Thursday, December 4, 2014

Random Acts of Christmas Kindness 2014 - Free Printable

I realize I have been away awhile - life is crazy in my house right now with holiday season in full swing, along with the celebration of a 1st and a 3rd birthday. Basically, we are running non-stop right now!

However, I need to make time for this post so I can share with anyone who might need this.

If you've been reading my blog for awhile (anyone? Bueller?) then you might remember my thoughts about the tragic events that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. Just knowing someone who has lost a child to something so heartbreaking really struck me and since then I wanted to make an effort every year to honor Olivia Engel, and each of the other 25 lives lost that day.

My older daughter just turned 3 and she is at an age where she can really absorb the concept of kindness and how to share that with other people. Recently I shared with my Facebook and Instagram friends the Random Act of Kindness cards I put together for December. My plan is to involve my children as much as possible when we prepare and share these random acts, and spread some kindness both inside my home and around our community in honor of the Sandy Hook Angels.

Meanwhile, several people have requested the cards I made, so it makes sense to attach them here so anyone can have access to them.

Please print these out, and start sharing the kindness - it can be anything from paying for someone's coffee at Starbucks to cooking someone dinner - be creative!

I hope to post pictures soon of our experiences with this effort, and I'd love to hear how others have used the cards!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Potty Patrol

I was in absolutely no hurry to potty train my older daughter. I have just grown to accept diapers are what they are, and honestly, diapers give me CONTROL. Seriously - I know when and where my toddler will need a diaper change (the baby, she's a little more sporadic). My friends who are parents of newly-toilet trained children are familiar with just about every public bathroom in town. Ew.

I had started collecting articles on what signs you should look for with regards to readiness, and then what to do once the training began.

Here's what these articles taught me:

1. Kids respond well to bribes. (But we knew that.)
2. There are no guaranteed signs of readiness across the board - all kids are different.
3. There are also no guaranteed methods of potty training. 

And this is how it all shook out for us:

Like I said, no rush for this milestone. It crossed my mind that she might be mature enough to handle this at 2 years old, but as I was about to have another baby, I was not about to throw this variable into our lives until I had a clue how I was going to handle two kids in general. A little after my daughter hit 2 1/2 or so, I started slowly collecting the things I thought we would need for the potty training adventure, once it started to make its appearance.

I decided from the get go we would not be dealing with the kid-size toilet. I hear of all these parents who buy these for their children after their 1st birthday and then keep it in the living room, the bedroom, the back of the car, all so the child can get "comfortable" with the concept of using the mini-potty. It's not a stuffed animal - it's a toilet. Not many of us use a toilet next to our sectional. And on top of that, I had zero interest in cleaning that thing out every time my child was successful.

No matter which route you take, your regular routine is still going to be affected, and for that you need STUFF. You will most likely need a potty training seat, as their little rear end will be liable to fall right in for many more years. Along with that is a stool to reach the toilet. I recommend either multiple stools, or make the one you have lightweight so your toddler can move it between the toilet and the sink. Depending on your bathroom, you might also need a faucet extender, a faucet handle extender, and even a light switch extender. AND depending on your house, you might need this setup in each bathroom your child could use when nature calls.

Basically, you need to think about all the steps your child will need to go through to address a bathroom urgency on their own should you be unable to assist in a split second when they have. to. GO.

So I bought a variety of potty seats (there is no easy way to tell which ones will fit the toilets in your house until you bring them home and put them on the seat) and step stools. As I type this we are a month out from our potty training, and we use one potty seat and two stools in two different bathrooms (the main guest half bath and the bathroom between my daughters' rooms). The wood stools are nice, but they are heavy and make a lot of noise. Since my daughter's toilet is on the other side of the wall from my other daughter's crib, I needed to squash all the stool moving in the middle of the night so that bathroom needed TWO STOOLS.

I also bought a folding travel potty seat (with princesses of course), several packages of underwear with Bugga's favorite characters, and even flushable wipes. Then I waited for the signs. That never really came. Her interest in the whole toileting process ebbed and flowed, and she always woke up soaked in the morning because I didn't have the heart to cut off her liquids in the evenings.

Bugga started school two days a week this year where they do not potty train, but maintain whatever you are doing. What they did start doing is sitting Bugga on a toilet three times a day, which I used as my jumping off point.

I created a chart based on the things that motivate my specific child (in Bugga's case, certain shows, apps, and movies, since she only gets these in special situations). Then I declared Labor Day Weekend as our training weekend. Our plan was to have one parent assigned to be with Bugga all day long at all times. She typically would wander around the house playing on her own but that would not work for this. I also had to be tough with my husband that we couldn't just do this in the living room (ahhh the rug!) and simultaneously watch college football as someone was sure to miss crucial signs of nature calling. 

