Monday, January 31, 2011

Fresh Squeezed Juice!

A couple of weeks ago, a friend gifted me a bag of oranges that she had purchased from her co-worker's child. She figured (correctly) that we would find a use for them. As I prepared dinner one evening, I set the little people to work first rolling the oranges around to soften them up, and then juicing them. Yes, it was a mess, but wow was that juice delicious!


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Never in Ten Years? Really?

Helen attended a friend's birthday party last weekend and it was tons of fun, well, until this one incident happened. The party consisted of a guy bringing a "touch tank" where kids could see all sorts of marine life up close, and then hold it. Can you guess what the incident is?

Helen was having a blast until she was handed a fiddler crab. The fiddler crab proceded to pinch her hand, which resulted in her attempting to shake it off, which only made the little bastard more determined to hold on, which caused Helen to scream so that everyone in the room could know the indignity she was suffering.

The guy who handed Helen the crab of course apologized, and then informed Ed this hadn't happened in ten years.

I didn't attend the beginning of the party because Connor had diving lessons. By the time I got there, Helen was pure legend as Ed, Helen, and several other parents related the story. Apparently Helen's response to the crab dampened the other children's enthusiasm for that portion of the party. Which, as it turns out, was perfectly fine since the guy was pretty much done and it was cake time.

So what I want to know...was this really the only time this has happened? Or is this just how this extremely popular entertainer escapes the clutches of a bunch of 3 year olds?

Not surprisingly, a piece of cake solved all!

This photo has nothing to do with this story, as you might guess, but I couldn't resist posting a photo from Helen's most recent tea party.


P.S. Happy Kansas Day!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Homemade Friday: Week 3

I realize this is actually week 4, but last week I was busy complaining about being in the hospital for an enormous kidney stone, that is now, thankfully - out of my body. Fortunately for you, I cannot share a photo of my impressive sized stone because in order to remove it, the doctor had to play Asteroids on my insides and pulverize the sucker. (And, for those keeping score, trying to pass a 7mm kidney stone is like having back labor for a week and making little to no progress and not getting a baby at the end, making it far inferior to the pain that goes with birthing a baby. So, I'm calling it now. The pain from kidney stones is worse than the pain from labor - at least one this large. I'm still thinking if it were smaller I could've passed it without having to go under general anasthesia. I hope I never have to find out though.)

Anyway, this week I'm sharing four wee people that I made for Helen and Connor, along with instructions for making Wee People - mostly because I looked all over for instructions and couldn't find them easily.

On the first and third days of Christmas, I gifted Connor and Helen each a "wee person". I purchased a few of these at the school's annual Fall Festival a couple of years ago, but then two of them got lost in the great backpack caper of 2009. So, I'd been meaning to replace them for a while.

I made these wee people by bending a pipe cleaner into the shape of a body. For two of them, I then wound embroidery floss around the pipe cleaner which actually takes an enormous amount of time and patience. Plus, it's hard to cover up all that fuzz from the pipe cleaner. For the next two, I took a shortcut and rather than winding floss around the pipe cleaner, I simply found some beads that could serve as hands and feet and glued them on.

The heads are made from round wooden beads I found in the craft store that have holes drilled through  them. Simply pop the beads onto the neck and then find some sort of head covering so the wee person doesn't look as if it has a hole in it's head. After completing the basic form, I then cut out felt clothes, sewed them on and voila! Here are four wee people enjoying residence in a little fairy house the kids play with.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow Day!

Today, Ed spent most of the day outside playing with the kids while I worked from home. Because my office? It never closer. Never. But Ed's office? Even when the rest of the federal government manages to open, his office appears to play it safe and cancel business anyway. I'm licking my wounds of having to work today pretending that it just means my job is more important than Ed's. Even though I know it's not.

