Thursday, January 31, 2013

Some days are good, some days are loud

I've been a parent for 5 years now, and I still get totally blown away by how different a day (or moment, really) can be from one to another when you have kids.

Some days around here, my kids will play happily together all morning long without needing me for anything other than the occasional snack break or to reach something they are too short to reach.  I've grown to cherish those days (although I wouldn't say they are rare by any means) and take advantage of the quiet time by taking care of work, cleaning or maybe even cooking or baking something (which is happening more and more since I made it a New Years resolution--we'll see how long that lasts, right?).  When Owen started getting old enough to get lost in play like this with Zoe and I'd find myself all of the sudden not needed for a bit, I used to feel kind of bad or even lazy if I sat on the computer or in the kitchen drinking tea instead of getting involved with whatever they were doing.  I had become so used to being the only playmate for Zoe and had never really been able to just do my own thing during the day if it wasn't nap/school time.  I love her of course, but she doesn't really ever let you just chill out or work on your own projects...doesn't like to be alone and likes to be the leader so...yeah, it's exhausting, and yes I've tried everything to help her become more independent and she is in a lot of ways now that she's getting older.  I think some people just like company though, and that's not something I think I have the power to change.  Plus, sometimes it's easier (and more pleasant) to just play the damn game and get ordered around a bit than it is to endure the never ending whining and begging:  "Moooooommmmmmy play with meeeeeee...Mooooooommmmmyyyy plaaaay with meeeee...."  Anyway, so it took me a bit to shake the habit and I had to make a conscious effort to not stick my nose into everything going on in the other room ("C'mon, there's nothing wrong with sitting here and enjoying your tea, so just SIT.")

I'm a pro at it now having witnessed many times, that although my kids do have a lot of fun together most times, that happy vibe can do a complete turnaround just when I think my parenting life is starting to become a little easier.  The knowledge of this is what allows me to notice the moment they start playing together nicely, sit my ass down wherever I feel like sitting it down and do whatever I feel like doing for as long as I can.  As I said, I do this with the knowledge that it may not be like this the next day (or later in the day), but annoyingly a part of me always does silently say "Hey, maybe we're turning a corner here" and I am forced to laugh at myself when things get ugly again.  Oh well.

Take yesterday and today.  Yesterday morning, the two of them were little peas in a one point, they showed up suddenly (and with a hilarious sense of formality) in my room where I was working on the computer announcing that they were getting married. 
They posed for a photo and stomped off angrily when I said they were "too funny"....sheesh, touchy!  They went back to their room and continued to play like that until it was time for lunch.  It was just lovely.

Then's one of those days where I don't even realize until there's a quiet moment (which didn't occur today until naptime this afternoon) that the three of us have been literally yelling all morning long.  It's hard to not get annoyed with myself when I reflect on it because I know that part of the reason THEY are yelling is  probably because I am yelling, but seriously it's hard to tell which comes first.  Sometimes I'm just talking loudly because I'm trying to be heard above the screaming and crying and I end up yelling because I'm so annoyed no one is listening to me.  Looking back I realize I could just wait a minute until the screaming dies down to calmly make whatever point I'm trying to make  but man, that is easier said than done.  It's SO HARD to keep a lid on your temper when your 2 year old spends all morning getting insanely mad at crazy, kooky things (and your 5 year old knows how to push that 2 year old's screechy buttons).  For instance, first thing this morning  Owen was sitting with me on the couch and he started saying "I want sompin to eat...NO I want to weed books...NO I want sompin to eat...NO" and I was trying to interject to help him get on track but he just started then saying "I want to eat books!!" and when I told him he couldn't eat his books he started screaming, "NOIWANTTOEATBOOKSNOIWANTTOEATBOOKSNOIWANTTOEATBOOKS!!!!"  Being first thing in the morning, and therefore not completely run down by it yet, I tried to calmly and quietly tell him that he could eat something WHILE reading books but he was screaming so loudly and endlessly that he couldn't hear me.  Eventually I had to raise my voice to get his attention....which started the cycle for the day.  I hate it, but I don't think there's any other way sometimes.  I know that some of you out there probably vehemently disagree with me and think that the best way to handle this stuff is to stay calm and collected but...well, it's not that I disagree..some days the stars are aligned for me and I'm able to pull this off really well,  it's just that I think that setting that expectation for myself all day every day is just an impossible order to fill and I think that's okay.  I mean, who on this earth could stay completely calm all of the time under these conditions?  It's impossible, so I wish people would stop feeling like bad days like these, and losing your temper are signs of bad or unhealthy parenting and give themselves (and, therefore all of us) a break.  Seriously a person can only take so much!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Walker Ranch

