Thursday, September 26, 2013

Two Darths

So, the days of cute Halloween costumes are over for my boys.  Even my three year old, thanks to his older brother, has gone to the dark side.  I have two Darth Vaders this year.  In fact not only are they dressing up as one of the worst villains of the twenty century but I also bought them the costumes.  My goal has always been to have creative homemade outfits for them.  I just couldn’t wrap my head around how I could do the costume justice at a reasonable price. 
My husband was quite disappointed he thought for sure that I could whip something up.  He offered numerous suggestions including making a paper mache helmet.  I was impressed he knew the term, but seriously paper mache?  So we ordered costumes online and thought we would try our luck.  It seems that costumes have improved since back in the day.  The mask is much more substantial then the cheap flimsy ones that they had available when I was young. Those masks that broke immediately.
            Granted we do have to do some work to fix the costume.  We need to rig the straps that hold the mask on, not sure the shape of the models head they used for the design.  I also need to convert the jump suit into a two piece suit for at least the youngest.  How can you expect a three year old that was just recently potty trained to navigate a jumpsuit that opens in the back. 
So I guess the only saving grace is that they worked out exactly how there could be two Darth Vaders.  I walked into the living to hear J say to D, “Okay, we are back in your time now.”  So D stood up and very officially and seriously fallowed him into the kitchen.
“It’s his time.”
“His time?”
“That’s how come we can have two of us.  I jump into his time or he jumps into mine.”
That’s right.  My five year old baby is using time travel to explain how he and his brother have the same costume.  He also managed to explain it to his brother that is 19 months younger in way that made sense to the kid.  
I guess I have to be okay with them being bad guys with such an amazing explanation.
So is it okay that I am dressing the baby as Princess Leia?  I am going to make that costume.  I know I can make a super cute fleece hat that looks much better than the costume ones out there.  I also can’t give up on the handmade element on her first trip out.  Just feeling bad that it isn’t a terribly innocent costume.  I mean, one brother was a baby blue doggy that matched his lovey, the other went as a little raccoon.  I am trying to justify it by explaining I need the good side of the force represented. 
I don’t know.

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Friday, August 30, 2013

Starting Kindergarten

So my five year old is starting full day kindergarten next week and my heart aches.  Michigan in its effort to meet rigorous NCLB mandates has pushed schools, parents and our little ones into a full day program whether we like it or not.  As a SAHM, I am reluctant to let go of my baby and recognize I will probably have more trouble with the adjustment than he will. There is also this fear that what should be play based and social may be more academic because of the new mandates.  As a secondary teacher by training, I want my children to be prepared but I also want it to be developmentally appropriate.
I am fortunate that my little guy is well suited to school. He is a wonderful listener and genuinely likes doing “school work” type activities.  He loves art and astounds me with his ability to capture such detail in drawings at his young age.  He loves listening to books and anything math related.  He attended a Montessori preschool that helped nurture his knack for quiet independent play.  I realize how fortunate he is, entering into a school setting with these attributes and academic inclinations.  His counterparts with fewer fine motor skills and less attention spans may truly struggle.  As a mommy to boys I do worry about how school does seem more geared towards young girls than to boys.  Reading articles about boys being suspended for shooting finger guns at each other does have me a bit paranoid too.  My guy loves Star Wars.  We spend time in the car shooting at Imperial Star Destroyers,  it is unavoidable.  Will he get in trouble?  Suspended?  Add that to my list of questions for curriculum night and my letter to the teacher.

As we cram the last few events into our remaining precious week I reflect on our summer and hope that we did enough and shared enough quality time that he goes off satiated and prepared for his new rigorous schedule.  I have some mommy guilt because we were not as active this summer as we had been the previous two, due to the arrival of his littlest sibling in March.  In past summers we were out and about much more.  He and his brother loved spending time at the local historical village and zoo.  We hit all of the Splash Pads and park play dates.  We didn’t have to think about a baby’s nursing or nap schedule. 
I had to prepare my moms’ group calendar for the month of September and it hurt my heart a little scheduling events that he would love to do.  How can I take his brother and sister without him?  Do I start the mantra that there is always next summer?  I also keep telling myself that I can sneak him out of school on any number of afternoons if I feel it is necessary.  I have already decided a visit to our favorite Santa will have to happen during school hours because the weekend scene is unbearable.  Shh, the teacher in me hates the idea of letting my kid play hookey but the mommy is weak and tender hearted.
I am also trying to incorporate as many memory making traditions as I can to make this a fun and exciting time.  I want him to feel positive about his new schedule and not soak in my trepidation.

Here are some of my plans:
    Both Boys First Day of School
  • I am prepared to take his first day of school picture to then pair it with his last day of school picture. (Already old preschool pros at this.)

