Love Thursday: The Things We Keep

Yesterday I took away all of my son’s toys. All of them. At some point during the course of the day I hit the point of no return – watching the way he abused his belongings had irked me one too many times; putting his toys away for him either because he wouldn’t or because he wouldn’t do it right… I may be asking too much of a three year old but the thing that really bothered me happened after I took them away. He didn’t care. Guys, I’m serious – I took ALL his toys away and he didn’t even whimper. He seemed to think it was funny. And apart from asking for one stuffed animal before nap time, he never asked me for a single toy. And the rest of our day was pleasant. Awesome even. What the frig?

When my husband came home and saw the empty toy room he was a bit astonished. “Do I even need to ask how your day was?” I believe was his response. When I told him that after I’d taken the toys away it had been a great day and that his son didn’t even seem to miss all the great stuff I’d put away… He was a bit surprised, too. I’ve often thought that MM has too many toys – sometimes it’s hard to really appreciate something when you have it in mass quantities. But whenever we’ve tried to weed through his things and donate stuff, we never get very far because it’s all great stuff, you know? Where do you draw the line? Last night we played hard ball. Sort of. We went through all his toys and got rid of well over half of it. Except, by got rid of, I really mean we put it in our storage closet downstairs. And looking around his toy room there is still a ton of stuff, but the difference is still huge. Instead of having several dozen stuffed animals on his bed, he now has six. And those are the only stuffed animals in his possession, there aren’t any in the toy room. So what’s left in his toy room now you ask? Let me show you…

We left all his train accessories and of course the terrific table my dad made for him.

Likewise with his awesome tool bench – an old Christmas present from his auntie – honestly the big toys are the least of our problems and this one is in constant use.

This used to also house all his little stuffed animals, which are now in storage. He loves to dress up in funny hats and put his worldly possessions in fun bags. Now these things are front and center in the Dress Up Bucket and the stuffed animals which used to mostly just get dumped on the floor when he wanted a fun hat… yeah those are gone.

Dan and I are huge nerds and we wouldn’t have the heart to get rid of great educational toys. The puzzles, abacus and the wooden “foods” all stay. These are also favorites of the boy’s so I know they’ll be used frequently. Hopefully now they’ll be used MORE in fact.

These are in addition to a bunch of little matchbox cars that live with his train set. Like any boy, MM loves “things that go” – we kept most of his trucks and cars out (though not all of them).

Of course the great Mega Bloks have to stay and the blue bucket has a couple toys we deemed worth keeping…

We used to have two buckets filled to the brim with small toys, some things in multiple, like he needs that many. This is probably the part I’m proudest of. I feel a little silly having such an empty forlorn looking bucket, but then I remember Christmas is always just around the corner…

There was no chance of us getting rid of the great pull out couch, his “baby sister” doll and blanket. Likewise with books and the things above the bookshelf. NO books were gotten rid of – because well his parents are book fiends.

Like we’d probably be shot if they went missing. His prized possessions to be sure.

The bottom line for me, and the part that makes this a Love Thursday is that I want my son to LOVE the things he has and in turn, take marginally good care of them. When we moved we got rid of so much of our own clutter (maybe not enough, but a LOT) and our main method for selection was, “Do we HONESTLY love this thing?” We were brutal but it was worth it. It was liberating. And MM has been happy as a clam today, playing with the toys which remained – not even a second thought seemingly going to things which are gone. At some point we may donate a bunch of the stuff downstairs – and if he asks for it and we are feeling nice we may bring some things back up. But honestly, I think he still has plenty and it’s all stuff we all love.

Love Thursday is the brain child of Chookooloonks. Check out her post today for more thoughts on love, and the comments section for other people playing along.

