My mom adventures in Fort Collins


Unsolicited Parenting Advice: Take 2
April 27, 2012, 5:29 am
Filed under: Parenting | Tags: , , , , , , ,

We’ve been down this road before. I’m no expert, but I can’t resist voicing my opinions.

Clear cut tip #3:

In the world of dress-up attire, there are many choices. Avoid the feather boa.They result in having feathers all over your house, in your laundry and, most annoyingly, stinking up your vacuum.

This child's mother is obviously Bjork, but no matter... she will regret the choice to give her daughter a feather boa. Trust me. Photo from jchandmade.typepad.com

Clear cut tip #4:

Inevitably, your child will love a lovey. Maybe it’s a beloved blanket, a stuffed lamb, or a favorite book. All I can say is, have a plan for the lovey. Whether you decide to buy more loveys, so that when lovey does a disappearing act you have a back-up, or you simply have rules for the lovey, like “We don’t bring lovey into stores,” you just have to plan for the day when the lovey might not be right where you need it to be.

Controversial suggestion #3:

Kids get sick. I realize this and I empathize with this. For the first year and a half of Scout’s life, it was completely normal for me to miss about a week of work a month in order to take care of a sick kiddo that couldn’t go to daycare. As soon as humanly possible, teach your kids to sneeze into their elbows and give them kleenex by the bucketload. But here’s the thing: I have yet to meet a 3-year-old that has never ever picked his nose. I think it’s a lot to ask of a kid to keep her germs to herself at all times. Use your best judgement: temperatures, vomit, and nasty chest infections are best kept out of public. Allergies, run-of-the-mill head colds, pulled muscles and sprains, and bumps and bruises are probably no big deal.Please, please, please do not bring your daughter to picture day at school after a night of puking simply because you didn’t want her to miss the class picture (this just happened at my daughter’s school). Alternatively, do not expect your child who attends school, daycare, the library story hour, playgroup, the children’s museum, or the play area at Chick-Fil-A to avoid getting sick. Kids=germs. And while Kids + good hygiene habits + luck = less chance of getting sick, you may as well embrace the fact that you will be spending (at least some of) your time as a parent playing nurse.

Aw, poor sweaty, feverish kiddo. Raggedy Ann is gonna get you through it. (From blogs.seattleweekly.com)

Controversial suggestion #4

Inevitably, you will be faced with this conundrum: Your child and your friend’s child are around the same age, and you swap stories about how their little bodies and minds are developing. Resist the urge to compare your child to anyone else’s child. Sure, check the websites, know the general timeframes (for instance, it’s well-within-normal for a child to walk anywhere from 9-months-old to 15-months-old. That’s a 6 month window.), but don’t go thinking that your child is behind simply because he or she hasn’t rolled over/sat up/picked up a cheerio/translated his first word into Latin simply because someone else you know has done exactly this. Conversely, don’t go thinking your child’s a genius because they can do something ahead of the curve. Life is long, God willing, and we all tend to even out on this journey.

All-out-get-ready-to-slap-me advice #3

I know many people who avoid certain topics of conversation, like politics and religion. I hate to say, “Let’s add ‘parenting’ to that list,” but let’s go ahead and consider parenting a very personal art. Certainly, things come up, people talk, people may even open up about their struggles, but make no mistake about this: No one is ever looking for someone to tell them anything other than, “I think you’re doing a great job.” The following are also acceptable: “You do the best you can.” “I think you’re a great mother/father.” “Boy, Dr. Sears ain’t got nothing on you.” Just be affirming and supportive of other parents. Like having a debate on facebook about the merits of the Bush tax cuts, it’s likely you will never persuade anyone that they stink at this parenting stuff. In “Reality Bites,” when Janeane Garafalo’s character (Vicky) tells Wynona Ryder’s character (Lelaina) that having sex is a quickest way to end a friendship, she clearly had never offended a fellow parent. THATis the quickest way to end a friendship.

Oh, Lainey, let's grow up and have babies and sing them fantastic songs by The Knack and never ever upset our fellow parents by offending them as we suggest bold notions like keeping sick kids at home instead of bringing them to school to fling snot rockets on their classmates. (From hotflick.net)

As with most things of great reward, parenting is hard work. I make no claims at expertise, I’m just a mom trying to do her best and enjoy the fun stuff along the way.

