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Another’s Perspective

Girls at Japanese Garden, Portland, OR

We met some friends at the Japanese Garden today. We got there earlier than they, and took that time to explore on our own. I used to come here regularly before kids, and only once or twice when Chloe was little. It is a lovely place, even in winter. Unfortunately, by the time our friends arrived, Leo was ready to go. However, we stayed for another hour or so, giving the girls time to hang out and enjoy being together. Leo was clingy and wanted holding the entire time. By the end I was ready to just get home.

Before leaving, we decided to exit the garden (no food or drinks allowed), and eat a snack outside the gates. The other mom is a newer friend of mine. She’s done a lot of traveling and living around the world, and married a man from another country. I love hearing about her experiences in other cultures, and I often see, by things she says, how it has informed her perspective.

Anyway, there are two particular instances that stick out in my mind, that I found myself thinking about later. The first is that she remembered to pack her daughter’s snack – a cheese quesadilla, some unpeeled clementines and a water bottle. I, on the other hand, did not consciously pack a snack, instead relying on what I happen to have in my bag for moments like this – a kids Clif bar, which Chloe and Leo shared, packets of organic gummies and two small juice boxes – all pre-packaged from the store. I also wiped my kids hands with a wet wipe and offered one. What do you think? Interesting to see the difference between the snacks, right? While I believe both are perfectly acceptable, I should have known, since my kids didn’t eat much for lunch, that they would be hungry. It was a good reminder to try and pack fresh more often than I do, though our impromptu snack was fine.

The other instance was when we got back to the parking lot. The mom took a peek inside our minivan, behind the kids’ row, and exclaimed “You could have a dance party back there!” It made me laugh, because it’s true (a preschool dance party anyway)! But her comment does put into perspective our choice of vehicle (newer, though we bought it used after David accidentally totaled our last car). I am really happy with it. It is comfortable for our family of four + dog, though it is the biggest car I’ve ever owned. It reminded me how lucky we are to be able to make these choices. From many perspectives, we are truly living the American dream right now. We have more than most. I don’t regret our choices (though I may in the future, and I did miss the AWD of our old vehicle when it snowed here a few weeks back). Looking through the other mom’s eyes was enlightening. It reminded me to be grateful. To be more conscious of my choices and time, and how they affect my children, our budget, and our family.

Sometimes an outside perspective really does work wonders.


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Transitions

siblings on the slide

I can say already that this is going to be a weird post. I know I’ve been neglecting this blog and I hope some day to get back into making it a part of my week again, but I’m just not sure when that might be. Its gone through several phases – randomness when I first started in 2006, a mommy blog after I had Chloe in 2008, a craft blog, and now I’m going to make it a personal journal? I don’t know, but I have a lot of things on my mind right now, and I think it might be good for me to share.

I’ll start with what’s likely to be the strangest one…I am having a really hard time accepting the fact that my son is potty trained. At 2 and a half years old, it’s a few months earlier than his sister, and yet everything I had read told me that boys were harder to potty train than girls. Well, that just wasn’t the case. I don’t know if its because we did everything right (read books, gave him opportunities, provided a fun and comfortable potty chair, had his sister encourage him, rewarded him with candy…), but he just decided one day that he was done. As a matter of fact, he might have been done months before that, but I didn’t really pay attention. Maybe he was ready, but I was not. And now, he’s done. No more diapers. Such a big, meaningful milestone…

An image of Leo painting at preschool, sent by his wonderful teacher

Walking the baby aisle at Target made me unexpectedly sad today – to think that I am done with all those things – those symbols of new motherhood. The fact is my baby isn’t a baby anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I am SO proud of him. Even more so because he has overcome some SPD (sensory processing disorder) issues that I thought would make it extra hard for him. For example, his sense of smell is so sensitive that he often literally gags at his own poop. I’ve taken to giving him a piece of clean laundry (like a shirt or towel) to hold up to his nose so he doesn’t have to smell what goes into the potty. Also, he HATES the sound of flushing toilets in public restrooms. Even now that is a problem when he needs to go, but resists entering a women’s restroom, occasionally with kicks and loud protests. But all that didn’t make a difference – he was able to conquer those things enough to successfully potty train, which is, in a nutshell, AWESOME.

kids on scooters

The other thing that is really stressing me out is my oldest entering Kindergarten in the fall. Actually, I have no problem with Kindergarten – she is totally ready, but the question is WHERE. We are on the wait list for a reasonably priced, private kindergarten where I would love to see her go, but the waiting is KILLING me. Because if she doesn’t get in, then she will go to public school, and I am depressed to say that our local public school is rated one of the worst two schools in our entire district. I just don’t feel confident sending her there, at least not for kindergarten, and I am internally freaking out about it. When we moved here we were in a “good” school district (and we still are as far as middle and high school), but I am so scared that Chloe will not get that solid educational foundation that she needs to succeed once she finally gets to middle school. Of course, if I think rationally, I could help support her academically, but mostly, I want her school to be responsible for her education. Isn’t that what school is for? And most of all, I want her to be in a safe, supportive social environment. I want her to have opportunities to be inspired, make lasting friendships… to flourish. But I don’t believe that our public school is that place.

