Saturday, December 31, 2011

date night!

I'm sure a lot of you have a plan for shouting "Happy New Year!" tonight with friends so I thought I'd talk a little bit about how we get out once in a while without the kiddos.

First off, we're one of those families that doesn't get a babysitter very often. We've only had a handful of family members watch one or both of the boys when we can't. We bring them with us everywhere. I know there's a lot of people out there that think we're crazy for that but I like to keep the kiddos close, that's what works for us.

But we do need a chance every once in a while to go out without the kids. So after my sister had her boys (yes, twins. and they're fraternal in case you're wondering.) we decided to do a date night swap. So each Tuesday night one couple gets to go out for a couple hours and the other couple watches all 4 boys.

Tyler (2 1/2 years), Isaac (6 months), Devon (7 1/2 months), Parker (6 months)

Here's some things we have on our date night list:
•Dinner: There's so many places on our list that are difficult to go to with a toddler and baby so we just do a slow dinner for most date nights.
•Go to an art museum
•Go to the antique mall (We found out that they close at 6pm so we'll have to do that on the weekend sometime.)
•Grocery Shop: It has to be done and sometimes it's the only night that works, but it's nice to be able to shop without the kids.
•Buy house project stuff at Lowe's: Yup, we did that for one date night. We refinished the deck on the last nice weekend before it got cold and had to use a date night for picking up supplies.

So, sometimes our date nights are nice quiet nights for us and sometimes they're functional "our week is too busy and we have to check stuff off the list" kind of nights. Either way a break from the kids is good from time to time.

What do you do to get out without the kids? Do they go to a regular babysitter like an Aunt or Grandma or do you have a list of sitters? Will you be going out for New Year's or having a party with the kids?

What's our plan for New Years? We're having Christmas at Aaron's parent's house since everyone was sick when we were supposed to go up. We'll be whispering "Happy New Year" with sleeping kids on our laps! (If I can stay up that late!)

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

merry christmas!

Hope you're all enjoying some time with your families. Tyler's loves seeing all of the lights as we drive around the city! Here's our little colorful house:

We've had these 'classic' style lights for 5 years now and I love them. Sure the LED is eco-friendly since they don't use as much energy but they cost so much and I'd have to throw these perfectly good lights out to buy new ones so we'll stick with these for a few more years.

Did you put up outdoor lights this year? LED or classic incandescent? What about those blow up lawn ornaments, do you have any of those? They're quite ridiculous to me, I'm glad we don't live across from the one house in our neighborhood with 10 of them!

Merry Christmas!

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

holiday traditions

We stopped out to Target Thursday night this week to pick up a few last minute things and noticed the look on everyone's faces. What is it about the holidays that makes people so crabby?! Everyone is so busy buying gifts and rushing from one party to the next to really appreciate what they have and enjoy the holiday season. We try to keep things fairly simple but we still have a pile of gifts under the tree and a handful of places to stop on the 24th and 25th. It's enough holiday for us, but not too much.

Traditions are fun for kids because it's something to look forward to. For the younger kids, they love the planned "family fun time" and for the tweens and teens, they'll complain no matter what but they'll look back and realize that those were important family times and be glad to be able to share them with their siblings and parents.

Tyler helping with the decorations

So what traditions do we have?

Christmas Tree: We plan on cutting a real tree with the kids each year. We tried to this year but  after driving through rain for an hour and getting to a muddy cold tree farm we opted to take home a half price small tree instead of cutting our own. Next year we'll pick a better day to go. Also, I plan on letting the kids help decorate the tree. As kids we always got to help put up the tree and we loved it! I really don't care if the tree looks like it should be displayed in the Pottery Barn store window, what matters is the time spent with my boys!

