Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Toddler Truth Tuesday

It's been a month since I posted!?! Oops! I have a LONG list of posts I want to do with recent crafts/DIYs, etc. that I've done, but this blog always seems to take the back burner. Hopefully more to come soon.

For now, here's a little toddler truth for your LOL enjoyment: 

Jacob was playing in the laundry basket today, and he handed me a bra, saying “Here, Mommy, you need this.”  

I said, “I don’t need it right now, but thanks, honey. Do you even know what that is?” 

He responded, “You use it to hold up your shirt!” 


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Toddler Truths Tuesday

So, this one is the greatest!

The other night I was saying prayers with Jacob at bedtime. I said, "Thank you, Jesus, for everything we have -- our family, our food, our house..."  He stopped me before I could continue, saying, "Huh?? But, our house is made of bricks. It's too big; Jesus can't carry it!"

How do you explain to a 2 ½ year old that Jesus didn't have to carry our house in order to give it to us? Lol. Like I said, the greatest :)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Toddler Truths Tuesday

I've been a serious slacker with this blog lately! We've had SO much going on -- travel, weddings, baby showers, house projects, church activities, preparing for my first craft show for Eastwood Eclectic, etc. And on top of that, Jacob has been sick FOUR times in the last two months! Poor buddy. Our ped. thinks some of it has been seasonal allergies (she says he has "allergic shiners" under his eyes), but he's passed the bugs along to several family members, so I know he's had colds, too.

Anyway, I just had to sneak on here and post a Toddler Truth for today :)

Last night, he was sitting on Daddy's lap, ready to watch "George" (Curious George is about all we watch in this house lately!). Hubby asked me to find the remote for them, and as soon as he heard this, Jacob scurried down off of the recliner and rushed toward the kitchen, all business. Daddy asked him, "Where are you going, buddy?" His response was: "I'm going to see if Mommy needs some help finding the 'mote." Seriously, that whole sentence.

This is a good little anecdote to remind us later that: 1) Jacob's vocabulary and grammar are so amazing for a 2 ½ year old! and 2) He is in a stage where he MUST be personally involved in everything, and usually it's that he must "DO IT BY MYSELF!" Even it if takes 1,000 times longer. It's exhausting, sometimes frustrating, but also endearing ;)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Happy October!

I just love this quote from Anne of Green Gables because I love October! It's such a beautiful month here in the Midwest, and for those of us who are already dreading the predicted brutal winter (again?!?), we have to remember to savor this month -- the sunny days, crisp air, chilly evenings, changing and falling leaves, pumpkin patches, cider, fall flowers, football games, soups...okay, I could go on, but I'll stop! You get the idea. Yay, October.

I designed a little chalkboard art print to celebrate the month; I just learned how to turn my own handwriting and doodles into digital chalkboard art (I'm not limited by available fonts and graphics anymore!), and it's pretty fun. If you use the coupon code BLOGOCT, you can get it here for only $2! It's an instant download, so just print, frame, and enjoy.

Also, here's a song ("Ode to Autumn") about October, by this young artist I saw at our local farmer's market last fall. I love her sound and the lyrics to this song, so just thought I'd share :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Toddler Truths Tuesday

Just a super quick one today, so that I don't forget this cute little stage Jacob is in:

His most frequently used response to every question right now is "maybe," Or, "Maybe, but..." Picture virtually any question you could ask a two-year-old, and think about how the answer "maybe" would sounds. It leads to some funny moments.

For example, yesterday he was giving me a "check-up" during a play date at his friend's house, and I asked if I had a heartbeat.  He goes, "Maybe, but I don't think so." Ha! I told him I'm pretty sure I do ;)

He also uses "maybe" and "how about" to give commands disguised as suggestions, like, "Maybe you should clean me up." Or, "How about we go outside." It sounds so cute and polite, but he's really trying to become a tiny dictator in this house!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Toddler Truths Tuesday

