Tuesday, September 29, 2009

So many snacks, so little time

I am officially the mom of a school aged child. Thursday, it is our turn to bring snack (and, also, L's first ever "picture day"!). Being the kind of mom I am - "type A" but trying not to be, conscious of not feeding my kids or anyone else's sugar, wanting to make things easy for her teachers - I am racking my brain to come up with a good snack idea. I don't have the time or energy to do some sort of super impressive, crafty treat. I found a bunch of those online. But if it involves using a leaf shaped cookie cutter (to make a snack that goes with this week's "leaves" theme, naturally!), I'm just not going there.

Instead, the kids and I trolled the aisles of CostCo yesterday looking for ideas. I think I've settled on cheese sticks and multigrain crackers. The cracker box explicitly says that they were made in a nut-free environment, so we've satisfied the "avoid problems for kids with nut allergies" requirement. If I unwrap all of the cheese sticks ahead of time, then that is a relatively clean and easy snack for the teachers to deal with. Maybe I'll throw in some apples, too? Fuji's are on sale at our grocery store for $.88/lb right now, so buying 8 wouldn't break the bank.

Cheese, crackers, apple. Hopefully that will be good. Today I asked L what her snack was and she seemed disappointed. "Just a small graham cracker." I think that means that someone forgot to bring snack so the teachers had to break into their emergency snack stash. Alas...

Right on the heels of the preschool snack on Thursday, I am also bringing snacks for Bible study preschool hour on Friday. These ladies made it easier for me by actually telling me what to bring. No stress about making the right choice! Friday the snack goes with the Bible story, which I am going to guess is Joshua and the battle of Jericho. I am to bring "Rice Krispie Treats cut into rectangles" and chocolate frosting.  I can't say I'm completely thrilled about the nutritional quality of the "snack", but frankly if my kids like the preschool hour and I can get in some good Bible studying with other ladies one morning a week, I'll deal with it. And I'm sure my kids will love the special treat.


By the way, I found out this morning that my blog has been accepted onto BlogExplosion, an online blog directory. I actually had to apply and have my blog approved, so that's pretty cool! 18+ people think my blog is interesting!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Junk pile, I banish thee

No matter how hard I try, I can not avoid having a pile of dumped junk on the counter in our kitchen. Before we moved, we had a junk pile that drove me crazy. The second it was clean, more things appeared.

I promised myself that after our move I would not allow the same thing to happen. We have a nice little kitchen peninsula with stools for the kids to sit while I am cooking. It makes me feel happy to be in our kitchen when that area is empty (except for a bowl of fruit or, like now, pretty squash and fall veggies). How often is the peninsula free of junk? Maybe 1/2 of 1 day out of the week. Sad. Right now in the pile: 2 magazines, 2 packages of childproofing locks for cabinets, 1 air freshener plug in with no air freshener, a handful of change from my grocery shopping trip, fly swatter, 1 of B's socks that he gave me while I was putting groceries away. All of these things have homes -- homes that are not my kitchen counter. Why? Why do they always end up there?

This week my goal is going to be to keep that counter free of junk. It will be one small step towards sanity.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Are we late yet?

Eric and I are both 'type A' people, so it's no surprise that L - our first born - has always shown those tendencies.  I have always tried to be very careful to be encouraging to her in all situations because she tends to be hard on herself. This has been the case since she was very young. Ex: until recently she didn't like drawing very much because she "can't draw like Daddy".  We had a small issue with potty training because she was so hard on herself when she had an accident that it made it mentally really difficult for her. (We recognize that about her and have been talking with her pretty much forever about just doing the best you can, it's ok to make mistakes, even mommy and daddy make mistakes sometimes, etc.) 

This past weekend I caught a glimpse of another piece of me that has handed down. This one though, I think, is my fault. It's a little embarassing and a wake up call for me.

