Sunday, March 31, 2013

Isn't it lucky?

We had amazing weather this weekend - temperature in the high 60s (Fahrenheit!), bright sunshine and dry. It was just enough to remind me why we live here and put up with 9 months of grey.

TJ took T to a birthday party yesterday - her first one where we don't know the parents. It seems like a sort of milestone. She had a great time, of course. While they were gone, BabyM and I headed over to our local outdoor mall to walk and shop. I wanted to find some cute outfits for the girls to wear for our family photos next week.

Cute matching tutus from
I got lucky and found these gorgeous blue tutu skirts on sale at Naartjie. Oddly, the only one they had left, in size XXXL (9 years) fits T just fine.  It's a little long, but the waist fits just right. Crazy. And I was able to find one for BabyM as well. I'm a sucker for little girls in tutus.  But not the super short ones - I definitely prefer the ones that can be worn as skirts.

I like having coordinating outfits for family photo shoots - not totally matching, but I like the girls to match, and TJ and I will both wear black shirts and jeans. I found a nice black shirt at Eddie Bauer, so I can see the end of the nursing-wear tunnel, finally.  BabyM eats a lot less frequently than she used to, so I can try to wear some normal shirts again.

Awesome necklace from
We passed the Ann Taylor store on the way back to the car, and an item in the window display stopped me in my tracks. It was a  bold sparkly necklace with round clear stones edged in aqua metal. Very retro cool. I had to have it. I walked into the store, ready to pay dearly for it, and was thrilled to find out it was "only" $58, but even better, IT WAS ON SALE. 30% off, baby.

So it's now mine, and will also make an appearance in our photo shoot. I'm excited because the aqua matches the cute shirt I bought for T, so we'll be matching too!

Today TJ made us waffles for breakfast, I had some crafting time, he took a motorcycle ride, the girls napped at the same time for a whole hour, and we had a picnic in the park with some good friends.

This weekend really felt like an unexpected gift. (Insert sigh of contentment here.)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Project Life 2013: There's a Hole in My Craft Room

My craft room has a giant hole in the ceiling.  There's a leak and we need to figure out how/if we can fix it. Fortunately the water never came into the room itself, but it was collecting over the ceiling, making a lovely bulge that looked like impending disaster.  So we moved *all* of my stuff out of the room, and are working on figuring out where the water is coming from.

So for the next couple of weeks my craftiness will invade our kitchen. I put together this biweekly Project Life layout with very limited supplies. Since my printer is now in the garage, I had the photos printed at Bartells Drugs, a local chain. They offer a matte finish, which is very cool, but the photo has a tendency to "rub off" when it gets scraped by something. I learned that the hard way when using one of my old crappy paper trimmers.

As usual I had more photos than I could use, so the crafty bits are limited. I used one of the Seafoam Project Life kit cards for the week summary, and then noticed that the Echo Park Photo Freedom ampersand and 'you are my sunshine' cards matched really nicely, too, and that got me set on an aqua and yellow theme. And that gave me a fantastic excuse to go crazy with the super cute KI Memories 'smile' washi tape I got in one of my Studio Calico kits.

Feb 25 - Mar 10: Redmond outing and dance class

Feb 25 - Mar 10: New glasses, coloring eggs, sisters

Calendar closeup - tiny bling
I filled my supercute IKEA Raskog 3-shelf cart with my essential Project Life supplies so I can continue to work on my pages while my craft room is being fixed.

I've found a formula that works for me to keep the layouts looking cohesive:
  • One type of alphabet stickers
  • 1 or 2 washi tapes, glitter tape or ribbon (coordinating)
  • Use same journaling pen for entire layout
  • Adhesive gems, enamel dots, brads, *or* wood veneer (choose one)
  • 1-2 patterned papers only (coordinating)
  • Month card with days marked off
  • Week card with dates and bullet point summary
  • Stick to color scheme for *all* embellishments
This 2 week period also contained TJ's birthday but I didn't get any good photos of our birthday dinner at Zeek's Pizza, or him opening his presents.  (Sad!). 

