Chores with Toddlers

I wrote a series on establishing Routines with Kids a couple of years ago based on my experiences with my nieces and nephews, but now that I have my own little girl I thought I'd share how we're handling chores. My daughter just turned 2 and she has chores. She doesn't know they are chores, she thinks she is helping mommy or daddy. Which she is, sort of. Yes, right now I could get these chores done a lot faster just doing them myself, but then what does that teach her? So, while it maybe doesn't really help me to have her bring in the mail or water the plants, it will in the long run. Everything she does for herself and for me now that earns her praise and increases her self-confidence, means that much more she'll be able to do for herself in the long run. So, I think of my added time now as an investment in her confidence and self-sufficiency.

Baking with Daddy

Granted a lot of these are still "supervised" chores, meaning she doesn't just go and do them, but she will if asked and sometimes verbally guided. I'm very big on self-sufficiency, and will ask her to do things and she knows if she needs assistance she just has to ask "help please" and I'm there to help.

Chores she currently can do on her own
1. Keeps clothes off her floor
When she was old enough to walk reliably, she would put her pajamas in the hamper. Now she helps me by putting clothes in the hamper and also sending them to the laundry room. Granted it's only putting 3-4 articles of clothing in a hamper, but we have to start somewhere.

2. Puts her toys away
Each type of toy has it's own basket, she knows where they all belong and will put her toys in the appropriate basket. I don't care if she just tosses everything in the basket, so long as it's in there. When she's older we can worry about being tidy, for now she's learning to pick up.

3. Puts her art/craft items away
She has a rolling drawer tower for coloring books, play doh, finger paint, etc. She puts her art stuff back in the tower when she's done with it. We just have to work on asking before pulling it out.

4. Gets her plate, cup and utensils for meals
This isn't consistent, because if it's something hot I'll fill her plate and stick it in the fridge to cool a bit before bringing it to her. However, if I ask her to get a bowl, she will. I store her cups, dishes and utensils in a drawer in a lower kitchen cupboard so she can reach everything.

Kirsten's Drawer, so she can get things for herself

Chores she currently does with assistance
5. Personal hygiene
I brush her teeth first, then she brushes. She washes her own hands after dinner and will tell you "hands please" when she is ready to wash them. We are slowly working towards more self-sufficiency in this area.

6. Bringing in the mail
Every day when she gets home she goes to the mailbox with either myself or my hubby and she brings the mail into the house. I think this is her favorite chore and it was self-imposed. She made it her job to bring in the mail, which is great!

7. Watering the plants
Both indoor plants and soon the outdoor planters. I got her a mini-spade and watering can to help me.

Done with the patio, heading over to sweep the rocks

She does other things beyond this, but this is the list of things that are currently "her chores". She "sweeps" the back patio, wipes the dinner table, helps in the kitchen, picks up "ickies" and puts them in the trash... Icky can be lots of things according to her definition, so I have to peek in the trash once in a while to make sure something important wasn't deemed icky by her, like dog toys.

Toddlers love to help, they very much want to be just like mommy and daddy at this age. I'm taking advantage of it to establish lifelong good habits as much as possible.

Granted I have to sweep after her and wipe the table after her for the time being, but I have her "help" me so she doesn't realize I'm redoing what she's done. I always praise her afterwards for a great job and being a good helper, and she LOVES being a good helper. Plus, as a parent it's fun to see how proud she is of herself after she's helped.

What chores do your toddlers do? Or if your children are grown, what did they do as toddlers for chores?

