Apple picking has been a yearly tradition for us since before we even had kids! Fresh picked apples are amazingly delicious, and September is a beautiful time of year to enjoy walking among apple trees. Now that we have kids, it is more important than ever to enjoy apple picking as a fall activity. It gets us outside, teaches the boys where their food comes from, supports our local farmers, and creates memories. Why wouldn’t we do it? Especially with multiple orchards within 45 minutes of us.
This year we went to Rose Hill Farm, a smaller farm than our usual apple picking haunt, and all the better for being smaller. It had a cozy, family-friendly feel, and it was gorgeous. It is the kind of farm that makes you want to quit your day job and take up raising goats. The kids had such a nice time riding in the wagons, walking among the trees, and picking (and tasting) apples. Drake was excited to pick them himself and did a great job this year collecting apples to fill our bag. Devin stumbled around in the high grass and nibbled an apple the whole time.
It was a great day! In the end, Drake didn’t want to leave, and we had to drag him away kicking and screaming, but when you are dealing with an autistic 3-year-old, sometimes that happens. At least, we know he was enjoying himself!
For more details about our adventures, check out our vlog from that day.
Learning the ins and outs of freezer cooking took time, but I’ve finally gotten a handle on it. It’s not difficult, but it takes time to figure out how to best store things in the freezer, what foods can be stored in the freezer well, and to develop recipes that the whole family enjoys. There is also a no waste, planning ahead mindset that takes time to develop, if you don’t already have it.
This is my no fuss system for freezer cooking. Not much of a system! It's more of a habit. But it is so simple, and so worth it! I save a ton of money and time!
Some people say babies are expensive, and that can certainly be true if you aren’t budget conscious! Having a baby can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Babies are simple creatures and require little. It is the older kids that suck your bank account dry.
That being said, babies do need some things during the first year of life, and since we all have different budgets, I’ve broke my list into two categories: things you need and things that are helpful.
Things You Need
Things that are helpful
I can’t write this post without sharing my personal pet peeves for useless baby crap. I'm sure some people love these products, but I can’t share that love!
So, as you can see, there are some big purchases to make for baby, but it isn’t such a long list as Babies R Us would have you believe. You can get by on very little, and, sadly, before you know it, your baby will have outgrown that swing any way.
If you have any must haves or pet peeves to share, please a comment so we can all benefit!
After two horrible experiences at hair salons with Drake, I vowed to cut his hair myself so he wouldn't have the stress of the salon, and he wouldn’t look like he got in a fight with a lawn mower. Haircuts are notoriously difficult for people with Autism. I don’t know if it was the age or Autism related struggles, but it doesn’t matter. He hated them, and his hair never came out good.
The first few times I cut his hair, it still looked like he’d been in a fight with a lawn mower. I was learning after all, but after a few tries, I got it right.
Why haircuts at home work for us:
There was no single resource I used that helped me learn. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos showing how to cut kids hair. These were helpful, but I never found one video that helped me do it.
Besides that, I just kept at it! I learned through trial and error. I made mistakes, but I learn from them, and I get better every time I cut his hair.
If you have trouble taking your kid to the salon, or want to avoid unnecessary expenses, try cutting their hair yourself! Don’t expect amazing results right away. It takes practice, but after a couple of bad haircuts, you will have it down.
Drake is starting preschool this month. I’m distraught, I’m worried, and I’m going to miss him like crazy. I’m trying to stay strong and focus on the positives, the biggest of which is that I get to spend alone time with little Devin!
In order to make the most of our time together, I am starting a laid back tot school with little Mr. Devin at the old age of 18 months.
What is Tot School?
Tot school isn’t complicated. It’s like preschool for toddlers… age appropriate, enriching activities for your little one! Most people do this whether they call it tot school or not, and everyone has their own approach. Some people like to plan out a number of activities, which is great! Some people like to fly by the seat of their pants, which is also great! The main point is to do fun activities with your little one that support their development.
Why do Tot School?
I am doing tot school because I enjoy doing these kinds of activities, but I am not always good about following through with them. Tot school will keep me focused. We are also planning to homeschool once Drake finishes preschool and starting a schoolish routine with Devin will help in the long run.
While there are many great reasons to do Tot School, it isn’t for every parent or for every child! I tried with Drake, but he wasn’t into it. He learns in a more organic way and wasn’t into activities at that point. (He is now, but that’s a whole other post.) I think Devin will appreciate (and sit for) the activities I have planned and enjoy the routine.
What Kinds of Activities do you do?
This depends on your child and where they are at developmentally. With Devin, I plan to do coloring, puzzles, pasting, sensory bins, play doughs, blocks, and painting. Reading books is something that happens no matter what, but as we settle into a routine, I may add thematic books from the library. We will work on colors, shapes, letters, numbers, and counting over the next half a year depending on how quickly he picks them up. (I wouldn’t do letters or number yet except that he is interested in them.)
What do you need?
