Friday, February 26, 2016

The Dreaded Spring Conference

It's the conference that comes after they really get to know your kid. Not like that sweet fall conference where your kid is new and still on their good side.

I really, really never thought about what it would be like to be a parent in those chairs. Ever. Out of the hundreds of conferences I held pre-kids, it never once occurred to me what it would feel like knowing the teacher would analyze your child's behavior and development in front of you.

It's like opening that report card or getting your test handed back to you, unsure which way it could go. And it could definitely go either way.

This morning was Benjamin's conference. His teacher is wonderful and lovely and the speech pathologist that works in his class with other kiddos was out and around and is always so wonderful. His teacher personally has 2 daughters herself and is younger than me (because you know I stalked her teacher profile and found her on all the social media outlets). Which also makes me wonder what exactly the parents of my former students knew about me! Oh, that young and naive (touche) woman who doesn't even have kids yet. She won't know what's coming to her when she finally does.

The teacher seems to genuinely like Benjamin and thinks he is "so sweet" and "so funny", so at least we had positive marks there (or maybe being a preschool teacher means you find these little sociopaths to be cute). She's seeing progress in areas of counting objects (that dang #15!) and cutting along straight lines and retelling story sequence for comprehension.

He mostly plays by the rules (and not so much with peers), but recounted an incident when he wanted to be at another center instead of the one he was at, so he calmly grabbed his velcro face and walked to the desired center and swapped it out with another kid's face. Clever. Except she was quick to correct and he took position on the floor, uncooperative. But as far as behavior goes, he hasn't had a tantrum to speak of in her presence. So he doesn't share well. And he doesn't always want to cooperate. But we've come a long way from the kicking, spitting, biting and throwing that ruled his everyday just 6 months ago.

His fine motor is lacking and we discussed the possibility of him seeing an OT if it doesn't improve soon. He can trace his name (with bribery), but writing it freehand just isn't happening well. I can't tell if he just doesn't care to please (true on other accounts) or just can't. He can draw a picture of a person, but only with prompting on what to draw next, and there's no guaranteeing your ears will not be positioned on your legs. He holds the pencil/pen/crayon limp and uncertain. We're working with playdough to strengthen hand muscles and practicing more, but the kid simply has negative desire to be drawing or coloring or writing a thing. Gross motor and dramatic play all the way. He doesn't even like stickers and even has trouble peeling them off while 25mo Claire peels them easily and loves them abundantly.

And so, the bell sounded and the principal came on the loud speaker to announce the conference had ended and I breathed a sigh of relief as I exited the door. And then went home and immediately printed out more storytelling sequences and busted out that playdough and had him draw a picture of himself and write his name.

Being a mom on the other side of the table is way harder than holding that conference. Pass the wine.

Monday, February 15, 2016

New Playroom Reveal

I mentioned in a couple posts back that we're making some changes around here. One of those changes resulted in me listing a ton of our furniture and things on OfferUp and Craigslist and purging. I've always been more a minimalist than a hoarder, so I was feeling like four couches was more than we needed. And even two living rooms and dining rooms, frankly. Next house, smaller.

Back in November, it became clear that there was a new career path we'd be headed on. More to be discussed as things unfold further, but it could will involve an unrelated voluntary move eventually (insert all the super happy face emojis for warmer weather!). Currently the husband is working from home in our cush basement bedroom office.

In an effort to create a little change myself, I wanted to de-clutter and sell some of the things we bought that were associated with his bigshot job. We no longer have a need to entertain business colleagues and visitors, so our formal living room furniture was just collecting dust. We didn't really even like the furniture, but bought it quickly when we arrived and purchased the house because the room was empty and we knew it needed to be fancied up for the job and such. Well, the job has ended (by choice) and so I call it breakup furniture and was ready to part with it. The formal dining room was being ruined slowly by the two little inhabitants of our home (forks and soft wood tables are not a good combination). Not to mention, this was all purchased during my pregnancy with Andrew and if it's possible to harbor resentment toward two large brown sofas, well I had. 

If you're visiting and you're friends or family, we always spend our time in the family room where the couches are splotched with yogurt and hide crumbs from Wheat Thin crackers between cushions. It's real life, folks. When we eventually move, my college furniture will stay put in Illinois. For now, we knew the change was needed to make this space more accessible for our kids. That's why we bought this house in the first place. Without them, we'd be living in some chic loft downtown. As a teacher, I'm understanding that the 2yo and 4yo ages are really ripe for learning and I wanted to make our space reflect that for the kids. Puzzle pieces were getting lost in the toy basket and books were getting shoved under the sofa. We now turned our family room into a room for our family complete with educational toys and books and the formal living and dining room into a big huge playroom for exploratory play.

