20 July 2012

Craft Projects and DIY Cleaner

The past few weeks have gone by too fast. It feels like it was just last week that I wrote an entry. Apparently it's been over two weeks!

In the past few weeks we've done some crafty things, made some not-so-crafty (and crafty) purchases, and I tried a new homemade cleaning trick last night. And, because I'm a geek, I'm going to continue to make my posts with subject headers.

Crafty Purchases
In preparation for some of the things that I've found and want to try, for both arts activities and for cleaning, I bought some pipettes, some squeeze bottles, and some spray bottles. I also got a craft/art tray that came with paper, which I'm hoping will be good for some more messy/sensory play.

Other Purchases
I got some "busy bag" activities for sometimes play for the Peanut. He got:
Lauri Toys Toddler Tote
Lauri Toys Primer Pack
Train Colorforms

The Train Colorforms and the Toddler Tote are big hits right now. I haven't given him the Primer Pack to play with yet, because I'm stockpiling it for a rainy day.

Projects!
We've done the Baking Soda/food coloring/vinegar activity a few times now. It's been a big hit, and stupidly cheap. The first time, I didn't have the pipettes, and only had a medicine dropper, so instead of coloring the vinegar, I dropped some food coloring directly onto the baking soda. The second time, I colored the vinegar as we had the pipettes, and that was a far more interesting result.

Another hit was paint in a ziploc bag. This bag lasted for close to a week, with almost daily entertainment value (for me as well as the kiddo, it was a bit like a stress ball!) It probably would have lasted longer with some tempura paint or something commercially made. I used homemade paint (flour, water, salt, and food coloring), so it began to separate - a process that I think was faster because of the heat and humidity we had last week.

Green Cleaning
Last night I tried a new tub cleaner. 1 part vinegar, heated ~90 seconds, mixed with 1 part Dawn (or other similar soap), poured into a spray bottle and mixed. Spray in tub/shower, let set for 1-2 hours, wipe clean and rinse. I also sprayed it on the shower walls.
Results: The mixture DID clean my tub, but I prefer the Martha Stewart tub scrub. It smells better, and I feel like overall, it was less work to clean off. It is, however, easier to apply to the walls, as the tub scrub is more of a paste. I might use this again, but only infrequently and probably just on the shower walls.

Social
Tomorrow morning, we have a playdate. I hope that the Saturday morning time winds up working well for some of the other moms in the meetup group I'm in, because it's the easiest/best time for me to do playdates, since my husband is working, and the Peanut is a morning person who wants to put his shoes on and get out the door as early as 7am some days.

Birthday
My son's birthday is coming up in a few weeks. I cannot believe I have an almost 2 year old. We have done the shopping for presents, I just have to find a time to wrap them when curious little eyes aren't awake and alert! Right now, he ADORES Elly from Pocoyo, so he's getting a stuffed Elly. Along with that, he's getting a few little things, a set of colorforms that's a "design a face" sort, and probably a Zoo Talker for his zoo (haven't managed to check Target for one yet).

We'll probably be reusing the banner from last year, since it took me so darned long to make...hopefully I can do a better job hanging it this time. And probably some cupcakes designed like fish.

05 July 2012

Since February...

One of these days, I'll actually be good about maintaining a space to put thoughts down into. I always tell myself you need to write more regularly, and then I never do it. I think, like everything else, I may need to start adding a calendar reminder and just blogging about whatever is in my mind on that day.

Needless to say, with a toddler in the house, a lot has happened since my last update in February.

The Kidlet
My son has started talking in short sentences, and has started showing a lot of preferences for things like colors, books, and activities. It is FANTASTIC to be able to hold short conversations with him, to watch him develop into his own little person with preferences, and to be able to meet his needs and wants because he can communicate them well.

I cannot believe that he is turning two in just a few short weeks. Time is going by way too fast! The Peanut picked out his own evite design (Yo Gabba Gabba of course), and we're probably going with some sort of "sea" theme, though since he doesn't really have a lot of kids coming to his parties at this point, the "theme" will probably mostly consist of the fact that the cupcakes will be designed like fish, maybe I'll try to revamp the birthday banner so that the letters look like fish as well.

