Amy Beth

April 6, 2016

These Days // 23

It’s high time we had an update in this space. Here are some of the regular life things happening these days:

Planting: a garden. My sister likes to garden but has no yard. I have a yard, but not enough focus to plant a garden on my own. So we’re working together and broke ground on our little garden this weekend. I’m so excited!

planting

Decluttering: craft supplies, the kitchen, and kids toys. I’m still working my way through the KonMari method and I’m liking the changes so far. Be on the lookout for more detailed posts about each category.


Kitchen sneak peak.

Admiring: the violets in our yard. It’s one of my favorite parts of Spring. I love seeing the fresh new grass dotted all over with purple.

violets

Celebrating: all the things! Since I last wrote Charlie had a birthday…

4 cupcake

And then less than a month later began the quadruple whammy of celebration in my family. My two sisters’ birthdays, my dad’s birthday, and Easter all happen within about 20 days of each other. So we made sure to celebrate it all on Easter weekend when we could all be together.

This involved cake…

Egg dying…

An Easter egg hunt…

A walk to the pond…

Swingin’ on the swing…

And of course the obligatory family Easter portrait.

That may be more of an update than you bargained for. Ta-ta for now!

Thanks to my husband and my father for some of the lovely photos in this post.

March 21, 2016

World Down Syndrome Day

Just popping in to wish you a happy World Down Syndrome Day!

There are so many things I could say to celebrate this day, but in the end it comes down to this: a little more than a year after learning that our little girl has Down syndrome, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Like every other one year old, she lives a life full of love and joy and playfulness. She learns and grows day by day. I have so much hope for her future.

To celebrate this day and to provide for her future and the future of many others, we have decided to take the 3/21 pledge and donate to Ruby’s Rainbow, an organization that provides college scholarships to students with Down syndrome. A mere 20 years ago the thought of a young adult with Down syndrome attending college would have seemed impossible, but today it is happening. And it can happen even more with your help. If programs like this continue to grow, I can only imagine the opportunities that will be available to my daughter 20 years from now! To learn more about the difference this program is making in the lives of students, I strongly encourage you to go read this blog post following some Ruby’s Rainbow scholarship recipients around for a day. Then hop on over to Ruby’s Rainbow and make your donation. Thanks for making the world a more inclusive, hopeful place.

March 10, 2016

Foil wrapped toys

Foil wrapped toys - a simple activity to give old toys new life

Here’s a quick an easy activity to pull out of your back pocket, or kitchen cabinet, when everyone is feeling tired of the same-old same-old.

  1. Grab some toys and aluminum foil.
  2. Wrap the toys in foil.
    That’s it!

Foil wrapped toys - a simple activity to give old toys new life

Foil wrapped toys - a simple activity to give old toys new life

It’s actually a pretty good fine motor activity and you can use it to give your toys new life in all sorts of play. Pretend you’re an evil wizard who turns everything to metal. Pretend you’re a pirate who just found a treasure chest of silver statues. Take the toys to a dark room and search for them in the light of a flashlight. Wrap building blocks and create a gleaming silver castle.

Foil wrapped toys - a simple activity to give old toys new life

It’s just foil, but it’s just enough to give some old toys new life for an afternoon.

March 3, 2016

The preschool question

“The basis for the beginnings of literacy is that children have heard and listened … They have spoken and been spoken to, people have discussed [things] with them … They have asked questions and received answers.”

From The New Preschool is Crushing Kids in The Atlantic.

One of the hardest things about being a mom is being confident in your own decisions. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve researched, how strongly you feel, how convinced you are that you are making the right decision for your family, there is always that quiet voice that bugs you with, “Are you sure?”

I’ve felt that way a lot about preschool lately. We’ve made the decision to be a homeschooling family, and I’ve said over and over again that I believe children learn through play. But every now and then I start to worry that I’m not doing things right. Should I be putting Charlie in preschool? Would it be better for him to be around other kids more and have more structure? Should I at least be more rigorous in my approach to preschool at home? Is it a problem if he doesn’t already know all his letters? Should he really be spending all day playing with cars? Do I need to start teaching him how to read?

These are the questions that run through my head. Especially when it seems everyone else is doing something different. I forget sometimes that just because something is right for one family doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for mine.

So it’s always a relief to me when I read articles like this one. It reminds me of the reasons I’ve chosen what I’ve chosen and helps me feel like I’m not crazy. Some preschools are fabulous and I’m sure are great places for kids to be. But it’s a relief to hear that my kid isn’t going to be worse off in life for spending his preschool years not in school. And it helps to know that just spending time reading and talking, answering his questions and listening to his stories, will serve him just as well as a daily letter craft.

March 1, 2016

Tidying Up: Kids’ Clothes

Ugh.

tidying up kids' clothes

After coming off my high from tidying and basically emptying my closet, this category was not so magical. I didn’t uncover new empty areas of my home or feel a great weight lifted from my shoulders. But it’s done and I think I have a few thoughts and tips to help anyone else out there trying to tidy up their home with little kids in tow.

