Thursday, January 30, 2014

Prints, Prints, Prints!

I'm head-over-heels in love with this print I found on Etsy! It's so bright and simple. I wonder if E would help me make some fun, new prints next week... We haven't painted in awhile, because she's still enjoying eating chalk and licking play-doh, but maybe I'll feel adventurous enough to take on some print-making...

Check out more from this artist, here!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I Had a Dream Once. It Was Scary.

My dreams have been so vivid lately! My fiction writing is lacking, but I want to really convey the weirdness and vividness of this dream, so allow me to try. It was so fun to write a "serious" piece about such a ridiculous and funny dream.

As bedtime approached, Ellie, my two-year-old, and I settled into the recliner in the living room, under the warm glow of a reading lamp, to read a few stories before the usual nighttime routine began. The anticipation of the chaos that would surely ensue twisted an anxiety-driven knot in the center of my belly. I focused my breathing, to loosen the knot, and began reading.

“In the great green room. There was a telephone. And a red balloon. And a picture of.”

Monday, January 27, 2014

WTF Monday

It must be Monday, because E has an ear infection, I lost my wallet, and my car went off the road.

Elle has been tugging on her ear all weekend, so I made her a doctor's appointment for 8:20 this morning. Mark took her, and we found out that she has just the start of an ear infection -- antibiotics are optional, though after the day we put in, I couldn't take her crying about it and me worrying if she would spike a fever. So, I gave in and started them.

But, before that, I got a call at work from day care saying that E was really emotional -- that she came in from the playground and fell asleep on the floor, and that she just didn't seem like herself. I decided to go get her an hour early.

On my way, I turned up the road to day care, a steep hill. I got halfway up the road, and my car stopped. It started sliding backwards, so I decided to go with it, put my car in reverse, and back into the driveway of a business at the bottom of the hill. That plan went fine, until I slid, missed the driveway entirely and backed my car on top of a huge rock, in the ditch.

A guy stopped to offer me a tow, but I declined. I had already called AAA, and his suggestion about getting an extra towing tool out of the trunk of my car kind of weirded me out. I've seen enough crime TV shows to know how that would end -- with me in the trunk, and him driving off with my lifeless body. And, I just didn't think it was safe for me to mess around with any mechanical part of the car. Let's leave that to the professionals.

I called day care to give them an update, and so began a two hour wait for the tow truck, I called Mark for some moral support. He told me to go get lunch. I reminded him that I (once again) lost my wallet. He called in a lunch order at the cafe down the street and paid over the phone. I walked over for a half-reuben and salad.

Two hours later, the tow truck arrived, attached the huge hook to my wheel-well, and pulled me off the rock in about three minutes. Then the driver just drove off as if nothing had happened. How uneventful after a two hour wait.

I got to day care, and E was doing fine -- just weepy and pale and wanting me. She and I headed to the pharmacy to pick up her prescription. I tried to keep her entertained while I waited. Mark had to get the doctor's office to call in her prescription to the pharmacy, as he now had the paper slip with him at work. Meanwhile, E scaled the pharmacy walls, emptied a box of happy-face stress-balls onto the floor, threw some behind the pharmacy counter, and chatted with the pharmacist about how she was now "3 years old!"

"Um, she's 2," I interjected, as I searched my (other, not-lost) wallet for Mark's debit card information and tried to punch the numbers into the machine. The card said, "Not Approved." I knew we had money in the account, but I tried 3 more times unsuccessfully while E pulled on my sweater and told me that her ear hurt "really bad." When my "Uh-huh" mumbles weren't sufficient, she managed to climb up on the counter, make herself comfortable, swipe my phone, open it, and start playing one of her games. At that exact moment, I realized I needed my phone to call Mark and confirm the debit card information. I kindly explained to E that I needed the phone for just a minute to call "Daddy." She handed the phone over without incident, God love her. I confirmed that the info was correct, and the lady at the counter said, "You know, we could try running it through as 'Credit.'"

"Oh really?? Is it that simple? Did you just let me struggle with a sick child and angry ATM while I juggled 5 happy-face stress-balls and the box they came in when I all I had to do was hit one button to solve all of my problems? Peachy."

Sure enough, that worked, and I rushed out of the store with E's prescription, extra Ibuprofen, a $3 DVD of Joe Versus the Volcano (to thank Mark for his patience, xoxo!), and some teething rings that E had (unbeknownst to me) added to our cart.