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On enjoying time with my (long-distance) family

I turned 35 about a week ago. And while that occasion was about as momentous as the first time I saw my friend Shelley sing “Sweet Caroline” on karaoke, this year was very special for one specific reason: I had visitors. For the first time since I was maybe 18 years old, I spent my birthday with my mom AND my brother.

My cute imported mom with the kids at the zoo's carousel

I like to subscribe to the Dave Barry philosophy on birthdays: There comes a time when you need to stop making a big deal about your birthday. That time is when you are 12. On the rare occasion that my birthday falls on Easter (this has happened at least twice that I remember), there is often a perfect excuse to get together without drawing attention to the fact that I’m celebrating a birthday. Yet, as I grow older, I realize more and more that there are so few occasions to celebrate in life. Why not make a big deal about your birthday? Whatever the case, it’s been a blessing to spend some time with my family.

Back up for a second… When I was a young girl, I had dreams of moving away from my hometown. And I did. Among other places, I once lived for two years in a time zone 12 hours ahead of my parents. When I had all of these adventures, I was single. I didn’t ever (no, never… have I mentioned that I’m not much of a “planner”?) think about how some day my life far far away from my family would be difficult. In my plot to escape Sheerboredom, Wisconsin, I never thought of a future where I’d endlessly miss proximity to my folks. Then, bam, I had two kids and it’s a daily thought: I wish I could see my mom and dad. I wish they could see this! I wish my kids could get to spend more time with their grandparents. And their uncle.

Sometimes we like to hang out in trees when we get together--with my brother

Living far away from family does have its advantages, though. I’m sure everyone’s situation is slightly different, but for me the distance can be a gift. My parents and I have a great relationship, and that is somewhat due to the whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing. Cory’s family lives out-of-state, too, with this exception of his one sister who lives here in town. A trip to visit one set of grandparents is nearly 6 hours in the car, and the other set of grandparents is about 8 hours door-to-door with drive-time, a 2 hour flight and time spent waiting at the airport.

Now that our kids are bigger and can do things like talk on the phone, sing, and (this is key) remember who everyone in their family is we are better at including the extended family in our day-to-day life. Without a doubt, our family is a tight unit—the four of us: Cory, me, Scout and Ruby—and we do everything together. Part of me wonders if we’d be quite as tight if our families lived closer to us. One thing is for sure, I’m not one to take time together for granted. When I do get the chance to see my family, I try to make the most of our visit. And, as envious as I am of my fellow mommy-friends who can take advantage of a date-night because all they have to do is drop the kids off at grandma’s house, I know that there is something special about being able to spend a week at Grandma’s house, take a vacation with Grandma and Papa, receive a seemingly-endless stream of packages from Grandma and Papa, and everything else that comes with being far away from your loved ones.

For years, we have been trying to convince our families to move close to us… and it hasn’t panned out yet. Maybe it will one day. Try as I might, I can’t imagine that the saving grace of having grandparents nearby would do more for our mental health than the weather, quality of life, job and educational opportunities, and fantastic community that we have here. So, this is how it’ll be: trips to visit our parents every year, host visitors whenever we can get them, and hopefully when the kids get older they can spend time in Wyoming and Wisconsin without us—and have their own adventures with their grandparents.

Tell me what you have done to keep your far-flung-extended-family near to your hearts? It’s really embarrassing, but we still need to set up Skype!



Use it up: Excess Easter Candy

Now, seriously, you probably have three half-eaten chocolate bunnies and at least two dozen Hershey’s kisses wrapped in pastel-colored foil just sitting around. Or maybe that’s just me.

In any case, this is a fun, easy thing to do with any extra chocolate you have lying around.

First, melt the chocolate in the microwave. Put (unwrapped) chocolate in a microwave safe dish, and microwave in 30-second intervals until melted.

The bowl o' chocolate that the kids help me unwrap

Second, get out your “mix-ins.” Suggestions: raisins, peanuts, marshmallows, peanut butter, strawberries, dried fruit, nuts, caramels, etc.

