Sustainably Single Parenting

Making the most of life's journey alongside my three!!!

A Visit from My Mother June 17, 2013

My mother and my daughters :)

My mother and my daughters 🙂

Over the weekend we were able to spend some time with my mother. It was a really nice visit. She hadn’t been able to visit me since my birthday last year, so it was her first time meeting the baby and only her second time visiting since my husband’s arrest. Over the years, especially during the eight years that I was with my husband, my mother and I have had our difficulties, but I love her and appreciate what she has done for me. I know that her life hasn’t been easy.

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My girls were so excited to see her. They absolutely love my mother 🙂 It was nice to see them so excited for family to be around. I wish I lived closer to people who truly loved my children and could assist me in raising them. I wholeheartedly believe it takes a village to raise a kid, and the better the people in that village the more likely my children will become well-rounded, healthy, productive, hardworking members of society. For now I’m focusing on being consistent in my parenting, understanding the goals of negative behavior and how to properly respond, and securing suitable childcare for when I start back working outside of the house. Baby steps.

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My mom stayed from Friday night to Monday morning. We didn’t really do too much, but that was fine by me. I had the most fun on Saturday when we went to the beach. Amara and Terra collected shells and buried one another in the sand while Mom and I figured out how to build the beach hut and set up the beach umbrella I’d purchased earlier that day. It was fun working together, even though the girls only spent several minutes in the shade after we’d assembled everything.

All of us girls at the beach (Terra, Me holding Nohra, my mother, and Amara)

All of us girls at the beach (Terra, Me holding Nohra, my mother, and Amara)

On Sunday, my mother took my big girls to the movie theater. It was their first time ever going to a movie theater and they saw Epic. They loved it! All in all we had a great time. I learned a lot more about how I can enhance my parenting, my mother spoiled me with gifts and time apart from my babies, and everything pretty much went as it should’ve. I’m happy that she was able to visit me!

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Art In The Barn June 14, 2013

Today we had the pleasure of going to Essex, Massachusetts to model some jewelry for Art In The Barn, an annual art exhibition and sale where artists donate 50 percent of their proceeds to a land conservation community called the Greenbelt. The event was held at a beautiful reservation with a marsh and a lot of rocks to climb. The modeling portion was a favor for a photographer friend, but we had so much fun that it didn’t seem like work in the slightest. I got to wear a beautiful earring, part of an artist’s set that cost over six thousand dollars, and a bracelet by the same artist that was priced around $32k. I just about wore the cost of my house today 🙂 It’s probably something I will never have the chance to do again.

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My favorite pieces of art were the head sculpture, the spoon holder with the elephant and the word “Journey”, the sculpture of the cardinal with the flowers, and the painting of the woman vacuuming the flower. Some of the artists were actually present at the reservation, so that made the event even livelier. Being around such beauty and creativity really fed my soul. I have a lot more of the east coast to explore. I really enjoy being in this part of the country, it suits me well.

 

Yes, and… April 8, 2013

Things have been going well lately between the girls and I. I’ve continued to make ample time to play with them throughout the day and everyone has been in good spirits. We’ve been making speaking nicely to one another a top priority, and we’re remembering to give apologies when necessary. Though I’ve been busy with my Master’s project proposal (on top of my normal coursework, and my attempts to keep up on the chores) I’ve managed to get the girls outdoors to play for a least 45 minutes each day for the past four days. I’m proud of myself!

The nice weather has been good for all of us and although I’m not cleaning each room of the condo every day and I’m a little behind my homework, I am happier. Today was a difficult day though, we had about five places to get to on our schedule and typically making it to one is a feat. I knew that I’d have to be patient and possibly settle for not getting everything done. But even before we left the house my big girls were bickering as they played. I kept hearing, “Noooooooo!” Then would come an explanation of what the person wanted. Sometimes even before the person was finished explaining I’d hear another, “Nooooo!” and a different explanation would be given by the other sister.

http://improv.com/index.cfmI usually try to only step in if one of the girls is overpowering  the other. I try to make sure they’re using their manners and then stay out of the way, but I was incredibly overwhelmed with their arguing. I introduced them to a method I learned in college, back when I had the pleasure of performing in an Improv troupe. The game is called “Yes, and…” and the basic premise is to agree with and add on to whatever it is that your teammates say or suggest. You cannot say “no” and you are forced to build off of one another’s ideas instead of shooting them down.

