Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Today it is pouring rain and Tadpole woke up with a fever and Turtle with a harsh cough like a barking seal. After a bit of children's tylenol for Tadpole and some homeopathic cough syrup for Turtle, we all had a nice morning in our jammies.

One thing that I love about my kids is that they love to read, just like me.  Turtle usually protests having to leave the library, and as soon as I mention going home he starts frantically pulling books off shelves and flipping through them madly, as if he's trying to read as many as possible before I insist that we go.  The best way of getting him out is to tell him he can use the self-checkout machine, and our library is nice because they have a nice low one that is perfect for little kids.

While we have books in our living room and in each of the kids' rooms, one of my favorite spots to sit and read with them is this cozy little nook my sister designed when she drew up our renovation plans.  It's a beautiful floating wood bench, with baskets underneath, bookshelves on one side and a lovely window onto the backyard.  Our contractor stupidly planned things so that there is an electrical panel on the wall opposite the bookshelf, but luckily it is just high enough not to be annoying when sitting and reading, and it is covered by that lovely tapestry from Peru that my husband and I bought at a fair trade store not long after we moved in together - it might just be our first decorative purchase for our life together.

Here is a pic of the kids looking at the rain, which was really coming down at that point:

Here is the view towards the bookshelf - this shelf holds two baskets at the bottom and then holds a shelf of toddler books, my French novels, older kid books that I still have from my childhood, and at the top are some of our books that we don't need easily at hand.

And this is the view towards the Peruvian tapestry.  A nice cozy little corner on a rainy day!

We don't have a window seat cushion, partly because the only place in town I got a quote from was staggeringly expensive, so I folded up an extra comforter and covered it with a quilt that has matching pillowcases, which makes for a nice comfy place to relax.

I hope you are enjoying this day, too!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Preschool advice

I could use some quick advice about preschool, if anyone has any to give.  Turtle and Tadpole are almost 29 months, which is a bit young for preschool, but I need the break and I think the socialization is good for them.  We are about to leave for Italy for 2 months, and I need to figure out what to do about preschool.

My kids go to a really nice, expensive preschool two full days per week.  It is across town, and the way the pricing works, it's much more affordable to send them two full days rather than 4 or 5 half days.  I had some bad experiences with the preschool when we first started there, including there being no one to greet us or help us get settled in on our first day, and there has been REALLY high turnover of the "teachers" (more like caregivers).  I like the current ones, but we've been through something like 4 or 5 in 5 months!  It's been nuts.  If we stay with this school, we will have to pay part-time tuition while we're gone to hold our spots (which is almost as much as full time).

Everyone assured me the kids would get used to going to preschool, but Turtle still cries when I drop him off.  After 5 months.  It's heart-breaking.  They both seem happy at the end of the day, though.

All the cons include:

  • Their schedule is REALLY early compared to our home schedule - lunch at 11:30, nap at 12, while at home we do lunch at 12, nap at 1-1:30
  • I don't like their focus on early academics over play-based learning
  • Their playground seems really boring compared to most other preschools
  • The food is awful (but at least they provide it)
  • Major turnover of teachers so far this year
  • Distance from my house - no chance of biking or walking
I was thinking of switching schools, but there are all the usual problems, including most importantly finding a school with 2 open spots.  

I've found one school for which we are first on the waiting list, but no guarantee that 2 spots will open up at any one time (or at all!), and their business management and administration seems SORELY lacking.  On the other hand, they have a much more pleasant grounds and building, a kitchen garden, and they get the kids involved in food prep and other daily tasks, which I really like.  I generally liked the feel of the school, and I know some parents of kids who go there who love it.

Another school is very close to my house, and I also like their set-up - play-based learning, lovely yard, very relaxed, and great hours and schedule.  The two main issues are that they are Jewish, and we are not, but they have their religious section on Friday, and my kids most likely wouldn't be there on Fridays.  (A little note - I am not anit-Jewish, in fact my father was Jewish, but I do not belong to an organized religion and am not looking for a religious preschool, no matter what religion it is).  And secondly, they don't maintain a waitlist, mostly because demand isn't THAT high there.  So I'd have to wait until a month before I want them to start and then contact the school to see if they have space.  It would be a risk.  I also found the building to be a bit run-down, although not enough to sway me against the place.  It's so close to the house that I could bike easily, and possibly even walk (or take the double-decker bus!), which is a HUGE plus for me.  I'd have to pack a lunch every day, though.

There are a couple other close-by schools, but the main problem, as with all the preschools, is that I can't hold a spot until March or get on a waiting list with a specific start date in mind.

To complicate matters, a good friend of mine has her child at the same school that mine go to, and wants our kids to stay together.  She is also not religious, and doesn't want to send her child to a religious preschool, and she doesn't like that some of the schools I'm looking at are even more expensive than where the kids are now, which matters more to her since her daughter goes full-time so it's a bigger chunk of money to send her kid there.