Spring is finally here

Our Peter Rabbit has arrived, or perhaps it's Penelope Rabbit?  We have had a rabbit living in our yard for the past few years, just a single bunny romping around nibbling my plants and making itself quite at home. It always finally feels like spring when we see it bounding around the yard.  We're so far north we won't actually see flowers for a while yet, so he's sort of the usher of spring for me. Last year, for the first time, we had 2 rabbits living in our yard, chasing each other around and it was quite fun to watch them cavort and play. They were a boy and girl bunny because early summer we had baby bunnies in one of my whiskey barrels. It was falling apart and needed to be replaced so it made a perfect warren. My father was visiting and cleaning out my yard for me (ISN'T HE AMAZING!?!?!) and when he went to get that barrel ready for planting he noticed the bunnies under a thin layer of dirt. Two days later they were big enough that the dirt didn't really cover them anymore, and a day later they were gone. I managed to take this the day before the parents moved them.  Thankfully, neither of my puppies ever discovered them.

Click on the picture for a much better view

Between being able to open windows in the house and the bunny romping about, I'm welcoming spring around here with open arms. The question is will we have two again this year, and will we have baby bunnies?

May Day Baskets

Do you make May Day baskets? We're making a handful for some close friends and neighbors this year. I came across some simple ones crafted with paper cups and ribbon, lace or strips of paper attached as handles. I was looking for something a little simpler than the typical cone style for Kirsten to be able to do them with me. Melissa Sagaser from Creative Treasures has some cute ones she made with flower patterned dixie cups, and scrapbook paper covered ones. I may make a few of those for her to take to daycare to share with her friends.  I'd fill them with a box of yogurt covered raisins and some stickers and a flower.

For our friends and neighbors though, I'm still partial to the paper cone style ones, decorated with ribbons, lace and filled with flowers.  Too bad children don't still dance around a maypole in the US, such a sweet tradition gone.

I still love this photo of all the may day baskets lining the fence.  I'll be picking up paper this week to make some may day baskets with my daughter this week.  We'll be making 9 baskets for neighbors and friends, and we'll make 12 cup ones for her friends and teachers at school.

Photo by Will Merydith

Would you like to make your own May Baskets? Here's the template I made a few years ago just for my readers. Clicking on it will bring up a hi-res version in Adobe PDF format for printing.  If you'd like to make baskets with me and share a link to them in the comments I'd be delighted.

May Basket Template

Monday Musings - Stone

Making the decision to have a child is momentous.
It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.
~Elizabeth Stone 

My Heart

Menu Plan Monday {24}

I am thoroughly enjoying the weather finally warming up; instead of soups, casseroles and crock pot, we're indulging in more salads, sandwiches, wraps, and lighter fare.  I've been eating a lot of cottage cheese and fresh grape tomatoes for lunch. Though it's hard to get away from some of my daughter's favorites, like Baked Macaroni & Cheese...

Do you menu plan? I got away from it for a while, I actually seemed to have more food waste when I was menu planning, because leftovers weren't getting eaten fast enough. Have you ever had this problem? When I did take care of the leftovers I had some fresh food that was intended for that evening that was sometimes wasted. I'm going to start menu planning again, but I think I'll take a slightly different approach to it. I'll be planning 3-4 meals a week without a set day assigned to them. The meals that aren't planned for will be filled in with leftovers and pantry fillers.  A fish meal, a vegetarian meal, and one or two meat meals should more than cover my small family of three.  Really, I'm cooking for two plus a little extra for a toddler, she doesn't even come close to eating a full serving of anything.

Typical pantry fillers would be beans and rice, soup and sandwiches, pasta and homemade marinara, homemade pizza with whatever leftover meat and veggies are in the fridge.

I'll be making one breakfast item each weekend to supplement a selection of cereal, yogurt and fruit.

Lunches are usually leftovers, sandwiches, soup or cottage cheese and fruits and veggies.

Breakfast Item: Apple Muffins

Planned Dinners:
Lime Garlic Chicken
Ham and Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Haddock Fillets
Black Bean Burritos

New Desk for a New Office Nook

Having my library/office converted into a big girl room for Kirsten means I need to create a new office nook quickly. Having it in the closet was perfect, because when I was in the middle of projects I could close the door on the mess. Now I'm going to be pulling my desk/office area into a public area of the house and will have to keep it neat. I have a spot for it, but I have no furniture for it. The beauty of the closet was I put a laminated board up on 1x2's screwed into the studs of the closet wall and voila desktop and super cheap too! Now, I need a physical piece of furniture and I don't have months to leisurely peruse antique stores and auction sales and yard sales until I find the perfect piece.

