Thursday, January 29, 2009

Staying Sane with Three Kids

I called our first family meeting tonight. I've been going in so many directions lately, and not doing anything very well, that I had to take some definitive measures. This morning, 15 minutes before my son had to walk out the door for school, I realized that it was Thursday, and the day he had to turn in his homework - homework that we had not completed! We sat down and finished it, threw it in his backpack and he rushed off to class. I do NOT want this to be my children's reality. This is not how he should view homework and it certainly isn't going to help him learn! I hate how scattered I've become lately, and I want to give them more calmness and teach them the skills to be in control of their lives and their time. Of course this means that I, too, will have to be in control of MY time.

Our first meeting tonight was to discuss how we could reach this lofty goal. One of the main time drains for me is the constant picking up and cleaning of the house. I'll start the dishes, run to do a little work on the computer, walk into the dining room and start attacking stacks of mail, go to the kitchen for a drink picking up toys on my way, only to find the dishes half done sitting in cold water. So I'll start the dishes again, and the whole thing starts over. Thus, my first agenda item was Taking Responsibility for OUR Home. I outlined how we were going to do this: every dish used goes in the sink once we are done with it, the laundry ONLY goes in the laundry basket, we don't get out a new project (toy or game) until the previous one is completely put away.... That sort of thing. I'm making a check list for every evening and every morning for the kids to have as a reminder of what needs to be done. This also lead into the second agenda point: Taking Responsibility for ourselves. Our mornings tend to have me following the kids around helping them with every single step, and really these are things they can do for themselves. In fact they would be proud of themselves for accomplishing them. Now we'll have a list for them to check and make sure every item is finished before it is time to leave for school. Only when all of these things are finished can they play.
Agenda item number three was Treating each other with Kindness. It seems when we are racing around late or tripping over things all over the floor, we also throw out the first thing that comes into our heads instead of thinking of nicer ways to say them. We are all going to help each other speak to each other with kindness first.
The third agenda item was that we are going to all work together to clean the house every Friday before our weekly movie night. In fact, movie night won't happen until the house is done. This way we won't have to work on the house over the weekend, and it won't just be me who is doing the cleaning.
I started the meeting by letting the kids choose a color out of 6 sharpie pens that will represent them, and showing them a huge wall calendar I put together. Each one of us will have a color, and I'll keep the calendar up to date so they can see where we are in the week, which days Miss Mae has school in the morning and needs to get her back pack ready, which days are library days, etc. etc. They will be able to check the calendar and get everything ready to go the night before instead of racing around trying to find everything in the mornings.
I've never been the type to have a formal organization regimen in the house, but now that there are five of us, it is too much for me to keep in my head - I've been doing a terrible job of it all.
The kids really loved the whole family meeting format, and they've each added new business and scheduled meetings for the next couple of days which they will lead. They even took turns taking questions, sitting in the chair I used during the meeting, and holding the clipboard I was using. For some reason I tend to assume that they are going to think doing this sort of thing is lame, and they won't want to participate, but they were totally in to it!
I'll let you know how we do, and I'd love any ideas for keeping a large family organized and happy!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Handmade Birthday Gifts

Miss Mae and I went to a birthday party for two of her sweet little friends last weekend. The invitation asked not to bring gifts, but Miss Mae wanted to draw them a picture. We took it one step farther and made these little notebooks for them. Since my husband's office has boxes and boxes of paper for recycling, we used it, the drawings, some lovely paper Miss Mae picked out, a plastic cover, and had it all spiral bound on the top end. We tied one end of a pretty ribbon to the end of the spiral binding, the other end to a pencil, and we have a great "to go" notebook. When the pencil is tucked into the spiral, the ribbon forms a handle - perfect for little ones to carry along.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I Dream For My Child

We were assigned to write what we dreamed for our child by Henry's kindergarten teacher. She is putting together memory books that we will get at the end of the year, and we do things like this periodically. Here is what we wrote:

I dream that Henry will grow up to be strong, and healthy, and happy.

I dream that he will be surrounded by people who love him and whom he loves.

I dream that he gets to laugh. A LOT. I dream his home is filled with laughter.

I dream that he doesn’t have to know the pain of losing people who are close to him.

I dream that he is a responsible man and makes the world a better place.

I dream that he will learn to use the amazing gifts God has given him.

I dream that he gets to visit all of the places he dreams about around the world.

I dream that he is able to continue to have trust and faith in people, and they continue to delight him.

I dream that he keeps and develops his faith in God and shares it with the people in his world.

These seem like good things to strive for for all of us - and things I'm going to try to be mindful of and prioritize. Can you think of some more?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Michael Miller Rocks the Testing.

