Fun Finds, In the Kitchen

2012 Christmas Gifts Round-Up

I’ve really enjoyed reading about gifts some of you have received, and I love learning about new books and products from fellow bloggers, so I thought I’d write a little about our goods, too!

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All Jude really wanted for Christmas was a violin.  He’s been really interested in instruments of all kinds lately, and he’s watched a ridiculous amount of Little Einsteins since sister came along, so I’m guessing that’s what led to the obsession. Or maybe it is my adoration of Andrew Bird who pretty much played on repeat throughout my entire pregnancy with Jude. Ha.  Who knows?  Whatever the case, he was so amazed to see this toy one left by Santa on Christmas morning.  What did parents do before Amazon?  In addition to that, we picked up a train on Groupon Goods a while ago and this Batman toy has received A LOT of playtime this week.  We threw in a few other little things here and there, but those were his big items, and I think he seems pretty happy with them.

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Norah, on the other hand, is just happy to have a few toys that are new and not hand-me-downs.  We kept it simple with her … a couple new cloth diapers, a Kicky Pants sleeper I found on Zulily a while ago, and a Sophie the Giraffe teether.  We also brought up the doorway bouncer from the basement and gave Santa the credit, and she LOVES bouncing in that thing.

I scored some great stuff myself as well.  Scot surprised me with a Kindle Paperwhite and a pretty new case for it. I have a first generation Kindle, and I know they’ve come out with all sorts of multi-functional readers now.  But I only use mine for reading books, so the Paperwhite is a perfect fit for me.  I complain a lot these days that I don’t have time to read with my current responsibilities in life, and my old light that I’d use on my Kindle was far too bright to take with me while rocking or nursing Norah.  This one is backlit very faintly though, so I can read while I am rocking her to sleep.  In the past 2 days, I’ve plowed though a quarter of The Chaperone in my little spurts of 20 minutes here or there to nurse and rock the baby. So this is a gift that got me reading again, and for that I’m really grateful!

Scott also took Jude shopping a while ago with the purpose of buying me something from Jude, and Jude insisted he purchase “a teacup” for me.  Apparently it’s all he would consider for mama.  So they went to Teavana, and I got an awesome loose tea infuser that I love  – coupled with the best tea I have ever had.  Ever.  I am not exaggerating.  It’s all I can do to limit myself to a cup or two a day.  Yum.  Add some Starbucks Christmas blend and this collection of stories from the gift exchange on my side of the family, and I am a happy girl.

 

I’ve got a little cash to spend as well, and Amazon should be arriving today with two cookbooks (this one and this one) I’ve been wanting for a while, and some kitchen odds and ends I need (hand blender and a pizza stone).  I’m vaguely thinking of purchasing an essential oils diffuser with the bit that’s left, but I am confused at the options.  Anyone with experience or interest in aromatherapy?  What kind of diffuser do you use?  I need some advice on that one.

 

So what’d ya get?  Anything fun or interesting for you or the kiddos?

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In the Home, Life and Randomness

emerging from the snow here…..

In case you missed all the fun, Atlanta was buried in snow for a full week or so, and most of us couldn’t drive anywhere.  My driveway is especially treacherous, so I was housebound from Sunday to Saturday here.  Oh, and also, my husband was in sunny California while Jude and I braved the cabin fever.

Everyone I know was a little worried about the possibility of my being alone with him for a full week without getting out.  I fielded hourly phone calls from friends and relatives.  I am not exaggerating; people were calling and emailing me all the time.  Are you okay with Jude by yourself?  Do you need any other food?  Do you need someone to come get you? (how, I don’t know…) Are you going crazy? While I appreciated everyone’s concern, the whole thing was a little weird to me.  My normal once-a-week trip to the grocery store had me well-stocked on food.  We had power (thankfully).  I wish I could say it was vastly different from a usual week for me, but it simply wasn’t.  I admit I started to get the itch around Thursday afternoon or so, but all in all – save for a few choice moments – it wasn’t really hard on my patience.  [Well, there was that one afternoon when time-out wasn’t yielding good results and I had him in bed at 6:30.  But I’m human, and if I’m being honest, the witching hour always seems to occur at about 6:00 pm, even on the sunniest days.]

I am so happy it’s the beginning of a new week, and of course I was happy to see Scott get home, but in a weird way, last week was also a nice change of pace, a needed reminder. It left me thinking a lot about how I conduct my days and how we tend to go-go-g0 all the time.  Every time I checked in to Facebook, people were complaining of cabin fever or the need (not want?) of a trip to Target.  And this started on day two.  TWO.  We can’t handle two days in our homes without driving around or buying or consuming something?  Come on, people.

