Tuesday, August 30, 2011

First Day of School & How We Streamlined the Morning Routine!


Kindergarten & First Grade

Our proud Second Grader! I'll have to get a photo of him next to Grandma's fence for a height comparison.

So, The Girl started school about 2 weeks ago but The Boy just started yesterday. They don't go to the same schools. He attends a Catholic school and she goes to a public school with a program for special needs children. The Boy's school is about 7 minutes from our house in one direction and The Girl's school is about 15 minutes away from our house in the opposite direction.

What does this mean for me in the mornings?

It means we leave the house almost an hour before I have to get to work so I can drive them both to their respective morning care programs. The Boy is able to run inside by himself but I actually have to street park and get out of the car to sign The Girl in each morning. This calls for us to wake at *yawn* 5:45 am each morning. I'm already cringing at the thought of adding a baby to the mix early next year!

A few weeks ago I'd mentioned that I was going to start streamlining the morning routine to allow the kids more independence and the ability to do for themselves.

Source: amazon.com via Julie on Pinterest

I wanted them to get used to waking with an alarm clock so I started using this to wake them for summer camp. I found this amazing dual-clock from Timex. I love it so much that I ended up buying one for myself too! I can set it for two different times, only to go off on weekdays, the time sets itself and it has a radio or buzzer (I hate being woken by a buzzer, so I love the radio feature!). Now they are totally used to the alarm clock and are not having any problems getting up by themselves.

Using the closet organizers we already have, I have their wardrobe lined up for the entire week. I move The Girls socks & matching hair bows downstairs on Sunday so those are ready for the week ahead (bows have a box that goes under the bathroom sink with her hairbrush and the socks go into the shoe storage bin).

The Boy always wears a uniform & white socks so he doesn't even have to think about it, he already knows what he's wearing. The Girl has been grabbing her clothes out of the closet and getting dressed fine on her own (though a few times the shirt has been on backwards!).

I took these pictures on Monday morning so I did supervise them that day but today they did everything on their own.

Fixing her own cereal (obviously, previous to brushing her hair!)

The Girl made her own bowl of cereal. I purchased plastic bowls from Target and have them in the dry food cabinet. I poured milk into a smaller bottle so she doesn't have to wield the full jug of milk. However I don't think she poured herself enough cereal today because she was done eating before The Boy and that never happens! I think I'll start portioning out the cereal into baggies and she can get her serving from there.

Heating up water for oatmeal

The Boy loves oatmeal so I taught him how much water to put in the Pyrex measuring cup and which button to push on the microwave to heat it. The handle doesn't get hot so he's able to get it out by himself and pour the water into the bowl with the oatmeal. Right now we still have some Quaker Oat packets so he's using those but when those are gone, I'll be creating various oatmeal packs with dried fruit and brown sugar mixes of our own.

They are now able to get their teeth brushed with minimal mess (The Girl did drop a big blob of pink toothpaste on my bath rug yesterday). I purchased them two different types of toothpaste so it's very easy for me to know exactly who made the mess and who didn't rinse out the sink after spitting!

I'll show you on other day how I tacked the remaining problem on my list, ALLOWING THE BOY TO MAKE HIS OWN LUNCHES.

I had the day off on Monday to be with The Boy on his first day so we actually dropped The Girl off first and then went to The Boy's school.

Outside his classroom

Playing a bean-bag toss question game with his new teacher

These two sillies are seated next to each other in the classroom too...might not be the best idea, but I'm sure the teacher will figure that out soon enough!

Happy First Day of Second Grade sweetheart!

Friday, August 26, 2011

First Day - The Girl

Last Wednesday was The Girl's first day of school.


I had the privilege of taking her that day. She was not one bit anxious. Not even all that excited either, frankly. Ask her how her day went and she'll just flatly say, "I'm fine. It was good". She'd been attending summer day camp at her campus for the two days before school officially started so I think that might have eased her back into the routine easily. She even saw her teacher the day before so she was able to say hello.

She has the same teacher as last year. I can tell that she's glad that The Girl is back in her class again.