We are officially back in the swing here with Nathan and Zoe both back at school after an awesome winter break.  Well, of course, we've been back in the swing for a couple of weeks now but it's  been a much less painful return to "the grind" as I'd feared.  It's been nice to have Nathan home most nights for dinner and on the weekends and the past couple weekends have been really quiet and pleasant.  We typically tend to look for a lot of activities and outings when we know we're all going to be together but we've been taking it easy these last couple of weekends and I'm so glad for it.

We didn't have anything planned this weekend, which turned out to be a relief because Owen caught another stomach bug, poor guy.  Yesterday he felt horrible so we stuck close to home...I baked a couple of loaves of bread, which is something I only do on occasion and every time I do, I tell myself I need to more often.  It always reminds me of my friend Mariah who baked her family's bread weekly instead of buying it at the store, and one of the best days to go to their house (although any day was a good day to do that) was on bread baking day.  Yuuuuuum.  At one point I got a funny reminder of why I love living here in Family Housing as I ran over to my friend Gretchen's house with a measuring cup and a big ziplock bag to pick up the one ingredient I'd forgotten to get at the store: flour. Duh.  Thanks for bailing me out, G!

During Owen's naptime Nathan, Zoe and I had a quiet board/card game marathon which is personally my favorite way to spend naptime.  I'm not sure the 3 of us had done that together before, especially now that Zoe is old enough to actually play most of the games by the real rules.  It was pretty perfect if you ask me.  Owen's stomach hurt all the way up until bedtime..he kept saying "Owww!! My tummy huhts!!" and wouldn't touch his dinner.  I eventually gave him a children's Pepto and after that settled in, he finally got some relief and felt better by the time he had to go to sleep.  As I hugged him goodnight, the sweet boy even tried to thank me for helping his tummy feel better...until he realized mid-sentence that that was the result of his completely filling his diaper:  "Sanks foh heping my tummy feel all beh...oh and zen Owen pooped and my tummy felt aw bettah. G'night!"

He felt better today but still wasn't 100% so we mostly stuck close to home again.  During naptime today though, I took Zoe to Walker Ranch up Flagstaff Mountain (man, that's a crazy road!) because they were having a free event called "Heritage Days" (today only).  They give tours, but you can also just go around on your own and check out all of the buildings and barns.  For this event, they have volunteers demonstrating how the people who were living there in the 1800's went about their daily lives.  Although one of the volunteers told me they have a website (they have 4 free events throughout the year), I can't for the life of me find it.  If you want to read more about the ranch you can check out this Daily Camera article about the event today.

Zoe and I both loved it.  At one point, she said in a very contented little voice "I could stay here all day."

The day could not have been more beautiful

Churning butter

The yummy treats...these biscuits were fresh from the wood stove in there so the little house smelled delicious too...that's apple butter there in the bowl and the cups were for hot apple cider.  Zoe couldn't get over how yummy the biscuits were.

That's a bathtub!

This one's for Jessica

Parlor games

Baby crib.  Zoe was blown away when I told her it was for a baby and not a doll.

Carefree days...

Making snowflakes in the wheat barn/schoolhouse.  Their July event is a "school" can go see how they would have it set up for a school day and pretend you are going to school there...Zoe can't wait.


Turkey/chicken coop...for some reason, this was one of Zoe's favorite parts of the day.  She even got the nerve up to ask the volunteer a few questions, which is huge for her.

