little bits here and there.

After spending most of today running errands, I came home with a renewed sense of getting stuff done.

First I put up a few of the pictures I had been meaning to hang, as well as an art piece we got from Target. I used Command adhesive strips, but I was disappointed by how one package was only enough to hang one picture. That meant spending a lot of money for little result. However I do feel like the pictures are securely hung, and this way we don’t have to worry about holes in the wall.

Next Husband and I tackled the back room. Husband and I technically live in an one bedroom apartment, but we like to think of it as a two bedroom since we put the converter sofa in the back. The room is actually a pretty good size, and a lot can go back there. When we first moved in I had grand visions of spending time back there, writing and reading and so forth. However, one wall is entirely windows so it gets cold in the winter and extra hot in the summer. I am writing this to explain why we bought a desk and chair from IKEA. I used those for probably, oh, two days and then never went back there again. It quickly turned into a dumping ground for Husband’s bike equipment as well as old boxes I didn’t want to go through, but was keeping around.

Anyway. Today I decided we were making a plan and cleaning it up. My vision is to give the corner area by the door to Husband — I want to (eventually) put in a bench, with a couple boxes and a hamper, so he can work on his bike as well as strip down when he gets home without a lot of clutter. So we went through the two boxes of mine, cleared off the desk, put a couple outdoor items down in the basement, organized Husband’s bike equipment into boxes, and threw away all the trash lying around. And guess what? We found a $100 gas card! Incredibly happy and saving that for when we go to Nashville. While Husband worked on his back area, I cleaned out our junk drawer.

Confession: I HATE our junk drawer!! Growing up we NEVER had a junk drawer and I was super disappointed in us for having one because it has made our lives so very frustrating. We have lost envelopes, pens, tape, and my prescription health card to the junk drawer. I used empty check boxes and a gift card tin to get what we needed in there organized — gift cards/unused credit cards, address book, pens/markers/pencils, checks/thank yous & envelopes, batteries, and tape. This is how it looks now (pens are in a box; I had to angle it so you couldn’t see the checks!):

 

I was very excited about that. ANYWAY, I feel a lot better about decluttering now that I’ve covered such a big project. Especially when all I wanted to do when we came home from errands was nap, but I pushed myself and got all this done instead. With November starting this week and the end of the year inching closer and closer, here’s a list of everything I’ve accomplished and everything I hope to accomplish with my resolution to declutter:

  • ACCOMPLISHED: 3 shelf storage area in bathroom
  • ACCOMPLISHED: boxes of books/DVDs hanging out in living room, sorted through random clothes, and Stepson’s older clothes/toys
  • 1/2 ACCOMPLISHED: Stepson’s side of the back room — I organized it once, but I’m definitely going to have to reevaluate.
  • ACCOMPLISHED: Organized the closet!! YAY!!
  • ACCOMPLISHED: Hung up three pictures, one mirror, and two art pieces … all of which had been sitting around apartment.
  • ACCOMPLISHED: Cleared through boxes in the back room.
  • ACCOMPLISHED: Cleaned/organized junk drawer!!

To-Do List:

  1. Finish hanging pictures. (Two left in apartment, one we have to get from Husband’s grandma’s.)
  2. Sell desk/chair on Craigslist and organize Husband’s side of back room.
  3. Put away both air conditioners!
  4. Tackle stairway closet: clean out the unnecessary and organize what’s left.
  5. Put together box of wedding memorabilia (from a year and a half ago … sigh)
  6. Stow away Husband’s marketing books/paperwork
  7. Donate two bags of clothes in living room
  8. Find better way to store photo albums … and unused picture frames
  9. Reorganize Stepson’s side of back room
  10. CLEAR OUT THE PANTRY!!

 

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on the farm.

Next month we start on the farm. I really love this topic, because there’s SO MUCH to do with it. I’ve also covered this unit with both toddlers and preschoolers, so I have lots of ideas for both sets.