Last weekend Eric had class, so I planned to take the kids down to Bend for the weekend. We planned to leave Friday, but had no target "leave time". As I loaded everything into the car and started hooking L in to her seat, she said, "Are we late, Mommy?" like she was very concerned. Unfortunately, this was not the first time she has asked me that and it wasn't the last. She proceeded to ask me if we were late about every 10 minutes for the first hour we drove. You know how some kids say, "Are we there yet?" Well, apparently in our house, the refrain will be, "Are we late yet?"

Over the past couple of weeks, L has been asking me pretty regularly when we get into the car if we are late. Even when we are late, I've been trying to take that as a sign to back off a bit and just relax. It's like she's holding up a mirror saying, "I can tell you are stressing out so I'm going to stress out too!" And I feel silly because 99.9% of the time, "lateness" is not a very big deal at all. But it is true, I definitely get anxious when I feel like I'm late for something.

Good lesson. Our kids pick up on more than we know, and those things sink in, sometimes more than we would probably like. I'll be working on not worrying about lateness, and just enjoying the moment instead. And also not cursing like a sailor everytime we are in the car together.

Just kidding on that last part!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I'm a Survivor

Tonight is the season premiere of Survivor. To be honest, I have no idea where they are or any details about this season, other than that apparently there is some guy who is going into the game planning to destory the food source of his own tribe so that he can swoop in and be the savior later. Or something like that.

I have a little secret and it will explain my interest in this season of Survivor.

I seriously considered applying for this season of Survivor. Multiple times I thought about what I'd say in my video. I have read that only about 10% of the people they cast on Survivor know actually apply and the rest are "LA people" (model/actresses or wannabes). Here is my serious thought: wouldn't it be refreshing to have a normal woman (not stick thin, not hideously ugly) on the show? Plus, I am a stay at home mom. I don't recall a lot of those on the show. And, if that wasn't interesting enough, my former job working with adjudicated teenagers might be a draw. Such a sweet face, but a tough personality when needed.

I researched my application plan to a small extent. I knew that this season would be filmed over the summer in the U.S. and I thought: Hey! Eric won't be working, so it would be less weird for the kids! Plus, who wouldn't love to win $1 million??

I actually got to the point of pulling up the application and requirements online, only to discover the deadline was the day before. Foiled!

But then, a couple of weeks later, I was at the gym on the treadmill and there was an ad on tv: they extended the deadline and were doing an open casting in Portland, a mere 3 hours drive away, the next day. You can imagine Eric's response when I said, "So, do you think I should take the kids to Portland tomorrow?"

In the end, I didn't apply. But if I did, I'm confident I would be competing against this season's Survivors.

Would I have won? Probably not. My near-obsession with being on Survivor is not entirely consistent with my character. I have never left North America. I am a control freak.  I tend to have problems with anxiety in unpredictable situations. I have had stomach problems my whole life that cause me to eat a basically spice-free diet. I am not very good at letting people get to know me, and am not very skilled at "making friends".

But... I'm also someone who is generally underestimated in terms of my intellect. I'm also very healthy and strong, but not intimidatingly so. I've got some extra stomach and thighs (not to mention butt!) to use as a backup energy source.

And, what an adventure it would be!!

I'll be watching tonight and sizing up my competition. Maybe I'll apply for season 20-whatever sometime, too!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

VictoriaElizabethQOC = Cool stuff

Meet my friend, Victoria. She doesn't know this, but when I refer to her I almost always call her "Babyfit Victoria", not like I know any other Victoria's that I am differentiating between. She is enormously creative and makes beautiful clothes and costumes for toddlers, on top of being a stay at home mom of 2 toddlers (both girls, with the same age span as mine) and pregnant with her third, a woman of faith and someone who desires to live a healthy life as much as possible.

I knew Victoria made little things for her daughters, but had no idea the scope until L's 3rd birthday, when she received this:

It was, without a doubt, the hit of the party! And ever since has been a top tier dress up outfit for not only L, but also for her brother...
I'm following yesterday's post with this because Victoria has made and is, I think, still making pretty cool costume sets for dress up. I'm especially liking the Clown Princess outfit!
Check out her site (link is below), and if you like what you see, drop her a line of encouragement or buy a cute little item for someone you know who loves a little dress up!
VictoriaElizabethQOC  --- Hosted by Etsy.com

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Halloween costumes, already?

