‘Lagom’ playroom

Lagom (pronounced [ˈlɑ̀ːɡɔm]) is a Swedish word meaning “just the right amount” and it is my inspiration for our “kid cave” (AKA basement family room). I want my three kids to have enough toys for a variety of play options, but not so many that they can’t appreciate, love, or care for them. Simple enough, right? Right. Now, my idea of what’s “just the right amount” is likely different than many others, but that’s the beauty of any concept/idea – you can interpret it to suit yourself.

I’ve spent a lot of time observing my kids at play, and what I have noticed is that they generally gravitate towards the same types of play: dress-up, building, and role-play. So it seems logical to divide the toys we have into those categories and keep what they TRULY play with, following two simple rules:

  1. No duplicates
  2. Nothing broken or in disrepair

I won’t go over everything in minute detail, but at the end of the day, we boxed up…

  • duplicate and excessive
    • baby doll items
    • play kitchen/food items
    • Barbies and accessories
    • dress-up items
  • toys that simply aren’t played with
  • toys that are out-grown
  • toys in disrepair or broken condition

I’m not going to lie and say purging toys is ever easy. I have done it a thousand times (that’s an exaggeration), but I always confront the same demons. That voice that says…

“You paid good money for that.”

-or-

“That was a gift.”

-or-

“They might play with it someday.”

No. No. And No.

This time I reminded myself that I had to be ruthless, keeping the end-game in mind. Fewer toys translates to less cleaning up and more meaningful play.

Here’s what we wound up keeping:

We kept 5 dolls as well as the doll accessories that are truly played with, are good quality, and in good condition (this included the stroller, crib, and high chair). We kept the Duplo Lego table and legos. We also kept an assortment of books. The play kitchen as well as a bin of play kitchen items also made the cut. Despite being significantly pared down, we still kept a lot of Barbie stuff. I feel good about what we kept though because the Barbies are well loved, and what we kept gets played with. We kept the magna tiles and marble run, and we kept a bin of dress up items. We also kept a handful of items that don’t fall into our three “keep categories,” but are used and loved.

Going into any purge of kid stuff, I always let my kids participate and have some say in what they are ready to say goodbye to. My daughter is extremely good about letting things go, but my oldest son gets more attached to things. So, at the end of the day we also kept a bin of super heroes and WWE wrestlers that I can’t say truly get played with, but that my son wasn’t ready to part with. And while we slimmed our stuffed animal and toy vehicle collection, we still have several.

I’m really happy with our progress this weekend. While I am certain we kept more than we should have, I can say with full confidence that we definitely pared down, and this space is closer to my idea of “just the right amount” of toys.

I hope you found something useful in this post, and I would love to hear any tips you might have for creating/maintaining a “lagom” playroom.

Until next time, keep it simple.

-Sarah

 

P.S. Confession – I wasn’t up to the challenge of tackling our games and puzzles just yet. That is another closet for another day.

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Mom Jeans

My daughter and I went to pick up lunch today. As per the norm, I sported tennis shoes and mom jeans and my hair was pulled back. I know how I looked… like I’ve “let myself go”…

I wear tennis shoes ALOT. They may not be fashion forward, but they are comfortable and help my aching feet. Feet that ache because they’ve spent the bulk of the last four years pacing the floor trying to induce sleep, fetching water and snacks, catching little bodies about to fall, and chasing after little explorers in hot pursuit of anything (and everything) dangerous. Tennis shoes help.

I wear mom jeans. I swore I never would, but here I am – denim up to my belly button. They get the job done though. Truth be told: I lost my butt sometime during one of my pregnancies, and if it weren’t for my mom jeans, I’d be sporting a plumber’s crack daily. If I have to choose between mom butt and plumber’s crack, I’ll take mom butt.

I wear my hair pulled back almost everyday. The baby likes to grab handfuls of it as he’s pulling my face in for a kiss. Baby kisses are the best. They aren’t so much kisses though. In Cooper’s case it’s more akin to him trying to eat my face. It’s the best though, and no matter what kind of day I’m having those “kisses” make my heart feel as though it might just burst.

