Detailed New House Overview

Here is a room by room tour of our new house! It will be long and rambly and full of way too many details. 🙂

In general, we’ve been able to reuse things we already had instead of buying a bunch of new stuff. I’ve been purposeful in not wanting to buy tons of new, and trying to buy used whenever possible. With the exception of the fridge and washer dryer, of course.

Besides appliances, the other big new thing we added to the house is custom window shades! Only the living room had any window coverings when we bought the house. We bought Veneta shades from Home Depot, white partially opaque bottom-up, and we had Home Depot install them too. They are AWESOME and they make us very happy. 🙂

So let’s start in the living room. I’m extra happy with this room most recently because I finally got a new awesome rug! I really wanted a light-colored room; in our rental house the couch was dark brown and the rug(s) were dark green. This house has better light and I just crave light, so I needed the furnishings to help with that.

I bought a new white shag rug from Wayfair back in November…but oh my god the smell was so, so awful. We tried to let it air out in the garage, but it didn’t really work. We brought it back in the house for a couple days and opened all the doors and windows. The immediate smell sort of dissipated, but I spent an hour or so in there watching tv, and then my lungs started to hurt. We were about to have that birthday party and I was like, no way am I having people into this room where it just smells toxic. So we took it back out to the garage and brought in our stupid green rugs. I then began trolling the online marketplaces for the size and color/patterns that I was looking for. In February, I found this perfect gray one on Offer Up, it was 8×10, a few months old but in like-new condition, for only $110. (I got down on the ground to smell it up close to ensure there was no gross chemical smell!) It’s smaller than I wanted (ideally I wanted a 9×11 or so), but it works.

The couch is a used IKEA Vimle from Facebook. It ended up being dingier than advertised, but the covers all come off and are washable. I washed the cushion covers once early on but it didn’t help, so at some point I need to remove all the covers, soak them in Oxyclean, and wash them again. Alternatively we could buy a new set of covers from IKEA, which is still way less than a new sofa. Anyway, it’s a comfortable couch, I adore the chaise, and I REALLY love that it’s a storage chaise! The storage ottoman is awesome too. I have blankets and pillows stored in both. So convenient!

I’m very happy to have the Poang out and ready to use. It’s such a comfortable place to sit and read! I got the fake tree in the corner from a client, which fits and fills that space perfectly. Yes we still have our cozy fairylights up. 🙂 At some point I want to get nice midcentury lamps, but for now the cheap Target lamps that we already had do the job. We’re reusing the mirror and IKEA 2×2 expedit for a ‘console table.’ I found some cool midcentury ones but I’m wary of the space. And this way there’s still lots of storage. Maybe in the future we’ll be able to upgrade.

Next up, the kitchen! It connects to the living room through a pocket door. 🙂

It’s a big open space. It is very light in the daytime. The major downside is lack of counter space. We could put in an island but that would block all that open space. We have that little IKEA island over there to the right, but generally it’s covered with stuff, not usable for prepping food. We’ve got one large window, a glass sliding door, and a smaller window. We got some of the plain long white curtains for the big ones but haven’t gotten around to hanging curtains for the sink window. I also haven’t gotten around to washing/shrinking/hemming the curtains yet…

We still have our basic wooden IKEA table. In the corner by our whiteboard I added a plant stand for some gifted monsteras and the still-going pointsettias. The only thing you can’t really see is the pantry, and little built-in desk/storage in the right corner above. The desk area is full of crap, and the pantry isn’t super tidy, but oh man, I LOVE IT. I was also worried about having fewer cabinets than our old house, but these cabinets are larger. Especially that full-length double cabinet! Ooh, and we have that cool lower corner spinny cabinet! And again, pantry! We have our little extra stand next to the cabinets with the fruit bowl and compost bin. The trash can is large and unfortunate, but we don’t want to have only a tiny trash under the sink.

From the living room, you go up a half-staircase to the upstairs grown-up floor. There’s a large landing that isn’t a great use of space, but I’m proud of what I put together. Those prints we already had framed, the ‘rug’ is two of the small rugs we had in our old hallway, and the fake plant is new from IKEA. It’s perfect!

To the left of the landing are the small bedrooms that we’re using as offices. These aren’t quite as finished yet. Here’s A’s office which is also the guest bedroom. He always works from home but usually works at the kitchen table when the boys are at school. We haven’t gotten any artwork up on the walls; it’s all in a pile on the floor/shelf. I did get a used bedframe from FB marketplace to replace the heavy metal folding couch frame that we’d had before. And there’s another new fake plant in here. That’s the only new thing in the room! Everything else was in our previous office/guest room.