The root cellar.  She didn't want to hang out there long.

Bedroom above the kitchen in the log house where they were baking the biscuits

Outside of the hay barn

Inside of the hay barn

On our way out.  She's holding up her snowflake because she couldn't believe how well she'd made it "I think it's my best one yet!"

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Raising Little Heroes: Red Cross Potluck

When word officially got out around town about Raising Little Heroes, the upcoming project at that time was slated to be a bake sale to benefit the Red Cross/Hurricane Sandy relief.  Since so many people were joining the group all at once, I suddenly became a million times more motivated to make these events happen and so began calling around town, trying to find a place to actually have the bake sale.  I felt really hopeful at first but it quickly became clear that it would be nearly impossible to find a location.  We live in a city, so any location that gets the amount of traffic we would be hoping to get is owned by either the city, university or a company.  I explored as many avenues as I could think of and ran into dead ends, red tape and really high fees at every turn.  I started to feel really defeated when the idea came to me to have a fundraiser dinner instead.  I thought it would be a great way to get all of us together, since so many of us have never met and I knew that although it too would be very challenging to pull off, it was more realistic than the bake sale (such a surprising realization!).  Initially, I wanted to find a way to have food donated so that I could just invite all of these wonderfully enthusiastic members (most of whom I've never met) to a party and welcome them to this new group without having to ask them to bring anything other than themselves and a donation for the Red Cross with them.  It took a few weeks for reality to set in though, and at that point I realized that although we'd probably get a smaller crowd it made much more sense to make the party a potluck.

I am fond of potlucks myself, as I think it brings out the folks who are REALLY interested in being a part of the community.  I was also picturing having the kids work on a craft/activity related to the work we are doing so in general I was excited about the idea of getting us all together for an evening.  At the same time though, I felt disappointed that I'd not only be asking people to bring food but also extra money to donate to the Red Cross.   Despite that doubt, I plowed ahead with plans along with the help, encouragement and support of a few other RLH members whom I'd roped into heading up committees (Hayley Kooiman, Annie Woodward, Jessica Jacobson, Kelly Russack and Emily Conkey) and the VP of Community Programming at the YMCA, Shaun Barnes.  We were able to secure a space at Wesley Fellowship Hall here in Boulder and I had starting having some great conversations about the vision of our group with a representative from the Red Cross, James Knowles.  James works in Denver but he came our way once for our leadership team meeting and again for the actual potluck.  He was really supportive throughout the whole process and I'm so glad we were able to contact him for this event.

When all was said and done, we ended up with a really lovely evening.  The craft committee set up a really fun, welcoming area for the kids to work on letters/cards/pictures that we sent along with James at the end of the night.  James promised that he'd have the kids artwork delivered to families on the East Coast who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy so it was so nice to feel like we'd made a personal connection in some way.  The door prize committee spoiled us with the AMAZING prizes they were able to score (honestly, I think every family in attendance got a prize) and the food was really yummy.  We even had Megan Prentice from Project C.U.R.E. come to talk with us about our February project, Kits for Kids.  Everyone there seemed to have a really nice time and so by the end of the night I felt pretty satisfied.  We ended up collecting enough donations ($205.58) to provide food and shelter for a family of 4 for 1 night in a shelter.  The service includes preparation of breakfast, lunch and dinner, the costs to mobilize and distribute a cot, two blankets and a comfort kit as well as the costs of Red Cross workers to provide the service.  Pretty great!

The following local organizations and individuals were kind enough to donate door prizes for our event.  I really can't thank them all enough so I hope you'll help me in supporting them as often as you can:

Hannah Gaitten from doTERRA Essential Oils 
**Hannah Gaitten, doTERRA independent Product Consultant, is offering a free consultation to anyone interested in learning more about Essential Oils and how you can benefit from them physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally**
You can contact Hannah at the email address or phone number below and be sure to check out her website.  When you contact her for your free consultation, please mention that you heard about her through Raising Little Heroes.

