Sunday, January 30, 2011

cough cough

I had a GREAT weekend, but I can't think of anything to say. Isn't that unlike me? I think I am just tired. I was almost falling asleep at 7pm.... Yet now it's after 11 and here I still am. I had to stay up to watch Pretty in Pink on Nick at Nite, and then I had to print out and choose my sessions for the National Hearts at Home Conference in March, because the registration for our MOPS group is due this Tuesday. It's SO Awesome that they have group registration this year, with a $10 Discount PER PERSON if you register a group of 10 or more together. I actually had a hard time finding a top ten this year. My top Two were DEAD ON and I hope SO badly that I get them. If I don't I have to admit I will be so disappointed! The top Four were pretty decent choices and the top 6 were interesting to me, beyond that I was just kinda putting the remaining 4 in the order that I would really HOPE they never choose. LOL.

I was going to go to bed, but I am just sitting here watching The Nanny (Fran not Frost.) and listening to Ardyn cough and sputter and whine and Marek toss and turn. Marek is over the croup and has been much better, but poor Ardyn just isn't feeling well. Low grade temp this evening, to top off the cold and cough that she's been carrying around almost a week now. Strange that the temp is showing up suddenly, but she was pretty lethargic today and has complained two days (not in a row) that her ear hurts, so I guess perhaps tomorrow is the time to consider having her ears checked. Although tomorrow is also a school day, and I was really hoping she would be feeling well and able to attend. We have lots to do tomorrow, with discipline class (which we ALMOST missed last week due to Marek's ER Trip and Croup Diagnosis) and were thankfully saved by the LOVELY Great grandma Mona, who kept Marek so Ardyn and I could attend both the discipline class and the MOPS Steering team meeting.

Tomorrow we are also going to be prepping fruit and fondue for our MOPS Spa night with fondue... assuming that this blizzard that they are forecasting does not blow in and bury us all making us cancel the spa night. But all this with Ardyn feeling a little questionable... so I hope that she can get some sleep, although it doesn't sound like it bodes well for her. I gave her Motrin at bedtime, but that cough is just nasty. Poor kid. I am thinking cough suppressant tonight, which I haven't given to either of them yet. But she needs some sleep... and it's a constant cough.

I spent the whollllllle weekend scrapbooking, with my friend Aimee on Friday night and then for my friend Angela's surprise non birthday, non celebratory scrapaganza. I had a ton of fun, and really got a lot accomplished and also very inspired. I can't wait to scrap again!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Toy Library... Where Education Meets Motivation.... and Organization!

I want to do a quick (I hope) post about the concept of the "Toy Library"

This is my concept (as far as I am aware, I haven't heard anyone else doing it, but I am sure it's something that isn't a completely novel idea) so I can only comment on my experience so far.

We have many toys and activities that are what I consider "supervised" activities, which I do not let the kids have access to 24-7. Think about things that are considered choking hazards to your youngest, but are fun for your older child(ren), like Littlest Pet Shops or Polly Pockets. Or things that have a little bit of "mess" involved, like paints, play-doh, markers, crayons (or heaven forbid, MOON DOUGH which I despise and intend to destroy at my soonest opportunity.) And then there are things that might require a little help from mamma. Like Beading and Lacing and Scissor Practice and Tracing.

So, all these are things that we "put up" until we have those free moments (you know the ones, when the house is picked up, the laundry all done, and the dishes are all washed with all the meals made.) Those moments that happen ALL THE TIME. Right?! um. not in this house. I have all these cool things that we used to do BM (before Marek :) that we have totally forgotten that we even own. How about that felt board? Those foam shapes? The Potholder Loom? Right. You know what I mean. They are hidden. out of sight, out of mind. So. Along comes this Toy Library Idea. This was completely inspired by my mom saying that I should make them pick up one toy before they are allowed to get another toy. While this sounds logical, it also seems cruel and stifling to their imaginations. And I don't really want all their toys hidden and policed.

However, what if they had the option to clearly see the great things that we have available to do... everyday? What if there was some motivation, something that would inspire them to keep their toys picked up? Yes. The Toy Library. I named it this because Ardyn understands a library. You check out a book. You take care of it. You Return it when you are done, which allows you to check out another one. The second I said "Toy Library" it clicked in her head. barely any explanation needed.

