Monday, June 30, 2014

A Real DIY Project: IKEA Jokkmokk Chairs Updated

So maybe my last post about my DIY water table cover wasn't exactly DIY... but I did order it myself and think up the concept. I'm just thrilled about the outcome.

This one though, it's all DIY-friendly.

We recently hopped on over to our local Crate & Barrel Outlet store and bought a kitchen table. We're totally lucky to have one of those stores just 5 miles from our house!
hello gorgeous. welcome to our humble abode.
We've owned the same IKEA Jokkmokk table and chairs since we began dating eight glorious years ago. And even then, I owned the same set in my Hermosa Beach apartment (miss you, Peppertree!) that I bought off Craigslist many moons ago. That set was left with my married Scottish roommates when we moved out into our married abode in Redondo Beach, just about 1.5 years before leaving California {sniff, sniff, tear}.

Lots of Jokkmokk action up in here. Who else has one of these sets? C'mon, America. I can bet within the whole 6 degrees of separation rule that one of you does! Anyhow, the new, much nicer, fancier table needed some chairs. The table also has two leafs (leaves?!) that are bubble wrapped and living in our empty basement. If we could sell the basement apart from the house, it would be sold to the highest bidder! Native Midwesterners think I be crazy, yo.

I searched chairs and in the meantime, lived with the ol' Jokkmokk chairs at the new table. They actually looked halfway decent as-is. Problem was, the chairs had seen a number of other DIY projects as stools and endured 3 moving trucks over their lives thus far. We considered buying some Willa chairs, but hello spicy pricetag and no thank you to the terrible reviews on paint chipping, etc. We have kids. Who destroy. I don't need them destroying $150 chairs on the regular.

I decided to spraypaint the old Jokkmokk chairs. I wanted a teal color for a pop. We definitely have a neutral palate in our home, except that crazy green laundry room! Wild chairs seemed like a fun way to be daring without having to fully commit. If we hated them? It was only the cost of some spray paint.

Turns out we liked them.
- Sand each chair fully (already had)
- Wipe down all chairs
- Use wood filler in deeper grooves (already had and necessary as these chairs were beaten up!)
- Spray each chair multiple times with Rustoleum Painter's Touch 2x Ultra Cover Paint/Primer, Seaside (Ridiculous sale =  $1.50 each can. Used 5 cans and have one full to spare for touchups as needed $9)
- Use previously owned Polycrylic Clear Satin and a foam brush to apply on each chair. I also did an additional coat on heavy hit areas like seat and top of chair/corners.

Total out-of-pocket cost = $9 because I owned so many of the necessities already.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

DIY, No Sew, No Tool Water Table Cover {ON THE CHEAP}

If you're like me, you probably thought a water table would be loads of fun for your kids. It's easy! They play with water, they can't drown, it's perfect for sensory awareness and it's right in your big or small yard!

They'll just play happily while you make dinner!


Except, if you're also like me, after its first use, you have no clue what to do with the bulky table that gets all sludgy and filled with rainwater. If you leave it inside, it hogs up all the space in your garage. If it's outside, it will become dirty and you'll have to clean it before every use, thus negating the whole "what a great idea and it will be so easy!" excitement you first had.
Dirty, in the cleaning process. I used vinegar and water because a certain 2yo likes to drink the water. Barf.
The Velcro is how I "fixed" the problem of that tower thing falling down every single time we used it. Works okay. I would use tools if I really wanted the job done right. Or maybe they should just make it so the darn thing doesn't fall on kids.
I needed to cover ours, otherwise I might as well send it off to the thrift store.

I had some main requirements:
1. Water and dirt cannot get in and become annoying to clean and a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
2. It had to be inexpensive because the table itself was like $30.
3. I didn't want to have to sew anything. I don't do such things. Plus, what a timesuck.
4. No toolbelts required.
5. Cannot be an ugly eyesore.

That left me with one option: buy one. Except, they don't sell them. I saw two online DIY ideas. One was made by the lady with a *shudder* sewing machine and probably some expensive fabric she had to research and buy at the fabric store along with heavy-duty needles and whatever. I'm getting a headache just thinking about it. The second option I saw was drilling into the water table and putting this waterproof material over it and just sort of clipping it to the side. It didn't look very sturdy and wasn't very pretty either. And then, ugh, more work!

I turned to Amazon. Obviously. Water table cover? Didn't exist. But you know what did? Patio table covers. I searched those and then got an even better idea... what about a FIREPIT COVER? They are for outside use, to protect from elements, and they are just the right size for my approximately 32 inch water table diameter.

I bought this one for less than $15 shipped with super reviews as a firepit cover-- so it must be good for covering something plastic, right?

