Thursday, June 28, 2012

Welcome to the Hood: a practical housewarming gift

We are blessed with some really incredible friends and now two of those incredible friends are living in our neighborhood!  They got a deal on a beautiful diamond-in-the-rough and we are thrilled to call them friends and neighbors.  They have always been there for us and I knew I wanted to welcome them to our hood with a homemade and practical housewarming gift so on the day of their closing the kiddos and I left this on their doorstep.

I scored an enormous, thick glass mason jar at our local Habitat ReStore for 10 bucks!  I cut the design on Con-Tact paper using a Silhouette (you could also print out the words and then use an X-acto knife to cut the design onto the Con-Tact paper) and then after smoothing the paper onto the jar I used Armour Glass Etching Cream to etch the design onto the jar.

Then gathered some supplies: a pretty hand towel from World Market, Method hand soap in Fresh Currant, J.R. Watkins Room Freshener in lemon (or check out this post for DIY room sprays - I love using vanilla and peppermint together in a spray), a cleaner burning soy candle from Target in lemon verbena, Myers dish soap also in lemon verbena, a few cloths and sponges for cleaning and a small bottle of champagne.

I set this all on a cooler and inside the cooler was a six pack of beer because, well, moving sucks, but beer helps.

Now before you say, "Aww, how sweet." - because of course that's what you're thinking - if I were really sweet I would have cleaned up the dead bird I spotted chillin' in their driveway.

But hopefully the little gift we left made up for this little welcome gift from the neighborhood cat.  We're so glad you're here Peaches and Curry!

The Humble Brag Link Party

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Note From the Kitchen Floor

So I'm sitting in the middle of my kitchen floor.  My kitchen is pretty tiny so no matter where I sit I'm pretty much in the middle.  But here I sit in the middle of complete chaos - newly discovered mouse poo, dishes everywhere, a huge puddle on the floor that grows larger every time I turn on the faucet, which one tends to do frequently in the kitchen, forgetting that the cold water isn't completely turned off to the pipe that used to connect to our ice maker, but is now laying in a dusty pond on the floor, moldy yogurt waiting to be cleaned off the living room carpet in front of our fridge that is currently not-so-subtly placed in the living room.  Seriously, an all male suite in a college dorm has nothing on our current disaster of a home.  I sit here contemplating this beautifully written post by a dear friend and all around inspiring woman.  Her blog is almost as beautiful as she is and her posts are always so poignant and relevant.  I often find myself laughing, crying, nodding and shaking my head - or some awkward combination of the three - all while reading a single post.

Tonight her post really hit home.  I'm struggling.  Have been for a while I think.  I've always been so happy, so positive but I'm finding that the negative is trying to swallow me whole.  We're busy enough without me pursuing my passion for supporting laboring mamas, without me crafting and creating and without trying to maintain friendships or forge new ones so while I wouldn't say those things are on the back burner it's definitely a slow simmer and I miss it all so much.  And I feel so much guilt that I want to finish my birth doula certification. Why would I want to be away from my children and struggle to find someone who understands the spontaneity of birth and who is available to watch them so I can pursue what I consider my calling?

I think I hit my lowest point last weekend at Home Depot.  We were on our way to work on our all-consuming mother-in-law-home-turned-rental-property 45 minutes from our home and we needed some supplies.  Our fabulous teenage neighbors were following us in their truck to bring supplies and give us a hand with some of the work.  Eli had been sick during the week and although his fever was gone he was still out of sorts, but we had to get some work done.  He insisted on coming into the store with us.  Our precious blonde babe is challenging on a good day and this was not a good day.  He began screaming the moment we walked into the paint section of the store.  I did my best to be gentle and reassuring, but firm about what behavior was expected in the store.  He calmed down, or at least stopped shrieking. If you've never heard this child scream you can't even imagine.  I should post it on You Tube and try to achieve fame and fortune from his amazing vocal chords or at least post it as a method of birth control for horny teens.

Anyway, after a short reprieve the screaming started again when Dad walked away.  It was so sad and SOOOO annoying.  We had to stay though because we needed the paint to get the work done to try to get the house rented before we go completely broke.  So, we trudge through and I continue to be gentle, loving and firm.  The woman working in the paint department walked away to help my husband and the only people nearby are a couple in their mid fifties who have been there since we arrived.  The woman turns to me and says, "I realize that might not bother you, but it's bothering everyone else in here."  The blood left my head so fast I'm not sure how I stayed upright.  I was immediately defensive, hurt, offended, perplexed and royally pissed.  She stood about ten yards from me.  I had no idea how to respond because my first response was not only completely inappropriate for a child's delicate ears it was also beneath me.  I was better than her.  I chose to say, "Thank you for your support.  I appreciate it," with more than a hint of sarcasm.