I love the look of this desk, but I need storage or it'll just become one big hot spot for papers and odds and ends.

This one is pretty too, but it has the same issues, and I won't have a room to put additional storage. It will have to be somewhat self-contained.

I'm looking for a secretary or a roll-top, something that I can close on tiny messes, if not larger ones.  I've been lusting after Swedish secretary desks for a while now, little did I know I should have been actively searching.

My mother has a gorgeous Danish midcentury secretary that I used to use as my desk in high school.  I loved that desk!  It had a little door and a top drawer that I could LOCK!  Isn't that a dream come true for every teenage girl with a diary, teenager girl with younger sibling, or just every teenage girl???

Big Girl Room Planning

My daughter, Kirsten, just turned 2 this weekend, so now that I'm done with her party I'm starting on the next big project. I'd really like to get her mostly potty trained before going to Iceland in a month, but I need to get her into a big girl bed so she can get up when she wakes up to go potty. At least, I think that is how it works. So, even if her room isn't even close to ready I really need to get her into her big girl bed.  I have a lot of ideas and inspiration also pinned on a Pinterest board just for her room, if you want to take a peek.

Ok, so for posterity, here is the before... the closet, aka my office:

Desk Organization

And the room itself, note the seemingly tight crop... it's just because the room is small and there is no way to stand back far enough to get more of the room in the shot!  I'm actually standing in the closet for this picture. So, no pictures of the wallpaper, but I'll take some before pictures after we pull out all the bookcases.  The carpet is very light cream and while not the best choice for a toddler's room, it'll stay for a few years until we put hardwood down throughout the house.


k, so here is the plan, though the rugs will probably all go except for the one under the table and chairs:
Image sources from top right: Bump Bed; Canopy; Side Table;
Doily LampToy Box; Table and Chairs from; Bookshelves;
Shaker PegsBoard and Batten; Fairy Lights

We'll be turning the library/office into her big girl room.  The last step of the transformation will be replacing the door in the upper right corner with a hidden bookcase door that swings out into the family room, like the first three on my hidden door post. I envision putting face front book ledges on that door facing into her room for her to use, but I need to keep the door light enough for her to push open.  This will increase the usability of that corner slightly.  Currently the door is a glass paned door which lets a lot of light in that room; great for the day, terrible for summer nights. So, I'll have to think of something there. Suggestions?


Starting in the upper right corner, the bed is a photoshopped image of a toddler Bump Bed, I wanted the sleigh headboard area and Swedish footboard area and hubby was going to build it for me.  After awhile I got a little more realistic about what our time would allow and found a sweet rosemaled single bed from a seller on Etsy. She was great to work with and I highly recommend her if you love rosemaling.

This is actually the sellers photo, but I don't think she'll mind me using it to share.

Since the single bed is a bit longer than I was planning for, I may have to make adjustments for where I have the bookcase and canopy area, which brings me to the next picture. I really wanted to make her a round canopy with a hula hoop, white fabric, and white twinkle lights. I imagine it with a big pillow on the floor for us to snuggle in to read.

I'd like a small round bedside table for her, ideally with a little storage like the table in the lower right corner.

I have a whole bunch of white/cream doilies from my hubby's grandmother, that no one else wanted.  After I saw the doily lamp I thought that would be a sweet idea for them above the little table and chairs.

I'd like some enclosed toy storage, though I'm leaning more towards a closed cupboard with baskets now instead of a toy box. A small table and chairs on the one wall for coloring or tea parties; we already have two chairs just need a table.