My office is the tiny, weird-shaped room. But that’s fine. This picture actually looks pretty nice; it was right after I did some work with a helper to unpack things and start filling in/organizing the new shelf I bought. (I had a 1×4 already and ended up buying a 3×4 to put next to it.) I got rid of my giant desk and switched to this small table (found used on FB). The blue rug is the third hallway rug from the old house. I have a lot of things waiting to go up on the walls leaning in a pile in the lower right corner. I have a deep closet that’s full of two small cabinets, several bins, and my little boxes of loose prints. Currently the floor is littered with piles of magazines, a bin, miscellaneous camera things, and addition shelves and frames. I have a picture of the current mess but I’m not going to show it to you. 🙂

Part of the issue is that in our old room, we had two large shelves that held a lot of stuff (books and crafts and things). In our current room, there is no room for any shelves, so all that stuff needs to find a new home. We put one of the bookshelves in the living room, but it’s got more general and family related stuff now. So the shelf in my office holds some of it (in addition to the business and photography books I’d already had in my office space), and some is now in the basement.

The nicer bathroom is up there too. Double vanity!! A storage closet IN the bathroom!! Plus a huge vanity–it’s got six drawers in addition to the under-sink open space. It’s so much brighter than our old main bathroom too.

Right outside the bathroom is a linen closet. Hurray for more storage! This one is actually not super full.

Here is our room! Like I mentioned in the previous post, it’s a much smaller master than we’ve ever had. It works fine, though. Our king bed fits in there, but we had to turn it this way to be able to have walking space to the closet. Unfortunately it sits over/blocks the only vent–however, we hacked that by getting some vent covers and turning them sideways to aim the air out the sides instead of straight up into the bedframe.

There’s the other side, where you can see the walkway area and the walk-in closet. It’s smaller than M’s but it’s big enough to fit our hanging clothes and the dresser that we have. We got stuff up on the walls pretty quick–except the mirror and there’s also a companion family photo that’s been leaning against the wall in its box for months now.

Off the kitchen there’s a half-staircase going down to the kids’ level. (To the left you see the pocket door and stairs going up.) Look, it has a door! I love all the doors in this house. I am anti-open-concept. 🙂

There’s a large closet, the second bathroom (which isn’t cute, so I won’t show you), and two more bedrooms. Both boys were very adamant that they were NOT going to share a room anymore. Here is M’s room. For both rooms, we exchanged the side dressers we’d had in our room with theirs, and repurposed 2×4 IKEA shelves. M has a large window but it doesn’t get much light. It does have an extra-deep sill and the boys sit up there sometimes. 🙂 He has a huge walk-in closet that has a table and chair plus some of their art supplies. And a bunch of my craft supplies (obviously not shown in this older photo).

Here’s E’s room. He has two small regular closets next to each other, and that huge window gets a ton of light. We don’t hang clothes in any of the boys’ closets, by the way. Someday maybe.

E made a ‘studio’ in one of his closets too.

Then, across from that downstairs closet, is another door that goes to the finished basement. We have a playroom! This has been the dream for years. Our old couch is here, plus our old coffee table. The 4×4 shelf used to be in our living room. The dark bookshelf was in the garage. We will at some point get another 4×4 to not only match and provide some nice symmetry, but to add storage for all the things that are on the floor still. We have our second tv down here but we haven’t really used it thus far. The boys don’t use this room a ton yet. But I think eventually they will, and in general I’m just so happy to have extra space for storage and playspace. (And eventually music practice.)

The piano from the former owners is still here! We finally got it looked at recently and turns out it’s a birdcage piano, which are hard and expensive to tune and repair. So we probably will have to get rid of it. We haven’t gotten any artwork up on the walls but we have plenty.

Finally, there’s a little utility room…that I use as a studio! Notice the giant furnace on the right; I just shoot straight ahead and it doesn’t show. The water heater is in the back left corner from this angle. It’s not a super high ceiling, but it’s not a short basement ceiling either. (Unfortunately the duct thing means I can’t put my backdrop up all the way.) It’s not a large space, but it’s way, way better than nothing! And it’s super awesome to have a place to keep all the stuff. So much stuff! Lighting, stands, props, all kinds of things. It all used to be either in one of the cars or in the garage. It’s MY space, and I love it. I would never buy a house just because it had a ‘studio space,’ but it was a HUGE plus. Both basement rooms plus the nice yard space are what elevated this house into, Wow, this checks all our boxes.

Things we bought used:
Double bed frame
Living room rug
Couch
Fake tree for the living room (free)
Small table for desk in my office

Things we bought brand-new:
Showerhead after the original broke within a week of moving in
Kitchen curtains
Bedroom curtains and one curtain rod (3 sets, only one is actually up)
Two fake plants
Five real plants: Three pointsettias, one pothos, one snake plant
Plant stand
Replaced one cheap lamp (with an identical cheap lamp)
One 2×3 IKEA shelf for my office
A few kitchen accessories, like small interior shelves and new measuring cups
Two small IKEA ledge shelves and two frames
Thick rug pad for living room
Thin rug mat for landing/bathroom rugs
One set of bath mats for upstairs bathroom
Small TV stand for basement
Two IKEA couch pillows & covers
Two posters from Society6 and frames from Joann

New House Overview Part 1

Welcome to our new house!!

