Sunday, August 28, 2011

Old House Revival Priorities

We bought a beautiful house that's nearly a century old and has much work that needs to be done. In reviving* our new house, in fact, there's so much to be done that it can't all be done at once, so we're having to really decide what should be done in which order. And since this is my first house, I don't really know what I'm doing, but I'm trying to ask advice of more experienced relatives and do as much research as I can on design blogs and the This Old House website and books from the library. So right now what I'm thinking is:

Safe and Clean
Obviously making sure everything is safe and clean so the toddler can have free license to explore the new digs is the number one priority.

"Public Spaces"
My next goal is to (as much as possible anyway) make the main floor of my house pretty because that is the part of the house company will see when they come over. I also count the exterior in that, but probably won't do much with that beyond trimming back weeds etc. until spring due to weather.

Most Used Spaces
Once that's taken care of, I'll move on to spaces that are more private, but used often, like our bedroom and bathroom. We'll make sure they're safe and clean right away, but then eventually will work on making them awesome and decorated to suit our tastes.

Other Spaces
We won't really need to use our attic or basement right away, but it would be nice to eventually finish them nicely and decorate them and stuff once the other areas are taken care of.

How do you decide which household projects to tackle first?

*I checked out a book called Reviving Old Houses the other day from my local library and loved the term the author coined and his explanation of why-I agree totally that the goal should be to show off the things that are beautiful about your features, but update the things that are not beautiful or no longer functional. It's not a museum after all, but a home.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Weightless Book Review

I've been a fan of Kate Wicker's blog for a while now--ever since I stumbled upon it during a natural parenting blog carnival we were both participating. So I was thrilled to have a chance to review her new book, Weightless through the Catholic Company's reviewer program.

What it is:
In Weightless, Wicker discusses how her Catholic faith has helped her overcome her body image issues including eating disorders and offers tools for women to use to help embrace their own bodies--just the way God made them. In her own words,
Weightless is not only for women like me who have faced an eating disorder, but for any woman who is trying to spackle God-shaped holes with thinness, physical beauty, youth, or food.


Favorite Quote:

Imagine God appearing to you at this very moment and handing you a beautiful, tangible gift-let's say a lovely crystal vase. Would you not do everything you could to keep it clean, untarnished, and sparkling? Would you not add sprigs of greenery and blossoms to make it even more magnificent? You'd surely place it in a prominent place, and every time you saw it, you would be struck by its beauty and be reminded that it was a gift from your heavenly Father.
We should treat our bodies with the same care and admiration.


Pros:
  • Uplifting
  • Well-written
  • Great combination of personal anecdotes, statistics, Bible verses and quotes from spritual leaders like saints and Popes

Cons:
  • Narrow focus may make some portions uninteresting or uninspiring to readers who can't relate (i.e. readers who aren't moms or who aren't Catholic)
  • Short length...I want more Kate Wicker!!

The Bottom Line:

Weightless is a great book that I highly recommend for any Catholic woman who is struggling with body images and/or self-esteem. While it's no replacement for professional treatment in the case of serious eating disorders, it is like having a friend you can turn to anytime, who knows what you've gone through and wants to remind you how much God loves you. I think Weightless would be a great book choice for any Catholic women's book groups comprised of women college-aged or above, and especially for a mother's group.


This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Weightless - Making peace with your body. They are also a great source for a Catechism of the Catholic Church or a Catholic Bible. I received a free copy of this book from The Catholic Company for review purposes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Moving

We're moving soon so I've been busy lately with preparations from that. I'm not too worried about packing and setting up utilities and all that (although we are working on it!) My biggest concern is the huge adjustment for my 2 year old son. He's a pretty smart, sensitive little guy and I know it'll be a big deal for him. So far, some ideas I've come up with to ease the transition are:

Pic by Robert S. Donovan via Flickr
Create Routine

We've recently gotten him into a somewhat elaborate bedtime routine of toothhbrushing, jammies (after toothbrushing since he sometimes gets a bit damp from the brushing!), bedtime story, prayers, then sleep. I'm hoping that by having a fairly set routine, we can then do the same routine in the new place and that will help him feel at ease

Favorite Things

When we move, I'm going to grab his favorite things-his favorite stuffed animal, favorite bedtime story, etc and make sure they're in a specially designated bag that comes into the house first thing. We're also going to put a wooden cross that we currently keep above our bed in that bag and my husband will hang it over our bed before we go to sleep the first night.

