Thursday, August 28, 2014

Organizing the Things: Book Edition


Books. They breed. Late at night while you sleep they are busy multiplying and before you know it your house looks like this:


We have a lot of books. They're given for birthdays, picked up at yard sales, and then at random people will drop boxes of books on my doorstep. I don't always know who these gifts are from and in these situations I can't help but wonder if they know the mixed blessing they are bestowing on us hence the anonymity. Don't get me wrong, we love books and a box of new to us books causes great excitement amongst the small people. However, do you find that your kids can't just look at one book? My kids have to look at 5 or 6 at a time and then they "forget" where they're supposed to go when they're done with them. Also, because we have so many I find that a lot of books just do not get read. They tend to just get lost on the shelf slotted in to be read later but often never to be seen again.

To combat this problem (books that don't get read are just sad) I turned this (FYI: This is about 1/8th of the books I had to sort. They didn't all fit on my 10 ft long dining table):


Into this:



Ahhh...that's better. And yes, it has for the most part solved the book mess problem. We've had it like this for around 8 months and  miraculously, the books get put back in the correct folder and if they don't its easier for the princesses to put them back where they belong.

The boxes are from IKEA but I bought them off of Amazon.


The labels I printed from HERE. They're cute and free. It could also be cute and useful to have a picture for each book category.

So if you're looking for a quick and easy way to organize your books I highly recommend these boxes or you could do the flowing out the door technique like in the first picture. ;)

-C

Sunday, August 17, 2014

School Days


Tomorrow marks the second week of school for Big P. Were you wondering how I fared dropping my precious flower off? Did I cry? Did she? Did the hours drag by until I could see her sweet face? Well, after an excited nights sleep ("GO TO SLEEP" x 4000) we walked her to her classroom, she sat down at her chair and that was it. She didn't even say good-bye. Seriously. No lingering hugs. No slight hesitation. Barely a glance people. Ungrateful little punk. 

And me? How did I feel? Well, this was a little unexpected but the following pretty much sums it up...


Those other people? They're the other Mums and Dads. Of the 1st graders.  

I'll admit, for two seconds I felt this...



But then, as the door shut behind us...



And when we fled exited the building...



But it wasn't until we were leaving the school parking lot that this emotion hit me...


I know, I am a terrible, terrible person.

But let me be serious for a second, here's the moral of the story: When it's right, it's right. I was ready. She was ready. Her school is awesome. Her teacher is awesome. When it's right, it's right. 

-C

PS: And if you were wondering what I'm up to while Big P is at school, here ya go...


Afternoon naps yo. Don't judge.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Letter To My Daughter's Kindergarten Teacher


Here is a copy of a letter I composed in my head and in my heart to my daughter's (the BP) kindergarten teacher the other night. This is an exciting time for us and maybe, ok definitely, a bit of a rough time for me. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited for this new chapter in her life and as crazy as she drives me some days, she has been my right hand for the last 6 years and I'm going to miss her. A lot. So I wrote this. Maybe you think I'm a helicopter parent. Maybe you think I'm overprotective. I don't really care what anyone thinks. This child is one of the most precious people in my life and when she's six I will do everything I can for her. You might have noticed I've used her real name. Writing 'The BP' just sounded silly. Anyway, here it is...

******************

Dear Ava's Kindergarten Teacher,

I cannot begin to tell you how excited Ava and I are that we get to begin her formal education experience with you. I have had two opportunities to observe you in the classroom and I can see that you teach with such a great love for your students and a passion for watching them learn.  It’s going to be a great year. I understand that you will have a classroom full of beautiful children just like mine but I need you to know that Ava is one of the most important people in my life. She is my first and it is she who always introduces me to these new things such as ‘kindergarten.’ It’s not always easy on a mum. The space that has been filled by her for the last six years suddenly being vacant will take time to get used to. I want you to know that I understand that as beautiful and wonderful as each of the children in your classroom are, you will have days that your patience is tested. Everyone has bad days. But I also want you to know that what you do, day in and day out is important. I am handing over one of the most precious things in my life to you because I know without a doubt that you are going to help to mold her into one awesome human being. And you might never ever really see the fruits of your labor. One day she will be gone from your classroom and we, her parents, will be the ones witnessing what the years of love, sweat and tears have resulted in. I want you to know that I will remember you. That I will remember where it started. 