 Amber Selzer

Cyndi Gittes

Shaun Barnes from the YMCA of Boulder Valley


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Second Honeymoon!

For those of you who are Facebook friends of mine, please accept my apologies for showing all of these pictures to you twice.  At least here you get the story along with them, right?

Anyway a long time ago, Nathan's parents told us that since they weren't going to have the opportunity to use their time share this season, they wanted to offer it to us for our 10th anniversary.  We were blown away and so thankful right off the bat.  We had been trying to be good sports about the fact that on our first honeymoon to Curacao, we had promised each other we would return there for our 10 year anniversary, having no idea that we would be in a time of transition and doing our best to eek out as much as we can from loans.  Of course, I'm not complaining because we are very fortunate in so many ways.  We were able to just laugh it off mostly but it was just a really wonderful treat to be able to accept such a generous gift and spoil ourselves this year.  Not only did they offer their time share, but they also offered to come to OUR apartment while we were gone and watch OUR kids for us.  Amazing.  I still can't get over it and am not sure I'll ever be able to adequately thank them for what they did for us.

Nathan and I planned the trip to Steamboat Springs, CO together, but he had been telling me for a couple of weeks that there was a surprise in store for me on the way there.  I think I can honestly say that the only time I've been fully surprised was when Zoe was born and I was convinced a doctor had "given away" the fact that the baby was a boy.  I had wanted to be surprised so badly and when she "let it slip" a week before I gave birth, I cried harder than I'd ever cried in my whole life.  I'd half heartedly told myself to believe the doctor when she said she really didn't know and had just said "he" because that's what she tends to say....I didn't really buy it deep down.  I had dreamed of having a daughter my whole life and at the time thought this was my only shot at it.  During the pregnancy, I didn't feel like  I "knew" she was a girl, but once in a while I'd get vague flashes of walking along holding hands with a little girl...braiding hair....of course, that probably had more to do with the fact that I  WANTED a girl but still...I had hoped it was intuition...I wasn't disappointed to be having a boy, but...well, you know.  So, when I gave birth and found out the baby was a girl?  Man, so so awesome.  We didn't find out beforehand whether Owen was a boy or a girl but I had felt strongly that he was a boy so I didn't feel as shocked.

So, when Nathan first told me there was a "big surprise" and that I'd "never guess" what it was well, of course I had to start doing some research to see if I could figure it out (this is why I'm never surprised...I can't just let it be--have to think of every single possibility so that when the surprise is revealed I've inevitably considered the possibility in my head already).  Then finally, for the first time in my life I think, told myself to stop trying to figure it out and just let it be a surprise.  So I somehow mostly put it out of my head (enough to stop obsessing about figuring it out anyway) and let the day of our departure come.  We started driving towards Denver and Nathan finally told me that we were going to.....the Becoming Van Gogh exibition at the Denver Art Museum!  Such a great surprise for me.  I love Van Gogh and although we didn't spend a ton of time in museums pre-kids it's definitely something we did MORE before we had them in our lives.  I wouldn't say we talk about missing doing stuff like that, but in a way that made this surprise that much sweeter.  It was something I  didn't realize I missed doing and we got to see this once in a lifetime (for us) exhibition.  It was a lovely start to the vacation.  Plus, I realized that Zoe would love going to this museum so I'm excited for one of us to take her there before we move away.

After that, we got to enjoy the beautiful 3-4 hour drive to Steamboat Springs.  Towards the end of the trip, on our way up a mountain we came really, really close to running out of gas but I'm happy to say that didn't end up being part of the adventure.  We were biting our nails and cursing a bit though.  It was close.

When we got to our suite, we were so excited we literally didn't know where to look first.  We spent a few minutes giggling and aimlessly looking around the place like we'd never been anywhere remotely nice before.  We've stayed in a lot of hotels (we were on tour for a few months once) and the nicest place we've ever stayed in (just the two of us) was probably a Radisson and the worst place was...I don't remember the name but I remember sleeping with all of my clothes on (including shoes) on top of the covers just long enough to be able to see the road again.  Anyway, all that to say we're no strangers to hotels and such but after the hard work we've both been putting in since moving out here....anyway, we were beside ourselves.  Here is the view from our living room:

That night we went to see Les Miserables, which I'd been dying to see.  I loved it so much....Nathan thought it was okay but I don't think he's been quite so in love with the show as a whole like I have been since I was in Jr. High so that probably had a lot to do with it.

