Another’s Perspective

Girls at Japanese Garden, Portland, OR

We met some friends at the Japanese Garden today. We got there earlier than they, and took that time to explore on our own. I used to come here regularly before kids, and only once or twice when Chloe was little. It is a lovely place, even in winter. Unfortunately, by the time our friends arrived, Leo was ready to go. However, we stayed for another hour or so, giving the girls time to hang out and enjoy being together. Leo was clingy and wanted holding the entire time. By the end I was ready to just get home.

Before leaving, we decided to exit the garden (no food or drinks allowed), and eat a snack outside the gates. The other mom is a newer friend of mine. She’s done a lot of traveling and living around the world, and married a man from another country. I love hearing about her experiences in other cultures, and I often see, by things she says, how it has informed her perspective.

Anyway, there are two particular instances that stick out in my mind, that I found myself thinking about later. The first is that she remembered to pack her daughter’s snack – a cheese quesadilla, some unpeeled clementines and a water bottle. I, on the other hand, did not consciously pack a snack, instead relying on what I happen to have in my bag for moments like this – a kids Clif bar, which Chloe and Leo shared, packets of organic gummies and two small juice boxes – all pre-packaged from the store. I also wiped my kids hands with a wet wipe and offered one. What do you think? Interesting to see the difference between the snacks, right? While I believe both are perfectly acceptable, I should have known, since my kids didn’t eat much for lunch, that they would be hungry. It was a good reminder to try and pack fresh more often than I do, though our impromptu snack was fine.

The other instance was when we got back to the parking lot. The mom took a peek inside our minivan, behind the kids’ row, and exclaimed “You could have a dance party back there!” It made me laugh, because it’s true (a preschool dance party anyway)! But her comment does put into perspective our choice of vehicle (newer, though we bought it used after David accidentally totaled our last car). I am really happy with it. It is comfortable for our family of four + dog, though it is the biggest car I’ve ever owned. It reminded me how lucky we are to be able to make these choices. From many perspectives, we are truly living the American dream right now. We have more than most. I don’t regret our choices (though I may in the future, and I did miss the AWD of our old vehicle when it snowed here a few weeks back). Looking through the other mom’s eyes was enlightening. It reminded me to be grateful. To be more conscious of my choices and time, and how they affect my children, our budget, and our family.

Sometimes an outside perspective really does work wonders.

Transitions

siblings on the slide

I can say already that this is going to be a weird post. I know I’ve been neglecting this blog and I hope some day to get back into making it a part of my week again, but I’m just not sure when that might be. Its gone through several phases – randomness when I first started in 2006, a mommy blog after I had Chloe in 2008, a craft blog, and now I’m going to make it a personal journal? I don’t know, but I have a lot of things on my mind right now, and I think it might be good for me to share.

I’ll start with what’s likely to be the strangest one…I am having a really hard time accepting the fact that my son is potty trained. At 2 and a half years old, it’s a few months earlier than his sister, and yet everything I had read told me that boys were harder to potty train than girls. Well, that just wasn’t the case. I don’t know if its because we did everything right (read books, gave him opportunities, provided a fun and comfortable potty chair, had his sister encourage him, rewarded him with candy…), but he just decided one day that he was done. As a matter of fact, he might have been done months before that, but I didn’t really pay attention. Maybe he was ready, but I was not. And now, he’s done. No more diapers. Such a big, meaningful milestone…

An image of Leo painting at preschool, sent by his wonderful teacher

Walking the baby aisle at Target made me unexpectedly sad today – to think that I am done with all those things – those symbols of new motherhood. The fact is my baby isn’t a baby anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I am SO proud of him. Even more so because he has overcome some SPD (sensory processing disorder) issues that I thought would make it extra hard for him. For example, his sense of smell is so sensitive that he often literally gags at his own poop. I’ve taken to giving him a piece of clean laundry (like a shirt or towel) to hold up to his nose so he doesn’t have to smell what goes into the potty. Also, he HATES the sound of flushing toilets in public restrooms. Even now that is a problem when he needs to go, but resists entering a women’s restroom, occasionally with kicks and loud protests. But all that didn’t make a difference – he was able to conquer those things enough to successfully potty train, which is, in a nutshell, AWESOME.

