Friday, November 22, 2013

Tis the Season...

(and the anniversary) for thankfulness. Not just in

but also in

I'm devoting it all to my wonder girl this week.

When Maggie was first diagnosed, it helped...not at all. We were told what part of Maggie's genetic make-up was atypical and then that, basically, they didn't have any more information for us. They couldn't offer any predictions for her future, and they couldn't connect us with anyone with a similar child. Don't get me wrong, I actually loved the doctors we worked with, but there just isn't much information out there.

Eventually, I was able to use a skill with Maggie that I had developed as a teacher. I had to let go of all preconceived notions of child development and take Maggie exactly as she was. If other 18 month olds were talking, I couldn't even let that expectation even enter my mind for Maggie. (Unless she was showing signs of talking, of course, but she wasn't.) I had to let go of the idea that I could somehow advance the rate of her development and growth through education and exposure. And the pressure of my own anxiety, of course.

Maggie, and every child I've ever taught, moves at his or her own pace. I'm not saying education and exposure aren't important (because they are vitally important); I'm saying that they're not enough to change a child's natural developmental pace. The pace must be respected. There has to be some sort of glimmer, some sort of sign that the child is ready to learn a new skill, or it's a waste of everyone's time. And detrimental. Once that glimmer is there, though, go to it, have at it, hammer away!

I'm not actually saying I'm any good at this. Definitely not all the time. I have my moments.

Maggie's physical therapist (whose son I actually taught and who became a good friend) once said, "Sarah, she is learning. That's what's important." Even if the learning is behind the typical schedule, there is still learning going on. And, what I've found is, in time, Maggie ends up doing all the things other kids do. Just later. And, I have to think, so much sweeter for the wait. :)

I am thankful this week and always Maggie and her distinct personality:

1. Just barely hearing whispered phrases like, "And does it not seem hard to you, when all the sky is clear and blue..." as she "reads" A Child's Garden of Verses.

2. Proving me wrong at the gymnastics studio after I told the instructor over and over that she would be nervous and probably not want to try out the equipment. She tried it all, almost without any hesitation.

3. Greeting visitors in our home or neighbors walking their dogs not terribly gracefully, but very politely, "What is your name?"

4. Hearing from her teacher that Maggie has a compliment for her (the teacher) every day. She might say, "That's a pretty pink shirt you are wearing." And then follow the compliment with a request for one herself:
"Did you see my blowm (brown) boots?"
"Do you like my pink star pants?"
"Did you see my timpint (Christmas) tree bow?"

5. Hearing, "MAGGIE DO IT!" when I absent-mindedly start a task (such as cutting or gluing) she considers her own.

6. Her great love of tracing letters and shapes.

7. Participating in conversations like this one while searching for a place to park in a parking garage:


Birds of a pattern-mixing feather
Maggie: I smell your air, Mama.
Me: My air? What does it smell like?
Maggie: Like fire, Mama. I am a parking place, Mama.
Me: A parking place, huh?
Maggie: I am a train, Mama.

or this one on a walk:

Maggie: I want to go home, Mama. My feet are davy (very) dizzy.
Me: Your feet are tired?
Maggie: Yes, my feet are davy dizzy.

8. Seeing her personality blossom in her fashion choices. OK, personal fashion preference may not be the most important of all skills I want to cultivate, but for a girl who is SO MUCH like her daddy, I love any kind of connection we share.

9. Seeing her teachers' confused faces when I asked about Maggie's timidity and anxiety level when she is at school. They've never seen her act timid or anxious. And hearing that they think she'd be better suited to the inclusion class, and they'd like to schedule an IEP meeting to move her to said class.

10. Dry nights!

Now hop on over to you TToT hosts (A Fly on our (Chicken Coop) Wall, Considerings, Finding Ninee, Getting Literal, Home On Deranged, I can say mama, I Want Backsies, Rewritten, Thankful Me, The Wakefield Doctrine) or FTSF hosts (Janine, Kate, Stephanie, or Kristi) and read more!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Turkey is a Silly Bird

Does anyone else watch Miss Nina? A year ago (or maybe two?) her weekly video featured a turkey song to the tune of Pop! Goes the Weasel:

The turkey is a silly bird;
His head goes wobble, wobble.
And all he knows is ju-ust one word:
Gobble, gobble, gobble!