It's that time of year again - preparation for Halloween. At this time last year L was obsessed with "Where the Wild Things Are", so I decided to make her a "wild thing" costume for Halloween. I grew up in a time when your parents (or you) made your costume. I have seen pictures of my own halloween costumes as a kid - I don't think I ever had one that was store bought. It made me a little sad when I was teaching 1st and 2nd grade to see that pretty much all of the kids in my class (or maybe I can truthfully say all - I don't remember) were wearing store bought costumes.

As a parent of two toddlers, I can certainly relate and don't want to judge parents who buy their kids costumes. Who has the time or energy to put into making elaborate costumes, especially when there may be more than one child to "costume" for the big day. Plus, kids change their mind every 5 minutes (at least mine do) about what they want to be. Who wants to spend a week making a lion costume only to find out that their son, who was obsessed with lions 8 days ago, suddenly wants to be a race car driver and hates lions now?

Anyway, last year I made L a "Wild thing" costume. Trust me, I looked everywhere online for a shortcut. I was really hoping someone else made a homemade costume that I could buy on ebay because their child already wore it. But I had no such luck, the time of a stay at home mom, and the necessary sewing skills.

So this is the photo I used as inspiration:

Here's what I ended up with, after about 2 weeks of work. See if you can tell which "Wild Thing" I was going for.

The problem with going all out last year is that now I feel like I really should be super creative this year for both kids. Neither one are old enough to have a consistent and definitive idea of what they would like to be. When I ask L, she answers with whatever she happens to see or be doing at that exact moment. B, of course, would like to be "car" or "shoe". I think I'm just going to decide and they are going to go together - 2 pirates, 2 animals, etc. But I need to decide now -- if I am going to sew costumes again, I need to give myself enough time to actually finish without causing myself serious stress in those final days!
If anyone has a great costume idea for a 2 and 3 year old boy and girl, I'd love to hear it!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Happy Grandparents Day... PS - You're old!

Yesterday was Grandparent's Day. L & B's grandparents may be wondering why they didn't receive anything for this special holiday. Well, there is a reason...

In the middle of last week, I started an online search for Grandparents Day related coloring sheets for my kids to color for their grandparents. At "almost 2" and 3.5, coloring sheets are just our speed and a lot easier on Mommy than trying to get them to produce some other kind of project.

Quickly, I realized I was going to have a problem. My kids' grandparents are just so darn young! All 4 are in their 50's, and definitely do not look "old". I don't think sending them a coloring sheet with a "You belong in a nursing home" underlying message would really elicit the celebratory response we were going for. And I couldn't help laughing at the suggestions of "Play bingo together" and "Visit their nursing home" as suggested Grandparents Day activities (though I don't think my parents - or Eric's - would find that as funny).

 I thought I found a winner here. Nana Sharon loves to garden, so I thought "Granddaughter-Grandmother gardening" might be a good one.

There are lots of canes and glasses in "Grandparents Day" coloring sheet world, not to mention extremely conservative clothing.

Cane: check! Glasses: check! Conservative clothing: check!
This one goes one step further, "You're old and you need a better bra."

There is just something creepy about this one.

"Your metabolism isn't what it once was, Grandpa!"

I ended up finding more generic coloring sheets and/or pages that said "Happy Grandparents Day", rather than ones with pictures of grandparents. There would definitely be a market for coloring sheets with young, fairly hip grandparents for occasions such as this.

Happy Grandparent's Day to Grandpa Barney, Grandpa Mark, Nana Sharon, Papa Sisu and YaYa!

Fabulous color sheet examples provided by:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I love fall!

I love fall! It's as simple as that. Fall is my favorite season. I am a dork and love school, so I really get into "back to school" excitement (even though I am no longer a student or a teacher). Also, the weather is what I consider ideal - crisp mornings and evenings, wind, temps that allow for being comfortable outside (or inside without air conditioning). You can't beat the fall for good sports... college football, NFL, MLB playoffs! I also love changing leaves, though for the past few years I haven't lived in places with as much color as the midwest.

