Thursday, December 26, 2013

Play dough activity bins

(aka cabin fever busters)

Now that the madness is Christmas is over my oldest daughter still has 11 days of school holidays left, but my husband goes back to work tomorrow. The weather can get as cold as -30 with wind chill some days, and my husband needs our car to get to work which means we are cooped up in a major way.

One of the ways I know we will be passing the time is with play dough. It's quiet, it's good for fine motor skills and it keeps her happy for hours. I have a special play dough bin that I keep on top of the china hutch in our dining room so it's ready to play with whenever she gets the urge.

The 'Play Doh' company sells all sorts of overpriced sets full of gadgets to make different things, but I find my cheaper 'set' is much more fun, and the dough is much softer and better smelling.

These are the essentials:

1. A big container of homemade play dough. I have a great recipe on my other blog for a play dough mix you can whip up and make in smaller batches. Last time I made her 6 different colors, and of course she mixed them all together, so next time I'm going to stick to one color at a time. The recipe is here.

2. A rolling pin (or water bottle) for rolling dough out.

3. Plastic cookie cutters (The metal ones can scratch surfaces). They tend to sell a lot of seasonal ones at the dollar store so I buy some new ones every holiday to mix it up.

4. A plastic knife for cutting.

5. Unlit birthday candles.

My daughter likes to make many tiered birthday cakes with the play dough, decorate them with candles, sing happy birthday, slice the cake, serve it on toy plates, and then start all over again. She can make dozens of cakes in an afternoon once she gets going.

We used to make them using different size cups, but then we found this set of different sized circle cookie cutters at the dollar store. We also found a set of squares and flowers to mix it up.

Any time we get any other play dough related crap in goody bags or for birthday gifts, they get thrown into the bottom of the play dough bin too.

After a lot of cursing and carpet scrubbing we have banished all play dough related activities to the kitchen table only, which makes clean up much faster and easier. My younger daughter is 18 months now and is starting to want to be included in EVERYTHING her big sister does, but she's too young to sit in a chair and also accidentally squishes all of her sisters works of art. I've taken to letting her use play dough, color or do other craft type activities in her high chair with the tray on which makes her feel included but keeps the beast contained.

A pacifier in the mouth keeps her from eating it (it also works for sand in the summer!).

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

7 reasons why every new mother should own some cloth diaper covers (even if she uses disposables)

I've cloth diapered both my girls since they were newborns because, well, I think it's awesome. I've tried many times to win other mothers over to the fluffy side. But I also get that it's not for everyone and I respect that too. People have their reasons for not wanting to do it- be it limited laundry access, squeamishness or any other reason. What you decide to catch your child's poop in isn't really any of my business.

But... as someone who has used cloth at home and disposables on vacation I have witnessed the pros and cons to both methods and figured out a way for you to get some of the benefits of cloth without having to commit to it fully. So keep using 'sposies' (as us fluff addicts like to call them), but keep a few cloth covers on hand anyway for these reasons.

1. Explosive poop

I've heard (and experienced) the horror of the 'blow out' or 'up the backer' or 'poopcano'. Exclusively breast fed babies poop sheer liquid with explosive force, volume and brilliant color. It ruins clothing, gets in their hair, requires bedding changes and baths and massive amounts of stain remover. I've spent many a vacation hunched over a hotel bath tub cursing and scrubbing shit out of pale pink clothing. But this rarely if never happens in a cloth diaper. Why?

Take a look:

On the left is the back elastic on a cloth cover. See how nice and thick it is? On the right is a disposable. You can barely even SEE the elastic it's so flimsy. Think about it, which would have a stronger elastic- something that's going to be worn once and thrown out, or something that needs to survive hundreds of wearings and washings??

I know some people say they don't want to use cloth diapers because they don't want 'poop in their washing machine'. But face it: you have kids- you're going to get poop in your washing machine (as well as pee, snot, vomit and much more). A cloth diaper cover is designed for poop and is much easier to get clean than the clothing, sheets, hair and skin it would have ended up on instead. Put a cloth cover on top of your disposable diaper (especially when you have a newborn or sick child with the runs). It will save you a world of trouble.

