Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bedroom Makeover

We are in the process of re-doing my 9-1/2 year old's bedroom. She's had the same (Pepto) pink bedroom since her 3rd birthday when she got her "big girl bed." She's entering middle school this year -- 4th grade -- and we thought it would be nice to give her a fresh start with a more mature looking room. Paint is a relatively inexpensive and easy way to make a big change, so we are painting and rearranging her furniture.

We have negotiated over a paint color for the walls -- she is SO over pink... She wanted green, but she "inherited" a kelly green plush rug that came with the house. We bought the house from my grandmother Mema, and Mema's mother Nanny had previously lived in our girl's room -- green was apparently Nanny's favorite color. The rug is in good condition and my girl would prefer to have a rug instead of the hardwood floor which is underneath. (Something about snow days and being cozy, and what if she had to get up and walk over to get a book off the shelf... Really, we had that conversation on one of the hottest days of August.) Anyway, her choices of green would not go well with the green rug, so the discussion of paint was tabled briefly. Recently, she decided she wanted to paint the room purple. Daddy brought home some swatches from Lowe's and we quickly and painlessly agreed on a nice shade of lavender called "Mystic Purple." Daddy brought the paint home last night!

Today my girl and I started to take her curtains down and her pictures off the wall. Then we sat on her bed and we each drew a plan for how we think the furniture should be arranged. And then a miracle occurred! After at least a year of trying to convince her to let us move the Barbie house out of her bedroom and downstairs to the family room / play room -- miraculously she made the suggestion herself today! She is constantly complaining about her little sister coming into her room to play Barbies. We thought the solution was easy -- move the Barbie house down to the family room! That was met with a big NO. Honestly, I cannot tell you how many times we have had this conversation -- and today, she said to me, "You know what? I want to move the Barbie house and the Barbie stuff downstairs -- or my sister can have it, either way!" REALLY? I nearly fainted from the shock! It's so wonderful when your kids come to things on their own -- and SO much easier than when you try and nudge them along...

Wish us luck with the makeover -- I'll make sure to take some pictures and post them when we're done.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Trying Something New...

So, I'm trying something new on the blog -- let me know what you think! I'm still deciding, but I like to decorate my home and frankly, the blog was feeling like it needed a little sprucing up, too!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Expressing Herself Through Fashion

After our trip to the music store, we headed out to get our girl some new school clothes and her school supplies. This child is growing like a weed -- at least her feet are... None of her shoes from last year fit her! We bought a new pair of sneakers at Target -- purple Converse, so she is very excited about that! (Pink is "dead" to her -- it's all about purple this year...) We actually started at Justice which is her favorite store. They have some cute things but their prices add up quickly (in spite of the "40% off the entire store" which seems to be every day... so, clearly, their prices are marked up 40%...) so I told her that we would get a few things and then head to Target. I have to say, she and I have not always seen eye-to-eye on what is appropriate and stylish for a girl her age, but she's developing her own style and I think it's cute and classic. She loves plaid this year, and argyle. And she LOVES skirts and dresses -- hates jeans.

At Justice, she picked out a cute dress that looks like a black & white hounds-tooth pleated skirt with a black sweater vest and short-sleeved white shirt underneath. There is a thin, blue ribbon "belt" around the top of the skirt (although the whole thing is one piece) and we picked out matching blue leggings to wear underneath that. She also picked out a blue pleated skort and another dress that looks like a short-sleeved navy sweater with a pleated skirt underneath. We picked out some navy leggings to go under that, or she would even wear jeans underneath when it gets colder. We saw an adorable jean dress at Justice that was about $25, and it was not in her size. Happily, when we went over to Target, we saw an equally cute jean dress that she liked even better and we bought it for $15! We also found a solid-colored, ruffle skort at Target that matched a t-shirt we bought at Justice. The skort only cost us $5!

I let her pick out a few things that really "spoke" to her personality -- specifically, 2 t-shirts with sayings on them. She has a real thing for French culture -- not even sure where it came from, but she's always trying to throw French words into sentences and she loves "Les Miserables", etc... Anyway, in Justice she saw a cute t-shirt that had a woman walking a French poodle on it (she loves dogs) and it said "Tres Jolie" (very pretty) on it -- she loved it! In Target, she picked out a t-shirt that says "Join Our Rally to Save the Earth" -- she loved that, especially since she has formed a club that she calls the "Clean Up Club" through which she is trying to encourage her friends to recycle and to pick up litter in their town.

