Organizing Toddler Clothes: Lingerie Laundry Bags

Posted by Carly Morgan

In the two weeks before I ended up on bed rest, I went through a fit of nesting. I made big changes to the nursery (which remain frustratingly unfinished) and tied up a thousand little loose ends around the house that were bothering me. Some changes were necessary, but most were just little things that I thought might make life easier. Now, many of those unnecessary changes are making my life much easier and giving me at least a semblance of control/participation in the day-to-day of the Morgan household.

One of those fixes dealt with Eva’s clothing situation. As Eva approached toddlerhood, she started showing a lot more independence when it came to things like getting dressed in the morning. It wasn’t so much that she wanted to dress herself (a terror of getting her head stuck in shirts has stunted that development) as it was that she wanted to design her outfits. It was sweet and funny at first, watching her pick out things that didn’t match or letting her pair sweatpants with her Minnie Mouse costume, but as time went on dressing Eva became a huge pain.

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She was very insistent about picking out her own clothes, especially in the morning before school, and she would often want to wear outfits that were not only mismatched but impossible, such as two sweaters, a headband, and a pair of socks. When she did manage to put together an outfit that covered all necessary parts of her body, it almost always included some completely unnecessary element, like  a poncho or a ski hat.

 

We also had a laundry problem, in that Eva constantly emptied her drawers of clothing in search of the perfect outfit and then I had to do the icky Mom smell test to determine if things were clean or dirty. It’s a little thing, but when it happens every day it starts to really grind on one’s nerves. It also cut into my work time, since I would clean her room after she went to school, only to have her destroy it again in search of her new post-nap outfit. So, when I started thinking about putting the shared nursery together and finding a place for her baby brother’s clothes, I realized that we were going to have to come up with some sort of wardrobe overhaul.

I did initially think about putting much of her clothing in storage, in the same way that I had thinned out her toys, since Eva Diva has quite the closet. Ultimately, this wasn’t a good solution for a few reasons. One is that Eva is still flirting with potty training and her clothing consumption goes way up on diaper-free days. Another issue was that she continues to grow quickly (up if not out) so clothes taken out of rotation would likely miss her all together. The final problem is that, unlike her toys, I’m not in control of most of her wardrobe. About 99% of it is made up of gifts from family and taking them away just seemed mean. So, I needed to come up with a way for Eva to be involved in selecting her outfits without allowing her to burrow through all of the drawers in a daily display of toddler frustration.

The solution has worked out surprisingly well: lingerie laundry bags. If you aren’t familiar, lingerie bags are small mesh bags with zippers that are designed to hold your delicates when you toss them into the wash with everything else. I guess I don’t have the kind of delicates that necessitate these bags so I had to do a Target run to pick some up, but I was happy to find a Room Essentials branded lingerie bag for $1-2 a piece. I picked up a dozen, brought them home, put together twelve outfits, and zipped them up. Now, Eva’s main drawer in the dresser contains the zipped bags and she can peek at them to choose an outfit.

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We also have a drawer for “extras”, which are shirts/leggings/etc. that didn’t make it into the outfit bags that week and we use those either for messy play clothes or as sub-ins if she has a spill. When she’s getting dressed for school in the morning Eva knows that she can only pick the outfit bags out and not mess with any other pieces of clothing.

I can’t even tell you how helpful this has been, as OCD and anal retentive as it is. Cutting Eva’s options back make the mornings go much smoother and she’s content to peer at the top two or three bags and pick without digging through all of them. I’ve also tried to be consistent about the outfits in the bags so that she knows what to expect when the outfit is on.

Other benefits include the fact that she’s rarely mismatched anymore, clothes that go together are now being worn together (therefore fading evenly), and we can easily grab a bag or two if she’s headed out for a long playdate or needs a backup outfit for school. It doesn’t take any more time to do her laundry either, since we keep the emptied bags in the drawer and refill them when the clothes come out of the dryer. If anything, it’s keeping her clothes much neater because she isn’t trampling them on the floor.

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Now that I’m on bed rest, I have to admit that this has been a sanity saver. I’m not the one who dresses Eva in the morning these days and I’m glad that my mother and Kyle don’t have to put up with the power struggle that was once picking an outfit for school. I also get to put the outfits together still since they bring in the bags and laundry, which is very controlling of me but it gives me a nice mom feeling to be able to dress her.

