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!


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!

Lightweight Sleep Sack for Baby

  Tuesday I showed you the warm weather sleep shorts I made for G.  He’s not the only one whose sleeping wardrobe has been getting updated though.  R sleeps better for us when he’s in a sleep sack.  He’s past the age where swaddling is particularly effective, but he still does better with something around his feet.  All the appropriately sized sleep sacks we had were fleece though…obviously not an option in this weather.  Old pillow cases to the rescue AGAIN!

  To make this, all I did was lay one of his current sleep sacks on top of the pillowcase and trace around it, leaving the bottom of the pillow case sealed shut and cutting into it for the neck and armholes towards the open end.  Another option, if you don’t currently have a sleep sack, would be to use a onesie for a basic guideline on neck and arm size (though obviously your sack has to be significantly longer than a onesie!)  Once I had the pillowcase cut to the correct shape, I slashed down the middle of the front piece and installed the zipper.  Then I sewed up the side seams before finishing the armholes and neckline.  As a note…I install the zippers upside down so the pull tab winds up at the baby’s feet.  This is a little preemptive at this point, but becomes super important once you start using these sacks to keep little nudists from ripping off all their clothing and diaper in the night.  If you want to do it the same way you need a separating zipper for this to actually work.
  Because these are a quick and dirty project using old pillow cases they don’t ever turn out terribly pretty.  They’re not something I’m going to pull out to show off my sewing skills for sure.  The zipper always creates a pleat at the bottom using this method, and since I just fold over my arm and neck holes to stitch them, they’re always pretty warped and hideous.  I could do it the right way…separate the front from the back, put the zipper in first before reattaching them…finish the neck/armholes with bias tape…but, nah.  These are a practical item that I’m just making so the baby sleeps well for these few hot months, so I’m gonna stick with slapdash.
  Have any questions about how to make a bag to shove your baby in?  Leave a comment or shoot me an email!

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!

How to Fit Your Diaper Bag in Your Purse

  I really hate having to haul a diaper bag with me.  If I have both boys with me, at a minimum, I already have my purse, R in his car seat and G by the hand.  Usually I also have at least one or two other things I need to be carrying, pushing or pulling, so dragging a full sized, satchel diaper bag around on top of everything else I have makes me feel like an overburdened Sherpa.  It doesn’t help my level of annoyance that 9 times out of 10 that I haul that big bag with me, I don’t wind up needing it.
  I can’t very well not take it though, or that inevitable 10th time will surely strike in the most desperate, stinky way possible.  So what is a vain, likes-to-travel-light mama supposed to do?
  Enter the mini-diaper bag.
  This obviously isn’t the whole kit and caboodle diaper bag with burp cloths, blankets and toys, but a lot of the time you don’t need all that stuff, like when you’re grocery shopping for instance.  You do however need to have supplies on hand in case of diaper emergencies.
  I’m keeping a couple of these made up with whatever size diaper R is in at the time so I can have one in my purse or toss one into the stroller when we’re on the go.
  Want to make your own?  Here’s what you need:
A quart sized sandwich bag
2 or 3 packaged wet wipes (you can get sensitive ones safe for baby’s skin)
An appropriately sized diaper
A small bag for dirty diaper containment (in case you’re not near a trash)
A waterproof pad*
*I use cut in half disposable “underpads” that we used for protecting the car seat when we were potty training G.  You may have some of these from the hospital when you gave birth.
  Fold your underpad to a size that will fit into your bag.  This will be what you lay the baby on to protect them/the surface you are changing them on from yuck.  Next, place your diaper in the bag with the pad.  Fold up your small bag and add it and finally toss in your wet wipes.  Squish all the air out of the bag and seal it shut.
  You now have everything you need for an emergency change!  The whole package is less than an inch thick and isn’t much bigger than a folded in half sheet of paper.  Unless your purse is really tiny, it should be small enough to tag along at all times without much fuss.
  Much nicer than remembering that giant diaper bag, isn’t it?

How I’m Teaching My 3 Year Old Time Management

  We’ve been struggling with G lately in regards to time.  He is in a very independent stage and wants to do everything by himself.  Problem is, doing stuff himself takes (at least) 3 times longer than when Mommy and Daddy help him, AND he wants us to stand there and watch him do it, so we have less time to get the things we need to do done, AND he seems to derive great pleasure from drawing tasks out as long as humanly possible.
  As a disclaimer on the title of this post, you can’t teach somebody who doesn’t want to learn, and 3 year olds don’t typically have a whole heck of a lot of interest in learning how to be more cooperative.  That being said, we’ve found a couple of techniques that have at least helped encourage G to move a little quicker and to help him understand that if more than one thing can happen at the same time, we’re able to do more fun things in the day.
  So, without further ado:
  The first thing I did to help G understand that we can only do so many things in a day was to make him a “time pie”.
  I did a quick search online for clock faces, downloaded one and printed out several copies.  I used a ruler to divide the first copy into 5 minute “slices” and wrote the hour numbers on it.  Then I cut wedges out of the remaining copies for the approximate amount of time that several of our common tasks take.  Since one of our major struggles has been G understanding that we can do more fun things (like going to the park or playing together) if he will take care of things on his own, like eating his breakfast while I get dressed, I made sure to include tasks that I have to do as well.
  To use the pie, I sit down with G and ask him what we need to get done in the next hour (it seems to be a common amount of time in which we need to get things done anyhow).  We pull out the wedges for those things and arrange them on the blank clock.  I start by arranging them with nothing overlapping.  Mommy hangs out the entire time he’s eating breakfast, keeps him company while he uses the potty, helps him pick out his clothes for the day, all before getting dressed and taking care of baby R herself.  Then I show him how much more of the “pie” would be left for fun things if, while he ate his breakfast, I could get dressed.  If I could feed the baby while he used the potty, ect.
  This seems to be helping him build an understanding of time, but unfortunately, sometimes he just doesn’t really care if we have time left or not.  He knows nap time is coming and he’s going to drag lunch out til he bleeds every second he can out of it.  That’s when the timer comes out.
  We had been using a standard kitchen timer for a long time, but we found that he didn’t really have a concept of how long he had when we set it, and so while sometimes it encouraged him to move faster, a lot of times it just caused tantrums when the timer “unexpectedly” went off.  Luckily, we recently found a better timer option for him.
  We found all of these countdown timers on YouTube.  As the time runs out, the circle changes color, so your kiddo has a visual of how much time they’ve wasted used and how much they have left to finish their task.
  I’m not going to claim that these tricks have completely solved the problem, but they’ve absolutely improved it.  G now seems to have a much clearer understanding that, scream all he wants, Mama can’t actually make more hours in the day, and that if he’s a little cooperative, he gets to do more of the things he likes, and not just the tasks he has to get through.
  What tricks have you found to help little ones understand time management?  Please leave a comment and let me know!