We played the game together for a little while because neither of them seemed eager to play without my participation, but after a few strings of silly suggestions they giggled incessantly while awaiting their next turn to add something to our game. The game came in quite handy when we were in the dressing room at Old Navy, and at bedtime my oldest said, “Yes, and is awesome!” with so much enthusiasm I felt like the coolest mom in the world 🙂

So although we trudged through our schedule today, and Nohra nursed constantly (of course, the day I go for groceries is the one day she doesn’t sleep for more than five minutes at a time until after 11pm, and of course I chose to leave the baby carrier at home), I taught my girls a new game that is easy to play without a smartphone or any other device. They only need their willingness to accept another person’s suggestions and their own imaginations. It was wonderful to see them having fun playing such a simple game, and it was such a relief to not hear anyone screaming, “Noooooooo!” Nope. Just the sweet sounds of, “Yes, and…’

Oh! And we made it to every place on our schedule 🙂

 

Back to Basically Alright March 25, 2013

Nohra is over 11lbs at four weeks old! That's a gain of 4lbs+ since birth :)

Nohra is over 11lbs at four weeks old! That’s a gain of 4lbs+ since birth 🙂

Today is my first day of feeling good again.

I was able to use various natural remedies (warm, moist heat and massaging, increasing my Vitamin C and taking Echinacea, increasing my fluid intake and resting) to beat mastitis without antibiotics. Yay! It also helped that Nohra is going through a growth spurt and was begging to nurse almost constantly these past few days.

I was in so much pain at times, but several things helped me to push through. One was knowing that I couldn’t afford to get any worse as there wasn’t anyone to care for my daughters. Another was that if I had to take antibiotics and transfer them to Nohra by nursing her I’d feel incredibly guilty. Another was that no one was here to comfort me regardless of how much I complained so it was better to stay tough (very similar to birthing). I’m happy to have won this battle. Thank you all so much for your kindness and advice!

Terra and Amara modeling their new sunglasses and outfits courtesy of my sister :)

Terra and Amara modeling their new sunglasses and outfits courtesy of my sister 🙂

Today was spent cleaning, trying to get back on track from several days of letting the girls go off their schedule and wreck the condo. It was bad. It still isn’t perfect, but today alone I got everyone bathed, the gerbil cage cleaned, the cloth diapers and the dishes washed, the bathroom cleaned, a load of laundry folded and put away, and a draft of my Master’s Project Prospectus completed.

The plan was to stop and celebrate every small victory along the way. Every cleaned body, room, dish, diaper and whatnot. But I was too busy scurrying to clean as quickly as I could each time I was able to put Nohra down to stop and enjoy each accomplishment. I can certainly say that being a single mother of three young children has made me much more efficient. I have no time to do anything slowly anymore.

There’s still a lot of cleaning to be done. My summer semester proposals need to be finished this week, there are bills to pay and appointments to make it to and Terra’s fourth birthday on Saturday. I cannot wrap my head around it all. When I dreamed of my adult life I never saw it being like this. I thought that I’d have babies, yes, but everything else was inconceivable. I do enjoy having children, I’m just eager to reach the period of our lives when I can share so much more with them.

There’s still so much I want out of life, but days like today I am certain that we’re going to be alright.

 

Homebirth Story: Nohra Florence March 4, 2013

Name: Nohra Florence

Born: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 9:52am

Birth Stats: 7lbs 4oz, 21 ½ inches

For some reason I keep telling people that I was in labor for ten hours. That’s not true. I was in labor for ten hours with Terra, 18 hours with Amara, but not even a full eight hours with Nohra, and four of those eight were spent lying in bed, doing guided meditations, repeating the words “open” and “relax”.