It's Tuesday, and I've got a couple of good ones to share! I'm bummed because I know there at least two more stories that were SO funny, but now I can't remember them! Which reminds of why I like to record these little snippets of Jacob's toddlerhood here. Enjoy!
I was putting Jacob in his carseat and somehow he started talking about my tummy and how he used to be in it (I think he was thinking about this because we had looked at some of his newborn photos the day before)...
I said, "Yep, you were in my belly."
He then jumped in and exclaimed, "Then I was borned. Like Baby Jesus, in my book!"
Over dinner, we were singing songs Jacob likes (like Old MacDonald) and making up silly versions with different words. He wanted to join in the fun, so he said:
"I have another song. It's about...(long pause while he thinks)...me, me me, me, MEEEEEEE!"
A perfect example of toddler egocentrism ;)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fall Fun: A Mommy & Me Craft

Here's a full disclaimer to start! I got these ideas from the blog Housing a Forest, and I followed her great tutorials, found here and here. I'm just sharing my own photos of the process and result! It was a really fun way to get excited about fall and start decorating our home, with Jacob's help :)

Okay, here are the steps:

Make paper pulp! Have your little one help rip up construction paper into tiny pieces, put them in separate containers (by color -- we combined some red paper with orange paper to make a darker orange). We used about 4-5 sheets of paper per color, but it was much more pulp than we needed! More fun for playing in, though ;) Pour boiling water on the pieces and let them sit for at least an hour (a couple would work even better) to break down the paper fibers. Then, blend the wet paper pieces (one color at a time) in the blender to create the pulp.
Find some sticks and rocks (or mulch) in the yard; this is another fun step for getting little ones involved! Arrange them in an empty, clean soup can (or a mason jar, vase, basket with floral foam, etc....up to you!). 
Our "tree" and my little helper ready to go! I knew the pulp would be messy, so I layered Jacob with a smock-style bib and his little apron. I was glad to have done so ;)
Testing out the pulp -- he wasn't sure at first! This part is why this craft is perfect for toddlers and small children. Even if they can't quite make the "leaves" on the tree, they get to tear up paper, search for sticks, and PLAY in the wet, mushy pulp! 
He quickly warmed up and got his hands dirty (SO literally)!
I didn't get pictures of the actual leaf creation, because I had to either help Jacob make his leaves or make them myself while guarding the tree from him ;) To make leaves, just squeeze little bits of pulp onto the ends of the sticks. Squeeze out enough water that the pulp stays on the sticks (this part will be messy!). Try not to be "perfect" in size or color distribution -- your tree will look more realistic if it's random.
What the finished tree looks like while wet. Ideally, place it outside in the sun for several hours to dry. If it is cloudy and/or windy, just set it somewhere out of children's reach. It will take a couple of days to dry fully. 
Once the tree is dry, you can spruce up the can by wrapping it with burlap (or fabric, ribbon washi tape, etc.!). 
The paper "leaves" look really unique and beautiful when dry. 
a close-up view
And, here's another part where I couldn't take photos because I needed to help! After making our tree, we used more of our paper pulp to make these cute leaf hangings/ornaments. All you need is the same pulp colors, a leaf-shaped cookie cutter (could also do a pumpkin, etc.), and a cookie sheet covered in waxed paper! The tutorial from Housing a Forest recommends using a squeeze of glue in with the pulp for this craft, but I decided to try it without. I pictured the messy, sticky pulp becoming even stickier and wasn't brave enough! It still worked just fine, though. Simply have your child squish the pulp into the cookie cutter (no pattern or order needed!), and help them flatten it down and squish out as much excess water as possible.  Use a skewer, lollipop stick, or something similar to make a hole in each leaf. Then, let them dry on the wax paper -- this will take a LONG time (several days to a week). You can sop up a little excess water with a paper towel to help speed up the drying. Finally, tie on a hanger (use twine, ribbon, or yarn), and display as desired!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Dining Room Makeover

Over the last six-plus years of home ownership, we've completed countless updates and decorating projects to make our house into our home. One room that I've long wanted to work on but continually moved to the bottom of the list is the dining room. This was because it was technically "done." By this, I mean that there was a full set of matching furniture. We purchased it as newlyweds through family friends because it was a great deal for an entire, matching set of dining room furniture, including a huge hutch. I wanted somewhere to store my china and such -- that's a rite of passage for newly-married women, right?? BUT, I never really loved the furniture. I didn't hate it (I mean it was nice quality), but definitely didn't love it.  I did hate the burgundy carpet that we lived with for six years, though (although not quite as much as the hunter green carpet upstairs) ;) Anyway, here is the room before:

It was dated, dark, and very traditional. This past March, we finally got new carpet downstairs (we had already replaced the green upstairs before Jacob was born) -- yay! Then, a couple of months later, we inherited a really cool 70-80 year old cabinet from hubby's grandma's estate and decided to make it into a wine cabinet (he did all the designing and work on that!). With the carpet and the spruced-up antique cabinet, I just got an itch to makeover the whole room! 