Pickle in the tree: When I met Aaron I didn't know about this tradition but it's something we'll do. Last year I went and bought a glass pickle ornament. Apparently there's a German tradition where the parents hide the pickle ornament and the first child that finds it on Christmas morning gets a special prize. I tried to find more information on this online and it seems there are a lot of stories surrounding the pickle but no one can come to a conclusion on where the story came from. Wherever it came from, it's a fun little game for the kids!

Pajamas on Christmas Eve: We open family gifts on Christmas morning because that's what fits best in our Christmas schedule right now. It may change as the kids get older but Christmas Eve is a busy day around here. But the one gift that they will open each Christmas Eve is pajamas. How fun to go to bed in cozy new pajamas and then wake up to snuggle by the fire and open the rest of the presents. (I might be stretching it on the fire as we have to head out to Aaron's parent's house before lunchtime but it sounds nice!)

Cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning: My mom did this when we were little, I'm not sure how or when it started but I remember for quite a few years having cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning. It's a nice treat from a normal breakfast and not something we have a lot around here. A big breakfast would sound nice too but I like to be able to pop something in the oven and get back to the snuggles around the Christmas tree.

A tradition from my family, a tradition from Aaron's family, one from both of our childhoods and a new one for our little family! What traditions do you have? Did you carry them over from your childhood or are they new ones?

Happy Christmas Eve!

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

holiday gifts for the little ones

I'm sure you're wrapping up your Christmas shopping (haha!) so I thought I'd talk a bit about gifts for the little ones. A while ago I saw a post about "The 5 Best Toys of All Time". As a kid I remember playing with all of these things, simple things can keep kids happy for hours!

But if you're looking for something you can wrap up and put under the tree, I have a few ideas for a baby and toddler.

For a Baby
Books: We love books! There's so many to choose from but one of our favorites for babies was an animal book. Tyler loved looking through the pages and pointing out the ones he knew and saying the sound they made. Another good one was a food book, it showed all kinds of fruits and vegetables and Tyler got to learn what they looked like, there were a few in there that we hadn't even tried!

Squeeze Blocks: Devon loves these! They're light, squishy, and a perfect size for little hands. They're great when kids begin stacking blocks and knocking them down because they stack really easily and don't hurt when you crash them down!

Sophie: An awesome little teether. We have this version but the original is a bit bigger and has a squeaker inside. You can hook a little ring to this little one so it doesn't fall on the floor while you're out too!

Robeez: Little shoes are so cute for little feet. We have a pair of Robeez in 0-6 months, 6-12 months, and 12-18 months. It helps to keep their socks on, their feet protected, and doesn't restrict movement so they can still work on learning to crawl and walk. They hold up really nice when handed down from one child to the next too!

Mobile: The little ones love looking at mobiles. This one is customizable so you can use the theme of baby's room or add pictures of family members.  We added colorful flash cards to ours!

Flashcards: We're just working on letters with Tyler now but these cards have gotten a lot of use. We used these to teach him lots of words, colors, animals, etc. Tyler still asks to do flash cards with us!

For a Toddler
Books: With a toddler they're really starting to get interested in stories so you can get a little longer books. Tyler loves all Dr. Suess books! P. D. Eastman, Greg Foley, Oliver Jeffers and Mo Willems are other good ones we like.

Wooden Toys: It goes without saying that any wooden toy is a good one in our house! Trucks, planes, trains, drums, blocks, bikes, anything!

Musical Instruments: Sure, a quiet house is nice once in a while but we love music and we want our kids to love music! So anything to get them playing and dancing along to a beat! Right now we have a drum, maracas, a recorder, a xylophone, a mini-accordian, and a harmonica. 

Art Supplies: Just like music, we love art and want the kiddos to love art. So we have crayons, markers, paint, and play-doh. We throw down an old sheet and let Tyler get messy! He has been especially loving his paint lately!

Chunky Puzzles: These were good for learning vehicles, animals, and shapes. Devon likes to chew on the pieces now and Tyler still likes to play with them too. We have the three listed above but there's so many more that they offer! 

