Friday, May 29, 2009

Just one more topic to add.

In the blogging world, a niche blog is one that addresses a certain theme: crafts (generally or specific, like knitting), cooking, parenting (generally or specific, like kid's activities) and pretty much anything else you can think of to Google. When starting a blog, having a niche is a good thing, because people interested in that topic will find you, and BINGO you have an audience. Like my friend Sarah - her blog is kind of niche - frugal decorating/crafting. And she is doing so well!

Then there are those of us who stubbornly take a tougher route. Not content to just write about our families for family consumption (which is a perfectly decent blogging goal, of course!) we try to write generally about our lives and hope that someone we aren't related to might be interested. I refer to us as diary bloggers. Dooce (Heather Armstrong) is one of the most famous, and I love a couple more that are rather "big" (as in their reader base), but there are probably a zillion of us little guys out there. (By the way, I haven't yet mentioned that my amazing sister waited in line for an hour to get me a personalized autographed copy of Heather's newest book! She is so awesome. Thanks, Ruthie!)

I keep thinking that my blog would grow by leaps and bounds if I could define a niche for myself and stick to it. But I love to write about different things - movies, my kids, projects, books, rants, etc. And here's one I haven't even touched on yet - home decorating! Oh, I've talked about our remodeling/painting jobs ("our" meaning "Aaron's" of course!) but that's big stuff. I'm talking about details here.

So, I took a bunch of photos today. Don't worry, you won't get it all at once. I'll sprinkle the decorating posts in throughout all the other random stuff I write about, so as to not kill off the male portion of my readership.

The two photos below are from what used to be the "formal" living room of our house, which is now called either the projector room (for Aaron's pet electronic hobby) or the playroom (for obvious reasons.) Eventually the "play" part will be in the basement, and we'll have a theater room! Anyway.

I love my gallery of wedding photos. The two frames in the first photo are from our wedding, and the saying on the wall is from Uppercase Living. Let me say this now: I did not choose the phrase lightly. Putting words on my wall is a serious undertaking for me - my house is pretty much bare of plaques and sayings. This may seem unusual for someone so full of words (and I'm not just referring to this blog!) but I think it's because I have to REALLY like those certain words to be able to look at them everyday. And a lot of saying just strike me as cheesy or cliche. So I'm not sure that my house will ever serve as a demo for Uppercase Living, but I may end up with one or maybe two more. We'll see.

The other 3 frames are photos from Aaron's brother and my sister and brother's weddings. I bought all the frames and matts (custom cut) plus one more for my other brother, at the same time to ensure that they would all match. Aaron was NOT impressed with the bill, but since they look so nice (and were all half off at Hobby Lobby) I think he's come around a bit. In each frame is a 5x7 of just the immediate family - parents + sibs, or just sibs. Below is an 8x10 of the entire family, with spouses and children. I love being able to see every day all the people I love most! (Well, except Ben - but he'll be in the one missing wedding.)

The toy storage is the Trofast system from Ikea. I labeled all the tubs with both the words and a photo of what it should contain. It's very preschool, but those teachers know a thing or two about getting kids to be independent!

And you thought we were done! The table below is in our entryway. Notice the lovely green wall? Thanks, honey!

The lamp was on clearance at Target several years ago, the runner was in the dollar aisle at Target (probably for $2 or so, go figure!) and the pots are from Mom's house. I love a little bit of Asian influence in my decorating, and you may not be able to see it here, but the flowerpots have a bamboo design on them. Perfect! Close up of the frame - which is an Everyday Display from Creative Memories. Everything is held on with those round black magnets, so it should be easy to change it, if I ever get around to it! I printed the letters out in an outline font and then cut them out - with a scissors. It was after that project that I decided to buy my very first craft knife.
So there you go! My first post on decorating. And to those of you who are following despite my scattered topics, THANK YOU! Even more thanks if you don't share my gene pool! (Family, you know I love you!)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Food...Why do my kids hate it?

Okay, obviously they don't hate ALL food. For instance, they LOVE apples and oranges, peas, carrots (esp raw), french fries, etc. There are wonderfully healthy things that either of them would eat until they were ill...these foods are not the issue.

It's the other 200 items that are that are the problem.

I have never been a particularly enthusiastic cook, and somewhere along the way this spring I stopped planning my menus and have been serving my family primarily items off my "Stand-By Meals" list. Not making things any easier for me it my children's selective appetites - why try a new recipe when chances are neither of them will eat it and I'll end up in a power struggle for 20 minutes?

So I've been reviewing my options.

Option #1: Continue as we have been, with every other dinner (or more) turning into a battle of wills: "Eat your dinner,"or "If you don't eat your chicken, you don't get more noodles," or "if you don't eat your dinner you don't get a bedtime snack."

This last threat leaves me hoping and praying they'll at least take a couple bites, because I am totally paranoid that if they don't have a snack before bed (unless dinner has been very late and they ate well) they'll wake up in the middle of the night hungry, and since they are sharing a room, this could be very bad.