The new playroom (former formal dining room... goodbye Crate & Barrel Basque Honey 104" table and 10 oversized chairs we rarely used. Hello function and free space for the kids.

We took all of the toys that were crowding our family room and bedrooms and basement and just stuck them all in this room. It was surprisingly brilliant for play, as the toys can now be used together and combinations formed like we never expected.

Yes. We have one of those. Hashtag coolest house on the block.

We moved the upstairs guest bedroom chair into this room so we can have a seat while the kids are bouncing, though they usually prefer we are inside with them! The heart was made by Hope's Healing Hearts (since closed, but similar to Molly Bears) who made me a weighted heart with Andrew's initials at 7lb. 6oz. The white pillows of an "a" and "b" were made by my friend Katie from the PN-dub!

The Bounce House was researched and measured and pined over for months before I pulled the trigger. It was one of the best toys I've ever purchased. No regrets and currently 14 months of happy use. It's slightly too tall to fit in our basement as we have low ceilings, but it fits fine on our main level and upstairs. They do have sizes that fit in our basement, but I don't like being in the basement and knew I'd need to be somewhat close while this thing was in action. We previously had to move one of the couches to accommodate, but now we have no couches and the kids can jump any time, any day!

We pulled the lamp up that we sprayed from brass to Rustoleum's Oil Rubbed Bronze (one of my fave projects!) so we wouldn't bump into it or have the kids trying to hang from it or something (totally plausible).

The Melissa and Doug nesting and sorting farm animal and barns were gifts from my in-laws. The kids surprisingly love playing with them. Something about small animals and their homes is totally appealing to them. The tool table is from Home Depot and my parents. Tucked in there are also Melissa and Doug stringing beads (we love for fine motor!), Tinkertoys we found for a $4 score at Goodwill and Melissa and Doug cardboard building bricks I paid a buck for at a local church rummage sale. My childrens' childhoods, brought to you in part by Melissa and Doug. Haha. But seriously.

Benjamin and Elliot were downtown roaming the Loop when Benjamin was about 10 months old and visited the LEGO store for his first set of DUPLO. The play letter blocks were the first purchase followed by some pirates and a zoo and a few others. I hacked the LEGO table from the IKEA LACK table, some white contact paper, a gray LEGO baseplate I bought from Amazon and attached it to the table with double sided tape. It fits both regular LEGO and DUPLO, but they also sell DUPLO baseplates too. I just really liked the gray instead of green. We scored up that Step2 stool for $2 at the Goodwill. That cute little Playmobile guy on a digger was a gift from some friends in Germany, where Playmobile is way popular.

 Swoop Bag
Let's talk about my love for this Swoop bag. When I was a kid, my brother had this cool hard case LEGO container. We had cats. They thought it was a pee box. Yeah. This is way cooler and super practical for the DUPLO and small LEGO pieces. You can spread it out to look for that special piece without having to clean up the pieces when done. I'm sure it can be used for other toys or even made yourself if you're handy with a sewing machine. I. am. not. 

 Melissa and Doug Paint Cups with Lids

The easel was a Christmas present this year for the kids and I added in those Melissa and Doug paint cups with lids since the kids love them some paint. Conveniently, they can't get their little weasel fingers in there, so it's less messy. The tall basket is from Target and the smaller one Crate & Barrel. No matter how hard I try to donate toys of less interest, they still manage to always be brimming. There are also some base ten blocks I scored at Salvation Army for $1 sticking out of that small basket. Makes my teacher heart all fuzzy inside. Helllllo elementary math help.

 IKEA Castle for Kids
That baby carrier was $.50 at a local resale and the pack-n-play was $1.50 at a consignment shop. The castle is from IKEA and all decorated for Valentine's Day. The little highchair was $2 at a school resale and the little bee is a Scuttlebug ride-on toy that both of our kids absolutely love and still ride on. It's a bee because, B. We call him B and so obviously I had to buy that one. It's the perfect indoor riding toy because it's compact and even folds up. The rubber wheel in front is clutch because if they ride into a wall, it's a rubber wheel that doesn't hurt a thing. AMEN to that.

 Learning Resources Pretend & Play Calculator Cash Register

That IKEA kitchen is a favorite around here. We never added the microwave (which is only like $20) to the top but they love it just the same. It's brimming with fake food from friends, us, and a recent gift of Melissa and Doug sandwich foods. I mean, what kid doesn't love adding a fake felt onion to their sandwich? It's really cute though. The cash register is a super favorite and actually functions as a calculator and makes credit card swipe noises. Benjamin was obsessed and received this for Christmas last year. We just haven't found a good place for it. 