It’s an unusual design–there are four levels, but they’re all half-levels. And there are lots of doors! No open concept anywhere–which I love! It’s five bedrooms, two bedrooms, attached garage, and nice yard. I think it’s 2400ish square feet. (I’m going to do a room-by-room tour in a separate post since this got long.)

This house was built in 1969 and one of the owners actually designed it. We are only the second owners! There are a lot of original elements but plenty has been updated. The kitchen has been totally redone, the basement seems fresh, new carpet downstairs, lots had been painted. They also had a brand-new furnace and water heater, and we split the cost of a new roof during our purchase of the home.

Here is a long video tour of the entire empty house.

Some of the upstairs floors are still original, I think. The bathrooms have their original fans and dials. (They also didn’t work when we moved in, but A worked hard and found a way to fix them!)  The garage has its original inspection sticker! The sliding door is installed backward. The front door is very original, as evidenced by the 70s yellow wavy glass and doorknob placement that is weirdly far from the edge. The rest of the windows and doors seem original too.

The whole house is painted fresh and white, and the kitchen is bright and white. I haaaate a brown kitchen and busy patterned dark countertops. [Obviously this wouldn’t be a dealbreaker in a house, but I am happy that I don’t have to hate my kitchen. 🙂 ] This kitchen has white cabinets, white marbled quartz counters, white backsplash, and lots of natural light. Ooh, and a pantry! I was afraid we wouldn’t have enough cabinet space because there are technically fewer than in our old house, but I didn’t realize that these cabinets go all the way up to the ceiling, so all the cabinets are actually bigger. Plus those tall, full length cabinets are fantastic and store a ton. And the pantry!! We added two shelves and it holds so much stuff–things that previously we’d stored on open shelves in our old house (which looked messy and unorganized). Things are still fairly messy and not well organized…but now it’s behind a door! (Sometime we’ll spend a few hours organizing it.)

The five bedrooms are all fairly small. The master bedroom is much smaller than our previous ones (our previous rental had a HUGE master bedroom, and our last apartment in Brooklyn also had a very large master). That is one of the main ‘sacrifices’  of this house. I think it’s worth it though. It does have a small walk in closet, which also holds our dresser. It’s not an ideal use of space, so someday we’ll do a whole closet renovation. But it works for now. The room downstairs that E is in is actually a bit bigger (it’s 12×12), and M’s room has a walk-in closet that’s bigger than ours.

We have two bathrooms, down from three before. More than one bathroom was an absolute necessity and most older Portland homes have only one! The upstairs one has a double vanity, which is a wonderful bonus. This bathroom was mostly updated–new counter and sinks and floors and maybe tile? Original lights and huge storage vanity. PLUS there’s a linen closet IN the bathroom, AND another one just outside the bathroom! The downstairs bathroom is not nearly as shiny. The counter and sink look new.

The attached garage was high on our wish list too. This one seems to be a two-car garage, but it is a tight fit and we have enough stuff to prevent a second car actually parking in there. That is not great. Our old house had a very large garage and a large unfinished basement, so we had a TON of storage. Which we didn’t need right at first, moving from a one bedroom apartment. But over the course of seven years, we added a lot of holiday decoration (we are up to like four bins of Christmas and two of Halloween), plus I took back all the things I’d been storage at each of my parent’s houses. Plus four bikes and a treadmill. So it was all a lot more than I realized! It took some time with help to organize everything and pare down a bit, but now it’s all pretty good. It’ll be a lot better once I get all the donation stuff out of there though. It’s been a huge pile on one side for over a month now…

We had to buy some new appliances since the house only came with a dishwasher, stove and microwave. We have never bought appliances before, and it was exciting but also daunting and stressful to try and choose. So many options and features and reviews! We ended up buying everything at Costco and were able to take advantage of October Columbus Day sales. The fridge is a GE french door and most notably has a water and ice dispenser! Also, we have really noticed a difference in how fresh things stay. I wasn’t expecting that! The washer/dryer are high-efficiency Samsung. The washer drum is HUGE (and no agitator) and holds a ton of clothes.

Here’s a funny note–all these new appliances sing! The fridge sings some notes when you press the function buttons. The washer and dryer both sing a few notes when you press the power on and off, and they each have a longer song when their cycle is complete.

A. spent a lot of time coordinating things in between signing our offer and moving in. (Thank goodness our new house is only five minutes away from our old house! He could pop by quickly and easily.) The inspection, the repairs, calling some additional repairs in, and delivery of the appliances. The refrigerator DID NOT FIT through the front door. It also did not fit through the back door! They took the doors off the fridge and it *still* did not fit. So A got a handyman to come out–on a whole different day–and help him take off the back door and then get the fridge actually in place. Many hours of work and worry went into that fridge! So worth it though.

Next up I’ll have pictures of each room!

Seven!

The boys turned SEVEN years old recently! Seven really seems like the official end of little kid and beginning of just kid years.

Six was a good year. They finished kindergarten and did great. Their academic skills improved a lot, they made a lot of friends, they had a lot of fun. They were definitely above grade level in both reading and math (though frustratingly, the report cards always said “meeting grade level standards).

