Keeping Sane

These Fish Were Made for…Throwing?

  I’ve had the pattern for these fish pinned for quite a while now.  I printed the pattern out back before Christmas, thinking they would be cute stocking stuffers, and just didn’t get around to it.  It sat on my desk, waiting for me to get to it, through the New Year…through the boys’ birthdays…through Easter even, until I finally decided to make it happen last week.

  The boys had been being especially rambunctious, and I hadn’t been successful in getting much done, and I was looking for an “easy win”.  These worked.

  Being my first attempt, the red fish took me longer to get done, but now that I’ve made a handful of these, each one only takes me about half an hour.  I made the mistake of doing quite a few of the details by hand on that first fish.  Doing all but the “gills” has given me a far better result ultimately, much more quickly.

  The instructions on the blog that the pattern came from are in a language I don’t speak/read…so it was a little bit trial and error figuring out the most efficient way to put them together.  One of the biggest time savers I found was this:

  Unlike, on most stuffed animals, there’s no need to leave a hole in your edge stitching for the filling to be pushed through.  There are holes left from the slits cut for the fins, that you will need to stitch up anyhow, and they work perfectly for filling the fish.  I machine stitch all the way around the edge, hand sew one of the fin slits shut, stuff the fish, and then sew the second fin closed.
  I also decided that while these fish were originally intended as kitchen/store play fish, I reaaaallly wanted them to throw well.  G and I have been driving each other up the wall lately, and I’ve been struggling to find a way to stop unacceptable behavior without things escalating all the way to a “YOU GO TO YOUR ROOM YOUNG MAN” time-out situation every time.  Putting beans in the nose of these and tossing them at him has been a pretty quick and easy solution.  They’re still nice and soft (believe me, I’ve taken several in the face myself), but the “beanbag” weight gives them enough heft that they fly straight and make a satisfyingly loud noise upon impact.
  I’m sure that come a few months from now, the novelty will have worn off, and I’ll have to find a new strategy, but for now, it’s a huge relief that, instead of every minor offense having to be a knock down, drag out battle to the death, I can lob a fish across the room and distract him enough to usually stop the bad behavior.  Plus, it usually results in an awesome game of “feed the zoo seal” that we both enjoy.

  If you have any questions about how I put these together, please let me know!

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It’s All Too Much-A Review

  I’ve been trying to pare down the stuff in our lives for over 2 years now.  It has been an ongoing process, but we’ve finally had a break through.  This book has been a big part of it.

  …the copy of Peter Walsh’s “It’s All Too Much” that I checked out of the library did not have the author staring at me creepily from the cover.  I’m glad, because that probably would have put me off checking it out, and this book was insanely helpful.

  My Mr. laughed at me a little bit while I was reading this because I had a really hard time getting through it.  Not because it was hard to read mind you, but because I kept wanting to jump up and get rid of things or organize every time I finished a page.

  There’s a ton of information in it, and I’m not really going to dig into it a ton here, but probably the most useful thing for us was the simple advice to change the way that you look at rooms.  Instead of saying “we have all this stuff, where do we put it?”, look at your room and say “I want this room to be used for x, y and z” and remove anything that doesn’t serve those purposes.  Don’t worry about “but where are we going to put it?!?” just now, just take it out of that room.
  The book suggests you sit down and make up a chart for each of the rooms in your home detailing what’s in there now and how it is currently used versus how you’d like to have it function…and the things that ought to be removed.  Actually sitting down and doing it was excruciating and we couldn’t bring ourselves to do it for every room in the house, but it gave us a really strong place to start and got me and the Mr. on the same page as to what we were trying to do.
  I’m pretty sure we’ve gotten more done, thrown away or donated more stuff and gotten our house closer to where we want it in the last two months than in any other period in the last two years.  On top of that, it’s kind of sick how much easier it is to keep things clean and easily found when there are so many fewer of them!  Paring stuff down has gotten a little addicting.
  So, I suppose it goes without saying, if you’re looking to organize and simplify your home (and really, who isn’t?) I highly recommend this book.
  The hope is, of course, now that we’re getting to a point where I can do less manic cleaning and cursing while trying to find my things, I’ll be able to create more.  We’ll see how it all turns out!

The Busy Girl’s Secret to Fresh Food

  The boys are running me ragged.  R has teeth coming through so he’s up at night and fussy during the day and G has upped his diabolical “make Mommy crazy” game to levels here-to un-imagined.  That means I’ve been kind of a flake.  I can barely keep track of my name, let alone what day I opened a jar of sauce, and who really wants to do a taste test to find out if something has gone bad?

