Saturday, September 29, 2012

Some time outside, and a couple of sewing projects

Hi everybody!  It's been awhile since I've posted anything on here.  Let's see . . . it's mostly been pretty smoky here still from all the fires, and most days the air quality is still in the "very unhealthy" or "hazardous" range so we still can't usually go outside for any length of time without our trusty masks.  We've been trying to do a lot of fun things indoors.  TongJie loves to sit at the table and play with his little cars or sometimes use crayons and markers.

The other day, we made a blanket canopy in TongJie's room and he had fun playing in there for awhile.

Sometimes, though, TongJie gets his bag and grabs my hand, trying to tell me that he's ready to go somewhere.  I know the following photo is a little blurry, but TongJie was walking around the house with his bag, his backpack, and his hat, as well as his clapper necklace thing that he uses as a microphone.  He was REALLY ready to get out and do something important!

Jeff and I were so excited to get up on Tuesday and see clear skies and a real sunrise, then later we saw blue sky and the sun!  The air quality was good enough to be outside that day, so TongJie and I (and Albert) took full advantage by playing in the backyard pretty much all morning.  In the evening, Jeff pushed TongJie for a long time in his swing.  Here's a picture of me and TongJie just chillin' in the backyard that morning:

But the clear air was not to last, because Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were back to the same old smoke that we seem to be growing so accustomed to, so it was back to being inside or wearing the masks.  Today, however, was nice again by the afternoon, and we went for a walk for the first time in a long time.  Poor Albert doesn't understand why we never go for walks anymore, and he had a great time.  TongJie was happy to get into the stroller, too.  Jeff pointed out, as we were walking, that TongJie looks bigger in the stroller now, since we haven't seen him in there in weeks!  We're hoping for more of these clear-aired days - it's sad to have such (what would be) beautiful fall weather when we can't be out enjoying it or even see the sun.  It makes us realize how much we take for granted, and appreciate the clean air more than we did before.

I've also been working on a couple of sewing projects.  I finally decided, a few weeks ago, to leave my sewing machine set up in the corner of the living room.  TongJie pretty much leaves it alone, and it's always off when he sees it anyway so he's not too interested in it.  It sure makes it a lot easier to work on projects when he's napping when I don't have to lug out my sewing machine and set it up, and then put it all back again every time.  So I finally finished several more tote bags for our Awana T&T kids:
(The "AWANA" is stamped on with fabric paint using a homemade rubber stamp I made from a huge eraser and an exacto knife - that was a pretty cool project in itself)

Also, I've been saving some tee shirts that I bought from yard sales this summer because I wanted to try making some shirts for TongJie.  I used a combination of this tutorial and a 99-cent McCall's pattern that I've had to make him a cute long-sleeved shirt.  I don't particularly care for the envelope style of neck openings on baby clothes, because they tend to not lay very well.  However, this style looked way easier to sew than a traditional tee shirt collar, so I gave it a shot.  Sure enough, I wasn't very happy with the collar, especially since it's a bit big for TongJie and the front flaps kept rolling back over his shoulders.  But I found a simple solution - I added two snaps to each side of the collar to hold it down and now I like it a lot better.  Here's the finished shirt, made from a 50-cent yard sale find of a very ugly (in my opinion) women's tee shirt, and the trim and cuffs made from part of an old shirt we had laying around in our rag bin:
Here's the new shirt on the model:

Here's TongJie signing "daddy" with two hands:

And apparently he got tired of modeling just the shirt:

Here's hoping for more days of nice, clear air!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Too much smoke!

We're getting really tired of all the smoke around here!  For those of you who don't know, we're experiencing hazardous air conditions from nearby forest fires and an inversion trapping all the smoke in our valley.  It's been going on for about a week and a half now, with seemingly no end in sight.  I've been trying to think of fun indoor activities to do with TongJie, but sometimes he just grabs my hand and leads me to the door, and then stands there pointing to the door and signing "help."  At least it's nice that he's pretty easily entertained, and even a simple cardboard box provides a great deal of fun opportunities.

I know this is kind of mean, but I just couldn't help posting a picture of whiny TongJie - he's been doing a lot of this lately!  I guess it pretty much sums up how we all feel sometimes.

We got some N95 face masks the other day, so we have been able to go outside a little bit lately and that has been really nice.  TongJie tried on my mask, but it seemed to be a bit big:

His mask fits him a lot better:

However, even the child-sized mask is a bit big on TongJie, but I think it's doing the job for the most part.  I'm not completely confident that it's making a good seal around his little nose, so I still don't want to be outside a whole lot, but it's definitely much better than no mask.  TongJie has been great about wearing it.  He lets us put it on, and once it's on he doesn't really mess with it.  That's encouraging, considering the fact that his palate surgery is coming up and he'll have to wear either arm restraints or mitts to keep him from putting his hands in his mouth - based on his reaction to the mask, maybe the restraints won't be as difficult as we're anticipating.  Anyway, he finally gets to do some more swinging, and that's fun!  Here he is modeling his mask from many different angles:

Yeah for being able to go outside again!  (Isn't he cute?)