kids on scooters

The other thing that is really stressing me out is my oldest entering Kindergarten in the fall. Actually, I have no problem with Kindergarten – she is totally ready, but the question is WHERE. We are on the wait list for a reasonably priced, private kindergarten where I would love to see her go, but the waiting is KILLING me. Because if she doesn’t get in, then she will go to public school, and I am depressed to say that our local public school is rated one of the worst two schools in our entire district. I just don’t feel confident sending her there, at least not for kindergarten, and I am internally freaking out about it. When we moved here we were in a “good” school district (and we still are as far as middle and high school), but I am so scared that Chloe will not get that solid educational foundation that she needs to succeed once she finally gets to middle school. Of course, if I think rationally, I could help support her academically, but mostly, I want her school to be responsible for her education. Isn’t that what school is for? And most of all, I want her to be in a safe, supportive social environment. I want her to have opportunities to be inspired, make lasting friendships… to flourish. But I don’t believe that our public school is that place.

I will say that reading Design Mom’s article about letting her kids go to a public high school in Oakland also rated a 2 out of 10 gave me food for thought. However, I would much prefer a 2 rated high school over a 2 rated elementary school.

If worse comes to worse, and Chloe does not get into a private kindergarten, we will give public school a try. It might be fine. If not, we could try petitioning for a transfer to a different elementary school (although there is no guarantee that a sibling would get in, which means possibly two different schools for the kids). Or, we could move (which would be so hard because we love our little house). Or, I could home school. Of the school-aged families I know on our block alone, two elementary schools are represented and one family home schools. They are each doing what they think is best for their family, and we hope to do the same.

Wish us luck.

This is a sign someone posted to their facebook feed. There wasn’t a link, but it really resonated with me.

Home Project Dreaming

Yellow sliding door

In our imaginary dream home, David would have a 2-car garage, I would have my own office and the kids would have a separate playroom. Our reality, however, is 3 small bedrooms and one small office in about 1500 square feet, and no garage. I’m not complaining. We are lucky to live here. But it doesn’t hurt to dream, right?

With the back addition we did a few years ago, our house lives very well for its size. It morphed from tiny to a smallish medium, with a good flow and partially open floor plan that makes it feel bigger than it actually is. We are mostly comfortable here. It’s easy to access shops, schools, rec centers, libraries and restaurants and I love our neighborhood. But every once in a while I take a peek at the listings on rmls.com to see if something better might be in our price range. Its mostly just curiosity, because I cannot imagine moving. In the 10 years we’ve lived here, I never found a house in our price range that I would choose to move into. It is why the addition made more sense, because we could do it better than what we could find.

Though I can’t transform our simple ranch-style into my glassed-wall dream home, there are a couple of projects I’d hopefully like to accomplish within the next year or so. I’ve been thinking a lot about it, and found a couple pics on Pinterest showing how others have handled these same ideas.

The first is to install a sliding barn door on the wall from the great room that would close off the doorway to the bedroom hallway. It would provide an attractive, architectural-style visual on an otherwise bare wall, and when closed, would provide a sound barrier to the rest of the house and possibly keep the kitchen smells from permeating into the bedrooms. We’d almost always leave it open, but it would be nice to have an option of a door there, when needed.

wooden sliding barn door with arrow styling

The wooden door above is my favorite shape (with the arrow), but I would prefer painting it. David wants to keep it wood, but we have no other matching wood surface or wood trim to make it look cohesive as it does concealing the wooden paneled mud room in the photo. David suggested leaving ours wood for a while, which we’ll likely do, but I feel like I’ll constantly be itching to paint it something bold.

white painted sliding barn door

sliding barn door, silver hardware

Red painted sliding barn door

The samples above show a black and a silver versions of the sliding hardware. Both would work in our home, but my gut says black. See more sliding barn door examples here.

wall to wall besta ikea cabinets

besta ikea shelves living room

wall to wall besta ikea cabinets

Another project that would make a big difference is to install wall-to-wall Besta cabinets underneath the back windows of the great room. One thing we always need is more storage space (I’d love to do something similar in the hallway nook as well, but that would be later on down the road). Ideally, they would look “built-in” so the plain walls of the room would have more structure and interest.