  Instead, I’ve been breaking out my Sharpie and doing this:

  It was a total “oh…DUH” moment.  This way, if the jar gets shoved to the back of the fridge, or I fall into a temporal wormhole (as all moms occasionally do), when I discover that jar, I’ll know that, oh, geeze, this has been in here since mid-October and it’s May now! and throw it out.
  No opening up the certainly-disgusting-by-now jar for a horrifying sniff test…no questioning if it actually does taste funny, a cut and dry open date so I know how old it is.
  If only there were a solution just as simple to help me keep track of my 3 year old…

I’ll See You Without Papers, Kid.

  I feel like I’ve been talking about (and attempting to) minimizing my stuff for years now.  I’m doing my best to be certain we’re going about it in a logical, sustainable way, rather than raining down fire and burning out on bursts of speed, so it’s a looooong process, but I feel like we’re finally getting to a point where the progress is noticeable.
  One of our biggest struggles was paperwork.  Between the mail, the preschool schedules, the preschool art, the bills and the instruction manuals we always had piles of paper everywhere.  We’ve done our best to get everything we can switched to online billing and communications, but some companies just can’t/won’t do it that way.
  It was time to try something different.
  The Mr. and I had a scanner.  It’s attached to our printer, and we technically could have done all this without any new technology, but, we were realistic with ourselves and realized that since that scanner takes forever to warm up and only does one side of one sheet of paper at a time, it wasn’t going to cut it.  We invested in a ScanSnap S1300i, which is teenie tiny on the desk top, but scans both sides of the paper simultaneously and can handle several pages at a time.
  The mail comes in, I immediately recycle the junk, bring the important things to the office, scan it all and email anything for my husband to him.  Then I shred everything and never have to think about it again.  If I need it it’s in nicely organized files on my computer, not buried under G’s crayon creations or being chewed on by the baby.
  We’ve been using this method for two months now and it’s amazing what a difference it has made.  No more piles of “to deal with later”, no more panic over misplaced bills, no more paper.  It’s wonderful how much easier it is to keep things in order without just that one category of thing floating around.  If you’re considering going paperless, I’d definitely recommend it.  I couldn’t be happier!

Ignoring Pinterest guilt and NOT making this project

  Sometimes I need saving from myself.  I’m (fairly obviously) a huge proponent of making things yourself when you can.  Pinterest, of course, feeds this by having endless tutorials saying things like “You too can easily make this cashmere shrug with only dryer lint and a bit of chewing gum!”  It makes it hard to remember that making it yourself isn’t always the best approach.
  This was one of those projects for me.
  I’ve been wanting to make G a geoboard since last fall when I was still pregnant with R.  For whatever reason, I just kept not getting around to it.  But, lately I’ve been a bit on a roll with checking things off my to-do list and I finally got the initiative to do it.  “This will be a quick, easy project” I thought to myself…because apparently I’d forgotten that nails don’t magically pop themselves into wood?
  Now, I’m good at a lot of things, but hammering nails isn’t one of them.  I inevitably smash my thumb or ricochet the nail across the room or both, simultaneously.  A master carpenter I am not, so why I thought hammering 100 nails into a particle board square was going to be a good time is utterly beyond me.
  But, there I was, with my square of board marked off into 1″ squares, my box of finishing nails, a tack hammer and a yoga mat to keep everything in place, pounding away, smashing my thumb and generally not particularly enjoying what I was doing.  And as I hammered those first 10 nails, it occurred to me that, oh, I don’t have a monitor out here and the baby could wake up at any moment.  And then it occurred to me that, huh, I’m spending my only free time today, while both boys are asleep, doing something that I don’t really like, that hurts my fingers and that, what do you want to bet, I can get for far cheaper than my time investment here.
  So I put down my hammer and headed to the computer and did a quick search…and lo and behold, I found this geoboard for $4.  …pretty sure I invested more than $4 worth of time just marking the spots I was going to put nails on my DIY version.  Granted, it doesn’t have 100 pegs like my DIY version would have, but really, if I’m honest with myself, G probably isn’t going to get nearly as into a geoboard as I’m going to want him to, and 100 pegs is probably too many for a 3 year old anyhow.  It doesn’t have the old school black wood with the metal pegs…but this way I also don’t have to worry about anybody getting clocked in the head with it, or putting out an eye on a nail.  It’s a bit smaller, but that way it can go in the car.
  I feel a bit like a cop-out that I’m buying a geoboard rather than making one, but it’s important to remember that your time has value too.  Making things is grand, but only if you’re enjoying yourself!

