Sunday, November 30, 2008

Too many toys!

I have decided that Eliana has TOO MANY toys in her room. It is always a mess in there and there are just so many little pieces that get scattered around! In addition to the toys she has in her room she has toys in the family room downstairs and when both are messy it just feels like my whole house is in chaos! Some of the toys we really don't need and I'm going to freecycle them so that someone who might not have as much as we do can benefit from them. A lot of the toys really are good for her to play with developmentally, it's just that she doesn't need to play with them all at once. So.... I think I'm going to divvy up her toys into three sets and only have one set in her room at a time. Then when she gets tired of playing with those toys or it's just time for a change I can pull out a new set of toys and put the first set away. By divvying things into thirds it will give me three sets of toys to rotate between. I might do something similar with the toys in the basement, too. I think I probably ought to put a little more thought into which toys go in the basement (more group imaginative play) and what goes in her room (more of the individual developmental play) so there's actually a distinction. Some of the toys right now are just too young for her, too, and I need to put them with the other baby stuff so they are not cluttering things up.

I have tried a couple times to sort things out, but I am a piler. Then thinking about the sorting takes place as I'm sorting and it just sort of creates a giant mess that I don't get finished with during the time I've allotted for that project. So perhaps before I get into sorting again I should think out what I want to do first. =D

Currently we have two (actually three, but one needs to move) tables in the basement for Eliana to play on. One contains cardboard blocks and another has Little People on it right now. The third has a car track painted on it and I'm debating what to do with it. I also have an open space that's sort of fenced in by the two tables in the basement. I would love use this space for imaginative play. She has puppets down there already, but not set up in a good way to play with. So for the basement, here's what I'm thinking...

Building station (big table): 1. cardboard blocks 2. mega blocks 3. alphabet blocks (?)
Imagination station (open area): 1. puppets 2. dress up 3. dolls
Play station (smaller table): 1. little people 2. cars 3. trains (which we don't have yet)

Art station: I like the idea of an art station, but I think I'll set that up in my craft room to minimize the damage she can cause with a mess. =D Plus she can do art while I craft and that can be our "craft together" time. Now I just have to figure out where to put her easel in my craft room...

So given what I've planned for the basement and the craft room, that takes out the easel, mega blocks, alphabet blocks, dress up, and dolls from her room. That leaves in her room... stuffed animals, musical instruments, books, puzzles, and activity bags. I'm sure there are other things in there that I'm not remembering at the moment too, but, well, I'm not remembering those at the moment. So for her room I would like to see these areas....

Reading station: I'd like to divide her books into thirds so there are fewer of them to get scattered around. I would also like to take the glider out of her room and put her little rocking chair in there. Maybe I will (I can see a project coming here and I'm not sure I'll ever get to it, so don't hold me to it!!) make a cushion for the seat and back of the rocking chair so it's cute for her room and a little softer to sit in, too. I don't know if I can split her books into three "themes" or if it will just be a random selection of books, but there can be some Sandra Boynton and some Dr. Seuss in each set for sure.

Learning station: I have lots of little activity bags that I haven't had a place for so far. They include matching, bead threading, counting, etc. I don't know just how I want to do these yet since I don't want all the pieces to get mixed up, but I think it would be good to incorporate these. I also have some puzzles and some other things that could go in this station and get rotated through.

Music station: For this I have different kinds of instruments that I can cycle through. Ellie seems to have her favorites and I think if I switch them around then she will maybe play with some of the lesser favorites, too.

Suffed animals: This is less of a station and more of an area in which to reduce clutter. I'd like to split her stuffed animals into thirds so she has fewer to scatter around at a time. Some animals will stay out all the time (namely Kitty, Little Kitty, Star Bear, and Duck) but the others can be cycled through.

Miscellany: I just took a peek in Ellie's room and realized that the other toys in there are a lot of miscellaneous stuff. There are some bendy bunnies from Easter (which she still plays with and loves) and some stuffed peeps from the Easter before, a Barbie (from Barbie, which Ellie loves!), some slinkies, and some other miscellaneous toys. I don't know what I want to do about all these yet, since they really don't have a good home. If she didn't love them so much I could freecycle them, but she does love them and she does play with them. And really, some of them are good little toys for her to take out and about with us to keep her occupied at the grocery store. =D Now if only I could find a home for them...

So.... I think that's at least a good start on figuring out how to minimize the clutter. I'm sure I'll tweak it as I go, but hopefully once I decide to tackle this project I will actually get it done this time because I've taken the time to think it through.

I can hope, right?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Ellie's Handiwork

We did some hand art last week for Thanksgiving. The turkey card is obviously holiday specific, but I really like the thank you cards for any occasion! Plus, Eliana had a great time stamping with her hand! I just gave her a blank sheet of white cardstock and let her go crazy with the stamp pad and her hand, and after she was done I cut the sheet in half, then folded those in half to form two cards and stamped thank you across the front. I think they turned out really cute!

Eliana's Handiwork

Eliana's Handiwork


Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Leif has moved Ellie up to the next level of Starfall and she is doing great with it! She does levels 1-4 in the "play" column and she hunts around on the keyboard to find the correct letter. It's really fun to watch her putting sounds together, knowing that these are the skills that will eventually help her to read!

