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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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A Healthy Abundance vs. Too Many Toys

Fisher Price Little People Toy Cars on a shelf

Abundance requires simplicity — because in order to have abundance in one area, you must reduce something else. You can either use your toy budget to buy a roomful of random toys or you can decide to focus on investing in only two or three open-ended toys: say, wooden blocks, a wooden dollhouse, LEGO.
— from Camp Creek Blog, Project Based Homeschooling

Yesterday, I read a post called Parenting with abundance and simplicity. The timing could not have been better. I had just spent hours organizing and sorting the kids toys that morning – a task always fraught with indecision, nostalgia and little hands trying to undo the progress I’m trying to make. I only have enough energy and motivation to do this every once in a while, so when I decide to do it, I make it count. Some things are perfectly clear, like how all the stuffed animals have a designated bin Chloe’s room, all the small junk toys (party favors, happy meal, or dollar store stuff) goes in a “travel” bin (since I don’t care if they get lost) and all play tools and most vehicles go in Leo’s room. This is not to say, for example, that Chloe doesn’t play with the trucks, it’s just that she almost never does, but she’s free to play with them whenever she wants.

One of the toys that has gotten the most cooperative play in our house from both kids is the play kitchen. You may have seen it in the background of other photographs because it is near the dining table and family room. The concept written in the Parenting with abundance and simplicity post clearly reflects what I’ve seen in the kids’ creative play: That because we have an “abundance” of play dishes and pots and foodstuffs, there is almost never a reason to fight over anything. They are content to play together. The kids have tea parties, pretend to make dinner, feed each other… it is a pleasure to watch. They get really involved and I can almost see their little brains at work while they concentrate on their self-directed tasks. It’s usually quite peaceful… until Leo decides it is more fun to throw plastic fruit across the room (or at each other). Or it’s time to clean up. Even then it’s fairly easy because its fine with me as long as everything generally makes it back into the cabinets.

The Abundance concept makes me realize something else… Chloe and Leo often fight over the blocks. We have four different types (duplo, classic wooden, mega blocs and a generic brand – not including Legos). I always thought it was cool that we had a variety, and rotate bringing them each down for play. But what if we had double of just one or two sets? Would the kids play longer and possibly collaboratively? Would Chloe complain because she is out of a certain color before she is finished implementing her idea? Would she stop trying to steal them away from her brother causing him to then knock down her structure in frustration? Also, now that I am thinking about it, Chloe usually says she’s ‘finished’ once she’s used up all the blocks. So what if there were a lot more blocks to use? Would she then spend twice as long and be twice as involved in her project as she currently is? For example, the photos in the previous post were taken when she was ‘all done’ – both times because she didn’t have anymore blocks left. Do you see my light bulb moment here?

This leads me to the other things they most often fight about. The biggest one, naturally, is the iPad. I’ve taken to putting Chloe’s Netflix shows on the regular TV (using the appleTV) and letting Leo have uninterrupted time with the iPad. Otherwise, it’s a pushing/pulling match with Chloe yelling and Leo pulling her hair. Another thing the kids have been fighting over lately is Leo’s new cozy coupe that his Aunt Katherine sent for his birthday. But there is no way we are fitting another one of those in the house, despite how much play it gets!

Anyway, this whole abundance thing really makes sense to me. Yes, kids should learn to share, but yes, providing an abundance of well-chosen open-ended toys also allows for meaningful benefits I hadn’t considered before. This is a parenting concept that sort of rocks my world.

 


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On Craving Solitude

Overlook on the Pacific Coast Highway Towards Manzanita

I’ve read somewhere that there are two kinds of people. The first kind gains energy by being social and spending time around other people. The second kind makes their own energy, but needs to recharge by being alone, often in pursuit of things they enjoy. I am definitely the latter. While I enjoy an occasional get-together, I know that I NEED time to myself.

It is hard to believe, but this Sunday was the first time in four and a half years that I had a full day completely to myself.