The House Always Wins- Creating a Mini-Economy to Improve Behavior

  A few weeks ago, G started to earn his first allowance.  To be clear, we’re not talking about boring, plain ol’ green money, but bright red poker chips.  G is thrilled.  Red is his favorite color.
  As R is getting older, he’s needing more and more attention and it was getting hard to take care of everything he needs and everything G wanted me to do and not collapse from exhaustion halfway through the day.  There are only so many times Mommy can clone herself to be in 3 places at once before lunch.  G’s allowance is part of a system we’ve put in place that is simultaneously giving me a breather, teaching him about money, improving his counting skills and cutting down on some of his whining about wanting to watch tv.
  One of the biggest behaviors that we were hoping to curtail with this approach was G’s need for “company” while he uses the bathroom.  He’s a social little guy and he figured out pretty quickly that he can have a captive audience to yammer at if they’re waiting for him to use the potty.  That means that using the toilet inevitably takes him 10 times longer than it should while whoever is keeping him company is trapped in the hallway outside the door, unable to do anything else while he chatters away at them.  He was potty trained months before R was born…he doesn’t need help anymore, he just likes the attention.
  Neither my Mr or I have a problem per say with keeping him company, but he wanted it every single time he used the bathroom and would throw a fit when we didn’t.  It wasn’t a great situation.  So, I told G we were going to start something new and handed him 3 poker chips.
  It works like this: every morning he gets 3 poker chips.  He can spend his poker chips however he wants or save them all day long, but certain things have prices.  If he wants someone to keep him company in the bathroom for instance, he has to pay them 1 poker chip…in which case we’ll be happy to accompany him.  However, if he saves his poker chips and builds up 5 of them, he can pick to watch a show at some point during the day when he normally wouldn’t be allowed to watch tv.
  This is working beautifully so far.  He still occasionally wants one of us to keep him company in the bathroom, but for the most part he has started going by himself…and far more quickly than when he would sit and talk to us.  The tantrums have evaporated because it’s his choice to save the “coins” instead of having company.  He watches a teenie bit more television now, but not much, seeing as he can’t earn an extra show more often than every other day, but best of all, his begging for tv is gone.  Before we implemented this system I was hesitant to let him watch any television besides the 1/2 hour he gets with his lunch.  If it wasn’t part of a routine it always unleashed a tidal wave of begging, whining and tantruming while demanding he be allowed to watch more for days afterwards.  Now, all I have to say is “do you have 5 coins?” and the discussion is over.
  The behavioral changes alone are enough for me, but as an added bonus, we’re also teaching him how money works by doing this.  He is responsible for keeping track of his coins.  Sometimes people lose their money, and once already, G lost a coin.  It made the difference between his being able to afford a show and not being able to afford one.  I happily helped him look for the coin, but refused when he suggested I just go get him another one since, basically, I knew he was supposed to have another one.  Sorry kiddo, nobody is going to hand over that Armani suit jacket you want just because they know you’re supposed to have the money to give them, even if you can’t quite remember what you did with it…  In the same vein, we’ve discussed that he can’t have more coins just because he wants them either.  He counts out his coins to pay for things and we’ve discussed the importance of making sure you’re paying accurately as well…that nobody is going to let you pay with too little, but that sometimes if you accidentally give someone too much, they may just keep it.  Good encouragement for him to make sure he’s really counting correctly!
  So far we’re keeping the system really simple.  He’s only 3 and there are a lot of new concepts involved in all this, so we don’t want to overwhelm him, but it has the potential to develop lots of nuance that will teach him the basics of money and discourage frustrating behaviors.
  Have any questions about how we’re making this work?  Leave me a comment or send me an email!

Lazy Summer Days (Pt 2)

  Every August my mom’s side of the family has a get together at my grandparents’ cottage.  There’s always lots of food, family and good times.  I’ve been making the trek up North for as long as I can remember, and the cottage has come to feel like a second home.  Now my boys are starting to build memories there too.
  We were just there this weekend and I’m already looking forward to going back.

An Easy Way to Keep Sun Off Your Baby in the Car

  So I realize that I’m one of about 15 moms anywhere who doesn’t drive either a minivan or a SUV with tinted windows, so the vast majority of you don’t have this problem, but those of us who are stubbornly sticking to our “sedans” have a sun problem when it comes to our rear-facing babies.
  See, depending on the time of day and which direction we’re driving, sunlight pours into the back windshield, blinding our adorable little spawn…and, usually, making them scream bloody murder.
  I tried sunglasses with G (that’s him above, I didn’t chop my hair off again), but he kind of hated them and ripped them off as soon as I climbed into the front seat.  Not terribly effective.  I’ve tried hats, but they seem to always interact with the back of the car seat in such a way that they wind up entirely behind the boys’ head or totally covering their faces…still results in screams.  Blankets always seem to fall, and the little sunshade on the car seat itself is just a joke.
  Finally, I’ve figured out something that works and stays put.
  Crib sheets!  Tucked over the back of the seat and then over the headrest they make a perfect little tent that protects Jr. from a face full of solar lava, doesn’t slide off, and, best of all, are something you’ve already got.  Plus, you can slide it over to one side to make sure that no light leaks in from your door window and that big brother or sister can still see the little one.
  This has made such a huge difference in R’s happiness while we’re driving that I’ve started just leaving one of these sheets in my car so I can pop it on whenever we need it.  Too bad it took til my second kid to figure it out!