I just received a pdf of Michael Miller's Fabric (O'Henry uses their lovely flannels) testing proving they are phthalate and lead free, and that they pass the flammability requirements. They didn't specify if they had tested EACH print as the law seems to require, but what a great step to show that they care about their customers!!

Cat in an Apron has NEVER used any questionable fabrics or materials. Everything we make and everything we carry is made by people who are using the very best, and whenever possible, local products. We all care deeply about children and their safety AND their parents!

Here is Michael Miller's testing info:

I can only assume (and hope) the other fabric houses will start doing the same.

I just got a note from a friend that said she contacted Alexander Henry who told her they were NOT planning on doing any testing, and that the small business owners would be able to find out if their fabrics had any of the toxins when we did our own testing. NICE. I just sent them a letter, too so I will update this when I hear back.

The proposed testing is so expensive, and required PER BATCH of manufacture - even if it is 10 blankets in a batch - that the prices to the consumer would go way up, or not be able to be made anymore. If one fabric manufacturer handles the cost of this testing, I can assure you I will use the tested fabrics!

Please let me know how you feel about the testing and the law!

The Pros and Cons of Running Your Own Business From Home – Take ONE.

Con: When your kids are sick, no amount of taxes due, or letters to write, or products to promote take precedence. Pressing issues that need to be addressed, aren’t. The ‘To Do’ list sits unchecked. Papers stack up. Calls are unanswered. Instead, noses are wiped, babies are held, and books are read. Over and over and over. Nests are made on the couch and children are held while they sleep.

Pro: When you are a mamaprenuer at home, YOU get to be the one to hold your babies when they are sick. And they get you.

Sale at Anthropologie

I love Anthropologie. I love their window set designers. I love their web page designers. I love their photographers. I love their clothes and accessories! I imagine myself living in a super high ceilinged flat in Paris that is totally bedecked in Anthropologie ruffles and lusciousness.

They are having a sale. It is pretty fantastic, too. Check it out.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Things To Do With The Kids for Free.

Or almost free...
This economy is no fun! And my kids are tired of being cooped up in our house with the cold weather! We need to move our bodies and I need some time to myself while the kids are occupied. I've put together a little list of things we can do for FREE. Oh, how I love that word. FREE.
  1. Make yourself a to-go cup of coffee, and walk to the park! The park is free, the kids will love it, they will get out the bottled up energy, you will get a little exercise, and can sit and talk with a friend or read a book while they play.
  2. Go to Ikea! Ikea has a really great children’s play area called Smallville – it is totally free – kids adore playing in the ball pit or coloring or watching a movie, while you can browse the huge store, or even sit with an inexpensive cup of coffee. The kids just have to meet a height requirement (my daughter did when she was almost 3) and be totally out of diapers.
  3. Take all the cushions off of your couch and let the kids build forts or lay them out and roll around on them. Tell them the carpet is the ‘lava’ and they have to stay on the cushions. They get to exercise their bodies and their minds, and you can have a minute to yourself while they are occupied.
  4. Make an obstacle course in the back yard. Use a 2x4 on the grass for a balance beam, plastic cups for cones to run around, a towel for a somersault station, even a pool for a dip in the summer! Set up a nice place for you to sit while you can see everything, and let them go at it!
  5. Plop your kids in the tub with tons of bubbles and toys, put on a hydrating mask, and read a magazine! As long as they are old enough to sit safely, you can enjoy a half hour of “me time”, while right there with them, and they will love the time to play.
  6. Trade afternoon play dates with friends. On Wednesday, you take all of the kids, on Thursday your best friend takes them all. You each get an afternoon to yourselves for errands or just some alone time. The kids love the chance to play with their friends in a different environment. This works great for date nights, too.
  7. Check out your community center! Most have great drop in art programs, open gym times, even open swim all for about $1 a kid.
  8. Go to your local library for free book readings and other events. Kids love to see all of the other kids, and get to hear a new voice read to them. Check out some new books to take home and read together.
  9. Check out your local book stores for free children’s book readings and craft projects. Most have regularly scheduled readings set up in the children’s section, and special events where the kids can come dressed up and make cool crafts. Here in Portland, The Children’s Place bookstore has great story time events like pirate days or Fancy Nancy parties. Miss Mae and I went to Fancy Nancy all dressed up, and learned how to walk with a banana on our heads and how to lift our pinkies just right when sipping tea. This month Borders is having an inauguration party, a tea party, and a family play date. Barnes and Noble is having ‘Meet Corduroy Bear’ and other story times, as well.
  10. Check to see if your local library has free tickets to local kids’ attractions. Ours has a passes you can check out to our children’s museum .
  11. Make friends with your local Parks and Recreation programs. There are free nature walks at neighborhood parks, free craft stations set up around town in the summer, even free music events summer evenings in the parks.

