Friday, February 27, 2015

These Days // 10

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This post is brought to you by a couple of hours by myself in a coffee shop. Glory! It’s amazing how quiet a very busy and loud restaurant can seem when you are a mother. I think it’s just the fact that none of the noise is anything I have to pay attention to.

Here’s what we’ve been doing these days:

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sprouting: potatoes. I went to throw some potatoes in a crock pot this week and found that they had started to sprout and go soft. So we turned them into a science experiment instead. I have no idea if anything interesting will happen. Maybe they’ll grow some fun stems and roots. Maybe they’ll rot. Maybe they’ll just sit there until I give up and throw them out.

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Related: sticking toothpicks in a bunch of potatoes is fun! Charlie made a “town.” Can you see it?

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learning: letters. We’ve done a few letter A activities this week that have gone over pretty well. If we continue to have success with a few more letters I’ll be sure to share what we’ve been doing here on the blog soon.

enjoying: time at home with my kids. I feel like this week has finally started to look a bit more like what I hope to get out of my days as a stay at home mom. I’ve stayed more or less on top of some basic housekeeping and still managed to get in some fun playtime and actives with Charlie. And I’m getting a few moments to myself too! We still have a ways to go in terms of establishing a constant routine, and someday I need to work up the courage to get the kids out of the house, but we’re making progress and I don’t feel like I’m going insane.

organizing: the pantry and kitchen cabinets. We got some new dishes and packed up some old ones to pass along to my sister. Now I feel like our kitchen has a bit more breathing room. Thank goodness.

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graduating: speech therapy! Charlie has aged out of the early intervention program in our state and has made so much progress that he no longer qualifies for services. We’re so proud of him and the progress he’s made. And so thankful to Ms. Z who has been coming to our home each week for the past 8 months to help him. We’re going to miss her!

Enjoy your weekend!

Coffee with Caitlin

Friday, February 20, 2015

These Days // 9

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Happy Friday! We’ve spent the week stuck in the house due to a big winter storm in our area. It’s been cozy and lazy and all the things a snow day should be, but it’s lasted all week and we’re starting to get a little stir crazy. We’ve had some good times though. Here are the highlights from these days.

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playing: with cornstarch. It turns out a simple mixture of cornstarch and water makes a crazy feeling concoction. If you squeeze it or poke it fast it feels solid, but if you let it run through your fingers or poke it slowly it’s like a liquid. It’s because of science, I’m sure. We ended up adding a bit too much water to our mixture, and Charlie wasn’t so sure about sticking his hands in it. But he enjoyed stirring and scooping it with a spoon, and then we added some food coloring to swirl around. It was pretty for a few seconds. Then I remembered that I should never give a child three primary colors. It always turns brown. Oh well.

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shoveling: lots of snow! We got a foot of snow and arctic temperatures this week. So some shoveling was necessary. This snow isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Charlie got to play in it one day this week, but every other day has been too cold. I’m hoping it will warm up a bit in the next few days so we can get out in it again. Snow like this hasn’t happened around here since I was a kid!

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loving: the first real smiles from my girl! I discovered she likes to be thrown in the air. I have a feeling I’ll be doing a lot of throwing if it means more smiles. They’re the best!

baking: monkey bread. Charlie loved our time making banana bread so much that we had to do it again. We had a little monkey bread baking mix stuck in the back of our pantry that we finally got out and made use of. Charlie’s getting pretty good at stirring. I think next we’ll need to work on his pouring.

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finishing: All the Light We Cannot See, my first pick for the 2015 Reading Challenge. It was very good. I’m working on writing a review to share with you in a few weeks, but I’m finding I’m pretty awful at writing book reviews. I’ll keep working on it…

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So that was our week. I hope you all are staying warm!

Coffee with Caitlin

Once again I’m linking up at Coffee with Caitlin for another High Five for Friday post. Check out some other bloggers over there!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

2015 Reading Challenge

There was a time in my life when I could call myself a bookworm with no reservations. I’m pretty sure I spent more time reading than just about any other activity – eating, sleeping, having conversations…

But that time has passed and the number of books I’ve read in the past 5 years or so has been in the abysmal range of less than 10. This is something I would like to change in my life.