When we went outside, the fight to go to the Toy Store began. She wanted to see Izzy, the toy-store dog, and I wanted to see my child happy for more than 2 minutes while playing on my cell phone, so we spent an hour there playing and visiting with Izzy. It was a nice distraction.

Home we went, and as I pulled in the driveway, I realized E had taken her hat, shoes, and socks off (for the 3rd time). I got her all dressed again, got her out of the car, grabbed all 4 of my bags, chased her across the parking lot, then finally got her inside, to the third floor, jackets and shoes off, to realize that... I had left her medicine in the car. I wrapped a blanket around her and rushed back downstairs, got it, made it back upstairs, put her down at the top of the stairs, coaxed her in the apartment.

Ok, no big deal. Home, done. Fine. She wanted a snack, a show on, and to play play-doh before I had even thought about unpacking our bags.

The pharmacy called to let me know that I left my (previously not-lost) wallet at the store. I decided I'd go get it tomorrow.

When I finally settled in, E played play-doh for awhile, then threw it all on the floor. She emptied a box of crackers on the floor, and her dinner bowl of pasta. I sat and ate my dinner while I watched her turn my living room floor into some kind of post-Woodstock disaster.

Mark came home, and I tackled freelance projects while he ignored my pleas to help get her to bed and sat in the chair for far too long (couldn't blame him). When we finally got her down, she fought me for an hour to go to sleep, and when I felt like I just couldn't take any more, I just covered my ears, ignoring the long string of questions coming from her room, "Hey, Mama! What dat noise?" "Hey, Mama! Dat you?" "Hey, Mama! You gonna watch a show?" "Hey, Mama! You eatin' cereal?"

"Yes, I'm eating a gigantic bowl of sugary Cinnamon Chex cereal, while watching "Coming to America," because this is a tiny slice of the American dream, and I'm going to savor it!!"

She drifted to sleep, two unanswered-questions later, and I started proofreading a Math article for work, checking each math symbol character-by-character until my eyes crossed. I finally finished at 11pm.

As I was getting ready for bed, E woke up and was upset about her ear hurting. It was time for another dose of Ibuprofen, but I had to pace the apartment with her in my arms for almost an hour to get her comfortable enough to relax and stop crying, while the medicine took effect. Finally, I set her down on my bed to ease my back pain. She crawled over to Mark's side, put her head on his pillow, and fell asleep.

For the first time since our November vacation, I didn't care about giving in and letting her sleep in our bed. I put Mark on the couch, climbed in next to her, and had the most restless night's sleep of my life.

At about 3am, I awoke to her knee in my ribcage (I thought that was over after pregnancy), an arm wrapped around my neck, and her face pressed against my cheek. She was fussing a little, so I said, "Why don't you lay on Daddy's pillow? You'll be more comfortable."

"No, Mama! I just want to 'nuggle with you," she said sleepily.

I wrapped my arms around her and fell back to sleep, happier than I've ever been in my entire life.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Super Dad

Mark and I are a lot alike. We have chores we don’t mind doing and chores we hate doing, like taking out the recycleables that tend to pile up in the corner by the door until they topple over and create a make-shift security system for anyone who would consider wandering into our apartment unannounced. My counselor says that, as long as we’re similar in our approach to housecleaning, it doesn’t matter. So, that’s good. Let’s agree to live in a dump. Ok, it’s not that bad, and we’ve been doing much better lately keeping up with those tasks as E is getting older and demanding (a little) less time from us.

And, more importantly, when the big things come up (sicknesses, mini emergencies), we fall into our respective roles and take care of the chores we’re good at. I am the lovey-dovey caregiver, and he is the fixer-upper. Though Mark is a sweetheart and can usually fill my lovey-dovey caregiver role, I tend to be the one to coddle E when she’s sick, soothe her if she has a nightmare. I’m the one who can usually tell if her cry means that she is hurt, sad, hungry, or tired. In minutes, I can assess and apply the proper amount of patience and love to see her through any perceived trauma, like dropping a cracker on the floor.

Meanwhile, Mark washes a dish, makes her oatmeal, takes care of laundry, fixes computers, our wi-fi connection, and makes sure that we’re all set up to watch Lady and the Tramp three times in a row, if needed, on a sick day.

