Saturday, December 24, 2011

Handmade Gifts

I'm officially done with my gifts--yay!  I've been a busy bee this last month because I decided to make two gifts each for the a knitting project and one a sewing project.  Although I have a really bad habit of being excited about a project the entire time I'm working on it and then finding a reason to be less than thrilled with the final project.  It's pretty annoying because it doesn't happen until the very last moment, but it happens almost every time.  That being said I am proud of myself and will spare you the reasons I'm NOT happy with these:

I Spy Bag for Zoe...I found a tutorial on Pinterest but when I actually sat down to follow the directions, I discovered that it was explained in this really horrible, unclear way so I'm not going to post the link to it.  It's basically just a pillow with a vinyl window sewn into one side.  On the other side is the list of (about 30) small items I found around our house that are hidden inside among some "Polly Pellets" that I got a the craft store.  I printed the list on an iron-on transfer sheet that you can also get at the craft store...

Fishing game for Owen.  I just improvised totally on this one.  I stuffed the fish with cotton stuffing, dropping a little magnet in first so it would sort of settle into the mouth.  The fishing poles are dowels with yarn wrapped around one end for the handle and then more yarn wrapped and glued to the other end and to another magnet at the end of the yarn.  I bought some really inexpensive "minnow catchers" (75 cents) at the hardware store and put everything into an inexpensive, basic flat tackle box.  I was hoping the poles would fit inside too but they were a bit too long, so I sort of made a pocket thing on the side of the box for them.  I'm sure it won't last so might end up making the poles shorter so it can all fit inside for easy storage and cleanup...

Knitted lamb for Zoe with a leotard and skirt.  This one was totally unplanned but I'm so glad I decided to do it.  I had all the materials from other projects so it didn't cost me any extra...really hoping she will like it.  Here is the pattern for the lamb and here is the pattern for the outfit (and other outfits for it).  I'm excited to make more outfits for her sometime soon...

Finally, the first of all the projects I started almost a month ago...Woodland creatures for Owen.  The pattern includes a little hat too but after struggling with the correct gauge quite a bit I decided to just not make it.  I like them without it anyhow!  I also took the leftover material from the fishing game and put together a little bag to store them in...

There!  Wrapped and officially done!  It felt good to spend way more time working away at home as opposed to making trip after trip out to shop at the stores...I did do plenty of that too I guess but the majority of the preparation leading up to tomorrow for me was just working away on my couch with a glass of wine...much better than waiting in long lines!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice!

The official first day of winter could not have been more beautiful around here as we welcomed in possibly our biggest snowstorm so far this year.  Zoe went out into it this morning and took a few pictures and it still continued to snow through to the afternoon...
Zoe and I spent some time making our solstice cupcakes (we got this idea from a great children's book that we checked out from the library this year titled The Shortest Day) and decided to give some to our friends the Rech's and the Smith's.  We love them so much and wanted to share this beautiful day with them.  It was fun getting bundled up to deliver our goodies to our wonderful friends on such a quiet, peaceful day. We had our cupcakes after dinner...lit the candles, sang the following song to the tune of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" and then blew the candles out, making a wish for the coming year:
We wish you a happy solstice
We wish you a happy solstice
We wish you a happy solstice
and a happy winter!

Headed out to make our deliveries..Zoe is holding a hat I made for Gretchen's cutie pie baby girl and a picture she made for the family.
For dinner we made our own we ate we talked a little bit about the cycle of the seasons going around and around like a circle...

Our finished "Thankfulness Stars" countdown to the solstice.  We each took a turn every day this month to write something we are thankful for on a star and hung it up.  Today, we all wrote something on a sun and hung it on the last pin...this is my favorite window this time of year...looking at it at night from both inside and out makes me feel really peaceful and happy....

