Friday, December 19, 2014

Ho Ho Holy Crap! It's Almost Christmas.

Hello again, dear readers! I just realized that YMIS is going to be 3-years-old in a few weeks! I can't believe it! This was one of my first posts (here) that I wrote 12 days before having Ellie! It's nice to be able to go back in time and read about my new-mom experiences here!

Anyway, Christmas is fast-approaching, and I'm as organized as I'll ever be. Most the toys and toast crusts have been picked up off the floor. Mark has been on dish duty, and I've been following Ellie around with a mop and broom.

Therefore, our house is livable, I've picked up Ellie's ToysRUs layaway. I've finished one true-crime book, one true-haunting book, and am halfway through another fiction mystery. I've made almost all of my homemade Christmas gifts, Ellie has had a bath this week, hair washed, in a ponytail, nails cut and painted.

We have snow tires on both vehicles, have solidified holiday plans, and my anxiety is manageable. I even helped manage our company's sponsor-a-family donation collection this year, for 2 families! We delivered the gifts yesterday, and it felt GREAT to know we were helping families have a brighter holiday this year.

I mean, you know, I'm behind on design work, haven't finished all my homemade Christmas presents, haven't wrapped a thing, am totally NOT doing yoga, and I never did get our Christmas cards out (there's still hope!). But you know what? I'm focusing on the things I have done! Yay me!

Elle is super excited about Christmas this year, which is making it SO fun. Her little stuffed snowman has been bringing her Hershey kisses or M&Ms every morning, and she's so happy to get up and check her advent calendar.

I can't wait to see her face on Christmas morning, when she gets to open the presents we got her. The other day, Mark was driving her to day care, and she said, "I just want to sit here and imagine it's Christmas."

And, each morning, she asks... "Is today Christmas?" When the day finally arrives, it is going to blow. her. mind. Stockings and candy, yummy food, and presents. Every kids' dream! And yeah, family togetherness, and all that jazz too! The holidays are magical.

As you probably know by now, if I'm quiet over the next few weeks, you can find me over at the BVT Moms Blog. Stay tuned for a post entitled Documenting Life -- all about how I came to terms with what I could and couldn't do under the pressure to preserve memories and take millions of photos of my kid AND some great resources for preserving memories!

We're also making TONS of art! Check it out in Our Gallery on the ArtSourceVT page.

If you don't hear from me before next year, have a wonderful holiday season, and thanks for another wonderful year!

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Old Fool

Hello, lovely readers! Just a quick update today to document some of E's funny toddler antics.

But first! Don't forget that, if it's quiet here, you can find us at a few other virtual locations!

My most recent post for the BVT Moms Blog documents our funny story about surviving our Florida vacation (here).

My other BVT Moms Blog posts live here. And check out the other amazing writers on the site. I just love those ladies/guys!

I also recently did a guest post for about why I think it's okay to tell my daughter she's beautiful (here)!

There are also frequent updates, new friends, and travels we're writing about on the art blog (!

As always, thanks for your support, and Happy Holidays!!


My toddler has been calling me an "old fool" lately, and her little sense of humor just seems to be blooming. As usual, I'm totally overwhelmed with trying to document every funny thing this kid says. Besides the usual screeching of "I'M NEVER GOING TO BED!!" her cute, little phrases like "Well, hello, my dearie," just crack us up and melt our hearts.

Last Friday night, I went out with Kim to her art show, and we didn't get back until late. Mark had put Ellie to bed at his parents' house in her usual spot, on a mattress next to my bed. I climbed into bed long after she fell asleep, so when she woke up in the morning, she had no idea it was me sleeping in the big bed. I figured that out after she whispered, "Daddy? Is that you?"

So, I ducked under the covers and peeked out at her. Her little eyes looked right at mine, and she started laughing... and laughing. She fell over onto her pillow and laughed more.

Finally, I ducked my head out, she looked straight at me and said, "Mama! I looked up! I peeked at the blankets, and I saw an EYE!!!!! And, I thought, 'Hmm... who is that!?'"

So freakin' adorable! When I pick her up at day care, she runs to me, jumps in my arms, and says, "Awww... you old fool!!" She's definitely the silly kid in class, and the antics continue at home.

Bedtime is an absolute nightmare, but we laugh a lot. She's getting more daring and thinks nothing of scaling furniture to launch herself onto my shoulders or diving 3 feet off her bed to catch me before I try to sneak out the door. Like most kids, she needs to use the potty twice, have 2 glasses of milk, 1 glass of water. By that time, I'm tackling my freelance work and pass those tasks off to my loving husband. Ha!

There's non-stop conversation from Elle -- "Did you know snowflakes taste like candlelight?" That's sweet! "No, I think they taste like cheese." "Mama, is tomorrow a day care day?" "Excuse me, Mama!! Is tomorrow a day care day!?" YES.

"Ellie, if you don't get to bed, snowman (our version of elf-on-the-shelf) won't bring you a treat in the morning."

"No, no, no!!" she says, "Hold on."

She goes and finds snowman Olaf and puts him right next to the tree. She gives him a little pep talk and rushes off to bed.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Holy Snowflakes

Can we just have a moment of silence for my lost childhood? I miss it so much ...

Thank you.

If there's one thing this Florida trip has taught me, it's that... my life isn't my own any more. And I'm okay with that, really. It's just that, sometimes it slaps you in the face when you least expect it. Vacation was wonderful, and I can say that because... I feel like it was all it should have been -- a perfect culmination of challenges and joy.

It was not an easy trip... plane rides, layovers, carrying a toddler around when she refused to walk or sit in the stroller... My body is still recovering. It's funny, though, those memories fade away -- the achey feet. I've already almost forgotten that Elle and I were fighting awful colds and spent the day after Disney laying in bed watching TV.

But I will never forget running through the lobby of the Grand Floridian with my two-year-old, while the lobby piano player played "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" or that exact moment when my toddler became a "princess" and started ordering everyone around. When she saw the castle for the first time and hugged me, because we had finally made it there -- that castle that she sees at the beginning of her favorite movies -- Frozen, and Lady and the Tramp. When she saw the ocean for the first time.

I love making the impossible seem possible to her. In fact, sometimes I make it a priority over other things -- like bills. Money was tight this trip, and we'll struggle a bit over the next few weeks, but we saw an opportunity and took it. And that's how I want her to live her life, especially as she grows up and becomes a teenager. I want her to feel like she can have a goal and make it happen, that a little luck, good friends, and faith can help her achieve whatever she wants -- even something as seemingly simple as seeing the Disney castle. There was such a feeling of achievement when, as a family, we made it there. To that very moment.

We're back in Vermont. Wow! Snow. Cold. Elle insisted we set up the Christmas tree, because snow = winter = Christmas. So, we did, and it's nice. In fact, I feel like we've transitioned back into home life pretty well.

I'm really into working on our site, right now. So, if you're looking for us -- start there! I think about it constantly and dream someday that we'll have an official studio, where kids and parents can come over and make art any time for free! A friend of mine suggested renting some space at the library, which I'm considering. If you have any thoughts/suggestions/ideas, please feel free to comment or email me on Facebook or at

Here are all our Instagram vacation photos via #StrangeFamilyVaca2014:

Monday, November 3, 2014

Disney Dream Chaos

Hello, Dear Friends!

