Checking in on school

Every day I ask my son, “How was school today? What did you learn.”

The answer is almost always the same, “It was fun; we played with trucks.”

Granted, the kid just turned three (nine days before his first day of school) so I don’t expect him to be crafting complicated multi-part thoughts. But I just keep hoping there will be a little more then, “trucks.” And I’m certainly hoping that his school day consists more than trucks and the occasional Goldfish cracker snack. But talking to him I’d think that was it.

I’ve tried to get a little more out of his teacher when I drop him off most mornings but she’s busy getting things ready for the day and tending to the other kids in the class.

So I’ve been left to my imagination and own thoughts — something that can be dangerous for a gal who tries her darnedest to always be “Little Miss Sunshine” and the queen of thinking the best of people and situations but can also be dragged into those dark corners of “worst case scenario.”

And our sweet little Miles hasn’t been so sweet at home these days as since he started school he’s been boycotting naps and even fighting us to go to bed at night. Being tired for most kids — certainly my kid — often equals cranky, fuss-bucket, melty-tantrum machine.

Here’s a few scenes from our house over the past two weeks:

Miles is hysterically crying because his train tracks won’t go together the way he’d like. I try to help him get the pieces together and ask him to please calm down and take some deep breaths. In between the screaming and throwing of train pieces Miles yells back to me, “I don’t like to breathe.”

At nap time Michael will get him all snuggled in bed after reading a pile of books and leave the room so Miles can get to sleep. Before Michael even hits the door’s threshold Miles is out of bed screaming about not wanting to go to sleep. Michael closes the door and tells Miles he needs to at least rest quietly in his room for a bit. The sound track of screams are soon joined by the sound of toys bouncing off his wooden door and protests of, “Rescue me! Rescue me!”

So yep, things at home have been a little rough. So I was concerned this kind of behavior was the same thing that was happening at school. Well maybe I wasn’t worried about toys being thrown, but I was certainly concerned that maybe he was being cranky or mean to the other kids and teacher.

Announcement of an upcoming parent meeting and open house last week eased my mind quite a bit; if he was acting that way we’d soon find out. We sat through a general presentation with a gym full of antsy kids and then were released to our children’s classrooms. It was fun to get to see the other kids and meet their parents but a huge relief to get to ask the teacher, “So, what’s it been like? How’s he doing.”

Talk about relief — “He’s doing great,” his sweet teacher told me.

“Really, or do you just say that to all the parents?” I asked tentatively.

“Really,” she replied with a laugh. “He’s thriving.”

And then she went on to tell me that many of the other kids is his class were also a VERY young three but that he’d been doing well, listening and had surprised her with his stellar color recognition skills. Now his actual coloring skills, those could use some work, she said with a smile.

Shew! OK. So I guess we can live with a few more weeks (hopefully it’s just days) or adjusting to the new routine and extra brain stimulation. I’m hopeful that this not so nice phase is short-lived and I get my sweet boy back any day now.

Tell me how your first few days of school have gone? How about things at home? Any suggestions for help with transition?

A case of the polar vortex crazies

News flash, it’s cold.

OK, OK, I know NO ONE needed that announcement. It is just as obvious as my next statement — My kid is going stir crazy!

Like all kids stuck inside during this crazy cold snap brought to us courtesy of weather phenomenon polar vortex, Miles has a lot of penned up energy. I told my hubby — stay-at-home-dad extraordinaire — that under no circumstances is the munchkin to leave the house, even to go to the store up the street, when the temperatures are barely surpassing zero.

And Southern Indiana is certainly not the only place seeing these super-cool temperatures; many places not only have the subzero chilly weather but also several feet of snow to contend with. So there’s a lot of penned up energy from many restless toddlers and kids across the country. If only we could harness all that …

Anyway, my Facebook feed has been filled with the fun activities parents have done with their kids. Here’s some of them, some we’ve tried at home, others I’m adding to my list.