Plus, my (adored) husband doesn’t always understand which top matches which pants and hasn’t had the benefit of learning all of Eva’s clothing quirks. For example, she has a black and grey jacket that she loves, but the sleeves are cut in such a way as to make layering over another long-sleeved top almost impossible. If you do get it on over long sleeves, two things are certain: (1) she will become drenched at every hand-washing because she can’t push her sleeves up and (2) the armpits will bunch up in the car seat just when you’ve merged onto the freeway and she will scream as though she’s being boiled alive unless you find an exit and fix it. I now know to pair it with a particularly light t-shirt that wouldn’t bunch up if you paid it and Eva gets to continue wearing her favorite pain-in-the-butt jacket.

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Oh, and if you’re worried about Eva’s stunted creativity since she’s dealing with Type A Mom, you’ll be pleased to know that I filled one of her drawers with socks and accessories, which she is allowed to rifle through after she puts her outfit on. If I had completely removed her ability to go all Edith Head on me, I’m pretty sure she would have run away from home. Besides, you never know when an outfit might need that little extra something…

Gifts and Supplies for Pregnancy Bed Rest

Posted by Carly Morgan

When I was first put on pregnancy bed rest, I did a search for lists of supplies or suggestions. I was surprised that there wasn’t much out there…apparently the rate of bloggers who have been bed rested is pretty low. I did find some suggestions, but they were obvious things (books, movies, etc.) and not the practical tips or proven indulgences that I wanted.

 

So, over the last week, I’ve been keeping track of the things that have either come up as very necessarily or which have happily floated into the house from well-wishers. Here’s a preliminary list of the things that I’ve found to be both necessary and incredibly comforting:

 

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1. Cute pajamas. I’ve blogged about how I practically live in pajamas since I work at home, but really what I meant was that I exist in a perpetual yoga pants/camisole/sweatshirt outfit which I shouldn’t even be using to answer the door, let alone leave the house in. Now that I’m on bed rest, it turns out that most of my sleepwear is too bulky, tight, or warm to wear while being in bed all day. I’m also suddenly facing the curious circumstance of entertaining people from my bed, since visitors have been coming by to pass the time. It occurred to me early that I didn’t want to see everyone while wearing the same old grungy t-shirts and skimpy PJ tops, so I dispatched my mom to get me some cuter thin pajamas that weren’t too revealing. I’m now much more comfortable, although I did forget that I needed maternity jams. All these online shops are starting to call my name…

 

2. Sheets. I’ve never looked at so many sheets online! I don’t know what the sheet situation is in your house, but we have a king size bed (acquired just last summer) and we only have two pairs of sheets: thin for summer, flannel for winter. Usually I strip the bed on Sunday and wash everything, but now that I live in bed it isn’t practical for me to hang out for a few hours while everything gets washed. So, we’ve had to sub in the too-warm winter sheets and then I basically lay here for hours and wish I was laying on something else. Again, not something I ever would have thought of, but definitely something that pops up when you’re trapped in bed.

 

3. Hand lotion, nail polish, and lip balm. I did find someone who had posted online about how important it is to keep a compact and your cosmetics close by so you felt your best even in bed, but I’m not that kind of lady even when I’m not in bed, so my lipstick is safely stored in another room of the house right now. What I am craving are the little creature comforts: a good smelling hand cream and a nice, thick lip balm. I’m also vaguely obsessed with my nails, which currently feature the ragged remnants of a manicure from last month. Since polishing my nails is something I can do in bed (and a nice way to feel a little more presentable now that I have company stopping by), I expect I’ll be paying a lot more attention to my manicure this summer.

 

4. Gift baskets from Harry and David’s. Lots of treats have been delivered to my room, from snacks to sundaes. I love it – food is a nice pick-me-up and it’s great to have things nearby that I can pick at without bothering anybody. Since I’m not moving around a lot, I’ve noticed that I really need to be careful about my salt and sugar or I start to not feel good, so if I was thinking of a gift for someone in my position, I’d be all about the fruit baskets. I’ve vaguely obsessed with Harry and David’s and if you know me, it’s likely I’ve gifted you with one of their baskets before. They do candies and things like that, but most of their stuff is fruits and cheese and other yumminess that would last a while for someone on bed rest. They also have beautiful flowers, which would be a nice thought. Kyle bought me a bunch of tulips when I first ended up in bed and I absolutely adore them.

