Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Spitfire

There have been many times since having Owen, that I've laughed at the former "mother of one" me, but nothing tops the last day or two.  Zoe is all girl and always has been (I know for sure now).  When she was Owen's age, she would sit on your lap (or by herself in a chair) and go through our whole bookshelf, "reading" each book one by one.  At her most destructive, she would knock down a stack of papers and look through them all and possibly tear a few...or she, like most babies, liked to bang on some pots and pans in the kitchen.  She was never really a super messy eater, or at least she wasn't for very long.  I know I'm probably looking back on those times and forgetting some details but I'm quite sure she was, in general, a very easy going baby.  We did know it and acknowledge it at the time but of course, as human beings, we always find things to be exasperated about no matter how relatively easy our lives are, don't we?  Owen, while "easier" than Zoe in a few ways...partly because it's our second time doing this whole baby thing so we have the gift of "the big picture" this time around and partly because he actually IS easier in some situations, ie: he needs NO help falling asleep at nap and bedtime.  I sing him a song just before putting him into his crib but half the time he's wriggling and crying through the whole thing, leaving me to wonder if I'm singing for his benefit or mine somehow....anyway, he is easier in some respects but the older he gets the more clear it becomes that we have ourselves a little wriggly, energetic, physical, diaper-change hating, strong-willed, wild, destructive, LOUD boy.  My friend Gretchen, mother of the sweet, funny and energetic Hunter, has been holding back her laughter I'm sure, and kindly subduing her gut reaction lately to the pure shock I am experiencing when faced with the temper tantrums Owen is all of the sudden capable of.  I've always heard that generally, boys are more of a handful in the baby years than girls are, but I'm telling you...the reality of it is staggering.  Wish us luck because boy, are we gonna need it!

We've managed to get a little creative lately after a bit of a post-summer let down period.  I checked a book out of the library that we used to have when I was a kid.  I recently rediscovered it when my sister brought it to our trip to The Cape this summer.  It's called Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals, and it's so easy to use.  I've been addicted to making t-shirts lately, and the animals he shows you how to draw are perfect for them.  I got it for myself, honestly but Zoe gave it a whirl the other day and she did an awesome job with it!



Then we finally hung a picture up in our hallway that I've been anxious to see displayed.  I found the frame at a tag sale for a dollar and thought it was the perfect size to showcase something of Zoe's...It's at the top of our stairwell, which is adorned with more of Zoe's works of art...those are super easy to swap out when needed because they are just hanging on a string with clothes pins..an idea I got from my friend Kerry, yet another amazing mom that I know.
Then, Zoe came up with this idea all by herself the other day (okay, the idea was all hers but I helped her find the right container).  She decided she wanted to make a shaker for Owen, so she put some little buttons from our craft shelves into a plastic peanut butter jar and decorated it with markers.  I've always loved these really simple toy ideas that you can put together with stuff you have lying around that you might otherwise throw away so I was proud of her...and Owen liked it too!





Finally, after having a tough goodbye at school and a noticeably "off", possibly stressed-out mood I've started to wonder if Zoe might have a harder time adjusting to preschool this year compared to last year.  She seems to identify "school" with her room and teachers from last year and I think (of course she can't really express it) she might be feeling a little weird and bummed to be in this new room with new people.  I know she is fine and will have tons of fun once she settles in, but I feel bad for her and want to help.  When I asked her what we could do to help make the goodbye easier, she just  sadly said "I don't know".  So, I decided to make her a little pouch to wear around her neck.  I got the idea from my friend Jessica, who made one for her daughter last year and thought it might help Zoe a bit.  I made it from some scrap fabric I had and although I'm sure with an actual sewing machine and...well, sewing SKILLS it could have been much more cute, I think it came out okay.  I'll fill it up and tell her she can't open it until she gets to school on Thursday.  Some of the things I'm putting in there are:  a little red felt heart, a beautiful thing, and a little tiny note from me.  I also got this idea from Gretchen, whose younger sister used to have a terrible time with the goodbye part of going to school, too:
The one on the left are two pictures of Zoe's newly adopted whale Pepper, glued into a salt grinder top, and the other is a picture of our family glued into a baby food jar lid.  Gretchen's parents used to save milk jug tops, glue a picture of the family in there and turn it into a necklace for her sister to wear.  I'll just put these right in the pouch though.

