Rainy Day Blues

We’re getting deep into fall here now. No more warm-ish days and pretty leaves on the trees. The past couple of weeks have been chilly, windy, and a bit rainy off and on. This is the kind of weather that makes you want to curl up under a blanket and drink a big cup of tea. The constant gray skies start to lead to some gray feelings as well (or sometimes just lazy feelings), and you can tell that winter is on its way.

Lewis and I are starting to make the transition from going outside multiple times a day to spending almost all our time indoors. I have been trying to make sure we get outside a bit for some fresh air each day, even if it is just for a 10 minute walk in the stroller. It’s nowhere near the 40 minute walk and 45+ minute play times that we were enjoying earlier this fall, but the grass is damp and the wind is quite chilling even when the temperature is warm, so this will have to do for now.

It is time for me to put my creative Mommy hat on and also reach into my teacher experience and start coming up with fun new activities to help our days pass without boredom or crankiness. This, of course, will include lots of sensory play as well as finding things around the house that can be used in new ways or that Lewis just hasn’t seen in a long time. I’ve also rotated out some of his books to re-capture his interest and yesterday we also picked up a few new ones at the library. So far we are doing a pretty good job of staying happy and busy and fighting off the gray weather. I suppose as winter progresses we will adjust and fall into a new wintery routine eventually.

We had some fun playing dress-up with hats and scarves.

We had some fun playing dress-up with hats and scarves.

After a cranky start to nap time and waking up very early he was in a super fussy mood one afternoon. All was solved with some fun and calming sensory play with tiny dry pasta!

After a cranky start to nap time and waking up very early he was in a super fussy mood one afternoon. All was solved with some fun and calming sensory play with tiny dry pasta!

Lewis also discovered that Mama's old CD case full of music she doesn't listen to is very interesting. He has become quite a pro at sliding the discs out of their slots.

Lewis also discovered that Mama’s old CD case full of music she doesn’t listen to is very interesting. He has become quite a pro at sliding the discs out of their slots.

[The rest of this is just a rant about my laundry machine, and doesn’t include any Lewie cuteness. Feel free to ignore.]

Besides the gray weather we have also been having ongoing issues with our laundry machine. There have been issues since we moved in here 3 (4?) years ago, and I frequently ask Chris when we can buy a house so I can have a “real” washer and dryer. I had given up telling maintenance that the dryer didn’t work right as they always just brushed it off. (Honestly? 3 hours to dry a load of laundry is supposed to be normal?) but last Friday the dryer quit working completely so they finally had to actually do something about it. They were here Friday and we thought the problem was just that the settings got accidentally changed but they didn’t really check much and that evening it became clear that it really wasn’t working. We went the weekend with no working dryer, and I just hung the clothes to dry. Monday they came and cleaned out a big lint clog (This weird machine has no way for me to clean the lint. It is like it is built to clog itself and Maintenance said there is no way for me to prevent that.) and it also needed a new heating element as it was completely shot.

So, hurray! It works like new again and now takes 1 hour to dry what used to take 3. This is wonderful and amazing, but wait a minute … why is there a puddle of water showing up under the corner of the machine every time I run the dryer? I called maintenance again Tuesday to take a look at that since in my book a water leakage of any kind is never a good thing. They took it apart and looked at all the pipes and whatever and said everything is looking fine and maybe there was just water dripping down from the parts they cleaned the day before, but give them a call if it continued. Of course, that makes sense … there is still water in there from you cleaning it 24 hours ago and it only drips out when I run the dryer. I guess you can believe that if it makes you feel better that you couldn’t find the problem.

Water dribbles continued, so I called them back again yesterday and once again they took the machine apart and could not find a problem. There was a piece of insulation that had been removed when they did their other work and he decided maybe it was something to do with the heat and condensation, etc. etc. So he got a new chunk of insulation and taped it inside the machine. He ran the dryer for a bit and no water showed up so it was pronounce fixed. However, the water has only been appearing after it runs for half an hour or more and only really noticeable after a full dry cycle. (It is a small amount of water, but enough that I am noticing it dribbling out from under the machine.)

Anyway, there was water again when I did another load of laundry last night. The load I have in has been running 20 minutes and no wetness yet. Either way, I have given up and am determined to ignore the water unless my kitchen starts flooding. They don’t seem too concerned about it, they can’t seem to fix it, Lewis is getting anxious about having strange men in and out of the apartment, and I am getting annoyed with having to keep calling them and not being able to use my kitchen. Plus, my dryer is working beautifully now, so I will just focus on that and ignore the water.