 

5. iTunes gift cards. I got a bunch of these for the holidays and since I landed in bed I’ve used them all up buying apps, online magazines, and TV episodes. I am overly loaded on Apple products, so this might not be a great suggestion if the bed-rester isn’t as hooked up as I am, but the iTunes store has been a lifesaver. In addition to being convenient, it’s been great to have digital copies of movies/books because I can’t move around too much and shuffling between books or yelling to have someone put a DVD in got old pretty fast. I also picked up an audio book from iTunes since I often need to be in a position where it’s impossible to use/see a computer and listening to the book on my iPod really helped to pass the time.

 

6. Mara beads. Note: This is a totally personal preference, so you can sub in some other focus object if you have one that you feel more comfortable with. Mara beads are used in meditation as a physical way to keep yourself focused. The idea is that you say an affirmation or comfort phrase over and over again, touching a bead each time. The beads give you both something to do with your hands and an “end point” so your mind doesn’t stray too far from what you should be concentrating on. As someone who has a hard time with meditation because I can’t stay focused, I’m a major mara beads fan, and ever since I got into bed I’ve noticed that too much down time leaves me spinning with thoughts about what the odds are for the pregnancy and all the things that can go wrong. It would be nice to have something to focus on while I think calm, positive thoughts about our son. Of course, I have no idea where my mara beads are currently because I’m not a focused person, but theoretically…

 

7. 100% cranberry juice. This falls into the practical-not-sexy side of supplies, but if you were looking for things that you might need or a thoughtful gift that would be really helpful, this is one of those. One of the biggest dangers for pregnancy bed rest is any kind of infection and unfortunately pregnant women in general are prone to issues like urinary tract infections. Usually it’s not that big of a deal, but it’s seriously scary stuff if you’re at risk for preterm labor, so it’s a good idea to do everything you can to prevent that issue. Drinking 100% cranberry juice (note: full juice not juice cocktail) is kind of gross, but it’s been proven to do big time healthy things for women. You can also stock up on live culture yogurts and tons of fresh fruit to boost your infection resistance. Other practical-not-sexy supplies for bed rest: boxes of kleenex, bottles of water, baby wipes for cleaning hands after you eat, probiotic supplements, eyeglass wipes, eye drops, and non-slip socks.

 

8. MacBook Air. If you really wanted to spoil someone on bed rest or you felt like indulging yourself, I recommend Apple’s ultra-light laptop. I don’t own one but I’ve been drooling nonstop over them ever since I realized that my laptop is very difficult to use while laying bed. Remember: I’m nearly flat most of the time, so I’m typing one-handed (usually blind) and constantly struggling to get the laptop in a good position. I’m also not supposed to lift anything heavier than five pounds and my MacBook Pro weighs a lot more than that, so when I want to move it I either have to slide it carefully or yell for someone. The MacBook Air is light enough to be lifted, thin enough to be tilted or propped easily, and comes loaded with apps. It’s important to note that there’s no DVD drive, but you can buy one separately and plug it in if that’s important to you. I watch things on Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime On Demand so DVDs are usually an afterthought. Of course, with a starting tag of $1000 the MacBook Air isn’t the cheapest investment, but if it’s the only thing keeping you from staring at the ceiling it’s probably not a bad thought!

 

A few other tips for pregnancy bed rest:

Stick to a somewhat normal schedule. It’s tempting to just sleep the day away, but I’ve found that it’s challenging to sleep when other people are awake and then be up all night by myself because if I need something (food, help, etc.) and Kyle is sleeping I’m kind of on my own. I’ve also found that I get a lot more stressed and worried at night, probably because there’s nothing to distract me. It’s much better to sleep through all of that and keep myself busy during the day.

Don’t overclutter. I mentioned before that I really cut down on books, etc., after the first few days because I got overwhelmed. Part of the problem is that I can’t lift a ton and another part was that I kept rolling over and landing on copies of Lucky or my giant pregnancy books. Ultimately, it is really important that your space is clear so you can stay comfortable and not make yourself crazy, so try not to drag everything into bed with you at once.

