Friday, June 29, 2012

Basement Make Over

Once upon a time I used to all the time.  and I loved it.  Like free therapy.  Just sitting down and writing whatever is on my mind, bragging about the kids, showing off my cute pictures.

Now I just can't find the time.  I guess that happens when you have two rug rats.

Maybe I will start up again.  Maybe I won't.  I guess it will just be one day at a time... but here is a post I've been wanting to throw on here for a little while:

Our Basement Make Over

When we first moved in we had some issues in the basement.  Aside from it being hideous with its wood paneling covering some meters and the electric box, and the rest of the walls being covered in this super glossy wood wallpaper (YUK!)... there was a mold issue that needed to be addressed. 

Nate did wonders with this demo.  He had some help from his dad and from my mom who was super enough to step in and do what I couldn't... what with Owen gestating and all.  It seemed to take forever.  We had pretty extensive plans about what we would be doing to finish it.  But our beer budget won out over our champagne tastes and we modified our expectations to something that works for us now.  And you know what... while I do love me some champagne, we love beer too!  

Just as I reached my breaking point with toys ALL OVER THE PLACE! We evaluated where we were with our basement make over and what it needed to become useable.  We didn't need perfect, we needed usable.  For now.  Until we had more time and money.  It was going on a year since we had moved in and started this project and we needed to make this space usable...thereby doubling (almost) the square footage of our house!

Here is what we got....  It ended up being that perfect room we thought we were sacrificing.  Maybe it isn't what we thought we would be doing, but it turned out perfect to suit our needs.  Instead of putting up sheet rock, we took advantage of the clean look of the white waterproofing paint on the cinderblock.  For flooring we picked some inexpensive industrial type carpet at home depot.  It came in one giant roll cut right at the store that Nate and I put down ourselves.

Oliver's cars trucks and trains all have a home in one corner of the basement....although plenty of them find their way upstairs still.  Seriously, they are in every room of the house plus the yard AND the van. But this corner is their home.

In the middle of the room I laid out a foam puzzle mat for Owen (yeah right like he stays on there) and surrounded it with age appropriate toys for him...but he still prefers to be all up in his brother's business.  The white unit with red bins is from Ikea and houses tons of baby toys.

I made a little sports corner.  not quite what I imagined it would be, but that's ok since we really shouldn't be sporting too much inside anyway.  But I like organizing by theme so here is where we have a bucket filled with balls of varying size, color, density and sport; a collapsable tunnel; a few bowling pins; and a bean bag toss.

Another themed station I wanted to have was a musical play area.  Here we find all our different instruments and the iPod loaded with nothing but Music Together, Imagination Movers, and the Neverland Pirate Band.

Aside from the music station, the other area of the play room that holds the most importance to me is the reading area.  Actually, I think I had the highest expectations for our "library"even though the boys aren't ready to enjoy this area in the way I am eager for them to.

It's not totally what I want from a reading area, but as they grow and learn to appreciate this part of the room more and the toys less, we will clear out some room to put out maybe a mattress and some more big pillows to make the comfy reading nook I have been dreaming of.  I have these very romantic notions of curling up with my boys and reading Brian Jacques to them for hours on end, followed by CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien of course.  Yeah...we are YEARS and YEARS from that.

BUT Oliver has enjoyed tossing pillows on the floor and lying on his tummy next to me while we read some books about Thomas the Train, trucks, and more trucks... so once again I have edited my expectations and found enjoyment at his level.

Directly across from our reading chairs and shorter bookcase is this taller bookcase housing the more delicate books.  Paper books and other more advanced reading that we will get to.  I love these shelves because I was able to organize them into mini libraries.  All of the Suess books are together on one shelf, the Eric Carle books on another.  The "How Do Dinosaurs ____" books are together in one place  and random books about pirates face forward in their own collection, separating two non-categorized groups of books placed sorted by shape and size.  The bin on the bottom shelf is filled with seasonal and holiday books.  I had a blast doing this.  I should probably be a librarian. 

Confession- I think THE most romantic cinematic moment goes to the scene in Beauty and the Beast when the Beast shows Belle the library for the first time.  That scene always takes my breath away and leaves me wishing I could live in that moment of that fairy tale forever.  (As a matter of fact, look closely at the middle snow globe on the top shelf of the tall is that scene!)

Here are my boys enjoying their play areas.  Makes all the hard work worth it.