Simple and rather silly, but it has remained a favorite in our household, and it is once again seasonal. And it was the inspiration for our Thanksgiving cards this year.

This is such a great activity for preschoolers and any mamas who don't want to put together anything too intricate (Beth or Kristi). All you really need is colored paper, coffee filters, and food coloring or markers.

In all my Pinterest browsing, I discovered one way to decorate coffee filters is to color them in washable marker and then spray them down with water. That didn't work so well for us. Maggie was only willing to color in about 1/1000 of the coffee filter, and so we didn't get much design. I only mention it in case someone wants to try this without food coloring.

Food coloring and the fine motor benefits of using squeeze bottles was the best route for us. And since we're not deterred by tail feathers in inauthentic colors, we used all four colors. According to Maggie, our turkeys have "rainbow tails." I think it helps to spray the coffee filters with water after food coloring application. It spread out the colors a bit more and helps them run together.

Two pieces of advice here:

1. The coffee filters actually dry much better on parchment paper. 

2. Be careful with your toddler while these are drying. He might think he can ingest them. Food coloring can't be healthy. And it stains skin.

 After we had dry turkey tails, I scalloped the edges and gathered them together with some hot glue.

We used the paper, ribbons, pipe cleaners, etc. we had on hand to decorate the cards. And traced inside messages, of course.

"I drew a picture of you, Mama. See your curly hair?"
Relinquishing control of these projects is always a bit of a challenge for me, I am sad to say. Not my best parenting trait. BUT, I think we've come up with a pretty good system. We run through our supplies first and choose what we will include (mostly me, but some her). And then she gets creative control over which materials are used for which card. I sometimes make suggestions such as using ribbon for borders or pipe cleaners for legs, but she has veto power. And she always gets first dibs on cutting and gluing work unless it's hot glue.

By the way, both my children have insisted on learning the hard way that the hot glue gun is indeed hot. I think they've internalized the concept now, though.

Oh, and here's our first version using a toilet paper roll. It's pretty flimsy and tends to fall of the mantel, which is why it's a little worse for wear. The youngest member of our family is hell-bent on destruction sometimes.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ten Things of Thankful: The Second

I was born in Texas, and most of my family still lives there. Part of my heart will always belong to Texas. Also, I lived in Asheville, NC from 2005 to 2012 and loved it. I loved Asheville; I loved it to the point that I still can't let myself think too much about how much I miss it because it's just too painful. Brian and I were married there, and both our children were born there. Culturally, geographically, size-wise, and career-wise, it was a perfect fit of a town for me, and I miss it. Oh, how I miss it.

Beautiful, isn't it? source

During the summer of 2012, after a sad and difficult series of events, we finally came to terms with the fact that we had to leave Asheville. To go where? Well, I cast my vote for TX. But that's not where we ended up. Instead, we ended up in Montgomery County, Maryland. It was a hard move for me. It's the north, as far as I'm concerned (I don't want to hear any nonsense about the Mason-Dixon line--this is the NORTH), and I'm a southern girl. Plus, we're near my in-laws, not near my parents. Nothing against my in-laws here, it was just not the direction I wanted to head.

We sold our house in Asheville just about exactly one year ago. I arrived in Maryland with our two kids, and our family commenced living with my in-laws for five months. Oh. my.

But, BUT, it hasn't been a terrible thing. In some ways, where we live now is a wonderful place for our family and its needs. We did finally find a house of our own. So, in honor of TToT, I am going to find ten things I can be thankful about in our move to Montgomery County, MD. Welcome to my culture shock.

1. All I have to do is rake the leaves to the curb and a truck comes by and mulches those suckers right up! What? WHAT?!?! I've never heard of such service! I try to remember service like this when I see our tax bill (which I never do because I don't pay the bills, so I just try to remember this when I imagine how high our tax bill is).