A Closer Look

I love the picture I posted in my Wordless Wednesday this week – the expression on MM’s face takes my breath away and I think the colors came out beautifully (then the sepia and black and white versions added their own charms), but there is one thing I don’t love about it and I haven’t mentioned it yet to anyone except my husband – I think it’s time to get this off my chest so we can all collectively yell a hearty WTF together because seriously. First things first, the picture again:

Tear your eyes away from my adorable son for a moment and look where he’s standing. That’s not just a big old pile of random rust there. If you look closely (or maybe it’s immediately obvious to you way smarter parents out there reading this) that’s fire damage. The slide behind him literallly melted from the heat of the flames and you can see the color difference between the pole in front of MM and the pole behind him. Someone, it would appear, had a bonfire on the apartment’s playground – right where my son is now standing. It took me way too long to figure this out before whisking him off the damn thing.

I mean, seriously? WTF? First there are the random preschoolers wandering around the apartment complex and playground alone and unsupervised, free to set their worst examples for my impressionable overly friendly three year old. The litter. The teenagers who loiter around the playground or toss a ball around so close to the playground that you occasionally have to duck your head to avoid being hit (something my three year old wouldn’t even think to do if it came near his head). All of this was annoying and had me apprehensive about going to the small playground, which was kind of a bummer because for me it was a major selling point for this apartment. But throwing a bonfire on the playground?? Seriously? How could they think that was an okay thing to do? Now I just plain refuse to go there with MM which really sucks because it’s the only one in walking distance. I know, blah blah lazy me – get in the car and drive. That’s fine, I will. But – – I can’t get past, WTF?

I love our apartment – the layout, the kitchen, it feels right and it’s working. The price is decent. But every ammenity which seemed like a bonus point lately feels like a big let down. The washing machine and dryer which mostly work but end up being a pain in my butt – whatever I can deal with that as much as it’s annoying, it’s better than dragging two kids to a coin op. But the playground – that was a big thing on my list. I’m glad they don’t have a pool now because I’d never feel safe using it – lord knows what size fires they could start in there.

Basically, right now I’m just waiting rather impatiently to crawl out of the financial downturn we took after the layoff and start saving enough to buy a house. It is now the only thing I’m concerned about apart from the day to day whatevers. I don’t care about vacations right now or whatever. I just want a house. I dream about having my own little (fenced in) backyard with a swing set or a kiddie pool – to be able to talk about getting a puppy or planting a garden or buying outdoor furniture. To be able to just walk outside and have a cookout, rather than figuring out somewhere to use the tabletop grill. I want to paint walls and drill holes without thinking about how long it will take to fill them in when we leave. I want to own my domain and be the one in charge of it. I’m tired of WTF.

Independence Day Weekend

This weekend was my first time celebrating the 4th of July without going to the town parade, fireworks, visiting family for cookouts, etc. We spent the entire weekend celebrating with just the 3.5 of us and I have to say it was a pretty nice weekend. Our original plan involved going to the beach on Saturday and making a huge feast on Dan’s tabletop grill, but those plans were rained out. So we decided to go to the beach on Sunday with a modest feast and cook the majority of it at home that day.

Saturday July 4th went a little something like this…

After a french toast with powdered sugar, strawberries and blueberries breakfast (so festive!) we spent Saturday morning mulling around Walmart spending a lot more money than we intended to, but on things we needed (we got the sleeping bag for MM and a great nursing gown for me and BB). That afternoon we had bratwurst cooked over a George Foreman grill (hot dogs for the picky three year old), homemade pasta salad and deviled eggs. I’m going to admit right now that Dan did almost all the cooking this weekend.

(We were talking last night about our culinary interests and what we thought they’d be etc. I always assumed I’d become this perfect homemaker who cooked amazing dinners, desserts, etc. and basically owned the kitchen. But apart from desserts and the occasional lucky recipe, most of my culinary prospects have been lackluster. I can do a quick, easy main dish like it’s no one’s business but when I try to get fancy, I rarely feel my efforts have been rewarded by an amazing dish. It never feels worth it – you know? Just stressful. Then somewhere in the middle, Dan got interested in bread making, which turned into pizza making, which, with the help of Food Network in the past month and a half, has turned into – he loves to cook. And his food is good, ladies. I am spoiled rotten and I’m not complaining. I actually feel relieved. Sometimes I’m a bit jealous but since I can still kick his butt in the dessert department and I still mostly own the rest of the homemaking gig, I think it evens out and I’m proud of him. So in general, the kitchen belongs to Dan during the weekends especially and more often on weeknights than I care to admit to – but I can play the pregnancy card for now.)

