Thursday, February 26, 2009


Since David was little I've been dreaming of setting up his closet like one on the pages of the container store . I could never justify the cost though especially since we are looking for a new house. Of course, recently the container store introduced freestanding options that you don't have to mount to the wall and could take with you anytime you move. I've especially been eying this kid's closet . Again, can anyone really imagine spending over $700 on a few racks and baskets in a child's closet? Well, I could imagine, but I am not willing to part with that much cash. Can I secretly admit something here (nobody reads this anyway, especially not my husband)? The reason I want a house is to have a spare room that I could transform into an art and craft studio for the kids. And only then can I justify spending a few hundred dollars on one of these spaces . The other day, as I was flipping through the pages of old issues of Family Fun magazines, I came across a page featuring a very organized child's closet. It looked exactly how I wish I set up David's closet. It also listed all the items in a closet and where you can purchase them. One specific item caught my attention for a few reasons. It was sold in the container store, cost only $9.99 (I didn't know this store sold anything under $50), easily removable AND it is one item that I knew David needed . It was a double hang closet rod . You see, David picks his own clothes in the morning, and while his shirts are easily accessible in his dresser drawers, his pants (and especially his shorts in the summer) are hung high in his closet. He would pull his pants down by pulling on the pant legs until they were freed from the plastic hanger, or the hanger would break. So, to tell you the truth, I don't really need to organize his closet as much as to make it more accessible to him.
This morning, armed with a 20% off coupon, I and Julia headed to the container store. I told David that when he comes home from school, a surprise would await him. I purchased 2 of those hang closet rods, the other one for Julia's closet which actually needs to be organized, although that will wait for another couple of months until her new bed and dresser arrive.
Once home, I installed a rod in less than a minute, arranged David's clothes in about five minutes and here's before and after:

As soon as I picked David from school, he asked for his surprise and asked if Julia got one too. I wanted to see his expression when he saw his reorganized closet and I wasn't disappointed - it was priceless. (Do I know my son or not?)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Coloring in Ikea.

Yesterday we made a trip to Ikea to replace some of the kids' chairs, get more paper rolls for the kids' easel and check out their kids' bed selection since Julia is long overdue for her toddler bed. I am not sure she even needs a bed, though, since she either sleeps with us or on the couch downstairs (this topic deserves its own blog).
We arrived there as soon as the store opened. Our plan was to go straight to the children's department, get what we needed and be on our way back before our kids realized that shopping isn't their idea of fun. David had his own idea of how shopping should be done and for the first time neither Seth nor I objected to it. I completely forgot that Ikea has a huge play area filled with balls that houses a slide, ladders, a tv set and even an art and crafts corner. As we were passing by it, David insisted on playing there. Seth signed him in while Julia was having a bit of a meltdown since she wanted to join David, but she was too short. We watched David long enough to see that he was having a great time jumping and climbing, even though he was the only one inside, and then three of us proceeded to shop.
Half an hour later I insisted that we go back and check up on David. I was sure that the speaker system broke down and that's why we were not called to pick him up yet. I had a minor heart attack when I couldn't spot him anywhere near the sport equipments. Then I saw two kids sitting at the table and coloring. One of them was David. He seemed to be fine, so we went back to shopping. Julia meanwhile picked up every stuffed bunny from the shelves and sneaked them into our shopping bag.
Forty minutes later, we were done exploring Ikea and were ready to claim our son back. And what do you think he was up? Still coloring and refusing to leave the table. I stayed to wait for him while Seth entertained Julia with the store's wide selection of stuffed animals. David would only occasionally lift his head to look for me or to gaze into the direction of a crying child. Nothing else seemed to bother him. Another half an hour later and he was finally done with his coloring project and he proudly showed me his work.

I like that he enjoys coloring and he does it really neatly especially for his age. I'm trying really hard to stop myself from analyzing why a boy his age would prefer coloring rather than jumping in a sea of balls or watching cartoons on tv.

We left with a roll of paper, two new wooden chairs for their crafts table, and two stuffed animals, thanks to Julia's manipulative smile and David's cry for equality. (Add them to the pile!)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Winter Break.