  • So, to start, pick what toys and activities would go in the toy library.
  • Group the items on a solid surface, I love the wood floor or ceramic tile :) Photograph the contents of each "container" or each game, activity, etc. Print 4x6 photos of each Toy Library Item that can be checked out. Compile the photos in a small photo album. Look for something sturdy, and if you have the items in varying locations, you may consider an album (like the $5 ones at Wal-Mart) that would allow you to write a caption next to the photo. This works great for putting something along the lines of location, which works great to jog your memory (where did I stash that?) or to help out a clueless grandparent or babysitter when your child wants that particular item. At our house, for example, games and cards are located in the dining room in the game cabinet, but other items might be in the toy library itself, or even in our craft cupboard near my sewing machine. Then there are things like that Easy Bake Oven or the Cupcake Maker that I keep in the upper cabinets in the kitchen. The toy library album is the place that the kids go to see what options are available for checkout.
  • Find a location (or locations) that these things can be kept in order to keep them contained and "out of reach" from the kids. I chose the kitchen hutch, which was nearly empty after our recent addition of new cupboards in the pantry area. The other thought behind that, is that the kids generally don't play in the kitchen. If they happened to be in there and it was quiet, I would know something was up :)
  • Because I am me, Contain and Label. This is not necessary, but it sure makes for a neat library and easy to find pieces. Clear Containers are my friends. I love my labelmaker but I also prefer photo labels, which work great on the containers that they will FIT on.
  • I sat down with all the items that I planned to put in the library, and I tested them in the current storage containers I had at home, and made a complete listing of how many totes of each size I would need for the library. Then I made a calculated late night trip to Wal-Mart to get them all.
  • I put all the toy library items in their designated totes and began labeling. Then I put them all on the shelves.
Now for the rules. Every mom has her own rules. My rules? When you want to check something out, you ask mom. Then mom says "Is your room cleaned? Are your toys picked up?" and Ardyn is already telling me that she is headed to pick up her room so that she can check out something from the library. (I often help by allowing her to gather and stack up books in front of the bookshelf and then I put them on the shelves, as this book organization thing usually challenges her... and also sometimes help direct her by saying things like "find all the play food, and put them in their container") Once her room is picked up and the toys are put away, she gets to look at the checkout book and choose a toy. The rule is that if she wants to use the library, she is also responsible for picking up that toy library toy and getting it back into it's container to check back in to the library. There is also sometimes a stipulation as to where the toy can be played with (on the table, when marek is napping, etc) depending on what it is.

So she is now motivated to take care of her toys and pick them up, and also to put them in the right places/containers, because she knows that there is no checking out without picking up and taking care of what she already has available. I have already seen improvement in her cleanup skills and the attention she pays to where she is actually putting things.... and also improvement in Marek's picking up and his excitement in playing with things in the toy library.

Here are a few photos :)
The Checkout Album (which may change, since it's already full and I found a few more toys that I need to add. Plus the books at Wal-mart which are $5 have lines to write next to each picture, and also hold twice as many as this $4 album from Target.)

I use Picasa for my photo editing, which seems criminal considering I own the entire Adobe Creative Suite, but I love it's organization abilities and popping a caption on my picture is simple. I like to caption things, because let's face it, when Grandparents are here, They may not know that she calls Polly Pockets her "Puppy Pool", but captions, they sure can help out with that!

I do love how sturdy this little photo album is, and the elastic strap just squeals containment and top secret.... too bad it won't hold MORE pics!

The Toy Library Hutch Area:

I may also have made a cute little sign using some scrapbook punches and my cricut... just because it's fun. And I like that sort of thing ;)
I want to hear if it works for you, and if you have any tips or ideas to add!

Rearranging. And Rearranging. Again.

My husband must think I am nuts. I could NOT sleep last night because my brain is just going round and round and round. I lay down at 11:15 and at 3am was still WIDE Awake. Not good. My brain is going over things like Marek turning two, a birthday party, more babies? When? Where will we put them? Where will they sleep? What about bringing out baby gear again? We can barely fit ourselves here right now...

