Friday, August 24, 2012

Searching for the Bird of DOOM at Huber's today ...

Let's hope we have as much fun as last time. ( )

Lord help us.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Motherhood and More: Recognizing the difference in wants and needs

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about want and need and the differences between the two.

Growing up I remember my mother saying over and over again “You don’t need that, you want it.” In my young, deprived-of-the-latest-Barbie mind, she was being unnecessarily cruel. But of course she was right.

And still this is a struggle with me. I feel like in the times we live in there is so much pressure to have the things that “everyone else” has, to dress in the latest styles, to buy the latest electronics just because there are a thousand commercials telling you there’s something wrong with you if you don’t. And unfortunately, sometimes I buy into it. Literally.

When I was planning my son’s fourth birthday party last month, I started online researching different ideas and activities for a camping theme. There were so many ideas out there that seemed unrealistic. The food tables were things of beauty and the activities and crafts were out of this world in terms of what I expected. And so I started to feel inadequate as a mother because that just wasn’t in me to do. My food table for parties usually consists of some chips in the red bowls I use for every celebration and boxes of pizza. But at least they’re organized by type. I guess? I do not have custom-made napkin rings made out of driftwood with initials of each guest burned into them. Nor do I have a $200 cake. Or a $200 anything party related, for that matter.

I shut off the computer in protest when I found a family who had bought $40 backpacks for each of the 15 kids at their child’s camping party.

The whole thing just seems a little ridiculous and over-the-top. I want to raise my kids to appreciate what they have and birthdays, to me, should be about seeing family and friends and eating good food. Not so much about the amount of money spent on the party or even the amount and extent of presents received. At this point it seems like parents are trying to outdo each other, to the detriment of their children.

With the information we have access to about what everyone else is doing, it is guaranteed that we will feel like we aren’t living up to some arbitrary standard. I mean, sometimes I get embarrassed about our TV. It’s not a flat panel and it’s pretty small by today’s standards. Plus we only have one. And then I think, this is ridiculous. My self-worth is not tied up in electronics. Nor is it tied up in my other home furnishings or my car or even my whole house.

My self-worth is controlled by me. And while others may look down on my computer that is at least five years old and is kind of slow, by today’s standards, I don’t care. It works.

So much importance is placed on how we look, on how we present ourselves to the world. I want my kids to know that yes, it’s OK to take pride in yourselves and your appearance. But that comes from being a good person. It comes from treating people with respect and kindness. It comes from expanding your mind and learning about the world around you.

It does not come from buying that X-Box because everyone else has one. Or buying those $150 shoes because they’re the coolest thing this month. And we don’t need the latest offering from Apple, even though it looks really cool and Mama kind of wants one.

We don’t need it. We want it. And there’s a difference.

*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on August 22, 2012.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Oh Vienna. I will always miss you.

I had every intention of posting this yesterday.  I mean, I had every intention of posting this yesterday weeks before yesterday. 

I've been thinking a lot lately about my study abroad trip to Vienna because it was 10 years ago that I started that experience.  Ten years ago yesterday.  And so I've been planning on sharing from my journal, which I wrote in daily while I was gone, unless I was too drunk.  Have I mentioned the parties?  There were lots of parties.  Lots and lots of parties.  And lots and lots of sangria filled with lots and lots of alcohol.

And dancing.  So much dancing.  I miss the drunk dancing.

So 10 years ago yesterday I set off on a plane with my 'traveling outfit,' which mainly consisted of what I thought someone traveling to Europe for a study abroad trip in Vienna would wear.  Linen pants and a white t-shirt, if you must know, which is the absolute worst traveling outfit in the history of ever, because by the time I finally made it to Germany, where I stayed with Chris' grandparents for a week before I went to Vienna, my white shirt was full of coffee stains and my linen pants were wrinkled beyond recognition.  So please, learn from my mistakes.  Dark clothes are the way to go.

I was nervous, scared, worried and thrilled all at the same time.  It was my first real time being on my own for this long and I didn't know how it would be.

It actually was a spur of the minute decision to go, as I hadn't even considered going until I heard other people in my German class talking about it.  And it seemed doable.  And absolutely necessary.

And so I started the process.  And then I was on my way.

