Our Upgraded Ikea Play Kitchen

I have a problem.

My kid has a nicer kitchen than I do.

If you follow me on Instagram you’ve likely already seen a billion photos of this kitchen because it’s where Jackson now spends 90% of his time. Seriously – if this kid is awake, he’s playing with the kitchen.

I’ve had a lot of questions about it, so I figured it was high time I do a quick post giving up the details. We decided to get Jackson a play kitchen for his birthday for no other reason than we thought he might like it. We didn’t want to get him more random toys (he has plenty of those!) and we wanted something that was high quality and would grow with him. After looking at a lot of play kitchens online and not finding anything I was willing to place square in the middle of my living room, we landed on the Duktig kitchen from Ikea. It’s affordable and essentially a blank slate – perfect for customization!

We debated colors and styles for a long time before deciding on anything for sure. I really wanted the accessories to be gold, and Corey really wanted it to be something other than white or gray. We also wanted something classic that would fit in with the rest of our living room, since that’s where it would be going. After much back-and-forth, we ended up with navy on the outside, and leaving the white parts as the are.

We also added in some cute drawer pulls we found at Hobby Lobby to look like stove knobs. Jackson loves to twist them, and I think they add a great touch and make it feel more “real”.

One of my favorite parts of the kitchen is that it has little feet that can be added on the top so it grows with him. I think it will be usable for many years – the model that we looked at in the store was tall enough for an elementary-aged child!

We got a ton of play food from various people for his birthday, so his kitchen is always well stocked. Our favorites are some cans and a cookie-making set from Melissa and Doug, and a shopping basket full of pretend versions of the store brand food from our local grocery store – it’s so cute to see mini versions of the food that’s actually in our pantry!

I’m glad we took the time to spruce the kitchen up, because it’s visible from just about everywhere in the house. I love that because it means I can always keep an eye on him when he’s playing with it, and I actually love how it looks in the house.

Now if only I could get my actual kitchen to look half this nice!

Hands Free Mama: Month One

If you missed it, I’m reading through Hands Free Mama this year, one chapter a month, and I’m working on becoming more present and reducing the amount of time I spend on my phone. This month was all about setting aside certain times of day that are “hands free” and becoming more aware of what’s distracting you from the important things in your life.

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This chapter wasn’t anything revolutionary for me. I’ve been working on reducing my social media consumption and internet usage for a few months now, so this was just a reinforcement of that. It did make me think a bit more about when and why I’m using my phone or laptop, and made me a bit more conscious of putting it away during the down times.

I read an article last week in Real Simple about boredom in children and how little they actually have a chance to experience that anymore. The article cited several studies that talked about how important boredom and down time actually are for fostering creativity, and it really rang true for me. Anytime I don’t actively have something to do, I tend to pull out my cell phone and start browsing. Rarely do I just stand in an elevator and wait or sit quietly with my thoughts while I’m waiting to meet someone out. It’s so funny because when I was a kid, I didn’t have a phone and so I was much better about having nothing to do. But now? I’m terrible at it!

I have been making a concerted effort to put my phone down when we’re at home, especially when Jackson is awake. My ultimate goal is no cell phones/internet while Jackson is awake – I want to be totally focused on family time and him. And if he’s playing by himself, I don’t want to immediately go for my phone – I want to get some cleaning done, or read a book, or just sit and think. As of right now I’ve been pretty consistent with not touching my phone from the time I get home from work until the time he goes to bed (and on the weekends, I do from his second nap until bedtime). It’s silly how hard of a habit it is to break, but at this point it’s something I do without even thinking about it!

I’m hoping that over the next few months I can reduce my phone usage even more when I’m at home. It’s not like I’m reading or learning anything revolutionary when I’ve got my phone out – I’m just checking Instagram for the 70th time that day. And do I really need to read all of my work emails within 5 minutes of getting them? They can wait until I get back to work! I’m very conscious of the fact that Jackson is going to be watching us and learning what social norms are from what we do. I don’t want him to learn that it’s okay for anyone to constantly be distracted by some handheld device, and I don’t ever want to give him the idea that Facebook or Pinterest is more important than him.