The first light of solstice is the light of stones
Light that lives in crystals in seashells and in bones,
The second light of solstice is the light of plants
Plants that reach up to the sun and in the breezes dance
The third light of solstice is the light of beasts
Light of hope that shines in the greatest and the least
The fourth light of solstice is the light of you and I
Light of hope and love and peace and harmony
I'm so happy to have had my interest in Winter Solstice sparked randomly last year.  It has inspired us to add so many wonderful new traditions to a time of year that we already cherished more than any other.  I hope you all had a wonderful day!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Naughty or Nice?

Okay, I feel I made a controversial decision this Christmas season.  If you are friends with me on Facebook, you may or may not have seen the video message that Santa sent to Zoe last week.  A few of you commented on it, but many of you did not.  That, along with the fact that I had at least 2 people tell me directly that they couldn't believe I'd done it to poor, sweet Zoe leads me to believe that many people have the impression that I'm a cold hearted mother.  I MIGHT agree with you, but let me at least explain and maybe we can all come to a decision together.  Maybe not, but whatever...if there's one thing that's become crystal clear to me over the last 4 years it's that guilt is one of the most common feelings involved in the mothering business...on both sides, actually...sometimes we use it to our advantage but many times we inflict it upon ourselves...hey, it's the name of the game so let's all just accept it and move on.

Anyway, it all started on the first night of our Winter Solstice candle lighting.  We were having a lovely dinner when Zoe decided to have a huge meltdown.  As she slowly calmed down, we started talking to her about how she had to be careful because Santa was always watching.  We told her that if Santa decides a kid has been naughty he gives them coal for Christmas instead of presents.  She asked what coal was and as Nathan was describing it, I closely watched her face as it slowly registered a look of panic. I braced myself for the reaction and she finally said in a wavering voice as she threw up her hands and cast her eyes skyward: "I like coal but I also like presents!!" and then folded her arms and plopped her pouting face onto them. Nathan and I both did our best to stifle our laughter but we were both almost immediately unsuccessful.  I continued to watch her and I swear to you she looked exactly as if she were trying to decide which path to choose...."Well, I could be nice and get presents, but coal really isn't so bad so I could just go ahead and be naughty...hmmm..."  Boy oh boy, this kid is something else.

A couple of weeks later I read someone's status update on Facebook saying that she's been pretending to call Santa when her kid misbehaves.  I thought it would suit us perfectly so instantly told Zoe I'd gotten a hold of Santa's number.  It was working like a charm....all I had to do was open my phone and pretend to start dialing and listening to the ringing and she would stop misbehaving right away.  One day though, she was having the mother of all meltdowns and I opened my phone and started pretending to listen.  All of the sudden she said "I want to talk to him" and I panicked.  I was making dinner at the time so I bought myself a few moments by saying he didn't pick up and that I'd try again after I got the pasta off the stove.  I decided to call Nathan's phone knowing he was at the library and wouldn't be able to pick up.  After I listened to his greeting I gave her the phone and she left him a message (instantly putting on a sweet voice and asking some sort of innocent, cute as a button question like "How do your reindeer fly?") and hung up.  I felt relief at getting through the moment but all I could think was "Okay, but what happens if Nathan is with us next time?".  So, I described what happened in my status update and asked if anyone would be willing to pretend to be Santa and return Zoe's call.

I got a lot of responses, one of which was a suggestion to make a free Santa video message at this website. (If you're interested, here is the video I made for her).  It's really cool because you can put in information and pictures about your kid so it actually looks like Santa knows all of this stuff about them.  I knew she'd eat it up, but the only dilemma I was  having was that you have to choose either the "naughty" or "nice" version.  The naughty version isn't horrible, but Santa does utter the words "Uh oh!  Looks like you're not on the nice list yet." and I was worried that it might be a little harsh.  The nice version, though was just TOO nice.  All they do is throw confetti and cheer "Yay!  You're on the nice list!"  What I really wanted was something in between...maybe something that said "'re doing pretty well, but be sure to keep behaving!"  but that wasn't an option. I made the video late at night and spent that whole night and the next morning going back and forth, trying to decide if I should show it to her or not.  I finally just bit the bullet and showed it to her, prepping her by saying I'd heard that most kids go back and forth all year and that when you do things like throw tantrums, Santa usually takes you off the nice list for a little while...I said that it didn't mean you were on the naughty list, only that you were off the nice list for a bit.  Anyway, she loved it.  She was completely mesmerized the whole was super sweet (I actually got it on film, but can't seem to upload videos from our camera to Blogger) but at the very end she totally decided to ignore the fact that he said she wasn't on the nice list.  When I asked her about it, she pretended to have no idea what I was talking about.  She is a tough nut to crack I'm telling you.  Since getting her video message from Santa, she's watched it at least 30 times and now has the whole thing memorized.

