Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Present Progress: February

OK, my semi-sorta goal for writing about being present this year is that I'll post about my difficulties and/or progress about once a month. That way, I keep it in mind, but I don't the pressure about writing about it all that frequently. Also, by giving myself a break between posts, I don't get too bogged down by bad days but can look at the big picture, a general trend towards more presence (in theory).

I've written before about how I have a busy, busy brain. This, without a doubt, is my biggest struggle with being present. Glennon of Momastery writes a lot about addiction. But she, unlike many others, names other addictions beyond the usual ones you hear about (drugs and alcohol) and thereby, includes me in the group of addicts. I am addicted to busy-ness. I don't like to sit still. I wake up making plans, and I try to tackle them in small bits and pieces whenever I sense the smallest window of opportunity. For instance, right now I am thinking about:

1. This post.
2. The soup on the stove. Is it boiling?
3. What time do I need to start getting my kids and me ready for my doctor's appt this afternoon?
4. Will we need to go the grocery store again this month and what are the necessities?
5. When might I sort and bag up the clothes for my two consignment appts this exceptionally busy week?
6. How can I paint neat letters on my daughter's wall?
7. How soon can I start painting my son's dresser and can I possibly get that done while watching House of Cards in the evenings?
8. Gosh, I'm behind on this month's newsletter. I really need to devote an afternoon or night to that.

I could add at least twenty more ideas floating about my brain to that list. The ones above are ones I actually did some work or research or concrete thinking on this morning (except the newsletter; I really am behind). Obviously, this kind of brain activity is not all that conducive to remaining present.

In this same vein, I came across two posts in last month of two that spoke to me.

The first one I found on Momastery (of course). It was really the beginning that got me, and this sentence in particular, "How lucky am I to be needed by ideas and children and animals?" (Except for animals, because you know, I really don't care for them and refuse them entry to our family.) I can pretty much count on Glennon to write something I believe or need to hear, and she did it again in this short post.

What drew me to the word present is how irritated I often feel by how much my presence is demanded so often and from so many sources. No sooner do I sit down or start a task then someone in my family needs me desperately, and I must put down what I am doing (which is important) and tend to that person. Reframing the annoyance into gratitude for being needed is a helpful skill. Not one that I'm particularly good at, though.

And then my sister found this article, and I feel like I could have written most of it myself. It's comforting to know one is not alone in the struggle for patience and presence. But then there's her #11: me-time is not a right.

Sorry, Mrs. Gore, but I think it is. And so does Stephanie. To quote my mother, "Happy mothers have happy children." If I gave and gave and gave and never got me time, we would be a supremely unhappy family. This is why my children will have nap time or quiet time until they start school. And this is why they have early bedtimes. I need time to recharge (and write blog posts), time to replenish myself, as I once read in a Gail Godwin book.

A lot of what I am studying and thinking on in the presence quest is pure power of the brain. I am struggling to control my wandering mind in order to give myself to my children more fully. I'm trying o remember I made the choice and am ultimately glad I am staying home with my children, and that being needed is part of this package. To tie my brain down in my body and even feel gratitude for these clamoring voices and needs. 

To close, I've had one real present triumph in the last month. Remember the toddler bed? Remember how Mr. Toddler Himself, took his new bed as a sign that he's not obligated to nap? Turns out that was a really bad impulse on his part. Around about 4:30, meltdowns occurred. Great emotional turmoil that could only be kept in some control through constant holding. And, let's face it, you cannot put dinner on the table, clean up the house, give baths, and get two children to bed while holding one the entire time.

I tried everything. I am both thorough and extremely stubborn. Sitting outside his room and telling him to get back in bed every time he started to climb out finally convinced him of that rule (after many days and about five million, Get back in bed!s). But, still, there are the days that he plays instead of settling down for a nap. And I know we will all pay if he doesn't take the nap.

Turns out the secret is to lie down with him. I've never been one of those sweet, patient mamas that does this with her children. I don't like a family bed, and I've always insisted my children learn to fall asleep on their own. I resent shaving off any of my alone time by helping one of them fall asleep while all I can think of is the twenty-five tasks I'd rather be accomplishing. But on those bad days of nap refusal, it works. Lying down next to him (and insisting he lie down, too) and quieting my own mind calms him and helps him drift off.