Option #2: Lay down the law. "If you don't eat your dinner, you don't get snack." Period. And prepare to suffer the consequences (kids potentially waking up hungry in the middle of the night), which honestly probably wouldn't happen more than a few times. It's just that I'm getting very selfish about my sleep right now, since NOT ONLY do Leah and Ben periodically wake me up at 3:30am (ALWAYS 3:30. Must be some wicked sleep cycle business), but so does their still in-utero little brother. Lovely.

Also, with this option, where is the line drawn for "eating your dinner"? Can they just TASTE it in order to get snack? Or do they have to eat it all, or a set portion of it?

And how much snack do they get? A set amount, and if they're still hungry they can eat the rest of their dinner? Or enough to fill them up? ARGH!

I don't want to imply that my kids are incredibly picky eaters. Either of them will eat most things most of the time - but I can't predict when those times will be, and of course, if one likes something, it's practically guaranteed that the other will be hesitant. And why not? WHY ON EARTH would the fact that their sibling is eating the said dish happily mean that they might actually like it, also?! For goodness sakes, that sounds remarkably close to common sense.

Here's another conundrum: tonight we had Cheeseburger Noodle Hamburger Helper (don't judge. I'm almost 38 weeks pregnant, folks, and meal planning has not been my forte lately, as mentioned earlier). Anyway, Ben LOVES macaroni and cheese, but would NOT eat more than a couple noodles of dinner. They are almost exactly the same, one with the hamburger and the other a bit less saucy. What gives?

Experienced parents out there, please let me know what works (or hasn't worked) for you. And you folks out there with babies or no kids at all? Just you wait. You may be laughing now, but when your time comes, you will be asking ME for help, and I'll just say, "Oh, my kids were such good eaters, I don't even remember what we did!"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Time to...Review the Queue

The Queen - This movie with Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II was nominated for two Oscars (Best Picture, and Mirren winning Best Actress) and Aaron STILL refused to watch it with me. Flat out. No options available. And so, it was the first movie that I watched on my laptop while scrapbooking. Not the best situation, but better than the wrath of Aaron for holding up our Netflix queue!

I liked it - it's definitely a character study, following the Queen and Tony Blair in the week following Princess Diana's death, and how both of them tried to deal with it, both privately and publicly.

Unfinished Life - Okay, as soon as you tell anyone that Jennifer Lopez is in this movie, they tend to shut down. But really, it's pretty good. A redeeming factor is that Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman are ALSO in it. Lopez is a single mom who returns with her tween daughter to her former father-in-law's ranch (that would be where Redford & Freemen step in).

The big strength of the movie is its themes of forgiveness and redemption. And, as I told someone else, Lopez isn't playing herself this time (Wedding Planner, Maid in Manhattan, etc.).

Dreamgirls - No shocker here, but Aaron also refused to watch this one with me. Another one for the laptop and scrapbooking. Beyonce is stunning in this film, and it's easy to tell why she signed on - sooo much glamour and fashion! But everything I'd heard about Dreamgirls was about Jennifer Hudson's singing, since she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress with a resume filled with American Idol acclaim - but not even as the winner!

Anyway, she was amazing. I never would have guessed that she was such a newbie to Hollywood - and her character is pretty central, at least to the conflict of the show.

Twilight - Yeah, yeah, I watched it. I figured it was easier than suffering through the book, which I have a kind of personal boycott against. It was pretty predictable, and a little over-dramatic, but okay overall.

Quantum of Solace - WHAT the heck was the plot about? We were pretty lost. After the movie was done, we tried to piece things together and make sense of it all, but still came up a little empty. Oh well, hopefully the next Bond movie is better.

Run, Fat Boy, Run - This one starts the series of films added by Aaron without my approval. Most of them have been okay, and this one was probably one of our favorites. I especially laughed during the scene where the blister gets popped. Yeah, it's pretty much as gross as it sounds - and the blister is REALLY BIG. I felt like I got more out of the movie because of my brothers' running experience. Thanks, boys!

Rachel Getting Married - This was a rather depressing one. But interesting because it's such an intimate look at 3 days in the life of a family with plenty of issues. I liked being able to sympathize with both "sides" - Rachel, the older sister getting married, who's wrapping up a graduate degree in psychology, and her sister Kym (Anne Hathaway, in an Oscar nominated role), out of drug rehab for the weekend.

On the one hand, I can sympathize with Rachel - she's been putting up with Kym's crap her whole life, and really does deserve to have one weekend where everyone revolves around HER for a change. But on the other hand...Kym's had a WHOLE LOTTA issues, and weddings are pretty much one of the most stressful family situations - all kinds of baggage comes out under that kind of pressure, even for mostly normal families.

Henry Poole is Here- The low point in the queue. Aaron thought it was going to be a comedy, and it wasn't. Not really even the so-called "black comedy" kind, which I've never really gotten anyway. (I think it means that it's not laugh out loud funny, but also not a tragedy? That sounds right - in Shakespeare a play is considered a comedy if not everybody dies - not if it's truly funny.)

Penelope - Probably our favorite on this end of the list! Christina Ricci is so darn cute, pig nose or not. Also, I never really got James McAvoy as a romantic lead (Atonement? Never saw it, but still didn't get him in that role...) but NOW MY EYES ARE OPEN. Also, I just read that he plays Jane's love interest in Becoming Jane, which I also have yet to see. Mostly because I have a feeling I'll be watching it on the laptop while scrapbooking.

