A Look Back at Christmas: A Gift Guide

Gift guides are usually most helpful right BEFORE Christmas, but sometimes what I thought would be doted upon or well-used is, instead, tossed to the side three seconds after it is opened. For this reason, I thought I would share some of the gifts we received that I thought were really worth it.

I will also preface this by saying that I have a thing for wooden toys. They are usually more durable than plastic, they rarely light up or make hideous noises, and they are generally more aesthetically pleasing than plastic toys – a seemingly trivial but highly important characteristic if you live in small house where your living room IS your playroom.

  1. Moulin Roty Doctor Valise (that’s French for “traveling case”) – this is such a cute set! Charlotte loves to play doctor (we practiced a lot before she went for her one year appointment where she got shots), so I wanted to get her a set of her own to pretend with at home. The plastic sets often have dozens of pieces. This one has about 6, so you are less likely to lose one. [side note: I say LESS likely to lose them. There is a syringe that goes with the set that I couldn’t find at the time of taking these pictures. Don’t worry, it has since been found]. The box that houses these adorable items, it also itself ADORABLE. I grabbed ours from Anthropologie on Black Friday for 30% off, but I don’t know if they still carry it. img_4354img_4352img_4347
  2.  Melissa and Doug Road Trip Wooden Car with People – If you haven’t heard of Melissa and Doug products, you are missing out! They have really cute sets for all ages, and a lot of their toys are wooden, well-made and even handcrafted. These people are neutral enough (and come with a car!) that both girls and boys could play with them. They have been zooming all over our house since Christmas.img_4364img_4365
  3. Wooden Blocks – These also happen to be Melissa and Doug brand, but there are others out there as well. I think blocks are such an important toy for kids because they teach fine motor skills, logically reasoning, imaginative play, visual-spatial reasoning, and so much more. Can anyone say #futureengineer?img_4358
  4.  Personalized fork and spoon set – Someone first gave me a set of these for Britton when I was pregnant, and then Charlotte wanted them so badly that I had to hide them. So I decided to get her her own set for Christmas. And then…she would not part with them. No seriously, the girl took them to bed with her to sleep with. It gives a whole new meaning to “spooning”…. Anyway, they make a great birthday, Christmas, or baby gift because they are one of those items that eventually becomes an heirloom. I got the kids different styles so they could tell theirs apart.img_4373img_4376
  5. Jord Wooden Watch – This is for the mommy’s and daddy’s out there. We gots to have some nice things too! Or as Tom and Donna from Parks and Rec would say, “Treat yo’self.” And this watch is definitely a treat. Just feast your eyes.  [Side note: I have Hannah to thank for first posting about this watch. So thank you Hannah; I have been drooling over them ever since.]img_4346img_4357img_4345

What were your best gifts from this Christmas (or from Christmas pasts)?

 

Mr. Hanky: The Christmas (poo) Story

No. Sorry to disappoint. This isn’t actually about that famous singing poop from South Park. It just an update about the poop we’ve sung over on our best days or been wearing as a literal eau de toilette on our worst. Also never in my life did I think I would be writing one, let alone two blog posts on dropping doo-doos. I promise more goes on in my life.

If you aren’t caught up on the situation we are/were in, you can read all about that here. Yeah I’d start there.

Britton: His situation is in many ways, unchanged. We have played around with giving him one larger dose of the medicine or two small doses. We even went off the medicine for a few days, which definitely seemed to be worse. The medicine seems to be helping. Sometimes. Although now our problem is that when he DOES go, it’s uhm, welll….is projectile enough of a description? Yeah what went in as a liquid is definitely coming out the same way. So…I guess that’s better than it was before? So now, my already heavy laundry load is even heavier than it was before. And that is only because after coming across videos like this on Facebook, I force myself to clean those especially bad “poop shot up the whole back” clothing items instead of throwing them away like so much of me wants to. And in between all of that, I also spent almost a week playing phone tag with the GI doctor and his team trying to get them to give me some helpful next steps. Teaching is not the business you want to be in if you need to make or receive phone calls at a moment’s notice. img_4058

Charlotte: You know those “I am woman. Hear me Roar” ad campaigns and slogans? Well, Charlotte is like the keynote speaker of their rallies. When the girl decides to do something…watch out world. It took about 4 days of coaxing using the Elsa nightgown we picked up for a buck as bait. And the game was on. She was not allowed to wear her Elsa pajamas or any of her others dresses if she went number 2 in her pants. And she did get them all taken away for about two days, but then that dress became too precious to not wear anymore and voila! But then we had to deal with the unintended consequence of her not taking off that dress for like a week straight. Yeah, I became that parent that let my kid go places in their pajamas. I’m not ashamed. She now gets things all set up by herself: stool, potty seat on the toilet, book. The girl knows how to do it. Too well now. She is playing us. You see, we also offered something potentially more desirable than her Elsa dress; we offered candy. So now the girl HOLDS IT and goes poop in the tiniest of increments in order to get as many candies as possible. Today, I had to stop it at about 4 candies, and we had to up the ante to getting candy for only big poo-poos.