They had a wonderful start to first grade. It was a seamless transition, no anxiety or worry–just happy excitement.

It’s been long enough that I don’t remember many details about six. There aren’t really many milestones anymore. Both boys but especially E started talking about independence–doing things by himself, doing what *he* wants to do. So in the spring, I let them start walking home from school. Our house was only a few blocks away from the school, and we’ve done the walk together hundreds of times over the years. There is a fairly busy neighborhood road to cross, which is what worried me. I made them promise to only cross at the crosswalk. They both did great and they loved being able to be independent that way. Often they wanted to go separately/on different routes–and truly do the walk alone! It was both sweet and bittersweet to see their tiny selves walking along all on their own.

We did a lot of swim lessons in the spring and their skills really improved. They even were finally big enough to do the slides on their own! In general it’s been a very active year. Lots of climbing, jumping, biking, scootering, running. Oh, and they went to parkour a few times–they loved that!

For all the physical activity that they need and love, there was still a ton of independent reading and quieter playtime.

For their birthday, they got skateboards! E in particular has been asking for a solid year for one. They were both SO excited! It took a little bit to get used to being on the skateboards, but they both got the hang of it pretty quickly.

We had a simple birthday party at our new house. Partly to cut down on expenses after moving, and to have fewer decisions to make–where to hold it and who to invite (most places charge extra for more than 10-12 kids). Plus it was a good excuse to get our house set up and look pretty. I didn’t plan any activities–I just figured everyone would run around and play and eat snacks. And that’s pretty much exactly what happened. 🙂

And more random activity photos from the year!

            

 

 

We are Homeowners!

This week we signed the papers and got the keys! It’s official–we own a house!

For the past seven years, we’ve been in a three-bedroom, three-bath rental house in a beautiful neighborhood of Portland. It’s got a small yard, an attached two-car garage and an unfinished basement (with one finished Secret Room that is now my office.) The boys attend our neighborhood school which is a short walk down a few blocks. It’s been a wonderful house for us.

This new house is less than a mile away, so they will stay in the same school. We probably won’t walk, but we haven’t tried it yet. We’ll have FIVE bedrooms, two bathrooms, a bigger yard, an attached two car garage, and a finished basement!

The boys are very excited about the move, especially because they want their own rooms. We’ll have space for it! I’m skeptical that they’ll want to actually spend time apart.

We’ve got a list of tasks for tradesfolk to do in the next few weeks, and we’ve got a HUGE shopping and to-do list.

Not to mention packing up our entire house…

The New Chapter Is About to Begin!

Tuesday we put in our move-out notice at our rented house. The closing date for our new, first home is set for next week. I booked movers for Weds Oct 30.

Oh my goodness, this is really happening! I have so many conflicting and simultaneous feelings.

There are two “biggest” ones. The first is a bittersweet, pre-nostalgia for this house. We’ve lived here for seven years! This has been our first home; we’ve built our life while here. We brought our babies home here and they have grown and changed and laughed and cried here. We’ve truly settled into this house. Expanding into the basement with our growing holiday decor, and my office space. Changing layouts in the living room several times. Little hardware additions in the bathroom. Bemoaning the jungle growth in the yard and periodically trying to work on it. Our family has inhabited every inch of this house, physically and emotionally. This house feels like it’s actually a member of the family. There’s no way we could stay here forever, so it’s been inevitable that we’d leave and move. But it feels hard and sad and emotional.

The next biggest feeling–maybe the biggest–is overwhelm. We moved here from a one-bedroom apartment. And now we have filled a house with three bedrooms plus garage and basement. There is SO MUCH STUFF. I look around and think, oh my god, how can we ever get all of this organized and packed?! I do want to do some purging too as we go. But that will also take time. We have under four weeks. This is simultaneously a long time and a very short time!

Yesterday I looked around social media for free boxes and picked up three different sets, plus I have one more big set to get today. This is one good discrete task to focus on now and work on, so that we’ll be ready to get started. But how soon should we actually get started? It’s very tempting to start now, just because we could and every little bit helps. But I also don’t want to live with piles of boxes everywhere for four weeks. Of course, at some point–two weeks maybe?–it’s inevitable that our life will become boxes. The boys are excited and eager to start packing (I think that might change though, when it becomes more frequent and necessary) and last night started going through some of their small toys. (It only lasted a few minutes before they got distracted by drawing (M) and writing (E).

We decided to do the big move with movers on a school day with after-school, so that they wouldn’t get bored, restless and whiny. That will be a long day and them being underfoot would make it tougher. It’s going to be a really strange day though, waking up in one house and having to return and go to bed in a different house! I wonder if we’ll really be able to get beds and necessities set up in so little time. And then the next day will be Halloween, to add to the chaos. The boys were concerned about that recently. They want to be able to give out candy at our current house. And sadly it doesn’t make sense to decorate our house this month–but maybe we should anyway? I don’t want to skip the whole Halloween spirit season–the boys always enjoy it.