We can make it through this economy! I'm trying to think positive and make sure my kids don't know it is happening so they don't feel the stress of it. I hope you are all doing well - even better than ever!

Thursday, January 15, 2009


This just can't happen at this level. I'm just believing they are going to have a LOT more exeptions. Right? RIGHT??

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Baby Wearing

I had it all planned before baby O. was born (I'm good at planning what my kids will be like - and so far I've been completely wrong every time) I was going to WEAR this kid so that I could still be out and about with my two older kids and not dragging a gigantic car seat with me where ever I went. I knew a woman in Mr. H's first preschool who just popped her newborn in his sling and didn't even really slow down! He hung out in there, slept in there... I only knew he was growing by the size the bundle wrapped around her middle. One day he popped out, and could practically walk! I have another friend who is a baby wearing consultant - I wish I knew her better, so she could give me some pointers. I'm not interested so much in the dogmatic part of the wearing. I don't think kids have to be worn in order to bond or to feel good about themselves, I would just like to be able to move around with BOTH hands while holding Baby O. There are so many types on the market: the Maya Wrap, the Mei Tai, slings, Baby Bjorns, etc. etc. etc.

So far I'm a complete failure at it. We have a Kelty Kids front carrier from when Mr. H. was a baby - I used it a lot with him and with Miss Mae. I hated it. I HATED it. It never fit me, the back panel was always riding up, it was incredibly hot, and you have to wrap the baby in one piece and then clip it 400 times to get it attached to the piece already on YOU.

We also have a Baby Hawk, but Baby O. has spent about one hour in it in the three months he's been here - he hates it. I also have a Peanut Shell which I thought would be PERFECT, and the only time I've gotten Baby O. in it is when he was already asleep. He squirms and screams and acts like I'm attacking him! I set out for the park with him happily sleeping in it, I had this image of me pushing the kids in the swings, following them around everywhere, all the while Baby O would be happy and content taking part in the whole thing. WELL. I ended up taking him out as soon as he woke up screaming and thrashing, and carried him home in my arms with the sling shoved in my back pocket.

Do some babies go for the wearing and others not? Am I just doing it all wrong?? I would love any ideas or experiences!!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

After School Snacks

I'm on a quest to find a HEALTHY after school snack that my kids will like and want to eat. My son has eating "issues" that I've talked about quite a bit - his food repertoire is VERY limited, although it grows every day. He would just as soon NOT eat than eat something he doesn't really like. We try to stay to a pretty strict time schedule when it comes to eating so that no one gets ravenously hungry or misses dinner because of snacking all day long. My daughter can have a glass of milk at 4:00 and not be hungry for dinner. She also gets VERY cranky when she is hungry, and hasn't quite made the connection yet. Although she did comment, when Carlotta from the Phantom of the Opera is throwing a fit, "SHE must not have had BREAKFAST today! SHE is GRUMPY!"
They eat crackers and cheese or a little fruit every single day. I need something new!! I made the recipe for Peanut Butter Granola Balls from Everyday Food, but I'm surprised at how much honey is in them! They are VERY sweet. My daughter didn't like them because she didn't like the oatmeal, although she LOVES oatmeal and granola, and my son wouldn't even try them.
I would like to be able to make a batch Sunday afternoon or Monday morning, and have them all week. They need to be at least SORT of healthy - would be great if I could sneak in something they don't usually eat, and need to be NOT sugar with sugar on top. I mean, I could just buy a bag of cookies if they are going to eat rice crispy treats or something.
This is a page from Martha. Most of them are either things the kids won't eat, or too dessert-y for what I'm looking for.
I think something like this would be a great thing to bring to a friend with a new baby, too. I'm still grabbing anything just to stop the hunger when I'm running out the door, or swamped with things to do here. It would be nice to have something healthy on hand.
I'm going to keep digging and see if I can find something. Any ideas?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Taste of Summer

A Taste of Summer
Originally uploaded by marnus72

Here is our raspberry vodka all bottled up! I posted about this previously - we got fresh raspberries at our farmer's market and started this back in September. Half of these are infused vodka (no sugar) and the other ones are liqueur (WITH sugar) but you can't see the difference at all. They both taste JUST like biting into a fresh raspberry - with a BITE!

I printed the labels on my computer and dressed them up a little with a bow. The ornament is one of the cinnamon ones we made with the kids.

I finally opened a flickr account, that explains my formatting here... Not sure I like it. I need to do a lot more investigating, but don't have the time right now. I'm working on a neeeeew project!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Slow Down and FOCUS in 2009

As mamas who are spread thin, trying to squeeze so much out of every day, I think we should take this list to heart. This is directed at the mama side of us. I need to work on every single one. I hate that I can't give credit to who wrote this, as I've had it tacked on my bulletin board for a couple of years and I didn't down the author.

