Absent But Not Idle

So Husband has returned after a long three months away and life is returning to normal.  The blogging break was not ideal but very necessary for my sanity.

While I shall not attempt to recap the last three months in this post, I will give you a glimpse of what I’ve been up to by sharing two very successful Pinterest projects!

Bat Garland

Check out my bats cut out of black felt using freezer paper templates.  This is a wonderful thing for those of you that have never heard of it.  Iron on shapes cut out of freezer paper (not waxed paper) to felt, cut the shape out of felt, and then peel off the freezer paper.  Genius!  A quick zip through the sewing machine right down the middle of each bat with the tips slightly overlapped completed the garland.  I hung it with double sided tape and clear thumbtacks on the ends.

bat garland

Toddler Bird Costume
(inspired by http://mayjuneandjuly.com/2011/10/31/happy-halloween/)

I am very proud of this costume!  With minimal sewing skills, I modified the design of a post on Pinterest to make this adorable costume.  Wings were cut out on my lunch breaks from about 12 different fabrics and 2 shades of blue felt.  I used a bottle of no-fray liquid on the edges of the fabric feathers.  A store bought dress from Baby Gap (on sale) was the base.  For the bottom layers of feathers I just sewed them to the dress in a straight line.

cutting feathers2 rows of feathers

The wings were 2 pieces of fabric I liked sewn together.  I pinned them right sides facing with the alternating felt feathers in between and feathers pointing in (this took a little trial and error to come up with the right order to pin items).  I sewed the perimeter leaving about a five inch hole to turn the wing right side out and then hand stitched the hole closed.  Here they are pre-iron.

wings

Once I got about 2/3 of the way up the dress, I was no longer able to sew on the feathers.  Too much material to fit in the machine.  So I used a pea sized dot of glue from a hot glue gun to afix the feathers.  I followed up with a very large hand stitch  across each glued row in hopes of making the costume a little more toddler-proof.   The final step was to cut out of yellow felt two feet to attach to her shoes and a narrow strip of felt to cover the unfinished edge of the top row of feathers.  I sewed the feet onto the velcro straps of her shoes.

     finished bird costume

And hear she is after a full morning of playing at daycare!

Happy Halloween 2012!

The Concrete Jungle

Apartment?  Check.  Townhouse?  Check.  Single family home?  Umm

Driveway FunWhen we bought our townhouse back in 2006, Husband and I thought it would be a short pit-stop on our way to single family home ownership.  Three to five years tops.  We certainly never intended to raise our children here.  For starters it’s three stories tall with the washing machine on the first floor and the bedrooms on the third.  That’s two flights of stairs for every load of dirty clothes the kids turn out.  The children’s bedrooms are also directly above the front door.  Thanks to a double story foyer, the click of our front door latch sounds like a gunshot to sleeping babies.

However the most frustrating feature of our home is the one thing it lacks: a yard.  Sure the missing yard was a minor disappointment when we bought the townhouse.  With the addition of two young children it is a near intolerable void.  What parent doesn’t envision their children playing outdoors, frolicking in the fresh air?  How was that going to happen with no yard to speak of just a modest stretch of concrete driveway?

But this past weekend it did.  Sunday night, hours before bedtime, I took one look at my cranky kids and I decided to take the party outside.  Concrete jungle be damned, we had to get out of the house for a bit.  I put Amelia in her swimsuit, placed Haiden in his walker, filled a plastic beer tub with water, tossed in some Tupperware and let them have at it.  The kids had a BLAST and I got to rest for almost an hour.  As I sat in a lawn chair admiring my own ingenuity I thought “there may be no grass, but this is pretty darn close to what I envisioned.”

The plan was always to raise our family in a single family home with a yard.  You know what plan I’m talking about.  The plan.  That invisible playbook that’s drafted up long before we know what life will send our way.  I’m not knocking the plan.  I have a plan and it’s awesome.  But sometimes the plan changes and sometimes it gets blown to pieces.   You accept and adjust because, honestly, there’s not much else to be done.  Do I still long for a lush patch of grass to call my own?  A place for my babies to run barefoot through sprinklers in the summer?  Definitely.  It’s in the plan. Right now though I’m going to scour Pinterest for more driveway fun.