The best part of our shopping trip? Standing in Justice and having my girl tell me that it was ok that we were only buying a few things there, because she doesn't want to look exactly like everyone else at school -- she wants to have her own style! Yay, her!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Starting to Play a Musical Instrument

Today my husband and I were both off of work, so after the girls' swimming lessons, we grabbed a quick lunch at home and then started our back-to-school errands. First stop was at the local music store to lease a clarinet for our eldest daughter who is going to take an instrument for the first time this year. We are very excited and looking forward to her playing in the band later this school year. I played the clarinet for a number of years growing up, and I have a beautiful clarinet sitting unused in the closet. However, I thought I'd rather get her her own that is not quite as valuable -- not sure that I want a 4th grader carrying my clarinet to and from school on the bus... I called around and looked online and decided that for us, the option of paying one price ($179) upfront and leasing for the year would be less expensive than the rent-to-own programs -- approximately $30 per month. Of course, when we were standing in the store today and I was about to sign the lease contract, I was having second thoughts and said to the woman, "I have to be honest, I'm wavering, because I have a perfectly lovely clarinet at home in the closet!" And the woman said, "I was a 4th grade band instructor at one time -- if you like your clarinet, leave it in the closet!" Ok -- signed the paper and we were done. My girl's biggest excitement (besides the Beatles guitar picks -- she's a new fan, have I mentioned that?)? We bought and brought home her clarinet lesson book and flipping through she noticed the song "Blue Bells of Scotland" is in there! (My mother will appreciate that -- it's the song that was in the music box she bought for her grandmother -- who was from Scotland -- and my girl has the music box and LOVES the song!)

Music has always been a big part of our family -- my parents both played instruments (that's how they met in college), my husband's mother still sings with a chorus and has had the opportunity to travel to Europe and sing in festivals, and my mother was a music teacher at one point of her life. My husband loves music but never took an instrument -- something he regrets now. If your child shows an interest there are lots of options for buying, renting or leasing. Check out your local music stores, check out Craig's List or eBay or even the local classifieds. And ask around, maybe you know someone from whom you can borrow an instrument. Playing in the band or orchestra or singing with the chorus are all wonderful ways for your child to build confidence, meet new friends, and learn about working as a team.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Disney-Pixar's "Toy Story 3"

Last Friday, we took our girls to the movie theater to see Disney-Pixar’s “Toy Story 3.” We own the first two “Toy Story” movies and all four of us just love them! These are wonderful movies – great stories, great characters, colorful, funny, and yet always with a lesson about friendship and some poignant moments. This was a special treat for the girls, because this was the first “Toy Story” movie that they were able to see on the big screen! If I remember correctly, my husband and I went to see “Toy Story 2” at the theater when I was pregnant with our now 9-1/2 year old. Everyone that I have talked to has loved this third installment, although everyone has talked about how much it tugs at the heartstrings – it’s a lot more emotional than the prior two movies. My elder daughter is quite sensitive and has been going through that “I don’t want to grow up” phase for a couple of years now, so right from the beginning with Andy getting ready for college, she was sniffling and snuggling up to me. There were some parts that I thought were a little bit scarier than I would have expected but fortunately, my girls were both ok through those parts of the movie. Most of the characters from the previous two movies were in this one, so if your child is a “Toy Story” fan they will be thrilled to see their old favorites! And I think it’s wonderful that all of the voices have remained that same, considering how long it has been between sequels. As with (in our experience) all of the Pixar movies, this one is as entertaining for adults as it is for kids. And if you have watched the first two over and over (as we have!) with your kids, it’s fun to try and spot things that have remained the same throughout the trilogy – there were several things in this third movie that were references all the way back to the very first “Toy Story.” People had told me that the end of the movie is quite sad – my girl and I were BAWLING by the end – AUDIBLY. My 4 year old got out of her seat to come and give us both a hug (she’s such a thoughtful little soul)! And my husband was on the other side of her, watching the movie and looking over at us and thinking, “Are they CRYING over there?” It wasn’t pretty – dabbing our eyes with the popcorn napkins… BUT, the point is that really it ended on a wonderful note – pretty much what all of the characters really wanted. They are such great storytellers though, and they very effectively play out every emotional beat to draw the viewers in. For the adults and the older kids, it will definitely tug at your heartstrings. For the younger kids, it’s their favorite characters in an exciting new adventure. – which is a great site for checking out the appropriateness of movies for your kids (thanks, Christine!) – rated this movie for kids age 5 and up and gave the movie 5 stars.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Reading - Unlock a World of Knowledge

My 9-year-old is a voracious reader. And she has a very broad interest in books -- she loves everything from the American Girl books to Harry Potter to biographies and everything in between. Tonight at dinner, my girl was telling us tales about the Beatles (she's a new fan...). From books that she has read about John Lennon, she was telling us about how Pete Best was replaced by Ringo Starr and how originally, John Lennon did not need to wear glasses but had worn the round, wire-rimmed frames in a movie and liked how they looked and kept them. And later, while I was brushing her hair before bed, she was telling me about the Sussex Spaniel which is a breed of dog that had nearly become extinct until the Kennel Club began breeding it, and it is still considered to be endangered. Again, all from a book that she took out of the library. She has read every single book on individual dog breeds in our library.

It just struck me tonight, in particular, the broad range of topics that she has knowledge of -- and it's all from reading. We tried to read a lot of books to her as a little girl, and I remember how much she longed to be able to read on her own. I see that same interest in my 4-year-old and I definitely want to encourage that love of books. Whether you are a big reader or not, it's so important to expose your children to the amazing world that opens up through reading. Read to them, take them to the library, encourage them to read on their own -- there are so many options out there and reading is a wonderful tool to help develop your child's imagination. A love of books is an invaluable gift that you can give your child that will help them in school and throughout their lives.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Potty Time!