Why had it taken me so long? Maybe guilt. Maybe always feeling like I needed to be there for the kids. Or make family time happen on the weekend days that David is home and not out fishing. I told myself that doing what was good for my family was the same as doing what was good for me. But over time I’ve realized that is not right. What is good for me is what is good for me.

haystack rock, cannon beach, OregonHaystack Rock, Cannon Beach

So, on Sunday, David took the kids to the zoo in the morning, and I packed myself for a day trip doing whatever I wanted (after I ran a couple errands, of course). I packed an extra jacket, a pair of sandals, my camera, a book, and the dog and headed to the beach.

Oh. My. Goodness. I felt positively giddy knowing I could do whatever I wanted! I could take my time, listen to whatever music I wanted, sing at the top of my lungs. I could stop anywhere to look around and take photos (which I did). I could eat wherever I chose for lunch, not worrying if it was kid friendly. I never felt rushed, or impatient, or worn down. I felt carefree and unburdened. Like being fully alive again after being only half-alive for a while.

Giant Driftwood, Manzanita

Needless to say, it was very good for me (and for Barkley. He doesn’t get many opportunities to wander off-leash like this). We were so happy, the two of us.

Eventually the day ended and we returned. And we were fine with that. Glad to be back, feeling refreshed. That was a couple days ago, but the effect of that time still lingers. I can tell in the way I have gone back to doing the same old things – making meals, changing diapers, interacting with the kids. I have more patience, more energy, and a better attitude.

bruce's candy kitchen, cannon beach, oregon coastA shot from inside Bruce’s Candy Kitchen, Cannon Beach. I treated myself to a piece of dark chocolate-covered seafoam and some haribo gummi cola bottles.

It is true that I don’t have the proverbial “village.” My generation is increasingly spread far and wide from what used to be traditional extended-family units. Its unfortunate. But it doesn’t mean I can’t have days like this when I need them. I don’t like the idea of leaving my children and husband behind, but in the end we all benefit.

What I need to do is make this a priority for myself. Hopefully, with practice, it will get easier.

The photos above are ones I instagrammed during my day. Do you use instagram? I finally decided to join the tide couple weeks ago. You can find paperseed on instagram here.


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Minimalist Parenting Book Launch Party

Minimalist Parenting Signed Book

Happy Monday! I hope you had a lovely weekend! I did something a little out of the ordinary this weekend, and decided to attend the launch party for a book called Minimalist Parenting. Have you heard of it? Since I recently began using twitter again, I was seeing links from one of the people I follow, who happens to be co-author Asha Dornfest of Parenthacks. I love the idea of minimalist parenting. There is so much information overload these days – books, experts, web sites, opinions, self-tests, studies… how can a parent who wants the best for his or her children not get overwhelmed?

Anyway, my husband was off fishing on Saturday so I had to take the kids with me. I admit I almost didn’t go. It was held so close to bedtime, but I knew it was a book I’d want to read, plus I wanted to support my fellow Portlander. And I’m glad I did! I got to meet Asha (who was so friendly, and completely gracious about my kids jumping off the stage while she was giving her talk) and got a signed, personalized copy! I’ve only just started the book, but I am already looking forward to the chapters on “Minimalizing your Home” and “Meal Planning for Real Life.” I truly think that anyone who comes to read here at Paperseed would find Minimalist Parenting an easy, thoughtful guide that focuses on whats important to us as individuals and parents.


Want to learn more? You can check out the Minimalist Parenting web page here, or join me in doing MinCamp, a free companion workshop which includes a different daily task each day for 14 days.  I signed up on Saturday and got my first email today. The task took only a few minutes and included an exercise in narrowing down what my personal priorities are as a parent. It seems simple, but we all know writing things down helps to keep us focused, even if we’re off track (as I know I get. A lot!). If you do end up reading the book, I’d love to know what you think of it!

P.S. Good news! Asha has provided a downloadable copy of Minimalist Parenting for one lucky winner. Just leave a comment on this giveaway post before Friday at 5pm PST to enter!

P.S.S This post is not a paid review, just my own personal opinion and experience.


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This and That: Links Worth Sharing

Kale Soup with carrots and beans

Friday is finally upon us! I have some amazing reads worth sharing this week. You may have already seen them from my twitter feed, but each of these ring with truths that have me shaking my head. And a couple are sure to make you laugh.