First off, the KonMari method says that you should only tidy your own things. If you live with other family members you have to let them decide for themselves what sparks joy, and you can’t very well force someone to think about that. This is why I am basically ignoring my husband’s office. But I consider tiny children to be an exception to that rule. After all, the person who is most often dealing with their stuff is me. So I think that means I get to decide what to do with it.

Second, the KonMari method doesn’t really address the issue of practicality or future planning or little people who basically need a new wardrobe every season because they grow and change so fast. Going through their clothes and asking what sparks joy sounds like an awful lot of work for clothes that are all going to be outgrown in a few months anyway. So here’s how I addressed the whole issue of kid’s clothes.

Ask “What can he/she wear now.

These are the only things you need to have out taking up space in your drawers. I found many things sitting in drawers and closets that were either too small or too big. These things need to find another home.

Use the KonMari folding method as much as possible.

The KonMari folding method really does save space and make it easier to see the clothes you have to choose from. But kid’s clothes can be tiny and are not always worth folding into rectangles. So fold the shirts and pants and PJs. But skip the underwear and socks. It’s impossible.

Have a plan for what to do with outgrown clothes.

This is a the kicker that can really trip people up when it comes to kid’s clothes. Your plan could be to just load them up and take them to a thrift store because you know you are done. If you know you won’t be having future kiddos and are feeling particularly sentimental about certain items I recommend putting them aside in a box or bin to deal with when you get to the sentimental items category. Right now is just about clearing the clutter, not necessarily going through a whirlwind of emotions. Just make sure you don’t feel sentimental about everything.

Another good plan could be to hand down clothes to a family member or friend. While Mari Kondo advises against passing your belongings on to another person only to clutter up their life, I think kid’s clothes are a good exception. Hand-me-downs are legitimately useful to many people. As you’re preparing clothes for handing off, it would be kind to sort according to size, gender, and possibly season if you have that many items. It’s time consuming, but your friends will thank you. This is a good time to discard anything that has really seen better days. If there are items with impossible to remove stains, tears, or are otherwise not in immediately wearable condition, just toss them. Nobody wants hand me downs that they have to spend a lot of time trying to fix.

And another plan could be to keep them for future use. If this is your plan you definitely want to make sure you have good storage containers and a place to keep said storage containers. This is what has caused me problems in the past. I may have known I needed to clear out a bunch of outgrown clothes, but I had no boxes to put them in. When that happens you either end up with overcrowded drawers or piles of kid’s clothes in other areas of your house. To remedy this I bought several extra of the type of container I like to use so I will have one readily available the next time one of my kids grows a size. Sorting by size and gender again is a given. Be kind to your future self.

Our plan for outgrown clothes is actually a combination of the last two. We figure we may have another kid eventually, but in the meantime, a family member who is expecting a baby soon is taking the bins of the sizes she needs right now. When her kid outgrows them, she’ll pass them back to us.

These boxes of outgrown clothes may not spark a lot of joy right now, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be very joyful when the next baby comes along and all I have to do to dress him is pull a box out of the garage.

February 25, 2016

The body mind connection

“In order for children to read, write and spell they must be developmentally ready. Some are ready at the age of four or five, some not for many years later. This readiness includes complex neurological pathways and kinesthetic awareness. Such readiness isn’t created by workbooks or computer programs. It’s the result of brain maturation as well as rich experiences found in bodily sensation and movement.”

From Reading Readiness has to do with the Body

This is one of several articles I’ve read in the past year or so explaining the link between a child’s cognitive and physical development. It’s fascinating and not something I remember hearing much about during all my education classes in college. But if you think about it it makes sense. The brain is used for EVERYTHING. Strengthening the neural pathways in one way (through movement) is sure to have benefits for any other task that uses those pathways.

Poppy’s therapists have expressed similar ideas. Development of gross motor movements lay the groundwork for fine motor movements. (Developing the strength to move her trunk from side to side improves her ability to move her tongue from side to side to help her chew.) Meeting certain physical milestones paves the way for cognitive or social skills. (Learning to sit up makes it easier to interact with toys or people. Better core strength makes it possible to use her hands to makes gestures or signs to communicate.)

This makes it even more important that our kids have opportunities to run wild and play freely. Lucky for me, that’s also a whole lot easier than trying to follow a reading curriculum with my preschooler just yet.

February 18, 2016

Baby led weaning with developmental concerns

We followed the ideas of Baby Led Weaning when we introduced Charlie to solid foods. I had done a lot of reading on it and was convinced that it was THE way to go. And it worked really well for him.

Then we had Poppy and my confidence in the method started to wane. I knew that low muscle tone and developmental delays could affect how we approached introducing different skills, but I didn’t know how. And neither our doctor or occupational therapist seemed to know a lot about Baby led weaning. Do I continue with the method because I feel as mom that it’s a good one? Or do I throw it out the window and follow the therapists suggestions instead?

I hemmed and hawed over this for a while until finally coming across this article). It addressed the issues of introducing foods to a child with developmental delays while answering the question,

“How can I respect and support this family’s mealtime culture while guiding this child safely through the developmental course of learning to eat?”