2. Poop masterpieces

Babies learn to pull the tabs on their diapers from a very young age. I've been regaled with many a terrifying tale of other people's toddlers painting hieroglyphics on their walls using their own feces. I've never had to deal with this. Cloth diapers and covers have strong, sturdy snaps and they are much much harder for kids to take off. My daughter was long out of diapers by the time she figured it out. If they are old enough to remove it and aren't wearing protective clothing (a sleeper or onesie), put a cover on it.

3. Swim diapers

The entire point of a swim diaper is to contain a sudden poop long enough for you to run away before anyone else in the pool notices. A cloth cover can double as a swim diaper, and works much better than those expensive disposable ones.

4. Outgrown diapers

I've heard it's a common problem for babies to outgrow their disposable size halfway through a giant box, rendering the rest a big useless waste of money. If that happens, they can can be laid inside a cloth diaper cover and used anyway, even if they are too small to fasten. The cover will hold it in place.

5. Cuteness

Face it, disposable diapers are UGLY! I think half the reason (probably more) that us fluffy mamas use cloth is because they are so freaking CUTE! On little girls they look adorable under a dress, in hot weather they can double as an entire outfit and they go PERFECTLY with baby leg warmers. If you want to join in the fun without the commitment of so much laundry, cover up that ugly bum with some cute covers. The possibilities are endless!

6. Emergency situations

When you have cloth diaper covers in your house or diaper bag you are never truly out of diapers- if you run out of disposables during an illness, snowstorm, car trouble, or because you're totally broke, you can use a cloth diaper cover and an old t shirt (without sewing anything) to fashion emergency diapers until you can get to the store or have the money to buy some.

Here is a video on how to fold a t shirt into a diaper.

7. For dolls/stuffed animals

Kids love putting diapers on their toys, but disposables get ripped up and wasted pretty easily. We had a stuffed Elmo walk around for a year or so wearing a green cloth diaper cover. My daughter loved that he was wearing 'deepers' too.

And if you're on the fence about actually using cloth? Give it a try- there are trial programs that let you test it out, diaper services, fluff addicted friends who would love to loan some out (and give themselves an excuse to buy more) or affordable types to buy outright to give you a start.

Laziness is my mantra and I still managed to cloth diaper both my kids (for a short while even both at the same time). Why? Because it's honestly not that hard. I actually find it easier to wash them than to keep track of diaper sales and keep buying them. And because we're short on money, and because it's better for the environment, and for their skin, and a good example to set for the older ones. And yes, because I'm addicted to how cute they are.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A message to those without children about buying gifts for kids

(or please think before you buy...)

This weekend I got caught up in the sales and ended up buying all the gifts for our 3 nieces and several family friends. As I got home and admired my bounty it occurred to me how much I had learned about gift giving to children since actually HAVING kids myself, but also how much I wished those without kids knew what I know now before they showered our kids with their good intentions.

So you don't have kids. Maybe it's because you haven't had them yet but plan to or maybe you like them when they belong to someone else but don't actually want your own. Either way you're that fun aunt, uncle or family friend who gets great joy out of buying things for the children in your lives. You have big hearts and great intentions and we know that and don't want to burst your bubble. But these are the things that parents wish they could say to you....

Things that we really don't want you to buy our children

1. Stuffed animals.

This is only half of them. My oldest child is only 4 years old.

It started the moment I got pregnant- people started buying stuffed animals 'for the baby'. I totally understand the desire to do so- I did it too before I had kids. But keep in mind that kids only really take to one or two of them and the rest pile up (and pile up...). The number I received during my first pregnancy would have held both my kids over for their whole lives, but they only increased in numbers once the actual kids were born. Not to mention the ones my husband and I both saved from our own childhoods for 'when we had kids some day'. Take it from me- parents hate the things. And the kids? There is that one stuffed animal that will become their velveteen rabbit, and it could be yours. But you would have better luck playing the lottery with those numbers.

2. Toys that sing in THAT VOICE.

Anyone with kids knows exactly what I'm talking about. IT'S LEARNING TIME! YOU'RE MY FRIEND! GOT MY NOSE! (HONK HONK!). To be on the safe side, just don't buy anything that sings or makes noise. If you don't believe me, try playing it 25 times when you're hungover and you'll reach the tip of the iceberg as to how it feels to have one of those things in your house for FIVE YEARS.

3. Anything with lace, ruffles or buttons.

I know you think it's ADORABLE. You think we will too. But what you don't know is that they will wear it once for an obligatory guilt photo and then be put back in the closet. This is because these things are 1. a pain in the ass to put on them. 2. incredibly uncomfortable for the child and 3. completely impractical to wash. Kids are a giant mess of bodily functions and wearing something like that for longer than 5 minutes is bound to end badly.