In an emergency, he never falters. Each time something serious comes up, he asks, “Do you need me?” and I know this really means, “Do you have no other option but for me to get you, be there, drive you home, help you take care of E, etc.?” And if I say, “Yes, I need you,” he replies with, “On my way.” No further questions. He comes to my rescue.

Unless I’m forgetting some, I remember each moment this has happened, and that feeling of complete relief, being 100% taken care of – given permission to let go of my worry, my fear:

  1. Our wedding day, seeing him walk down the aisle toward me
  2. Being sick in the bathroom at that back-woods diner (read all about it)
  3. That awful flu we all got when we lived at his parents’ house
  4. That time, when I got sick at Smuggler’s Notch, and he drove like a professional race car driver down the mountain to get me home
  5. When I was in labor, and he rubbed my back to ease the back labor for 12 straight hours. Afterward, I told him that the time seemed to go by so fast. He said that it was the longest 12 hours of his life.
  6. After having E, when I had the gallbladder attack
  7. After the gallbladder attack, a full week of daily blood tests and that awful IV, when I had to have the nurse get him to hold me while I cried
  8. All 3 of my awful stomach-pain pass-out episodes
  9. The time we all had the norovirus

Then yesterday, it was E’s turn. Though nothing compared to the moments above, she had a toddler-sized meltdown of her own. She told me that she didn’t want to go to day care. It’s pretty rare that she doesn’t want to go, unless she really wants to eat a specific snack at home or play with her new Christmas toys.

But, this time she actually cried, almost inconsolably, and begged me over and over again to just rock her in the chair at home. I tried to ask her “Why” she didn’t want to go, a word she doesn’t quite understand yet, so that was unsuccessful. I finally asked, “Are you scared of something?”

She stopped crying and said, “I scared of light at day care.” One of the ceiling lights in the classroom is about to burn out and flickers. It flashes sporadically and reminds E of a fire drill. I told her that we would take care of it, that we would make sure it got fixed, and that I would rock her for a little while before she left. That was all she needed to hear, and she went off to day care happily.

I figured I would just tell one of the teachers about it, and E would have to deal with it for a few more days (The teacher was having trouble getting the light cover off), but Mark couldn’t stand to see her so upset. He told her that he would fix it. So, the next morning, he brought her to day care with some new bulbs, grabbed a foot-stool, and climbed up to replace the flickering one. E climbed up, too, and hugged his legs while he worked.

Ah, my heart is full. My hero, now hers too. When I told her that we would fix it, she trusted that we would. She witnessed him doing something out of the ordinary, something no other dad had done, without fear of looking silly or being intrusive, simply to make her feel safe, loved, and heard.

Put It In a Crib

Holy cow. My little E is talking in paragraphs now. Yesterday, I had a work meeting that had to be scheduled later in the afternoon, as the client is in California. I kept E at day care later. So, by the time I got her, it was almost dinner time. I decided to drive over to Mark’s office, meet up with him, and have dinner. It’s about a 25-minute ride.

E talked the entire way. “Mama, I sit in rocking chair and rock baby doll and I love baby doll and she so cute, and Sarah got new baby doll, and toy broke Skyler broke toy and he push me and I say ‘No pushing,’ and Sarah say ‘No pushing me.’”

Then we passed the farm, the same old one from previous posts (here). That cow must now have a daughter (or granddaughter?) of her own. There was a sweet, little calf snuggling with her mama in the pasture.

“Oh, E!” I said, “Look at the baby cow! It’s a little calf!”

“Oh Mama!!” she answered, “I love that little baby cow. I want to pick it up and see it. It be so soft, it be so ‘booootiful.’ I want to squeeze it and put it in a baby crib.”

I started laughing, “You want to put it in a baby crib?”

“Yeah, and rock him!”

“I want to do that, too, E. That sounds like fun!”

Apparently, everything “cute, soft and boootiful” should be in a baby crib. I couldn’t agree more.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Old Dirt Road

Kim has been requesting this song for awhile, and I just haven’t gotten around to recording it… until now!

As most of you know, I had bad anxiety during my pregnancy, and it always piqued while I was driving. The only thing that helped was singing. To this day, when I sing to my now two-year-old, she gets quiet, stares at me, and waits to see which song I will sing next. Yesterday, she even brought me my ukulele while I was sitting on the toilet, God love her.