One of my New York friends, Michelle, gave me 3 silver acorns before Zoe's birth and told me that they are believed to bring luck.  It made me feel very comforted, so since we have a lot of acorns on the ground around our house I told Zoe about it and we collected and painted them for luck before Owen's birth.  We decided to do the same thing this year, and I feel like we've started a nice tradition...I'll definitely put one or two in Zoe's school pouch too...
Anyway, here's the pouch...like I said I know it's lacking a bit but I hope it'll do the trick!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

In Transition

Do you ever have the overwhelming feeling that every thought you have and everything you do has been thought and done to death?  That's the way I feel right now.  Not even really in a depressing way, but just a "Wow, life can be boring sometimes" way.  Once in a while I think I've seen the end of this blog, because I literally feel like I have nothing else to say.  I'm tapped out for the moment in the crafting world...most likely a result of all the fun stuff we did this summer...The lingering hot, humid weather isn't helping with that, either....I could tell you about the fact that Owen, while sleeping much better than he used to, still gets up a couple of times a night.  I don't really mind that much though, so it doesn't really feel noteworthy.  I could tell you about Zoe starting a new school year as a "Roadrunner" and how she said to me after her first day "The Roadrunner room is much more ess-iting than the Tigger room".  She's also riding her own bike to school this year and looks and feels like such a big girl as a result.  So fun and exciting for all of us, but I just feel like I can't form an interesting thought about it all.  I could tell you how Nathan is teaching his first class this semester and seems to be doing great so far, but that is really his news not mine....I could tell you how I've faltered a bit in my Girls With Guts attitude after seeing myself on video camera, but that's a little embarrassing and disappointing so I don't feel ready to talk about that....There's always a funny/frustrating story to relate when it comes to parenting but it feels like that's ALL I talk about these days....By the way, did you know that pediatric dentists see kids as young as Owen?  Zoe and Owen both went to the dentist today and Owen had all 4 of his little tiny teeth checked and cleaned...So cute...I'm excited about the fact that I'm going back to this crunchy yoga studio I discovered and then checking out the Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder this weekend, but I want to reserve talking about those too much in case they don't turn out to be what I'm hoping they will be....I could tell you funny stories about my job..for example there was the time a couple of months ago when a resident called me, and after 5 minutes of not being able to understand each other on the phone, I reluctantly went to his apartment.  When I got there, I learned that he was upset because he believed someone had entered his apartment without his knowledge and cleaned it...I'm not kidding when I say he was SURE and he was BAFFLED....so was I, but for a slightly different reason than he was....or the other night when I checked in a new resident...a young guy here on his own from a foreign country...the process usually takes 15-20 minutes and involves a quick assessment of the physical state of the apartment and a review of the Family Housing rules and regulations, but this one took 45 whole minutes.  He wanted me to approve of the TV he'd recently bought, the dishes, food, computer, etc...he needed help figuring out how to work his iron--a lesson that included a 5 minute conversation about what linen is, exactly.  He needed  a lesson in doing his laundry in the machines here, and wanted to know the exact temperature of the water.  After suggesting he just put everything in cold water and not worry about it, he proceeded to fetch single items from his closet and write them down separately on a piece of paper, all with the instructions "wash in cold" next to them.  He wanted to know if it was against the rules to ask a taxi driver to help him bring something heavy upstairs to his apartment....He wondered if he could change the lock on his front door and/or if he could replace the wooden door with a steel one...He sought approval from me to clean furniture on his balcony as opposed to bringing it down to the lawn....I finally let a sliver of my impatience show through when he expressed concern that a snake was going to somehow climb up the building to his 3rd floor apartment and scare him in his bed.  I could tell you about all of that, but I know that work stories are never as entertaining to the people who don't actually know the job, so I'll spare you.