But what's good for Ed is good for the kids. They went sledding and discovered that there is sledding on every street near us - yay hills and side streets! Then they played in the backyard, and finally I couldn't resist all the fun and came out with my camera when they moved to the front yard. Only, it appears I was neither wanted nor needed.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Spread the Word! Free Lymphedema Sleeves for Low-Income Women

Last January, my former nanny - Rani - died from breast cancer that had metastasized to her brain. As mentioned on this blog earlier, she was uninsured, and received much treatment and care - but all of it was just too late to change Rani's outcome.

I've had the opportunity to learn more about insurance and breast cancer in the intervening year, and what I've learned most recently is that some breast cancer survivors will suffer from lymphedema - painful swelling of the arms. And sometimes, the appropriate medical treatment is for them to wear a lymphedema sleeve.

Only these sleeves aren't often covered by insurance.

And this means that if you happen to have the double whammy of not being well-off AND getting breast cancer, you might not be able to actually get this medically necessary lymphedema sleeve, because it's expensive. Had Rani survived, this would have been the case, unless someone purchased them for her.

You can read more about the issue here.

So, Susan from ToddlerPlanet got together with Sue from Laundry for Six, and together they put LympheDivas (maker of cool-looking lymphedema sleeves that Susan wears) in touch with Crickett's Answer (charity that pays for services for women with breast cancer) and now there's a way for low-income breast cancer survivors to get free lymphedema sleeves.

If you know anyone who you think might need these sleeves, please have them get in touch with Crickett's Answer. I've been told there are hundreds of sleeves waiting to be shipped out to women who need them.

If Rani were alive today, this is something she most definitely would've benefited from. I'm sure there are more women just like her out there. Let's find them!


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Strangest Night of My Life: Health Care, a Kidney Stone, and more!

As mentioned, I went ice skating last Sunday with the little people, followed by skiing the next day. Only, I didn't really ski because I spent my time passed out in the lodge in lots of pain. The pain came and went in waves, until finally, on Thursday, I called my primary care physician.

Only, even though I am part of the insured elite with one of those really great federal health insurance plans, I couldn't get in. Apparently - and I did not know this - if you don't see your primary care physician at least once every three years, they dump you. Because I go to my midwife for all my well-women care, and I am rarely sick enough to require a doctor in my zip code, I don't go to a primary care doc. Instead, I call my brother-in-law's excellent diagnostic phone service. And here, I should mention, if my brother-in-law regrets becoming a doctor, it is totally my fault because I am always calling him for free medical advice. If he's not immediately available, my sister tells me what to do because being married to a doctor is just about the same as being a doctor - or at least she thinks so.

Anyway, on the advice of my brother-in-law, I went to the ER. And actually, I went to the Urgent Care clinic first because I felt guilty about going to the ER, even though my brother-in-law told me that my problems needed to be attended to in the hospital, not a clinic. (Apparently I don't always take his advice.) The urgent care clinic sent me to the ER. See how smart my brother-in-law is?

After arriving at the ER with book in hand and a full bottle of water, I settled in to start reading. It was, unfortunately for me, a busy night. I finally got seen by a doctor and after I spent a few minutes apologizing for being in the ER and explaining how I didn't have a primary care doctor, blah, blah, blah, the doctor spent a few minutes apologizing for my wait. Of course, I was all - hey - I'm a mom of two. I haven't sat and read a book cover to cover in years. This was the most relaxing night of my life.

Well, at least after they loaded me up with pain meds it was relaxing. About this time, Ed called me to tell me a stabber was loose in our neighborhood, so he was locking the door and I should be careful when I came home. Yes, he was totally calm about this. I had visions of being stabbed in my driveway looking for my keys because my jerk husband decided to lock the door so he could go to bed while I sat in the ER.

One CT scan later and with three prescriptions and a referral to a urologist in hand, I was released from the ER with the knowledge that I had a 7mm kidney stone. For the record, most people complain about a little 2mm or 3mm stone. So, mine is like the mother of all stones. The ER doc couldn't believe I'd made it so long before coming in, until I informed him I gave birth at home and had a pretty decent pain threshold.

