Wednesday, April 30, 2014

10 Simple Products to Foster Independence in Toddlers and Some Updates

I'm sorry I have been gone for so long. Every time I sat down to write, I didn't know what to say. I looked at this blank white space and didn't know what to fill it with. 
I have been mulling over the idea for this post for a while and it just came together, so here I am. I don't know what blogging will look like for me in the future, but I hope you'll stick around. 
I'm going to share 10 products that I think will actually improve your toddler's life and share just a few recent photos.  As always, you can keep up with me on instagram, too. 

New parents are bombarded with messages from the media and even well-meaning family and friends that children are very expensive and require a lot of stuff. We've made a conscious effort to limit the stuff we acquire for a variety of reasons. I expected that having a child would make this more difficult, but surprisingly it has made it easier. Having a growing little person encourages me to constantly reevaluate my possessions and eliminate/rotate as necessary.  I want her to be satisfied with simplicity, so I have to model it myself.

I'd like to share 10 simple products that will help your home become more accessible for your toddler and thus foster their independence.  (please note that I've included some affiliate links in this post. If you click and then buy, I get the teeniest of commissions.  Most of what I've shown here was purchased used locally, but I do deeply appreciate your support!)

1) Low Cube Shelf
Low shelves allow kiddos to easily access their toys, and a cube shelf reinforces the idea that every item has a place. It also naturally allows parents to easily limit the number of toys a child has out at a time. This cube shelf isn't perfect (you can see that longer items like our knobbed cylinders don't fit) but it works for a surprising number of toys.
We love hooks around here, especially Command hooks which are completely removable. They make it easy for kids to return their items to a proper place and reach them whenever they need them. It's so much easier for me to ask Eleanor to get her apron or put it away than to do both of these things myself.
3) Small Play Kitchen
Eleanor's kitchen is filled with her dishes, cleaning supplies, and her fruit bowl.  Kitchen areas give toddlers the chance to practice mealtime routines at their own level and pace, and reinforces ownership of their things. Look for something with lots of storage space and a simple design.
4) Shower Mirror
These mirrors are made of plastic, making them safe for little ones, and affix just about anywhere. They make it easy to reinforce daily routines like brushing teeth and hair, and general self care like wiping faces/noses. It's empowering for children to be able to see themselves and much easier to use a small mirror than to try to reach the adult-level one.
5)Collapsible Step Stool
I don't know what we'd do without this thing. We have a small home and can't keep a full-sized footstool out all the time. This makes it easy for E to grab things that would otherwise be out of her reach, like the sink for washing hands or brushing teeth, and she can set it up and tear it down herself.
6) Baskets
We have tons of little baskets and bins that we use to collect small items, especially toys. They keep things out of the way and organized, and make it easy to move toys around the house without losing any pieces.
Here are a few in her bedroom:
and in the living room:
This is a basic carpet sample, but it does the job. Mats are an easy way to control mess and limit space. When she selects something from her shelf, Eleanor is supposed to use a mat, though I don't always enforce this habit.  The mat limits the work space and keeps items from being lost. Here I use the mat to organize her shoes and socks. This mat, combined with her two hooks, is her landing space for coming in and out of the house. Her lunch bag hangs here, as do any sweaters or coats that she's using for the season. It has been essential for us to limit the number of items here and the mat makes it easy.
Kids need to learn to use shampoo and bubble bath and mini-sized bottles are an easy way to give them some independent practice without waste.  We use this shampooand this bubble bath.
This simple tool extends light switches so kids can reach them, and it glows in the dark. We only have one, in her bedroom, and she loves to use it.  We've been encouraging her to play in her room independently when she decides to wake up earlier than usual and this switch helps make that happen.
I used to set out two outfits for Eleanor to choose from (as you can see at the bottom of this post) but now she picks out all her own clothes. I try to only set out weather appropriate options and keep the number down. This rod hangs from the normal closet rod and is perfectly at her level. More bins in use for underwear and pants/shorts/skirts.
Speaking of picking out her own clothes, a few recent favorites:
IMG_1225 IMG_1070

Other recent things:

I've been trying to get her outside every day and observe nature. I've started a very informal nature journal by fumbling with watercolors. It's fun for me and she is already asking to join in.

