Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Occupying a Toddler

This is Bug, roaming.
There are countless blog posts on the interwebs about keeping younger kids out'cher biz-nass while trying to learn an older young'n*, so this isn't exactly ground-breaking information. In our case, the toddler is of the very young variety, so there are certain suggestions that just won't work yet because he puts all of the activities in his mouth. So anyway, here are some things that have worked for us so far, and some things I'm thinking of trying out.

Letting him roam

Frankly, as eye-rollingly simplistic as this is, it's generally the most effective. We don't have a designated learning space in our tiny house, so anything that requires writing or art is done at the kitchen table, books are read on the living room couch, and math is done on the computer in the family room. So our most effective Bug repellent is to just let him run around and play in the living room and kitchen, a storage bench full of toys at his fingertips.


That's our dog. Now Ella is a ninety pound Lab/Dob mix, so we don't actually put our 30 lbs > son down to play with her directly. She's not intentionally aggressive with us; she's just huge and young, so she's playful and could very easily accidentally hurt him. What he LOVES to do, though, is to sit by the back door and watch her in the back yard. Sometimes she'll come up to the window and they'll check each other out. She also has a crate in the living room, the big, open wire kind where she can see everything. She usually sleeps with the door open these days, but if we shut it then Ella and Bug like to check each other out. Until he starts trying to share his toys with her, of course.

That Thin Mint never knew what hit it...

I try not to plow Bug with food just to keep him quiet too often, but if Bear and I are working on something and we need to make sure he's not under foot (or if he is doing the thing where he grabs library books out of my hands and tries to put his own, personal stamp on them), there is nothing that keeps him happier than his booster seat and a few Ritz crackers.

Letting him destroy

This is not my favorite, because it's a short-term solution which creates work for me that I may or may not get to later in the day. But sometimes the best way to keep my Bug happy so I can help Bear multiply 2-digit numbers is to let him get into that drawer or play with that item which is normally forbidden. I don't mean I'm letting him drag out the cleaning supplies and chaw down on the dishwasher tables, of course. But I'll probably let him drag out all the plastic food storage containers and throw them all over the kitchen, even though it means Imma hafta wash them. Again. 

Now that my Bug is a bit older I want to make him a few sensory bins. He's still putting things in his mouth pretty regularly, so I'll probably do a few "edible" bins. Dry oatmeal, Cheerios, things like that with some containers and whatnot. The textures are nice and if he sticks them in his mouth, no biggie. 

We also got him his first paints and brushes and stuff for Christmas (all toddler-size), so in a few months he'll be able to join in with us more. He loves his homemade fingerpaints and I think he'll really like painting with mom and sis.

When all else fails, we just take a break. There are some days when life is too hectic or Bug is too needy and all the things will just have to wait. Or we'll just shove cookies down his gullet. And if things get really desperate? The cage!

Baby is not actually inside cage. Do not call DCFS. Not for this, anyway. Maybe the cookie thing.

 I'd like my Mother of the Year award now.

*Mixing up my speech patterns in the same sentence. Ohhhhhhh, yeah...

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Glimpse into Our Day

Fizzy Sidewalk Paint
As a (new) homeschooling family, one of the things we learned very early on was that there really is no "typical" day. I go into each week with a plan and a bag full of materials, but what each day looks like can vary greatly.

But in the interest of keeping our loved ones "in the loop," here's my best rundown of what a day in our home(school) might look like:

Wake up when Bug gets me up. This could be 7:30 or, on some fantastic, rare mornings, 9:30 or 10:00.

Make coffee, feed Bug, drink coffee/eat breakfast, let Bug run off his morning energy while I play Words With Friends and attempt to get my brain going.

If Bug and I got up early, this might be about the time that Bear comes downstairs. If we slept in, she may have already been up for a bit and had breakfast.

Homemade GAK
After everyone has eaten and puttered around, we begin our lessons. On a typical day, this includes: journaling with a prompt (three days a week); math activities on Time 4 Learning; one page of D'Nealian handwriting practice; some reading and an activity based on whatever we're studying at the time (right now it's our home state of Kentucky); a few chapters of whatever book we're reading (we're listening to The Witches audiobook right now); and possibly some sort of artistic or scientific activity to go with the story, though not always.

