Monday, October 31, 2011

Two Kids, Two Days, Two Hats

Okay, not two consecutive days but check out the hats I made for the kids!

I'm so proud of myself!  I ended up altering this teo hat pattern for both, although that wasn't the intention with Owen's.  After I whipped Owen's out in one night (because I was so excited to see the final product once I got started), Zoe requested a rainbow hat (she's wearing hers in the picture and holding a store-bought rainbow hat of mine).  I looked and looked online for a basic beanie hat pattern, because she specifically said she wanted it "flat, flat, flat" on her head.  There were tons of options, but for some reason I couldn't find the exact right one so I decided to just figure it out myself.  I knew the measurements were exactly right for Owen's and the pattern gives the option for a bigger size so I just fiddled around with it a bit to make it what I wanted.  I did that one in a day too, but worked on it here and there all day instead of cranking it out in one sitting.  I was worried she wouldn't like the purple sticking up off the top, and sure enough it was the first thing she noticed.  After I explained that you couldn't see the purple otherwise (her favorite color), she seemed okay with it.  We'll see...she seems to be better at placating me these days, so only time (and cold weather) will tell.  I want to make another one for Owen and do it right the next time, because I want to see that cute little round head of his in a hat like that but I'm happy with this one too.

You may or may not remember the gnome babies from the other day, but I made another one after those:

 This one's hat was what prompted Zoe to ask for a rainbow hat, actually...anyway, some good friends of ours are going to be moving to South Africa at the end of the week, and will be doing a lot of traveling on the way there.  We wanted to give them a little something to remember us by, and since we are also excited to hear about all of their travels and about their new home (where they have family waiting for them) we gave them this little guy.  We told them we can't go on the plane with them but he can, so it'll be like we are with them after all.  We also asked them to take pictures of him at all of the places they visit and send us the pictures so we can follow along and learn about the cool places they experience.  I'll be sure to share the photos here as we get them so you can follow along on the adventure too!

So yes, this phase of my knitting life has definitely been the most successful and enjoyable so far....granted I JUST got motivated to pick it up again so we'll see...I have a terrible habit things but for the first time since I learned from my sister Emily (who learned from our grandmother) years ago, I actually want to find more and more patterns and keep wishing I had unlimited funds for the yarn store.  It would be so awesome to just knit to my heart's content and not have to search for patterns I can accomplish with the fairly small collection of needles and yarn I have.  I suppose that before too long, I will accumulate enough so that I don't have to run out to the store (or mooch off my knitter friends and sister) every single time I feel inspired, but in the meantime I always have my little gnome babies.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Snow Day

We got our first snow of the season (well it's not exactly winter yet, but it seems that anything from the end of August on is fair game in Colorado) and it was a doozy.  I don't know the official accumulation numbers but judging by our patio table it looks to me to be about 10-12 inches.  It started last night as I went to bed and ended finally around 4pm today.  Zoe's school was cancelled because they didn't have any power and there are TONS of tree branches on the ground because most of the trees still have all of their leaves (many are still green, even).  Zoe and I did it up right, I must say...Owen was with us of course, but since he can't enjoy the snow like us big kids can, the vibe got a little less "snow day relaxation" and more like "pent up mother with two small children to entertain" sometime soon after lunch.  Just before dinner, Owen got so fussy that nothing I did or gave him was distracting him, so I finally caved and said to Zoe: "You know what ELSE is awesome about snow days?  You get extra TV!" and let her watch a couple of shows while I cleaned up and fed myself and Owen. It's okay, was a long day for all three of us and all in all we had a lot of fun.  Thought I'd share our day through a little picture tour:

This is the scene I woke up to.  Our back patio at beautiful and peaceful!

During Owen's morning nap, Zoe and I ventured outside with our snow gear on.  It was so fun for me because last year (although we didn't really get much snow) I was kind of stuck inside with a newborn the whole winter season.  Any fun Zoe had in the snow was with other people and I was bummed about it.  In particular, her cousins gave her a pair of hand me down skis and I never found the energy or chunk of time to be able to go out and talk to her about how to use them...had to watch other people do it and I really wanted to be the one to introduce that to her.  While we were putting them on today, though she really seemed to not remember much of the experience last year so it was all new again and I gave her a little mini ski lesson!  She did a lot of falling and we both did a ton of giggling.  Just as I always pictured it!  :-)

Snow angels, of course!

The tree at our patio door.  It got lower and lower as the day went on.

