Tag Archives: toddler

Playroom refresh + indoor toddler fun

We used some of our time off over the holidays to tackle our extra bedroom and convert it into a brighter space that works better for living with two kids in a 1.5-story, nearly 100-year-old home.

I didn’t think to snap “before” photos, so use your imagination. The guest room was formerly painted a dark indigo with a queen bed, chair and cedar chest taking up the majority of the space, and a Blues Brothers poster on the wall from Joe’s bachelor days. Here it is now:

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The art on the west wall is a piece by Joe’s Uncle Mike LaVelle that we received as a wedding gift. It gives me a happy, peaceful feeling and Eileen loves staring at it.

To turn the space into a playroom/guestroom, we painted the walls Prairie Sky by Behr and swapped out the queen for an IKEA Hemnes daybed that expands into a king for when we have company, and conveniently hides a traffic-jam full of plastic vehicles as well as bedding.

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(We donated our queen to the USCRI refugee resettlement program. Learn more about that here.) Joe updated the ceiling fan with more contemporary glass sconces and a coat of white spray paint. We added toy storage on either side of the bed, and brought in the easel and little desk and chair.

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On the east wall, we hung the chicken wire bulletin board Joe made for me awhile back. I think it’s perfect for tacking up birth announcements and kid art. And on the north wall, we hung the embroidered alphabet blanket my Aunt Mary Lee made for Eileen. Her stitching is so impressive!

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I unearthed and hung curtains I sewed for our upstairs that we had swapped out awhile ago, and the (slightly uneven thanks to an unfortunate trip in the dryer) sheers were already in the room. Now we’re just missing a rug and some throw pillows, which I’ll probably D.I.Y. later, maybe once I get my hands on some Roam collection fabric.

We’re definitely loving the extra room to snuggle and play.

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Speaking of, I’ve included a few of our favorite indoor activities lately after the jump…

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Readers are leaders

As one of those grown up kids who stayed up late to read with a flashlight, I consider this a magical moment of motherhood*: My little boy, zipped up in his outer space pajamas, cozy in a robe and slippers, hair still wet, sticking up and smelling fresh from his bath, snuggled next to me in the dim light of a late October night. We’re sitting on cushions, sipping hot chocolate and reading from the Curious George treasury together — three stories — before he’s off to bed.

He finishes my sentences more than I can believe, with a brain that soaks up words. The kid begs to watch his favorite television shows, but he’s also interested in bringing books in the car and wants to “read” to us from his favorites, which makes this bookworm mama melt.

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My sister-in-law threw me a book-themed baby shower before he was born, and we’ve continued to expand our collection thanks to lots of really great gifts. I thought I’d share a few new favorites in case you’re book-shopping for a toddler this season.

roadworksRoadworks by Sally Sutton 
Singsongy rhymes and fun-to-say noises + all of a toddler’s favorite road machines.

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Dream Animals by Emily Winfield Martin
I have long been a fan of her illustrations  and this is a whimsical bedtime book parents will treasure.

Snoozefest

Snoozefest by Samantha Berger
Starring a sloth named Snuggleford Cuddlebun who goes to a music fest, so need I say more?

51W+-TrvlbL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Eileen got this from her aunt and imaginative cousins as a welcome-to-the-world present, but Emmett’s been helping her break it in.

dragons-love-tacos-book-coverDragons Love Tacos by by Adam Rubin, Daniel Salmieri
One of the first things Emmett memorized/thought was hilarious was the part in this book where dragons breathe FIRE (because of spicy salsa, of course).

What are your fresh favorites for the kids?  As for my bookshelf, I just started Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic” as our next book club pick. I downloaded it to my phone because reading-while-nursing is the only way it’s going to happen!

*Lest things sound too idyllic at our house, I will ‘keep it real’ and let you know that between the hours of 12-4 a.m., I was bouncing back and forth between two children and thus needed three cups of coffee to simply function. 

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DSM kids yoga

Apparently, we have a mini yogi in the house. I’ll attend and enjoy the occasional yoga class, but I don’t “practice” at home, or really model stretching these days. Just the stretch pants. So I’m surprised to recognize Emmett at 2-years old has a genuine interest in — and is pretty good at — yoga.

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His first exposure was at the end of August, when we attended the annual Community! Youth Concepts “Chalk Flood” event. They had kid-friendly instruction as part of the activities, and Emmett jumped right in. He was keen on the adorable instructor, and took to posing with the small group.

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We’ve done exercises a few times at home since, but the other day I brought home “My Daddy is a Pretzel” from the library and the book, which features a story and pose how-to illustrations, was a hit.

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Then before bed, we streamed a Cosmic Kids Yoga video and stretched along. The videos are kind of kooky, but I like how they incorporate imagination play and storytelling into the exercises.

As I’m looking to postpartum exercise and special ways to give Emmett attention after caring for his little sister all day, I could see us developing a little winter routine together.

