Saturday, October 18, 2014

Clean Up, Clean Up with Step2!

I am partnering with Step2 on this post as part of their Toy Tester program. I received the product in exchange for my review and honest opinion. 

Clean up.

The bane of my existence.

We've got a pretty good routine going on with the downstairs toys. I've got things categorized and organized, and typically the girls can do a clean sweep, with help of course, in about twenty minutes or so.

But now the issue is Madison's room.

Madison's room is the biggest room in the house. Seriously. Her bedroom is the "bonus room" above the garage, and has the most square footage. Of course, it's balanced by the sloped ceiling, small closet, and finicky climate control, but for a little girl who loves to play, it's a dream come true.

The issue with Madison's room is that it's serving purposes other than "sleeping quarters". It's another playroom for both girls. It's the school room. It's a room that the girls get to play in without me, and it has access to crayons and markers and paper and other things I usually monitor access to. This can be tricky.

I'm thrilled that Madison loves to read.

I'm less thrilled that all her books come out of their organized shelves and end up on a pile on the reading rug.

I love that quiet time means that Madison will stay quietly in her room for an hour or more.

I'm less in love with the fact that she pulls every single stuffed animal off the couch.

I'm so proud that she has such a thirst for writing these days.

I'm less proud when that writing gets dry erase marker on her sheets.

She's four. She's learning. But a big lesson she had to learn was that the base for your drawing or note should not be your carpet or sheets. After spending some time with a scrub brush, she learned. But she still likes to draw and write and be comfortable while she does it.

This is where the Step2 2-in-1 Toy Box came in handy. Because beyond just being a vessel for toys, it's a place to draw.

We got to try the pink one. But there are several styles to choose from!


Madison can use it as an easel. The storage boxes on top are the perfect place to keep her crayons.



Or, and this is what we loved, she can take the lid off and take it to wherever she is inspired to write. She can sprawl on her floor (which she far prefers to sitting at her table) and not have to endure the lecture and scrubbing that comes from getting marker on her rug. She can bring it to her bed and write notes to her friends and family while keeping her sheets clean.



And in addition to being a great place to create, there is ample storage underneath. Madison and I brainstormed the best thing to store there, and we came up with her stuffed toy collection. They fit with room to spare, and it makes clean up easy.



Madison and I made a video to share where we showed how easy it is to use the box for art and clean up. She had a fabulous time making this video with me. She asked if she can do more "commercials" for my computer and if she can dance in any of them.

Yeah, I think I have a budding performer.

But that's a story for another day.


 Thanks Step2. I have a very enthusiastic assistant for any more testing you need!
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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Two Peas in Two Pods

Two little girls. Same parents, same house, same nurture, same nature.

Totally different kids.

I was marveling over that today. They are both awesome kids, obviously. They both have things that drive me absolutely crazy, naturally. They tussle over the same toys and love when they get to wear the same outfit, but most of the time, they are different as night and day.  Things Madison was doing at this age Reagan has no interest in, but Reagan is doing other things that Madison didn't even realize existed at this age.

Seriously, it's like I have to parent in two totally different ways, because what works on one doesn't work on the other. Let's look at the facts.

Food

Madison is a creature of habit. She wants her meals at the proper time, a mid-morning snack and a snack after rest time. She'll eat almost anything. She loves to cook. Dessert follows dinner and she gets upset when it isn't offered. She will eat pretty much anything if she knows she's getting dessert.

I don't know how Reagan survives, because I'm pretty sure she doesn't eat. Actually, that's not true. She does eat breakfast (most of the time), she'll drink smoothies and she will eat pretty much anything dairy or carb filled. She does not eat dinner. I am not exaggerating. It does not matter what I am serving - she does not eat dinner. In my attempt to bribe her to the table she gets crackers on her plate and she won't eat them if they are part of dinner. I don't get it. A promise of dessert means absolutely nothing. I have no idea how to deal with this because none of my Madison tricks work. (By the way, her pediatrician is pretty unconcerned because she's growing steadily and healthy. He says she's two. I hate that diagnosis).

Behavior

Bribery and threats work pretty well to keep Madison in line. When we were teaching her how to clean up her own toys we used mini m&ms. Do a job, get a candy. Done. Now she gets a sticker on a chart for doing her daily chores. A sticker. And she's loving it. It matters to her. When she wants something "big" (and by big, I mean something like an upgrade to an app on the iPad) I can usually ask her to earn it by doing a "big" job, and she'll do it. Rewards work.