When my husband returned I blurted out the situation.  The female employee he was with said nothing and went to join a male co-worker and customer who had just arrived.  My husband has this face that he makes when he's pissed - it's not pretty.  He had the face and I knew what he wanted to do.  I urged him to let her go and he did.  And then he asked me what color I wanted to get and I looked down at the paint chips in my trembling hands and burst into tears.  Big, honking, dripping-faucet-sized-tears that mixed with snot as they ran down my face.  I stood there sobbing not knowing what to do.  I was angry with myself for reacting that way.  I was angry with Eli, which only made me more angry with myself for feeling that way.  I was frustrated that I couldn't even pick out paint.  And I was more than a little embarrassed.  And that's when it happened. The female employee who had helped my husband and had overheard what happened left the customer she was helping and hugged me.  And I mean she HUGGED me.  Full-on head cradling, back rubbing hug.  I sobbed harder, but now it was because I felt safe to do so.  This stranger was supporting me, lifting me up and reminding me that I'm never alone even when, or especially when, I'm hurting.

I can't lie.  The stab of that woman's comment ached for a bit.  Leon saw the remnants of my tears as soon as I opened the car door.  He asked why I had been crying and I told him the truth, that someone had said something very hurtful and not helpful to me.  He said he was sorry that she had done that and that he loved me.  The sincerity of a child is so beautiful.  A few minutes later my hubby got a little snippy with me and Leon calmly, but assertively piped up and said, "Um, Dad? Someone in that store said something not nice to mommy so we should be extra nice to her because we love her."

It seems that despite my desire to pursue interests outside the realm of parenting my kids are turning out to be good, caring people.  I think Carrie said it best, "What a revolution would it be if as mothers we viewed our children with adoration and, in turn, let that adoration reflect back on ourselves, allowed ourselves to take a little credit for these beautiful little human beings we've brought into this world. What if we loved ourselves the way we love our kids?"   So thanks, Carrie.  Your blog post had a big enough impact on me to cause me to sit and breathe and take a moment for myself in the middle of what feels like (and kind of looks like) a hurricane.  Mom UR Awesome!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Letter Ball: fun with phonics

My eldest son began to show an increased interest in letters this past winter.  He was curious about how to write them, the sounds they make, and the words they form.  We try to let our children take the lead and show us what they want/need to learn.  We play with letters in the standard ways, writing words, notes to faraway friends and family, reading signs, picking out letters and sounds from words in books, etc.  But I wanted really capitalize on this increased interest by having some fun with phonics.

This activity is super fun, can be played solo or in groups, and can be adapted to fit lots of interests and abilities, ie. sight words, which we will be doing this summer, numbers, which we have done in the past, addition and subtraction, colors, animal sounds, etc.

The supplies:
  • markers/crayons
  • 26 pieces of paper - mine were approx. 3x4 (or 13 if you use front and back)
  • a soft stuffed ball
  • paper plates (optional - gives a larger target and could also be decorated)
  • painters tape - or other removable tape
Depending on the age and attention span of your child, you can either prepare the game ahead of time or your child can help.  I was pleasantly surprised that my son wanted to write the letters himself.  He confidently wrote most of the alphabet, needing to see examples of B, J, K, Q, R, U and Z.  We wrote one letter on each piece of paper.  We originally used crayon, but later traced over it with purple marker to make it easier to read.  We then folded over the painters tape, stuck it on the back of the letter paper and stuck them on the wall.  We used 6 letters at a time with a few inches of spacing in between.

We put a wood block on the floor, but you could use any placeholder, like the painters tape.  Leon stood behind the line with the ball and as I made the letter sound he threw the ball to hit the letter.  We did two tries per letter.  If there were letters that he struggled with we would come back to them before switching out the letters for another set of 6.  Then we switched it up and I would say a word and Leon would throw the ball to hit the letter that the word started with.  I started out easy with letters I was sure that he knew well to build his confidence and then gradually made it more difficult by putting letters that he sometimes confuses in the same set of 6 - like the sounds made by C and S.