Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Jackson's Quilt

One of Jackson's Christmas presents was a small quilt. It was probably slightly smaller than a crib sized quilt. I used the firetruck fabric to make him a pair of pajama pants and a cover for a small pillow. Then I got the wild idea to attempt to make my first quilt. I learned a few lessons along the way, but I really enjoyed making the quilt and I can't wait to make another one for Summerlin!

My Grandmother (my dad's mom, whom Summerlin Grace is named in honor of - Summerlin was her maiden name and Grace was one of her favorite names) was an avid quilter - as was her mother and probably many generations before.  She made all three of her granddaughters a full size quilt for our 16th birthdays - along with quilts for many other family members.  I remember going with her to the church reception hall to assemble the "quilt sandwich" - the backing, batting, and pieced together top.  Working on Jackson's quilt brought back many memories.

I have always been appreciative of the quilt she made, but I have so much more respect for her labors now.  She pieced the quilts together by machine, but all of her quilting stitches were done by hand.  Think about that for a minute - quilts large enough for a full size bed with nothing but hand stitching.  HAND STITCHING.  Holy cow, no wonder why she worked on each one for over a year (or two).  She let each of us help select the pattern and some of the fabrics/colors.  I choose a double wedding ring pattern with pinks, greens, yellows, and blues.  I wish she were still alive today so that I could apologize for selecting such a complicated pattern.  I can't believe she willing made such an intricate quilt for me.  That is love.  Maybe I will eventually get to that level, but for now I'm happy to machine stitch.

I like to think that she is looking down on us now and smiling that the family tradition of quilting is still being carried on.  I wish she were still alive so I could call her to talk and ask her questions - but mostly so that she could share in the joy of my sweet babies.  But like I just said, I like to think that she's looking down and seeing it all.

Close view of the fabrics used and stitching.  I made this quilt entirely by machine (with the exception of a slip stitch on the binding).  The firetruck fabric is a jersey knit.  I will NEVER again attempt to quilt using any jersey knit.  It has way too much stretch in it.  I drove me crazy and no matter how careful I was, not all my corners matched up perfectly.  But, it's for a two year old and he loves it, as do I.

 View of the backside and binding.

Close view of the backside and binding.  I was very pleased with my slip stitch to finish the binding.  It took a considerable amount of time, but was still enjoyable.

The finished product.  I made the "pattern" up.  The squares are 5"x5" and the red pieces are a combination of 3"x3" squares and 3"x5" rectangles.  If I were to make this style quilt again, I would make the larger squares bigger - 6"x6" or 8"x8".  I selected the sizes I did because I had to make sure I had enough fabric.  I was avoiding another trip to the quilt store.  This was an excellent beginning quilt style, but I'm excited to try something different next!  What's your favorite style/pattern?

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!  We spent ours with Justin's family.  By Tuesday morning Jackson was in complete melt-down mode...thankfully Tuesday was the day we were leaving.  Jackson also happened to be sick the first half of the visit and it took a lot of work to get him down for each nap and at night.  Summerlin refused to nap everyday and was teething.  BUT we still had a wonderful time and Christmas!  We've realized travelling with two toddlers isn't and never will be easy, but spending time with family is worth it.
 The Friday before Christmas Jackson woke up incredibly early.  So, he helped me make an extra batch of soaps to give as stocking stuffers.

 Playing with the nativity.

 Christmas morning with Aunt Meg and Uncle Kyle.

 Hot chocolate with his "new" mug - thrift store find that I painted on.

Feeding her baby.

 And herself.

 Jackson loves his train table!

Ms. Priss taking her baby for a walk - with her purse.  Justin picked them both out for her and they were probably her favorite gifts. 

Thank you Nana for Jackson's favorite hat!  He loves it! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A piece of my mind

Some (maybe a lot) of people are not going to like what I have to say.  And frankly, I'm not at all sorry if I offend you.

Parents, it is time to start being parents.  You are not your child's friend.  You are not there to give into their every demand.  Your job is not to spoil them with every material thing they ever wanted.  Your job is to be their parent - to grow them up in a way to help them become a respectful, independent, curious-minded adult.  Is it easy?  Hell no.  Did anybody ever say it was?  Nope.  Get over it.

This isn't something you can start when they reach a certain age.  It begins the moment they are born - even before that in many ways.  From the instant they come into the world, it is your job to teach them how to eat, when to sleep, when not to sleep, how to move, how to discover, how to talk, how to read, how to be kind to others (which I am fully aware of how difficult this is at age two, trust me), how to respect others and the world they live in, and so many, many more things.  They aren't always going to like it, but that's part of being their parent, not their friend.