The Younger Set (Toddlers-Twos)

  1. A great way to teach toddlers farm animals is to create a match game (we did ours on the wall). Keep it simple, five animals at the most, so toddlers don’t get overwhelmed. Use large, almost 8×10 pictures and make sure the animal is front and center. Real pictures are better than cartoon versions because it helps make a better connection.
  2. Make a garden out of construction paper! We taped ours onto a table for round the clock learning, but a poster board (brown is better) would work well too. Use a number of vegetables (corn, beans, pumpkins, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce) and have a variety of each. Toddlers can identify colors, count veggies, and name them as well. Ask toddlers what they’d need for various meals (soup, salad, pizza, etc.). Velcro the vegetables so Toddlers can line them up and practice organizing.
  3. Create animals! Sheep = cotton balls, cows = black felt, ducks = yellow feathers, and pigs =pink circles with some brown paint splashed on!
  4. Use green triangles, red circles, and brown squares to have toddlers create an apple tree.
  5. Paint with corn husks, hay, or plastic animals.
  6. Sensory ideas include hay, dirt/soil, and washing animals.
  7. Cut yellow construction paper into strips and have toddlers glue them on paper to make hay bales.
  8. Have toddlers take some of the veggies made for the ‘garden’ and sort them into labeled baskets.
  9. Have a vegetable tasting! Use as many raw veggies as you can — tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower, etc. Make a graph of what vegetables the toddlers liked.
  10. A few songs for toddlers that relate to the farm/farm animals – ‘Old MacDonald’, ‘Farmer and the Dell’,  ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’, ‘Black Sheep, Black Sheep’, and ‘This Little Piggy’.

The Older Set (Preschoolers)

  1. Create a large letter of the first letter of animals that relate to the farm – pig, cow, duck, and sheep. Have preschoolers use same materials as toddlers, just on the letter.
  2. Give preschoolers a set number of pigs. Have them glue them down, and then give them brown paint to make muddy pigs! For older preschoolers, have them number the pigs; for younger preschoolers, have them write the total number of pigs on the paper.
  3. Paint with corn husks, dried corncobs, hay, toy tractors, or plastic animals.
  4. Have preschoolers plan and draw out their own garden — what would they plant?
  5. Have preschoolers make butter (whipping cream shaken in a jar). Preschoolers can individually make butter or take turns shaking a bigger jar. Then taste test!
  6. Plant seeds and grow herbs.
  7. Get a big cardboard box and have the preschoolers help turn it into a barn.
  8. Fill the sensory bin with hay, and then hide the plastic animals in the hay. Have a hunt posted by the bin so preschoolers know what / how many to look for.
  9. Have preschoolers match “mama” farm animals with their babies. Again, use larger, real life pictures that focus on the animal. Teach preschoolers the correct names for baby animals.

Books about the Farm

  • Color Farm (PK/Todds)
  • Spot Goes to the Farm by Eric Hill (Todds)
  • Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown (Todds)
  • Click Clack Moo by Doreen Cronin (PK)
  • Punk Farm by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (PK)
  • Busy Barnyard by John Schindel (Todds)

new schedule.

I feel tired every day, down in my bones, and enjoy just sitting on the bus ride home and looking out the window, sometimes reading.

Last weekend was amazing. We went to the zoo Saturday morning despite the rain, and saw zoo chats plus a goat milking, plus ate lunch there. In the afternoon we went and bought me a MacBook Air (I know. It’s phenomenal, btw). Saturday night we went to the bar and saw a UFC fight.

Sunday morning we dressed up and went out to brunch at Big Jones. It was delicious. Over beginets, lattes and sweet tea, we talked adventure and future trips. We discussed Montreal, Nashville, Louisiana, and Seattle, and decided children were nowhere in our future. I think I re-fell in love with Husband over that meal, from the way he talked about his last trip to Louisiana to how he looked in his dress shirt.

We had plans with my sister, but she was running late, so we did laundry and I played around with the laptop until she came. We went out to eat and then a movie with her and her boyfriend. It was relaxing, fun, so great. I love having date nights, love sitting at a table and conversing while Husband’s fingers trip over my palm. We haven’t been to a movie since The Avengers, and I feel like Looper was a great movie to break that streak, especially since Husband is so picky about the movies he sees.

 

Husband started his new job on Monday. Our routine is shifting and we’ve been taking things day by day. I leave before him and get home first, but we both get up around the same time, since he showers in the morning now. I am trying to cook dinner before he gets home, and he’s jumping onto my bedtime (9:00, 8:30 if it’s been a particularly exhausting day).