So that’s where I am after the first month reading the book. I found that it was surprisingly easy to keep up with reading a bit of the chapter each week (they’re very short little sections), but this month I might try to read each section a few times throughout the week, because it was easy to forget to focus on it if I only read it on Saturday and never re-visited it.

Anyone else reading along with me? Even if you’re not, tell me what you think about reducing your distractions from the internet!

Jackson’s First Birthday

Well, we survived. Jackson is a year old, we had a birthday party, and it was fabulous.

Corey and I got him a play kitchen for his birthday (more on that later once I get good photos of it!) and he is completely and utterly obsessed. He had the biggest grin ever on his face when he first saw it, and spent about half an hour just putting things in the cabinets and taking them back out. Definitely a successful gift!!

He took an awesome nap before the party and was ready to go when everyone got there. We had a waffle bar with a zillion toppings and options and it was so much fun. I made crockpot hot chocolate (I use this recipe and it’s 100% the most amazing thing you will ever put in your mouth. I can’t drink any other hot chocolate anymore) and we had mimosas for the adults. Jackson loved the waffles – I think he ate more than me – and it was so fun to watch everyone get creative while putting theirs together!

I strung his photos up across the window in our dining room and we had a slideshow playing of photos from his first year throughout the party. Everyone seemed to enjoy checking out the photos and I could have sat and watched the slideshow all day long.

He had a blast opening presents, but he wanted to stop and play with each one before moving on. It’s sweet (and I will miss that trait when he gets older and loses that!) but we tried to get him to focus a bit so the guests didn’t get too bored watching. He got a ton of food and accessories for his play kitchen, and I can’t wait to watch him get creative with it as he gets older!

I made him a “healthy” smash cake (sweetened with fruit, no added sugar) and he cracked us up with how delicate he was! He carefully picked each blueberry off the top and ate them, and he wouldn’t dig into the cake at all. I broke a piece off for him in hopes that I’d get him more interested, but he preferred to just go play with his new toys. He ended up picking at the cake for about five minutes before declaring he was “done!” and got down to go play. Oh well – I wasn’t really looking forward to getting him all cleaned up afterwards, anyways.

The day was a total blast and I’m so glad we had the party. I can’t believe my baby boy is a whole year old!

Jackson: Twelve Months

Stats: Won’t find out for sure until his 12 month appointment in about a week and a half. I’m estimating 20ish pounds…maybe a little more – he’s feeling heavy lately!

Clothing size: Jackson definitely got a bit longer and  jumped into all 12-month clothing this month – the pants actually fit now! Some are still a bit long, it just depends on the brand. He’s even wearing a few 12-18 month pieces from Old Navy. Can’t believe it!

Sleep: No change since last month – he’s still sleeping like a champ!

Eating: We’re giving him whole milk now – two glasses a day, and we’re still nursing twice a day. He currently eats three meals and two snacks a day, and we’re still grateful for how good of an eater he is! He’s picky about some vegetables, but he loves pretty much all fruit, meat, and cheese. Still a carb fiend, but what kid isn’t?

Milestones: Jackson had his first haircut this month! He looks SO much older with shorter hair! He has taken a couple of steps here and there with much persuasion from mom and dad, but has no interest in walking on his own yet. He’s very happy to crawl around (and he’s fast!) and loves to cruise. He can walk holding just one hand or our sleeves, and he’s started to get more confident with letting go and actually standing up every once in a while. We switched him over to a convertible carseat this month instead of his infant seat – he looks so much bigger in it! He’s still chatting up a storm and now will hold the phone up to his ear and say “hello? hello?”. Still loving books and will actually “read” them now – he’ll sit down with an open book and babble to himself for a while. It’s precious.

Things we want to remember: I love how he gets more and more communicative every day – it’s so fun to see him figure out ways to tell us what he wants. I want to remember how he points at everything with his middle finger and says “that! that! this! this” and I don’t ever want to forget the adorable little wiggle he gets when he’s excited to climb up the stairs for bath time.

Special outings or adventures: Jackson had his first New Year’s Eve – we had friends over and played games all day. He had a blast going to the hair salon for the first time and getting his hair cut. He kept stealing the comb from the stylist and trying to brush his hair. His biggest adventure this month was his first birthday party! He had a blast.

