete with a fire dog.

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Small town living. It's a good thing. 


San Antonio

Last weekend we went down to San Antonio to visit my dad. He moved there a few months ago and this was our first visit to the new place. We kept it low-key, mostly hanging out with him and my brother, who drove in from A&M for the weekend. We watched some baseball, we watched some football, and chased the kids around to keep them from falling jumping into the pool.

I did get a chance to catch up with my old college friend and roommate and her husband. We were in the same Freshman organization which I now realize means we've known each other for 10 years! We both married our college boyfriends so it was kinda fun to see us all grown-up now and the men were good sports about listening to us prattle on about old times.

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We also had a little pumpkin adventure. And I really do mean "little." This pumpkin patch turned out to the very sad - and very expensive. Yeesh. But Lucy enjoyed her pony ride immensely, Jonah got to touch a pig and after much deliberation, pumpkins were selected.

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Lucy was quite excited about the pumpkin carving process that afternoon. She was going to draw the picture on and then Grandpa would cut it out. Except, as time went on, the parts she wanted cut kept decreasing. First, she said everything, then just the mouth and nose, then just the mouth and by the end, she didn't want it cut at all. So she draw a cute picture on the front and we called it a day.

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Oh, and we stuck Jonah in a kimchi pot. I guess it's a tradition now. 

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If you don't know baby sign language, he's signing "all done."


13 months

No monthly pictures anymore but I do want to jot down a few notes about milestones.

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  • Teeth - 5. He had one at 11 months, 4 at a year and now has added another to the batch.
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  • Signs - 15+ The ones I can think of right now are book, more, milk, water, eat, all done, potty, kitty, horse, bird, elephant, crocodile, monkey, puppy, phone, sleep, train but I'm pretty sure there are more that are escaping me. At first every animal was kitty, now he defaults to puppy unless he knows the exact sign which reminds me, I really need to look up the sign for giraffe and bunny. 
  • Words - Not much. He'll say mama and dada and at times it seems to refer to us, other times not so much.  And occasionally "nana" for banana but not reliably. He does consistently make animals sounds though - neigh and moo, as well as elephant and a monkey sounds. Can you tell he likes animals?
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  • Other cute stuff - He loves the itsy bitsy spider. He loves to do "How big is Jonah. So Big!" He can point to his mouth, nose, ears and beep-bo (belly button for you non Sandra Boyton readers). He loves give hugs and kisses, especially to Lucy. Every night before I leave the room, I blow Lucy a kiss and now Jonah has started blowing her kisses constantly from the time I tuck her into bed until we are down the hall and into our room.
  • He's still a big climber although he's pretty good at it which makes me worry less. At my dad's last weekend, he climbed down from the dining room table without so much as a bump. We finally caved and got a more escape proof booster seat which is good but I never really trust anything to contain or control him. 
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  • Toddler. Rarely crawls these days and is starting to get annoyed with being carried. Luckily, he's normally okay with being worn as long as I am moving and he is getting better about walking while holding your hand which helps. 
  • He's my little guy. I don't have accurate stats since his well baby is next week but he's definitely on the small side. He has enough personality to make up for it though. 
  • He loves his hat, he loves his swedish mocassins. Any other clothing is purely optional. 


A little at a time - part 1

I've been on a bit of a minimalist/decluttering kick lately. It happens from time to time and by now, Craig has learned the signs. The first few years probably scared him a bit but now he's used to it so when he comes home and with no prior warning, finds all the closets emptied or the living room rearranged he knows to not ask questions and just suggests pizza.

This time it was toys that prompted it. We've always done the Montessori (and Waldorf too?) thing with like toys displayed in baskets. And Lucy learned the one toy at a time rule, occasionally two if they were being played with together (blocks to build a fence for her animals, etc). It worked well. But then, you know what happened?

Jonah. Jonah happened. And he is a dumper. Now perhaps if he was a dumper at 2, I'd think he was just being mischievous and needed to be taught the rules (but perhaps not, we'll see how I feel when he is actually two). But he just loves the act of dumping, it brings him such joy. It does not bring me joy though. And it quickly became apparent that we had too much out.

I'm pretty much a toy nazi already so we don't really have that much stuff and 95% of what we are it's good opened ended toys. Mostly wooden although I'll allow plastic if it's good quality like duplo or playmobile (apparently German toy makers can handle plastic responsible). So I didn't think we needed to purge or organize as much as limit. I had tried to rotate in the past but never really got a system and was reluctant to try again. Then Karen linked to this post and it was the kick in the pants I needed.

It's been a little less than a month and I'm loving it. I think her suggestion to rotate every two weeks is a good one but biweekly things are hard habits for me. Weekly is much easier for my mind to trigger so for now we switch on the day daddy goes back to work (which can vary too but is easily remember so I don't have to listen to Lucy ask and ask about it). Each bin has one of our larger sharing toys, a few puzzles/games, an "educational" type activity, and a toy for Jonah.

