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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.


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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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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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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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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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Bike Trailer Adventures

Have I mentioned that we bought a bike trailer? Do you have one? Do you love it? I have been wanting one since last summer, made a few inquiries, scanned the “for sale” listings. We asked ourselves would we use it? How much should we spend? Where would we even store it? Then autumn came and we decided to wait and look into it again this summer.

One brand we kept seeing was InStep. The parents we talked to said it was a good deal for the price (also because it doesn’t come with the stroller attachment, which we decided we wouldn’t need), and we started looking again. Then David noticed the InStep Take 2 Double Bicycle Trailer went down to $68 on Amazon (score!). We decided to go for it!

We’ve now been on two bike rides with David pulling the trailer. Both times the kids LOVED it. Both times I was so happy to be back on my bike again. There was a time past that mountain biking and snowboarding were a big part of my life. Eventually, I left that life behind. Before Chloe came along, I would still occasionally ride with Barkley trotting beside me. After Chloe, well, it was just one of those pastimes that went by the wayside for a while.

We are going to have so many bike trailer adventures this summer, I just know it! Next on the agenda: to finally get these kids some helmets! Chloe has been making a push to learn to ride her own little bike  with training wheels. She is particularly motivated since our road is full of kids on bikes. Also, earlier this year I decided to buy a micro scooter for Leo (for his birthday, I told myself). I wanted to give him the chance to keep up with his sister and I figured that might be his best shot.

Bring on summer!!!

 


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Adorable Animal-Inspired Clothing for Kids

Brown Bear DressBrown Bear Girls Dress by Wild Things Dresses

I have seen some of the cutest little animal-inspired outfits and accessories lately. My kids would love them, I have no doubt. What kid wouldn’t? They are the perfect blend of daily-wear/play clothes and dress-up costume, all in one.

Here are a few of my favorites, including a neat DIY tutorial at the end for kitten flats that would be awesome for any age!

Fox Knit Scarf by Tre Melarance
Kids Fox Knit Scarf
Kids Fox Coat by Little Goodall
Kids Fox Coat Jacket
Girls Baby Mouse Dress by Wild Things Dresses
Gray Girls Mouse Dress Kids
DIY Cat Toe Shoes by Kate at Scathingly Brilliant
DIY Cat Kitten Painted Shoes

 


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Before and After: High Chair Seat Cushion & Cover

Hauck Alpha Chair with New Seat Cover

Ah, the plethora of kid stuff. I don’t know about you, but I thought we’d get by with a lot less gear than we actually have. I’d done my homework, read reviews and comparison shopped. I’d wanted to make the right choices the first time around. But the truth is, you don’t really know what will work until you try it in your own home with your own kid. Our first high chair, for example, had great reviews, two trays, folded for storage and could convert to a small chair for later. It sounded great in theory, but despite all those things we never liked it. The footprint was too wide, it was heavy, the trays were too big too clean in the sink, and we never folded and put it away between meals. What’s the point if it was going to be used 3+ times a day? We used it for both kids for the least amount of time possible.

As soon as Leo was old enough we switched him to a booster and tray set that sat on top of one of our dining chairs. It worked fine for a while, but I could see that Leo couldn’t rest his legs comfortably, plus it was too high to push under the table. We would all occasionally trip on the back legs. I began to look for other options.

Thanks to craigslist I found a like-new Hauck Alpha Chair for a bargain. It was and is the perfect chair for Leo. I could go on and on about it, but I’ll limit myself to saying that it is super sturdy, adjustable, comfortable, promotes good posture and he can climb into it easily by himself. It also matches the rest of our dining chairs (unlike Chloe’s Ikea Urban Junior Chair). Winner!

We’ve had the Alpha chair since January and just recently took the seat and the foot plate down a notch to accommodate Leo’s growth (my little boy is growing up!). Actually, the only thing I didn’t love about the chair was the seat pad. It was thin and lumpy. If food spilled on it, it would immediately stain. More like a bib than a seat cover. Yuck. Here is the “Before” photo:

Time for a new seat cushion! Here is what I sewed up to take its place:

Much improved wouldn’t you say?