My dad picked up this table for the kids at a flee market.  I love it.  It fits perfect in my daydreams of homeschooling my kids.  It has been great for mini art projects so far.

The closet to the left of the table had nothing going for it but an overhead light, so Nate came the rescue and put up these shelves for me.

Again, I have this notion that I will do some home learning with the kids so I really wanted this space to help me facilitate that.  Educational type toys are located in here.  Along with some crayons, play doh and paper.

Here are puzzles, lacing boards, wood blocks, shape sorters and lacing beads.  Putting them all together made me realize what neat stuff my kids have for them.  You really don't realize how much learning your kids are doing JUST BY PLAYING! Well maybe you do, but it's always refreshing to catch a clear glimpse of that.

On the side of the closet I hung a bar for costumes, put other miscellaneous dress-up items in a bin, and threw Oliver's doctor kit and tool box up top on a ledge.  Eventually I will hang a mirror on the inside of the door to complete this role play space, but Oliver is not at all in to this type of play yet.

This wall is not yet completed.  Eventually it will home a DIY play kitchen, as Oliver has been really adorable in his practical play desires whenever we come across a kitchen set.  We actually got main piece of it up tonight and he had a blast, so once the finishing touches are added I will tell you all about it.

Another great feature about our playroom being in the basement is that it is dog free.  We love our puppy to pieces and had every intention of having her downstairs with us... but she won't come down the stairs.  It turned out nice.  It's a place for the kids to play and she is not in the way, Oliver isn't bullying her, and Owen isn't swimming in dog hair as he crawls/pulls himself around.

Major props to Baby Daddy Natey Poo for all his hard work putting in the physical labor to make our basement the best most funnest room in the house!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Very Special Special

As a reward for being Really Useful (apparently that's the biggest compliment on the Island of Sodor), Oliver was treated to a day out with his best buddy Thomas!

We didn't exactly tell him what we were doing, but all morning he was asking for Choo Choo, so we thought the baby genius had figured it out.  But then again he saw me grabbing some Thomas DVDs for the 1hour-ish car ride up there.  Or maybe he knew we were up to something.  Who knows.  The kid's too smart.  I did tell him we had a Special Surprise for him... and then because I watch way too much Thomas and I could resist, I called it his "Special Special."

He was pretty psyched when we got there and he saw what was up.

When he saw Thomas he stared waving and gave chase as he made his way down the track.  Adorable! Too cute for words!  I just loved how excited and in awe he was.

There were lots of other things to check out there, too.  Oliver is very impressed by these Early American Steam Engines.  They sure are pretty neat.

We HAD to get a Thomas tattoo.  On his hand.  Just like his Gymbo the Clown stamp he gets at Gymboree.  He kept looking down and rediscovering it all day.  Unfortunately it was gone by bedtime.

And then there was the moment I nearly cried....

...his first carnival ride!  

Oliver loves the quarter rides in the mall, but usually bolts if you actually put a quarter in them to make them move.  Well, the night before going to ride with "the Cheeky One" we happened to be at the mall, and I happened to have quarters.  For the first time he was excited to really ride the little trucks.  It was kind of a relief for us since we weren't 100% sure how Oliver would take to riding a train.  There's a train that runs inside the mall and he loves watching and chasing after it, but was terrified when we attempted to get him on it.  And back in December he loved seeing all the vehicles at the Touch-a-Truck, but didn't want to climb up in them.  Well, he is officially a big boy now.  

Oliver barely cracked a smile the entire day.  You would think he was miserable, but we know our kid... furrowed eyebrows aside, we could tell he was having a great time.  He is always very serious and focuses all his energy in absorbing new experiences. 

So remember that time he was afraid to sit in a firetruck...?

Fear's gone now!

He loved the rides.  So cute...and he actually cracked a little smile.  Briefly.

Owen actually had a great time too.  He was all smiles and giggles all day.  I forget how big he is getting sometimes.  If you noticed in the picture of me and the two boys on the train, Owen is thrown in the Moby Wrap pretty sloppily.  Well as we were heading over to board and our ride time was being announced, I nearly panicked trying to quickly get the Moby on and park the snap-n-go and strap Owen into the wrap, all without slowing Nate down too much.  So he kind of just got thrown in there so I could carry him on the train, and then I realized... he's no floppy baby that needs to be tucked in to me anymore.  He's a big baby who enjoys being out and able to experience things too.  Talk about sweet and sour!  I loved watching him giggle and reach and enjoy the ride, but I also felt a little pang of jealousy seeing all the other moms wearing their babies.