I am carrying at least thirty extra pounds these days. The number on the scale literally hurts my feelings, but it’s not all bad. My preschooler says I’m squishy… like a marshmallow. I’d like to lose the weight, but until I do, I’m going to enjoy the extra snuggles my “fluffiness” gets me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not above lamenting the loss of my pre-baby body and hair, I just much prefer the mom version of me to the former me. I don’t have the time I used to. I no longer have empty hours to spend shaving my legs, tweezing my brows, polishing my toes, filing my nails, and smoothing stray hairs… and you know what? I don’t lament those empty hours because they were just that: empty.

This mommy stuff is hard. It’s an oftentimes thankless job…and sometimes it makes me feel invisible…but it simultaneously gives me purpose. My kids are the best things about me, and I will gladly stand in their shadow for the rest of my days… so long as I get to stand there in tennis shoes and mom jeans.

I didn’t really let myself go. I just became a mom.

Shame on me? No. Shame on her.

Today started quite nice: Coffee, fruit loops (don’t judge), and cartoons. Since we had no plans for the day I suggested to Rex that we spend the morning at the zoo.

Him: “I wanna go to da maaaaaaaaaalllllllll!!!!”
Me: “No mall today, buddy. We can go to the zoo though.”
Him: “humph.”
Me: “I will take that as a yes…”

Since we had a plan, I showered and got myself ready. This task took twice as long as it should have because Sydney kept managing to fall of the bed (where she and her brother sitting and watching a cartoon). It is plausible (and quite likely) that she was being pushed, but a certain three year old swore up and down that he did not, and a certain 20 month old lacks the language skills required to be an informant…

I then got the kids ready. By “get the kids ready” I mean I physically over powered Sydney in order to clothe her. Then she pooped so we did it all over again, but THIS TIME I had the added fun of getting her into a fresh diaper. Bonus points for me because I managed to do so without getting feces on my hands. Rex is at a fun age when it comes to clothes. By this I mean he has strong opinions about what he wears and these strong opinions NEVER reflect the current weather. Somehow I managed to bribe him into seasonally appropriate clothing. As soon as his clothes were on he was overcome by a strong urge to pee. Thankfully, I got him into the bathroom in time for him to make it to the toilet… not that he peed in that though… just near it.

Time for socks and shoes. This actually went quite swimmingly and I was encouraged. I got the kids strapped into their carseats and off we went.

Rex insisted on strapping his teddy bear in. Cute, right?

Rex insisted on strapping his teddy bear in. Cute, right?

Upon getting to the zoo I was informed that I needed a new membership card because the barcode on mine wasn’t working. This resulted in a decent wait at the member services counter. Naturally, this is when Sydney decided crying was in order, and naturally Rex determined this to be the ideal time to run off and do his own thing. Good stuff.

For those of you who don’t know, the wolf pups are now on exhibit at the MN Zoo. I insisted that we see them first. Silly mommy. I should have know that me insisting on anything would send our already “meh” outing into a complete tailspin. Rex started fussing. Sydney continued fussing. I continued walking. We made it to the wolf exhibit only to discover that my efforts were in complete vain. No pups to be seen.

Lunch time. Fairly uneventful despite the obligatory near choking incident and spilled milk.

After lunch we headed to the play area. Lots of laughs, whimpering, and chasing ensued. Of course they cried when we left, but that’s to be expected, right?

Like any good momma I said we could ride the carousel (which was quite a hike from where we were). Sydney refused to ride in the stroller… or walk… so I had to carry her. Rex also refused to walk so I pushed him in the stroller while carrying her. Fun.

While Rex is a huge fan of the carousel, he refuses to sit on the carousel animals so we usually sit on the benches. Not as fun, but still fun. When our turn was over a kind zoo volunteer gave Rex a free token for another ride. Would he thank her? Nope. Would he even smile in her direction? Not even a little. I thanked her profusely for him, and off we went to get in line for a second ride. This time he wanted to ride an animal! Sydney too.

Progress!

Progress!

Honestly, I was already exhausted so I decided it was time to go home. This is when the real crying started. His tears were for a pretzel, hers were in protest of the stroller. She screamed, “I waaaa ow!” (translation: I want out) while he tearfully lamented that he was STARVING! I was trying to keep it together. Really. I asked Sydney if she wanted to walk. “Uh huh,” she responded. I made the poor decision of believing her. As soon as her feet hit the ground she was wailing for me to “Ho her!” (Translation: hold her). Rex continued to cry for a pretzel while simultaneously insisting that I hold his hand. Sydney followed me scream crying all the while.