I felt that first “real” contraction around 2:40am on Wednesday, February 20, 2013. I was 41 weeks and two days pregnant. I knew that I could go into labor at any moment, but I’d figured that I’d go into labor around 2am no matter the day, because both of my previous labors had begun around 2am as well. I was feeling a little anxious because I was overdue and those first few contractions weren’t very heavy at all. I didn’t want to jump the gun and get uber excited about this really being labor until I was absolutely sure. I lay in bed and played around on my phone, I wrote a poem. I waited about two hours, about eight consistent contractions, before calling my midwife and committing to being in labor.

Hearing my midwife’s voice was extremely reassuring. I told her that my intention was to rest, but that I’d been so excited I couldn’t do anything but wait anxiously for the next contraction. I told her that they weren’t heavy, but that they were certainly much different than Braxton Hicks. I felt silly about not knowing without a doubt whether or not they were true labor contractions, especially with this being my third labor, but my midwife wasn’t worried one bit. She told me that she’d be around when I called her to come over later; I hadn’t wanted her to come right away. She also suggested that if I wasn’t able to get back to sleep I should at least try to get some rest.

I wanted to rest. I’d not gone to bed until after 11pm and I was tired, but I was also giddy and upset with myself for not going back to sleep after feeling that first contraction before 3am. I knew that being angry with myself would get me nowhere while birthing. I needed to be gentle to myself and listen to my body and go with the flow. I repeated Ina May Gaskin’s words of advice: loose mouth, loose bottom. No scowling allowed. No tensing up. No negativity. Just ride the rushes. No pain, just…interesting sensations which would require all of my attention. I knew I’d have to work with my animal self in order to get my baby out. This was not the time for self-loathing or doubt.

I decided to listen to some guided meditations. There’s one on positive thoughts that I enjoy and I knew that imagining a wonderful birth and a chubby baby would be more beneficial than wearing myself out being restless. I enjoyed the meditation so much that I did another after the first one. Then another. Then another. I kept doing the meditations until 7am, when I heard my oldest waking in the next room. I’d been so relaxed during the meditations that it wasn’t until I rose from the bed that I focused on the contractions again. They were certainly heavier at that point. It wasn’t long before they were difficult to integrate.

“It’s Nohra Day!” the girls kept shouting. They’d been patient so long and were possibly more excited than I was to meet their new sister. It took a lot of energy to get them set up for breakfast; I had to stop to focus on the contractions every few minutes and I wasn’t sure when I should contact my midwife again. I went ahead and called her at 8am. I still wasn’t 100% that I wanted her to come so soon, but something was telling me that I should have her start on her way. She is the greatest midwife, so patient, so wise. She told me that she’d be right over after gathering her things.

Baby had still been breech at my prenatal appointment two days earlier, so I knew that a second midwife, one I’d only heard of, would also attend my birth. I wasn’t extremely nervous about delivering a breech baby at home. I knew the risks, but I also knew I was in good hands with the midwives, and that more than anything I trusted my body, my baby, and the birthing process. She would come out alright, I just knew it.

When my midwife arrived I’d just set the girls up to play on their computers. I kept feeling the urge to take a shower and after witnessing me integrate a few contractions my midwife agreed that it sounded like a good idea. I expressed my awe of the birthing process with her before getting in. Labor is so intense, so overwhelming to the senses, a unique and fulfilling journey every time. I hadn’t fooled myself into thinking that having done it twice the third time would be easy, but it did shock me that it was as difficult as it was to stay loose through the onslaught of contractions.

I got into the shower and it felt so wonderful. The heat, the massaging pelts of water rushing over me as my body swayed to the waves of clenches and pulls. It was great. I’d never had the urge to get in water during my other labors, but different babies require different practices at their births, and I was open to doing whatever it took to help my daughter come safely earth-side. My water must have broken while I was in the shower, but I never felt it happen.

About twenty minutes after I got into the shower the hot water ran out. I felt a strong urge to push while using the toilet and upon standing I lost my mucus plug. I started to get really excited that it was really happening. After months of anticipation I was really going to meet my baby soon! I told my midwife that I’d lost my plug and that I felt like I needed to make a bowel movement, but that I was afraid of pushing. She reassured me that I wouldn’t push the baby out into the toilet, so I relaxed and used the bathroom like usual.