Lars and the Real Girl - Okay, yes, it's about a guy who buys a life-sized sex doll and then falls in love with her, pretending that she's real. But no, there is no perversion other than that. In fact, the doll "stays" at his brother and sister-in-law's house to make things extra chaste. It's another movie that makes mental illness a little more relatable.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Three hours of my life went into this movie. I love Cate Blanchett, and of course I don't mind looking at Brad Pitt either (even though he was really only THE Brad Pitt for about a third of the movie...). And I freely admit that I cried. Watching him physically as a kid but mentally elderly just did me in. Hormones. We'll blame it on hormones.

But as my brother Aaron pointed out, Pitt pretty much the same expression throughout the entire movie...poor guy. He never looked really elated or anything...just rather sad throughout.

This was yet another Oscar nominee, for Best Picture. It seems that this portion of our queue has been fairly recognized by the Academy - but we are still waiting for the big winner, Slumdog Millionaire. Netflix keeps telling us it'll be a "short wait" and sending us other movies - and yes, we know we could have gotten it from the video store about 3 months ago. But hey! We've been busy watching people run a marathon with 3 weeks (total!) training, girls fall in love (and lose their pig snouts!), families reconcile with each other, and a vampire fall in love with a very pale girl from Arizona. We've been busy!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Observe & Report: Facial Hair

Aaron has been growing a beard for the last several months, with the ultimate goal of joining my bearded dad and brothers at the family get-together Fargo Marathon. The beard looked good on him, really, it did!He had kind of been waiting until that event to shave it off. But, it's day has come and gone, along with the marathon. I kept waiting for it to disappear, but it didn't.
Until Sunday on the way home from church when I looked at him and realized, "You shaved off your beard!" And he was sincerely surprised that I hadn't noticed until then. And then I realized that I had actually been in the bathroom when he'd done it (albeit in the shower during most of the big work) and STILL hadn't noticed!
My only excuse was that his usual mustasche/goatee combo is so familiar to me that the beard was always the exception. Seriously, this beard has been the only different facial hair pattern since he completely shaved it off while we were dating - and that only lasted a couple of days. I pretty much didn't recognize him the first time I saw him completely baby-faced.
He was a little disappointed after shaving, however. He said that he hoped he'd look younger with the regular shaving pattern, but he said he just looked...different. Not younger OR older - so that's good, right?
Me, I'm just glad to have a smooth cheek to smooch again.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Thank you, McDonald's

Leah got a Kidz Bop CD in a Happy Meal a week or so ago, and it's all the rage at our house. If I could figure out how to upload video (something is off with the formatting of my particular videos, don't try to give me instructions unless you are here in person to experience my frustration) you'd see Leah doing her best aerobics instructor impression while dancing to "Complicated" - and watching her reflection in the fireplace's glass doors. THAT is a must, of course.

While she's pumping her arms, Ben is waving pom-poms like a mad man. And jumping on the couch.

After listening to the CD twice, Leah let Ben choose the next music, and then they had a brief argument about whether or not Veggie Tales is rock n' roll, with Ben voting yes, and Leah insisting no.

Folks, this is the first time I've heard the words "rock and roll" cross Ben's lips, much less Leah's. We have some incredibly talented marketing and a big yellow "M" to thank for that.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

List: Accomplished

I had a list of small sewing projects that I wanted to accomplish before Magnus is born. None of the items were particularly hard or complicated, which is why I hadn't tackled any of them before. It's the classic procrastinator's theme: It'll only take me five (or ten, or 30) minutes, so I can do it anytime.

Friend Lexie was coming over today with her sewing machine to do her own projects while Miss Claire (18 months old or so) was occupied with all the things that go with a house other than her own, so I decided it would be the perfect day to set to work on my list.

To prepare, I pretty much cut everything out the other day, and had all the materials at hand. By the time Lexie arrived this morning, I had the pants for Ben almost already done.

Side note on these pants: Aaron asked why, with all the baby things I wanted to work on, was I making pants for BEN? Well, I bought the fabric before his birthday and meant to make them a present. And I figured that if I didn't make them NOW, by the time I got around to it, he'd have outgrown the pattern.

Next up, blankie for Magnus. Friend Tara provided me with a perfect remnant of flannel with cute monkeys, and I found a striped flannel that would coordinate. Satin binding, by the way, is NOT a piece of cake to work with. Three of the corners I was able to fashion into an angle - but the fourth ended up just squared off...oops. I'm sure Magnus won't mind at all!

From L to R - nursing covers, blankie, hat, Ben's pants.

And before heading off to my weekly OB appointment (no change, btw!), I got started on the first of two nursing covers. Finished it later that afternoon, and while Lexie ran errands and Miss Claire tried on about 20 pairs of our shoes, I worked on the knit hat - from scratch, people. It's not perfect, but we'll see how it works. It was pretty easy, so I may try more of them in the future. The lizard/bug fabric is what Crystal of Two Peas made a swaddle pod out of for me. Matching pieces! How cute!

I can't believe it, but in one day I accomplished almost everything that I set out to - excepting the baby booties I want to try, but I don't really have the fabric for them, either. Another day, maybe.