Not too much! Crayons, markers, paper, and a printer will take you a long way. Your recycling is a great resource. Empty plastic containers, paper towel tubes, newspaper and magazines can all come in handy. Educational toys are helpful like puzzles, books, blocks, and counting bears. Of course, there are people who have a collection of beautiful supplies that I swoon over, but living in a tiny space on a tiny budget means I stick to the basics.
How to start?
Well, I’m no expert, but this is what I’m doing… We are starting out slow. I am planning one activity a day and that can be as simple as coloring or doing puzzles together or more involved like making dough to play with. Devin is only 18 months, so there’s no need to overwhelm the kid! Free and independent play is important too. As he gets closer to two and things settle after Maddie is born, I’m sure we will do more involved activities. It all depends on what he is ready for.
The first step to planning for tot school is to get inspired. Get yourself on Pinterest and start pinning any activity you think is interesting. It doesn’t even have to be age appropriate. Pin it for later! Pinterest is a great source of inspiration! There are also many great books with activity ideas for young children, but I use Pinterest way more than anything else.
Make a reasonable plan and don’t expect your little one to do much at first. Drake, Devin, and I often sit down to color together. Sometimes Devin colors a little, and sometimes he watches and tries to eat the crayon, but watching and observing are great! They learn so much from modeling.
You could set some learning goals for your little, but I would encourage you to wait until you start up and see how your tot takes to the activities and go from there. This way you will have a feel for what you're doing, and you can make more appropriate goals.
If you’re introducing an unfamiliar toy or materials to your little one, let them explore it before trying to do an activity. Chances are that’s what your little one will do no matter what you planned..
And just jump in! Don’t worry if things don’t go as planned. I assure you, they’re learning anyway!
Halloween is a super fun holiday for kids of all ages, but with toddlers, it isn’t so simple, and even less so when one of your children has Autism. Confession: We’ve never taken our boys trick or treating, and we don’t plan to this year either!
Why would we deprive our children of such an awesome experience? Well, it has to do with the age and the personalities of our kids. I honestly don’t think it would be such an awesome experience for them. They’d mostly just be confused about what the heck we were doing!
On top of that, there is the spooky factor to Halloween. A lot of the decorations and costumes for Halloween are fun and lighthearted, but some are downright terrifying to a kid who doesn’t understand real from make believe, and even the lighthearted decorations can spook a kid with Autism.
Of course, we will take the kids trick or treating eventually! In fact, I hope next year our boys are old enough to participate fully, but if not, we will wait it out until they are ready, or, we will happily host fun, non-spooky Halloween parties at our home for our kids and their friends.
When it comes down to it, if trick or treating isn’t fun for my kids, then it isn’t worth doing just because everyone else is doing it or it’s what people expect of us.
Don’t worry! We don’t let Halloween pass us by! We have tons of fun leading up to Halloween, and on the day itself, we plan out 2 or 3 visits to family and neighbors. We dress the kids up and have them trick or treat at Grandma’s house early in the evening before the spooks come out, and we get home in time to hand out candy. Occasionally, someone in a scary mask will appear at our doorstep. I hand over fistfuls of candy and send them on their way as quickly as possible! Because Drake is in the well lit comfort of his own home, the scary costumes haven’t been much of a problem. The kids still get to have the fun of dressing up and visiting people without the spooky bits.
If you want to do a more traditional Halloween outing with your toddler…
The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper was first published in 1930 and is considered a classic of children’s literature. To be honest, I didn’t expect my kids to take to it. The illustrations aren’t that great in the abridged edition we have, and there are a lot of words per page, which is usually a drawback for most 1-2 year olds. However, for reasons I don’t quite understand, both of my kids love it and listen intently while I read it to them. To the book’s credit, the story is simple even if the author uses more complex sentences to tell it. This means my kids might comprehend some of what is happening, and the images are brightly colored. It is a great book for reading aloud, and I enjoy reading it to them as the language flows off the tongue. It is an unexpected, but welcome favorite!
Do you have a Snoogle? I bought a Snoogle pregnancy pillow during my second pregnancy, and I have never looked back. I use it when I’m pregnant and when I’m not pregnant. The kids sleep with it sometimes as it makes a toddler size nest. It props me up when I’m feeding newborns or reading in bed at night. It has earned its keep!
Imagine my disappointment when it was ruined by a run in with a leaky diaper! The first thing I did was check the washing instructions, and I found that the Snoogle was not machine washable. I was distraught, but I soon decided to be courageous and give the washing machine a try. (It wasn’t a hard decision since I either had to throw it away or put it in the washer.)
Just in case you are in a similar situation, I thought I’d share what I did.
I decided to take it to the laundromat since those machines can handle a lumpy pillow, and I wasn’t sure it would fit into the small coin operated machines in our apartment building. I washed the Snoogle in a small machine by itself on the gentlest cycle available. Then I dried it by itself on air dry for about an hour. It came out slightly damp, so I probably should have left it on for longer, but it dried out fine on its own and smelled like a Tide cloud.
You should only wash your Snoogle if you absolutely must and understand that you are taking a risk. The Snoogle isn’t supposed to be washed or dried in machines. It worked okay for me this one time, but that doesn’t mean it always will!