First, he wriggles and giggles, but when he realizes he's pinned (gently), he gives in and starts sucking on this two favorite fingers. He won't go gracefully, though. He takes breaks to kick his legs or stick his fingers in my ear. But, eventually, he gets still, and his vowel song quiets, and his mouth relaxes so that his fingers fall out. And I slowly and carefully climb out of his bed, tiptoe out, and close the door behind me. Off to me time with my brain a little quieter and my body a little more relaxed than it was before.

He's a pretty boy, he is.

Friday, February 21, 2014

TToT14: Wrap it up!

Well, it has been a fine trip to TX. The weather has been extremely cooperative, and we have spent enough time outdoors to have built up stores to keep us going through the next few months at home. Sort of like Frederick. Plus, our furnace broke while we were gone! Nice timing, furnace, nice timing.

Nine highlights from our trip in random order:

1. I've written about it before (last week), and I'll write about it again. Hardly anything makes me happier than watching my kids play with their cousins.

My daughter and my sister's older son are in interesting team. Charlie has a strong will, and he can bowl most playmates over with it. Maggie comes across as a pushover in some ways, but she can hold her own with Charlie, and it is fun to watch. One afternoon, they spent an hour playing together without any parent interaction or supervision. Beautiful!

2. I don't go to church except when I visit family, but I grew up going every Sunday. I can't begin to number the hymns my sister and I have sung next to each other. It warms the cockles of my heart when we stand next to each other and sing familiar songs again. I may not be able to attend to a sermon for more than 30 seconds, but I do like the hymns.

3. Kiddie Park. There is an ancient amusement park for the preschool set in San Antonio's Brackenridge Park. We older cousins hypothesize that it must be decades out of code. I have a 70-something-year-old uncle who visited this park when he was a boy. But we love it, and we just keep our fingers crossed. One to five years old, there was a little something for every cousin.

4. Glennon. Do I need to expound on that any further? Probably not.

5. Lots of good, quiet times with my parents. Making supper together, watching TV, playing games, discussing my hidden talent so I could write a blog post. A night out at a bar with my dad and park adventures with my mama and the kids (with this memorable statement from Maggie, "We are going to throw huge and big and small rocks into the huge river!"). I leave my worries at home when I visit my parents.

6. Watching Downton Abbey with my original family. Such a small event and such a highlight. We laugh at the same lines ("sloth under water" (BTW, Lizzi, you must tell me if it's a Brit thing to pronounce sloth with a long o or if its just an early 20th century thing)) and react similarly to the same events. Then we all shared a high class beer and discussed the episode. Why is it that Cora cannot hold her head upright?

7. Tex-Mex to feed my soul. Taco Cabana or La Fonda, I won't turn it down. I could eat Tex-Mex once a week so it's just as well that I only indulge in TX. I feel obligated to put away a basket of chips and salsa in addition to my entree and my margarita to get the full good out of the meal, so I'm afraid I would soon weigh 200 pounds.

8. Grown-up cousin time, too! Golly, I love those people. It's funny to think these steady, grown-up folks who carry such huge responsibilities on their shoulders were the same ones who made up silly dances for each other to copy, participated in farting competitions, and played rounds of septuple Solitaire. We may have left the silly dances and farting competitions behind (not the multi-player Solitaire games), but we've retained our senses of humor, and those growing up years together have cemented our relationships.

9. The innumerable moments of bonding between generations. My dad putting Leo to bed each night, my sister brushing my daughter's hair, my brother playing a very long game of Keep-the-Ball-on-the-Roof with my daughter and nephew. Too many more to name and all equally precious.

And number 10:

There's not one of our number who will be disappointed to see the Dude at DCA on Saturday. Soon, Dude, soon!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

FTSF11: Decisions, Decisions

Host Janine, Kate, Kristi, and Stephanie
My hidden talent...

This is a fabulous prompt to receive when visiting your parents. Because who knows you like your parents do? As much as I desperately wanted to come up with something truly cool, I had to embrace my extreme lack of coolness and just share who I really am. This one was my mother's suggestion.

Oh, Myers and Briggs. I don't pretend to have any extensive understanding of Myers-Briggs score interpretation, but I sure do enjoy discussing it. I took the full version in 1994, and I've continued to receive fairly similar scores on the short Internet version since. There's one question that contributes to your T/F score about decisions--whether you find them easy or difficult--which I never find difficult to answer (ironically). I hate decisions. I don't particularly love small decisions like, "Where shall we go for dinner?" or "What day shall we pick up the mulch at the compost center?"