Next week is for scrapbooking - let's hope I make as much progress in that field!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Joys of Toys: Girls

A while back, I wrote this post about boys toys. I promised I'd write another for girls, and I'm just now getting around to it. Sorry 'bout that.

Leah's current fav is Barbies. Yay. I don't really have anything against Barbies in general, since I played with them quite a bit growing up and seemed to have turned out just fine. Granted, I did a lot more dressing and styling hair than actual storytelling, but that may be because I played them far too long. In fact, my sister once told me that she remembered the day I quit playing Barbies with her. She said she asked, and I said something like, "No, I'm reading," and that was the day Peter Pan grew up. After a couple beats of "that was so sad for me", she added, "of course, you were probably about 13 years old." Um, yeah, it was probably about time.

Now, Bratz dolls I have some issues with. But they are all the same ones everyone else has, so I won't get all worked up about it here. (I can hear the sighs of disappointment out there...) By the way, those are links to older posts from random blogs - I just Googled "Bratz are evil" and took what I could get! Anyway, if you aren't familiar with reasons why I might object to Bratz (hint: THEIR NAME) just email me and I'll fill you in!

Anyway, back to toys my daughter actually has. My Little Ponies. Did you know that the whole body-image controversy has hit the Ponies? It's true. I found my old Ponies (well played with, also, I can assure you - I loved those things!) and they looked *gasp* chubby compared to Leah's newer version! Littlest Pet Shop. Those Pet Shop critters are about the cutest things ever - and will be strictly monitored once this baby becomes mobile - the accessories are about microscopic in size.

Dress Up. Leah loves to play dress up, and she got about 3 pairs of pretend high-heels to fill her dress up suitcase. I have learned that if I'm going to pick up a fun item to add to the collection, I should get at least two sets - one for her, and one for her friend. I remembered this when there were Easter gloves in the dollar aisle at Target. Too bad I didn't think of that when I found butterfly wings at the dollar store!

At the top of most little girls' wish lists are imitative play things like dolls and kitchens. Although Leah has both, it seems that she's not too interested in either. However, the toy baby stroller is a great thing. Every kid who comes into the house plays with it. Several try to ride in it.

We do have a good-sized dollhouse (a hand-me-down from a friend!) that has been a big hit. She also likes the Fisher-Price Little People sets, and the bonus there (and with the dollhouse, since I got a boy doll on Ebay) is that Ben and Leah play with them TOGETHER. Double bonus!

Maybe because of my influence, Leah has always loved puzzles and games. After all, these are things that are easy for me to do WITH her. And let's face it: I would go nuts playing dolls with her for more than 5 minutes. I honestly admire the moms who can play that way with their kids. It's not for me.

Oh, and have we mentioned BOOKS? Not that these, or puzzles & games for that matter, are gender specific at all, but they are the things that Leah leans towards. Another benefit of two kids: Leah is learning how to read, and loves to practice on... her brother! Yes, and DOUBLE yes!

I know I'm forgetting something. Hmm...Babies, Ponies, books, baby dolls....well, that's pretty much what I played with! Anyone else?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

To the graduating class of 2009

1. Get a summer job that motivates you to complete a college degree, or at least appreciate the people who do those types of jobs. My choice was a housekeeper in a hotel. Nothing like cleaning a LOT of toilets to make you never want to have to again.

2. Your GPA is like a bucket narrower on the bottom than on the top - the first couple years of college fills it up much faster than the last two. Which leads to...

3. Know your bad subjects, and don't take them all in one semester. You can even take a summer class at the community college and transfer the credits. In my case, I tried to take Spanish, biology, and College Algebra at the same time and ended up with three D's - at the same time. Not so good for that bucket of GPA.

4. Don't date anyone you'd be ashamed to have your parents meet. Also, try to avoid the kind of "how we met" stories that are too embarrassing to tell anyone..."we were both drunk and woke up on the same street corner" won't go over very well at the wedding reception.

5. If you're lucky, you'll figure out what kind of career makes you so excited that you can't wait to get started - or go back to after a hiatus. Even if it's a long shot, work towards it. Unless it's being a pro athlete or movie/music star - then I'd find something with a better success rate. And less papaarazzi.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Baby Bulletin

Okay, so I haven't talked about Magnus (that would be my almost nicely browned bun-in-the-oven) lately. Here's the update.

On Thursday I was 36 weeks pregnant (out of 40, for you non-reproducing folks out there). At our doctor's appointment, which will now be weekly, the exam revealed that the birth process has started and (stop here if you don't want personal details) I am 1cm dilated and 50% effaced. Folks, here's a translation: at 10cm you start pushing. Here's more about effacement, but you may want to be sure you're not eating before clicking that link. Just sayin'.

My hospital bag is packed and waiting by the door. It may be a bit early, but I'm kind of freaked out that contractions will start and then go too fast for me to figure out what exactly it is that I need to take with me. Kind of like this: contraction. wait 6 minutes. contraction. wait 5 minutes. contraction. EEEK! I need to go to the hospital and Aaron's at work! Send pre-typed out text to Aaron. Call Dad to come stay with the kids. Try to continue to breathe through continuing contractions. Get to hospital. Have baby 10 minutes later. Decide on a name 2 days later.