Bed rest hurts a lot. The first couple of days were awful. On top of the stress, my whole body felt like it was on fire because my muscles wanted to move and stretch. I was worried that it would be that way forever, but once I settled I got a lot more comfortable. I’m now going the other way where I’m shaky when I get up to use the bathroom, though, so be prepared to go slowly after a while.

Let go of stuff. I’m a privileged brat because I have lots of help and I know that some people out there aren’t as lucky as I am. That being said, give up as much control as you can over everything. Part of bed rest is staying calm so it’s important that you don’t focus too much on what could happen medically, what you need to be getting done, or what everyone else is doing that you would have done differently. I started out being a little stressed because Kyle doesn’t clean the house the same way that I do and my mom doesn’t know all of Eva’s habits and schedules like I do and farming out my work meant that things weren’t going to get done the way I would do them, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter at all. I have a short window of time in which to just focus on this baby and everything else will take care of itself.

Do your best. At the end of the day, if things don’t work out, you’ll feel better if you think you did absolutely everything you could do. So don’t cheat on bed rest by doing just a few chores or sitting up more than you’re supposed to. I keep getting tempted, but I remind myself that my end goal here is pretty specific and even if it’s only for my own sanity, I want to know that I did as much as I could here.

Preterm Labor: An Update

Posted by Carly Morgan

I’m home.

 

I had surgery on Tuesday and it went very well. After they had monitored me through the night to be sure the baby and I are OK, they sent me back home for strict bed rest. I’m thrilled to be unhooked from all the wires and freed from the hourly checks and my heart goes out to the women that spend weeks on hospital bed rest.

 

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I should explain more about what’s going on. I’m still hesitant to share too much, since there’s a limit to the amount of medical knowledge that needs to flow here, but the basic idea for preterm labor is that your body stops thinking it needs to hold onto the pregnancy and starts preparing to be finished with it all. To really break it down, there are two things that happen when you have a baby. One is that your muscles contract to push the baby out and the other is that your body allows the baby to be pushed out. In preterm labor, it’s possible that both things may be happening, but for women in my situation, there are no contractions to tell you that your body is doing this. There’s simply a “letting go” and usually the problem isn’t diagnosed until the baby has been born too early. It’s a heartbreaking problem because the common scenario is that you’re just walking around feeling completely healthy and suddenly you have a baby that hasn’t developed enough to survive outside of your body. Most often, it happens in this terrible window of time in which the baby looks perfect and may survive for a few hours, but is just a week or so short of being able to make it. The whole thing is very sad.

 

In our case, even though the last week has been very difficult, we are potentially looking at a miracle combination of circumstances. As I mentioned in my last post, the reason we found out that my body was doing this is because we returned for a second ultrasound after our baby wouldn’t cooperate during the gender scan. At the time of our first scan, everything was normal and there were absolutely no signs of preterm labor. Under the normal guidelines, I wasn’t due to have any other ultrasounds after that even though ultrasound is the only way to diagnose this condition (called cervical incompetency). If the baby hadn’t been stubborn about letting us see his heart and the doctor hadn’t decided to “treat” us to a whole second scan, we never would have seen that my body wasn’t hanging onto the baby. In fact, I was progressed enough that it’s likely he would have been born at some point in the last week, without any notice or warning. Instead, I’ve had a surgery designed to help support him and I’m on bed rest to keep gravity and pressure from making the problem worse. Instead of tragedy, we have hope.

 

It’s a time of very mixed feelings. I haven’t had much time to think “why is this happening to us?” because there’s really more reason to think about everything that hasn’t happened to us yet. As I mentioned, this is not how this story usually plays out. When I was seven, my mother gave birth to my brother far too early. She was, in fact, almost exactly at the same place in her pregnancy and one day he just came. More than twenty years have blurred the edges of that memory, but I remember panic, bleeding, a fast drive to the hospital, and a baby who stretched and grasped and turned dark from a lack of oxygen over the short hours that he was alive. When we first saw the problem on the ultrasound a week ago, I didn’t think there was any chance that we’d avoid meeting our son the same way. Everyday since then has been a surprise loosely bound by prayer, outside support, and complete reliance on medical guidance. It’s also been a testament to the fact that I married the right person, since Kyle and I have been together on this through every decision and risk. He’s such a rock. It’s impossible not to feel very lucky in light of our circumstances.