His current favorites:
Color: Orange
Foods: Grapes, Mac & Cheese, Banana Bread, Ice Cream
Books: "I Wish that I had Duck Feet", "Daddy Adventure Day", "Giraffes Can't Dance", and "The Belly Button Book"
TV: Peppa Pig, Pocoyo, Fresh Beat Band, Yo Gabba Gabba, and The Ellen Degeneres Show
Toys: Matchbox Cars, Train Colorforms
Activities: Coloring with markers, painting (homemade watercolors!), dancing to the iPod, and playing the keyboard

We're still working on climbing up and down stairs. The downfall to living in an apartment is that we don't really have any good stairs for practicing on.

Crafts and Miscellaneous Pinterest Inspirations
The quiet book is still coming along slowly. I've finished 5 pages, and am almost done with a 6th page. I'm hoping to find some time during my vacation at the end of the month to finish this for my son's second birthday. He's already discovered some of the finished pages and has been entertained by them, so I'm hopeful that this will be a hit!

Colored Noodles Busy Bag: I followed the instructions on this pin not too long ago to dye some shell macaroni 6 different colors. I recommend not using shells (use something that doesn't curl in on itself - the rigatoni like in the picture is a good idea). Also note: Once they are dyed, spread them out on something to let them air dry. I made the mistake of letting them dry in the bags, which caused some of them to stick to one another pretty badly, resulting in breaking some that had to be chucked. My son actually specifically asks to play with these every other day or so. I paired them with 6 cleaned out yogurt cups so that he can pour them back and forth, and eventually sort them.

Moon Sand: Moon sand, cloud dough, whatever you want to call it; this is awesome and stupidly cheap and easy to make. The recipe calls for baby oil, but I used vegetable oil, as I didn't know if my son was going to try to eat it, and didn't really want him ingesting the baby oil if he did. It feels and acts pretty much like fine beach sand, and is fairly easy to clean up.

Homemade Tub Scrub: This is from Martha Stewart's Website, and now that I have tried it, I swear by it. I use eucalyptus oil, and find that this mix is easier to spread than the commercial tub cleaner that we used to get, gets the tub CLEANER with less effort (maybe because it's easier to spread?), AND is cheaper. WIN-WIN!
  • 1 teaspoon of liquid soap 
  • several drops of an antibacterial essential oil (such as tea tree, eucalyptus, rosemary, or peppermint)
  • one cup of baking soda
  • Add just enough water to form a paste
  • Use it with a sponge or brush to scour bathtub surfaces
On my to try soon list:
  • Discovery Bottles - pretty much waiting on my getting decent bottles to use for this.
  • Gel in Ziploc Bags - I've seen this done with paint too, so I'm not sure whether I'm going to use paint or some sort of hair gel/glitter/etc. combintation
  • Cookie Sheet Activities - looks quick and easy to do! Just need to get some magnetic letters?
  • Baking Soda and dyed vinegar - When I was mixing the baking soda and vinegar for our homemade water colors this weekend, my son was thrilled to see the fizzing, so we will be doing this as soon as I get my hands on a few droppers!
  • Busy Bags - Not sure which ones I'll be trying first here. I'd love to make the paint sampler matching, but need to find where I can get some paint sampler sheets. Once our parmesan cheese container is empty, it's definitely getting transformed into a q-tip or pipe cleaner catcher.

Being Social
I've been making an effort to be more social. With my schedule and my husband's schedule, it is actually a very hard task! I've found a few parenting groups in the area, one of which is geared towards Working Parents, so I'm hopeful that we'll be able to forge some connections there. I've already been to two of the meetups with this group, and they seem very nice!

Other
I have gotten bitten by the gaming bug again and have been playing Final Fantasy X-2 (yes, I'm a shameless FFVIII and FFX/FFX-2 lover, FFVII be damned). I've also discovered a free online MMORPG as of yesterday - Allods Online - that is VERY similar in playstyle to World of Warcraft, which I played for about 5 years (Husband got me hooked shortly after it first came out in 2004, and we quit when I was in my first trimester of pregnancy in 2009, because we weren't playing enough to justify $30/month for both accounts, we were getting bored of the daily grind with almost no new content. I was also tired of all the guild drama. I've considered going back into WoW, since I've invested so much into the characters there, but it's so incredibly "dumbed down" from when I started playing that it's mostly about end game and daily grind, and I don't really want to fork over $15/month when I don't have much time to game anyway.

08 February 2012

A Crazy Life

To say that the last few months have been insane would be an understatment.

In November, my boss got promoted, and asked me to come over to the new office to continue as his administrator. After much deliberation, I ultimately decided to make the move. My boss guaranteed no change in my hours; an important factor given the fact that my husband works nights and needs me home in time to switch off with our son. It also came with a pay increase and a change from hourly to salary (which means I also managed to get an extra week of vacation per year and accumulate sick hours faster now to boot).

