whatever it takes

Well. Here's to hoping there may be one of these in my future. 

In case you didn't know, I really would like to have oh, I don't know, like 5 kids. Hubby? Not so much. He's "done." So, imagine my surprise when, just Saturday (after spending the whole day by himself with the kids), he said we could have another baby... IF he can have an F-150.


I haven't figured out yet if he's banking on my frugality nixing the idea of getting a new vehicle any time soon or if he's actually warming up to the idea of more kids.

We'll see.

on babies and birthdays

In slightly more than one month, my baby will officially not be a baby anymore. I'll save all of my sappy musings on this subject for another time. For now, I'm going to talk presents.

A good present should fit the child's personality. Or just look like him.

As a mother of two small children, I have both given and received numerous baby/toddler gifts. In my experience, there are 3 simple rules that govern gift selection for this age group:

- It must not be large
- It must not require batteries
- It must not be loud

Or, if 3 rules are too many to remember, think this: Would I be happy to have this [and a toddler] in my house? (Uncle Hunter: this means "3000 Stickers" is NOT a good idea.)

There, now that we've gotten that out of the way... what makes a good baby/toddler gift? As with any other occasion, I'm a firm believer that you should get whatever the recipient has asked for. Of course, most people probably won't give out a list for their child's birthday (although, I have heard of birthday registries - really?!). Personally, I think old-fashioned is the way to go - parents will like it, and so will the kids (once the batteries run out on all the other stuff they got). Here are some of the best ideas I've seen: 

- a classic book with a coordinating gift (my brother and sister-in-law have perfected this gift - think The Velveteen Rabbit with a sweet Build-a-Bear bunny, Angelina Ballerina with a tutu and butterfly wand, Curious George with a stuffed monkey (see above).)
- books in general are good. With the younger set, board books are the way to go. It seems like most little kids love Karen Katz and Eric Carle.
- puzzles are also good. Melissa and Doug has a great selection of puzzles for all skill/age levels - I'm going to have to go against my noise rule to recommend the fire truck and train ones. SO cute how excited they get when they figure it out and it makes noise!
- outdoor "stuff." We live in South Florida, so pool/beach stuff is always fun. (See beach ball and swim wings below - does it get much better than that?) In other places, a little gardening kit would be fun, or sand toys, or even just a soccer ball or wiffle ball set.

The life of the party.

- a tunnel. My friends got this for Kate when she turned 2, and it was SUCH a good idea. It is big, but you can fold it up, and the kids wear themselves out with it! (Make sure you find the kind with velcro, so it's easy to fold up!)
- cute shoes. A one-year-old is just starting to walk, so parents will love (and use) sweet little early walking shoes. I vote for Pedipeds - classic and nice, hard to go wrong.

For one-year-olds, sturdy wooden toys are great. Oompa Toys is a great site to find really cute pull toys, cars, and musical instruments (and organic stuff, too).

A wooden baby banjo. Gotta love hippy toy stores!

Another scenario: you get invited to about 29 one-year-old birthday parties for all the babies in the mommy group or at the library, and you don't want to spend much on gifts. Hear me out on this: a giant $3 rubber ball from Wal-Mart. Seriously. You don't know pure joy until you see a small child with a ball bigger than he is. People might think, "that's lame," until they see how AWESOME all the kids think it is. So easy. I'm also a big fan of Sea Squirties (little rubber squirty bath toys). Another simple thing that all kids seem to love.

I expect you all to follow my rules for my children's upcoming birthdays. (Because all 2 of you who read this are invited.) And remember: if you have kids, I can retaliate; if you don't, I can feed mine sugar and send them to your house with your exciting gift :-)

Happy partying.  


raisins are an outdoor food

One of the most surprising and disheartening realities of becoming a parent is that your floor will never (at least not for 20 years or so) be as clean as it once was (or could be). I say disheartening, because your realization of this reality will come slowly, and with much denial.

The first stage is optimism: "When the baby starts sleeping more, then I'll be able to mop." Then defeat: "I'm the only person I know whose baby sleeps 20 hours a day and I STILL can't get the mopping done!" Next is acceptance: "When they're all grown up, they're going to remember that their mommy played with them a lot, not that the floor was dirty." Add a few more rounds of defeat and frustration, and you'll end up where I am: determination.

At some point, the babies will sleep long enough and you'll need to take a break from playing with them, and then you begin to think that your inability to keep your floor clean defies all logic. So you decide that this is a battle you CAN win, and so the fighting begins.

One of two reasons why my floor will NEVER be clean

For me, it's come down to my "weapons." First, let me begin by saying a high-quality broom and dustpan are necessary, and you'll use them, oh, about 12 times a day. After trying numerous versions of this, I'm sold on plain old corn husk brooms. Good stuff. 

Then, for the mop. Mops gross me out in general - aren't you just spreading around a bunch of dirty water? Before kids, I stocked up on Swiffer pads and when I mopped, I'd use half a box so I wasn't spreading around the dirt. But when you have kids, you want something they can lick without serious consequences. So, I started using a Method mop and cleaner (from Target). It smelled good and was supposedly harmless (it even said something about licking it on the bottle), but I couldn't help being grossed out by the fact that I was using the same cleaning pad the whole time. So then I went back to Swiffers (whatever doesn't kill them makes them stronger, right?). But with any soap-like product, you're going to get a residue, and that makes your floor feel a tiny bit sticky (even if it does smell clean). 