Two years ago, our favorite pregnancy car songs were usually She Loves You (which she sang back-up ‘yeah yeah yeah’s for at 4-months old!), the Alphabet Song (which she mastered at the age of 1!), and Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Every time I got in the car mid-winter, with my huge pregnancy belly, I would tap my heels together to get the snow off and found myself whispering, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home…” So, that was a natural third choice.

And, of course, I wrote this one – Bump, Bump, Bump, or Old Dirt Road as I sometimes call it -- not to be confused with John Lennon's sweet, little song by the same name. Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Run For Your Lives!

**Warning Bathroom Humor**

Why is that, when you tell someone not to look, they always look? Like, the other day, when Melissa and I were out having coffee together at a cafĂ©. She said, “Gretchin, don’t look, but I would totally marry that guy if he didn’t have a wedding ring on.”

What did I do? I stretched my neck and leaned over to scratch my back in order to sneak a peek, as Melissa cringed and looked in the other direction.

Normal human behavior, right? Ok, but when someone tells you not to look in a toilet… you listen.

This morning was my fourth straight day without a shower. It was fine yesterday. My hair looked “1950s swoopy” but not quite "icky greasy." It was a Monday and a holiday, even though I had to go into work, so I thought my presence was acceptable in a “she didn’t try too hard today” kind of way.

But, Day 4 is my absolute limit for not showering (it used to be Day 2, before I had a toddler). So, you can imagine how happy I was when I woke up this morning and found out that our water was shut off – the well had run dry.

Also, let’s just say (hypothetically) (okay, not really hypothetically) that we had all thoroughly used the toilet before realizing that it did not have enough water to perform a proper flush. In fact, some of us had not only used the toilet but had downright abused it. I won’t mention names, but I’m sure that you can figure out by process of elimination (and the fact that E is not yet potty trained) (and that I am too much of a lady to ever really abuse anything the way this toilet had been abused) who the culprit was.

Okay, full disclosure, guys... it was me, though I partially blame the Hot Pepper Jelly and Cream Cheese Dip I made before bed last night. I closed the lid discreetly and awaited our water.

It was not long before we heard the familiar knock of the landlord’s fist pounding on our door.

“You guys got water?”
“Uh, no,” Mark said, as he answered the door.
“Ok, I just gotta check your toilet quick.”
I chimed in, “Um, uh… well, we have all used the toilet this morning.” I gave a sideways glance toward E, though what this man was about to witness had most clearly not come from a toddler.

The landlord wasn’t listening nor picking up on my signals. I silently screamed to him, my eyes bulging, “Do NOT go in there. Everyone, run for your lives!! Women and children first!! Save yourselves!!”

He proceeded with a, “I just want to check for some silt in the bottom of the bowl.”
“Listen,” I said as calmly as I could, “We have all used the toilet this morning.” Why does he not understand??

He disappeared into the bathroom with a nonchalant, “No problem.”

I heard the lid open and then his surprised voice, “Oh.”
I tried to interject an explanation, “Yes, well, you see…”
He continued, “I guess I can’t check it…”
And me, “No, well… I, um…” I looked down at E for help. I was changing her diaper.

He promptly escorted himself out the door before I could come up with some type of better explanation, though I think I finally admitted to myself that there was no better explanation.

I turned on Mark, “How could you let him??” I gently, pleadingly pounded my fists against his chest. “Why, God? Why??”

Mark let out a sigh of defeat, hugged me, and said, “Listen, it’s all over now. Just let it go. Let it go…”

Monday, January 20, 2014

Birthday Tumble

If you’re a regular reader of YMIS, you’ll probably remember that last year at this time, we were all fighting some horrible stomach flu right in time for E’s first birthday and that, after rescheduling her party for the following weekend, E got sick all over again, and I ended up in the emergency room with severe stomach pains.

Here are the posts (Balloons for Birthday Belle and The Moral is that Ambulance Rides Are Fun), if you want to reminisce. I chose not to. Ha!

I have no real photos of those typical first birthday moments – eating her first cake, opening her presents. So, this year, I wanted to at least have a somewhat normal party but, once again, she threw up on her birthday. Mark and I had already been fighting the stomach bug before she got it, so we had already cancelled her party and, once again, moved it to the following Saturday.

The week went by normally, and we all started feeling better, but come Friday, E sounded really congested and spiked a fever over 100. Mark had the same symptoms as he was recovering, so I hoped that it was just one last 24-hour farewell from this virus. Good riddance!