Bigger decisions like, "Which day do you want to fly? And what time?" send me running to the TV for emotional relief. The Dude can attest to this: he starts talking travel plans, and I run away. (Not that I don't like to travel, by the way, I just don't like planning it.)

So you can imagine my difficulty with a decisions like, "Where will we move?" or "Shall I change jobs?" Ultimate anxiety overload.

The funny thing, though, is that my mother's suggestion was that my hidden talent is my decision-making ability. And, in comparison to my sister (bless her heart), I am extraordinary at it. My sister is so convinced that decisions don't bother me that she thinks I must score differently on the Myers-Briggs than I actually do (she's the one who actually knows it, being a therapist and all).

But here's my secret: I've learned to compartmentalize. When I know a decision is going to be a hard one, one of those ones that gives me anxiety nightmares and keeps me on edge all day long, I pack as much of the emotional involvement as I possibly can into a little portion of my brain. I seal it good and tight with packing tape and then avert my eyes. Possibly for months. There's no way to pack it all away, and I wouldn't be able to make a decision without feeling it, but this way, I can still function.

And I know, with those monster, scary decisions that cause too much emotional upheaval to handle, I can't unwrap that box in a hurry. It'll stay sealed, good and tight, long after the decision has been made and acted upon, until I'm no longer so tender. Want an example of this? My second TToT post, written a year after we moved.

So, in the end, I'm really not terrible at making decisions. I can do it; I just hate them. How about you? Decisions easy or hard? Any coping mechanisms needed?

Friday, February 14, 2014

TToT13: All Hail the Mighty State!

FIRST OF ALL, huge thank yous to all who participated in the guessing game last week. Well done, you! And well done, Lizzi, for not guessing even when I had left my brain behind in bed. 

Seriously, well done, Weldons. Nearly all of you identified my eyes and Lizzi's correctly. And Dyanne's. But she guessed first so I bet you just cheated. And that's OK. It was within the rules. 

But who won?  Well, it was none other than the lovely preschool teacher and cat mama extraordinaire, Dyanne. With the very first guess of all, no less. Dyanne, send me your email address and your supercool prize will be on its way. 

And here are the correct answers for all who are curious:










But on to the Ten Things:

1. I am warm. So wonderfully warm. While The Dude is at home shoveling over a foot of snow (Who am I kidding? We hire neighborhood children.), I am basking in the pleasant temperatures of February in Central Texas.

2. I'm still high from running into Glennon Doyle Melton in an elevator in the San Antonio airport Read more about that here.

3. Then, I got to see her speak the next day at an extremely Jun-ya League event (get it, Lizzi?). Not only did I get to speak to her again, but I was prepared this time and possibly communicated how much her blog and her message mean to me. Possibly. I still stammered.

4. And then I accidentally stole someone's copy of Carry On, Warrior and had her inscribe it to me. Don't worry, I tattled on myself and paid for another copy. Cuz that's what GDM would do.

5. I pretty much gobble up every word Glennon utters (I really think she hangs the moon). But here's one line (more or less) from her speech has stuck with me.
When women give to each other and build each other up, then they overflow into their communities.
I love this. When you are full from others' support, you have more to give. Not to detract from the message of her speech, which was in support of a particular after-school service center in San Antonio, but this line made me think of blogging. How every comment left on my blog builds me up a bit more, and gives me more to pass out to other bloggers I follow.

I started blogging when I moved to a new state where I knew no one but my in-laws and had hardly a friend. It's hard to really push yourself out into the community when you're a Capital I-Introvert, and I started blogging to make friends without having to make the in-person connections. Maybe it's chance or coincidence, but I believe the supportive group of blogging friends I've found has made me more confident and comfortable as I (very slowly) branch out into in-person friendships in my new state (a year later--see? slowly).

6. Another Glennon take away was that the superficial conversations women too often have are not the safe zone so many of us believe they are (which is why many of us stick with them). At the superficial level we are too different, according to Glennon. We find commonality in the deepest of emotions, by sharing our grief and our joy and our real experiences. I found that message to be particularly moving, and later realized how the conversation I had with the woman next to me was such a wonderful tribute to Glennon.