Here's a slide show of my 2013 pages, including close-ups.  If you can't see it, click here to view my entire 2013 Project Life gallery.

Project Life @ The Mom Creative

Sunday, March 24, 2013

I belong with you, you belong with me

So remember when I wrote wistfully about how cosleeping never worked with BabyT? Yeah, let's file that under "be careful what you wish for".

BabyM will not sleep in her crib. She will begrudgingly stay there quietly for 10 minutes since we bought her this flashy light up musical "soother" (which does not soothe!), but sleep she WILL NOT.

She's been sleeping in our bed for a few months now, aka most of her life since she's only 5 months old. I got over my paranoia about blankets and suffocation and baby being squished by one of us, in favor of more sleep. 

And it's true, we do get more sleep. I do not feel sleep-deprived, but the quality of the sleep I'm getting isn't great, so I need a LOT. And I'm a high-sleep-needs person to start with, so now it's even worse.  It seems as though BabyM is enjoying her proximity to The Milk, so she wakes a few times to nurse. On the rare occasion we've gotten her to sleep somewhere else (like the crib - once!) or when I go sleep elsewhere, she only wakes once.

So yeah, we'd love to get her to sleep in her crib at the end of our bed - just a few feet away, which to BabyM might as well be across the country.  I can't say I blame her - our memory foam mattress and fluffy duvet are very nice to sleep with.

She's training us well - anytime we invest some time and effort into getting her to sleep elsewhere, she falls asleep easily but then wakes every 20 minutes or so, requiring us to soothe her back to sleep. When we give up on this plan, and just take her back to our bed, she sleeps the next 7 or so hours straight. That's one smart baby.

Sleeping with her is very much like sleeping with Spike, our beagle (who, thankfully, is not allowed in our bed). We start out in our own space, but in the middle of the night, I find a little warm body snuggled up next to me, slowly pushing me over to the very edge of the bed. 

It's frustrating because I keep waking so often - I think I must be responding to some kind of change in her breathing, because I wake up right before she does most of the time. And as nice and cuddly as she is, I do like sleeping by myself, with no one *touching* me. 

But as they say, "the days are long but the years are short" and soon enough she won't want to sleep in our bed.  It makes sense that evolutionarily, babies probably like to stay with their mamas most of the time. And I know every time we try to "make" a baby do something, it never works, and just frustrates us as well as them.

So I'm admitting defeat. I don't want to make it harder on myself by doing some elaborate "sleep training" routine. We'll try something different when she's not sleeping well, or if we aren't getting enough sleep. But for now, I'm embracing my inner crunchy mama.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

There's so much more that you need to work out

I keep composing blog posts in my head during the quiet times while nursing, showering, and driving but haven't been able to sit down and write them.

My daily life has been turned upside down by TJ's return to work.  Not in a bad way, but just in an "I need to get used to the new normal" way.  Before he started work, I literally had not spent more than 4 hours alone with the girls - just the time it took for TJ to get a good motorcycle ride in over the weekend, or have dinner with a friend.

Four hours is very different from an entire week, which is what I had when he had to go to the East Coast for his new job's orientation. It was a trial by fire, serendipitously aided by the arrival of my friend Di who just happened to be visiting that first weekend.  She helped us get in the groove by chatting with T while I was nursing M, or hanging out with M while I helped T get dressed.

Sadly, she had to leave on Sunday night, but we made it through the week.  By the end, I even felt like we had our routine DOWN. I got T to preschool on time every day that week with her lunch, everyone got a couple of baths and we slept ok.  We were in "survival mode", doing only what we needed to get through the day. Sometimes we all went to bed at 7:30pm.

When TJ returned from his trip, we had to figure out our routines again, this time with him. It was great having him around to handle bedtime and tag-team again when he was home, but there were new wrinkles, like the fact that he gets ready for work around 5:30 or 6am, and BabyM is a ridiculously light sleeper, so suddenly my day was starting then too.