I am trying to accomplish a variety of tasks before this scenario plays out - some sewing projects (pj pants for Ben, blanket & booties for Magnus, nursing covers for me) and then I'd like to get some more scrapbooking done. I am no where close to having accomplished my pre-baby goals. But I have made some progress. Of course, I am more excited about getting started on Magnus' baby album than continuing on my established albums. In fact, just before going to bed I was actually planning out pages in my head. Sick, I know.

The nursery is somewhat ready - we bought a closet system that needs to be put up, and Aaron is insisting that we get a new dresser, since the one we've had isn't really in one solid piece. So, although, the crib is together and some decor is on the walls, all Magnus' future clothes and supplies are still in tubs scattered all over the room. NOT so inviting. But he'll be in our room anyway for the first couple of months, and his co-sleeper is all ready for him there.

Bring on the baby!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Morbid Streak Comes Out

This afternoon I was sitting at the kitchen table enjoying a couple minutes of peace and quiet reading a magazine while the kids were playing in the other room. My ears perked up, however, when I heard Leah and Ben talking about going outside.

Leah - "I'm going to put on Mommy's crocs."
Me - "What?! Why are you doing that?"
Leah - "'Cause we're going outside!" (Nevermind that that's not really why I was asking, but whatever...)
Me - "Why are you going outside?"
Leah - "To do something..."
Me - "To do what?" Every mom gets suspicious at this particular brand of vagueness.
Leah - "To kill an ant!!"

I gave up and just started laughing. She sounded so intent on her purpose, and downright bloodthirsty at the same time...

Also, on Ben's speaking advances, he has now said Leah's name a few times. In fact, today he told friend Miss Claire, " hister (sister), Eah."

Fruit snacks = hoot hacks

(I just asked Aaron what else Ben says goofy, and he said, "What does he say NORMAL?" Point taken.)

America's Funniest Videos = unintelligible gibberish ending in "oes"....
car spoon = car poon
socks= hocks

I'll have to think of more for another day. But you get an idea of the kind of interpretation that we must do on a daily basis. No "f" 's and no "s" 's at the beginning of words...substituted usually with an "H". Lovely.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Universe, sometimes it does mess with me.

This afternoon I had two simple goals: go to Target and get my hair cut. Aaron was home with the kids, and my hair appointment had been made weeks ago, so everything should go fine.


At the Target check out, I realized as the checker told me my almost-$100 total that I did not seem to have my wallet in my purse. My checkbook was there, and I tried to pay that way, but the computer asked for ID, of which I had none. I said I'd come back later to pick everything up (which, despite the price tag, consisted of a case of diapers and two bags...grr.) and headed home to check for my wallet before going to my hair appointment.

At home, there was no sign of my Very Important Item, but Aaron did not seem the least bit distressed by this. I was verging on hysterical, and asking if we should be checking our credit card statements, because the last time I remembered having it was Thursday. Which Aaron was amazed by, and wondered HOW ON EARTH I'd managed to not buy anything for ALMOST A WEEK?

Just as I was heading out the door with Aaron's credit card, I spotted the VII - just a corner of it poking out of the library bag, where I'd stuck it on Monday, thinking maybe I'd have to pay some fines. Duh. Broke the routine, and there you go. Stuck at a big box store looking like a moron.

Off I go to the salon. Except, I don't see my stylist's name on the door as usual, and since I haven't been in to see her in almost a year, I'm a little concerned. Inside, they give me the name of the building that she's in now, but no salon name. Fortunately, I'm a bit ahead of schedule, so I cruise on to downtown to try to locate Miss Tammy. Inside the designated building, I check 7 floors looking for the only salon that I know to be there - and find it totally locked, with no one answering the phone.

At this point I've already called Tammy's phone several times, and I'm about ready to cry, thinking that I'm not going to be able to get my hair cut before the baby comes. Wahhh!

After a few more calls, and about 20 minutes later, Tammy called me back apologizing for forgetting to tell me she'd moved. Which, really, I completely understand, since at least 2 ladies have gone to our old house after I forgot to mention our move. Oopsies.

Turns out Tammy has gone independent! She has her own little salon, just her, and is loving the freedom. I ended up being late getting home, with the delayed start on my hair and stopping back at Target for my stuff, but the afternoon ended up with goals accomplished, and we even got to the grocery store after dinner.

So go ahead, Universe. Dish it out - I can take it.

(wait - did I just SAY that? At 36 weeks pregnant? Omygoodness I'm insane.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pink & Green Swapped

My friend Sarah over at Blue Castle helped arrange a swap based on the & green. My sister would have recognized this as the perfect color combination for me, since, as she reminded me this weekend, I subjected her to being surrounded by that particular color combination for most of her childhood. We shared a room, and what can I say? I was five years older and got dibs on the decorating. Our twin quilts were dark green and pink, and the walls were covered with cat/kitten posters. I told her it could have been worse....they could have been UNNATURAL cat posters, like Angela's on The Office or something.

Anyway. Some of you may be wondering what exactly a swap is. Swaps are kind of like a Secret Santa at your office combined with a pen pal - you fill out a little survey about your fav snacks and whatnot, then someone pairs you with another person. Instead of exchanging gifts over the course of a week or so, in an online swap you send a box of those little presents. Usually the swap has a spending limit, and this particular one leaned on the side of including some handmade goods, since Sarah's blog is full of those kind of ideas.