See, The Girl is mildly Autistic and her classroom is full of children who are also special needs. Some are like her, delayed in speech, unable to grasp particular concepts and have limited social skills. Other children in the classes have more intense needs, like one child who is both Down Syndrome and deaf and another who is still learning how to swallow solid foods.


My heart goes out to the teachers in these classes for their unlimited patience and their persistence and tireless drive to teach these challenged children. Blessings to all teachers starting out their school years, may they find reward in it everyday!

Monday, August 22, 2011

August - The Weekend that Was

Friday night kick-started with my first girl's night out in 9 months. I went with my cousin and her girlfriends to Lips, a local drag queen dinner show. My brother and sister-in-law took me here about 4 years ago for my birthday. However, since I'm currently pregnant, my girl's night was literally a sober night and watching a drag queen show without the aid of a whiskey sour this time just wasn't the same. Still a lot of (raunchy) fun but a little harder to get into the spirit without drinking a few spirits!

This is my memento from my last Lips experience. I have no idea what I'm laughing so hard about...
The next day was back into Mom-mode and we met some family at an newly opened indoor playhouse.

Going down the gigantic slide

In the ball pit

Mr. Sweaty Head holding his second cousin

We were there for three hours and the kids were sweat-drenched and ready for the pool afterwards.

My 3-year old niece is fearless!


Practicing diving

Sunday we went to church, then a restaurant lunch at a popular deli (a rare treat for us, we don't usually go out for lunch), shopping, haircuts and home to rest for a little while. That evening we did Mass and my aunt & uncle's 40th wedding vow renewals.


We met afterwards for dinner at the pizzaria. There were about 75 people crammed in with the music from the jukebox blaring (someone there in the bar had a heavy metal fixation). My dad pulled me outside to see this lovely sunset.


Despite ordering first, we were unfortunately served last and didn't get home until after 9pm. Nothing like eating a heavy meal and then going straight to bed!

On the way home, my husband told me how the 50+ year old waitress hit on him when he got up to request the check. Apparantly she told him, "Okay, if you're not interested in me, I have a cute young daughter" to which he says he told her, "Hey lady, I'm married". I'm not sure I'm buying this story, as he is prone to joking but he is insisting this time that he's not pulling my leg! Hmph!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

DIY PROJECT - Soap Sliver Pocketed Washcloth

It's been almost 9 months since my husband and I got married and I've slowly discovered this little idiosyncrasy about him.

My husband has this thing about not using up the last bit of something.

This is odd, because he's extremely frugal and doesn't like to waste. There have been many a discussion about the leftovers in the fridge that don't get eaten or how that backpack with the holes in the bottom just needs a little patching; no need to purchase a new one! So I just don't understand why that new jar of Nutella needed to be opened when there is still enough for 3 more servings in the first jar? What was wrong with that last capful of dishwashing detergent...why did a new bottle have to be used already? Or why does he have two tubes of toothpaste on the bathroom counter when there is probably a week's worth of brushing still in the first tube?

After staring at the slivers of Dove soap that he had piling up in the soap dish in the shower, I knew there was something I could make that would put those leftover bars to work.


So I made a pocketed washcloth where he could slip in those leftover bits and lather up to his heart's delight, happy in the knowledge that he wasn't being wasteful by unwrapping a fresh bar when these other pieces weren't quite done yet.

Or at least, that's my idea (and the point I'm trying to get across to him!).

I bought an inexpensive washcloth. I folded it up to resemble an envelope, folded up longer on the bottom and not as much on the top. I marked the center with some disappearing ink and pinned in place.


I sewed up the sides of the cloth (had to hand-crank the machine over the very thick sections), then sewed a double-stitch on each side of my pins.


I cut the cloth along the marking and now had two pocketed washcloths. I simply slipped the soap slivers inside and set it inside the shower. Now my husband uses the washcloth as normal except now the soap lathers from the inside out without him having to rub it on a new soap bar first!


A few weeks ago my husband went out with a friend on his first ocean fishing boat trip. It was a 3/4 day boat that sailed out from here in San Diego to the Coronado Islands in Mexican waters. He borrowed an ocean rod & reel, packed up his tackle and snack bag the night before but he was so excited (like a kid at Christmas), so I'm not sure he slept much!