My cushion cover skills were limited to the one I made for our storage bench years ago. This time I had to buy the foam padding and add a strap down system, too. Luckily it was easy to find a sheet of foam at Mill End and it easily cut down to size (the sheet was so large, that I also ended up making a cushion for under Barkley’s dog bed). I used the same strap/velcro system as on the original pad (see above photo), but I chose PUL (or polyurethane laminated fabric) for the covering. It is water resistant and popular for cloth diaper covers. It is easily also easily wiped clean or washed, and came in prints suitable for a young boy.

Leo sitting in his Hauck Alpha Chair

Much better!

So far the seat cushion has held up nicely during the past couple months. Makes me glad I took the time to do it right. Do you have a chair that could benefit from a new seat or cushion cover?


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Easter Egg Hunt 2013

Nothing like the joy of a good Easter Egg Hunt! We’ve attended the same one every year since Chloe could walk. Its free, hosted by a local church, and starts off with a few crafts for the kids to do while they wait. This year was Leo’s first. You should have seen his eyes light up when he noticed the fields sparkling with colorful eggs!

Next year Chloe will be too old to hunt the same field as Leo, so I am glad I was able to get some photos of them together. By the end, Chloe had her basket filled literally to overflowing. So much fun, but unfortunately, over so quickly! More of our hunt photos can be seen here, and a special thanks to the kids’ aunt and uncle for providing them with such adorable, personalized baskets!

What about you? Do you have fond memories of egg hunts? Treat-filled Easter baskets? Pancakes shaped like bunnies?

 

 


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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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Before & After: Painted Ikea Latt Table & Mysig Canopy

Ah well. Things are winding down for me in the motivation department. This happens sometimes. I’ll have this amazing streak of cleaning, decluttering, & project fulfillment and then it will dissipate back to my everyday amount of energy. Well, it was fun while it lasted!

Meanwhile, here is a quick pic of one of my projects from a couple weeks ago. We had this strange (for Oregon) winter sunny day and I thought ‘I’m going to paint!’ So, once the kids went down for naps I quickly gathered all the supplies and the kids’ Ikea LATT table and chair set.

I’ve been a fan of the dipped look for a while, so I decided to tape off a bit of the bottom legs to let the pine show through. The color is “Eden” by Rustoleum Painter’s Touch, satin finish. Anyway, I really like it and the kids do too! I wish I could find a before photo – by this point the wood had been stained with food and art supplies and who knows what else, so a quick sanding and layer of spray paint made it look good as new!

And what do you think of that MYSIG bed canopy? I totally fell in love with it the first time I saw it. I actually didn’t buy it that trip, because I wasn’t sure where I’d use it, but the next time I decided to grab one up. For $9.99, it’s a bargain. Since we have nothing for the wall there yet, I thought it would make an excellent topper for the table set. It’s hung with a single Command mini hook, so no nail hole was needed. The play kitchen is right to the side there, too, so the kids are always bringing their tea sets and play food over (as you can see). I’m thinking of having a vinyl wall decal made that says something like “Chloe & Leo’s Corner Cafe” to place underneath. Wouldn’t that be cute? Or would that be too much? 😉

P.S. I just happened to look up when we originally bought the LATT table, and it was when Chloe was 20 months old. I mentioned it here. How ironic that it should get a makeover when Leo was 20 months old!


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Family Portrait by Chloe, age 4

This is a drawing that Chloe made yesterday. I totally, totally love it. For the longest time she was mostly a scribbler. We never guided her drawing, but sometimes she would as us to draw something for her. Now suddenly she is starting to make all kinds of recognizable drawings. They are really fun to see, and sometimes come with imaginative scenarios or stories that blow me away.

The other photo shows her explaining the people in the picture: Daddy is in the middle. He is carrying her and Leo, one on each arm. He’s strong! Mama is in the back next to me, and Barkley (our dog) is the puffball in the corner under Leo.