For the bookshelf at the end of her bed, hubby is going to build it for me.  I'd like the top three shelves to be open to both sides with the back running down the middle, like two shallow bookcases back to back. Towards her bed I'm thinking of room for some bed time books and stuffed animals, nothing heavy. The bottom of the bookshelf would have deeper shelves opened to her reading nook with room for bigger heavier books and toys. The side of the bookshelf facing the room I'd like lined in cork for pinning up pictures and artwork.

Currently the whole room is wallpapered in a baby blue background with large cream magnolias!!!  It is pretty wallpaper, but not what I want for her room. So, I will be tearing it down and putting up board and batten.  Everywhere you look people are putting up board and batten, I know. Hers won't be white though, we'll do oak board and batten and I'll use the lightest stain (natural?) so it'll match the woodwork in the rest of the house. I also want to put shaker pegs right under the rail along the wall by the table and chairs. She can hang up her apron or a sweater or whatever that way. Ideally, the one closest to her closet will hold the outfit for the day that she'll pick out the night before.

We'll be installing a full closet organizing system in that closet like we did in the nursery and the master closet. I LOVE a good organized closet and it eliminates the need for a dresser!

I'm not even going to think about paint color until I see what tones we'll end up with in the board and batten and how the rest of the room comes together. I want to find all the furniture first, figure out what I can paint and what I have to "live with". I want the room to feel calm and peaceful, so I'll figure out what I have to "marry" with paint, then go from there. I will tell you though that the ceiling will be getting a soft blue gray paint definitely and will be stripped of it's texture. I painted the green in the closet, I pulled it from the darkest green in the magnolia leaves on the wallpaper.  Green is my favorite color, but I wouldn't use it elsewhere in the house (it just wouldn't coordinate well).  It's a fairly dark green, so covering it up with primer will be oodles of fun, I'm sure!

I want the room to have a very light feel to it, since it is so small. So, except for the bed I want the furniture and the bedding to all be very light. She'll be using the down comforter and pillow from Iceland that I had as a little girl and I have several sets, some hand embroidered, for her to use. I can't wait!

So, I have a bunch of spring projects, plus this bedroom to get working on. The three closets can get their coat of paint and shelving added at the same time as we are doing her closet system. The garage might get pushed off to the end of the month... oh wait, it is almost the end of the month. Hmmmmm... May? This is going to be a BUSY summer!

Kirsten's First Birthday ~ Pink Lemonade

So, I thought today I'd share some details from Kirsten's first birthday party and also some links to recipes that I used that I will definitely use again.  This post is link heavy, however none of them are affiliate links, just recipes or sources that I loved and will definitely use again and thought I would share.

I didn't want an overly themed party, more of a color scheme. I went with pink lemonade, everything in shades of yellow and pink. So, first to give inspiration credit where it is due... I found an amazing lemonade punch called Party Lemonade over at One Charming Party.  I absolutely LOVE that site for party inspiration.  I don't have a picture of my punch because I kept it in the kitchen to avoid messes in the dining room, so hers will have to do.
Her cake was a two tiered ruffled cake inspired by a cake by Sweetapolita, her cakes look amazing!  For a little eye candy and taste bud torture, take a look at her round up of her top posts of 2011... OH MY!  This was the inspiration cake for the decoration, but I wanted it in a pale pink.

For Kirsten's cake I went with two tiers, the top tier was lemon with lemon curd filling and the bottom was strawberry with strawberry jam filling by O' For Heaven's Cakes and more.  It turned out beautifully and it was sooooooo delicious!

For the sugar cookies, I once again turned to Sweetapolita for her Sugar Cookie recipe.  I used a basic corn syrup, powdered sugar, milk icing for the outline and filling and then while the pink was still wet I covered it with pink sanding sugar.  This is my go-to cookie recipe for sugar cookies now, it was so easy to work with and the cookies weren't too hard or so soft that they didn't hold their shape.