And the threat of time out keeps her behavior in line. If she starts up the defiant attitude, I start counting to five. She knows that if I get to five, she sits. She'll pout through one and two, but 90% of the time, when I get to three, she's falling in line. She might still be pouting, but she'll obey. And if she does go to time out, she comes out absolutely repentant. Apologies and hugs and immediate improvement.

Bribery and threats do not work on Reagan. At all. She does not seem to grasp the concept of a reward - big or small. Her lovey is a now battered baby Anna doll. A few months ago, I noticed baby Elsa in the store, so I snatched it up and put it away for future gifting. We decided that it would be the "big girl" present for potty training. Reagan wants Elsa, but when we tell her that Elsa is for when she uses the potty, she loses interest. Completely. Candy bribes do not encourage her to clean. And sticker charts are downright laughable. If she doesn't want to do something, no amount of praise, sugar, or sticker is going to motivate her. The only way she'll do it is if she wants to. Right now, at just over 2 1/2, she has absolutely zero interest in potty training, and with no interest in charts or rewards or even pleasing those around her, I'm going to have to rethink my game plan.

And time out? She'll sit there, but it has zero impact on her behavior. If she's actually sorry (like if she's hurt someone) she'll apologize, but no amount of time out will make it happen if she's not. She does not leave the mat repentant and cuddly. She leaves the mat ready to go back to exactly what she was doing before she landed there in the first place. I'm getting creative trying to figure out how to deal with this.

Activity

Madison will try anything and everything, and most of the time, fall in love with whatever she tried. I mentioned earlier that we ended up not able to do art group this fall because of her hard core dance schedule. Today, the group was able to meet in the morning and we went. All day long she's been talking about how seeing her friends and doing art was the best part of her day.

Then she attended her hour long tap dance, came home, and tapped around the kitchen for another half hour because dance is her favorite thing.

She loves art. She loves dance. She loves gymnastics. She loves cooking.

When we do her school stuff, she wants to do more reading because reading is her favorite. Then math is her favorite. Then writing is her favorite.

It's gotten to the point where I'm hesitant to introduce any additional activities because I'm terrified she'll love them and want to add them to her bursting schedule.

Reagan is just as willing to try anything...on her own terms. Today, she painted longer than any of the other kids in art group, but back when we were regulars, she was a participant about half the time. She loves to dance, but dance class was a disaster. She's a climber and a tumbler with crazy strength, a daring spirit and amazing aptitude, but gymnastics class was basically a giant tantrum. Where Madison is a "teach me" kid, Reagan wants to experiment with the world on her own. She is not remotely interested in participating in a class - even a toddler exploratory one.

Sleep

Now, before you think I'm complaining, both girls go to bed fairly early and sleep through the night. And although Reagan was a little trickier than Madison, she was never a "problem" sleeper.

Madison likes to be cuddled. As an infant, she loved being nursed or rocked to sleep. Now, she likes you to read to her in her bed, then cuddle, then her music on, her door cracked and her lights dimmed, but on. She falls asleep quickly, and most of the time will stay in her bed after waking up in the morning until someone acknowledges her. She gave up her nap, but she'll hang out in her room for about an hour in the afternoons, playing quietly in her bed. Her worst sleep trait now is that when she's overtired, she will get super clingy and cry through the steps of getting in bed, moaning that she doesn't want to be alone. Then she'll usually fall asleep while you read. And once she's asleep, not much will wake her until she's ready to be up.

Reagan is also fairly easy to put to bed, but she's a little more detached. She'll climb in without complaint, and also likes to be read to, but she likes when you sit next to her bed and really only likes a quick kiss and hug. Even as an infant, she didn't like to be rocked or nursed or cuddled to sleep. Put her down and let her do it when she's ready. She's much clingier during the day than she is at bedtime. She rarely falls asleep quickly, but will chill out in the dark for hours after her bedtime, no matter what time bedtime is. However, once morning (and morning can begin pretty much any time after 5:00 am) she is up and will find someone to play with. There's no gradual wake up process. The day begins once the sun is up (or even when it's not quite up yet). We've tried all kinds of tricks to keep her in her room until a "reasonable" hour, but remember, she's not motivated by much.

Everything I thought I knew from Madison has to be dealt with or approached completely differently in Reagan. Is that better? Worse? Both? Neither?