Anyway, all I'm trying to say is that I think I'm in this strange phase where things are about to be different than they've been for a few months, but they haven't officially changed totally yet.  Leaves me feeling a bit....meh.  Know what I mean?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Showdown

Parenting is not for the faint of heart, let me tell you.  The challenges you face when they are babies are huge physical challenges:  learning to function on massive sleep deprivation, sore backs and shoulders from carrying someone around all day, etc...then, they start to get older....and smarter....and you not only have someone who depends on you for many, if not all, day to day needs (buckling into car seats, serving meals, bathing, brushing hair, brushing teeth, wiping poop off butts...you get the picture) but someone who is learning (more quickly than you could ever have imagined) how to challenge your authority.  On the logical side of your brain you know, as does every other person who doesn't have to be the one playing the constant mind games with them all day, that this is a healthy--hell, an even ENCOURAGING quality in a small person.  It means they are becoming strong individuals and are testing waters and boundaries....as they should, of course.  The exhausting part of being their parent though, is that you have the honor of being the one they get to test everything out on because they trust you and know that you will love them no matter what they do to you.  It's honestly shocking and, if you are in the right mind-set, pretty impressive to witness their determination and rapidly developing manipulation skills.

Sometimes I get this feeling that we are playing a demented game of chicken with Zoe.  There was one night about a month ago when she came into our room at 3am wanting to sleep in our bed.  We banned this practice a while ago, due to the fact that she is a COMPLETE bed hog.  When we put Owen in her room, we put a sleeping bag on our floor so that if he woke her up crying, she could come sleep in our room, but sack out on the floor next to the bed instead of in it.  It worked like a charm for a really long time, but suddenly that night she decided it would NOT do.  We stood our ground and she pushed the limits for an hour and a half.  Yes, if you do the math that means it lasted until 5:30am...actually if you do the math it's 4:30am but I'm a strung out parent and have been thinking all this time that I'd endured this behavior for one and a half hours.  My brother (the actuary) just pointed out to me after reading this though, that 3am-5:30am is two and a half hours!  Yay me!  Anyway, after TWO and a half hours, she finally gave in and went to sleep on her sleeping bag.  The journey to that magical point in the wee hours of the morning involved every angle you can imagine (on our end, anyway---her side of the argument held firm at screaming and crying pretty much the whole time)...reasoning with, sympathy for and finally threatening her.  It resulted in the biggest punishment of her entire 3 1/2 year life:  No TV the next day, no swimming pool the next time she asked, no participating in "Water Days" (a weekly summer Family Housing activity) the next morning and no two-wheeler for a week.  After we took the two-wheeler away for a week, I started threatening to take one of her other favorite bikes away and the second I said "1", she hit the deck like there was machine gun fire in the air...I felt bad for her the next day when the realization of the punishment sunk in, but she took it like a champ.  I'm so glad it happened, even though it sucked at the time because now she REALLY takes me seriously when I say "Do we have to have a conversation about your bike again?"  She's not willing to call my bluff (actually, I guess it's because she knows I'm NOT bluffing) and I'm feelin' the power.  I'll let you know when my reign is over, as I'm sure it will be sooner rather than later but I'm enjoying it while I have it.

