Saturday, December 31, 2011

Out with the old, in with the zoo

Before the Christmas gifts entered our house, I knew the play room was reaching its saturation point.  It wasn't completely overrun with toys, but no more cars would fit in the car cubby.  Pull one book from the shelf, and three close neighbors would escape with it. 

We know we are very fortunate that Sophie and Michael are given new toys so generously by family and friends.  Even a new neighbor said she ran into Santa and brought over a couple of goodies for them.  But in order to keep our little home functional and moderately attractive (and to keep my sanity), I knew the full load of Santa's sleigh would have to be dealt with differently this year.

Here was my solution:

Mike took some outgrown baby equipment from our basement living space and storage room (baby bath tub, jumperoo, etc.) to a local resale shop to free up some of our prized real estate.  Although I still have several bins of outgrown clothes and smaller items to sell, we just couldn't wait for a mom-to-mom sale for everything. 

In the storage room I stacked six new clear bins of toys that previously resided on shelves in the play room.  Let's be honest, this was all just another excuse to put my love of sorting and my label maker to work.  We have a bin for books, another for instruments, one for stuffed animals, and so on.  I also bought one huge tub for larger plastic toys and intend to rotate everything through the play room again over time.

New table

Old beads, meet new push and pull toys.

I should have taken a before picture.  But trust me, this is a much lighter load.

For the time being, the selection upstairs is a tad sparse.  However, Michael and Sophie seemed perfectly satisfied with some go-to favorites and a handful of thoughtfully chosen new toys this afternoon.  I look forward to introducing some brand new ones in the weeks to come and making some old toys new again after some time out of sight works its magic.

Where there used to be a jumperoo and exersaucer

While I'd love to move into a larger home, for now I'll have to keep the old gear flowing out as new items come in and find other creative solutions as needed.  Perhaps one option down the road will be to convert our basement living space into a larger play room.  Today, thankfully, out with the old and some reorganizing made room for the new.  Welcome home, horsies!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Letter to Santa Claus

Dear Santa,

Since at 20-months-old Michael and Sophie don't really get the Christmas thing just yet, we know you'll keep their gifts to a minimum again this year. They've both been amazingly good all year long, consoling each other when hurt or sick, giving out hugs and kisses to their loved ones, and growing beautifully in all ways.  Admittedly, they are your typical toddlers who need reminders about sharing and test the limits by pushing the buttons on the T.V. and standing up on the couch, but I'm proud of how they do cooperate and respond to corrections most of the time. 

I think Sophie and Michael would love to have a pair of  Melissa and Doug Frolicking Frogs, two Green Toys Tugboats, and a pair of Plan Toys Walk N Rolls to play with together.  I checked a lot of reviews and believe these toys will be fun, safe, and are made by companies with commendable priorities, not unlike your own workshop.  My peanuts are also starting to grow out of their 12-month-sized clothes and could use a couple pairs of 18-month-sized pajamas and a couple of outfits each, fleece ones from Carters...or whatever your elves can whip up.

I'm so looking forward to seeing Michael and Sophie's eyes fill with excitement this Christmas morning.  As much as I appreciated the Atari, the Care Bear, and the Cabbage Patch Kids, I know that my kids' joy will be the best gift I've ever seen by the light of a tree.

Merry Christmas, Santa!

Michael and Sophie's Mom

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Happy (but screaming in terror) Holidays!

Last night we attended the holiday party at Michael and Sophie's child care center for the second year. The center provides dinner, pictures with Santa, crafts, and performances by the kids. 

Above are the Rudolph ornaments the kids made (clearly with a lot of help from their teachers) and gave to us as gifts.  They're shatter-proof and adorable, a great little project one could even do at home with older kids.

Another cute idea I saw there was a large, cut-out paper Christmas tree on the classroom wall that the toddlers "decorated" with stick-on Christmas wrapping bows as one of the party activities.  Their teacher could hardly remove the backing from each ribbon fast enough, the kids enjoyed this so much.  One of those might pop up on the playroom wall at home over the next few days.

As we stood in line to meet the big guy, Sophie spotted Santa's face on a poster, smiled, and said his name clearly for the first time.  We've been pointing out pictures of Santa, talking about sitting with him with excitement in our voices, but every time we've asked the kids if they wanted to see him, they clearly said, "No."  Every time. Our hopes weren't very high, but we continued trying to psyche the kids up as we made our way up the line, directing their attention to happy preschoolers on Santa's lap joyfully listing their Christmas wishes. 