Just checking in to say that the next few days are going to be complete chaos prepping for our one-day Disney Dream Vacation. We are packing tonight and will have to be completely ready by tomorrow night, because we fly out at 6am on Wednesday morning! We'll be staying in Florida, taking in the local sights, and spending one day at Disney, one day at Universal.

Ellie is ecstatic. In her mind, leaving "in a few days" means leaving "now." She can barely sleep, and I crush her dreams every time she looks up at me with the kind of hope in her eyes that only a two-year-old could have and asks, "Are we leaving for Florida NOW?"

"Just a few more days," I say sadly.
"But why?" "How?" "I don't understand."

We take another link off our paper count-down chain and put another sticker on our monthly calendar. Soon enough, Lady, soon enough!

Time to slow down and prepare for our first ever (real) family vacation! Follow our journey on Instagram and Twitter, and I'll update the blog as soon as I can!

The Strange Family

P.S. She doesn't know that's not an Elsa dress she's wearing... Shh!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Well, I'm Back

My business trip to Minneapolis was great! I got to meet some wonderful people who I'll be working with shortly! The trip was filled with missed opportunities, missed connecting flights, missing my family, but I really couldn't complain. It was a vacation for this full-time working mama! I got to stay at nice hotels, expense my meals, and a last-minute flight cancellation meant that I got to check out the Mall of America.

I met some wonderfully friendly folks in Minnesota -- a fellow mom who was in a similar traveling situation, a 75-year-old shuttle driver who had been in the airline business for over 50 years, the super flamboyant flight-delay guy who showered us with free gifts from Delta.

Ellie had sent Moosey with me, and I busied myself taking photos of him on various legs of the journey. I was surprised how much of a security item it came to be. Me and Moosey, like Tom Hanks and Wilson, survived the wild terminals together.

FaceTime with my family!
I came home to a messy apartment, and two people who were overjoyed to see me. It was great to be home, and I was ready for the weekend. Ellie climbed on me, hugged me, kissed my nose, my eyes. I held her like a baby in my arms, and she laughed out loud as I tickled her. It was then that I noticed her ridiculously swollen, white-spotted tonsils! Quick trip to the doctor confirmed it -- she has strep throat. Welcome home, Mama! Antibiotics, fluids, and rest. Fingers crossed that the rest of us have been inoculated via toddler smooches.

We were all tired and moody. Ellie through typical toddler temper tantrums, and I just wasn't quite ready to deal. I cried off and on, adjusting to re-entry of family life. Friday night, I climbed halfway into bed and fell asleep before my head reached the pillow. Mark had to move me so he could get in bed. Saturday was better, vacation excitement (1 week!), got the apartment cleaned, grocery shopping done. I feel like we're finally on the home stretch!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hello, My Belle

This morning, I'm sitting in an airport, waiting for my flight to leave to Philadelphia, then Minnesota! I miss you dearly but was so happy to see you this morning and rock you in the chair like a little baby, to laugh, and put you in the car, waving as I sent you off to day care!

I'll be home late tomorrow night and will give you snuggly hugs and kisses, even if you're asleep!

I want you to know that it's okay that you didn't want to send Banjo off with me on a plane. He feels safe with you, and I have Moose to keep me company!

I'm going to sign off now and get ready to board!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Two Weeks

Oh, dear readers. Has it really been 2 whole weeks since I've posted?

It must be, because our countdown-to-Florida-vacation chain has only 17 links left on it, and my Minnesota business trip is 2 days away!

Ellie is decked out in her Halloween costume and has already been the star princess at two Halloween parties. Where did my baby go?

I still don't feel used to this full-time schedule, though I'm more awake this week. I still roll out of bed as the sun is coming up and pray for five more minutes of sleep.

My little girl is growing up so fast, and suddenly I feel like I'm missing big moments. Always a give and take. Picking her up two hours later shouldn't be the end of the world, but it is hard some days. There isn't much time to play together, so I include her in dinner prep and all art projects. We run errands together more often.

We're closer in this way, surviving together, but she's growing up too fast. I can take her anywhere. I took her to the mall last week, let her eat dinner at Applebee's. Though the woman behind us seemed less than pleased to have a toddler sitting anywhere near her, Elle was an angel. She climbed up in her chair, unfolded her napkin, and said, "And how was your day, Mommy?" Oh, my heart. Too grown up. Slow down, sweet baby. I felt better after, when she insisted on riding in the mall cart that looked like a schoolbus, insisted she ride the mini carousel, and said, "Okay, Mommy, now just chase me in circles." I did, and she laughed her head off, much to the delight of the last few mall shoppers, headed toward the exit as the mall closed.

It seems like there are so many new things to write about, but I don't know where to begin. I'll update again soon. Promise.


If you're really missing me and E and our daily updates, you can always find us hanging out on Instagram and Twitter (@urmomisstrange). Our Facebook page mainly just has blog updates, but follow if you're worried you might miss one! :-)

Of course, I also blog for the BVT Moms Blog (my posts here -- stay tuned this week for a sweet E post), and we are busy, busy keeping up with the KidsArtSourceVT site, making connections in the community and, of course, making ART!

As always, thanks for reading!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Mommy Offerings

So, for the first time in a long time, I don't feel like writing. In fact, I'm writing this sentence in the hopes that I'll just start and keep going...

I have a food hangover from the weekend, am reeling from Gone Girl, and feeling sleepy after spending a much-needed evening visiting with family.

This full-time thing is tough. I forgot what it was like to not want to do anything except work, play, and sleep. Dishes, laundry, meal prep... hardly a priority. I must choose carefully what I dedicate my time and energy to, because there is so little of it to go around.

I'm back in a 21-Day-Fix challenge group, to try to get in better shape for my vacation. I say it's so that I'll be able to walk around more comfortably without getting tired so easily, but the reality is that I hate my body when I look in the mirror. I still see a slender waist, relative to the size of my body, but my hips have gotten bigger. More importantly, I'm uncomfortable moving, getting up off the couch. I've put on 40lbs since last year.

I tell my reflection that it's fine, that everyone's bound to have a food-honeymoon after not being able to eat what they want without getting sick for most of their life. Since starting my Crohn's medication, I can eat what I want, when I want. Greasy foods, sweet foods, it doesn't matter, but it's time to limit those foods to a one-time weekend treat.

This morning, I put on my running shoes, mainly for warmth. It was freezing outside, I had to scrape ice off my car windows. I drove to work, then walked to the grocery store. I bought fruit and English muffins, almond butter, and fat-free coffee creamer. I walked the long way, took the stairs.

And suddenly, I'm walking, wearing running shoes, and carrying fruit around. Baby stepping to big change. My counselor said that I should take on one task at a time instead of trying to do everything at once. So, I am. I've been keeping up with dishes, with Mark's help, and trying to work my way around the apartment and clean up, but dishes is my one household chore for the week.

Oh, and the parenting thing? Well, that's been a breeze. I've realized that if I just let her do what she wants 90% of the time, my job becomes super easy. It also helps that I have a wonderful daughter who wants to do pretty reasonable things, like help me clean, or paint leaves. I even let her do the things that are seemingly unreasonable, like wash quarters in a colander. To her, these little things are big things. To me, they may seem small, but her little to-do list, just like mine, is teaching her how to do big things -- like thinking outside the box, coming up with creative solutions to problems, and being an all-around cool kid.

I think we're doing alright... especially since last night she celebrated my "birthday" early (it's in February) and surrounded me with a dozen pieces of Nini's pewter collectibles -- an altar of offerings to the great "Mommy." I'll continue trying to live up to that status!

