2.27.2013

Ruler Growth Chart - Pinterest Challenge

I tackled a couple of projects for this round of the Pinterest Challenge, but the second one requires a really intense session with the glue stick that I have yet to schedule. Maybe we'll get friendly this weekend. I did, however, finish a project that I've had pinned forever - the GIANT ruler growth chart that I'm sure you've seen before. I've loved it since I first laid eyes on it, especially since we move so often (in theory, knock on wood we haven't had to lately.)

I was pretty sure that my mom had never seen a giant growth chart ruler before. I sent her a couple of texts all coy saying something like "you'll never guess what I'm making." Then when I talked to her later and told her what it was, she said she'd cut one out of a magazine and thought it was a great gift idea for M. She probably knew about giant ruler growth charts before any of us.

Materials
  • 1"x10"x6' pine board
  • stain of your choice
  • mailbox stencils
  • black acrylic paint
  • stencil sponge
  • sharpie
  • ruler
  • any square edge tool
  • polyurethane 

We started out with a 1"x10"x6' piece of pine that I stained with two coats of "special walnut" from a sample we had leftover from when we were trying to match our pine basement stairs to our oat floors (not a match at all.)

When that was relatively dry I put a drop cloth down on our dining room table, stuck Little M in his tower and started making my marks. I promise he's not all limp from the fumes, he's just begging for more food.
I decided to start at 6" to allow enough room for baseboard molding when we mount it. This allowed for a 6'6" growth chart. All of M's uncles and grandpas are well over 6' tall, but I think 6'6" is good, no?

We paused for a snack.


I began by marking the foot marks lightly in pencil. Then I measured a half dozen times to make for absolute sure I marked them in the right place. I'd marked the 2' mark wrong. I fixed that and continued. Then I pulled up a picture of an old-school wooden ruler on S's iPad and used that as a guideline for how long to make each of my marks.

On the old-school ruler photo the foot mark (or inch mark on the actual old rulers) was a tad shorter to allow space for the black number, so I made my ruler looks the same. The 1/2' marks are the longest, the foot marks the second longest, the 1/4' and 3/4' marks as the next longest and the inches are the shortest.


After I had all my light pencil marks at each inch, I pulled out a quilting square an a regular sized black Sharpie. I used the square edge to make sure each of my inch marks ran precisely perpendicular to the edge of the board. Maybe overkill, but it made the whole thing look really crisp and even. I started each line 1/4" from the edge of the board just to make things look all neat and tidy too.



Once all the inch marks were made with my Sharpie and my back was killing me from hunching over for hours, I moved on to stenciling the foot marking numbers. Let me save you some time here. The stencils I used are from the giant orange home improvement store. They were in the paint area hanging near the stain. Not with the mail boxes. Not at Target, JoAnn, Michael's or A.C. Moore. They had no stencil numbers of any size. Little M was so annoyed I hadn't thought to go to the orange place first.

So I took those stencils that cost less than the fuel it took me to finally find them and taped them down to the ruler using painter's tape. I hope to use them again someday and wanted to use something that would come off the stencils easily. Regardless, I think I'd probably only get two or three uses out of the cardboard stencils before they would start to fall apart.

I used a foam stencil brush loaded very, very lightly with some black acrylic paint I used a few years ago to paint our front door. I very gently and lightly dabbed on the black paint, let it dry and then did a second coat.

Once everything is good and dry, you'll want to brush on a few coats of a good quality poly sealer. I have yet to do this step because that's definitely an outdoor projects and we haven't had poly friendly weather lately.

I'm not in too big a rush to seal it up since we're not going to hang it 'til we've figured out our whole possible addition project. I want to make sure it has a prominent location, possibly in the new mudroom. We are, however, keeping track of Little M's length measurements so we can add them with a thin black sharpie as soon as we've got our GIANT ruler on the wall. It's hard to believe he's grown a whole foot in one year. Crazypants.

So there you have it, my favorite pin is done. What did you all do this time around for the Pinterest Challenge?

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2.23.2013

What’s Going On?