 

So that’s where we are now. Not quite so far down in the trenches as we were before. Climbing on out of the hole- no pun intended- is my hope.

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See, we do do other things. Pun intended there.

Merry Christmas.

 

When Life’s the Dumps

My life is sh*t right now.

No, I mean literally my entire life seems to revolve around good ole number 2 at this moment.

You see, my two year old is pretty much potty-trained number 1, but REFUSES to go number two in the toilet. Instead she insists upon pretending that once she creeps behind the chair she loves to use as a hiding place, she becomes invisible. And not just her person becomes invisible, but the nasty little smells she creates back there also become magically…invisible. And if you ask her what she’s doing back there, she just screams, “NOO” as if she is in denial of what she is doing or how she intentionally sought out her designated poop corner. (Side note, there was a whole pile of books behind this chair, and I said to her, “why are all these books back here?” Her response was, “poopoo.” So yeah, she has her own little magazine rack of sorts for the “work” she does back there). Yet, she trots off to the bathroom of her own volition when she has to tinkle, shouting at me the whole time that she do it, “myself” and that I must, “tose the door” for her in order to give her two-year-old self some much needed privacy. If only she’d be so dedicated to letting mommy get a moment of privacy for such things as well.

To add to this mess, when she does drop a turd in her undies, she now tries to clean it herself….okay, let me back-track. I am an organizing freak, and may have insisted upon teaching my child, starting at a very young age – like a year old-, that one must always clean up after one’s self, and then I have reinforced this with vigilance….anyway, back to the story…so my two-year old tries to wipe herself of all her nastiness when she does do a poopy in her panties, which, though it may seem helpful, is definitely not. Just picture…okay don’t. Nevermind. I take it back, don’t picture it. I think you probably get what happens.

As if this weren’t enough to deal with, my eight-month old CAN’T poop. Yes, I have one that won’t and one that can’t. It’s lovely around here. We started noticing some digestion issues a while ago and have been on a roller coaster of trial and error solutions to fix whatever the issue actually is. I stopped breastfeeding when he was around 4 months old, but it seemed to be an issue then as well. Since then, we have spent hundreds of dollars on different formulas: different brands of gentle formulas, nutramigen (which is basically super broken down proteins), all whey formulas, all soy formulas. It’s been like a buffet of formulas around here. I’ve also done tummy massages and essential oils, which makes it feel like we’re running some baby massage parlor. From there we added reflux medication because he would spit up so much, and you know from mouth to bottom – it’s all connected. None of this really helped (okay, well the reflux medicine DOES help his spitting up issues). In desperation I have also bought these on repeat. It is as disgusting as it seems, but is also the only thing that helps sometimes. You gotta do what you gotta do.

Recently we sought out a GI doctor at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. He had us start him on a laxative-type medicine, but also warned us it could get worse. And it has. Like not pooping for almost two days worse, and waking up each day somewhere between 2-4am wiggling and kicking with tummy pain kind of worse. Britton sleeps worse now than he did when he was a newborn. So I called back yesterday to see what the next steps are. img_3999

So that’s where we are in life right now. Knee deep in poop and sleep deprived on top of that. So if you are thinking of sending us Christmas presents, perhaps make it packs of wipes, cans of Frebreeze, and coffee. Lots of coffee. Because God knows that is the only way we are surviving right now.

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A phase of life.

Maybe it’s because we are on the brink of the holidays. Or perhaps it’s because the pile of work I have rivals the trash piles left over from the most amazing #Chicagocubs World Series celebration. (Some days I do just think about going that route and throwing the whole pile of papers away.) Or maybe it’s because I have a stubborn two-year-old at home. But I’m tired.

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This is only half the pile I have to grade. I feel tired just looking at it.