My swap parter was Emily, of Made By Haigh. She is from Arizona, so it's been kind of fun to read about things from an entirely different climate zone - like hummingbirds in her garden, for instance (on the towel). Or home grown lettuce in April. JEALOUS.

Here's what she sent me:

Hershey Hugs, a hummingbird kitchen towel, Arizona playing cards (whist, anyone?:), bath salts, a journal for moms to write to their kids, and two handmade zippered pouches.

First of all, I love white chocolate. SCORE on the Hugs. The bath salts may encourage me try out our tub for the first time - I'm not really a bath person, but I think it would be great for my sore back right now. The book is also excellent, because instead of just being a journal, as I expected, it has a prompt on each page - how awesome is that for me, because I truly cannot journal unless given a topic - blogging not excepted. Some of those prompts may turn into blog posts!

And last, but most certainly not least - I don't think Emily knew this at all, but I completely LOVE zippered pouches, and am rather picky about them. These two are great sizes and will be so handy in my diaper bag, since I'm going to try to go without an additional purse for the first time EVAH. Thank you, thank you, Emily. I love it all.

Now hopefully Emily will post a photo of what I sent her, since I forgot to take a photo of it myself. Duh.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Kind of Like Christmas.

You know how at holidays your whole family gets together, maybe for the only time that year? Well, that is what the Fargo Marathon has become for MY family. This Christmas, for various reasons, only my sister and her husband were able to join us, and while we love them and all (and kind of enjoyed having them all to ourselves, to be honest...shhh!) it didn't really seem the same to be missing both of our brothers and their awesome wives.

This year both brothers (Dave and Aaron), sister Ruth, and sister-in-law (Aaron's wife) Kate all ran the half-marathon. They have all done at least one full marathon, but decided this time that they'd rather spend the day after the race visiting than recouping.

The day of the race was chilly, about 40 degrees, but thankfully not windy. The starter's gun went off at 8am, and since my brothers are running studs, we pretty much had to be at our first viewing area (mile 2) about 10 minutes later to be sure to catch them! You can tell from the photos that we bundled the kids up really well, digging out their winter coats and hats to ensure a minimum of whining. Dad's cousin Laura opened up her house, which was strategically located just 2 houses up from mile 2, and because of the looping course, also mile 12 - and only 2 blocks from mile 10. So we got to see all four runners 3 times, and then they were done! It was awesome. Especially for the kids - not too much waiting around or delayed gratification. And lots of opportunities for me to take cheesy photos!

You can tell from the smiles and upheld arms that the runners were feeling good - everyone ended up happy with their runs.

Brother Dave is below in the red hat - he placed 20th overall in the half marathon. Brother Aaron is in the other photo - he finished 30th overall, and his magnificent beard didn't prove to slow him down too much.

Can't forget photos of the bystanders! Baby David got to cheer on his daddy from the cozy comfort of his stroller for most of the morning, but we saw Dave coming from a distance the third time, so mommy Jess was able to get him out in time.

Leah tried to make Grandpa DJ go deaf by ringing the cowbell in his ear for a good portion of the race.

Mom, Aaron, Ben and I, Jess and Jess's mom Kelly made up our little huddle of cheerers.

Ruth tried to fake us out - at mile 10, she was wearing a grey long sleeve shirt, which is what we were watching for. But by mile 12, she'd taken it off and was in light green. We almost missed her!

Kate is in the olive green in the other photo, waving at us. She loves running in the cooler weather, and had a personal best time. Gooo, Kate!

We were fortunate to see our old friends Ryan & Sarah and their boys. Ryan ran his first ever marathon, and got a round of applause from my family. In case you can't read the boys' shirts, they say "My dad is THE MAN." Talk about support! We saw Ryan run by at mile 2, but missed him later on. Sarah has their story at her blog, Blue Castle.

And last night found the whole gang (minus Jess and baby at our house for homemade pizza and Guitar Hero: World Tour.

Every family has their own holiday traditions, after all.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

To Buy or Not to Buy?

Here are a couple of indisputable facts:

Fact 1: My last child was a boy, and the next baby is also a boy.
Fact 2: This child was born at the beginning of April, and this baby is due at the beginning of June - 2 short months apart.

Here's one more indisputable fact: I have bought additional clothes and baby supplies for this baby.

WHY? I talked to a friend today who is also expecting her second boy, also due within a couple months of her first's birthday, and due a week or two before me - she hasn't bought any additional clothing.

I found myself trying to justify my expenditures: Some of what Ben wore was too stained to put on another child. A few items I never liked anyway, and at least one outfit is being sold in the same style in which I bought it - at a garage sale. It was too boyish for Leah, and too girlish for Ben - out it goes. And surprisingly, some things won't make the seasonal difference. After all, we can be optimistic and hope that June will be much warmer than April, right?

I guess I feel the need to get some new things for my newest baby because I want him to feel special and unique, not just a carbon copy of his brother. Isn't that ridiculous? Kind of, I think, but also not, because I've seen how much my kids look at their baby albums. Not that this is a make-or-break issue for therapy, but I think there is something to be said for looking at photos of yourself as a baby and just seeing all your brother's clothes.