We’ve been talking space around here – as in an addition. Given the market where we live, it makes sense to invest in our home, so after months of deliberation we hired an architect to help us figure things out. Because we’re on a corner lot our only real option is to add onto the side of the house. This means the façade of the house is going to change significantly. I don’t want to lose the cute colonial look…hence, the architect. It’s been a few weeks since he came out to measure every wall in our home top to bottom; we hope to see some sketches in a week or two. It seems like this is a slow process. I'm trying not to wish the time away since every week that passes means my baby gets bigger. 

Stop growing up so fast, Little M.

S has been home for.ev.er. Since Christmas he’s only been on one overnight trip and it was for one night. One! Hello? What happened to being gone 50% of the time? I’d say I’m not complaining, but I am. In order for this here today, gone tomorrow lifestyle to work, Little M and I have to practice our solo time. Besides, I want cheese and crackers for dinner.

Mamie and PawPaw were here this week. Little M has so much fun with them. I love it when they visit. He went on a play date to his Nola’s house today (S’s parents) with my mom. A nannies and baby play date. How cute is that?

Feeney pulled my mom over  and hurt her arm while lunging for another dog when we were out for a walk yesterday and then today he ate Little M’s ribs & mashed potatoes straight off the kitchen counter when I walked out of the room to change M’s diaper. He’s in the dog house. At least he would be if we had one.

I’m hoping to move my sewing area from downstairs up to my office. It’s such a nice space with all the windows that I’m thinking it would be nice to do projects in there on the weekends.
Who am I kidding thinking I have time without a monkey hanging from my leg to do projects on the weekends?

Last weekend I worked on a project I’ve had pinned for months  and months. I’m pretty psyched about it. It needs a few coats of poly, which will have to wait ‘til the weather warms a little, and then it will be ready to hang. Of course S is telling me we can’t hang anything (including curtains in the living room) until the addition is finished. So that’s like months from now. Hopefully not a dozen months.

Speaking of weather, Feeney is desperate need of a shave and a haircut, two bits. We have a hot water faucet outside for winter baths, but I can’t very well bathe him outside if it’s 28 degrees and spitting snow like it has been every weekend lately. I’m ready to throw in the towel and shave him in the bathroom and just have the shop vac going to suck up all the fur.

How do you teach a seven-year-old dog to stop freaking out at other dogs? Short of a lobotomy, of course.  We’re told he wasn’t socialized properly as a young pup.

I picked the trash of a neighbor in broad daylight a couple weeks ago to grab a stacked glass ball lamp. The bulb assembly was broken. I replaced it for $3.99 and bought a new shade. Love it. And I’m only mildly uncomfortable with the fact that the neighbor probably saw me. It’s ok though, I don’t really know any of them well so I’m mildly uncomfortable every time we’re together anyway. Nothing lost there.

Little M didn't want to nurse very much a couple weeks ago. I freaked out since I have a breastfeeding goal of at least 18 months, but really want to go to 2 years. My body went nuts with the sudden supply decrease and the happy breastfeeding hormones must have dropped because I was really unhappy. I worked to get my supply back, Little M is back to nursing regularly, I'm happy again and I've decided I can never stop. Ever. 

Hello Time Magazine.

I've started running much more in the past month. It's not hard to run "much more" when the baseline for the past year has been once a week. Running affects my milk supply hence the issue above. End of the TMI.

On any given day our house is perfectly neat and tidy, but doesn’t look beautiful anymore. The monkey gets into everything so we don’t have too many decorative items out. And then there’s the space issue; namely that we have everyone’s shoes, coats and a drop-your-shit-here stuff in our dining room by the back door. It drives me mad. Absolutely MAD.

I finally pulled out our winter duvet that I bought at West Elm two winters ago. I never brought it out last year because I had a newborn and swapping a duvet was the last thing on my mind. I like the way our bedroom looks. Minus the pile of crap on S's dresser. I need horse blinders so I won't see the pile anymore.

Why on earth did they have to kill off Matthew?

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2.22.2013

Our Toy Rotation Plan

We've been slowly amassing a hoard of toys for little M since he was born. Throw in the holidays and his birthday, and things were getting downright overwhelming. Before he was born I thought that we'd have a dozen or so toys for him at any given stage, and that I wouldn't let toys overtake my house. Now I realize that not only do toys last through more than one stage, but buying toys is fun! And free and really cheap toys off my local mom's list are nearly impossible to resist.

