Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Little Heroes: Food Share Tour

For our latest Little Heroes project, we decided to contact our Community Food Share in Longmont and ask what we could do to help.  They gave us a couple of options, and each of the families in our group are participating in different ways, depending on the age of their kids and flexibility of schedules.  Sue Ericson, the volunteer coordinator at the Food Share gave us two options that would  be appropriate for the age range in our group:  1) To volunteer any Tuesday afternoon, year round (drop in) or 2) to help with their annual pre-Thanksgiving food drive. (There are many more volunteer opportunities for older kids and adults so if you are in the area and interested in getting involved PLEASE check out their website).  Since each option suits each of our families differently and since those of us who will help with the food drive will be doing so separately, we decided to set up an official tour of the Food Share, so we would have something we could all do together.  We  also thought it would be a nice way to make a connection for the kids..to tour first so we could talk with them about who we are helping with the food drive and where the food goes.

We went on the tour today and it was so great.  Sue was so kind and great with the kids.  They were all really interested and I think we all learned new and thought provoking things.  Personally I was struck by the amount of food they are able to gather from grocery stores on a daily basis that would otherwise, I assume, be thrown away.  The grocery stores donate stuff that is perfectly fine but that can't be sold (mangled cereal boxes with perfectly sealed inner bags, etc) and volunteer drivers go around to each store every day to collect the donations.  Unfortunately, I can't remember the number she gave us but the amount of food donated per day in this way is pretty impressive.  I immediately pictured communities where there isn't a food bank to donate to..that's a LOT of discarded, perfectly good food.  Another tidbit I found interesting was that about 1/4 (something like 2 billion pounds) of their donated food comes from Horizon Organic.  Makes me glad I buy their cheese on a regular basis!  Always nice to know you are supporting a company that does great things...lastly, but certainly not least, Sue told us (as we were booking our time slot for the food drive) that without a person at the door of the grocery store handing out bags and encouraging people to donate to the drive, they collect 1 bag per hour.  With a person there (a "greeter"--what we will be doing) they get 10-15 bags of donated food per hour and that 2 volunteers, greeting for 2.5 hours can bring in enough food to feed a family of 4 for more than 2 weeks!  Pretty amazing.  If you are interested in helping with the food drive, it's going to be November 11th-21st, 24 hours/day.  You can email Sue and tell her what grocery store is closest to you and what time/day you would be available.  Please consider helping out, even for just 1 hour--every little bit helps!

If my Little Heroes posts (see also Baking for Firefighters and Project Linus) stir any inspiration in you, please think about starting a Little Heroes group of your own.  Don't worry about a how many people join your group or how old your kids are...even if they don't "get it" now. I firmly believe that if we continually do these kinds of things with our kids, it will become second nature to them as they grow older.  In the meantime, it certainly doesn't hurt to have a reason to be doing this sort of thing more often as adults.  If you have 2 families in your group, that's 2 more families doing awesome things regularly than there was before you started your group so more power to you!  If you do start a Little Heroes group, please share your thoughts and experiences with us so we can share ideas and encourage and inspire each other (I can just see it--a national Little Heroes movement!).  If you are in the area and would like to get involved with our group, please let me know.  There is no financial or time commitment, I would just add you to our email list so you can be aware of upcoming  projects and participate when you can/want to.  I also just created a Little Heroes Facebook Page so please "like" the page and pass it on--let's spread the word and get people motivated!

Here are some photos from our tour today--again, I strongly encourage you to reach out and help with the food drive or volunteer at the Food Share.  They are doing such wonderful work and are incredibly welcoming and appreciative of any help you are able to give.

Learning about how they load food on and off the trucks

The massive scale they use to record the amount of donations they receive.  Sue weighed this motley crew just for fun.

Another scale.  While Sue was talking to some volunteers, I looked over to see the kids quietly talking and experimenting with how they might be able to change the number on the scale  by sitting, crouching, standing etc....