But now we're 3 weeks into this new life and finding our way through it.  Once a week or so, I get to that magical state where I got everything done during the day that I was planning to do: basic chores, something fun outside the house with the girls, some exercise, an actual home cooked dinner, and maybe even a blog post or some crafty time.

The rest of the time, I'm still muddling through trying to figure out how to get the girls to nap in parallel rather than in series, how to keep the baby entertained for a few minutes while I shower, and how to convince the 3yo that her mere presence while I'm nursing the baby causes the baby to completely ignore me.

So by the end of the day, I'm worn out and way too tired to use that time to craft or blog. On the bright side I've been getting a reasonable amount of (crappy, baby-bedsharing) sleep, which makes me a better mama overall.

I think I'm going to have to switch my "me-time" activities to the early morning, which is painful for this night owl. We'll see. Every day is like a new (tiring) adventure.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I want it all, and I want it now

BabyM wonders if she has it all
The media is all a-flutter with the same old stories of whether women "can have it all", thanks to  Sheryl Sandberg's new book about leadership and Marissa Mayer's "thou shalt not work from home" decree at Yahoo.
And of course, everyone MUST weigh in, as we always do.  I'm no different.  I've been reading Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach, which is a combination cookbook, memoir and guidebook on how to pull together family meals. (Something I really, really need help with, before the God of Tater Tots installs himself permanently in our house.) 

Rosenstrach talks about returning to her job after maternity leave, reading articles and attending lectures about working motherhood.  One of my favorite quotes from this book is this: "That was the other thing I realized quickly - working mothers loved nothing more than talking about being working mothers."  I giggled out loud when I read that line - so true, online and in real life.

And of course, like noticing all the other Audi A3s once I got one myself, I see articles about "Having It All" everywhere. I love this opinion piece in the NYT by Erin Callan, a former Lehman Brothers CFO. And of course, I love it because it supports my point of view, which is that Work is Not Everything.  It's so easy to get caught up in the race under the guise of having a great career, and ambition, etc. as we are all exhorted to do, but at some point, it becomes toxic if you let it take over your entire life. 

I also read this great CNN piece where 10 women define "having it all".  I love how varied the answers are. I love how Ana Navarro, a political strategist, thought it was a stupid question. There are a lot of great points, like how men weren't being raised for this change, and thus there are still guys out there who think being with their kids is "babysitting". Or how we never ask men how they manage to "have it all".  Or what exactly "having it all" means.

I think these discussion are best when they involve real people, so with that, I'm going to navel gaze along with the best of them.

Prior to 2006, I had no hobbies outside of work. So I just worked more. And yes, I was rewarded. I hit my salary goal before I expected to. I got 2 promotions in 3 years. I also got fat (again), and wasn't really that *happy*. Then I found jewelry making, and finally had a passion outside of work. It was life changing to have something that occupied my mind that wasn't work, that got me out of bed in the morning eager to try new designs and make things with my hands instead of sitting in front of a computer screen. I finally had the elusive "balance". I finally was happy and able to recharge with breaks of something non-work-related.

I've written before about how I'd be happy to stay home with the girls, to teach them, do art projects, and live a less hectic life that didn't involve shlepping to and from daycare several times a week.  To that end, I've been working part-time, 2 or 3 days a week since 2010. 

We had been living an idyllic existence when TJ quit his job. Two parents at home most days. During my mat leave, we could easily divide and conquer and give everyone the attention they needed during the transition.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. In our case, TJ got offered a dream job which didn't even require us to move. It was too good not to take it. So he started work 2 weeks ago, and boy do we miss him!

But there was the Looming Question. What happens when my maternity leave ends? We didn't have childcare lined up because that was going to be TJ's role until early next year. We weren't happy with the options available for a 5 month old baby, and T's awesome preschool is only half-day. (But did I mention awesome?!)