I've been trying to get videos of TongJie using his sign language (he's up to 45 signs now, by the way), and I was fully expecting him to sign "more" in this video.  I asked him if he wanted to get down, and usually when he's on his swing he will sign "more" when I ask him that because he wants to swing more and does not want to get down.  But this time he really did want to get down, so I got a video of him signing "down" instead.  I think he wanted to get down because he wanted the camera!

I know I recently posted another picture very similar to this one, but when we're giving TongJie his bottle he just seems so much bigger now - he's grown a lot just in the past few months, and we really notice how much longer he's getting when he's sprawled out across Jeff's or my lap.

That's all for now!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Staying inside

We've been seeing a lot of this lately:

And look how tall he's getting - he can easily reach the doorknob now, but he can't turn it.
TongJie really wants to go outside, but the air quality is so bad right now (actually considered hazardous) from the nearby fires that we have to stay inside.  It's too bad that I just put up his new swing and now he can't use it.  He sometimes stands at the door doing the sign language for "outside" and "swing," looking longingly at his swing hanging enticingly from the tree limb, and he doesn't understand why we can't go out.  So, we've been doing some fun things inside instead.  Today we went to a thrift store and found a little car and a cool ramp for marbles and stuff.  We got both of them for a dollar.  The ramp kept TongJie entertained for a long, long time.  He was having so much fun putting large marbles down it and then going to chase them.

He also continues to love playing with his cars (of course!) and blocks.  He can stack blocks all by himself now.  When he first got his wooden blocks for his birthday, he had kind of a hard time stacking them because he kept trying to push on them to make them stick together like his interlocking Mega Blocks do, but he's figured out the difference now and he's getting quite good at making little towers.  I tried to get a video, but once he sees the camera out, he gets too distracted to keep doing whatever he was doing before.  However, you can still see his tower that's a few blocks high.  He wouldn't have been able to do that just a couple of months ago.

Speaking of being able to do new things, TongJie now has a sign language vocabulary of over 40 words!  And that's just counting the words that he uses correctly on his own, not the signs that he simply copies when we model them for him.  It's so nice to be able to communicate with him that way, and we're anticipating him picking up a lot more before he starts speaking.  It really keeps us on our toes with learning new signs to teach him all the time!

And here's a little video clip of TongJie eating oatmeal all by himself today at lunch.  He's getting pretty good with a spoon, huh?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New swing!

I finally put up our baby swing yesterday.  It's a hand-me-down from my sister, and we've been wanting to put it up for awhile because we have a great tree for it in our backyard.  There has been a different swing there, from before we moved in, so I just cut the rope and attached strong s-hooks so now it will be easy to change back to a regular swing when TongJie outgrows the baby one.  Anyway, he's been having a great time with it, and once he gets in his swing he does NOT want to get out.  I pushed him in it for probably almost an hour this morning, and every time I asked him if he wanted to get down, he would sign "more" because he wanted to keep swinging.  When it was finally time to go inside, there were tears.

What else have we been up to lately?  Well, TongJie is slowly adjusting to having Daddy gone all day during the week, but he's still not happy about it.  Whenever he hears a car outside our house, he signs "daddy" and opens his mouth wide in excitement, hoping it's Daddy coming home from school - even if it's only 8:00 in the morning!  It makes the weekends all the more special when TongJie and Jeff get to play together all day.

We're still getting lots of good use out of the wagon, as you can see!

We recently moved up the seat of TongJie's highchair to make it like a booster seat so he can actually eat at the table.  He thinks that's pretty neat, except now he can grab more stuff so we have to keep everything far out of his reach.  Our friends the Weldys gave TongJie a really cool plate and utensil set a couple months ago that we've been waiting to use.  The plate was too big to fit on TongJie's highchair tray, but now that he's sitting at the table, the plate works well.  Also, now he's more interested in using utensils to feed himself, so he's a lot more motivated to use it.  As you can see from the picture, the utensils look like construction machinery, and they include a spoon, a fork, and a "pusher".  TongJie has not attempted the pusher yet, but he likes to use the spoon.

Oh yeah, you may have noticed that it looks like TongJie has a black eye, and that is correct.  He hit his face on the corner of the sound booth at Jeff's music rehearsal at church on Thursday evening, and it swelled up and was a shiner the next morning.  It's looking better every day, so he should be back to normal soon.  That is, until he gets his next injury.  He's one tough little kid.

My aunt and uncle gave TongJie an outfit for his birthday and I had to take a picture of it because it's so cute - there's a monkey on the seat of the pants.  We were happy that they gave us something in size 12 months, because that's the size he actually wears right now but we're too cheap to buy him 12 month clothing ourselves because we keep thinking he'll be outgrowing it anytime.  We do have other 12 month articles from hand-me-downs and yard sales, and he actually fits into 18 month shirts now, so it's not like we don't have any clothing for our child - it's just fun to have something new in his size!  Once he gets a little bigger, he's going to have a lot of brand-new outfits that we got as gifts when we first came back from China.

I had some bags lying around that I made, so TongJie picked all four of them up, plus his own green bag that I previously made for him, and walked around the house carrying all five of them and waving goodbye.  He knows that when he gets his green bag we're usually going somewhere, so I guess he was trying to tell me he was ready to leave.