First, though, I wanted to share a recipe for Kale Soup. I tried it at my wonderful friend Greta’s house this past weekend and it was so good! Hearty and healthy with only basic prep and cooking time. I don’t have her exact recipe, but I was able to make it up from what I remembered. It is a lot like the one shown above from The Curvy Carrot, except with garbanzo beans and no cream. I also threw in some some turkey meatballs that I had from the freezer. This made a delicious lunch the next day (instagram photo here) and even the kids ate some!

 This post was my favorite read this week – about the four bases of a mom-to-mom relationship, amusingly called a ‘mom-lationship’.

Don’t miss reading The Sad Reality About Life as Adults, a Wake-up Call for Kids. The comparison chart had me laughing out loud!

And lastly, you have probably already seen this video of Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches, but just in case you missed it:

Have a wonderful weekend!


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Mom Gear: The Ever Practical Speck iPhone Wallet & Card Case

Iphone, card, case, wallet, white, 4s, peacock, candyshell, protective, mom, mama, gear

I saw a link on twitter this morning where Mom Trends featured “some of the web’s most stylish mamas” about how they keep their iPhones and iPads “safe and looking chic.” Yes, their case choices were nice. But I admit thinking my iPhone case beat theirs by a long shot. I may not be a “stylish mama,” but I have a special fondness for things that both look good and are practical.

Enter the Speck Candyshell Card Case. I LOVE this case. Why do I think its better? Because I love the unique white & peacock blue color combo, I love that it is very kid tough, and best of all I love that it does double duty as a wallet. That’s right! There is a built in slot on the back that holds up to 3 cards. In my case I always carry my driver’s license, one credit card and one bank card, plus a bill or two. The case isn’t made to hold cash, but the trick is to wrap your bill around one of the cards before sliding it in. Then, voila – it fits!

speck candyshell iphone case peacock white wallet card

Naturally, I have other cards I like to keep handy (library card, gift cards, etc), but those I keep in the diaper bag (more on that later). But seriously, it is great knowing that whenever I grab my phone, I have with me all the absolute necessities. I would so often forget my card case, especially when I was just running out for something quick, without the kids. This solves that problem, leaving me a bit of brain space to worry about other things – as in, did I remember the keys?

I bought this Speck case case on Amazon about a year ago. They also have gray and black and some nice color options for the iPhone 5, too.

How about you? Do you have an iPhone case you love?


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Making Exceptions

I am making a lot of exceptions today. Right now, as I type, I can see Chloe playing in the backyard with Leo and Barkley. She is wearing her Mini-Mouse princess dress. Her legs are bare and on her feet are Keens. It is cool outside, but at least she is wearing her coat. Normally, I don’t let her wear any of her dress up clothes outside, but today I don’t care. I’m just glad the kids are out of the house for a while.

This week I’ve put in extra effort to keep the house clean. It is so hard! One of the problems of wanting a clean house is recognizing that the house has clutter in the first place. And noticing that the kids are causing the majority of it. So then I get frustrated. Two minutes after picking up, there is a mess on the floor again. Right now I am looking at the discarded wand, butterfly wings, and light up princess shoes by the back door that Chloe dropped in her haste to get outside. I can either pick them up or I can ask her to do it. Either one involves me getting involved. Its easier to just do it so I don’t have to remember to ask her, or to follow up and make sure they go back to their proper place. Or I could ignore them.

And there! Chloe just presented me with another example. I mopped the floors this morning. She just ran in, through the kitchen to the living room before I noticed the muddy shoe prints she was leaving and called for her to stop. Stop!

It’s impossible. I can’t keep up.

I’m tired of being the cleaning lady today. I’m tired of being the cook, the laundress, the referee, the coach, the safety monitor, the naysayer.

I just want to be the mom. The hugger, the playmate, the tickler, the storyteller, the teacher, the explorer, the kisser of bruises, the planter of ideas.

But today isn’t that day. I’m too tired. It is my fault. I’m not getting enough sleep, or eating right. And today is not a day I can dedicate completely to the kids. There are other things I’d like to do. But I’m too tired to do anything more than sit here right now. And drink water, and take my vitamins. Remembering to begin again with the little things, one at a time.