I made peanut butter cups. In order to do this, I used a mini-muffin tin and I cut the parchment paper into rounds. Create one layer of chocolate at the bottom, then put the tin in the freezer to harden (approx. 5-10 minutes). Then add a layer of peanut butter. After that, add another dollop of melted chocolate. Cool completely in the fridge.

Third, get out some wax paper or parchment paper and make some room in your fridge and/or freezer.

Get your mix on! Mix the nuts/fruit/whatever in with the chocolate and drop onto the wax or parchment paper. Cool completely in the fridge or freezer.

My finished product: a few peanut butter cups and a container of raisin/cashew clusters

Now, go forth and impress all your friends with your homemade chocolates.



Gettin’ Crafty: Tank top to child’s dress
April 14, 2012, 6:06 am
Filed under: Crafting, Family

In my world, I’ve yet to truly accept that I’m not really that good at being crafty. You see, I love it so much that it breaks my heart to think of not doing it. I envision a whole home devoted to inspirational ideas gleaned from pinboards. Is it so wrong to long for gift cards to Hobby Lobby and Joann’s Fabrics? I look at jam jars and toilet paper rolls and think only of how I might someday be able to put them to good use in a reincarnated craft.

For better or worse, I have passed this trait down to my children. They, like most pre-school age kiddos, love to CREATE! Glue, glitter, fabric, thread, scissors, yarn, stickers, crayons, paper, paint, chalk, markers, etc. The obvious advantage in their crafting world vs. my crafting world is their ages. At 2 and 4, I think most people are not expecting Van Gogh. Whereas when you are 35 and your work looks interchangeable for your pre-schooler’s, it can seem defeating.

Yet I persist. So, here’s a little creation that you can whip up if you too care to tame the wild crafting beast that lives inside you.

Start with an old tank top (Do you see the look in her eyes? Mom, WHAT are you doing with your sewing machine?)

Tools:

Old Tank Top (yep, the one in your Goodwill pile will work nicely)

Thread

Needle

Scissors

Fabric Scrap* (optional, but helpful esp. if your tank top is  a v-neck)

Approximately 2 feet of ribbon

Heat-n-Bond Adhesive tape* (optional, but helpful)

Sewing Machine* (optional, but will make this project go super duper quick)

Directions:

1. Cut out the side seams of your tank top.Then, cut the top straps. You should now have two generally tank-top-shaped, separate pieces of cloth .

Two separate pieces of cloth

1.5 If you have a v-neck, you may wish to add a little insert into the V. Even Toddlers in Tiaras don’t need cleavage showing. Dress that little fabric scrap up really cute, and apply it to the cloth from the wrong-side with a decorative stitch if you like.

A little insert into the V

1.75 If you fear that the dress is too wide, cut back the back straps area. Using a fusible adhesive (like heat-n-bond tape), make a hem. No sewing necessary! Just watch your iron so that you are following the directions of the adhesive, and use an iron cloth (adhesive on your iron stinks both literally and figuratively).

See how I trimmed back the back to make it a bit smaller?

There's my lovely heat-n-bond seam in the making. Heat-n-bond tape is to sewing what cake mixes are to baking.

2. Keeping your two separate pieces of cloth wrong-side out, you will pin up new straps–taking them up a few inches as necessary. Then, measuring against your model, pin a new side seam. Considering you now have sharp pins sticking all over your dress, carefully remove it from your model.

3. Lay out the dress and straighten your seams. If your tank top has an empire waist (as mine did), re-pin to account for bunching and fit. The empire waist area–an inch or so down from the chest–is a great area to put in a tie back which you can easily create with a ribbon. Pin your ribbon in 12-in (approximate) lengths to the interior of the dress. You’ll want about an inch of fabric sticking out when you sew it all up.

4. Sew  up the seams. Be mindful of the ribbons, because you only want to catch them in the seam where you pinned them!

5. Press seams. Try it on your model and see what you’ve created! (If it’s still too long, you will also need to pin and hem your dress.) Have a fun fashion show!

The tie-back bow

Another shot of the dress

Everyone will want to try on the dress.

Someone help me. “Ma’am, step away from the sewing machine. Keep your hands where I can see them.” Seriously, it’s just a matter of weeks before I cut up the old curtains to make cloth-diapers for Baby Alive. Wait, I’ve already done that.