2. My four-year-old daughter qualifies for half-day pre-K free because of her special needs. A bus for just the students in her class comes to our house every school day to pick her up and drop her off. There is a driver and an aide and a five-point harness for each student. Again, those taxes. But, yay!

3. Listservs are big around here. It seems most neighborhoods have them, including our own. Many people in our neighborhood are living so comfortably they would rather give things away than have to cart them away themselves. We have scored a soaker hose, about 20 ceramic pots, a pile of classic children's books, a plush black cat (who played Edwin to Maggie's Olivia) among other bits and pieces. We pass up the large furniture items like couches and desks. Seriously, it's a scavenger's dream around here.

4. Proximity to a Costco. Because doesn't everyone need a piece of beef this large?

5. And while we're on the grocery shopping topic, there's Trader Joe's and its chocolate, to which we are all addicted. 

6. It's no secret that I'd prefer to live near my parents than Brian's; they're my parents, after all. But we do get free babysitting. We try not to take advantage of it very often, but free babysitting is a priceless treasure.

7. There are a lot of parks and libraries around here. And they're nice ones, too.

8. Public transit. People love to hate on the DC Metro, but for someone who's never lived in an area with reliable and frequent public transit, it's sooooo cool. And for my kids, riding the Metro is an adventure itself.

And the two biggies:

9. Brian has a job he enjoys at which he also excels. He admires his colleagues and receives positive feedback from his bosses. He is able to continue working with the neediest of needy students as he feels called to do and is able to see that the work he does with them is making a difference.

10. And, while this is unusual for such as expensive place to live as this, we can afford for me to stay home. I am a more patient mother, more cheerful spouse, and a happier person overall when I have less on my plate (or, rather, when I am the one deciding what exactly is on my plate). Leaving the house and interacting with people takes it out of me. A slower pace and less human interaction allows me to put more energy into building my parenting skills and taking care of all that stuff that has to get done when you're a homeowner. And blogging, of course.

So, not a bad situation at all.

Ten Things of Thankful

Your hosts

Thursday, November 14, 2013

What Would You Do For A Frances Book?

I hear in my head that title sung to the Klondike bar jingle. So, if you would please, "What would you do-o-o...for a Frances book?"

Around here, you're willing to not peepee in your night-night diaper (what kind of language have I descended to?) in the morning, and instead take it off, use the potty, and put on clean panties. Whereas daytime potty-training is no longer a skill we need to practice, I've been lazy about nighttime. Lately, though, I've discovered that her diaper is dry until she wakes up in the morning, and then she'd rather pee in her diaper than get out of bed. Hmmm...time to move forward.

Note copious exclamation points

We created this chart last week. One more chance for Maggie to happily practice her tracing skills. She got to choose her prize, and she chose Bread and Jam for Frances. When I feel down about my parenting skills in the future, I am going to try to remember that my child chose a classic children's book for her behavior chart prize. But does anyone know who sells the full version of this book? I don't want the I Can Read version that amazon sells.

So far, we're a week in, and she has two stars. It's progress. Of a sort.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

(Re)Purpose Your Kids' Artwork Into Handmade Cards...and lots of fall art projects for kiddoes

Do you ever feel you're drowning in children's artwork? It's precious, of course it is, but there is just. so. much. of. it. It can't all be displayed, and it can't all be kept (I have anti-hoarding tendencies).

The prettiest projects that come home from school get displayed on the yarn and binder clip clothesline I rigged up. Then when some new art project shows up, we hang it up in place of an older piece which then moves to the keepsake box in the basement (or the recycle bin).

Technically, this will be wrapping paper. But the same idea.
But what about all the home projects? Some get granted spots of the clothesline, but most of it I promptly repurpose into a card. Actually, at this point, when Maggie wants to get out the markers and paint, I start thinking about what birthdays and holidays are approaching and how we'll turn her latest masterpiece into a birthday or holiday card. It's really a fabulous system because we can show off and share her artistic work and then...get it out of the house.