Most of these ideas could easily be found on Pinterest or with a quick Google search. The key to staying sane and curing a case of cabin fever is to think outside the box (or in some of these activities crawl right into the box!)

Salt Painting — www.oneperfectdayblog.net/2012/04/27/kids-art-raised-salt-painting/

Draw a picture with glue, pour salt over the glue, shake off excess salt, then drop water color (or water colored with food coloring) onto the salt (don’t paint).

DIY play dough — www.theimaginationtree.com/2012/04/best-ever-no-cook-play-dough-recipe.html

You can go to the site to get the directions, but this one not only provides something that the kids can play with all day but it is a fun activity to make it and depending on the kids’ age can be a great way to incorporate some learning with counting, following directions, numbers, etc.

Slime — www.tottreasuresnorthbay.blogspot.com/2012/06/slime.html

You can’t really go wrong with slime, right. We’ve never made slime at our house, but I’m thinking it needs to go on our bucket list. There’s two simple ingredients — clear glue and liquid starch. You can add food coloring to make it even more fun!

A box and imagination — www.sweetpaulmag-digital.com/sweetpaulmag/spring2011#pg78

As a parent or anyone who has ever given a kid a gift that came in a box, we’ve all quickly learned that often the box is more exciting to the child than the toy that came in it. During these bleak winter days embrace that fact. And if you are like us, we have several laying around. And I’m not just talking about big cardboard boxes (because really, how often do you just run across a refrigerator box) but any size box or other container creates a lot of opportunities. A quick gander at our recycle bin would reveal an egg carton, a cereal box or two, a cracker box, cottage cheese container, spaghetti sauce jar and a few small shipping boxes. Those items along with some help from daddy or mommy and a little duct tape could create quite the masterpiece. This site has a couple fun suggestions (hit the arrow to scroll through the pages), but use what you’ve got along with your imagination paired with your kid’s imagination and it could be a lot of fun.

This is just a tiny sampling of some of the things you can do. Honey, I’ll bring you home so liquid starch so you guys can make slime tomorrow!

What’s you go to anti-cabin fever activity? Share it in the comments, and stay warm.

From disaster to ‘big boy’ room

I’m embarrassed to show the “before” pictures. There’s no sugar coating it — my son’s room was a disaster!

I can’t really blame him, he’s 2 1/2 and not really expected to keep his room tidy. But can we pretend it’s his fault? I shift the responsibility for the disaster squarely on the shoulders of no storage.

We’ve never had a great toy containment system, and it has only gotten worse. We moved to a smaller house when we relocated to Evansville from Anderson eliminating the luxury of a play room and we’ve just obtained more toys as he’s gotten older. So when toys were played with we didn’t have a great place to put them back. And what we did have for toy storage were just large canvas cubes so Miles would dig to the bottom to find the one thing he had to have tossing aside everything else.

room

One afternoon (seen in the SCARY before picture) we walked in and saw Miles sleeping on top of a pile of toys and books he’d pulled off the shelf and out of the bins while he was supposed to be sleeping.

Here’s where my blame comes in — after all that stuff is strewed about, I would come in and throw it all back in the cubes. But there was no real organization. And efforts to organize and weed out the toys were always hampered by a curious Miles who had to play with all of the things I was trying to organize.

Grandma to the rescue!

My mom offered to take Miles Friday night and Saturday afternoon. This gave me the perfect opportunity to not only get that room in order but to also have some fun time with my hubby — dinner and a night out.

All week long I was looking forward to the weekend — oh how things have changed that a night of shopping and organizing is what gets me all excited. But seriously, I was pumped.

We found the perfect toy storage solution — a shelf with 12 bins that are tilted so Miles can see what’s inside each one. We got the shelf, did some other window shopping and then had a nice dinner.

