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Tackling the Toys

I FINALLY organized the toy drawers in our living room. I think its been about 2 years since the last time, and that was just to pull some of the infant toys Chloe no longer touched. Talk about procrastination! And honestly, once I finally sat down to do it, it went pretty fast.

The dresser is a Malm that we use as a console table (not the bins shown above). Of the dresser’s 6 drawers, the 4 lower ones were dedicated to Chloe’s things. One drawer is for Chloe’s jackets and hats, so she can put them away by herself when she comes in the door. The other three were full of toys and random junk. I wish I had taken a “before” photo, just to prove what a mess it all was, but the energy to do it came on suddenly. I mean, I had thought about doing it a million times, but this is the first time I sat down to do it. That is the hardest part, in my opinion, just setting down to the task.

Getting Started
I started with 2 large empty bins and one paper bag for junk. Junk equaled anything broken, useless, missing pieces, or not worth giving away. The first bin was for donations and the second for holding items to keep, so I could fully empty a drawer and vacuum out the accumulated dust. After a short time I brought over one of Chloe’s little play chairs, to help my back. Once I saw a pattern emerge, I began to group items in organized piles on the floor, a lot of which needed to go somewhere else. In our house this means:

Bathroom
Bath toys

Chloe’s Room
Books to the bookshelf
Play clothes to the dress-up bin
Play jewelry in a play purse
Finger puppets bagged together (closet)
Games (closet)
Play doh/ Art supplies to the art shelf (closet)

2nd Bedroom (soon to be Leo’s!)
All Legos and blocks

Great Room (aka kitchen/dining/family area)
Baby toys for Leo in the baby toy bins (more about this later)
Play food and utencils to the play kitchen

Living Room
After sorting and putting toys away that belonged to the above areas, the remaining toys that stayed in the Malm drawers now fit into just two drawers. One drawer is for all stuffed animals, dolls, and doll clothes. The second drawer is divided into musical instruments on one side and tiny figurines, knick-knacks, cars, wind-up toys, small balls, bean bags, and anything that Leo (now 8 months) shouldn’t play with. Also, any very small toy that was worth keeping, but that I didn’t care about losing, were put away into a separate grab bag for taking on trips.

The remaining empty drawer will be used for Leo’s jackets and hats, and to help ease Chloe’s jacket drawer for now, which is completely stuffed thanks to generous hand-me-downs. Through the winter she mostly rotates between only one coat and a jacket, but once spring comes she’ll be using her lighter-weight ones, too.

The biggest accomplishment in all this, at least for me, is that now everything has a place. No, I don’t like that things are spread over four rooms, but the fact is that Chloe would rather be where we are than playing by herself in her room. Right now her room is for sleeping, getting dressed, and reading. Otherwise, she spends most of her time in the great room or the office where she is allowed to watch occasional shows on the computer (via Netflix or PBSkids.org).

Leo, being the baby, is also, naturally, wherever we are. Thus there are 2 of the large Target bins (shown above) of baby toys in the great room. And honestly, Chloe plays with them, too. Someday I’d like to add structure and storage to the great room (maybe with some Besta?), but that won’t be anytime soon.

The hardest part of this whole experience was keeping Chloe from undoing the work while I was trying to cull and organize. She would want to play with some newly uncovered toys and then walk away with them, or scatter my piles before I had a chance to put them were they belonged. I also had to take breaks to entertain or feed Leo. So I would suggest doing this while the kids were elsewhere, if possible. Even if, by some miracle, both my kids napped at the same time, our house is too small and the noise of shifting toys would certainly wake them.

So there you have it. I feel I should add that I am by no means naturally tidy, and I don’t expect everything to stay put, because it won’t. But, when I occasionally attempt to maintain it, it is much easier to do now. Chloe is able to find things easier and enjoy her toys more. It is a really good starting point for an organized (if not tidy) future.

If only I could organize my office as easily…


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Heat Wave

We’re suffering through a heat wave in Portland right now. So far we’ve gotten by with only fans, but tomorrow I’m guessing the AC will get its first run of the season. Chloe’s lovin’ it, though. Yesterday she got to play in the nearby park fountain for the second time, although she will still quite timid. All of the jets except four are quite forceful, and the four tiny jets were crowded with other babies, toddlers and parents. So, today we broke out our new Melissa & Doug Blossom Sprinkler. I bought two on a whim back in March, and gave the second as a birthday gift. It is everything that I’d hoped for. Right now we’re keeping the flow low, so Chloe can get used to it, but it also goes big, and the sprinkler heads are soft and flexible for little feet. I think we’re going to get a lot of use out of it this summer, and since losing our trees, I’m sure our grass is going to thank us.