These are a little out-of-date now, but here are some of our Halloween cards:

And a recent birthday card:

And a thank you card:

Bonus use for Do-A-Dot markers

And the inside gives Maggie a chance to practice her very favorite skill of tracing letters. Win win!

Next up? Thanksgiving turkeys. I'm thinking coffee filter and markers for the tails.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Ten Things of Thankful: The First

I have to say that the ladies to participate in FTSF and TTOT are really appealing people. I'm a little slow to join this party, but I love, love, love the idea of finding ten things to be thankful about no matter how rotten things are. Now things aren't rotten around here, but it's a good exercise at any time. So...

NUMBER ONE: MY MAMA. Today is my mama's birthday, and though my children refused to speak to her on the phone this morning, she is the grandparent they connect most to, probably because she never hesitates to roll around on the floor with them and lets them run the show (within reasonable limits). She's Montessori Nona, and we all love her to pieces.

I had one of those days that was productive yet pleasant. I got a lot done, but I never felt rushed or stressed. I started the day with this enormous accomplishment:

That's fourteen pairs of shoes, I'll have you know!

Can I say that I enjoy polishing shoes? It gives me such a sense of satisfaction after very little time and energy. And today, I had a fire in the fireplace, new shoe polish, and children willing to self-entertain. Brian kept saying, "You polished all my shoes? They look completely different! Wow, you polished all my shoes?" Add the gratitude of one's spouse to the list.

Maggie was also completely charming. She tried on my brown heels and told me they looked like an elephant (heel-->trunk). She also excitedly announced to Brian, "Daddy, come see the new tuh-nail polish we got you!" To Maggie, all polish is tuh-nail polish. Nevermind if it is for shoes or that her daddy does not actually paint his toenails.

Someday I will own a box like this. How cool is this? I know you all want one, too.

Until you have more than one child, you do not know the joy and relaxation of running an errand with only one. It's actually a fabulous bonding time. Our local craft store was running some huge sales, and I had a big coupon so we went out and had a girl-only shopping trip. We sang along with the store radio and danced in the aisles. Maggie got the ride in the basket, big girl though she is. We had a fabulous time.

Our haul--stay tuned for how it will be used.
That's nine (count 'em). Number ten? Pancakes and bacon for supper. Nothing better than brinner!

Check out hosts

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Little Man in the Toilet

When I was a little kid, I thought...a little man lived in the toilet and, um...disposed...of the waste you left there.

Yep, I pictured him as a garden gnome. Not scary at all. (source)

Where did I get such a crazy idea? From my crazy dad. When I asked him where everything went when you flushed, he told me there was a little man who lived in the toilet and ate (shudder) it all. Not sure how old I was at the time, but I was young enough to swallow (sorry) this story. Which, sadly, could mean I wasn't that young (insert joke here).

What I do know is that long after I realized he had been making a joke, I continued to fear using the bathroom in the dark. I wouldn't be able to see any signs of the little man! It wasn't that easy to use it during the daytime either; I always checked carefully before sitting down. Rationally, I knew my worry was absurd, but I never sat down without thinking the little man might...wait for it...pop up and pinch me on the hiney.

The good news is I no longer check the toilet bowl for signs of the little man lying in wait for my bare hiney to present itself. Here's to conquering childhood fears!

Now, go read some other FTSF posts found on hosts, Kristi's, Janine's, Kate's, and Stephanie's blogs.

Frugal Decorating: Cranberries for the Holidays

I've decided to add a new label to my blog: Frugal Decorating. I can't be the only SAHM out there who can't afford to put together the decorations and displays seen around Google+ and Pinterest. And I know I'm not the only one who chooses to reuse and repurpose for more than economical reasons.

But, at this time of year it's fun to put up holiday decorations, and I'm always on the look out for inspiration on how to do so cheaply. My plan is to highlight decorating ideas that require little to no expenditure (of money, that is). And, as always, if you can get a preschooler involved, that's a plus.