Again, I don’t consider myself holier-than-you, and I got the cabin fever itch occasionally, but last week made me realize that – even alone with my 15 month old day and night – going a full week without leaving my home has its merits.  Not only that, but it would have been the norm for families just a few generations ago.

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We built forts and played in our jammies.

We colored and worked on puzzles.  Without even trying to mend our crazy bed head.

We played cars.

And blocks.

We also made snow cream, played in the snow, annoyed the dogs, played with playdough…… The list goes on and on.  It was so nice to just be for a week.  No errands.  No shopping trips.  Nothing to cloud my days and my thoughts. Another bright side?  I did more reading last week than I’ve done in ages.  My house is [was] spotless.  I made my way through some of our surplus food and did some baking.  I felt unhurried, cozy, and grateful that I had a playmate to keep me company.

Life goes on.  Snow melts, and people get back to the normal rush.  I learned a lesson though.  If we aren’t booked every week with a library hour or a play date or a million errands, my life is still full and valid.  I forget that sometimes, and I convince myself that being a good mom means being an extraordinarily busy mom.  And that simply isn’t true.

So happy Monday, readers.  Hopefully the chill of January has you snuggled in and slowing down occasionally.

And later this week?  My first finished knitting project and a recipe or two!

Jude, Life and Randomness, Toddlers

housebound

It’s been pretty cold lately, for Atlanta standards anyway.  And early this week was pretty rainy as well, so our usual routine around here has been a little thrown off. We normally enjoy walks around the neighborhood or some time on the playground since afternoons are almost always warm enough for that.

As I type this, it’s in the 30’s though, and I know some of you reading this from somewhere else might laugh as I say that because we southerners are definitely wimps when it comes to getting out in the chilly air.  My wimpy-ness aside, spending less time outside can leave mom and baby feeling pretty crazy sometimes. He’s getting to the age where he’s learning the meaning of the word boredom, and sometimes I am not quite sure what to do to quell the restlessness.

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We still abide by the no television rule around here, and I’m not going to lie that it gets harder these days as he gets more active and as the weather is less friendly for backyard entertainment.  It’s not that I’m pretentious or all I-am-a-better-parent-than-you about it, it’s just that I’ve probably read too many things about the negative effects of television on little ones his age, and we’ve survived this long without it being a part of our routine, so we’re going to keep truckin’ with that standard for as long as we can.

So what’s a mom to do? Spend $1.70 at Target and try our hand at play dough.  He did try to eat it at the beginning, but once he understood the tactile fun and squishiness of it, he realized it’s more fun to play with than to eat.

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So that’s how my week was saved with under two dollars. If only all problems were that simple.

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I know this isn’t a novel idea or anything, but to me, it is.  I forget that he is getting old enough for these things, and my baby is more little boy everyday.  I’m thinking I might start mixing my own dough soon since there are quite a few recipes out there, and that’s probably even cheaper than the store-bought route.  I’ve also seen other examples of sensory play and crafts I might want to tackle next.

So something simple saved the day here.  What saves your sanity at your house? Blocks, coloring books, stickers?  Relatives are asking for Christmas requests and I’d love to know what to tell them.

Frugal Living, gratitude, motherhood, Toddlers

Excess and Imagination: How much is too much?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about excess and materialism – or more specifically, American parents’ need to buy buy buy for our children. Jude’s birthday is coming up in a few weeks and then Christmas is around the corner which means that A LOT of junk too many toys will make their way in to this house in the next few months.  Here’s the funny part, though. We currently have a large basket of toys in the den and a variety of playthings in Jude’s nursery, but I’m realizing he only plays with those for a maximum of about ten minutes at a time. What would he rather be doing?

bothering the dogs……

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making loud noises with pots, pans, bowls, or spoons

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playing with the washer as I unload clothes

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And of course his favorite……touching things he shouldn’t touch.  Buttons on electronics are the most fun.

Other favorites include flipping through board books you can buy for $3 at Target, playing with anything that resembles stackable blocks, climbing the staircase (with my help), playing with my refrigerator magnets, and most of all, playing and talking with mom or dad.  And yet, do we still buy toys?  Yep.  Do we still accept toys as gifts?  Yep.  So I began thinking about it and realizing how little the toys get attention around here and how clutered they can leave our living space, and I requested no gifts at his birthday party.  Yep.  Mean mama.  I know that Emily Post says it’s rude to mention gifts at all on the invitation, so I wavered, but in the end I did it.  I found out from friends of mine who have done the same thing, however, that people bring gifts anyway.  So I decided to be even more rude and ask that guests not feel the need to bring a gift and that their “presence ” was enough but that if you do bring one, we prefer books rather than toys.