We have SO MUCH WORK ahead of us! It’s going to be very exciting though–we’re buying a house!!

On Kindergarten

The boys completed kindergarten! I couldn’t believe we were sending our little (they are so little once again at this age!) innocent souls out into the world. Were they ready? Were we ready? What would happen to them?!

They were totally ready. Of course. And they had a wonderful year! They grew into their own people, and really held their own (each of them!) in a class of completely new people. Their teachers had many wonderful things to say about both of them!

They were in the same class–there wasn’t a choice at this school but I would have chosen that anyway. Since they have always been together in everything, I think it would have been a difficult shock to go into a new environment alone. It was certainly an adjustment for their peers and teachers to figure out who was who…one day in late spring the boys decided to have a Twin Day, where they dressed in the same outfit. I took them to school that day and one of the kids asked one of them which one he was (and then I heard her say to the teacher she tells them apart by their voices).

We’re in our neighborhood school, which is just down the street–less than a ten minute walk! We went from an hour-long-roundtrip daycare dropoff to a short walk! It was amazing to save so much time (and gas money). When it rained or was dark though, I confess that we drove three blocks to get closer. The boys were usually fine with the walk to school but the walk home was always filled with whining about being SO tired and HATING walking, even if it was *immediately* after they’d been happily running around and playing. I always brought a bunch of snacks to shove into their faces to avoid hanger.

The schoolday schedule was only a small transition/change; luckily, our school begins at 845am! And since we live so close by and it’s quick to get to, we didn’t have to force the boys to wake up early or get them out of bed. They were able to wake up on their own and usually had time to play a bit at home before breakfast. What a luxury! Sadly we often got lazy about leaving on time and arrived after 845…I want to get better at this for next year for sure.

We had the boys in three days of after-care, and the other two days I picked them up after school ended at 3pm. Those days felt very short after so many years of daycare pickups at 530/545! The days I picked them up, we usually stayed at school and they played on the playground with other kids. I would read a book. 🙂

The boys had two teachers this year, a morning teacher (a woman, her first year) and an afternoon teacher (a man, who has been teaching kinder for years). They were both patient and kind and just really great. One of them used an app to share pictures and videos with parents, which was really fun. There were all kinds of fun projects throughout the year–a whole thing about plants and experimenting with conditions; and a friendly alien who left clues around the classroom/school. There was a reading program too, or more than one. One was grown-ups coming in to read each week with the kids and give them a book (I always felt bad about this because I know there are so many households who need books but ours is *definitely* not one of them!), and I think they also had reading buddies in an older class in school.

The boys almost never talked about school. I gave up even asking pretty early in the year because the response would be either an, “UGH” or “Stop asking about that!” or “I don’t want to talk about that!” accompanied by an eyeroll. Fine. So the little peeks into their day in the app was a really sweet way to actually see what they did in school. (I’m still not sure about the reading buddies!)

Lunch!! The kids all get their own student number for hot lunch, and after we got theirs I had them practice. They said it over and over, and I had them practice on my laptop number pad. They thought that was great fun and they were very comfortable knowing their number after that.

I got such a heart pang, thinking of their tiny little selves coming into the lunchroom and being confronted by this whole new place, with all these expectations and routines that were foreign to them, and knowing they must have felt helpless and scared and intimidated. What a unique and powerful thing that kindergarten teachers have, to teach their charges how school itself actually works!

M was eager to try hot lunch and he really enjoyed it once he worked up the nerve after a couple weeks. He didn’t quite get their system at first, with plates and choices, but he eventually did. But E was much more hesitant, I think mainly because he didn’t know what to do or that he didn’t know what it would be like. (This is pretty typical of the two of them, actually–M is willing to try new things and branch out, and E hangs back until he knows it’s okay.) I think M said he would help E, and he tried to explain how it worked. M began getting hot lunch several times a week–he liked looking at the lunch calendar for the week and deciding what he was going to get. We felt that it was less about the food itself than the independence and novelty of getting his own lunch like a big kid.

Their kindergarten class had no homework (apparently at least one of the other classes did) and I was very glad for that. I liked that they had time to just play after school, either at school or at home. I am definitely dreading homework in the future…and I’m a former teacher who is pro-homework!

As for actual school skills, both boys have done great. Last summer, they were both already reading. M was a lot more confident, and maybe slightly higher level than E. M would do a lot of writing freely and E wanted lots of spelling help and only wrote things that he could get right. They were both quite good at mental math, adding and subtracting one and two digit numbers.

Over the course of the year, both boys learned a ton of sight words and began reading more, and more smoothly, and even more confidently. They can both easily read picture books and low-level chapter books. (They can sound out 90% of Harry Potter too!) One thing that you can’t teach that they both do is that they read with correct intonation! Not just reading with punctuation, but like, acting out tone too. E got really great at writing, and really interested in communicating that way, and began writing confidently in his creative spelling, which I love. M got a little more hesitant about his spelling but he also has done a lot of great writing.

fortune teller

Above: a fortune teller by E from last year. Check out the very early creative spelling–he’s improved a ton since then!