Cranberries are so pretty. And so closely tied to fall and winter holidays. I came across a monster-sized bag of cranberries at Costco the other day and figured I could have some fun with its contents. I rummaged through my stash of jars/vases/candle holders, and here's what I came up with:

The squirrel is a relic of my childhood. It may be older than I am, for all I know.

This jar actually held a centerpiece at a good friend's wedding. I got to take one home, and I haven't removed the bow because I like it so much.

And here's the whole mantel and a tutorial for how I preserved the leaves (which you can also see hanging in the window reflected in the picture).

And I put this candle arrangement on our table to set the mood a bit:

You know what's funny? When your toddler climbs up on the table (as he knows he's not supposed to do) to taste those pretty red berries! Joke's on him!

My ways to use cranberries are just a start. Take this inspiration and run with it!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Recycled Indoor Hanging Planters

If you have a miniscule kitchen like I do, you don't have counter space or a windowsill for fresh herbs in the winter. But you can hang them! Make your own hanging planters out of recycled materials, and you can have kitchen herbs at the ready but not in the way.

Amycake and the Dude: Recycled Hanging Planters

Full disclosure: Everything I post here was inspired by something I saw on another blog or Pinterest first. These planters are only slightly adapted from Sheryl and Karla's on Oh So Very Pretty.

So, first of all, who remembers my kitchen?

Oh So Very Tiny. I'm unwilling to relinquish any counter space to herbs, yet I would still like access to fresh herbs in the winter. When I came across the idea of hanging planters, I knew I had my answer. Made from milk cartons, duct tape, spare fabric, and hot glue? My kind of project.

1. I started by rooting the herbs I wanted to grow through the winter. Some rooted easily in a glass of water, and some needed the help of a little rooting powder. I finally had to dig up a hunk of my parsley to get some roots.

2. Cut your milk cartons at the height you'd like your planters to be. I used a bread knife. And I did this over a few weeks and kind of forgot where I had cut before so mine ended up slightly different heights. No big deal.

3. Cover the entire outside (and a bit of top inside) with duct tape to provide a bit more support. Wrinkles are OK here.

4. Cut some spare fabric into strips. Use hot glue to affix the strips to each duct taped carton. I started with covering the center of the bottom.

Then I wound the strips around the sides until I reached the top. I left the edges ragged because I like that look.

I lapped the fabric over at the top so the inside of the containers would not show just duct tape. I found it helpful to cut the corners of the excess fabric to the level of the milk carton and then fold them in.

5. Fill the planters with potting soil and the plants of your choice!

6. Use a utility knife and a screwdriver to dig holes at each corner. I was slightly suspicious of Sheryl and Karla's suggestion that this could be done with only a utility knife. I found I was able to dig a small hole with that tool, but then I used a Philips head screwdriver to make it rounder and used the screwdriver again to help force the rope or ribbon through the hole. 

7. Once you have the rope or ribbon through at each corner, even out the sides and tie them in a knot near the top of the milk carton at each corner.

8. Then, taking one piece of rope or ribbon from each knot, knot it with the closest piece of rope or ribbon from the next knot over. Continue this knotting pattern all the way around and then again if you have enough material.

A word to the wise: I used a yard of this narrow rope at each corner, and it was just barely enough (as you will see). I bought only enough for two containers (8 yards) and when I returned the craft store for more, I decided it was more cost-effective and colorful to choose grosgrain ribbon. And, let me tell you, the ribbon was way easier to work with and gave more bang for the buck. I bought two rolls and had four and a half feet for each corner which yielded plenty of excess ribbon.

9. If you don't already have some kind of support, purchase one and affix it above the window at which you plan to hang your containers. I bought the cheapest curtain rod I could find and, while not especially attractive, it is completely effective. 

10. Connect your planters to the support. I had so much extra ribbon, I easily knotted them to the curtain rod. Four ribbons in front, four behind, and then knot. 

The rope was much skimpier so I used clear plastic hair bands to secure the eight ropes together above the rod. 


I am so excited about this storage solution! I didn't hang the planters very low because I wanted allow plenty of light into the kitchen, and I didn't want them to swing too much when the door opens and closes. So far, so good!