Anyway, this has very little to do with the weekend – so I’ll get back to my little recap. After lunch we spent some time doing MM’s favorite thing – playing with toys. Every day (several times a day) he will come over to one of us and say, “Do you want to come play in my TOY ROOM?” and you know I feel terrible when I am too busy which seems to happen a lot – even more so for poor Dan. So that afternoon we both said a whole hearted YES and spent awhile doing just that. MM was in his glory.

For dinner that night we continued our original menu plan with the second half of our feast – Dan made homemade beef teriyaki – complete with the wooden skewers just like at a Chinese restaurant and oh mylanta, it was Good. We had that with leftover pasta salad and celery with peanut butter and cream cheese and for dessert – lemon bars, homemade right of a Betty Crocker box. I always go back and forth between strictly homemade and “times-a-wasting” and to be honest, this lemon craving of mine is still so new to me that I wanted to try a couple of box recipes first – that I know I can’t likely screw up – so that when I try homemade later when my energy levels return to “normal” I’ll know if it tastes close to right and what things should look like. These came out pretty good – and Dan kicked it up a festivity level with his “plating skills” (all husbands should be required to watch Iron Chef America – I think he secretly scores each of his meals by flavor, plating and originality).

(this picture doesn’t do it justice, I am still working on my food photography and meanwhile the ice cream and whipped cream were melting so I gave up early and got to eating!)

Then on Sunday, our holiday weekend continued…

The weather was gorgeous so we were thinking it would be the perfect beach day. But we set out first thing that morning to Target (which was closed on the 4th) to buy one very special item – Baby Blueberry’s infant car seat and stroller. We got the Graco Mulberry style travel system I’ve had my eye on for months now despite going back and forth a bit, wanting to be sure it was the one, we can now safely say – yes it is, and it’s ours! We had a cheap Cosco travel system with MM that we loathed so much we actually donated it shortly after he outgrew the car seat, vowing to get ourselves something nicer for the next baby. I was worried that wouldn’t happen after Dan got laid off, but with the help of the $100 Rent.com visa we got, the price was cut in half and we decided to do our sanity a favor and go for it. We’re very happy with it from what we’ve seen so far. By the time we got home the weather was too beautiful to wait any longer.

So we packed up our beach gear and the food we had planned for that day’s lunch and headed to our new favorite beach (not that we’ve checked out any others yet). Dan got to work immediately cooking the rest of the bratwurst and some more hot dogs for MM while MM got to work immediately playing on the beach’s playground.

Then after lunch we headed to the beach. Unfortunately the algae levels were too high or something so the department of health mandated the water be “closed” so we didn’t get any swimming in but the boys still had fun playing in the sand. After a couple minutes building sandcastles Dan taught MM the age old fun of being buried in the sand which he thought was just terrific!

That night we made homemade pizza with pretty much everything but the kitchen sink thrown on top, leftover pasta salad and some watermelon that was leftover from another culinary feat this weekend – we made this delicious watermelon lemonade that I saw on Smitten Kitchen last week. Everything was delicious, making a terrific end to our holiday weekend.

Again with the picture not doing the meal justice.

A Walk Outside…

MM and I took a walk outside this morning and I took a few pictures, thought I’d share…

This is just outside our apartment building, to the right. Beyond those trees is the “main road” which leads to the grocery store, the highway, and basically everything else we go to.

Here MM is showing you the door to our apartment building.

And to the left of the building is a path to the parking lot and a view of the road our apartment is on – this is the road we would take if we were taking a longer walk. Of course after this we just ended up going to the little playground. It was nice and quiet as we were the only ones there.