Monday, October 28, 2013

Five Year Journal - The Easy Way

**I like to consolidate all my writing here. This originally appeared on my blog at The Papercraft Lab a few months ago.

I get lost in the Internet sometimes, clicking around to different blogs, reading papercrafting message boards, browsing Etsy shops.  A few weeks ago, I found a really neat DIY project - making a five year journal.  Each day of the year has a page, and you write 1-2 lines on it for each of 5 years.  After the first year, you can look back at what you did that same day the previous year. Very cool, right? As expected for women in my demographic, I pinned it to my "someday" list of projects.

Right now, I'm trying to get my business off the ground. I'm also home with 2 little kids all day, since preschool is not yet back in session. We're currently in the middle of a home addition project, which means we need to find space in our house to move things out of the construction zone - aka massive decluttering. I don't NEED another project right now, no matter how cool it is. 

As is the Way of the Internet, I got another nudge to do this by Laura Vanderkam, one of my favorite nonfiction authors. She talks about keeping a short file of "awesome things" as a sort of quick journal.

The final push was via email from a close friend. She sent me a DesignSponge post about making (guess what?) a five year journal. Hah. Clearly the universe is telling me I need to do this now.

It's something that appeals to me a lot. I have a daily planner where I've been jotting down daily memories to include in our family's Project Life scrapbook, which details our day-to-day lives.  (more on that in another post!)  But when the year is over, I'm not sure I want to keep this planner around.  

So I finally gave up the idea of *making* a five year journal, because I don't have time for that right now. I went to Amazon and ordered one.  I had several options, and chose the robins-egg-blue one from Chronicle books, thanks to its hardcover and elegant gold lettering and pages. 

I started writing in it back in August. Sometimes you just have to choose the solution that works best now and gets those memories on paper, instead of the pie-in-the-sky DIY project, no matter how cool it sounds.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Three bits of parenting advice that changed my life

My friend J and I have known each other for 22 years. We met in college, became roommates, and now live in the same city. I don't see her as much as I'd like, thanks to busy family schedules and a lake that separates us (though let's not be dramatic, it's only about a 20 minute drive.)

Not only is J generous with her hand-me-downs, she has given me a few pieces of parenting advice over the years which are pure gold. These were not unsolicited drive-bys - they were little gifts that came when I asked questions on the parenting e-mail list we're both on. Her younger child is a couple of years older than T, so she's got more experience, but recent enough that she's still got useful details.

Baby Zombie Eye

If she hadn't told me about this, I would *still* be wondering why my kids never nap and wake up 10x a night. It was THAT life-changing for us.  When T was about 12 weeks old, I posted a question to our email list about naps. When did we expect babies to be on some kind of schedule?  How do we accomplish that?

Most of the answers came back as "it's still early", but only J gave me the info that changed our lives significantly.

She told me to keep an eye out for T's "tired signs" and mentioned her baby used to get this glassy-eyed, unfocused look when she got tired (long before she'd get fussy). Once she saw that, she'd try to put her down for a nap. Experienced mamas, this sounds so obvious, right? But as new parents, we assumed that a newborn would just fall asleep wherever she was, and we didn't have to *do* anything about naps.  Hah!

So we made a plan. T's other tired sign was nice and obvious - yawning. We counted yawns. When she got to Zombie Eye or 3 yawns, we'd put her down for a nap - nurse her and put her in the crib in a darkened room with white noise. If we got to the 2 hour mark without seeing these things, we'd try for a nap anyway.  And O. M. G.  This worked wonders within days.

Prior to doing this, T would stay awake for HOURS (because we were too dumb to realize she needed help to get to sleep!). One day at 8 weeks or so, she was up for 9 hours STRAIGHT and then cried for the next 3 (who wouldn't!).

We tried the same tactic with M, except she doesn't typically get Zombie Eye until it's too late, after she gets to the fussy stage.  M's tired sign?  Eye-rubbing!  Again, super obvious, so lucky us.  But with M we had to be even more vigilant because she masks the tiredness and gets her second wind easily when people are around playing with her.

Don't get me wrong - we were blessed with two fairly good sleepers.  But we never would have discovered that had J not given me this magic advice.

No Power Struggles 

J told me there were a few things you couldn't make a kid do: eat, sleep, and use the bathroom.  If you try, you'll get stuck in a horrible power struggle. It's better to avoid getting into that position.

Again, *so* brilliant. It got me out of the mindset of "she *should* be doing xyz", or worse, "she *has* to do xyz". I keep this one top of mind, and trust that my girls will do these things when they need to, with our help and routine, of course.

This helped me get through potty training with T and her current habit of waking up in the middle of the night to play in her room. It makes me less crazy when M gets up at 1am and is ready to PARTY. We just go downstairs and she plays in the gated living room while I nap on the couch.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still annoyed when they don't do what I (think I) need them to do, but I don't get all dictator-y about it. Most of the time, anyway. I'm still a work in progress.

Fair Isn't Equal

J told me this one before I was pregnant with BabyM so it didn't really sink in at the time, though I recognized it for its brilliance. She said her grad school adviser told her that fair didn't mean everyone got the same thing - it's each person getting what they *need*.

*So* true for siblings, especially those with different personalities and big age gaps.  M doesn't have the attention span for more than one or maybe two short board books, while T would love to read together for hours. I don't try to make sure I read the same *number* of books to both girls.