I think it's safe to say that this adventure along with the fact that I now have Santa and Mrs. Claus on speed dial (they've been sending text messages and Santa actually called and talked to her yesterday) made her visit to the actual Santa on Pearl Street yesterday one she'll probably never forget.  She brought along some carrots to give to Santa so he could give them to his reindeer and was so in awe she hardly uttered a word.  It could not have been more perfect.

SO, am I a mean Mom for having Santa tell her she wasn't on the nice list?  Maybe.  Could I have scarred her for life?  Maybe.  Does this whole thing totally contradict with my belief that Christmas should not be about the gifts but about spending time with people we love?  I'm afraid it might.  Does it clash with my efforts to instill in my kids that seeing is believing and that there is no such thing as a higher power?  Hell, yes.  There are a lot of things I don't know but what I do know is that I'm not perfect but I love my kids and believe in having fun.  Believing in Santa is magical and short lived so I'm milking it for all it's worth while I can.  I also have a sweet kid who happens to be getting very good at pushing my buttons and bringing out the worst in me.  I love her and she's super smart.  She knows deep down that there's no way she'd only get coal for Christmas...although apparently she wouldn't mind. 

Totally off topic, but I love this and wanted to show you...Zoe, Nathan and I made this together under her's our Winter Solstice she put it "So, everyone who comes can look at it and say 'Oh! It's Winter Solstice!'"

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rainbow Gnome Adventure, Part IV

More adventures!  I've been daydreaming about what it would be like to drive a campervan through New Zealand, thinking of these guys doing just that....beautiful!

Enjoy this latest installment with Becca's descriptions below the photos:
"At Orakei Korako, a geothermal area in the centre of the North Island"  (I love Nina in this picture, taking a picture of the gnome and her dolly....makes me miss that little munchkin!)
"Very windswept on the ferry as we enter the sounds on the northern tip of the South Island"
"Sunbathing in Abel Tasman National Park (the water truly was that colour)"
"In our campervan on Arthur's Pass - the kids slept in the very cool pop up tent" (Hi Fynn buddy!)
"Buried on the beach at Lake Wanaka, South Island"
"Hard to tell, but the gnome's driving a snow mobile at the International Antarctic Centre, Christchurch"

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Confidence Boost

Ugh!  I am admitting failure once and for all...I've been trying really hard to think of something to do for a couple of people on our Christmas list...I thought I'd finally settled on something and bought all the materials...Zoe and I started it last week and every day that passes it's become more and more clear that it might not work out...finally just now I gave it a good go and it's officially a bust.

SO, I'm sharing with you two things that have gone well and that I'm happy about in the hopes that it'll help me move past this particular failure and be alright with getting a couple of store bought gifts instead...we can only do our best right?

Anyway, one of my brothers is engaged to be married and I couldn't be happier for them.  I've always loved Wally's sense of humor and he has found a partner in Katie who not only gets him but totally jives with him.  They have a blast together and I'm so psyched for both of them.  I decided I wanted to make this "smitten" for them as a sort of engagement gift.  It's totally cheesy and impractical (what about the other hands??) and so I thought they might get a kick out of it.  I'm actually pretty proud of myself because it posed a lot of new knitting challenges for me!
To be worn while holding the pattern says: "Nothing says love quite like a smitten"...ah, love and corny knitting projects.
Then today, Zoe and I made some wrapping paper using freezer paper and sponges.  I cut the sponges out in different shapes including a couple of Christmas trees and a star and we went crazy with green, red and yellow!