When we went inside and found our way out of our layers, we filled up a couple of bowls with snow and I introduced her to one of my favorite winter time treats as a kid:  maple syrup drizzled on snow!  I hadn't had it since I was a lot younger and it was amazing how the second I tasted the frozen syrup, my mind instantly jumped back in time about 20 years.  It made me so happy to feel that and be sitting next to my little cutie pie.
Little time out from the tour to show you these little gnome babies I've been making the last couple of weeks....they are so fun to make because they are easy but not boring and can be made in a day or two.  I plan on making them until I'm sick of them!
Anyway, after our snow treat we made some sugar cookie dough and put it in the fridge to make cookies out of during Owen's afternoon nap.  Then we made a "circus tent" (or that's what Zoe thought it looked like) in our living room and spent some quiet time in there relaxing and watching the snow until Owen woke up...

Then Owen woke up and we let him play in the circus tent for a while before bundling up again and going outside.  The second trip out wasn't nearly as successful, due to Owen absolutely HATING the experience and Zoe hitting her head pretty hard on the slide at the playground (snow boots+snow on the slide+trying to stand up on the slide = a bump on the head).  It was pretty clear we weren't going to attempt THAT again with the baby.  Next time I'll bundle him up and put him in the carrier or, as Zoe and I discussed, save our playing in the snow sessions for naptime.
Mom, why in HELL do I have all this shit on?  I can't move!
The only smile we got out of him...this was almost immediately followed by inconsolable crying
During Owen's afternoon nap, we tried this suggestion my sister Emily happened to make via text at the exact moment Zoe said she wanted to practice her letters...corn meal in a tray...pretty cool!  Bought me a few moments of time to check my email all by myself!
Then we got started on our cookies!  We had originally planned on making some frosting but I realized we were out of butter so I randomly decided to try coloring the dough with food coloring and making sort of a swirly-tie-dyed sugar was fairly easy and they turned out great!  The pictures are of our experimenting with a small amount of dough to see if it would work and since it did we did the same thing with the rest of the dough:
Put a few drops of each color in separate pieces of dough and sort of mushed it together until the color mixed in fairly well

Rolled each color into a snake and stuck them together...

..then loosely rolled them into a ball, trying not to mix the separate colors together too much..

Rolled it flat with a rolling pin...

...and cut out the shapes!  We then topped them with sugar and sprinkles and tossed them in the oven.

For the rest of the afternoon, we visited with our friends who live next door (and got to share our yummy cookies with them, of course) and shortly after they left was when the three of us hit our limit.

Phew, not bad for a long day of togetherness!  We had a little bit of everything but I have to say boredom wasn't part of the big picture.  I'd call that a successful snow day.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Jolt of Motivation

First off and most importantly, I want to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of the most important people in my life.  Those who know her can attest to the fact that she is amazingly warm, kindhearted, laid back, and wise and there are seven people in the world who are privileged enough to call her "MOM".  I've told her over and over again how lucky I feel to have been raised by her and to have someone like her to call whenever I need advice about anything,  help in finding a bright side and perspective, a sympathetic ear and someone to share in the joyful and simple things.  Somehow it just never seems to be enough, though.  I could never accurately tell her and so I hope she knows how special she is, despite my failure at expressing how unique and vital she is to so many people.  Hope you had a great day, Mom--we were thinking of you!  XOXOXO

We had a beautiful day in Colorado today.  Upper 70's and sunny...a bit windy but with the beautiful fall colors it was pretty much as good as it gets.  The beauty gave me a shot of some much needed inspiration and I finally, FINALLY solved my "what to do about this exercising regularly" conundrum I've been wrestling with for a couple of months now.  My motivation has been back for sure, but with Nathan working such long hours and the time change causing the sun to come up just late enough to make it impossible to go for a run before he leaves for the day I've been left with the problem of WHEN to exercise.  I was randomly inspired a bit ago to get more creative and not let the fact that I can't really go for a solo run first thing in the morning (my favorite time to go) stop me from staying active and in shape.  When I say "randomly inspired" I mean that I randomly had this conversation with Zoe which resulted in a fire being lit under my butt:

Zoe: Mommy, why do you and Daddy go to bed after me and Owen?
Me:  Because kids need more sleep than adults do.
Zoe:  Why do kids need more sleep than adults?
Me:  Oh you know, because you're still growing and stuff.
Zoe:  And because kids play around on the playground and stuff and adults just, like....sit around and chat?
Me:  (pretty unconvincingly) Hey!  I run, you know!

So, I've been trying all sorts of things like workout videos and "Exercise TV" On Demand while Owen naps, running with Owen in the stroller first thing in the morning and right after I drop Zoe off at school, "running" to the Family Housing Office with Owen in the stroller with Zoe "running" alongside me (ie: she's in charge of when we run and walk and needless to say, given her tiny stature, we don't run all that much, and when we do it's not very fast).  When we do this, I do high knees as fast as I can during our "running" spurts.  All this has been great and I've been proud of myself but all of these things have at least one problem which makes them difficult or impossible to do on a regular basis, so it's been hard to find a rhythm and therefore the confidence that I'm going to be able to get a workout in on any given day. 