I went to the 24 hour pharmacy, and my night got even weirder. On my mind, of course, is the knowledge that there is a stabber loose in my neighborhood. I pulled up to a very empty area of the pharmacy parking lot that was well lit and glanced around to see if there were any people between my car and the front door.

All Clear.

So I got out of my car and immediately, a guy called out to me - and he was on the passenger side of my car and here is where I about lost it completely. Because, uh, stabber? Hello? He told me a long story about his dad and a heart attack and Raleigh and I have to admit, I wasn't thinking that clearly, so I asked him if he was trying to get directions to North Carolina because I really am not good at directions.

No, no directions needed. He needed gas money. At this point he was within a few steps of me and it was so strange, and nothing added up, so I reached in my wallet, gave him $20 and figured he would leave me alone and I would live to tell the story. (Which I have, obviously.) Only, he then asked me who else I knew in the neighborhood that he could get money from and I looked at him and said "It's midnight, dude. People are sleeping." And he explained to me that he needed a tank and a half of gas and I actually stood there for a minute trying to figure out how many miles away Raleigh, North Carolina was and tried to then convert my $20 into gallons of gas, and then convert that into miles he could drive, to see how close he'd get, only I have no idea how far away North Carolina is, nor do I know how much gas costs because Ed's job is to fill the gas tank, not mine!

Anyway, the strange parking lot guy kept asking me for advice, and I was busy performing math in my head and finally I sputtered out  - "Why don't you get in your car and start driving?" and I high tailed it into the pharmacy, after assuring him that I was not going to give him my name and address because he really did not need to pay me back and if he felt he must, he should just donate the money to a needy organization.

Once inside the pharmacy, I replayed the conversation a few times, and it kept making less and less sense until finally I decided that he would be standing outside the pharmacy, ready to murder me and take my prescription drugs and money. And now, rather than being a helfpul gas-money giver, I was actually an ENABLER of some bad drug habit, which made me feel really guilty. So I thought about calling Ed and waking him up to ask him to come escort me the 15 feet from the front of the pharmacy to my car, only then another customer was leaving and I just pretended like we were best friends and tailed it out with her, but not before putting all but $5 in my front pocket and tucking my drugs safely away because I somehow convinced myself that maybe I would just get mugged instead of murdered, and this way it wouldn't be so costly.

I got to my car, drove the few blocks home, and then once again sat in the car and looked around for the on-the-loose stabber and cursed Ed because he actually turned the lights in the driveway off before he went to bed. The man leaves lights on all day long when he is not even in the house, but manages to turn them off after alerting me to the fact that a stabber is on the loose in my neighborhood. Go figure.

Somehow, I evaded capture, and tried to relate this all to Ed when I got home about how lucky he was that I was still alive, and by the way, I'm having surgery in a few days for the mother of all kidney stones, and the next morning? He remembered nothing.

Tomorrow is the big day that that little stone will be lasered out. Ed will actually bring me home this time, so I don't have to worry about strange encounters in the pharmacy parking lot and stabbers on the lam in my neighborhood.

And that's why I didn't post anything for homemade Friday this week. It shall return next week - and it might just be a picture of my kidney stone!


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Don't Mess with Ed's Kids

Typically, Ed avoids confrontation. Except when he decides to stick up for his children.

On Monday, as Ed walked up the bunny slope and Helen rode up on the magic carpet, two boys immediately behind her decided to toss snowballs. At some point, the game became more energetic, causing one kid to fall on the other, which almost knocked Helen down.

Ed looked at the two boys and said "if you knock her over, I'm getting you thrown off this mountain".

My advice? Don't mess with Ed's kids.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Putting 2 and 2 Together

Weeks ago, Ed was at the hardware store with Connor and he purchased a couple of large pieces of wood that he told Connor he planned on using to make a table.