Favorites: I think his absolute favorite activity right now is reading. He doesn’t really want to sit still and listen to us read a book, but he loves to look at his books and read them to himself. He loves to flip through them and look at all the pictures, and looking at a book is just about the only time I see him sit still. He’s obsessed with the play kitchen he got for his birthday and can’t get enough of it. We love to watch him read books, and I think we both agree that hugs and kisses are still our favorite thing he does!

What we’ve learned: Well, we survived our first year as parents! We learned so much this year and we are completely different people than we were this time last year. And I think that’s a fabulous thing! We are continually learning new things and we are so excited to see what the next year has in store for us.

Jackson: Eleven Months

Stats: I’ve given up on weighing him on our home scale, so I don’t know – we’ll find out next month at his 1-year check-up, though!

Clothing size: He’s in a weird spot with clothes right now – he’s almost exclusively in 9-12 or 12-month clothing, but some of his 12-month pants (a lot of them, actually) are still incredibly big on him. He’s still able to fit in a few 6-9 month pants, but they’re getting shorter by the day…so really, he’s got about 2 or 3 pairs of pants that actually fit him right now. Super fun when every day the clothes he wears get completely dirty and have to be washed. So! Much! Laundry!

Sleep: We continue to be completely and utterly grateful for Jackson’s sleeping habits. I just know we’ll get payback someday when he has a younger sibling. He sleeps from 6:30PM to about 7:00 or so in the morning, and takes two naps (one is about 2-2.5 hours, the other is 1-2 hours). He’s definitely a sleepy baby!

Eating: Still his favorite activity in the world. He went through a picky phase this month and now vegetables are a bit harder to get into him. He will generally eat them if they stay on his tray long enough, but won’t even consider it until he’s got some preferred food (like cheese or bread) in him first. He started eating breakfast more and more often this month and once we went on Christmas break we decided to make it official and now he’s on 3 solid meals a day. He typically has a snack mid-morning and a bottle (of formula) in the afternoon. We’re down to breastfeeding just first thing in the morning and right before bed…and I have no intention of giving those two sessions up until he decides it’s time!

Milestones: So many! Still not walking but his cruising gets more and more confident daily, and when I “force” him to stand unassisted, he’s able to carefully lower himself to sitting rather than just falling over. Still won’t stand up on his own unless I trick him, though! He’s up to 5 teeth now (with a couple more threatening to break through any day) and at my last count he has 9 words (bubba, dog, mama, dada, go/door – we aren’t sure which he’s actually saying but it’s definitely one of those two, outside, done, bye-bye, and more)! He gives kisses and hugs that completely melt my heart, he started trying to color a bit this month, and is really into reading books. He climbs the stairs now, and finds new things to get into every day!

Things we want to remember: I thing we say this to each other every month, but this is our favorite age! I absolutely love that Jackson is starting to talk more, and he’s imitating a lot of what we say. It was so magical to see Christmas through his eyes for the first time, and the entire season was more fun than it’s ever been in my life. I don’t ever want to forget how special this first Christmas as a family was!

Special outings or adventures: Quite a few this month! He had his first Thanksgiving (at Aunt Jenn’s house) and his first Christmas (we celebrated out at Meme’s house, at my parent’s house, and at our house!), and we did a ton of fun things for the Christmas season. We went to Whoville in Georgetown, went to see Santa, made gingerbread houses, and had a ton of Christmas adventures!

Favorites: Favorite activities this month include crawling into the tupperware cabinet to play with everything, going outside and yelling at the dogs, and any toy that encourages throwing and/or hitting. He also loves to talk (even if no one has any idea what he’s saying), crawl around upstairs, and go up the stairs. Our favorites are definitely the hugs and kisses!

What we’ve learned: We learned how absolutely incredible it is to watch the holidays through your child’s eyes. It was the most fun I’ve ever had during the Christmas season. We’re also beginning to see how much trouble we’re going to be in once Jackson starts walking and can get into even more than he already does! Oh, and we’ve definitely learned that if we have another child, the weekly photos need to not be restricted to laying on a rug! These photos get harder and harder to take every week!