Whew! That's a lot of gifts for the kiddos, a bunch of simple things that kids love! And you don't even need to buy batteries!

What toys do you or your kids love? Have you finished all of your shopping yet? Surely no one's finished wrapping presents yet, I haven't even started the wrapping!

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

update: knitting project

I did it! I finished my knitting project. I got a bit of help from my sister but for my first project I think I did pretty good. I made a pair of legwarmers for a baby shower that I went to last weekend. Here's the finished product:
I really like how the color (actually the knitting world says colorway) turned out, I think they'll match with lots of cute little dresses! And I learned that I don't know how to properly knit. Oops. Each stitch is twisted a bit so I need to re-learn a little for my next project. Not that they turned out bad, the stitches are just a bit thicker and twistier.

And then I also sewed a few things to go with the legwarmers.

On the bottom of the pile are two changing pads. I never liked using the plastic ones that came with diaper bags so I made a couple spaceship ones when Tyler was little. I made those with my sister and used her serger but since I don't have a serger I made these a bit differently. I actually like how these look better, they're a bit more 'finished' around the edges.

The right two butterfly fabric pieces are burp cloths. They're made basically the same as the changing pads, just a different size. I just eyeballed the size and made sure they were big enough to throw over your shoulder and catch any dribbles before they hit your shirt.

Lastly, I made an eye pillow filled with flax seed and lavender. The mama-to-be gets lots of migraines just like I do and I sure like my eye pillow. It can be heated or cooled for headache relief. And I made a slip cover that can be washed. The first few nights I had mine next to my pillow I slept better, maybe it's coincidence but I'm not willing to try a night without!

For a last minute project I'm very happy with the results. And it was fun to have a bit of pink in the house, if only for a few days!

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

breastfeeding through the holidays

I plan to write about my breastfeeding experience (so far) but for now a note about holiday weaning.

First, what is holiday weaning? According to a Le Leche League article, "Holiday weaning is when a baby weans due to the distraction and celebration of a holiday or other special event." Oftentimes baby and mom will be separated due to work parties or shopping while baby is with a sitter, getting passed around to different friends/family, wrapping presents or decorating the house, etc. With all of the distractions baby can nurse less often or for a shorter duration. It's very important to keep mom's supply up by breastfeeding or pumping milk for baby.

Tyler - Christmas 2009
Here's some tips to get through the holidays with your breastfeeding baby:
Babywearing: Use a sling or carrier to keep baby close. If you aren't separated, there's a better chance that you'll pick up on your baby's feeding cues.
Ask for help: Depending on your normal holiday traditions, you may need help with shopping, decorating, or hosting a party. Instead of passing the baby to someone so you can do these things, ask for help with other things so you can nurse your baby.
Plan your shopping/decorating for nap time: By doing these things during naps you'll avoid missing feedings.
Set aside time during travel for nursing breaks: So many of us travel during the holidays and we just want to get where we're going fast so we can relax when we get there, but it's important to plan in breaks to feed and change baby.
Make sure your friends and family know you're nursing: If your family and friends are aware that you're nursing they'll be more likely to let you know that your baby is getting crabby and needs some mama time. It's nice when you hand baby over to someone else to let them know, "He/she might be getting hungry soon so let me know if she's getting crabby so I can nurse him/her." This way there's no question about how baby is being fed and no one will ask to give the baby a bottle.
Set a timer: I feed Devon on demand, when the doctor asks how often he breastfeeds I never know exactly but if you know that your baby eats every 2-3 hours it doesn't hurt to have a reminder. Set an alarm for 2 hours and check in to see how baby is doing. You don't have to feed on a schedule, just use it as a reminder to start watching for feeding cues.
Think about how you'll feed your baby at events: Are you comfortable feeding in a group setting? If not, make sure you ask the host if there's a quiet room that you can use to feed your baby. Will you need to pump while you're separated? Remember to pump as often and as much as your baby normally eats so your supply doesn't drop. Don't take stored milk from the freezer without replacing it!