I went and put on my robe, met the second midwife, spoke gently to my children, and then headed back to the bathroom. The rushes were very heavy and it took my entirety to handle them without fighting back, clenching up, resisting. Squatting really helped me to integrate them, but being in that position also made me want to bear down. It got to the point where I had to get off of the toilet because I needed to find a position to birth my baby in.

An intense contraction took me to my knees and I rocked back and forth on all fours as it peaked, then passed. I couldn’t stand after that. I was in the hallway at this point and the midwives were in the living room. I told them that I was going to start pushing, and crawled into the living room where there was more space. My littlest one, intuitive as she is, jumped off of her seat at the computer and screamed, “Amara! Nohra’s coming out! Mama’s pushing!”

Both of my girls ran to the living room. At first they stood behind me, lifting up my robe, trying to see if the baby was coming. At this point I was dealing with a contraction, but the girls weren’t bothering me. I’d spent months prepping them and was very pleased to have them there to witness their sister’s birth. Transition began; I knew because my body felt completely at ease. I could breath. I could speak. I could choose to think of birth defeating me, or of me conquering. I chose to think positively. This was it, Jet. You can do this. No one can do it for you. The faster you do it, the sooner it’s done. Get it done,  get to meet your baby. Show the girls that birth can be amazing.

Transition ended and I once again had the urge to push. It wasn’t heavy, but I tried to push anyway. It felt strange. I’d forgotten how to do it, and my abs were much weaker than they’d been for my first two births. My body hadn’t been a natural enema during this labor, as it had for my previous two, so my first push produced a bit of poop. I’d reached down during the push and felt my vagina. My midwife asked, “What do you feel?” And I said, “Like I’m pooping.” Lol. I knew being self-conscious at this point wouldn’t help me so I put the embarrassment aside and focused on working with the contractions.

The next one came and I thought to push but wasn’t committed. I tried it out but didn’t feel my body take over my thinking it through until I’d pushed several times and the contraction was past its peak. I found myself screaming, not in pain, but a vocal match to what my body was doing. Contraction after contraction I allowed my body to do what it needed to, my mind to shut off, myself to find breath and the strength to keep pushing long after I’d reached my maximum capacity and my lungs should’ve been completely empty.

I pushed. I screamed. I reassured my daughters that Mama was alright. I pushed. I felt my baby moving through my bones. I pushed harder. I heard my midwives saying “She’s head first!” and I pushed again, leaning back onto my feet from my hands and knees position, catching her in my arms as she slid out onto the floor. I’d done it. I’d given birth. I cried tears of joy to welcome her. My midwife gently unwrapped the umbilical cord from Nohra’s neck and Nohra began to cry.

She was beautiful, just like her sisters. She was covered in birthing gunk, but her sisters didn’t care. They came up and greeted her, kissed her, exulted. They’d watched the whole thing; they saw her coming out and were perfect observers. They were so happy to have had the chance to see everything and I was very happy to have had them there with me. Especially since I did not have the girls’ father.

The birth was amazing. I have no regrets. I have absolutely nothing negative to say about it. The fact that my husband wasn’t present didn’t debilitate or overwhelm me. The situation is unfortunate, but I know that ultimately I’m giving my girls a much better, more peaceful, more balanced life without him in it. I am absolutely elated to have her here with us. She is so perfect. We are all pleased with the new member of our team.

 

I Should Feel Fine March 1, 2013

So far I am keeping it together…mostly.

I wouldn’t quite call it baby blues or postpartum depression.

I am just…slightly…less happy today. I also felt this way yesterday…and the night before.

The day before last I made my first true attempt to start back on my coursework for the Directed Study I’m taking this semester. I couldn’t find the time to read more than twenty words of my textbook. I felt like such a failure. I was so overwhelmed.

I’m doing wonderfully with the housework, and with keeping the girls on their daily homeschooling schedule, I’ve stayed caught up with the bills (which I’m paying primarily with my school loans, though we did eventually qualify for some government aid and, though my politics disagree with welfare on the whole, we would be a lot worse off without at the moment).