Sue showing the kids how they separate the 100 lb bags of beans they get into 1 lb bags

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Making Progress

I don't know if you've noticed or cared much but lately I've been steering clear of the more personal posts and sticking to posts about projects and activities ever since this summer when I admitted to feeling so badly.  Part of the reason for that is because after really spilling my guts that last time, I felt kind of embarrassed and weird about it...like I'd crossed some sort of line and gone into the TMI category.  I knew from talking to a couple of people about it that it didn't really come across the way I'd been afraid it had but I still felt the need to hold back a bit in that department, for a bit anyway.  The other reason is because I've been seeing a therapist and, holy crap, it's been SO AWESOME and it sort of relieves that urge to write out my thoughts in this way and instead, to just wait and discuss stuff during our appointments.  I've become so enamored with the whole situation, that  I've suddenly become a "My therapist says..." and "I was JUST talking about this with my therapist the other day!" person.  If you are part of my every day life, I have to apologize because I'm sure it's a little annoying but I just can't help it.

Anyway, there's so much work to be done but most of it revolves around 1) trying to find balance and 2) being as generous with myself as I am with other people.  It sounds so simple and I bet most of you could say that you need to work on those things yourselves, right?  How is it that we ALL have these struggles with these things and we recognize them in each other and work hard for EACH OTHER to alleviate the pain and exhaustion that results and can't seem to do the same favor for ourselves?  I think we probably all have our own reasons, but among them I think a common one has to be that we don't know HOW to do it for ourselves so we hope that in helping other people through their tougher moments, it'll  somehow take the burden off our own shoulders automatically.  Well, if you can relate, let me tell you that the biggest thing I've come to realize over the past couple of  months is that no matter how much you give to other people, it's not enough to ignore the stuff you're sweeping under the rug in your own little bubble.  In fact, it can make it much much worse.  

A few weeks ago, during my therapy appointment, we were exploring a new approach that involved me looking over a list of thoughts a person could possibly have about themselves.  There was a "negative"column and a "positive" column and my therapist first asked me how many from the negative column I could relate to and I was shocked and saddened to see that almost all of them were things I say to myself, about myself on a regular  basis.  It shocked me because, and I don't know if this will make sense but, logically I don't  think these things about myself.  When I'm thinking theoretically or trying to see myself as others do, I DO see a good, smart, kind and interesting person but if I'm looking from the inside out it's another story.  I don't know why, and I have been aware of it for a long time but just haven't found a way to stop thinking and feeling this way.  Over the past few years, I've settled  on trying to mask or push away those feelings with as much generosity towards other people as I can muster.  I've figured that if I can't fix myself, I can at least be a reliable/dependable/generous/thoughtful friend/wife/mother/sister/neighbor/employee/daughter/auntie/complete stranger so it can't be all that bad.  While I have no desire to do away with those particular urges when it comes to other people, I have realized that I need to learn to pace myself and recognize when I need to do a favor for me and only me.  What ended up happening over and over was that I'd take stuff on and take stuff on and take stuff on and then suddenly find myself completely exhausted and overwhelmed and was crashing and burning seemingly out of the blue.  For me, crashing and burning involved resenting other people and hating myself for it...yeah, not a good habit at all.

After we talked about the negative column she asked me to look at the positive column and find the thoughts that I WISH I had regularly.  Not surprisingly I, really wished I could say them all regularly but the one that stuck out the most was:  "I'M OK THE WAY I AM".  I was almost startled by it's simplicity and felt more peaceful just saying it out loud.  Peaceful in the hope that it really is the thing I wish the most for myself and it's not that complicated.  Peaceful in that it's so much less pressure than trying to believe "I'm AWESOME the way I am", which is what I've always thought I was supposed to be believing.  I mean, none of us is awesome all of the time...we aren't perfect, we make mistakes, we react childishly, we don't know everything there is to know about this world...and that's just fine.  Trying to buy into the thought that we are "AWESOME" all of the time is a recipe for disappointment if you ask me.   Since reading that sentence out loud in that office, I've felt more  relaxed and more confident in my decisions on a daily basis because I no longer feel  like I need  to be the absolute best I can be in each moment.  I just have to make a decision that feels right and move on with my day.  I'm OK even when I'm not at my best, I'm OK when I'm shining brightly and everywhere in between.

Like I said, there's a lot of work to be done but I'm well on my way.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Joys of Parenting

Nothing like a trip to the ER with your 2 year old to make you feel totally grateful for the things you have.