September got off to a terrible start! On Sunday night, I got a sudden fever and my OB told me to go to the ER. They admitted me because my heart rate was high, blood pressure low, and despite my fever only registering a mere 100 degrees, I was shaking head to toe and drenched in sweat. Stressful! They kept me in the hospital until Wednesday, which is when my vitals evened out, and they were confident I was on the mend. They wouldn’t have been concerned if the cause of the fever was apparent, but I had no other symptoms (like nausea or vomiting) so they ran a million tests. So far, everything has come back normal, but there are still a few tests pending. Through it all, little Madeleine was doing fine and closely monitored.
I’m happy to be okay, but I am so sad that I missed Drake’s first day of school! It’s a moment I will never get back, but I couldn’t do anything about it.
Speaking of Drake’s first few days of school… The first day went well except Drake didn’t want them to change his pull up (which I’m happy we put on him as he refuses to use the school potty), and he got upset when Damian picked him up. The second day went well, even the pull change, except he had a complete meltdown when he had to leave school. The third day was the worst yet. The school did a fire drill (who does that on the third day of preschool?), and Drake refused to go back in the school. The teachers tried to sit with him outside and wait him out, but his fear of the alarm made reentry difficult. When I picked him up, he was in full meltdown mode again, and I was alone! Luckily, the teacher aids helped push Devin in the stroller to the car because never would have gotten them both out of the school!
So school isn’t going great, but Drake loves it! Despite it being a very overwhelming experience, which gets more difficult for him as the week goes on, he enjoys his time there… at least the time he isn’t crying. If it weren’t for this one thing, I wouldn’t send him to school at all. As I think I’ve mentioned, we want to homeschool our kids anyway. But Drake loves preschool, and I want him to be able to do the things he loves, so we are going to find a way to make it work.
On Monday, Drake starts on the bus, which might help ease his transition home. School buses are obviously more exciting than mom and dad picking him up. I’m hoping with my fingers crossed that the bus ride will entice him leave the school happily. Otherwise, that is going to be one long bus ride home!
Happy Birthday to Drake! We had a fun celebration for him on Wednesday. He actual birthday is September 6th, but since that is the day he starts preschool, we celebrated early.
He had a blast! We don’t do big parties with friends and family, at least not yet, but that doesn’t mean we don’t make the day special! The night before I set up the living room and table with decorations and balloons. Since Drake has been on Thomas the Train kick, we did a Thomas theme, complete with balloon, six foot poster, plates, blowers, napkins, tablecloth, centerpiece, and happy birthday banner. For extra fun, Damian and I set up Drake’s wooden tracks on the floor for him to play with.
The excitement was real when he came out in the morning to find our living room (his play space) transformed for his birthday. He loved it! He played with the track set up, said hello to the giant poster, and ran around looking at and talking about everything. After the initial excitement, he got a little over stimulated, and the train tracks came in handy to help him regulate.
We had a great, low key day, enjoying the party decor and balloons, new toys, and special treats. We planned to take Drake out to do something fun, but he was so content with his party at home that we changed our mind.
For more details and Drake’s big reaction, check out our vlog from the day!
This week I reached the 30 week marker for pregnancy number 3! Three quarters of the way done! In some ways, time flew so quickly! Where did the summer go anyway? At the same time, I feel like I’ve been pregnant for EVER!
Now that I’m 30 weeks, I’m even more eager to meet this little girl. I’m hoping she is healthy and not any bigger than my boys were! I hope I don’t need a c-section because I do not know how I’d manage with two littles and Damian going to school. All the same worries come as with my first two… health concerns, going through labor concerns, how am I going to take care of three small children concerns. It’s all normal, and I’ve learned to let it be.
She will be here before we know it, and it will feel like she always was here, like life would be impossible without her. And baby snuggles! How my heart beats for those snuggles!
My pregnancy has been uneventful, and that is always a good thing. I’ve gained 12 pounds, and I am measuring two weeks ahead, but that doesn’t mean I will deliver early. My glucose tolerance tests came back perfect both times I took it, but I will probably take it again. My doctors are concerned about Gestational Diabetes because I grow big babies. I’ve never had it, but they want to be extra careful.
This has been the easiest second and beginning of third trimester I’ve ever had! The first trimester was horrible, but once I got over a bout with Lyme (again) and my morning sickness, I felt great. My low back and hips, which usually hurt during pregnancy, are holding up well. My only complaint is that for about two and a half months I’ve been having pain related to Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction. The doctors haven’t called it that, but that’s what it is. There isn’t much you can do except be careful with your body. The pain is fine until I move in specific ways, and then it is horrible, but most of my day is pain free.
Otherwise, all is well. Maddie is going strong, kicking a ton, and active. The midwife wasn't sure if she was head down or not, but I think she feels head down. There is still plenty of time for her to flip if she isn't though!
Here’s a link to my update video on YouTube!
Welcome to the family!
We are a laid back, fun, family of four living on a dime in 900 square feet. Life might not be perfect, but every moment of every day, it is beautiful.