Yeah, that. What she said.

I read this awesome essay today about Loving Your Cushy Tushy.

It is literally just what the title implies: A mom’s journey to accepting her cushy tushy because, in a roundabout way (such a bad pun), her daughter’s life depends on it.

This exact issue has been weighing heavily on me (again, what is it with me and the bad puns?) as I realize how many women I know–beautiful, kind, intelligent, loving women–are constantly talking about their weight.

Do not misunderstand me. I am not against taking care of your body, being healthy, exercising or even the all-out-occasional-gripe-fest when it comes to acknowledging the varicose veins/baby pooch/cankles that came with pregnancy that just won’t go away.

But, for me, I am acutely aware that little ears are listening. And for the sake of those little ears, I must love this body. I must, I must, I must.

So read this article, moms. Read this article, dads. Read this article, not-yet-moms and not-yet-dads. Then look in the mirror, and love that bod.

And if all else fails, get yourself some lululemon pants because they really do make your butt look awesome. (photo from coolspotters.com)



Bring on the Easter joy!
April 9, 2012, 8:49 pm
Filed under: Family, Just making conversation | Tags: , , , ,

My Easter was the best day I have had in long time. A day spent feasting on the sunshine, my family, delicious food and all things wonderful. I didn’t take very many photos, but what I tried to do is take “snapshots” of these happy, beautiful moments so that I can remember them (and, possibly, recreate them).

The two very best egg decorators

Here’s what Easter taught me:

  1. Give my children the opportunity to wake up to something special.
  2. Encourage my husband to hang out with his family more often, because it’s so fun to see him joke around and be silly. And play lawn games. Everyone loves lawn games.
  3. Remember when Ruby saying, “I love the Easter Bunny,” was all I needed to melt my heart.
  4. Make this cocktail more often: lemoncello, white wine, club soda, with a lemon slice garnish on the rocks. Yum.
  5. Make time to ride scooters. And rollerskates.
  6. Give the kids more opportunities to enjoy time with their cousins.
  7. Take time to thank the hosts and hostesses who put so much work into hosting such a special gathering.
  8. You can never eat too many jellybeans.
  9. Take time to enjoy the tulips, the daffodils (almost dead!), the flowering trees and the green grass.
  10. Remember the renewing sense of LIFE that is celebrated each Easter. Life and love beat death and evil every time.

Happy day-after-Easter!



A really long list of fun things to do with your kids
April 5, 2012, 2:04 am
Filed under: Family, Parenting | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Just a few of my crazy ideas. For the record, before you judge me, I haven’t done near all of these with my kids (who are 4 and 2). This is something I’m hoping will motivate me!

These are the two recipients of my wacky ideas

In the kitchen:

  1. Get out a stool, and make granola together at the counter.
  2. Make homemade playdough together.
  3. Do the dishes together. Or just let the kids play in the soapy water. It can be fun to discover what’s down in the bottom of the sink (as long as it’s not sharp knives).
  4. Make chocolate chip cookies together.
  5. Grate some cheese or carrots. Graters are fun.
  6. Play inventory going through the cupboards and pantry. (Very helpful prior to shopping trips prior to places like Costco or Sam’s Club.)
  7. Play restaurant, and someone can be the server and take one another’s order. This is made even more fun by wearing a dishtowel as an apron.
  8. Prepare different teas and have a taste test.
  9. Select a random array of items (ketchup, orange juice, jelly, A-1 sauce, etc) and allow some experimenting. Offer rewards for anyone willing to sample the experiment (for instance, I offer to make your bed if you try this, or I offer to make your favorite dessert if you try this, etc.).
  10. Walk around the kitchen and show your kids where everything goes, and how things work. Act like a tour guide, and if you have time, make a map of the kitchen, and add assorted things for them to find and act surprised about: “What, toilet paper in the blender? That doesn’t belong here!” “Applesauce in the dishwasher, that’s not right!”

