Thursday, November 29, 2012

Nobody's Perfect

Today, I took the kids to the mall and told Zoe she could spend some of her birthday money there.  I told her about this REALLY FUN store I remember going to when I was younger called Spencer Gifts.  I don't know if you remember that store too, but if you do and some part of you wanted to take your two very young children in there to get something "fun" I'm going to strongly advise you to go to Claire's instead (which is what we ended up doing and will do from now on).  I don't know when Spencer Gifts went from being a cool store with black lights, posters and fun gadgets to an almost full on only shop but....the worst part about it is that I didn't realize the WHOLE STORE was full of this crap until we had made our way all the way to the back and Zoe started throwing a fit because I wouldn't even discuss why she couldn't have anything from the section made up of everything pink in the store (rubber penises, smutty t-shirts...."Mommy, EVERYTHING IN HERE is for BOYS and I find the ONLY part that I LIKE that's PINK and for GIRLS and you won't even LET me GET ANY OF IT!!").  When I finally realized we had to just hightail it out of there and make a beeline for the Disney store or Claire's or...ANYWHERE ELSE I shuffled them towards the door and more than once had to whisk Owen's hand away from a rubber boob.  Oy.

Also, I have been trying really hard for the past month or so to make this really cute pettiskirt for Zoe.  I carefully ordered the material online and planned to give it to her as a birthday present...then I didn't finish it in time so decided to pace myself and finish it in time for Christmas....and then I found myself dreading the evenings when I'd have to go downstairs and fumble through putting it together, only to find that I SUCK AT SEWING....well, I suck at sewing pettiskirts at least....and a) wasn't having any fun and b) doing a terrible, last night in a moment of complete self pity, I reminded myself that I'd seen pettiskirts almost identical to that one at Target for under $20.  I felt about 50 pounds lift off my shoulders as I gave myself permission to eat the cash I shelled out for the materials and shell out another $20 at Target sometime between now and Christmas and call it a day.

My finished product

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Holy Smokes

Well!  My everyday life has certainly taken a major turn over the last few weeks.  I don't know how much you've been following along with Raising Little Heroes, but the group has suddenly gone from something I thought about a few days out of each month to something I think about almost all day every day.   Since posting about the group on BoulderRocknMoms, membership has quadrupled and I now have nearly 50 families who have expressed interest in hearing about our projects.  It's been really exciting because it's something I've honestly dreamed about since before I even had kids.  As exciting as it's been though, I have to say it's been a little scary too because I want so badly to get this group off to the right start and keep all the interest I've managed to spark in people I've never met.  I've been frantically trying to find plenty of projects to line up over the next few months, learning about and considering whether or not going the nonprofit route would be the right fit for the group (and for me), talking about graphic design/logo/branding, having a post published on Psychology Today and being interviewed for WIRED magazine's blog, GeekDad.  Although I can say with complete confidence that while I'm not exactly sure what the future holds for our little group, if it isn't successful it won't be because I didn't give it my all.  More than ever, I'm facing fears and self-doubt and plowing through...willing myself to walk right into businesses to tell them about our group and ask them if they'd like to work with us... asking complete strangers if they believe in me and what the group stands for enough to commit to putting in some time to make it all work...getting a lot of no's and less-than-thrilled responses from various people about project ideas and turning right around to try other avenues...stuff like that...stuff that, while I knew I had it in me to not let it, has held me back in the past and kept me from seeing things through.  So, although I still feel a bit frazzled by it all, I've found myself, with every phone call and every new avenue explored, more and more confident.  I'm already seeing a clearer picture of what our group can/will hopefully become once we all get to know each other and get a few months of projects under our belts.  I'll keep you posted.

Anyway, even though it's been so exciting, this weekend was such a nice break from all of this.  I still did some work,  but I also let myself relax and enjoy time with our little family here in our little apartment.  Nathan has had the whole weekend since Thursday off so we've had plenty of hang out time...we've eaten a lot of great food (thanks to Nathan, as usual) and were able to celebrate a doubly special day, as Zoe's birthday landed right on Thanksgiving day for the first time since the year she was born (5 years ago!)  I'm so grateful for this weekend because Nathan is about to enter into not only the end of the semester but the end of rehearsals/tech/performance as well, which means "See you in 4 weeks, honey".  The time will fly and before we know it he will be done and we'll have some more great hang out time but...well, you know...

Nathan wanted to try gingerbread houses this year and I'm so glad he did--it was really fun!  I'm officially in awe of those people on the food channels that make the really elaborate gingerbread houses--that shit is NOT easy, people!