Today though, I was about to put Owen down for a nap while Zoe was at school when my eyes were all of the sudden opened to the possibility that the green area behind our apartment could help my current situation.  The green is in the shape of a square and is bordered by a nice wide sidewalk.  It's very quiet and there isn't much foot traffic at all.  It's where Zoe and I spend a lot of time while Owen is napping if we want to play outside.  She rides her bike around the square often and sometimes has running "races" around it but I had never considered it for a workout area for me until today.  I was introduced to a workout that I think is part of the Crossfit plan that's popular right now, but my sisters Rachel and Jill were the ones that told me about it.  You take a deck of cards and assign each symbol in the deck it's own exercise.  You can do whatever you want with it and make it all about strength, all about cardio or mix it up but the best thing is that it's all designed by you and whatever you want to focus on that day.  Anyway, you just draw the cards one by one and do the corresponding exercise for the symbol and as many reps as the card calls for...for example, this is how I set myself up today:

hearts = running around the square
diamonds = jumping jacks
spades = situps
clubs = plank position

I drew the Queen of hearts first so I had to run around the square 12 times.  After that I drew something like 10 of diamonds so did 10 jumping jacks..then maybe 8 of spades so did 8 situps and then the 5 of clubs so held the plank position for 5 seconds....etc.  I only got through half the deck before my alarm went off telling me I had to go pick up Zoe from school!  I'm so thrilled because finally I found something I can do every day if I want to.  I didn't have to change Owen's naptime or make him sit in the stroller instead of play and practice moving around, I got really tired, worked out hard for at least 35 minutes and got to run outside without pushing anything or following the workout plan of a 3 year old!  PLUS, when the FedEx carrier walked by and saw me he said, "You're a madwoman!" and you know that put an extra spring or two in my step.   The next time I do it I think I'll challenge myself to get through more of the deck and if I get bored with it I can just change the exercises all together.  If the weather is bad I can do it inside and just change the running part into mountain climbers or some other cardio thing.  Meanwhile my friend Jessica and I have worked out together that we can help each other run twice a week by watching each other's kids in the morning so I'll be able to get all my working out done during the week and save the weekend for relaxing with Nathan and the kids.  Hooray!  Now to work on not eating whole bags of chocolate chips when nobody is looking.

Zoe and I did a really easy, fun and visually satisfying art project the other day.  We cut a few strands of yarn and put them in bowls with different color paints.  We saturated the yarn, squeezed them out and put them on one half of a folded piece of paper in whatever shape we wanted.  We each did one string of every color we had and then folded the paper and pressed down on it.  After we pressed down, we opened up the paper and carefully took off the pieces of yarn...voila!

She said she thinks hers looks like a tiger (the red splotches on top are the ears) and I think it looks like a frog (red splotches are the eyes)...neither one of us thought mine looks like anything but we both like it anyway. :-)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Crash and Burn

I've been so good for a while now.  I've been embarrassed to talk much about it, though because I'm worried I'll sound like a hypocrite after my Girls With Guts rant.  The truth is that I got to a point a couple of months ago where I felt determined and motivated to get rid of the last 15 pounds or so of baby weight and try being more aggressive with my post-pregnancy belly bulge.  I decided to go back on Weight Watchers, although I didn't pay the money this time to log my food online.  I've done it enough in my life now that I know what foods cost how many points and basically what fits into my personal plan.  It's always good for me to follow this weight loss plan, because I have a terrible time with sweets in particular.  I cannot control myself and, for instance, will easily eat a whole bag of chocolate chips in just a few minutes when no one is looking.  When I'm counting points though, I not only don't do things like that but I don't MISS doing things like that.  It just doesn't seem worth it when I know how many points it would cost so I don't even feel tempted....I'm rambling a bit though because I'm putting off admitting the step I took towards getting rid of my belly-bulge...I ended up buying and wearing for 5 or so weeks a......Belly Bandit.  It's a belt you can wear post pregnancy that can help to....okay, okay it's a girdle are you happy?  I'm glad I got it...I have to say the fucking thing actually WORKED, along with pumping up the volume on my exercise routine....added a lot of pilates and strength exercises along with my running...but I can't shake the feeling that it is not at all in keeping with my Girls With Guts attitude.  I stand strong in saying that the Girls With Guts philosophy has everything to do with taking good care of yourself and feeling comfortable in your skin no matter what it looks like, but I guess I'd gotten to the point where I felt like I wasn't doing my body justice.  I didn't want to use my new philosophy as an excuse to not set fitness goals and although when I wrote that entry, I was doing the best I could given my circumstance, I found myself re-evaluating once Owen started becoming more independent and since he now sleeps ALL. NIGHT. LONG (yeah, you heard me).  I'm trying to maintain a balance between happiness, feeling attractive and being healthy and being careful not to start obsessing about how I look to other people.  It's the trickiest thing I can think of to accomplish and I hope I haven't disappointed any of you in admitting all of this.