 

So there we have it: another day, another curve ball. Sorry, this is sort of turning out to be the worst mom blog ever with all of our weird problems and special circumstances. Keep your fingers crossed that I stay bored for a long time. The next big goal is nine weeks away and that’s where my focus is. Suggestions for movies, TV shows, and books are very welcome!

 

And Then Everything Changed

Posted by Carly Morgan

I’m typing this while flat on my back in bed. The laptop is raised on a TV table carefully balanced on the pillows around me so that no weight is on my stomach. The sun is just starting to come through our bedroom window and I can tell that we had late snowfall last night because I can just barely catch a glimpse of the roof over our back porch. Snow means that Eva needs a heartier breakfast than usual and snow boot negotiation needs to happen as soon as possible so she isn’t trapped in an endless cycle of deciding between her three favorite pairs. She also needs to head out the door a little early since the parking lot at her preschool gets crazy in the snow, with people sliding around and kids falling everywhere.

 

But today it’s not my responsibility.

 

I was placed on bed rest on Thursday. We went in for a follow-up ultrasound to get a better look at the baby’s heart. They weren’t concerned about it, but our son was stubborn during his gender scan and wouldn’t give them a clear picture. It was just a fun treat that we were going to be able to see him for a second time. He wiggled a lot, pushing his feet out towards us, and we made jokes and commented on how differently Eva moved when she was cooking. Then they caught something on the ultrasound and they called the doctor in and then we had to go see our other doctor and four hours later I was in bed at home.

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I don’t know what or how much to write. I thought seriously about just evaporating from the online world altogether, since typing in this position is very challenging and there is a limit to how much I need to share here. I can tell you that our baby is perfectly healthy and I’m perfectly healthy but my body isn’t pulling its weight. I can also tell you that I’m going into the hospital tomorrow and I’ll be there for at least a couple of days. The hope is that I can come home and spend the next 15 weeks on my back, giving our kid the time he needs. There is a chance that I might need to stay in the hospital for a while longer. There’s even a chance that I’ll be in the hospital through the summer. That’s a weird thought and I can’t wrap my mind around it, so I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.

In the meantime, here I am on my fifth day of bed rest. The baby is still where he belongs and everyone is surviving. In fact, it hasn’t been nearly as crazy as I thought it would be. People have stepped up to fill out all the holes that my absence creates and Eva will soon be woken, bathed, brushed, fed, dressed, and packed off to school. Later she’ll be picked up, fed lunch, put down for a nap, and then she’ll play all afternoon until my husband comes home to clean, cook, shop, and take care of our kid. Through all of it, I’ll be here, catching glimpses from the bedroom door and congratulating myself on every minute that ticks by and keeps me pregnant.

 

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I appreciate everyone who has called or sent texts. We are, believe it or not, doing OK right now. Things are under control and, under the circumstances, everything is about as good as it can be. I’m doing what I need to do, Kyle is doing what he needs to do, and Eva is well looked after. No matter what happens, we’ll be able to say that we did everything we could do. It’s just a waiting game…

 

Montessori in the Kitchen: A First and Second Attempt

Posted by Carly Morgan

I mentioned back in November that I had been inspired by a book called How to Raise an Amazing Child the Montessori Way. A friend recommended it when Eva’s room had gotten completely out of control and so we updated the nursery to fit closer to the Montessori style (less stuff, more thought). The nursery redesign worked out so well that I’m actually doing a 2.0 version of it and cutting back even more. It’s funny, because it seems on the surface like it’s mean to box up most of Eva’s stuff and only let her keep a few things out, but it’s obvious that paring down actually allows her to enjoy her things (and her space) more. Definitely a mom lesson in there about what I need to be doing about my own stuff.

When I redid her room, I also followed the book’s advice on adding a kitchen space for independent food prep. The Montessori method is all about letting kids be self-sufficient and though I can’t totally get on board with all of the ideologies in the book, I really like the advice on bringing your home down to your kid’s level. The book suggested that Eva should have a space in each room of the house where she could participate in appropriate activities on her own level. For the kitchen, it suggests an area where Eva can reach and prepare her own snacks, a pouring station for getting a drink, and perhaps a few “works” (activities) to keep her busy if I’m going to be spending a lot of time in the kitchen.