We certainly don't have as many toys as most people I know. But we have a small house that we try to keep as clutter-free as possible, and just after Christmas I was feeling overwhelmed. So I set out to figure out a toy rotation plan. After searching for inspiration, I found a few posts on the website Intelligent Nest about "rethinking the playroom" that resonated with me. She explained that her kids would play with the same few toys all the time and ignore the rest. In one of her toy rotation posts she explained that kids learn from new experiences, but if they keep seeing the same toys in the same place all the time, they lose interest and stop playing with them because the toys have become predictable. She explains that toy rotations, which are most effective for infants through 5 or 6 year olds, are done in early education environments all the time. She really hit the nail (or the bright peg toy) on the head: little M was bored with toys he found fascinating just a few weeks ago.

I read that an every-fifth-day rotation is ideal, but we decided on a once a week rotation to keep things easy and because little M is only home and awake for a couple hours, max, each day. (We rotate Friday night, but I should point that little M does get noticeably less interested in his toys by Thursday.)



One night after little M was in bed, I printed out a list of 13 categories and went through all of Little M's toys, assigning them to categories. I determined that based on the number of toys, we could do a three week rotation. I pulled out all of little M's toys and made three piles by taking an equal number of toys from each category - from some categories I took one toy, from others I took two or three. I made the weeks loosely themed - we have airplane week, which has his toy planes and books about planes and tractor week with his tractor toys and some farm books. Because he's learning to walk right now, we kept out his walker to use as a bin for his soft toys each week and his stacking cups, which I occasionally use to give him sips of my tea or soup. His play kitchen is always out in our dining room, but I move around the kitchen accessories so he has new stuff to play with each week.

13 Toy Rotation Categories

1. Active play - riding, pushing, etc.
2. Art (we don't have any of these yet) - drawing, cutting, painting, taping
3. Building - blocks, Legos
4. Dress-up & Dramatic play - tool belt, princess dresses, baby dolls
5. Science - gears, cause & effect toys, mixing colors
6. Math - counting, shape sorting
7. Manipulating toys - small items that are used to focus on fine motor coordination like screws and latch boards
8. Literacy - books & pictures
9. Music - we have an abundance of music toys, our favorite!
10. Logic - puzzles
11. Wheels - any kind of vehicle with wheels
12. Stuffed animals & dolls
13. Balls - this is little M's favorite category!

I neatly packed two weeks of toys into two bins that I store in my office. Because we spend most of our family and play time in our living room, I arranged the third pile of toys in the cubbies of our coffee table.



I was skeptical of the rotation plan at first. We have some really nice toys and I'm all too aware that little M is growing and changing at lightning speed; I was afraid he'd "outgrow" a toy in the two weeks it was in storage. But we decided to give the plan three weeks, and three full rotations before deciding if toy rotation is for us.



OH MY GOODNESS! I am a total toy rotation convert! Saturday mornings have been like Christmas here since we started the rotation seven Saturdays ago. Little M is SO EXCITED to see the new toys when we come downstairs on Saturdays. He goes through them like a hurricane and plays with everything! Nothing goes untouched. My fear of his outgrowing toys was totally unfounded; he's still interested in everything. Best of all, I haven't bought a single new toy since we started the plan; there hasn't been a need at all. And our house isn't overrun with toys anymore. Whew!

Do you have a toy rotation plan? Are you ready to try it out and join me as a toy rotation convert?

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2.15.2013

Blue to Gray to

Waaaay back when Hurricane Sandy hit, Bower Power and friends were hosting a fall Pinterest Challenge. I was so in. I had a photo pinned of a living room with a navy blue accent wall, a huge window and a white couch. I've loved that room forever. It was my inspiration for M's nursery (well that and our navy and hot pink wedding.) I jumped in, psyched to finally be painting my navy blue living room accent wall.

