Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Birthday Gift!

Helen was sick a week ago Friday, and when she's ill, she prefers to be held, rather than left alone to suffer on the couch while I busy myself with other tasks. At one point, she did fall into a fitful sleep, which allowed me to make some puppets I've been wanting to make for a long time. This set was gifted to a friend for his 4th birthday.

 I dyed the wool using madder root (orange), walnut hulls (brown), and Indigo. The yellow felt was purchased off Etsy. Helen found the giant acorn cap that I've been wanting to use for a while in a project like this. The puppet heads are about 1 inch in diameter.

Instructions for making these puppets can be found at: http://weefolkart.com/?q=node/187
Puppet Fronts

Puppet Backs - I think it's only appropriate that the hair is a mess, given that it's a gift from Helen.

Helen sewed this shooting star herself.

And if you look closely - those stitches are pretty good!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Privileges of Motherhood

When I was pregnant, a friend told me that one of the hardest things about becoming a mom is that all of the negative things – the sleepless nights, the interrupted plans, the diapers – are completely apparent before the child's birth. But the bright side of parenting is a little less obvious. So to set the record straight, I jotted down a bunch of advantages of being a mom that I didn’t fully realize until I had kids.

For starters, now that I’m a mom, I’ve been able to participate in a lot of field research.

This has consisted of visiting no less than 17 cupcake stores in the greater DC metro area. For the children, I assure you.

I also have reason to discover who sells the best smoothie (Yola), which ice cream shops have gummi bears and colored sprinkles (Coldstone), and I’ve had hot cocoas with Helen throughout the metro area!

I know which playgrounds have merry-go-rounds and I’ve been able to see how fast I can get them going as I test them out for my kids. Safety first! I never would have believed how much fun a moonbounce could be.

I’ve also enjoyed a trip on a zipline, been down the giant slide at Cox Farms, and had myself buried in sand at the beach. Motherhood has given me the chance to relive all the best parts of my childhood!

I have rekindled my knitting hobby, with my daughter’s wardrobe needs providing a constant excuse for me.

The Kansas City Royals, my beloved hometown baseball team, now allows me to run the bases after games on Sundays, a privilege bestowed only on children – and their parents if the kids are small enough to need a guide!

When normally I would feel it a little indulgent, motherhood has given me a good reason to spend a whole day at the pool, at the zoo, or at the Air and SpaceMuseum.

I also get to channel my inner superhero, which is pretty incredible. Motherhood has bestowed upon me the power to heal wounds with a single kiss. I can lift humans from danger, and my body has actually grown a baby inside it. I’m still in awe of that.

Because my son prioritized cuteness over sleep as a baby, I learned just how little sleep it takes to survive, and how efficient I can be when I set my mind to it, squeezing every ounce out of every minute that I can.

I knew that I’d probably get to meet new people when I became a mom, but somehow, I was convinced by the media that those people were people who would judge me for my imperfections, make me feel insecure, and look down upon me. How surprised I am, then, that I’ve actually met some of the coolest people I’ve ever been in contact with. They lift me up when I’m down, they cheer me on, they tell me I have awesome kids. They also tell me that they struggled with their partner in those sleepless nights, and that they’ve felt suffocated by this new lifestyle as well. It’s gotten me through several messes. I respect this group of people a lot and owe them a debt of gratitude. More than they will probably ever know.

Motherhood means I get to go trick-or-treating, and I get first dibs on all the reject candy. No need to waste it!

I get to drive a minivan. OK - that's not actually a benefit of motherhood.

I’ve also been able to expand my cake decorating skills as my son requested a “rainbow train with 100 cars” for one birthday and my daughter requested “kitty cat cupcakes” for another. I think I loved those projects more than them.

Just like my belly was for nine months at a time, my heart has been tugged and stretched in ways I didn’t think possible. And I have survived it! I’m stronger for it, in fact. And I’m able to walk a little more openly with a little more air in my step as a result.