Stop and Smell The Garbage

This morning I did something for the first time in the five and half years I’ve lived at my current address.  I met our garbage man (well men to be more specific.)  With perfect timing a garbage truck rolled around the corner as we stepped out our front door on the way to daycare.

Both kids were instantly captivated first by the loud rumbling of the truck and then by the two men sprinting from truck to trash can and back again.  In a moment of what I’d like to consider great parenting I accepted I would be late for work, put Haiden’s car seat on the ground, and leaned back against our car to enjoy the show.  Amelia, who was being held by her Nana, remained riveted as they worked their way down our block.

When the truck finally pulled up to our house, she greeted it with a whispered “truck” and a shy wave.  Both men flashed my girl a big smile and waved back.  I exchanged some pleasantries with them and then they got to the business of our trash.  I could be mistaken but it seemed they emptied our can with a little more pageantry than required.  Amelia was thrilled by their performance and she called “bye, bye” to the garbage men long after they had continued down the street.

This morning I watched Amelia experience something new.  I made a connection with two people that do a job I’d hate to do but rarely give a second thought.  I saw two men hauling stinky trash on a hot, humid morning stop and smile because my sweet girl was fascinated by their work.  It was a good morning.

Princesses Be Damned…I Love You Disney!

The diverse, self-sufficient, modern woman and mother in me detests the princess market that seems to be targeting an ever-younger audience of girls.  Even before Amelia was born Husband and I decided to categorically ban princess labeled items from our house.  There are no “Daddy’s Little Princess” piggy banks or “I’m The Princess” shirts in Amelia’s room.

So it’s not surprising that we are conflicted about inviting Disney’s Princesses into our home.  With Amelia turning two this summer, I know we must soon decide how we will handle this common toddler obsession.  Why not ban them outright without a second thought?  A couple of reasons.

First, I love it when my children are passionate.  Should the day arrive that Amelia becomes passionate about all things princess I want to nurture her energy and enthusiasm.  Second, I grew up loving Ariel, Belle and Jasmin.  I knew all the songs by heart and had a poster of Belle on my closet door.  How hypocritical would I be to deny my daughter the very thing that I enjoyed as a child?

The main reason though is that I still love Disney movies.  I own DVDs of all my favorites and watch them regularly (no children required).  I may not walk around wearing Disney earrings or a Mickey Mouse watch, but I did see the IMAX version of Beauty and The Beast on my honeymoon in 2002.  I think the stories are timeless and, when paired with good parenting, can help teach children to be thoughtful and caring people.

Over the past two days I’ve been reminded of just how timeless these movies are and (perhaps even more noteworthy) how entrenched they are in my thoughts.  Yesterday, in the middle of an uncharacteristically intense fight with Husband, I found myself struggling to not lash out in anger and say something I’d regret.  What was going through my mind you ask?  Mrs. Pots from Beauty and the Beast telling Beast, “You must control your temper!”  Over and over that phrase kept me from saying things I’d surely regret.  Then today, as I thought about how past events had contributed to last night’s argument, I heard Rafiki from The Lion King saying “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it, or… learn from it.”  A small but comforting reminder to not run from my own past.

Will Amelia be watching Disney Princess movies someday?  You bet.  And I’ll be singing along right beside her.  Will my daughter’s room be decorated with castles and pink tulle?  Ah…no.

The Gift New Parents Really Want

My husband’s cousin has four young children (I think all under the age of 7) and is one of the best mom role models I have.  She is laid back but far from being a pushover.  Whenever I have a question or concern about my babies I can depend on her to give me solid advice, usually laced with a good dose of “relax, this is normal.”

This past January at a Superbowl party she did something that I still think about four months later.  Like a lot of other people at the party, she asked to hold Haiden for a bit.  But when I gave her my standard disclaimer about how fussy he can be, she replied “I don’t mind if you don’t mind.”

That’s it.  Simple acceptance and understanding that sometimes babies cry for no reason.  I didn’t have to hover over them looking for signs that she’d had enough of his crying.  I didn’t have to feel guilty that someone else was dealing with my handful of a baby.  It was the first time since I’d given birth two months earlier that I was “off-duty” for a few hours and able to relax.  What a precious gift to receive as the parent of a newborn.

I’m going to remember her the next time I’m around a new parent.  Everyone wants to hold the happy baby or the sleeping baby.  However what that parent really needs is someone to take their crying baby and say “I don’t mind if you don’t mind.”

