Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 30 of Gratitude: Grateful for this Project

Okay, I know I putzed out here at the end, but you know, I'm really impressed that I was able to write as many posts as I did this month.  There are so many days that I have no idea when I'll find time to do lots of essential things, like eat or sleep.  (Shower?  Not essential.  Not every day, anyway.)  Finding time to write is like finding time to exercise, a miracle type thing.

What I discovered this month is something I already knew was true, but hadn't put into practice in a while.  The more you write, the easier it is.  You get into the rhythm, so your words flow easier.  You remember how to compose in your head, and the lines get stuck there until you can get them on the page.  Also, when you are blogging, and you stop for a little while, there's always this hurdle to get over when you start back up -- how much of what I haven't written about do I need to catch up on?  And there's pressure for it to be good.  Why write that piece of minutiae when you haven't written in weeks?  There's always that thoughtful post waiting to be written that you don't have the time or energy or brainpower to compose, so you just don't write anything at all.  But when you expect yourself to write every day, you know it's okay for there to be some junk.  

I'll admit, I was a little panicked every single day.  I couldn't get ahead of myself enough to write some posts and schedule them to publish ahead of time.  So every morning there was a time that I wondered, 'What if I can't find anything to be grateful for today?'  How terrible would that be?  What if today was the really crappy, I'm feeling really negative, there's nothing new to say under the sun day?

But then, every day, by the time evening rolled around, there was some moment that stood out as "Yes.  That is why I'm glad I'm living this particular life."  And that's what I wrote about.

There were some topics I knew I'd want to write about going into this project, of course.  But truly, each day brought different angles of the best parts of my life to my attention.  And I was able to think about them, and write about them, in ways that surprised me as the posts unfolded.

Having this structure to frame my days really did help me be more positive about my life.  I had fewer rough days this month.  Fewer days when I felt exhausted and exasperated and just plain overwhelmed.  Whether that is directly related to choosing to find ways to be grateful, I'm not sure, but I think it played a role.  When I was actively looking for the things in my life that are valuable and precious, and making sure that I put into words just why they are valuable, I felt better about just about everything.

There were times when I started to get self conscious about the project.  Times when I started to wonder if what I was writing bordered on bragging.  Hey. Look at me and this great life I have. I had to just get past those thoughts.  Because hey.  It is a great life.  And I know how very blessed I am to have it.

I think also, my writing benefitted this month from having to adopt a more straightforward, sunny tone.
It's not that I don't write positively about my life.  I do.  In fact, I think I tend to err more on the side of positivity in general on this blog, as a way of protecting my kids who may someday read this blog.  While I want them to understand some of challenges I faced raising them, I don't want them to feel as if I worked out my most serious concerns and anxieties about them for an audience.

I don't always share the biggest difficulties, but I do tend to write about the everyday challenges with what I recognize is often self deprecation and deflecting humor.  Adopting a more earnest style this month forced me to be a little bit more thoughtful, and to write with a little less snarkiness as I sometimes feel.

Oh, in case you were wondering about days 26 through 29, it wasn't that I didn't find anything to be grateful for on those days.  I just was simply too tired to make myself sit down and compose those posts.  That's one benefit of this exercise.  Even when I wasn't actually writing, I was writing.

I'm glad to have found ways to be grateful this month.  I may take a little break from this particular format, but I'd like to see Gratitude Days become a regular feature here at Small World.  I just hope it is on a regular enough basis that I'll still be able to pay attention to the small things I'm grateful for as well as the big ones.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Day 25 Part Two

So much for praising technology. Blogger froze up, as usual, before I could finish captioning the photos in the previous post & publish. Then my laptop battery died. Of course, I brought the wrong cord for the laptop. So now I'm composing in HTML on J's iPad. Not ideal, but still amazing what is possible to accomplish via all kinds of devices.s Even though technology is not working at it's optimum for me, I'm still so grateful to have all these methods of communication. Amazing. I'll be back on Sunday when I have my darn cord back...

Day 25 of Gratitude: Technology

Like many of us, I've become pretty blase about the presence of technology in our lives, used to being connected to media pretty much anywhere.  But I am still old enough to remember typing on a typewriter and recording television shows on VHS tapes.*  Heck, I even remember life before VHS tapes.  So it kind of blows my mind a little that I can be typing this blog entry on my laptop and posting pictures to the internet as my husband drives us along the highway on the way to visit his family in Cleveland.

I still want to have some time to read my book while I'm having some quiet time in the front seat, but boy oh boy, it amazing and good to imagine all those pieces of data flying around the air as we travel.

Here's the photo essay of yesterday's Thanksgiving festivities, courtesy the personal hotspot we are so fortunate to have.

Pinterest inspired veggie tray!

Looking at her daddy makes e. laugh every time!

Two pretty ladies.

m. and her dad.

Grandchildren always stuff the turkey!


Dinner Table Before
Where these two spent most of the meal.