I made some pom-pom's out of the tissue paper from the gifts we got at her baby shower.  I thought it was a sweet touch to recycle all that tissue in a somewhat meaningful way.  We also got a helium tank for her 36" pink balloon and all the smaller pink and yellow balloons for the kids to take home.  What kid doesn't love a balloon?

The pink bags are filled with Caramel Corn, I use the recipe in Better Homes and Gardens Best Loved Community Recipes. Unfortunately, the book isn't readily available anymore, but you can occasionally find used copies on Amazon.  Volume I and II are my two favorite cookbooks ever, they're compilations of the best church/community cookbook recipes.

The jars are filled with jellybeans and personalized M & M's, I've gotten personalized M & M's for both birthdays so far and they are NOT cheap, but it's such a cute touch.

I made Lemon & Strawberry Marshmallows, then I put them on sticks and dipped the bottoms in white chocolate.  The kids loved these, my favorite were the lemon ones.

For party favors I bought large Whirlypops from Bulk Candy Store, they had the best prices I could find and I was so pleased with what I got last year that I used them again this year for Round-up pop favors.  I designed and printed out circles that say "Thank you for making my birthday so sweet!" on the outside of the yellow, then her name and the number 1. Then I ran them through a Xyron 510, with sticker paper in it.  I finished them off with a sweet pink bow.

Using similar fonts and patterns I made a banner that we printed out and I cut.  I adore Photoshop!  I glued each letter onto pink and white twine and hubby taped it up for me.

She had a big pink balloon last year, just like the red one this year.  Party Explosions on Amazon has been a good source for 36" large balloons with a good thick latex that holds the helium and lasts a while.

Again, using the same colors from the lollipop stickers and the banner I made a little bunting for her highchair, the balloon was tied to the back.  I just glued the little paper bunting flags onto pink and white twine, then taped it to her chair.  A small detail, but so cute.  I really limited her sugar intake until her second birthday, so for her first birthday I made a simple vanilla cupcake with very lightly sweetened whip cream for the top.  She loved it and made a mess and I didn't have a crabby sugar crashed baby girl.  Even now I scrape the frosting off her cake and cupcakes, probably because I scrape it off of my own.

I got a guest book with the intent of using it each year, but I had a better idea this year which I'll be using from now on.  I'll share my idea later this week.

Kirsten's Birthday

My little girl's 2nd birthday was this weekend, and she was totally amazed at a big party just for her with all her favorite things. I planned for outside time so we were lucky the weather cooperated, it rained on Friday and was SOOOOOO cold on Sunday, but Saturday... Saturday was perfect!

Kirsten running around the backyard with her big red balloon on her 2nd birthday

Every year I'll be taking a picture of her with a giant 36" balloon (I ordered it from Amazon), I think it'll be fun to watch her grow into the balloon's size.  Last year she couldn't hold it, and this year I tied it around her waist so she wouldn't lose it since it was so windy.  She ran around the backyard with it tied to her waist holding on to it for about 20 - 30 minutes.  She wasn't ready to let go of it when I finally took it inside so she could play more freely.  The wind was so strong that I made daddy stay within a few feet of her just outside the shot in case the balloon got around her neck.  Thankfully it never did, but her daddy sure got a workout.

Kirsten facing front wearing pigtails

Kirsten facing back wearing pigtails

We put pigtails in her hair for the first time, which lasted all of about 15 minutes. Then out came one side, then the other about 2 minutes later.  So I had to wet her hair down and just leave it, but hey, I got pictures at least!

Backyardigans Cakes, buffet lunch

Kirsten loves the Backyardigans, and I really love how it encourages playing outside and using your imagination. So, I loosely based her party around that, with the weather being iffy for the day of her birthday I had revamped to party games inside for the most part. We were still able to do some tin can shooting and a pull-string pinata outside.  We had 5 6" cakes that I ordered from a local baker, O' For Heaven's Cakes and More. I ordered her first birthday cake and her baptism cake from them as well.  I love baking and decorating cakes, so it seems like an odd thing for me to outsource.  However, with everything else I have to do, it just makes sense.  Plus, their cakes are DELICIOUS!

