Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Big Girl Bed

For this lovely Whatever Wednesday, I should probably go back to talking about my amazing kid. Someday, I hope she'll read these stories and enjoy this little diary of sorts, where I try my best to document her little life that's very quickly becoming bigger, as she grows and takes on an ever larger presence in our household.

On Sunday, we changed her room around and moved the twin-size bed to the spot where her crib was. Her favorite thing about this new arrangement was that she got to jump on her new big-girl bed. I was a little worried about how bedtime would go, but I only had to tell her twice that she had to stay in her bed (unless there was an emergency), and each night after has been so drama-free that there isn't much to write about.

She still pulls out the same bedtime stalling techniques, like asking for a snack, a trip to the potty, snuggle time with Mama, and just one more story, but after that, she curls up in her bed and goes to sleep.

The door to her room has to be open so she can hear Mark and I chatting in the living room, and it helps if we have Master Chef playing on the TV.

Yesterday, I made her some official mommy bracelets, so she could wear them to day care and have the security of having "mommy hugs" on her arms. She had one on each wrist but took off one of them while eating dinner.

As she was falling asleep last night, she called me in her room. I've been good about responding to all seemingly serious mommy calls, to give her added security in her big-girl bed. So, I went in, and her eyelids were half closed, fighting sleep.

"What is it?" I asked.
"I need my other bracelet." She held up her arms. I went into the kitchen to get it.

When I came back to her room, her eyes were closed, so I slipped the bracelet on her wrist. She opened her eyes, looked up at me and said, "Thank you," with a relieved sigh. Then she fell right to sleep. Oh, my heart. My sweet baby...

Mornings have been hectic, and she makes every attempt to control the schedule, delay our getting out the door, all while screaming, "I'm going wild!!" and "Catch me if you can!!"

But, for now, I can look forward to having my baby girl back at bedtime, quiet story time, sweet snuggles, and her still needing mommy hugs.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Pinterest Love

Photo from this (amazing) blog!!
I'm probably the first person to ever blog about this. Ha. I love Pinterest. When I first started using it, it was fun to find photos that I liked and save them to my boards, but I didn't really GET it. I didn't see how it could be an incredible resource for everything I've ever wanted to do. Ever.

I mean, beyond making amazing craft projects (no Pinterest fails or cake wrecks for me yet, thanks), there's an overwhelming amount of artwork out there and tutorials for how to draw everything. If I want to keep making watercolor cows, I can, and there are tons of images to build from.

Also, I came across the Alisa Burke blog today. A fellow blogspot friend! I added her to my bloglovin feed immediately.

Why, you ask? Um, she has a post about making a doodled dishwasher, and the photos of her daughter are adorable. AND the pics of her working on the dishwasher are melt-your-heart worthy.

Bloglovin is also a new obsession. The site is great. The app is amazing and, if you want, they'll send you an email newsletter daily with the most recent updates from all your favorite blogs. If you check it out, please add mine to your reading list using the button to the right.

Other things... I've wanted to have my own art studio now for awhile (with free art space, classroom space, and a gallery), so I'm working on some (really) long term goals for building a house with an attached studio. It's my ultimate dream, so I've got some time.

Meanwhile, I'm considering putting together an online art studio with tutorials and demonstrations from around the web because, hey, it's cheaper than building a house/studio. Maybe my "Happy Muddled Mess" site can become a reality with a little hard work and design inspiration. Rolling up my sleeves over here! Ideas welcome!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Whales' Tails

Well, I don't have much time to write today -- I always type that right before writing a ridiculously long post. Then I have to go back at the end to delete it.

Saturday is Mark's weekend sleep-in day. It's also the weekly 11am kids' art class at A.C. Moore in Williston! It's usually FREE (or $1-$5 for supplies). Elle has been begging me to take her to her own art class ever since Auntie Bee and I went to a creature-drawing class at Artists' Mediums a few weeks ago. This was perfect. I made the pom-pom, and she glued on the googly eyes and accessories.