Don't Push Other Changes

We are getting to the point that we anticipate breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and diapering all coming to an end soon, but we aren't really pushing it right now because I think the stress of all those changes plus moving at once would be too much for him to handle gracefully. So while we're not trying to get him to nurse more and we are still leaving the potty seat out available for his use, we aren't actively trying to get him to change his current behaviors on any of those issues yet.

New Fun

Besides new space to explore, we also have some fun surprises like a sandbox (courtesy of Grandma) planned for the new house to help shift the balance in favor of being different-but-good instead of different-therefore-bad.

What are your best tips for helping toddlers get used to moving to and living in a new house?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Felt Crinkle Fries Tutorial

This tutorial was originally posted in May 2011. So far, the fries are holding up well to vigorous toddler play :)



As a newbie to felt food making, I've been trying to start with foods my son loves. And as much as I'd love to pretend that's quinoa with eggplant & brussel sprouts, he wouldn't recognize any of those things even if I managed to make the awesomest felt food versions of them known to man. So instead I've got some fruit, a sandwich, an egg (not too terrible nutritionally so far, right?) and now...crinkle fries. We don't have them all that often, but when we do, my son gobbles them up. But all the fry patterns/tutorials I found were kind of lame 2D renditions (maybe they're supposed to be smushed McDonald's fries?), so I had to come up with my own. And when I showed him the first felt fry I finished, he was super excited and clearly recognized it. So if your kid is a fellow french fry lover, give this a go!

Materials:
Yellow felt (one sheet of felt should easily make 8-10 fries)
Matching embroidery floss.
Stuffing of your choice

How-To Make It:
1.) Cut out 4 rectangles of yellow felt for each fry you'd like to make. They all need to be the same length (mine were about 3 inches long), but I think it looks cute to have the two side pieces narrower than the top & bottom of the fry. The important thing is that the top & bottom are identical and the two sides are identical.

2.) Use blanket stitch* (or whipstitch if you'd prefer non-crinkle fries) to attach the four pieces together to make a rectangular felt tunnel.

3.) Cut two small squares of felt to fit the ends of your fry (I just stood the fry-tunnel up on the felt to figure it out. If you prefer measuring, the end pieces should have two sides the same width as the long top of the fry & two sizes the width of the long side pieces.)

4.) Attach one end piece, then stuff the fry with poly-fil, wool stuffing, felt scraps, or whatever else you'd like. A pencil or stick might be helpful for shoving the stuffing way down in.

5.) Sew on the other end piece. If you want non-crinkle fries, you can stop here!

6.) This is the slightly tricky part. Thread yellow embroidery floss on to your needle and loop it around the fry, going underneath the thread at each seam but not into the felt.

7.) When your loop is back where it started, pull it really tight and quickly secure it (I used a small knot incorporating the seam I started from.) This is your first crinkle! Repeat this process 3-4 more times until you're happy with the number of crinkles.




8.) If you're making these fries for someone who still chews toys (or whose younger sibling does), I'd recommend sewing several fries together in little clumps to reduce the choking hazard. (I think we've all had fries stick together like this for real, so I don't think it ruins the realisticness at all.)




Voila! French fries.
Bon Appetit!

*I linked to a fabulous video from Bari J of We Love French Knots in case you don't know how to do blanket stitch yet

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How to Deal with a Diaper-Change Houdini

Ahh my little squirmonster. As a rookie mom, I never saw the diaper change escapism coming. But oh, it came. When my son could roll over, he tried to roll over mid-diaper change. When he learned to crawl, he'd crawl away as I turned to open the diaper cream. And now? Well we've mostly got him trained to lay down on command, but there are still days you can find my toddler squealing while running bare-bunned across the room.
Here's what I'll do differently next time:

pic by Spigoo via Flickr Creative Commons
Nip it in the Bud

Not expecting it (don't babies want to get that poop and moisture off of them?!?), I didn't react firmly to my son's initial attempts to Houdini his way out of a diaper change. I think I probably giggled the first couple of times it happened. Next baby, I'll be sure to respond more firmly and make it clear mommy doesn't think that's funny.

Distract

I'll also make more of an effort next time to make sure the baby has a toy or something to entertain themself with while I do the dirty work. I once saw a mom with a slightly younger squirmonster attempting to escape his diaper change at the end of a LaLecheLeague monster and promptly pulled out one of my son's toys and let the other baby play with it. He was entranced and the mom relieved. It doesn't always work, but when it does, it's so nice!

