Eggs and Hearts

Raise your hand if you can’t wait for Spring!! (Do you see my hand? I’m the one jumping up and down.)

I’ll be honest, I’ve been having difficulty blogging, because I’m just having… difficulty. In general. (Speaking of difficulty in blogging, if it looks like I have some weird spacing in this post, I don’t know why that is. Let’s just agree to ignore it together.)

Today was a halfway productive day, meaning the first half of the day was great and I got lots done.. and then everything crashed.

But during that exciting do-everything phase, I:

-Cleaned my entire kitchen and living room (Some of you may be thinking that cleaning the living room shouldn’t be listed as a grand accomplishment. Allow me to introduce you to my son. He’s blurry for a reason.)

Image-Researched lunches with Dexter while coaxing him to eat.

-Packed a week’s worth of kiddo lunches. This *is* impressive, because I cut all kinds of foods into heart-shapes, sooo…. I’m kind of a big deal.ImageImage-And yes, I boiled and dyed eggs (I really can’t wait until spring!! Also, I thought it would be fun for Dexter. And it was.)

I also relied heavily the good ol’ internet. And so I shall share with you the links that made my half-way productive day possible:

-Do *you* know how to boil an egg?? I don’t eat boiled eggs, so I certainly didn’t.

-What about dying eggs? We did a very basic dye-job with food coloring and vinegar, but this site gives you some tips on getting fancy with the eggs.

-We lived on my kiddo snackumz Pinterest board today. These sites in particular (1, 2, 3) really got Dexter excited about the pre-packed lunch idea.

-Hearts, hearts, and more hearts. They’re pretty much the only cool shape I’m confident in free-handing, and thankfully, Dexter really appreciates them. But have you seen this awesome tutorial on heart-shaped carrots?? Not hard, and totally worth it.

Now that I’ve written out all the awesome parts of the day and avoided complaining about the (really, really) bad parts, I feel much better about all that’s transpired and I’m ready to spend my evening relaxing. Sigh 🙂

Homeschool Montessori Day 1

Hello again! The past few months have been extremely busy for us! We moved (again), which was the major thing.

Now that we’re settled in our new house, we have a great space for homeschooling, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

I found a great online Montessori training course (more on that in a later post), and I officially started building our class last night so we could begin lessons today.

Our setup is pretty simple right now. We have 2 sets of shelves and our child-sized table. I added a stool for me to sit on when presenting lessons. I used blue painters tape to create our line.
I’ve only put out 2 lessons (Object Transferring and Dry Pouring) and some mats.
Dexter was beside himself to get started on lessons. It was very difficult to hold his attention at first. We worked on some Grace and Courtesy lessons. He very quickly picked up the phrase “soon you will be able to…” and started repeating it back to me.
Even though he was antsy, he really enjoyed going through the Grace and Courtesy lessons. After I did my presentations, he would always begin his turn by saying, “Watch me carefully, and then you may have a turn!”
Presenting the hands-on lessons were more difficult. He was extremely eager to have his turn, and he talked and tried to grab the whole time. I wasn’t exactly sure how to handle that! So I’m going to have to ask my instructor about that and some of our other issues.
He did Object Transferring almost like I did it, which was encouraging. But he only wanted to do it in one direction, exercising one hand but not the other. I did wonder if I put too many of his glass marbles in the basket. Tonight, I will probably only leave 5-10 and see how that works.
So we moved on to Dry Pouring. I did my presentation, then returned the tray to the shelf. But when it was Dexter’s turn, we discovered the loaded tray was too heavy for him to carry! So he just grabbed the pitchers and took off! Later, I brought the tray to the table for him (when he wanted me to have a turn, I used it as an opportunity to present the lesson again), but I suppose we’ll need to find another solution. Either he needs lighter pitchers (those Pyrex measuring cups *are* heavy), or we need to do the lesson by putting down a mat and moving the pitchers over. I’m not really sure which is more desirable.
Overall, he did really well at pouring. He did decide to try to play in the kernels at one point. And then he went back to pouring. I think I said, “Soon, you will learn to pour without playing in the kernels!” and that seemed to be enough of a reminder for him.
I showed him to pour using 2 fingers for support on the pitcher, and he truly tried to do that, but just couldn’t figure out how to do it. So he used his whole hand. He also would sometimes rest his hand or the top pitcher on the bottom pitcher when pouring.

But he was happy with his work!