2015 Reading Challenge

Enter the 2015 reading challenge from Modern Mrs. Darcy. The challenge is to read 12 books in 12 different categories in 12 months. That means a book a month. IT SHOULD BE TOTALLY DOABLE. It’s really not a lot of books for one year. But if I complete the challenge I will have read about six times as many books as last year.

Since I’ve been out of the reading loop for so long, one of the problems I have when I actually want to sit down and read is picking a book to start with. There are so many options! And since I know in the back of my mind that this could very well be the only book I read all year I put a lot of pressure on myself to pick one worth my time. But of course you don’t know if a book is good or not until you’ve read it. So I become paralyzed in the book store and walk out empty handed. I’m hoping the categories in this reading challenge will help get me over that hurdle. They are broad enough to give plenty of choice, but they offer some nice boundaries to keep things from getting overwhelming. I have a feeling these categories will encourage me to branch out a try some books that I wouldn’t otherwise, so I’m excited about that too!

What’s even more fun is my husband is planning to do the challenge too! We won’t be reading the same books, but we plan to read within the same category each month. And I suppose we’ll compare notes and encourage each other to read and other such helpful things.

This month we’re starting with the category “a book that’s currently on the bestseller list.” I plan on reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

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The hubs is going to read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

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I’ll report back at the end of the month and let you know what I thought!

P.S. Even though I haven’t read much recently, there are still a lot of books that hold a dear place in my heart. Here are my 10 favorite books of all time.

Friday, February 13, 2015

These Days // 8

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These days we are:

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baking: banana bread. Charlie really loves banana bread, so when we had a few overripe bananas this week we decided to do a little baking using this recipe. It was fun, and now we have a tasty snack. I’m hoping to do more baking projects with him in the future.

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sending: Valentine’s Day cards. In case you missed it, we made these sun catcher Valentine’s Day cards to send to our family this week. Getting Charlie to participate in craft projects can be a little hit or miss, but he seemed to enjoy making these cards.

creating: a Bible reading habit. They say it takes 21 days to turn a new practice into a habit, and I’ve been using the Mission 119 app for my daily Bible reading for 22 days now.

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sorting: cars by color. This activity filled up a good portion of our afternoon one day this week. Charlie has a lot of cars.

wishing: for warmer weather. We’re all getting a little tired of staying inside all day long. Spring is just around the corner…right?

Coffee with Caitlin

Once again I’m linking up at Coffee with Caitlin for another High Five for Friday post. Check out some other bloggers over there!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Suncatcher Valentine’s Day Cards

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For much of my life, Valentine’s Day was not so much about romance as it was about the CARDS. As a very young child I insisted upon making a homemade Valentine’s day card for every person who had even the slightest place in my life. Grandparents and aunts and uncles, sure, but also neighbors, Sunday School teachers, and the bug exterminator man (we lived in Mississippi where the the bug exterminator man was of great importance).

In elementary school I can vividly remember the chore of writing all my classmates’ names on the store bought Valentine’s Day cards I had picked out, painstakingly trying to make sure none of the boys got anything overly flirtatious that might suggest anything more than a polite acquaintanceship.

In High School Valentine’s Day got a bit more awkward and I kept it’s place in my life pretty low key, but in college I started dating the man who would become my husband and picking just the right card to express my great love and affection was an activity that required standing in the card aisle of the grocery store for much longer than one should ever stand in a single grocery store aisle.

Then again as an adult I got back into the homemade card making business, using the holiday as an excuse to exercise some creative energy and express my appreciation for various family members.

So now as a mother, there is of course a great responsibility to make sure my children carry on the tradition and create homemade cards for their grandparents and aunts and uncles. That’s what the holiday is all about, after all!

I give you Suncatcher Valentine’s Day Cards.

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You start with some contact paper, some pretty translucent paper (tissue paper would work), and a card with a heart cut out of it.

Let your kid stick pretty paper scraps to the contact paper with abandon. If you have a child who is into using scissors you could let them cut out random shapes and scraps to stick on, or even have them tear the paper. Both would be a great fine motor activity. My child just wasn’t feeling the fine motor practice on this particular day so I cut some small hearts for him to use. Other ideas could be to use a hole punch to make lots of tiny colorful circles, get really messy and sprinkle glitter, or get some kind of shiny valentine’s day confetti at the party supply store to throw around.