Rainforest ecosystem: “There is water, sun, air, space, nutrients, minerals, soil, leaves” I love how E labels all the parts of his drawings. ❤

On the left is M’s very neat handwriting this spring, and on the right you see both boys’ handwriting. Below, you can see what M’s handwriting is currently like. It’s become really sloppy and harder to read. 😦

From what we could tell the school didn’t do much of a math “curriculum,” it was more like playing with patterns and manipulatives. Their report cards say they did well/fine…but we felt like they were definitely above grade level in both reading and math! I really have wavered for the whole past year about ‘enrichment’ or doing extra academic stuff at home–clearly their skills are pretty good right now and part of me wants to push them a little to solidify those skills (especially math). I don’t want them to get complacent, and I definitely don’t want them to get arrogant or entitled…but I also don’t want to take the joy and fun out of learning for them. And also, I mean, it’s freaking kindergarten. They don’t need to be, like, doing math worksheets or memorizing times tables or whatever in kindergarten. They have so many years of that in the future and I have to keep reminding myself to let them stay little and playful.

Both boys but especially E recently began pushing against some boundaries and control, namely in not getting to do what we grownups get to do. One spring afternoon at the school playground, E was whiny about something–I think he wanted to go home and M didn’t. So he asked if he could walk home by himself. Now–we live maybe four or five blocks from the school, and we have walked back and forth since they were small toddlers–easily several hundred times. So obviously I wasn’t worried about how he would get home, but there is a fairly busy neighborhood road that one has to cross. I told him we could practice: I would follow from a distance and have dad meet them close by. He did perfectly of course and after that I totally let him do it on his own…but I may have spied once or twice. Of course M wanted to do it right away also and of course he was fine too. And after that, they walked home alone regularly. Funnily enough, the whining of “I wanna go hooooome” would immediately become “Can I walk home by myself?” with a big happy non-whiny smile when I said yes, so that was a win. (Sometimes they insisted on going home by themselves but take different routes so they would be actually by themselves.) Part of me felt weird about being comfortable with letting them go on their own…it’s so not done nowadays! But also I’m happy that they’re independent.

This year and being in school really solidified that E and M are their own actual people, not just our sweet little babies. You know? They made friends and did activities and learned things, all without us knowing anything about it. And not only did they make friends with their classmates, but lots of bigger kids are their buddies too!

We’re both really proud of them. They’re good kids, they’re smart, they’re doing well in school, they like learning. It was a really good kindergarten experience.

It felt like a big milestone, to complete a year of school for the first time, only behind starting school for the very first time. And now summer is already over and it all starts again!

Best Toys for Five Year Olds

      I should have done a better job keeping track during 2018, because I always like thinking about ideas to share for gift ideas. Overall though I think this is a pretty good list!

By far, the most “played with” thing in our house is plain old copy paper! Our boys love drawing, coloring, writing notes, cutting out shapes, folding fortune tellers, making little paper books. And ONE MILLION PAPER AIRPLANES OH MY GOD. They also demand that we print out coloring sheets of various themes and characters. (We have over a dozen actual coloring books, but do they care? No, they do not. Do they color in them? No, they do not. Harrumph.) Oh, and for awhile now, our boys prefer markers over crayons (though we have both of course).

twins coloring

I picked up all of these paper airplanes from several rooms in ONE DAY!

paper airplanes

Fortune teller labeled Yellow, Red, Brown, Blue.

fortune teller

This is a “phone” that they “press buttons” and “play games.”

Rainbow Loom: We got these for the boys for Christmas last year, because they loved them at daycare. They play with them a lot, in phases. One time E made a long rope of them that was literally longer than our house! Isn’t this a pretty photo? But look how it’s a big ole pile of tiny rubber bands and imagine how they get spread out EVERYWHERE.

rainbow loom rubber bands

Hot Wheels: They must have at least twenty cars by now, and man they get everywhere. They’re still playing with the car loop track they got as small toddlers, and they also use them in their magnatile playing sometimes (like building a car garage or ramp). Really good to keep in the car or backpacks for traveling!

Magnatiles: Still very popular and fun! We got them when the boys were not yet three, so it’s true what everyone says about being an excellent, long-lasting gift for little ones. We love seeing the creative things they make!

Games: There are so many great games! We love Outfoxed! (which is a cooperative game combo of Clue and Guess Who), Blue Orange Ring It!, Guess Who?, Chutes & Ladders, Memory, Uno, Go Fish, Pass The Pigs: Big Pigs, The Allowance Game. They don’t do great with losing games though (especially E). They can do 100 piece kid puzzles! They are good at checkers and like chess too (I don’t like chess so I refuse to play with them).

the allowance game

Legos: They don’t play a *ton* with them yet but they do like them. Once again, they get very creative–often making some kind of airplane/ship/flying craft.