He did really want me to stay with him while he did everything, and I knew that would be an issue. So I set up my own workstation in the dining room, where I was in eyesight. Every time he asked me to come back to watch him work, I told him I had my own work to do, and he would go back to his task.
He did have a hard time accepting that we were not going to mix the 2 lessons. I explained to him that we would leave them separately, and that if he tried to pour the glass marbles they would likely break, and that soon I would give him a new thing to pour.
He was really able to work for almost an hour, which is probably pretty good for a first day. This wasn’t uninterrupted work, but he was at least interested in lessons for that long. After that he wanted to pretend the rolled work mats were light sabers and the marbles were batteries for the light sabers. Sigh.
My personal difficulty was staying positive and patient. Sometimes I didn’t know how to correct an issue without just saying, “Ok, we’re not going to do that”.
Hopefully things will go more smoothly tomorrow! I do know that it will take time for both of us to develop patience with this method.

Rotating Toys (or How Not To Be Crushed Under An Avalanche Of Toys)

We are moving (yes, again), so we’ve been using this opportunity to prioritize and purge. One of the areas that’s always been really difficult for me is toys.

I’m sure, if you’re a parent, you’ve been in this situation: your kid has a TON of toys already, most of them littering every square inch of your home, but your child acts as if he has nothing to play with. And getting rid of toys is close to impossible because you know your child has played with each and every thing in the pile (once or twice), and will again (once or twice).

Some of my friends have been really successful at rotating toys, but I just couldn’t figure out how to implement that in our home. But, thanks to Pinterest, I learned that the key is stripping it down to the bare minimum.
I found this great guide at Little Stories. She shows you how to categorize what you have and divide toys into sets that will maximize learning potential.

I really wanted to wait until after the move to start this, but seriously, we were tripping on toys constantly, and I was about to lose it. Teaching clean-up skills is likely my least favorite part of parenting so far. After starting this system, it’s SO much more manageable.

I gathered all the toys and was shocked to realize how many we really had. This is for one child, people, and this doesn’t include larger toys and outside toys, such as his kitcken, basketball goal, and sand and water table, and things like craft supplies. I don’t know if you can tell, but it’s not just one layer deep… the pile covers our entire king-size bed.

I made some tough calls, trying to be honest with myself about what he doesn’t use or need. Then I added back just a few types of toys.

(I feeled compelled to note that I did not lay out the numbers like that, Dexter did. My OCD tendencies would not have allowed me to let them be out of order!)

The benefits so far:

  • There are less toys in the floor.
  • Clean up is a breeze because he’s not overwhelmed.
  • He actually plays with what he has.
  • He plays with things he never tried before and gets creative with what’s available.
  • I’m able to monitor what he’s still not playing with so I can remove it from our home.
  • Our time is spent more productively than before, when he wasted time whining and being bored, and I wasted time trying to force him to clean.

We are in our second round of rotation so far, and it’s still working well. When he asks for a different type of toy, I have him gather up something he’s willing to trade before I give him the new items. Otherwise, I plan to rotate the entire set about every 2 weeks.

I’m really excited to be able to really sort and store my sets when we move. Right now, all the extra toys are still in my bedroom because there was no better place to put them during the move.

If you have other tips and tricks, definitely leave me a comment!

Archie

My adoring fans have reminded me that it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. And she is they are right.

As I mentioned a while back, I’ve been participating in the Sewing Buddy Challenge at Whipstitch.

Our first challenge wrapped up this month, and my partner and I won 2nd place! We were to collaborate to make a pair of boy/girl projects, which works out perfectly since I have Dexter and Elisabeth has her baby daughter, Cate. We made these precious little dolls from Wee Wonderfuls called Olive and Archie.

This pattern was absolutely worth the money. I only had one problem with it, which I will go into later. But, for your $15, you get the patterns for both Olive and Archie, plus all sorts of clothes, and accessories including backpacks, sleeping bags, and a cat pal.

Elisabeth and I chose a color palette, using Moda’s A Walk in the Woods line as our inspiration. I would have loved to just get some of that fabric, because it is PRECIOUS, but I’m trying to stash-bust. So I had to bring that vibe to my doll while keeping down extra purchases.

I created a few sketches, with three major goals in mind:

1. Use what I have as much as I can.

2. Stick to the color palatte/theme we chose.

3. Make the little guy look as much like Dexter as possible.

I easily found a felt in color similar to Dexter’s hair. I ended up getting a blend because I was trying to keep costs down. I can tell that it’s pilled a bit, but overall I think it’s fine.

But finding a skin tone nearly drove me crazy. I shopped at Joann Fabrics, which I normally really like. But they had a whopping total of two fabrics that could possibly work for skintone. One of them was too orange (we are an extremely pale family) and the other was thinner and weirder looking than I’d like. I made the smart choice and went with thin and weird.

I started stitching my hair on. So far so good. Except in this photo, you can see straight through to the paper under the fabric. But surely that won’t be a problem, right? Right??

I’m 99% certain I washed my fabric before cutting. But I really can’t remember now. After sewing all my hair on and starting to assemble the body, I ironed some seams, and suddenly the weirdness of the fabric became an actual problem.