Having children has given me the opportunity to play with play-doh, string beads, and sew little felt creatures. I love this kind of stuff.

Motherhood has given me a reason to keep myself healthy.

But most of all, because I am a mom, I have the two most incredible people I’ve ever come in contact with genetically programmed to adore me. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

It's true - the sleepless nights are terrible, the interruptions can be difficult, and the diapers are just gross.

But take it from me, motherhood is a great gig.


- my audition piece for Listen to Your Mother, which is being directed and produced by local bloggers Stephanie Stearns Dulli and Kate Coveny Hood. I was super nervous today when I read, and they were super accommodating of these nerves. Whether I'm in it or not, it's going to be a great show.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Lesson in Not Volunteering

I am a volunteer, at heart. I volunteer at Miriam's Kitchen, which is just about the best run organization I've ever been in contact with. In the past few years, I have also been the Treasurer of the board at Potomac Crescent Waldorf School, been involved in handwork at PCWS, edited and written for the PCWS newsletter, and now sit on the finance committee of PCWS. At times, this has resulted in feeling like I have another part-time job, which I actually do not have time for. I also go up to Connor's classroom regularly - in part because I know I sent the teacher a kid who didn't read and in some respects, was certainly behind his peers at the start of the year, and I realize he needed extra time from the teacher. The least I can do is try and lighten her load on occasion.

I'm very interested in what's happening in Connor's school as a whole, and I recognize there is a lot of work behind a lot of wonderful events there. And normally, I would be all in, trying to figure out where I could pitch in. However, after getting totally burned out as a volunteer last year, I made a firm rule that I would not - under any circumstances - volunteer in any major way at Connor's school this year. I will, when I have both children there, find something to do - I PROMISE!

The problem is, even though I know I should not be volunteering any more if I want to keep my sanity, it's very hard for me to resist. So, before every PTA meeting, I arm myself with knitting needles. I am the only person in the room knitting through the entire meeting, but I find that the time it takes for me to set my needles down and volunteer, has always been enough time for someone else to volunteer instead of me. Brilliant, right?

And as a side note, I now have TWO PAIRS of hand knit socks. I have also completed a dress for Helen and a scarf for Ed this year, and have a sweater for Connor over halfway done.

I am available for knitting lessons. But that's the only volunteer commitment I'm picking up this year!


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Good Work If You Can Get It

Helen was at a friend's house today when she announced the following: "This is my job. Just lyin' on the chair.". Ironically, it's hard for me to recall a moment when she hasn't been ill that she does this at my house!

(Note the purple star child that Helen is hugging. It made a recent reappearance in her life, after apparently being lost, and then found by visiting cousins.)


Tuesday, February 21, 2012


A friend of mine has started teaching yoga classes in her home. Tonight, we focused on hip and heart openers. At one point, she stated "If you want to go through life with an open heart, you're going to need to have a strong core". Quite true, I thought.

Quite true.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Cleaning Out My Fridge

I am not the chief grocery shopper in my family. In fact, the grocery store stresses me out. I end up not getting everything I needed, or getting a bunch of stuff I don't need. And then I'm frustrated by the necessary return trips or having stuff I have to figure out what to do with in my house.

I am also not the primary meal planner in my house, but I'm becoming the primary  chef. That's simply because in order for Ed to shop, he needs to know what to buy, and coming up with 1 or 2 meals at the start of the week is about what I muster. So he does it himself. But then, because I'm home almost every night before he is, I get the task of cooking - which actually could be nice if it didn't have to take place in the span of about 25 minutes with hungry kids looking on.

What I am, when it comes to food, is the primary believer in conspiracy theories. I am also the primary complainer about what gets purchased at the grocery store. Helpful, I know.

Invigorated by my recent organic kick that led me to pester Ed into switching to organic dairy and then drove me to join another CSA, this time Shenandoah Farms, I was all in when it came to reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for my online book club From Left to Write. Is it possible that she's right that the explosion of high fructose corn syrup is a product of over-subsidizing corn? I hear about irrational farm policies all the time - it certainly seems possible that this is another one.