Things are okay. Quite honestly. I should be happy. There aren’t any dishes in my sink. I only have one load of cloth diapers waiting for me to fold. Nohra was NINE POUNDS at her one week checkup! My milk is so abundant that next week I’m going to start donating it to women who have lower supplies. I should feel fine!

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But I don’t. I’m feeling kind of low.

I’ve tried not to think about my husband…my…I don’t know what else to call him. I mean, he is still my husband, for the time being. Although I haven’t seen or spoken to him since May, and although I filed for divorce in August, and although he’s being charged with a felony for what he did to me, I still call him my husband. He will probably keep that title indefinitely.

I’ve tried to stay in good cheer and not spend too much time considering the things I haven’t been able to accomplish. My midwife tells me to go easy on myself. She says to keep in mind that it has only been a bit over one week since I gave birth and the fact that I’m even keeping up with the girls’ schedule is amazing. She says that most women find caring for three children difficult even when they have a partner’s assistance, so I shouldn’t get upset with myself for not being able to do everything so soon after the birth.

I am upset with myself though. I’m upset for not being able to find the time to accomplish more coursework before the birth. I’m upset that I’m not finding the time and energy to accomplish everything now. I am not upset at my babies; not one of the three. They are everything wonderful to me. I am upset that I cannot spend more time and energy on them exclusively.

Being upset doesn’t help anything really. It motivates me somewhat to do better the next day, but ultimately it just highlights everything I haven’t done. My midwife says to try focusing on the things I have been able to do, and to try to feel good about that. I’m trying, but it isn’t easy to disregard the growing mound of additional obligations.

I know that I will get through this. I know that I will be strong. I just wish the days were ten more hours long.

 

Back to Homeschool February 18, 2013

At Circle Time we discuss the date (and talk about holidays or special events), observe and chart the weather, then read and analyze a poem.

At Circle Time we discuss the date (and talk about holidays or special events), observe and chart the weather, then read and analyze a poem.

The girls are back to being homeschooled for the time being. I never wanted to put them in the private facility they attended while I was in school last semester, but I didn’t have many other options. After my marriage ended abruptly in May, and I found out that I was pregnant with Baby #3 two weeks later, I needed to make some big decisions right away. I was already finished with my first year of graduate school, and after much debate, figured it best to stay put in New England instead of moving back to my home in Illinois.

My Education Station - from flash cards to phonics, from body books to experiments in a box. The white container holds our most frequently used craft supplies. The tray atop is my schoolwork.

My Education Station – from flash cards to phonics, from body books to experiments in a box. The white container holds our most frequently used craft supplies.

For one thing, I was broke, and staying in school would give me loan money. It’s major debt, I know it, but I didn’t have a job, I’m still not getting child support, and with another baby on the way it seemed implausible to move back across the country expecting someone to find me a desirable employee.

There were a lot of other factors weighing into my decision to stay in New England, stay in school, and send my girls to the private preschool and private kindergarten they attended while I took classes, but more on that in another post. The school was decent enough. I loved the teachers and the way they went about teaching the kids, but it was no Montessori. My oldest, Amara, mostly got a safe place to socialize out of her time there. Terra learned to better identify her numbers and letters, and got a lot better at her drawings; the social aspect didn’t appeal to her as much, but she enjoyed the activities.

Typical weekday schedule. The girls painted the cardboard backing and helped choose the activities.

The girls’ typical weekday schedule. The girls painted the backing and helped to choose the activities.

This semester, as I was due with Baby #3 one week ago today (I am still pregnant. I don’t know when she’ll decide to come out), I opted to create a Directed Study course so that I could stay home with my girls. It’s only one class (you can follow my progress of exploring eMarketing here), but I’m able to continue getting loan money and my assignments are due on a much more flexible schedule.

The only problem with this set-up was that until a week ago the girls and I didn’t really have a set schedule. Having so much to do with little organization was getting the better of me, but we’ve finally solidified our routine.

Now, instead of simply knowing that I have to do umpteen chores, feed and bathe the girls, take them to various appointments and lessons, prep for Baby’s arrival, and between the insomnia and worry and whatnot do my homework as well, I have a schedule.