We agreed we wanted something eclectic (not an entire matching set as we had desired when we first bought the house) and we were going for a sort of shabby-chic/modern farmhouse style. We didn't want the dining room to be too formal or stuffy, where we'd only use it for holidays (as in the before picture!). We wanted family-friendly, but also stylish and classy. I scoured Pinterest for a couple of months, and then we found a great deal on furniture. We ordered pieces from three different collections (from Ashley Furniture) to achieve the eclectic look we were going for, and paired them with a DIY console table update and the wine cabinet we had already revamped. We also added two upholstered dining chairs from Overstock.com. Next, we added an accent wall with reclaimed paneling from hubby's parents' house (originally installed in the 1950's -- we stained the back of the boards). Finally, I got to arrange and accessorize! Here's the end result:

Ta da!!
And some other views. We're SO happy with it!
It is calm, inviting, casual, eclectic, and rustic yet chic...if I do say so myself ;)
Here are a bunch of close-ups of the details. We all know that decorating is all in the details! We decorated on a budget! The wine cabinet, Ball jars, and cast-iron pans are antiques from hubby's Grandma. The cute, personalized pillows were made by my mother-in-law. The wall wine rack was super-cheap from Kohls. The painting is from World Market. The console table was free from friends and revamped (see below)! I made the cork tray. The light fixture was a bit of a splurge (from Lowes), but much cheaper than similar versions we were eyeing (like one from Crate&Barrel). 
Here's a close-up of the cork tray -- it's a quick and easy project, if you have a lot of corks! Just buy a tray and use a hot glue gun to secure the corks! This tray (JoAnn) came white, so I painted it blue to coordinate with the chairs and add a pop of color. We thought it would be a fun way to display our many corks, including some of our favorites from Michigan, Indiana, and Napa wineries we have visited!

And here's a before & after of the console table. Dear friends gave us a table they weren't going to use (free is the perfect price!) and didn't mind if we painted it. I decided to keep the legs stained, since they tied in with the table and hutch, and paint the top. Hubby offered to build an extra shelf onto it, which turned out awesome:

As one more finishing touch, I wanted a table runner. I found this roll of burlap at Walmart for about five bucks and asked my MIL (who has an awesome sewing machine and is super talented) to embroider it for us -- it turned out really cute!

Serving our first meal in the new room :)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Toddler Truth Tuesday

Today's little gem:

Jacob was watching one of the Land Before Time movies (not sure which one, as there are about 10,000 of them), and the little dinos were frolicking among geysers. He goes, "Hey, mommy, that water like at splash pad!"


I have another post coming up later today, so that's it for now!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Toddler Truths Tuesday

It's that time again! I have a few other posts brewing, too, but I have to share a couple of super cute toddler truths today:

Jacob was spending the day with his grandma and uncle last week, and he got his khaki shorts wet in the lake. When they came inside, Grandma threw his shorts in the dryer for a bit. They went together to get them, she pulled them out, and Jacob (noticing the shorts' color) exclaimed:
"What?!? The dryer turned my shorts brown!"
We're not sure what color he thought they were before ;)
At dinner time with Mommy and Daddy, we were discussing Jacob's friends.
"Who is your best friend?" I asked.
(puzzled look)
"Daddy has best friends," hubby explained. "I have three best friends (meaning Jacob, Mommy, and our dog, Avery)."
Jacob was thoughtful for a moment, then responded:
"What?!?! You have three Jacobs?!?"

You can tell he's on a "What?!?" kick. It's pretty funny.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sidewalk Painting!

Summertime means lots of outdoor, often messy, fun when you have a toddler! Yesterday we tried a DIY idea that I have seen floating around Pinterest lately: sidewalk chalk paint. It's not an original idea by any means, but it was a success (as measured by Jacob's excitement!), so I want to share :)

Jacob LOVES to "do projects," which means to do anything that he sees Mommy & Daddy (especially Daddy) doing around the house. Painting is one of those things; we've painted several items lately, and he was SO excited to paint!