Monday, September 29, 2014

I'm Here. It's Monday.

I'm here, lovely readers. It's just been, you know, a long weekend. All of a sudden I have this kid, a real kid, not a toddler... who says things like, "Well, I don't know what I think about that," and "Daddy, I think you forgot to make Mommy some toast. Here Mommy, have a piece of mine while you wait." God love her sweet, little soul.

I was in a complete daze yesterday, out of coffee, down to our last $20, trying to grocery shop, but she kept me in the here-and-now, telling me stories, holding my hand at the grocery store. She had me skip across the tiles with her and said, "Here, let me show you around." Mark grabbed the few items on our shopping list, and I got to spend a few carefree moments in toddler land, where the most important things on her to-do list were finding more floor tiles to jump on and staring at the olive cart in Aisle 9.

We're all tired, but life is good.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Toddler Cleaning Schedule

I wish I had some advice to offer you about how to keep your house clean, because I've written numerous posts about getting my apartment in order but haven't exactly figured it out yet, at least not long-term. Just search "cleaning" on my blog, and you'll see my progress, or lack thereof.

Well, thankfully, my 2-year-old grew into a 55-year-old woman last week and has completely taken over our home and put me on a cleaning schedule. Say what you want about our parenting -- maybe I'm a little too lax with her at times, or maybe Mark and I tend to lean a little more toward 'follower' rather than 'leader' in our parenting roles, sometimes. But, generally speaking, I was content with a messy living room, finished paintings spread across the living room floor, and a kitchen clean enough to make food in.

My darling Ellie, however, was not. We got home from day care on Friday, and she started in, "Mama. You need to make some more space for me. This place is a mess."

The mommy-guilt hit me like a truck. "You're right, Elle. I'll pick up today."

"Okay, and I will help you," she offered.

"Also, there is no bucket for my dishes, and we need to wash them after we're done eating," she said.

"You know, that's a good idea." I mean, letting them sit in the sink until the following morning or afternoon... or until Mark comes home from work the following evening... probably not the best habit to get into.

I set up a bucket for her, an orange one I had left over from our craft corner. "Get me a chair, please," she insisted.

I pulled a chair over from the dining room table. She climbed up on it and started washing her snack dishes, setting up a system similar to the one they have at day care, where each child is responsible for cleaning up after themselves, and there is a designated space for clean and dirty dishes.

I followed suit, put away dishwasher dishes, and loaded the dishwasher with the dishes that were sitting in the sink from the previous night. I grabbed some cleaner dishes from that day and handed them to her to wash. I bleached my sink and wiped the counters while she did that.

She set up her empty bucket to use after dinner and hopped off the chair, in search of a mop and broom. I asked her to please pick up the paintings off the living-room floor first.

"Mommy. I'm much too busy for that right now."

I wasn't going to argue. Clearly, she had her own schedule she was trying to adhere to. I stifled a laugh and picked up the living room, started folding laundry. Ellie grabbed the mop and broom. I helped her sweep. Then, she mopped every square inch of the apartment, using her vinegar solution I made up for her. The living room smelled like a pickle cannery.

I watched our home transform from terrifying to livable, all at the direction of a 2-year-old.

It was actually kind of phenomenal. And, I mean, if she's happy, I can be happy with it like this. Sure, we're forever working on an endless heap of laundry folding, and finished paintings are spread over almost every surface of our living- and dining-room, but you know what? I kind of like it that way. As long as I can sit on my couch, cook in my kitchen, eat at my table, and paint at my craft corner, I'm pretty gosh darn happy, and so is she apparently!

Mark came home, and we had some pasta for dinner. Ellie explained the new kitchen system to him. After dinner, he sat in the recliner with his bowl of pasta, kicked his feet up, and took his last few bites of macaroni. Elle got up from the table, put her bowl in the orange bucket, stomped over to the recliner with her hands on her hips and said, "Daddy. Are you done with that bowl?"

"Um, yeah. Why?"
"Well, you know where it goes. Right in that bucket. Come on. Let's go."

Monday, September 22, 2014

Studio Time

Sorry for the lack of posts last week. I've been busy over in our "studio," also known as... my kitchen and backyard. Check out our progress there!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bathroom Narrative

The weight of potty-training days is upon us. So, as you can imagine, I've seen the inside of every public restroom in the tri-state area.

E and I are always out and about, and I've started to suspect that visiting every restroom she can find is less about "having to go" and more about exploring new restrooms. Meanwhile, I say a silent prayer, begging sweet, little baby Jesus to keep us from contracting every known virus in the western hemisphere.

Last week, we took a trip to Shaw's to do a big, 2-week grocery shopping. I had Elle use the bathroom before we left the house, but that didn't stop her from saying, "I really, really have to go potty," as soon as she saw the "Restroom" sign glowing at the back of the dairy aisle.

As you know, my 2-year-old has the vocabulary of a relatively-smart high-school student, and can say all kinds of words and phrases quickly and clearly like "perpendicular" and "easy-peasy lemon squeezy!" In fact, yesterday, while we were driving home, she said, "Mommy, will the blue bus be picking up passengers this afternoon?" and "I think I'd like to buy a blue house. Yes, a blue house with a black bird in the yard." She turns every task into a long, toddler narrative. It's kind of... adorable.

This trip to the bathroom was no different than a walk outside, and she stormed into the Shaw's restroom, commenting on everything from the color of the tile walls to the available number of hand dryers. The Shaw's bathroom doesn't get a lot of customers, so it was quiet except for a loud toddler voice booming off the ceramic tile walls and floors.

"Mommy, let's use this stall."
"Okay," I said, as I closed the door and set her on the potty.
"Mommy! Do you think someone will steal our car-cart?" (the fire-engine one for kids to ride in)
"Oh no, I don't think so. It's full of our groceries, and I'm sure that, if someone sees it waiting there, they'll know we just stopped to use the restroom."
"Mama, can you tell me that story again?"

I repeat the story of the abandoned car-cart. Outside our stall, the restroom door swings open, and I hear heels click across the tile. A stall door slams, and I hear someone sit down.

I stifle a laugh, as I watch E's reaction and prepare for a lengthy narrative in what could only be described as a "stage whisper," as my dear friend Melissa would call it. E is completely unaware that the other sitter can hear her. As a confused look spreads across her face, it begins...

"MAMA!! Someone is IN HERE!"
"Yes, I know. Someone came in to use the restroom."
"MAMA!! What is THAT MAN doing?"
"Well, it's not a man. It's a woman." (I hope.)
"MAMA! Why is it a woman?"
"This is the ladies' restroom, so it's probably a woman."
"Okay," I try to act disinterested in hopes that she'll drop the conversation. It doesn't work.

"Yep. He is..."

I hoped we would avoid the "mystery man" at the sink, but E hopped off the potty, pulled up her pants (never having gone pee-pee herself), and blasted out the stall door to get a better look. Thankfully, it was a sweet, older woman, in artsy clothes, spunky hair, and orange, plastic-rimmed glasses.

She told Elle, "You're absolutely right! I did go pee-pee!"
"Yeah!" Elle replied, giving her the thumbs-up.

I've never spent so much time at Shaw's. I think 3 other families came in and completed their weekly shopping while we were in there. Before check-out, E said she had to go potty again.

How do I know what's real!? I'm living in a Twilight-Zone-like altered-reality in which every day is an endless maze of restrooms, like a 2D video game from the 80s, like Paper Boy, but the object is to just navigate restrooms. All day.