The kids have abandoned their lunch on the chair outside. Another exception, because I let them eat partially unsupervised. Which means they may have eaten a little dirt.

There they are. Getting muddy, having fun, enjoying the sunshine that just recently flooded the yard. The birds are chirping merrily. Someone is mowing their lawn. When the kids come in they’ll be a mess, but I’m going to help them calmly because I never care how messy they get outside, as long as they’ve given me a little peace while doing it.

Better yet, it will be nap time soon.


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Daily Reflection: Rose, Bud and Thorn

At a dinner gathering a while ago, some friends of ours introduced us to the Rose, Bud and Thorn daily reflection activity. For those of you who have not heard of it, it works like this: You begin by reflecting on your day. The best part of your day is considered your “Rose”. The worst part of your day is your “Thorn,” and your “Rosebud” or “Bud” is something you are looking forward to (either later that day, or tomorrow). From searching the web I can see that it is often used as a classroom exercise or dinner table conversation starter, where each person takes a turn to share their Rose, Bud, and Thorn.

Here are my Rose, Bud and Thorn for today:

Rose: While I was driving Chloe to preschool this morning, I was singing along to Taylor Swift. Chloe exclaimed “Mama, you and the music sound the same! I can’t tell you apart at all!” Such a compliment, even from a four-year-old!

Thorn: Since Leo refuses to sit in a shopping cart, I’ve gone back to carrying him in the Beco on my back. I even gave him his beloved pacifier in the hopes of having a quiet 10 minute shopping experience. Instead, he spit the pacifier out on the floor, pulled my hair, yelled, purposefully spit saliva down my back and tried to bite a hole in my shirt. Seriously! My son does not like shopping. It’s strange because Leo is generally easy going. Anyway, not a fun experience.

Rosebud: I’m already looking forward to the weekend. Hopefully, we’ll be painting our bedroom. I’ve got a gallon of Benjamin Moore’s Natura paint waiting at the ready!

So, what was your Rose, Bud and Thorn for the day? Be sure to ask your husband or kids and see what they have to say. You may be surprised. 🙂

P.S. Here is a nice listing of the benefits of using the Rose, Bud and Thorn as a family conversation starter.


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10 Busy Mom Make-Up Favorites

1.Aveda Uruku Color Gloss Verbena / 2. Almay intense i-color eyeshadow kit smoky-i for greens / 3. Burts Bees Tinted Lip Balm Red Dahlia / 4. Bareminerals Warmth All-Over Face Color  / 5. Bareminerals Original Foundation SPF 15 Light  / 6. Clinique Airbrush Concealer / 7. Neutrogena Volume Mascara Black  / 8. Colorganics Lip Tint Earth / 9. Josie Maran Magic Marker Argan Liquid Eye Liner Black / 10. Burts Bees Lip Shimmer Plum

This past Saturday night was one of the rare occasions that I get to wear a dress, hire a babysitter and spend some adult time with the husband. Chloe’s preschool was hosting a fundraising gala, and since we were required to buy two tickets it was the perfect excuse.

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Night Waking

Last night, as I was getting ready to shower before bed, I heard the telltale patter of little feet in the hall and then our room. I peeked out the bathroom door to find Chloe climbing into bed beside daddy, mumbling sleepily about something scary.

This was a surprise. Though she has woken up from bad dreams before,  she usually just called to us from her room. This was the first time she’d ever come into ours.

I hesitated. Part of me wanted to see what was wrong. To snuggle beside her and David. But part of me also knew that night wakings are delicate situations. I had been warned by other parents, and didn’t want to encourage a nightly recurrence.

My pause gave me the time I needed to conclude that Daddy’s got this one. I continued my shower, feeling a little guilty and also curious. I reminded myself that I was giving David an “opportunity” to parent.

Of course, I love my kids and know it’s my job to Mother. But I admit that sometimes I step in for other reasons – maybe because I want to handle a situation my way, or maybe just to to “spare” David the task (don’t get me wrong, there are PLENTY of times I’ve been just as happy letting him deal with a situation). But my kids have two parents. Just as I do them a disservice when I don’t let them try figuring things out on their own, its the same if I don’t allow them to benefit from both parents.