They left the dock at 6am and didn't return home until nearly 6pm. I got a phone call from him as the boat was coming back into dock.

"I caught the biggest fish of anyone else on the boat".

Danny with the big catch of the day, the only yellowtail caught on the boat

He walked in the front door with a huge bag full of fish. I stayed clear of the kitchen (and the smells) as my pregnant appetite isn't so crazy about pungent freshwater fish odor, if you know what I mean. Fans were blowing and the windows were wide open in the kitchen as he and his friend sorted the fish in the sink.

Fortunately the deck hands had done most of the dirty work on the dock, gutting, deboning and cutting into more manageable pieces. There was rock cod, barracuda and the Mother Lode...a 30 lb yellowtail. Of course, Danny had to bring home the tail to show me (I'll admit, it was a lovely yellow and green shimmery color, but I didn't really need to have it so close to my face!).

Our fridge was soon stuffed with over ten bags of fresh fish, labeled with a Sharpie. He immediately squeezed lemon over one of the steaks and put into the oven for a quick dinner.

Of course, he's HOOKED on sea fishing now. He is itching to go back out there again but I told him first that our freezer is already stuffed to the gills (hee-hee!) and he's going to need to eat some of the fish he caught before he goes out again for more.


Sunday was our fish fry. Danny's friend, wife and kids came over with their outdoor propane burner, fresh tortillas, a rockin' creamy salsa, and the perfect recipe for beer batter. The men set to work frying up the meat while the kids swam. The smell of yummy grease and fried fish was irresistible and the men nibbled the entire time. Pretty soon the kids were out of the pool and clamoring for fish. Even The Girl, who is one of the pickiest of eaters asked for a piece of fish... I think her grandma nearly fell over in shock!

Soon enough we had everyone settled in with a plate of fish tacos. I alone ate three, which is pretty good given my lacking appetite!


The kids kept going back for more pieces, wrapping them in napkins and gobbling them up!


Needless to say the fish fry was a success and we can't wait to do that again. Now Danny will just have to go out again and catch more of that delicious fish!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Nursey Project - Ocean Mobile & a Change of Plans

Sometimes when you're crafting, what you picture in your mind on a particular project tends to morph over time, in particular when it comes to the actual logistics of putting it all together. This happened to me often when constructing and altering clothing patterns. I mix and match patterns together, adding a ruffle here and an inset of ric-rack or piping there and the result is often a far-cry from the original idea.

When it came to making this nursery mobile, I just hadn't been able to wrap my mind around how to create a three-dimensional stuffed figure, my non-math brain just wouldn't do it!

I pulled out my sketches for this project again and decided the best way to start would be to just bite the bullet and try my hand at putting one of the figures together. I took my original sketch of the sea horse (which was a whopping 12" tall!) and scaled it back to just under 6" tall.


I cut the sketch outline into a pattern, doubled over the orange felt and then cut out the shape. I free-hand drew the blue details with a disappearing ink pen directly onto the felt. I sandwiched the blue bits in between the two orange shapes and then pinned around the entire piece.

I started off handstitching the edges with three strands of embroidery floss however I wasn't pleased with the results (I just knew the stuffing was going to work its way out from between the stitches). I ended up pulling the hand stitches out and machine straight-stitched instead. The nice thing about felt is that it doesn't fray so you can stitch the wrong sides together and the stitching can show on the outside and the felt will still have a nice clean edge.


After stitching (and leaving a small opening), I stuffed it with fiberfill. Even with my bodkin tool, I couldn't get the stuffing to reach the tip of the skinny nose but I wasn't too concerned about it, I think it looks fine unstuffed. Generally with stuffed animals you have to OVERSTUFF because with squeezing and cuddling, the fluff inside gets smushed and flat but that won't be a problem with the mobile figures. Since the mobile will be hanging up and not getting touched, I could just stuff it to what I wanted it to look like and sew it up closed.

After stuffing and sewing shut, I was ready to add some detailing, so I threaded three strands of floss and stitched the creases of the sea horse, looping the thread around and pulling slightly tight to create a cushioned-look. I handsewed on one "horn" to the front of one side to make him look more dimensional.