I'm probably a little bit over-introspective, but this trip has stayed with me.  These four months have affected me more than anything outside the births of my children.  And I wish so much that I could go back.  Not necessarily to Vienna, although there's that, too.  But I want to go back to this time of meeting new people, of being unencumbered by the responsibilities that currently take up my life.  Of really feeling like I was living, like I was experiencing something I'd always wanted to experience. 

But things change, time passes, life happens.  And I won't be that person again.  But I had Vienna.  And I am ever so grateful.


8/20/02  2:15 p.m.

Things are so weird sometimes.  I'm in North Carolina waiting for my flight to Frankfurt.  Last time seemed so much more exciting.*  I think I'm old.  Maybe I just didn't get enough sleep last night.  I didn't go to bed until 1:30.  Nothing feels real.  Is this really happening?  Will I be able to survive 4 months without Chris?  A guy just sat down next to me who smells like him.  Smells are so interesting, the way they take your mind to different places.  Mom was crying when I said good-bye.  It's hard.  I don't know if I really want to do this. 


You can find the rest of my journal entries here.

* Here I'm talking about when I went to Italy by myself to visit my sister for a couple of weeks when I was 16.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Homemade Friday: Puff Paint! Sort of!

As you can probably tell from my post yesterday I am always on the lookout for ways to make myself feel like less of a failure as a mother.  One of the best ways to do that is to craft with the kids.  Sebastian is pretty good, though a bit rambunctious and he loses interest easily.  And Adele, of course, would much prefer dumping all of the supplies into the floor and stomping on them while simultaneously smacking you in the face and spitting on your shoes.

But every so often I decide that that day is the day I start being like all the mothers on all the mommy blogs and start creating beautiful, intricate, educational pieces of art with my kids.

(Ha.  HAHAHA.)

So this week I had one of those days.  I found something online that looked pretty cool and relatively simple for Sebastian.  I didn’t even try with Adele (see above) so we waited until she took her nap.

I even got everything out and prepared early so that when it was time for the crafting to begin I didn’t have him waiting around and whining while I set up the supplies.

See?  Preparation wins everything.

But when it was time, Sebastian wasn’t nearly impressed with my mom skills as I wanted him to be.  He was kind of more interested in his apple.  But he suffered through it because I made him.

I got the project from Disney’s Family Fun website.  Basically you put some glue on a piece of card stock in whatever design you want, then cover it in salt and shake off the excess.  Then you put drops of food coloring mixed with water on the glue/salt mixture and watch it spread around.  You’re only supposed to put one drop at a time, but Sebastian was a little overenthusiastic in his color dropping, so we had some puddles.

But it was a cute idea, even if I got more out of it than he did. 

Here’s my picture.  It’s an apple tree.  I forced him to work on this one as he was pretty much done with the process midway through the first picture.

Motherhood: Forcing your children to craft with you to create beautiful memories of you making them do things they don’t really want to do.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pinterest, you’re kind of a bitch

This post kind of goes along with a column I just wrote for the newspaper, but this part didn’t seem to fit the rest so I took it out and fleshed it out and now present it to you!

I’ve been thinking about unplugging, about hunkering down and ignoring everyone and everything that tries to tell me how to parent.  Because I don’t seem to be winning at life as much as everyone else I look at is. 

With parenting, with living, there are so many expectations that we place upon ourselves, that society places upon us.  We have an extensive amount of information at our fingertips these days.  We have the ability to see what everyone made for dinner last night, or to see that this person’s child is already writing sentences while mine, who is the same age, hasn’t quite mastered that yet.  And so we look to ourselves and start feeling like maybe there is something wrong with us.  Maybe we haven’t worked as hard on letter and number writing as the parents on that website.  Maybe our dinner wasn’t nearly as full of whole grain and vegetables as that other family’s was.  And so we feel inadequate.  We feel like we haven’t mastered this parenting thing because everyone else seems to have already.

I think mothers feel this more than anyone else.  It’s like, no matter what we do it’s not going to be enough.  And sometimes it feels like many of the parenting decisions I make are out of guilt over what everyone else is doing.  I cloth diaper, but I also use disposables.  I made baby food when my kids were little but I also used store-bought.  I make a lot of homemade, from scratch food, but sometimes we eat fast food.  I try to always be calm and in control but I lose my temper and sometimes I feel like maybe my 4 year old has a better grasp of how to react in certain situations than I do.  And most of the time I’m grateful I don’t have other people around to see how I am as a parent because I don’t want to be judged and found lacking. 

But no matter what we do we are judged. 