Honestly, I think Reagan is the way she is to keep me on my toes. She's there to remind me that parenting one child does not make you an expert in anything. Heck, parenting two doesn't either. It's a constant learning process, full of experimentation.

Speaking of comparing my two kids, about a year ago one of my old posts about the difference in their sleep habits was selected for a humor anthology about sleepy moms, and anthology number THREE for this mom (not that I'm counting!) was published this week!

So if nothing else, this kids give me great material to write about.

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

When It's Worth It - vTech Go! Go! review

VTech provided me with a playset in exchange for an honest review. 

So it's no secret that bloggers sometimes get stuff for free if we agree to write about it. I've heard that some bloggers (cough, my hero MommyShorts, cough) actually get really good stuff for free. Not that the stuff I get isn't good stuff, but I'd love to announce that I'm getting a new vacuum or a new car seat or - what we really need now - a new microwave to review.

Well, vTech offered to send me a playset. Sure, it wasn't a microwave or a new mattress, but since I occasionally need to make the girls go off and play by themselves so I can write on this site, it's always nice when I get show them the perks. See? It's ok that Mommy is writing! You got a new toy!

The toy we got from vTech was the Go! Go! Smart Animals Zoo

The girls were, quite literally, ripping at the box the day it arrived. They could not wait to get this sucker out and start playing.

Can I get a picture of just the toy? No? Why am I not surprised?


However, when I opened the box, I immediately started composing a review in my head that was not so complimentary. Because this suckers came disassembled in about five hundred little pieces (ok, actually closer to about 30). And I was not excited about the assembly process.

With a two year old assistance, how could I go wrong?


I think this is an inherited trait. One of the legends in my family is the infamous Strawberry Shortcake dollhouse. The 1983 edition. This dollhouse was to be my Santa gift and Santa obviously wanted a fully assembled, functional, ready for action dollhouse to greet me under the tree on Christmas morning.

Santa was not pleased with the process.

The legend goes that Santa was down in the basement on Christmas Eve for hours, using some very un-Christian language while Mrs. Claus sat on the stairs just in case any little feet heard the commotion and tried to catch Santa in the act. By the time Christmas morning rolled around, a little girl was thrilled with her new toy, but her father was feeling pretty Scroogy about the whole situation. I have been told the story of the Strawberry Shortcake dollhouse every Christmas for at least twenty years now. Once I was in on the Santa secret, the legend of the Strawberry Shortcake dollhouse was as much a part of Christmas as the tree. And if I ever questioned anyone's dedication to my happiness, I was reminded of the Strawberry Shortcake dollhouse.

Now that I have my own kids, I know that removing toys from packaging and assembling them is just part of the job description. I grumble when I need to follow seventeen steps to put a toy together. I see why my Dad relegated a particularly involved toy to legend.

So I was composing a reviewing that sort of blasted the assembly requirements. The directions didn't seem to be that clear and there were so many pieces to click together. And as I was painstakingly applying stickers and clicking pieces I was noting that a) this toy was going to be huge when it was assembled and b) it was going to be assembled a lot because it didn't seem that secure. Grrr.

Then the girls were finally given the go ahead to play.

They dove into this toy like it was Christmas morning. They rolled the rhino and the penguin (only two animals come with the set itself - the other animals shown are add ons) around. They made up a story. They invited their other toys to visit the zoo. When the pieces separated, Madison was able to click them back together herself.

They played for a solid forty-five minutes. They thanked me over and over for giving them the toy. Madison began writing a thank you note to vTech. And all my annoyance melted away.


And they played together. Be still my heart. Madison even let Reagan take control of the ONE animal.



When it's a fun toy, an engaging toy, a toy that captures their imagination, it's worth the hassle.

I also need to point out that the assembly required no tools and took me about ten minutes. And since it comes apart so easily, I don't need to worry about the size. I can break it down to store it and reassemble it without much trouble. Heck, my four year old can do it. And my two year old can manipulate all the pieces as well. So not only are they taking a tour of a zoo with the talking rhino, they're getting those building and engineering skills as well.


Sometimes you need the kids to show you that.

Thanks vTech. It may not be a microwave, but this opportunity made my girls feel like incredibly lucky kids.



You also have a chance to have some lucky kids! vTech is giving away another playset to one lucky winner (39.99 value)! This playset is marketed to kids aged 1-5, and I can tell you that my 2 and 4 year old are both able to enjoy it on their different levels. It would also make a GREAT gift! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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