*(One of L's favorite pasttimes is dragging out some of my old tapes that are still inexplicably stored in an end table drawer.  It's always a fun little surprise: Oh!  The Claire Danes Romeo & Juliet!  Sliding Doors where Gywneth has great hair!  Oh, Dead Poets Society.  Neil, you can pretend to be Dr. House's friend as much as you want, you'll always be starring in A Midsummers' Night Dream to me.  And Knox!  Stop pretending to be a big shot lawyer on The Good Wife).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Day 24 of Gratitude: Family

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Thanks to my family for spending the day at our house sharing my favorite things: my kids, food, and conversation.

I meant to have photos to post, but it was all just too wonderful to enjoy as it happened.

Hope you and yours had plenty of delicious food and moments today too, and that your gravy turned out as great as ours.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Day 23 of Gratitude: This Awesome Boy is Mine

Today I'm grateful to have an assistant to conduct today's Real Women of Pinterest tutorial.  
I'm a little busy chopping celery and onions, ironing tablecloths ( I know I said I wasn't going to, but...), and playing goalie at the lazy susan cabinet.  
He's going to tell you about a little activity we conducted last week.  I found the inspiration on Pinterest, but he original project can be found here.  We painted bread with colored milk, then toasted and ate our art!

Check out the video so you can do it, too!  
(Oh, he got food coloring all over his shirt, 
which explains the interesting fashion statement here.)

That didn't really take too long, so we also tried out some mini volcanoes by pouring colored vinegar onto baking soda spread onto a baking sheet.  
Probably should have had them use droppers of some kind like the original inspiration. 

I didn't do a very good job of capturing the 'volcanoes' before it became a lake of mixed colors.

Pretty simple stuff, but O. called his grandparents 
to report what an awesome afternoon we were having!

Make sure to go visit mep at Not to Brag today and every Wednesday as she shares Pinteresting things.  Stacia at Fluffy Bunnies is also playing along with us in Romania!  Please, link your own successes (or failures :))  below!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Day 22: A House that is Clean Enough

Today, I had some friends from my mom's group over for a Thanksgiving lunch themed playdate.  I certainly wasn't thinking when I planned it that we would be out of town most of the weekend, and too tired on Sunday to think about cleaning the house.
So yesterday, I was feeling a little overwhelmed by the clutter, as I often am, and was wondering why in the world I had chosen to host such an event at my house.  I picked up toys and folded clothes in spurts before and after doing the Thanksgiving grocery run.  I wrote a blog post, went to Bible Study.  J. bribed the kids with a movie to pick up the toys in the basement.
I wasn't impressed with myself about the level of cleanliness around here.  I meant for the carpet to get steam cleaned, and the kitchen floor to get swept and mopped.  I did vacuum.  I didn't dust.  I didn't wash a window or wipe down any cabinets.  I have not yet ironed a tablecloth.
Today, for several hours, my little kids romped around the house with 10 other toddlers and preschoolers.  N. and her friend tried on every single princess outfit, twice. The grownups shared corn casserole, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. The toys all got dragged all over the family room again.  L. was so distracted he didn't empty the lazy susan cabinet once.
And before the other moms left, they threw the toys back into the corners of the rooms. There they will stay until tomorrow morning when L. drags them out again.
I could have spent the day cleaning.  I'm so thankful I did not.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Day 21 of Gratitude: Bible Girls

It's only 3:00 today, and since the baby girls aren't here today, I'm already starting to look forward to 6:30, when I'll be able to hang out with my other girls.  My Bible Study girls, that is.
I've been meeting with this patchwork group of women since O. was four months old and I was desperate to find some way to keep my mind from turning into a quivering mass of breastmilk, Zantac and diaper cream.  A good friend that I had once taught with, goaded me into going, calling me out on my preconceived notions of (and snobbery toward, if I'm being truthful)  ladies who got together to study the bible.
We met in the church basement to study Hebrews, and it rocked my world.  Who knew you could spend three weeks on one chapter of a single book of the Bible?  Who knew you could spend an entire YEAR studying the book of Isaiah, as we did a year ago, and still feel like you skimmed over a lot of those darn oracles?
We now meet in each other's homes, and are a little more relaxed about the format we follow to study the word, but it's always an indepth, personal, as well as intellectual discussion; we often grapple with honest and difficult questions.
Some of the members of the group have come and gone, and we're a collection of diverse church backgrounds and experiences.  We've been through births (lots of them!) and illnesses, weddings and funerals.  We've prayed over adoptions, job prospects, and difficult pregnancies, as well as encouraged each other through bad haircuts and parenting disasters.
These are the women I'm glad to turn to when I'm feeling most vulnerable, when I need to not be judged for the ways I struggle in my everyday life, and with whom I rejoice in the small joys of my days.
They have helped me move so much further along in my spiritual journey, taught me about the real power of prayer, and helped me become much closer to God.
If you want to know what the body of Christ looks like, I believe you will see it on Monday evenings in a house in suburban Cincinnati.  You'll see it in hugs, laughter, and tears.  You'll see it in cups of decaf coffee, glasses of red wine, bowls of guacamole, burned pots of soup, in swaddled babies and in a woman bouncing someone else's child on her hip.  It's in binders loaded down with colored pencils, notebooks with lists of handwritten observations, and a big yellow list of prayer requests.
I feel so grateful to be included in such a group, so blessed to have them as my friends, and honored to be able to learn more about Jesus along with them.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Day 20 of Gratitude: So Many Things