I ordered the Backyardigans cake toppers from The Sweets Fairy Bakeshop, Jeana was great to work with and they turned out adorable. We ordered a cake for each character in the Backyardigans, from left to right they are: Tyrone, dark chocolate cake with chocolate frosting; Austin, fun fetti cake with vanilla frosting; Tasha, Vanilla cake with lemon curd center and vanilla frosting; Pablo, vanilla cake with vanilla frosting; Uniqua, strawberry cake with strawberry jam center and vanilla frosting.  I fell in love with the lemon and strawberry cakes last year during her pink lemonade party, so I had to order those again.  However, I wanted some basic cakes that the kids were more likely to ask for as well.

Kirsten pulling the string on a Pablo (Backyardigans character) pull-string pinata at her 2nd birthday party

Kirsten trying to learn how to whistle

This is our next door neighbor and Kirsten's babysitter whom Kirsten adores. She's trying to show her how to whistle, it was absolutely adorable. Of course, Kirsten couldn't blow hard enough so she would just put the whistle in her mouth and sort of shriek. Poor girl.

Kirsten with a red balloon being held by our friend, Wayne

Kirsten holding hands with her friend, Vincent

It was a fun day with lots of friends and family, we are truly blessed to have her and them in our lives.

Monday Musings - Swift

"When I was a little girl I used to read fairy tales. In fairy tales you meet Prince Charming and he's everything you ever wanted. In fairy tales the bad guy is very easy to spot. The bad guy is always wearing a black cape so you always know who he is. Then you grow up and you realize that Prince Charming is not as easy to find as you thought. You realize the bad guy is not wearing a black cape and he's not easy to spot; he's really funny, and he makes you laugh, and he has perfect hair."
~Taylor Swift

Happy Birthday Kirsten!

This amazing little girl has her 2nd birthday on Sunday! We're having family and friends over for a party today, so I'll be busy getting ready and taking pictures, but I'll share all the fun with you on Sunday.

Happy birthday my darling baby girl!

A daughter is a precious gift
A blessing from above,
She’s laughter, warmth and feminine charm;
She’s thoughtfulness and love. 

Friday I'm In Love {20} - Secret Doorways

Kirsten's big girl room is coming along, slowly. I've gotten all the items figured out, but I'd like to make a few additions/changes to the room. First, half our house is very light trim and the other half is dark walnut. All the bedrooms fall in the dark walnut half, and so I'd like her closet door, trim and doors replaced with light oak. At the same time I'd like to add some light board and batten and shaker pegs to the bottom half of the wall. 

However, the final touch is what this post is really about. Her big girl room has two doors leading into it, one leads into the hallway and the other out to the family room. We have to have two doors for safety reasons, but functionally the two doors really limit the use of space. So, we are turning the door to the family room into a hidden door with bookshelves on both sides. The wall in the family room that the door is currently on is already lined with bookshelves. Instead of stand alone we'll be building in shelves and have the last be a hidden door into her bedroom.  The trick will be anchoring items on the shelf, and picking light non-breakable items that will still carry the visual weight needed to balance itself with the rest of the shelves in the family room.  I want to keep the door light enough that Kirsten will be able to open it on her own if she ever needs to in case of fire or an emergency.

I've been pinning hidden doors for construction ideas, the first is the closest to the scenario we'd have.  What child wouldn't love having a hidden door into her room?  We'll also be creating a similar door into my husband's office in the basement when we finish the basement.  Again we'll have a wall to wall area of shelves, one will open up to his office and another will open up to a storage room we have downstairs.  Due to the layout of the basement, no one would guess either room exists if they didn't know they were there.