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Once the contact paper is sufficiently covered with prettiness, top with another sheet of contact paper and cut into smaller pieces to fit behind the heart shape on your card.

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Decorate the paper as much or as little as you like and send the cards off in the mail to the people who mean the most to you! These cards are pretty anywhere, but they are especially nice when displayed in a window.

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Enjoy!

Friday, February 6, 2015

These Days // 7

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These days we are:

listening: to Cool Family Radio on iTunes radio. It’s a station that plays a good mix of oldies and more contemporary music with generally upbeat tempos and no foul language or overly explicit sexual references. So basically, music for grown ups that’s safe for kids. We find it’s a good thing to turn on when a toddler needs to dance a little energy out and a mama needs to bounce a baby. And the title makes me feel cool. Like I could hang out with some college students and mention some music I had been listening to lately and not feel like a total dweeb. So that’s a plus. (Wait, did I just forfeit my cool status by using the word dweeb?)

eating: from a bottle! Not me, my baby. We tried out a bottle on Penelope for the first time this week and she took to it like a pro. This means Mama can get out of the house without a baby every once in a while. I used my first moments of freedom to go grocery shopping, which isn’t really an exciting way to spend the first moments of freedom in six weeks. Oh well.

writing: a newsletter. Not me, my husband. Chris is starting out a new creative pursuit in which he will share snipits of life and interesting bits of the internet in a weekly email newsletter. It’s a good read! You can become a subscriber here.

celebrating: Valentine’s day early with the purchase of assorted chocolate boxes. Chris and I don’t give each other gifts for Valentine’s day. It’s mutual agreement we came to several years ago in the interest of saving us both from the stress of being really thoughtful and on top of it. Instead, we usually just plan on having a nice dinner together sometime around the holiday. Since we aren’t sure when we’ll be getting out for a date night this year what with the new baby and all, we’ve been celebrating by splurging on fancy chocolates. I’m not complaining.

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My new coworkers

trading: my working mom title to that of “stay at home mom.” We’ve been blessed with the opportunity for me to stay at home with my kiddos, so this past week I officially put in my notice and said goodbye to the job I’ve had for the past 5 years. It’s a bittersweet sort of thing. I’m thrilled to be able to stay at home and focus my energy on my kids. It’s the arrangement we’ve been hoping for since Charlie was born. But at the same time I can’t help but acknowledge that I had a pretty great job. I’m going to miss the daily interaction with some of the best coworkers ever and the time I got each day to sit in the quiet and do what was usually pretty creative work. We’re now in a period of adjustment as we try to establish a new routine and set realistic expectations for the days. I’m excited about what the next few months will bring as we settle into our new normal. Crafts? Play dates? More blog posts? Who knows!

Coffee with Caitlin

Once again I’m linking up at Coffee with Caitlin for another High Five for Friday post. Check out some other bloggers over there!.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Coat Closet Makeover

Way back before I had a baby, I mentioned in this post how I had big plans for our tiny hall coat closet. I actually managed to accomplish most of those plans before the baby came along, but a few last details were left undone. Until today! I banged out the few remaining tasks during nap time today and can finally share my coat closet makeover with you!

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So here’s the deal on the coat closet. It’s tiny. Like a foot and a half square. It’s also just as deep as it is wide, so even what little space we had wasn’t used very efficiently with just a single hanging rod to go across it. I wanted to come up with a way to use the space from front to back as well as side to side.

So I did some measuring, some shopping, some drilling and screwing and I made a coat closet that feels a lot more functional.

First I took out the hanging rod. Instead I got several hooks and attached them to the three sides of the closet. From these we can hang coats, purses, keys and umbrellas. Already it was a lot more functional than the hanging rod. I even made sure to add a couple of hooks low down on the wall so Charlie can hang up his own coat (in theory, at least).

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Then I got three nice storage boxes and screwed them onto the back wall. These hold all our scarves, mittens, and hats for winter.

The final touch was the addition of a low shelf to set bags on. I’ve learned that the number of bags you need in your life increases exponentially when you have children. So we needed a place to put the bags.