It may be completely subconscious, but wouldn't you feel better knowing that your mom got certain items just for you?
Well, baby #3 can rest easy knowing that his mommy bought these outfits just for him. Well, that and for myself. Because I like buying cute clothes and dreaming about putting them on another cute baby, whose personality I'll get to see unfold in the upcoming years.

Sorry about the sideways-ness. Not my fault. But can you tell I like monkeys? Also, dinos and froggies.

Here's an evil little secret about my selections, though: I have already purchased the scrapbook and kit for Magnus's baby album, and the color scheme is browns and blues - so guess what I've been leaning towards? The green is just so that I don't feel like I'm dressing my child to match my paper supply. It's all a decoy.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Hark! It's spring!

1) Aaron is mowing the lawn.

2) There are robins in our yard so fat that they look like they may fall off the fence posts. Aaron says they stake out the end of the sump pump hose to catch the worms that bathe there. Smart birds.

3) Bikes and sidewalk chalk.

4) I'm plotting ways to make a sheet hung over the kids' window NOT look like a sheet hung over their window. 6:30am is too early for them to be awake.

5) Gymnastics and dance are wearing out their welcome. We want to play OUTSIDE, not in!

6) Kids are living in mock Crocs again. Seriously, those shoes look ridiculous on adults, but are a parent's dream shoe.

7) And finally...I have parents requesting me as a tutor. Here's the story.

When Leah was a baby and we lived practically next door to a high school, I decided to do some tutoring, and enjoyed helping two young men get themselves organized academically. I put myself on the list of possible tutors at that school, but no other situation worked out. Also, I was soon pregnant with Ben, and then the time commitment didn't seem so appealing.

Since then, it seems that every spring I get a few phone calls or emails from parents (hardly ever the student themselves...hmmm) wondering if I will tutor their child in Algebra or Geometry. And they are from various schools in the area, not just the one I worked through. I have a couple of problems with these requests:
A) I haven't even been INTERESTED in tutoring for several years.
B) They are always for algebra or geometry. ALWAYS. And I, of course (see previous post on my bookshelf organization), was an English teacher. Not very helpful, even if I WAS interested.
C) Parents, dear, sweet, desperate parents, let me tell you something right now. IT IS MAY. Your child has less than a month left of school, and you are looking for a tutor NOW? The time for this was back in March, at the latest. At this point, you may as well face it: He/she is going to fail. Or at the very least damage their GPA.

Now, aren't you glad you're not in high school anymore? I get shivers just thinking about finals and grade point averages. I much prefer bare feet on the green grass. Bring spring on!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

My Bookshelf

Lately it seems that everyone is asking me how I'm doing, in that overly concerned voice that makes me kind of crabby. Maybe because it's mostly coming from my mom and mother-in-law, the two women who I most want to think of me as capable, not fragile. I finally told Mom the other day that if everyone is so worried about me overdoing it at home, they should hire me some housekeeping help!

Well, today I think DID finally overdo it. This afternoon (morning was Bible study time with friends) I did 3 or so loads of laundry, cleaned 2 bathrooms, and vacuumed the upstairs (3 bedrooms and those 2 bathrooms). I also finally got most of the extraneous stuff moved out of our bedroom and back into either the kids' or baby's room. Ahhhh. The bedroom is almost just ours again - at least for another 4 weeks or so, when Mr. Magnus moves in!

My reward to myself for getting all that done was finally unpacking my books into the bookshelf that has been ready and waiting for several months.

I am sooo excited to have this little reading area in our bedroom - which I'll never use, because I'll read where Aaron is, and we hang out downstairs. But it's still a little peace of calm for me, just to know that if I really wanted to, I could curl up here and select any old book.

(Those would be 2 cardigan sweaters and a blanket draped over the back, not dirty laundry. I save the dirty stuff for the floor of our closet.)

And what books would be on these shelves? Well, that was kind of the reward part - I love sorting through and organizing these old friends. All the adolescent lit. is in it's own shelf in the basement, and there are various bookshelves on the main floor with different books, mostly the larger hardcovers. But these are the ones I've read, and reread. Most of them, anyway - I would say generally the top 2 shelves, and some of the bottom shelf.

If you really want to see all the titles, you could probably enlarge the photo or something, but I'll tell you that there is quite a few Agatha Christie, a few volumes of Miss Jane Austen (the full collection is downstairs), The Good Earth trilogy (did you know there were 3 of them?!) and another more famous trilogy - The Lord of the Rings.

And yes, I did get rid of a fair number of books, too - some that I've picked up at garage sales without knowing anything about them, others that are duplicates, and a few that I read but just wasn't that impressed by. And I finally gave myself permission to not have read anything by D.H. Lawrence or Moby Dick. And that, my friends, is a load off my bookshelf.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Birthday Girl

My baby turned 5 years old yesterday. How did that happen? 5 years ago- also a Sunday- I was sitting on my couch grading my last batch of essays. I had the thought that I was really leaving these until the last minute - I mean, what if I went into labor a week early? Ha ha, right?