Go ahead and try to match the person to the house...

If you are at all surprised that this is what Owen ended up doing with his house, you officially do not know him well enough.

Owen's station


Zoe's, Nathan's and my finished products....

.....and Owen's finished product.
Also, just because these two sights make me so a kid I could never stare at the Christmas tree long enough.  I have many many memories of falling asleep on our couch staring at our tree, trying to soak the warmth up enough to last me all year.  Now, although I really do love our living room with all the over the top-ness that I cherish so (and feel SO thankful to have found someone in Nathan who feels the same way about it all) my favorite is our kitchen.  It's officially the winter solstice room now and every night before going up to bed I stand in there staring at it like I used to stare at our tree when I was a kid.  I don't want to turn the lights off and go to bed, it's just so peaceful...
I especially love what our new piano has added to the whole scene this year.  Please don't judge us by the toys stuffed under adds to the charm, believe me.

***sigh***  I know it doesn't look like much, but I could sit here all night.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Raising Little Heroes: Food Drive!

Our family did part II of this month's RLH project and spent some time at the grocery store this morning, handing out bags and encouraging shoppers to donate to the Community Food Share's annual "Let's Bag Hunger" food drive.  We were excited to help and had learned that the "greeter" job was important but it was pretty shocking to find out first hand how true that is.  Without someone at the door telling people about the food drive, shoppers literally don't even notice the bin.  We were signed up to be there for 1 hour, but Zoe was loving it so much that we stayed for almost 2!  She was so awesome at it...she tends to feel shy talking to people she doesn't know but insisted on being the one to greet each person coming through the door and didn't hesitate to give them the run-down, even when they needed specifics about what to do.  When I told her we could look into more ways to volunteer with the Food Share, she literally jumped for joy.  I really felt so, so  proud of her and the amount of donations she was able to help the food share receive for those couple of hours this morning.  The driver who emptied the bins while we were there said that we had given out about 40 bags, which averages out to 320 pounds of food!  Pretty amazing...if you haven't already signed up to do a shift, please email them immediately.  The drive goes through the 21st so you still have time!  So easy, so worth it--don't wait.  If you can't help with the food drive, but are still interested in helping them out, the Food Share is always looking for volunteers for a variety of things from working in the warehouse (which you can do with kids, just not really young ones like Owen's age) or delivering food regularly to the elderly.  You can check out their website for more information.  If you don't live in the Boulder area, ask around where you live to see if there is a food drive going on that you could volunteer for with your kids--I bet there is, and if there isn't--try organizing your own!

On another note, our family went to Pearl Street this evening to watch them officially kick off the holiday season with a chorale performance, the lighting of the Christmas lights, a show at the ice skating rink and an appearance by Santa himself.  We usually go to the parade in December but we won't be able to go together this year because of Nathan's, we went to this instead..I think we'll do it every year--pretty fun!
Waiting for the show to start...see our cuties there in the striped hats?

My boys

It's a little early, if you ask me but what the hell: "Happy Holidays!"

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mission: Whale/Meerkat/Chipette Bday Party

Zoe has been talking about her birthday party for a good 2 months now, at least.  It's been two months of "Can we do that at my birthday party?  Please, Mommy??" and for most of the requests, I could get by with an "Of COURSE!" knowing each idea was fleeting but....the one thing that came up every single time was "Mommy, I really want my party to be about whales, meerkats and The Chipettes".  There was no swaying her, believe me I tried.  I know that I could have just shrugged it off and convinced her somehow to just pick ONE theme but I just didn't have the heart to.  So, I set to work trying to think of ways to include all three...I never did figure out a way to really tie them all together, but each was featured and I think it went over well.  I know you feel really grateful that I'm sharing these pictures and ideas because whale/meerkat/Chipette birthday parties are ALL the rage now.  I will graciously accept your unending gratitude in advance for saving your child's next birthday.  Here you go!

The ocean room..I also bought a $20 multi-colored disco ball for this room and gave the kids bubbles

Digging for know, like meerkats do....get it??

The kids got to keep whatever they dug up

As I was thinking about this and setting it up (I had to borrow sand from the sandbox at the playground and I felt kind of silly) I wasn't sure it was worth it but it totally was--the kids loved it!

Chipette (+Dave) Twister.  I found pictures online, stuck them on there with clear contact paper and wrote the character's initials with a sharpie on the spinner

Decorate a meerkat

Sweet friends!