It's been a grey and rainy Sunday afternoon, the kind of day that can get you into a downer state of mind. Or make you just want to burrow down into the couch while your husband watches football and your kids run wild around the basement, pretending to be jewel thieves and planning pretend parties.
I may have done the burrowing on the couch thing for a while, working on my bible study and uploading pictures, but I didn't get too far into a downer state of mind.
There are far too many things to be thankful for this weekend.
Namely, that J. and I were able to take a little overnight trip to Louisville to see some college friends of his.  We met and went to the horse races at Churchill Downs, and did it up right with tickets into the Turf Club.  How fortunate we were to be able to sit for an afternoon and visit while making bets on horses that invariably for J. and I, came in last place.  I finally won a tiny bit when I started picking the horses I knew O. and N. would choose.  Allie's Event was the big winner, and if I had only trusted Grand Illusion to win, rather than show, we would have done better than break even on that bet.
After the races were over, we headed to dinner downtown, and drinks afterward.  It was so fun to be out with other grownups, laughing and posting dumb pictures on Facebook, eight adults in one Honda Odyssey, singing along to Red Solo Cup.  So nice to be able to share a night away with my dear husband, so I'm thankful to him for making the arrangements so long ago that there was no question that we would be going.
And of course, thankful to my parents, for watching all three kids and our geriatric dog so that we could get away.  It's a process to get all four of them packed up and out of the house, but worth it in the end. (I know, I was questioning it, J.  But yes.  Worth it.)
While we were gone, they took the kids to the local holiday season kickoff festival, and the parade that goes with it.  It was a first for the kids, and they couldn't stop talking about the groups of Cub Scouts, dancing girls, fancy cars with girls in pretty dresses, dogs dressed up, and floats with balloons and other decorations.
They fed them pizza and breadsticks, let them watch a movie, My dad bathed all three, and my mom got up with L. at 3AM so I wouldn't have to, at least for one night.
And if that isn't enought, they devote at least one day a week to me and to all five grandchildren while they are at my house.  Because while I love taking care of my nieces, I certainly could not do it alone with my own in the house.
While they are here, by the end of the day, the laundry is folded, the kids' rooms are straightened, (O. always goes in his room on those days and says "Grandpa must have been here!"), the basement is decluttered, and the kids have had more stories read to them and stories listened to than I would be able to stand.
My mom also has been known to wipe out my refrigerator shelves, organize my tupperware, and change sheets on the beds.  She knows the preschool songs to sing, teaches the baby new words and tricks, and somehow gets N. to wear socks.  My dad hangs pictures and curtain rods, finds homes for bathroom plungers, sweeps off my deck, and manages to walk the dog to the bus stop and back.  He teases O. and N., each with their own inside joke/invention.  (N.:  "I hope Grandpa doesn't try to trick me with a banana again!!")
They are pretty amazing, this pair. I got some of the best in the world with my parents, and for that, I am seriously grateful.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Days 18 & 19 of Gratitude: A Break

A busy couple of days!
Much to be thankful for, especially time with family, celebrating my wonderful dad's birthday, and a tiny overnight escape for J. and I.
I'll fill you in tomorrow with a triple dose of gratitude (mostly for my parents, who make a lot of what happens here at Small World possible!).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Day 17 of Gratitude: Smooth Separations

N. went to ballet class this evening.  Normally, she goes on Saturday mornings, for a combination ballet and tumbling class.  It hasn't always gone completely smoothly -- some days she says she doesn't want to stop playing at home with her brothers to go.  Other days she gets through the ballet portion only to throw a fit about going into tumbling.  The last couple of sessions have gone really well, in large part because she saw the costume she's going to get to wear for the Spring Showcase.  It is sparkly and bright blue.  You know, like a mermaid?  The theme is Under the Sea, and she knows I meant it when I said if we bought the costume, there would be no complaining allowed, or else she can't wear it.  And this girl is desperate for as much shiny sparkle as I'll allow.
We can't make it to class this Saturday, so we scheduled a makeup session for tonight.  I had no idea if it would be the same instructor, and obviously the other girls would be different, so I tried to prepare for all possibilities.  After a near failed speech and hearing screening at preschool yesterday because it came right as she walked into school, with no time to play with her best friend, I had no expectations that we'd be seeing anything except tears again tonight.  (And yes, so glad I spent money for a speech evaluation that she conducted mostly in her shyest saddest voice with a tissue pressed up against her face.  Nice.)
But, happily for us, her same teacher was there this evening, N. walked right in and stood on the number she was supposed to, and had a grand old time doing the "Turkey Dance" and marching and skipping and twirling with the other little Indians.  No one chose a Pilgrim hat -- no pretty feathers on that one!