Today is the first day maintenance hasn’t been here since Friday (besides the weekend) and already Lewis seems to be in a happier mood and was less fussy going down for his nap.

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Becoming A Housewife

Chris and I have been married for almost a year and a half, and It’s been more than a year since I left my job at KinderCare to stay home with my baby and yet I feel like I am just now getting into a groove with all the traditional “house-wife-y” duties. Cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.

I’m not trying to say that I think the wife should do all the cooking and cleaning and such. Chris and I have a great partnership and have always divided our duties according to who has the most time/energy/interest. Laundry has always been my job since I was at home more, even when working full time, and I also actually somewhat enjoy taking care of the laundry. Washing the toilets has always been Chris’ thing because he notices sooner if the toilets seem icky and also because I hate all the bleachy chemicals and stuff. Most other things, such as cooking, dishes and vacuuming, are jobs that we both contribute to.

For a long time the division of housework seemed to lean heavily towards Chris doing the majority of it. When we first moved in together I was taking classes full time online on top of working full time. Almost as soon as I was done with school we found out I was pregnant, and I continued working full time through most of the pregnancy. Through all of this Chris was amazing about stepping it up and making sure the dishes were mostly clean and we had dinner on the table (even if that meant stopping for take-out on his way home or cooking up some mac & cheese and frozen veggies when he got home at 7:30). I thought that once Lewis was born and I would be staying home full time surely I would have all kinds of time to cook and bake and keep the apartment sparkling clean.

Then I found myself with a little one who wanted always to be held but hated any kind of wrap or carrier I put him into. The times when he would happily play on the floor it was only if I was close by. His irregular sleep schedule and many nightly wake-ups left me exhausted and also made dinner planning hard since I never knew if I’d have time to cook on any given night. The only thing I really kept up with through his first several months was the laundry. We would go through periods where he napped at just the right time for me to make dinner several nights in a row, but then it would all veer off course again. So, Chris continued jumping in and helping out as much as he could when he got home from work and especially on the weekends, sometimes doing the dishes three times a day on the weekend so that I could start off the week with a clean kitchen.

The past few weeks I have been realizing that we are finally coming out of the chaos and exhaustion. I am finally falling into a rhythm and managing to keep up with the cooking, dishes, vacuuming, sink scrubbing, and even the dusting. I’ve been staying caught up with the dishes for at least 2 or 3 weeks now. Dinner has been cooked and ready to eat when Chris comes in the door most nights for the past month or two.

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I think things started to improve at the start of the summer when Lewis learned to walk, and have been slowly getting better since. Before he was mobile he hated being on the floor because he felt bored and stuck. Now he is able to wander all over the apartment, play with what he wants, go looking for just the right toy, come find Mommy if she has walked into the other room, etc. He still likes to keep a close eye on me and be involved with what I am doing, but usually once he checks in with me he is happy to wander over and play with his puzzles or books or Daddy’s Skylanders nearby, or maybe just pull pots and pans out of the cupboard and spread them all around the apartment. He gets excited when I say it’s time to vacuum or sweep, and will go running into the other room to get the broom/vacuum. He follows me around when I clean and wants to have his own turn when I am done.

His naps also finally fell into a regular pattern over the summer, and the past couple of months I have taught myself to plan meals well ahead of time, prep everything I can while he naps, and therefore have the least possible work to do in the evening when it is time to actually cook dinner. I have learned to make some things routine, such as cleaning his high chair tray as soon as he finishes a meal instead of leaving it for “later.”

I have been keeping up with most of the major areas of the apartment for several weeks without even really realizing it. It has just all fallen into place recently. Chris still helps out with extra cleaning on the weekends and a bit of tidying or dishes some evenings, but for the most part he is now able to come home from a busy day of work and just spend some time playing with Lewis. And once Lewis is in bed we can BOTH put our feet up and watch a show or play some games without anyone feeling guilty that they “should” be washing dishes or anything else.

Vacuuming the "spiders" - one of his favorite activities.

Vacuuming the “spiders” – one of his favorite activities.

Once I realized last week how good I have been doing with making all the major cleaning items into routine, I decided it was time to start tackling some of the cleaning that is less noticeable/has less of a direct effect on daily living.

I had started the Kitchen Cure a few weeks ago, which walked me through cleaning each area of the kitchen. I got most of the kitchen deep cleaned, although I still need to clean the oven and wipe down the other appliances. I also recently heard of the FlyLady website, which basically gives you a basic daily schedule to follow as well as daily assignments to help you keep on top of keeping your home clean. I found the website quite annoying, but something clicked with the idea of just tackling one or two small tasks each day rather than letting everything pile up and then getting overwhelmed with the looming mountain of cleaning chores that needs to be done. I have seen this concept before, and even bookmarked a similar cleaning schedule from Apartment Therapy, but I guess this time the information has just come at the right time to actually kick me into action.