The next class sounds really fun. It's another free one -- making animal creatures out of beads. A.C. Moore's events calendar is a little hidden on their website (Go to this link, here, for the store locator, type in the Williston zip code (05495), click the red View Events link), or stop in the store any time for a flyer listing the events for the month.

After, Elle asked if we could go to the "Whales' Tails" in Burlington. You can see the sculpture from the highway, but I've never walked up to it. "Sure," I said. I'm always up for more free fun activities!

I still can't entirely figure out why, but this little adventure was such a special bonding moment for us. It was like a mini hike to the top of a giant mountain. Like Vermont's version of the Statue of Liberty. There's a long trail you can take that goes through the woods and loops around back to the statue, but we just cut across the baseball field.

There's something so freeing about letting your toddler loose in a giant field. She ran around in circles, played in the sand, screamed, laughed, chased me. There was no saying "No." There were no limits. She got so worn out that she fell asleep early and slept all through the night. Yep, we need more of this!

But more than running free, it was another opportunity to show my little girl how big the world is that we live in, to show her something that looked so small from far away and let her experience the enormity of it up close. Vast fields, huge sculptures, planes landing at the nearby airport. Blue skies stretching out as far as she could see, and layers of varying shades of blue mountains pasted in the background.

"I'm scared," she said, as she stared up the hill, two monstrous whales' tails towering over her head.

"It's just a sculpture, a statue. They're not real whales. Besides, you're a brave girl. You can do this."

She looked up at me, listening intently, then ventured ahead. When we got to the top, she turned back to me and said, "You're a brave girl, too, Mommy."

I hope so. "I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with all my heart."

Friday, July 25, 2014

Camping Trip Canceled

Well, that excitement was short lived. I feel it's only fair to tell you today that, the camping trip has been cancelled. My sister came into contact with some kind of plague-like virus. It's been running through her house like wildfire.

I'm never one to be too afraid of illness. My kid is in day care, after all, but we've been so healthy all summer (knocks on wood, spins 3 times in a circle, attempts (and fails) a high-five with my toddler). And the thought of possibly driving 5.5 hours home with a fever of 103 is enough to scare me into staying home and focus on a second visit in August.

But I promise to take you all some place nice this weekend. Stay tuned, lovelies!

Photo Friday 2

One photo to sum up my week of toddler disobedience, chaos, and "I just want to be a baby again" whiny-ness?

This is it.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Post 500!

Did you know that TODAY I'm writing my 500th post!! It completely boggles the mind. Or, at least my mind.

And I'm excited to let ya'll know that we finally have a winner of our vase giveaway! It only took me almost 3 weeks to get around to organizing this! Our winner is Ella C.! I even took the time to notify her this morning! Look at me just checking items off my to-do list!

On the facing page of my to-do list is the camping-trip checklist. It's been staring me down all week, laughing at me, as I make some small attempt to prepare for camping with a two-year-old in upstate New York, 5 hours away.

But I'm absolutely, 100%, determined to do this. I even have a real plan for packing the car with our tent, bedding, and other supplies. I bet God thinks this is hilarious.

We camped almost every year with my family when we were growing up -- in campers, cabins, tents, you name it, and I even accompanied my cousins and childhood friends on camping trips with their families. Best memories of my life! It's kind of a tradition, even though I totally bailed out of doing it when I hit my college years. Now I have a little kiddo of my own, though, and we need to start making some camping memories with her cousins. So, my parents, sister, her fiance, her three girls, me, Mark, and E, are all heading out tomorrow, camping gear in tow, to spend a weekend tenting on the banks of the St. Lawrence.

So, don't be surprised if you don't hear from me much between today and tomorrow. I'll update you from the campsite via at least 3 forms of social media. Prior to that, I'll be too busy trying to fit a soft, cushiony, cozy, memory-foam mattress in my trunk. And a cuddly comforter with pillows. And 3 different cords for my Kindle, phone, and iPad.