She's growing up, my baby girl.
I'm grateful for all the little steps she's taking to gain confidence and to overcome her natural shyness.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Day 16: Bloggy Friends

I'm joining with the Real Women of Pinterest today to bring you a recent Pinterest success.  
Maybe it goes without saying that I'm thankful for bloggy friends?  Whether I've met all of them in real life or not, they offer real support and a connection with other people on days when I don't always have anyone to talk to over the age of six.  

One of my most populated boards on Pinterest is titled Bored is Boring.  There, I collect ideas of activities I can do with the kids on long afternoons when they are ignoring the house full of toys and whining that there is nothing to do.  We enjoy crafting, but many projects are more involved than my little ones have the attention span or fine motor skils to complete, and I often find myself doing most of the assembly myself.  On Pinterest, I've found a whole host of ideas that don't take many supplies, and have occupied my children for more than five minutes or so.  I'll be sharing some of the results of these activities, and hopefully some more elaborate life improving triumphs from Pinterest on Wednesdays!

I wish that I could come up with these sorts of activities on my own on a regular basis, but the truth is, I'm a better executer than creator.  Actually, I do consider myself a creative person: creating new units of study was one of my favorite parts of teaching.  However, it often took me a year or so to develop and fine tune the lessons in a unit so that they worked as well as they could.  Then I could teach it to different ninth or tenth graders the next year.  This parenting thing has me teaching different grade levels every year -- how am I supposed to keep up with that??

Anyhow, I love the ideas that Pinterest provides.  Sometimes they are links to free printables, like these alphabet play cards.  N. is still learning her letters and their sounds, and I printed these a while ago, thinking they would be fun to play in a flashcard kind of way, or that we might get around to some sort of scavenger hunt.  

N. enjoyed shuffling them around and asking me the names of the letters, but it wasn't until last week that we followed through and went on a treasure hunt throughout the house, looking for objects that began with some of the letters in the deck.  We began with the letters she has been working on so far at preschool.  They have a letter of the week, with show and tell of an object beginning with the letter each Tuesday.  It was fun to try to remember what she has taken in each week.  Then we lined them all up on the basement stairs and took some photos.

This was the only letter we couldn't remember what she took to school.  Maybe stuffed seal? 

They aren't going in order at school.  N. was thrilled when they got to A., for Ariel, of course!

Bound and determined to take something "girlish" every week!

O. wasn't home from school yet, so...

The N. card was missing.  (We later found it in one of her 'treasure boxes' decorated with markers and glitter glue)  We went with "Small" instead!
Fun times with my girl, and I think she is actually remembering some of her letters a little better now!
Once we've gone through all the letters, I think we'll print the pictures out and turn them into her own Alphabet book.

I would love to hear about your Pinterest finds.  Link your post below!!  (this is my first linky thing, and I'm excited to try it out!)  If you're reading, and you're a Pinterest gal but not a blogger, let me know and you can guest post!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day 15: Chocolate Chip Cookies

What I really wanted to write about today was my gratitude for this blog, and a conversation I had with a good friend today about her thoughts of starting her own blog. I wanted this to be encouragement for her, because having this blog, however rarely I actually post on a normal basis, has brought me back from the brink many a day.  But, that's a post that requires a little more thoughtfulness than I'm feeling right now.

So instead, I'll focus on the double batch of the best chocolate chip cookies ever that is sitting on my kitchen counter.  I have been thinking of making these cookies and sending them to my nephew since the day he left for college at the beginning of September.  Today, it seems, was finally the day.

I am thankful for tasks accomplished (even if it means I didn't yet unload the dishwasher, or fold the laundry, or finish the two projects I began on Shutterfly during naptime).

I am thankful the kids enjoy baking with me, and that by helping me, they were occupied during the 4:30-5:30 hour with activities other than chasing and poking each other.

I am thankful we had leftover pizza and grilled cheese from the weekend so that I didn't also have to make dinner.

Now, if I can just actually get these cookies in the mail tomorrow.  (And not eat ALL of the ones we're keeping here in the house.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Day 14: Sweet Nieces

I'm grateful today, as I am every Monday, that I get to spend time with two sweet baby girls.  I continue to be thankful that my brother and sister in law entrust them to my care (with tons of help from Grandma and Grandpa, for whom I'm grateful every single day) while they are at work.  

I'm so glad that we're getting to know these little ones from the start, and that they are part of our world on a regular basis.  