To create her space back in November, I took the glass doors off a metal cabinet that I had spray painted a couple of years back. We’d been using it to hold our wedding dishes, but I was able to make space for them in the hutch and with the doors removed the cabinet was the perfect size for Eva.

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I added different stations in the cabinet so that she’d have lots of options. The top shelf was designed to offer a variety of dry snacks that could be mixed together in the provided bowls (sort of a trail mix station). We found the small plastic containers at a local Asian market for about a dollar a piece and I filled them with nut-free cereals and dried fruit.

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Her drink station was on the lower shelf. It contained a pitcher of water, a few different cups to choose from, and a pile of small dishcloths that she could use for spills.

We also picked up a small broom and dustpan in case she had a trail mix spill.

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The bottom shelf held additional “works” so that she could be occupied while I’m worked in the kitchen. I spend a fair amount of time cooking and baking these days, since there are a bunch of things that have to be homemade in order to be safe for Eva, so I was excited about the prospect of not having to haul a tub of toys in whenever I wanted her to be entertained. The first work was a tray with a bucket of beans, a handful of different metal utensils (purchased at the Asian market) and a small wooden bowl. The work was designed to teach her about scooping and dumping.

The next work was a set of salt shakers with different items in them. This is a smell work – designed to teach her about how different things can smell. The shakers hold peppermint sticks (enhanced with some mint flavoring), a couple of strong-smelling tea bags, cubes of scented wax, and mulling spices.

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The last work was a basket of puff balls and a small pair of tweezers, designed to teach her about pinching small objects. When we purchased them, Eva had never used tweezers before so this was a brand new skill.

When we introduced Eva to the shelf, she absolutely loved it. She interacted with every station immediately and when she spilled or made a mess, she got a thrill out of using the towels and hand broom. She was also very excited about having 24/7 access to cereal and raisins.

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Now, just about six months later, it was time to reevaluate the kitchen station.

What was working: Eva loved having her own space in the kitchen and went there multiple times a day, even if we were in other rooms. The beans and puff balls were her favorite things and she managed to go through almost all of the utensils daily.

What wasn’t working: Lots of things weren’t working. For one, the food and drink stations had been abandoned for a couple of months. Although Eva loved them, she mostly loved making mixes and did not really love eating the mixes. Bowls of trail mix stayed uneaten on the shelves for days until we cleaned them up and usually they contained dried beans and puff balls as well as food. In fact, although Eva was having a ball, the whole thing deteriorated into a hot mess pretty quickly because using the towels and broom was just as fun as playing, so there was no reason for her not to dump a cup full of beans on the floor and top it off with a pitcher full of water (and maybe a handful of cereal sprinkled on top). We cleaned lots of those messes before we abandoned the food/drink and just let her use the space to hold toys.

Now that I’m redoing Eva’s room to make it even more like the Montessori book suggests, I knew it was time to take another look at the kitchen. I decided that my first attempt was too advanced, since it might have been perfect for a slightly older child but my kid is still in the dump and scatter phase. The cabinet I had used was also problematic, because the deep shelves made it hard to clean food messes and even on a good day there was lots of stuff crowded together. I decided that Eva needed a simpler, more open area with stations that were much more defined, so I went to the local thrift store and spent $20 on some wooden shelves and a bunch of baskets.

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Eva’s new station takes up less space in the kitchen, but it seems to be working out better than the other did.

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To start, I added a few clothespins to the wall above the station (held on by 3M contact strips so the walls aren’t damaged). I clipped a couple of pieces of artwork and a recent photo to give Eva a place in the kitchen to display her work, since our fridge is always pretty crowded.

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For the top shelf, I changed the drink station up a bit. The last pitcher proved too enticing, since filling and dumping from the pitcher is the greatest thing Eva has ever discovered. It now lives a new life as a bath toy and Eva’s drink station has a plain old Starbucks bottle filled with water and a small plastic cup along with some towels for cleaning spills. The cup is one of many that we picked up at a restaurant supply store, but I only put one out at a time because it cuts back on the dumping. Note: in the photo the pitcher is filled with water, but I now only keep as much water in there as will fill in those small cups because Eva is still learning about things like “cup capacity” and “not pouring out an entire bottle at one time”.