Good luck and Merry Christmas!

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

hanging book display

We have tons of books and check out even more at the library so I'm always looking for good ways to store them. A while back I saw a tutorial on the PennyCarnival blog on how to make a hanging book display for kids' rooms so I thought I'd give it a try with some extra fabric I had.

The outside is the same blue circle fabric that I used to cover Tyler's little Ikea chair. The inside, which I used for curtains in this room and the office, are abc's that look like little typewriter keys.

It was a quick sew, I didn't follow the tutorial exactly but if you're new to sewing I think you could follow it without much difficulty. We hung it at "two year old level" so Tyler can put books in and out by himself. I think it turned out pretty nice and will be used for a long time!

How do you store books in kid's rooms? We have a big basket in our room, a book shelf in the living room, and this cute little hanger in the boys' room. What's your favorite kids book? Our favorite right now is The Lorax (or any other Dr. Seuss book is always good).

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

potty time!

I've always heard that potty training boys is much harder than girls. I'm not sure why, I really think it depends on the child's personality, but that's the common consensus. So when I got pregnant with Devon I knew we'd have two kids in diapers for a while. No one likes changing diapers but lots of things overlap when you have kids 22 months apart!

We started introducing the potty when Tyler was 1 1/2 years old or so. He'd go into the bathroom with us to get the idea of how things worked. And then at bath time we'd ask if he wanted to try and sometimes he'd sit for a bit and other times he'd say no. He always just used the regular toilet and a little stool to climb up. When he was around 2 years old, I bought him a potty seat that sits on the toilet like this:
Toddler potty seat for regular toilet
I talked to him about it and he was all excited to use it. Then we brought it up to the toilet and he refused to put it on. So he just hops on the big toilet and holds on tight!
bumGenius snaps to adjust rise of diaper
We'd been using bumGenius 3.0 diapers and there are snaps that adjust the height of the rise in three rows that go between the legs (shown above). Once he got bigger and was always on the move those little snaps rubbed and rubbed until he had little raw spots on the inside of his thighs. So we went to disposables for a couple of months until I felt like Tyler was ready for full potty training.

In September, when Tyler was about 26 months old, I felt like it was time to start working with him. He was dry almost every morning and if he took a nap he was dry after that too. And he'd be dry for a few hours at a time during the day.

I really dislike pull-ups since kids can just pee or poop in them and there are not much different than diapers. Obviously there are benefits to them, like easy clean-up and less work for whoever's doing the training, but I felt like one big jump to "big boy underwear" was better than telling him he was big but still putting on something so similar to diapers.
Gerber training pants
To start out we bought 12 pairs of Gerber training pants and stayed home for a few days. The training pants have a little extra absorbency so there's less to clean up if "a little bit of pee sneaks out" as Tyler says. And the child can feel it right away if they do have an accident versus the wicking action of diapers or pull-ups.

We started on a Tuesday, so on Monday night I talked to him and said we were playing a game tomorrow where I'd set a timer (for an hour to start) and then when it beeped we'd run to the potty and try. He went to bed and was really excited to "play the potty game" in the morning.

On Day 1 he did really well, we ran to the potty whenever the timer went off and most of the time he peed. I only focused on peeing since most kids do that first, pooping on the potty was a bonus. I bought a small bag of dinosaurs at Savers and if he peed he got a little toy. If he pooped on the potty he got a "special prize" but that didn't happen for a few days.

In the following days, we had accidents all over the house but for the most part he was peeing on the potty. I got pretty good at anticipating but he was getting better at telling me too. We stopped doing the timer because he was getting frustrated by the beeping but was doing good with the actual running and peeing.

I really tried to let him be in control of the training with me just guiding him. I think it's important for the child to know the feeling and learn it instead of just waiting for mom or dad to tell him it's time to try. Of course I ask him all the time if he needs to go but I let him decide and say no if he doesn't need to go. Usually if he says no within a few minutes he'll tell me he has to go anyway and then off we go.