This woman and I were talking about my children, and I asked if she had any. She said she did not, but then told me she was pregnant with twins! I offered my congratulations and as we talked more, I learned that she had had three miscarriages and had finally gotten pregnant through in vitro fertilization. We talked about her husband's joy and care of her, how her mother had already bought a double stroller, where she's gaining weight, and how the first ultrasound is next week. It was a joyful, real conversation at a joyful, real event.

I'm really not good at superficial conversations. I tend to jump right into the depths in person. I think that's something many introverts have in common, and why so many introverts don't like social interactions (the heavy role of superficial talk). Yet, I stick to a lot of superficial in my blog, because who knows who may read it? So, here and now, I am going to try to be less superficial. Sometimes. In between crafty posts.

7. This weekend is a mini-family reunion with my mother's side of the family, which was the original reason we traveled to TX this month (Glennon was a bonus). I think some people scoff at this kind of event, but to me, it's a highlight of the year. My generation is grown: myyoungest cousin is in law school, and most of us are heads of our own families now, but we've been getting together on at least a yearly basis since we were babies. I grew up with these people, and they're some of my favorites alive today. There is such comfort in visiting people who know you so well you never have to explain yourself. 

8. I've written about this before, but there is hardly anything that makes me happier than to see my children begin to form affectionate relationships with their cousins. I am overjoyed to see that the prospect of playing with cousins is an exciting one.

9. Any gathering of this family means really good food. It's an Italian family after all. Here's to prosciutto and parmesan, good wine, and Nona's chicken! And Tex Mex, of course.

10. So, to Texas and all the good that happens here! (And, go, Wendy Davis!) Please join me in singing Texas, Our Texas to finish out this list.

Texas, Our Texas! all hail the mighty State!
Texas, Our Texas! so wonderful so great!
Boldest and grandest, withstanding ev'ry test
O Empire wide and glorious, you stand supremely blest.
Texas, O Texas! your freeborn single star,
Sends out its radiance to nations near and far,
Emblem of Freedom! it set our hearts aglow,
With thoughts of San Jacinto and glorious Alamo.
Texas, dear Texas! from tyrant grip now free,
Shines forth in splendor, your star of destiny!
Mother of heroes, we come your children true,
Proclaiming our allegiance, our faith, our love for you.
God bless you Texas! And keep you brave and strong,
That you may grow in power and worth, throughout the ages long.
God bless you Texas! And keep you brave and strong,
That you may grow in power and worth, throughout the ages long.

Texas, our Texas, the land of 70 degree February days. We love you!

FTSF10: Good Girls Don't Get Punished

In high school, I was a good girl. I read the books assigned, joined the Honor Society, asked for help after school when I was having trouble (in math, always). At some point I decided I would never smoke a cigarette. Here at 38, I still haven't smoked a cigarette, because I can be a rather stubborn person in trivial matters.

But I also had been instilled with a strong sense of confidence in my own ability to determine what was right and what rules were valid. Through no accident, I assure you, I sat at the back corner of the room in my trig class. My gentle but extremely mediocre trig teacher, Mrs. Seiver, would occasionally ask me if I would like to move closer to the overhead projector (Mrs. Seiver, herself, never budged from it). Simple Mrs. Seiver never once considered that her sentence form was the issue. If she had once considered a command, I would have gone. Grudgingly, yes, but I'd have moved because she told me to. But since she only ever asked, I simply responded that no, I wouldn't like to move to the front of the room; I was comfortable where I was.

Mostly good, strong-willed girls
But, as I said, mostly a good girl. I preferred to stay in baking cookies and rereading Pride and Prejudice than go out drinking with friends. Then, as now, I preferred my family to anyone unrelated to me.

Through some strange decision-making process, you were not required to take Calculus to graduate with honors from Thomas Jefferson High School in the early 90s. Most of my usual classmates did it anyway, but I saw that loophole and jumped right on through it. As a result, I had the opportunity of a free period my Senior year, and as luck would have it, Mrs. Dunn of the Biology department was interested in having me as a student aide. I had nothing but teenage contempt for poor Mrs. Dunn. I think she was probably in her late 50s at the time and had so large a set of front teeth that her lips did not close, and her teeth had dug a permanent dent where they rested on her unevenly lipsticked lower lip (I'm not condoning this judgemental attitude; I'm being truthful). She also saw me simply as a good girl and did not have the insight into my character some of my cleverer teachers did. And so she asked me to be a student aide. First period, to boot.