Arts & crafts: In general, the boys like painting things, making bracelets and other things. Sometimes they create neat things out of cardboard boxes!

Scooters and bicycles! They have Razor Scooters and these bikes.

Books! We love books around here! Have I mentioned The Princess in Black books? They’re “chapter books” but they’re pretty short, and tons of fun. The sixth one just came out this fall (we have all six). (Yes, to confirm–we have little boys and they love reading books about princesses!) The little early reader books (like Biscuit, or Marley, or Frances books) are pretty popular at our house because the boys can start reading them a little!

little boy reading

 

So tell me–do you agree or disagree with this list? What do your five-year-olds love to play with? I’d love to hear in the comments!

 

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Six Years Old!!

These boys are now SIX! Here’s what they’ve been up to as five year olds. Lots of big milestones this year.  

First huge milestone–they both learned to read! M began first, in the spring–just all of a sudden; and E was a little bit later.

Obviously the next biggest thing is that E and M started kindergarten! The transition seemed to be pretty seamless. They are learning, playing, maturing. We walked them to and from school, which was really sweet. And only minimal whining–mostly on the walks home. Love that reason to get fresh air first thing in the morning.

They got REALLY into roller skating for a few months. They do pretty well and don’t fall much anymore. E is particularly hard on himself.

They are still great scooter-ers and this spring they learned to ride bikes without training wheels! It happened just all of a sudden (though I wasn’t there, I learned about it over text).

They play together pretty well. They like being silly and they always laugh at farts.

They are finally learning to swim (with swim classes).

Saw their first live theater! A Year with Frog and Toad. When we tried to “surprise” them with it they whined, I don’t like plays! I don’t want to go! But when we were actually in the theater, with the stage right there, and all the action starting, I looked at them and saw rapt, joyful faces. They loved it!

 

They love helping out…sometimes.

This year I’ve been working on making the boys more responsible. They learned to get in the habit of washing hands before dinner and bussing their dishes after dinner years ago, with a lot of work and practice from us and our nanny. This year I have made them responsible for putting away their laundry after it’s been sorted and folded, and for picking up their toys and messes. This has been quite a process…one or both boys would whine and complain constantly. However! With repeated “practice” they’ve gotten much better, much faster, and much less whiny.

E got a scalp gash one night!

M of course broke his arm.

Crafts and creativity: They love just playing. They still love magnatiles, the rubber bands, drawing, all kinds of stuff.

Cardboard creations: The boys want us to save every box and bit of cardboard. They are so creative; I love seeing what they envision and create! E made a couple different games; they worked together to make a whole ship once; one of them built a multi-level house by cutting out rectangles and taping them together.

Fortune tellers became a big thing. They were obsessed with paper airplanes for a long time and we don’t see quite as many any more; it’s lots and lots of fortune tellers. They sometimes write their own and sometimes ask for help. It’s funny; their ‘fortunes’ are always questions–Do you want a milkshake? and things like that. I don’t know where they got that instead of the fortune thing. 🙂

Their birthday this year was at the bowling arcade! It was super fun and all the kids loved it. I was doubtful that the kids would really bowl for an hour, but they did! Then they all got arcade cards, and of course that was a huge hit.

First Broken Bone!

At the end of September, M broke his arm.

It happened during after-school. He fell off the monkey bars (which is sad because he LOVES monkey bars) and I guess he landed on his right arm.

I was not there when it happened; I was finishing up teaching my photo class when I got the call, and I hated that I was thirty minutes away! A. was on an airplane flying home and we were texting back and forth about what we should do.

The paramedics were called and made him a splint, and explained things to me when I finally arrived. Little M was just sitting there quietly, not crying. I learned the term “visible deformity” about possible breaks – he sure had one. His forearm was curved where it should have been straight! (I’ll put a photo at the very end of the post in case you don’t want to see it.) By the way, the rule is that if there is no visible deformity you can go to Urgent Care because it may not be broken, but if there is a visible deformity, you go straight to the ER. 

I took both boys to Randall’s pediatric ER and while we were in the car M was finally  upset and scared, crying a little. He insisted on being carried and held when we got to the ER and I was so happy to snuggle him and reassure him that he would be okay. 

We were there for five hours. Everyone there was amazing and it was a wonderful experience (for being in the ER for five hours, that is). 

M went back to being pretty quiet and stoic once they got him in a bed. First they undid the split and x-rayed him: distal radial fractures of his right ulna and radius. E was super patient. Most of the time was just waiting around for all the specialists to be available for his reset. (Apparently it was a busy night there.)

The room had a TV with cartoons, a clown came in with magic tricks and coloring sheets, and there was a Child Life Specialist who came in to explain everything to M and show him the tools and things the doctors would be using to give him the special medicine to rest while they fixed his arm. He wasn’t allowed to eat until the sedation (around 8pm), which means neither of them got any dinner. Thankfully the TV kept them entertained enough that they didn’t seem to notice. 