I tend to be very much a “list” person. I always have a to-do list going, and am always making lists of things like meals, presents, etc. just to help organize the chaos inside my brain. If I don’t list it I either forget about it or think about it so much I forget other things. So, I made myself a list. I started by listing the chores I think should be done daily (laundry, dishes, etc.), then weekly (vacuuming, watering plants, etc.), bi-weekly (mopping, cleaning the bathtub), and monthly (cleaning the microwave, washing mirrors). I then took this list and turned it into a cleaning schedule.

I now have a four-week cleaning rotation complete with a check list for me to mark off each days tasks. Each day I get one or two chores which usually should take no more than half an hour (and as I continue to follow the schedule it will be faster/easier each time since I will just be maintaining cleanness instead of dealing with years of caked on grime. I tried to be very realistic with my schedule, not trying to over schedule myself since I know that if I get too complicated with this I am more likely to abandon the system before it has a chance to work.

I have been sticking with it for about a week so far and am amazed by how easy it all seems. I smile every time I see the bright shining white sink in the bathroom, no longer crusted with dust and old toothpaste residue. There is also a great satisfaction when I get to check off each days tasks as complete. We went to Target and Bed Bath and Beyond this weekend and spent over $100 on cleaning and organization supplies and it felt like Christmas.

It feels awesome to finally be becoming the clean and organized person that I have never managed to be before. The apartment is by no means perfectly clean, and probably never will be, but it is a hundred times better than what it has been in the past. I just hope I can keep up this momentum and stick with it now!

Photo Friday

All in stripes. We realized we were all matching once we were all dressed for the day, so had to take a photo!

All in stripes. We realized we were all matching once we were all dressed for the day, so had to take a photo!

So cute and cozy in his sweater from his Auntie.

So cute and cozy in his sweater from his Auntie.

He discovered the bag in the closet with all of his music toys. Spent a long time taking them out one by one and comparing the sounds of each one.

He discovered the bag in the closet with all of his music toys. Spent a long time taking them out one by one and comparing the sounds of each one.

I decided to play with his hair one day and take a few photos of how long it is getting. We'll need to get a hair cut soon!

I decided to play with his hair one day and take a few photos of how long it is getting. We’ll need to get a hair cut soon!

Inspecting his cookie. What is this new food?

Inspecting his cookie. What is this new food?

When he was done eating I told him I was taking pictures of his "Cookie Face" and he gave me this look.

When he was done eating I told him I was taking pictures of his “Cookie Face” and he gave me this look.

He likes to take his own bib off when he is done eating. He ate just about the whole cookie even though it was right after having his normal lunch. Yum!

He likes to take his own bib off when he is done eating. He ate just about the whole cookie even though it was right after having his normal lunch. Yum!

I made an obstacle course with lots of pillows, but he preferred to just snuggle them.

I made an obstacle course with lots of pillows, but he preferred to just snuggle them.

Cookie Baking

“Chocolate chip cookies, you gotta have more/ You can bake ’em in the oven or buy them at the store/ but whatever you do, have them ready at the door/ And I’ll love ya until I die!”

Every time I bake/eat chocolate chip cookies I get this little song from girl scouts stuck in my head. Now you can too!

I’ve been itching to bake some cookies for the past week or two, but I’ve been putting it off – partially because our kitchen always seems to be a mess, and partially because we had a heap of apples so I felt if I was going to bake it should be with those. But we’ve been keeping up with the kitchen/dishes a bit better this past week or so (although I haven’t managed to finish my deep-clean yet) and after baking two pies, some baked apples, and making a big batch of applesauce the apples are finally under control. (Although still enough to bake one or two more things and some for snacking.)

So today Lewis and I made cookies!

I love getting him involved in what I’m doing as much as I can. Today I started him off in his highchair with a bit of flour to play around with while I started mixing the ingredients. He got interested as I was creaming together the butter + sugar and then adding the eggs, so I let him help me give it a stir. He started trying to add bits of flour from what he had been playing with on his tray and since we were to that point in the recipe I showed him that I had other flour to dump in and let him help me mix that.

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He made a few attempts at actually trying to stir what was in the bowl, but mostly he wanted to take the spoon out and let cookie dough drop onto his tray. I assume this was his attempt at stealing some so he could eat it.

"I know Mommy said not to put my hands in, but I've got to check out what this stuff feels like!"

“I know Mommy said not to put my hands in, but I’ve got to check out what this stuff feels like!”