Through fortunate circumstances for me and unfortunate ones for Mrs. Dunn, my parents bought my older brother a car sometime during that school year. I can't remember what time of year that would have been (since seasons don't vary all that much in SE TX), but that car was mine until my brother came home from college for the summer. And that meant I was no longer at the mercy of my father's schedule when it came to getting to school in the mornings. With my father leaving early and my mother taking my sister to school, I often was the last to leave the house. As the year wore on, I slept later and later and missed more and more of first period. Eventually, I started skipping first period and my ditto machine duties entirely. I seldom had any reason to visit dark Biology corner on the first floor of my high school so I began to hardly even see Mrs. Dunn. I admit I felt some regret, but when the alarm rang in the mornings, that regret was never the the guiding emotion.

One day Mrs. Dunn managed to find me. She told me if I didn't start showing up to school on time, she would report me to some adminstrator or another. I may have made resolutions, but again, come 6:30 am, they were for naught. And so it came that I was summoned to Mr. Washington's office. Mr. Washington was one of our many vice principals and a pretty genial man. My one experience with him was the time my friends had him serenade me the morning of my birthday. I was not frightened of him, but I had not often been sent to the principal's office. So I was wary. He proceeded to talk to me gently about my responsibilities, particularly that of "setting a good example" for others in the school. He asked that I please start coming to school on time.

You know what I did? I never returned to Mrs. Dunn's classroom. I actually did show up for first period from time to time, but I went to the history office and played mah jong on the computer with my friend Jamie who was a teacher aide there.

I was found guilty...but I was not punished.

Maybe it's because I was 95% of the time I really good girl. Maybe it was because my older brother had been such a troublemaker, and I was so tame by comparison. Maybe it was because they were too busy with genuinely difficult students. Maybe they laid off because my mother was mayor of our city (my parents never would have advocated for this if they had any idea of what was going on, but I imagine the thought could have been influential). 

But now, twenty years later, I feel so, so sorry for Mrs. Dunn. Poor woman, she had tangled with someone she had mistakenly pegged as compliant and got absolutely no support from the administration. My behavior was shameful, but so was Mr. Washington's.

On the other hand, I did get to sleep in.

 Hosts Janine, Kate, Kristi, and Stephanie

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What Goes Down Must Come Up

My children are experienced fliers. We have never lived close to my parents and always far enough away that driving is too overwhelming of a prospect. We've experienced it all: the fabulous flights of good moods and naps and the horrendous flights of screaming and kicking. Yes, I have had to restrain a child to protect our seatmate from physical abuse. I've fallen asleep and possibly let the blanket fall from my exposed boob. Still not sure about that one. I try to block it from my memory.

In all this flying I have only once experience true rudeness. I was once seated separately from my four year old daughter on a full flight. When we boarded (late), I asked a row of people if one would be willing to move one row back so I could sit with my preschooler. One of the three passengers glanced at me before instantly returning her eyes to her magazine. The other two ignored me. My face grew hot, and I tried again. No response. Fortunately, a flight attendant came to my rescue, and with some exasperation (at whom, I am really not sure) solved the problem.

But, aside from the passive-aggressive-yet-smiling offers of assistance from flight attendants when I have a screaming baby and the one who instructed me how to hold my infant, I generally find people go out of their way to be friendly and encouraging. They lift bags into overhead compartments and fold strollers on the jetway. A middle-aged woman is my first choice for a seatmate (if I must have one) because she's been there. She will probably be patient and may be willing to help entertain in a pinch. The nicest mother I ever came across made a point to say that I was doing a great job, and she'd be happy to hold my baby if I needed to take my preschooler to the bathroom. Yes, please! But anybody, parent or not, will stop a child trying to bolt. Let's face it, a mother traveling alone with two under five is an object of sympathy. And makes said mother think people may be good after all.

I was once traveling with a furious, writhing screamer who would.not.nurse, though she, I, and everyone else on the plane knew that was the solution. Carefully avoiding eye contact with my, no doubt, furious seatmates, I made every attempt to convince her nursing was her ticket to comfort and oblivion. Finally, I got her attention, she latched on, and got busy. The drink cart came by, and I ordered a beer. What can I say? I wanted a treat, and I also was hoping the alcohol would have some effect on the small one. I mime-whispered to the flight attendant that I could not reach my wallet without disturbing my infant, and she was perfectly happy to agree that I could pay her later. Much, much later, my infant solidly in the land of deepest sleeps, I retrieved my wallet. And the flight attendant waved me off. Angels among us.