Just to say right off the bat:  Owen has a stomach bug, so he's okay and we knew all along that he would be but the last few days have been stressful all the same..he started throwing up Friday night and seemed to be on the mend on Saturday (although he started to have some diarrhea), but after a marathon night's sleep (slept until 10:30am when he usually gets up at 6 or 7) he woke up feeling totally depleted rather than refreshed.  He was not smiling (always a red flag with that kid) and had zero energy.  He had a bit of an appetite and ate a small breakfast, little hands trembling with every bite.  We hoped he would perk up once the food had a chance to settle,  but he just seemed to get more and more lethargic and distant looking.  Zoe and I put him in the stroller and headed out for a short walk, hoping some fresh air would be all he'd need but soon after we left home, he vomited up everything he had been able to put into his stomach that morning.  She and I hightailed it home and got him cleaned up and started to try and distract him with TV shows and toys because he'd become obsessed with having a drink of water.  I've always been told that you should NOT give anyone water when they are actively throwing up because they will just throw it right back up, so I wasn't giving him any.  He cried and cried and begged and begged for water and I called my sister-in-law Sandy, an ER doctor, to ask what I should do.  She suggested I give him a 1/2 oz of water every 15 minutes for an hour and see if he could keep it down and if he couldn't, to  bring him to urgent care or the ER to possibly get an IV (the biggest thing to worry about when kids have these stomach bugs is dehydration...they lose so much fluid and it's really hard to convince them to ingest anything when they feel so badly...either that or they are so thirsty that they guzzle and then throw up again)...so, I hung up the phone and gave him his first sip of water and he immediately went back to crying and begging (Sandy had warned me that would  probably happen) and I started feeling very lonely and helpless all of the sudden (Nathan had gone to rehearsal for the afternoon).  Owen and I were out on our patio at the time luckily, because at that exact moment, my friend Katherine walked by with her family and I immediately burst into tears upon seeing her.  I tried to shoo her away, not  wanting to expose them to our germs but she handed her baby off to her husband and came right in to get the scoop.  I told her what was going on and she suggested I just take him to the ER right away.  I pathetically tried to explain that he was probably going to be fine and that  I just had to bear through it and try to get him to drink slowly and while she agreed, she also strongly encouraged me  to just take him in.  It must have been clear that he and I were just completely done and that going to have him checked out would help us both calm down.  During this conversation, my sweet Zoe came out from inside and started insisting I go inside and rest and that she would take care of Owen.  As she refused to listen to my tearful resistance, I finally realized I couldn't put Zoe through it anymore either and decided to take him in. Katherine offered to take Zoe and let me borrow her car and we were off.

Owen stopped crying in the car, but started up again when we got to the hospital (also not like him) and as they were admitting him, my stress started showing right through again as I struggled to remember his birthdate and the tears kept flowing.  I was trying to get myself to stop crying, knowing it wasn't helping him to calm down but I just couldn't help it.  You can imagine the scenario all you want and  know in your mind that the best thing to do is to keep calm but it's so hard in the reality of the situation.  It's so hard to see your child suffering and to not be able to do anything to relieve their pain..I tried to get it together also out of respect for those parents out there who are forced to endure so much worse...I mean, at least I knew all along that he WAS going to get better once we got some fluids in him...I can't imagine the strength people are able to summon when faced with chronic, life threatening illnesses in their children. 

Once we got a room, the nurses immediately started coming in to meet Owen and assess him and he quietly charmed them right off the bat.  I told Nathan what was going on and he ditched rehearsal and came right home...Everyone there at the hospital was just so kind and understanding, and handled everything with so much respect for me and for Owen that I can't begin to express how safe and lucky it makes me feel.  I feel lucky to live in this community with such a wonderful hospital, but I also feel lucky to be in a country where it's NOT the norm for a child to die of this kind of thing.  We take it for granted so often, I think...the fact that this kind of illness can stay manageable and minor for us in this country when in so many places in this world, it could be a death sentence.

After a few hours, which was spent giving Owen fluids via IV and doing some blood tests (all came back fine, but they did show that he'd been pretty dehydrated), the doctor sent us home with the heads up that he could still get dehydrated so to keep a close eye on him.  They gave me a prescription for an anti-vomiting medicine to help keep stuff in his system on that end and some electrolyte popsicles that he was going to town on while he was there.  He was still totally out of it and feeling terrible even at bedtime that night but at least we knew his tank was full so we all went to bed feeling more calm.  He woke up this morning with a smile on his face and has been our cheery little guy again.  His diapers are pretty terrible and constant and he doesn't have a huge appetite but he seems to be staying hydrated so I'm sure he'll be better in no time.