Last Day of School
  • I am trying to plot and plan a fun first day of school breakfast and after school snack that will become a fun tradition.  Mint chocolate chip or pumpkin pancakes?  Milkshake and cookies?
  • I also want to establish an after school snack, talk time and then homework routine that we can maintain over time.  I never learned to do homework at a set time every day and feel like that has contributed to my battle with procrastination. 
  • I am collecting items to put together his first German traditional School Cone, we are not German, I just love Pinterest!  (I bought The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn and an awesome Star Wars T-shirt.  I have three more days to find fun school supplies that won’t break the bank.  And I also need to fill one for his brother for preschool.)
  • I have to buy a copy of Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Suess and have to go back to his preschool teachers and have them sign it, because I love this idea!Oh the Places You'll Go Idea
  • I want to organize and tackle his scrapbook and school work pages at the beginning of the year so that we get out from under the gigantic back log of memories that are taking over my back room.  Do I scan, shrink and mount?  Do I scan and turn into photo book?  Do I collect, cull and file?
  • I have vowed to join the PTA and volunteer so I totally know what is going on and can lend a hand.  I attended the first meeting in May to get the lay of the land while we were trying to decide on schools.

Suggestions Based on My Own Experiences So Far:
  • Buy LL Bean back pack early in the summer or at the end of the school year.  His top color choice was on back order by mid August.
  • Also buy labels early in the summer or at the end of the school year.  Somehow my early August purchases still haven’t arrived.
  • We went to all the meetings at his new school to help him get acquainted and to feel comfortable in his new digs.  I love that his teacher gave them a scavenger hunt to find their way around the room.  I love that he asked to play after it was over and ended up sitting in a rocking chair poring over a Lego magazine.  He’s ready isn’t he?

  • We went school shopping and I tried to find outfits that all sort of went together so he can dress independently and still look cute.  I’m going with a navy, light blue and orange theme thanks to Crazy 8.
  • If you are planning to move to a new school district before your child starts kindergarten- move earlier than that if you can.  We always anticipated moving before our oldest reached kindergarten but life happens, and we are still in the starter home.  We are making due but it isn’t ideal.  Start researching school districts when your kid is one, start planning at two and then move by three if you can.  Or just have your stuff together before you buy that first house!  We opted for a starter home, my sister picked a forever home.  I find myself a bit jealous, granted the world was a different place when we bought seven or was it eight years ago.
  • I tried to do a school work type activity every day of the summer to keep us mentally prepared for school.  Sometimes we did science experiments; sometimes we did math workbooks, cutting activities, painting or drawing , something that ensured we were sitting at the table working each day.
  • I also tried to be mindful of screen time versus book time.  Reading books together should take up as much or more time than sitting in front of a stupid screen.
  • We bought back to school books to help prepare for the new school year.  Our favorite was First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg.  My three year old loved There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Books by Lucille Colandro.  I didn’t love it but he can’t get enough of her giant mouth.
  • Take pictures, hug and love on them as much as you can.  They are only little for such a short, short time.

What are your traditions and suggestions to make the start of a new school year fun?

How did you get your Kindergartner ready?
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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Our Christmas Ornament This Year

Every Christmas the boys and I try to come up with a new ornament to give to all the aunts, uncles, grandparents, great aunts and uncles.  We have made a tradition of getting our family picture taken at Christmas time so I generally like to include a picture of the boys.  I am very sentimental and like to show off how my cuties are growing.

We decided this year to embrace recycling.  It appears we go through a number of Trader Joe’s Yogurts around here.  My boys aren't big milk drinkers but do enjoy yogurt with their cereal on the mornings when Daddy is in charge of breakfast.  I generally toss all of the old cups into the recycling bin but this year we decided to turn them into Christmas Bell ornaments.

As you can see the actual painting was a task that both boys took to immediately.

This project required the following items:
  • Yogurt Cups
  • Arcyllic paint in Christmas colors
  • Red yarn
  • Modge Podge
  • Little bells
  • Thumb nail prints of a Christmas portrait of the two boys together.   (We printed from our inkjet printer).
  • Scissors, paintbrushes, paint pallets and paint friendly work surface.

The boys loved sitting down to paint the yogurt cups.  If they wanted to use a light color, who knew that yellow was a Christmas color, we tried to paint the entire cup with a white base or primer layer.  I did my best to keep track of who painted which cup and then wrote their name and date on the inside of the cup for posterity.

We stretched this out over a couple of days because we made so many for both sides of our very large families.  It was also a project my four and a half year really got into.  Yes, we even worked on it before we got dressed in the morning it seems.