There are actually many more projects on our to-do (eventually) list – kitchen countertops, improved landscaping, new driveway – but those are larger ticket items that will have to wait.

How about you? Do you have any big or small home projects you hope to accomplish during the coming year or beyond?

Personalized pet tags work as identification on children, too.

Engraved cat tag from Petsmart on child's shoe as ID

With lots of holiday traveling coming up for many families, I thought I’d repost something I shared on a facebook group. I never really had to worry about this with my daughter (of course, there was only one child to watch back then), but my son will inexplicably decide to bolt away while we’re out shopping or running errands. This little piece of identification could make all the difference.

There was some discussion on here recently about name tags and ID bracelets and I thought I’d share this little tag. Despite the close-up pic, it is a small, featherweight cat tag on size 8 toddler shoes. There are many sizes and shapes. It cost $7.50 at Petsmart and I was able to make it in about 2 minutes. The front shows his name and the back holds up to four lines of text. This is what I included on the back:

Born: June 2011
Mom: xxx-xxx-xxxx
Dad: xxx-xxx-xxxx
Our City and State

These are velcro shoes, but if they were lace-up I’d probably put it on the front. It would also work well as a jacket zipper pull. From what I hear, all emergency personnel are trained to look at shoes and clothing for ID on a child. I don’t expect to ever lose my son, but just in case, this is a handy little piece of ID.

With four lines of text available on the back, there is plenty of room for health/allergy information as well as contact and identifying information. Plus it is a much cheaper alternative to the classic medical indication jewelry (and not as bothersome for little wrists or necks not used to wearing jewelry).

 

Chloe’s 5th (Painting & Art) Birthday Party!

Chloe's painting art birthday party
Chloe’s 5th birthday party was a success! We hosted 16 kids plus their parents, and even now I find it remarkable that everyone seemed to fit in our home without seeming crazy crowded. Chloe loved having all her friends over and the 5 “art stations” seemed to entertain and engage the kids, despite a span of ages. They could choose what they wanted to do, when they wanted to do it (and I was secretly glad to not have to organize any group games). And when party goers were done with craft projects they were free to roam outside to the sand table and play structure, or into Chloe’s room for dress-up, or Leo’s room for trucks and train table. It was great!

I didn’t take as many photos as usual, but here are a few shots snapped with my phone to show a little of our setup:

painting and art party table

Our main dining table was Station #1, painting. Each place had a set of (washable) watercolors (from this Crayola 24ct setcomes with 3 individual sets of 6 colors), a paintbrush, a bowl of water and a piece of watercolor paper set up for the kids to make their masterpieces.

Art party station play-doh

Station #2 was a Play-Doh table. I purchased a 24ct pack of rainbow Play-Doh and set out our rolling/cutting play tools. The colors were vibrant and lots of fun to mix and mash.

art party collage table

Station #3 was a collage table. I set out our collection of decorative edged scissors, stickers, colored glue sticks and a variety of paper for the kids to craft up a storm.

art party cookie decorating table

Station #4 was a decorate-your-own-cookie project. I originally saw this idea on Green Owl Art and decided it was perfect for little hands. I cut out cardboard circles as well as foam “icing” and purchased the same collection of stickers from Michaels. Easy to do and with really cute results.