Stay tuned... Friday night, 6 o'clock news report: In what appears to be a freak-accident turned rescue-mission, Friday evening, a camper was found clinging to a rock off the shore of a nearby campsite, tangled in a mass of smart-phone and tablet charger wires. The woman, 31-year-old Gretchin Strange, of Vermont, was stranded for approximately 20 minutes before a local fisherman came to her rescue in his dinghy. From the shore, reporters could hear her wailing, "My iPhone... my iPhone... I think it fell in the water." Her husband, 37-year-old Mark Strange, allegedly said that he thought she most likely just left it in the women's restroom. More at 11. Here's Joel with your weekend weather... Joel: Heh, heh, thanks, Trish, sounds like that woman was looking for her
'dumb' phone, am I right?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Moo Do

© 2014 Your Mom Is Strange
Don't know how you do the Moo-Do that you do. So well. It's a spell, hell, makes me wanna... shoop shoop shoop, shoop ba-doop. Shoop ba-doop...

As we're approaching the mid-week mark, we're getting busier and busier. I have to add some final touches to a client's pottery website, I have blog posts to write, a writer's meeting, a looming release-to-press date tomorrow for my day-job's monthly publication, a 10am All-Staff meeting, a counselor appointment, a preschool parent meeting, a product review to write, must find flip-flops and pack for our family camping trip in New York, and in between all that I have to try to raise a (relatively) normal human being and exercise 3 times a week (one walk down!).

Mark cleaned my kitchen over the weekend, and I've been working hard to keep up with it, but the living room looks like some poor child's oversized toy box exploded.

Also, Harriet died. Harriet is the rabbit at preschool. Elle is handling it pretty well. We've talked about it a little bit, but when I bring it up, she mostly just starts telling elaborate stories about what she and Harriet are going to do for the day -- "ride bikes, visit the grocery store, go to the park, and go on lots of slides." Is she seriously using her story-telling skills to cope with this loss? That's kind of amazing, right? I told her we can talk more about it if she wants to. I don't want to encourage complete avoidance of the issue, but she is only two-and-a-half, and I have to let her figure this one out (at least partially) on her own.

Anyway, busy work schedule, appointments, meetings, messy house, dead rabbit, and Salt N Pepa songs running through my head, and what am I doing...?

Painting pictures of cows with hair.

Yep. Welcome to the Strange household. I can't stop drawing. After E goes to bed, I curl up in bed, surrounded by a sea of notebooks, pens, and paints, and I watch Forensic Files and just draw and paint whatever I feel like.

The night before, I had a dream about a cow with hair -- a beautiful watercolor, of a cow with flowing locks of gorgeous hair. I had to paint it. I've been wanting to do a study of an animal for my sketchbook, especially after the creature-drawing class we took. I had intended on drawing hippos, which I still can, but this cow dream really inspired me. I can't wait to improve my cow-drawing skills now and fill my sketchbook with new moo-dos (as Mark calls them)!

Yesterday, Ellie covered half of the dining-room floor with Post-It notes, lining them up in neat, straight rows. She was quiet for a long time, so when I investigated only to find that she was using my Post-It collection to re-tile our floor, I was ever so slightly annoyed.

"What are you doing!?" I asked.
"Oh, hi, Mama (sigh). I'm just doing my artwork. Want to help me?"

Oh, my heart... it's melting... melting... "Sure, I'll help." I mean, if I'm allowed to express myself and relieve stress by painting pictures of cows with hair, surely she can cover our dining-room floor with lines of Post-It notes to do the same. They're still there, on the floor of that room, which is apparently now housing a rotating art exhibit.

Yeah, I'm a proud mama.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Doodle Free!

I've been working through my sketchbook off and on throughout the weekend and still having little bursts of anxiety as I try to just let go and draw. This is a *sketch* book, a "no big deal" book. Right?

So, I've been just adding random doodles to this page as I go and trying my hardest to "let go," as the Frozen soundtrack plays through my head for the millionth time and my nephew says, "Are you drawing again!?"

Yep, I'm not sure I can remember the last time I pursued something so diligently for such a long time, but I think it has something to do with the simple act of drawing calming my mommy-nerves. Oh, and having an almost-three-year-old. A very smart, Frozen-obsessed almost-three-year-old.