The holidays were obviously hectic, between getting settled in a new job and getting ready for the holidays. I spent Saturday evenings and naptimes on Sundays crafting like mad in an effort to get my mother-in-law's calendar completed on time. It was done in time for the gathering, and she loved it - yay! I noticed a few flaws in my attempt to replicate the instructions I found on a craft blog (the biggest being that for some reason my paper punch that claims to make 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" squares makes 1" x 1" squares....what the hell?)

I tested out making bath bombs as well, but didn't get around to making them as gifts this year. However, this gives me time to practice making them (the scent in batch #1 wasn't as strong as I'd like).

I also did some work on my son's quiet book, though right now that it still maybe 1/3 done, with several of the pages in various phases of completion. Hoping to do some work on that this weekend, now that I've decided that I'll stitch the velcro on by hand. The biggest problem with the quiet book is that I have very little working space right now, so I have to spend about 5-10 minutes setting up my area when I start, and another 5-10 packing it all back up so everything is out of my son's reach. Hoping to get a craft cart and a shelf to put on the wall above my working table soon.

My son is now walking, and climbing enough things to make me nervous about leaving him out of sight for longer than 5 seconds. We need to get him a twin bed for his room soon; as I'm hoping to start having him do naps in there. And, he's mostly out of the highchair and using a booster seat at the table. The highchair remains on hand for Saturdays when we eat in the livingroom, and for messy projects like painting.

When did my baby turn into a toddler???

Now that things have quelled down a bit at work, hoping to post more again. Last night, due to seeing some posts going around Facebook about spanking research that shows that it may lower IQ, I was actually reflecting on my upbringing (we were spanked, and sometimes got our hands snapped in a belt), and why, although I would say that "I turned out OK" and why, although I consider myself a decent human being who ultimately doesn't feel she was harmed by being spanked, I have no intentions to ever spank or use forms of "corporeal punishment" on my child(ren). To be continued...

25 October 2011

Apple Orchards and Craft Excitement

This past weekend, my husband, son, and I spent Sunday with my mother and father in law, where we went to a farm near their home that had apple picking, pick your own pumpkins, and some farm animals. We had a blast.

My son had a great time with the pumpkins and spent a good while crawling around them and checking them out. He probably would have been content among the pumpkins for even longer, but since it was one of the first things we did (after eating), I wanted to make sure he had a chance to look at the animals (and that we had a chance to get some apples!). It was great to see him so excited; at just 15 months old, sometimes it's hard to tell what's going to hold his interest. But the pumpkins and animals certainly did! I did have to work at keeping him from picking the goats' noses, though, since everytime a goat stuck his head through the fence to check us out, my son would go straight for the nostril. Unfortunately, he couldn't really reach the pigs, because they were all piglets and too small to get close enough for us to reach.

My father in law found us a little apple and A wasted no time in digging right into it, managing to polish off a good chunk of the apple by the time we were finished filling our bag. He passed out in the car when we left and slept the whole way home (1 1/2 hours). Of course, this meant at bedtime, mommy was exhausted, but A was not. My wonderful husband gave me a reprieve when it was clear that A wasn't going to bed any time soon - the guys went out to the livingroom to play, read, and have a snack, and mommy passed out until A was ready to nurse and go to sleep for real. We've decided that this is going to be an annual event, and I hope that the rest of the in laws will join in next year.

And along the crafting vein, I'm still on a craft kick, so I think it's really going to stick around. Which I'm glad for, because I just keep finding more and more projects to work on.

My sewing machine came today, so I can start working on the Wipes Container/Toddler Toy project. I figure this will be a GREAT introduction to the sewing machine, as it really won't matter of I don't do perfect stitches on the cloth, since I'll mostly be hemming the squares to keep them from fraying.

Last weekend and the weekend prior, I managed to gather the majority of the materials that I'm going to need to start working on the quiet book.

I also found the perfect present for my mother in law if I can pull off actually making it, and some cool homemade popsicle stick bracelets that I might attach to my nieces' and nephew's gifts. I also found some great directions for homemade bath fizzies, so I am hoping to have some really personalized, heartfelt gifts to give this year. I always try really hard to buy things that people will like, but this just seems so much warmer and meaningful - if I can pull it off!