The plan was to perhaps go to the casino or somewhere else after dinner but it was cold and Michael was getting a little sleepy so we decided a movie at home would be a better plan. Ten minutes in and my husband was snoring — it wasn’t even 10 p.m. yet. Another sign of just how old we are getting — snoozing by 10 on our “big night out” and excitement over organization.

I was surprised by a delicious breakfast by the hubby bright and early Saturday and we made quick work of the organization. We got rid of two bags of toys — one will be donated to the Goodwill another will be passed down to baby Charlie — and found a home for the remaining toys. Michael and I were so efficient we were able to move on to a couple other organization projects before it was time to get Miles.

He cam home, walked into his room and said, “Wow,” immediately noticing several toys he had forgotten he even had.

room after

So far — two days in — the room is still clean. We’ve moved all of his books into the living room and all of the toys into his room hoping to, for the most part, keep them contained in there now that there’s a visible floor for him to play on.

What are your toy containment strategies?

Top 13 parenting moments of 2013

Lists are the thing to do for the New Year, so I’m jumping on the bandwagon and joining in. Here’s a list of my top parenting moments of 2013 in no particular order.

1. Dance parties in our living room. Blasting the “Chicken Dance,” “Bicycle Built for Two” and Frank Sinatra’s rendition of my son’s all-time favorite “Jingle Bells” on our stereo for one of our various living room dance parties is one of my favorite memories of the year. Although this activity is a recent one — we started it just a few months ago — hopefully it is one that will stick around.

I’m sure as Miles gets older watching his mom and dad’s TERRIBLE dance moves will become more embarrassing and less amusing, but until then, here’s to more twirling in circles, arm shaking, head bopping and stomping (those are our go-to moves!)

2. Meeting milestones like a boss. This kid is nothing but an overachiever. He was out of his crib before he was 2 and potty trained weeks after his second birthday. Both of these major milestones were done on his terms (who am I kidding, this kid calls most of the shots.) Just before we moved to Evansville, Miles was climbing his way out the crib with ease obviously necessitating the move to a “big boy” bed. And a few weeks before his second birthday he was insistent on tossing his diaper aside so we decided to start potty training. A few weeks later there diapers were packed away and the REAL underwear came out. Mr. Independent definitely has kept us on our toes this year.

Sleeping in his big boy bed (with his Christmas tree and many other things he's dragged in with him!)

Sleeping in his big boy bed (with his Christmas tree and many other things he’s dragged in with him!)

3. So many words! I know all parents think this (as they definitely should) but Miles really is a genius. He is talking so much, mostly in complete sentences these days. There’s been so many new (and hilarious) phrases and his ability to communicate has cut down on (yet unfortunately not eliminated) the frustrated outbursts.

4. We took two trips to a local pumpkin patch this fall and had a blast — Miles played for more than an hour in a barn converted to a giant play area, picked out pumpkins, played in a bin of wheat, visited the petting zoo and rode around in a wagon. The trips stuck with my son so much that to this day, months later, if we are getting ready to go somewhere he will occasionally say, “We are going to the pumpkin patch?” in a hopeful tone. Obviously this a was a top moment of 2013 at least for Miles.

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5. Making lemonade. We didn’t literally make lemonade, this one is a little more figurative. There were several times this past year where things didn’t always go as planned, as they will always do for the rest of my life and yours. And for the most part, my little, strong family of three did a great job making lemonade out of the lemons that got thrown in our path.

A tiny example of that was of day this summer. It was our third attempt at going to Burdette to swim. Something had come up — rain, work, scheduling conflict — every other time and both Miles and I were really looking forward to it. But the sky opened up and it started to POUR! So we made some lemonade, no scratch that, we made mudpies. I’d bought several vegetable plants the day before and hadn’t had the chance to put them in the ground yet so Miles and I played in the rain and mud and planted the plants and splashed in puddles. SO MUCH FUN!