Was it always like this?  It seems that we can’t just parent without having experts telling us we’re doing everything wrong and our children will grow up to be awful, horrible people.  I admit that I love the internet.  But sometimes I just want to follow my husband to his dream cabin in the middle of nowhere Alaska and unplug.  I want to spend my days parenting without the added ‘help’ of technology or experts or other people who judge my use of cereal that contains high fructose corn syrup. 

And so looking at other people, neighbors, friends, bloggers, Pinteresters, I feel like we’re all trying to present ourselves as in control and with it and being the best that we can be in all areas of our lives.

That’s not true, is it?  Are we all just as frazzled and at a loss but refusing to admit it because of how we’ll look? 

Someone please tell me that they also don’t know what the hell they’re doing so I’ll feel better.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Homemade Friday: Sweet Cherry Pie

I think cherry pie might be my favorite.  Which really is saying something because there are a lot of super delicious desserts full of chocolate and/or cream cheese and butter.  And then some more butter.

But I’ve always had a special place in my heart and sweets-loving belly for cherry pie.  So it’s surprising that I haven’t ever made one myself.  This summer I vowed to remedy that.  And then promptly forgot about it.  And the cherries I’d planned on using for it went bad before I could make the pie.

But last weekend we had a sort of mini-celebration with Chris’ family for him finally finishing grad school (all but the exam, which is in November.  Have I already told you that?  I’m so thrilled he’s done with classes I feel like I’ve told everyone I come in contact with).

So I thought it would be the perfect time to try a new pie, my favorite pie.  The recipe was one that I’d stared at longingly for what seems like, and probably has been, years.  It’s from smitten kitchen, one of my favorite sites for recipes, if you couldn’t tell already.

And the recipe was simple.  The hardest part was pitting the cherries.  I bought a cherry pitter earlier this summer to make things a little bit easier.  I tend to stock up on cherries when they’re in season because I love them so much and this just makes it easier to feed them to the kids without having to cut around the pit and possibly slice open my fingers, which has been known to happen.

 The crust for the pie wasn’t even that hard.  I used a recipe from this book, The HomemadePantry, which I highly, highly recommend.  The author tells stories to go along with each recipe, and she makes things that would normally be overwhelming seem simple.  And her crust recipe is the easiest I’ve ever found with the best results.  Also, I’ve made the poptarts on the cover.  The cinnamon sugar ones were so, so good.

So I mixed the pitted cherries with all the other ingredients.  The instructions said to drain off extra juice.  But the juice in my bowl included all the sugar and such so I just poured it all in the pie pan.  I probably shouldn’t have.  Or maybe I should have used more cornstarch?  Because this is what the pie looked like when I cut into it:

 I think part of my problem was that I used more cherries than the recipe called for.  I didn’t want them all to cook down and me to have a thin pie.  I probably shouldn’t have worried.  The cherries never actually got all that soft.  They still held their shape. 

I’m wondering if I should have cooked the cherries first in a pan in order to soften them up a bit.  Maybe I’ll do that next time.  Or follow instructions better.

But still.  Delicious pie.  And it doesn't hurt that it looked so pretty when it was finished. 

I wish I had more.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Warm ears for everyone

I don't know if you know this about me or not, but I'm entirely predictable. 

(And people who do know me personally are giggling because they know that I am a creature of habits.  I CAN HEAR YOU, MOM.)

But I guess I didn't really know how predictable I was until earlier this week.  I was looking for the post I wrote for Sebastian's first day of preschool ever (My BABY!) when I came across this post where I wrote this:

There’s nothing in the air that would make me feel this way, no relief from the oppressiveness that hits me as I walk out the back door.  Just a simple turning of the calendar page.  For me it’s time.  It’s time to start planning for sweaters and hats and socks that I need to knit to keep my family warm, for ways to celebrate the coming holidays with food and friends and crafts.

You guys.  This is almost embarrassingIt was almost to the day that I started feeling like that again this year.  It's weird to have it all laid out in front of me, you know?

I am so ready for hot tea.  I can drink coffee all year long, but tea is only for colder days.  If I make a cup in the summer chances are I never finish it.  I do not know my reasoning behind this.  It's just how it goes.
And I'm ready to wear cardigans and jeans and not burn up.  I've still been wearing them because I like to be cozy, but it's been almost unbearable whenever I go outside. 

