Saturday, May 10, 2014

An International Potluck

The following blog post has nothing to do with the sweet little boys in our household. Yes, our life does seem to revolve around them most of the time, but occasionally Mommy and Daddy get a chance to just be Amy and Jason. :)

Recently, Amy's Bible study girls met for a social night. We like to have a fun event each time we finish a Bible study unit. For this particular social night, we met to play Just Dance (Amy's first time trying it out-- so fun!) and to have a special potluck. The week before, we had a drawing to determine what types of food each of us would bring. First, we drew a meal course (appetizer, salad, main dish, drink, etc.) out of a jar. Then, we each selected a nationality out of a hat. The results were bizarre combinations of dishes that each of us were to prepare.

Each of us girls tried out totally new recipes. The meal was DELICIOUS (even though nothing really went together at all!). Here are our tasty foods:

First, Katie displays her German appetizer-- a sauerkraut cheese dip with bread. I don't even like sauerkraut normally, but this was tasty! 

Maggie drew an Asian salad. She made a veggie salad, including shaved carrots that looked like noodles, that was tossed in a yummy peanut sauce.

I made a couple of Greek drinks, basically just smoothies made with Greek yogurt. One was a strawberry kiwi drink and the other (our favorite) was a blueberry muffin smoothie with cinnamon.

Becky was in charge of the main course. She whipped up a Mexican layered dish with chips, beans, cheese, meat, and other delicious taco toppings. It was quite good!

Regan was our Italian chef, in charge of a side dish. She made some absolutely wonderful stuffed mushrooms. In case some ladies didn't prefer mushrooms, she put her creamy Italian sauce atop a few bread slices as well. Of course, we all had to try both varieties of her side. My personal favorite was the mushrooms. Yum!

Alecia wowed all of us with her French dessert. Ooh-la-la! :) This taste of heaven was similar to a cream puff, lathered in chocolate and topped with strawberries. What a treat!

 What a wonderful evening! I would highly recommend this method of potluck planning for anyone looking for a unique meal. It was a great excuse to try out new recipes!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Toddler Proofing

Over the past year or so, as Cody and Jaden have grown physically, their curiosity and investigative skills have continued to expand and develop as well. With four little hands and four little feet destroying... er... exploring our home, we've often had to be creative in regards to protecting our home from our curious little toddlers.

Lately, however, we've discovered that some of the baby- or toddler-proofing that we've done is no longer necessary. We have actually been able to put some pieces of our home back to their normal condition. As we've done this, I often have to chuckle. Some of the changes we've had to make to our home have really been quite amusing. And many of them have made our home look quite strange.

Someday, I want to be able to tell Cody and Jaden about these silly protections and precautions we had to make "when they were young." So, here is a photo journal, of sorts, (with a few of the pics taken many months ago!) capturing some of our adventures in toddler proofing.

Fireplace Guard
When the boys first started crawling, we lined our fireplace brick with soft blankets and even Mommy's pregnancy body pillow. 

As you look behind sweet little 10-month-old Jaden here, you can see our baby gate set up over the fireplace. Yes, the boys quickly learned how to crawl right up over the pillow and bang on the fireplace grate, so the gate went up!

As our boys started standing, walking, and becoming stronger, the baby gate in front of the fireplace no longer worked. A few times, the boys shook on gate so hard, the pressure-gate came loose and the boys flew backwards with the gate! A new plan was in order... at first, we thought we could go gate-less. Unfortunately (at least for Mommy and Daddy), the loud fireplace covering made a wonderfully loud noise anytime little hands chose to bang on it or throw toys against it. After a little brainstorming session with Grammy, this beautiful covering was born-- a cardboard sheet covering several layers of bubble wrap (to muffle the sound) taped to the fireplace. Though not even slightly attractive, the cardboard set-up worked. Our fireplace was deemed safe.