I cleaned up all the sludgy pieces that were sitting outside making my backyard look like a trailer park. I dried them off (because of course it was raining outside when it was naptime and the sun was of no help). I put the pieces all inside the table and covered it. The elastic band is super snug. If there was a concern otherwise, a small bungy cord underneath would handle that... but really, it's snug.

It's classy, waterproof and a time saver. $12 well spent.
Snug as a bug in a rug. Take that Midwest thunderstorms!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Angelcare Luv

Claire is napping in her carseat right now. She's congested and the elevation is what she needs to keep her snoozing. That carseat also gave everyone in the house 9+ hours of sleep last night (well, except me because I kept waking in anticipation of a feeding that never happened).

But when she's in her crib... which I hope is tonight... she's now on two Angelcare sensor pads. That feels liberating.

I sort of felt like a kid on Christmas when that box arrived on Friday.

Most parents aren't this neurotic. Most parents don't delight in the fact that their child is being monitored for every single breath. Most parents would find that unnecessary and overboard.

I find it imperative.

With Benjamin, we used the single sensor pad, followed all of the instructions, used 1/4" plywood underneath, centered and turned the sensitivity to its lowest setting of 5. False alarms galore. Most he slept through, but still frustrating for us to be woken from sleep because he burrowed into the cracks of his crib, not to mention terrifying! He likes to cuddle, that kid, and the crib bars were a favorite location to sleep near. I hated the alarms but figured I'd rather be awakened to that than to awaken to losing my son. Extreme, maybe. But the mind of a mom who lost her baby is neither rational nor to be tamed. Yes, most children sleep every single night and wake in the morning. I'm aware.

With Claire, we started getting false alarms and they were waking her and us. As if I need another reason to get less sleep! My friend Danielle was over (whose 4-year old is also Angelcare monitored and has been so vital to them--an alarm indicated he was seizing once) and Claire was napping in her crib. I saw on Dropcam she was laying on her back, but not in the exact center. False alarm for no reason. My digital monitors had both stopped accurately displaying the icons AND the temperature in the nursery also. At that point, I whipped out my instruction manual and called the number. I left a message.

I got a call back within the hour (it was after 6pm!). The woman told me she would happily replace my shoddy digital parent units (which were working to alarm and detect movement, but unable to read the digital part). I also complained that the single sensor pad just wasn't working. She recommended I flip the mattress often as not to allow the sensor pad to create an impression in the mattress (wise!) and interrupted me mid-sentence to tell me it would cost me $28 to upgrade to two sensor pads. Shipped.

What the what? That's it? Yes. That's it. It arrived Friday and she was sleeping soundly without any false alarms (well, for 4-6 hours since she's still waking way too often for milk) that evening. I only regret not upgrading sooner.

The sweet, sweet sound of silence and reassurance, brought to you by the company that just earned my lifetime loyalty and then some.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Kitchen Cobwebs + Graham Cracker Recipe

My kitchen gets used all the time. Nonstop, really. It's the hub of the house and I wouldn't have it any other way. I literally just spent 30 minutes cleaning it as there was mail strewn on the island, milk spilled on the floor and dishes galore.

Unfortunately, it's not seeing a lot of creative love lately. I still cook some nights (and other nights are eating out or freezer hunting... I'm not ashamed) and the dishes never seem to end. Like the laundry. I swear they get together and talk about how to be ultimate time suckers.

When my friend Brie posted on IG about making homemade graham crackers, I didn't contemplate making them but got right to work! Some things just warrant dusting off the pots and pans for immediate attention. I also made my favorite Spanish rice recipe for a teething Benjamin. He loves rice and the more fat I can add, the better. This is the ultimate comfort food for a Mexican-food-loving girl like myself. So naturally, I pass on these traits to my rice-loving toddler.

Back to those graham crackers though. Amazing. Six ingredients, quick to bake, no eggs or sugar and you most likely have all of the ingredients on hand. And really, there's nothing like taking a bite out of them fresh out of the oven. I recommend it.

Recipe from its source.

2 c wheat flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 c honey
1/2 c butter, melted

1. Mix dry ingredients. Set aside.
2. Mix wet ingredients, then add to dry ingredients. I used a fork.
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
4. Press cracker mixture onto 12x17 cookie sheet. I used my mini roller for this. Make fun fork marks just for cute factor.
5. Bake for 8-10 minutes. I baked for 8.5 minutes and would not go over that for my oven. After 8 minutes, watch them. They will be soft but harden as they cool... though I wanted them to remain slightly soft.
6. Cut immediately from oven. I used a pizza cutter and a butter knife to finish off the edges that the pizza cutter could not get to and then put them on a drying rack. Not sure if the drying rack was necessary.