But no, about 10pm contractions started and I got no sleep for the rest of the night. Neither, really, did Aaron. At 7am we headed to the hospital, and I refused the wheelchair ride up to the OB ward. Instead, I decided to completely freak out some poor resident by riding up the elevator with him, breathing through contractions the whole way. I'm sure he was thrilled.

Thank goodness my lovely midwife allowed me to have an epidural at 8cm dilation (that's out of 10). Unfortunately, Leah was establishing her independence and chose the most difficult position for her attempt at birth - facing up and diagonal. After some finagling by the OB on call, she was straight up (which is still NOT a fun birth position) but then she turned herself- in the birth canal- to be in the normal position. The doc still guided her out with a vacuum, but I don't remember any of the famous cone-headedness that usually accompanies a vacuum birth. All I remember is being so grateful that she was finally with us, and that she was perfect.

So our little girl is five years old. Earlier this year I thought I had her convinced that she would have a My Little Pony party. It would be great! I thought. I would do a horseshoe cake - easy and fun! - and I love the Ponies. Buuut, no. She decided she wanted to have a "dress-up" party. Exactly how that would be different from her princess party last year, I wasn't sure...but she insisted that instead of coming already dressed as princesses, they would bring their dress up stuff and get dressed here. "And," she repeated several times, "if they don't have any, they can use some of mine." So generous of her!

The upside of this non-commercial birthday theme is that when we were shopping for plates and napkins, she said she didn't need stuff with characters on them, and was totally fine with my suggestion to just pick out some pretty ones instead. We found lovely ones in the clearance aisle at Hobby Lobby.

The party was at 2:30pm Sunday afternoon. 4 friends joined us, and we had probably the most laid-back children's birthday party I've ever attended. The girls dressed up and played for about 45 minutes, then we did a little dress up relay game:

During this relay game, I realized that 5 year olds really don't have much of a clue what relays are. In this one, a girl from each team ran up to the pile of accessories, put on shoes, jewelry, some kind of hat, and a shawl, took them off, then ran back to her team.

We had the girls dress up their fanciest (mostly from Leah's stockpile) for the group photo:

And then it was on to the treats! I've decided that each birthday kid should be entitled to a photo with their parents - no sibs allowed for this one. Well, Ben was in his post-nap funk, and wouldn't be soothed by anything but direct parental attention. In the photo below, he is actually laying across Aaron's lap, by his own volition, and then I kind of moved the cake to cover him. Sweet, huh? (By the way, thanks again to friend L, one of the moms, who stayed to assist with the party. I had a feeling that Aaron would be preoccupied by our darling son.)

The dress Leah is wearing is her favorite "dress-up" piece - and it's a nightgown (shh!) I got at a garage sale. She calls it her Ariel dress, and I call it better than a bikini.

I wanted to make things a little fancy for the dress-up party, so I tried these petit-fours from Family Fun magazine. They looked cute, but were more time intensive than anticipated. It probably didn't help that both Ben and Leah were watching over my work. So. Much. Fun.
We also had little raspberry Italian sodas with the cakes. So pretty!
Then it was FINALLY time for presents, which Leah made sure to remind me about several times over the weekend. As in, "Mommy, when do I get to open my presents?" kind of reminders.
Leah saying thank you to Addie - yes, this is their usual style of hugging. Impressive, huh?

Apparently Addie set the standard for How to Hug Leah. If you ever questioned how much smaller Leah is than her friends, this should illustrate it for you: They could all pick her up.

After the girls headed home, we took Leah outside and showed her the "big" gift: A two-wheeler bike! She is getting the hang of it - helping with the motivation is that pal Addie has been riding her own two-wheeler to our house for an entire year already. They are a princess biker gang, for sure. The neighborhood will never be the same!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

My childhood arch enemy

For a couple of years in elementary school, I had a beautiful, popular relative in the same class. Lucky me! Um, not so much. Here's the list of reasons for my continued grudge:

1. One day in class, for some reason all of us girls were given these lovely flower stickers - remember sticker albums? Yeah, I had one! Anyway, they were pretty big, and really pretty. Miss Relative came over to me and asked to trade, and I did, just because I was so thrilled to be recognized by her, and because I thought that she was involving me. Well, as soon as we traded, she turned and yelled to one of the other beautiful, popular girls "Hey Jessica! WE HAVE THE SAME STICKER!" Nice.

2. I was at her house swimming one day, when she was having a sleepover in the near future. At one point, she took the opportunity to casually mention that she hadn't been planning on inviting me, but that her mom said that she should. What's really remarkable about this is that I remember just nodding, and not being surprised or upset or anything!

3. One day at recess, I saw all the girls getting into a circle, with Miss Relative motioning them all to move closer. As I went up to them, I heard her say, "I have a secret to tell you!". And then when she saw me, she said, "No, not you Lyz". THAT one hurt.

I really should be over this. And I am. Hold a grudge? Who, ME?

Friday, May 1, 2009

My wedding dress is a waste of space.

Let's be honest here. Truly, it's only value is sentimental, and even that's only to me. My husband insists that it's the most worthless thing we've moved (three times) and I sincerely doubt my daughter will want to wear it. But I loved it, and how CAN you get rid of the most expensive piece of clothing you've ever purchased? That's just plain silly. I mean, you never know when you need a white dress with a full tulle skirt, right?