By the time I finished brushing my teeth, daddy had quietly helped Chloe back to bed and all was peaceful in the house.

But I doubt it will be the last we’ll see of Chloe in our bedroom at night. I have a feeling this could be the start of another chapter of parenting.

PS. The photo above is Chloe hanging from her Ikea Kura Bed that we painted white. The wall mural was painted by her Grandma Sandy when Chloe was a baby. You can see a color photo here. We talk about painting her room, but I can’t bear to see it go just yet.

 


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Blogging Your Way

I’ve been trying to do some serious thinking about this blog and where it’s heading. Asking myself questions like: why do I do it? What can I do better? Why do people come here? How can I include better content and encourage more visitors? What do I enjoy writing about?

I’m not sure I have many answers. So, when I saw that Holly Becker from Decor8 was doing a Blogging Your Way e-course this month, I thought it might be just the thing to help me focus on what’s important.

Here is what I do know: I enjoy taking photographs. I have some skill, but I would like to get better. I am a mom. A mother naturally documents the lives of her children. I like having a record of my kids, and also of the projects we do. I am a professional graphic designer. Though I no longer have a design day-job, my understanding of design and personal aesthetic inform my decisions on the projects we do – whether its a home improvement project, a craft project or a kid project.

What I’d really like is for this blog to be a place of inspiration. I feel that if I can do something, others can, too. I am not particularly talented or motivated. I barely have  time or energy left at the end of the day. Lots of moms face this same issue. But I do recognize ways in which I can add just a touch more fun and function in my kids lives, and in our home. We all love our kids and want to provide them with happy homes and childhoods.

And, let’s face it. This is real life. Sh*t happens. It happens to me, too. My kids love to make a mess. They make it hard to go shopping. They  get muddy. And mis-behave. They make me crazy! And yet they are also amazing beings that bring the purest joy to my heart. While our experiences may vary from other families, there is a thread of familiarity, of normalacy. Sometimes that is nice to read about, to know we’re not alone. Sometimes its just nice to read a different perspective.

Another question I wonder – can I successfully blend my personal family stuff with the projects, tutorials, and free printables that most people come for? Would it be better to split off my personal stuff into another blog? Relegate more of it to just Facebook? Does anyone actually care, beyond immediate family? If I look at some of my favorite blogs, almost none include their kids. Something to think about.

Lastly, this blog generates a tiny amount of income for me and my family, due to that ad in the sidebar. Enough to take the kids for a special treat or pay the babysitter a couple hours, once a month. It is probably every blog mama’s dream to generate income this way, doing something you love, with flexible hours and no boss. While I realize this is unlikely, I don’t think it is unreasonable to want to expand opportunities here. Right now I don’t get paid to do product reviews or anything like that, and if I did I would definitely disclose that information and have a level of transparency. To do otherwise would feel inauthentic. I don’t believe I’ll actively cultivate revenue opportunities, but I won’t ignore them either.

So… whew! That is where I am right now. Is anyone still with me? Please, please give me your feedback. Anything at all. Why do you visit this blog? What is or is not working for you? I promise to listen and consider everything. If you don’t want to leave a public comment, feel free to send me a direct email at paperseed (at) gmail {dot} com.

Thank you so much for being here. Truly.

Emily


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Picking up the pieces of a real life mess

This is what I caught the kids doing earlier this morning. Actually, it was Chloe who came to me to let me know something was up. Turns out Leo climbed into Chloe’s closet, pulled down the jar of Pyssla beads, unscrewed the lid, and dumped handfuls out all over the floor.

A pretty big mess, as you can see.

This son of mine… don’t let that innocent looking face fool you. Only a year and a half old, but he gets into EVERYTHING. He is his father’s son, for sure. A real problem solver, always trying to figure out how things work and what they do. Right now he loves things that have moving parts or pieces that work together  – latches, drawers, door knobs, lids… I’m sure throwing all those colorful beads around must have been quite a reward for a job well done.

I’ve known for a while now that I need to find a way to lock that closet. The last time he was in there he drew on the walls with marker. Just this week I installed latches for the hallway drawers after the internal latches failed to keep out little hands. How can such a little boy, who barely talks, be this capable? And why do I continue to underestimate him?