Ardyn has recently been totally not herself at bedtime. She cries and she gets upset as soon as there is even a mention of an upcoming bedtime or the thought of being alone in the dark. We often have left her lights on the dimmest setting in her room so she can fall asleep. Her two nightlights are not enough, and the moon light from Marek's room sometimes helps, but then she is having nightmares and crying out at night. I know that alot of it is just an age and phase thing, but it had me thinking about having her sleeping arrangements change some way. Marek has also been not touching his toys in his room and mostly playing with Ardyn. This is great, except that I don't feel he is getting the most out of his things back in his room. So I started to turn around the idea of putting both kids' beds in Marek's room and putting all the toys in Ardyn's room like a play room. I had a hard time getting past the fact that her bedding matches her room, and not his. LOL. Can you tell I am particular? At 3am I told Evan... let's just go wake them up and rearrange. Haha. He talked me out of it. Then today I thought "this is silly, there is no way both of these beds will fit in that room, along with the glider and ottoman, the armoire, the changing table, and the little dresser, and the two nightstands, AND the side table with the lamp. Even without Marek's toys it will be a tight fit. But I realize that they don't need to play in there, just sleep and change a diaper here and there.

Today we went to visit Grandpa as he got back from Florida, and so when we got home we had planned on going right to bed, but Ardyn immediately started asking if she had to go to bed, and begging for the light on before we even got out of the van. I asked her if she would like to start sleeping in Marek's room. She was interested, and when I explained that we would put her bed in Marek's room, she giggled and was excited about it. Evan was a little annoyed with the fact that although they were in their PJ's, I suddenly decided to switch rooms right at bedtime, but I think as soon as he realized that I already had all the toys moved out of Marek's room and the bed frame and box spring moved INTO his room, he might as well help out :) So we finished that and made their beds and I read a book and put them to bed in the same room. They did really well. They love to nap together and often ask to have "slumber parties" so I wasn't really surprised. I see bunk beds working well in the future. Problem is, fitting all those toys AND bunk beds into the toy room so that there can be a crib in the nursery. BUT, if a twin bed and a toddler bed fit in that bedroom, technically a crib AND twin bunk beds would fit the same way. Oy. I saw those triple bunk beds and laughed because I thought "this is exactly what we are going to need in this house!" Yikes. Where WILL we put everything?!

So here are a few pics of the rearrangement I did before bedtime (it really took less than 30-45 minutes total) and I am kinda excited about the "toy room" concept and can't wait to play tomorrow, since there is no school.

Sleeping Buddies:

Ardyn's Room made playroom:

Now, let's see how this goes :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Two Sick Babies :(

I am watching Rachel Ray make egg soaked sandwiches, like a monte cristo but with apricot preserves and spicy seeded mustard inside. Yum! I would LOVE to make these for supper, but not so sure that this is tummy friendly for my two sickies. Ardyn hasn't thrown up since this morning, and Marek hasn't thrown up since Friday night late, but they are both still "down" and although Marek ate more regularly yesterday, he has had a lot of Diarrhea and is running that low grade fever still. For him there was no fever until the vomiting was done, and her fever just started... so hoping that she is done throwing up too. She has kept down a handful of crackers and some pedialyte today... but I am heavily rationing, even when she begs for food. But I did allow her another 2 crackers and she ate half of one and left the rest on her nightstand. I gave them each some tylenol so they could rest, and they are napping or resting now. I am just really really hoping that I don't get sick. I was up with Marek twice last night and with Ardyn once. She woke up at 1am throwing up and it was all over her pajamas and her bed and in her hair and so it was an early morning bath with new bedding for her. And I had stayed up late working on catching up on folding laundry... I was pleased! I was just getting into bed when she started to throw up. *sigh*

I have all the folded laundry looking at me now, hopefully later today when they are up again I can put some away. Marek has just been so tired and sad. He just isn't himself. I ended up giving him his pacifier back after a month without, because he was so uncomfortable and just kept crying. It at least lets him rest. Christmas Eve was the first time that I caught him sucking his thumb, about 2-3 weeks after he was completely free of the pacifier.He's been taking about two naps a day while sick, and they are averaging 2-4 hours, which is about twice as long as his normal nap. Poor guy. Three times today I found him just curled up and laying on the floor. Once in the living room with his pacifier, once on the floor in his room, and the last time laying outside the bathroom door crying for daddy, with his pacifier nearby. Just curled up on his side all sad. NOT like him at all.