We saw Ladysmith Black Mombazo!!! It was wonderful, especially since my parents surprised us with tickets and an evening of babysitting. I am the luckiest. 
The incredible Courtney organized a busy bag swap and we got a ton of wonderful activities for Eleanor to try. She loves this shape-matching work. I'm still holding on to a few activities for a rainy day. 
I took a trip to Portland!! Boy that city gets me.
Beautiful plants were everywhere. Raspberries along the highway
and I don't know what these are but I don't think that they are roses. Iowa was still very cold and dreary when I left and Oregon was buzzing with spring.
I ate at Pok Pok and it was so good.
My beautiful friend Phillip taught me about whiskey (seriously, he teaches a whiskey class. GO!)
and I had a few too many of these:
Being away was difficult but coming home to this buddy was so sweet. She's still my kitchen helper. Here we're making meatballs. That cheese is jack with morels and leeks. 
I've been knitting a lot, including these baby gifts 
AND A SOCK! Obviously sock #2 is still in the works. 
And finally, we've been shopping for one of these, but nothing yet:
Thank you, thank you again for coming back here and sticking with me. 
I hope all is well where you are. Are your plants starting to come up? Or is it still too cool? We have had tons of chilly rain which keeps it from feeling too much like spring, but I know warmer weather will be here soon enough.  

Monday, January 27, 2014

Lately: Pictured/Not pictured

Hello! How are you? I've missed you.
Here are a few things that we've been up to, both pictured and unpictured.

As you may have figured out from my most recent post, I spent the day with some bloggers this fall.
We hung out at New Pioneer Coop in Coralville. It was such a pleasure to have these wonderful people here, in my little town, seeing with new eyes the things I see every day. (xoxo Danelle and Ally)
I've written before about seeing my life from the outside. Sometimes I forget just how lucky I am to have a store that is committed to healthy, natural, local foods. 
Three great bloggers: Michelle, Kelli, and Allie.

A gorgeous fall day in Iowa City. 

the Brown Bottle. A good end to a wonderful day.
On to the holidays. She helped pick out the tree.

Cookies with Great Grandma. 

Her maternal side has been out in full force lately. It sort of makes my ovaries hurt. She is working through her bed time and meal time routines a lot during play.
I made a few Christmas gifts.
Christmas. With my family
and at our house. The brown box holds this tangram.
New Year's Brunch. Best yet. I think I can finally make decent biscuits.
Beatrix Potter.
Stacking boxes. We never invested in a pink tower, but these boxes have done just fine. 
Not Pictured:
  • Night weaning. We are still nursing, but no longer nurse at night. It was not easy, but completely worth it. We talked about it for a long time before we started, only during the day, including reading a book called Nursies When the Sun Shines.  Once we started, I never looked back. Holding boundaries can be challenging, but children need to be reassured that parents are in charge and that everything will be fine. E's sleep has improved and our daytime nursing hasn't been affected. It has made it so much easier for her to spend a night away from us, which has been wonderful. 
  • Work. I have taken on extra responsibility at work. As a result I have been all the more engaged and involved, which has meant I feel more comfortable and productive. It is so painful for me to be away from my daughter, but feeling positive about work has made it so much easier.
  • Book club. I meet with a group of women each month to talk about books. I have enjoyed their companionship so much, and am looking forward to another year of reading and talking. 
  • Cooking. I have been cooking a lot but not photographing it. To be honest, it's a very different experience of eating. Taking photos of the cooking process is certainly an interruption, but it also gives time and space to appreciate the beauty and science of each step along the way. I miss it.
  • Instagram. I took the plunge, got an iPhone, and joined Instagram. I'm enjoying it! It's minimal time investment for social networking. If you're interested in following me, I'm xoaliciarose ( I try to include pictures of our day, the things I'm working on, and the things I find beautiful. Please share your instagram name in the comments. I'd love to follow you! 
  • Blog stuff. Believe it or not, I have some blog-related stuff in the works. Stay tuned, ok?
I miss you and hope you've been well. Are you staying warm? Tomorrow is supposed to be one of the coldest days. I'm not looking forward to it, but coffee and long underwear will help.

p.s. I apologize if the formatting and photos are crazy. Flickr isn't behaving like I normally expect it to, and technology isn't my forte. 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