Melissa And Doug wooden stringing beads and bead bouquet
Station #5 held wooden beads to make beaded bracelets. It included a set of Melissa and Doug Deluxe Wooden Stringing Beads set and the Melissa and Doug Bead Bouquet set. I think the kids really liked being able to include their names on their bracelets and the Bead Bouquet set had a nice variety of shaped and painted beads. I cut each necklace-length cord into 3 equal pieces (singeing the severed ends with a lighter so they wouldn’t unravel), so that every attendee could make at least one bracelet. Since the kits didn’t come with enough closure beads I supplemented them with lanyard snaps.

art rainbow party table snack decoration crepe paper streamers

Besides the snack table backdrop, the only other “decorating” we had time for that morning (besides balloons) was to line the pass-through from the living room to the kitchen with rainbow-colored crepe paper streamers as we have in the past. Young kids love to run through them and watch them flutter back into place. Plus they really give a visual bang for the buck, which is always nice. The snack table itself held a little less than usual since two of our young guests have severe food allergies. Good thing their moms are such avid ingredient readers, as I overlooked a detail even though I was trying to be careful.

Overall, this party was the perfect blend of what Chloe wanted to do to and the amount of effort I wanted to put into the planning and details. I sometimes wonder if I don’t do enough (or if I do too much), but this one felt just about right. There is no doubt that Chloe loved every minute. Afterwards, I received several sweet and heart warming comments and emails from moms who really thought it was a terrific time. Pretty much the best any mom could ask for. 🙂

P.S. To make it easy on myself I linked to the products above on Amazon, but purchased almost everything locally. For example the Play-Doh came from Target and the best price on the Melissa and Doug beads came from Home Goods.

Elmer's colored glue sticks best price

I also found a few things at Dollar Tree, which is always worth checking before a party. I purchased the left set of Elmer’s Colored Glue Sticks
at Dollar Tree for $1, but then saw them a few days later at Michaels retailing for $5.99. Sometimes it pays to shop around!

Party Planning

Planning a painting art craft party

My little girl is turning 5 in less than a week! The older she gets the more she has her own opinions of what she wants to do to celebrate. A while back she mentioned a rainbow party. I remember thinking ‘Fun! I can do that!’ Then she said she wanted to paint with all her friends, and it morphed into a painting/craft party (with the same rainbow cake as last year, per her request). Earlier this week she said she wanted a fairy party, but by then I had already stocked up on watercolor sets and paint brushes, as well as other crafting materials (and to be honest, I have no idea how to throw a fairy party or how we’d incorporate boys). Either way, I know Chloe is very much looking forward to having her friends over and having a good time!

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this event – trying to stay within a reasonable budget, keeping the amount of decorating manageable but festive, planning varied and age-appropriate projects to suit different levels of interests and abilities, and most importantly of all: keeping in mind that this party is for Chloe to enjoy.

It is all too easy to fall into the stress of making a party “perfect” and feeling the pressure to impress other people. Its happened to me before, and still does to some extent. I’ve had to remind myself that this is for Chloe. Will she like this activity? Will this be fun for her preschool friends? But ultimately, I want the parents to enjoy being at the party as well. Socializing is all well and good, but its even better if the parents can participate in the fun.

Lastly, I’ve asked myself “How much cleaning up do we really want to do after the party’s over?” I am under no illusions about what might happen while hosting a painting/craft party with little ones involved. It is risky business any way you look at it. Mainly I tried to choose “washable” options and was careful to steer clear of anything involving glitter. The husband hates to see glitter on the floor, which is hard since Chloe loves “princess-y” things and has been gifted glittery clothes and toys which often leave a trail of sparkles behind.

So, that’s that! It’s going to be the largest gathering that we’ve ever hosted at the house, even though I tried to keep the guest list down as best I could. I just hope that everyone has a good time, and that Chloe feels the love of having her family and friends here to celebrate her big day.

More details to come after the party!

A conversation with Chloe about little girls and underwear

Chloe: I have to put on pants. (After being sent inside by her dad).
Me: Yes, I can see that. Was anyone else outside running around showing their underwear?
Chloe: No. But boys can be outside without their shirts on. (Thoughtful pause) It’s confusing.
Me: You’re right. (Big hug). It IS confusing.


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Other Things I Make