The toy is a Fisher Price Kid Tough Travel Doodle Pro with Light. It’s been a great! I bought it for Leo to play with during our holiday flights to Colorado and Cancun, and also because he was always fighting over Chloe’s Toulouse-LapTrec from B. Toys (both definitely on my list of best toy purchases ever). The Travel Doodle has a little stowaway light the kids like to switch off and on, and turns off by itself (genius! why doesn’t anyone make a kids flashlight that does this?). For Chloe I pack her travel Aquadoodle which is much thinner and lighter, but mostly now she just draws on her ipad. We also have the large floor Aquadoodle that both kids can play with at the same time. All have been a big hit, and worth every penny.

PS. I just found out when getting the link to the Toulouse-LapTrec that all versions before 2011 have been recalled, which includes Chloe’s. Looks like they might send a new one. Hers is the chocolate brown version, but now it looks like they only come in olive green and red.

 


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Better

Things are gradually getting back to normal around here. The kids are feeling better, and so far, David and I have stayed healthy despite the wealth of germs that I am sure were floating around our house. My hands are raw and chapped from over-washing. I have wiped all doorknobs, sinks, tables and counter tops, plus all areas of floor where the kids threw up with antibacterial spray or disinfecting wipes. David mopped the floor in Chloe’s room. I washed all the bed sheets, sick clothes and towels in an extra long hot cycle with an extra rinse. Our house has never seen a week like this and I hope it never does again.

I am not exactly a germaphobe, but I do take precautions, especially with the kids. We’ve all had our seasonal flu shots (except David), and I carry two kinds of hand wipes in the diaper bag and in the car. We also teach the kids to wash their hands, especially before meals and after playing outside. Okay, maybe I am a germaphobe, but I can tell you caring for two very sick kids is exhausting and stressful. This year seems to be particularly bad, all around the country. I am a firm believer in the old saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

One of the few highlights of my week was laying down the new rug in Leo’s room (after all vomiting had ceased, of course). It arrived while I was away. Our house has mostly wood floors, so the kids love having this cozy new place to sit and play. The image above shows a photo of it, and of Chloe concentrating on building an extra tall Mega Blok tower, which she was very proud of. Yep, things are finally getting back to normal. Phew!

 

 


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Nursery Thoughts

I’ve been wanting to spruce up Leo’s nursery for a while now. Currently his room consists of his sister’s hand-me-down white Ikea furniture (2 malm dressers, a billy bookcase, and a crib), a rocking chair, and two Isak prints, which I still love (you can see them in Chloe’s old nursery from a few years ago). The only things I’ve bought specifically for him were a grey minky changing pad cover, a colored bin set we found at a yard sale, and a set of shelves that we just installed.

It looks nice enough, but now that he’s a year and a half, his room is transitioning from a baby’s room to a toddler room – a comfortable and safe play area and toy storage are necessities. There is also the concern that Leo’s room is the coldest in the house, while Chloe’s gets the hottest. When we turn the heat up for Leo, Chloe’s room turns into an oven. Also, Leo’s room cools off quickly, especially at night. Room heaters seem to be either too hot or too loud, or a safety hazard.

Eventually we’ll put in replacement windows, which should cut the draft, but until then, David suggested an area rug as a layer of insulation. As long as it wasn’t white or light colored (which would just get dirty from the kids and dog) I could pretty much choose. I scoured the internet, including Ikea and Target, but nothing in the right size or for under $100. Finally, I saw a decent one on Craigslist, but it had sold. She told me it was purchased from rugsusa. I saw it on sale for the same price, including shipping, so I decided to go for it. I really hope it looks good.

The other thing I’ve been considering is a wall decal. I had one of David’s canvas paintings hanging above the changing pad, but Leo thinks its great fun to knock it down. A decal would solve this problem. I particularly love this one from LittleMooseDecals. I imagined it including Leo’s name and a slight tweak of the moon and asked if a customization was possible. Then Michelle sent me the image above as a sample. Awesome! Have I mentioned Leo’s walls are the same pale blue? And that I like clouds?