Bin 1:
Melissa and Doug Barn and all of our animals (my favorites are Schleich but we have some of Craig's from when he was a kid too)
Lauri Alphabet puzzle
Melissa and Doug animal puzzle (this has to go with the barn because both kids love matching the pieces with the toy animals)
Pattern blocks and notebook (free printables in sheet protectors)
Wooden Ring Stacker
Homemade bean bags
Some playdough tools

Bin 2:
a couple Lauri puzzles
Pony beads and pipe cleaners (for use with a colander but I keep the colander in the kitchen because we eat spaghetti even when Bin 2 is not in use :-)
Some toy food (some melissa and doug, some homemade)
Hammering Ball Set
Some playdough tools

Bin 3
Wooden Train from Aldis (really inexpensive around Christmas, hoping they'll have it again this year so we can add a few more pieces to our set)
a couple of misc puzzles
Haba My First Orchard
Lauri pegs and platforms (this is currently a bit old for Jonah and a bit young for Lucy so I might take it out for a while)
Wooden Ramp Racer
Homemade necklace kit (dyed noodles and yarn)
Some toy food
Some playdough tools

 A few toys are left out all the time. These are:
  • Toy kitchen 
  • Playmobile - Lucy keeps this in her room on her high extra bed (and by "extra bed" I mean the one she is supposed to sleep in but only loves until the sun goes down then insists on moving back to the mattress on the floor) so she can play without Jonah interfering. 
  • Playsilks, dress up cape and tutus 
  • 2 dolls and 2 stuffed animals - Jonah had Green baby and Mr. Puppy, Lucy has Fairy Pussy Willow and Horsey. The rest have been bagged up. I haven't gotten up the nerve to actually donate them yet, but it will happen as soon as I can do it without feeling like a big old meanie mom. 
  • Wooden Blocks - These get used with almost all of the big toys in some way so they stay out.
  • Outside toys - sandbox toys, dump truck, porch toys, balls
Goodness, when I write it all down it does seem like we have a ton. But now that  it's divided up, I only have to deal with a part of it at a time. 

It doesn't look very pretty this way compared to all my pretty little baskets lined up around the room but that's okay. They are hidden in the bottom of our armoire in the kitchen.

Now you see 'em,

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now you don't.
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Notice the rubber band around the bottom knobs? That's there for a reason and that reason rhymes with Bonah. And that paper bag to the left is our paper recycling "bin" that needs to be replaced with something lidded because he can entertain himself for minutes by emptying every piece of paper from there and spreading them all around the house. Why am I even bothering with toys?

 Up next, art supplies and books!


In which I'm feeling torn

So lots of my posts are pre-written and edited but then sometimes you get a brain dump. This is a brain dump. Just so you are warned.

Lucy read her first book today! It was the first bob book in the series and while they aren't the most interesting thing in the world* seeing the concept of blending "click" for her was amazing. Probably on of the top mom moments so far was seeing her start this new skill and seeing how proud she was when we got to "The End."

But there is this little part of me that keeps worrying that I'm pushing her or that I should be trying to hold her back or slow her down. Maybe "hold back" is not the right concept but more so that I should be trying to get her to focus on other things. And we do. Yes, she read a book today but she also made colored noodle necklaces and played pretend with her daddy so it's not like I'm cracking the whip so she's ready for the SATS. But I know so many mom's that on their later kids say they wished they didn't so much so early with the first one or two, that instead of worrying I'm not doing enough, I'm left worrying that I'm doing too much.

Although truthfully, I am holding her back. She loves reading and math "lessons" so I have to limit her. And they are the first thing on the chopping block of things to lose as consequences. Craig and I laugh about it but "If you don't change your attitude, we will not be doing math/reading today" is actually a very common phrase around here - because it works!

Even with reading lessons, we've been slowly working our way through the first 26 lessons of The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading which is learning a letter at a time. Even though she knew most of them before we started, I still wanted to go slow because I didn't want her to get stuck and frustrated at blending or to keep asking for "lessons" when I knew what she needed was more time. So we'd do a few letters, then take a few days to practice them by playing some different letter games I made up.

Then she started doing this "No, how about I read it" thing at bedtime which doesn't really work when you can't actually read. So we compromised and I'll read but if I see a cvc word I think she can do, she'll sound out the letters and I'll blend them with her so we can move on. Today I noticed she really got it when we did that with cat so I took down a bob book and off she went. At first it was slow but by the last page, she knew what she was doing. And my first reaction was, "Oh gosh, I need to tell Grandma/Grandpa/Aunt Steph, etc so I was going to put it on facebook but stopped. I just couldn't. I didn't want to be that parent.

So maybe it isn't that I'm afraid I'm pushing her but that I'm afraid people will think I'm pushing her. Like I'm a hypocrite? I know that if I'm talking to a mom about our kids and she says "Oh, Johnny is 3/4/5 years old and just not interested in learning his letters or doing workbooks" or "I'm worried because she's struggling so much with X), I'd be the first one to say "Ah, don't worry about what other people think, if you know he's fine and happily learning other things, let him play, don't stress." I swear I feel that way! But then I'm doing reading lessons with my three year old!