N. and I are also glad that Aunt E. and Uncle A. allow us to put silly things on their heads on a regular basis.  
Sweet e. with a bow N. and I made for her. 

Cutie m. enjoying a royal meal.

All five cousins together.  
So, so glad that they are getting this opportunity
 to be together each week; 
hopefully on their way to becoming lifelong friends.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day 13 of Gratitude: Imagination

Yes, thankful for the creativity of my kiddos, even when it means they dash upstairs to clothe themselves in "battle gear" to defend themselves against my vacuum cleaner.

Here they are, teamed up to throw balls and such at me
 as I yell at them to get their toys picked up 
or they are going to be sucked up forever.

Victim with nerf dart wound.

I don't know. Does it count as 
creative and imaginative when they do this  
Every. Single. Time.  
I get out the sweeper?

Also, wouldn't you think it would be easier for them to just pick up the darn toys?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Day 12 of Gratitude: Handprints on the Wall

This afternoon, J. hung some pictures for me.  It's amazing how happy this makes me.
I have all these ideas for pictures I want to get printed and framed, and never the right combination of frames or prints to get it done.  I imagine groupings and gatherings, artfully arranged on the walls.  I browse Etsy looking for little prints and art that I might like to have on the walls of our basement to counterbalance J.'s framed signed football jersey and Great Lakes beer posters (They are more tasteful than it sounds, but still.)

For a while now, I've been dreaming of a wall of handprint themed art.  On Pinterest, I've created a whole board of seasonal project ideas that involve the kids hands or feet made to look like other things.  I imagine changing them out with the holidays or season, all in coordinating frames.  It hasn't quite happened yet., we made a step toward the goal with a few framed pictures of the kids downstairs, and this little vignette in the family room.   This is not a good photo, but along the right are prints with each of the kids' hands.  On the left, handprints from J. and I when we were around kindergarten age.  Mine is plaster of paris, so I popped it into a shadow box.  J.'s inspired the other ones -- it features the same little poem I put with the ones for the kids.

Sometimes you get discouraged
because I am so small
and always leave my fingerprints
on furniture and walls.

But everyday I’m growing up:
I’ll be tall someday.
And all those little handprints
will surely fade away.

So here’s a special handprint
just so that you can recall
this is how my fingers looked
when I was very small.
Grateful today to have a step towards a house that looks a little more pulled together.  

Friday, November 11, 2011

Day Eleven of Gratitude: Wonder

Today, I am thankful that I have kids that are still young, enthusiastic, and full of wonder.

O. got out of school early today, and J. took a vacation day.  So we picked him up at school, and headed to the Children's Museum for a couple of hours.  All three kids enjoyed themselves -- it was so fun to let L. lead the way to each new thing he wanted to explore.

We drove to Mt. Adams for dinner afterwards, and treated ourselves to some pretzel bites, chicken wings and garlic fries.  When we came out, we still had a little bit of time before J. and O. had to be at the basketball game they were going to together.  J. and I decided to walk them over to our favorite vantage point to enjoy the view of Cincinnati, but didn't tell them what the destination was.

Being outside after dark is still a little scary and thrilling to our kids. They peeked into the windows of cozily lit restaurants and bars, clearly enthralled.  

O. stopped by the fountain statue of a monk.  "Is this what you wanted us to see?  Cool!"

N. pointed out white Christmas lights in trees hanging over the street.  "Oh, Daddy!  Those are so beautiful!"

(L. just smiled and looked cute in his red hooded jacket.)

Approaching the church that looks out over the city, the kids could see the view as we rounded the corner.

O: "Oh wow!  Look!  You can see the whole city!!"

N: "Oh, this is even more beautiful!"

O. ran over to a model of the city that sits on the overlook and found all the landmarks he could see looking at the lights.  He put his arms out around it, and sang,  "Look!  I've got the whole city.  In my arms. The whole city.  In my arms."

Then he looked out again and said, "This is the best day ever!"

Then the church bells struck the hour, and N. spun and twirled.

We walked back along the same streets where J. and I first met, marveling to be sharing these moments, this city, this life, with three children of our very own.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Day Ten of Gratitude: Words with Friends

Today, I had coffee with some friends I hadn't seen all together in quite a while.  We've known each other since our now six and a half year olds were less than a year old.  Man, that is starting to seem like a long time ago, already. We used to get together almost every week, back when playgroup was nearly as necessary as the sleep we weren't getting.  We drank coffee and commiserated about the tough parts of new motherhood.  Had all the conversations about potty training, picky eating, separation anxiety and choosing preschools.  Best of all, we laughed a lot.  

Once those kids hit preschool and kindergarten, and it was a lot harder for us to coordinate schedules, so we only ran into each other once in a while, and hardly ever all at once. Our kids have found other friends in their new classmates, and don't exactly need each other anymore.  But friends are hard to come by when you're a grown up.  I don't live in a neighborhood with a lot of young families, and obviously I don't go to work with other adults, so I've had to work at maintaining connections with other adults in my same stage of life. I treasure the friendships I've been able to make, and wish that the day to day mayhem of life with small children did not keep me as isolated as it often does.