For now, I guess I need to install more locks!


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Life

I’m leaving on a trip tomorrow. By myself, without the kids, for a week. I don’t want to leave them. I am trying not to freak out. I want to be calm and rational. In four years, I have only been gone from them for one night.

But… something has happened.

It will be awkward. I will be uncomfortable. I will pretend to be more confident than I am. I will go beyond my comfort zone and be the best supporter that I can be. There will be some good times, too. I am sure of it.

Motherhood has taught me that I can be strong and capable of many things. That I can cope. Strange to think of motherhood that way. That something so cherished and wonderful and natural can also be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I should be so lucky.

The kids will be fine. They’ll be home, in familiar surroundings, in a comfortable routine, with people who love them.

And I must rise to the occasion. And also to pack.


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Leo’s First Birthday Photos

I can hardly believe that Leo is already a year and a half old. Where has the time gone? I will so miss having a little baby to snuggle and hold, but I have to admit that having a toddler to interact with is pretty darn fun. I was looking back at some of my old photos and realized that I never posted these gorgeous images taken by my friend Greta at Olive Hill Photography last June. So bright and fun! I don’t think I’ll ever tire of looking at these images for as long as I live.


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Dear Chloe, Age 4

Dear Chloe,

You are now four years old! We celebrated your birthday yesterday at a local gymnastics academy. You had a wonderful time with your friends – running around, jumping on the trampoline and into the foam pit, and all around the inflatable bounce house and slide. You chose the chocolate cake with the rainbow on it and you also requested a pinata. You’ve been asking for a fairy pinata for months, but since we couldn’t find one you finally chose a butterfly instead. 🙂

..

..

Now that you are four, I’ve decided we’ll join in on the popular new tradition of 20 questions. I hope that we’ll repeat this every year. Tonight, right before bedtime, I interviewed you. Here is what you said:

1. What is your favorite color? Blue and purple. First, I like blue.
2. What is your favorite toy? My Lalaloopsy doll
3. What is your favorite fruit? Grapes
4. What is your favorite tv show? My Big, Big Friend
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Pasta
6. What is your favorite thing to wear? My orange (sun) dress with the orange bloomers
7. What is your favorite game? Playing with you. Candyland and dress-up
8. What is your favorite snack? The chocolate cereal (Kellogg’s Krave)
9. What is your favorite animal?
A Butterfly
10. What is your favorite song? The lullaby we listen to in the car where the baby floats in the air (Rockabye baby in the tree top, when the wind blows the cradle will rock, when the bough breaks the cradle will fly, and up will drift baby into the sky…)
11. What is your favorite book? The Octonauts and the (Great) Ghost Reef
12. Who is your best friend? You. And I love Anjali. And Rosabelle and Hazel.
13. What is your favorite cereal? Marshmallow cereal (Mallow Oats by Mom’s Best Cereals). Chex.
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? Play in the sandbox and run
15. What is your favorite drink? Juice and milk
16. What is your favorite holiday? Christmas and Halloween and when I give out heart cards (Valentine’s Day).
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? Backpack baby and (light-up) Ladybug
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Cereal (granola and/or corn flakes) with (vanilla) yogurt and milk
19. What is your favorite dinner? Meatballs and spaghetti
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? A mommy. I mean, a daddy. 🙂
I love you my little girl,
Forever and always,
Mama

Chloe’s 4-year specs – Height: 3′ 1.5″ (0.953m) (9.11%)  Weight: 29lbs (13.154kg) (5.56%)  BMI: 14.50 kg/m2


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First Day of Preschool – Take 2

Chloe attended her first day at her new preschool this week. After much agonizing and self-doubt I withdrew her from her first preschool, even though I didn’t have a replacement in mind. My instincts and observations told me it wasn’t the right place, and as soon as I made the phone call, I felt relieved.

Before this experience, I didn’t understand why parents made such a big deal about preschool. All those stories about signing up for wait-lists in utero, or cut-throat admissions seemed ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for preschool. My own preschool experience (what I remember of it) was stellar. I guess I thought all preschools were similar… but they definitely are not.