There are a few things I need you to know before we start this year together. First, you and I, we’re a team. I have your back and what you say goes. This means that if she gets out of line in your classroom then I need to know about it. I want to help make your life easier but I can't do that if I don't know that there is a problem. I'm not going to one of those "helicopter" hovering parents but I will always be a phone call or email away. This also applies to when she might be struggling to grasp something in the classroom. Let me know how I can help and we'll work on it together. 

Next, if you need something, I'm your (wo)man. Need snacks for a party? Done. Chaperone for a field trip? I'm there. 35 toilet rolls? I will make it happen. I know teacher's funds and resources can be limited and you have a lot on your plate already, so use me. Use me to hunt down craft supplies. Use me when you need help to replace something in your classroom. Use me when you just need an extra set of hands. I'm going to be involved as much as I possibly can because this that we're doing this year, you and I, this is really important to me and I will make it a priority. So call me. I have ways of making things happen (just ask the husband). So challenge me with something and you might be surprised.

Regarding this school year, it is more important to me that Ava grows in character than what level she is reading at. Don't get me wrong, I want her to learn but more than that I want her to learn to love learning. I'm relying on you to nurture that. I hope to see glitter and paint. I hope to hear songs and rhymes. I want her to come home and tell me stories about the new characters that she met in a book that day. I want her to play. I want her to be encouraged to be herself. I want her to learn compassion and kindness. I want her to try new things, to be courageous. I want her creativity and imagination encouraged and nurtured. If we can do that, then we have succeeded this year. 

Thank you in advance for all that you are going to do this year. For the late evenings you will spend planning and cutting and looking for ways to make this one amazing year. You will do a phenomenal job and we can't wait to experience it with you.

Ava's Mum.

****************************
So what do you think? Anyone else having a little one starting kindergarten this year? Are you like me, one minute elated at the idea of having one less kid following you around all day and the next minute wanting to cry because you'll miss them terribly? 
Leave me your thoughts or comments. I'd love to hear them.

C

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Why I Decided to Red-Shirt My Child


Yesterday I did my first ever shop for school supplies. Be still my heart. Cry. My Big Princess turned 6 in June and is starting kindergarten. Yup, you read right, six and starting kindergarten. Something I didn't write about last year was my struggle over whether to send her to school or not. You see in our state you can start your child at 5 or 6.

Let me tell you I agonized over this decision. One day I was sending her, the next day not. This went on for months. I drove the husband nuts. I read blogs and early childhood research papers. I talked to her pediatrician. I talked to other mums. I talked to kindergarten teachers. I talked to the lady at the checkout at Walmart (seriously). Everyone had a different opinion. Everyone for the most part supported their opinion intelligently. I evaluated the pros and cons and at the end of the day I decided to not send her and have her home for one more year. Once we made this decision I then very carefully in my head began to rehearse the rational behind my decision. It involved statistics, case studies, a well rehearsed speech on the direction education has taken over recent years. I was ready to justify why I was not going to send my child to school that year. But then I realized, no discussion was necessary and not because people don't expect a reason behind the decision but because we don't owe one to anyone.

How often do we feel like we need to give the rational behind a certain decision. Why we co-sleep (or don't). Why we bottle feed (or don't). Why we rear-face our kid until they're like 12 (ok so maybe not that old). Now I believe in sharing information with one another for the sake of education if the other person is interested but not for the sake of explaining ourselves to others.

Here is my response to when someone asked if Ava was starting kindergarten last year:

"We are keeping her home this year."

Full-stop. Period. Shut up. Now.

And you know what, I never had one person ask me "why". Turns out that when you act like you owe an explanation to no one, no one expects an explanation.

So next time someone asks you if you're doing something...

"Are you breastfeeding?" 
"Are you sending her to pre-school?"
"Are you really going to let her eat that?"

Here are your answers...
"Yes (or no)."
"Yes (or no)."
"Yes."

Then put your hand over your mouth and don't let the justification slip out. Resist the urge to Google a blog that supports your answer and post it on your Facebook (I'm talking to myself here -PassiveAggressiveBook). Instead just sit and be content and confident in the fact that you are making the best decision for your child with the knowledge you have. And that, that makes you an awesome mum.