First, you need to make your chalk paint. There are many tutorials online for this (I like this one), but it's super easy. Basically, take some old sidewalk chalk, crush it up into a powder, add water, and stir. That's it. Chalk paint! They do sell chalk paint powder in containers resembling paint cans, but it's so easy and cheap to make it yourself, especially if you already have old, broken chalk pieces; I decided to save a few bucks on the paint and get Jacob some other supplies.

I will say that I didn't do the best job crushing it into a fine powder (I put the chalk in a plastic bag and pounded it with a meat tenderizer mallet -- a hammer might be better). Tiny lumps aren't a big deal, but our paint was a bit lumpier than I would have liked. Jacob didn't notice, though!

All ready to get started! I picked up the mini paint pan, brush, and set of textured rollers at Walmart for about $3.50 total, so that he could feel like a real painter! The pan and brush were with the painting supplies, and the rollers were in the kids' art supply aisle. I already had the little stencil sponge brush, which turned out to be perfect for making polka dots!
helping to stir the paint 
...and he's off! The textured rollers were really fun; he loved making "tracks."
You could always just use a plastic bowl and regular art brushes for this, but the paint pan and rollers were a huge hit with him because he felt like a grown up -- I highly recommend some "real" painting tools :) Later, after I washed everything, he used the dry rollers to "paint" the siding and windows of the house," so they were great for pretend, too! Additionally, you could put plain water in the paint pan and let kids "paint" with water. I plan to try this sometime when we don't have the time or energy for the chalk mess, as I imagine the textured sponge rollers will still make tracks with plain water.
"Stamping dots" was really fun.
"Look mom, blue hands!" Of course he had to paint himself, too ;) 
This activity was a bit messier than I expected (although I was naive to expect anything different with this boy!), so it may be smart to have your kids wear old clothes and washable shoes or bare feet ;) The good news is that chalk washes off pretty easily!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Toddler Truths Tuesday

A super-quick Toddler Truth for today!

We spent a great long-weekend at my parents', and Jacob got to have a sleepover with them while we celebrated our 6th Anniversary! His best line from this stay, according to my dad, was when he was talking about his family, and listing them:

"I have Grandma F...Grandma G...and A SNAPPING TURTLE!"

(He uses their full last names, just abbreviated here for privacy.)

I will do a non-toddler truth blog post soon, I promise, since I'm going on several weeks in a row of just these!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Toddler Truths Tuesday

A couple of gems from the past week:
I was washing dishes, and Jacob called me on his toy phone (from just a few feet away):
"Hi, Mommy, how you doing?"
"I'm good, honey; how are you?"
"I climbing mountain."
"Oh, okay. Well, be careful."
"You be careful doing dishes. Have good day!"
I had the Today show on and was watching Jason Mraz perform "I'm Yours." I told Jacob that Uncle Brent sang the song at Mommy & Daddy's wedding, and that I really like Jason Mraz. He said, "I like Jason Mwaazz, too," and proceeded to sing this song:
"Twinkle, twinkle, little star. How I wonder. I wuv you, I wuv you, I wuv you. Christmas Day!"
Hmm... :)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Toddler Truths Tuesday

I've been slacking on Toddler Truths, and the blog in general, this summer! Jacob is always saying the funniest things, but I forget to write them down! Note to self: must make a conscious effort to record and remember these things. I want to be able to look back at them when he's grown up and not nearly so candid ;)

I just have one actual story to share for today, but I also want to note that it is so interesting to watch a child learn the English language. Our language is tricky, and it's cool to see Jacob pick up on little nuances at such a young age. All toddlers make certain grammar mistakes as they're learning, and it's the cutest thing. I have to suspend my former-high-school-English-teacher, proper-grammar-loving attitude and enjoy watching his progression! Lately, when asked if he's doing something (whatever naughty/silly/crazy, sometimes cute, thing it may be), he responds: "I are" or "I is." I know the days are numbered until he realizes he should say "I am," so I enjoy the toddler language "slip ups" for now. :)

Speaking of the language progression, Jacob has been amazing us lately with his command of the comparative and superlative forms! I'm not sure when children usually pick up on this, but we were pretty impressed the other day when we he used the superlative (-est) form of a word when neither of us had said it (I can't remember the specifics of the conversation). Pretty neat.