In anticipation of the hurricane, we stocked up on much needed essentials - a couple gallons of water and a gallon of navy blue paint. I got to work painting the wall behind our mounted TV in the living room while S played with Little M. I pinched a few pennies and didn't buy our usual Benjamin Moore paint, so it was a little stinky in the room. I opened all the windows and screen door to air the place out at bit while I painted. Then, at 4:30, I heard a huge crash, turned to see a tree falling across the street one house down from us and the lights went out. The house was about 55 degrees at that point since I'd let all the heat out. And it was getting dark. Aaaaand I've got a ton of frozen milk in our freezer so panic set in. The TV anchor panicked along with me:

We saw that our neighbors had extension cords strung across the street to homes where they still had power. In the morning we knocked on the door at the house across the street, asked to borrow power, and strung a cord across. We had just enough juice to power the freezer and a light in the living - just enough light to continue painting. Whew.

By the time our power was restored we had a dark blue accent wall. Just like my inspiration photo. Except we don't have a white couch. Or a huge window. And our light gray walls suddenly looked pale blue. The navy blue I loved in my inspiration photo, that I adore in my nursery, looked...juvenile. It was not what I'd hoped for at all. Womp, womp, womp.

I tried moving the chairs around. We hung a pendant above the green slipper chair that we stole from my office. I added some fall pumpkins. But nothing really worked. It was ok, but it wasn't great. I didn't love it.
 
We lived it with for exactly four weeks...until S went on his next trip and I zipped over to the Benjamin Moore store and bought a quart of the darkest gray on same color card as the living room's pale Iced Cube Silver walls, which, was appropriately called gray.

Since the label on my quart of Aura paint said I had exactly enough paint to cover the square footage of the accent wall with one coat and I needed two, I decided to paint the entire wall with a 2" brush and not waste any paint on a roller. I painted that entire wall with a 2" brush twice over the course of two evenings after Little M went to bed. And because it was Christmas time and a giant tree was secured to the wall and fortified against little monkeys, and because I was all by myself and couldn't move that tree, I painted around it.

When S got home, he thought the light from the Christmas tree reflected oddly on the wall. It didn't occur to him that I'd painted the wall around the tree. In three years he hasn't yet learned that he should assume I've painted something every time he returns home.

And my mom thought we bought a new TV because it blended so nicely with the gray wall (she'd seen the blue wall two weeks earlier.) It didn't occur to her that I'd painted the wall again.
see the perfectly artistic outline of the tree?
It took us a few weeks after taking down the tree and one embarrassing conversation with an architect where I mentioned that we like to DIY projects and caught her glance at the tree-shaped blue area on the tree-less wall. I waved my arm and said, "and we were more apt to finish those projects before Little M came around." Of course I haven't taken an after photo of the gray wall yet. Little secret - I'm missing the curtains we took down a few months ago. The room doesn't look finished without them, but I'm hesitant to put up new curtains when we've got other big projects in the works that will affect the curtains in here. Maybe I'll ask S to hang the rod back up this weekend for me, just a little interim maneuver.

I definitely learned my lesson about coveting rooms that don't resemble mine at all. Navy works beautifully in Little M's room, but I adore the dark gray wall downstairs. And in hindsight this gray would have been the perfect gray for below the chair rail in the dining room - a decision I obsessed over forever!

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2.13.2013

Valentine's Bento

Little M totes a bento to daycare each day along with a couple of bottles of mummy milk. On Valentine's day he'll be opening his lunch box to find this little treat.
Ok so his daycare momma will be the one doing the opening. And it's unlikely he'll notice anything except that mummy packed all of his favorites, if he even notices that. But at least I had fun packing this lunch! And I'm sure he'll go nuts for the brownies - a treat he rarely gets.

If all else fails, I'm sure he'll notice the big, red mylar balloon waiting for him in the living room when he comes downstairs tomorrow morning.

Now this is what I looked forward to most when I had a baby! Are you doing anything special for Valentine's day?




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2.06.2013

13 Months Down

M turned 13 months old a few weeks ago. We spent the first half of month 13 in Maine with my parents before returning home for the New Year. Month 13 was filled with holidays and fun. Both of our Christmases were a blast!
It takes me forever to write these monthly posts, but I think I’m going to keep them up until Little M is two. I used last year’s updates to make a 2013 calendar with bullets of the previous year’s highlights. It was a big hit with the grandparents.