Let me say a few things on this.  First of all, I know I am being rude in asking for specific things or nothing at all. Luckily, his party will be about 20 people who know us well, and I’m hoping that these family and friends will be forgiving of my knowing ettiquette blunder.  Let me also say that there is certainly nothing wrong with showering your child with toys on a birthday; birthdays are intended to be special.  It’s just for a ONE year old?  Really?  What does he want or need?  He loves looking at books, and they store easily and you never throw them away.  Let’s be honest for a moment and speculate on what would eventually happen with 20 plastic toys. There is a reason Goodwill is a goldmine for playthings.

So I received some nice comments on the invitations and the insert we put in them, and people seemed to understand my request and the reasons for it.  But then I got a couple of comments recently that were to the effect of you are so weird why would you deprive your son of toys on his birthday which left me feeling like maybe I was the weird, mean mother in making this request of our guests and making a conscious effort to simplify our lives a little.

But then I read an article that is totally validating. I love it when that happens.

In case you don’t have the time to click over to this fabulous article, let me summarize it for you.  Claire Lerner, a child development worker, carried out a study that discovered that too many toys can actually stump a child’s intellectual development, even those toys that claim all over the box that they are “educational.”  Lerner explains, children “get overwhelmed and overstimulated and cannot concentrate on any one thing long enough to learn about it, so they just shut down.”  The article quotes another study that determined that expensive toys are a “waste of money” and kids learn “just as much” from your own objects around the home.  One Oxford child psychologist is even quoted as saying “The mistake that many parents make when they buy a toy, especially for very young children, is they get toys that can do a lot, instead of getting toys a child can do a lot with.” The imagination suffers when you have a toy that does it all for you.  So the plastic toys?  The lights?  The noises?  The obnoxious colors?  It turns out that they are not only cluttering our home, but have the capacity to clutter Jude’s brain a little as well.

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So recently we were at a gathering with some other adults with children, and someone noticed Jude was really enjoying playing with a plastic toy that was no doubt as large as the chair I was sitting in at the time.  That person said to me, “Oh!  You should totally get him that for his birthday!” which was a nice, observant comment seeing as though he loved the toy and was enjoying playing with it.  She then asked what Scott and I plan to get him for his birthday, and I sheepishly explained that his one year memory album was his main gift and that I’d purchased some great wooden blocks on Etsy because he loves blocks so much.

Nothing was said in return.

Later in the conversation, another adult chimed in asking if Jude had a large plastic car of his own to drive and when I said no, the reply was “Oh, he needs a car like that.”  Really?  Needs?  I don’t know that needs is the right word.

 

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There’s this beautiful photo that I keep on a side table in our formal living room.  Every time I pass it, it makes me smile.

It’s my Grandmother when she is all of maybe 10 years old.  Here she is, sitting cross-legged in the grass in front of a tiny white house.  It’s a simple photo really, and I know it’s my love for my Grandmother and her family that leads to my adoration of this image, but just look at it.

She’s smiling genuinely.  It’s simple. It’s happy.  It’s beautiful.

My grandmother grew up in that 2 bedroom home with her four brothers and sisters and two incredible parents.  They were a Depression-Era family, and times were tough.  I’m not sugar-coating that.  Did they have a lot of things?  No.  Did they have everything they needed?  And more.  They would eat every day around the same table.  They would listen to the radio together.  They’d sit on the porch and talk after dinner.  They’d play ball in the front yard and my tiny, bun-haired, 4’11” great-grandmother would play with them.  They helped her work in the kitchen, and sometimes they’d help my great-grandfather in the fields.  Through everyday tasks and interaction, they learned that living is an art and imaginary play is a treasure. You know what my grandmother remembers as one of the most happy, most magical Christmases of her childhood?  The Christmas when she got a bottle of nail polish from Santa.  A bottle.  One.  And she was a happy, happy girl.

I know the world has changed so much in the past 70 years, and we can never go back.  But I, for one, often crave that simplicity we once knew.  When Jude grows and I am long gone one day, I don’t want him to remember piles of plastic every birthday and Christmas or what he received as gifts.  I want him to know me, love me, and remember the time I spent with him and the simple joys we shared.