Monday, November 10, 2008

P is for Pumpkin

I bought this book at Barnes and Noble last week. Today is a rainy, dreary day, so I pulled it out and read it with Eliana for the first time. It is a great book! It's one of the few Christian children's books I have found that does a good job of showing God's handiwork in His creation and gives examples of how we can be reminded of His presence in everyday objects and events. A lot of "Christian" children's books I have found are really just secular books with "Jesus" put in for good measure, and to me that seems like a pretty vain way to use Jesus' name, so I was so happy to find this book about fall that is so good! Ellie and I sat down and read it today... she read the letter on each page and I read the words that went with it. It held her attention through the entire book, an then she wanted to "read" it on her own when we were finished.

I'm hoping this book can be one we read over and over each fall, especially as we do some of the activities listed in the book, like corn mazes an pumpkin carving and apple picking.... I can see this book becoming part of our family fall traditions!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Soy yogurt....

... is a hit!!! My homemade cottage cheese alternative? Not so much. But hooray for soy yogurt!

On the behavior front, yesterday we went to kindermusik. This is one of the places where Ellie is usually crazy. And yesterday? She actually sat on the blanket and listened to the story and interacted with the teacher. That's the first time she's done that since we started going to kindermusik in September. Really! She didn't try to sit ON the other children. She didn't HAVE to climb over everyone to sit right in the front. She didn't try to turn the pages while Christa was reading the story. She didn't stand up and block the view for the other kids. What a change!!

Just to be clear, she wasn't perfect. I still took her out in the hall twice because she was following another little boy when he was running around the room instead of paying attention and following directions. But her distraction and following was normal 2 year old behavior, not crazy girl! Previously she didn't follow the other kids when they were off topic because she was too busy doing her own thing to even focus on being distracted by them!

So I have something new to work on with Ellie: obeying the teacher even when other kids are not. But that is a good thing to work on, and something we actually CAN work on now that she isn't just crazy all the time. So much for "Milk, it does a body good." eh?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Some dairy free "cheese" recipes...

Because cheese is such a staple in our household and I don't want Ellie not to be able to eat it while we're eating it, I'm looking at cheese alternatives that I can make for her so she can have the same meals we're eating, or some of the same meals she's used to. Here are some recipes I intend to try...

Ricotta - I'm hoping this will be a good cottage cheese substitute for her...
Mac and Cheese sauce - for, um, mac and cheese, obviously...
Cheese sauce - for grilled cheese sandwiches

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Dairy Free....

For about a year my mom has suggested that Ellie might be allergic to milk. She has been consistently congested for about that long (though not bad enough to cause concern or warrant doctor visits), which coincides with the timeframe we've had her on cow's milk. She is also extremely active (even for 2 year old standards - she's almost always the most active kid in a group of toddlers, whether the nursery at church or kindermusik or playgroup) and there are studies linking hyperactivity to milk consumption (specifically the protein casein, which is what cheese is made from). MOST of what Ellie consumes is in some way dairy related, from the milk she drinks (A LOT - over the past year there have been many weeks that she has consumed about 2 gallons a week) to the yogurt or cottage cheese she has for breakfast, mac and cheese or quesadillas for lunch, string cheese or sliced cheddar for snacks, feta with dinner... She loves milk and cheese. And perhaps it's this overconsumption that is making her so overly active.

So, at my mother's suggestion, we took her off milk on Tuesday. I didn't plan to start taking her off milk until Thursday, but we got halfway through the day and I'd realized I hadn't given her milk or cheese yet, so I just decided to go with it. She doesn't seem to have missed the milk. She asked for it once, but was happy with juice (well, 1/4 juice, 3/4 water) instead. I bought her some rice milk (both original and vanilla) and she doesn't seem to care for that at all, but she doesn't seem to mind not drinking milk, so it hasn't been a problem.

Cheese, however, she misses. She asked for cheese several times on Thursday, so yesterday I bought her some soy based fake cheese. Ouch! That stuff is expensive!! But she had a slice of "cheddar" and she seemed really happy about that. Didn't mind the taste difference at all. So, it's expensive, but at least it satisfies her need for cheese. We got some shredded "mozzarella" too, but she hasn't tried that yet.

So... We'll take her off milk products for a week or two and see if it makes a big difference in her behavior. I have a feeling, though, that it will. We took her off milk on Tuesday, and by yesterday (Friday) mom and I could already see a big change. She was mellower. Sitting at the table eating lunch without distraction in a busy mall food court, right next to the ride on machines in the play area. It was bizarre. Things that normally woud have been a meltdown because I told her "no" about something were not. She is still independent, stubborn, and two, but yesterday she acted like a "normal" two year old instead of a crazy one. Today Leif is seeing a difference in her, too. She is running with purpose, to a specific destination, instead of running circles just because. She walks places now, too, and is only full speed ahead when she chooses to instead of all the time. So I have a feeling we will be seeing this change from here on out as we keep her off the milk. We are supplementing her diet with calcium and she is taking vitamins, and we are trying to make sure she gets protein rich foods, to make sure that she isn't nutrient deficient now that she's not consuming mass quantities of milk.

So... it looks like we're going dairy free for Ellie. I'm not sure this is a road I really want to go down (dairy is in a lot of the foods we eat regularly!) but it looks like it's the road I'm on and if it helps Ellie, then it's the road I'll take!