He comes home and just buries his face in my neck, grateful to see me and worn out from the bounty of new information, plus the commute home. I daily remind him that first week at work is hard, that he will find a rhythm and relax.

 

Marriage …. is finding those weekends, those meals, those times where you as a couple can connect. It’s savoring those moments and using a hand squeeze, a look, or actual words to convey how you feel at that time. It’s carving out time for yourselves when the week seems rushed and errand driven.  Marriage is coming together at the end of the day and trading work stories, quips, laughs. Marriage is support when something is new and cuddles when waking up just before the alarm.

I love our marriage and our life.

fall leaves.

There are always a lot of projects to do regarding pumpkins during the fall season. Though this makes sense, I find two drawbacks with projects involving actual pumpkins. First of all, depending on the project, a pumpkin can be a hard to involve multiple children. Second of all, pumpkins can be messy (guts!) and will rot quickly.

So instead, I’m coming up with ideas for leaves.

The Younger Set (Toddlers-Twos)

  1. Collecting leaves is a simple activity that teaches toddlers focus and task completion. You can have older toddlers look for a certain color leaf. We had the toddlers help us collect leaves on the playground, and they loved it.
  2. Count the leaves you collect!
  3. Throw the leaves you collect into a sensory bin. Question toddlers about texture, colors, shapes, and size (big/small).
  4. Use real or fake leaves to make a leaf collage. With our toddlers, we were using glue, so we used fake leaves because we felt they would stick better and be less likely to break off.
  5. Show toddlers leaves and ask them to draw their own. Create a tree on which to hang the leaves.
  6. Have toddlers paint using leaves. Leaves will create an unique design with the paint and it’s good for toddlers to try painting using all materials.

The Older Set (Preschoolers)

  1. Preschoolers can also collect leaves, and look for a specific color. With multiple preschoolers, divide them into teams and have them look for a certain number of a certain color, or have them try to find the most unique leaf, in color or shape.
  2. Preschoolers can use the leaves they collected to create bar graphs. Leaves can be organized by color, size, and students’ favorites.
  3. Leaf rubbings! White paper + leaves + crayons = science and art! Make sure leaf/paper is secure to ensure an accurate rubbing. Look up leaves found ahead of time so kids can label their rubbings.
  4. I really like this project, but it would require close adult supervision. Have preschooler use a needle to thread string through multiple leaves (fake or real). Hang up leaf banner!
  5. Either have a leaf pattern, or have preschoolers use leaves found. Have them trace and cut out leaves. Next help them make a tree with branches (individual size, nothing huge) using brown construction. Glue on leaves!

Books about Leaves

  • Why Do Leaves Change Color? by Betsy Maestro (PK)
  • Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert (PK)
  • Leaves! Leaves! Leaves! by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace (PK/Toddlers)
  • Fall Leaf Project by Margaret McNamera (PK)
  • Leaf Jumpers by Carole Gerber (PK)
  • Leaves, Leaves! by Salina Yoon (Toddlers)
  • Ready for Autumn by Marthe Jocelyn (Toddlers)

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.

by Jenny Lawson.

The good? I almost peed my pants reading this book, and I cried laughing so hard. I love that it’s that type of book that warns you you’re going to be offended. However I didn’t feel “offended” at all — and not that there weren’t offensive things in the book. It’s just that I went into the book with an open mind and a need to laugh. Which I did. Often.

I liked how Jenny isn’t afraid to share about her anxiety and the attacks that come with it, showing the progression from a kid in school to an adult who wants to hide in the bathroom at dinner parties. Although I don’t have the kind of diarrhea mouth or anxiety attacks she gets, I do feel social anxiety. I do worry about finding people to talk to, and what to say to those people. I worry I am too boring, I worry I don’t have enough to say, I worry they will walk away with distaste. So I enjoyed reading someone else who has a similar problem. I also liked how this was not the main focus of the book, but a side story.

She does tend to throw a story into the middle of the story, and she does talk about her dog when he’s alive after the chapter of when he died. But here’s the thing: she warns you. She gives a heads up, and I appreciate that. I hate when books (some I’ve seen in memoirs, some in fiction) just hop around with no warning, because it’s ‘artistic’, but really it’s confusing. Lawson lets you know what’s happening and it’s easier to follow along.

The chapter on the scorpions/animals in walls/mold issues WITH THEIR HOUSE was crazy and funny.