We flew to Texas three days ago. It started out as a pretty good flight, became a pretty bad one, and descended into the worst of the worst during the descent and terribly prolonged holding pattern. Could it have possibly lasted twelve hours? It felt like twelve hours. I'm sure the crimson-haired hipster in front of us and the elderly Indian woman beside us felt like it lasted twelve hours. No doubt the white-bearded man behind us and the kind woman who picked up our fallen books were holding their noses and counting the minutes. I just kept whispering, "It's OK, we will land soon. Shhhh, shhhhh. I promise, it will be soon." At one point, I accidentally made eye contact with the Indian woman and she erupted into peals of laughter. I'm still not quite sure what that was about. It seemed neither heartless nor sympathetic.

But we did finally land. After a lengthy bathroom visit, we met up with my mother and were heading up to the parking garage via the elevator. Three ladies allowed us to enter first, and I happened to glance at the face of one of them. Was that Glennon? I'd better take another look.

It was! It was Glennon! Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery!

I tentatively asked, "Glennon?" She looked at me, raised her arms over her head, and screamed! And then gave me an enormous hug.

Yes, the Glennon Doyle Melton in person is exactly the same enthusiastic, funny, passionate Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery. It was enormous love fest, though I was miserably starstruck and tongue-tied as I always am before someone I admire. Did we really need to talk at length about the disappointment of being the shorter sister? And why did I make a fist the whole time we were together?

By the way, her sister has the same warm, friendly personality and is just as free with her hugs, though she is seven inches taller. The two of them make you feel like you were the very person they were hoping to see.

And, yes, I am pleased as punch to be in Texas and not the mid-Atlantic right now. Warm, warm Texas.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

TToT 12: Benefical Genetic Mutation (AKA, Green Eyes)

The Background:

Some time ago, Beth Tehilo, while receiving a Sunshine Award, mentioned she had green eyes. She passed the award on to me, and though I failed to mention my eye color (it's green) you can see it in my captivating video. Then, I passed the award on to Lisa and Lizzi, who both mentioned they have green eyes.

Now, truly green eyes are not that common, and if you've got them you carry around a certain amount of pride (1) (the more honest call it vanity). So, it was no surprise that a few more green-eyed ladies came out of the woodwork. And with them, they brought fine gifts. There's a green-eyed lady song (2) and a drink (3).

So get ready to crank up the youtube and pour yourself some pineapple rum (actually, I'll stick to bourbon). But first, The Science Lesson:

I did a little green-eye-googling to flesh out this post, and guess what I discovered? Recently the Mendelian recessive trait has been disproven. What we were taught in school about eye color before 2007 was not correct.

WHAT?!?!? I knew when Pluto was downgraded from proper planet status, but this? I never really got the hang of that big R, little r business in the first place, so really it's a huge relief (4). It turns out eye color is determined by genetic mutation, "which could be beneficial or nonbeneficial." You can read more by following the link above. It's really rather interesting. In another link I discovered only 2% of the population is truly green-eyed. So, indeed we are rare, beautiful birds (5). Beneficial ones, too.

Now, turn on that song and pour your drink because it's time for The PAR-TAY!

I was chosen to be the hostess of the gang (6), and as hostess, I've decided we will play a game (7). It won't be too hard since some of these ladies have already posted their pictures in a post, but we'll have some fun. Whoever can identify them all correctly first wins a prize! I don't know what that prize will be, but it will definitely be something super cool!

The members of the gang are Angela, Beth, Dyanne, Kari, Kristi(2), Lisa, Lizzi, Rebecca, Sarah (me), and Yvonne (8 and 9 because I'm thankful for the gang but also the members I didn't already know).

I'll post their numbered pictures below, and your job is to guess who's who in a timely manner. Then, if you're first to get them all right, I'll send you the supercool prize!

So, without further eloquence (without further eloquence), the game is afoot! And may the odds be ever in your favor.











Green-eyers can participate too (even though they have a distinct advantage). That's the advantage of being a member of the club! But don't wait to watch their answers or you may miss out!

Hmmm...#10. All those who comment in addition to posting their guesses.