David was off from school last week as it was his winter break. I knew that the only way for us to survive that week was to keep ourselves extremely busy and don't let the kids get bored. I wish I could say that David and Julia could play by themselves for hours at a time . Unfortunately, that's not the case. The only time they play well is when both Seth and I are asleep in the morning. Neither one of them wakes us up and when Julia does try to make some noise, David warns her that she should be quiet as we are sleeping. Of course, once we are up, every rule goes out of window. I don't know why it is the case, but I suspect that David likes drawing attention to himself any way he can think of.
So, I had collected a few art project ideas from some very creative bloggers and supplied myself with enough materials to last me for a long time. Here are some projects that kept us entertained, sane and calm throughout last week.
I wrote some words on a plain white paper sheet using a white pencil. Then I had the kids paint all over the paper and discover what's written on it. Of course, as soon as I placed a paper in front of David, he said "it says STOP here". So, much for the mystery. I was surprised he saw the writing as I could barely see it myself. He played along though and both of them painted all over a few sheets of paper discovering their names and other easy words that I knew they would recognize.

I created a number game dividing a sheet of paper into 36 squares, writing numbers in them and cutting yellow and purple stars. I would call a number and each kid had to place their star on the right box. David's stars were yellow as it is his favorite color and Julia's were purple. Whoever gets more stars correctly wins and a winner gets a spin. I know, this "prize" wouldn't really work for an older child. But somehow I needed to motivate them to play. Of course, in our game both kids were winners and both got a spin. I was actually surprised that David wanted to play again and throughout last week both kids asked to play a "number game" whenever they would get bored. David isn't always sure if a number is 13 or 23, so this game is a good practice for him.

I found another great way to practice the numbers. David always enjoyed working with connect the dots pagers, but nowadays the number of dots he works with increased to a hundred. He counted out loud to a hundred with my help while connecting the numbers. Julia then would color in the pictures. Another activity that kept his attention for a long time was mazes. I could barely step out of his sight when he would shout "I did it, I want another one".
Of course, there were numerous times when the kids would just create something on their own. Julia's been drawing a lot and coloring princess theme pages. One evening David decided to make a Christmas tree by cutting out triangles and taping them.

He's been doing a lot of drawings in his notebook. Here's his self portrait. I am not going to mention what he said after completing it as it might attract unwanted audience to my blog.

I had purchased some wooden cutouts of helicopter, snake, bugs, dinosaurs and had the kids color them. After the cutouts dried and I couldn't think of any other use for them, I showed the kids how to outline them and create the pictures of the objects. Julia was better at coloring them in and David was very interested in outlining them.

We did some mindless sticker project by creating a garden (doesn't it sound like we are so ready for a warmer weather?), but I figured it was a good motor skill practice. Julia's flowers are scattered all over whereas David's are lined up perfectly in a straight line. He would take a flower off and move it if it looked a bit off to him.

David asked me to build a tent. The kids "furnished" it and pretended they were camping.

We created some letter theme projects with the letters V and I. We made an erupting volcano and letters V coming out of it using a construction paper and a brown paper bag. We also transformed letter I into an ice cream. David has been more interested in phonics lately, so any letter / phonics related activities interest him now.

Of course, there's always coloring going on in our house. Julia colors any pages that have to do with princesses and David loves anything Peter Pan and Wall-E related. I try to praise their work as much as possible. Once I said to them "Guys, you are doing such a nice job coloring the pages. David, don't you think Julia colors like a big girl?" . Of course, Julia scribbles as any 2 year old would. David glanced at her work and said "Julia, your picture looks ugly." Of course, it wasn't very thoughtful, but it was interesting that he realizes a difference between a neat painting from scribbling.

We also celebrated daddy's birthday last week. It was a perfect ending to what seemed to be a very long week. (We didn't utilize the blackboard that night and the Xs remained there from a few nights back.) Seth and I celebrated both by going out to a dinner on a Friday night.

On Saturday morning Seth took over the responsibility of caring for the kids. I woke up in the morning to an empty house and I thought they all went playing miniature golf. They were back by 9:30 am and it turned out that Seth had his own project in mind to preoccupy the kids with. They went to Lowe's this morning to pick up some materials for fishing ... pretend fishing. For the last year David would throw a blanket or my yarn over a ledge in our home and pretend that he is fishing. So, Seth went one step further and decided to make 2 fishing rods out of wooden sticks attaching a string with the magnets to them. He then cut out various fish out of a cardboard and attached a few clips to them. He tossed the fish at the entrance hall and the kids started "fishing" from the main floor. Julia and David spent an hour "fishing" and I had a hard time getting them out to the library for a story time. We got back and they went straight to "fishing" again and once they woke up from their nap, I knew exactly where to find them. I don't think either one of them has ever been entertained by anything else longer than they were today by this activity.