She is so smart, though because although I hold the power in many ways, she is constantly finding footholds for herself.  So far, I usually come out on top (don't worry, I "give" her some victories here and there) but it takes some intense stare downs sometimes.   Like the other day, when we were in the car going to the grocery store, she must have said "I'm HUNGRY" 50 times, and we live 3 minutes away from the store.  Since I was on my own for the weekend with both kids, I was dreading this grocery store run.  As soon as we got there, I got a steak roll for Owen and a cookie for Zoe and shopped as fast as I possibly could, timing myself against the amount of snack that was left in both of their hands as we went.  We made it out with snacks to spare and I gave myself a huge pat on the back and thanked both kids for being so well-behaved.  As soon as we got home, I made lunch for all of us and we sat down to fill our empty bellies.  Zoe took one bite of her sandwich and said "I'm done!"  When I told her that couldn't be true and asked her politely to sit and eat her lunch she just said "I'm not hungry".  I told her that if that were true, it must be because she had a cookie in the grocery store, so if she was going to fill her belly with treats, then I thought it best that we take a break from treats until she could learn to save room for meals as well.  She calmly said "Ok, I don't want treats."  I asked if she was sure that come the next day, when she asked for a treat and I said no that she wasn't going to be upset, she said "Yes, Mommy.  Maybe you should write it down so we don't forget."  I told her that was a brilliant idea and as I explained the concept behind a contract in as simple a way as I could, I drew one up and had her sign it.
I told her that when she asked me for a treat the next day, I was just going to show her the contract to remind her that SHE had made the choice to give them up.  She cheerfully said "Ok, Mommy!" and I just let it go (leaving her lunch on the table of course).  About 20 minutes later, she quietly ate her lunch and we ripped the contract up into little tiny pieces.  Then, the other night she did the same thing at dinner and when I told her it meant she couldn't have a piece of the peanut-butter-chocolate-chip-banana-bread we had made together earlier that day she said "That's okay, I don't want any!"  As I ate my bread, I of course went on and on about how yummy it was and she said, in this very grown-up, exaggerated cheerful tone "GOOD!  Have a GREAT time eating it!!"  That was that for me...she won that one hands down.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Nuthin' But Fun

Well, after more than a month of trying to plan it, we FINALLY went with some friends to our local fire station for a tour!  I'd called them initially at the beginning of the summer, and they were immediately super nice about it.  The woman who arranges tours said that if it were just going to be me and my kids then we could stop by anytime unannounced, but I was hoping to invite a few friends to come along and in that case, she wanted us to schedule a time.  I was more excited about scheduling it anyway because I thought maybe they'd be able to show us more stuff if they were prepared for us as opposed to just showing up.  So, even though the woman was really nice about it all, we've just had a busy summer and between our vacation and this woman's vacation we played phone tag for at least a month before we finally set a time....I'm telling you all of this because if this looks like fun to you, I urge you to call your local fire station as well.  I bet they are like that everywhere because it's important to them that kids know about fire safety and that they are comfortable with fire fighters.  Honestly, it was a great reminder for me too that I should be teaching her fire safety stuff.  I guess lessons like that sneak up on me, since she seems to be getting older behind my back these days, so it was nice to have them reassure me that she's old enough to understand it all so it's a good idea to talk with her about it.  Anyway, really easy, free and fun!  I was kind of blown away by how much she remembered from the tour after we went home.  Made me feel like it was a worthwhile thing to do for sure...Here are a few of our pictures:
Hearing about who sits where in the truck

The heat gun



Holding the hose with Sierra

Firefighter Brian was so nice when showing them all his gear.  You could tell a lot of kids freak when he puts the mask on because before he did, he VERY clearly said "Now, I'm going to put this on because it helps me breath when there's smoke.  It makes me look pretty funny, but it's still me--I'm still here!"  They all did much better with it than I expected!

Offering for them to touch the suit...they didn't exactly jump at the chance, though.

Yay!


She was pretty disappointed when we went to deliver this because they weren't there...hopefully they got it and it made them smile, even though I'm sure they get tons of these...I like to think they love getting them, not matter how often it happens!

I also wanted to share with you a couple of projects I just finished up for our upcoming, first annual "Family Housing Theatre Workshop" performance.  I work as a Resident Manager where we live and part of the job involves running activities for our residents.  This summer, I decided to do a Theatre Workshop...about half the summer, we just played a bunch of theatre games during our meeting times but then we started working on staging a VERY simple version of The Three Little Pigs.  I definitely learned a lot about what NOT to do the next time I do it but we had tons of fun, and the kids are too cute.  Come performance time (this Wednesday) all I'm hoping for is that they will all be brave enough to actually go on stage.  I don't even care if they are too shy to say their lines, just as long as they go out there and look cute.  The whole play takes about 5 minutes, and I can't wait to see how they do!