But our efforts did no good.  Michael clutched my sweater and squeezed my waist with his knees as we made the final approach.  He let out a whimper, and we knodded to Santa and the teacher-photographer to take a standing-up family portrait.  Even that elicited a terror that I have never seen on my children's faces.  As Sophie caught a glimpse of Santa over Mike's shoulder, her face twitched and contorted, and she squirmed to get away, presumably thinking Santa planned to eat her for dinner along with the organic green beans and whole wheat mostacolli.

Last year's picture is of Sophie and Michael stoically tolerating their moment on Santa's lap, but we're now yet another family with a kid-screams-at-Santa photo, not even one that's so bad it's funny. 

Now for the famous last words: maybe next year!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Oh, good, I'm healthy.

I guess it figures that on a day that I stay at home with Michael and Sophie (due to Sophie being sick), a study like this would be making the rounds.  It concluded that working moms are typically "healthier" than stay-at-home moms, but moms who work part-time are the big winners.


Although I admittedly turn a jealous shade of green around moms who have part-time and/or work-from-home arrangements, I shake my head at this study not out of bitterness.  I feel contempt because to work or not to work (like to breastfeed or not to breastfeed, disposable diapers or cloth, minivan or crossover, public or private) is a choice that ultimately comes down to what is best for your specific family in your particular circumstances.

For some moms the to-work or not-to-work choice is a no-brainer, but for many others including myself it just isn't. After a year and a half as a full-time teacher and mom, the choice I made to work still sends me spinning now and then.  Ultimately the ride winds down as I land on the belief that I'm giving Sophie and Michael the best upbringing I can with my family's arrangement.

I sort of feel the need to explain this further with our daily/weekly/yearly routines and a glimpse into our finances.  I'm going to resist that.  Those details are specific to us and probably wouldn't really offer much insight for anyone reading this. 

The fact is that this decision is a complex one.  It's not a matter of choosing to be either a stereotypically warm and nurturing stay-at-home-mom or an equally cartoonish cold and distant working one.  Nor is it between being a healthy and fulfilled working mom or a depressed stay-at-home one with heart disease. 

The conclusion of my own study conducted over 33 years of living in this world is this:  there are both stay-at-home moms and working moms who suck at parenting.  Both can also be amazing.  Generalizations do absolutely no good.  The last thing any well-intentioned family needs as they weigh the many options along the parenting journey is judgemental commentary.

I do appreciate that the study and USA Today article emphasized that part-time work for moms is healthy for everyone involved and that this option is not a realistic one for many when health insurance, career advancement, and other benefits are typically limited for part-time employees. I would love it if that was what our culture took from this research, and employers and others with the power to make this a more workable option for families would attempt to do so.

But the local news story I saw on this study didn't empasize that messsage, and neither did the people who commented on the online article.  My gut reaction to this study, the contempt, frustration, and overall annoyance is really about the divisiveness. 

It seems our society has a hard time looking at the full complexity of issues like this, and that, along with health insurance and a savings account, leads me to kiss my kids good-bye in the morning and head back to my classroom.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Must be Santa!

We're going to pretend the kids got hungry while waiting for Santa and ate the cookies and milk, not that their mother neglected to prepare those details in the staging process.  I think it's a pretty cute picture anyway, taken at Mike's parents' house yesterday while there for his grandpa's 90th birthday.  Yup, I said 90th!

This is also the debut of the Christmas morning pajama pants that I made for the kids, my first garments ever.  Stay tuned for a better shot of those after the big day as well as my future appearance on Project Runway.  I plan to rock a toddler jammies challenge someday.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

She's at it again

I think this wall has been decorated and redecorated more than any other in my 50+ year old home.

When envisioning the kids' room before they were born (yep, back two years ago), the image included black and white newborn photos.  An old friend was just taking her photography to the professional level when Michael and Sophie were born and captured some remarkable images of my little buds.  I made and ordered a photo book and various prints here and there, and even included a couple close-ups of the babies' feet in the scrapbook page frames I did hang on the wall.  But that really wasn't what I had in mind when I stared at those nursery walls with my belly out to there.  I admittedly have an addiction to redecorating in small ways, but when I look at this arrangement I sigh, finally satisfied by its simplicity and the appropriate display of a couple of my favorite photos.

See more of Alison Claire Photography here.

I was happy to find frames in the same antiqued bronze finish of the dresser knobs for a good price over Thanksgiving weekend.  They look darker in these pics.

The box shelves and scrapbook frames that were previously above the dresser will reappear in the playroom in the coming days.  I do love those. 

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