So it's my turn to step out of the standard corporate world for a while. I'm currently looking for 15 hours a week of remote work, and am considering contract and freelance opportunities as well. (So if you know anyone who needs a project manager...)

I'm also taking custom orders again in my Etsy shop and looking into Elance and TaskRabbit for work I can do outside the normal 9 to 5.  I'm in the middle of reading Chris Guillebeau's The $100 Startup, and am intrigued by the possibility of starting something myself.  I don't have an entrepreneurial personality but am figuring out how to develop some of those skills.

Yesterday T and I did some "Mama School" - we worked on some "number work" and did some cutting practice with scissors.  I spent an inordinate amount of time getting the Baby Who Will Not Nap to go to sleep.  The three of us went to the mall for an errand and to lunch, a lesson for me in wrangling two tired kids.  So I'm definitely learning new skills!

I'm both nervous and excited about this new life. For me "having it all" means that as a family, we have the flexibility to adjust our working lives as needed to manage our responsibilities at home.   My version of "it all" includes a partner who sees all "jobs" in this house as equal - whether that be working for pay or just the sheer glory of changing diapers, making dinner and pulling weeds. That, and being grateful that we *can* choose this lifestyle, as long as one of us has consistent income (and health insurance!).  It's definitely a team effort here.

What about you?  What does "having it all" look like to you?

Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Zebra Said Shhh: A New Kids' Book

I've been reading the Wandering Scientist's blog for the past few years, ever since coming across her insightful comments on AskMoxie. She likes to protect her identity so she blogs anonymously. Something she wrote in an older post made me think we had crossed paths at one point, so I emailed her through her blog to ask about it.

And in that way that the Internet is a small world, it turns out we did cross paths and I remember meeting her. Funny how that happens.

In addition to writing her blog, working full time as a project manager and raising 2 kids, she's written a children's book called The Zebra Said Shhh. It's a story she's told her daughter for years, and it's now available both in electronic form and in paperback on Amazon. How cool is that?!

It's a cute story - the zebra is tired and wants to sleep, but all the other animals in the zoo are awake and milling about, doing their animal things. It's got lovely illustrations, done by Tamia Sheldon, and I love the predictable structure of the book as it goes through each of the animals twice - once to talk about what they were doing when they weren't tired, and once to show they were all sleeping. Perfect for toddlers!

The level of this book is also perfect for me to read to both of the girls together (5 months and 3.5yo) - not too long and wordy for the baby to sit still, yet not too basic for my preschooler.

I can't call this an official book review, since I haven't yet read it to T. My Kindle is old and doesn't have a color screen, and that wouldn't do this lovely book justice.  Once we get the paperback version,  I know she'll love it because we often have conversations about different zoo animals and what they say, where they live, and what they look like. 

Thanks to Cloud and Xist Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book, and congratulations again to Cloud for this cool accomplishment!

Monday, March 04, 2013

Project Life 2013: No More Pink

In December I bought a bunch of paper and stickers from Studio Calico's Darling Dear collection.  I fell in love with the colors and patterns - bold, mod-retro, and dark. No pink. I knew I wanted to us it for a Project Life layout.

After the last spread in all its pink, glittery, girly glory, I needed something to cleanse my creative palate. Darling Dear was perfect. Never mind that this is the 2 week period that contains Valentine's Day! Since there's a bit of orangey-red in the designs, I figure I'm ok.  (Click each photo for a larger version.)

Feb 11-24: V-Day cupcakes, Di's visit, trip to the park

Feb 11-24: Valentine's Day, photography, surprised bear (top photo by Jenn)

The obligatory close-up - vellum journaling overlay

As always, I started this layout with the photos I wanted to include - I nearly always print them to fill the 4x6 or 3x4 slots since they're the focus of the album. I got a little enthusiastic with my wood veneer embellishments - I love those little things and have a ridiculous collection, so I'm glad to have used some.