Watching the sedation happen was hard for me to see, and they suggested I not stay for the reset. The nurse said something about the noise of the bones being upsetting to parents, which made me shudder and agree to leave during that part. I took E to grab a bite to eat at the hospital cafe, and when we got back M was waking up. They said it went perfectly and his arm was looking great. They gave him a splint and some good drugs. 

We got home at 11pm (A. had just gotten home from his flight; I was so glad that he got to see M). M had a very rough night and barely slept, moaning and crying…yet also refusing medicine. So we *all* had a very rough night! At like 8am, he *finally* allowed some medicine and thankfully he slept for awhile–I had to wake him up at 1230 in the afternoon! (We’d decided M would get the day off school and that E would be able to sleep in and go in to school late.) 

Once he woke up he was pretty much his normal happy self. Especially when I took him to get a special treat. 🙂 That was the very first day that the boys spent the entire day apart! E did great at school by himself. 

All of this happened on a Wednesday. He went in to the orthopedist on Monday morning and got a cast past his elbow. It was a hard time to maneuver with that, getting dressed, getting him in his car seat.

He went back a week later for a checkup on it, and they found that the bones weren’t quite in the right place. So they took off the cast, and put on a new one with a little more angle/direction to it. Thankfully it was also shorter, below his elbow. This made his life way easier!

 

Look at the picture he’d drawn at school and how he sounded out ‘orthopedists’! 🙂

He was never really upset about the cast or about his arm being broken. He was shy about it, though , and he always tried to hide it–either he would hide his arm behind his body, or stand really close to one of us and his arm behind our leg, or insist on wearing his hoodie so the cast wouldn’t be visible. He was afraid of people asking about it, or commenting about it, because he thought they’d be laughing at him. 😦

He also began using his left hand! He’s the only righty in our family but he quickly learned to write and draw as a lefty. After three weeks he said he would keep being a lefty even after his cast came off. 🙂

 

After a month he got his cast off! (Since he’s so young, his bones heal faster. If he were older it would have taken six weeks.) The x-ray showed that the bones were healing well. (It wasn’t totally done yet; apparently it takes at least six months to fully heal and remodel!) He wasn’t allowed to go on the monkey bars or do any “active” things for another month. We cheated and let him ride his bike and scooter, though, because he’s a little kid and he needs to be able to do *some* things! He was good about wearing the brace they gave him at school recess. He also went back to using his right hand after about a week.

Just last week, his ‘probation’ month was up and he could once again do monkey bars! I was glad to see that he was happy about it, that he hadn’t been scared off one of his favorite activities. 🙂

Overall we were so impressed and proud of how M dealt with this whole experience. I felt so sad for him when it happened; I felt like he’d lost a tiny bit of innocence or something. He was never whiny or angry or upset about the cast, or about not being able to do everything he normally would. But he was so resilient!

 

Scroll for the broken arm pic…

Lincoln City, Summer 2018

Every summer we’ve taken a family overnight trip to the Oregon Coast. (In addition to occasional daytrips through the year.) This year we semi-reluctantly chose Lincoln City. There’s no big attraction there really, so we weren’t sure if there would be enough to do. We were pleasantly surprised and enjoyed our two days!

First, we visited the brand-new Tillamook Creamery Visitors Center! (Of course, this is not *in* Lincoln City, but it was on the way-ish.) The boys loved seeing the cheese factory a few years ago and I couldn’t wait to see how the new updated factory looked. Plus, you know…delicious Tillamook cheese and ice cream. The new visitors center is gorgeous and large, and they have (cheese-focused) food area and a separate ice cream counter. The boys once again loved watching the cheese production, specifically the slicers.

From Tillamook, we drove to Lincoln City and found a huge playground! It was at Regatta Park, situated on a sweet little lake. It was totally perfect!

For dinner, of course we went to Pig n Pancake–our favorite coast place. 🙂

We stayed in an oceanfront hotel, which we’ve never actually done before. That first day/night was crazy foggy, so the view was of basically nothing. The next morning though, we were all wowed. The boys loved standing at the window just watching the waves.

We spent a good chunk of the day outside. In the morning, we walked to the main drag to explore some shops. We found a cute little bookstore and also a candy shop.

After lunch it was beach time! There were some sweet tide pools but also splashy waves, so we explored carefully. E in particular was very worried that we would get ‘tided on’ and at one point M and I were standing on a tide pool rock when a big wave crashed up and soaked half of me. Thankfully we kept our footing. (I also had my phone in its waterproof case hanging around my neck, so that stayed safe!) We had just bought a beach tent before this trip and brought it out…it was really tough to put together. It did sort of work to keep us out of the constant wind, but of course the boys weren’t interested in sitting in there for very long.

We hit up the playground again before dinner, and found a pizza place next to an arcade for dinner and entertainment.

Any time we’re all at a hotel, we make sure to stay at a place with a pool so the boys can swim. As always, they loved paddling around in their floaties! They went swimming all three days we were there.

We left after lunch the third day! It was a good amount of time with enough variety to feel like a fun adventure. Hurray for coast trips!