I told her she'd have to wait until we got home and rushed out of the store, broke two grocery bags that the cashier had over-filled, and lost a pound of butter in the parking lot. Next time, I'm sending Mark.

Monday, September 15, 2014

What's New!

Still kicking over here, dear friends and readers. Here's where I've been while you were looking for me...
  • Writing blog posts at BVT Moms! Some heavy stuff in there, but I know ya'll can handle it!
  • Making new art on the Art Source site! Check out all of our most recent posts! The site is filling up nicely, and I'm proud of that!
  • Updating the Etsy Shop! I just renewed a bunch of expired listings and was thrilled to find that I had sold two more prints! I was not so thrilled to find that I had an email from a customer that never made it to my main inbox! I'm paying better attention now!
What else? Full-time work is kicking my butt, and the emotional stuff going on surrounding my most recent blog post has been exhausting, but you know what? There are people who have it worse than me, and I'm very grateful for all the joy in my life. The tough thing about social media is that everyone has a window into your life, your soul, and they're free to judge you however they please. The good thing is that I can control when to close that window to certain people.

I felt a strong sense today that everything would be okay, that if I need help or added strength, all I have to do is ask. And, when I did, I felt that familiar rush that comes along with strong faith and a spiritual acceptance of the unknown.

"All good things, all good things!" as Olaf would say.

Family life is great, the apartment is a wreck, my toddler is simultaneously being a terror and a joy... as it should be, and life goes on! Here is the first pic from my 5-days-grateful challenge. Silly family; a good, flexible job with a hot cup of coffee in my Two Potters' mug; and art + freedom of expression.

Funny, last year at this time I was dealing with some of the same things... but we're making so much progress too. Last year, I was only thinking about building more art into the blog. Now I've made it a big reality, and that feels GREAT!

What's new with you?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bedtime Battle

We're still recovering from Art Hop weekend (more here) and the Bedtime Battle last night. In E's defense, she DID use the potty 6 times, NEEDED 3 glasses of milk, and WAS really hungry.

But, I said "no" to late-night snacks, after she ate a big dinner, because that tends to keep her up later, and tonight I think I'll cut off milk a little earlier.

As frustrating as this is, she has been absolutely adorable while making all attempts to avoid sleep. When I pretend to fall asleep next to her, she puts her nose right against mine and whispers (loudly), "Mommy... MOMMY."

"It's morning time now. We can get up!"
"Nice try..."

She giggles, as I get laughing. It basically turns into a middle-school slumber party. She's learning that, if she gets me laughing, she gets to stay up later. Her techniques for getting me to laugh are... admittedly, hilarious.

She squawks like a bird, nodding her head up and down, her little bangs bouncing like loose parrot feathers over her eyes. It gets me every time. She dances like a monkey, sticks out her chin like an old man and says in perfect Olde-English, "Not today, Sir!" when I insist it's time to get some sleep.

She says, "Wait, wait, wait, Mommy," as I try to rush out her bedroom door, "I just want to tell you a story," as I step a little further out into the hall, "Once upon a time!!" It's a trap. The story has begun. Leaving would mean I have ignored some important creative process that has already been set into motion by those magical words. "I woke up! And, my highchair and bib were GONE." It is a sad soliloquy riddled with symbolism of lost baby-hood. Her eyes widen with excitement, and I must ((gasp)) with utter terror and amazement and ask, as if reading from my toddler's script, "And who took them!?" Her eyes squint, her hands morph into claws, her little nose turns up, wrinkled with disgust, "A monster." I can only assume that I am represented by the beast in this odd play. I respond with appropriate levels of disdain and horror and escape to the living room.

She storms out of her room while we're watching Master Chef and declares, with perfect pronunciation, that tomorrow she would like to make a "croquembouche," demanding to know what it is and how we could create it. I stumble, "Um, it's like a tower of little donut holes, with cream in the middle." "Sounds delicious," she waves her hand dismissively. I glance at the stove clock as the numbers change to, "10:49."

"Ellie Jean, back to bed, in..."
"5-4-3-2-1!" she yells.

And, repeat.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday Funk

I am in such a funk this Friday. I overslept, had a teary goodbye with E this morning, and a challenging bedtime battle with her last night.

I think we're all just struggling to adjust to this new schedule. She wanted to stay and play with her friends at preschool yesterday, so I let her give me a playground tour, and she was thrilled to show me the bunnies and teepee. Leaving to head home was a little challenging, as you can see below, but I let her have her lay-in-the-grass time. I need to do the same sometimes.

When we got home, she was upset that it was so close to dinner and bedtime, and she didn't want me spending any time away from her. I let her help me with a breakfast dinner of eggs and pancakes, and this made me feel better about my choice to pick her up at 3 instead of letting her go out to the playground until 4 with the other kids each day. And, I realized that, no matter how tired I am after working a full day, I need to give her my full attention from 3pm until dinner time. We both need that time together.

Overall, I think we've done well this week. Mark is taking me and E out to dinner tonight to celebrate. Nothing fancy, of course, but who needs fancy when you're in great company? Not this mama! Give me green grass, blue skies, and some steak fries!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Good Morning, Toad!

((yawn)) ((head drops to desk))

I've got nothing today, readers... Just know that I love you and your never-ending support.

((Neverending Story!! Ohhh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh...!))

Gurgle gurgle... Blah! Aye aye aye!

Today is my first day back to work full time. Last night, Kim (our Auntie Bee!) and I headed to Burlington to drop off some of her prints for an art show and met some lovely, artsy people, who we'll be connecting with for future art-inspired endeavors! Yeah! Then, she took me to Barnes and Noble and treated me to a coffee. We're broke, hence the return to full time.

I told her it was the best vacation I had ever been on. Last week brought some family drama that drained me, and I was in desperate need of a break, time to laugh with my best friend. We giggled about our magazine selections. Of course, I reached for the true crime. "Look, I have 2 Charles Mansons!" I exclaimed. As we stood in line ordering coffee at the cafe, a guy waltzed in who looked exactly like that creep! I whispered to Kim, "Oh, look! Charles Manson's here for a book signing!"

"Oh, and Norman Bates is here too!" Kim added. She nodded toward the opposite end of the cafe, where a Norman-Bates look-alike was sipping a grande iced-mocha latte. "They're here alone. Do you think they're single?" she asked.

"Most likely," I giggled.

This is what I needed -- mildly inappropriate serial-killer humor.

Mark texted me this morning with an update!
I got home late and went about making Ellie's lunch for the next morning. I wanted to doodle a little "good morning" card for her, as I expected to be up and out the door before she woke up, but I was too tired. I returned to the computer to whip up a quick "toad" card for her. When she's being silly, she says to Mark and I, "Hey, Toad!" and "I want some breakfast, Toad!" Our response is usually, "How about some cereal, Frog?"

She woke up before I left this morning, and I got to see her reaction. She laughed hysterically when I read it to her, and I got hugs and kisses when she heard what I had written inside: "Ellie, I miss you! Have a great day! I'll see you soon! I love you! Love, Mommy." The morning text messages from Mark assured me that all went well, and the change in her morning routine hasn't fazed her too much... yet!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Baby Doll Parenting Fail

No one told me, when I signed on for this parenting thing, that I would also be the sole caregiver and legal guardian of two plastic baby dolls... one of which has faulty wiring and cries all the time.