Here's me standing outside of the apartment where we lived for the first year of our marriage. 
 (Nice dumpster!)

There are two bigger reasons that I love fall, though.

#1 --- Apples & Pumpkins!
Picking apples is one of my favorite fall activities. We have been going once a fall to Hood River to pick apples in the Fruit Loop.  There is nothing more fresh than an apple picked right off of a tree. Yum! I also love the adventure of walking through the trees in search of perfect apples.  Now that we have moved, we live closer to some U-Pick orchards. Hopefully we will get to go more than once this year!
An added benefit of the apple picking is that one of my other loves is making pies, so when we get home with our boxes full of apples, it kicks off a week or so of frantic apple pie baking. A fun fall tradition. This year hopefully L will be able to help me, too.
I have only in the last couple of years discovered the joys of a good pumpkin patch. There was a really beautiful one about a half an hour from our house (before we moved). I really look forward to going out as a family to pick pumpkins and just enjoy beautiful fall weather.
Last year's pumpkin patch visit
I am not very good at carving pumpkins. Luckily Eric is. Last year he got some help from L too.
#2 - Fall TV!!
This is where Eric's patience with his TV obsessed wife can grow thin. I love watching TV! And I love fall because all of the shows that I have grown to love are back! Woo hoo! Here are some that I'm looking forward to this season:
I don't usually have time to actually watch all of these shows, but if I had time (or a Tivo), I'd be all over it! Because of the unpredictable evening schedule, Eric and I don't typically watch many traditional shows - it's much easier to miss an episode of a reality show and pick up where you left off than it is in a weekly drama, except in the case of House where the thread that ties the shows together is usually pretty weak. But, this year I am going to attempt to watch Glee and Modern Family, because both actually seem kind of interesting, and because Eric has his admin classes so I can use his "work time" as my excuse to watch brainless TV!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Neighbor Boy

Earlier today, I was judged by our 5 year old neighbor boy. He lives next door and comes by 2 or 3 times a week to see if "the girl can play". The first few times it happened, Eric and I backed away and whispered to each other. "What do we say? What should we do?"

We had never been in a situation where L was invited to play with kids we didn't really know - kids who have parents we've seen but never really met, kids who sometimes play in the street! There are a lot of kids in the neighborhood who play together regularly, and it is nice that they invite L to play even though she is the youngest. The neighborhood seems to be like a throwback to when Eric and I were kids - these boys ride bikes together all over the neighborhood, run through each others houses and do similarly fun things that my 2009 mind thinks are probably too dangerous for my baby girl.

A few weeks ago, we allowed L to go next door and play in the backyard with her friend (after I insisted on meeting his parents -- you'd think they were getting married!). Occasionally I'll sit out on the porch so that L can ride bikes or scooters with him.

Neighbor Boy seems to be a really good kid. He is as polite as can be expected of a 5 year old boy, and has a lot of patience for L's 3 year old reasoning and physical abilities. He "rides slow" on his scooter so she can follow him, doesn't tease her for not being allowed to go in the street, etc.

L, riding a friend's scooter at a 4th of July BBQ
Today when we got home from church, Neighbor Boy rang the bell and asked if "the girl" could go to his house to play. I sent her over, only to have them return a few minutes later (with an adult from his house checking that it's ok) to play here. They played upstairs in the playroom while I did the dishes. This was my first experience of "I'm really glad the playroom is upstairs"! When they came back down, Neighbor Boy told me he loves to play games, and do we have any? I told him that L's games are up in her room and rattled off the handful of games that she has. He looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. "No, VIDEO games!" When I told him we didn't have any video games, he asked me why we have a PlayStation3 if we don't have any games. (Yikes!) I learned my lesson from my friend Shelly (who recently told me that she is learning to set boundaries with other kids who are in her home), and just said, "The video games we have are for L's daddy. They aren't kids games." Neighbor Boy tried to convince me to let him play the "daddy games", but I just said, "Sorry, but no."
Can you guess what happened next???