For some reason, I didn’t take a photo of the other station on top of the shelf. It has one plate, one bowl, a fork, and a spoon. We only use the space occasionally when Eva is “cooking”. The cooking tasks that she’s working on right now include cutting a banana into slices, stirring fruit into yogurt, and spreading cream cheese on bagels. She has small cheese knives that I pull out when she’s cooking, but I don’t leave them on the station because I don’t want her to run around with them when we aren’t having supervised cooking time.

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The second shelf contains baskets of snack foods. After the disaster that was open bins of cereal, I decided to package the foods individually and used old baby food jars to hold things like crackers, cookies, and dried fruit. The next basket holds applesauce in cups and pouches, as well as one box of fruit juice a day, and the last has a stash of raisin boxes. Usually, I would be worried about Eva pigging out and filling up on junk, but ever since she turned out to be in the failure-to-thrive weight range, we let her eat whatever she wants, whenever she wants. In fact, I wish I could tell you that she pigs out, but she usually eats about two jars and a pouch of applesauce a day and leaves the rest. We’re trying to keep the foods as varied as possible so she stays interested, since her boring nut-free diet is a likely culprit of her slow weight gain. If anyone has any ideas for snacks, let me know!

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Maintaining this food station has been a lot easier than the old one was because it’s very clear when the baskets or jars are empty. I only let her have one open at a time and she knows to put the jars on the counter when they’re empty or bring them back to me with the lid if she’s eaten as much as she wants and there’s still more in there. It would be cheaper not to have to buy boxes of raisins or pouches of applesauce, but the cost is really quite low when you think about it and it’s nice to have it so contained. I think of it as prepping Eva’s “fourthmeal” – when she goes to bed, I can just pop into the kitchen and refill jars and baskets for the next day. The only thing I really need to check throughout the day is her water bottle and usually she’ll bring it to me if she wants more water.

The other two shelves hold works for Eva to do in the kitchen. The shelf in the middle is very thin because of the way the shelves are stacked (they’re actually two IKEA shoe racks stacked on top of each other). I somehow didn’t take a picture of one of the baskets, but it holds a small wooden elephant puzzle. The other basket holds her beloved puff balls, this time with tweezers and two glass bowls. Eva works on using the tweezers to move the puff balls from one bowl to the other. We introduced new sizes to make it a little more challenging and, even though it sounds boring, she can do it for around an hour and never look up.

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The lower shelf has what the Montessori method calls a “treasure basket”. It’s a catch-all for items that have currently caught Eva’s interest and it’s designed to be refilled every month (or week if you’re ambitious). In the photo, I have her current favorite $1 Target bin cow along with the smelling shakers, but I took the shakers out after realizing that Eva was over them so these days the basket has the cow, a squishy ball that lights up, a rubber caterpillar, and a small piece of fabric that she’s been carrying around occasionally.

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The last work is a basket tray with counting bears and cups. This is to replace the beans, because although Eva loved, loved, LOVED her dried beans, I was sick of finding them all over the house. I kept all of the utensils and beans, but they’re bagged up and they only come out when we’re sitting down to do an activity together. The bears are much more manageable and even though Eva is mostly just dumping them and picking them up, we’re working on color sorting and a little bit of counting. I know that tons of homeschool parents use counting bears for all sorts of things, but I haven’t even begun to explore that whole other world.

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All in all, the second attempt at Eva’s Montessori kitchen station is going really well. She still makes the occasional mess, but it’s not as bad and she’s better about cleaning it up. I love that most messes also fall through the slats in the shelves so I can just do a quick sweep at night and not dig around in between things on the shelf to find rogue raisins. Part of it may just be that Eva is six months older and the novelty of mess making has worn off a bit, but I think she has an easier time now that everything is really separated and she only has to deal with one basket at a time. I am a little sad that the first version didn’t work out, since we put so much effort into it, but I think that cabinet is moving to the living room since Eva needs her own space in that room as well. Who knows…maybe we’ll be able to create something just as fun…

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