Your hosts

Friday, February 7, 2014

FTSF9: Granola Crunch

I want to tell you...

that I'm a pretty crunchy-granola mother. I scored Quartz on this hilarious quiz. Both my children were "caught" by midwives at home, we use cloth diapers, and I nursed my children until they were ready to quit (it about broke my heart when my son told me he was done). I buy almost all organic produce (unless it's on the low pesticide list (we eat a lot of melons and oranges because they're less expensive)) and dairy and often even meat. We garden and try to clean with cloth instead of paper as often as possible (we do have paper towels on hand, however). I have Safe Mama's Cheat Sheets bookmarked for when I need to purchase more shampoo or sunscreen or some other product.

But for the record, I love TV. Would never give it up.

This is the path I've embraced. I've researched and read and listened to qualified people whose ideas I trust. I follow this path because it is what I believe is healthier for my family and often the more economic choice. But I'm not trying to convince you that you should make the same choices I do. I think there are an infinite number of "right" ways to live, and I only have the
knowledge and power to choose what it right for my family. And, for the record, I cannot fathom giving up my disposable toilet scrubbers. Everyone has a line they can't cross. 

(OK, that had to be in bold. I don't want to be seen as judgemental (that e is there on purpose; it's how it should be spelled!) or narrow-minded.)

It's funny because where I live now, I'm rather unusual in my level of crunchiness. On the other hand, when we lived in Asheville, I was average. In Asheville, you're odd if you don't wear your baby, and I was certainly unusual in my crunchy group for not embracing the family bed (I need my space!). Most everyone I knew did some vegetable gardening and owning your own chickens was far from unusual. And there were more chiropractors than you could shake a stick at (I still miss mine).

It's a slippery slope, this crunchy lifestyle. You start out with organic produce and then read that it's even more important that you eat organic animal products. Then, you start thinking about the chemicals in your cleaners and reading about how much healthier and happier and what a better person you will be if you start making everything you eat, touch, or wear yourself!!!!!!

Which leads me to my question: where's the line between environmentally-friendly and economical mother and mother who resides in Crazytown? Maybe, the fewer pesticides and antibiotics and hormones we ingest, they less likely my kids are to get cancer someday. Maybe the more we invest proactively, the more we can sock away long-term for college tuitions. Maybe the more we prepare at home and the less packaging we buy, we can keep this poor Earth from being destroyed at the same rapid rate.

Especially of late, I've come across more natural body cleansing methods that usual in my online readings. And some of these strike even me as pretty wild. But, the more I think about them, the more I think of trying the methods out. Fewer chemicals, right? Less money spent, right? And these articles are written by (or referred to me by) people who aren't crazy. Some are written by bloggers I've followed for some time, and they're honest, straightforward folk who are definitely not pushing an all-natural agenda or a particular product. Yet, I still haven't taken the plunge.

So, I'm curious, readers, has anyone tried the following methods? Anyone willing to say I am crossing the line into Extremeville by even considering these routines? I'm attaching blog posts if you'd like to read more. Oh, and these are not for my kids; they're for me.

Facial Cleansing with Oils
I have terrible skin, even here in my late 30s. I've tried every product and technique under the sun. I assure you I have tried them all. I just have senstive, acne-prone skin, and I guess I always will. This author goes into a lot of detail about this process over several posts, and I have a great deal of faith in her objectivity.

Oil-Pulling for Teeth
When I first read about this, I was sure it was a practice of Crazytown. Come on! This is insane! No brushing? But Design Mom does not strike one as a crazy person, and she even admitted her own doubts. I hate brushing, and I hate flossing. The idea is taking root.

Shampooing with Baking Soda
OK, this one is my biggest stretch. I'm not familiar with this author, and she doesn't go into nearly the detail I would like to hear. Does she keep baking soda in her shower? Doesn't it clump in the dampness? I know washing your hair less frequently makes it less oily. This I practice (don't worry, I still shampoo a few times a week), but I am still more inclined to ditch my Pantene for a healthier shampoo. At least as a first step.

Go ahead, you can tell me I'm crazy.

Hosts Janine, Kristi, Stephanie, and Kate

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Valentine's Day Banner with air-dry heart ornaments

This little project that we kind of made up as we went along may be one of my most favorite things we've made yet. I just love how it turned out. And, once again, it fits my criteria of cheap, easy, and kid-friendly. It's very adaptable according to interest and season, but here's how we ran with it for Valentine's Day.

valentine's day banner with air dry heart ornaments

The little hearts are made from a mixture of water, baking soda, and starch. This blogger has the very straightforward recipe. I'd only add that when it thickens, it thickens fast. You sit there stirring, thinking, "When will this mixture get thick?" and BAM! it's the consistency of mashed potatoes. So watch out. Also, ours took two full days to dry.