Our Job Chart. As with the schedule, I forgot to put pictures next to the words. I'm adding those today because I want Terra to feel more independent.

As with the girls’ schedule, I forgot to put pictures next to the words. I’m adding those today because I want Terra to feel more independent.

The girls have a schedule too, and they love it. I’d been working toward being this organized for quite some time, but between last semester ending, my nesting, and everything else consuming my attention, I couldn’t get around to really implementing the plan until recently.

I’d been keeping up with the girls’ homeschooling, but between teaching them and my other responsibilities I couldn’t find the time for doing my schoolwork. Creating a set schedule allowed me to find the gaps of space and time between the girls’ many activities where I could clean and work on my assignments and do some blogging. We’re so much more efficient now. Things are running smoothly, the girls feel a better sense of control over their day, and I am finally finding the time to complete everything.

There are numerous things that don’t go on their typical weekday schedule, like bath time and play dates and shopping and therapy; I made extra tabs for those things so they can be switched out with other activities when they need to go on our schedule. I love Velcro! Of course, Baby #3 will change things slightly, but I’m fairly certain she’ll quickly learn to go with the flow.

Planning their lessons ahead of time is going to be crucial to keeping our schedule on track.

Planning their lessons ahead of time is going to be crucial to keeping our schedule on track.

I also purchased a file folder thingy on clearance at Michael’s to plan out the girls’ weekly lessons. It’s perfect, it holds ten folders so I can work ahead to schedule their activities for M-F and put workbook pages and whatnot inside so that I’m not lagging when they’re due to have “learning” time.

I’m so excited to be educating my girls, and so happy that I finally have a better system for planning their activities, keeping track of their progress, and feeling capable of taking care of my household and continuing my education as well.

There are so many things I cannot determine with what will become of my life. This time next year I might not be in New England anymore. I will more than likely have to return to work directly after finishing graduate grad school. I don’t know how I will be financially capable of continuing to homeschool. But I’m trying to look at the bright side and live in the now.

For now we’ve got a good thing going. We’re at home. We’re organized. We’re learning. We’re safe. It may be a tough load to carry and difficult to balance on a daily basis, but when I really consider how much worse things could be I shouldn’t complain.

 

One of those days January 28, 2013

Everything went right for a change.

The girls and I went to pick up my loan check from my school, then made our way to the bank in the bitter Boston cold to deposit it. We’d taken the commuter rail to get to the city from our town, then walked a total of ten blocks and took two T’s (subways) before we made it to the Boston Children’s Museum.

I could’ve just shuttled them to my school and back, but for all the effort (and expense) it takes traveling to Boston with two small children I figured we may as well make a day of it at one of their favorite places. We’ve been to the Boston Children’s Museum countless times since moving to Massachusetts, but the girls always enjoy themselves there.

We’d decided against the Museum of Science this time because we chose it the last few times and it’s not as easy for me to sit down while the girls explore there. The children’s museum was perfect for such a cold day, energetic children, and a mother waddling around two weeks away from having a baby. I wish we could’ve stayed even longer than we did, but we had to save some energy for the trip home. I’m happy to report there were no tears, feuds, or long periods of fussing. After arriving home we played our routine games of Uno and the girls feel asleep easily.

Two or three weeks from now everything will be different for my family, what with the new baby coming soon. But this was one of those days were everything just falls into place. I’ll take it.

 

 

The perfect blend of discovery and exercise

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They chased one another up and around this structure for ten minutes!

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The girls love the Peep’s World Exhibit and spent a lot of time playing in the water.

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Even though they were surrounded by huge exhibits and amazing things they spent about twenty minutes playing with these semi-soft animals.

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I bought them these awesome new headphones for only $5 at TJ Maxx so that they could listen to music on my phone together. The ear pieces have a super soft center, but they’re not buds, and the band adjusts to fit each ear perfectly. This is the look I got when I tried to take a picture of them enjoying the music (Disney’s Tangled Soundtrack). I didn’t know that I couldn’t take pictures and have them hear the music at the same time. Oops!