I will say that reading Design Mom’s article about letting her kids go to a public high school in Oakland also rated a 2 out of 10 gave me food for thought. However, I would much prefer a 2 rated high school over a 2 rated elementary school.

If worse comes to worse, and Chloe does not get into a private kindergarten, we will give public school a try. It might be fine. If not, we could try petitioning for a transfer to a different elementary school (although there is no guarantee that a sibling would get in, which means possibly two different schools for the kids). Or, we could move (which would be so hard because we love our little house). Or, I could home school. Of the school-aged families I know on our block alone, two elementary schools are represented and one family home schools. They are each doing what they think is best for their family, and we hope to do the same.

Wish us luck.

This is a sign someone posted to their facebook feed. There wasn’t a link, but it really resonated with me.


Home Project Dreaming

Yellow sliding door

In our imaginary dream home, David would have a 2-car garage, I would have my own office and the kids would have a separate playroom. Our reality, however, is 3 small bedrooms and one small office in about 1500 square feet, and no garage. I’m not complaining. We are lucky to live here. But it doesn’t hurt to dream, right?

With the back addition we did a few years ago, our house lives very well for its size. It morphed from tiny to a smallish medium, with a good flow and partially open floor plan that makes it feel bigger than it actually is. We are mostly comfortable here. It’s easy to access shops, schools, rec centers, libraries and restaurants and I love our neighborhood. But every once in a while I take a peek at the listings on rmls.com to see if something better might be in our price range. Its mostly just curiosity, because I cannot imagine moving. In the 10 years we’ve lived here, I never found a house in our price range that I would choose to move into. It is why the addition made more sense, because we could do it better than what we could find.

Though I can’t transform our simple ranch-style into my glassed-wall dream home, there are a couple of projects I’d hopefully like to accomplish within the next year or so. I’ve been thinking a lot about it, and found a couple pics on Pinterest showing how others have handled these same ideas.

The first is to install a sliding barn door on the wall from the great room that would close off the doorway to the bedroom hallway. It would provide an attractive, architectural-style visual on an otherwise bare wall, and when closed, would provide a sound barrier to the rest of the house and possibly keep the kitchen smells from permeating into the bedrooms. We’d almost always leave it open, but it would be nice to have an option of a door there, when needed.

wooden sliding barn door with arrow styling

The wooden door above is my favorite shape (with the arrow), but I would prefer painting it. David wants to keep it wood, but we have no other matching wood surface or wood trim to make it look cohesive as it does concealing the wooden paneled mud room in the photo. David suggested leaving ours wood for a while, which we’ll likely do, but I feel like I’ll constantly be itching to paint it something bold.

white painted sliding barn door

sliding barn door, silver hardware

Red painted sliding barn door

The samples above show a black and a silver versions of the sliding hardware. Both would work in our home, but my gut says black. See more sliding barn door examples here.

wall to wall besta ikea cabinets

besta ikea shelves living room

wall to wall besta ikea cabinets

Another project that would make a big difference is to install wall-to-wall Besta cabinets underneath the back windows of the great room. One thing we always need is more storage space (I’d love to do something similar in the hallway nook as well, but that would be later on down the road). Ideally, they would look “built-in” so the plain walls of the room would have more structure and interest.

There are actually many more projects on our to-do (eventually) list – kitchen countertops, improved landscaping, new driveway – but those are larger ticket items that will have to wait.

How about you? Do you have any big or small home projects you hope to accomplish during the coming year or beyond?


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Personalized pet tags work as identification on children, too.

Engraved cat tag from Petsmart on child's shoe as ID

With lots of holiday traveling coming up for many families, I thought I’d repost something I shared on a facebook group. I never really had to worry about this with my daughter (of course, there was only one child to watch back then), but my son will inexplicably decide to bolt away while we’re out shopping or running errands. This little piece of identification could make all the difference.

There was some discussion on here recently about name tags and ID bracelets and I thought I’d share this little tag. Despite the close-up pic, it is a small, featherweight cat tag on size 8 toddler shoes. There are many sizes and shapes. It cost $7.50 at Petsmart and I was able to make it in about 2 minutes. The front shows his name and the back holds up to four lines of text. This is what I included on the back:

Born: June 2011
Mom: xxx-xxx-xxxx
Dad: xxx-xxx-xxxx
Our City and State

These are velcro shoes, but if they were lace-up I’d probably put it on the front. It would also work well as a jacket zipper pull. From what I hear, all emergency personnel are trained to look at shoes and clothing for ID on a child. I don’t expect to ever lose my son, but just in case, this is a handy little piece of ID.

