Sunday, October 26, 2014

Oliver & Jo's Birthday Party, 2014!

This year, I asked Oliver what kind of a birthday party he'd like. "Thomas!" he said. I later asked him if we could have a "Spooky Thomas" birthday party because I love having all of the kids come together in their costumes. Here are the kids in their costumes. Oliver is Lord Business, but his hat is falling off in the picture. It was so warm out (72 degrees!) that he ended up taking off the hat in no time, followed by the chest piece, and then he changed from his sweatshirt to a T-shirt. Joanna was going to be a monster for the party, but the costume is fleece, so we put her in a back-up costume: her Minnie Mouse dress! (She refused to wear the ears, though). So much for kids being in costume ;-)



I combined Thomas the Train AND Halloween! Not an easy feat ;-)

We turned the kids' play house into a "not-so haunted house." A sign by the front door read, "Joanna's not-so haunted house," and I hung pumpkin garland and a smiling bat inside. In the garden, where I pulled out all of the old cucumber vines, Andrew posted a sign that read, "Oliver's pumpkin patch." We filled it with 12 small pumpkins to be part of the party favors.


I found a Thomas train that pulls a "Happy Halloween!" train, and so the Halloween train is being pulled around the Halloween cake. Oliver liked the ghost! I'd also made ghost cake balls and deviled eggs (some with black olive "spiders" on top), and Andrew made mummy dogs (pigs in a blanket).


The birthday kids are ready to blow out candles!

Birthday gift time! The kids received lots of wonderful gifts from friends & family.


Happy Birthday, kids!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Oliver's Cooking Show: Pumpkin Muffins

Oliver and Jo have been watching all of the old episodes of Oliver's Cooking Show, and Oliver asked me if we could do another episode. I can't believe it's been a year since his last one! So, I agreed, and I asked him if he'd like to make muffins for his show. My friend had told me about a 3-ingredient pumpkin muffin recipe a couple years ago, and we've made it a few times since then. It's easy and works perfectly!

Here's Oliver doing his latest cooking demonstration:

                      

Friday, October 3, 2014

Spooky Thomas Party - Picture Cut-Out

I'm starting to get working on ideas for Oliver & Jo's birthday party this year. I love doing a Halloween-theme each year, but I know that the kids will eventually have their own ideas. This year, Oliver requested a Thomas the Train birthday party. I thought about it and asked him if we could do a spooky Thomas party. He agreed! I'm excited!

A friend on Facebook posted a picture of her son's construction worker birthday party. Her mom had decorated these cardboard cut-outs for kids to take pictures in. I thought what a great idea it is to make your own. I didn't want to go through the work and expense of buying wood, cutting it, and painting it, so I decided to go the cheap route. I colored images on pieces of computer paper and used Mod Podge to glue them to a large cardboard box Andrew brought home.

Here was the drawing in progress. I wanted to incorporate a Thomas & Friends train with a Halloween background. I chose James, which Andrew thought was weird, but I told him Thomas is going to be in a lot of the party decor, so I want to change it up a bit.



Oliver loved watching me draw and color, so he started working on his own train pulling a load of pumpkins, too.

A little Mod Podge to glue it onto the side of the large cardboard box:

And here's the final product:


I'm going to see if I have the time (and another box) to make an Emily cutout, too, that way all the decor isn't all boys. The party is for Jo, too, after all!

Here are the kiddos playing in the box:



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Costco Vacuum

We got a great deal on a membership to Costco from LivingSocial. Today, we took the kids there to redeem our voucher and do a little browsing. We walked by the appliances, and Oliver got really excited. Recently, he's gotten into vacuuming. Seriously, he's thrilled if I take out the vacuum and plug it in and let him use it. Anyway, a man was doing a Dyson demonstration and let Oliver vacuum up some confetti! It was such a fun experience for him, but now he's asking for a $480 vacuum cleaner for his birthday. Oops.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

We Have a Preschooler!

Oliver started preschool this week! He goes as part of the Des Moines' schools "universal preschool" program which pays for all preschoolers in the city to attend part-time school at age 4. I know this is a big deal. Even part-time preschools offered in public schools in the Denver area cost at least $300/month, so we are very happy to take advantage of the universal preschool program here! The drive to his school is short, his neighbor & friend is in his class, and the class only has about ten kids and two teachers!

Here's our Ollie Bear on his very first day:


Here's his preschool! It's one of the few private schools that are part of the public universal preschool option. We chose it because the classes offered at the elementary schools looked much larger.

So far, Oliver seems to like preschool. His first day started out well, but when a teacher told him that he wasn't listening, he started to cry. From what I gather, a teacher asked him what was wrong, and when he tried to articulate it, he said, "Someone told me to do something naughty," instead of, "Someone told me I did something naughty." I think the teachers were a little freaked out and pulled me into the class later to talk about it. Once I figured out what the matter was, I told them and said he was probably just embarrassed about being told he was doing something wrong. He's not used to hearing feedback from anyone but me, so it's going to take some time for him to get used to listening to teachers.