Originally, I though we'd make different-sized hearts, but then I discovered most of my heart cookie cutters disappeared in the move (or I'll unearth somewhere years from now) so we had to make do with one lone cookie cutter. (And a shamrock, but that's just me getting ahead of the game.) I used a straw to poke holes near the top of each heart.

Then, I splurged on a set of pearlized paints ($2.99), and we got to work. The colors were really pretty, and the painting process took several days because of attention spans and painting fronts and backs. Actually, that's one of the greatest qualities of this project: it lasts for awhile. You do a little here and a little there, but it's not hard to set up or clean up and can fill short periods of time that need an activity. 

valentine's day banner with air dry heart ornaments
To prevent cracking, make sure to reflatten your ornaments immediately after cutting. Trying to flatten them semi-dry causes the cracking. Lesson learned.

We considered various options for the hearts but finally settled on writing HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY! on them and hanging them from the mantel.

valentine's day banner with air dry heart ornaments

I made the main rope by braiding three yarn strands and then tied each heart on with a bow. Tying them on was a great technique because I could adjust where each hung and respace as needed.

Maggie and I are both loving how they turned out, and they hang just high enough that Leo can't destroy them. I also love how we've managed to commemorate this stage of art interest: painting and letter tracing. If only we had thought to add glitter glue!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Valentine's Heart Suncatchers

It's February, the groundhog has hidden himself away again, and to cheer ourselves up, it's time to decorate for Valentine's Day. (I admit it: I've been decorating since mid-January. The polar vortex necessitated a lot of indoor projects.)

I've written before of my inherent love for holiday decorating, and until this year, we owned precisely zero Valentine's Day decorations. As always, my goals in decoration creation are projects that are cheap and easy (bonus if kids can help). This one is really only elementary-kid (or older) friendly (read: fluent scissorer), but it is cheap and easy. Especially if you have crayons laying around the house. And waxed paper. Because that is all you need.

valentine's day suncatchers with old crayon shavings

We're not really a crayon family, I find. We have ten tons of them (a benefit of being two former elementary school teachers), but my kids don't have much use for them. If you're like us and would like to use up some crayons, or just have some useless broken ones, this project is for you.

Time heals all wounds, they say, and in spite of the flying pig fiasco, I actually ventured back into the land of Martha Stewart with forgiveness in my heart. Or, I was wooed back in by a project that sure looked like it would fit my requirements of cheap and easy. And, the instructions are not bad, not bad at all. Check them out here.

But, of course, I have thoughts to add:

1. It turns out the only handheld pencil sharpener we had was too small for crayons. So I shaved my crayons with a paring knife. It was quick and easy. I saved the crayon remnants (you can only shave so far) for another project (coming soon), but I found that very small chunks melted just fine so there's no need for precision here. Bonus! Oh, and if your crayons are so old that the paper wrapping is stuck to them, you can shave it off with the knife.

2. Martha is not kidding when she says to cover your ironing board with craft paper. Don't think you can be neat enough; don't be lured into impulsive action. You too will end up having to buy a new ironing board cover. Once you set your iron down and start to slide it across your layers of crayon shavings sandwiched between pieces of waxed paper and the paper towel mat and cover you thought would do the trick, that wax will squirt out and across your ironing board like the juice of an overripe tomato. Be warned. Cover the whole thing.

valentine's day suncatchers with old crayon shavings
3. Once the waxed paper/crayon shaving sheets had dried, I traced heart shapes on. But I ended up folding some scraps in half to cut out symmetrical hearts without tracing. Folding does detach the paper from the wax along the fold, but you can just iron them a bit more to remelt and reattach. So fold away; you can always re-iron.

4. I hung ours with thread, but if that seems like just too much effort, tape them straight to the window. They'll look pretty that way too.

5. Finally, you could make these suncatchers in any shape or color. I can picture green shamrocks or orange pumpkins. I will definitely be keeping these idea in mind for future seasons.

Here are ours with evidence of the polar vortex in the background:

valentine's day suncatchers with old crayon shavings