To finish off the bells I just added some yarn, a bell and modge podged the picture of the two boys on to the bell.  The only purchase we made for this project was the little bells, everything else we had on hand.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Label It

 A friend recently asked for help organizing her kids' toys.  She had already purchased Closetmaid cubes and shelving units and was looking for good suggestions for labeling the cube bins.  My boys go to a Montessorri based preschool and I love that they really work hard to teach children to put away their own toys.  They do an awesome job of using photo labels to help kids remember where things go on each shelf.
    I borrowed from that idea.  I stitched Avery conference ID badges on to the bins so that I could switch out the photo inserts when we change our toy stash.  (Someone also suggested using industrial Velcro that you can purchase at the hardware store or Home Depot.  I thought this was a great suggestion as long as your kids don't realize they can pull the labels off!)

    I just did Google searches to find pictures of the items that we would be storing and then wrote down what the item was using a sharpie. If I had been willing to I could have typed out the words to make them look extra splashy but most of my projects are completed with little people's assistance or at least interruption, so writing it out worked just fine for us.
I like the idea of having both the words and the pictures on the labels so that the boys have some letter and word recognition practice.  It has also come in handy because I store their clothes in the same closet and set of drawers under their trundle bed.  Each boy has his name on his drawer or bin to help him keep track of his own clothes.  (I'll do just about anything to get help putting folded clothes away.  For some reason that is one of my least favorite jobs.)  Some bins hold communal items like pajamas, socks and undershirts because I just couldn't keep track of who wore which.  This is another benefit of a 19 month age difference!

  I am sure that there are fancier and prettier labels out there but these seem to get the job done and are even Daddy proof for the most part.

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The Background or Backbone to Organizing My Shoebox and the Lives in It

To some extent I think I am hard wired to be organized.  When I was only a tween I would organize the books on my shelf in rainbow order.  I loved arranging and rearranging my room whenever I cleaned it.   That’s the thing though, I was born and raised in a rather disorganized household.  Both of my parents are sort of magpies, they hate to throw things away, have no interest in keeping the house clutter or dust free and honestly just aren't that neat.  I’m not saying they are dirty just scattered and cluttered.  It drove me crazy growing up.  I vowed that I would have a tidy house.  I just didn't know how to maintain it with out seeking outside help. I knew how to clean like crazy but how could I create an environment that felt peaceful and stress free?  It isn't a perfect system (I don't live alone!) but there are some basic tenants I'd like to share.  
My challenge now is that I have two preschool children, a baby on the way,  and a busy husband and we live in a house that is less than 1000 square feet with no garage, or basement and no storage space in our attic.  Luckily I am a SAHM so I do have some time to devote to organizing our little shoebox but it requires systems.
Follow a Routine- I am ever so thankful that I found the flylady.nety.  The Flylady has created a wonderful system that ensures that everything gets done to keep your house clean without driving you insane.  She has wonderful daily, weekly, monthly routines that keep your house in order.  I can’t say enough about her- follow her and you’ll see what I mean.
Take the Time to Coordinate with Your Spouse-  following some sound advice from the book  Family, Inc. my husband and I are now working better as a team at managing our household.  The authors Caitlin and Andrew Friedman have developed a system for running their household using sound business management tools.  In their book they outline how you can implement work related solutions into your own household.  I bought the book after reading an article about it.  I thought it would appeal to my husband because he likes to read “business” books.  I knew a "touchy feely" book on organization wouldn't appeal to him.  So far the solutions seem so obvious but we just weren’t doing them.  We have implemented a weekly meeting so that we can go over the upcoming weeks to do lists, calendars and issues.  We also finally synced our calendars so we don’t spend so much time trying to figure out what we are doing!  I love my big wall calendar but have now realized I can’t live without our Google calendars that go everywhere with us. 
A Place For Everything and Everything in its Place- Seriously, the old adage is true.  You really have to have your household set up so that you know where everything goes.  We have put a good deal of time and effort into creating storage solutions in our house because our space is so limited.  We have added closet organizers, kitchen cupboards, extra shelving units and all sorts of solutions to keep things organized around here.  I also label like crazy so that I get help in putting everything away.  It is one thing if I know where everything belongs but it is heavenly if the whole family can help.  I also rely heavily on the fly ladies saying that “You can’t organize clutter.”"You Can't Organize Clutter."  It reminds me to get rid of things rather than save everything.  If we aren't using it, we try to get it out!   It is honestly so much easier to keep track of important things if we don’t have clutter laying around.  Having a place for everything also helps keep our rooms neat.  Every night when I put the boys to bed or check on them, I do a sweep of their room, toys in bins, books on shelves, everything off the floor.  This way I know that the path is clear for us if they should cry out in the middle of the night and for them when they wake up far too early and race to our room.  I like that I can tidy their room, with their help, so quickly because everything is organized.  I will try to identify little tricks I use to make all of this possible.  I hope that you'll share some of your ideas as well.
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