Now those former playgroup kids are first graders, three of them actually in the same class this year! Since none of us have yet returned to work full time outside the home, we decided we could finally revive the playgroup -- this time without the pretense of sticking those kids in the other room to play.  Today was our first reunion, at my house because I'm the only one who still has a baby that needs to take a nap in the morning.  It was good to laugh with these women over coffee again. We actually had a few full sentences, uninterrupted by a fight over whose turn it is to ride in the Cozy Coupe, or a baby that needed to nurse.  We're not exactly "ladies of leisure who lunch," so I know we won't be able to get together nearly as often as we once did.  However, I'm grateful for these women who have known me as long as I've been a mom, and I hope we make it a point to stay connected.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day Nine of Gratitude: Dinner Conversation

Dinnertime in the Small World is not always pretty.  Not what's on the plates, nor what's happening around the table.

There's a lot of "Stop filling your belly with milk and eat something," and "No, it is not disgusting.  You should just try it," and "Use your fork please," and "Can you please actually SIT in your chair?"

There is a constant retrieval of L.'s cup of milk from the floor.  There is cutting of pizza and meat, shredding of string cheese for a high chair tray, and spooning of smooshed veggies mostly into the mouth of a one year old.

There is catching the baby before he crawls out of his useless belt/latch up and over the tray.

There are requests for cereal instead of "this gross stuff."  There are repeated trips to refill ketchup.  There are taunts and potty word laced insults thrown across the table.  There are occasional objects thrown across the table.  There are sleeves used instead of napkins.

And of course, there is often spilled milk.

Oh, and very occasionally, there is eating.  Not just from the plates of the adults, but also from the four year old and the six and a half year old.  I can never predict it, but sometimes inexplicably, N. will eat two helpings of rice.  And others, O. will ask for ANOTHER taco.  Sure, there are the proven winners, though we can't always count on those, and even the chicken nuggets or corn dogs or breadsticks go untouched.

Sometimes the fact that the meat is pink or we call the broccoli dinosaur trees is enough to do it. Other times we cut the sandwich to look exactly like the vampires O. has been drawing for a month and he won't touch it.

I've read a lot of books, articles, and blogs about how to raise good eaters. I've implemented almost all the strategies (I won't go into all of them today) and still we have some struggle nearly every night.

But here's the thing.  We haven't given up yet.  We haven't yet caved to the cereal for dinner on a regular basis.  We're still around the table together nearly every night.

We're not a sports family yet, maybe not ever.  We don't have a thousand activities pulling us in different directions in the evenings. When J. is home, his office is in the basement, so I don't have to hold off starving children until he can make it home through rush hour traffic.  I know we are blessed and fortunate that it is relatively easy to get us sitting down at the table together.

The only nights it doesn't always happen are those when I'm the only adult in the house.  Even then, if I can't always get my own plate ready in time to eat with everyone else, there's still some form of dinner happening. I still try to have everyone sit down.

One of my mom groups is studying a book about the value of the family dinner.  I don't need any convincing or research to let me know that it's valuable.  I know it is.  Amid all the yelling and cajoling, some of my favorite moments of the day happen around the dinner table.  O. tells a story about school, or makes an observation about life in general; N. makes up a joke and falls of her chair (again) laughing at it.

Today's monthly meeting focused on tips for helping to make dinner time possible, and more manageable.  We talked about making freezer meals, about planning menus, and how even a little detail like lighting a candle every night can help set a calmer mood.   We decorated a little jar filled with conversation starters.  I put on our table today, and the kids were thrilled with it.  "There's so many papers in there.  So we can do this every day for the rest of our life?  Like even until we're dead? Will we still be doing this when I am ten?"

Tonight's conversation topics:  "What was the best gift you ever gave someone?"
"What was the nicest thing someone ever did for you?"
"What is your favorite room in the house?"

Each of the kids had thoughtful and surprisingly kind answers to these questions. They were much easier for them to answer than for J. and I, who I think struggled a little.

The kids still didn't really eat anything.  (Oh well, there's breakfast tomorrow!)  But I'm grateful for the conversation we shared, and thankful that we are a family that shares a meal together every day, and that I'm becoming more aware that it's not about the food.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Day Eight of Gratitude: I Vote For More Afternoons Like Today

It's Election Day today. Did you vote? I did. Some elections certainly seem more important than others, but I'm thankful that I get to have a say so about that kind of world my family lives in, so I'll keep exercising my right to vote whenever I get the chance.  