With four lines of text available on the back, there is plenty of room for health/allergy information as well as contact and identifying information. Plus it is a much cheaper alternative to the classic medical indication jewelry (and not as bothersome for little wrists or necks not used to wearing jewelry).

 


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Chloe’s 5th (Painting & Art) Birthday Party!

Chloe's painting art birthday party
Chloe’s 5th birthday party was a success! We hosted 16 kids plus their parents, and even now I find it remarkable that everyone seemed to fit in our home without seeming crazy crowded. Chloe loved having all her friends over and the 5 “art stations” seemed to entertain and engage the kids, despite a span of ages. They could choose what they wanted to do, when they wanted to do it (and I was secretly glad to not have to organize any group games). And when party goers were done with craft projects they were free to roam outside to the sand table and play structure, or into Chloe’s room for dress-up, or Leo’s room for trucks and train table. It was great!

I didn’t take as many photos as usual, but here are a few shots snapped with my phone to show a little of our setup:

painting and art party table

Our main dining table was Station #1, painting. Each place had a set of (washable) watercolors (from this Crayola 24ct setcomes with 3 individual sets of 6 colors), a paintbrush, a bowl of water and a piece of watercolor paper set up for the kids to make their masterpieces.

Art party station play-doh

Station #2 was a Play-Doh table. I purchased a 24ct pack of rainbow Play-Doh and set out our rolling/cutting play tools. The colors were vibrant and lots of fun to mix and mash.

art party collage table

Station #3 was a collage table. I set out our collection of decorative edged scissors, stickers, colored glue sticks and a variety of paper for the kids to craft up a storm.

art party cookie decorating table

Station #4 was a decorate-your-own-cookie project. I originally saw this idea on Green Owl Art and decided it was perfect for little hands. I cut out cardboard circles as well as foam “icing” and purchased the same collection of stickers from Michaels. Easy to do and with really cute results.

Melissa And Doug wooden stringing beads and bead bouquet
Station #5 held wooden beads to make beaded bracelets. It included a set of Melissa and Doug Deluxe Wooden Stringing Beads set and the Melissa and Doug Bead Bouquet set. I think the kids really liked being able to include their names on their bracelets and the Bead Bouquet set had a nice variety of shaped and painted beads. I cut each necklace-length cord into 3 equal pieces (singeing the severed ends with a lighter so they wouldn’t unravel), so that every attendee could make at least one bracelet. Since the kits didn’t come with enough closure beads I supplemented them with lanyard snaps.

art rainbow party table snack decoration crepe paper streamers

Besides the snack table backdrop, the only other “decorating” we had time for that morning (besides balloons) was to line the pass-through from the living room to the kitchen with rainbow-colored crepe paper streamers as we have in the past. Young kids love to run through them and watch them flutter back into place. Plus they really give a visual bang for the buck, which is always nice. The snack table itself held a little less than usual since two of our young guests have severe food allergies. Good thing their moms are such avid ingredient readers, as I overlooked a detail even though I was trying to be careful.

Overall, this party was the perfect blend of what Chloe wanted to do to and the amount of effort I wanted to put into the planning and details. I sometimes wonder if I don’t do enough (or if I do too much), but this one felt just about right. There is no doubt that Chloe loved every minute. Afterwards, I received several sweet and heart warming comments and emails from moms who really thought it was a terrific time. Pretty much the best any mom could ask for. :-)

P.S. To make it easy on myself I linked to the products above on Amazon, but purchased almost everything locally. For example the Play-Doh came from Target and the best price on the Melissa and Doug beads came from Home Goods.

Elmer's colored glue sticks best price

I also found a few things at Dollar Tree, which is always worth checking before a party. I purchased the left set of Elmer’s Colored Glue Sticks
at Dollar Tree for $1, but then saw them a few days later at Michaels retailing for $5.99. Sometimes it pays to shop around!


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Party Planning

Planning a painting art craft party

My little girl is turning 5 in less than a week! The older she gets the more she has her own opinions of what she wants to do to celebrate. A while back she mentioned a rainbow party. I remember thinking ‘Fun! I can do that!’ Then she said she wanted to paint with all her friends, and it morphed into a painting/craft party (with the same rainbow cake as last year, per her request). Earlier this week she said she wanted a fairy party, but by then I had already stocked up on watercolor sets and paint brushes, as well as other crafting materials (and to be honest, I have no idea how to throw a fairy party or how we’d incorporate boys). Either way, I know Chloe is very much looking forward to having her friends over and having a good time!

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this event – trying to stay within a reasonable budget, keeping the amount of decorating manageable but festive, planning varied and age-appropriate projects to suit different levels of interests and abilities, and most importantly of all: keeping in mind that this party is for Chloe to enjoy.