I set up our master bathroom (it's a little over-the-top spacious, but any bathroom should work as children are little) to be All Things Toddler and put in there her easel, her Lego table, and her little play table and chairs with books, puzzles, and coloring.

Then we dove right in! On the first day (Saturday), Bugga wore nothing but a shirt all day (except training pants for naptime) so she'd have easy access to the toilet. Then we took her to it every 15 minutes with a timer, giving her a chance to go. Every time she'd successfully use the toilet she'd get a sticker on her chart (one sticker for pee, three for poop), an animal cracker, and a lot of congratulations. In between trips to the toilet, we continuously offered beverages and salty snacks to give her plenty of opportunity to learn to recognize the signs of needing to go. Her favorite way to pass the time that day was of course by having tea parties with REAL WATER. She couldn't get enough of this special turn of events and it worked just fine for me! At the end of the day, she had successfully peed on the potty well over 20 times - and with no accidents! (No sign of any poop though. And my kid is typically pretty regular...)

On Day Two Bugga got to start wearing her new undies, which she was thrilled with. We also did not confine her to the bathroom all day either and tried to get back into our regular routine. We had a couple accidents that day, which was to be expected at this point. But we still moved successfully through her chart and she spent most of the day in a chair in front of her reward shows anyway. And finally, finally after sitting for a loonnnnngggg time on the toilet on the evening of Day Two, reading books to her and keeping her busy, she finally pooped on her target after avoiding the issue for two days. Okay, and we added the incentive of a new Anna dress-up dress (from Frozen, in case you live under a rock). We did more of the same on Day Three.

The long weekend ended, and we went back to our routine as far as leaving the house for activities, school and errands. Bugga kept on with her chart, having very limited accidents. The poop thing was a bit of a struggle for awhile, as she would clearly need to go but would go back and forth between playing and sitting on the potty...and then eventually have an accident. The good thing is she did not like how this felt, and would cry, so I was optimistic we wouldn't have to deal with too much more of this.

After about a week our process evolved to incorporating "Poop Prizes". At this point, Bugga can pee on the potty successfully whenever she needs to, without any accidents. And if she poops without accident, she gets an animal cracker and to pick from a prize basket filled with more undies, books, Frozen paraphernalia, and puzzles. This method clinched her success and now she goes regularly on her own.

Ugh this was a long post. But potty training requires patience just like reading all of the above. And again, only you know your kid and what motivates him or her. If it doesn't take the first time, you can always wait and try again.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Bugga wearing her backpack around the
house because she is "going to school to
eat pizza and read books".
Since my daughter is on the back end of the calendar as far as school start dates go (she was born in November), she gets "extra" time before she officially needs to be enrolled in school. As it is, she has been a sponge for months and months now, and I feel I really need to start teaching her some school skills since she loves what we've done so far. And maybe along the way she will use her parrot act to regurgitate some cool facts, versus just something I said when I didn't think she was listening. Oops.

As I posted recently, we started surrounding Bugga with All Things Alphabet and she loves it. I want to take advantage of this while I can, so I have been researching ways of creating age-appropriate lessons for her to learn more about what each letter looks and sounds like, and how they work with words. She's not quite ready to start using a writing device to draw the letters, but I have found a way to modify the concept to her abilities and still make it fun and educational.

My thought is to focus on one letter per week, and have 7-8 approaches to learning all about that letter. Each week we then choose 5 or so lessons to learn, allowing for a variety. After a month or two, when we have covered several letters, I hope to have lessons that focus on the combination of the previous letters learned to work on word construction.

By doing it this way, I am able to create a lot of the materials in advance so I can just print out what I need or whatever and run with it. Parenting doesn't give you a lot of time to prep, so I needed the tools for the lessons to be quick and easy. This is also useful for short attention spans - my 2-year-old will only watch me setup a project for so long before she no longer cares and would rather play with her Legos.

With regards to creating the materials, I have gathered ideas from many resources, and then ultimately I decided to create my own version so it fits the idea I have in my head. I plan to share these materials as free downloads wherever applicable, so hopefully they can be of some use to other back-of-the-calendar toddlers. 

I'll post the links to the post with the printables as soon as I get them uploaded!

Happy learning!