Guy is making Mahi Mahi, Bok Choy, and Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Oh I am getting HUNGRY! It's hard because I haven't eaten today and I want to but I can't eat around the yahoos or they will want to eat the same thing and I am just not sure.

Well, I made myself some lunch. Ardyn wanted some and I told her no. Marek woke up finally and when I went back to his room he was laying on the floor inside the gate. He barely lifted his head. Poor kiddo. He acted so uncomfortable that I should have known something was up. He asked for some milk, and since he hadn't thrown up for almost 3 days, I thought a little couldn't hurt. He took one sip. Then he wanted a banana. I gave it to him and he didn't touch it. Eventually he tried to take a bite and as soon as he did, he started throwing up. A lot. All liquid. Poor kiddo. I ended up calling the pediatrician because I am worried of course. This is hard to see your kids go through. And then I started to feel panicky and anxious hoping that I wasn't going to come down with it too. Ugh. Both kids are now laying on respective couches in a darkish room watching Word Girl. I called Evan and haven't heard back from him or the pediatrician. I am going to bed EARLY tonight. I need rest. Need to keep myself healthy.

Say a prayer that I can escape this so I can care for the kids.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year!

Hey Everybody! Happy New Year! The kids and I had a GREAT night, despite being without Daddy. The band thing can really be bittersweet sometimes. I couldn't be married to a real Rock Star. That would really suck. No amount of money can replace having your spouse (or daddy) with you, especially for a holiday. We did leave home and head to Jo-Ann Fabrics before they closed to get a tiny bit of fleece (it was all on sale and we had coupons) and then on to the Mall to return a couple of pair of slippers that we received as Christmas Gifts. They were Buster Browns and Stride Rite, and both of them started to fall apart on Christmas DAY (yes, the quality of things these days is really frustrating!) We ended up getting a knock-off pillow pet at Marshall's for $12.99, then enjoying dinner at Jimmy John's (Kids Choice, and Mommy's too!) and then we went back to the mall for the 7:15 showing of Yogi Bear. This was Marek's first ever movie in the theater, and my first time taking both kids by myself... and to a bigger theater nonetheless! It was exciting and went great. There were only TWO downsides. 1. The place was packed and there were many people who weren't paying attention at all and I think I said "Excuse us" Nicely about 100 times before I started to say "Please excuse us, we need to get through" You can't walk single file with a toddler on each side, it doesn't work. People can be very rude when it comes to this. Not to mention that I wasn't about to loose a child in the shuffle (although I almost lost Ardyn once because no one would move and I had to let go of her hand for a second and she went the other way.)

So the second problem? The movie. It was BAD. I rarely say a movie was BAD but this one, was BAD. Poor Yogi and Boo Boo seemed to be absent from WAY to many scenes. There was more bad acting by humans and a lot of boring crappy plot to go along with it. It was a serious injustice to Yogi. I have never been in a theater with that many people looking so bored. I have only left a movie theater once in my life, and I was dying to leave. The kids did amazingly well. Ardyn was a bit restless and a couple of times she asked if it was time to go (which has never happened before, and her first movie was a human/animated Alvin and The Chipmunks Squeakuel. The best part of the movie was a fast paced rescue scene towards the end, but when there was about 10 minutes left in the movie everyone was like "yeah yeah" and was putting on their coats ready to leave. Seriously, the whole movie should have held attention like that 15 minutes towards the end did. It was seriously slow and disappointing. Yogi and Boo Boo were so cute, but the movie didn't even seem to be about them, and they were absent from about 50% of the film, which was frustrating.

So, not the best first movie experience for Marek, but it was still nice to be together, and he sat through the whole thing... so I can't imagine how excited he will be for Cars 2. There were lots of great previews, including The Smurf Movie and HOP (which you have to check out if you haven't seen a preview. The kids are gonna love this one, and Mom and Dad too!) The kids were dancing in the theater and it was all I could do to not scream "Whoo Hoo!" right along with it. The website is cute too, and since there isn't much plot info from the teaser trailer, you can see more there. And no mother will be upset to sit through another CGI movie with James Marsden. :)

Hasbro Made me Angry.