It is all too easy to fall into the stress of making a party “perfect” and feeling the pressure to impress other people. Its happened to me before, and still does to some extent. I’ve had to remind myself that this is for Chloe. Will she like this activity? Will this be fun for her preschool friends? But ultimately, I want the parents to enjoy being at the party as well. Socializing is all well and good, but its even better if the parents can participate in the fun.

Lastly, I’ve asked myself “How much cleaning up do we really want to do after the party’s over?” I am under no illusions about what might happen while hosting a painting/craft party with little ones involved. It is risky business any way you look at it. Mainly I tried to choose “washable” options and was careful to steer clear of anything involving glitter. The husband hates to see glitter on the floor, which is hard since Chloe loves “princess-y” things and has been gifted glittery clothes and toys which often leave a trail of sparkles behind.

So, that’s that! It’s going to be the largest gathering that we’ve ever hosted at the house, even though I tried to keep the guest list down as best I could. I just hope that everyone has a good time, and that Chloe feels the love of having her family and friends here to celebrate her big day.

More details to come after the party!


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8 Fun (and Cheap!) Halloween Candy Alternatives for Trick-or-Treaters

LED Finger Lights

Every year at about this time I start keeping my eye out for alternatives to give our neighborhood trick-or-treaters instead of candy. I’m not opposed to candy, but since most kids are going to end up with more than enough, I figure I could just as well spend that money on something unique. In the past that’s meant items like mini play doh (Costco), party bubbles (Target), and last year’s pack of miniature crayons (Michaels). This year I just placed an order on Amazon for LED Finger Lights. I’ve purchased them before on a flash deal. They’re pretty fun. Besides using them for these Valentine cards earlier this year, we’ve taken them camping and on trips, but even recently I’ve seen the kids playing with them around the house. This time I paid $11.99 (free shipping with Prime) for 80, making them less than 15¢ a piece. This is fairly comparative for what I would pay for certain snack-size candy bars anyway.

While I was looking around I spotted other possibilities for fun and/or useful alternatives. Here are some of my favorites (all free shipping with Prime), but be sure to check out your local dollar, party, and toy stores if you don’t want to buy online (or see my previous Cheap Halloween Alternatives post for more ideas).

foam toy glider kit

Foam Glider Assortment 12¢ each (Pack of 72) for $8.65. I almost decided to do these, they look so neat. Maybe next year!

neon zoo erasers bulk

Neon Zoo Animal Pencil Top Erasers 4¢ each (144 pc) for $6.17.

glowing bouncing balls

Glow-In-The-Dark Bouncing Balls 9¢ each (144 pc) for $13.45.

friendship bracelets bulk

Nylon Friendship Rope Bracelets 7¢ each (72) for $5.25

mini insect erasers

Mini Insect Erasers 4¢ each (144pc) for $5.52

rhinestone party rings
Colorful Rhinestone Rings
8¢ each (72pc) for $5.85

vinyl paratroopers
Vinyl Paratroopers Assortment
12¢ each (72pc) for $8.99

 


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Kid Project: 5-Minute DIY Fallen Leaf Wreath

We are having picture perfect fall weather here in Oregon right now. Knowing it will disappear all too soon, I’ve been encouraging the kids to play outside as much as possible. Today, after naps, we wandered the backyard admiring all the fallen leaves. We got our baskets and filled them with ones we liked – bright ones, dark ones, crinkled ones, big ones, little ones… we only have one deciduous tree in the backyard, so most are maple leaves unless they blew in from an adjacent yard. Then I tried to think of a project we could make with all of them… perhaps a wreath?

This is just about the quickest wreath project ever. I ran in to get my glue gun, and then remembered it was at a neighbor’s. She brought it over and then I looked around for something to use as the frame. This could be as simple as a piece of circle-cut cardboard, but what we used was the plastic ring from a pack of danishes that I bought from Costco. I used the glue gun to place wads of glue around the ring and Chloe and I would choose and stick leaves on top, being very careful of the hot glue (note to self: get a low temperature glue gun for these kinds of projects). For a consistent look I suggested we place all the leaves face up with the stem toward the inside of the circle. Leo was more interested in running leaves around in his tractor trailer, so he didn’t really participate except for leaf collecting.

Ta da! After just a couple of layers we had a festive wreath to hang near the front door. I think Daddy will be pleasantly surprised to see it there when he comes home this evening, don’t you?


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At the Gas Station

Chloe: Mama, is that man (the gas station attendant right outside the open windows) going to have a baby?!
Me: Embarrassed silence.
Chloe: He’s really big! His belly is big. Isn’t it?
Me: More silence.
The attendant hands me the receipt and politely says “Have a good day.” As we pull away Chloe asks “Was he speaking Spanish?”
Me: No, Chloe. He was not speaking Spanish, and no, he was not pregnant. Men don’t have babies.
Chloe: Daddy seahorses have babies…


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Plaid FolkArt Multi-Surface Paint Cup & Napkin Project


Plaid recently sent me a fun box of goodies, including some colors of their FolkArt Multi Surface Paints and Handmade Charlotte Stencils, both now available at Michaels.