HOLIDAYS & TRAVEL
Went Christmas tree hunting on my parents’ farm two weekends before Christmas. It was very chilly so we bundled Little M in his snow pants, winter jacket, fleece lined hat and boots and stuck him in the Ergo. He was awake for the entire walk into the woods and then fell asleep as soon as we turned around. He woke to the sound of the chain saw just in time to see the tree fall.

Once the tree was up he helped Mamie & PawPaw string lights one afternoon. And then became quite fascinated with taking ornaments off and attempting to put them back on.

Christmas! It was a huge hit, we had so much fun! We went out for Christmas dinner and M was such a good diner. He ate some lobster, but he was mostly interested in the fruit from the buffet and the puffs I brought for him. Dinner was a couple hours long and he was such a good boy the whole time. He’s such a good sport.

Mamie gave Little M and PawPaw kazoos in their stockings. Dada only had to demonstrate a couple times before M “got” it. He and PawPaw had several kazoo concerts with my mom playing Christmas carols on the piano. He’s still loving his kazoo and will have concerts with PawPaw on the phone with Facetime.

We went to the light show at LLBean’s, which was really cool. They had a huge Christmas tree in their Discovery park and every evening on the hour they had a ten minute long light show coordinated to a few different songs. M liked the music a lot. He bounced to the beat in the Ergo.

We got a big snow storm the day before we left Maine and were able to use Little M’s sled again. I was sick as a dog so we didn’t do too many outdoor activities. On our long drive home the day after the storm the traffic was awful. We were on the road with everyone delayed by the storm, everyone planning to travel that day anyway and everyone trying to beat the next day’s storm. S claims it wasn’t bad, but from where I sat with a miserably stuffy nose, I thought it was awful. M was awesome the entire time. He snacked, listened to music, played, read books, laughed at Feeney and napped a little bit. He fell asleep for the night at his normal time about an hour before we got home.

Once we were back at home we had Christmas #2 with Nola and Grandpa. We called them to come over as soon as M woke up and before he had milk. They were here to see him come down the stairs to see his new play kitchen under the tree.

He was really into it – and quite excited by the container of puffs Mummy left in front of it for him. With pre-birthday party, real birthday, Christmas and Christmas #2 all in one month, I think this boy is going to think life is all about presents!

Grandpa made Little M a kitchen helper tower and it has proven to be the Best. Gift. Ever. M uses it every single morning while I prepare his breakfast and make my coffee. Over the past few weeks we’ve started to eat breakfast while standing too. He is learning to climb up himself and can get down on his belly if he wants to, but he’s cautious and usually wants help. Of everything we own, the kitchen tower is the one thing I think every kid needs!


PLAY
Little M was really sick for a while when we were on vacation. But before he got sick we went on a little play date with a friend’s 18m old, Everett. All went well until E’s momma held Little M and it was all downhill from there. E was pissed! Everett now hates me and he hates Little M. E is one jealous little boy! Needless to say, we didn’t have any more play dates with them.

This month Little M:
Used his new sled in the snow in Maine; danced to the Christmas music as Mamie played the piano and had nightly concerts; emptied PawPaw’s desk drawers daily; played in the laundry basket and then fell out and split his lip, which turned into a big fat lip, with lots and lots of blood; put peg people in the wooden bus; nested the stacking cups; had a big snow storm – M held on tight when we went outside to see PawPaw shovel, the snow was scary; went to a party to watch football and by the end Little M was crowing like a Seahawk, caw caw!

In Maine we had a big trip to the farm, which was super fun. We ate lunch in the farm store & café and ordered Little M’s first sandwich. He thought it was ok, but was more interested in the kids running around the cafeteria. Afterward we all went out to the farm to see the cows and calves, chickens, ducks, geese and horses. M loved them all except for the geese and he even got to pat a calf in the nursery. The calf licked his hand, it was very cute.

Mamie taught M how to go down the stairs on his belly and hasn’t stopped. If you’re ever curious what we do during our free time, it’s safe to assume we’re doing the stairs. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down. Up and down. 