Why is this so important?  Why do I get so fired up about this topic?  Because my husband busts his ass at work everyday to try to teach the youth of America...and most days he might as well be banging his head against a brick wall.  They don't care.  They have no respect.  They have zero curiosity for learning.  And even less drive to achieve anything with their life.  It is so sad.  I remember the frustration I experienced in my two short years of teaching high school.  When I quit to become a stay-at-home mom, I vowed to myself that I would do everything I could to make sure my kids never turned out like so many of the students I taught.  Every time Justin comes home with stories of blatant disrespect and ignorance I am reminded of why I know that I made the best decision of my life and I now have the greatest "job" in the world.

But back to my rant...

Parenting isn't easy and it's not about you.  You are going to have very little time to yourself.  You no longer come first.  If you do, you're doing something wrong.  (I fully acknowledge we are all human and need some time to ourselves - and that it is important to schedule time for this - but don't expect to get it everyday or all the time.)  (Yes, dad at chick-fil-a this morning, I am talking to you.  Put away the damn cell phone and come into the play place with your son.  Other parents shouldn't have to be the ones telling your child not to push and how to act.)  So, put away the computer while your children are awake, set aside the phone, and turn off the TV.  Let your children know they are your priority in their waking hours.  This wasn't near as hard in past generations as it is today because all the forms of technology weren't there.  Regardless, make an effort to show your children that they matter more than everything else.  Read to them.  Play with them.  Make things with them.  Take them to the park.  Take them on walks.  Discover the world.  Discover your yard.  Talk to them and ask for their help as you run your errands or push them in the stroller.  No toddler needs to spend 2+ hours a day in front of the television, for ANY reason.  You need time to get things done around the house?  Train them from the beginning to take naps and go to bed early.  But don't let the television become your baby-sitter.  This is so detrimental to their development and curiosity. 

Build block towers with them.  Do puzzles together.  Don't just hand them singing, light up toys and expect them to entertain themselves for extended periods of time.  Don't constantly buy the next "best" toy because they are constantly demanding something louder, brighter, and flashier.  Think about the long term effect this has on them for when they are in school (and how much money you're going to blow on batteries in your lifetime).  How is a textbook going to hold their attention if they never fell in love with reading as a child with fun, imaginative storybooks?  How in the world could a teacher lecturing or writing notes on a chalkboard hold their attention if they never learned at an early age how to focus on a task - such as building with blocks or completing a puzzle?  How can they have curiosity and drive for learning if they didn't use their imagination in countless hours of play as a child?  All of these skills that they will need in middle/high school and beyond start at the beginning. 

When children get older (especially high school), this is such a vital time to be their parent, not their friend.  I fought my mom so much on what to wear, when to be home, grades, when to study, how long to study, how to spend/save my money, and SO. MUCH. MORE.  But you know what?  My parents were excellent parents and they didn't let a few arguments get in their way of raising an independent and intelligent daughter.  I already anticipate many arguments, especially with Summerlin, but that doesn't mean she's getting her way and I'm going to back down and just be buddy-buddy with her.  I am not always going to take my child's side when he/she gets in trouble at school.  They will respect the school, their teachers, and the rules.  If they get in trouble at school, they can expect to get in even more trouble at home.  (Which is a sidenote I could really go off on about kids/schools/parents today - getting in trouble at school means so little when the parents don't care at home.  It really makes a teacher's tough job even tougher.)
I know everyone has reasons and excuses for why they don't have time for these things.  And I know some families do have it much tougher - especially if you're a single parent.  But I think every parent can get creative and find ways to engage their children, teach their children, and parent their children.  Don't compensate for your struggles by buying them fancy toys and chucking them in front of a TV or video game. The more time you spend with your children, the more they will also learn about how to treat others with kindness and respect.  Speak to your children with love and kindness.  They are watching you and learning from you. 