Yesterday, Connor and Ed were making miniature furniture for his fairy house and Connor asked if they could abandon that project and instead turn to the project of making a big table.

Ed was caught totally off-guard. He had to explain to Connor that those two pieces of wood were what his new train were on. Connor paused, took in the information, and then asked Ed "but how did Santa know to use those pieces of wood for my train table?".

Ed shrugged his shoulders and said "I don't know. I guess he just found them sitting around in the workshop."

Bets, anyone, on when the jig is up at this house?


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Selecting Heroes: Young Mandela - The Revolutionary Years, a From Left to Write Book Club Selection

Selecting a hero can be a dangerous thing, especially - it often seems - if that person is a public figure. I know, there are plenty of good guys and gals out there, but I feel like when I bother to watch the news, it's loaded with stories of famous people's indiscretions. I could list many, but I'm not going to. That would only draw more attention to the acts or serve as a reminder of a string of disappointments in my life. And seriously, just because you can catch a football or hit a golf ball, or wax poetic about particular causes better than anyone else, doesn't mean you automatically possess other characteristics that are admirable.

I have always hoped my children would choose people they actually knew to look up to. Be it a teacher that helped them in a particular way, a friend's parent that said the right thing at the right time, or a relative that leads their life in a way my children admire. They might even choose that really smart kid sitting across the aisle from them in class, someday. It seems like these folks are safer bets for role models - and not just because they can be vetted a bit before taking on any mythical proportions. But likely, because these folks are living ordinary lives, doing possibly extraordinary things, paving the way for my children to emulate their actions.

I was excited to pick-up the book "Young Mandela: The Revolutionary Years". I slogged through it diligently getting lost in the details often. But in the end, I had trouble wrapping my head around whether I was supposed to be excited learning about Mandela opening up his first law practice that primarily served black South Africans, excited about Mandela's insistence on the anti-apartheid movement involving people from all races, or if I was supposed to be disappointed that the man had several indiscretions and seemed to basically ditch his first wife. In the end, I reminded myself that I am often disappointed by the behavior of famous men and women, who seem to let power get to their head and forget about some points of common decency. And now I wrestle with how the information in this book relates to my images forever burned in my head of Nelson Mandela - freedom fighter.


Disclosure: I was given a free copy of the book Young Mandela: The Revolutionary Years, by David James Smith. As part of the From Left to Write Book Club, I wrote a post inspired by this book.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Taking Advantage of a 3-Day Weekend - And More Cupcakes!

As I sit reflecting on the events of the few days, it's not hard to realize why I'm exhausted.

Helen and I kicked off our weekend on Friday at Bittersweet Bakery in Alexandria, VA to check out some more cupcakes in the area. I had an expired coupon good for a dozen cupcakes, which I hadn't used on time because when I went to the store the last time (on the day the coupon expired) they were literally locking their doors 30 minutes early and had NO CUPCAKES. I tapped on the glass and the guy locking up told me they had nothing for me, but said if I came back anytime before January 15, they'd honor the coupon.

So...on January 14 (apparently procrastinating is my theme with this bakery), I presented my coupon only to have them tell me it was expired. Yes, I realized that. So they told me they'd give me six - which wasn't actually a deal since I had paid half-price for a dozen to get the coupon. So I told them, no, I want a dozen. And then I explained my story, and eventually the line was long enough that they gave me my cupcakes. Helen was excited to go to the bakery because we've been going to the coffee shop on Friday mornings during the time between when we drop Connor off at his class and when Helen's class begins. She adores the coffee shop, but was very excited to do "that thumbs up thumbs down thing again". (The method by which we rate cupcakes in this house. And let me assure you, though it's been since August that we played this game, there have been many, many cupcakes consumed since then.)