Not too long ago, it seemed that you had to buy a specific paint for a specific craft – glass paint for glass, wood paint for wood, fabric paint for fabric, but Plaid has come up with a formulation that works for multiple mediums – which is so awesome! A crafter’s supply closet has only so much room, right? Even better, this paint is dishwasher safe and machine washable!

For this project, I thought I’d test the paints on both glass and fabric. We have had this set of coffee and tea glasses since I was in college. Back then they were pretty modern.  I loved their minimalist look and fitted cork coasters (see before photo here). I figured a little colored paint would help jazz them up, while also making it easy to tell them apart.

Following the directions on the bottles, I cleaned the glasses and then wiped them with rubbing alcohol. Then I taped off a couple of stripes on each glass, and used the spouncers to daub on the paint. I found if I used a tapping motion (instead of wiping), the paint left an interestingly spongy texture. Now I leave them to dry for 21 days before use, or I could use the “bake” directions found on Plaid’s site to speed up the curing process. Tip: you MUST remove the tape immediately after paint application or the paint will peel up in patches if you remove it after it has started to dry.

Next were the matching cloth napkins. I wanted something that would really complement my newly painted glasses. I did a web search and found that
“proper” tea napkins are 12-inch square. Then I cut the squares using my pinking shears – no hemming required! There were several stencils from the Handmade Charlotte pack that were cute, but the mustache, arrow, star and crown were the perfect size for the napkins, adding just a touch of whimsy. Positioning the stencil on the napkin, I again used the spouncer to daub on paint the same way I did the glasses. Then I carefully lifted it off. Tip: All four stencils were on the same sheet. To keep the previous color of paint from smearing I stuck a sticky-note to the bottom of each stencil once I was done. I also put a sticky note underneath the top layer of fabric, just in case the paint decided to bleed through.



Now I’ve got a cute new set to enjoy! What about you? Can you think of a painting project at your house that would benefit from a coat or two of FolkArt Multi-Surface Acrylic Paint? Then don’t miss the GIVEAWAY! The lucky winner will receive a FolkArt Multisurface prize pack and $100 Michaels gift card! Enter to win here.

This is a sponsored post by Blueprint Social and Plaid. I was happy to have the opportunity to test these products and to be compensated for the time it took me to create, write about, and photograph my project.  The opinions and craft project here are completely my own.

Learn more about Plaid Crafts:
Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest / Blog


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First Day of School 2013-1014

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 11.14.14 AM

Both kids started their respective preschool classes at the end of last week (on separate days). For Chloe, it was pretty much old hat, since she had gone to the same preschool last year. She was excited to see some of her old classmates and easily made new friends on her first day.

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 11.15.46 AM

Leo was the unknown, but I was pretty much knew he would do fine. This was his first 9-month preschool class, held in the same building and with the same teacher as Chloe. I think it all felt really familiar to him (as it should, since he came with us every time I dropped off Chloe last year). This time, though, he got to be the one to participate. Moms are required to stay during the first two classes, and I was glad to have had the opportunity to see first hand the kind of experiences he would have. And I was very happy with what I saw.

The only thing that concerns me is how I will do, taking the kids to school on a daily basis (although they attend alternate days). It’s a 12-15min drive one way, which makes for almost an hour of commuting if I choose to come back home between drop-off and pick-up. I know it will be worth it, though. One big benefit will be having more one-on-one time with Chloe. I hardly ever have that, and now I’ll get it two mornings a week. I anticipate some fun excursions (and definitely easier grocery shopping)!


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Malware, Lock-outs and How to Check if Your Blog is Infected

I’ve been having a hard time with my blog. On one hand, I have REALLY enjoyed having it.

On the other hand, I am sick of the spam.

Earlier this year the blog stopped working properly. After some online research my husband and I found that someone (or more likely some thing) had infected it with malware. Eventually David was able to get advice from a co-worker and learned how to identify and strip out the bad code. Unfortunately, it just kept coming back. Over and over no matter what security measures and plug-ins I tried. Then, just recently, they locked me of my own site.

Jerks.

So, you may notice that the blog looks and works differently now. It was a hassle, but my husband kindly took the time to switch service providers (this is a self-hosted wordpress site). Some things were lost, and its going to take some time to put back what I can find. Then we updated to a newer, less vulnerable WordPress theme, changed to a stronger password and took steps to make everything more secure.