I bow down to the maker of this recipe. Delicious.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

From Teacher to Parent

I enrolled Benjamin in a local Parent's Day Out summer program to get him used to going to "school" for the fall. We planned to enroll him at the same place, but we might be shifting gears and switching because the availability of days is just not available to us (read: I am the idiot who didn't research registration and the days I wanted are full--who knew this "preschool" business was so impacted in the Chicago suburbs!). I called it "school" because I wanted him to associate with Daniel Tiger and how the characters attend school. It's structured, so a bit different than daycare. They have a schedule of outside play, organized craft, storytime, snack, music time, etc. I also didn't call it "class", because that is what we referred to swim and gymnastics. They were where Mommy and/or Daddy attended with him, and school would be solo.

He went a total of four days for this session, separated over two weeks. He was in "school" for 4 hours and ate lunch there. I picked him up, brought him home and put him down for a nap. He desperately needed this. He needs to be in a program with structure and a schedule along with the social interaction that early preschool really does encourage. He also needed to be with other adults that were not Mom and Dad.

It wasn't time for a pedicure and coffee dates, however. I still had little sister to work with, but if I played my cards right, I did manage to get some errands run and a few things crossed off the ol' to-do list.
There were funny moments to note:

  • The first was about me. This was the first time I signed my son in with strangers (aside from 1-hr at church where we are just feet away) and left for a number of hours. It was not as uncomfortable as I thought, but I did think it was strange that I knew nothing about these teachers he would spend his day with! Being a teacher, I was always the one who cared for the kids and released them at the end of the school day to their parents. Yes, my students were considerably older and literate, but it was an odd feeling. 
  • I picked him up on the first day and he was sitting at the head of the table of 8 kids (all girls but him!), holding the teacher's hand and touching her shiny jewelry. The kid loves attention. The teacher told me, "He loves talking, telephones, and shiny things." Nailed it.
  • I loved that he had lunch there, but felt odd about packing him a lunch. It was so foreign to me that he would take a lunch somewhere and eat it with other people! I also felt uncomfortable because my son is a terrible eater. He just never wants food-- only snack foods. The 1st day he ate everything I provided (sandwich, milk, yogurt). The 2nd day, I gave a bit more (sandwich, squeeze pack applesauce, Snapeas crispy things, milk). They sent the sandwich back home with him. Since he didn't eat it, I decided to send less snacks and just the main foods I wanted him to eat on day 3 because clearly the teachers were not pushing the sandwich as much as the snack foods. The 3rd day, he ate the whole sandwich and yogurt and all of his milk. When I picked him up, the teachers said, "He was starving!" He ate it all and tried to steal other kids' food and recommended I send more snacks. Ahhh! He also begged for more crackers at snacktime (um, my kid loves crackers, even if he is full). So on Day 4, I sent a sandwich, yogurt, crackers, Snapea crispy things, strawberries and milk. He ate 95% of it all. Seriously, the kid ate SIX bites of dinner last night. Total. School is a magical place.
  • When we came home and were talking just before naptime on Day 3, I asked if he played outside (the only non-rainy day of the four days!). He responded, "Oh, sorry. No no bite." I would assume that the teachers would have told me he was a biter rather than placing a huge emphasis on him "starving" instead? It's totally funny how although he doesn't have language mastery, he can communicate a bit of something that occurred. Maybe it was just him overhearing a conversation or repeating what the teacher was telling the bulk of students? It's not really much different than what my 4th & 5th graders probably went home and told their parents on many occasions. A big, ol', misunderstanding.
  • When I picked him up on the 4th day, he had a huge smile on his face and the first thing out of his mouth when I walked in was "FUN!" Oh man. The kid is going to be so sad to know there is no more school until late August.

The transition from teacher to parent is definitely humbling and mildly uncomfortable. Benjamin is my son, but he makes his own choices in life. What he does in 4 hours with other people has some reflection on who I am as a parent to him, but ultimately he is his own being making his own decisions. It's hard not to feel the pressure though, especially coming from my teacher shoes. It should be interesting when the years press on and the teacher-parent relationships really start to warm up. I already feel tense.

Monday, June 9, 2014

B, B & B

B is for Bus.

Benjamin loves bus rides. He loves just about all vehicles. In an effort to spice up the excitement since the husband was out of town last week, I wanted to plan something that would be new and fun for us both. We've taken buses while traveling many times before, and when in St. Petersburg a few months ago, we took one just for fun as well! I'm reminded everyday that commuter buses run through our suburb as they stop right in front of our house and shuttle people to the train station. Unfortunately, we couldn't ride those, as they stop running around 7:30 a.m. and don't come back around until the afternoon. I managed to find a bus route about 3 miles away that we could park and ride just for fun and $1.75 for my adult ticket cost. Pretty cheap for 1.5 hours of adventuring.

It just so happened to also be National Donut Day and I will take any excuse I can to drive through Dunkin' Donuts for their amazing coffee and decadent treats. I had a coffee, chocolate sprinkle donut & Benjamin was happy with his 5 munchkins... though he did request more throughout the bus ride. "No more donut." On repeat. As if I would all of a sudden up and whip some freshly baked ones from my handbag.