Saturday, I took the kids swimming while Ed primed and put much of a first coat of paint in our bedroom. No photos from this event, because I was the only adult and I'm not so irresponsible as to leave my kids to fend for themselves in a crowded pool when one of them cannot actually swim yet (though she thinks she can - which actually increases the danger factor a bit).

Sunday, we went ice skating. Nobody was excited about this except Connor. But, Ed had told him we'd go, so we went. And you know what? We had a blast. The ice skating rink at Pentagon Row was a ball. Connor and Helen cruised around with buckets in front of them, along with some assists from parents. My friend Laurie had recommended this place earlier. She was totally right. They had teeny-tiny skates for rent and the skates had double blades, making them A LOT easier for kids to control. I wouldn't have minded a pair for myself, actually, but instead I just borrowed a helmet and crossed my fingers.

I helped Helen, knowing my back would pay. She prefers to go fast!

By the end, Connor could actually skate just loosely holding one of my hands.

Even Helen could get around a bit on her own, though she kept getting stuck in the slightest of bumps on the ice.

Monday was our big ski day. We headed out to Ski Liberty to use up part of a gift certificate that Ed's parents gave us for Christmas. On the way, my back started hurting. I figured this was payback for Sunday, and didn't think much of it. I had no idea that in a couple of hours, I would be completely useless to Ed as he herded Connor and Helen both down the mountain - even using the chair lift or "swing" as Helen called it! I spent my time being completely incapacitated by some bizarre, yet relatively quick, illness. I'm blaming Dunkin' Donuts and some sort of cross contamination, but I have no proof of this. It was an ugly way to end the weekend, but now I appear nearly completely recovered, about 10 hours after the initial attack.

Off to bed to get ready for the work week. I'll be sleeping in a now beautiful bedroom, thanks to Ed and his sweet paint job. I was mostly moral support in the effort, painting a few edges where needed. I consider it warm-up for the bathroom redo!


First Impressions Are So Important

Helen seems to have mastered a very important lesson early in life. First Impressions Matter. It's something that I know well, but don't always follow. Take, for example, the time I went to a wedding of one of Ed's friends. I knew nobody there, except Ed, and he knew lots of people that he hadn't seen in a while. So, I did what seemed like a very logical thing to do at the time. I decided to make best friends with the bartender. While Ed reminisced about anything and everything with his high school friends, I sat and drank. A lot. This was a really bad choice, and I really am sorry, City of Albany. You deserve to be treated better than I treated you that night.

I believe this was the second time I met Ed's parents, and there's a pretty good story to go with the first time I met them as well, but I'm going to save that for another day when I feel like embarrassing myself. Anyway, this first story about impressions has a long way to go. The the next morning, Ed's parents, Ed, and I were heading to New York City to see a show on Broadway and Ed's mom had this great idea that we would all drive down together and then Ed's parents would take the train back to Upstate New York while Ed and I headed back to Arlington. It really was a good idea, except I was suffering A LOT from the previous night. I was in bad enough shape, in fact, that I didn't even offer either of Ed's parents a front seat of my car, and Ed absolutely had to drive it. When Ed's mom got in, I remember her commenting that the back seats were comfortable, and I had two thoughts. #1. There is no possible way I'm going to make it through this car ride and #2 there is nothing comfortable about the backseat of a Ford Escort. Clearly, Ed's mom is either the nicest or most unaware person in the world. Let's go with nicest.

As Ed was driving down the highway, it was all I could do to barely keep up polite conversation. At one point, I turned to Ed and asked him how far until the next rest stop and his answer was not very promising for me. So I directed him to pull the car over. Now. And let's just say, it was not a minute too soon and as many white lies as Ed has told in his life, I cannot believe he couldn't come up with one for this very situation like "ELAINE GETS CARSICK EASILY". Instead, as his parents sat in the backseat probably completely horrified at the road side spectacle that their son was dating, he turned around and said "someone had a little too much to drink last night". I'm sure they were impressed.