And then I discovered the Shark. This whole post is basically a long-winded way for me to sing the praises of this glorious invention. The Shark is a steam mop that "cleans and disinfects all at once!" Sign me up! You just put water in it and a towel-like pad on the bottom and off you go. No soap to make the floor sticky or the kids sick, and the steam actually kills other bacteria that your kids could be licking! The best part is, you can get extra mop pads so you can switch it out like the swiffer. I couldn't be happier. I look forward to mopping, and I guess it shows - every time I pull it out, my little one says, "Mommy, you love your mop? I love it, too." It is expensive - about $100, but it was the best $100 I ever spent.

Needless to say, I feel like my floors are much cleaner these days, and I wholly attribute that to my Shark. I have also heard about something called the G2 Swivel Sweeper that my mom and Granny swear by - a cordless vacuum-type thing that would take the place of my broom. I'll let you know what I think of that if my husband ever allows me to go to Bed, Bath & Beyond again after spending $100 on a mop. While I'm there, I might pick up a brush and dustpan. I keep thinking that'll make my table cleaner. 

If all else fails, remember these rules:
- Raisins are an outdoor food
- Spaghetti is for grown-ups
- If it crunches, it's a bad idea

Happy mopping!


so it begins

Remember how I said the whole purpose of this blog was a first step in starting a "crafty" business? And then I didn't say/do anything crafty for oh, I dunno, 6 months or so? Well. Prepare to be impressed. I'm going to do something crafty.

Actually, last night, I even did more than pull out all of my supplies and come up with reasons why now wouldn't be a good time to start a project.

Exhibit A: My iron, with a piece of fabric beside it.

I got out the big stash of fabric that's been staring at me for almost a year now and I ironed it! Not impressed yet? Well, stand by, because this is just an indicator of things to come. 

My little princess is turning 3 in 2 months. Three is a milestone - it's like, "I have a KID now." (Well, if she somehow miraculously becomes potty trained in the next 2 months, I'll feel like that.) But either way, I want to do something special for her birthday, and I've decided that giving her a spectacular "big girl" room is going to be it. I have visions of making everything from quilts to curtains to beanbag chairs and art, but we'll see how that goes. This morning, I'm celebrating that I ironed some fabric. 

Exhibit B: The un-potty trained princess

Aside from actually being crafty (BTW, I'll keep you posted on what happens with my nicely ironed fabric), I'm starting to make some progress on the business side, too. I recently agonized over deciding whether to go back to work part time, and I ended up with a 3-day-a-week gig that I start in April. Not thrilled about that, but in the spirit of making lemonade, I'm looking at it as an opportunity to start building some funds for my business. I mentioned that to a friend of mine, and she took a chunk of time out of her insane schedule (seriously - she works full time, goes to grad school 3 days a week, AND runs her own business!) to write out all of the steps of starting a business for me. So, I'm on the hook now.

(Shameless friend promotion: My very thoughtful friend runs her own graphic design business, designs | reflect.  She does all sorts of things from logos to corporate materials to wedding stationery, and she also specializes in authentic Indian stationery. Check her out!)


got it

We've been having somewhat of a revival in the Johnson household here lately. It all started a little over a year ago, when we started going to a mega Baptist church down in West Palm Beach. It's a no-kiddin' Baptist church, with a big fancy sanctuary, a big fancy congregation, and even bigger and fancier music. It was like going to "Church: the Musical" every week. At first, I was a little taken aback by all of this. I mean, I kind of thought religion was a quiet, personal thing, and that you didn't exactly wave your hands around and shout unless you were just putting on a show. But then I started really listening to the preaching. Because it was some GOOD preaching. Even a judgmental judy like me couldn't deny that Pastor Jimmy could PREACH. And what I heard made me start thinking.

Let me interject here that I've pretty much considered myself a Christian for as long as I can remember. I memorized the books of the Bible and got my rainbow Bible bookmark at an early age, I knew Christmas was about Jesus, and I even had some super-moving experiences at church retreats and such when I was a teenager. Aside from a major Ayn Rand phase in college, it's been smooth sailing. But, as a Christian, my understanding sort of went like this: God's in charge, Jesus is His son, you have to believe in both of them, and you have to do what the Bible says. Okay. That's all well and good until someone asks you how you know you're going to heaven.

The great thing about Pastor Jimmy's sermons was they pretty much laid it out there for you: Jesus gives us the awesome opportunity to spend eternity with God. All we have to do is accept that gift, and we're in. And that's it. Simple. So obviously, I'd heard that before. But somehow, I'd never heard it before. I had only ever gotten that it was important to believe that Jesus was God's son. And I always thought being a Christian meant a lot of things like following certain rules in the Bible and trying to act like Jesus did. And if you hadn't actually read the Bible or studied too much about Jesus, that meant trying to act in a way that you didn't think the other people at church would look down on you for (at least to me).

So, anyhow, I got the message. It really is ALL about what Jesus did for us, and we have to acknowledge that and be grateful for it all the time (and be sorry when we screw up). And actually, if you sit down and read the Bible, that's what it says in there, too. (So, the Bible really is relevant, correct, and applicable to life today - another good lesson from the mega-Baptist church.) It's rather uplifting to figure that out, so I've been floating along pretty happily for the past year or so, and I've even bid adieu to my worrying ways!

My point? Well, I guess I just really want to share the love. Figuring this out is the best thing that's EVER happened to me, and that's saying something - I've got some good things going :-) There are some people that I care deeply about (you know who you are!) who might want to hear this... or who might finally be at the point in life where they can hear it :-)