I like the idea of eating local, but I also love all that lovely out of season fruit. And, it's one of few food groups that Connor devours. But I also remember all those strawberries my mom froze every year for us - to be served mid-winter when it is simply impossible to find anything that delicious. I also remember the canned cherries. Yum! I could've done without the day under the backyard tree shucking corn, but I have to give my mom credit that it it more delicious than anything that can be purchased in a can or frozen.

I still have dreams of growing all my food some year, but I won't be doing it here in Arlington. I value my sanity a lot more, which is what led to grassing in my garden about a year ago. I just couldn't take the stress of whatever critter it is that likes to bite into each and every piece of fruit in my garden.


I received a free copy of the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle as a member of the online book club From Left to Write. It's been a great read so far.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


I'm about to give up on relativity. I want to be an absolutist. And I want to toss out my preconceived notions of highs and lows. I want to live in the moment and declare it a high. Every single one of them. Except, of course, the ones that totally kick me in the gut. I'm not sure how I'm going to deal with those yet. I'll let you know when I figure it out. Or maybe you can give me a clue.

For the past few days, I've been trying to smile on my commute to work. Do you know how good it feels to smile at pure randomness? It's awesome. Sometimes, I see something and I think "wow, that's cool". Other times, I see something and I force myself to think of something good.

The Dalai Lama published this on Facebook yesterday.

"If we can manage to refrain from harming others in our everyday actions and words, we can start to give more serious attention to actively doing good, and this can be a source of great joy and inner confidence. We can benefit others through our actions by being warm and generous toward them, by being charitable, and by helping those in need."

How awesome is that? And then my friend Ellen noted on facebook that someone had been second-guessing her parenting, and it obviously hurt her. I hate that. I wished that person was reading the Dalai Lama's words.

I've been reading a lot of words meant to heal.

After rain, beautiful flowers.

Understanding sadness makes the joy more real.

Only through death can we experience life.

But I don't think it has to be this way. Or maybe I just don't want it to be this way. Why can't I look at the daffodil fighting to get through in my garden and know joy, without contrasting it with the dark earth that appears so sullen? Better yet, why can't I look at the dark earth and say to myself "that earth is perfectly placed and beautiful" and know that it provides life to untold plants and animals?

What if every moment we lived life we declared it beautiful? Because that rain? It is awesome. And not just because it makes the beautiful flowers.

Today, Helen brought home a pile of handmade valentines from her classmates. She loved them. Until she saw Connor's collection of cards decked out with a piece of candy. Suddenly, hers seemed somehow inferior. Hers will be around for months to come while Connor's will be devoured and moved on from. The mere existence of his today, though, dampens her feelings toward her own. That makes me sad. If relativity weren't involved, Helen would've loved hers even in the face of Connor's sweet treats. Helen's valentines? They are absolutely beautiful. I'm going to sit with her again tomorrow and listen to her tell me who made each one.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Back from Utah

We're back from a week skiing in Utah. We had a handful of new flakes to ski on, but nothing that could be measured. No matter - all three resorts we went to had their hills in great condition (Park City, Deer Valley, and Canyons). The only think we'd do differently is not plan on a whole day of skiing for Connor at the Canyons. There is only one small area of green trails there, and so Connor went over, and over, and over them during his lesson. He complained of being bored - and for good reason. Although we would've taken him on several blue trails, his instructor didn't - which Connor blamed on the person he was paired with "not skiing in control" enough of the time. We thought the ski schools at Park City and Deer Valley were a lot better, with Park City being the favored one.

Helen took lessons at Park City and Deer Valley, and on Friday, she impressed us with her turns, ability to avoid objects in her path, and her ability to come to a complete stop.