The fabric melted/shrunk. The photo above shows the difference between the pattern piece and how much shrinkage occurred. In retrospect, desperation to find the right color may have caused me to get something partially synthetic. But I will never know, because when I went back to Joann for a replacement, I couldn’t find the mystery fabric.

So I came some with the too-orange fabric, washed it… and then realized under our lights that it was yellow.

Long story short, I went to Hobby Lobby and found an acceptable fabric. The twist: A few days after I submitted my doll, I found my own stash of fleshtone fabric. Sigh.

Aside from that, the pattern started out ridiculously easy. But there comes a point when the creator tells you that you will be cursing her name, and she was not wrong. I didn’t curse *her* per se, but I nearly lost it several times. The problem is that wretched bottom panel. If you’ve made this pattern before, I’m sure you know what I am talking about. If you haven’t and plan to, you *will* know what i’m talking about! I Googled and searched and pleaded to the internet fairies to give me the answer and I never found it.

In the end I just had to wing it. So Archie has a funky butt.

I thought it might bother me that my handstitching is so awful, but I’m just glad that part is over. And as with childbirth, I’ve almost forgotten the pain and would do totally do it all over again.

The eyes where my only other creative difficulty, because I wanted Archie to look like Dexter, but Dex has hazel eyes that are difficult to replicate.

I almost settled for these plain dark eyes, which I love, but I just really wanted light eyes, even if they were still wrong. So I chose to do a circle of charcoal gray with pale blue on top to create irises.

I stuck on all the features, subbing felt scraps for the mouth and nose, to get the correct placement and shapes. Then I just stitched on the face.

I made a little red jacket last minute using the hoodie pattern included in the set. I didn’t finish the seams, because I was running out of time. But I really wanted that pop of color to complete the look I was going for. It was then that I realized that I didn’t like the placement of the arms, beause with the jacket on, things look a little weird and the jacket actually doesn’t want to stay on.

But, I was extremely happy with how he turned out!

More importantly, Dexter is extremely happy with him. I wish I could have captured how thrilled he was initially. I gave him the choice of whether he wanted to change the name and he really liked “Archie”. Or “Artsy”, as he calls him.
And he sleeps with Archie every single day.
Even if I didn’t win anything in the challenge, this would have been enough!
But I won’t say no to the 1/2 yard bundle of fabric 2nd place gets :-P.

Cousin Craze

I started this post about a week and a half ago at my sister’s house. I never finished it because hours later, Deborah and I were making a midnight trip to the ER to check on some early contractions. Needless to say, the week did not go as we had planned and we spent most of our time after that trying to recover. Deborah more so than me, obviously…

This week I’m staying with my sister Deborah (below), who is very pregnant, and her twins, Ty and Micah, who are equal parts sweet and lively. We’re going to be doing a few baby projects* while I’m here, but in the meantime, we’ve just been wrangling hooligans and trying to keep the avalanche of toys from killing us all.

*The projects were not completed, boo, and as I was leaving we discovered a glitch in one of the pieces. Hopefully Deborah will feel well enough to complete them soon and post some pix!

On the first day, I got to snuggle sweet baby Isaac, my brothers son. He is the most precious baby in all the land, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a child as consistently happy as he is. I rarely get to see him, so I was really excited that our visits overlapped.
Dex was EXTREMELY excited to be with our family!
The colors in the picture below are off, but it was the only time I could get Dexter to look at me for a picture. I’m not really sure he likes to be photographed. He only enjoyed the snapshot above because Uncle Ian was the photographer and allowed him to get within lens-biting distance.
It’s so lovely when the cousins take a break from harassing each other (or Ty and Micah get a break from being harassed by Dexter). Ty and Dex spent a fair amount of time Magna Doodling together…
…while sweet Micah played with animals by himself.
This child has the sweetest, most squishable-kissable cheeks!
Dexter is working with Magna Doodle intensity.
The boys fought over played with a lot of cars.
Below we have Hoarding Action Ty*.
*Hoarding Action Micah and Hoarding Action Dexter sold separately.
Dexter feigns patience while Ty plays. Yeah, save your thumb-sucking and sparkly eyes, buddy, I’m not buying it.
Things got a little crazy when the balloon fight started. But at least they were all laughing at the same time…

I love cousins.

Preschool Theme: Penguins

At the beginning of the year, I officially (re)started preschooling Dexter. I have created our curriculum for the year, and I’d love to share some of our activities and themes with you moms out there! I’ll be showing some pictures of things we did and sharing the resources I’ve compiled for that theme.

I was so excited about studying penguins last week, because I found some really cute ideas online. And I figured this would be a topic that Dexter could really get into. 

We started the week out by discussing penguins. I found some really informative books for kids at Mckay’s. Dexter loves books and he was able to stay engaged and learn a lot without just having me lecture him about the topic. 