I know M loves it when I just sit in the playroom with her and let her do her own thing. T wants me to participate actively in her games. What fills each of their cups is pretty different, despite them being sisters in the same house with similar temperaments.


I'm grateful to have a wise friend like J! What about you - what did you learn about parenting that rocked your world?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

This has gotta be the good life

We've been working on proposals and plans for our upcoming remodel since early this year. It's been a slow process, and for a patience-challenged person like me, painful. I'm ready to move in already! I finally got used to the wait and thought about the remodel in the future with an unknown start (and end) date, "sometime in 2014".

Except now, it's *really* starting on Monday. Our city approved the construction permit yesterday and at 7:30am on Monday, guys are going to show up to dig a hole in our yard. 

Technically, they've already started. They spent the last week building the fence that will separate the dog area from the kid area in our yard (they'll finally be able to play outside! and not in dog poo! yay!), removing our deck and hot tub to make way for the addition, and taking off the siding to prepare. We also got a new furnace since ours conveniently decided to give up last weekend.  (When it rains...)

But these things still seemed like preparation, part of the many steps and meetings we've had since April. We still didn't have a *real date* when construction would start, and consequently, didn't have the project plan of when it is supposed to be done.

But now? It's ON. And this means we need to get moving on all the interior selections - bathroom counters, flooring, paint. Cabinet hardware and lighting. There are a million tiny decisions that all affect the final price. Many of them are things we genuinely don't have an opinion about, and each item has hundreds of choices. I totally understand why President Obama doesn't choose his own clothes each day. It makes my brain tired, too, to have to evaluate tons of different, mostly equal options about things that aren't going to really affect the quality of our lives.

TJ and I are pretty good at working through decision-y stuff like this. It's very similar to when we were tossing around names for the girls - I bring a handful of options and ask him to choose, or at least eliminate the ones he hates. He brings a few options as well, sometimes. 

There have been a few perfect, lightning-bolt, "that's it!" choices so far, just like with our girls' names. The countertop in the girls' bathroom is Cambria Whitney, a sparkly engineered quartz that's mostly white with silver glittery specks. I love me some sparkle. The photo does not do this justice.

The cabinets in the master bathroom are going to be a deep espresso, almost black. In the girls' bathroom, they'll be a rich reddish brown. Both are shaker-style with very clean lines, like the kitchen cabinets we redid in 2004 and still love.

We found a carpet style that we both like that's got a sort of irregular horizontal line pattern in it, but can't finalize the color. We know we want laminate flooring through the downstairs, including the playroom and craftroom, but again, can't narrow down a color. 

We have no freakin' idea what kind of floor we want in either bathroom. To reduce costs we want to consider alternatives to tile, but TJ hated the funky Marmoleum.

We haven't really thought about paint at all, except that T is VERY SURE she wants pink. I hate taupe-y colors and things that are not-really-a-color. TJ does not want our house to look like Rainbow Brite threw up in it.

So we're kind of stuck and still have a ton of decisions to go. Luckily we have a neighbor who just earned a certificate in Interior Design and she's going to help us. Our first meeting with her is today and I'm so excited to get some of these things narrowed down.  

All these decisions are floating around in an "open loop" inside my head, and it's bugging me.  I can't visualize the room from all these individual pieces - it's so different from putting together a scrapbook page or a card because I can't just lay it all out and look at the end result.

But oh, the luxury of getting to design brand new living space. Lest you think I'm complaining, I realize this is totally a first world "problem". I am so grateful for this chance to make our house into exactly what we need.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

We're driving Cadillacs in our dreams

Antique copper door dividers in living room/dining room We are about to embark on a HUGE construction project at our house. In fact, we've been in the design process for months, and we're now waiting for the final permits before construction starts. It's been so long that I can't believe it's actually going to happen.

We're living in our "forever" house, at least while we're in Seattle. We fell in love with it as soon as we saw it, and it was the first house we saw. But it's not a house for little kids. It's a crazy 70s multilevel house, so each floor has a couple of rooms and then a half-staircase to the next floor. The kids' bedrooms are two floors away from ours. Great when they're 16, not so great when they're under 5. 

So we consulted with a few local design/build firms and chose one, and they came up with a fabulous design for us, something we never would have thought about doing. The design process actually lived up to my expectations - we gave them a list of our priorities, and they designed an addition that met nearly all of the Pri 1s and 2s (yes, I'm a software geek). 

So our new theoretical addition will have all bedrooms on one floor, an extra bathroom for the girls, an office for TJ, a play room, air conditioning in the bedrooms, and (wait for it) a 13x17' craft room. O.M.G. I can hardly believe how awesome that's going to be.

Some observant readers will remember that this is one of the items on my Mondo Beyondo dream list. And at the time I made my list in late 2011, firmly out of reach. We weren't inclined to take on such a huge project and we weren't sure about staying in Seattle (well, one of us wasn't). 

But then my craft room sprung a leak earlier this year, and we started thinking again. What if? It's been both fun and terrifying to go through the process - looking at different room layouts, choosing countertop surfaces and carpet, assigning rooms to the girls, writing huge enormous checks in exchange for large sheets of paper (so far).

If all goes well, construction will start next month, and it'll be 4 months or so before it's done. We'll probably have to camp out at my parent's place nearby for a while (fortunately they don't use it much in the winter). I'm sure there will be many disrupted naps and frustration with the noise and dust.

But in the end, we will have a house that fits us perfectly. And I just cannot WAIT.

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