On our first full day there we went to Strawberry Park Hot Springs, the reason this location got my vote when we were deciding where to go on vacation.  This time of year, if you don't have chains on your tires you're not allowed to bring your car up so we took a shuttle up for the morning.  It did not disappoint.  On the way up we saw some caribou just hanging out.  I  couldn't get a good picture so it'll have to live on in our memories.

Just a cool cabin we saw on the way back..
That evening we decided to check out the ski-town area.  We'd heard about the Steamboat Ice Castle and wanted to check it out as well as just sort of stroll around and maybe get something to eat (one of our favorite things to do).  Nathan had been trying to talk me into skiing but I was being really stubborn about it, acting like it was only because I was worried he'd hurt himself (he had only been skiing once in his whole life and has a bad back and knees).  I grew up in Vermont but lost interest in downhill skiing when I was 10 or so.  I enjoyed cross country through high school and a bit in college but I gave up downhill totally and had become oddly proud of that fact.  When people find out I'm from Vermont, their first question is ALWAYS "Do you ski?" and I had told the story of my giving up on it many, many times without shame or regret.  I had even developed a secret but very strong dislike for people who ski regularly (sorry to the many of you in my life that this affects--including most of my family members) as I had convinced myself it was only for the elite.  I mean, I could  admit that maybe I would like it if I tried it again but how the hell can anyone afford this lifestyle?  It's totally and completely out of the question for us financially as a regular thing.

Anyway, as we were walking around looking for the ice castle, I suddenly realized that we HAD to go skiing.  We would be complete DUMMIES if we didn't go skiing while we were there, staying only a mile or so from the base with a free shuttle from our resort and no kids to wrangle.  I told this to Nathan, he agreed immediately and we decided to rent some gear and buy a half day pass for the next day.  We enjoyed the ice castle and then went home with a really fun nervous excitement as we anticipated the adventure ahead:

In the morning as we got ready for the day of skiing, I started to feel really nervous and the nerves stayed with me as we got our gear and awkwardly boarded the gondola.  We got to the top, put our skis on and headed straight for the easiest trail available.  My legs felt a little funny at first but it didn't take long to get the feel of it again after all those years, and I suddenly felt so liberated and free.  Once in a while I'd look up to check out the view and may or  may not have thrown my arms up in the air and shouted with pure joy a couple of times.  It was so beautiful and wonderful and I can't believe I resisted it for so long.  I'm telling you now with 100% certainty that I love love love skiing.  Everything about it...the freedom, the (relative) speed, the views, the quiet, the breaks in the lodge for hot chocolate and french fries....I hope hope hope we can find a way to do it more while we are out here, and I especially hope we can introduce the kids to that world.  They would have a blast.  I realized that, much like the time I finally (after several years of living there) drove my car in Manhattan and had the sensation that THAT was the moment I fully lived in New York City, I at long last feel like I REALLY live here.  Nathan was so awesome and loved it too.  He was in terrible pain much of the time but he was able to work through the pain and enjoy the wonderful parts about it.  I couldn't believe it was only his second time skiing.  He was really brave and patient the whole time and was able to feel like he had improved by the end of the experience. We both had such a blast that we decided to spend the rest of our vacation money (and then some...somehow) on another full day pass.  I don't think either one of us regrets that in the least.

We were sad to go today, but so glad to see the kids.  The drive home was beautiful too, of course and the kids happy to see us.  I went to get Owen from his nap and he stood up in his crib and said "I so happy you guys are here!".  Thanks to Gary and Sandi for allowing us to experience all of that and to have some time together.  The kids had a blast while we were gone and it made it all that more enjoyable to know they were at home in your loving care.