Prep Well

As I mentioned earlier, sometimes I'd need both hands to open the diaper cream, leaving my son unencumbered in his escape attempts. Now I know better. I open the diaper cream before laying him down to change him. I also pull out a handful of wipes if there's poo in the diaper, and I unfold the diaper so it's ready to go. Doing all that stuff ahead of time doesn't take any longer, but it sure makes the amount of time I need the baby to lay still on the floor/bed/changing table a lot shorter!

Speed it Up

This is one that's tough for me. I didn't have much baby experience before having my son and I'm a sort of slow diaper changer. But I know I have to make a conscious effort to go fast so that it doesn't take longer than the time he's willing to lay there (obviously this doesn't always work if it's a big messy diaper, but for standard pee-only ones this is my strategy) Another way to speed things up is to use smart tools, like new Huggies Slip-On diapers. I haven't had a chance to try them yet, but we have used Huggies Pull-Ups and it's amazing how much faster you can change somene small and squirmy when you don't have to mess with those annoying tabs (which I always seem to rip when I used any brand other than Huggies and then have to start all over with a new diaper! Ugh!)

So that's my game plan for smoother diaper changes next time I have a new baby. What are your best strategies for dealing with a squirmy baby during diaper changes?

I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Huggies blogging program, for a gift card worth $35. For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Decorating a New House!

We're getting ready to move and here's what I'm thinking as a color scheme for my new house:


"Billiard Table" and "Fresco Cream" actually match existing tile in the house and I don't plan on painting anything those colors.

For my son's room I'm thinking "Garland" along with this fabric, Zoology in the bright colorway. I actually won a yard of fabric from Sew, Mama Sew! a few weeks ago and this was my pick. I'm thinking a dark red sheet paired will a pillow or two made from the zoology fabric plus the green walls will be really cool (I hope!)


And I'm considering this fabric from Jo-Ann's for some window valances in the laundry room (Yay main-floor laundry!!) or playroom/family room. It matched the paint colors (I brought my paint chips, lol) in the fabric store much better than on the screen. I'll do sheer curtains most of the rest of the house.

What do you think?? Know of any other great fabrics that would go well with these colors?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dog Days of Summer

These are the days of summer when I start wishing summer was over. As the weeks drag on of weather so blisteringly hot I don't feel safe taking my toddler out during most of the daylight hours, I just get tired of it. But I'm trying to still make summer fun for my son, so here are some of the best ideas I've come up with on my own or gleaned from more experienced moms for making the best of the dog days of summer:

Eat Out
Eating lunch (or breakfast...or dinner...or a snack!) outside is an exciting idea to most kids, yet has a clear ending time (when you're done eating of course!) so you don't then feel obliged to stay outside all day long on days it may really be too warm to do so. Find a shady tree and spread out a blanket and some simple foods and you're all set. For added fun, make it a teddy bear picnic (or just stuffed animals in general) and/or invite friends over to join in your picnicking adventure. Don't forget drinks-hydration is key when the mercury is high!

Get Wet
While swimming in the pool is the most obvious wet summer fun option, most pools are not well shaded and on the worst heat days, can be too sunny to be safe for kids for more than a couple minutes. Instead, try playing with some combination of sprinklers, hoses, water guns, water balloons, baby pools, and slip & slides placed in some shady grass. That way you get all the wet fun without the bummer burn.

Exercise Early
Taking a long walk with your strollers, trikes, bikes, and rollerblades can still be an option on triple digit days, but you have to think smart about when is the best time to go, and that may mean waking up early. Wake your kids up early to go do something fun and outdoorsy, and let them nap in the warmth of midday to make up for it if they are the type who will (if they're the type who'll refuse the makeup nap and be grumpy all day, forget I said anything).

Window Shop
Another walk option is to go somewhere indoors other than your house. Walk around the mall or a big store like Wal-Mart or Costco. During the summer, I've been intentionally shopping in bits and pieces instead of buying everything all at once because it makes such a huge difference in my son's mood if we get out and walk somewhere for an hour or two on days too warm to be outside and I personally feel bad not purchasing anything (although I don't think there are rules that you must purchase things in order to walk around most stores). You can also combine this with the "walking early" idea, like the morning we walked to the grocery store and bought two donuts, then ate them as we walked home!

Indoor Surprises
It can also make too-hot days more pleasant to intentionally make indoors more fun by having special surprises. Try making homemade playdough, teaching your kids a new craft, building forts from cardboard boxes, make sock puppets, or do something else silly that they don't get to do everyday.

How do you keep your kids entertained and cool on days when it's too hot outside? How hot is too hot for your family?