Okay, here's the real story. Thanks for being patient with my ramblings! This one comes from my hubby, and here's how he described it:

While helping daddy in the kitchen on his ladder, this was the exchange:
Jacob:  “I do like you like Daddy.”
Daddy:  “You try to be like daddy?  Daddy’s not perfect, but you could probably do a lot worse.”
Jacob:  “You perfect daddy.  I not perfect, but daddy perfect.”

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Let Freedom Ring

Happy 3rd of July! To celebrate America, I designed this fun printable -- find it in my Etsy shop for only $2.50 (for an 8x10" print-at-home jpeg) through the holiday :)

Here's how I used it for my own holiday decor:

(...as part of a centerpiece tray that I took to our family party.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Toddler Truths Tuesdays (1 day late!)

I forgot to post these yesterday, but I have a couple of funny moments to share:
The other day, Jacob was in his play room with Daddy, going through bins looking for certain toys.
Several times, when he found what he was looking for, he exclaimed to himself, "That's what I'm talkin bout!"

He then proceeded to take whatever toy it was, place it in the precise spot he wanted it (like a dump truck he parked next to the tractors in his barn), and continue searching the bins for the next treasure.

I just love the excitement over the little things :)
While driving through the country to Grandma's house, this little conversation ensued:

"Look, that's a jungle!"
"No, honey, it's just a woods."
"For the birds."
"Yep, and the deer."
"Deers, deeeeers, where are you? Where ARE you? ...They still sleeping."
"Oh, they're sleeping?"
"Yes, they sleeping in their family house."

I put Jacob's lines in italics, just in case you couldn't tell ;)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A Delicious AND Nutritious Smoothie!

I have had a love affair with smoothies for about as long as I can remember.

....I'm not actually sure when during my childhood they became popular at ice cream shops, coffee shops, etc., but whenever they did, I started ordering them! As a kid, I think I began with things like "freezes" or "chillers" -- drinks that were sweet, cold, and refreshing but were likely all ice and sugar. Then, I discovered "Frulatti" on shopping trips in junior high...you remember those mall days, I'm sure, the kind where I was dropped off outside the food court with a girlfriend or two, stumbling out of my parents' minivan with cash in hand, ready to hunt for treasures with my awkward teen "fashion sense." I usually ordered the strawberry-banana smoothie there, the flavor that was and is the "classic" smoothie. 

Sometime in high school or college (probably after I started making smoothies at work at a local ice cream shop), I began to experiment with my own blended concoctions of juice, fruit, and ice at home. Let me tell you, I have tried COUNTLESS variations. I usually don't use recipes -- I just blend up whatever I have, keeping in mind a couple of basic keys to a smoothie. That is, you have to have ice (or something frozen), fruit, liquid, and some kind of thickener (i.e. yogurt or ice cream).

More recently, especially since becoming a mom, I've become more health-concious instead of purely taste-conscious. I have realized that smoothies are still a refreshing snack (or often a lunch for this mom-on-the-go), but that they can be packed with added ingredients in ways that hardly taste differently but allow me to reap the nutritional benefits! I've started adding veggies (usually spinach or kale) to create "green smoothies," and I've also earned to include little extras like flax seeds or chia seeds that barely affect taste but pack a big nutritional punch.

SO, with all of that said, I want to share a "recipe" (it's not exact -- feel free to experiment) for a smoothie that wins the medal for the tastiest AND healthiest one I've made. It's a twist on that "classic" strawberry-banana flavor. I've tried it several times (each has been delicious!), and this is how you can enjoy one, too:

Start with the "meat" of the smoothie -- fruit and veggies! For this recipe, use:

- 5-6 frozen strawberries
- a handful of frozen triple berry medley (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries)
- ½ a banana
- a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach
Next is liquid (and ice)! Add in:

- 3 oz. apple juice (I like to use the Motts for Tots I buy for Jacob -- less sugar!)
- 3 oz. milk (any kind you use is fine, whether it's skim, whole, almond, coconut, soy, etc.!)
- 5 oz. Odwalla Strawberry C Monster juice (a great Vitamin C blend of strawberries, oranges, apples, and grapes...I believe Naked and Bolthouse Farms have similar blends as well)
- 6-8 ice cubes
Add a "thickener" and an "extra boost":

- two heaping tablespoons of yogurt
- two tablespoons of flax seed meal (You can also use regular whole flax seeds -- I like the meal because they're already ground, so there are no seeds in my smoothie and I don't even notice it.)