I have some black beads at my mom's house and know they'd be perfect for eyes for my sweet sea horses, I just have to remember to grab them next time I'm there. And voila! I'll have one figure done!!

Now that I have this adorable sea horse nearly complete, I'm rethinking the entire mobile and considering making it ALL with sea horses! My original plan was to have a crab, a whale, a sea star, a sea horse, an angel fish, a jelly fish, and a sea turtle. I'm not confident that I could do some of these figures justice at all, but I know now that I can make a cute seahorse and perhaps some sea stars? To be honest, I know I could make a jellyfish and an angel fish too, so it's really the crab, whale & sea turtle idea that I'm thinking about dropping from the set.

And I'm okay with that!

When I've pushed myself to stick to the original plan it seems that I just end up frustrated or disappointed, so I'm going to allow myself to veer off course and see where this new idea takes me! I'll be working on the project this week and will update when I have something completed to share.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mobile hang-ups

After making a few sketches, I still couldn't really bring myself to actually decide on a firm pattern for the sea creatures I'm going to make for the nursery mobile. I'd expected at this date to actually have things cut out and started, but no, not yet...

My original sketches were way too big, like actual stuffed animal/cuddling size and that's not right (imagine those hanging up in a room, that would be some monster-sized mobile!).

I think I have decided to just do them in more of a flat style instead of round and three-dimensional. The math wiz (ha!) in me just couldn't get the grasp of designing anything remotely three-dimensional, so flat it is. I will be adding fluff inside to puff them out a little and I'll be adding trims and details to them to add some lift to them and make them look not so flat.

I just don't want them looking "cartoony". I do want a colorful but more true-to life-look. So I'm definitely back to the drawing board (so to speak, and literally too, I guess...).

In the meantime, Sew4Home has added a few more cool nursery projects to their website and I'm printing them as they come up. Check these out!

A fabric covered tissue box holder, who doesn't need one of these! I have so many scraps, I could make one of these for each room in the house...hmmmm....

Grommetted curtains, which I'd make with a blackout lining. I'm thinking solid turquoise with a red trim would look great in the room.

Fitted sheets. I want red gingham!

A pleated crib skirt, which is probably more appropriate in a boy's room than the ruffled version. I have more of the crab fabric that inspired the room, so I'd probably use that in one of the middle panels and have each panel be somewhat different all the way around and then have a solid turquoise in the creases to tie it together.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"I'll do it myself"...I hope!

So we have 8 more days until we have to get back into the swing of homework and school drop offs.

Miss Chocolate Ice Cream face

The much neater Slurpee-Sipper

The kids are still relishing their summer schedule (these were taken after I picked them up from their summer camp field trip to the museum & treated them with 7-11 goodies). I am taking comfort in knowing that even with the summer routine, we didn't stray too far from their usual bedtimes and the kids and I do have an iron-clad morning routine in place.

When Danny and I got married late last year and we all moved into our apartment, it was difficult adjusting everyone to a morning school-day routine. Of course Danny's out because he's up and out of the house before daylight, so it's all left up to me. I remember the first morning I woke up The Girl. She squinted open her eyes, hair tangled up like a bird's nest and silently opened up the curtains to look out into the dark morning. She turned her head to look at me and the expression was priceless, very much a "What in the world are you thinking woman? It's still dark outside!".