I strongly suggest going by a used book store and loading up on books to supplement your preschool curriculum. I know a lot of people love to go to the library, and that’s great too. I spent about $25 on as many books as I could (most of my books were under $1), and I’m really glad I did that because I don’t feel the pressure to get to the library weekly. 

I borrowed some plastic penguins from my mom (thanks, Grandma!!!) so we could have imaginative play. Primarily, Dex enjoyed having the penguins slide down cardboard tubes. And we also let the penguins swim in some ice water. So, if you don’t have some play items that go with your theme, you could consider borrowing some like we did! Dexter was actually excited when we sent them back because he understood that they came from Grandma’s house. He even got really into writing (drawing) her a thank-you note to send with them.

We then watched March of the Penguins. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can stream this for free! Take note that there are several death-related scenes in the movie and be prepared to answer those questions! Dexter’s favorite part was when the babies came, and how they hid under their parents’ bellies. We snuggled in bed to watch it, and he kept telling me, “I want to hide in your tummy!” and would snuggle up against me and cover up with blankets.

For movement, we waddled around like penguins. We did this after watching our documentary, when Dex had a really good idea about how penguins move and sound. We also played Mama Penguin/Baby Penguin by having him climb on my feet and waddle him around the room. 

Later in the week, we looked for penguin songs on YouTube. I’m sure I’ve suggested this before, but it’s better to prep for this. I’ve made the mistake (a couple of times) of searching *with* Dex, and then stumbling across something soooo inappropriate. So take a some time during your lesson planning to find some cute songs that you may not know. 

Here are a few to get you started: 

These are just a few we found on the fly. If you don’t like the music/video etc, another suggestion is to learn the songs by yourself and teach them to you child.

 

The thing I was REALLY excited about was the fun snack for the week! 

I made him a little penguin environment. My penguins are SO SLOPPY, as my hands were shaking a little from the anxiety of having someone stand behind you and constantly say, “Is it ready yet?? Is it ready yet??” (Have I told you yet to prepare ahead of time when you can??) The good news is that kids will love them even if they are not perfect. I found this at Gourmet Mom On The Go. She used toothpicks to hold them together, but since I only made two at a time for one child, I just sort of pasted them together with cream cheese and hope. They are made from large and collosal black olives (I’d never seen a collosal olive, and they weren’t lying. Those things are HUGE!). You split them down the middle, fill them with cream cheese (I used plain), and use a slice of carrot to make the feet and beak! So cute.

Dexter helped me make the blue ocean jello. He just observed until we got to the cold water stage, so he wouldn’t get burned. 

I can’t encourage you enough to let your child help you cook as often as you can. Dexter LOVES to help, and he is excited to eat what we make together. 

I bought some pretzel goldfish and threw in some marshmallows for snow.

As I said before, he was super antsy to see what I was making him, especially since he knew it involved the jello we made. But I was so happy with his response: when I turned and showed him his surprise he said, “Oh yay!!!! It’s my birthday!!!!” Sweet, sweet, silly boy :). 

He literally grabbed his jello and had it down within about 3 seconds. It was amazing to behold. (Also note that he is wearing his penguin pj’s! He gets really excited to dress according to our theme.)

Other food ideas include eating foods that penguins eat. Their diet consists of fish, shrimp, and squid. We had some fish, which he was so excited about, since it’s penguin food and all. I don’t eat shrimp, but now he’s really excited to try it with Daddy someday. And, well… we’re just not doing squid. He can check that out on his own time.

I was really happy because we were able to take a field trip to the local aquarium to see the penguins there! Normally those penguins are shy, but this time they were very playful. Find out if your town has an aquarium or zoo where you can see animals you are studying!

I had originally planned for us to study the letter P, but he just doesn’t seem interested in the alphabet right now. I worked on phonics some by pointing out words that start with P, but that was about it. 

For art, we did a penguin coloring sheet together. I’d planned for us to paint craft sticks like penguins and play with them, but we just didn’t have the time. (The craft sticks I’d suggest using are like these snowmen.)

There was so much more I’d hoped to do, but just didn’t have the time for. Here are a few more links and suggestions I collected: 

Related Sesame Street videos: 

Colors: Black and White

Shape: Oval

Felt Food Frenzy

This year my Dexter’s Christmas gift was a beautiful play kitchen. So I went crazy making accessories for myself him.  
 
It was so much fun coming up with ideas for mildly 3-dimensional foods. I also found a lot of great inspiration online. I didn’t want to have to put a lot of thought into it or sculpt something magnificent. I just wanted to throw together a lot of fun little pieces to spark some imaginative play.  
 

 
 

The hardest things to create were the teeny tiny oven mitts, but I hand-sewed binding for the first time, and I’m excited to take that to the next level on a quilt soon!  

Eventually I will compile some links and upload patterns/templates/tutorials (don’t hold your breath, I’m not super great at adding actual patterns…), but for now, I want to showcase my work!