In the bathroom:

  1. Paint your toes.
  2. Use a hairdryer to dry hair, hands, toes, or anything that needs drying. It’s fun to make the kids’ hair fly back and take pictures, too. Just saying.
  3. Fill up a basin, or just use the tub, to create a soothing foot bath, and soak some feet while just chatting. (This can be followed by a pedicure, or just a nail clip, for added enjoyment.)
  4. Play with make up.
  5. Do each other’s hair.
  6. Have fun sniffing different shampoos, lotions, scented balms or other fun products.
  7. Grab some glass cleaner and some dry erase markers, and draw faces on the mirror that your own heads can fit into: add mustaches, wild hair, fun earrings, big eyebrows, etc.
  8. Clean your toothbrushes with peroxide. Kids like the bubbles.

At the computer:

  1. Go to different kid friendly sites (PBSkids.org, nickelodeon, disney, etc) and find coloring pages to print off.
  2. Google different things. (Be mindful of anything with the word “girl” in it, as some unsavory things might pop up.)
  3. Find a map and plot different adventures. It’s fun to get directions overseas just to see what google will say.
  4. Watch videos on youtube together.
  5. Show your kids some family photos on facebook or a blog.
  6. Go through your stored music and play deejay.
  7. Go through your stored photos. Print off photos using your home pirnter, or use a photo website like snapfish or the Costco photocenter to buy prints.
  8. Use the “paint” page, or find a similar page on the web. Let your artist show you how it’s done.
  9. Create e-cards, and send friends or family members a random greeting.
  10. Take goofy photos with your webcam and use the options to distort them—funhouse mirror, sepia tones, psychedelic black-light poster, etc.

In the living room:

  1. Play hot lava, scattering couch cushions all over the floor and jumping to safety on all the furniture.
  2. Make a fort with blankets and furniture.
  3. Pop some popcorn, and sit down to a movie together.
  4. Watch an exercise video on the tv together and get down.
  5. Have a dance party. Use pandora or satellite radio to facilitate this. I’d also highly recommend Laurie Berkner Band, Kids Bop, or a Broadway musical soundtrack.
  6. Make a fire in the fireplace and turn off all the lights to enjoy.
  7. If the kids have a favorite TV show, sit down and watch it with them. Only, decide ahead of time of a fun add-on to make the program more interesting for everyone. For instance, if your kids like Dora, decide that you will get up and run around the house everytime they say “Swiper, no swiping.”

In the yard:

  1. Do some yardwork together: rake, weed, trim bushes, pick up branches, water the flowers, plant some vegetables, etc.
  2. Using a book, the internet, or your noggin, go around your yard (or neighborhood) identifying plants, trees, birds or butterflies.
  3. Wash the car together.
  4. Play hide and seek.
  5. Play hide and seek at night with flashlights.
  6. Create an Easter egg hunt. If Easter eggs are unseasonable, or unavailable, find something else to hide and find, like baseballs, ping pong balls, shoes, cups, etc.
  7. Create a step-by-step treasure hunt with picture or word clues, depending on the age-appropriateness. Make the final treasure a fun prize or a coupon for a fun prize.

In the bedroom:

  1. Go through the closet and drawers and do a fashion show. (This can also be very helpful in determining if there are things that no longer fit.)
  2. Put away laundry together.
  3. Make the bed together.
  4. Rearrange furniture and “redecorate” by adding throw pillows, rugs, blankets, artwork, posters or other accessories. (I like to swap and steal items from different areas of the house.)
  5. Snuggle in bed together, and tell each other stories.

In the neighborhood:

  1. Walk the dog (or just yourselves, if you have no dog).
  2. Ride bikes, scooters, tricycles, rollerskates, skateboards or anything else that you find fun.
  3. Use sidewalk chalk to write fun messages for others to find. “Have a splendid day.” “You are my sunshine.” “Walk like an Egyptian.” Really, the possibilities are endless.
  4. Prepare a scavenger hunt ahead of time with a list (or, for non-readers, a photo/image inspired list). Ask kids to find things like: mail box, red truck, bunny, black cat, tulips, aspen tree, ants, robin, etc.
  5. Do something nice for a neighbor. Place the three newspapers lying on the driveway up by their front door, pick up trash, bring them some cookies, roll the garbage cart back into place, etc.