Randomly one day this month, Little M pulled his walker out and started to push it around regularly. He goes right up to it and wedges himself between it and the wall so that he can get it out to play (he also likes to ride in it.) We started a toy rotation and everything is so much more interesting to him now. After breakfast I’ll plop him in the living room and he’ll play independently while I clean up in the kitchen; that never used to happen before the ‘rotation. It’s kind of like Christmas every Saturday morning. 


SICK. YUCK.
Little M had his first illness this month a couple of days after his first birthday. It started with a few sniffles, but I think his immune system wasn’t up to snuff because he was pushing through six teeth at once. He was sick for over a week, had a fever for days and slept for upwards of 18 hours each day. He only wanted to eat soup and oranges while he was sick, thankfully my mom had a lot of roasted squash soup frozen and a fridge full of oranges. When he finally felt better he went through his toys like a hurricane, playing like he’d been missing them forever. Of course I got sick as soon as he started to recover and I was miserable, but I powered through to make sure the Christmas stockings were stuffed and hung by the chimney with care! And to play for a few minutes in the snow...in my PJs.


EAT
Little M started to show a little bit of pickiness this month and I thought he was slowing down on the sheer volume of food that he eats. But then I realized it was all just because he was sick and before long he was pounding a tall stack of pancakes for breakfast again. His favorite food right now is definitely bananas. Only because we ran out of blueberries though.

I started to pack little bento boxes for his lunch. It’s helped me be creative with his lunches and I actually enjoy packing them. Right now he’s eating one big meal in the morning, has one of his fruit cups around 11:30 and then has the rest of his bento around 2:30. Sometimes he has a little something to eat when he gets home, but rarely more than a few bites.

M loved his sweets this month – he ate his chocolate cupcakes for a full week after his birthday. M and I also made cookies from the special mix that Santa gave him; it was very fun to cook together. He’d probably like cookies more than bananas if I actually let him have cookies more than once a week. 

SLEEP
When I looked back at my daily journal I realized that Little M went to bed a full 7 hours earlier on New Year’s eve than he did last year. Thank goodness! His longest sleep this month was 16 hours – until 10am one morning. I was sick as a dog that day, so I was pretty grateful for that.

We had a week or two of earlier waking around 7am, but then were back to 7:45/8 each day. Along with those earlier mornings came a week of night wakings that lasted for HOURS. Like awake all night long. It was awful and I was so tired!

Around the same time he became very attached to me when we were together, then a week later started the meltdowns at daycare drop off. He went from being happy to leave me and play to holding on tight and wailing when I tried to leave, like a light switch. Maybe the sleep disturbance had to do with developing separation anxiety, who knows. Things are all better now though, so it’s all good.

MISCELLANEOUS
When Dada came home he went in to get M in the morning and M recognized him – he tried to feed Dada LE through the crib slats. M spent the month S was away saying “dada”, but pretty much stopped after he came home.

M pointed right at our daycare provider’s son and said his name, “Kife” – he now says PawPaw, Dada, Mummum, ball, dog and Kife. And he barks like a dog. When he sees a dog, he barks. Feeney barks, he barks. Dog in a book? He barks. It’s really funny.

Had his 12m checkup at 13m and he clocked in at 19lbs 15oz – he gained nearly 2 pounds in one month! He’s 31 ¾” long which puts him in the 7th percentile for weight, 75th for height and 75th for his big head.

His overnight diapers are size 4, we went up one size this month when we finally ran out of the size 3 we bought in September. I figured we’d better go up a size when one package lasts so long. His BG 4.0 have two rows of snaps open in the middle and are the second rise setting. He’s wearing mostly 12-18m pants, 6-12m shirts and tops, onesies are anywhere from 6m to 12m. His legs are getting really long and I’m hoping that the 18-24m and 2T stuff that I’ve bought for next winter actually fits him then and not at the height of summer! He’s really good at pushing his arms through the sleeves when he’s getting dressed in the morning; it’s very cute.

On his 13th month birthday he gave me a kiss. Melt my heart.

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2.04.2013

Love for Your House for Valentine's Day

I listed this heart pillow cover made from recycled sails in my Etsy shop tonight.
Snatch it up and show your house some love this Valentine's Day!

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