I always knew that being a mom and working would be difficult, but so many women do it, so why couldn’t I? But some days I honestly don’t know how they do it. I feel like I am not really doing justice to either. And not doing well has always made me crabby. It’s the perfectionist in me that fears the creeping in of failure. Teaching is hard enough, but teaching with two children under 2 and half at home is definitely a challenge no one could prepare a person for. Forget doing laundry, cooking, doing dishes, putting clothes away or just about anything else during the week. Sometimes they don’t even get done on the weekend. Lately, I have fallen asleep on the couch around 8:30 each night – following the nodding heads of my two babes. And when that happens, when no school work gets done during the week, then my weekends become endless marathons of grading, that is when I’m not in between games of hide-and-go-seek, rocking my 6 month old to sleep, and trying to toilet train a two-year old. I keep thinking it will get easier, but it doesn’t seem to be. And now that it is getting cooler out, the nights beckon me away, tempting me into their crisp(ish) night air and dusty rose sunsets instead of sitting inside doing what I should be doing.

It’s nothing like fall back in the midwest or out east, but at least it’s not 90 at night any more. I just want to be able to play and enjoy my children without feeling like there are millions of other things (important things) that I am not doing. I’m just tired. My heart longs more and more for  weekends like this. And the joy that this mom has in her two littles. And I know these ladies live full, busy, and difficult lives too. I am in no way trying to take away from their own struggles. Maybe it only looks so appealing because on social media our lives always look so put-together, and often like the instragram pics we post each day, filtered.

It has also gotten harder to leave every day as Charlotte has become more verbal. Each morning when I tell her I am off to work, it is met with, “No, mommy, stay home me,” and “No, miss you.” I miss you too, Pip. And brotherboy too. img_3850But the truth is that I don’t really realize that until I am leaving school at the end of the day. I don’t even think about them that much during school because I am so busy trying to manage everything else. I truly don’t say all of this to complain. It just is a phase of life, I know. This too shall pass is what I keep hearing. I am just hoping that not too many of the moments I want to experience will pass by without me.

However, since my goal this year is to be happier and less complain-y. I will end on a happy note. I made it through Costco, by myself, with both children sitting up front together, on a Sunday, during the holidays, without tears or screams from anyone (including me).  Any parent with children knows what an accomplishment this is. Boo-ya. Here is evidence. img_3870

Fields of grass and perfect skies

So many thanks to my friend and high school acquaintance, Cadence McCarrel (I wish we had known each other better in high school) for these BEAUTIFUL family photos. You found us the loveliest location to transport us back to those rolling hills and grassy prairies we grew up in. Cadence McCarrel, you are truly wonderful. She even came with treats ready for troublesome two-year olds, and lots of praise and encouragement. Check her out!

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Mostly just a photo dump

Life as a teacher can be crazy. Life as teacher who has two small children is even crazier. Life as a teacher who is a perfectionist and tries to have everything done weeks ahead of time is the craziest. Fall break was great. Spending time playing with my kids and spending time with my family and my husband’s family was so wonderful, but my teacher mind never stops. To add to this, traveling is hard for me. Not because of the packing or  even the anxiety of getting on an airplane with two small children and hoping that everyone on the plane doesn’t judge you for the way that your two year old is shouting, while you try to smile and sort of mutter about how they are really just tired and aren’t usually like this…. yeah. No it is hard because it is so many unproductive hours for me. See, I get motion sick. This means no reading, typing, or even skimming through magazines while in a moving vehicle lest I end up feeling nauseous for hours. I usually just sleep on a plane or in a car, but even that is more difficult now that those two small minions that I love are constantly needing SOMETHING. Food. Binkies. Smiles. More food.

So I was left doing hours and hours of work on Sunday trying to catch up on all the things I felt HAD to be done in preparation for Monday. Grading, lesson planning, evaling, learning all about historical things of which I feel I know nothing. This is how I often spend my weekends. That is why I have been absent from these pages for so many days. But I’m back. Well, I mean I still have a list of things to do that rivals the number of emails Hillary deleted (I guess that’s one way to get out of responsibility and work…), but for right now I am just missing being back with the people I love, and getting to see them play with my loves. So the rest of this post is just going to a large photo homage to the week of Fall break where I stopped being a teacher for a little bit and just enjoyed being a mom.

So people, I leave you with the photodump of pumpkins, goats, family, and corn. Lots of corn. In fact, the most amazing corn pool/box/ring that I have ever encountered. Oh, and also the two cutest littles that you have ever laid your eyes on. nbd.

Sometimes this is what the car ride looked like. It was rarely, however, the first two pictures at the same time. It was often the latter two pictures. I simply consoled myself by saying, “Well, at least he’s cute.”

dsc00574Mandatory carnival cut-out family pic. Gots to do it.

dsc00572This was basically Charlotte’s first amusement ride. She looks a little hesitant here, but don’t be fooled…she was ecstatic.