One of the more important things to me was positive reinforcement. Pee in the potty = a prize! (A little dinosaur.) Poop in the potty = a really cool prize! (Buzz and Woody toys from the Dollar Store.) Tyler loved it and once we knew he "got it" we weaned him of the toys, first only when he told us he needed to go. Then not at all.

Accidents happen, that's part of the learning process so when it happened I'd scoop him up and get him to the potty,  then he'd sit there and see if he needed to go any more and then I'd just go to clean up the accident without yelling or punishment. He was usually as upset as I was that he'd had an accident.

econobum diaper covers
At the beginning when we went out of the house we'd use the training pants with a diaper cover over it to keep in any accidents. We used econobum diaper covers (shown above). At night he was still in a diaper but was always dry in the morning. But since we're all in one bed I wanted to be sure he wasn't having nighttime accidents before going for underwear or training pants at night so we waited a while before that change.

We did do pull-ups at bedtime for a bit because he was refusing the diapers but he didn't like the pull-ups either. Bedtime was a constant battle just trying to get the pull-ups on. We got through Thanksgiving at Aaron's parents house and then went to just the training pants.

I'd say we worked really hard for the first week or so and he got it. Yes, we still have accidents but not too many anymore. He's in underwear all the time now with no diaper covers or anything.

Kiddopotamus PiddlePad

Travel is difficult because he can't pee outside yet and it's a long way between gross gas station bathrooms on the way up to Aaron's parents' house. It's Aaron's mission to get him to go outside but we tried on the way up for Thanksgiving and all we got was a tiny cold butt. We do have a piddle pad (shown above) that goes in his car seat and is waterproof so if there's an accident it's all contained. Definitely a recommended purchase for potty training but would be useful for baby diaper blowouts too.

Really I think we got lucky with the timing but I'm sure glad to only have only one in diapers now! And Tyler loves his Buzz and Woody! He runs around the house yelling, "to infamy and bamond!"

Anyone else working on potty training? Do you find pull-ups useful for your family or did you go the cloth training pant route? Good luck whichever route you choose and if you need to know how to get pee out of a couch, I've done it twice! :)

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Saturday, December 3, 2011

every busy mama needs another project: knitting!

Any knitters out there?! Over a year ago my sister taught me how to. I started a washcloth and worked on it for three or four rows with her. And then life got busy as it always does and it got put away.

So over Thanksgiving Aaron's mom said she'd re-teach me. We started a different project because I needed to re-learn how to cast on as well. Over the weekend and on the ride home I got a decent bit done. I tried increases and decreases since they're vital to most patterns. I figured it'd be best to try a bunch of different stitches on one project to practice so that I got more comfortable.

Starter project
And then I got a great idea to make a gift that needs to be done within two weeks! I can't yet share what it is because it'd ruin the surprise but here are a couple sneak peeks.

Just starting, I love the colors!
Might have to make something for myself if there's leftover yarn. 
So late last night after Tyler was asleep I knit while Devon ate and slept and ate and slept and ate again. Tonight I'll be doing the same so that I can get the project done and share it with you soon!

Mama multitasking: feeding a little one and knitting.  
I don't have much time for extra hobbies right now but knitting seems like something that I might enjoy if I can fit it in. I can put my supplies in a little bag and bring them wherever I need and can start and stop all I want. I think I'll work on a new hat for Tyler next, both kiddos are growing out of their current hats and then we can just pass Tyler's down to Devon.

Any other knitters out there? What was your first project? Am I crazy to have a deadline of two weeks for a gift? Yes, crazy!

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

december calendar

Happy December! Make sure to grab the new desktop calendar.

This is me holding Tyler in the air in a field at Aaron's parents' house when he was tiny.

Click image to enlarge, then right-click and save-as. You know the drill.
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