The finished product! Pretty, tasty, and HEALTHY :)
*This recipe will make enough for two (or one really large "meal-replacement"). I always make a large smoothie because: 1.) I often eat these as the majority of my lunch or breakfast and 2.) I almost always share with my two-year-old, Jacob (healthy smoothies are GREAT for toddlers -- they love them, and you can sneak in some good healthy portions of fruits and veggies!).

Not sold on adding spinach and/or flaxseed to your smoothie? Here are a couple of great info.-graphics highlighting some of their benefits:

Found on inlifehealthcare.com

Breathe. Relax. Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Toddler Truths Tuesdays

It's time for Toddler Truths Tuesdays, and there are a couple of good ones from this past week:
The other day, Jacob was pretending to be our dog, Avery. He was crawling around, panting loudly, and Daddy said, "You're panting just like Avery!"  He paused, looked over at Avery, and replied (very seriously):
"Avery doesn't have pants."
Yesterday we ate dinner on the patio, and as we finished, we began to hear rumbles of thunder. At the first one Jacob noticed, his hands shot up in front of his eyes (as if to hide), and he he exclaimed, "I better go bed!"
I explained that it was thunder, and he reached his arms out frantically toward Daddy, saying, "Hold you, Daddy!"
He has started to say "hold me," correctly, much of the time, but we secretly love it when "hold you" comes out. It's so cute! Also, I hate to make light of the fact that he was scared of the thunder, but the reaction was too funny :)

Monday, May 26, 2014

On Infant/Toddler Sleep

From Ferber to Dr. Sears, and everywhere in between, there are a LOT of opinions on baby sleep.  I have some, too, but first I'll share my story:

When we were expecting, I read a little here and there about infant sleep, but mostly I figured it would be intuitive, or that we would just do what works best for our baby and our family.  I knew I wouldn't really be able to handle the "cry it out" method, but I was maybe open to some kind of sleep training, and I was pretty much against co-sleeping (it seemed scary/unsafe). I also knew I wanted him in our room at first, but that was about as far as my plan went.

napping on his first day home (with our pup wondering what the heck this new thing was...)!
Then, we got lucky (at least that's what other parents told us), when Jacob slept through the night virtually from day one. For real. Literally, I would set my alarm for two or three a.m. for the first two months to wake him to nurse. Some nights he would seem hungry and nurse okay, but others I would have to strip him down, tickle him, even use a wet cloth on his cheeks to get him to wake up enough to eat! At around eight weeks, the doctor told me I didn't have to wake him anymore, and he slept through the night from then on! He was a "great sleeper."  Really, he just loved his Fisher Price Rock n' Play (He had bad reflux, noisy breathing, and eventually we found out he was aspirating, so he slept in it -- to be elevated -- every night for almost five months as well as for many daytime naps), and he loved being swaddled (yay for Halo swaddle sacks!).

swaddled in the Rock n' Play
working on the transition to flat sleep (in a pack n' play)
When it came time to have him start sleeping flat, move him to his own room (he was in ours for six months), and to lose the swaddle, it was a whole new world! And not in a good way. What had happened to our great sleeper? He still slept well a far as number of hours (the boy always did and still does sleep a LOT), but he wasn't able to self soothe any more, and he seemed to hate laying flat, especially in a big, empty crib. I totally agree with following the AAP recommendations regarding an empty crib (no blankets, bumpers, or stuffed animals), since that's the safest sleep environment for baby, but Jacob was used to a snuggly Rock n' Play, and now he was on this firmer, more open, flat surface. He didn't know what to do. So he cried.