Sometimes We Don't Relate I Guess

I remember when Bugga was about 7 months old and I was struggling with her sleep regression, waking up with her every night at random times, for 100 different reasons - she was practicing standing, her pacifier fell out of the crib, she had a stuffed up nose...anything. It always seemed to be something. I remember sharing my woes with a friend of mine whose son is about a year older. Her response, "Hmmm, oh well we never had that problem so I can't help. Sorry!" said with an inappropriately cavalier attitude. Guess how much I see this friend since this stellar understanding moment? Yeah, not much.

Was her son always an awesome sleeper? The odds are against it, but sure it's possible. Is that really the point though? The point, at least from my perspective, was to be just the teensiest bit understanding about my situation. I mean, we're both moms right? We've likely read a lot of the same books about parenting and know relatively the same general information about all there is to know about the possibility that our children might have some trouble sleeping at some point. And I was likely mentioning my strife for 30 lousy seconds of commiseration. Commiseration I didn't get.

We just finished a weekend of the initial move to potty train my 2.5 year old daughter. It was a long weekend of never leaving the house, with highs and (really gross) lows but we did make it out the other side. I am happy to say she spent the entire day at preschool today with ZERO accidents - and this is just Day 4.

Anyway, I was reminded of the situation above when I left the house for a lousy hour this past weekend to run some quick errands that included picking up more Frozen and Minnie Mouse underwear that have been helping to motivate my daughter, as well as restocking our supply of several small prizes for her successes. While at the checkout of one of the stores, I get into a conversation with the cashier regarding what I was in the midst of at home (nope, that stash of sequined $1 princess crowns are not for a party actually, but instead are poop rewards - hey you asked), making it pretty obvious that it's been exhausting. No joke, she says, "Ah yes...with my daughter she just put on her underwear one day and that was it. It was great!" Ughhhhhh, seriously?

So what is with the knee-jerk lack of empathy between moms? Is this normal? Has it happened to anyone else?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Alphabet Big AND Little

My older daughter is about 34 months old (we say 2 around here, don't worry, just perspective if you need it) and she is excellent at recognizing and naming her letters. Starting about a year ago we have been surrounding her with "all things alphabet" and she has just SOAKED it all up! Now that we are back in Houston we are spending a lot more time in the car with longer commutes, so we've started playing "find the letters" while we travel. From doing this, I noticed that while Bugga is EXCELLENT at recognizing her capital letters, not so much with the lower-case.

So I'm putting a lot more focus on the lower case now, simply by presenting the "little" letter next to the "big" version whenever we do things letter-related.

For example, recently we worked on a pre-writing skill by using both stickers and dot markers to make the big and small letters (this post coming soon).

I also made letter flash card packets that show pictures that start with a particular letter, presented with both big and little. These are also fantastic for our car rides - I just grab a letter each morning to bring with us. (this post coming soon too!)

I even updated Bug's room design to include the little letters. The way her room is positioned she can stare at her wall alphabet whenever she is awake in her bed (more often than I prefer, but so be it).

This is the "before" room when we still lived in Calgary.

This is the "after" in our Houston home - both letter sizes!

What have you done to help your toddler/preschooler associate both sizes of letters?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Baby Labels: What Do You Name the Kid?

I'm sure you've done it. I know I have. A lot. You meet someone, get introduced, and their name is just...weird. And obviously that is only your opinion, because apparently SOMEONE liked that name in order for this person to own it.

When you are a kid and you name your dolls or your stuffed animals or your Someday Kids, you try on a lot of names to see what you like. By the time you are an adult, you likely have an idea of what your top monikers for babies would be should you get to that point.

Then you meet your future spouse and start to procreate and now have to merge these finalists into just ONE name you agree on (or two or three or however many kids you end up having). Needless to say, it can be near impossible to land on the one word in the world that you both love enough to label your precious offspring.

With our first baby, my husband and I didn't know what gender we were having, so we prepared two lists over the months, deciding in month 9 on first the Girl Name, and then the Boy Name. Although it was harder to agree on names for boys, in hindsight it seemed like it was relatively easy to agree in general.

Baby number two was different for some reason. I don't know if it was the added pressure of having a second child (the sibling names "have to" "go together"), having a second daughter (we can't use our previous boy name list and just be done with it), or what, but I was already past my due date by the time we agreed on a name we both like.

This is literally the list of preferences I put on a name candidate:
* First name 2 syllables, middle name 3 syllables (just like our first child)
* One "girlie" name, the other "not so girlie" (just like the first kid)
* Can't end in "R" (our last name starts with "R")
* First name cannot end with the same letter that which the middle name begins
* Can't end in any variation of "-ley", "ly", "lie", etc. - basically cannot rhyme with our last name (never mind I love all names that end like this)

And this was before we even eliminated names of all of our exes, living family
Seriously? OK, maybe I'm still
scoffing at some names...
 names, and obvious seasonal names (I really wanted Noelle for a middle name for this December 21st baby but husband vetoed it).