A version of musical chairs:  We play this with paper bags when we go to the Cape over the summer with my family...I taped pictures of The Chipettes on paper plates...when the kids were bumped out, they got a whoopie cushion to take home.  I love how everyone is blurry/in motion in this picture, but Zoe happens to be clear and looking at the camera.

Happy Birthday, Zoe!!

If we are Facebook friends, you may have seen my request for advice about making a whale cake.  A lot of you gave me some great advice, but I ended up going with my friend Gail's idea...bought mini whale-shaped pans and had the kids decorate their own little cakes.  Of course, due to my ineptness in the baking arena, they looked nothing like whales but it was still worth it and fun.  The kids managed to add some personality to the little blobs of cake I presented them with.

Made this little cake with the leftover batter...

 Yay!  Fun!  Also though:  Yay!  Done with our birthday parties until next September!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Giving Back When You Have Little To Give

Guess what??  I was suddenly given the opportunity to submit a post to Psychology Today!  Here's the direct link to the edited version right up there for the world to see on the website, but below is the unedited version, if you're exciting!

As a stay-at-home mother of 2 young children, the most important thing to me right now is to guide my children through a happy childhood, filled with simple memories and carefree days.   I’m not one to shield them from difficult situations because I know these things are just as, if not more important in helping them grow into healthy, happy adults.  I’m also not perfect, so at any given moment you might find me laughing and playing with them, calmly letting them make huge messes in the name of “artistic expression” while at another, giving them the guilt-trip of the century because they had the gall to ask for “something else to eat” when I’d just gotten comfortable on the couch with a cup of coffee.  All in all though, I try my hardest to see the world through their eyes and do what I can to weave a rich childhood for them. 

One of my greatest wishes as a parent is that somehow, mixed in with the fun, carefree stuff, I will also somehow be able to instill in my kids a sense of responsibility to those less fortunate than themselves.  If you are like me and my husband, you struggle every day with making ends meet and not letting the stresses involved with that struggle affect your kids so much that they can’t enjoy themselves.  My husband is in graduate school and I take care of the kids at home, so we have zero income and are living almost completely off of loans.  We qualify for and take advantage of government assistance in order to ease the grocery bill burden and quell the “no insurance” fear. In our life right now, “disposable income” is almost laughably unattainable.  For us, it would be easy to feel like victims.  However, I’ve never been so blind to reality that I haven’t been able to recognize that we actually do have it pretty good.  Most importantly we have each other, but we are also able to buy groceries every week, give into “impulse buys” occasionally and go on vacations.  Granted, all of these “luxuries” come at a price:  our debt steadily climbs along with our stress with each dollar we spend because it’s ALL borrowed.  We are going to have to pay it all back someday, but luckily someday we will have the capability to pay it back.  This is a transitional time for us and we are by no means stuck in our situation unlike so, so many in this country and this world.

There are no guarantees for any of us.  The job market when my husband is finished with school could be so dismal that he won’t find a job for a long time.  We could spend the rest of our lives trying to pay off our loans and never be able to build a “nest egg” for the kids.  They will more than likely learn the value of hard work sooner than some of their peers.  It’s highly possible that they will inherit some of our debt and we have a deep fear that owning a home may never be a real possibility for us.  I don’t want to feel paralyzed by all of this though, and I don’t want my kids to feel deprived because they most certainly are not.  We parents have to be careful with how we perceive our lives because these amazing kids of ours pick up on everything.  Don’t want your child to feel like a victim?  Well, you’d better be sure you don’t.   One of the best ways I’ve found so far to combat this tendency to feel helpless is to find ways to give back that involve little to no money.  We’ve done it by rallying friends and neighbors and coming up with projects to do together with the kids like baking homemade goodies for our local firefighters, making homemade blankets for needy children from materials in the remnants bin at the fabric store, volunteering for the local food drive and holding a bake sale to raise money for the Red Cross.  We’ve dubbed our group “Little Heroes” and word is quickly spreading around town to other families who have also spent time wondering how to give back when we are all struggling ourselves. 

So please, don’t wait.  Don’t hold back.  Reach out and help a neighbor move their furniture or take out their garbage, bake cookies for the new family on the block, volunteer at a soup kitchen, organize a bake sale, put yourself out there and find out if there are people around you who need a little nudge and become an unstoppable team…and do it all with your kids.  If we show our kids that banding together and helping others is something we can do no matter where we are in life, then maybe they will grow into the kind of adults we all admire now.  Let’s instill these altruistic values into our children as they grow so that for them, doing something for someone else doesn’t have to take courage and conviction it’s just what they will do because it’s what it means to be human.  Every little bit counts.