5:15-Alarm goes off. I hit snooze!
5:24-I get up, put in contact lenses and pee.
5:30-I wake up the kids by opening their room, setting out The Girl's clothes on her bed with a pair of underpants & socks. The Girl gets up and heads to the bathroom. The Boy crawls out of bed and they switch places when The Girl returns. She shuts the bedroom door & gets dressed. In the spare room where The Boy keeps his clothes, I set out his uniform, a pair of underpants & socks (to remind him to change them!)and then head downstairs.
5:35-I prepare breakfast. It's generally frozen waffles (made fresh over the weekend from Bisquick mix), a bowl of cereal or peanut butter toast. The Boy likes canned or fresh fruit, yogurt, scrambled eggs, breakfast burritos and oatmeal but The Girl will only stick with the first three things so it's all kept pretty basic when she's with us. I set it on the table with a glass of milk for each kid along with their vitamins and they start in eating once they come downstairs. If I've not yet packed lunches the night before, I'll do that now too and also pack up my own lunch & snack to take to work.
5:50-I head upstairs. I put paste on the kid's toothbrushes (because they tend to get the paste all over the sink if I leave that for them to do) and then get myself ready. Make-up, clothes, hair. I shout down encouragements to "keep eating" to The Girl, who often moves slow as molasses in the morning & supervise tooth brushing if need be. The Boy turns on the TV (because he's always the first one ready). It's generally Big Cat Diaries on Animal Planet, Family Matters or Full House on Nickelodeon or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on the Disney Channel.
6:20-I head downstairs. The Girl sits on the ottoman and I brush out her hair and set it for the day. It's nearly waist length and wavy so it has to get set out of her face, so I usually have to secure little elastics near the forehead line and braid or put into ponytails.
6:30-I'll do a quick kitchen check while the kids put their shoes on. Sometimes I'll turn the dishwasher on if it's full. We grab our backpacks/purse/lunch bags/etc and head out the door.
6:40-Drop off The Boy at his school (I keep the car running & he goes into his morning care group).
7:05-Drop off The Girl at her school (I have to actual park on the street, escort her inside and sign her in to her morning care group each day).
7:30-Squeal into work, just on time!

We were able to relax a little on the timeline and pushed this all back about 20 minutes in the summer since they were both attending the same camp and I didn't have to drive to two different places. I have stuck with this morning routine for the past 8 months and the kids know just what to do now without any prompting.

But I can see it now. Come early December, I'm going to be adding a newborn into the morning mix. The kids will still have about 2 weeks left of school before their vacations, I'll be nursing the new kid and still trying to get them all out the door and to their two separate locations on time for school. And then of course, once I have to go back to work (ugh, I cringe to even think...) I'll be getting three kids ready and driven to three different locations and still trying to get myself to work at a decent time! I'm going to be pushing this timeline back probably another 30-45 minutes then so I'll have time to feed/diaper/dress another little body.

So, in anticipation of having another little one to care for in the morning, I think it's time to mix things up a little and streamline just a tad bit more.

#1. A kid's room alarm clock.

I am going to purchase an alarm clock for the older kids that we'll set the night before. This way if I'm in another room, nursing the baby, they'll still be waking on time and getting their morning routine in motion. I hope that they won't figure out how to press snooze...

#2. Getting their own clothes, underpants and socks out.

We already have these fantastic closet organizers so they do know what they are wearing for the week in advance.

Source: etsy.com via Julie on Pinterest

I had these exact organizers customized with Monday through Friday so the kid's clothes are already laid out for the week and ready to go in their closet.

It would be really easy for me to make a little bag that hangs over the hanger that would include their underpants and socks for the day (and maybe The Girl's hair bow?) so they don't grab orange polka-dotted socks when they are wearing a striped red dress (when left to her own devices, it's happened!).

Source: etsy.com via Julie on Pinterest

A pattern for a clothespin hanger, but this could hold socks, underpants & a bow

#3. Preparing their own breakfast.

I was reading another blogger's idea about making up their own oatmeal packets into individual Ziplock baggies. The Boy would definitely go for this and he's advanced enough to measure out the water or milk and push the correct button on the microwave to warm the liquid before stirring it in the bowl.

I can do the same with cereal in bags for The Girl. This is something we could set up once a week, place all the choices into a basket in the pantry closet and then reuse the bags for the following week.

I can easily set out bowls onto the dining room table the night before, or even get special morning breakfast-ware that could be kept in the pantry when they kids could reach them (because too many times I've found a kid on the counter trying to reach the porcelain bowls by themselves!).

I will have to purchase two new things however. A new Pyrex measuring cup (because I accidentally smashed mine into a billion pieces all over the kitchen counter last night!) and a smallish pitcher/container to hold milk that the kids will be able to pour by themselves. They aren't confident enough to handle the gallon jug alone, in particular when it's full. The smaller one above looks perfectly sized.

#4. Trusting them enough to put on their own toothpaste (or at least cleaning up any messes they make in the sink!).