Anyway, I decided to make a little program and some t-shirts for them to wear during the performance and then hold onto after all is said and done.  For the program, I had to actually glue the text on the page next to their pictures and then photocopy that, since my computer knowledge and our actual software for designing such things is pretty minimal.  So, it doesn't look as clean as I had dreamed it would but it's still pretty cute.  I hope you can read the text because it's perfect:
Front cover


The t-shirts were a last minute thought and it started off as a very grand one.  At first, I planned to do it as a DIY silk screen project and was trying to psych myself up for the task.  I was telling myself that although it would be time consuming, it would be totally worth it.  If you've never done it, you stretch some nylon into an embroidery ring, draw your image on the nylon with a pencil, cover the negative space with glue, let dry, place on shirt and dab on the paint.  It's really fun and satisfying but to do 9 shirts like that (front and back) was way, way too ambitious.  Plus, I think I wouldn't have been as satisfied with the result as I was thinking I would be.  Anyway, when I went to the craft store to get the materials, I came across some "Heat Transfer Paper"...basically you put the paper into your (inkjet) printer and print whatever image you want on there.  Then you trim it and iron it on.  Even though I'd never used it, I crossed my fingers, bought it and hoped for the best.  I had pictured cutting all my designs out with an exacto knife so they'd be exactly what I wanted but, again that proved to be way too ambitious.  The first two shirts took a long time (there was some serious potty-mouth in my living room last night), since I was figuring it all out, but by the third shirt, I'd found a system (a much simpler one) and the rest were a breeze.  Even though they are not what I'd pictured, I'm still more than happy with the way they turned out and can't wait to see all the kiddos wearing them together on the day of the big show!
Front of the Pig Family shirts

Up close

The back

The "Seller" shirts

Big Bad Wolf!

UPDATE:  Here's the video of the performance!
video

Monday, August 8, 2011

Turning Point

There comes a time (or at least a dozen times, more like it) when you have to recognize you're headed down the wrong path and gently but firmly turn yourself around to face the other way.  This has happened to me quite a few times in my life, I'm not afraid to admit, as I am certain I'm nowhere near alone.

There was the time I realized I was really unhappy at the first college I chose to go to and (thanks to my Mom) transferred in the middle of my sophomore year.   Then a couple of years later, I found myself yet again, incredibly unhappy in school and decided (again, thanks to my Mom) to take a semester off.  Right before the last semester of my senior year, as I was about to start an intensive one-on-one class with my acting teacher in order to prepare for a future as an actress, I came to the realization that BACKSTAGE was were I felt most at home, and took my first Stage Management class instead.  Right after I (finally-phew!) finished college,  I found myself in a mismatched relationship and ended it 3 days before we were supposed to move in together, even though doing so caused a lot of pain and cost me two friendships.  Shortly after that, Nathan and I were trying to make the "weekend, long distance" relationship work, when I decided to find my two cats a nice home and move to New York City..a place I had always loathed and feared because I knew the relationship was something special.  Then there was the time Nathan was on tour with Jesus Christ Superstar and I decided to quit my job and go on the road with him...not working, just living out of our car and seeing the country.  While on tour, finding myself completely bored, I elbowed my way into a few of the theatres in some of the random cities we were in and worked the show as a dresser, rediscovering my love for working wardrobe.  Upon our return to the city, instead of finding another desk job, I decided to focus my energy into finding work as a stage manager or a dresser and started pounding the pavement.  I got lucky when someone announced their vacation at The Phantom of the Opera RIGHT before I walked in their door to give them my resume and I was working for them that very night.  I worked there as a sub for a month, and had a hard time admitting I didn't like the vibe.  After all, I'd MADE IT TO BROADWAY.  What the HELL was I complaining about?  Something was telling me there was something better out there though, and so I kept pounding that pavement..this time, with a Broadway credit on my resume.  That's when The Lion King called.  I subbed for a couple of weeks and was instantly hooked.  I subbed there and nowhere else until one of the dressers decided to leave their permanent job and I was next in line to take over.  There I stayed, more than happily for about 4 more years....then, Nathan and I had Zoe and life in the city became much more complicated and exhausting so Nathan decided to go back to school and I encouraged and supported him the entire way.  He got accepted to CU and we took possibly the biggest leap of faith we had ever taken together (including marriage) and moved to Boulder.  THEN, after being positive we were only going to have one child, it suddenly became clear to me that our little family needed one more addition before it was complete.  It didn't take long to convince Nathan and about a month later, I was pregnant with Owen.