Of course, maybe this worry is all for nothing. Scratch that. Of course this worry is all for nothing. Worry almost always is, I know that. But what I mean is, maybe she'll wake up tomorrow or in a week or two and reading will be out and something else will be her new obsession of the moment and we'll pick back up with reading lessons next year. Who knows.

Okay, I think I've dumped enough.

*Although I must say all the talk about sam sitting on mat and mat sitting on sam made me laugh because her Sunday school class has two brothers named matt and sam and I can definitely see them sitting on each other.

Fall Books

Obviously we are reading some fall books for our preschool time but I love fall and can't stop there. Here are some others we've enjoyed this year and last.

The Apple Pie that Papa Baked by Lauren Thompson

I love the sweet vintage style illustrations, Lucy loves the repetitive poem (think The House that Jack Built, another favorite of hers). Sweet and fun but be prepared to hide it after a day or two :-)

Bear Has a Story to Tell

When I saw the author of A Sick Day for Amos McGee had a new book out, I did the unthinkable, I bought a brand new hardcover copy without even having read it! I live on the edge, I know. But it worked out. This book is great. Beautiful simply illustrations, a gentle sweet story about a bear who is ready to sleep for the winter but first wants to tell a story. But his friends are all preparing for winter too so will he be able to tell his stoyr? A great example of a living book because in very few words it expresses so much. This one is another good book for those November, not quite winter days.

In November by Cynthia Rylant

I'm not sure Cynthia Rylant has written a bad book, at least not of the ones I've read so far. More verbose than the previous two books listed her, the poetic language and beautiful illustrations still keep little one's attention fairly well.

Hurry Hurry Mary Dear by N.M. Bodecker

I'm torn about recommending this book. It's a great poem about Mary preparing for winter by picking apples, dilling pickles, etc. The illustrations are fun and I think Lucy was only Jonah's age when we first checked it out of the library and she loved finding the little black cat on every page. Jonah is currently obsessed with signing cat  (so much so that he kept rubbing food all over his face signing cat at the dinner table tonight while he was looking for ours) so I'm pretty sure he'll love it too and I'm excited to read it to them both. So why the question? Well, it has a bit of that husbands/men = dolts attitude that is already so prevalent in our society. And I feel like maybe that should bother me here like it does other places, but honestly, it doesn't. I like this book too much (as does Craig I might add). But I've included the disclaimer anyway. 

The Tale of Timmy Tiptoess by Beatrix Potter

We love our Beatrix Potter around here except that Lucy is awfully opinionated about which ones she wants and doesn't want to read. It's hard to get her to any new ones. We started off with the short ones like Fierce Bad Bunny and Miss Moppet and have progress towards her longer stories. We aren't quite to Pigling Bland stage yet but are reading a lot about the bunnies (including Peter, Benjamin and the Flopsies) as well as Jemima. But I was able to sneak in The Tale of Timmy Tiptoes recently for a change of pace (once we read a story one time, it's normally excepted. Don't try too hard to understand her, I've heard three is a phase :-)

Anyway, back to Timmy Tiptoes. It isn't one of her more popular stories and I wouldn't say it was my favorite Beatrix Potter story but that's like saying As You Like It isn't my favorite piece of Shakespeare's writing. Even so, it's still head and shoulder's about most other things. And now when we go on fall hikes and hear a bird, we'll say "Whose been digging up my nuts" and both start laughing so I still wholeheartedly recommend it.

Do you have any fall favorites you can to share? I promise I won't hog them from the library. 


The things she says

Lucy's tried to create jokes before but they don't normally make much sense. But this one actually does!

We made a felt leaf banner and as I hung it up, she told me "Mom, I want to leaf/leave it up there. Leave it up. Like leaves. Leave it. I'm so funny, mommy." Yes she is.  

Lucy: We should make G grandpa's letter (Her letter is L, mine is M, Craig's is D, etc)
Me: Oh, that's true. And Grandma too.
Lucy (rolling her eyes at me): No. Grandpa loves guh-guh-grapefruit so he should have the letter G. Grandma doesn't love grapefruit.

Lucy's favorite fairy tales right now are probably Rapunzel and Hansel and Gretel.  We "play" them a lot which means we act them out.  She often tries to get Jonah to join in but (shockingly!) that doesn't always work. They are a bit gruesome and yes, we read the full Grimms versions but the scary witches, blinding falls and death by hot oven don't bother her at all. But one fairy tale I'm not allowed to read - The Frog Prince. Why? It's too sad. You don't remember the ending of that story being sad? Well, the frog turns into prince at the end and in her words "I just miss the froggy so much. I wuv froggies and so does the princess and it makes me sad inside when he leaves." At what age do you think the idea of a dashing young prince will start to sound better than a frog friend? I'm okay with a couple decades :-)

Lucy's current Bible memory verse is "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" and yes, that was a strategic choice. She did fine the first few days but then refused to say it one day. "No, I can't do all things - I can't fly! I can't push Jonah over on his head! I can't be a daddy!" We had a little discussion over what the verse actually means and but I'm not so sure she's convinced.

Lucy: This is a picture of a unicorn. You can also call them rhinocerahorses.