Not surprising, this whole situation has left a bad taste in my mouth. I had to seriously think about whether the blog was worth saving and how much I’m willing to invest in something that may again disappear out of my reach. And maybe it won’t ever happen again.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………

Meanwhile, if you’re curious about your own blog you can go to Securi Sitecheck and type in your web address to be scanned. I’m happy to report that thepaperseed.com is “verified clean”, and I truly, truly hope it stays that way.


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Toddler & Preschool iPad Case Reviews

Kids on their iPads, Case Review

My kids have been blessed with grandparents who believe in the benefits of technology. Because of this, each of the kids has been an unlikely recipient of an ipad by the time they turned two. It is an amazing tool, even in the hands of a toddler and preschooler. We do limit the amount of time they spend using it, but its ability to entertain and educate has been a priceless. Like most parents, we try to choose apps wisely – mostly educational and skill-building apps, and also ones that engage their creativity (more on those later).

Being the sensitive (and expensive) handheld devices they are, an iPad can’t survive little hands without a case. Chloe’s case was chosen by Grandpa and still looks good after almost three years. It is a pink Hard Candy Street Skin Case. It fits very snug, but can be pulled off (by adults) to clean when needed. It also came with a solid screen cover, which is nice when its going into a carry-on and might rub against things. For Chloe it was perfect. She has had no problem carrying it around and her iPad has been safe ever since.

When Leo received his iPad, I had a hard time finding blog-style reviews on cases and mostly had to rely on amazon ratings. Eventually I chose a blue i-Blason ArmorBox Kido Series case. It’s been great! At the time, Chloe’s case was selling for $40 on Amazon. The i-Blason is $20. The soft handle makes it very easy to carry and use for little ones, and I often choose this iPad when watching movies at night because of the handy, built-in stand. Although it is more padded than Chloe’s, it still feels nice, and the iPad is quite protected. The only negative is the case density cuts down slightly on the sound quality, but it just means the sound has to go up a bit more. Overall, I’m really happy with this choice and would recommend it as an affordable choice that I would buy again.

Hope this helps others who are looking to buy a good iPad protection for their kids, and I’d love to hear what case you are using!


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Chapter 8: Soothing a Baby (With a Bra) + a $100 Babies R Us Giveaway!

Like many soon-to-be moms, I read a lot of baby books while I was pregnant with my first child. I knew all about what to expect during the pregnancy, and my husband and I took a class so we could prepare for the birth itself. Overall, I felt pretty confident. After all, we tried for 5 years to get pregnant with Chloe, and I was going to do my best to make her happy.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Chloe turned out to be a fairly easy baby. She was healthy and generally good-natured. She smelled as sweet as honey and I’d spend what felt like hours just marveling at her perfect smallness. However, there were some things that didn’t go as smoothly as I’d hoped. Breastfeeding, for instance, took us a while. The books and the nurses made it sound so easy, but it took lots of tries and advice and eventually a nipple shield (for a short while) for both of us to get the hang of it.

Then there was the sleeping. Or… lack of sleeping. Chloe was an extremely light sleeper. Anything could wake her up, even quiet sounds like the dog walking by her door or the heater kicking on. Unfortunately, during those times the only thing that would help her back to sleep was nursing.

Eventually, exhausted, I began searching for an alternate back-to-sleep soothing method. I scoured the baby books and parenting web sites. At first, we tried giving her the pacifier that the hospital had given us. I’m embarrassed now to say that I really wanted to do things “by the book,” and “by the book” meant discouraging pacifier use. But, I tried it anyway. Chloe would give it a few sucks and then spit it out. I’d edge it back and she’d spit it back out. Basically, no go.

So began the long trial (and error) of every soothing thing I could think of – humming, singing, white noise, radio, baby-wearing, softies, blankets, rocking, teethers (I had high hopes for Sophie the giraffe), and anything else I could think of. Each option was given several chances in the hopes that it would be “the one.” Sadly, some crying ensued, but I wasn’t about to give up hope.

One afternoon, after putting Chloe down for her nap, I heard her rouse after just a short while. I’m sure I cringed inwardly, and honestly, I can’t remember exactly what I was doing (possibly prepping dinner), but whatever it was took a little time to complete. By the time I got back to check on her I found that she had gone back to sleep! On her own! Hallelujah! But, wait. What was that thing clutched in her little hand? Was that… my bra?!

Miracle of miracles, all Chloe needed was my bra. I’m not saying it was all perfect from then on out. Oh, no. However, I began leaving one with her and sometimes it worked. Plus, I learned to not go rushing in (this was totally against the grain of “by the books” back then, but I was beginning to see how bending the rules might have its advantages). Eventually, Chloe began putting herself back to sleep (and sucking her thumb, sigh).

The moral of this story? No matter what anyone tells you, no matter what advice you’ve been given or tales you’ve been told – there will never be a child exactly like yours, or a mother exactly like you. While it’s good to glean information from the plethora of sources out there, the best things you can do is experiment, trust your instincts, give it time, ask questions and don’t be afraid do things the way that works best for you and your baby. Because, you are the mom, and you will figure it out… eventually. :-)

…….