I refused to carry her...

I refused to carry her…

I was done… I had reached my threshold… At this point I determined I had three choices 1) Cry, 2) Scream, or 3) Laugh.

I laughed. I also turned around to snap a picture of my screaming Sydney (for prosperity of course).

A grandmother and her child were not far behind us. As they passed the grandmother gave me the most chilling, awful stare and muttered something under her breath. It was dripping with condescension and judgement.

I shame spiraled and sulked the rest of the way to the car. Rex fussed, and I caved and carried Sydney.

I was a bad mom. I lacked patience. Because they didn’t leave the zoo smiling, I could only reason that I had failed.

Thankfully, my shame spiral lasted only until I reached the car and my rational brain kicked in. That woman hadn’t seen all the moments leading up to that one. She didn’t know the culmination of things that brought me (and my daughter for that fact) to that point. Who was she to judge me? Perhaps my laughter did seem odd, but given the context it was really quite logical. Laugh, scream or cry. Those were my choices.

I was having a “moment” (as all parents do)… She was just being judgmental. Shame on her.

I wasn’t going to skip pages…

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Incredible highs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before becoming “Mom” to my little Mr. and Miss, my pre-kid brain held thousands of “when I’m a mom…” ideals.

Just to name a few:

I was going to breast feed for one year. No more. No less.

I was NEVER going to yell… Curse? [GASP] Not me!!!!!

I would implement time-outs “by the book” and I would NOT give in. Mom is boss.

I would never, ever, ever skip pages of bedtime stories.

I would never ignore my child – I would listen whole-heartedly to every word spoken.

I would never be annoyed by them. Never.

Their father and I would never argue in front of them.

I would be a great mom!!!

Notice any trends? Yup – a whole lot of “I will never(s)”…

Truth be told:

I breast fed Rex for 10 weeks, gave up and bought formula. I nursed Sydney for 15 months and feared I would have to pump throughout her elementary years.

I yell… a lot… Sometimes I swear. It’s not easy to admit that.

Rex got time-outs in a consistent, systematic fashion… for awhile… Now I hardly follow through with them for either kid.

Bedtime stories? Every night :)… aaaaaand almost every night, I skip at least a few pages.

Sometimes I am convinced that if I hear the same question repeated ONE.MORE.TIME my head is going to spin and fall right off. It hasn’t yet, but I’m still not convinced that it won’t. I don’t “ignore” them per se, but sometimes I tune them out… that’s probably why my head hasn’t fallen off yet. Annoyed? Yeah, that happens a lot. I’m not proud of it.

Their Dad and I have arguments. You know why? Because marriage is hard and parenting is hard. Parenting+marriage sometimes seems impossible…

But, despite my failures, I do think I’m a good mom.

Let me explain…

I fed my babies when they needed to be fed. It didn’t matter whether it was formula or breast milk. They were nourished and they thrived.

I don’t yell all the time. Most of the time I speak calmly and quietly. When I do yell, I apologize. I take their little faces in my hands and I say, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have yelled. I love you.” Thankfully, their little hearts are very forgiving.

I am trying my best to be consistent because I know they need and want boundaries. It’s a work in progress. I’m not above admitting that.

I read to them ALMOST every night. Sure I skip pages, but they don’t know that. They just know I snuggle them close and tell them stories.

I’m human and I have very human moments in which I behave badly. I have ignored them and I have been annoyed by them… but I am their BIGGEST.FAN.IN.THE.WHOLE.WIDE.WORLD. Truly. I love them with every ounce of my being. Without them, I would cease to exist.

Their father and I don’t have a perfect marriage, but we’re a family and we are trying.

Pre-kid, I had ideals and opinions about everything, and I was convinced that there was distinct “right way” and “wrong way” to do everything.

If I could go back and tell my pre-kid self anything, I would say: There is no “right way” and the only “wrong way” is thinking you are doing it “right.” You are going to have good days and bad days, incredible highs, and frightening lows. It is going to be harder than you can even imagine, but it’s completely and totally worth it and you are going to love it (most of the time).

Oh, one more thing… It would be wise to eliminate the word “never” from your vocabulary… 😉

On Caving…

Every book, article, and pamphlet I have read on parenting says the same thing: consistency is important – children thrive within boundaries, and routines are essential.