He did manage a few tiny tastes, although I tried to discourage it as there are raw eggs in it. He also decided to give the bowl a taste.

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Once this was all mixed I added in the chocolate chips and gave him a couple to try while I mixed that. This was his first real taste of chocolate, and he seemed rather pleased with it. (He has had a bit of chocolate from a chocolate/vanilla twist ice cream in the summer, and also a small taste of hot cocoa recently, but neither of those things are really actually that chocolaty.)

"Please give me more chocolate chips! Why are there no more on my tray??"

“Please give me more chocolate chips! Why are there no more on my tray??”

I let him have about 10 chocolate chips, then told him there was no more for right now. He of course protested at this, but I then offered him some pomegranate and he seemed equally happy to snack away on pomegranate seeds while I finished up putting the cookies on their trays.

He hasn’t gotten to try the actual cookies yet since by the time they were done baking it was time for him to go down for nap, but decided to go ahead and write this since if I don’t get it done while he naps it probably will never get written/posted. I plan on putting the cookies away so they are not there to distract him from his lunch, and then offer him some to try at the end of his lunch when he’s eating a good amount of his “real” food.

I’m a big believer in letting him try whatever foods we are having (as long as they aren’t a choking hazard) and I don’t limit anything specifically or ban him from treats. However, we tend just not to have many treats in the house, so he really hasn’t had many experiences with sweets or really know what they are yet. Since they aren’t around in the house or a big part of our diet I think letting him try them when we do have them is fine and hopefully he will develop a healthy relationship with his food and understand that sweets are a treat that we only have once in a while.

Day On The Farm

Yesterday Chris’ company, Vicarious Visions, sponsored a Fall Family Gathering at Liberty Ridge Farm. We all go passes to show up at any time during the day, so it was sort of a come-when-you-want sort of thing with no specific meet-up time or place, but plenty of opportunity to run into other families from the company.

We decided to go over after Lewis morning nap. He normally has lunch when he gets up, but it is a 45 minute drive so we got going pretty soon after he woke and I fed him cheerios and freeze dried fruit in the car. (He still mostly fills up on milk anyway, so a small lunch or weirdly timed lunch doesn’t really bother him.)

We got to the farm, made our way inside, and started exploring. The website lists a ton of stuff that they have, but it was hard to tell from that how much would really be good for a little one like Lewis. We were pleasantly surprised!

The first area we found was a little petting zoo area. In theory, Lewis loves animals. Books, pictures, adds on TV with dogs in them, cats seen out the window – all are exciting and interesting. It turns out that close up and in person, they are a little scary.

"Mommy why are you letting Daddy bring me so close to this thing??"

“Mommy why are you letting Daddy bring me so close to this thing??”

We had noticed he was feeling a bit moody/emotional yesterday in the morning, so this may have contributed to not wanting to see the animals. Other times we have met real animals (like at the Carrot Festival) he has been excited and interested, but this time he would start shaking his head “NO!” if we started approaching an animal, and a couple times almost started crying if we continued and got too close.

So, we left the animal area and continued on our way. There were more animals later on, and the only ones he was happy and interested to see where the bunnies in their little bunny-village behind a fence, and the bees in the glass bee hive thingy.

The next area we found was a little pumpkin maze where Lewis happily sat on the ground playing with wood chips, and would have been content to stay for another half hour but we decided to keep walking and see what else there was. We walked down the hill to find the main area with fun things like rubber duck races, giant hamster wheels, more animals, a shed full of corn the kids could play in, peddle cars, and lots of play areas! Some of these things were a bit “old” for Lewis, but he loved watching the peddle cars, duck races, and kids jumping on the giant air pillow thing. The dried corn looked like a lot of fun but it was fairly crowded with bigger kids and wouldn’t have been easy for Chris or me to go in with him, so instead we sat outside and played with some corn fallen on the ground, which Lewis was completely happy and interested in anyway.

IMG_0813After a bit of play in the dirty corn we moved on to a big dirt pile with a bunch of trucks and things. There was a bigger boy who spotted Lewis’ cool truck and started crying a bit because he wanted it. (I think he had been playing with it before, but not at the time that we came along and found it.) His dad asked him to wait and he sat quietly playing with a dump truck and keeping an eye on Lewis to see when he was done. When we got up to go I thanked him for waiting so nicely for his turn with the truck – you could see how hard it was for him to sit and watch another kid use it, and he was really a little trooper about it. Lewis, of course, was oblivious to the whole thing.

 

Awesome excavator! This is his new favorite type of truck after watching recent construction going on at the shopping plaza near home.