After that, I felt much better. For the life of me, I do not know why Ed's parents didn't call him up after the trip was over and tell him to leave. Fast. And hey, maybe they did. He doesn't always listen so well.

Helen, on the other hand, has a different way of approaching first impressions. In her parent-child class, she spent the first couple of weeks being the victim. Whenever anyone would even look at something she was playing with, she'd loudly announce that she was playing with that and then spend several minutes telling anyone and everyone that "G was mean, he took my toy" or "V was mean, she took my toy". All the while, she was just building up a reputation. And, in classic girl fashion, each week at the start of class she would announce her grievances from the previous week. Because, you know, why let something go? Ever? (And if you happen to be a parent of only boys, say thank-you right now.)

This past Friday, after a half a year of parent-child class, she seems to completely have the benefit of the doubt. Whenever there's a bit of a tangle over a toy (which is inevitable in a room of 2 and 3 year olds), Helen loudly lays claim to the toy and the other parents and teachers can't move fast enough to find another toy to give to the other child and give Helen the toy in question.

As someone who knows Helen and her cries pretty well, I'm thinking that sometimes she's faking, and she has been the one who has just swiped a toy. But no matter. First impressions matter. And Helen always gets what she wants.

And even though my first impression (or second impression) wasn't so good in regards to Ed's family, I guess I got what I wanted, too. But I really do recommend Helen's strategy of making a good first impression. It makes everything easier. I'm totally impressed that she has figured this out already. (Although I thank my in-laws for not judging a book by its cover and not holding this incident against me forever. I hope to have their grace when Connor or Helen bring home someone just like me, and recognize it was a series of terrible events, not the norm.)


Friday, January 14, 2011

Homemade Friday: Week 2

Connor's beloved assistant teacher will be leaving school when her baby is born in a few weeks. For almost two years now, she's sat at snack table with him and tried to figure out how to get him to eat a snack other than rice and fruit. She introduced Connor to the idea of putting salt on rice, and he came home a few months ago to tell me it gave the rice a "very interesting flavor" and asked if we could try it at home. He now salts his rice just like Mrs. G. does. She's put up with his claims of being allergic to whatever food is served that he "doesn't care for" and she's taught him to turn down those foods very politely. Which is good, because I don't want my friend Sher to be writing about him on her blog some day! She's also turned the rope as he tried to learn to jump it, hugged him when he needed it, and she's sat back and let him imagine incredible worlds.

Connor is so lucky to have had her as a teacher, and last year when his main teacher's wife had a baby, she was the perfect fill-in for his very brief absence. She's kind, she seems to be always happy, she has incredible handwork skills, she's super interesting, and her patience is something I admire. In short, she's the kind of person I think most of us want our children interacting with. For Christmas, I knit up this little baby hat, which I hope her baby enjoys wearing as much as I enjoyed making.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hmmm...What Should I Tell You?

This morning, I was sitting in my office and Helen and her babysitter were walking down the stairs. I overheard the following from Helen.

"A long time ago, when I was 2, I fell down the stairs and then my mommy... Actually, I have a different story I can tell you."

And then they were past my office, so I don't know what story Helen treated her babysitter to. I cannot tell you how many times we have both heard the story about how Helen fell down the stairs one day, but then somehow, I was right there and caught her. Strange, for sure, but probably not worthy of repeating nearly every time Helen walks down the stairs in the morning.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

When Art and Children Cross

A little over five years ago, I sold a lot of pots at the annual student sale of the pottery studio I belonged to. I never imagined that I wouldn't have refilled my shelves many times over by now.

But I haven't.

Since Connor's birth, I believe I have completed one piece - a tiny vase that is absolutely perfect for holding a single bud. I made it when I last attempted to get back in the studio, and I thought about how useful this piece would be. I imagined it would be a series of similar vases, that I would ultimately use as a jumping point into a study of cylinders.