-C

PS: If you're struggling with whether or not to send you kid to school at 5 or wait and really want to know why I made the decision not to send her, shoot me a message at onelittlekiwi@yahoo.com.

PPS: FWIW, she is super stoked about starting kindergarten this year. August cannot get here soon enough!

Friday, July 18, 2014

DIY Double Loft Beds With Slide Yo!



Soooo, you might have missed me lately (I flatter myself!). But people, I've been busy (and a tad lazy) and my computer broke (cry) and it's summer time and mostly, I've been nutty busy. Did I mention I have nine people living in my house? My sister and her family are here for the summer (3 months...not that anyone is counting). One day you will read an entirely fictional blog post about when an anonymous friend of mine had some house guests for the summer winter and you will read about the hilarity that ensued. That post will have nothing to do with my visit with my sister and her family. Nothing. ;) 

But just because I have been quiet on blog-land doesn't mean I haven't been doing anything. Oh let me tell you all. Me. This girl, she made furniture. And not just furniture like a pallet table. Pallet tables..pshaw...those are for amateurs! This girl, she made this yo!


And let me tell you, I will never, ever do something like this again (we all know the truth). Sorry, but if my children ever grow up and tell me that I never do anything for them, I will point to this picture and I will always win. Boom.

You want to make one? Seriously? Do you know how much work this will take? Do you know how much money you will spend on pizza for dinner? Do you know that you might kill your husband and give yourself a concussion while you assemble it? You're good with that? Crazy people...

Ok, so here's a brief outline on how I did it. First, measure your room. Use a tape measure but if you can't find yours you can measure your room by walking heel to toe from one end to another, then measure your shoe and multiply. Don't ask me how I know this. (Side note: When we were putting it together with everything cut and painted the husband asked me if I had measured it and I advised him of my method. I thought he was going to have a stroke. But, the thing fits perfectly. There is absolutely no wiggle room. It's not attached to the wall but it's not moving. Ever. It's that tight. Yup, I am really awesome lucky).

My room was too short to fit two beds and a slide so I had to shorten the beds. I could have just done two beds end to end and no slide but where's the fun in that? So both beds are around 68" long. A typical twin mattress is about 75". I figure they'll be short for a long time so losing the inches would be fine. 

I won't go into a full tutorial on how I did it. I used this blog as my primary guide. Theirs looks prettier than mine. Their room is more staged than mine but I'll get there (probably not). Their instructions on making it are fabulous. Really, if you want to make one stop reading my post and go read theirs. 

For our beds we made two "boxes." (Hello husband!) My husband and I worked on this project together. We almost killed each other.


Then we painted everything before we assembled it. (Child labor)


Next we simply lifted those plywood topped box frames onto four legs...


Actually, this is the part where we almost killed the husband. Husband had hurt his sternum playing basketball earlier in the week so was already in some pain. . Our plan was to put the four legs into the right position and then we would simply lift the box up and place it on the legs. Did I mention the box is really, really heavy? So I managed to hoist my end up and onto the legs but the husband due to his injury couldn't get his end up so I moved to help him but as I did he twisted his end making my end turn and fall (this with me underneath screaming). I push the box away from me. It crashed to the floor and my husband fell on top of it. Fun, fun times. 

So, carefully lift your box onto the legs (bring in reinforcements if you can) and secure the legs with lots and lots of lag bolts. Lots. Then change your mind about how high it is and insist that you take off one legs at a time and cut them shorter. Watch husband stroke out again for the second time. 

Once your boxes are up on both sides, add the railing. My measurements for these are almost identical to the ones on the blog I referenced. 

For the slide platform I simply used 3 2x4s bolted between each bed and screwed down a pieces of plywood on top. Screw the slide into the platform.

Speaking of the slide. This slide does not come in pink. I spray painted it. It was tedious but not hard. So far the finish has held up in most places. There are a few scrapes because someone big might have done a test run before she let her children use it and that someone might have had buttons on her pockets that scraped the paint. Opps. No, there are no pictures of me sliding down the slide. I got the slide for $30 off our local "buy,sell,trade" Facebook page. 