Is this trip to Italy a great opportunity to switch schools?  Or is it taking away something familiar that would be comforting for the kids after the huge change and upheaval of living in another country for a few months?  On the other hand, if Turtle is still crying when I drop him off, maybe he wouldn't mind switching.  I don't know.  I need to decide yesterday, because I need to give 30 days notice if we're leaving this school, and we leave for Italy in 3 weeks!

Advice, please!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

More crafts - travel felt boards

I made these travel felt mats for my kids and my nieces and nephews for Christmas.  They are super easy to make, and if you're making more than one, they're even faster to make assembly-line style (i.e. do all cutting first, then all ironing, etc.  The only part that gets to feel like drudgery is cutting out the million little felt pieces.  I found the travel felt mat tutorial here, and got more ideas for little pieces to play with here. I think I made the mats slightly bigger than in the tutorial, but you can of course make them any size you like.

I'm hoping these will be another great toy for our trip to Italy.  Here are some pictures of the mats that I made, including some ideas of my own:

I made 5 mats, 2 for girls and 3 for boys.  In the future, I would not make them so gender-specific, probably, and I also would use a blue felt background for all of them.  It makes for a more realistic background, and the other pieces look better and are easier to see because it's more contrast. Here is a little dress-up person with some clothes.  I still want to do a few more clothes, including some dresses.  I've found patterns for making these people and their clothes on various sites and blogs, but I actually made these myself:

Butterflies - I'll probably cut out a few more body pieces.  I got this idea from the second link above. These were a bit time-consuming with all the extra cutting and gluing (I used a hot glue gun).
Here are a few trees, plus some weather pieces, which are always useful to throw in for use with various other pieces and scenes.  I also have stars and a moon, which I didn't picture here.  The Christmas tree ornaments are not glued down - the kids get to decorate the tree themselves.

Another tree and some flowers.  Would like to do more of these.

Houses!  These can be a lot more creative and fun, but I made these a while ago when my kids were pretty little, so I just did the basics.  You could also make other buildings like a church or a store or a school.

Cars and other vehicles!  I could get a lot more creative with these now, too.  Nothing is glued together here, the kids have to assemble the cars themselves, but if I made something more elaborate (like the tractors that Turtle is currently obsessed with) I'd probably have some pieces be fixed.  And see what I mean about the weather pieces being useful?

Pizza!  I've actually made a whole variety of fruit and vegetable pieces for our big feltboard, but I don't know how much fun they'd be for travel play:

And there you have it!  A nice mix of ideas from the internet plus my own ideas.  Have fun!  And let me know if you have other ideas, too, I'm always looking for more.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Our tentative bedtime solution

So, we only did CIO for one night, and it was pretty awful, but we were really going crazy with the sleep situation.  I always thought that once you get your kid to sleep through the night, that was it!  I mean, sure, there would be the occasional nightmare or request for water, but I was totally clueless about sleep regression and climbing out of the crib and so on. 

In our case, Turtle knows how to fall asleep without help, he just didn't want to go to sleep in his room alone.  We weren't able to get him to tell us what the problem was, so we couldn't try solving whatever it was that was scaring him or making him not want to go to bed.  Staying with him solved that problem, but created a new one: having someone in the room with him was making him too excited to sleep.  We even tried putting Tadpole in there in a portable crib - it didn't help at all, and prevented Tadpole from sleeping, too.

Based on a similar situation a friend had with her son one year ago, we decided to put a chair just outside Turtle's room.  My husband would get his computer and sit in the chair, show Turtle that he was there working, then close the door most of the way.  It worked!  And for the moment, it's still working.  Turtle has the comfort of knowing someone is there without the distraction of having someone to play with inside his room.  Now, we'll just cross our fingers that it keeps working.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

One crafty Mama - first 8 quiet book pages

I promised crafts, so here they are.

The first major project I finished recently is a series of quiet book pages.  I had set a deadline for our recent trip to Mexico, and finished 8 pages before we left (well, technically 9, but one is a 2-page spread).  They are almost entirely made out of felt, which is great because the edges of the pieces don't fray, and the felt pieces stick together well.

The first page I did was this rainbow page, which I found on this website.  I made a few changes - I used star beads, and I used a different number on each color of the rainbow, so this page can be used for both counting and colors.  I also added a button-on sun and a snap-on rain drop, since those are the fundamental makers of rainbows!  The kids love sliding the beads up and down the ribbons and counting them.

My favorite page is this sandwich-making page, which I got inspiration from here.  A few changes I made were to have a one-door fridge, a blue plate to match the plates we use, a basket for the bread (which I would have liked to make more basket-like), ketchup and mustard bottles, and a jar of mayo, which is open at the top.  There's also a knife I made by sewing a gray and black sleeve that fits over a jumbo popsicle stick that I cut in half.