The barrier to me getting back into the studio is purely self imposed. Ed has many times agreed that he'd be happy for me to be back in the studio one evening each week, and he can more than handle our night time routine. He does it often, in fact. In the past week, he put the kids to bed on Friday night when I went out with my mom friends. Then on Monday, he put the kids to bed while I attended a class meeting for Connor's class. On Tuesday, he bathed and put them to bed as I attended a board meeting at Connor and Helen's school, and this week is not unusual. If Connor asks why I go to meetings while Ed stays home, Ed says it's because I'm a better citizen than he is. That's kind of him. But the end result is that when I'm not attending some event, I need the time at home to catch up on work missed during the day, or conversations missed with Ed the previous evenings, or hanging out with my kids which I realize may not last forever.

In the novel "The Swan Thieves", by Elizabeth Kostova, the ex-wife of the novel's protagonist has a career in front of her as a painter, but then life - and two children - happen, and she ends up with no studio space of her own, and ultimately watches her husband fall victim to mental illness while she is unable to move her own career forward.

Oh, if only I had such a good excuse. But really, I'm glad I don't.

Someday, someday, someday, I will make it into the studio to construct the perfect tea set for Helen. Until then, I'll keep my little bud vase on the window sill where it's regularly filled with flowers Connor or Helen have brought me and look at it knowing I'm quite possibly the luckiest mom around.

I wouldn't trade my children and the commitments they bring with them for anything, but I also wouldn't mind if I had just a tad more free time.


This post was inspired by The Swan Thieves, by Elizabeth Kostova. I received a free copy of it as a member of the "From Left to Write" Book Club. I haven't made it all the way to the end yet, but unlike most novels I read, I'm forcing myself not to flip to the end because I'm enjoying figuring out the story as it unfolds. This book is worth the time, and not just because I've been reading it while walking briskly on the treadmill - a task made infinitely more fun by the book's presence.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Christmas 2010

If you have never experienced Christmas with a 3 and 5 year old, it's an experience I highly recommend. In particular, I recommend you spend Christmas with Helen, because she is - by far - the most fun person to give a gift to.

First, she admires the wrapping, then she tears in - only it takes her f.o.r.e.v.e.r. to actually open anything, because she likes to tear off tiny little strips of paper. As soon as she figures out what the present is, she squeals with delight and shouts "It's EXACTLY what I wanted! Thank you!". And no, even after getting through all the loot my parents gave her, it didn't grow old.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Finally - A Kitchen Table of Their Own

On the last day of Christmas, I managed to get Connor and Helen a table with four chairs for the kitchen. The kitchen is well-appointed, for sure, but it lacks a clear horizontal surface to serve all the meals Helen and Connor cook up. Sales are good right now, so I purchased this table which was half off, and then used a credit I received from CSN for a previous post to pay for about half of that price, so that I ended up paying less than $50 for the table. My friend Ellen had been looking for one of these for me on Criagslist or at her thrift store, but told me chances of scoring one in great condition where grim.

As soon as Ed got home, the kids started begging him to put the table together. Connor and I went to work on the table immediately (the simpler of the items) while Ed and Helen started tackling chairs. Ed scarcely had the first chair assembled and Helen had started making dinner for pink bear. She decided to make her cake, because wouldn't that make a really yummy dinner?

I love the table, as do Connor and Helen. The chairs are strong enough to support an adult, and because there are 4, I'm pretty sure I won't hear that many arguments between Connor and Helen. Thank you, CSN Stores!


Disclosure: As mentioned in the post, I was given a $55 credit to spend however I liked. I chose to apply it towards a table. All opinions expressed in the post are my own, and anyone and everyone who knows me should come over and check it out if they're interested. It wasn't that difficult to put together and it's super sturdy.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Homemade Friday: Red Pocket Doll

My crafting hands have been busy indeed, inspired in part by deciding to celebrate the 12 Days of Christmas (from Christmas to Epiphany, for those wondering) with Connor and Helen. For several of the days, I made small toys for them. I'll be featuring these and other handwork items every Friday until I get bored, or run out of things I've made.