So, the question is, will these things go together, do you think? One thing I’ve learned about myself is that being a graphic designer doesn’t always translate well to home decor for me. However, I notice I gravitate to the same kind of nursery images on Pinterest, so maybe I should just go with my gut on this?


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Christmas 2012 Recap

I am so proud of myself! I just realized that I had remembered to “lock” some photos to my camera before I downloaded and deleted the memory card in Colorado! I had transferred them to an SD card, but they weren’t there when I got home. Luckily, copies are still on my father-in-law’s computer, and he will send me a CD. Until then, I still have some of my favorites!

I often think how Chloe and Leo have no idea how lucky they are. After all, Santa and Mrs. Claus have come to visit them at their grandparent’s house for two years in a row. Can you imagine?! You can see Chloe’s expression when they came to the door here (if there is a next time, I’ll have to get it on video!). Leo, naturally, wasn’t quite as enthusiastic. However, it was great fun, and that night we had an amazing Osso Bucco dinner made by Grandma Sandy. And, as if on cue, we were surprised by the biggest group of neighborhood carolers I have ever seen later that night!

We also did some other fun “firsts” during our week in Colorado, including attending the children’s Christmas mass at the local Catholic church, had a very exciting visit to the North Pole Santa’s Workshop, a storybook-like theme park not far from Colorado Springs, AND went on our very first horse-drawn sleigh ride! Wow! It was crazy to get to play in the snow and go sledding one day and then turn around and hop a flight to Cancun the next.

It is tempting to think the rest of this year will be very boring in comparison, but somehow, I don’t think so…

More photos from this trip are on Flickr.


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First Snow of Winter

Nothing like the first snow of winter! It rarely snows here in Portland, so when it does it feels extra special. Even though we were running late this morning with Chloe due at gymnastics, I couldn’t say no when she asked to go outside to play. This was also Leo’s first real experience with snow. Last December he was only 6 months old! Now he is running around and checking out the substance called “snow” like a budding scientist. And I’m glad they got the chance, because when we were done with gymnastics all the snow had gone as quickly as it had come.


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The Extra Large Really BIG Bag

I sewed a new bag this weekend! This is a really BIG bag (almost 3 feet across). I wanted one because both Chloe, and Leo & I have a swim class that meets twice a week, during the same time. The bag had to be large enough to carry three towels, three sets of dry clothes, snacks, diapering items, etc., yet be light weight and easy for this mama to carry. This one fits the bill with room to spare!

The pattern came from a blue plastic Ikea shopping bag. We have two, and they are really handy, especially at the beach. Sand slides right off the plastic. The handles are really clever, too. Each side has a loop of material that is attached in way that creates a shoulder strap as well as tote handles, so you can carry it both ways (you can see them best in the top photo). Essentially, those blue Ikea bags are large tarps with handles, but they stay crazy wrinkled and are ridiculously noisy because the plastic is so crackly. The design is perfect, though, almost exactly what I wanted.

Sewing notes: The Ikea heart fabric I already had in my stash. I used Pellon fusible interfacing to add body, but it didn’t adhere to the outer fabric properly, and I’m not sure I would use it again. As I said before, this is a basic, but cleverly designed bag, made of only two large and one small rectangle (for the bottom). I thought about forgoing the bottom and just sewing the side rectangles together, but it is the bottom that makes the bag roomy and gives it a wide opening. The handles are grosgrain ribbon and the top edge and the inside sides seams are finished with bias tape. Pretty snazzy!

Here are links to the other bags I’ve made: Freestyle tote, Hobo Slouch, Green Felt tote,  Zippered Felt bag and Tokyo Tie bag.

 


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Reusing Packing Peanuts

Not very long ago, David ordered something that came in the mail with a TON of packing peanuts. Instead of throwing them away, we put them in a garbage bag, and let them take up space in the office. Honestly, we were never going to use them. We hardly ever ship things (unless we buy a gift online, and then we ship it straight from the company). This morning I decided to just let the kids play with them. You can just imagine!

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