4. Candy.

But kids love candy right? Um yeah. But what you don't see is that after you go home they end up crying or puking or both. We try SO hard to feed our kids healthy foods and they are constantly bombarded with junk food. Please don't add to the problem.

5. Seasonally inappropriate sizes.

Sure that sun dress you bought is GORGEOUS. But it's going to have to be GORGEOUS on some other kid because by the time they're the right size for it it is going to be snowing outside. Keep in mind that all children are different sizes regardless of age and all brands of children's clothes are completely arbitrary in sizing.

6. Shoes for babies.

My girls had about a dozen pairs of shoes. They never wore any of them because babies have strange shaped feet and kick everything off instantly (except the leather ones like robeez. Those are the best). If you have a thing for shoes please wait a few years and buy them for a 5 year old who keeps wearing them out or losing them at school. They are still small enough to be cute but they are SO needed. I promise the parents will love you for it. This also applies to newborn outfits. They fit into those things for about 5 minutes, but they can wear some of the larger toddlers sizes for YEARS sometimes.

7. GIANT toys

If it's too big to bring over without a car, it's too big to give to other people's kids. The floor space in our house is in very short supply and WE like to be the ones to decide what occupies it. The sheer amount of gear that comes with babies and children is overwhelming, and unless you live in a giant mansion you're constantly fighting to find room for it all. Please buy something small enough to fit in a drawer or on a shelf.

And PLEASE don't combine #1 with #7 and buy something like this:

So what do you buy if you can't buy all those wonderful things? There are PLENTY of things that we would LOVE for our kids.

Parents love when people give THESE things to our kids

1. Pyjamas.

If you want to buy cute clothing, the best bet is simple cotton pyjamas. For babies make sure any sleepers have zippers instead of snaps. If you want to know why, try this: Dress your cat in a sleeper with snaps. In the dark. At 3 am. See how that works out for you. Zippers make it faster, and when it comes to dressing squirmy babies every second counts. Simple cotton outfits work too- think onesie or shirt and matching leggings or shorts. If you're going to buy individual pieces of clothing make sure it's a very neutral color. Nothing is going to match with that green pair of pants.

2. Good quality children's literature

Go for award winners, classics or current bestsellers. Read it 6 times in a row and see if you still like it. Remember that we're going to be reading these books over and over and OVER again, so make them ones that every age will like.

3. Wooden toys.

I don't know why, but wooden toys have more appeal to children. Stacking rings, sorting shapes ,blocks, puzzles. They will play with the same pile of blocks over and over but ignore the giant plastic stuff that's much more complicated. Educational toys, art supplies and anything that will really engage them is also usually a safe bet. But be wary of play doh. Some parents hate digging that shit out of carpet and cracks in the hardwood.

4. An experience. Especially with you.

If you really want to be AMAZING to the child, while still keeping the parents happy, do something together. Take them to a movie, or a museum, or an amusement park. The child will be thrilled and remember it long after any toy and the parents would love the peace and quiet for a few hours. Everybody wins. If you're out of town a gift certificate to DO something (including lessons) is a close second.

5. An addition to something they already have and love.

More trains for their set, legos for their collection, food for their play kitchen, furniture for their doll house. Adding something new to something they have breathes new life into it without huge cost.

6. Ask.

Every child has gaps that the parent would love filled. They might have been passed down 3 coats this year but not have boots. They might need new ice skates, or hardly have any pants, or REALLY want a certain toy. Ask for needs, ask for sizes, ask for wants. A little knowledge goes a long way.

7. If the baby is too young to notice the gift (or not even born yet) consider getting REALLY practical.

Batteries. They go in SO many toys and items. AA and AAA for most, but a few C and D as well. They will certainly go to good use.

Gift certificates for places that sell everything (like walmart, costco, target, the dollar store). There is always something we need to buy last minute for the baby.

Gift certificates for food. New parents are VERY short on time and any meal they don't have to cook is VERY appreciated.

Fitted sheets. Babies (and later children) are very leaky, spewing creatures. They require far more bedding changes than we do, often at all hours of the night. We can never have enough spares.