#5. Allowing The Boy to help prepare his own lunches for the week in advance.

I think if we prepare ahead of time like with the breakfasts, he will be able to just grab a drink, a snack, a premade sandwich, a bag of chips or cookies and be good to go!

The Girl already owns this freezable lunch bag.

So, how does that all sound? I know that I'll have to implement these changes slowly over the course of the next 2-3 months as we get back into the swing of school mornings. The Girl (being Autistic) can be a challenge to motivate but she's such a stickler for the rules that if I make these changes slowly (but mandatory), it shouldn't be an issue.

What changes have you had to make to your morning get-out-the-door-on-time routine?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Nursery Project #1 -Quilt completed!

I've been sewing for over 20 years and have never attempted making a quilt before. But I figured crib sized was a good place to start and I am SO happy to share these completed photos with you of my finished baby quilt!!


The pattern was free on Sew4Home and very easy to follow.
The quilt binding instructions are from Heather Bailey. I was able to use all fabrics that I already had on hand (except for the white tone-on-tone fabric, I did buy that at the quilt shop). Once I got the top done, I went back to the quilt shop and they guided me in the right direction on what kind of quilt batting size & style to purchase.


Reverse side

The entire thing went together quickly, including the dreaded handstitched binding(completed during a Toddlers & Tiaras marathon this weekend!).

I think this was the perfect nursery project for me to start on as I'm really able to see all my planned fabrics together, harmonizing in one place. The first thing my husband asked was how I got my top stitched lines so straight! Easy...I used my long, clear ruler and a temporary marker to draw across the diagonals of each square and then just stitched on the line.


I do plan on starting my felt mobile next but am still looking across the web to find good real-life sea creature inspirations before I create my stuffed versions.

In the meantime, I have my Finding Nemo crossstitch that I've been toting around with me on the weekends on visits to my parent's house. Don't be alarmed that all of the characters are missing their eyes, I always save the white and the detailing for the last....but in the meantime, they are a little disconcerting!


Next up, the mobile!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Nursery Project - Planning the Mobile

So the quilt is almost done.


This is the pattern I used, free from Sew4Home website. My blanket has squares in the crab print, a colorful stripe, lots of polka dots in orange and turquoise, a bright blue solid, and a swirly red print. I liked the look of a simple white background so that's how mine looks too, in a tone on tone white stripe. I'll share photos as soon as I'm finished with it.

I'm sure you can imagine my disappointment in reading the very last line of instructions on quilt binding when it said to handstitch the final seam closed. Whaaa?? Well, an hour and a half last night and I'd only finished one side, so it looks like I have approximately 4-5 more hours of handstitching ahead of me...

Did I mention that it's really hot in my house and sitting with a blanket on my lap in 90+ degree weather isn't really wildy fun?!

But with the quilt project winding down, I'm already planning the next one. My next project is going to be an ocean-themed felt mobile.

Source: etsy.com via Julie on Pinterest

These mobile photos are ones I've found in my online searching, I love all the handmade details!

I have it in my head what I'm going to make. I have already purchased these lovely felt squares from Heather Bailey's online shop.

I still need to purchase wooden rings and then paint them. I have wool stuffing at my mom's house and of course, my husband (being an avid-fisherman) has plenty of fishing line and will likely string it all up for me when I'm finished.

This handpainted wooden one is so cool, if only my husband had a jigsaw!

I'm intrigued by the hanger of this one, I think I could do something like this that would reflect an under-the-sea theme.

I will need to draw and cut out my own patterns for the shapes. I plan on making a red crab, an orange seahorse, a turquoise whale, a lime green turtle, a cream-colored starfish, a blue angel fish and a yellow jelly fish (with dangling trim). I'm also going to buy these felted wool balls to string like "bubbles" from the fishing line!

Source: etsy.com via Julie on Pinterest

This mobile will hang far far away from little fingers so I can decorate it with as many sequins, buttons and beads as I want!

Oh, and by the way...this mobile will have to be crafted all by hand. Each individual character and every little sequin, button and bead will need to be sewn on using my little fingers, which are likely to be sore by the time I finish handsewing that quilt binding!