Dopey and his Snow White

  For those of you who wanted to see Dopey all dressed up with his mama, I thought I’d post a couple pictures from our trick or treating last night.

  It took him a little while to catch on to how the whole trick-or-treating thing worked…and we never did get him to say “trick or treat”, but by the end he was having a ball grabbing candy out of bowls to put in his little bag, saying thank you and then saying good bye.  He especially loved that a lot of the houses in town had dogs he could pet.  When we got back we had dinner and he picked a package of Teddy Grahams out of his bag for dessert.  The rest of the candy “mysteriously disappeared” overnight.  All in all, a success!

Giving Teddy Ruxpin an "inside voice"

  For some reason, children’s toy manufacturers seem to think the appropriate volume level for noisy toys is “deafening”.  I think most kids at this point have a stash of toys that whooop or beep or play a song.  Usually it’s not the parents who bought those toys.

  G, of course, loves his noisy toys.  Me and the Mr.?  Not so much.  It’s awesome that he can play music for himself so he can dance, but I swear, I flinch every time I hear the starting notes of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
  I think I’ve mentioned before that I was staring a moms group.  We had our first meeting this past Friday and one of the moms shared her secret for muffling the noisy toys.  It’s so easy, so simple, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it.
   What you need:
Noisy toys, clear packaging tape, a homicidal rage every time you hear children’s songs
  Find the speaker on your toy, rip off a square of clear tape and put it on top.  TADA!  Half the volume!  Seriously the simplest tip ever, right?  I plan on doing this to every. single. toy.
  How about you guys?  Will you be muffling your toys?

Swearing is FUN! (and a really bad idea around toddlers)

  I really enjoy swearing.  There have been studies done that show that it is an effective pain and stress reliever…but I just think it’s fun.  Sorry Mom.

  I’m not talking about plain ol, run of the mill, four letter words thrown into conversation willy nilly.  I’m talking about long, complex, drawn out curses that have more to do with word-craft than concise insult.  More, “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries” than “f*** you, mother f***er”.

  I understand when cursing is, and isn’t appropriate.  Swearing around like-minded adults who also enjoy a well crafted cuss, appropriate.  Swearing at work, in a public setting or (especially) in front of children or adults who can’t get past the idea of remembering you when you were “this big”, NOT appropriate.  


 That “swearing in front of kids, not appropriate” thing has gotten rather pertinent lately.  The Mr. and I have tried our best to tone it down since G was born, and ESPECIALLY now that he’s becoming a little parrot…but sometimes it just gets weird to try and leave swear words out when you’re trying to quote, read or explain something.  Like, you know, anything on HBO.

 …which is actually where pennies come in. 

  A month or so before G’s first birthday, the Mr. and I started watching Deadwood.  (talk about impossible to quote without swearing…)  At one point, the character Calamity Jane starts fining herself a penny every time she swears in front of a child.  One thing led to another and very quickly “penny” became our swear word stand in.
Now look: Here’s a house full of bees. Do you think the honey badger cares? It doesn’t give a shit, it goes right into the house of bees to get some larvae. How disgusting is that? It eats larvae. Eew, that’s so nasty.
But look! The honey badger doesn’t care! It’s getting stung like a thousand times. It doesn’t give a shit. It’s just hungry. It doesn’t care about being stung by bees. Nothing can stop the honey badger when it’s hungry. What a crazy fuck! Look, it’s eating larvae, that’s disgusting. 
Now look: Here’s a house full of bees. Do you think the honey badger cares? It doesn’t give a penny, it goes right into the house of bees to get some larvae. How disgusting is that? It eats larvae. Eew, that’s so nasty.
But look! The honey badger doesn’t care! It’s getting stung like a thousand times. It doesn’t give a penny. It’s just hungry. It doesn’t care about being stung by bees. Nothing can stop the honey badger when it’s hungry. What a crazy penny! Look, it’s eating larvae, that’s disgusting. 
  It’s like magic!  We can once again talk about shows on HBO, read aloud and quote our (mostly childless, equally foul-mouthed) friends with impunity!  And if we REALLY need a good rant, there’s a world full of coins just waiting to fill the purpose.
  How do you get around swear words in front of your (or other people’s) kids?
**As a note, I don’t know why the text on this one is all messed up.**
** There were a lot of pennies mentioned while I tried to fix it**