On another note, I recieved a lot of really insightful advice in the comments of my recent Maybe I should have spanked her post. I appreciated reading every one, and gleaned some good information.  It also spurred me to look at some “raising toddler” help books at the library. The one I’m currently reading is The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp, MD. I was really impressed with how well the techniques from his other book and DVD worked when Chloe was a newborn. I’ve gotten through the first four chapters so far, basically presenting the idea that parents should act as an “ambassador” to their children (vs. being a buddy, or a boss), and how to communicate respectfully using the “Fast Food rule” and “Toddler-ese.” To be honest, I was skeptical about the “Toddler-ese,” but I had an opportunity to try it during dinner tonight. Chloe must have hurt her mouth somehow and was crying. Daddy tried to distract her with redirection, which usually works, but she just continued crying. It was my opportunity to give toddler-ese a try. To my surprise, Chloe responded by pausing mid-wail, which was just long enough for Daddy to redirect her again with the promise of a cookie (it was the end of dinner, after all). Whoa! Was this just a coincidence? Hard to tell. I plan on trying it again in other situations, and if it works even half the time, then I’ll be happy.


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Wooden Name Puzzles

When I was visiting Colorado for the wedding, I came across an old wooden name puzzle from when Andrew was a kid. I loved it – the colors, the size of the pieces, and more importantly, the font. The maker’s name was stamped on the back, but an internet search came up empty, which is no surprise since it’s probably almost twenty years old. Then, just yesterday when we were over at a friend’s house for dinner, I noticed their little boy had his own name puzzle, too (I meant to take a picture, but I forgot). Anyway, here are a few that I’d consider for Chloe:


mooo.com.au $30.95 for 5 letters, $14.95 for box


personalizationmall.com $5.95 per letter


personalizationmall.com $52.95 one name, $64.95 two names


puzzlepeople.etsy.com $21.00


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Vulli Sophie Giraffe Teether – Ooo la la!


Photo above from here.

We bought a Vulli Sophie Giraffe Teether from a local toy shop yesterday. I’ve wanted to get Chloe one for a while. I know it doesn’t seem particularly fancy or engaging, but there is a certain je ne sais quoi about this little French toy.

I saw it first on DeliciousBaby. I must have been blog-surfing when I found Debbie’s excellent advice on traveling with infants, plus kid-friendly city guides to destinations around the US, Canada and Europe. Instantly I imagined Chloe and I in Paris, her dressed Madeline-style and us sitting at a cafe, eating chocolate croissants and taking in the atmosphere of a very-much-hoped-for-someday mother-daughter experience.

My attention finally returned to the computer  and I found her list of recommended baby travel toys, including Sophie, “the most popular baby toy in France”. After that, I would see Sophie again and again, on sites like Land of Nod, Diapers.com and Amazon, where it is ranked as their #1 selling baby toy.

At almost 9 months, Chloe still has no teeth. We also have two flights scheduled to visit each set of grandparents within the next couple months. And I kept thinking about that little teether. Now we have one.

So what is all the fuss about?

Sophie has been in production since 1961, “born” in France on May 25th, St. Sophie’s day. She is made from 100% all natural rubber (BPA and Phthalates free), derived from the sap of the Hevea tree. She smells like rubber, too, but not unpleasantly so. She stands about 5 inches tall and squeaks when you squeeze her. Her body feels soft and yielding, yet firm, like skin. She is slightly cool, but not cold like hard plastic. Her spots, painted with food grade paint, are attractive to baby, and I think her various parts – ears, horns, legs, mouth, etc, provide just the right amount of stimulation for the mouth and gums. She is also very easy to grasp, even for little ones.

So, am I silly to spend so much for a little rubber toy? Probably. But Chloe likes it, and that is good enough for me. 🙂



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Baby's First Toy

After Chloe’s first play date with Ava and Lorenzo, I thought it might be time to get her an infant-specific toy. I started looking at options online and really liked…

The wooden Anelina Rattle Teething Ring and the Tulpino Rattle, both by the German toy maker Selecta. I loved their simple design and materials. Unfortunately, neither of these seem to be available locally, so…

Instead, Daddy brought home a Rombino Rattle Ring (0+months). I was delighted to see her grasp the toy after I placed it in her hand, and then and bring it up to her mouth all by herself! Two other toys that Daddy couldn’t resist was a Chick-ita (not shown) and a Ballino. The Chick-ita sounds like a mini maraca and the Ballino is made of beech wood, with ecological, water-based, non-toxic lacquer. It is one of those really great structural toys that looks good just sitting on a desk – fun for adults too. 🙂

“Babies learn soon to comprehend the world around them: holding, observing, putting everything in their mouths – A baby explores their surroundings with all their senses…”

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