Seth also made some musical instruments by placing bunch of uncooked popcorn between two plates and then stapling the plates together, so to keep the popcorn inside. It was loud, but the kids enjoyed it and it didn't last as nearly as long as their fishing adventure.

Well, the winter break is over and we all survived it. I think all of us ready for David to go back to school. He is eager to go back. Julia wants all my undivided attention back. But I think I'll miss him although it will be nice to enjoy the quietness around here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Which Craft.

David started a new school last week and he stays there until 3:30 pm. So far (6 days only) I am pretty happy with his new school. The school assesses all their students, so as to appropriately place them into a class that suits their abilities. For example, if the child knows their alphabet already, there is no reason why they should learn letters again; rather, they start him/her on learning phonics. He was assessed last week and did "exceptionally well". I don't know what that means, but as Seth put it, that's simply what it means -- exceptionally well.
But instead of making my job easier by leaving him there until the middle of the afternoon, it actually made my life more stressful. There are days when he doesn't nap at all, and he'll now eat little-to-no lunch. So, once he gets home, there's an initial half-hour of calm where both kids are cooperative, so I try to keep them occupied with various arts and craft projects, book reading, and game time.
After 4:15 pm, however, all hell breaks loose. So, how does our afternoon look like when both kids don't nap?

David pretends to be a Super Man. Julia is pretending to be a baby mummy from her currently favorite Where's My Mummy? book.

And this is how much energy David has when he doesn't nap.

The kids still love playing games, although for David it is all about winning whereas Julia simply enjoys the process of playing. He just recently decided that a winner should get a sticker. I figure, it is a small price to pay for a few extra minutes of calmness.

Julia just recently started drawing faces. This is a picture of a monster she drew with sharp teeth, two eyes, some hair and that stick on the top of a head? It is a monster's pony tail (Julia wears her hair in a pony tail).

After listening to Laurie Berkner's "Pig on Her Head", David requested to make a pig and a lamb. I was happy to oblige.

The most fun project was yet to come though. The kids like to blow air out outside before getting in a car, pretending to be dragons. I thought it would be fun to make a dragon. David and Julia actually ended up playing with their dragons once they were completed.

We also made some flowers. David decided to add a Valentine's theme to it.

The kids and their friend made fall trees using construction paper and a roll from a paper towel that I cut in half.

We started working on some Valentine's projects this past weekend. At this point, I can leave all the cutting to David, so he cut out all the hearts and then he and Julia painted them. We'll probably end up making garlands out of them. Julia kept asking me to draw more hearts and for David to cut them for her.

A lot of these projects are planned ahead while Julia is napping and David's at school. Most of the time, however, David just takes an initiative and creates things on his own. In the morning, while we were still sleeping, he made "tickets" for everyone. This past weekend, he made a car, cutting paper rectangles, gluing two circles to it for wheels and then adding a square for a window. Then he went on to making flags for himself, me and Julia, coloring them with everyone's favorite color. He told me he was a flag person.

And as always we are still desperately looking for a house.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Monster Fun!

It all started with a gift that David received about a year ago and just sat on a shelf - a Monster Jam DVD and plastic Predator monster truck. When we finally opened the DVD and played it for David, he was very amused. It was a strange coincidence that Monster Jam just happened to be coming to the Izod Center in just over a month.

On January 31st, my friend Ty joined David and myself as we went to Monster Jam. The show was a lot of fun, but very loud. Surprisingly, David didn't seem to mind too much.

David really started to get into it, yelling "yeah!!" whenever the MC asked - and he asked a lot - whether we were ready for monster jam. He joined the crowd when the loudspeaker started playing "We Will Rock You." He also got a kick when the crowd did the wave, jumping up and raising his hands on cue.

One part of the Monster Jam "competition" was making donuts with the monster trucks. Here you can see tire tracks from a couple of runs.

Here, Gravedigger flies over the pack of cars.

David smiles next to a few of the monster trucks at the end of the show.