8. Your interest in them as people.

Nothing makes kids (or their parents) happier than really KNOWING them. Ask them questions, listen to their stories (and our stories about them. We love them so much and love that you do too).It thrills them when you remember their favorite color or book or their best friends name. You're an important part of their life and the time you spend with them (or talking to them if you're far away) is really what matters to them more than any flashy toy you could ever buy them. I know it sounds corny, but it's really true.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Mama's secret treasure box

(or stop looking for shit that other people have lost)

Every mother needs a secret stash of her own. Not of chocolate, booze or fireman calendars, but of something much more precious...


You know the drill- no matter how much scotch tape you have, or how many pairs of scissors, no matter how many times you remind and threaten and beg- those things wander away and never come back.

One Christmas I thought I was doing a brilliant thing- instead of candy and dvds, I filled my husbands stocking with a stash of his own- scissors and nail clippers and chapstick, ect. I told him 'now that you have your own you won't need to borrow mine and lose them'. Yeah that lasted a week. He lost his... then went on to lose mine as well.

Eventually I wised up. I bought ANOTHER stash. But this time I kept it a secret. The communal stuff is all there for him (and eventually the children) to use and lose, but whenever I need something I know I'll find it in my secret box.

I keep my own copies of these things hidden- nail clippers, stamps, a pen, chapstick, scissors, a calculator and a glue stick. It's generally a combination of office supplies and grooming/toiletry items, but it varies for everyone. The important thing is that it's something you need and can never find because someone else has borrowed it and not put it back.

Now the most important point.

NEVER LET THEM KNOW ABOUT THE SECRET STASH! Not the contents, not the whereabouts, nothing. It does not exist. When you need something you quietly grab it when nobody is looking and then put it back. Let them think you're using the same scissors as everybody else. Do not give into the whining and begging when they can't find their own. Tell them to keep looking. It's not your problem. Eventually if they have to keep wasting their time looking for their own scissors without you magically procuring them they might start putting them back.

Ha. Yeah right. But you can dream...

Friday, October 25, 2013

The monster wave

(aka why I gave up)

In the spring when I left this blog I was in a bad place. Not a terrible place of loss or depression, but a difficult one just the same.

Back when I had just one child I noticed that everything went in phases. Things would be really hard for a while, but then right when it started to get a bit overwhelming an easy age would begin. This cycled continuously every few months or so for the first 3 1/2 years of her life.

My second child was just plain easy. She rarely cried, she was asleep most of the time and we could take her anywhere without any fuss or disruption. She fit perfectly into our family and aside from the needs that any baby would have like being fed or changed things were running smoothly. I was happy, I was smug. I thought I had this second child thing nailed.

Then I hit a monster wave.

Over a decade ago when I was at sea, the captain of my boat explained the basics of waves to me- how smaller waves can meet head on and combine into larger waves, and then those larger waves can meet other larger waves and combine into monster waves. That was the first thought that popped into my head when I thought about what happened to me this spring.

I won't bore you with too many details, but let's just say it wasn't easy. Neither of my children was sleeping at night (one was waking every 2 hours, the other was waking up terrified and would be up for several hours). During the day the little one was starting to climb EVERYTHING and needed to be followed everywhere, and the older one was having massive tantrums, especially when the little one was trying to nap. My oldest didn't nap at all anymore and refused to respect quiet time. Once potty trained, she regressed, having multiple accidents a day. My husband, although extremely helpful while home, was out of the house 12 hours a day with a long commute to work. I had no family or friends to help and the kids were making messes faster than I could keep up with them. Every morning I would wake up on almost no sleep and face a 12 hour day with no break, no help and no hope. I was drowning and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

I think the hardest part was the guilt. I didn't mind the mess so much as the feeling that no matter what I did, or how hard I tried, that time was slipping away from me and I wasn't enjoying it as I should. It was both the last few months of my oldest being home with me until she started full time school and the last few months to enjoy my youngest as a baby. But I wasn't enjoying either of them, I was miserable.

What compounded that was looking around at all the other mothers I knew both in real life and online and wondering how they managed when I couldn't. Why weren't their dishes piling up for days in the sink? Why were they dressed in nice clothing that wasn't covered in peanut butter? How were they finding the time to work out? To see their friends? To keep their houses so clean? To do educational crafts with their children? What were they doing differently that made it so much easier for them?