I had a brainwave to print some journaling on vellum and lay it over the M & T slots. I thought about writing directly on the & card, but it's pretty dark, so the vellum softens it and makes it easier to read.  I'm torn about whether to adhere the vellum to the outside of the pocket to make it a "flip-up" interactive element, so you can see the elements below, so I'm just going to leave it as one for a while and see if it bugs me enough to change it.

I LOVE the look of computer-printed journaling but fear that it makes things look too impersonal. Also, I hate having to fire up the computer while I'm assembling the crafty bits - it interrupts my flow and the sheer joy of the paper and glue process.  But I used Microsoft Publisher and my trusty Canon Pixma Pro 9000 Mark II glorious printer and it came together pretty quickly.  I'll definitely use this trick again.

Here's a slide show of my 2013 pages, including close-ups.  If you can't see it, click here to view my entire 2013 Project Life gallery.

Project Life @ The Mom Creative

Friday, March 01, 2013

Book Love: Lemonade in Winter

TJ was out of town all week for orientation for his *new job*.  (More on that later.)  So I got lots of quality time with my Big Girl T.

We've been reading one of her newer books a lot lately and both of us love it, so I thought I'd rave about it here.  It's Lemonade in Winter: A Book About Two Kids Counting Money by Emily Jenkins and G. Brian Karas.

I first saw it on my hunt for decent wrapping paper for Christmas after being frustrated while wrapping my Book Advent packages.  When I realized that ordering nice wrapping paper online was going to cost me as much in shipping as for the paper itself, I decided to shop locally.

We have a store in Redmond called Packaging Specialties.  It's tucked away in a strip mall, and sells, as you might imagine, boxes and bags and stuff.  It's not a cute boutiquey store - it looks very utilitarian from the outside, and for years I never had a reason to go there.

I needed some food-safe favor bags for T's 2nd birthday party and someone suggested this shop, so I went in, and was amazed at their selection. A lot of their business is targeted towards weddings and food packaging, but they also have gorgeous paper, gift wrap and ribbon.  They also have a small selection of cute hip gift items like those Kikkerland shaped paper clips, craft books, and boxed cards.

Around Christmas they had a display with a few winter and holiday themed kids' books, and since I was looking to add to my collection for Book Advent, my interest was piqued.  I fell in love with Lemonade in Winter as soon as I saw it.

First, as you may have noticed, the little kids in the picture have brown skin and black hair.  Like me!  It's actually harder to find than I expected in picture books for preschoolers.  The baby board books mostly didn't have people in them, or they had photos of all kinds of babies, so we were covered there.

Even better, it tackled a subject I haven't seen in picture books yet - counting money.  T has a piggy bank, and we give her quarters occasionally for doing her "chores", like putting away the silverware or her laundry.  But she doesn't really "get" the money system, or what the different coins mean.  Which is fine, since she's only 3.  I love that we now have a way to start introducing it, especially now that she can count up to 30 or so reliably.

It's really nicely written, with a good rhythm for reading aloud.  There are a couple of cute songs and chants in it, and some poetic wording about the cold and wind.  Pauline and John-John are a brother and sister who decide to host an urban lemonade stand in the dead of winter.  The cast of characters (ie their customers) is varied - a single guy walking his dogs, a young (mixed race!) couple, a mama with twins and 5 manicurists from the nail salon across the street.

It also introduces very simple concepts for running a business - advertising, sales, entertainment, and eventually the concept of profit vs loss.  Some of those concepts may be better for the older kids in the age range, which is supposed to be 3-7 years old.  But T is already picking up on some of them, as we talked about what it means to be "on sale".

Not to mention, she has picked up the phrase "easy peasy lemon squeezy" to use conversationally.  I love that so much more than the things she picks up from watching Cars or Dora, that's for sure.

Like Owl Babies, it's one of those really interesting, well-written, unique picture books that I don't mind reading over and over again, which is just the way my preschooler likes it.  This one will be perfect for our Book Advent next year!

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