The day after, I am struck by the fact that things can seem so desperate one day and totally fine the next.  Again, it makes me feel so lucky to have healthy kids and to be living in a medically advanced country.  I get teary eyed thinking of all of the friends and neighbors in our community who offered help and support without question, of the friends and family from afar who sent messages and made phone calls, wanting updates all day yesterday and today, making sure our little guy was alright.  I feel pain and heartache thinking of those in this country and in this world who go through things like this and much worse on a daily basis without the comfort of knowing that the outcome will most definitely be positive.   As I watch Owen get better and better over the next few days, I vow to reflect upon my good fortune and look into ways I can translate that into something more than just feeling grateful.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Completely Random Projects

We've been plugging away here with Nathan gone a lot...he was in New York this past weekend and is now starting rehearsals for his Christmas show so we won't have him very much through the holiday season.  One of the ways I'm handling that mentally is by trying to come up with new projects for the kids, but also for myself after I put them to bed.  I'm not sure these are all worth sharing because some of them weren't 100% successful but I decided to anyway, in case even my failed attempts happen to provide some inspiration for some of you:

Zoe hasn't been interested at all in the idea of me knitting something for her this fall/winter, but she and I finally decided together that legwarmers would be fun.  These were the first pair and I'm working on a second (thin, single row rainbow colors in between 5 rows of black) and I plan on making as many as I feel like in different colors so she can mix and match them.  This rainbow pair is a little loose so I'm making the second pair a little tighter.  For these, I cast on 38 stitches then did 5 rows of ribbing (k2, p2) and stockinette stitch (5 rows per color) until the last color when I did another 5 rows of ribbing before binding off.  I knit them flat and then sewed the seam when I was all done.  I actually think these are a better beginner project than the typical first project scarf.  They are shorter so they go faster.  I'm trying 32 stitches for the second pair and I think they'll fit a little better...

For some time now, I've been wanting to improve my sewing skills but am having a hard time organizing my thoughts around it.  I suspect I may not be giving myself enough credit for the skills I do have, but I have yet to feel like I can really hold my own and make a nice looking piece.  Whenever I do happen to come across a pattern I like, I inevitably mess it up somehow and decide to scrap the pattern and make it work however I can even if it comes out looking kind of crappy.  I guess I might be a sewing rebel in that way, which is fine but I do wish I could call myself a reliable seamstress if nothing else but for the fact that it might help me if I decide to go back into wardrobe at some point.  Anyway, I do enjoy playing around with refashioning once in a while, and these are my latest attempts:

 Two old favorite shirts that I've never wanted to just give away, but don't really wear anymore because I don't like the way they fit me....

The more successful refashion of the two...I cut the neck off of the shirt and then the torso just under the armpits.  I pinned the torso piece onto the neck as evenly as I could so it would come out just a little gathered all around and sewed it right on.  It's a perfect fit for her and could be either a little tube dress in the summer or a skirt with a roll top waist anytime.

I'm tentatively happy with this one, but for some reason she won't even try it on.  She swears she likes it and I think she probably just feels funny because I made too big a deal of it so I'm sure one of these days she'll try it on but for now I just have to patiently wait.  I don't know how to explain how I did this but if you're curious let me know and I'll try.  The pink strip is a piece of an old shirt of hers.  I cut the sleeves off both shirts thinking they'd make cute leg warmers but although they fit her legs perfectly, they won't  stay up even with elastic at the top. Oh well!

These pants are kind of lame, but I'm using them anyway.  I made them out of a plain old thermal of mine...got the idea and instructions from the book The Creative Family but there wasn't really enough material in the shirt to make them properly so they are embarrassingly messy.  I have trouble finding pants that work on Owen though so since they are the right length and are comfy for him, I'll use them.

Just had to throw this in here because it makes me happy.  Zoe drew it for me months ago and it's been hanging above our kitchen sink ever since.  It's me and her standing under a rainbow together.  It makes me feel ridiculously happy and loved and I'll keep it forever.