I tried everything I could think of. I would turn off my computer all day so I could stay focused and not be distracted. I gave up down time in the evenings or weekends to catch up on housework. I enlisted my husband to help even more than he already was. I gave up on any sort of standards beyond pure survival, at least for the time being. I did whatever I could, but most days it still wasn't enough. And in the end do you know what the magical solution was? The thing that pulled me out?


Nothing lasts forever, good or bad. And while most of the time I lament the loss of all those sweet moments as my babies grow, it also means that all the terrible ones pass too. Fevers break, teeth finally cut through, tantrums are replaced with words, hands become steadier. Things get easier (and then harder again) and no matter how hard things get you can always find peace in knowing that in time, it will pass.

I've recently just experienced the best couple of months I've had in a very long time. My oldest was recently diagnosed with Aspergers/high functioning autism, which has alleviated a lot of the confusion and guilt I have felt for a very long time. We are figuring things out and she is thriving. She started full time school last month and loves it and when she's at home she's no longer bored and plays happily with her toys and her sister.

The time she's at school has given me a chance to really get to know my younger daughter as her personality emerges and our days together are wonderful. With only one child at home I'm able to take long walks with the jogging stroller, see friends, get things done around the house and best of all- get a break every day when she takes her nap. I never knew exactly how much I needed that daily silence until I got it back again. I think that more than anything has made all the difference. Anyone who has stayed home with small children knows how hard it is and how important it is to get some time away from it each day, even if it's just sitting for 20 minutes with a cup of tea that's still hot before you tackle another load of laundry.

I know that things won't stay this way forever either, that things will get hard again. But like all hard times, this recent one has taught me something and I feel like next time I'll be better prepared.

What I started to notice after a while when I was comparing myself to all of the other mothers out there is that no two situations are the same. Nobody has an equal playing field and it's impossible to compare when there are so many variables. That mother who keeps her house so clean? Her mother comes over twice a week to help with the kids so she can get it done. The woman who goes to the gym every day? Her husband is home by 4 pm every afternoon and takes over so she can go work out. Some women's children sleep through the night at the age of 2 weeks, some nap 4 hours every afternoon. Some can afford a part time nanny, or have a friend that helps out on a regular basis.

But it works both ways and while many women have advantages that you may not, you also don't know what they might be dealing with behind closed doors. I know women with struggling or failing marriages, with chronic physical and mental health issues, with crippling financial issues, with special needs children. You may judge them for how they are handling things in comparison to yourself, but you never know everything they are dealing with either. To the outside world they can seem fine, but like me they could be shutting their front door and dissolving into tears at sight of mount dishmore and the food splattered floors.

I've wanted to come back to this blog several times in the past 6 months with various ideas, but never really knew what to say. Also, like with motherhood, I was too apt to compare myself to the output and efforts of other bloggers and think that it had to be all or nothing. After deciding to post on my cooking blog less frequently over the summer when I was too busy to keep up, I discovered that the sky didn't fall after all, and I could do things in my own time. So with both, I will post when it works for me and not worry about when it doesn't.

Thank you for waiting patiently while I struggled. Next time I'll know not to keep silent about it because I know that as much as it may have felt like it at the time, I probably wasn't the only one.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I gave up on I gave up by noon

(or I don't have time to sleep, eat or shower, why did I think I had time for another blog?)

Well I'm going to have to at least take a little vacation from this blog (if not abandon it altogether). I already write a cooking blog, which takes a lot of time (creating recipes, photographing them, writing about them, associated social media promotion, ect...) and I spend 5 days a week home alone with a baby and a preschooler 12 hours a day. There is just not enough time for both!

Maybe I'll come back to this when my oldest starts full time school in September. Or perhaps I'll use my free time to nap while the baby does. But in any case, I just don't have the time right now!

I'll still be here mixing it up as always on my cooking blog.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Storing bath tub toys

(or no more gross boats)

Bath toys. Ugh. These are the reasons I hate them:

1. Husband is taking a shower after the kids are in bed. I suddenly hear crashing noises and @%@$% because he's stepped on a plastic Elmo head.

2. Wet slimy ooze on the bathroom counter from various rubber ducks and plastic boats that have been set down wet and left there for days.

3. Stubbing my toe several times a week on the random ones that get tossed into the hallway when they get removed from the tub and bathroom counter.

They have those toy baskets you can hang in your tub, but they are expensive and tend to fall down at the worst times. They also never fully dry if they stay in there and get very gross and full of mildew.