Front Landing Protection
The setup of our front room presented an interesting challenge as Jaden and Cody first started to crawl. Because of the L-shape of our landing, Baby gates didn't quite work to protect our boys' little heads from falling on our laminate floor. Grammy and Grandma helped to brainstorm a bit for this next solution.

Mommy bought a large piece of craft foam and, using an electric knife, cut the foam in segments that could be placed right at the base of the step.

Although the boys were both happy (like smiley 11-month-old Jaden in the picture below) with our new decor, Mommy was not too happy with the dirt and stains that quickly developed on the foam padding. 

Grandma and Grammy both graciously put in many hours brainstorming, cutting, and sewing this old bedsheet to fit over the foam padding. Mommy could now easily remove the covering to wash it, and the boys were safe in their explorations. Success!

Preventing Crib Destruction
When the boys were about 9 or 10 months old, we discovered that we had a little beaver. Our little Jaden-man apparently had a new pastime before naptime and bedtime-- chewing on his crib rails, of course!

I'm not quite sure how we failed to notice Jaden's teeth marks in the wood until it got this bad. Must've had something to do with our rotten sleeping habits at the time...

Anyway, Mommy got some great suggestions for crib rail liners from some mommy-friends online and ordered these liners from Amazon. Waterproof and topped with a fleece layer, the liners did the trick and blended in quite well with the crib's wood. 

The Bookshelf Sentry
The only thing that Cody and Jaden love more than flipping through their books is pulling all of their books off the shelf and scattering them around our house. This habit took a while for Mommy to get used to (she's a bit of a neat freak...). Now, however, Mommy and Daddy both are quite accustomed to stepping on books in the kitchen, sitting on book piles on the couch, finding books underneath the piano, and even discovering books under their feet in the bathroom... Every. Single. Day. (sigh)

Mommy and Daddy allow the book hurricane to take place both upstairs and downstairs, as long as the books are ones that belong to the boys. Mommy and Daddy's books are off-limits for the book-scattering practice. For a long time, this chair stood guard in front of the bookshelf in our basement. The chair was lovingly nicknamed "the Jesus chair" by some of my Bible study girls since it sat empty in the corner each week. :)

After a while, Jaden and Cody learned to climb up onto the chair and tried to reach the books on a higher shelf, so... the chair had to go. It served its purpose well, though. For the most part, the boys still do a good job of remembering to keep these books on the shelf.

Rearranging the Stove Drawer
While some toddlers in our household may disagree with me, dropping muffin tins and cookie sheets as hard as you can on the floor does not equal fun for all. Often, the pans would be dropped on little toes or pinched between little fingers (and we're not even mentioning the wear and tear to the pans and the floor). Not surprisingly, Mommy found a new home for these particular pans and tins. After a few weeks of not being able to reach these fun "toys," the boys lost interest, and Mommy could once again return the pile to the drawer.

Disappearing Hardware
After our boys learned to open this hutch cabinet door (leading to much of our china and glassware), we brought out the screwdriver. Now that the door is missing a handle, it is 100% toddler-safe!

A Must-Have Garbage Can for Toddler Parents
Thanks to my wise sister Kim, this wonderful locking garbage can happily found a home in our kitchen early last fall. No longer can the boys freely throw away their toys or stuffed animals or any of Mommy or Daddy's items, for that matter! We highly recommend this type of garbage can to any parent who wants to keep their belongings out of the dumpster! The only thing this garbage can was missing was a weight. Due to our twins' love for tipping over garbage cans, we had to add a few sand bags in the bottom of ours. No kidding.

 The Closet Lock
At first, it wasn't a problem when Cody and Jaden started exploring our closets. Then, Mommy and Daddy started losing their shoes.... regularly. We figured life would be a whole lot easier if we just declared the closet off-limits. Unfortunately, Jaden and Cody didn't understand the verbal directions, so we put this stretchy headband on the door handles.