Bug watching his sister climb our front tree
If we finish lessons in the morning/early afternoon (we usually do), we have lunch, clean up, do whatever chores or errands are on the list for the day, and enjoy our free time. When Husband gets home, we have dinner.

Of course, then there are those days when someone is sick or we have a field trip or something planned and the day looks nothing like that. That happens about once per week, usually because of a playdate or homeschool activity at the library or something.

So for those of you who are interested—that's our day, in a nutshell! We usually finish up all of our "school" stuff in just a couple of hours and then we enjoy the rest of our day. Unless one of us is being an a-hole, in which case we just grumble and grunt a lot. That happens, too, and a-hole duty seems to rotate.

Today it's me. :)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Homemade Edible Fingerpaints = WIN

Last week I was feeling kind of ick and bored, so I decided I wanted to clean out the cabinet under the sink. You know—the one with all the cleaning supplies and poisons and whatnot. I realized I'd need something to keep Bug busy and out of the RAID while I cleaned, so I decided to try this recipe for homemade edible fingerpaints that I'd had pinned for awhile.

The recipe is really easy and it doesn't take long, but if you want to use it as a distraction while you do other things, I recommend making it ahead of time. There is boiling water involved, so you have to let it cool a bit before you hand it over. Also, if you're going to mix in color (and why wouldn't you?) you have to have time to do that, too. So while it wasn't the perfect solution for my last-minute cleaning needs, it still did the trick by the time I got it done.

It's sort of pudding-y. Imagine the sensory bliss of slipping your fingers around in that.

That alone is worth the clean-up.
Anyway, he LOVED it. His whole little face lit up when I started plopping bright-colored globs of gooey paint on his booster tray and he wasted no time getting his hands (and face...and chest...and hair...and the floor...and the walls...) dirty. At first he sort of just poked his finger in, but as soon as he felt the smooth, warm paint, he smiled like I'd handed him...smooth, warm paint. Which I had. So it made total sense.
He's so pleased with himself. :)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ten Years

Tomorrow is Husband's and my tenth anniversary. In that ten years we've had two perfect (for us) children, bought and lived in our first home, gotten our educations, dreamed big, watched loved ones come and go, and somehow managed to stick it out against what statistics would have you thinking.

It's been a hell of a decade. I can't wait to start and weather the next one with him on my side.

Um, this photo is more than two years old. But I love it. :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Moving/House Building Update

We've been so wrapped up in all the new stuff we have going on that we haven't gone out and looked at potential building sites in months. BIL started a new job last spring, Husband has been in school and was (finally!) moved to first shift, and the kids and I have been homeschooling and re-adapting to Bug's random schedule changes every few weeks.

Kids are exhausting, y'all.

But that doesn't mean we're not still on course! Husband and I have been slowly but surely ticking things off our list to prepare the house for sale this spring, including finally putting up some closet doors in our bedroom. We had those nasty, cheap-ass, sliding track doors when we moved in. They were all messed up and ugly, so we just took them down and threw them away...and then never replaced them. Until now!

Before (pardon our mess)

And after! I even got off my lazy ass and painted them!

We still need to put trim up, but that's the easy part. And it's so nice to be able to close them off and not see all the storage and clutter when I'm trying to eat Cheez-Its and watch my stories. Plus, you know, buyers like doors. Doors = good for resale.

Of course, there've been a few setbacks, too...

*sigh* Oops...Bear may have opened the in-glass shades a bit too enthusiastically...

Anyway, we still have a pretty long list of projects to finish, but we're getting there. I'm hoping we can get out and start looking at land again very soon. We're still on track to list the house in April, so...crunch time!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pinterest in Real Life: Pineapple Cloud Cake

While I'm typically a fan of "from-scratch" baking*, I do try to keep a few boxes of various cake mixes and brownie mixes and things on hand for those times when I need something easy to make in a hurry. I know there are recipes out there for homemade mixes, but I haven't bothered with that yet. One of these days.

Anyway, I digress. Pineapple Cloud Cake is one of those recipes that calls for a boxed cake mix and I decided to give it a whirl. We have dinner with my inlaws one night a week and I like to test out new dessert recipes on them, so I thought this super quick, super easy, super tidy recipe would be a good choice. If you can even call it a recipe. It barely makes the cut, as it only requires two ingredients.