In short, it took hours of online searching and several phone calls to find out that by this time most preschools were either: A) Full with a wait-list, B) Not what I wanted, C) Too far away or D) Too expensive. Then a friend mentioned there might be a spot at her school (which I had originally catorgorized as likely both A, C and D), but it ended up working out after all. Whew!

And here is a surprise realization I had during my research into preschool – my academic expectations for Chloe are very high. As a matter of fact, I can’t believe how little kids are expected to know when they enter Kindergarten. Just as part of our everyday, Chloe gets opportunities to count and add, practice writing and drawing, observe colors and shapes, and read (together). It seems like their sponge-like brains could easily pick up certain basics, but I’m finding out that preschool is more about developing social skills, communication and exploration through play.

Anyway, Chloe enjoyed her first day very much. She acclimated quickly and I didn’t feel any of the anxiety I felt previously. I still plan on giving her academic opportunities at home, but now I’m finally confident she’s in a healthy environment we can both look forward to.

PS – I you have any doubts about the importance of preschool, here is an article about why preschool matters and a podcast on NPR The Case for Preschool.

“Those who go to preschool will go on to university, will have a graduate education, and their income level will radically improve.” –Wall Street Journal

“In the long run, the gift of money is that it gives a child constant access to a world of stimulation and enrichment, thus allowing her to fulfill her genetic potential.” –Wired

Children who attend high-quality preschool enter kindergarten with better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies, and stronger basic math skills than those who do not. –Parents

 


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You know you’re a mom when…

You know you’re a mom when… you’re rushing two kids out the door, arms full, carrying a backpack in your teeth and your coffee in a sippy cup.

**and**

On the way to preschool for child #1 you spy a nice wood twin bed frame with a “FREE” sign on it. Perfect for child #2, so you load that sucker in the vehicle (by yourself!) while child #2 complains from the backseat. Then you drive home to unload it (alone) before leaving again to run errands at Target.

Yep, I’m a mom.

For the record, the coffee was in a sippy cup because it was one of those mornings when it was easier to find a matching lid for a sippy than one that belonged on a to go container. And you can see from the photo, the bed frame is the top half of a bunk bed, complete with built-in rails on all sides – perfect for when Leo is ready to transition to a “big boy” bed. It’s in excellent condition. Lucky me!


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List Therapy

Last week felt pretty hard. Part of it was coming off the wonderful high of being at the beach for the three-day labor day weekend. Our vacation home was perfect – bright, clean, and kid-and-dog friendly. It was paid for by David’s work, since it was a “work party” weekend, and included social gatherings for meals and playing on the beach, including lots of kids. Thanks to friendly co-workers who briefly watched Chloe and Leo, I even got to surf for the first time in about 5 years! It was amazing to get in the water again. So many times that weekend I thought to myself “I am so happy!”

Then, we returned home. The kids got sick. Leo had trouble sleeping and there was tons of post-trip laundry/organizing/cleaning to do. So many small things – like Barkley wandering in with muddy paws right after I mopped floors – wore me down bit by bit. The worst point, though, was when I got an email saying the wonderful teacher Chloe was supposed to have for preschool was changing jobs and a new one was hired. Someone with less experience, and a man to boot. I know, it is not fair of me, but I just did not want a man as Chloe’s teacher. I looked into changing schools but the other three I’d considered had no spaces left. With no other options, we attended the meet-and-greet on Friday. It was hard for me to keep an open mind, but I think he’ll be okay. But will he be great? We’ll see. Academically, Chloe is already kindergarten-ready, so that isn’t a concern. She knows her shapes, colors, numbers and counting, the alphabet, and some phonetics. We are just beginning to learn reading skills, and when prompted she can sound out small words – up, cup, at, the, cat, hat, etc. Preschool for her is more for the social aspect – learning respect for others, better listening skills, cooperation, etc.