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The Museum has a new exhibit sponsored by the Blue Man Group. It’s pretty awesome. It deals with sound and sound waves and teaches children how they can distort sounds and use noises creatively. The girls are hardcore Blue Man Group fans now and request YouTube videos of them constantly.

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“I wish we lived across the street from the Children’s Museum,” Amara told me as we were leaving. So do I.

 

Toy Cycling Update January 16, 2013

I began cycling the girls’ toys out this past July. They had so many toys in their room that it was impossible to keep things tidy. There just isn’t enough space for everything to fit comfortably in our condo. It’s a big change from the ample amount of space we had in our Illinois home, but I realized that even if I could find a way to make things more organized the girls would still be surrounded by too many playthings.

There were so many toys on their floor that they no longer liked to play in their room! There were so many options of what to play with that they often chose to play with anything other than their various options. I fought the urge to spend money we didn’t have on new toy purchases, and decided to take a contrasting approach. I gathered most of their things, and took them to our storage unit.

In the beginning I allowed them to choose three sets of toys and three noisy/random toys apiece. Sets were things like their bin filled with Dinosaurs or their bucket of insects. Noisy/random toys could be anything from their keyboard to their jacks. I’d kept for them the dress-up clothing, puzzles, board games, and books. The plan was to keep the same toys for a few weeks and then to go back to our storage unit and switch out old sets for new ones.

Things started off wonderfully. We went to our storage facility every few weeks and the girls were excited about toy cycling. They enjoyed having enough space to play in their room and we were able to keep it clean much easier. When school began in September it became more difficult to make it out to the storage unit for what we’d titled “Switch Day.” Sometimes we’d get to our storage unit and the girls would not see anything that was worth switching for a current set. To avoid this I’d take them out to get new toys before making them choose which they’d be trading in, but oftentimes I’d then forget to take the old sets back and the girls would wind up with far too many items in their room again.

Things got even worse around the holidays. I’d brought home extra sets of toys so that the girls wouldn’t be bored if we got stuck in the house for awhile after Hurricane Sandy. I increased their dress-up clothing stash substantially after Halloween. Also, when the semester was drawing to a close I was so busy that I didn’t take the girls to our storage unit for nearly 7 weeks. Christmas toys just added to the overflow, and it gave me one more thing to include on the list of items that I always keep in their room: their new dollhouse.

Just this week we’ve gotten back on track with toy cycling. They still get to choose three large sets and three noisy/random toys, but now I’m also keeping a list of the sets they’ve chosen and the date we’ll switch again. Knowing when the next “switch day” will occur keeps the girls from begging me to go to our storage unit every afternoon. Also, having the list of which sets they’ve chosen somehow helps them to better understand their boundaries while pickings their toys.

So far it has been wonderful. Today, the girls played peacefully and creatively for over an hour with a set of knights and dragons. They hadn’t seen those toys in nearly two months, so it was a really exciting game for them to play together. I still have plans to go through everything that they never choose and donate things to charity, but I’ve been way too overwhelmed to handle that mountainous task.

I am still so very happy that we began toy cycling and that the system still works.

 

Homemade Star-Shaped Crayons January 11, 2013

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We’ve been collecting broken crayons for the longest time. At present we have two 64 oz yogurt containers filled with broken pieces and a one gallon bucket filled with crayons that are still in-use. We like to color. I don’t like wasting craft supplies, so I decided to melt our crayon pieces down into new crayons. I got the idea of making them star-shaped from Sarah’s Pyjama School blog.

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The girls had a really fun time with this project. They each filled three of the six silicone baking sheet shapes with colors they wanted to see blended together.

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While I chopped the crayons into small pieces (the most tedious part of this project) we made predictions of what each star-shaped crayon would look like based on the colors they’d chosen.

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The melting and cooling process was a bit lengthy and the girls busied themselves with other things while I tended to the oven. The crayons baked for 20 minutes on 150°F and cooled for another 20 minutes before I popped them out of the tray.

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Making the crayons star-shaped was perfect. There are five points on each crayon instead of the standard one, which was exciting enough, but when we tested our crayons we found that each point was a different color. How cool!

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