Maybe we’d even venture to a special mother-son date at a local studio. The Family Tree offers a “Fun on the Run” parent/child yoga class (toddlers up to 3 yrs.) and Power Life Yoga has kids classes at the West Glen location. (I wish there was a weekend version downtown of Mommy & Me!) Do you know of any other yoga resources in the metro? My SIL just recommended Kids Mini Pretzels at the Valley Community Center, too.

UPDATE: Just saw the Des Moines Social Club is hosting a toddler and elementary yoga class this weekend!

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Motherhood: Two years in

On the way home from picking Emmett up today, we decided to ruin prelude our dinners by stopping for a little fro-yo at Menchies because it’s Tuesday, it’s hot out, I’m pregnant and he’s charming. (And we got a call from the doctor today saying, without much detail yet, that his allergy levels have gone down considerably. CELEBRATION!)

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The yogurt mustn’t have spoiled things too much, because later during dinner (Joe and I did a weird parental hand-off in the Menchie’s parking lot so I could swing by the dsm unveiling) Emmett said to me: “How was your day, mom?”

If I could describe this 2-year-old phase, it’s a little bit tug-of-war and a lot of heart-melt moments when you realize your child may actually be listening and learning from you after all. We make family meals a time for sharing stories, and I’ve been asking Emmett how his day was, and asking him to ask his daddy how his day was. For him to ask me, unsolicited, was magic, pure and simple.

When we drive past Gray’s Lake and see a sailboat, he quotes to me from “The Max Book” aka “Where the Wild Things Are,” and when we pick raspberries in the backyard he pretends to be Sal and I’m mama bear. We got a goldfish with some of his birthday money (which he named Rock) and he said to me, right in the middle of PetSmart – “Mom, this is Rock. I love him!”

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My baby is a little boy who uses colloquialisms (currently: “you’re kidding me!” “guess what?!”), narrates everything he’s doing, calls his parents names (“worm sandwich” and “dirty sandwich”), offers to help, and asks me not to sing to him (“Don’t make that noise, mom!”). He tells us how much he loves us (soooo much), with big hugs around the neck and wet, open-mouth kisses.

My baby is a little boy who skins his knees, cruises on his bike, pages through his books and watches construction sites with rapt amazement. He’s growing more cautious as he learns the world isn’t all soft surfaces. He’s growing more confident as he assists with every day chores, like making coffee.

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My baby is a little boy whose curiosity and comprehension expand on an hourly basis, and who daily makes me chuckle with disbelief at his intelligence and compassion.

One minute, I’m chasing – reminding him to stop at the end of the sidewalk. Another minute he’s demanding to be held, or screaming himself to sleep in my bed, tiny feet digging into my kidneys. Keeping up with this emerging personality — who exercises his independence and his neediness, delighted and devastated by the realities of life on an ever-changing basis — is like running in the sand. I know we’re getting somewhere, but the footing is constantly shifting. Can’t beat the view, though.

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At this point, my biggest concern is figuring out this next phase of childcare. He’s been with my amazing sister-in-law since my maternity leave ended, but she’s about to have her third child and our hope is for our second child to join her when my maternity leave ends this winter, so it’s time for Emmett to move on.

I’ve taken for granted how amazing it is for him to be able to tag along to the zoo or science center or various playgrounds  and take epic naps and for me to never have to worry about his safety or whether he was in the care of someone who loved him. We’re still third on the waiting list for the full-time program down the street, which was my original plan for him. I think we have a spot for him in a dual language program, which is an interesting environment, especially for such a verbal kid, but the fact that the center hasn’t been returning my e-mails makes me uncomfortable.

Motherhood is all sorts of letting go and listening, so I suppose it’s time to take this next step and then listen and trust him when I ask how his day was.

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P.S. ICYMI, my last post was a shoutout to a few local mamas who I admire! 

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Motherhood: 18 months in

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This isn’t the right analogy in a lot of ways, because I’ve always loved my son. But early on he often felt like this really cute but exhausting roommate who did a lot of puking on me at the just the wrong times and turned my nights and days unpredictable and my body unfamiliar. Early motherhood kind of strung me out, living with this demanding relative stranger who was my own flesh and blood.

Parenting a toddler is pretty challenging, too, but I’m finding the experience enjoyable and rewarding. Suddenly, that darling mystery is turning into a charming friend. (Don’t get me wrong, because there are tantrums. Full-on, face down on the floor screaming and kicking tantrums so ridiculously textbook that I have to stifle my laughter.) I think it’s his grasp of language, and imagination. Personality. Sometimes, a taste of my own sassitude bounced back at me.