I just gave in and and took pictures instead during one failed crib nap ;)
"Party in my crib."
I rocked him to sleep from then on, and then moved him to his crib when he was asleep. And you know what? I loved the snuggles, and he seemed to sleep well (mostly through the night) after being set down, so no harm no foul, right? Well, eventually teething began, or he'd have a cold, or something would cause him to wake and fuss in the night, and I'd be in rocking again in the middle of the night...lots of nights. This was when he was around 8-9 months old, I think (I don't really remember now!), and some time after several weeks of that waking in the night routine, he was sick with a fever or something and we decided to just keep him in our bed that night to monitor him. Of course, he didn't wake up in the night when we were close by! We did that for a few nights, and after that, he would cry whenever he woke in the night in his own crib (because we weren't there!). We "fought" it and kept trying to put him in his crib at night, only to bring him in at two a.m. when he woke crying, for quite a few months, and then at around 15 months, he climbed out!

I was in bed, sleeping in until I heard him cry for me, except he didn't cry this day. I don't know if he even made much of a sound (although he must have, right? I didn't hear it...) as he scaled his crib and dropped to the floor of his room. He is pretty small, and we had the crib on the lowest setting (or so we thought -- later we realized it did go down about two more inches), so we didn't expect him to escape and didn't yet close his bedroom door or the gate at the top of the stairs! Thank God, he toddled right past the stairs and into my bedroom, calling "Mommy!" I almost had a heart attack, seeing him standing there, out of his crib. So then came the "great toddler bed debate." Do we put him in a toddler bed at only 15 months? Or risk him climbing out again, and possibly being injured in the process? Do we forget it all and start co-sleeping (he was already ending up in our room many an early morning)?

Still holding him to get him to sleep at around 15 months...

Ultimately, we decided he was too small for a toddler bed (and we weren't up to the challenge yet), so we kept the crib but sort of did a combo of the "risking it" (we did realize we could lower the mattress two more inches, and we surrounded the crib with pillows on the floor) and the co-sleeping. During this time he seemed to increasingly dislike his crib, and he had still yet to put himself to sleep, since those early days of the magic swaddle/Rn'P combo. We limped through those few months, with one of us staggering into his room in a half-sleep daze in the wee hours to bring him to our bed whenever he cried. We struggled a little at bed time, too, as this was between about 15-20 months, and he'd gotten pretty big and heavy for rocking. He didn't let me rock him in the chair any more, so I would kind of rock/cuddle/pin him down in our bed until he drifted off, and then transfer him to his crib (and make "the drop" -- 5'1" me trying to gently lay down a sleeping 23-ish lb. boy in a crib on the lowest setting, where I could barely reach down to the mattress).
a makeshift nap spot after trouble moving him into the crib ;)
I read about baby/toddler sleep again sometime in there...I read Elizabeth Pantley's No Cry Sleep Solution, information on sleep training from The Baby Sleep Site, excerpts from Pamela Druckerman's Bringing Up Baby, and countless posts on BabyCenter and other websites. I tried various pieces of advice and couldn't quite come up with the "magic formula" for getting him to sleep in his crib and/or to soothe himself to sleep. I really don't think there's an expert who knows exactly what to do in each unique situation, with each unique baby.

Still, something had to give, so just after he turned 20 months old, I decided it was time to take off the rail to turn his crib into a toddler bed (yes, I mean that "I," not we, decided -- Daddy was pretty skeptical). Thankfully, it worked so well! Jacob LOVED (I really mean it) his new "Big Boy Bed," as it was dubbed. He climbed in it proudly, promptly filled it with all his stuffed "friends" and his blankies, and claimed it as his special space. He would even run and dive in it at non-sleep times and get this huge grin. When we traveled, he would ask for his Big Boy Bed and struggle to go to sleep anywhere else. Daddy was surprised and impressed. This was all wonderful, but there was a catch -- Jacob still couldn't "self soothe."
The first night in the Big Boy Bed!
He was almost two, and I still had to help him get to sleep. I know this was because we didn't let him cry it out and we didn't sleep train. It's because he never had to self soothe after about six months of age, and he'd forgotten how. But now he was older, much louder, verbal, and able get out of his toddler bed and roam his room, but still too young to really understand why we'd leave him alone in there. So, I would still lay next to him (yes, I'd squeeze in the toddler bed -- good thing I'm really short) at naps and bed time and read a story, sing songs, cuddle, rub his back, etc. until he was sound asleep. Then I'd sneak out of his room. It was a routine for so long, and it was "our time," and most evenings I didn't mind spending that time at all (I did mind when we visited family or had company over and I'd have to disappear for a half hour for the bedtime routine). He wouldn't need it forever, though, right?