Did you know you can get wood boards cut to whatever size you need at Lowe’s? Super handy. I don’t have a saw, nor do I see myself needing one often enough to invest in such a tool, so this service is just what I needed to get this little project done.

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Under the shelf is a basket for shoes. Now our closet can hold everything we need to head out the door!

Here’s a “styled” picture to show you how everything has a place.

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And here’s real life. It’s stuffed to the brim, but it’s a lot more useful than the before.

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It even still fits a small child!

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Friday, January 30, 2015

These Days // 6

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These days we are:

Reading: the Bible with Mission119.org. I’ve been out of a daily Bible reading habit for a long time now, and it’s something I really want to get back into. This app (along with daily morning nursing sessions) has made it pretty easy so far. Each day you are given a few chapters to read and it’s paired with a 10 minute or less audio lesson on the day’s reading. This is the part that really makes it nice. So many times I’ve read a passage of scripture and left not really knowing what’s important about it. This app basically gives you a pastor/professor to explain the entire Bible to you. I’m excited to continue with this program throughout the year and see what new things I learn!
If you’re interested in doing it too, just go to Mission119.org and register for an account. That way the site will track your progress and remember where you left off. (There’s also an iOS app, but it’s honestly pretty awful. Just stick to the website. It works well enough.)

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Wearing: cloth diapers! Not me, my baby. We used Applecheeks cloth diapers on Charlie and had always planned to use them on our second child too, it’s just taken us a little while to get settled into enough of a routine to feel like we could stay on top of the laundry. Also, cloth diapers on a 6 lb baby are bulky to the point of extreme ridiculousness. She’s filled out a little now and the diapers are only slightly ridiculous. I’ve been happy with them so far.

P.S. Check out my post on why we chose cloth diapers.

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Playing: in the snow! We had the best snow we’ve had in a long time this week, so naturally we had to go out and play in it. It was a fun time.

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Fitting: in some real pants! I was able to comfortably wear some non-maternity jeans today. Now, these are my “transition jeans” that I bought after I had Charlie, not my actual pre-pregnancy skinny jeans. I still have a ways to go before those can see the light of day. But it feels good to be in something that doesn’t have an elastic waistband.

Finishing: the hall coat closet makeover! Our tiny hall closet has a big job and it’s finally able to do it without exploding. I’m excited to share more details in a post next week.

So that’s what’s going on around here. I hope you’re having a great week!

P.S. My friend Tina (check out her blog here!) has been doing a post called High Five for Friday for several weeks now and this week I decided to join in on the fun. Take a look at all the HF4F posts over at Coffee with Caitlin.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It feels like Christmas was a million years ago by now, but I wanted to take a minute to share ours because I think it might go down as my favorite Christmas yet. I have three reasons for this:

1. This girl

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Penelope was born a week before Christmas. So rather than spending Christmas in the hospital, or spending Christmas sitting around hugely pregnant, I got to spend Christmas cuddling a brand new baby. That was definitely the best scenario.

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2. This boy

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At two and a half, this was the first year that Charlie really seemed to recognize Christmas as a special time and participate in some family traditions. Christmas traditions form a huge part of my childhood memories, so it is exciting to get to share some of those experiences with Charlie. And then his big gift on Christmas morning (Duplo train set!) was a smashing success. Chris had it all set up the night before so Charlie could walk out to a living room full of train tracks. Needless to say he immediately started playing with it. And then he wouldn’t stop. It took a good hour before we were able to persuade him to open any of his other presents.

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3. This guy

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Chris and I have been married 7 years. We’ve been together for more than a decade. And I think this was the first year that I actually surprised him for Christmas. Normally he’s the kind of guy who only wants a few very specific items. So much so that it’s usually easier to just give him money to go buy the thing himself. It means he gets what he wants, but it’s a super boring way to give a Christmas gift. But this year I got him a Wii U, a gift I knew he would love, but one he hadn’t considered putting on any sort of wish list. When you can make your husband’s face light up like a little kid’s you know you’ve done a good job. And now he and Charlie can bond over Mario Kart.

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Most of all, I spent this Christmas enjoying my little family and feeling oh so grateful to the One who put them in my life.