Had to be sneaky about getting a picture of the skirt in action.  My incessant picture taking is finally wearing on my kids and more and more they run away or scowl when I get the camera out.

The kids worked on nature collages this morning...they sweetly worked quietly side by side for a half hour or so.

Owen proudly showing off his finished product...

...and Zoe hers!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Super Easy Halloween Activity!

Really, really short post to share a really, really easy and really, really cheap Halloween activity/craft.  This felt Christmas tree was one of the first things I pinned on Pinterest last year and I never got around to doing it.  It's obviously been floating around in my brain though, because the other day I was at Joann's and discovered the felt on sale.  I grabbed some orange, green and a couple more colors and thought that doing the Halloween version of the Christmas tree would probably be fun for both of my kids.  I got around to cutting the shapes out today while Zoe was at school and Owen was sleeping and got to surprise Owen with it first.  I was glad he got a chance to explore it on his own before Zoe got home because he LOVED it and had a blast sticking the shapes on.  It wouldn't have been so exciting/satisfying for him if he'd had an older sister telling him how you're "supposed" to do it.   Zoe liked it too but didn't  spend nearly as much time playing as Owen did (she was happy doing just one face), but that's okay--kind of what I figured would happen, and I'm always glad to find things that work specifically for him.  Anyway, it's pretty self explanatory because the felt just sticks to itself:


Also, I decided today that I think Zoe might be ready to start learning to read.  I've been resisting it because I think technically she's young for it, and I know there's a school of thought out there that believes you shouldn't start teaching them until they are a certain age, even if they ask but...she's just DYING to learn.  She has loved books since she was a baby and has shocked us with her ability to memorize favorite stories (when she was 2 or 3 she used to "read" the whole of "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" almost word for word) and now she is constantly asking us to spell out words and sentences for her so she can write letters to  people...always asking what signs say....you see what I'm saying.  Anyway, part of the reason I hesitate to officially start teaching her is that she feels SO frustrated with herself when she doesn't get something immediately and I was afraid if we started before she was developmentally able, then we'd be setting her up for a lot of unnecessary frustration.  Either last night or this morning though, I suddenly realized she's been showing us so many signs that she is totally capable of learning and that she is clearly enthusiastic and interested enough.  Really, it could end up feeling very empowering for her so I downloaded some great free workbook pages from Education.com and a couple of books from the library and I feel like we are officially on our way.  As my sister Emily said earlier, "Look out, world"...here comes my girl.

She worked on these on and off all day and didn't want to stop when it was time for bed.  This is one determined kid.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


I looooooove this time of year so much.  Really, anything we do is my new favorite thing if it happens on a day like today or a weekend like this weekend.

A few days ago, I was drinking my morning cup of coffee and before I knew it, Owen was throwing my phone directly into my cup.  It was so ridiculous and funny..felt like I was starring in some corny sitcom about parenting...that I had to just laugh as I quickly fished it out.  That split second it was submerged in liquid was enough to make the phone completely shut down and I was forced to ponder life without it for a year (when I get another free upgrade).  At first, I'll admit, I felt a little panicky but I slowly started realizing that life without a phone could actually be pretty peaceful.  I spent the next day without it and by the time it came back to life, I have to say I felt a little disappointed.  I did realize that there are things I appreciate about having a phone right in my pocket so I am glad I have it back, but the experience prompted me to try and be much more aware of how much I use it.  I try and stop myself anytime I have the urge to mindlessly pull out my phone to look at something and prioritize in those moments.  Most times if I give myself a second to really consider it, the phone loses out over the kids and/or Nathan.  I'm hoping the habit calms down so that I don't have to constantly remind myself or that I can continue to fight the urge to give into those impulses and stay in the moment more.  I've also decided to keep the computer turned off while I'm home with the kids (Owen is napping now and Zoe is out with Nathan) and that also helps keep me in check.