Right. Jacob is almost 26 months old now, and about a month or so ago, I started thinking that he had to learn to put himself to sleep now that he's two. It's just a skill kids should have, and I wanted a little more freedom in my evenings, but I wasn't sure how to go about it. I had tried leaving the room before, and he had spazzed -- screaming and crying for me, and definitely not falling asleep. Well, my husband was traveling for a week for work, and on the third night, our dog started barking/whining/ringing his bell to go outside while I was upstairs, mid-bedtime routine with Jacob. He was not letting up, so I told Jacob, "I'll be right back, I have to go take Avery outside. I'll come back in a few minutes." He said "Okay, Mommy," and sat still as I walked out of the room and closed the door. I thought, "Wow, no crying?" When I came back inside, the monitor was silent. I waited about ten minutes, listening for a little boy wandering his room or calling for me, and it stayed silent. I knew he was safe in there, but I had to check, so I peeked in; he was sound asleep, favorite blankie in hand, covers pulled up, in the same spot where I left him in his bed. HE DID IT. For the first time ever. I was amazed, thankful, and maybe a little sad that he didn't need me (I know, weird considering I'd wanted and waited for this moment, right?).

I took that night as a cue, and continued the same routine for the next several nights, following our bedtime routine, lying next to him, and then telling him I needed to leave and would be back to check on him in a little bit...I did come back each time, just after he was asleep. ;) Each night I left a bit sooner, until I was leaving right after a story, a song, and a kiss, while he was still mostly awake. Each night, he put himself to sleep. He didn't have one night of crying, calling for me, or getting out of his bed. In fact, he never gets out after I leave, until the morning (I can tell based on the pillows we still have on the floor in case he'd fall, the sound in the monitor, etc.). It's been about two weeks now, and every night we've had the same success. I think he was just ready developmentally. My toddler now goes to bed by himself, in his own Big Boy Bed. He stays there, and we don't hear from him until about 7:30 - 8 a.m. (bed time is 8 - 8:30). Plus he naps for about two hours each afternoon (but I still have to help him fall asleep for many of those). It is a little bittersweet, but I'm so proud!

He loves his bed now -- snuggling recently with a bunch of his "friends" :)
I know that's a LONG story! I think most of our "sleep stories" are, if we have babies or toddlers, but my point in sharing all of those details is this: we've reached the desired end result. Jacob puts himself to sleep. He got there eventually, despite some struggles along the way. He's growing up.

And now? I kind of wish he was my tiny baby again and I could swaddle him, rock him to sleep, and place him in the tiny Rock n' Play nest by my bed. I even kind of wish I could lay next to him and cuddle him to sleep, see him drift off peacefully, and listen to his even breaths as I carried him to the crib and snuck out of the room. I don't really (I do have major baby fever, but that's another story for another time). The point is that I don't care about all of those "sleep struggles." I don't wish that I had let him "cry it out" at some point. Sure, I've learned some things and may do things a bit differently if we're blessed with a second child. But I don't wish Jacob's baby and toddlerhood had gone any differently, including the sleep stuff.

I hope that these thoughts are helpful to you if you're in an earlier stage with your little one. If you're struggling with sleep, it's so hard to think ahead, to realize that your child will someday sleep all night, alone. Heck, it's hard to even function when you're exhausted. So maybe it's annoying when people tell you "this too shall pass," or "this is just such a short phase, a season of life." I think I was annoyed by those same people and now I'm one of them, but IT IS TRUE. Your baby or toddler will not go to college needing your help to get to sleep. In fact, he or she will probably want to sleep, ALONE, much more than you'd wish during those teenage years ;)

So try to soak it in, enjoy the time and the stage, and do the "sleep stuff" however YOUR gut tells you to. I'm a true believer in "whatever works for you" when it comes to parenting (as long as it's safe, loving, and developmentally-appropriate!). I don't like it when moms feel like they have to do exactly what the mom next door does, and I really don't like when moms judge each other's choices. Don't listen too closely to the famous expert, or the moms in your play group, or your mother-in-law, or even your own mother (sometimes even your husband). You are the mom, you're the expert on your baby, and you will eventually get the desired end result.