We parked at the children's museum (of which we have a membership, so parking is a-okay) and walked over the ramp to the bus stop, which is actually at the train station since it's a commuter line. Commuter line buses are generally cleaner and nothing like a downtown bus. No graffiti. Really clean. Average age of a rider: 75.
The bus pulled up as we were arriving and we hopped on. We ate our donuts, had a few silver-haired ladies take our photo (of which she proudly told me she would get my whole body shot--including side profile of my extra white and not-so-tone thigh). Thanks, lady. I totally appreciate the extra effort. #croppedit

The bus drove one town over, through a local community college, and to another downtown station. There were maybe a total of 15 people who got on/off as we rode. Many of them came over to befriend us, as I clearly looked like a normal person with my toddler and baby. There were a few students, some local residents taking the bus to work, a veteran who was going to a doctor's appointment, and a pregnant woman. Even the bus driver became friends with us. At one of the longer stops, he whipped out his phone as any proud grandpa would, to show me pictures of his new grandson. This was definitely the suburban bus line.

We took the full loop and went back to our car for lunch and naptime. Except, Benjamin wanted to go to the children's museum instead. Tantrum ensued for the entire drive home and an additional hour past that. Fun times. We'll definitely ride the bus again, but I might have to rethink where I park the car...

B & B: Bottle & Bottega

My fantastic friend Alli turned 27 at the end of May. We wanted to celebrate her, so a group of girls got together at one of those trendy new wine and paint joints. She picked the painting, which matched well with her husband's hobby of cycling (and he's good, you guys!). We brought wine and snacks and spent a leisurely three hours without kids (well, Alli is young and has no kids, nor did half of the attendees) just painting and chatting about life.

It was so. much. fun. I'm so glad we did it! Everyone changed up the original painting in some way, except me. I stuck to the book. I liked it so much and the short slogan that went with it. It's fitting of my personality to persevere and perhaps also fits my stubbornness. But the rest were creative.
Top row: Mine (very traditional), Alli's (her husband's quote idea), Kristi.
2nd row: Ashlea (who works in a nursing home as the director of Dementia (I hope I'm right!?), Emily who is Alli's very cool sister. She had a bike but decided she would cover it, Liz
3rd row: Middle picture is Meaghan who works with kiddos if you couldn't tell!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Marriage & Kids

Kids literally suck out all of your energy. Energy for doing anything for yourself like reading, watching a TV show, going out with friends, having an enjoyable dinner...

I'm finding more and more that kids are sucking the life out of my marriage. Not that we are having issues, because we're totally fine. In fact, I'm not sure there is a soul on this planet who would understand me after losing Andrew quite like he does. Because he lost Andrew too. We both lost our son. We have a great time in the snippets we do converse with one another, but they're just snippets these days.

As soon as the husband gets home at night, it's like a shift change. I pass him off some of the duties as I tend to others or tend to neglected ones. He grabs a kid-- usually Benjamin-- and takes him to the park, plays with him, heads outside to work on yardwork with him, etc. I care for Claire and/or tend to the house or dinner.

Then it's bath, bed for the kids and bed for us me. He usually stays up a bit longer reading a magazine or something. I just can't afford to forfeit the sleep since it's so sparse these days. The first stretch of the night is the longest for Claire, so I must get some rest myself so I can have enough energy for the littles to suck it out of me the next day.

I miss date nights and romantic walks on the beach. I miss the beach, but that's a whole other blog post. I miss thinking of creative ways to surprise one another and leisurely eating dinner with a few glasses of wine. I miss holding hands and going for bike rides and cuddling on the couch.

With the kids, there's just no time for one another. I could be making a huge generalization here, but it seems that families who live close to involved (as there is a difference) grandparents tend to be a little more carefree, a little less stressed, and have a little more romance in their relationships. I'm not talking anything sexual over here (but go ahead and assume that there's little time for any of that either), just connecting. Having time just to be with one another and enjoy being in love. Surely it's not like the butterfly fluttery days of our dating, engagement and first few years of marriage, but to make new memories and bring us back to when things were simpler and just about the two of us. Before grief.

I know these years are fleeting and I'm not wishing them away. I'm merely writing about the hectic life of families from the inside out. Before kids, this just wasn't something I ever thought about. There is a season for everything. We left a season of just-the-two-of-us and now we're in the season of small children. Soon they will both sleep fully through the night and be weaned from breastmilk and the freedom to be up past 8:30 at night drinking that wine and cuddling on the couch and watching that TV show will be the present season. And then I'll miss those moments when they pass, too. Interesting, this life.

But for now, I miss my husband and know it's okay to miss the past while being excited about the present and the future. Ebb and flow. Ebb and flow.