This morning, I was so focused, on making sure my real daughter didn't fall down the stairs, that I dropped Baby 1 out of her cheap, plastic car seat I was carrying. I didn't think this was a big deal until Ellie saw Baby face-down at the bottom of the stairs and had a mini meltdown.

"BABY!! What happened!?" Ellie rushed to her rescue. I had to act equally horrified, make crying noises, shush her, and rock her.

I looked up to see Mark frowning at me. "We better wait awhile before we try for a second..." he said.

Baby 1 and Baby 2 spent the entire day with us, in and out of shopping carts, buckled in the car, eating dinner with us. I had to feed them!

And at bedtime, as if I wasn't exhausted enough, I had to hold all of them to read a Clifford book and interact with each child.

"Mama, make sure the baby asks questions," instructed Ellie.

Me: ...Clifford went to the firehouse.
Me as Baby 1: Oh no, will there be a fire!?
Me as Baby 2: I'm scared of Clifford!! He's a big scary dog!

Ellie: Babies!! Babies. (sigh) Clifford is going to get some water and put out the fire. Clifford is not scary. He's a big dog, but he's nice. He's a *hero*!!

Me (silently): Yeah. Stupid babies.


In other news, this is my last day of part-time work. On Tuesday morning, I start bright and early, at 7am and will work until 3pm. It hasn't really sunk in yet and probably won't until the 7am-alarm goes off.

In other, other news, I'm having a blast migrating art stuff and posting new "Today in the Studio" updates over at Kids Art Source. If you haven't yet, check it out! Like the Facebook page to get local art updates and project ideas, Follow us on Twitter, and check out our Pinterest board for more art ideas!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Kids Art Source VT

So many of you, my lovely readers, have written to me, messaged me on Facebook, and even flagged me down in public to talk about ART! Project ideas, classes, zentangling, graphic design, age-appropriate art activities. I love it. It's my favorite thing about being a parent -- getting Ellie to think creatively and create art of any kind!

So, I've been working on a new long-term project called "Kids Art Source VT." In my mind, it would be a site/source for all things creative for "kids" ages toddler to teen/adult. Mainly, it will house project ideas, but I'm also building a database of local shops to find supplies, inspiration, and classes/events right in our backyard.

I've patiently been waiting to go live with the site for about 6 weeks, and I just can't wait any more -- mainly because I'm neglecting YMIS a bit in order to get this up and running and posting my most recent art projects there, instead of here -- all in an effort to keep YMIS more mommy-focused for now. My sketches and doodles will still get posted here, but my goal is for KASVT to grow and eventually become a community resource that offers free art classes for kids and parents.

Growing up, we had a fantastic, free, arts and crafts program in the park, and I'd love to set up something similar... in due time! :-)

For now, I just have the online resource, and I'm sharing it with you all first and would welcome any thoughts, suggestions, any feedback at all -- positive or negative! I'll be migrating more project ideas to that site in the weeks to come!

Thanks so much for your support on this journey, and follow my progress at: KidsArtSourceVT!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Back from New York

I'm starting this post with a big yawn, as I sit back at my desk in my little cubicle in Vermont, listening to the whistle blow as the 10am train rushes by outside.

I wish I had some wild story to tell you about Ellie's antics while we were in New York, but she hardly made a peep during our 5-hour trip, thanks to snack breaks, a few movies on the iPad, and two exciting rides on the ferry.

The weekend was absolutely perfect. My mom and dad babied us as usual, making big meals and cleaning up after us. And we just... played. Glorious, fun, relaxing play time. Ellie played with her cousins, went to the park twice, played in the hose, made s'mores around the campfire out back. We did crafts, painted, visited with old friends. I shopped with my sister and my 7-month-old niece.

Now, I'm tired, happy, and ready to settle into a busy week, looking forward to another long weekend with my family. Time to get my home in order, plan meals for the rest of the week, get a shopping in, catch up on freelance work, and put more time into my big-picture project! More to come!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Reclaiming My Life. Again.

Maybe it's the coffee talking, but I am about to reclaim my life. I usually pick up Ellie at day care an hour later every other Wednesday to go to my counselor appointment, but I don't have my appointment until next week, because last week, all was bright and shiny with the world, and I thought I could wait 3 weeks for my next appointment.

Well, today I want to kill myself. <-- in that helpless, counselor-approved "healthy" way, where I just feel overwhelmed and haven't actually, seriously considered ways of offing myself. Promise.

My little toddler has become out of control over the last 2 days, and maybe this is just her new reaction to being tired, and maybe I'm overreacting about it, but I'm determined to reclaim my life. The apartment is a wreck -- partially because she threw a temper-tantrum yesterday and knocked over all of the bins I had organized, spreading toys, markers/crayons, stamps, everything... all over the floor. And partially because I keep falling asleep after dinner... am I coming down with something? Regardless, my apartment now has that post-earthquake-destruction motif, and I'm going to CLEAN IT all in an hour today. Ellie fell asleep before I could have her help me last night.

Before bed, she was still mad about the magic wand incident... She threw it at me from the back seat while I was driving home from day care yesterday, hit me in the head, and I veered off the road. Why!? She wanted me to turn the other direction toward the park, not head home.

Maybe I overreacted. I screamed. I yelled. "How could you!? Do you have any idea how badly we could have been hurt!?" She screamed louder. "Ellie, this is the 3rd time this week you've been throwing toys in the car. This time you hit me! I'm done." I drove her straight to our local thrift shop, pulling up out front in the drop-off parking space.

"Mama, I'll wait in the car," she said sternly.
"Oh no, you're coming in with me."
"But I don't have shoes on!" she yelled.
"That's okay, I'll carry you."

I pulled her out of her car seat, propped her on my hip, and marched into the store. I told the woman at the desk, "My daughter just threw this at me from the back seat of the car and hit me in the head while we were driving."

The woman stared blankly at me as I continued, "We'd like to donate this toy to a little boy or girl who doesn't throw toys in the car."
"Good idea, lesson learned!" the woman replied, taking the wand from me.

I glanced at Ellie on my hip. She was staring at the ground, with a sad, embarrassed pout on her face. I thanked the woman and walked out of the store. As I opened the car door to put Ellie in her car seat, she freaked out. She screamed, cried, as I calmly put her in her car seat.

As I drove toward home, she yelled from the back seat. "No. No! I'm telling my daddy what you did. I'm telling him to go get that wand back."
"I've already told Daddy that you will not be getting that wand back."
"Well, I'm telling Nini and Grandpa and Bee! They'll get me another one."
"Maybe they will someday, and that's fine. But not today. That wand has probably already been sold to another little girl who doesn't throw toys in the car."

The crying continued. I told her no back-seat toys for one whole month -- until she's grown up a little bit and will not throw toys in the car. I threw in a "no movies" clause, too. At least for local trips to Burlington. She may work toward movies for the trip to New York this coming weekend...

When we went home, she sat in time-out and colored the wall in her bedroom. She admitted she did this on purpose because she was mad at me. She did it, while watching me, waiting for a reaction. Was this just one bad day, or am I doing something wrong here? Am I not giving her enough freedom, too much freedom? Am I a horrible mom? The mommy-guilt kicked in, over ONE bad day. We had a long talk about everything, and I told her that the main take-away from this time-out was, "No throwing toys in the car." We'll discuss/clean the walls later.