The last two days have gone much smoother, and Oliver tells us all about the songs they sing and the question of the day and the games they play at school (including playing grocery store!). He seems to like it, but then he also seems reluctant to have to go back. It'll just take some time to adjust. I need time to adjust, too! Every day, I ask the teachers how Oliver did that day. Every day, they tell me a problem and never give positive feedback. Yesterday, it was that he got hungry and cranky and the end of the day. Today, they told me, "He got hungry at 11:10." I feed him breakfast, and they give him a snack when the kids arrive, so I think it'll just take time for his stomach to get used to a more rigid meal schedule. I feel like I'm the one reassuring the teachers of that, though, instead of the other way around.

Next week, I'm determined to work up the courage to ask for positive feedback from them. If they insist on telling me something minor that went wrong, I think I'll just say, "And did he model any good behaviors?" It's frustrating because I'd promised him he could have a book today if he did a good job in school, and I explained that a "good job" meant listening to his teachers. When he came out of class, I asked him if he did well, and he said, "Yeah!" Then he started telling me about a gumball machine. Then I asked the teacher how he did, and she just said, "He got hungry at 11:10." I don't really know what to make of that, so I later told Oliver he earned his book.

I know the road will be a little bumpy for a few weeks as we all adjust to his schedule, but I think Oliver's really going to like preschool. And that's the most important thing to me!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Another parenting fail, and how Jo grabbed a light bulb

Last night, after bed time, Jo wandered into Oliver's room and emerged crying and screaming. It was hard to get any information out of either of them. Jo was inconsolable for over an hour and took a long time to fall asleep. She kept rubbing her hand on us and on her fox. One finger had what looked like a pinch mark, so we thought maybe Oliver had bit her, even though he said he didn't. After repeated questioning, he finally said he'd "kicked her because she was screaming." When I asked him where he'd kicked her, he said he didn't know, but then he said her head. I asked him if he kicked her hand, and he said yes. He lost his new bike (an early birthday gift from Grandma Colleen) for a while. I wasn't sure if her head was hurt or not. I wasn't sure if her hand rubbing was a sign of a head injury or hand injury. We gave Jo some baby Motrin and a band-aid (she loves band-aids) to try to help her feel better. We called my mother-in-law, a PA, to ask about head injuries. None of Jo's symptoms seemed to fit (she was speaking and moving all of her limbs). So, I just held her for a long time until she calmed down and finally fell asleep. She seemed so upset about whatever happened that I decided to sleep in her room last night. To put that in perspective, I've never slept in her room before! She was really, really upset.

Today, she's back to her normal, happy self. We examined her hand after she got up for the day. There were three blisters on her ring finger. Andrew wondered if she somehow burned herself, and it clicked: Oliver's room has a wall sconce with an exposed bulb. It's the only light in his room (no ceiling light), so it's on frequently in the evenings. Of course, it gets hot, but we taught Oliver not to touch it. I made a mental note to get a cover for it but never did. I could kick myself for not having gotten a cover for it yet. Jo must have wandered into his room and grabbed the bulb. I feel like I failed both of our kids. I had punished Oliver for his sister's injury, and I hadn't treated Jo's hand properly (a band-aid? Ouch!). Her hand doesn't look too bad, and she doesn't seem to be in any more pain. Good grief. I feel so awful. Seriously, she was in so much pain last night, and now it all makes sense. I wish I'd realized what happened last night so I could have cooled her hand off and properly treated her.

Happy girl again today:


A poor photo of her injured finger (it's hard to take a picture of a two-year-old's hand):


Learn from my mistake. Replace light bulbs in reach of little kiddos with LED bulbs and get a good protective cover that doesn't transfer a lot of heat. My poor baby girl, and my poor little guy. I hate that I blamed him. Ack! It's going to take a while to forgive myself.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Raccoon River Park

Raccoon River park & beach in West Des Moines is about a 10 minute drive from our house, and I've gone with the kids a few times now. The playground is pretty big, which isn't a good thing when there's a beach in running distance. I have to make sure I always know where the kids are. When Andrew comes with us, the trip is definitely worth it. The kids love all of the equipment, and they really, really love the beach!


And then, like the responsible parents we are, we had the kids run through the splash pad to get sprayed with chlorinated water to clean them up for the beach :)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Growing Up, Life Changes, and Starting School

I think everyone in our family is entering into a new stage of life. It's not even September, but 2014 has been such a big time of change. Obviously, we moved hundreds of miles away to a new city and state. We got a new house in an urban area. Andrew obviously got a new job with new responsibilities. Everything is so different, and there are more changes to come!

I'll start with the youngest family member: Jo. Joanna has been out of diapers for about two months now, thankfully! She continues to get more and more independent and will even go upstairs and play in her room with her toys by herself. She enjoys playing with Oliver, too, and enjoys spending time with the family, but her independence is remarkable. As the youngest, her growing up sometimes hits me hard.

Oliver has big, big change this year. He's starting preschool! Preschool is fully paid by the city here, so he will go to the four day a week program at no cost to us. He has a friend down the block who is going to class with him. Unlike Jo, Oliver wasn't a very independent toddler at all, so I wasn't sure how he'd do with going to school. I think it would have been a disaster if we took him last year, but he's really been maturing lately. We took him to preschool open house, and he happily wandered off from us to explore his class and play with his soon-to-be classmates. I feel so absolutely proud of him and how hard he works do figure things out and do things by himself. I read him a little list of things he'll be expected to do every day when he gets to class (like wash his hands), and he went straight to the sink in his class to practice and make sure he could do it all by himself.