Goats, cows, llama, water buffalo, zebu (what’s a zebu?) lions, tigers, bears..oh my!

img_3747So this was just a giant “box” of corn. Like a huge, freaking litter box of corn kernels. It was everything.

dsc00601Why yes, this is Charlotte dog piling on top of a small boy. And no, we did not stop her. Okay, once the kid starting cyring we did. Girl’s got to hold her own, ya hear.

dsc00583dsc00589dsc00592How many pictures of this boy do I have? A million. Who wouldn’t? How many pictures of them did I take in these luscious mustardy-colored fall gorgeousness of corn kernels? A million. How many will I post? I’ll save you and just post these last three.

img_3780Big chair, little baby. Nuf said.

img_3738This girl is too cool for me.

img_3799Charlotte got so tired of being asked to take pictures that she would just scrunch her face and say “CHEESE” really quickly and then try to get down and run away. Which seems a good way to end this post…. CHEEEEEESE….. *skitters away*

 

 

Fall

The number one thing I miss about living in Phoenix is fall. Fall is by far my favorite season: the crunch of the leaves, the crispness of the air, and the added flourish of colors all stir my heart. And they don’t exist in Arizona. Don’t even get me started on the disappointing feeling it is to attempt to have soup, cider, or that famous pumpkin spice latte while it is still a high of almost 90 degrees in Phoenix. In Phoenix these items are not consumed in October because the weather dictates it be so; they are consumed in order to try and will the weather to be “fall” already.

img_3675So in order to get my heart’s fill of this season while I’m here, we ventured off to the Royal Oaks Farm Orchard. Even though the day started off a little cloudy and rainy, by this afternoon it was that perfect autumnal day – breezy, cool, but sunny.

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Britton always hams it up for the camera.

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Farmer Charlotte with her doll-like curls. Stay like this for always.

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Okay, just kidding. Grow up and stop being an uncooperative toddler! These toddler years make you feel bipolar – you love them one moment and wish your life would end the next.

It was freeing to waltz around green pastures – oak trees overhead, leaves rustling all around. Charlotte loved touching all the bumpy gourds and pumpkins, although the verdict is out on hand-feeding the goats. Britton was content to just be carried and feel the breeze over his bald head. Many apple cider donuts were consumed by all.

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Apples for days. We cheated and didn’t actually pick these ourselves.

And for your viewing pleasure, I leave you with this.

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You’re welcome.

Get ready to explore

Today was about exploring. Exploring new places. Exploring childhood memories. Exploring renewed relationships. Just exploring. Granted most of the physical exploring today was done by car, which, because I was squeezed in the middle of the back seat between two often demanding children, I was glad to see the end of. But I was glad we ventured out all the same.

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Now the landscape of Illinois isn’t quite as dynamic as Arizona. In fact, some might call it boring. And in deed, I did sleep through a fair amount of it, but the parts I did see were…homey. I love the mountains of Arizona, but this midwest girl also misses whole forests of trees spotted with gold, orange, and red. And I miss looking out across a field and literally being able to see towns miles and miles away. I’ve been away long enough that I forgot about that. Of course, there was also the moment that upon seeing fields of corn and oats for the first time, my Phoenix born daughter shouted, “Sand!” *hits hand on forehead* What have I done?

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Illinois’ beautiful “sandy” landscape.

But even before we hit the road, we explored deep down into the long lost territory of….our crawlspace. And oh the treasures we found! It was so amazing to pull out so many of my old toys and to share them now with Charlotte. It made me grateful that my mom has always been something of a hoarder (sorry, mom), and has saved so many of them for us. It was such a pleasure to sit and play with toys that I once loved and cherished with a daughter who can love and appreciate them now.

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Paula and I spent HOURS of our childhood setting up this house. The “people” that live in it are actually the most adorable little forest creatures. Charlotte loves them, but doesn’t want any of them to be dressed. I guess she just prefers that they be au naturel even if they do insist upon living in a fancy house.

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Tea anyone? 

But all of these new toys required a new playmate. Enter Jacob. Charlotte adores him. He is like a giant huggable, moveable, teddy bear. She climbs on him, sits by him, and requests his presence during all play times. It’s a relationship that couldn’t be sweeter. I am so glad we have the opportunity to come up and see our family, and for Charlotte and Britton to get to know their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I only wish we could do it more frequently.

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Charlotte and her favorite teddy boy, Jacob.

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Goodnight Kisses for all.

Ramblings, because that’s all I have left.