Honestly, I'm super proud of this little project (though if you ask me I will moan and complain about it). And really, if you have littles you should totally do this. It gives you some serious mom-cred. Yes, for the first few nights (ok so maybe a week) you will find little things randomly sliding down the slide on their own after bedtime (stuffed animals can walk apparently) and in the morning you will wake to the sounds of little bottoms going swoosh and giggles. But that's part of the fun. So yeah, do it. You might say bad words while doing it but it really is a fun project.

Future plans:
- Remove crib. Crib was left as a threat incentive in case a certain 3 year old decided to play on the slide all night. It really needs to go now.
- Make a special area for each kid under each bed. Bean bags. Book shelves. Place for special things.
- Hang curtains. I want to hang a curtain that can be drawn across each side for privacy (and to hide mess)

-C

PS: Did I miss something? Hit me with your questions!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Frozen Inspired Easter Dresses



Frozen. Oy. Just seeing the word makes my hair stand on end. And the songs. Oh the songs. I know, I know, I should just "Let It Go." But seriously, when you have everyone in your household quoting the lyrics multiple times a day it might just make me all kinds of stabby. Even the simple act of making lunch can cause a 5 year old to walk up to you and say, "I think it's crazy." To which I innocently respond, "What?" And she replies, "We finish each others sandwiches!" Cue 2 year old..."That's what I was gonna say!" I cannot make this stuff up people.

Fun story. So when we had to rescue the van from Bledsoe (read about that here) I called "dibs" on driving the van home. Alone. We left the other car seats back at home (kinda accidentally on purpose if I'm honest) so both kids had to ride in one car. And yes, I did really call "dibs" and yes, we are 10 years old. So the husband had to drive home with both kids alone. And because I'm evil...I snuck the Frozen soundtrack into the CD player for their ride home. Bwahahahahaha! (That's my evil laugh...)

So yeah, Frozen, love it and hate it all at the same time. But on to what this post is really all about. Dresses. If you know me you know I make all the princesses costumes. Costumes get more wear in our house than clothes do (actually, you would think we don't have clothes with the amount of time the small people spend naked. Am I the only one with this issue?) so I like our costumes to be pretty well constructed so they don't look ratty after the first wear. Last year it was Belle, the year before was Rapunzel and Pascal and we've also done Ariel. Every time I make one I moan and complain and say that next year I am just going to buy it. But I never do because secretly, I really enjoy making them. This year I stumbled across The Little Dress Up Shop. Both Princesses had asked for Frozen dresses for their birthdays and The Little Dress Up Shop had these:

They had a pre-order special so I paid $25 per dress. I cannot make these dresses for $25 (I like nice fabrics if I'm making them myself). So I ordered the princesses' first costumes. Please don't think less of me. ;)

But..Easter rolled around and we started talking Easter Dresses. And of course, Frozen came up. Of course. I was begged, bribed, threatened until finally I relented and decided to see if I could come up with something "Frozen Inspired". And here's what we came up with:


These dresses I made by making some minor changes to THIS pattern. Really the only changes I made were to the skirt and I just did the basic underskirt without all the ruffles on top (if you get the pattern you'll know what I mean). It's a really easy pattern to use and follow and I can see myself making it many more times for different occasions. The fit is so nice from the length to the shirred bodice. It really s a pattern you want to have on hand for your basic dress. And don't be scared of shirring. It's a piece of cake once you get the hang of it.



For "Elsa's Dress" I used some clearance fabric I found at Hobby Lobby. It was $3 a yard. For the snowflake I just Googled "snowflake" and picked one I liked. I then ironed a piece of Fuse N Bond to the back of a piece of felt and traced around the snowflake. Then I cut it out and ironed it to the dress. Easy! The hardest part was deciding where to put it!



Near impossible to photograph this child! She was trying to make snow!
 For "Anna's Dress" I just used the plain quilting cottons from Hobby Lobby. I love that I can just throw them in the washer and dryer and they come out perfect, ready to be worn 3 or 4 more days in a row! The design on the front I just kinda winged from a picture I found online. Same process as with the snowflake. Felt and Fuse N Bond. Be creative, it will be close enough.
Don't tell but I think this is my favorite dress ever made to date!

 

She insisted on the boots Anna wears boots.


So in the end I probably didn't need to buy Frozen costumes but oh well, one can never have too many Frozen dresses I guess...

-C

PS: Total cost per dress was less than $10. Woot! Can't beat that!