Jumping in puddles and "gardening" -- our version of making lemonade out of lemons when our day of swimming was rained out.

mud Jumping in puddles and “gardening” — our version of making lemonade out of lemons when our day of swimming was rained out.

6. Miles made it to 2. Birthdays are always a top moment. Not only do you have an awesome time spending the day celebrating your kids birth, but it is a chance to reflect on the past year. This year’s birthday party was a fun one at my sister’s sister-in-law’s house. Did you follow that one? Anyway, we had family and a good friend over for a swim party with all things “choo-choo.”

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7. This past year afforded us a couple different opportunities playing in the snow, both in the beginning of the year when we were still in Anderson, Ind., and just this past few weeks when Evansville got several inches. It’s a lot of work to get Miles (and ourselves) all bundled up, but so much fun to see him in awe of the white fluffy stuff. He really didn’t get into sledding much but got a kick out of marching around in the snow and throwing it at Michael and me.

snowy wed

8. A new cousin for Miles and new nephew for me. Cousins are pretty awesome. I have an amazing relationship with mine that I continue to foster and treasure today. Miles has three awesome cousins in Louisiana on my husband’s side of the family but at the beginning of the year we welcomed his first cousin on my side of the family when my twin sister had Charlie. It has been so much fun to watch the two little boys grow up together and become so close.

charlie and miles2

Sweet moment with Miles and Charlie during our Christmas celebration.

Sweet moment with Miles and Charlie during our Christmas celebration.

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9. Countless loving moments. I could have a Top 1,300 list of loving moments from this past year. While the first year or so of parenting is rewarding in many ways, you don’t get a lot of “return.” That may make me sound like a jerk, but it’s tough in those first few months where there is little to no interaction.

This past year has been so different. I get the biggest hugs and kisses that Miles initiates without any prompting; he shouts, “Mommy I love you;” he will hold his hands on my cheek pulling me close into him; and so many more. I can’t get enough of my little guy’s sloppy kisses and bear hugs.

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Photo by Bluebird Photography www.bluebird-photography.com/

Photo by Bluebird Photography www.bluebird-photography.com/

A rare "rocked to sleep" nap moment a few months ago.

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11. Swimming. In moving to Evansville we left behind my wonderful in-laws in Louisiana but I’ve been blessed with a whole set of adopted in-laws through my sister. Her husband’s family, even before we lived in Evansville, have been great to me. And with the Spurgeon/Orr clan, we’ve gotten access to two pools. Miles couldn’t be happier. We had great times swimming in their pools this summer. It took a few minutes to get warmed up, but once Miles got in the water it was tough to get him out.

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12. Fourth of July. Holidays are always memorable but this one was especially fun. Since moving back to Indiana, I’ve made a habit of going home to Vincennes, Ind., for the Fourth of July festivities. It isn’t as if there is something extraordinary but it is a nice time with my mom and family friends. And Miles has been able to enjoy it the last two years too — barbecue with friends, parade and fireworks. It’s the “All-American” celebration.

Watching fireworks way past his bedtime.

Watching fireworks way past his bedtime.

While most of the kids were eating candy in they'd caught during the parade, Miles munched on a banana.

While most of the kids were eating candy they’d caught during the parade, Miles munched on a banana.

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13. Trains. No list about my son and parenting could be complete without mention of trains. They kind of go hand-in-hand in our world. And there have been lots of memorable train moments. His party was train-themed and tested my crafty/baking skills. I will treasure the image of Miles and my grandpa Charlie standing at the same huge picture window I stood at as a child to watch the trains go by. A trip to the Evansville Museum Transportation Center was a memorable one for all of us. And I’m hoping that when my son is sneaking in after curfew at 16 or yelling that I’m “ruining his life” at 14 that I will be able to picture all of our peaceful moments on the living room floor playing trains.

phrase21 mike and miles miles

It’s been a great year for us; here’s to an even better 2014. Happy New Year!