It reminded me of what I liked most about the Baby Led Weaning approach: meals as family, following the child’s cues and letting them feed themselves, making meal times about fun and learning and exploration. And most of all not stressing over feeding. Something I was not doing very well at the time. I realized I could still follow many of the principles of baby led weaning while still following the specific recommendations of our therapist regarding what foods to introduce and how. Now I feel like we’ve struck a happy balance and Poppy is loving mealtimes.

If you are interested in the Baby Led Weaning approach but are unsure how to navigate it with special developmental concerns, or even aren’t sure you want to go all in with the method, I would highly recommend this article.

Baby Led Weaning: A Developmental Perspective

February 11, 2016

Pictures of Motherhood

mothers

From The Forgotten Photos of Mothers – Mashable

I loved this collection of photos of mothers around the world. Taken over 50 years ago, they show a piece of shared human experience that can be so easy to forget. Motherhood can feel like an island at times, but then images like this remind me that there are so many others, both now and who have gone before, that actually know just what I’m going through. It also reminds me that what I’m going through is mostly snuggles.

February 9, 2016

An Intro to The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Are you read for some extreme tidying? No wait, wrong question. Are you ready to CHANGE YOUR LIFE?

Yeah, I don’t know if I am either, but had to start this whole endeavor off with a bang. Let’s get excited! About decluttering!

If you’re lost, let me back up. This past summer I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Even then I was a little late to the game. EVERYONE was talking about it. I was skeptical that it could really be life changing, but I was intrigued at what made this book such a hit. And I was also sick of all the clutter in my house.

So I read it. For a book about decluttering, it’s a pretty enjoyable read. The author has just enough quirkiness to keep things amusing, while still doling out some practical advice. Now, I’ve read many a blog post and magazine article about how to clear the clutter, organize your house in 15 minutes a day, and become a minimalist in 100 easy steps. I was surprised to find that the KonMari method (the name given to the method outlined in the book) actually has some unique specifications and tips. If you’re really serious about decluttering, then I suggest you read the book, but here’s a quick recap of those things that make this book a bit different than what you may have read before.

  1. It’s better to declutter all at once than just a little bit at a time. So many other decluttering gurus say to break it down in to manageable chunks and do a little each day. Marie Kondo says to just go for it. All the way. She says that when you make it a BIG EVENT you get to enjoy the benefits much sooner. This gives you more motivation to stay decluttered. Forever.
  2. Declutter by category, not location. This makes a lot of sense. You can’t accurately get a handle on all your stuff if some of it is hidden away. For example, you can’t tell how many writing utensils you have if you have pens scattered between the bedroom, kitchen, office, your purse, and at the bottom of the junk drawer. You have to gather them all together before you can decide what to keep and what to discard. in a similar vein…
  3. Store things according to category rather than frequency of use. For example, I have a small collection of cords in my desk drawer. My husband has other cords in a box in his closet. Some cords are kept in camera or laptop bags. However, any time I need a cord I can never remember where I keep that particular cord and I end up looking in several different places. But if I kept all the cords together I would know there was only one place to look. Every time.
  4. Keep only those items that “spark joy.” This is really the central rule to her whole system. You are supposed to physically handle every item you own during the decluttering process and sort it into “keep” or “discard” based on how it makes you feel. She claims that you will be happier if you are only surrounded by things that give you joy. It’s a rule that sounds lovely, but probably the one I have the most trouble implementing. It feels a little impractical to me.

This book also has it’s quirks though. There were a few things while reading it that I thought were either a little strange or just unhelpful.

  1. Along with the whole “spark joy” rule, Marie Kondo is a little out there about the things in our homes. She talks a lot of “waking up” your belongings so you can see them more clearly. She encourages thanking the things you decide to discard so you can release them to the world without guilt. She talks of a certain way to fold socks so they are “at rest” in your drawer. It can be a little odd.
  2. This book is written from the perspective of a single woman living alone in a small Japanese apartment. She doesn’t really address some of the big issues that many American families have like garages full of stuff, or baby gear that you feel like you should keep for future children. I guess she would say that you should still ask “Does this spark joy?” But I kind of wish she had spent more time addressing things like the craft closet rather than cosmetic samples and spare buttons.

Despite it’s oddities, I still found the book to be pretty inspiring and motivating. I also feel like it gave me some very clear steps to follow. So, although it took me about 6 months to get going, I’ve officially started Tidying My Home. Updates forthcoming.

February 4, 2016

The last days of pregnancy

The last days of pregnancy — sometimes stretching to agonizing weeks — are a distinct place, time, event, stage. It is a time of in between. Neither here nor there. Your old self and your new self, balanced on the edge of a pregnancy. One foot in your old world, one foot in a new world.

From The Last Days of Pregnancy: a place of in-between

This is a lovely article describing the last days of pregnancy, and really, I think a good descriptor for the whole experience of waiting on your baby to arrive. A state of not-yet-a-mother but not not-a-mother. It’s a life changing event on a personal and emotional level even more so than a physical one, even though the physical is what our culture seems to be most preoccupied with. It’s nice to see such understanding and patient words put to the experience.