When Mark got home, I asked for just a few minutes of quiet. I crawled in my bed and put my head down. After Ellie destroyed my living room, she came in, crawled over me, and sat beside me. I told her that, I know it was a rough day, but that I wasn't mad at her. She hugged me and talked to me about it. I forget that, more than anything, her anger is about wanting my attention, my approval. I told her a million times that day, even when I was angry, that I love her. Mark brought her dinner in, and she fell asleep halfway through eating it. She slept all night.

I know this is all normal toddler stuff, but I ended my day feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, defeated, and it was enough to make me want to reclaim my apartment, my life, to restore some order in my home. It's time that Ellie grows up. BIG TIME. I've been babying her too much. She needs more structure in her afternoons, and more freedom to do tasks on her own. This is going to come naturally when I go back to work full time (next week, wow!), but we need to work toward some more predictability at home now. I don't mean some kind of militant schedule, just some expectations that she can count on. Step 1 for her is going to be potty training -- because she finally asked me if she can start wearing big girl underwear this morning! Yay!

Her day care teachers tell me that she loves being on a schedule, that she thrives on knowing what her special jobs are and doing them all by herself. So, we're going to start with some fun, simple tasks that she can do and help me with, some more order in our house beyond the chore chart. As usual, lots of time for fun and play, too, and more time for Mama to reclaim some sanity in the afternoons.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Detective Mommy Pop

Okay, so I guess I'm raising a 2-year-old teenager!? This weekend really tested my parenting patience.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again... Every time my daughter gets sick and is fighting some kind of virus, all I see for 5+ days is a whiny, needy, little human being who just cries and loves me/hates me simultaneously. Then, when she comes out of it and is my happy kid again, she has grown a week's worth and is all of a sudden a new person.

Unfortunately, this time she came through as a teenager. All I've heard since yesterday morning has been, "Ugh, Mom!!" and "Come ON, Mom!" "I'm doing this right now," and "Don't you take this from me."

Since she had been inside all day Sunday, I took her over to work with me in the morning on Monday to pick up my laptop, before working the morning from home. It doesn't matter if I swing by work at 9am or 5pm. When she's in tow, my co-workers throw candy at her. She left with a Mini York Peppermint Patty, successfully worked the elevator all by herself, with no direction from me, and looked both ways as we left the building and crossed the parking lot.

I got her in her car seat, and she said, "I'm going to eat this now," holding up her prize chocolate.
"It's 9:00 in the morning. No."
"Don't you take this from me!" she threatened.
"Ellie, come on, give it to me. You can't have it now."
"YES. I can. I don't need your help. I can open it myself."

And she did! Those fine-motor skills just kicked into action, and she opened that candy. I gasped. She hid it behind her back.

"Mama, just close the door. Go. Drive."
"Ellie! Absolutely not. You've been sick, and you haven't even had breakfast yet. Give it to me, and you can have it back after lunch."

She handed it over, then cried her eyes out.

After lunch, she ate it and said, "Ooh, this has mint in it! Do you like mint, Mama?"
She knows mint is my favorite. "Yep, I love it."
"Well, you can't have any of it. It's mine. Don't you take it from me."

I can't remember one time I stole candy out of her hand and ate it, yet it's a very real fear for her apparently. I must look like a ravenous mint swiper.

Before bed last night, she filled the sink all the way to the very brim, despite our talks about wasting water, overfilling the sink, and when to turn it off. Mark had just shaved, and I had brushed my teeth, so it was filled with yuckiness that I was waiting to clean until the water went down. I heard Mark arguing with her in muffled frustration, "Don't turn that faucet on again. Stop putting your hands in that water. Ellie, we're done!"

I intervened, "Ellie, did you put your hands in that water after Daddy told you not to?"
"Nope, I didn't Mama. I'm just using this clean water," she said, as she turned on the faucet again.
"Ellie, that's called lying. Lying is not okay in this house. Just tell me what you did, and I won't be mad."
"Mom. I didn't do it! I didn't put my hands in the water."
After, circling around this topic for 5 straight minutes, she finally admitted that she "just put one, little finger in, and that was it."

Then I caught her very carefully leaning over the sink and sneaking her hands in the water again! When I called her out on it, she said, "Okay. Okay!! I won't do it again."

She washed her hands a final time and went to bed with no bedtime stories, the ultimate punishment. Ugh, the lying thing REALLY gets me. I hate it, I despise it. I don't do it. I am forever a truth-seeker. I know she's only 2, that she's bound to test these limits, and it's my job not to allow it and express how serious a crime it is in our house, but GAH! The fact that she did it in the first place really makes my blood boil. What else has this little stinker been fibbing about and getting away with!?

After she had been in bed for an hour, I heard her playing on her baby monitor, but it sounded louder than usual, like I could hear her in-person voice and her voice over the monitor. Sure enough, she had come out of her room and was playing baby dolls in the living room! When I said, "Ellie!! What are you doing!? You're supposed to be in bed," she responded with a wave of her hand, "Oh, just passing by..."

What on Earth am I in for?

Detective Mommy Pop is on the case. I will be investigating any and all instances of false statements. Innocent until proven guilty, but hand me my CSI kit, and bring on the teenage years!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Photo Friday Princess

On this Photo Friday, I woke up to E half-dressed as a princess and asking for me to make her a dress. So, I found another use for those scarf-wearing tutorials floating around Facebook. She donned these play glasses, and sock gloves, so that no one would be hurt by her magic powers, a la Elsa from Frozen. The next, most-obvious accessory choice was a harmonica. Her day care teacher, Sam, confirmed what we all have known and cherished about her all along. On Wednesday, he told me, "Your daughter is... hilarious."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Coughing Ghost in my Bathroom

So, I haven't spoken much about the whole spirit-communication thing lately... I'm gearing my blog more toward kids' art and working on a site that will be a local resource to find art supplies, project ideas, and even a way to join me and Elle for (at least) monthly outdoor art projects! I'm excited about it.

But, the whole reason this idea and drive to write and create art has come about is through meditation and focusing on what I love to do, asking my higher power (whoever he or she may be) to give me some guidance, then letting ideas flow into my subconscious freely, and being open to different ideas. Then, when I'm 100% sure about what I want to do -- like this art-resource site, I've let my conscious brain slowly mull it over, for weeks. I ask myself, "If today, I had to hold a free art class in the park, would I be okay with that? Would I be happy about it? Would I feel overwhelmed?" Yes, I would. So, maybe we put the art class idea on hold for now and work toward building the site. Then I can work in classes and networking ideas (things that may be overwhelming for me socially) when I have the time, energy, and when I'm in the right frame of mind. Great, okay. Good idea, let's keep going...

Though I have been meditating and practicing zen-techniques like drawing, zentangling, etc., I haven't actually opened myself up to, what I believe is, spirit communication in awhile. I've been able to, quite successfully, turn that off. I'm proud of this. My last few "visions" during meditation were violent ones. And, even that I could deal with, if I hadn't later found out that these people were real and suffered some violent end to their lives, like the Uden family, whose ordeal I dreamed about years before. In the dream, I was supposed to reach out to Claire Uden, who I later learned died right before I discovered that she was a very real person who was reaching out to psychics to find her daughter's killer. It was heartbreaking. I know that none of this is an exact science, but knowing that I missed an opportunity to really help someone, that did not sit well with me.

And, before I go on, I want you to know that, yes, I see a counselor for anxiety, and yes, it is her professional opinion that I am not crazy or hallucinating. Haha!