First up: On the 10th Day of Christmas, I gave Helen a kit to make two "pocket dolls". I thought they would take about an hour each to make, but that was a ridiculous estimate as the first one probably took me 2.5 hours to complete. I was slowed down a bit by a recent sewing injury, which involved Helen stabbing me with a needle as she sewed her pink bear a blanket. That stab then ended in some split skin on the tip of my thumb, which I kept re-injuring with my recent sewing binge.

Helen is sleeping with her baby now. I'm hoping she's forgotten about the second one, because I'd like to make something else next.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year!

We decided to celebrate New Year's Eve at a friend's house this year. I'm not quite sure what I was thinking when I decided to grab some noisemakers and hats for the kids to enjoy. But I did, and they had a ball. And I suppose there was good reason to party in our house as no little people came downstairs before 8:15 that morning!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Pulling a New Year's Resolution Together: Take the Cake: A From Left to Write Book Group Selection

The best New Year's resolution I ever had was to drink more champagne. It was a huge success. Many friends still remember it, because they were often pulled into the cause. I wanted something that would be easy to remember and easy to keep, and this fit the bill. I stole it from my friend Dan.

In 2008, I resolved to meet my children where they are - which I made great strides in doing, but I kept it around for 2009 because I realize it's a lifelong pursuit. We evolve together. I'm feeling good here.

I also resolved to finish the summer sweater - which I finally did in 2010. I even wore it a few times! And I am so lucky that Connor is my son because he can tell when something is handmade and he goes out of his way to tell me how great he thinks it is. I love that.

I've been trying to declutter since 2008, with varying degrees of success. I actually made huge strides after reading my friend Erin Rooney Doland's book "Unclutter Your Life In One Week". I not only read the book - which is incredibly well written, I gifted it to several people and if you weren't one of them, you should either borrow my copy or go get your own immediately. It is fantastic. More on this resolution later.

Also from 2008, I still start my morning with thanks, every day, because my kids are incredibly lucky in the health department. And that makes me incredibly lucky.

In 2008 and 2009 I also resolved to get back into pottery in one form or another, and it's been a colossal fail.

In 2010, I didn't bother with the resolutions.

But this year, I have three resolutions.

Resolution #1. I'm going to eat even more cupcakes. I love them. My kids love them. Someday, I hope they connect a memory of me with every cupcake they eat, and I hope they eat a lot of them.

Resolution #2. As in the sidebar of my blog now, I'm going to declutter. But this time, I'm going to try a new strategy, borrowed from the "From Left to Write" book club's most recent book "Take the Cake". The idea I'm taking from this book is to break big tasks and big goals into manageable pieces. Here's my plan.

1. Isolate items that take up a lot of real estate in my house.
2. If not in use, eliminate, begin to use, or justify why it's taking up space. I'm looking at you, treadmill. So far, I've done some fast walking for 60 minutes on that thing this year, in the dankest corner of our house. That treadmill will leave the basement this year. It'll either earn a prominent space in my room where I currently toss loads of clutter (that will be gone soon, I swear!), or it'll be given away to someone else. I'll evaluate after a few months whether I'm using it or not. Lots of other items are at risk of leaving.

Resolution #3. It's embarrassing to even write this one, but get into the studio. Seriously. I love the creative outlet. I'd like to at least make Helen a tiny tea set for her birthday. One of the last things I made was a tiny vase that is perfect for dandelions, clover, and other little flowers the kids are always bringing me. I could use a few more.


Disclosure: As a member of the From Left to Write book club, I received a copy of "Take the Cake: A Working Mom's Guide to Grabbing a Slice of the Life You'll Love". I read the book in 30 minutes as I walked on the treadmill. If you want the book, drop me a note and I'll give it to you. Otherwise, I'll donate it to the library's annual book sale.