Am I a perfect mother?  Of course not.  Do I always know what I doing?  Hell no.  Do I lose my cool and yell at times?  Oh, you better believe it.  I know I am FAR from a perfect mother, but I do my best and I keep my eye on my children's future and the people I want them to be as adults.  Just please, remember to look to the future.  It makes figuring your way through the present much easier.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Funny little happenings and Christmas update

This week hasn't been near as productive as I had hoped.  It's been a great week in some ways, but also an exhausting week.  We had a lot planned for the weekend, but we basically cancelled all our plans and are using this weekend as a time to rest and re-group a little before Christmas.  As tired as I am, I've still felt
immensely blessed and happy this week.  This little family is beyond everything I ever hoped for and on multiple occasions this week I've just stopped, smiled, and thought about how it doesn't get any better than this.
Jackson has become much more talkative lately and he cracks us up all the time.  His choice phrases right now are (in the order of most frequently used):
1.  "Me do!"
2.  "Me Mama boy.  Baby Daddy girl."
3.  "Play outside."
4.  Anything about green objects and/or firetrucks.  These are his passions right now.  Everything needs to be green.  We drive past as many fire stations as possible when we're out.  He wears his firefighter boots EVERYWHERE.

He's also starting to tell us more that he remembers from his day.  At the dinner time or at some point in the evening I like for him to tell Justin about our day.  He's finally starting to actually tell him what we did that day.  Sometimes he makes things up (I'm assuming what he wanted to do that day)'s pretty funny some of the things he comes up with.  It's really exciting to me to hear him talking so much more.  I love hearing his sweet little voice and the silly things he says.

This week hasn't been a particularly good napping week, but thankfully I only had one small cake to make.  We did a lot of advent activities.  Jackson's favorite was probably the after dinner walk in our neighborhood to look at lights.  He's asked everyday to "See lights?" and "HoHoHo seesaw" in particular (one neighbor with a rather elaborate display has two see-saws with Santas in the yard.  Not sure why, but that was a huge hit with Jackson.

Summerlin is working on about five new teeth.  She's sweet as ever, but not napping well AT ALL.  She wants to be held much more and is kinda cranky (for her).  But she's handling it like a champ overall. She knows where her belly button, nose, and feet are.  When asked, she points to each one.  My favorite is when she points to her belly button.  She always lifts up her shirt and finds it.  She gets a little annoyed when she has a onesie on and can't actually see it.

Here are a few pictures of our week. 
 Gingerbread mobile - got the idea from Soule Mama.   
 Jackson's quilt is pieced together.  I've now made the quilt "sandwich" (as my quilting book calls it) and have basted all the layers together.  Hoping to finish it tomorrow!
 Since she hasn't napped well this week, she's spent a lot of time at my feet in the kitchen playing with the tupperware.  Thankfully, it can entertain her for a solid 30+ minutes.
 Having a ball with glitter, glue, and other messy things.
 Stacking her blocks!  She had ZERO interest in this activity until this week.  All she wanted to do was tear down Jackson's block creations.
 Today I told the kids Santa stopped by while they were napping (to check up on their behavior) and left them each a gift - Christmas PJs!  Here's our little elf.  She wasn't too happy about picture time, but she's still the cutest thing.  She didn't nap at all today, so this was at about 6:40 and at 6:45 she was asleep in bed.
 My sweet, sweet babies.  My heart just melts for them.
 Holy smokes!  They are both looking at the camera!  That never happens around here!  Summerlin looks startled though.
After Summerlin went to bed, we had a very enthusiastic present wrapping session.  If Jackson helped in the wrapping of your gift, you'll know....

One more week until Christmas!  We are excited!  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bring this week on!

Sunday has become my "prep for the week" day. I know it's supposed to be a day of rest, but it's also my last chance to accomplish as much as possible before Justin returns to work on Monday.  Now that I've had a productive Sunday, I am so excited for this week to begin!  The laundry is washed, folded, and put away.  Our bread is rising in the fridge (to be baked in the morning).  The house is (mostly) clean.  Almost all my errands were completed this afternoon.  I only have one small cake order.  And most importantly, we have SO MANY Christmas crafts and creations that I can't wait to make this week. 

I have recently fallen in love with the website Rhythm of the Home and the Soule Mama blog (in particular, this post December Favorites).  I've done some revising on the Advent activities with ideas from these websites and we will be giving lots of homemade gifts this year that Jackson is going to help make!  I'd love to share with you exactly what we're doing, but that would ruin surprises for some of you. 

We really enjoyed the cooler temperatures this weekend - it finally started to feel like a mild December should.  But it's supposed to warm up this week...ugg.  I'm so ready for winter!  Maybe someday we'll live somewhere that we can truly experience all four seasons, but until then I guess we'll just have to enjoy the warm Virginia climate and spend plenty of time outdoors. 

I hope everyone else has a wonderful week and is enjoying the holiday season!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Peace is restored

Whatever balance of power or spurt of independence Jackson needed to work out yesterday has been resolved.  I love that most of the time with my kids our rough days are followed by perfectly wonderful ones.