So, as with most things spiritual or emotional, by nature, the more you ignore them, the more they intensify and creep up when you least expect it.

If you're a reader of any of my other spiritual posts or my (not recently updated IntuitiveExperiment blog), you'll know that I try my best to present facts only. I believe in my experiences but am open to them being my imagination. Of course, it feels like more, especially when you're presented with facts to confirm premonitions, but I still struggle about what this all is and still feel that it falls into some realm of scientific reality -- alternate realities/dimensions, something. Somewhere science and spirituality meet. I'm just reporting on my Strange existence... Feel free to take anything (or nothing) away from it. Okay, now that that's out of the way...

I've started seeing spirits. Yep, I'm actually going to admit to that (deep breath). A few months ago, it happened for the first time... which made me realize that it had happened before, but I had ignored it or chalked it up to my imagination. Oh boy, this story is about to get longer and weirder... I'm going to go with it!

I've been really drawn to pursue doodling/zentangling, and I now think it's for a reason. The doodling or zentangling process is different for me than other types of artwork, because it's more about looking for shapes and objects in other shapes. It's kind of like how we see the "man in the moon" or how our brains are naturally trained to look for faces in things... you know, Jesus-in-a-piece-of-toast stuff. Matrixing. (Matrixing is a term used to describe the brain's ability to "see" a face or figure in a photograph, or any object, when none is actually present.) That's just our brains' way of trying to make sense of things that don't visually make sense. It's kind of like learning to see those 3D illusion posters. Eventually, our brain clicks on, our eyes shift, and we see the big picture.

^ But, it's not exactly like that, or I could definitely chalk it up to "matrixing" and my brain's search for common sense among the chaos. It's actually more like in the Matrix when Neo can see all those 1s and 0s... or somewhere inbetween.

Okay, so back to a few months ago. I was driving past my office building, and I glanced in that direction. Against the side of the brick wall, I saw a man wearing a black t-shirt, black shorts, leaning with one leg propped against the wall, knee sticking out. I looked back at the road, then back at the building wondering who was standing there, which of my co-workers. The man was gone. This happened in a split second, and I thought it was weird. It happened so quickly that I, of course, blamed my imagination, matrixing, though there were no trees or shadows in the area that would have caused my brain to pick out that shape. As I remembered it, my brain filled in the details -- long, shaggy hair, sunken-in eyes. His posture screamed hopelessness.

Could this be my brain's interpretation of a blob out of the corner of my eye? Sure. And what does that say about my own subconscious? Is part of my subconscious a tired chain smoker who likes to lean against brick walls? Maybe. I can accept that possibility. I can accept a reality in which God or "spirit" doesn't exist. I don't like it. It doesn't feel right to me, but I can Imagine it... thanks to John Lennon, big thumbs up to you, Mister.

But it's a heck of a lot more fun to imagine that there's more out there... that somewhere fantasy meets reality, that after we die, in some other dimension(s), our lives repeat themselves, and that we take different paths.

While I was doubting this, the troubled man showed up in new locations. I saw him walking up the hill to work the other day. Again, I saw him, and in a fraction-of-a-second, he was gone. This time I noticed he had white socks on and dirty, sandy sneakers. Sharp breath, I tried to relax.

If anyone on the "other side" wanted me to witness this, they've been easing me into it slowly, and maybe even training my brain to see the world differently.

I wondered who this man could be. I remembered that a man committed suicide on the train tracks, right across the street from my work. And the hill is right next to the train tracks. Maybe? We will never, ever know. Accepting that the unknown is unknown -- another Lennon thought. It's freeing, really. I can meditate, open myself to communication, and imagine what it all means, never really knowing for sure.

A few weeks ago, I was driving by our local inn, the one that's under major construction in my hometown. They're literally picking up the original house and moving it about 100 feet. Out front, near the road, someone, at one time, lovingly planted beautiful purple flowers around the inn's original sign. They're growing a little out of control right now. As I passed, I looked up and saw a woman tending to the flowers. She wasn't dressed in old clothing. She had dirty-blond hair pulled back in a ponytail, frizzy curls around her face. She was wearing a purple tank-top and khaki shorts.

Like before, I saw her as I was looking away, but not like a weird matrixing vision out of the corner of my eye. She was right there, in front of me. Then gone. I didn't drive off the road or anything, I just silently accepted it as "weird." Then, for the heck of it, I silently asked for a name and heard (in my head) "Kathleen."

Upon further research this morning, yes there is a woman named Kathleen tied to this family who owned the inn. Yes, she very closely resembles the woman I saw. Coincidence? Hell if I know. Kathleen is a pretty common name.

Then, on Monday morning, after Mark and Ellie had left, I hopped in the shower. Right after I got in, I heard a woman cough. In my bathroom. Not a muffled cough. A real, life, in-the-room-with-me cough. Then a chuckle. I poked my head out of the shower curtain, thinking Mark or Ellie had come back in for something. They were long gone. I'm not stupid. I know we live in an apartment building. I know sound travels.

I didn't say anything to Mark. In fact, I forgot about it until the next morning when my (spiritual but very logical and skeptical husband) said, "Did you hear that?" He was brushing his teeth. He stepped out of the bathroom door and looked around. I was standing in the kitchen. "What!?" I yelled. "Are you laughing?" "Um, no," I replied. I'm making a turkey sandwich for a toddler at 7am after very little sleep... I am not laughing. I am not feeling jolly.

"I heard a woman laughing in here," he said.
"Weird! I thought I heard a woman cough then chuckle yesterday morning."
"Hmm. Strange," he said, as we rushed out the door to day care and work.

Yep, that about sums it up... It's just strange. Could sound have strangely traveled between rooms of our apartments due to, I don't know, the faucets being on at the same time? Sound-carrying light waves? I'm no scientist. Could they have traveled from another dimension? Sure, again... I mean, I'm no scientist. Could the dead be reaching out to me via my new-found sensitivity to the spirit world...? That'd be kind of neat.

All I know is that, I live in a world where anything is possible!

And that is kind of... the amazing part.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Nature Painting

I've been wanting to do some nature paintings with Ellie for awhile, but I had to work out the logistics. It was much easier to bring her art table outside and just work on the back porch, close to a hose for easy cleanup.

The best part of the entire experience was getting pictures of her walking around with her little red basket, filling it with leaves, wildflowers, and pine-cones.

We're both terrified of bugs, but I try to keep a straight face for her benefit. So, there was a lot of picking flowers, inspecting them, her running away screaming, and me cringing, shivering, dropping flowers, and secretly dry-heaving in the bushes. Isn't nature great!?

Okay, it wasn't quite that dramatic... And the pictures and prints we made were 100% worth it. We used plain old Crayola washable kids' paint. I liked using the leaves and pine cones as brushes or stamps, but she actually liked sticking leaves into the paint like glue.

It was so cute, and I loved that she didn't just watch what I did and mimic it. She worked independently and came up with her own way. Mama be super proud!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Your Mom is a Ninja

Dear Elle,

I know you're too young to appreciate this now, but... Your Mom is a Ninja.

Yesterday, you were an absolute dream to be out and about with. You got up and got dressed all by yourself. It didn't matter to me that you just wore the same shirt you played in the day before, that you put your shoes on the wrong feet. Your effort was noticed and appreciated.

We made it to the train station in time to see the big train come in. You didn't cry because we opted to stand inside instead of outside.

You kindly asked to go to the park after your father and I had our large morning coffees, and let us push you in the swing for a long time, giving the caffeine time to circulate through our bodies.