Happy end-of-weekend, everyone!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Photo Friday

Yep. I'm really doing a photo for Photo Friday. Just a photo, well, photoS. Well, and this text. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Final Chore Chart

It helps if you sing it to the tune of The Final Countdown. "The Final Chore Chart...! Naow naow naow naow! Noaw-naow naow naow naow!"

This new flip chore-chart was a huge hit this morning until my toddler exhibited her insane talent for remembering icons and demanded to know where the toothbrush and mop had gone, that were clearly printed on the previous chore chart.

I explained that I didn't have room for those icons and that "brushing teeth" was part of getting dressed and ready. Mopping (or sweeping) go together.

"I'd like to mop now, please," she stated seriously, ready to take on her chores.

The main reason I created this chart is to get her to accomplish the task of dressing herself in the morning, saving me time so that I can make lunches, but this has been easily avoided with clever distractions for Mommy, like these 100% true examples:

  • "I'd like to mop now, please," as previously stated.
  • "I found a Cheerio on the floor. An ant is eating it."
  • "Oh no! I spilled milk... everywhere."
  • "Can I poop on everything in here?"
  • "Mama! There's something in my bum!"

I rushed to her room when she yelled that last one, relieved to find out it was a false alarm, and totally unprepared to have a conversation about normal anatomy. I'm still practicing my anti-anxiety breathing exercises as I type this.

Thirty minutes later, when she had finally dressed herself, she came flying out of her room, a blur of pink carried by Batman shoes, to twirl proudly in the kitchen in front of us, displaying her extreme talent for getting ready "all by myself!" Of course, we praised her. She had done it... eventually. "Tomorrow, better listening, please..."

She flipped up the flap on her chore chart for dressing herself, oh, and mopping, and asked about her prize. I told her she had 2 more chores to complete -- helping with dishes and picking up toys, later this afternoon.

I told her that I had chores to do too, like making lunches and packing her day care bag, that I was working hard to finish them.

She said, "And when you do, I will be so impressed!"

Yay me!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Watercolors and Creatures

Last night, we had company, but before bed I had to squeeze in time to do another doodle. The obsession continues. This is very curious, as usually I get bored with new hobbies so quickly. I absolutely cannot stop doodling/painting/drawing.


And it's horrible wonderful. It takes time, but it's relaxing. I've worked it right into my daily goals -- ride my bike, draw, and (try to sometimes, if I can) eat better. I'm doing pretty well with that too!

Why am I so happy/productive/mostly-healthy?? Is this hormonal? Probably. Next week, Mark will probably be scraping my tear-streaked, mascara-stained face off the floor while Ellie jumps on my lifeless body screaming her usual, "Everybody get on the cow!"

But why stress about that now? It's rainy and stormy outside, and I love it. All the more reason to hide inside with a good movie and sketchbook!

Elle saw my Smashbook this morning, which I've been using as a sketchbook. I love it. It has thick pages, pre-designed so that I can work in doodles and tangles, or paste in my strange creature illustrations.

She said, "Oh, Mommy! I want to do this!! Let me get my paints. I have stickers. Let's draw!" And, of course, it was too late in the morning to start that, as I had to usher her out the door to preschool. So sad, too, because she's not always that interested, and I've just been waiting so patiently, trying not to push, but wanting so badly for her to want to draw, paint, and doodle with me!

The last time we painted together, she was sooo content to just sit quietly by my side and paint with her watercolors in her Care Bear coloring book. I got to paint, too! There was a peace and calm energy about the entire experience, and to have that with my toddler was... beautiful. Amazing. Lovely.

So, I was hopeful, as she waved goodbye this morning, and as she said to me, "Oh. I need one more hug and kiss. Have a good day, sir!" that the afternoon would bring swishes of bright paint, swashes of pastels, and the cool, dry creak of a Sharpie marker (happy sigh).