I downloaded several name picker apps to my phone and we spent hours going through them. We poured through the cast lists on IMDB looking for something we both loved. We wore out the internet looking up all the First Female Anythings to find a name with history. 

This is where it dawned on me. All the names I had ever thought were "weird" when I first heard them? Not so much! I surprised myself by considering names I might have - and DID - scoff at all those years ago because hearing them now categorized them as "unique" and "modern" and not so bad...maybe. And then you read all the Top Unique and Modern Baby Names lists and see them on there again and then really wonder how unique they can possibly be anyway if they're on a list like that in the first place!

Then there's the realization that everyone having a baby around the same time as us was also looking for a baby name that is something people have heard of, but not well enough that the kid is one of seven in their Kindergarten class. It's a vicious cycle.

At least we decided before the baby appeared. You hear these stories of babies that were in the hospital for days before their parents figured it out. Or they took another few months even, where special paperwork has to be filed! Yikes!

We are probably done having kids, but I'm sure we'll have some pets to name in the future...and one of them might be the perfect candidate for "Coco", "Apple" or "Rocket".

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Nursery Room Reveal

I recently posted the ideas I used for inspiration when putting together my second daughter's nursery. Well, here is how it all turned out!

I ended up using a turquoise, white and silver palette with a baroque/damask (uhhhhyeahhhh to be honest, I don't know the difference!) and butterfly theme (I was unable to choose one or the other so just went with BOTH!). I tried to tie in the design across the different details so it ended up flowing pretty well.

Let me give you a tour!

Starting from the left of the door I put Bella's changing table and the glider that I have had since pregnant with Bugga. The glider doesn't exactly match, but I was not about to buy another glider just to get it to match the room. I toss baby blankets on it all the time anyway. 

Do you know what drove the color? The curtains. I wanted (NEEDED) some quality blackout curtains, and I found an Etsy designer that offered an excessive amount of fabric patterns. This one I found is perfect for what I was looking for. Then, I spray-painted an IKEA mirror to match the turquoise color in the curtains. I also ordered a matching changing table cover and boppy cover from another Etsy store. In between the mirror and the curtains is my burst of butterflies. 

Here is another view that includes the boppy cover - the fabric is super soft.

And perhaps a slightly closer view of my butterfly installation. I like calling it an installation, you know, because I'm a museum-level arteest and all.

I was going for a "just released" effect and love the multiple dimensions of the butterflies since the wings come out from the wall, and they are scattered all over multiple walls and the ceiling.

Moving to the other side of the room, you can see the crib and bookshelf. This will be the second baby to sleep in this crib that I love. I continued the butterfly theme with the butterfly mobile over the crib, and the butterfly framed rhinestone piece on the bookshelf. I found some ornate frames to match the feel of the curtains and the mirror, spray-painting them to match the room, and lucked out finding drawers/doors to work with the IKEA bookshelf, as well as some turquoise toy bins. I also purchased some silver damask decals that run up the wall over the bookshelf, as well as up the wall right next to the door. I made Bugga a pink striped pillow poof so she'd have some place to sit and play while I nurse her little sister in the glider during the day when it's just the three of us at home.

Here's a closer look at the butterfly mobile I made.

And a closer (yet blurry, sorry) picture so you can see the rhinestone detail of the framed butterfly. 

Here's a straight-on view of the bookshelf and the coordinating decor. I painted the frames, and the mats, and modified some prints to fit my vision after seeing a variety all over the internet.

I forgot to take pictures of the closet and door wall, but all that's interesting from that view is the silver damask decal that is slightly different than the one over the bookshelf.

I really enjoyed decorating this room, and I truly enjoy just being in it now - it is so relaxing. I'm also proud of how everything turned out! After all is said and done, I made/customized so much of it myself:
  • the mirror
  • the butterfly installation
  • the striped pillow poof
  • the butterfly mobile
  • the frames, mats and prints
  • the butterfly framed rhinestone art

I hope to post additional details on how I made each of my crafts and will link from here as they become available. And now that we have moved 4 months into Bella's life and I've had to recreate this room in an entirely new house, I will also post updated photos on the variation of the design once I get all of it set back up (and reordered where applicable - darn non-reusable decals!). I hope you enjoyed your tour!

Also, if you want to check out Bugga's 2-year-old room, click here!