How Onesies Are Like Pasta

Please forgive the poor quality of my photo.  It was taken late last night when, overwhelmed by the task of packing, I had succumbed to the distractions of my iPhone.  If you can make out the details of the picture you’ll see piles of baby clothes spread across my bed.  I imagine you might be thinking “Wow.  That’s not too bad for an 11 day trip.”  Or maybe you’re laughing because you know I’ll need more than one suitcase for all those clothes.  What you can not see are the four bags laying on the floor and all the gear already loaded into the car.  That’s right.  This is everything still waiting to be packed after I’d run out of space.

I’ve always enjoyed packing.  I love making lists ahead of time so I can check items off as I tuck them into my bags.  Think Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets.  Adding Amelia to our vacations in 2010 meant more gear, more lists (and in my mind) more fun.  I think Husband was equal parts impressed and dismayed watching me scurry around the house making piles of “to be packed” items, lists in hand.  (After all it was his unfortunate job to load the car once my piles were neatly tucked into their bags).

That was one baby.  And that was when we traveled for a few days at a time.  Last night I realized my reliable “be prepared for anything” style of packing was not working so well for this trip.  Neatly packing our bags quickly turned into stuffing onesies and baby socks into any space I could find.  After a few hours I thought this baby stuff is like a never-ending bowl of pasta!  At which point I threw in the towel and grabbed my phone to take a picture.  Temporarily defeated by bibs and footed pjs, I stayed awake just long enough sweep everything on my bed into a laundry basket to be tackled in the morning.

I’ll be going home in just a few minutes to finish packing whatever else I can fit and then it’s off to daycare to pick up the kids.  I think I got all the important items: medicines, diapers, bottles, etc.  Do I really need everything else?

I’ll let you know.

Forgiveness in a Gummy Grin

Forgiveness is one of those complex processes that is learned at an early age yet never fully understood.

Let me back up by saying this past weekend was one of those weekends. Husband was away for work so it was just me and the kids. On Saturday, Amelia who is beyond picky decided she didn’t want to eat any of her normal foods. Baby Haiden who loves to eat didn’t want any of his bottles. Yet both children were hungry and cranky all day. Then for some reason Amelia woke up at 5:20 a.m Sunday morning. Imagine my disappointment when I rolled over in a fog of sleep to nudge Husband only to feel his cold pillow. Oh yeah, just me. It was an interesting moment when I realized all three of us had finished breakfast and dressed for the day, and it was just shy of 6:00 a.m. By late morning I found myself mentally counting down the minutes until their afternoon naps. We struggled through another lunch and then with great delight I tucked both kids in bed and passed out face down on my bed.

Then Haiden decided to wake up after 20 minutes rather than his usual 3 hours. I shot out of bed to get him before he woke Amelia (a notoriously light napper). I bounced and rocked and shushed him while I quickly made a bottle, maybe he was hungry? Nope. After trying everything I could think of, I re-swaddled him to put him in his swing. The instant his body touched the swing his cries turned into an ear-piercing scream. Half a second later, Amelia’s cries were backing him up. I think I actually heard my patience snap. I looked at Haiden with what must have been an ugly mix of frustration and anger, and cried out something along the lines of “What is wrong with you!?” With a screaming Haiden on my hip, I got screaming Amelia out of her crib, and we all went downstairs to start the afternoon.

It took about 15 minutes to calm them both down and in that time I was being soundly berated by my inner self for losing my patience. “So he didn’t want to nap. So I was tired. That wasn’t Haiden’s fault. He was probably not feeling well. What kind of mom yells at their 3 month old baby for not feeling well?” Perspective out the window, louder and louder these words were bouncing around my head as I helped Amelia stack her books on the table. And then it happened. I glanced at Haiden in his bouncy seat and he flashed me a big, toothless, gummy grin. I paused for a second, smiled back, then continued to help Amelia. Inside though I was overwhelmed. On one level I already knew he would never remember I’d lost it, and I knew I was having a completely normal case of “mommy guilt.” But how amazing to be forgiven so quickly and completely by my baby boy. His grin was a precious gift that reminded me forgiveness when it’s most needed, like when a parent has faltered and lost perspective of the situation, has the ability elevate us out of the everyday and into the extraordinary.