And that brings me to the “what would make me happy?” list. Instead of focusing on the negative, I started writing down what I felt might make me happy. Here are a few examples: from simple, to more complicated, to future planning:

• Getting a cake pop from starbucks. Yes, sometimes its the little things. A salted caramel for me, a pink birthday pop for Chloe.
• Finding a cheap, temporary storage solution for our cluttered hallway. Done! I bought a $20 dresser on craigslist. It needs some work, but the important thing is that it fits the space for now. Eventually we want to do built-ins.
• Meal planning and making freezer meals. It seems like so much of my time involves shopping for, preparing and cooking meals. There has got to be a better way. Plus, we spend A LOT on food. I want to start making double batches of recipes that I can freeze for later, and start putting my crock pot to use.
• A light tube for the hallway. This is more of a future wishlist item. Our hallway is dark, and I’d love to introduce some natural light there. Yes, there are overhead lights, but it’s not the same. David says he can do it, but he is understandably worried about putting a hole in the roof. I think my best bet is just to keep asking. 🙂

Of course there are other things – get more exercise, drink more water, carve out some “me” time, but those are perpetual list items that I never seem to do anything about. Either way, I’m feeling much better this week. I may have some projects (like a painted dresser!) to share soon. I urge you to try it, too. Good old list therapy!

 


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Dear Leo, One year old

Dear Leo,

You are one year old today. Happy birthday my precious, darling boy! You have brought us so much joy this past year. You are a shiny sparkle that brightens my life, and I am so thankful for you.

There are so many things I want to tell you. How sweet and affectionate you are. How your smile warms my heart. How you speed around the house, crawling after your sister with the enthusiasm of a puppy. I love watching you two play, and I’m so glad you have each other.

You are an excellent eater. Daddy says you a like a bottomless pit. Your finger dexterity is amazing. You’ll eat practically anything, with a special fondness for cheese, pasta, fruits and baby snacks. Your teeth have been a little late to appear, but the first one (bottom left) appeared recently, and I can see a shadow of its neighbor and the one directly above coming in. Just the other day you pulled down a bowl of your sister’s pears from the dining table, along with her fork, and sat down to feed yourself bite after bite. It took me by surprise – not that you got the pears, but because you used the fork, which I have never given you before.

So far you only say the words mama and dada. You can’t walk yet, but you pull yourself up to stand easily and often take steps while holding on. You like to climb on things, but don’t always know how to get down safely. More than once I’ve seen you climb on your sister’s chair, stand up and pull on the window ledge while pushing off the wall with your toes. I’m glad I was there those times.

You LOVE being outside. Summer has been late coming this year, but you love playing in the sandbox and even got to experience the sprinkler one warm day. You protest whenever you see someone go out the back door and not take you, too. You know there is a whole world out there, full of grass to pull, flowers to smell and rocks to gnaw (outside will be easier once you stop putting everything in your mouth).

Over all you are just the best little boy any mother could ask for… except maybe at night. You just will not stay asleep, and aren’t afraid to let the rest of us know it. You wake 4 or 5 times a night, and it is hard sometimes to be the best mama I can be on such interrupted sleep. You fall asleep fine (for morning and afternoon naps, too), it is just staying asleep that’s tough. We are taking steps, however. You moved into your own room a couple weeks ago (we painted it the most lovely shade of pale blue-grey called “morning fog”), and I think you are beginning to settle in. We’ll see.

My little son, your mama loves you so much. I can tell that you love me, too, with your big hugs, gentle pats, and too often hair pulling. I hope we’ll continue to grow our special little bond. Thank you for all the warmth and sun you bring into all our lives. Its a bittersweet time, knowing that your babyness is behind you, yet it is exciting to see the little boy you’ll become. I’ll hold your hand every step of the way, as long as you’ll let me.

All my love,
Mama

Leo’s one year stats
Height: 2’6″ (58.66%)  Weight: 19lb 4.4oz (6.37%)  Head Circumference: 17.72″ (14.24%)  BMI: 15.06kg/m2


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Haircut!

I finally gave Chloe her first “real” haircut. “Real” meaning all the way around and not just a bang trim. It was a little bittersweet. At almost 3 years-old she’s hardly grown enough hair to cut, but it was getting a bit too ragged around the edges (see photo from previous post). She’d also get knots and tangles in the back from going to bed with her hair still damp. Afterward I gave her a princess tiara. Naturally she responded “Can I have a haircut again? Now?” I wish I would have gotten a better photo, but she’s on to me, and when she saw the camera come out the little stinker started running away. I’m happy that at least she sat still for the cut!

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