Today Jackson let me help him get dressed.  He let me help him roll out the dough for his Christmas ornaments (Thank you Elizabeth and Natalie - what a wonderful craft for preschoolers, cinnamon applesauce ornaments!)  He shared with his sister.  He set the table for dinner.  He cleaned his plate and put it in the sink after dinner.  He listened to directions the first (or second) time (for the most part).  He was sweet, loving, and considerate.

He didn't open the door to the stairs for his sister - so that she could climb up and fall down, all while I was making their lunch.  He didn't try to change his own diaper (also while I was trying to get lunch together).  He didn't fight over every toy, sippy cup, and book.  He didn't fight us with bathtime, mealtimes, and every other regular part of the day.

I am so thankful for this beautiful family I am blessed to be a part of.  I can't thank God enough for the most precious gifts I have ever received. 

An unrelated, but ever so important side note:  Please keep Virginia Tech and the town of Blacksburg in your prayers.  Blacksburg is a wonderful small town with so many good, loving and caring people.  It has suffered more than it's fair share of heartbreak and tragedy. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Advent bag activites

I had a few people ask what activities I put in the advent bags.  I already know I'm going to make some adjustments for next year, but so far we've been having a lot of fun!

1 - Hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows
2 - Decorate sugar cookies (I baked the cookies and made the icing the night before.  I put all the sprinkles in separate containers - basically had everything ready to go well ahead of time.  I'm learning that is a must with a two year old.)
3 - String popcorn garland.  This did not work.  Jackson had fun, but all he did was eat the popcorn off the garland as we tried to string it.  Probably won't try this again until he's much older.
4 - Make Christmas cards for grandparents.  (Think glitter EVERYWHERE!)
5 - Make a hand print and thumbprint finger paint wreath. 
6 - Write a letter to Santa.  (Jackson hasn't caught onto the whole Santa/presents thing, which I like.  As we were writing his letter I kept wondering to myself if this is really a road I want to start going down with my kids.  I like that he's excited about Christmas, but not just for the presents.  It's a beautiful innocence that so many kids lose all too quickly.  I'm going to be doing a lot of thinking over the next year about how I want to approach gifts and Santa in our house.)
7 - Visit Santa (at the Bass Pro Shop because he loves the fish tanks...)
8 - Make cinnamon applesauce ornaments with a friend
9 - Make Christmas rice krispy treats.  I think we're going to add red and green sprinkles to regular treats.
10 - Make Christmas pancakes for breakfast.  (Use metal cookie cutters as pancake molds.  We do this a lot with holidays and special days.)
11 - Make Christmas cards for more family members
12 - Go to the Polar Express at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens
13 - Make Christmas ornaments with a friend
14 - Take a neighborhood walk after dinner to look at lights
15 - Make bead and pipe cleaner ornaments.  (Already nervous about how this one is going to go.  Might save this activity for next year.)
16 - Decorate a Christmas tree.  I cut out a large piece of green construction paper in the shape of a tree.  I'm giving him glitter, pom poms, and crayons to go wild with it.
17 - Unwrap and wear Christmas pj's
18 - Make birdseed pine cones.  Jackson is allergic to peanut butter, but I've heard you can roll the pine cones in bacon/sausage grease and then in the birdseed.  I need to look it up online to get more info, but right now that's the plan.

19 - Visit the lights in Newport News park.
20 -
21 -
22 -
23 -
24 - Feed the reindeer.  (Oatmeal with glitter - our yard is going to sparkle!)
25 - CHRISTMAS!!! 

So, I'm still four activities short, but I have a little time to get creative.  If time allows, I'm going to make a gingerbread house one evening and let Jackson decorate it the next day. 

On another note, I went to the quilting store today and picked out fabric for Jackson's quilt!  I'm so excited to start on it!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Just had to share

Jackson and I found this fabric at the craft store the other week.  He fell in love with the "fire fire trucks" so I bought all they had...not knowing what I'd make with it but determined to make him something.  It's a soft jersey fabric so I thought pj pants would be good.  I altered a pattern that I had for pants for Summerlin and thankfully they turned out great!  He's obsessed.  He wants to wear them every night.  He takes them out of his hamper and puts them on during naptime.  OBSESSED.

Well, thankfully the pants didn't use much fabric and since he loved the pants so much, I thought a small pillow might also be a big hit.  Big hit is an understatement.  He threw all the other pillows off his bed and will only use this one.  I still have more fabric, so if I can ever make it to the quilting store, I'm going to make him a small quilt he can use around the house and in the car.  I've never quilted before so I'm pretty excited to give it a try! 