 Little Tikes shopping cart

Maximizing all the space, the push toy baby stroller and Little Tikes shopping cart gain lots of mileage here. I paid $1 for the stroller and that baby is actually one of the triplets since we have three of the same ones. It's a rare sight to see one clothed. The whole Peanuts gang is taking a ride in the cart, but Linus is missing and Benjamin makes sure to remind me on a frequent basis. If you have a keen eye, you'll recognize that Honeywell Wifi Smart Thermostat that we never knew we needed and now can't live without. I seriously turn the heat on and off from my bed using the phone app and before we get on the airplane to come home (like in January from California), I turned on the heat in our house to come home to a nice and toasty space. Like heated car seats, I shall never own anything else. 

This adorable table and chairs is a $5 Craigslist find, complete with those cute little cushions. It's IKEA and they sell a similar table and chairs for pretty cheap since this one is pretty old school and no longer available. This will work well for dinner parties because it accommodates four kids and we can have an adult dinner on the kitchen table. We had another small table and chairs, but I sold it for much more and decided this one worked better for the space. Add a couple stools (we own) and four kids for dinner. Boom. The kids love eating breakfast and lunch together in there, too. It's super cute.

We had the rug in Benjamin's big boy room, but it seemed more fitting in the playroom with the little toy cars we bought it to go with! It's a popular rug; just about every kid in the area has one.

Peek from around the corner from our formal living room to formal dining room/play room.

Kind of seemless (and totally indulgent) to have a playroom and bounce house taking up like 450 square feet of our house, right? But you know, it's cozy and the kids are happy and we're happy. And also, it's snowy and FREEZING here. So thank the heavens for this setup right now.

A little fun after and before action:
 before: (yes, it's all sold except rug and 3 pictures)

This whole move of toys and sale of furniture we don't use made way for a much more family oriented family room. We love it. Puzzles are being played with, magnatiles are being used to build many towers (and "go boom" as Claire puts it), books are being read and board games are being played. And not lost in a pile of rubble. Those Benjamin heads (remember from his first bday party?) are hanging from the mantle for all of February, just as Claire's were adorning it for all of January. 

"We can build it. Yes we can!"

The pictures are actually repurposed and horizontal from the former formal dining room (bounce room) and I added in some freebie art I found online. They aren't there to stay, but at least they are horizontal. The pillow covers are from IKEA and the lampshades are from Target last year.

The kids have Target bean bag chairs they like for movies and the rest has already (at one point) been explained. But feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions about something specific. 

We use that corner for books, obviously. It's a great little space. 

Someday that diaper basket will disappear and I might actually miss it. (from Andrew's registry)

 Chicken Soup with Rice Kids Book

The books and puzzles are intentionally left front and center, as they are this week's library haul. Have any of you read Chicken Soup with Rice? It's a favorite here. 

 Iggy Peck Architect

Other favorites, these. Iggy Peck was our first love and Rosie Revere is a close second. These were a Christmas present from Uncle Justin and Aunt Anna which is a good thing because we were hoarding them and renewing them from the library for months before that. Along with half the Disney movie collection. #luckykids

 Totes Clear Bubble Umbrellas

That basket is from World Market and is the keeper of the blankets. The jar is full of geocache treasures, the magazines are a mix of Economist and High Five by Highlights. One of those kid Totes umbrellas was a present for Mary Poppins loving Benjamin for Christmas. Claire loved it so much that she was gifted with her own for her birthday, which conveniently takes place 20 days after Christmas. So now we have two identical ones that they still manage to fight over. Because obviously.

 Hi Ho Cheery-o Mickey Edition

Those board games below actually get played with on a regular basis. We have Hi Ho Cherry-o Mickey Edition (absolute fave), Chutes and Ladders, Dinosaur Train BINGO, ABC letter practice, Candy Land (another super fave) and a few memory games. We have a bunch of board games, but those have a place in our hall closet for now. It's best they stay on rotation.

Magna-Tiles Clear Colors 48 piece set

We love those HABA number matching block things and Magnatiles, of course. Those were a Christmas gift for the kids and a favorite toy they play with at the children's museum. 

We're pretty pleased by our new setup and just love that the kids have more free reign of the house and aren't forbidden from the formal room and table. It's kind of a relief it's all gone so we can live without borders. And the teacher in me is loving the new family room as well. It feels less KID INVASION when they are down for bed and we're relaxing and is more purposeful when they are awake.