18 October 2011

Arts, Crafts, and Fun

Lately, I've been getting big into do-it-yourself projects. In the past few weeks, we've found a few simple (and cheap!) ways to have fun with my son, and I've been starting to get revved up about trying to do some homemade crafts, some of which I hope to do for my son for Christmas (either this coming one or in the future) - and maybe even some for my nieces and nephew.

So far, our homemade flour finger paints and dyed ice cubes at bathtime have both gone over very successfully. For the finger paints, I actually doubled the recipe on the website, and have 3 decent-sized containers (red, yellow, and blue) stored in my fridge. They've kept well for several weeks so far, and we've had at least 4-5 fingerpainting sessions with them, where I've filled a 1/2 dozen egg carton with paint. It washes off easily, and flakes off once it's dried.

The dyed ice cubes idea I got from a mom friend. My husband had a brilliant idea, since small ice cubes will melt in the warm tub water quickly; we used a small tupperware (about the size of 1-2 cups of water) and froze it up with some food dye in it. This has now become a weekly tub treat.

I've been adding them to my Pinterest account, so that I have an easy to find place for them. My first three crafts are two small projects and one HUGE project.
Turning a Wipes Container into a Toddler Toy
Felt Envelopes
Quiet Book (aka the "HUGE" Project)

I'm looking at getting a sewing machine, because I want to start making other felt toys as well.

I've been getting into do-it-yourself projects for around the house as well. Recently, I made my own dishwasher detergent, thanks to this recipe. So far, it's done a great job of keeping the dishes clean, and we've done away with the $3-4 bottle of detergent that we need to replace every 2 weeks. It was quick to mix up, and the supplies we got will make many batches (or may even start getting used for other cleaners). This will be a great cost savings for very little effort. The only "inconvenient" part is that the mixed batch sometimes needs a good shaking before spooning some out, since it can clump.

My next do-it-yourself for the home is to set up a family command center that can serve as a memo board, place to keep the shopping list, a calendar, etc. I just have to find a wall in my home that I can hang things on without them falling out that is in a central location. My entryway just doesn't want to hold up the things I try to nail to the wall....

30 September 2011

Sports, Simplification, and other Non-baby Diversions

Red Sox End their Season, Now it's time for Bruins 
Being from the Boston area, I am fairly certain that it's in my rental agreement that if I regularly talk, breathe, or write, that at some point or another, I am required to bring sports into the picture. While I'm not a huge sports fan, I will admit that the team spirit that the city has is infectious (though fairweather fans are still incredibly annoying). It's kind of funny how everyone is pitching fits over this like there wasn't a huge dry spell of championships pre-2004.

So, the Red Sox epically blew it this month and their season is over. My husband, being the Red Sox fan in the house, mentioned that the odds of them doing so terribly were highly unlikely or, as he said "...or 1 in 1 as it turns out."

We are looking forward to being able to take our son to see the Red Sox possibly next season, as this year he was too young to really want to sit still. We'll see how his demeanor is next year and go from there.

But now, with baseball season officially over for our house, it's now time for HOCKEY. My husband is the big baseball fan. I will watch it and I enjoy it well enough (though I really enjoy seeing our son spontaneously clap for the Red Sox and insist on wearing his baseball cap around the house more than anything!), but if I'm into any sport, hockey is it. And with the Bruins as our hometeam, I'm all the more thrilled to be going into hockey season. We used to live in Los Angeles, but I was never much of a Kings fan. I prefer the Ducks. We did go to a Kings/Ducks game one year and my husband was worried we would get jumped in the parking lot of the Staples Center because I spent the game rooting for the Ducks. Loudly. And they won. And my husband was entertained because he's never seen me get so hyped up about sports.

As far as football (American), we're not big football fans around here. We usually watch the Superbowl, and anything outside of that is mostly if there's nothing better on and we want background noise. But, I spent 7 years watching live high school and football games because of marching band, so I've more than had my fill of the sport!

Simplifying my life
I've decided that I want to try to simplify a lot of things in my life that are distractions or redundant.

I started with Facebook. I went through a first round of purging of friends that I don't know very well or don't even interact with on the site and eliminated some of the groups I was in. I will undoubtedly be going back for another round of purging in the coming days when I have a chance to really look at the obscenely long list of friends on my list. I have also been removing games/applications that I don't play. I have vowed not to add any new games.