The headband worked for a while, but soon the boys figured out how to stretch open the doors and quickly squeeze themselves through before the doors snap shut again. Yikes! Now the headband was turning this into a hazardous situation. To solve this problem, Mommy loosely knotted a scarf around the door handles. Now, the doors open only a couple inches (not widely enough for our little men to fit through), but Mommy and Daddy can easily take the scarf off the handle to get into the closet.

Jaden's Personal Firewall
So our dear little son Jaden likes to create a bit of havoc in his crib. Actually, more likely, the crib is just in a poor position for a curious little toddler. A few months ago, Jaden discovered that he could both turn on his bedroom light AND open the bedroom door, all while standing in the corner of his crib. For obvious reasons, Mommy and Daddy didn't want this practice to continue. Masking tape works well to keep the light in a permanent "off" position, and a handy toddler door lock is perfect for keeping Jaden from opening the door. (While this may be effective, though, it's still not the perfect fix.... Jaden LOVES batting at the door lock, making it spin around and click against the doorknob. This clicking sound is the way we can tell that Jaden is up from his nap or awake in the mornings each day.)

The Missing Floss Containers
Our bathroom door USED to hold boxes of floss. The boys, however, recently discovered how fun it is to unravel yards of floss from the container. Consequently, our floss has now found a new home behind our bathroom mirror.

Displaced Furniture
Once Cody and Jaden learned how to climb, there was no stopping these two! They LOVED climbing up anything they could get their little feet onto. Unfortunately, that usually meant falling off these same furniture items as well. The boys' nursery glider has a very comfy ottoman. In the boys' mind, though, this ottoman made an excellent jumping platform... That's why this particular piece of furniture is now safely tucked away in a corner of Mommy and Daddy's room It's supposedly blocking access to the garbage can as well, but the ottoman isn't succeeding too well in this department.

Attempting to climb up or pull on tall lamps is not the best habit for little toddlers either, in case you were wondering. After one of our boys pulled this white lamp down, sending it crashing to the ground mere inches away from his brother's head, all of our household lamps took a vacation to this corner room in our basement. One of the lamps has returned home to our upstairs front room (though it is currently blocked by two toy baskets). I'm thinking these other 2 lamps will probably stay on vacation for a while longer...

More Door Locks
Most of the time, having the boys open and close doors does not present too much of a problem. Having free access to the kitchen pantry (including multiple canned goods), on the other hand, is not such a great idea. Cody, unfortunately, disagrees.

The Daily Removal
Can you tell which item atop the boys' cube organizer doesn't belong? All of the items but one stay here on a permanent basis. If you guessed the nightlight hidden behind the boys' picture frame... you're right! The daily routine of removing the nightlight and hiding it away began when Cody started carrying the nightlight out to us in the morning.

Raising the Basket
Originally, we kept our basket of remotes on the end table next to our recliners. Then, out of necessity, the basket moved to a spot right below the TV. Now, the remote basket is hidden WAY up on the top of our entertainment center. At this point, it's almost easier to just press the buttons directly on the TV.

Creating a Path
And finally, some changes made to our household have been part toddler proofing and part toddler enjoyment. Yes, it's true that we didn't want the boys picking up our cordless phone and playing with it. But, yes, it's also true that this phone was moved for another reason...

The phone cord, previously stretching behind these recliners, was creating a serious barrier for our boys. Adults who look at the following picture may see furniture moved forward at a strange distance, creating a wide empty space right next to the wall-- a somewhat odd decorating decision. Small toddler boys who love to run, however, will look at this picture and see something even better-- a racetrack!

This portion of our basement has become the boys' favorite place to run around... and around and around again. Seeing their enjoyment in this spot definitely makes the strange change worthwhile.

This particular decorating change has been a good reminder that a house is a home, a place to be lived in and enjoyed. So, yes, our house may go through stages during these toddler years during which portions of it look quirky or unnatural. But ultimately, it's important that our boys feel safe and have fun in our home, no matter what odd toddler proofing changes we need to make.

On second thought, maybe having shoes from our closet strewn all about our home isn't such a bad look after all.... :)