Off they went, back to Neighbor Boy's house. Before she left, I reminded L that it was close to lunch time and I'd be over to get her soon. When I went to pick her up 15 minutes later, they were in the family room, playing video games! L tells me it was "the baseball game and Neighbor Boy let me push the buttons". I can only imagine what he thinks of L now. I've seen the looks on bigger kids faces when L approaches the computer in the kids section of the library and asks kids playing computer games if she can "check her email" (i.e. mess around on the keyboard of the computer). Perhaps her lack of experience with things technological will discourage him from playing with her again, but, seriously, is playing video games the same thing as "playing together"?

It is an interesting new world for us though, things we hadn't thought much about before we moved here (and we lived in a world where our kids pretty much only interacted with other kids from families we had known for years).  At 3.5 years old, is L old enough to play outside with other neighbors? Go to their houses? How much interaction should we be having with their parents? Should we talk to her about TV and video games and our expectations around those things when she is at someone else's house (and, if so, what are those expectations???)?

It's not a serious problem, just something that comes up every now and then that Eric and I haven't found an answer for yet.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Quoting Movies

Quoting movies is only funny if the other person has seen the movie.

Eric and I watch a lot of movies. We put our Netflix money to good use and actually make it to the theater more often than most couples raising two toddlers. My taste in movies tends to be a little less mainstream, so I end up seeing movies that most other people I know have never seen (or, sometimes, even heard of). Not to say that I won't see a popular movie, I just think it's fun to seek out intelligent, well acted films that aren't predestined for commercial success.

Eric and I both are also movie quoters. He could probably recite "Dumb and Dumber" in it's entirety, for me that movie is "The Princess Bride". We're getting there with "You've Got Mail".

The problem with movie quoting is that part of the reason that quotes are funny is the context of the movie. So if I love movies that no one I know has seen, and I love the dialogue, there is no one to share it with! Last week Eric and I saw In Bruges. That movie had some great lines! They are bubbling up inside me, but I can't share them because it really is true that they aren't as funny to someone who "wasn't there".

Because I can't resist, here is one of my favorites:

Ray: Ken, I grew up in Dublin. I love Dublin. If I grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress me but I didn't, so it doesn't.

Hopefully someone reading this will have seen "In Bruges" and will laugh. I think that would excuse me from the exponential lameness of knowing what I was doing was lame, but doing it anyway!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Mission Field: Home

Recently, Eric and I were interviewed for our church's newsletter.  About halfway through, our interviewer asked, "What types of ministries and church activities are you a part of?" Deep breaths, mind swirling. Granted, we just moved here, so there was not an expectation for me to list off a series of activities and be "impressive". I actually developed such a list at our former church - it only took me about 4.5 years to get there!

I let Eric speak first and then I said it: My ministry right now is supporting my husband and raising my kids.

Somewhere inside me, there is a tiny hidden feminist that said, "Is that ALL?" My enormous inner Christian woman squashed the tiny voice right away - most of me knows that what I am doing is indeed a ministry and my "calling" in this season of my life.  But she creeps up every now and then... "Isn't it a cop out to say your mission field is your home?"

I don't know, is it?

I truly believe that God is blessing me and our family for the commitment Eric and I have both made to keep me home.  I know that the stability and love and all the rest that I provide for the kids will result in good things. I know that my role as "person behind the scenes who keeps Eric sane enough to be able to do his job well" is an important one. I guess I fall victim to the expectations of "the world", or my perception of the expectations of the world and the need to feel like other people think I'm important so that I can feel I'm important. Not every day, just on those subtle, lonely days.