With an Open Mind

I just turned 30.
When people asked me what I was doing to celebrate, I said, quite happily, that we hadn't planned a single thing. That I wanted nothing more than to do nothing. I felt like the day should reflect the calm that my life has become. A party just wouldn't fit.
I did get a little crazy, though, and decided to cut bangs.
The day before my birthday, we got together to celebrate the third birthday of my niece. We had so much fun icing her purple cake and admiring the babies in costume. In the middle of the party, my mother floored me by offering to take Eleanor overnight, rather than just for dinner like we'd planned. I hadn't been away from her for more than a few hours since she was born, let alone overnight, but we went for it. I teared up a couple times, but she completely understood and accepted what was going on and had no problem with it.
With no notice, all of a sudden I was alone with my husband for the night. We had so much fun going on a date, hanging out at home, sleeping through the night, and waking up late. Since we didn't have time to plan a super-special birthday celebration, it was just a fun evening. No pressure.
We met my parents with Ellie the next morning late for an early lunch. She slept in (which she never does here!) and was so happy to see us. Her first night away went flawlessly.  (The only hitch was my boobs. We're still nursing, apparently quite a bit, and I woke up at 7:30 a.m. after more than 12 hours of not nursing, painfully engorged.)
Lunch was great, and my generous parents picked up the bill. At the end of the meal, my mother handed me a small box. I knew it had to be something good because she said to me "Now don't you DARE lose it!"
Inside was a ring that she has worn every day, next to her wedding set. A solid gold band that belonged to my father's grandmother. I have always admired it and would take it from her ring finger and slide it onto mine. And here it was. Mine. I cried. I may size it down, but for now it looks so perfect next to my wedding rings, which have their own share of family history.
I never want to take it off.
I have learned before, often through hardship, the lesson of letting go. My life has taught me over and over that I need to let go of planning and control and to embrace uncertainty. It's easy to be controlled by fear of the unknown. I want to remember this day when I need that lesson again. I had no expectations for my 30th birthday, and it was the best one yet. I am so lucky and thankful to have my parents. Nana and Papa, I love you.

Guess who else has had a birthday since we last talked?
That birthday banner back there is made from clothing scraps from my mother-in-law. My bff's parents have always hung a similar banner on his birthday, even when he wasn't home, and I hope to keep a similar tradition with E.  
She's wearing her favorite overalls. They had gotten too short so I cut the legs off and made them into a dress.
She's holding her big gift from us, a Waldorf doll. I used a kit from Weir and it was actually a lot of fun.  Once I decided that she didn't have to be perfect, I just enjoyed the process. After a lot of shaping and stuffing, she went from this (creepy!)
 to this.
to this. (Her boucle hair was just too unruly not to have in braids.) 
The night before her party, we made chocolate cupcakes. (This recipe, including the frosting, and it was perfect.) 
The morning of, we rolled out dough for little apple tarts.
While she napped before the party, dolly (who seems to be named Nico, after a dear friend's baby) got dressed. She was supposed to match Ellie, but I'm not sure anyone noticed.
And I iced cupcakes. It's hard to tell, but there are both pig and cow sprinkles on some of these. Piggy sprinkles was pretty much the highlight of her birthday. Looking back at this photo, I see a little finger made its way into the frosting up front. 
The party was a success. Many relatives had asked me what she'd want. Since they knew she was getting a doll, they showered her with doll accessories. She has every possible accessory, including her favorite, the stroller. 
The days that followed included even more gifts. 
That coat and hat, among many other great gifts, came from the bff. (The other bff gave some fantastic gifts that I just didn't get to photograph. Love you, C.)
Her favorite book at age two.
I gave her her first Reggio-inspired provocation. She didn't learn that red and yellow make orange, but she still enjoyed the work.
She's been using tongs with beans, and playing around with pretend cooking.
I finished a nagging knitting project, this cowl. It was quite easy and fun to make. We went to the pumpkin patch with her grandpa and she found some corn. (I don't know where she learned to make this serious angel face.)
It works equally well when the hood is down, too. 
And tonight, we did the trick-or-treat thing. She has been practicing, and while she only actually managed to say it to one person, she got a lot of candy and had a ton of fun. 
I should have a photo to share with you tomorrow, and I'm sorry for holding on to all these for so long. 
How are you? What did you and yours dress up as for Halloween? Ellie was the cutest bumblebee. 
Thanks for sticking around. xo
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