The chapter on the laxatives was funny.

The chapter on the death of her dog, which should be sad, was sad and crazy. And pretty funny.

The bad? Sometimes I felt like there were exaggerations. I mean, she’s a writer, and it’s her memoir, and she wants it to be funny. So there will be exaggerations. And it wasn’t anything in her childhood; I realized from the beginning what her parents (especially her dad) were like and so I was prepared for the outrageous. It was the little things — I wasn’t turned off by them, but I knew they were there. Like how she thought the GPS was telling her to turn on a road that had the word ‘dick’ on it … would you really think that? Does that make sense? Like I said, it’s not enough to draw you out, but it’s still there.

The last couple of chapters dragged a little, and weren’t as funny as the rest of the memoir. However, I’ve read a lot of memoirs, and at some point it’s going to drag. You can’t have a million hit stories, some of it will not resonate with everyone. I am glad that with hers, it was towards the end, and not at the beginning when I was trying to get into the story.

At GoodReads I gave the book 5 stars, because I was not expected to cry laughing when I first opened the book, and I felt like she had a strong voice as a writer. Whether you know her as the Bloggess or not, this book is a very funny look at her life and how it shaped her as a person.

sponge art

Here’s a really simple project we did today with the kiddies that worked out well and required no clean up! Full disclosure, I got this from a Family Fun magazine, but I discovered a few ways to tweak it to make it as easy as possible!

Supply List

  • paint
  • sponge, cut into fourths
  • Ziploc bag
  • paper, cut to fit inside bag

Activity

Put the paper in the bag. When cutting the paper to fit inside, make sure that there is some wiggle room for the paper. Room for the paper means room to move the sponge around. After generously coating the sponges with paint (because the sponge will absorb some of the paint), place them inside the bag and seal the bag shut. If you feel like your kid might be too tempted to open the bag, I would suggest giving the bag one quick staple at the top. Now a kid can smoosh the sponges, push them around on the paper, and even shake the bag, anything that will get the paint moving. Once it’s done, simply remove the art to dry and throw the bag/sponges away. You’re done and it’s all cleaned up!

Across the Ages

For Toddlers, the basic activity was enough to keep them entertained. They loved pushing the sponge around, rolling up the bag to see what effect that might have, and once I demonstrated shaking the bag … watch out! For a two year old, I would put two primary colors in the bag as a lesson in color mixing. For three or four year olds, I would get them to try and manipulate the sponge through the bag in order to paint a specific letter or object, testing fine motor skills. I would also give them bags with a variety of objects in addition to the sponge, and have them chart what was easiest to paint/move in the bag, and what was hardest.

making a home

Ever since Husband found out about his job, I’ve been glancing around the apartment, thinking about pulling it together. If I had the money and the time, I could really focus on hanging pictures, clearing away corners, and bagging up old clothes. I’ve always wanted to put up more wall art, and find a cute little stand to put by the front door so we’d have a place for mail, keys, and a knick knack. Right now what we use is the floor.

Alas, my classroom is cleaner and more pulled together than my apartment.

I keep reminding myself that my New Year’s Resolution was to declutter the apartment. I’ve been doing little things here and there, but I’ve also back slid.

The three bags of ‘thrown away’ trash are a clear example.

As is my closet, where a giant pile of clothes was a great exploration playground for Stepson the other weekend.

I see these giant projects, am taken aback by the ginormity, and run from them. I also tell myself I can’t do things without A, B, or C, and then run away to go read or mindlessly browse the Internet.

Saturday, my nesting bug bit me. I cleaned up the apartment, gathered up some recycle and filled up a bag with discarded trash that was filtered throughout the apartment. Husband and I picked up some nails and a new shower lining curtain from Target. We hung a mirror and a small sign that had been leaning against the wall since Christmas.

Tonight, I tackle the closet with a vow to get rid of anything I’m not wearing regularly, and to start hanging clothes back up.

Hopefully this will inspire me to do other projects every couple of days, instead of constantly putting things off. Progress day by day.

There are only a couple months left in the year, and there’s still a wall lined at the bottom with stacks of old papers and wedding dodads. I don’t really want to roll over this resolution into another year, so I better start cracking …

 

P.S. Husband has whooping cough and an ear infection.