That seemed to be the case, because she woke up fine on Saturday and had no fever. I decided to just have dinner at the pizza place with Mark’s family, and I thought I’d make a cake. E and I ran out to get a box mix – nothing fancy, didn’t want to jinx it, was too tired, and wanted it to be easy for E to help with. Meanwhile, Mark was out spending the day with his father at an sports-and-hobby convention.

E hopped up on a chair to help me at the counter. I turned around to wash a measuring cup. Though E was still close enough to be at my elbow, I wasn’t fast enough to catch her as she suddenly toppled over, hit her chest on the seat of the chair and slid off, did a perfect swan dive, head first into the hardwood floor, and let out a blood-curdling scream.

The guilt set in immediately. It always does, as my mind shuts off, and I start to operate on auto-pilot. I scooped her up to check out the damage. The skin was pushed together to create a little sunken spot, about the size of a dime, on her forehead above her left eye. I nearly passed out as she screamed, but I kept it together as the following thoughts raced through my head (though, let me first assure you that she was absolutely, 100% fine): “Hole in head, skull fracture, brain damage, death.” This is Anxiety 101, and no matter how many times you work through the therapist-assigned exercises to “be your own best friend,” to “self soothe,” to “work backward” in order to “stop the train of negative thought” which inevitably goes off the rails, crashes into a cliff, and explodes in a fiery ball of doom, death, despair… in an emergency, even if only a perceived emergency, old habits die hard.

I grabbed my cell phone, keys, and ran out the door, headed to the ER where I was certain that they would have to reassemble parts of her frontal lobe. E was weeping softly now, as I darted down the stairs and the cold January air hit me in the face. Maybe the cold woke me up a bit, or maybe I just realized that I would have to put her down in the back seat and drive 20 miles to the nearest hospital. For some reason, I stopped dead in my tracks and looked at E. Her head just had a small red lump on it, and she seemed excited to be outside without her coat on, ready to go somewhere, anywhere.

I decided to do the next most logical thing – go inside and call 9-1-1. I got to the top of the stairs and saw my neighbor’s apartment door, which reminded me that he's an EMT and had told me before (when I called 9-1-1 after Ellie threw up when she was 4-months-old) that I could knock on his door first. So, that’s what I did. I stood, shaking, waiting for him to answer the door.

Instead, his wife opened the door with their 3-year-old son, shared a few horror stories of her own (even a similar ‘hole in the head’ incident), and insisted that E looked fine (as she happily watched the little boy playing). She suggested I call the after-hours number at the doctor’s office. I eventually got ahold of E's pediatrician who was working overtime on a Saturday (thank God) and who nonchalantly, and with a yawn, told me that, as long as E wasn’t “more tired than usual,” she was fine. She said I may want to check for other injuries, like a loose tooth or bitten tongue. “Who cares about that?” I thought. “Did we really just go from ‘potential brain damage’ to 'a loose tooth'?”

Huge sigh of relief. Cake baked. Happy kid.

Mark came home soon after, then my in-laws arrived. The day went on normally. Her party was nice, and she was happy to get some new clothes, books, stuffed animals, and a Little People Bus.

Though I cried a few tears before bed (my anxiety is always worse at night), I’ve almost fully recovered from the trauma, and E has happily been talking about how she “fell off chair and went outside.” I’m grateful that the story ended there and not “at the hospital" or with EMTs rushing through our door.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I Want My Own Doggie

We were supposed to celebrate E’s birthday over the weekend, but history repeated itself, and we all ended up home sick with a stomach bug. We’re re-scheduling for this coming weekend – just a little get-together with family and a few friends.

I let her open her presents on Sunday, though – it was her birthday after all, and she was getting desperate for something new to do after being stuck inside with two sick parents for three days straight. I had picked up a few little things for her at the toy store – a bouncy ball (she said she just wanted “a ball to bounce on her birthday”), a new Melissa & Doug coloring book, a teddy bear, and a Melissa & Doug mini dollhouse with lockable doors. It was a simple birthday, and she was happy. The huge, 4-foot dog came later.

They had a few on display at the supermarket and, two weeks ago, E had spotted them on top of the yogurt cooler.

(Gasp) “Mommy! Look at that doggie!”