ANYWAY, having said all of that I am now very near my pre-pregnancy body shape and have been feeling like stopping this phase of watching what I eat and going back to eating what I want (within reason) and keeping up my new exercise routine.  This decision along with the fact that Nathan has been working crazy hours for a few weeks (leaving the both of us feeling pretty burnt out) resulted in me going to the store to buy the ingredients for this:
It's called candy corn bark and it's delicious.  Yes, I have a stomach ache from eating too much of it over the last two days but you know what?  It tastes really good and it was fun to make because I made it with Zoe and we've made a bunch of friends happy in sharing the yumminess.
I set it all up like this while she was at school and surprised her when she got home.

Right before drizzling the chocolate on it....yum!
We've also been busy bees around here, getting into the Halloween spirit.  We had our friend Hunter over for dinner tonight and served scary spaghetti and magical color changing milk (and shared our candy corn bark for dessert, of course!)...we've both been experimenting with our own projects and have ended up with painted pumpkins, spider webs and a bunch of great drawings all around our apartment.
Quietly working together...

Spider web made from craft sticks and glue covered yarn (assembled and left to dry on a piece of wax paper)...spider cut from craft foam...


Web made from white yarn and craft sticks, spider made from a piece of an egg carton.  The legs are finger knitted and the head is made from yarn too...just sort of haphazardly though...

Two paper plates with the middle cut out...glued tissue paper to both plates and smeared glue on the leaves, then sandwiched it all together.   Once the glue dried, Zoe decorated the plate.
Finally, I said I'd show you some knitting if anything came out looking okay.  I made a pair of fingerless gloves for myself a few weeks ago and then decided to make a pair for Zoe.  I've been shocked to see her actually liking them enough to wear them too!
Anyway, hope you are all having a fun October!  Let me know if you have any favorite Halloween crafts you are doing with your kiddos!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Catching Rainbows

Owen got a great gift for his birthday from his Auntie Ess:  a little prism for our window.  What I like about it is that it's really simple and small, but it's bringing smiles to all of our faces.  No matter how our morning is going or how I'm feeling I can't help but feel a sense of warmth and happiness when I hear Zoe say "Mommy!  We got some rainbows in this room!"  Then we spend a few minutes looking at all the little rainbows being sprinkled around the kitchen and sometimes play with spinning it and watching the rainbows dance.....what a lovely way to start the day--thanks so much Emily!

Zoe and I got back on board with crafting today and did a little experimenting.  I'll share when all the glue has dried but I feel motivated to try out a bunch of fun Halloween stuff I found on the internet last night.  I have to get myself to the craft store first though of course!  Found this cute and super simple idea during my quest for inspiration yesterday and since we always have clementines in our house it was a no-brainer.  They look really cute and Zoe loved the idea (hers is the one in the middle).  The best thing about them is that we can make them over and over again!
For some reason, I'd forgotten lately how much I love sitting outside watching Zoe play during Owen's naps.  I'm not sure how we got into the habit of staying inside but the other day I realized it's BEAUTIFUL outside right now, and my absolute favorite time of year so we headed out and seem to be back into the habit of being out there when all is quiet in the house.  I even brought some hot chocolate out this afternoon and couldn't have been happier.  I needed a kick in the butt to remind me to take a deep breath and just enjoy outside.  For me, there's not much else that can provide such an instant recharge.
Hard at work making me some "food"

"Mommy, did you say you wanted spaghetti?"

Eat up!
If I may just gripe for a moment here, though.... I can't help but notice lately, that there seems to be a list of things I say often that Zoe completely, 100%, flat-out ignores.  I cannot for the life of me figure out if she ignores them because I say them all of the time or if I have to say them all of the time because she ignores me.  Here is the list of the top 10, starting with the one I have to say most often:

2) No
3) Please do not pick Owen up
4) Please do not pick Owen up and try to put him on the bed (or chair, couch, bike, etc.)
5) Please leave him alone
6) When he screams, he's trying to tell you he doesn't like that
7) Please don't push him any higher than that
8) Please don't talk to me like that
9) When you scream like that, I think you're hurt.  Not that you just "want company"
10) Please don't go into Owen's room while he's sleeping because you will wake him up

There are many, many more but the others depend on the day.  These 10 easily come out of my mouth every day and consistently land on deaf ears.  Or more accurately, perfectly healthy ears that are choosing to hear what I'm saying but respond only with a smirk and a continuation of whatever behavior I'm trying (as politely as I can muster) to put a stop to.  I tell you, it really makes me feel excited about the teenage years.