Fabulous paradox tutorials (here)!
Anyway, last night I knocked out a quick doodle on some paper I had prepped with watercolor the night before. I learned that if the paint is too thick, the thinner Sharpie markers don't like it. They give up completely on applying ink to those areas, and I have to carefully touch it up with a thick Sharpie. It's like having man-hands while doing really delicate tangle work. So, I'm going to experiment some more over the next few nights.

I'm pretty happy with the final product, though. I like the fantasy theme. I can be less committed to the drawing as I work on it, and I loved spotting that deer-like creature and volcano in the drips of the watercolor and outlining him.

Here's how I did it! For Step 5, I pasted it in my watercolor-dripped sketchbook page and drew some "paradox" tangles above.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Morning Routines, Dogs, and Doodles

So, I expected that Tuesday would be a little different than Monday. There's something altogether different about Ellie anyway, this week. What is it? A hint of... confidence? Is this just because she's growing, or is this chore chart giving her a little more predictability in her morning that she can run with?

This morning, she came storming through the apartment like she had a herd of wild boar behind her.

"I'll get the lights for you, Mama," she said, voice full of self-assurance.

It took a few nudges from me, but she eventually went in her room and took off her pull-up to start getting dressed.

"What do I do with this?" she yelled, as if we haven't thrown it away every other morning.
"Throw it in the garbage!" I hollered back.

With the same air of confidence, and the sound of loud, proud toddler footsteps, she marched into the kitchen, pants-less. About 3 feet away from the garbage, she threw the pull-up, making a perfect basket, shrugged her shoulders, said, "Got it," turned around, and marched back to her bedroom to finish getting ready. Mark and I lost it. Is this really our 2-year-old?

A few minutes later, she got "stuck" in her bedroom (she couldn't turn the doorknob all the way), and when I rushed to her rescue, she gave me a long scolding, "Mama. I was stuck in here. You were in the kitchen, and you didn't even hear me. I was very sad and scared."

I tried not to laugh but beamed with pride (she's articulating her feelings!!) as I apologized to her and told her that, if I had to, I would cut a triangle in the door to get her. She trusted this was true, because I've done it before (full story and pics here). There were a few other stalling moments, but she got ready on her own and was very proud of herself.

We were still about 10 minutes late out the door. You can blame me for that, though, and my "just 5 more minutes, Mark!!" attitude this morning as I tried to force myself out of bed.


After Mark got out the door with Elle, I made my way to work. I was early! Woohoo!! But as I was driving, at a particularly tricky intersection, a beautiful golden retriever darted out of the bushes and in front of my car. I slammed on my brakes. She looked up at me expectantly. She slowly moved back to the sidewalk, sat down, and watched me drive past.

Not my pic, but this is what she looked like!
Ugh, my heart strings. Why was she in the road? She seemed to be wanting to get someone's attention. Last year, I saw a cat get hit and killed at the same intersection. It's on a hill. Also, my friend just posted this beautiful message on her Facebook page about her daughter who loves animals and would never let one suffer.

I pulled over and walked back to greet her. She seemed scared of me at first, so I sat down, and she came over to see me. Then she happily mauled me with hugs and kisses. Oh, I miss having a dog. I snuggled with her a bit.

"Can you show me where you live?" I asked her.
She walked back into the road.
"No, no, come here!" I said and patted my leg.
She nodded toward the other side of the road.
"You want me to come with you?" I asked her.
She took a few steps forward, then looked back at me, as if to say, "Hey Idiot, come on!"

Okay, I followed her, my tongue wagging too. One of my co-workers drove by and stopped to ask if everything was alright. I told her what was going on and felt secure knowing that she knew where I was, you know, just in case I returned the dog to a golden-retriver-owning serial killer. "Gah, Gretch, turn off the Crime-TV narrative already..." I said to myself. I was just being neighborly. Sure, people have been killed by being neighborly, but I'm being smart and safe.

And sure enough, that smart dog led me right to her house and sat down at the bottom of the porch steps to wait while I knocked on the door. She had that big, goofy, tongue-hanging-out dog smile on her face. And I was all, "What's wrong, girl? Is little Timmy stuck in a well?"