And yes, knitting is in the forefront again.  I'm still working on the Dahlia Cardigan, which was stalled a bit on account of its boringness.  It started out so neat and awesome and challenging, but then there were miles and miles of stockinette stitch that caused me to roll my eyes every time I picked it up.  And then I felt guilty because it's not the sweater's fault that I find it boring.  So I had to apologize to it and then everything was just weird.  I still don't think it's forgiven me.

But anyway, I've been thinking about hats.  Well, more specifically, I've spent the last hour trolling Ravelry in order to find the perfect pattern.  Both of the kids will need new hats this year.  Actually, we all will.  I've been thinking about trying to double knit them just to make them extra warm.  I started one a couple of years ago but never finished it because I had another kid.  Also the two types of yarn wasn't the same size and so the hat was wonky.

I think I've decided on this pattern, which is the same one I used before.  But I'm thinking about putting in a design or something to make it a little more interesting. Or if anyone out there knows of a better pattern, let me know!  I'll have to do a lot of math with this one to get all of the sizing down for everyone's heads, which I'm thrilled with, as you can imagine.

But first I have to finish the cardigan.  And then possibly finally finish weaving in all the ends to this sweater for Sebastian.  And maybe that shawl I was talking about awhile ago.  But then hats.  Definitely hats.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

But I didn't cry this time, which is surprising

Before we went to his open house a couple of weeks ago I thought I'd be thrilled, excited, relieved and overjoyed to have him gone in the mornings again.  As I've said many times over, probably so many that you want to kick me in the shins, it's been a hard summer.  The kids are at the perfect age to bug the crap out of each other and they take full advantage of it, fighting and yelling all day long.

Plus Sebastian is so bored and I'm ill-equipped to ease that boredom when I spend most of my time refereeing.  So I was looking forward to the time when he wasn't looking to me all the time to offer him something fun to do.

But at open house I got that feeling, that rock in my stomach that told me I wasn't ready, even though I didn't have a choice. It's one more step he's taking without me, one more adventure he gets to go on that I'm not suited up for.

But there was also something entirely new going on in my ridiculously sentimental brain.  There was something so familiar about that school, and not just because he went there last year.  I peeked in another classroom as I walked by, and it was set up like the ones from my elementary school.  Not the new one where we weren't allowed to touch the walls, but the old one that was about 10 feet from the Catholic church, where us Catholics left class once a week for religion while the heathens who weren't catholic got to watch a movie.

I spent a lot of time in and around that place.  And maybe it's just because he's going to a catholic school that is right next to the church, but it felt comforting, solid, familiar.


I changed his pants twice, and wanted to change them back to the first pair but we ran out of time.  He's in between sizes and I couldn't decide if I should go big or small.  I ended up with small.  He was so thrilled to be going to school, but when we walked into the classroom he seemed a little hesitant, much more so than last year.   

When I kissed him goodbye he said he'd miss me while he was at school.

Oh honey.  I missed you, too.

(Last year's first day of school post is here.)

Monday, August 6, 2012

So I had a birthday party for my son a month ago …

And in finally looking through my pictures I realized that I don’t have that many.

I promise he had more fun than this pictures shows.

Woops.  I was kind of busy.

About a week before Sebastian’s party Chris decided that it needed to have a theme.  Now, he will tell you that he just suggested it, but everyone knows that by ‘suggesting’ he totally meant ‘Get on it, Woman.’

I’ve never considered myself someone who has ‘theme’ parties.  I mean, I like them and I enjoy the result, but I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it because I am not that disciplined and also kind of lazy.  And yet here I was.

It took us forever to actually pick one out.  We started with dragon themes and Viking themes and finally, FINALLY settled on a camping one.  My idea, by the way.  And then I went nuts.  The kids were with grandparents so I had time to spend searching around online for different ideas of what I could do.  I started big, with games and party favors and s’mores.  (What?  That doesn’t sound that big to you? Try putting it together in a week with your husband spending all of his free time doing homework instead of keeping the children out of your hair.  Don’t judge me.)

Water balloons!

Throughout the week I whittled away at everything until I think we had a pretty good set up.  I got rid of the ‘Pin the Fire on the Log’ game because I was afraid of the end result looking like a flaming piece of shit.  And we decided that a nature hike wasn’t necessary because they could just walk around the backyard themselves whenever they wanted.

Scavenger hunt!