I got one down for her to see, putting the huge stuffed animal in the cart. Then I needed two stock boys to help me put it back

When I told my sister-in-law about it, we all agreed that E must have one – not entirely because we love her, treat her like a princess, and want to spoil her. I can’t speak for my sister-in-law, but I will here, because I know that… we’re both dreamers. Yes, we love giving E what she wants, but there’s more to it. It’s these types of gifts that she must have, more than any other little trinket or treasure that might catch her eye in the toy store. It’s this gift, this massive stuffed dog, that will trigger that specific look on her face – wide eyes, mouth open, wondrous smile, as she witnesses something beyond what her little mind can comprehend and realizes that it is hers to keep. Gah, I love experiencing that wonder through her eyes!

To achieve it, though, I had to pick up the dog sometime when E wasn’t with me. I didn’t have the chance, so I asked Mark pick it up on his way home, on Monday night.

So, there he stood, in the checkout line at Shaws, under the harsh fluorescent lights, supermarket music playing, holding a 4-foot-by-3-foot stuffed dog with pink hearts on its bottom.

In front of him a woman turned around to check out the dog, “Awww!” she sighed, “Aren’t you sweet!”
“Um, it’s for my daughter. It’s her birthday,” he explained.

A man behind him spoke up with a gruff voice, “What the hell you payin’ for that thing? Hundred-and-twenty bucks? Eighty bucks? I’d rather spend eighty bucks tryin’ to win that at the fair.”
“It’s forty,” Mark replied.
“See what I mean? Forty bucks for that??”

Mark didn’t explain himself or the fact that we were all going in on it together to save money. It didn’t matter. At the end of the day, we were still buying a huge stuffed animal. Eh, so what. Mark brought it home and stuffed it in the laundry closet while I distracted E. Then, she and I snuggled up in the chair to read some bedtime stories. Mark wandered the apartment taking care of random little chores, like gathering some laundry. He accidentally left the laundry-closet door open as E and I sat nearby.

Right before bed, long after I had forgotten about the dog, E looked up at me and said, “Mama, I want my own doggie.”
“You do?” I cooed, “Well, someday we will live in a big house, and you can have your own doggie!”
“No, Mama! I want my own doggie right now.”
“We can’t have doggies in our apartment, but you have Alfie and Waffles, Bee’s pugs.”
She started to cry, “No, Mama!! I want my doggie now!!”

She pointed up at the open closet door where the massive dog head was now peeking out.

“Um, Mark…”
“Oh no.”

Our secret was out, and we had to give it to her. She carries that dog around the house and asks to bring him everywhere with her. He must wave goodbye out the window when she leaves in the morning and sit on the couch next to her at snack time.  

And every day she gets home from day care, she looks at that doggie the same way – as if she can’t believe it’s real and that it’s actually hers

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Zentangle Letter Tutorial

Hi, friends! A few of you wrote and asked how I created the letter/name Zentangle design that I posted on Instagram, FB, and Twitter this week. First of all, thanks so much for asking and for the positive feedback!

The original letter design is from the book: The Zentangle Untangled Workbook: A Tangle-a-day to Draw Your Stress Away, by Kass Hall, in which she has a "W" as an example.

I drew a much larger "E," added the cursive name, and made the little dots cascade into it. Though it's hard to tell here, I used graph paper, which helped to draw a straight letter without sketching it in pencil first. I particularly like how the straight edges of the letter contrast with the round spirals, but I will try a big cursive letter at some point, too!

Below is a smaller version I made with a "T" to show you how I completed this design. On a bigger scale, the effect is much more beautiful, but this at least shows you the individual steps.

I'm not sure this is exactly how Kass Hall intended the design to be executed, but that's the best part of Zentangle -- coming up with your own method. If your pattern varies from one you're copying, it still works as long as you continue your pattern. And, of course, it makes it your own, which is always nice! I hope you find this tutorial helpful!

If you post your own design via Instagram, feel free to tag it #kasvtgallery, so that we can display your beautiful work in our Gallery, here!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Toddler Smash Book

One of my favorite new projects is this Toddler Smash Book, or Toddler Mess Book. I give my 2-year-old a bunch of supplies -- stickers, markers, crayons, Post-It notes, etc., and let her make a big "mess" on the page.