It’s not that I disagree… it’s just… well, sometimes “caving” is just as necessary. I have yet to read any literature that endorses “caving,” but I’m going to say  SHOUT it: SOMETIMES GOOD MOMS AND DADS GIVE IN!

Today I took the kids to the mall. Rex had won a prize pack in a drawing and we went to pick it up. Exciting stuff for an almost three year old! Not so exciting for his little sister. The nice lady who gave Rex his prize offered Sydney a sucker. Let me be clear, this was not my “caving” moment. While a sucker is not something I would have allowed Rex to have at 16 months of age, she is my temperamental second child and I am not no longer one to scoff at a treat that guarantees 15 minutes of contentment. She squealed and started sucking happily. We then decided to go to the indoor play area…

I couldn’t fathom allowing her to toddle around with a sucker so I decided it needed to go ba-bye. I took pried it out of her little hand death grip and the shrieking started. She threw herself to the floor and screamed in a way that frightened other mid-trantrum toddlers.

{crickets}

I felt other parental eyes searing into my spinning head. I could “hear” the questions conveyed by their eyes. “What’s she gonna do? Is she gonna stand her ground? Is she going to march that little tyrant out of the play area, strap her flailing, screaming body back into the stroller and go home? Who is going to win?” 

I wrestled with these questions for [what felt like] 5 minutes [though I’m sure it was closer to 22 seconds].

Here’s the thing. While I wrestled with my choices [stand my ground or cave], I felt myself escalating. My face felt hot, my shoulders were up around my ears, and my hands were clenched. My choices weren’t so much “stand my ground” or “cave”…they were more like “stand your ground now and later explode in the car” or “cave now and NOT turn into scary mommy later.” Honestly, given the two choices, the latter seemed the lesser of two evils.

So, while I acknowledge that consistency is important, I also feel [with great conviction] that sometimes “caving” is just as necessary.

Sydney got her sucker, I kept my sanity. We both won :).

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Book Baskets

There’s no such thing as too many books, but there is such a thing as “too many books on the floor.”

If you have littles in your house, you probably have this problem too… books EVERYWHERE. First, I had them on a shelf… which Rex would clear in one fell swoop. Next, I had them in a cupboard. Out of sight, out of mind. So, I channeled my “inner teacher” and got a basket! It’s easy to see and choose the books, and even easier to put them away.

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Book baskets work!

Starting a Toy Rotation

I am simplifying our play spaces. They weren’t functioning the way I wanted them to so I started voraciously reading about Montessori principles.

I was immediately captivated by the clean, uncluttered spaces that promoted early literacy, math, self-help, fine motor and rest.

After extensive reading, I discovered that I didn’t “buy into” to the Montessori philosophy in its entirety, but that there were definitely aspects that I wanted reflected in our play space.

My Must-Haves
1. Good Design
The space should be uncluttered and everything should be easily accessible to little ones.

2. Promote exploring and learning

Before

In our previous play space, every toy was accounted for – talk about sensory overload!

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Confession: Our previous space made me itch a little. That probably explains why we spent very little time there…

Kids are kind of like puppies… give them too few toys, they get bored (and destructive); Give them too many toys, they get bored (and destructive). I decided to pare down and start a toy rotation.

All that is really needed for a good toy rotation is baskets…lots and lots of baskets, bins, and buckets (and a place to store the toys out of rotation).

Here is a little tour of our play space AFTER starting a toy rotation…

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We included a comfy chair with low arms so that the three of us can sit together to read a book or two (or five).

The six cubby unit keeps the area clutter free, organized and the activities are easily accessible. (It will also be easy to rotate new toys in when the kids get bored with these.)

The tent is an all time favorite for my kids. Sometimes they play peek-a-boo from behind the curtain door, and other times they like to sneak away for some quiet time. My favorite is when they go in together and I can’t see them, but can hear them giggling. My least favorite is when they go in together and someone ends up in tears.

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The child-sized table is a perfect spot to do something creative like draw or play with play-dough.

The kitchen is a perfect place to “play grown-up,” and a basket of instruments gives them an opportunity to give me a headache make a little music.

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As a recap, the must-haves for our Montessori-ish playroom are…

1. Good Design
The space should be uncluttered and easily accessible to little ones.

2. Promote exploring and learning

I hope you enjoyed the tour of our play space ☺

Sydney likes it!

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