Unlike some other people there...we were not about to drop major dollars in the gift shop (as much as we wanted to), but we did score Oliver this Lego Thomas that he had a blast putting together and taking apart  over and over and over and over.  And speaking of souvenirs, I would like to take a minute to laugh at all the parents who bought $10 balloons for toddlers to carry on a windy day.  Suckers.  So glad Oliver is still oblivious to all the things he just has to have!  Oh man, someday soon we will be suckers too.  And we will be in the group of suckers with TWO kids... buying TWO overpriced balloons that will be deflated and trashed by the end of the week (if the kids manages to hold on it to that is).

At the end of the day we had two dirty little engines who needed a wash down.  

Owen now sits up in the tub making bath time much easier.  This was his first bubble bath, (we don't do bubble baths very often, they kind of seem like a waste of soap to me), and he LOVED it.  

Yeah it was an awesome day!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How to love a child...

This actually made me cry.

All a parent wants to do is protect their child from all the ugly in the world.  I feel so awful for Akian and can imagine what it felt like to his father to hear his son pushed to the point of tears by a teacher.

A teacher! How many kids are in school everyday and how many parents are putting their faith and trust in teachers to mold and guide their children.  Imagine the shock of having that person you trust with your child treat your baby in such a way!

And because of communication issues Akian can't even tell his dad what's going on!? That hit home with me... I think of my Oliver who isn't speaking at a level we want him to be at, and I am so happy to have him home with me where he is loved all day every day.  Aside from being unable financially to have sent him to daycare or preschool... I have serious trust issues, anxiety issues, control issues....whatever you want to label my issues as... when it comes to my babies.  I love them so much, maybe too much, and I don't like to think about all that can be happening when I am not with them.

Nate and I actually watched Waiting for Superman the other day and were just floored with the way things are.  That a bad teacher faces basically no consequence because of unions and tenure.  An ineffective teacher is one thing... a bully for a teacher is another!  A school will have a zero tolerance policy regarding bullying when it comes to students...but what about when the teacher is the bully?  The teacher is tenured and goes to another room... a whole new pool of victims?

I know a lot of teachers and I know that it is a very difficult job.  And I know how mentally and emotionally exhausting it can be to take  care of your own children, let alone someone else's.  But is there really any excuse for finding amusement in making an autistic child cry?

My sister works with severely disabled children as an aide.  She loves her kids.  "My babies" she calls them.  It is an incredibly difficult job and quite frankly, I am very impressed with my sister for doing it... and loving it.  It's not something I would have pictured from her several years ago.  My mother in law teaches full day kindergarden for special needs children, and she will tell you how hard it is, but she pushed for the school to start this full day class a few years ago.  My point is this:  if you can't deal with the stress of the job, if you don't have that special something that is needed for a SPECIAL NEEDS child... don't do it!  I get that misery loves company, but do you really need to bring a child down to feel better about your own situation?

Ugh...just another bean in the pot for me as I continue to consider homeschooling my babies.  I really want to, just not sure how it would go.

And then there is this video I saw (which also made me cry...but in a good way) over at Dear Baby... all about lifting a child up.  Encouraging and supporting a beautiful and innocent little boy.  May all children be loved in this way.  May all children feel special.  May all children be dream, try... to go for it.

Friday, April 20, 2012

All Aboard the Pizza Train!!!

I came across a flyer for Trackside Pizza in Wallingford a little while back and thought of my Oliver immediately.  Then one day returning some books at the library, the librarian noticed that pretty much all of Oliver's books were about trains and she mentioned how fun this place was.  

So, naturally, we just had to check it out. Plus- it's not far from the pet store where we get fish for our tank, so we were able to make the trip double fun!

The dining room is an actual train car that is practically on top the tracks.  We should have checked the train schedule before going, which is what a co-worker of Baby Daddy Natey Poo suggested, but of course we didn't and I had my fingers crossed the whole time a train would go by while we were there.

Bingo!  About halfway through our dinner a super long freight train passed right bye.  Oh the beautiful expression of wonder on my little engineer's face.  As a parent, is there anything better than seeing your child happy?  It's just a little thing, really... but we love to be able to give him little moments like this.  To feed into whatever his interests and passions are and bring excitement to those little eyes.