  1. Say yes to more: to spending time and doing things together.
  2. Say no more: to "I want," "I need," "Everyone has it," and "Everyone does it." If nothing else, say no to a television in a child's room.
  3. Worry less: about all the highly sensationalized menaces that exist out there, lurking in wait for you and your children. The overwhelming odds are with you to come through the year just fine (but drive carefully – without the cell phone).
  4. Listen more to your children and talk at them less: Ask "What do you think?" "What are you feeling?" "Tell me about it" and "what would you do?"
  5. Explain a little more, negotiate a little less: Our kids deserve to know the thinking behind our decisions and expectations, but they should not expect to be equal partners at the bargaining table. We are the parents.
  6. Read a little more: to your child, with your child, in front of your child – books, magazines, newspapers, notes.
  7. Write a little more: notes of love, recognition, encouragement, responsibility, daily appreciation of life.
  8. Expect a little more: good behavior, responsibility, manners, kindness, and all the goodness that lies within our children.
  9. Expect a little less: constant scheduling and enrichment-filled days. Children need a lot of slow to grow.
  10. Connect more: to family, friends, the community, those who are less fortunate, and the natural world.

And remember: Give yourself credit every time you make small steps and do the right thing!

Anyone Up For a Tantrum??

The last few days of Christmas break in our house was kind of strange. My 6 year old was moping around like a gloomy teenager, I was snapping at everyone and couldn't figure out why, even Baby O. was more testy than normal.

Portland, Oregon gets SO little sun in the winter! It really affects my mood. Top that off with weeks stuck inside due to crazy weather, and you get our moody stew!

This article says we should throw a tantrum to blow off some steam! Mr. H. is happily back at school with his three recesses, and I think I'll hit the treadmill instead!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Christmas Sewing with "Sewing With a French Twist"

I did make some lovely things from this beautiful book:Simple Sewing with a French Twist: An Illustrated Guide to Sewing Clothes and Home Accessories with Style
The reviews seem to really be mixed about the book. Some say the projects are too easy, some say it is great inspiration. I've not sewn many things from patterns, so I'm not a good judge of the easiness factor, but every page is just dreamy - her style really is impeccable. I wish I were the sort of woman who wore trench coats with butterflies aloft, and berets, and had cafe table linens... I admit, though, that it surprises me that someone would write out how to take the cover off of your EXISTING market cart, lay it on fabric, and make a new one, but I guess if you are trying to fill a book... Coming from my architectural background, I wish that the instructions weren't her chicken scratched drawings, although they are better than some I've seen. And the four things I've made seem miniature compared to her photos. I thought the bean bag chairs I was making for my kids would be BEAN bag chairs, when really they are sort of bean bag STOOLS. They actually use them more as propped up pillows when lounging.

My parents do a lot of traveling, so I made the "his" and "hers" laundry bags for them. I thought they could roll them up in their suitcases, and use them as they go. The "hers" bag is the one below with the sort of ruffled top. I'm very pleased with how they turned out. They each took me about 3 or 4 hours start to finish. To have a stack of fabric and two days later these lovelies is a wonderful feeling!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Resolution: ORGANIZATION!

This year, I'm really going to have a place for everything, and have everything in its place. We were all playing together, and I was explaining to the kids what resolutions are, and how you RESOLVE to do something, and I said our resolution was going to be to put everything away in its place before we start a new project/toy/contraption/etc. They all nodded, nodded, and then Mr. H. said, "that is GREAT mom.... but that isn't MY resolution!"

It IS going to be our goal, though. I started with our art supplies. We spend a lot of time with these supplies, and I had them all scattered around, and with two main plastic tubs that were overflowing. Every time someone asked me for tape, or glue, or scissors, I had to go digging through these little bins knocking paints on the floor, and finding markers with no caps.
Now I have
  • all of the paints in one basket with the paint brushes in a Ziploc bag tucked in.
  • All of the markers and crayons in one basket - separated with Ziplocs.
  • all of the glue, scissors, and tape in one basket
  • a basket of unfinished projects - right now they are decoupage creations that are all painted but not yet decoupaged.
  • all of the misc. stickers and adornments in one basket.

Then I cleaned out the closet in our office/kids STUFF room (which was overflowing with stashed items from having friends over) and put the baskets inside.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE! Now the kids can reach what they are looking for, and it will be much easier to put things away because they can just drop them in. I've finished the rest of the closet since I took this picture, and now the games are organized, the playdough is organized (yikes), and all of the "projects" they got for Christmas are on the top shelf ready for the "what should we do today?" that is SO hard in this water locked season of ours.

I feel like I can breeeeaaaath. aaaaahhhhh.