You might wonder, why is Helen wearing that ridiculous balloon taped to her helmet? Or, you might know Helen, in which case you hardly notice it. On my way to drop Helen off at ski school at Deer Valley, we passed through a craft room. Someone was blowing up a balloon, and Helen asked if she could have one, too. The guy told her he'd come tape it to her helmet - and he did, and she loved it! And she was a little sad about having to take it off for the airplane ride home! It was sort of nice for us, because she was easy to spot on the mountain. When I went to pick her up, every person in the ski school area knew her, and she had fallen in love with them all.

Helen, Grandpa Dick, Ed, me, Connor - with poles!

I have no idea what Helen is paying attention to at this point, but she did manage to stop before running over my dad as he snapped this photo.

Cutest gal on the mountain!


Friday, February 10, 2012

Yo! I Like High Quality Organic Yogurt

Several months ago, I had the opportunity to hear Robyn O'Brien speak at a lunch at Restaurant Nora in DC. The talk was sponsored by Stonyfield. After hearing her talk, it's hard to purchase a non-organic dairy product. Robyn wrote the book "The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About It", and I heard about it at the time we were wondering about Helen's possible food allergies (which we have now decided is an allergy to mussels, and nothing else). The book discusses "food sensitivities" - which seem to be reactions like Helen's (lots and lots of puking) and food allergies (the super scary get your kid to the ER RIGHT NOW!) and ultimately says both are allergic reactions, they just differ in severity. And wow am I thankful that Helen is in the former category and not the latter. One reason to prefer organic is that the probability of having some adverse reaction to a product decreases when you know exactly what the product is, without having to worry about what it's been coated in, or what's been used in growing the product. Makes sense, right? And of course, some of the chemicals used in processing are known to be unsafe at some level, so why risk exposure at any level if you don't have to?

I am all about believing in the conspiracy, and it's not hard for me to believe that big agri-business is willing to sacrifice my and my family's health in the name of corporate profits. So I made my appeal to Ed (chief grocery shopper) and now he brings home organic milk. Here's the thing - I've been a vegetarian for a long time - as are Connor and Helen, so I figure our load of all the weird stuff that's pumped into meat is pretty light - but I might as well go the next step and eliminate all the junk that goes into dairy production as well. And, if it tastes good - well that's all the more reason to go organic.

Helen and Connor give Stonyfield YoBaby! and YoKids! two thumbs up. Mostly, they like them because the yogurt is smooth, not bumpy. Helen would probably eat yogurt with whole pieces of fruit, but that's a texture path that Connor is not quite ready for.

My favorite yogurt is honey flavored yogurt from Blue Ridge Dairy. They're a local farm and though they're not organic, they don't use growth hormones. I'm not a huge yogurt fan (most have too runny of a consistency for me), but I am a huge fan of the protein yogurt provides. I was a bit scared to try something new, having finally found one yogurt at the farmer's market I like. As part of Stonyfield's yo-getter program, I was given coupons to purchase several varieties of their yogurt, and I forced myself to try the Caramel and Honey greek yogurt. And, it was actually delicious! So now, I have two yogurts I love, which I almost always have at my office for my afternoon snack (13 grams of protein)! Yum!

It's been several months since we've been mostly organic in the dairy case, and I can't say I've felt a huge change, but I am hoping that I'm at leasts incrementally improving my children's health.

Now...to go with a CSA this year as in several past years, or focus on getting to the farmer's market on Saturday morning!


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Skiing Rite of Passage - Poles!

There is a long held trust between children, parents, and ski teachers. Children ask parents for ski poles, parents respond "not until your teacher says it's OK". And for their part, teachers are supposed to steadfastly deny those boogers until it is impossible to refuse them any longer.

Apparently Connor's ski instructor on Monday did not get the memo that he was the one holding the line on the ski poles.

And thus, Connor is now the proud owner of ski poles. Let's hope he hurts neither himself nor others with them!


P.S. About a week ago, Helen was skiing down the bunny hill and asked for poles. Ed handed her one and she threw it right back at his feet and said with disgust "that's not even skiing with poles". Ed and I are still laughing about it.