Now I find myself the mother of two beautiful, loving, smart, silly, fun children.  I have my dream job and feel so grateful every day for being lucky enough to have had my dream realized.  I not only have these two kids, but I'm able to stay at home with them while they are young, since I have a work-from-home job through the university....this is what I've always wanted!!!

That being said, this "dream job" of mine is REALLY REALLY HARD.  I go through ups and downs, just like everyone else but sometimes those downs can get pretty low when you don't get many chances to "recharge".  Lately I've been sort of treading water down there, searching for something to pull me back up and out.  With a mixture of melancholy (a result of missing my family after our fantastic vacation together) and pain (wisdom tooth extraction) I've been dreaming my days away with a permanent frown on my face.  Venting and moping to family and friends helped a bit, but there came a moment when I realized that the rest is up to me.  All the support I receive from the people I care about is wasted if I can't ultimately take responsibility for my own happiness.  So, finding myself going down that path where all I could see was a future in resentment and wallowing I once again, have decided to turn myself right around and go the other way....I'm reminding myself that I have the power to live a happy life I just have to be brave, resolute and creative.  I found myself in a new yoga class the other day (one of the tools I've chosen to aid me in moving in this new direction) and while holding a particularly challenging pose, the teacher told us to just smile through it.  I'm taking this on as my mantra for this particular challenge:  "Smile Through It".

Friday, August 5, 2011

Where did the summer go??

Well, I can't believe it but summer is already coming to a close.  In a few weeks, Zoe will start school again (as a "Roadrunner" this year), this time for 3 mornings a week and before we know it Owen will be turning 1!  Time is f-l-y-i-n-g by and as usual, that brings about a mix of relief and utter panic as I see the end of this hot, humid weather on the horizon while at the same time flying ahead in my imagination 15 or so years when Zoe will leave for college (have I told you about that terrible habit of mine?). 

Anyway, we have had a great summer in part because of our participation in the Smart Summer Challenge, which we just finished up this week.  I admit I had a hard time coming up with stuff  for last week's "Out of This World" theme, but I did enjoy introducing all of the planets to Zoe.  I've always been really fascinated by all things space and have really fond memories of laying in the field next to our house with my big brother Ivan (smarty pants) as he patiently answered all the questions that popped into my head about stars and the moon such.  I wonder if Zoe will find it as mysterious and beautiful as I always have and I was excited to get her thinking about it all...funny (and a little frustrating) that I couldn't really come up with anything terribly original or exciting but maybe it was because unlike the other themes, space is so....well, it's not exactly very accessible is it?  Especially when you can't even look at the stars with your kids because they go to bed before it gets dark.  So we ended up doing a lot of coloring and looking up stuff on the internet.  The first day, we found a picture of the planets and sun and then drew them on our chalkboard together...I discovered that, despite the recent scientific developments regarding Pluto, I just couldn't leave the poor little guy out....I did my best to explain it to her and let her decide if we should leave it in our pictures or not...she agreed to leave it in...or rather, she reassuringly told me we could "Leave it in, Mommy" after witnessing me hem and haw about it for a few minutes:

Then for a bigger project that lasted a few days, we put together "Zoe's Planet Book".  We printed out a bunch of pictures so we had 3 pages per planet (and the sun)..one page with the first letter of the planet, one "coloring page" for her to express her interpretation of each planet, and one photo.  She's been loving working on it and has been showing it off all over town.  One day she brought it to the playground so that her friends could help her color it if they wanted to (did they ever!) and today she brought it into the Family Housing Office and was sure to show it to every single person in there...we have a couple of planets to work on still but she's been pretty persistent about it!







You get the idea....so, I guess we didn't do so badly this week...after all, this time last week she didn't really have much of a concept of our solar system and now she's walking around telling people that her favorite planets are Saturn and Earth!

So thanks to Candace at Naturally Educational,  MaryLea at Pink and Green Mama, and Amy at Teach Mama for the motivation and inspiration over these past 6 weeks--you gave me and Zoe another layer to explore this summer and I can't believe it flew by so fast!