Well, the Fur Real Kitty Debacle. It all started when Ardyn and Marek had money from Christmas. That is awesome because everything goes on sale after Christmas. Marek got a cool Elmo Plane that he is totally attached to. Ardyn wanted a pillow pet, which I refused to buy because the price is ridiculously overinflated. I continued around the store with her, Unicorn Pillow Pet tightly clenched in her fists, trying to find something that would be a better use of her money and that she would go for without a serious meltdown. We were in the Littlest Pet Shop Aisle and of course nothing there was trumping pillow pet. Then she saw the Fur Real Kitty, which she had been eyeing for MONTHS, and she said she wanted it and wanted to put the pillow pet back. Well, of course the Fur Real Kitty is twice the cost of a pillow pet, but it actually does so much that I didn't really feel badly about that. It was her money after all :) And she always complains about wanting a real cat....

It had been $49 (yikes!) and it was down to $44... which was great. We eventually decided to get "Lulu my Fur Real Kitty" and she was so excited. We bought the product replacement plan for $3 at Wal-Mart, which covers a replacement for 1 year after the manufacturer's warranty expires. We got her home, took her out, and Ardyn was thrilled. We never could get it to roll over? But she went to bed that night as the happiest kid. The cat slept right next to her (and meowed all night, might I add) and in the morning, it wouldn't work at all. She never dropped it, it never was injured or mistreated. She was very delicate with it (because it was a real cat!)

So the first thing we did was replace the batteries. We used brand new Rayovac C Batteries. We use Rayovac in everything at our house, we have a big battery storage station and we buy the big clear plastic packs at Menard's and keep it stocked. The cat didn't respond. I took the batteries out and put them back in. Nothing. I took them out and tested them. They were good. I tested the original batteries. Also good. I tried another set of C batteries and no matter what we did, Kitty did not respond at all. The problem we had was that no Wal-Mart store in our area carried the kitty. They had lowered the price to get rid of them, as they were a special Christmas Item and not something they were going to carry again. Ardyn was adamant that she wanted the all white kitty, and we checked Peru, Princeton, and Kewanee Wal-Mart and they were all sold out. Most were sold out of all kitties, not just white ones.

So, we called Hasbro. It had only lasted 12 hours, certainly it would be in their best interest to help us replace the toy (It did cost $44!) The woman on the phone was less than thrilled to be talking to me. She first asked me how old the child was that was playing with the toy. (uh-oh, was she trying to determine if Ardyn was just destructive?) and then she asked me the following question, which made my blood BOIL. "Did you replace the batteries with Duracell or Energizer?"

Seriously? Now it matters which brand of batteries I use? Because that affects the Kitty? I calmly told her that I replaced them with Rayovac Batteries, because that is the brand that we use in our home. Instantly her tone changed. "Well, you need to try Energizer or Duracell." As in she was writing off the problem and dismissing me because I needed to change brands of batteries before they would diagnose the problem. I asked if she was trying to tell me that her product wouldn't work with any other brand of battery? She said that they recommend Energizer or Duracell for their products, and that anything else should be replaced with one of those brands before the product is returned. Here's the Kicker. I said "If you are so adamant about Energizer or Duracell in your products, why did you sell the Kitty with knock-off generic batteries in it?" Yeah. Silence. Stuttering. Why in the world would you not stand behind your own product, 12 hours after it's purchase, based on the brand of batteries that I was using? Let alone when the batteries you gave me (which are still good) are knockoffs that I have never heard of. Maybe those knockoffs are made for Hasbro by Duracell or Energizer, I don't know, but still. This is the most ridiculous thing. She then went on to tell me that I need to put those batteries in before sending it back, because It can take 6-8 weeks for them to analyze the product and send a replacement if warranted. Okay. I could take it back to the store in 10 minutes and have my money back, and IF they had replacements, they would be able to exchange and replace the Cat. I told her No Thank You for her help and we looked for more options.

At the suggestion of a Wal-Mart employee (who was more helpful then the product manufacturer) we returned the product for a full refund (including the product replacement plan) at the store... and then ordered it from Wal-Mart online for just $35 with free site-to-store shipping. Of course the very NEXT day we saw the white one at Target for $29.99! Oh well. LOL. We are awaiting the arrival of our replacement kitty. With no help from Hasbro.
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