The post above is one of many personal stories that have been included in the MAM Blogger Real Parenting Guide. My particular post is Chapter 8: Soothing a Baby (With a Bra), but I encourage you to read other chapters and also to find out more about the products (bottles, pacifiers, teethers, etc) that MAM makes. The right tools definitely make the job of parenting easier.

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Paperseed on Instagram

A couple months ago I finally joined Instagram. At first, I thought it was just a fad, like Hipstamatic, something that I didn’t really like or care to be a part of. I’m not sure what made me change my mind, but I’m really enjoying it now. It’s like photography practice on an (almost) daily basis, but using my phone instead of my dSLR. It’s so easy, too – no having to find time to sit at my computer to download photos (like I do with my dSLR), and then uploading them onto the web when I have time. It’s all so… instant. And taking good photos with my phone is part of the challenge.

The other thing I like about Instagram is that the people who chose to “follow” me do so because they are interested in looking at photos. They expect it. This is different than on Facebook, where I only uploaded photos if I thought they were relevant to me, my family, or my friends. After all, would my FB “friends” want to see a minimalist photo of sunlit bamboo leaves against a perfectly blue sky? Or a closely cropped architectural detail of Pittock Mansion? Or a single, rich sapphire-blue feather found on a walk? I don’t really think so. It would be too random, and then I’d feel like I had to explain it using words. And sometimes words just aren’t necessary, don’t you think?

So, anyway, I know I’ve been scarce in these parts the last month or so. That is soon to change, hopefully. We’ve done some pretty neat things this summer, which I’d love to share once I have some time. Plus, I also have some sponsored posts in the works (hooray!). Meanwhile, checkout my Instagram feed to see more of what we’ve been up to, and I’ll be back soon!


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Chloe’s Preschool Graduation, Age 4

So far this summer I’ve been doing a lot more posting on Facebook instead of here on the blog. Part of it is that I rarely get time to sit at a computer. It is so much easier to post photos and snippets using my phone. Also, the Facebook App seems to be a lot more user-friendly than the WordPress app. However, I’m going to try and re-post some of it here – like these photos on Chloe’s graduation day.

Chloe will be attending the same preschool next year, and on Facebook I wrote “I realize this graduation day is just the first of many, and that this is “only” preschool, yet I can’t help but feel so proud of my little girl. She has grown in so many ways this past year. Here are some special moments from our morning…” After graduation I took the kids to the park for a little fun. They are growing up so fast!

P.S. This photo below is a the graduation cap she made – she’s wearing it in the top photo, too. :-)


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DIY Boys Totally Radical Rocket Ship Onesie :: Totally Tulip® Fabric Paints

DIY Boys Rocket Ship Onesie Tutorial

Note: This is a sponsored post. I was given paints to use for this project, but the idea, opinions and tutorial below are completely my own.

Do you remember using Tulip Soft and 3D Paints (aka “Puffy Paint”) back in the eighties? I was a kid back then and remember seeing it everywhere – jackets, shoes, school bags, and of course, t-shirts! It was one of those fun DIY projects that everyone could do, with good results almost every time.

Flash forward thirty years. Tulip has kindly given me the opportunity to re-live those moments using their products! My task: to update a shirt using the classic techniques from my childhood.

For this project, I thought that I would do something with Leo in mind, for a change. He loves things that go, especially trucks, construction vehicles and airplanes. Then, as I was starting to jot down ideas, a rocket ship came to mind, and I knew he would love it!

Here are the steps, including a printable stencil that you can download for free!

DIY Boys Totally Radical Rocket Ship Onesie

Supplies :
Onesie or T-shirt
Freezer Paper
Xacto knife or scissors
Iron
Foam Craft Brushes
Tulip Dimensional Fabric Paint

1. Start with a clean onesie that has been washed and dried at least once.

2. Download the rocket ship image and print it out onto freezer paper (more on freezer paper stencils here). Carefully cut out the shaded areas with an xacto blade to make your stencil.

3. Position the stencil on your shirt where you would like it and then iron it down in place.

4. Place a piece of cardboard on the inside of your onesie (to keep paint from possibly bleeding through). Using your paint and foam craft brush, press the paint gently onto your fabric using a tapping motion until all areas are filled, changing colors as desired. Let dry for about 4 hours.

5. Once dry, gently peel the stencil off of the fabric. Now, outline your filled in areas. Tulip Dimensional Fabric Paint has a fine applicator point perfect for this kind of work. Let that dry another 4 hours and your little one will be ready to blast off!

The onesie shown uses Tulip Soft Fabric Paint in Neon Orange, and Tulip Slick Dimensional Paint in Fluorescent Blue, Green, Yellow and Orange.