I’ve learned that days go most smoothly when I don’t expect Emmett to be occupied by a toy, but try to engage him in an activity. Sometimes this means we can work on parallel projects and sometimes it means I’ve become a boat and he’s riding my legs down the river, or we’re making soup together. The whole world has clicked for him and he wants to be a part of it. And, as parents, we’re re-discovering the world and words, too. (Of course, I felt less starry-eyed about this stage a few weeks ago, during an epic sleep regression that meant Joe and I would take turns falling asleep with Emmett on his floor at 3 a.m.) Daily life.

The joy of hearing his litany of two-word phrases: up high! another one! bless you! help you (for help me)! go outside! close door! His little inside jokes (which might be hilarious to just Joe and me) and the way he tickles my back and his obsession with trucks and cooking and books and bubbles and babies. The way he voice-over-narrates his every activity: Running! Pooping! Falling! His malapropisms: waffles = awfuls.

I’m in love. And, with babyhood in the rearview mirror, I think – I hope! – if and when we get on that crazy train to number two – I’ll embrace the early weeks and months a little more.

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Plus, a few favorite parenting links lately:

I heard this Fresh Air interview of the author of Overwhelmed when it first came out, and it was on when I turned on the radio to run a friend to an errand this morning. Totally what I needed to hear. Again. (I just went back and noticed I linked to it in my post about motherhood, 9 months in!)

A friend who is a new mom linked to Our ‘Mommy’ Problem awhile back and I kept thinking ‘YES!’// I love being part of a book club where it’s about being a woman and a reader (and wine-drinker/pizza-eater) and not necessarily about being a mom.

Catching up on ‘How we Montessori’ blog posts for some simple activities Emmett and I can do together. I read this when I was pregnant/he was tiny and it seemed like it would take forever before he could actually do any of the work, but I suddenly realized he’s ready for some of these concepts. He moved his learning tower over to help wash dishes last night and loves putting away and getting out his own plates and bowls I put in a bottom drawer.

We watched “The Gruffalo” and then “The Gruffalo’s Child,” two delightful short movie adaptations of children’s books that are streaming on Netflix. Joe and I loved it just as much as Emmett, who was calling out the names of all of the animals. In snowy scenes in the sequel, he was feeling empathetic about the Gruffalo child being out in the cold. Needless to say, we’ll be getting these books!

I wish I’d known about The Longest Shortest Time when I was in those early months. It’s still pretty great at this point. And the spinoff tumblr, It’s Like They Know Us.

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Little boy at the barbershop

Emmett turns 18 months old next week (!!!) and Joe starts his new job with the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation tomorrow (!!!) so the gentlemen of the house decided to mark their milestones with a visit to the barber. There’s a fine line between shaggy chic and just plain scraggly and both were walking it.

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Joe goes to an old-school barber shop down the street from our house between my at-home haircuts, so we decided to forgo the whole kid haircut place and have them go together. Of course, I had to be there to document it. Dad went first while Emmett watched from a mount of bravery.

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The Roosevelt Barber Shop (Est. 1919) had board book about trucks, mounted taxidermy, Christmas decorations, a (broken?) horse ride and dum-dum suckers, which is really all a toddler needs to be enthralled.

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Booster seats, penguin capes and quick-fingered barbers kept things cool.

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And for mom, an envelope to save those sweet baby curls and an official first haircut certificate.

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Emmett was super well-behaved during the whole cut. He’s started talking up a storm these past few weeks and kept saying “wow” when he’d see the other guys get clippered and buzzed. I think he looks pretty darn handsome, but he’s definitely more little boy than baby, now!

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Now it’s my turn to make a hair appointment! (I’m more of a Salon Spa W girl, myself.)

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Toddler wish list

I’m looking forward to celebrating Christmas with a toddler. Emmett’s at this magical age where I’m pretty sure he’ll love the boxes and wrapping paper just as much as anything that comes in them.

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Our holiday letter-writing tradition brings me such simple joy, and I want to try to keep the season sane as our family grows. We have adopted the four-present precedent some families set so I don’t go crazy getting Emmett All. The. Things.

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  • Joe found a Strider bike on Craigslist and now that Emmett is finally walking, I’m imagining there will be some indoor shenanigans with it before the spring thaw.
  • Poor kid still gets his lunch packed in my old breastmilk coolers, so when I saw this Skip Hop cutie on clearance at Target I knew he’d love having a zoo lunchbox like his cool older cousins.
  • I have a soft spot for a boy in Sambas. My dad, brother and Joe all default to this classic shoe, and it will be special for Emmett to follow in their footsteps, especially since Emmett will never meet his papa.
  • Oliver Jeffers books are so sweet, and I’ve had my eye on This Moose Belongs to Me since before Emmett was born.

We’ll probably also do a few little stocking-sized trucks (the kid is obsessed) and get some special Christmas jammies to wear on the Boone Scenic Railroad Santa Express (which I hope isn’t sold out yet!)

Pretty unrelated, but did you all see the Pretzel Parker House Rolls recipe on Smitten Kitchen the other day? All I want for Christmas are those.

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