Awesome excavator! This is his new favorite type of truck after watching recent construction going on at the shopping plaza near home.

We also found a play area with toys intended for younger kids – more trucks, play food, rocking horses, etc. and Lewis had a lot of fun exploring this area as well. We walked around some more, picked out some small pumpkins from the “pumpkin patch,” watched the cow train zooming around, and as we were headed back out found one more awesome thing to play on: the giant spider web! You wouldn’t think this would be a awesome place for a 1 year old, but Lewis loved it and seemed to feel quite secure sitting on the ropes.

IMG_0909When we got to the web thing there were some older kids playing on it, and when I put Lewis on at one side they were so cute about being careful around him. One girl also noticed that he was having fun with the web bouncing a bit, so she bounced it up and down for him a bit. After they left he had fun having the web all to himself until Mommy and Daddy said it was time to get going.

There were a lot of areas that he really loved playing at, and he would happily have spent more time in many of these areas! We let him play for a while at each spot but then moved on to the next thing because we wanted to make sure to see everything before we had to go. He didn’t seem to mind moving on since there was so much to see at each spot – his interest was quickly captured by whatever new things we found to do.

This was a long and busy day for him, but well worth it. By the time we left and made it back home it was an hour later than his normal afternoon nap, so I put him right down to sleep after a diaper change and some milk. I had thought he might sleep in the car coming home, but I guess I should have known better than that since he hasn’t slept in the car in a while and that was only on 3-hour car trips going to camp this summer, and the 2-hour trip to visit Grandma and Grandpa in Vermont.

We obviously wore him out with such a busy day yesterday. He fell asleep on our morning walk today, which he hasn’t done in months. When we got home I was able to move him to his crib with him only opening his eyes for a moment and then falling back asleep, and he is now still asleep almost 2 hours later! It didn’t seem to affect his sleeping last night, but he prefers to do his best sleeping at nap times anyway so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

Thank you to Chris’ work for such a fun day! I’m sure Lewis will have even more fun with it again if we do this other years as he gets older.

 

Photo Friday

Helping Daddy unwrap his brand new SwapForce game and characters!

Helping Daddy unwrap his brand new SwapForce game and characters!

Exploring some beans and their pods from our CSA box.

Exploring some beans and their pods from our CSA box.

Always wants to dig in the dirt.

Always wants to dig in the dirt.

Playing with loose puzzle pieces from an abandoned puzzle.

Playing with loose puzzle pieces from an abandoned puzzle.

Animal puzzles Mommy and Daddy put together years ago.

Animal puzzles Mommy and Daddy put together years ago.

Cozy (and cute!) sweater vest for our walk.

Cozy (and cute!) sweater vest for our walk.

Playing with a big pink umbrella in his favorite under-table hang out spot.

Playing with a big pink umbrella in his favorite under-table hang out spot.

Confusing

The way that babies and toddlers learn language is absolutely amazing. Sometimes I think we take it for granted a bit and forget how truly hard and amazing it is for them to learn to understand (and then speak) all these new words. Because, not only are the words new to them, but the objects/emotions/actions/etc. being described by the words are also new. And for us it feels like we have just always known and understood all these words and things, but really it all started somewhere, probably before we were even born. I am loving watching Lewis go through this phase of language learning – seeing how he reacts to new words, seeing which ones seem confusing to him, which spark him to try saying them himself, etc.

In the mornings Lewis loves to steal Daddy’s 3DS and phone from his lunch box while he is getting his shoes on. One morning Chris told him that he had “snatched” them, and Lewis stopped and looked up at him and you could just see in his face that he was thinking “What was that you just said? That’s a new word – I haven’t heard that before.”

Some words that he hears for the first time he immediately seems to like the way they sound. He might get excited and laugh, and often he will make an attempt to say the interesting word himself. This has happened with both the words “scissors” and “sizzle” which he now says both as “sizzizzz.” He also finds the word “spatula” interesting and makes an attempt at saying it, although I won’t try to type it because I don’t know how to “spell” or put into writing most of the sounds he makes. A lot of his words sound either like a string of vowels or a string of consonants.

Our language can also be confusing in that a word can have multiple meanings (bare and bear) or two very different words can have a similar sound.

When we are playing outside and he starts digging in the dirt and rocks on the ground I sometimes use the word “gravel” when talking to him about what he is playing with, at which point he begins growling.

When he sees the coffee pot on the counter or a mug he now does a fake “coughing” sound.

When he has raisins for a snack or is requesting some raisins he will rub the raisin (or his finger) over his cheek to indicate a razor, like when Daddy shaves.

[No pictures today. I very strangely seem to have not taken any photos yet this week.]