So now they go here:

I cleared part of the shelf in the linen closet just outside the bathroom door to make room for tub toys. I bought a dish rack from the dollar store and throw them in there. It holds them all well without any falling out, but the rack allows them to air dry nicely so they don't get gross.

Now when we give the girls a bath we just grab a handful from the rack and toss them back in when they're done. No more slime, no more stubbed toes and no more cursing at Elmo.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

How to save money on cloth diapers

(or stop now while you still can!)

Any cloth diapering mom trying to convert a pregnant woman always offers the same advice- it will save you SO much money!

THIS IS NOT TRUE! Well... most of the time. Because this is what happens:

Look at my stash, isn't it neat? Wouldn't you think my collection complete? Wouldn't you think I'm the girl, the girl who has every diaper? I've got Sweetpeas and Alvas a plenty, I've got CB and BG galore, you want Fuzzibunz? I got plenty, but who cares, no big deal, I want morrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre......

It's too late to save me. I'm too far in. But here is some advice to those new moms and converts out there who still have time.

1. Put a cap on it. You only need so many diapers per bum. 24 should do you nicely, 36 if you really want to stretch it. Once you go past that you're getting into addiction land.

2. Find your brand and stick to it. If something works for you don't try anything else (my mistake) because the more brands you're working the more 'limited edition colors and prints' you just HAVE to have.

3. Stay away from online buy/sell/trade groups. You may think you're going to make money selling off the diapers that you don't use but you won't, you'll just buy 10 times more from the other group members.

4. Don't ever EVER start buying diapers that you need to bid on.

5. There is no shame in using disposables overnight. Most of the money I spent was in trying about half a dozen night time systems that in the end didn't work. One disposable a day won't cost you much.

6. If you must buy more, only use money that you've made selling other diapers.

7. Remind yourself- why do I spend half my life obsessing over something for my child to poop into?

8. Make yourself tell your husband about every new diaper you buy instead of hiding them in your current stash.

9. If you've got another one on the way, lower your cap per bum. I doubled my stash and then only had two in diapers for 2 months. Just treat your new baby to a few diapers if you want.

10. If you fall in love with a certain brand later in the game, don't buy an entire stash of them immediately. Chances are the honeymoon will be over after a couple of months and you'll have moved on to something else. I have a friend who bought an entire stash of 7 different brands.


12. If you have enough diapers, no browsing. Not in baby stores, not online, not on the diaper tables of play dates houses. Once you see it, you will find reasons you 'need' it.

13. If a friend posts a cute fluffy bum online, never ever ask 'where did you get it?' You won't just be buying that diaper, but it will probably lead to a new brand/store/site/style. Don't go down that road.

14. NEVER GOOGLE! A random pondering for a specific print can lead to dozens more diapers from wherever it come from.

15. Unless you're in dire financial straights, ignore all this advice and enjoy your fluffy little bum. They are only babies for a short time.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Rotating your children's library

(or stop picking all their books off the floor).

We're a family of readers- I met my husband at Chapters of all places! And while we love living across from the library for our own sake, one of our daughters likes to eat books and the other likes to rip them, so we just buy the girls their own books.

Aside from gifts, we buy most of their books at the dollar store or on the library discard cart for 50 cents. They now have so many books it's ridiculous, but I want to keep (and read) them all. We used to keep all the kids books on the shelf in my oldest daughter's room, but I'm sure you know how a toddler selects books. They pull them ALL off the shelf every time they decide to read. So EVERY night we had to put them all back.

Now all the kids books sit on 2 high shelves on a large bookcase in the baby's room where they can only be reached by an adult.

One shelf is small board books and another is storybooks and large board books. The anthologies and chapter books that I'm saving for when they get older are elsewhere.

In my 3 year old's room we have a dishpan bin (you can get them at the dollar store) filled with an assortment of board books and storybooks for her to enjoy. It's enough for variety at bedtime and when she feels like 'reading' on her own, but not so many that picking them all up isn't going to be a huge PITA.

I keep the bin in her room for 1-2 weeks and then change the books. To rotate the selection I take books from the left hand side of each shelf and put the ones from the bin back on the right. If there are any she's really attached to in the bin I keep them in for another round.

This system is great because there is less clean up, your child gets to use all their books, you don't get stuck reading the same ones 8 billion times and they get excited about the 'new' books every week.