Throughout the process, she tells me what she's drawing or what she wants to write, and I jot it down. Sometimes I note why she's said certain things or just add my little responses -- like when she accidentally rips something and I say, "That's okay!" That's the point -- to make a mess, to create, destroy, an endless cycle.

Sometimes I find it difficult, especially being a bit of a control freak when it comes to crafting, but each time we do a new page, she teaches me to let go a little bit more and just create, destroy, create again. Sometimes I make something that I feel is really pretty on the page, and she just scribbles over it or rips it apart. I tense up for a minute, then let it go. I tell myself, "This is not supposed to be pretty or perfect. There is no set pattern. This is chaos. This is us." With each new page it gets easier to let go.

And, when I just can't bear to destroy something, I tuck little projects into the book's envelopes, randomly placed between different pages. She grabs a pad of paper, shaped like a hand, and slowly rips off each finger, handing them to me. I assemble them into a flower. "Here's one more for you, Mommy," she says. I tuck the petals together. When I'm finished, I have 5 blue petals on top. I find some letter stickers and put the letters of her name on each petal. It's nothing gorgeous, just a little memento of our mess-making. I tuck it in the envelope, safe from her destructive design techniques. I include a little note about why we made it.

I tell Mark, "Someday, when she's a teenager and hates me, she'll find this and remember how much fun we had making it. Or someday, when I'm long gone, she or her granddaughter or great-granddaughter may find it."

On Wednesday, I was really feeling down about not exploring more, traveling more, leaving a more lasting legacy of living life out in the real world. I know part of me will always feel that way (and that we'll strive for that more as a family as Ellie gets older). Today it was more than enough to just tuck away a little piece of me in an envelope, to leave my mark in our book.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Random Thoughts Rainy Monday

Actually, now it's Wednesday, and I'm still holding onto some of this "blahness" from the rainy Monday. What is this funk, this sleepy but restless gunk? After-holiday overwhelm-ment? Wait, is there no way to use "overwhelmed" as a noun? Do I have to say... "inundation"? Ugh. Maybe it's Post-Turkey Stress Disorder. That must be a real thing.

It's like my head is so filled with ideas, projects, and beautiful landscapes to explore that my body just falls into some kind of hibernation while my mind sails away.

Maybe I'm coming down with something.

Anyway, I'm already bored with my Happy Muddled Mess site. Is that even possible? Is it just this mood I'm in? So, I decided to just import the HMM posts here, back to YMIS, my ever-faithful, always-accepting friend.

I went back to the drawing board. Since my mind is very visually-focused right now, I decided to meditate and let my "spirit guides" or "subconscious" or "higher power" or the "lords of the dance," whatever, help point me in the right direction.

Do you know what I saw? A birdhouse. Yep. Just a birdhouse, perched on a branch in a cartoony, bright, colorful scene, like a still from a Disney movie.

Ok, say this is my "sign" from the universe, the one thing that I should pursue with conviction? Does it matter? I mean, could it be anything? Could it have been a wooden toy train or a mailbox? If I pursued each of these things with conviction, would the result be the same? Is it only about pursuing something, anything, with passion?

If so, I'm scared... My passion for projects is short-lived. Though, if I could trust in this vision, of sorts, maybe my passion would last a little longer. I might feel swayed by the universe to become a master birdhouse builder.

It's all about my interpretation, really, anyway. I could see a birdhouse and decide to build boats, because birds fly over boats, or lighthouses, which equally assist in guiding different species to safety.

What if it's symbolic? What if it means that I should put together a community program that would support moms and future generations of mothers? Birds have been such a strong symbol of motherhood to me throughout my pregnancy and after. And, before my cousin had her triplets, a bird built a nest on her porch where she raised her 3 little baby birds.

Birds, birds, birds... "Put a bird on it." "Bird is the word." "Blackbird singing in the dead of niiiight..."

I yawn, rest my weary head in my hand, and play with my necklace -- which I just realized is a purple pendant with a bird on a branch. "Bird brain."

Also, do you know how many birdhouses are on Etsy? Answer: a lot.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Running to Stand Still

On New Year's Eve, we were talking about our favorite songs, and my sister-in-law, Kim, reminded me of Running to Stand Still by U2. I had to record a (very slow) ukulele version, but I'm getting faster with my chord changes! This is one of my alltime favorite songs.