Daddy and I looked at each other lovingly and said, "Isn't life with her wonderful?"

We played in the drinking fountain, got through a full shopping trip that you actually helped with, with no temper tantrum, and we even made a drama-free visit to the toy store after.

You were not happy to leave, so I told you that you had been so wonderful and such a good girl all day that I would give you a little present in the car. You happily ran out of the store, held my hand in the parking lot, and were perfectly content that your "present" was just a $.79 mini crayon and paint set and a $1 container of silly putty.

Bedtime was tough, but you did use the potty all by yourself... four times, and talked out all concerns with me, like how you desperately needed to find one particular stuffed toy, and why 3 crayons were needed for your journal... even though they were all the same basic shade of pink. We discussed the differences between Earth and the moon, and you kissed your toes goodnight... three times.

Even though I patiently waited it out, I have to admit that I ended the night with an "I just want to die..." sigh of exhaustion, as you finally fell asleep at 11pm.

I crocheted some more of your "E" pillow, my life ever-revolving around the giant E that is Ellie.

I woke up with less patience than usual. You were still asleep, and I wasn't quite ready to begin the morning battle, so I made up your lunch in your new Frozen lunch box and put your swimsuit and water shoes in your backpack. I made you a "bucket breakfast" to take in the car, and tucked your favorite stuffed dog, Banjo, in the front pocket of your bag.

This left me 5 minutes to get you ready and out the door... after Daddy reminded me that, "it's really important that I get to work early this morning."

I crept into your room like a ninja, stepping over the floorboards that had the most tendency to creak. I silently sat at the end of your bed and, before you woke up, I dressed you in your sandals and shorts. I left you in the pajama shirt I had put you in last night after your bath.

And when you woke up... and I said, "Look! You're all dressed!" and you screamed in horror at having missed at least 78 opportunities to stall our out-the-door progress, and cried that you didn't want to "wear those shoes," it was all too late. Much too late.

To prevent you from taking off your shoes, I told you, in the happiest sing-songy voice, "What?! But!! Those are magic shoes! As soon as your feet hit the floor, you'll start dancing!" You're too smart for that kind of crap, but it made you laugh and forget about the fact that I had completely prepped you for day care before you had one single minute to think about it and plan an escape.

I carried you out the door, put you in the car, got my 3 rounds of hugs and kisses, set you up with your bucket breakfast, and happily waved goodbye as you drove away.

Yep! Your mom is a ninja. I'm sure that, this afternoon, you'll find some way to anticipate and sabotage my ninja skills, but for now... I win.

I love you dearly, love this experience, love finding creative ways to retain my sanity, and wouldn't trade smart, sassy you for anything in this whole wide world.

Bring on the next challenge!

Mommy Pop

P.S. I have no idea why you've started calling me Mommy Pop, but it's kind of adorable.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Back to Full Time

When Ellie was 3-months-old, I went back to work. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. For the 3 months prior, Mark and I talked a lot about how we could work out a better schedule for us, instead of sending my daughter to full-time day care. I just couldn't do it. We finally compromised on a part-time schedule.

I was thrilled that my daughter was interacting with new people, learning social survival skills, and making new friends her age. She's still an only child, after all. It was nicely balanced with our time together at home in the afternoon.

Now she's two-and-a-half, money is tight, especially with the cost of my Crohn's medication, and our deferred school loans are looming. It's time to make some changes.

Ellie is in a fantastic classroom at day care, now the preschool room, with teachers I love, and friends she's grown up with. But I still can't justify being away from her 9am-5pm every day, rushing her home for dinner, bath, teeth-brushing, and bed, with no time for afternoon adventures, malt-shop trips, and art projects.

The most I'm willing to compromise is 2 extra hours at day care. So, yesterday I spoke to my supervisor about coming back to work with one stipulation that I'm standing firm on -- I want my hours to be 7am-3pm. She was all for it (just need to work out some scheduling details), and the ball is now rolling, as I rush to catch up to it, adjusting to the idea of not being home when my daughter wakes up in the morning, making lunches the night before, and picking her up at afternoon snack time. I'll start September 2nd.

Part of me is excited -- more me time, more time to focus on my career, more money -- we're planning a Florida vacation in November with Mark's friends (aka practically-free-room-and-board vacation!) and would love to spend a day at Disney with Ellie. We might actually be able to afford to do that and go on more family vacations as she gets older.

It'd also mean free health insurance for me and little cost to add Ellie on mine, versus paying out of pocket. It'd mean remaining loyal to the company that has always let me put my family first, and job security at a place I enjoy working with people who I consider friends, family even.

On Monday, I told Ellie about our plan. I asked her what she thought about spending an extra two hours at day care, staying for nap time and afternoon snack. I also explained to her the benefits. I know she's only two, but I told her that her happiness was more important to me than money, but that it would mean that we could do more things as a family and would still have time together in the afternoons.

"Would that be okay with you?" I asked, as I drove us home.
"Um, no," she said, playfully.
"Really? Okay, well let's continue to talk about it and think it through then."
"Yes, mom. It's fine," she said, rolling her eyes.
"Yeah, it's fine," she said, then went on to talk about butterflies in the field.

I told her that we could try it out, that if it wasn't working, we would come up with a new plan to work around my full-time schedule. She was totally unfazed... for now.

I've felt positive about it every day until I got to see her wake up this morning, got to see her open her eyes and look up at me all confused, then saw that beautiful, playful, silly smile spread across her face when she saw me looking down at her. There's so much I'm already missing, so much more I'll be missing, but she continues to reassure me that she's fine, that she'll be okay. So, I'm going to bravely try.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Why I Love A.C. Moore

I just did some random, free-association doodling over the last few days
when I was bored... and of course I had to dedicate it to the one store
where a mom on a budget can get all her art supplies!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Moon Sand

Every time we go to A.C. Moore, I cannot pry Ellie's hands out of the Moon Sand bin, or Sands Alive, or whatever you call it. I've seen it called Cloud Dough online. Mark is really into it, too, and he's been hinting that we should eventually get some for Elle, because it's "just so cool."

Yeah, but it's $20(!). Even though it comes with toys to play with, we have similar Play Doh toys. I couldn't see spending the money. I at least wanted to first try one of the Pinterest recipes to see if it compared.

Much to my surprise, it was exactly like the Sands Alive in the store. The only difference is that it probably won't keep as well -- just my guess, as the one in the store is reinforced with something that prevents bacterial growth or something. So what, I'll just toss mine after each use, because it's the cheapest thing in the world to make.

It's 8 cups flour, 1 cup baby oil
(or vegetable oil, or olive oil, if you're worried about your toddler tasting the mixture).

That's it. I split the recipe and used 4 cups flour, 1/2 cup olive oil.

It takes a little while to mix it. The oil clumps together at first, which made me think "Oh no, Pinterest Fail," but you just have to knead it for about 3-5 minutes. So easy!

I put it in an aluminum foil bin with some Play Doh toys, but any old spoons, cups, or cookie cutters will work the same.

She played with this for an entire hour. Then I gave her a bin of water to rinse her toys and hands. She spent another hour happily rinsing and singing, "Doing my dishes!" in a sing-songy voice.

Two straight hours, and she wouldn't let me play with her. Fine. I took pictures and read interesting articles on my phone. It was really relaxing and fun for her. We played outside, so the mess was easy to clean up. I'm definitely going to do this again!