But I did keep the gift bags full of snakes and bugs and homemade trail mix and flashlights and glow sticks and candy.  We used a scavenger hunt for that one.

And the day dawned bright and record-breakingly hot, topping out at 107, I believe.  We actually weren’t that stressed because I’d done as much as I could have early, including cutting out about a million cloud, tree, and camping-related pieces for a garland that I sewed and glued myself, and cupcake decorations that I taped to toothpicks myself.

Scavenger hunt!

Because I am insane.  My wrists were pretty pissed at me for awhile after the party.  And no, I don’t have a picture but it's still hanging up in my back room if you want to come over and look at it. 

We had the pool set up and a sprinkler and water balloons.  We had a canoe casually placed in our backyard and a tent that kept blowing over.  We had the fire pit set up, partly for the scavenger hunt and partly for the s’mores that never actually got made because I forgot about them.

A thing of beauty. At least by my inexperienced standards.

And we had pizza and lemon cupcakes and chocolate cake that I decorated myself. 

And we had a damn good time.  The scavenger hunt had clues like “When you’re done canoeing and want to rest, where do you go? When you want to cook the fish you caught, what do you use?”  The final one was “When you come home from camping and you want to take a nap in the living room, what do you do it on?”  You guys, I am so creative!  But we had to keep the gift bags inside because the trail mix had chocolate in it.

As I was carrying Sebastian up to bed that night he squeezed me extra tight.  And then he said ‘This was the best birthday ever!  Thank you for giving it to me!’

Totally worth all of the stress.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Homemade Friday: I'm tired. Here's a photo.

These Homemade Friday posts are getting more and more difficult.  I mean, I am making things, it's just I keep forgetting to take pictures.  Hell, I made some awesome muffins this morning for breakfast.  They had coconut and carrots and raisins and apples in them.  And if I really wanted to I could walk into my kitchen and take a picture of the cooked muffins, but really, that's a lot of work on almost no sleep.  

Ask me how pissed I am at last night's thunderstorm.  Go on.

So.  Here's a photo of Sebastian wearing a cape my mom made him and making a beaver dam.  (I guess the beaver dam can be the homemade part of this post?)

He's so goddamn grown up that it kills me.  Last week he stayed at my parent's house overnight and she had him call me the next morning.  He greeted me with "Hello!  Sebastian here!"

I love him so much my chest hurts.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

She's going to hate me when she's a teenager and sees this.

Last night I was all set to instagram the hell out of this photo:

Or maybe even this one:

Yes, she's still wearing her shoes.
And make it delightfully old-timey, with a caption about how she was ready for her bath before I was ready for her to get in the tub, but as I was choosing a filter I hear this whining from the bathroom.  (No, I don’t always stay right there in the bathroom when she’s in the tub.  I like to instagram in peace.)

At first I just ignored her because she whines all the time these days, but she didn’t stop so I went to check on her and I see her staring at something in the tub.  Honestly I was afraid to look, because I knew what was I was in for.

You guys, she POOPED IN THE TUB FOR THE SECOND TIME THIS WEEK.  And she was inching away from it, you know, because it’s poop, and looking at me like “What the hell is that?”

Well, if you would stop dropping deuces whenever you’re in some form of water, maybe you wouldn’t have to deal with it, ADELE!

It’s like, every time her toe touches water, be it in a pool or the tub, it automatically works as a laxative. 

So I yell for poor Chris, who’s trying to finish his homework, and he comes upstairs to help, understandably irritated.  And you guys, I can’t stop laughing.  Like cry-laughing, that is so close to crying that before I know it I actually AM crying on account of all the drama that this little girl incites.  Lack of sleep, smacking, spitting her milk or any food on the floor just to spite me, the endless tantrums. 

She is so much work.  Right now she’s in her bed, supposed to be napping, but will probably start yelling before too long because she’s thrown her pacifier out of the bed as a way to get me to come back into her room.

But anyway, Chris cleaned out the tub, for the second time this week.  But I’ve done it three times myself, not to mention all the times I’ve cleaned her up after she pooped when swimming, plus there’s the cloth diapers, so I kind of win this round of ‘who has dealt with the most poop.’ 

Later that night as Sebastian was walking to his dad to kiss him goodnight I noticed something on his head.  He’d just had some yogurt as a snack and apparently the lid had been left with him in the living room.  Somehow it ended up stuck to the back of his head.  He’d just had a bath.

I wiped it off with a baby wipe.