Toys, toys and more toys

When we moved from Anderson to Evansville we went from a four-bedroom house to a two bedroom with a plan to rent for a year or two before hopefully buying.

While the smaller space is nice for a couple different reasons — less rooms to clean, baby proof and misplace things in — it also has quite a few downsides. There’s significantly less storage and space (we’ve rented a storage unit to house all of our other furniture, stuff that didn’t fit) and much less room for Miles to be an active 2 year old.

Miles all ready to go to a wedding.

Miles enjoying a whistle, instead of his toys!

His room is all his; but it’s tiny. After his bed, a dresser/shelf and book shelf there isn’t a whole lot of room. His super cool train set connected in all its glory wouldn’t fit in his room even if everything was picked up off the floor (which I promise, it isn’t!) So the living room becomes the de facto playroom. A bookshelf in there, originally intended for books and other grown-up items is 100 percent toy and book storage these days.

There's the shelf back there, filled with too many toys!

There’s the shelf back there, filled with too many toys!

One of the first things he does when he wakes up in the morning is pull off nearly every item on the shelf and then dumps out the container with all the smaller toys, puzzles and puzzle pieces onto the floor with a huge crash.

“Toys!” he shouts. “Lots and lots and lots of toys!”

Have we created a monster?

At several different junctures I’ve thinned out the toys — things he had outgrown, things he didn’t play with, things that were too nosy or nerve grating. But there’s still SO many. And it isn’t as if he’s one of those kids that doesn’t play with his toys and instead plays with a cardboard box. Although he does enjoy a cardboard box too. This kid really does love to play with toys.

More toys!

More toys!

My husband will report that he will play quietly in his room while he conducts phone interviews for freelance stories. He will get up in the morning and play for as long as 30 minutes before bothering to even leave his room.

So ti is difficult for me to say, “Oh, I’ll take out half of what he plays with.”

I’ve also tried the whole rotate the toys in and out method; but then I just forget about them and d he has a whole tub of toys that never got played with, and that just makes me sad too!

I need some brilliant toy storage suggestions! Pass them along, please, pretty please.

I’ve hopped over one too many Thomas tracks, stubbed my toy on enough trucks and tripped over plastic dinos!

Choo Choo!

Miles’ vocabulary is expanding by the day. I feel like every morning I hear a different word.

But one word (it is more of a sound really) is at the tip of his tongue at every moment – choo choo! The tone of the childlike sound for trains can vary greatly. Sometimes he says it excitedly when he sees a train (in a book, on the television, in his pile of toys). Other times he says it almost desperately as in, “I NEED that train even though it is time for bed,” or “Why is that passing school bus not a train. I NEED it to be a train!”

This train obsession began a few months ago but, like many addictions, it started out slow. A fix (the board book that has a button to make a train sound) here and there was enough in the beginning.  But then the urge was stronger. Miles wanted more. Books weren’t enough.

He started coming home from daycare lining up all of his cars and pushing them across the living room floor as if they were trains. His frustration grew as the row of mismatched plastic and wooden vehicles didn’t connect or move smoothly like a train.

cars as trains

“Get him some trains already,” friends urged. But I knew it was a slippery slope.

About a month ago, my hubby and I picked up a small set of puffed out plastic trains that pop into each other. That worked for a short time, but soon those weren’t enough either.

Just over the weekend, I picked up three Thomas and Friends engines (two different sized Thomas’ and a Percy) to satiate Miles. And I’ve been checking out some wooden train sets or some made from recycled plastics the munchkin may get for Easter or his second birthday. Although they won’t be Thomas, they will be something I’m happy I invested in.

So as I read the same Choo Choo book for the 14th time this weekend and hear the happy cries of a little boy who can push the same three train cars back and forth for two hours straight, I’ll smile realizing this is just the first of countless childhood obsessions that will run through the Doyle household. There are worse things to be addicted.

What is your kid obsessed with? How long did it last? How did you deal with the repetition?