Anyway, I don't know if it's the mere fact that Fall has officially arrived or that I've been forcing myself to look up and around as opposed to down at my phone but the past week has been so lovely...here are some photos to prove my point:

We took the kids to Wonderland Lake Park last weekend.  We'd gone once last year but that day was windy and cold so we didn't stay long.  People often mention it as a great place to go to  spend a couple of hours because it's right in Boulder, has a playground and a nice walk around a pretty lake.  So glad we finally went on a nice day!  I was excited to get some shots of the fall sweater I'd just finished for Owen too!  (Here's a link for it if you're interested...)

There's a pocket of time I have to myself on days when Zoe goes to school.  After I drop her off, I come home and put Owen down for a nap and I actually have time to do whatever I want (at home of course).  It's amazing, but I have to say that sometimes I pathetically snack and snack or surf the web mindlessly because I don't know what else to do.  It wasn't until the other day (because of my new goal to think outside the technology box) that I realized I could simply sit out on my patio with a cup of coffee and close my eyes or just...BE there..smelling the smells, noticing color, listening to the sounds of my favorite season...

Random fact here:  Lately, if Owen gets in Zoe's way, she puts him in a "corral".  So far he thinks it's funny, but I'm trying to prep her for the day when he won't be so agreeable about it.  She says she knows, but...I'm prepping MYSELF for the inevitable screaming match.

Owen enjoying the warmth from his "coffee" while waiting for his morning toast.

I came across this recipe for Pumpkin Whoopie Pies this week and immediately wished someone would whip some up for me and hand deliver them to my door.  For some reason, I felt like I wouldn't be able to pull them off even though I'm capable in the kitchen.  After a day or so of fantasizing about that though, I realized I just had to get the ingredients and give them a shot.  While I was making them, Zoe randomly decided to paint pumpkins because she got excited about a "pattern" she had in mind for one of them.  The scene (including the yummy smells I can't include here) was one of my favorites from this week.  The pies came out great by the way!  More time consuming than a standard baking endeavor for me, but worth it--easy!

Nathan and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary on Friday!  We have a great trip planned for January...Nathan's parents will come take care of the kids so we can go off--JUST THE TWO OF US FOR 5 DAYS--to Steamboat Springs!!!  We can't believe it!!!  So, for the actual day we just went out to a nice dinner.  No, I didn't wear a hoodie to our nice dinner date.  We took this when we got home.

This morning, we went to Ya Ya Farm in Longmont to get our (my) cider donut fix.  Until last year, when my friend Marisa told me about this farm, every Fall I would lament the fact that nobody out here knows what a cider donut even IS, let alone where to get one.  Thank goodness for Ya Ya Farm.  The farm is beautiful (although, to be totally snobby, it's nothing like a Vermont apple farm) and they have these huge, friendly horses that you are allowed to feed carrots to.  You can pick your own apples (although we haven't there) and take a hay ride while you eat your donuts and enjoy the perfect Colorado weather..


"Sweetie Pie" and her foal.  This horse was so sweet...Zoe fell head over heels.

Beautiful, beautiful Colorado...

Despite my resistance to it, I am starting to feel a tiny bit of "Buff Pride" these days.  I've insisted over the last few years that I'm "not a sports person" but Zoe's recent interest in soccer has reminded me of the reasons I actually do enjoy some organized sports.  I played soccer in high school and although I was never very good, I did manage somehow to find my way onto the varsity team (as a star bench warmer).  As an adult, I've never missed it but through Zoe's enthusiasm for it, I've been reminded of my fondness for the sport.  The women's team plays home games right across the street from our apartment complex and the games are free so we often wander over there if we hear a game going on.  This year, I actually put the home games on the calendar and we've been walking over there on purpose.  Some evenings, they even bring the CU mascot, "Ralphie" to the field to practice her run when no one is there.  Since we live right there, we see them drive in and so can go watch them practice.  That field is one of the reasons I feel so lucky to live where we do.  It's really fun and I always get the feeling that it's something the kids will always remember about our time here.

Today was picture day with Ralphie!

Waiting for Ralphie to run

Go Ralphie!!

This is "Chip", the....other mascot?  I don't quite get it..I mean, I guess it's  because Ralphie can't exactly run around acting like a fool at the games to pump up the crowd and pose for pictures but I don't understand why they don't just call this guy Ralphie too.  At any rate, the kids love him.  Zoe from afar and Owen right up close, as you can see.
Well there, that was a lot of pictures!  Hope you are all enjoying this time of year as much as we are!