I've also started looking at things like the cleaning supplies in my house. We have several different types of cleaners that do slightly different things. Turns out that most of these tasks can also be done just as effectively, and more cheaply, by obtaining a few simple household supplies like washing soda, vinegar, and bleach. I now have two spray bottles of solution that I use; one is half & half vinegar/water to use for things like mirrors and on the shower curtain (apparently vinegar is good for eating up soap scum), and the other is half & half bleach/water. My floor cleaner will be a bucket of water with a bit of bleach or vinegar added as needed.

We're in the process of simplifying our debts as well. Currently our debts, with the exception of our student loans, are now consolidated onto one credit card currently at 0% interest. We have a plan in place that should get us paid off by this time next year.

I'm still looking for ideas of other ways to simplify, so I plan on doing some reading. This link on 30 Articles That Will Help You Simplify Your Life looks promising.

Other Time Sinks
After my son goes to bed, I've taken to spending way to much time on Pinterest, and have started playing Civilization IV again. I was on a big FrontierVille kick on Facebook, but I'm tired of all the new quests and buildings that are nothing more than "beg all your friends to send you stuff." As far as Civ IV, Genghis Khan really frustrates me. Coming and beating me up and taking my cities. I love building the cities, but I still so suck at building the necessary defenses or offenses to conquer and defend...

Maybe I should just go back to SimCity, where there are no wars....

22 September 2011

Birth Resources: Home vs. Hospital and Pain Management

Deciding what you want out of your birth experience can be overwhelming. I wish that I had kept a list of the many resources I found while researching and preparing for my son's birth, because I did come across some very helpful sites.

One of the things that helped me realize all the options I had was getting my hands on a birth plan template. From there, I researched some of the things that I hadn't given much thought to, because they weren't things that I'd really thought about or realized I had an option of.

Homebirth vs. Hospital Birth
The first decision, if you're low risk and looking for a natural birth, may be whether to have a homebirth or a hospital birth. There have been several studies in the Netherlands that have attempted to ascertain the safety of a home birth when compared to a hospital birth.
Of the three studies below, the first two found that homebirth had no more or fewer complications than hospital deliveries. The third (and most recent), finds that care under a midwife (low risk pregnancies) had greater birth complications than did high risk pregnancies under the care of an obstetrician. Brittany at Birth Unplugged does a great job discussing study 2 and study 3 on her blog:
If you are giving homebirth some serious consideration, familiarize yourself with the laws in your state that might affect what type of care provider you may be able to hire. The Midwives Alliance of North America also has a state chart breaking down Direct-Entry Midwife Legal status.

If a homebirth isn't right for you, but feel that a hospital birth may provide unnecessary interventions, you might consider a Birth Center.

Whether you opt for homebirth, hospital birth, or a birth center, there are questions you'll want to ask about the place you expect to deliver and the type of care you'll receive. ICAN (the International Cesarean Awareness Network) talks about the different birth options and provides a fantastic list of questions that you may want to consider at the bottom of the page.

Pain Management
Probably one of the biggest decisions most women think about when planning their labor and delivery is what type of pain management they want. There are a number of options for women who want to use natural pain management techniques. Even if you don't plan on using pain medications, I strongly encourage you to research the different pros and cons of each type of pain medication, to ensure that you are as fully informed as possible about the risks and benefits of each prior to going into labor. A starting point for some of the benefits and risks of the different types of medications can be found in the Labor & Birth section of AmericanPregnancy.org, though I strongly encourage comparing information from several different locations (as well as talking to your prenatal care provider about them to determine if there are additional benefits or risks in your particular case).

Pain Medications
Note that this is not necessarily a comprehensive list of the options, but an overview of some of the common options available
  • Epidural
  • Spinal Block (note that this is different from the epidural)
  • Local Anesthetic
  • Narcotics
  • General Anesthesia (may be used in the event of Cesarean)
One thing you will want to consider is what option you may want to use in the event of a Cesarean. While discussing potential complications with my midwife during my own pregnancy, I was surprised to find out that if I opted for general anesthesia over epidural or spinal, that my husband would be unable to accompany me in the surgery, due to the extra space needed for staff and equipment for monitoring and administering the general anesthetic.

Natural Pain Relief
Again, this list is an overview, and not intended to be considered comprehensive
  • Counter Pressure
  • Breathing Techniques (ex: Lamaze)
  • Positioning with Birth Aids (ex: Birthing Ball, Squat Bar)
  • Setting up a calming/relaxing environment (ex: use of music)
  • Water
In addition to the above, there are programs such as Hypnobabies that some women swear by.