A big favorite around here is the yellow school bus page.  I came up with this one on my own, although when I searched later I found a few similar pages online.  I used vinyl to sew 4 windows, into which I slid pictures of our family, and which have flaps that the kids can lift to reveal our faces.  The wheels can turn or be unbuttoned.  I would have liked to add something else, but I couldn't think of anything.

I came up with the autumn leaves page on my own, as well, after an afternoon spent outside raking leaves with Turtle.  He loves helping me rake the leaves into piles, steering the wheelbarrow, and piling the leaves inside.  The felt leaves stick to the felt pages and can be raked up with the dollhouse rake, which I purchased from amazon.  I originally made a rake out of pipe cleaners, which might work for an older child who could be more delicate, but did NOT work for a toddler.  The leaves can be raked up and stored in the wheelbarrow.

I got the pattern for these sock-matching pages here.  I think these pages would be better for slightly older kids, and actually, the machine should have buttons that I haven't added yet.  This page was more work than it was worth, I think, since making the socks is very time-consuming, but if that's your cup of tea, go for it.  Also, I used magnets inside the socks to get them to stick together, but they're not strong enough to work through two layers of felt.  Luckily, since they're made out of felt, they stick together anyway.  That blog has many excellent ideas.

The number page was inspired by this blog.  This is another one that will probably be better when they're older.  I did not do the double-sided numbers with velcro, since it was becoming a lot of work and since the felt will stick anyway.  The matching colors help the kids match up the numbers.

Another big favorite is the barn, which I have seen many iterations of around the internet.  I used these two blogs for inspiration.  It's quite simple, with a cute red barn and doors that open to reveal finger puppets.  I wanted to do something with the hayloft window that would be more interactive, but in the end I couldn't think of anything.  I added the fence and the grass, which I thought made the page look more "finished".

And the last page I made is for creating an ice cream cone, for which I took inspiration from this blog.  I started hand-sewing this one, and then ran out of steam, so technically it's not finished - I wanted to have a little bucket for toppings, too.  I can always add that later.

At some point, I will put them together to make an actual book.  I bought grommets and I will make a cover and the idea is for it to be able to be taken apart so multiple kids (i.e. twins) can play with it at the same time.  For now, having separate pages works just fine for me.

I have lots and lots more ideas, many of which can be found on my pinterest page.  Considering how thick the book already is with only 8 pages, I probably won't be able to add too many more.

I would love to hear your thoughts and any other ideas you might have.  And if you've made anything like this, please send me a link!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Post-op, CIO, crafting, yay!

Well, the new lifestyle isn't going that well, but that's ok.  The weather's been rough, and I've had a lot of motivation to get stuff done around the house, so I made a conscious decision to go with that motivation while I have it.  I've been cleaning out the kids' closets and our office, which has been a disaster since we moved in over two years ago.  I also tackled a 2-month stack of paperwork, which still needs to be filed.  It's hard every time I have an hour of free time and I have to choose between exercising, which will make me healthier and improve my mood, or knocking something big and important off my to-do list that will make my daily life a little easier and also improve my mood. 

What would you choose?

Saw the orthopedic surgeon this week and had x-rays of my hand.  Things look good, although my ring finger is still really stiff, as well as my pinky, which was badly sprained and stuck in the cast and then the splint along with my ring finger.  Physical therapy is ridiculously painful, so painful that I break into a cold sweat and tears come to my eyes.  I can see how breaking a person's fingers might have been useful during the Inquisition.  Anyway, I can barely bend my fingers, and I have a whole series of exercises I have to do at least 4-6 times per day, preferably after warming my fingers with a heating pad.  Do you know how easy that is to do with two really demanding toddlers around?  Not easy at all.  Some days I feel lucky to do the exercises only 2-3 times.  Luckily, typing is also a good exercise.

Last night we let Turtle cry in his crib after he didn't fall asleep with my husband sitting in there for a half hour.  He cried for well over an hour, and didn't fall asleep until close to 10:30.  It is SO HARD to listen to him cry, but I am out of ideas and don't know what else to do.  I think if CIO doesn't work after a couple more nights, I may try to come up with something else, but I'm willing to give it a chance at this point.  It's been months now of him not falling asleep, and he did fall asleep on his own for over a year, so I know he is capable of doing it.  Also, I've tried over and over to ask him what's wrong and he doesn't tell me, no matter how many different ways I think to ask him.  I know he's not very good at expressing himself yet, but he's quite talkative in general and is usually good at telling me both if he wants/needs something and/or is scared of something, so I don't know why he is screaming and not falling asleep.  It's frustrating for us all.

I've been working on a lot of crafts - is anyone interested in seeing pics?  I've made 8 quiet book pages, I'm almost done making a cloth dollhouse, and I've made multiple fleece hats.  I could get pics up sometime in the next few days if anyone is interested.

OK, I've got about 1.5 hours to try to get dinner prepped, maybe go for a run and a shower, and get as much as possible done around the house.