You couldn't even spring for Dole? Cheapass...

Just plop 'em in there and stir!

I usually don't buy canned fruit because the whole "acid/aluminum can/chemical" thing freaks me out, but then, I eat a lot of crap that is probably slowly giving me the diseases, so once in awhile is not going to hurt anything.

Anyway—it's pretty good! When you mix it up it's all fizzy and light, and it has a nice texture when it's done. I baked it for 33 minutes and it was perfect. We served it with whipped cream and maraschino cherries.


Plop some Cool Whip and a cherry on there and you've got dessert!

It's not a new favorite or anything, but I might try to keep stuff on hand in case I need to whip something together quickly.

*If you say you didn't roll your eyes when you read that, you're lying. I re-read it, rolled my eyes, put my pinkie up, and mocked myself. And then I left it as-is, because that shit is funny.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Simplifying Mornings

 "I have really bad breath in the morning."

Small Talking
I fully admit that I am 100% stealing this post topic from Andrea at one of my favorite blogs, Simple Organized Living. I started to leave a comment on her post, but then I realized it was going to be a blog-length comment and decided it was better to run over here and talk about it.

Now that Bug is a full-fledged toddler (complete with walking and stair-climbing capabilities) and Bear is schooling at home, it's imperative that our mornings be as simple and streamlined as possible. Here are a few things that keep our mornings running smoothly:

1.) Husband installed the baby gates

I know that sounds obvious, but we live in a tri-level and have two (short) flights of stairs. Most of mine and Bug's morning is spent on the main floor, in the kitchen and living room, so he has access to both sets. We started using the baby gates just in the nick of time. The one going to the top floor is just a pop-in, but the gate to the basement had to be hung. Having those gates up makes my morning far less hectic and terrifying.

2.) I clean up after dinner

Again—DUH. But I mean, I really try to make sure the main living areas are as tidy as possible before I go to bed so that when I get up, I'm not faced with an automatic to-do list. I can enjoy my coffee in a neat, relaxing space. It's really made a difference in my mood.

I also try to pre-pack Husband's lunches as I put dinner away. He usually takes leftovers for lunch, so I frequently put his portions into containers he can just grab and toss into his lunchbox in the morning before he heads out the door. He has to be out the door by 6:30, so I'm not up to help him get ready. And as much of a morning person as I am, I am NOT getting my ass up at 6:00 to pack lunches and give kisses. Hell to the NO. 

3.) I prep the coffee maker the night before

I don't have a fancy, programmable coffee maker like the one Andrea talks about in her blog post. I have a $10 Mr. Coffee from WalMart, which works perfectly and I'm very happy with, but which does not have its own alarm clock. So when I've finished the after-dinner clean-up, I fill the reservoir and put in my grounds so that all I have to do in the morning is hit the button. By the time I strap Bug into his highchair and feed him and let the dog out, my coffee is ready for me. I hate when I forget to do this because then I'm measuring grounds all blurry-eyed and I inevitably spill some and it's all a big clusterf***. No one likes a big clusterf***.

4.) I choose simple breakfasts

homemade cinnamon roll cake (recipe)
Once in awhile I do like to do the whole bacon-eggs-pancakes thing for my family, but most mornings Bear will have cereal (which she preps herself) and Bug and I have fruit or muffins or something equally simple. Sometimes I'll make a cinnamon roll cake and we'll have that for breakfast for a few days, with fruit on the side. It's not fancy and it's probably too much sugar, but Bug throws most of it on the floor, anyway, so it's not too big of a nutritional deal.

5.) We do our mornings at home

Unless we have plans to meet friends or a time-sensitive errand that MUST be run in the morning, I try to keep morning time at home. I don't sleep well if I know I have a ton of stuff to do in the morning, even if I've planned everything very well. And Bear and I are much more likely to butt heads and argue if we're rushing around. That's not to say we don't do things in the mornings sometimes, like meet up at the park or whatever, but for the most part I try to schedule things for after Bug's nap so that we can relax in the morning.

Those are some of the things that work for me (and us) to keep our mornings running smoothly. How do you keep from losing your shit before the coffee (or tea, or soda, or whatever) kicks in?