I'm also thankful that I have the kind of marriage where my husband and I can, on the surface, disagree about a large portion of the issues and candidates on the ballot, have an argument about those issues in the morning, walk into the polling station together and effectively cancel out many of each others' votes, but at the end of the day, still respect and admire each other and our stances.  At the core, we're not that far apart from each other, just lean a little in opposite directions on that political spectrum.  I can often see the validity of his arguments, even if I'm not wiling to admit it. (or adopt them!)  I'm so thankful to live in a world where I am not forced to submit to my husband's will or have him speak for me, with our votes or anything else.

On top of all of that, there was no school for O. on Election Day.  It was a stunningly gorgeous fall day.  The kind that is rare enough in Ohio that we're able to store up the fond memory of it to get through thick humid days in August, or the grey frozen rain of early March.  I am thankful that I got to spend the entirety of this glorious afternoon with all three of my kids, exploring the zoo.  They were all amazingly and surprisingly cooperative.  

"Aren't I doing a great job of not whining about walking, Mommy?" N. asked at one point.

They had a great day with each other:

Monday, November 7, 2011

Day Seven of Gratitude: Pinterest

Today, what I'm grateful for is a little website called Pinterest. Oh, Pinterest, let me count the ways I love you. If you're not familiar yet, my dear friend mep wrote a lovely post last week that summarizes Pinterest and its joys quite well.

We have a plan to band together as "The Real Women of Pinterest," and choose a day or so a week (hopefully!) to share with you the ways we've actually implemented ideas, tips and projects from the site into our life. This is my first attempt. Join us, won't you?

A month or so ago, mep found and pinned a hair bow tutorial on her Pinterest page.

I surprised myself by actually watching the video, and let me just say, how awesome is this mom blogger at Southern Plate ?

You should definitely click on the link above and watch the tutorial, because it is far better than any step by step I could provide you via pictures or video on this blog. She definitely made making some bows for N. look doable. Before you know it, we were at Hobby Lobby buying up some rolls of 50% off ribbon, some barrettes and other supplies to make some fancy hair accessories for my girl.

I'm not sure I've mentioned this before, but I have a little trepidation in the hair-fixing area for my daughter. I grew up a Dorothy Hamill girl: no braids, ponytails or other fancy hairstyles to decide between with that sleek short hairstyle. My straight, slippery hair wouldn't cooperate with much else, anyway.

That's not to say I didn't envy some hair bows and bands. Do you remember the multicolored ribbon braided barrettes? You braided thin ribbons into a barrette, and then let the ends hang down, maybe even knotted in some beads? They were very big in my fourth through sixth grade years. I had a few sets of them and wore them proudly with my friendship pin adorned Roos.

However, what really, really captured my desire for long hair were the brightly dyed feathers on leather shoe strings attached to roach clips. My mom and I made the rounds of quite a few craft fairs in those days, and whenever I saw them for sale, I begged to be allowed to buy some. These, to me, were just the epitome of cool. My mom was adamantly against it, and I thought this was just. so. unfair. I had absolutely no idea what a roach clip was, or why my mom would be so horrified at the idea of her daughter wearing one in her hair.

Kind of like my daughter going straight to the hoochie-mama slinky emerald green and black ruffled satin and velour dress on the rack at Kohl's today and bursting into tears when I tell her no way, that is not pretty. "But Mommy, it is so BE-YOO-TI-FUL! I never get the sparkly dresses that I want!!" And of course now, feathers are back.  You can get them braided in your hair at the local salon, and I think lots of little girls are doing it.  N. hasn't asked yet, thank goodness.

In junior high, the big hair bow came back into style, and I had many silk scarves that I used to tie back my (now somewhat longer and permed, of course) hair and tie a gigantic hair bow right on top of my head. In junior high.

Anyhow, I spent the first three years of my own daughter's life just hoping she'd somehow have enough hair to actually hold a barrette, and then the next six months trying to convince her to comb it. We're finally at a place where she likes to wear hair items, and I'm slowly learning what to do with long, curly fine blonde hair. (There could not be hair more different from my own to work with.) We do pony tails, the occasional two pigtails, and sometimes just a barrette to keep her growing out bangs out her eyes. I'm not too fancy with the actual hair, though, so we rely a lot on the accessories. And now, her hair is finally long enough to handle bows bigger than the tiny ones we used to get in the baby aisle at Target.

I had thought about making them on my own before. Believe it or not, my first job was making bows for my aunt's craft business. (I told you we worked the circuit) This involved looping and twisting stiff fabric ribbon and securing it with floral wire. I got to be pretty decent at that particular type, and got paid a dime a bow or something like that. She later hot-glued them onto baskets filled with pine cones.

However, I seem to have lost some of my adolescent talents in this area. When I try to tie fancy bows on packages or wreaths, they always look a little lopsided, and I usually have to have my mom fix the bows I tie in the back of N.'s dressy-dresses. Directions I'd read or seen before on making hair bows seemed overly complicated, and the ribbon always slipped out of my fingers before I could get anything tied together.