During college, I spent the summers working at a really great Christian summer camp in St Charles, Illinois. Riverwoods Christian Center was the place where God first introduced me to inner city ministry, which is a passion of mine (funny, considering where I've chosen to spend my adult life). My second summer at Riverwoods, I worked as the director of recruiting. Basically I spent my 100F days with an assistant or two out in the community housing areas the camp served, giving out information about the camp and registering campers. I coordinated camper pick up and drop off, and was the contact between the families and the camp. This meant that I was gone from camp pretty much every day until dinner, and missed most of the really difficult work the other camp staff was doing.  I had one of those jobs that was essential and difficult, but entirely misunderstood by everyone else. Boy, did I grow that summer! I had a really difficult time feeling unappreciated by others around me. And the words of my supervisor come back to me often, even 10+ years later: "God is preparing you for His work - work that may not be seen by others, but is seen by Him."

So now that time has come. I am behind the scenes. The evidence of my hard work, exhaustion, frustration, dedication, love, and everything else that leaves my brain "half full" will be borne out through my husband and my children. It brings me to tears - joy and sadness, which is how it often works for me.

I am sure I am not the only one.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What could be better than cars, insects and ice cream?

Today was L's second day of school. When I picked her up, I got a flash-forward glimpse of life in upcoming years.

Me: "How was school today?"
L: "Good."
Me: "What did you do during school?"
L: "I don't know."
Me: "I would love to hear about your day when you are ready to tell me."
(about 5 minutes later)
L: "My teacher was being silly today."
Me: "What did she do that was silly?"
L: "I don't know."
Me: "What was your favorite part?"
L: "I don't know. I don't want to talk about school."

Apparently she thinks she is 13, instead of 3.

In the meantime, I got to observe the inner workings of B's mind (when he is not feeling threatened by his sister, who has a lack of boundaries and intensely covets any toy he happens to pick up).  Up first: arranging cars and trucks. He took out all of the trucks in the downstairs toy box and lined them up on the stairs. He named each one and it's approximate color as he set them down. (I say "approximate" because he's still only about 50% accuracy with color names and reverts back to "pink" when he's not sure.) Once the toys were lined up, he found all of the plastic insects and brought them to me one at a time. He thinks they are all "sy-ters" even though there is also a preying mantis, grasshopper, cricket, and ant in the collection. When I tell him the real name, he insists he is holding a "sy-ter". He will repeat that over and over until I give in and say "spider". Insects forgotten, B found a sock puppet ("glove").  We played a "fun" game: I want you to put this on my hand so that I can take it right back off and then get mad that it isn't on and cry until you put it back on again, only so that I can take it right back off.

Anyway, it was good time.

Tonight is the ice cream social at school. One of the many times that the fact that my kids go to bed very early is actually a hinderance. At "bedtime", we will be devouring ice cream with sprinkles with other BLS families, and L will be getting herself all riled up running around with her new friends. I'm not complaining, I'm just praying that Little Man will not end up having a fatigue-induced breakdown that involves me dragging him kicking and screaming back to the car.

By the way, this is day 2 of my blog and with little fanfare I already have 3 followers! Thank you, followers, for giving me a "No way!" moment this morning!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Welcome to my brain!

My brain used to be full. In addition to a pretty large brain collection of pop culture trivia, music lyrics and quotes from movies, I used to know a thing or two about sociology and education. I could hold a relatively intelligent conversation about a good number of things (steering clear of anything that falls into the enormous category of "science"). I accomplished some relatively impressive things in my career - I helped people, and I helped people who were helping people.

Since 2006, the working portions of my brain have been slowly draining away. I picture the "Days of Our Lives" hour glass. Are you picturing it? All of those "sands of the hour glass" are particles of my long and short term memory being slowly siphoned away by this...

And, more recently, this...
On a daily basis, I feel like I'm losing my mind. This week alone I have lost, spent at least an hour searching for, and eventually found: my checkbook, duct tape, car keys and my gym shoes. I wander around my house digging through trash and drawers, looking under couch cushions, lifting furniture and tearing apart my kids rooms, all the while muttering to myself about how "I am not this person". And yet, apparently I am.
This blog will be a record of the day to day life of a stay at home mom - a woman who loves being a mommy but would also like just a little bit of sanity. Welcome to my brain!