So, yeah...wiping the slate clean here and moving on to the next project.  I'm finishing up a knitting project for Owen that I'm excited to show off when it's all done and I'm also jumping in with both feet with my new sewing machine.  I have a couple of gifts in mind for the kids and I'm hoping for the best.  Hope today's failure will be the only one--wish me luck!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

When did that happen?

I tend to think I'm pretty good at "living in the moment"...or I've at least spent some time working at it over the past couple of years.  I know that these kids are going to grow up before I know it so I'm trying to soak up these early years, even though it can be such a battle a lot of the time.  For as many challenges they throw at me, they give me just as many...actually way more completely amazing things, so I try to recognize all of that whenever I can and really experience it in the moment.  Something about this holiday season so far though has made me realize that there has been a big chunk of our life that I haven't been appreciating and experiencing down to my bones.  I've been keeping the East Coast (aka "Home") close to my heart since we moved to's where I grew up....I love it and feel I will always belong there.  Nathan and I both hope to be able to move back there after he's done with school and although we've been enjoying everything wonderful there is to enjoy out here, I feel like we've just been sort of waiting to go back East.  All of the sudden though, I've been realizing that somewhere along the way this place has turned into our home.  I think raising kids in a place must do that to you automatically because as parents, we are in the business of creating memories for our kids...we seek out ways to make life for them special, memorable and doing so, those feelings seep into my psyche as well so how can I not end up feeling attached to this place when all is said and done?  I've come to the realization recently that when the time does inevitably come for us to say goodbye to Boulder, it's going to be really sad so even more than ever I'm trying to really take everything in.

We went to the "Festival of Lights" parade in downtown Boulder last night in the freezing cold weather.  We've gone every year since we moved here and although it's not the most spectacular parade in the world, something about it makes us feel really at home and happy.  This year was no exception and the added bonuses of Owen being aware of everything, Zoe being older and more tolerant of the cold and chaos, finding a better parking spot than we normally do, eating dinner beforehand instead of at the actual parade and the fact that it's now officially "tradition" since it was the 3rd time all made it feel...well, just completely awesome.  Nathan and  I couldn't stop smiling as we watched Owen's little face light up at all of the trucks...his big eyes tearing up from the cold and his little voice chirping "dukdukduk!!" as they passed by.   Zoe wanted me to hold her most of the time, and even though she is really way to big to be held for so long like that I didn't mind in the least because I could hear everything she said and I got to see her face when Santa came rolling around the corner.  I tried to see Santa pass by as she was experiencing it...I felt content as I remembered what it was like to really believe in him and we clapped and cheered...the moment was topped off perfectly as a parent nearby yelled out to Santa "YOU ROCK!!!" and we all walked quietly and happily back to the car, recounting all of the highlights and talking with Zoe about how busy Santa must be right now.

I don't know where we will end up after all of this but I know we have at least a few more years to make the most of this place.  I do dread leaving but am excited about our future too...Zoe put it perfectly when we had this conversation the other day:

Zoe:  "Mommy, when are we going to move?"
Me:  "Not until you are about 6 or 7."
Zoe:  (frustrated sigh)
Me:  "Why do you keep asking that lately?  Wouldn't you miss all of your friends if we moved?"
Zoe:  "Well yeah I would definitely miss my friends, but I just, like...wanna see what else there is...I mean, I could always visit."

Think I need to take a lesson from my kid's hard to resist getting sentimental especially when you've experienced difficult goodbyes and faced the reality that visiting the people you love most is sometimes so impossible that it literally never happens...but we can't dwell in that because if we do, we miss out on the stuff that's happening right in front of us and in this moment, there is nothing more important to me than my little family.  THEY are what make a place "Home" and as long as they are with me, my life will be filled with wonder.