This week has been rough. It was the last of week of the quarter, and filled with writing evaluations, crazy long field trips, more evaluations, grading, laundry, and did I mention evaluations? I’m ready for a break. Especially a break that actually feels like fall. We are headed to Chicago, and I couldn’t be happier. Well….I could, if my evaluations were done. I’m working on it.

This is why I have been MIA. It’s because all my writing energy and creative thoughts are being poured into the 210 paragraphs I have to get to write about my students. While this task is time consuming and tedious, it also forces me to get to know these 30 humans that I teach everyday in a way that I probably wouldn’t otherwise. I am forced to look for their love of learning, their hidden efforts, their wonderment, and their depth of inquiry. I am forced to look deeper and more thoroughly at who they are as a person and as a developing student than I otherwise would be. I am forced to look beyond test and homework grades to find the unique soul and learner they truly are. Of course, this might make this process sound glamorous, and it isn’t. It’s hard and time-consuming, yet I hope that one day a teacher looks at my children that way. I hope they see beyond a number on a paper or a percentage from some standardized test to find the individual person within the class that they teach. I know for me it’s hard to remember that I don’t teach a class;  I teach 30 individual and unique children. Le sigh.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my job, but sometimes I feel as if I spend more time with my work than I do with my children. Or perhaps I feel like I am giving so much of myself, my time, my efforts to children that aren’t my own, while I have little left for my family. And yet, I love my students. And I love giving to them too. I guess the situation is just best described with the Facebook relationship status of “It’s Complicated.”

All of this has left me super ready to spend time with my kids and my family. Charlotte has been talking about going on a plane to see Daboo (my mom), Dapee (my dad), Juju (Dean’s mom) and Pops (Dean’s dad). Oh, she keeps talking about the new Tigeys she will be receiving after losing the others – I mostly hear about this. (*UPDATE both the Mommy Tigey and the sister Tigey are lost now.) We will be getting family pictures taken while in Chicago, seeing cousins, and prancing (I will prancing) around an apple orchard. Oh I can taste the apple cider donuts now.

But I’m not there yet. Soon. So soon. Until then, I type on.

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The beautiful Tonto Natural Bridge. This was our field trip this week. It’s gorgeous and great fun, but is it worth 5 hours on a bus with 50 fourth graders? hmmm?

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Who wouldn’t want to spend all their hours kissing these cuties? 

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This smile gets me every time. Erry. dang. time. 

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Hello papers. Hello coffee. Goodbye Friday night.

Things I love

Pardon me while I indulge in posting all about random things that I love right now. These are just little things that are currently making me happy.

So I am not really a make-up person. What I wear is pretty minimal. I am also trying to find more natural beauty products since most of the time I can’t read most of what is in the products I use everyday. So right now, I am LOVING this lip sheer. It is a little pricey compared to what I am used to paying, but it is so soft and hydrating. And did I mention it smells and tastes a little bit like vanilla? What’s not to love? I bought the twig color, but plan on getting more. (I will also mention that I do not work for this company at all).

As a teacher and a mother of two, I often feel tired. These vitamins and these energy packets have been getting me through many days. After taking USANA vitamins for a while, I really feel more tired on the days that I forget to take them. They are more expensive than buying vitamins in the store, but the effects are quite more pronounced.

Okay, so by now it looks like I make a million bucks and spend it all on vitamins and lipstick. I don’t, but have found that I would rather spend a little more on products that are of better quality than to spend less money more often on products that aren’t as good. So on that note, I also splurged this week and bought these boots. I have been oogling them for a while and have spent two years looking for a pair of ankle boots that I love. They are worth it, and right now they are 30% off, and if you are a teacher or a student you get an extra %15.

I swear I do live on a modest teacher’s salary, but teaching’s hard and those that teach deserve a treat every now and then.

I just finished this book. It was beautiful. It will be re-read.

Dean and I have also started this podcast. We listened to the first season, and it was great.

For a busy parent who rarely gets to sleep in, this clock is everything. I can set it to change color at a certain time so that Charlotte knows when she can get out of bed. Now granted the baby isn’t trained on this yet, but it means that this mommy now has a chance at an extra hour… twenty minutes?…. fine, ten minutes in bed. Don’t even get me started on what daddy is doing during all of this. (Hint: it doesn’t involve getting out of bed).

Also, this. I wish these kids were my friends. Or my kids. Hilarious.

And since my baby is going on half a year it is time to go back and look at (read: obsess over) how little he once was. So I leave you with some of my favorite tiny Britton pictures, and the giant baby he has become.

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