This is the best attempt I could get at a picture of him with his most priced possessions.
 Today we threw a bunch of pillows and quilts on the floor in the corner (of the area I cleaned out last night) to make a reading "nook".  I wasn't sure what Jackson would think, but wow.  He loves it!  He insisted on reading his bedtime stories there tonight.  Of course he wanted to sleep there, but that was a definite no-go.  This just reminds me that things don't have to be fancy or elaborate to make a kid happy. 

Breadmaking, reorganizing, and more growing up

Well, I did it!  I successfully made homemade bread!  I've tried to make bread in the past and I don't know what I did wrong, but it never rose and was never a success.  Thanks to a wonderful article on easy breadmaking, making bread finally doesn't intimidate me!  Here are our loaves rising in a very full fridge.
Finished bread cooling!  Along with a batch of granola - which is crazy easy and cheap to make yourself!  Plus you can adjust the recipe to fit your oil/sugar preferences.
Next on my list of things that must get done: organizing and condensing this mess.  Our upstairs has a really funny layout, but it makes it awesome for kids.  What kid doesn't love cozy nooks and crannies?  I wanted to clean up this space that is rarely used (and a complete hazard to the kids because it is attached/one side of our playroom) to create space for Summerlin's kitchen and hopefully a reading nook also! 

It took several hours, a big bag of trash, and a car full of things to take to the thrift store, but I was able to condense everything down to this one organized, compact cabinet.  There's a very narrow linen closet upstairs that I put all our desk things in.  I also made one large rubbermaid container with kid's craft supplies that I stored in an easy to access space in our attic.  This cabinet did have our old living room TV on it, but we realized that it was pointless to have such a large thing in the playroom considering the kids don't really watch tv and we almost never watched tv upstairs.  (Free TV up for's probably 30something inches and it's about 6 years old - not HD, but flatscreen.  The old desk is free to a good home also.)
Another sign Summerlin is growing up (and our house is slowly become less overrun by baby equipment) - she's sitting in a booster at the table with us now.  Hopefully this will go well and she'll stay there.  I like having all of us sitting around the table together.
I'm a big believer in letting kids figure out how to feed themselves.  To me, it's a pain in the ass to spoon feed a kid while you're also trying to feed yourself and keep an eye on another toddler.  Sure, it's a mess, but they learn so quickly when you give them the chance to teach themselves.  Here's Summerlin feeding herself yogurt this morning.  She loves being independent, just like Jackson did.

Like I said, it does get messy....really messy!  But home is a good place for learning these skills!
One last picture of baby girl (she's taking over the blog lately because she doesn't run and hide when I pull out the camera).  Her legs are getting so long.  She was the skinniest baby until about 6-8 months, then she put on a little baby chub.  It was so cute.  Now she's growing so fast that the chub is disappearing so quickly.  Those little legs are getting long and thin again!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Traditions and Advent

As a kid, I moved a lot.  Actually, a lot is probably an understatement...but that's beside the point.  Since we were moving every few years and we never lived close to family, my parents and I didn't have very set holiday traditions.  We had great holidays, but it seemed like we did things different every year.  This is probably the biggest change I want to make from my growing up experience for my children.  Even though they are only one and two, this year I'm trying to begin establishing our Christmas traditions.  First on my list was sewing these advent bags.  There are 25 small fabric bags and each one contains a piece of paper with an activity for us to do together.  This year it's mostly for Jackson, but in years to come it will be for both kids.

So, here are the Loda family advent bags - hanging in the window in our dining room.  So far the hardest part has been trying to get Jackson to understand that we only open one a day.  :)
 Day 1 was "hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows".

Today was Day 2 and it was "decorate sugar cookies".  Here's my master decorator, hard at work.  (It's a little ironic that I'm currently cutting back on the processed foods, sugar, and salt in their regular diet because so far these activities are being counter productive to that goal!)

 He loves to "sample" as he works.
 Jackson's beautiful creations.
 Had to get a more side profile picture of his work.  I'm pretty sure his motto for cookie decorating is "you can never have too many sprinkles".
 Dunking his cookie in his juice?!  Yes, that is a cup of apple juice.  I can't imagine that tasted good, but to each his own.
 He's getting pretty good with the "green big boy" cup!
I'm so excited for all that December has to bring!  I have some really big, fun activities planned for us...but also plenty of easy and still fun things.  Next up?  Making popcorn garland!  Actually, first I need to figure out a good way for a two year old to do such an activity....