Warning – this post may be considered “TMI” (Too Much Information) – but all parents have gone or will go through this ordeal. I thought I’d share my trials and triumphs! (I’m sure my daughter will LOVE this when she’s older! You can bet I’ll be saving it for her! Hey, at least I’m not posting any potty photos!!)

We have been working on a new “project” at our house – potty training!! Shocking, I know – my littlest girlie just turned 4… But, we learned with her older sister that when the child is ready to learn, it goes much faster and is much less painful, than if you decide (or others tell you) that it’s time! And really, I should confess that while we still were not seeing any of the “signs” that the experts tell you to look for – the child showing interest in the bathroom, the child telling you when they have to go to the bathroom, the child showing signs of discomfort in their diaper (asking you to change them) – we decided to take matters into our own hands last week! It was partly prompted by her 4th birthday, and also partly by the fact that we had over a week where either myself or my husband would be home with the girls – a great time to work on it!

So, after we procrastinated for the first, hmm… two-thirds of the week? ;) I jumped right in a week ago this past Sunday. Well, we started on Saturday, but I had her in a disposable training pant (pull- up), and I intended to put her on the potty every 30 minutes or so. At first, she used the training pant as a diaper, so that was not successful. (I was trying to save myself from accidents…) Then, I tried to put her on the potty (ok, toilet – she’s too big the “potty” that we have…) and she screamed and cried big tears and acted downright scared of the toilet! I decided to try again on Sunday. On Sunday, I tried putting her in a pair of her Disney Princess underpants that she got for Christmas and I put a pair of training pants over the underpants – my brilliant idea was that if she tinkled, she would feel uncomfortable in the underpants but the training pants would prevent a big mess for Mommy to clean up. Nice thought – she tinkled and kept playing – didn’t bother her at all! (See – no “signs”!) Well, this was my last day off (Daddy was home for the next two days) and I was bound and determined to have a breakthrough on the potty-training.

Breakdown, was more like it… My elder daughter was waiting for her best friend’s mom to come and pick her up for a play date that afternoon, and my little one and I were having a power struggle over the potty. She had no interest, and I desperately wanted to make this work! I had M&M’s (bribery!) for any attempt to go on the potty – no dice! Stickers and a sticker chart and then I tried reasoning – rarely if ever successful with a preschooler (or their 9-year-old sister, truth be told!) – “Sweetie, everyone you know goes potty on the potty! I know you can do it – you are a very smart girl!” Her response, “I AM NOT A SMART GIRL!! I DON’T WANT TO GO ON THE POTTY!!” Cue her big tears and stomping, pan to my older daughter crying because she doesn’t like to see her sister cry. What did Mommy do? She called Daddy at work to give him a heads up that she would more than likely be running away from home later in the day… (Kidding, of course!) Then I took a deep breath and regrouped, and I told my girlie that if she would at least TRY to go on the potty every day that week, then on Friday we would take her to see “Toy Story 3.” That worked for her! She came over and sat on the potty – hallelujah! I had a step stool at her feet to make her more comfortable, and I had a pile of books on the counter next to her. She and I sat in there for an hour and I read all of the books to her. And in all of that time – not a drop! In the meantime, her sister had left for her play date, and when my friend arrived to pick her up, I told her what I had in store for my day. She was very sympathetic, and I said, “Really, isn’t there a camp where you can send your child and they’ll send them back potty-trained?” and my friend paused and said, “You know…” and I said, “IS there a camp like that?” She said no, but had momentarily thought of a business opportunity and then said, “But I don’t want to be in THAT business!” Agreed!

Anyway, after an hour we decided it wasn’t happening and I put another pair of her underpants on her – no training pants (living on the edge!) – and we went downstairs and watched “Toy Story.” I kept asking her if she had to go potty, and finally when the movie was over we went upstairs and tried again – different pile of books this time! And lo and behold – she pooped! (Hey, I warned you this would be too much…) We were both SO excited! She got a hug, a kiss, and 4 M&M’s. We also called Daddy at work to tell him the big news – ok, I will share, she told him, “Daddy, it was as big as a carrot!!” (No idea why she said that, but she sounded very proud at the time!) It’s the little things that we like to look back and remember fondly! 

Since then, she has been doing great – 4 little accidents in 8 days (2 each on 2 different days) and we are very encouraging about how proud we are of her, and we make sure to say, “Are YOU proud of you?” And she is! This is such a big accomplishment for our little ones, and for us as parents – there are so many things that we have to teach our children and some things just come easier than others. But, if you stick with it and remind yourself that more than likely, your child will learn to use the potty before high school – you will survive potty training! (Two kids down, no more on the way – we survived – hooray!!)

And we did go to see Toy Story 3, which she loved, and I will tell you about that later!