That's what I love about the method I've linked to above. After each step, you sew it securely together, so there's no unraveling. And you don't have to be that precise, because you cover up all of your work at the end with a knot of ribbon hot glued in the back. It's really pretty amazing what I was able to produce very quickly.

While we were at Hobby Lobby, I campaigned for the preppier, brighter grograins, while she went straight to the princess printed ones. Guess which one she wanted me to use to make the first one?

This is my first attempt:

It's not as even as I'd like, but it's pretty darn cute for a four year old to wear. It features pretty much all the colors she wears on any given day, so it's the one she's worn most often. Pretty cute, eh?

Here are a few of our later efforts. I've gotten a little better at keeping them even, but still struggle a little at getting the tails to lay exactly how I'd like them to, especially with the ribbon only printed on one side.

Another frequent mistake I've made is gluing the barrette on in the wrong direction. If you'll be using the bows to actually hold back hair on its own, pay more attention in this area than I have. Usually, I end up making a small pony tail in N's hair and just clipping the bow in as accent, so it's not that big of a deal.

Every time I do her hair like this, I think she looks like she should be wearing pantaloons and rolling a hoop with a stick or something. Also, her hair tends to hang in sausage curls, like Susan from Ramona the PestItalic.  I too, am tempted to sproing them. Seriously, have you ever seen anything cuter?

I was also worried that my time and effort on these bows would be spent just to have them lost all over the house. We have a hard time keeping hair do-dads organized around here. I know there are lots of cute systems and holders out there, but we quickly devised this ribbon hanger until I can get myself motivated to start another project.

She's so happy with them!

So that's it. A successful Pinterest project! I'm excited to share more with you, and writing about my experiences feels like added motivation to make sure I'm actually making use of the treasures I collect on Pinterest. Seriously, will you join me? I'd be glad to have you guest post!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Day Six of Gratitude: Togetherness

I don't have much to say today, because we're all in our house together today, and that's what I'm thankful for.  
It's been a pretty low key day.  N. and I got some girl time when we went together to the church dedication service for a dear friend's baby.  I love that she spent most of the service on my lap. When I don't have a baby on my hip, I'm always reminded how much my other babies need my attention and affection.
The rest of the day has been spent cleaning up some of the clutter that accumulated from the week, preparing menus and a meal for the week ahead, and switching out Halloween decorations for Thanksgiving ones.
The kids have been hard at work on their own drawing projects on the pads of logo paper their dad gave them from his new work giveaway stock.  J. is watching the Browns game he taped earlier today, and is glad he can fast forward through the suckage.  I spent some time trying to help J. back up contacts on his old phone so he can activate his new one.  I even put a few pictures in L.'s baby book.  (What?!)
Overall, a productive day thus far.  Maybe it's the extra hour from the daylight savings switch over, and maybe it will all fall apart at meal/bedtime as it often does, but right now it's a pretty good day.  Hooray.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Day Five of Gratitude Grateful Kids

Yesterday, in a moment of desperation during the witching hour, I pulled out my most recent issue of Family Fun magazine. I was trying to remember the rules to a version of Shut the Box I had seen featured, and when I flipped through the pages, O. saw a page that featured this cute little Thanksgiving gratitude book.

It involves folding squares of construction paper into sort of cootie catcher shapes, then assembling them to form a book that can be all folded up into a stack of squares.

The idea is for kids (or perhaps your Thanksgiving meal guests?) to illustrate the book by drawing and labeling pictures of items for which they are grateful.

I had seen this craft when I paged through the magazine earlier, but was afraid it looked a little too involved for my crafters with short attention spans. But, we gave it a whirl anyway, and I'm happy to report it was a success. O. could do the folding on his own, and N. was able to help with creasing. L. helped by carrying the new markers around, and hid three of them for us to find somewhere else later.

The assembling of the book itself was a little confusing at first, but once I figured it out, it just required a few swipes of glue stick.

Once it was together, the kids got right to the drawing.
N. narrated as she was drawing. "I am thankful for my family, and my brother. This is O. I am thankful for the Browns football, and my ribbons. I am thankful for God. And a ribbon, and another ribbon and a ribbon."

I am sorry to say I can't really distinguish which of her drawings are which, though I do know the lines are the ribbons.

O. took a little inspiration from the model in the magazine,
but I think truly meant the things that he drew.

Earth; Our Dog;

Food (his picture is of grilled cheese,
but he tells me it is representative of all food.
"Because without food, we would die, right Mom?");

Family; TV

O.: "If we didn't have TV, how would we know the weather?"
Me: "Well, we could always walk outside and check."
O.: "Oh yeah, and get all rained on. That would be fun. And what if it was a tornado? That wouldn't be good AT ALL."
N., inspecting O.'s book, asked "Didn't you put God on yours? I put God on mine."

Today I'm grateful for a cute little craft, deceptively do-able, that occupied us for nearly an hour before dinner, and also for kids that are really starting to understand the concept of gratitude.