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Tulip continues to be a craft favorite in households today! In addition to Tulip Soft Paints and Dimensional Fabric paints included in my post, Tulip is known for it’s wide variety of Fashion Glitters, Glam it up Crystals, Fabric Markers and One-Step Tie Dye! Find all your favorite Tulip products by clicking here.

In fact, all this summer Tulip is bringing tie dye to the masses with their Tie Dye Your Summer campaign! Visit their Tie Dye Your Summer site at Tie Dye Your Summer. They have so many fun tie dye videos and inspirations as well as an awesome giveaway of a tie dye iPad and party (it really is an amazing prize pack that you’ll want to enter! Click here to enter this exclusive giveaway!

Find more I Love To Create project ideas, tutorials, videos and more on Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest / Blog

See more Tulip Paint projects from other participating bloggers below:


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Leo’s 2nd Birthday – Circus Party!

Circus Birthday Party Table

Earlier this month we hosted Leo’s 2nd Birthday party at our house. We kept it small, yet festive, so as not to overwhelm the birthday boy. Luckily, the morning was sunny and perfect. We were able to throw open the french doors to the backyard and let kids and parents wander and play where they liked.

Circus Party Themed Plates and Napkins, Tablewarecircus party kids tent gigatent

sand table

I learned from Chloe’s 3rd birthday to not have too many activities planned, to let things flow a little more naturally. We had plenty of yard toys (sand and water table, beach balls, kiddie pool, push toys, bikes, etc) available, and plenty of seating for the grown-ups. Inside we set up the GigaTent Play Tent (that I bought last year for a steal on Craigslist!) along with more toys. Mostly it was open play, but toward the end we gathered everyone together for a circus-revised game of Bingo for both the kids and adults (original free download here), as well as Pin the Nose on the Clown that I got at the party store. I had grand plans of twisting up balloon animals (see my practice butterfly and poodle) and face-painting, but that never quite materialized. Turns out its hard to host a party and provide the entertainment at the same time!

Birthday boy cupcake

Circus Party Cupcakes

Overall it was a grand time. I was really surprised at how Leo sat and smiled at everyone while we sang him “Happy Birthday.” So cute! He wasn’t at all as overwhelmed as I thought he’d be. Looking back, it may be because we were at our home and not out somewhere else, or perhaps he just sensed that something special was afoot. Also, because of an attendee’s allergy, the vanilla cupcakes were egg-free (using this recipe), topped with cream cheese frosting. The only photo I have of the goody bags is this one. I was so proud of them, but forgot to take another photo!

circus masks

Pin the Nose on the Clown, Circus Party Game

One question I got a lot was about the canopy above the food table – it’s our Ikea Mysig Bed Canopy (only $10!) that I blogged about here. It fit perfectly over our Ikea sewing table -turned-food table.

One parent described our house as “IKEA fresh,” and I was really pleased to hear that. I do love me some Ikea, and why not, when everything is so budget-friendly and easily re-purposed in many ways?

 


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Chloe & Leo’s Vintage Play Kitchen

kids vintage play kitchen

I’ve mentioned the kids’ play kitchen many times here on the blog. Because of that I thought I’d post some photos of  this special “toy” that’s provided countless hours of play and learning, and also as a record for my kids to look back on someday.

play kitchen, melissa and doug sweet treat towerPlenty of room for storage, which makes clean up easy (though never organized like this).
play kitchen, sink detailThe “sink” is cleverly made with a tupperware style plastic container

First of all, the play kitchen was a gift from David’s parents. I believe they had seen it at a colleague’s home and offered to buy it. Eventually it became theirs, and then later they drove it all the way out here (to Portland) from Colorado on the back of their pick-up. I don’t know much else about it, but even before it became ours, it looked very well-loved, yet still sturdy. It has a handmade quality to it, but may have been put together from a kit, for all I know. The previous owners passed down several pieces of play food and dinnerware. More pieces were added later, mostly as gifts (like that Melissa & Doug Sweet Treat Tower puzzle that the kids got for Easter, in lieu of candy). Once, after cleaning it all up for the umpteenth time, I decided to put half of it away, mostly the mis-matched odds and ends. They still played with it just as much.

play kitchen, side view Side view. It sits between the kitchen and the dining area.
play kitchen, stove and oven detailThe oven handle says “Hamilton MFG Co” and the stove dials are record player knobs.
play kitchen, nursery rhyme detail, there was an old woman who lived in a shoe...There are decals all over depicting scenes from nursery rhymes. This one is “There was an old woman who lived in a shoe…”

To be completely honest, I remember David and I hesitating when we first saw it. It isn’t really how we see our “style,” and takes up a chunk of space. However, I admit that its play value has completely exceeded our expectations. I am so grateful now to my in-laws foresight. I have grown to love it as much as the kids, and now see it as charming and important part of their history, to be cherished and remembered.

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