That clicking in the background is the dryer, and you hear E cry at one point when she stands up in her crib and realizes she can see me sitting on the couch playing my "guh-tar." Here's to another raw, snazzy iPhone recording... Yay!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Baby's Song

I finally got around to recording one of the songs I wrote for E! It's just an iPhone recording, but at least I have it, and she'll have it!

Mark helped me with the last verse. We wrote this the first day we heard her heartbeat. This was a really special moment for us, as we hadn't heard the heartbeat for the first pregnancy. So, this song was my promise to be patient and wait for her.

And just for fun, some more ukelele practice -- cover of Paul McCartney's "Junk".

Absolutely Smashing!

Today, E had so much fun with her "glitter glues," spreading them across the page. My favorite thing about art for her, at this age, is that it's all about textures and colors -- it's rarely about how the final product looks. I love this approach.

It encourages me to do the same -- to focus less on the destination, more on the journey, to take a few minutes to just enjoy how paints spread out across the page, how the paper wrinkles, how the chalk sticks and clumps.

It doesn't matter if she's running chalk through the glitter glue, drawing on a rock she found at the bottom of her pen cup, or pasting her crayons together. It's all creativity. It's all good.

This is the page we completed today. My sister-in-law got me this great big Smash Book for Christmas, and I knew there would be no working on it without help from E, so I decided to make this another mommy-daughter collaboration, and I'm so glad I did.

Who better than a toddler to capture the true essence of what a Smash Book should be? Chaos, randomly placed paper, stickers, and quotes!

Here is our first page, and here's to enjoying the process!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

To a New Year

“Whew!! I’m back!” Just imagine me riding in on a huge, horse-driven sleigh, catching air as I fly over a hill, blustery snow hitting me in the face… wearing a huge, red lumberjack-type sweater, overall snow pants, black boots, a massive knitted hat with pom-pom, and jolly Santa smile.

“Happy New Year!” I exclaim, as I hop down from my sweet ride.

I don’t even know where to begin. When I recall our vacation days, a flurry of images rush through my mind – sipping Baileys while visiting with my mom, yummy pizza dinners, my sister’s pregnant belly (she’s due in a few weeks!), and E’s happy and overwhelmed face as she opened (easily 50+) presents.

I haven’t really been buying her presents. We just don’t need them, so it was honestly really nice to replenish her supply with some toys and games that are more appropriate for her age (she’ll be 2 in less than 2 weeks!). She enjoyed every minute!

So, we stayed with Mark’s parents for Christmas Day then traveled to NY on the 26th. The snow tires weren’t great on my car, and we almost got stuck on the mountain heading into Middlebury, VT, caught in a snow squall. For about a half hour, we climbed, moving only a few inches every minute until we finally made it to the peak and headed down the other side.

Up ahead, cars swerved off the road, and a few times, we were at a standstill until we could get better traction and start moving again. Mark seemed stressed, but I offered words of encouragement. “Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?” The road curved along a mountain stream, and the trees were weighed down by at least 6 inches of the fluffiest snow I’ve ever seen.

Due to the slow progress, drivers who passed us felt it rude not to wave, as our cars were moving side-by-side, tires spinning. “Remember when travel was this slow? People actually felt compelled to wave or address each other in some way.”

And I told him, “This is what family vacation is about – trekking across multiple states, through snow and sleet, icy and clear roads, to be with the ones you love!”

He relaxed a bit, and soon we were moving again. E traveled well, and soon we were home with my family for 4 days. It was just fun and relaxing. We headed back to VT on Sunday, the 29th. We had intended to settle in at home for our last few days of vacation, but Mark’s family invited us back to their house for New Year’s Eve, and we couldn’t resist some more family time.

We packed up our bags again for one last hurrah before the New Year. Good food, good family time.

So, what does this year hold for us? A lot of “ifs” at this point, and we’re content with that.

  • Most likely, there’ll be another get-together with the gaming friends.
  • Mark and I are also toying with the idea of renting an RV for a road trip.
    We’d like to do a “real” vacation/adventure this year as a family!
  • Also, more art stuff, more fun, more outdoor activities (come on, warm weather)!
  • Guaranteed lots of laughs and love from the Strange family!

In the meantime, I’ve started participating in #365grateful via Instagram – taking a photo of something I’m grateful for, for each day of the year. There will be lots of E pics as usual, but also some reflection about all of our little blessings.

I wish you all a wonderful, happy, and blessed New Year!