Take an adventure:

  1. Make a picnic lunch and take it to a local park.
  2. Find a fun walking trail through a nature preserve, park, reservoir, wetland, wildlife refuge, lake, etc.
  3. Bring a blanket and some books to the park and have fun lounging and reading in the sunshine.
  4. Take a family bike ride.
  5. Go to a public pool and go for a swim.
  6. Go to an art museum, science museum, zoo, children’s museum, gallery, history museum, etc.
  7. Go out for ice cream.
  8. Go out for hot chocolate.
  9. Go to the library.
  10. Run an errand. Or run an errand, but pretend you are someone else while running the errand. Use disguises, fake accents, or simply deny the use of language between one another at all (only sign language, or pantomime).

Depending on the weather:

  1. For a rainy day, get out your umbrella and go for a walk. Return home and make hot chocolate or tea.
  2. For a rainy day, make soup together.
  3. For snow, go outside and make snow angels and a snowman.
  4. For snow, go outside and collect some snow (fresh, unblemished snow) for tasting.
  5. For hot weather, set up an experiment to place ice cubes outside, a little dish of water, and a little dish of something else (rubbing alcohol, vinegar, salt water, etc) and try to guess how long it will take for the substances to melt or evaporate.
  6. For hot weather, set up the sprinklers. You can also save things like squeezie bottles (of ketchup, dishsoap, etc) to be used as squirt bottles.

In the office:

  1. Write a letter or a card to someone.
  2. Make some stationery using blank computer paper and your creative genius.
  3. Show kids the different office supplies and what they do: punch holes, staple things, make them lick and taste an envelope.
  4. Go through your office supplies and give the kids the things you no longer need—the self-addressed envelopes for the bills you pay online, the 2011 desk calendar you never used, the post-its you have with an advertisement for some prescription drug, etc. These make for great toys, especially if accompanied by a calculator and a deceased cellphone.

Crafting:

  1. Color something: coloring books, blank paper, cardstock, construction paper, or whatever.
  2. Create a collage with the cut outs from magazines, newspapers, Scholastic book order flyers, old greeting cards, etc.
  3. Use tissue paper, some popsicle sticks, glue and yarn to create a mock-up of a kite.
  4. Arm kids with scissors, glue, maybe some thread and a needle if you’re feeling adventuresome. Now, give kids random scraps: leftover fabric, scrapbooking paper, yarn, the lids to your containers that have no mate (Sidenote: why does this happen?), socks that have no mate (See previous sidenote), buttons, stickers, magazines, etc. Let them come up with something. We can call this “Upcycling.”
  5. Do caricatures of each other. (Use the term “caricatures” loosely.) Ask, “What color do you want your head/hair/ears/nose/lips/etc?” It can also be super fun to add elements—funky hats, holding a tennis racket, with a mustache or beard.
  6. Using the bajillions of random magnets that you have hanging around (or get delivered with your yellow book, get dropped off with the carpet cleaner’s information, etc), and glue fun photos to them.
  7. Make window decorations pertinent to the upcoming holiday.
  8. Using 16 x 20 construction paper and some contact paper, turn a collage into a placemat.
  9. Make snacktime necklaces using string (or dental floss, if all else fails) and some snacky-type food (fruit loops, cheerios, pretzels, those awesome Keebler cookies with the fudge on one-side and big hole in the middle, or whatever else has a hole in it!).
  10. Color something that wouldn’t ordinarily be colored: Using sharpies, turn a plain white coffee mug into something more interesting, personalize the plastic step-stool in the bathroom with stickers and markers.

With books:

  1. Read a book, in run-of-the-mill-fashion.
  2. Read a book like this: Pick a picture book, cover the words and make your little one tell you the story by the pictures.
  3. Change names in a familiar story to include your child or other people that you know. It’s also really fun to change the story. I especially like to introduce quotes by the characters that pertain to utter silliness.
  4. Using photos (or computer print-offs), some tape or gluestick, and an loved-but-expendable paperback book, and put some fun in your favorite story by reinventing the characters as your kids or familiar faces.
  5. Get an art book or coffee table book and page through it together.
  6. Get out a dictionary and find new words together.

Okay, okay, I’m sure this is the most hodgepodge list of things to do with your kids ever. And did you see how I snuck in a few chores? Pretty clever, eh? What are your favorite things to do with your kids?