Wordless Wednesday - Cotton Candy!

Circus Cafe, Saratoga, New York. Ever since Ed's sister-in-law arranged to have this dropped off at our a table after dinner - I've completely forgotten everything else I ate that night. They should market this as mind erasing cotton candy!


Sunday, February 5, 2012

New York City! I Own You

It's true. New York City and I have not always gotten along. I doubt I'll ever forget when I nearly lost Helen, followed by the day I had a self-diagnosed panic attack in the middle of New York City with no other adults nearby that I knew. Although it took a while to get over that, I returned to visit Vickie the following November, and didn't even lose my kids once! Or feel as if I was in any danger of collapsing and leaving them to fend for themselves.

And now, frankly, it seems almost rude of me to tell New York City that my days of being intimidated by it are over.

For some reason (because we were being cheap), we decided to drive to Albany. On the way back, we split up the drive by stopping in New York City to visit Vickie and her crew. We spent a day chasing around giant statues in the City, visited a transportation museum, and ate cupcakes! Ed went out with a friend one night, and then it was back to DC for us. It was hardly intimidating at all. But it was fun!

Thank you, Vickie, for another great trip. Please let Tipper know that we are grateful that she is the nicest cat in the world, and someday, we hope to actually see something besides the blur that is Moxie as she exits the room when she sees us coming.

Benjie, Tipper, Connor, and Helen. Run, Tipper, run!

Can we break it?

"HELLO! I'm in a confined space! I must shout out to the world!"

Notice the thumb's up Helen is giving? That's her letting NYC know who's boss!


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mayday to Mom!

Last week, I decided to wake up prior to Connor coming downstairs for 40 consecutive days, to try and get in a new habit.

Typical morning in our house is I wake up. I roll over. I try and go back to sleep. I take a moment to beg the sleep gods that my kids will sleep in. That begging, by the way, is almost never answered - or it's answered halfway - in which case one child (usually Helen) will sleep until 8:00 and the other one will be bounding down the stairs at exactly 6:45 - which is freakin' useless. And, he would come down earlier, except I have a nightlight in his room that clicks on at 6:45, and the firm rule in this house is that nobody comes to see me before that light turns on.

Really, it's better for everyone.

Anyway, at 6:45 and 30 seconds, Connor is in my room on a typical day. He'll usually jump in bed for a quick snuggle, but really, he wants to be awake. And he is oh so wide awake, happy as can be. If Helen comes down at 6:45, all she wants to do is lay around for a few minutes. In fact, on the rare day that she's first up, she'll lay in bed for more than 15 minutes without making a peep (though she might kick me in the head or gut if I'm not careful).

In any case, on a normal day, I then drag my tired body to the shower, and try and get out of the house as fast as possible, to aid in leaving work on time so I can get dinner on the table by 5:30. It's a fire drill every day. Except Wednesday, which is the day I can work as late as I need (don't tell my boss!).

The first day I powered through waking up at 6:20 so I could drag my tired body to the shower by 6:30 and be out hopefully by the time Connor came downstairs, Connor was thrilled. I was, too. I pointed out to him that I was trying to wake up earlier than him so we could have a few minutes to play a game in the morning. He thought it was a great idea - with one caveat.

"Mom, you did not wake up earlier than me. I've been awake and waiting for the light to come on."

Well...OK. I got out of bed before the light came on, son.

Then, I fell apart, and failed on waking up. So...I'm trying again.

Monday, I woke up at 6:20 and was ready for Connor when he came down. He again noted that I did not wake up first.

Tuesday, he grabbed the baby monitor in his room and spoke directly into it at 6:30 clearly enunciating "Mom - just so you know - I am awake. You are not awake before me." Which caused me to haul a** into the shower after making sure I did not just have a heart attack. Those monitors are sensitive enough to hear a baby a few feet away breathe. A 6 year old talking directly into once is nothing short of shocking.


Ed pointed out to me that getting into an early morning wake-up contest with Connor is something neither of us wants to do.