Knowing Oliver is going to preschool has really affected me more than I'd thought. I'm sometimes dealing with feelings of extreme anxiety and sometimes sadness (and sometimes pride and excitement, too). I've been a stay-at-home mom for almost five years now, and my kids' entire lives have pretty much been with me. We spend our days together, garden together, snuggle together, sit together for meals. And now he's going off to preschool four days a week! I'm dealing some some practical potential problems in my mind, like will he do a good job listening to his teachers? Will he do a good job asking them for help if he can't do something, or will he just get mad? Will he do a good job taking turns with other kids and working with them? I completely, 100% want him to succeed and love school, but there's also this little voice in the back of my head wondering if he's going to miss me. I know I'll still be there! We will have our afternoons together and weekends together and everything else. There's no doubting, though, that this is a bit of a milestone, and he's going to start to have his own life separate from mine. That's a very good thing, of course, but it still makes me feel so sad.

I guess I've started to see this change as a big change for me, too. As I said, I've been home with the kids for five years. That's five years of no work experience! In just two short years, it'll be Jo going off to preschool. What am I going to do? The plan has always been for me to go back to work. It's definitely what I want to do, but I didn't expect the prospect of going back to work to be so terrifying. So, I've decided to try out a couple of classes to see about pursuing a master's degree. I think going back to school will help me get a job again once Jo starts full time school. It seems like such a good plan, but now that it's time to start classes, I'm starting to panic! I find myself worrying about so many stupid things, like do all students bring laptops to class now? Will I be the weird one with a notepad and pen? I'm also thinking about how crazy it's going to be that I'm going to have to somewhere to be at a specific time, and I'm going to have to drive there even if there's a total downpour or snow on the ground. I mean, I have had the luxury of choosing not to drive on days that are too hot or wet or snowy.

It took me a long time to adjust to life as a stay-at-home mom. It's not easy being home so much and not having people to talk to during the day. But now, that is my normal. Now that I'm used to always being at home with the kids and always deciding what to do on what day and not having to talk very much, the idea of spending more time out of the house is a bit scary. I think it's going to take me a long time to adjust back into a life outside of the home.

From 2009 to 2014, my life was about my babies. I was pregnant or breastfeeding for nearly four years. I was home caring for babies and toddlers and wiping butts and potty training, too. I was a mom of babies. This year is marking a distinct change in our roles in life. It's going to be weird doing things for myself and working on my future now, and it's going to be weird taking Oliver to school and saying goodbye for *hours* during the day. I know his growing independence is a good thing, and I definitely wouldn't want to keep him from growing as a person, but the upcoming changes are going to be hard. My plan is to do my best and put one foot in front of the other until these changes become our new normal.

As for everyone else, if your babies aren't in school yet, enjoy this time as much as you can (poop and all) because it really is over before you know it. If your kids have already been to school, I hope it's a fun and easy back-to-school year. For moms in my shoes with little ones going off to school for the first time--good luck, and I hope school is a wonderful experience!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Oliver's Drawings

Oliver wasn't very interested in coloring until very recently. Suddenly, he's happy to sit and draw and color. It amazes me that I can actually tell what he drew sometimes!

Here, he drew a crane with a magnet at the end.:


This next picture looks like a yellow submarine. I wish! I think it's really a helicopter.

This next drawing is of a firetruck, and it's being driven by Miss Rabbit from Peppa Pig.

Speaking of Peppa Pig, here are Oliver's drawings of some of the pig characters from Peppa Pig. I think these might be Peppa and George, but I'm not sure.

I think this is another Peppa Pig character:

This is a car or bus or something. I can't remember.

This is one of my favorites. He told me today, "I drew me and Jo!"

And this is a happy dinosaur:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Sale on Girl's Jacket!

I just love good deals. I get a lot of our kids' clothes at consignment shops and even church sales, but I can't pass up a hot deal on new clothes! Whenever a clothes company sends me a good deal via email, I scout it out and see what I can get on the cheap.

Anyway, The Children's Place currently has their "school uniform" collection on sale 25% off + free shipping. You can get another 20% off if you use the code TWENTY2. You can get some decent shirts for $5-$6 after the discount, but the big deal I spotted was a new girl's coat (sizes 2T - 5T) for under $14--including free shipping--after the discount. It's the "Uniform Bow Twill Jacket," and it comes in a navy and a khaki color. It counts as their school uniform collection for free shipping! Jackets are always so expensive, so I jumped on this deal and have a new fall coat on the way for Jo. If you throw in another item to get your total to $20, you will also get a $10 off $20 coupon emailed to you once your order ships to use later in September. It's only their uniform collection that has the free shipping, though, so stick to those items if you don't want to pay shipping!

Here are the details on the $10 off $20 coupon.

And here's a link to the jacket I found (don't forget to use code TWENTY2 to get the extra discount).