A man came to the door, looking tired. I asked if this was his dog. He seemed hesitant to say yes (ha!), but he explained that he and his wife were sick (excuse me while I back away from your door a bit) and that he usually watches the dog when she's out in the yard. He apologized.

No judgment here. "I just didn't want her to get hit," I tried to sound cheery and non-judgmental. The dog darted past me and into the house. I probably should have asked if they needed anything. Maybe that dog brought me to that house for a reason, and I missed a huge opportunity to fulfill some greater purpose, but I just smiled and went on my way, content that I had done a good deed for the day.


And I reeeeallly wanted to blog about doodling. Am I really going to fit 3 blog posts in 1 today? Why not? I had intended to show you my process for art journaling, to inspire you to do it as well, because it's so easy, relaxing, and fun, and it's helping me live stress-free in the evenings...

BUT, I just spent the entire evening after E was in bed eating Ghirardelli brownies that she had picked out at the grocery store, drinking iced milk, and DRAWING (instead of creating a mini tutorial). It was so liberating. I've been (literally) biking my butt off and eating well, so I ate that snack with little guilt and lots of chocolate-induced joy.

The drawings weren't perfect. I experimented with drawing human figures (which I find so hard), but I can keep practicing. Nothing had to be perfect. It was just play time, but play time that resulted in a "finished" product -- just the act of filling a sketchbook. I had pics to share on Instagram, and the #doodle and #ymisdoodle campaigns have brought in a handful of new followers. Happiness! More to come!

If you've made it this far, congratulations! I'm wordy today. Thanks, as always, for reading!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Toddler Chore Chart Test Group
Busy morning at the Strange household, but I just want to take a moment to brag about how I've single-handedly restored order to our home in a matter of 3 days.

We've used a toddler chore chart. I designed one that showed pictures for the chores, days of the week, similar to the one here. I put it on the fridge, so that my toddler could move magnets to "check off" the chores she completed for the week.

Not so surprisingly, the days-of-the-week concept didn't quite click. She is only 2, after all. So, I'm already redesigning this to create an idea similar to the second pic, where she can simply "close" a window -- or just simple picture cards of the chores that she can put magnets on. I think this will work much better.

Also, the rewards need to be more frequent than weekly and less significant. She needs a reward each day for filling her chore chart -- maybe she gets to watch a favorite show or chooses what we'll have for dinner.

Anyway, just be assured that I'm running my next post through this toddler trial-and-error system, a "test group" of one, per se. This week, I'll share the original chart I made -- maybe it'll work better for your toddler or an older child, and I'll rework this one for my toddler and share the new one as well.

The good news is that, right now, it's just something to get her to focus on the importance of getting herself dressed (3 days in a row!), brushing her teeth, and contributing to keeping the apartment clean. She knew the expectations first thing this morning and did everything she needed to do.

Still, does she get the idea of the chore chart? Like, really get it on some level? Well, I had my doubts after she first saw it and happily declared that she was going to "win these prizes" for doing chores. The icons I put on the chart must have looked like a carnival-game prize lineup. "And I'll get a new shirt, and a toothbrush, and a soccerball and airplane!!" she exclaimed. The "help with laundry" icon was a shiny new washing machine. "I'll take one of those," I thought.

I explained the details to her, but she feigned ignorance and ran off. Throughout the weekend, she ran to the fridge to move magnets, placing them randomly on the chart on any given day and saying, "And a shirt... and a toothbrush... Mama, can I get that soccer ball?" "No, that's a symbol for a chore, meaning that you've picked up your toys." She ran off again, suddenly losing interest.

On Saturday, she put off getting dressed for so long that I almost entirely gave up on ever leaving the apartment again... for the rest of my life. I imagined myself old and decrepit, frozen in time, sitting on the kitchen floor, holding up a 5T-size dress, a single tear running down my face.

On Sunday morning, my sister-in-law, Auntie Bee, was visiting, and she prompted Ellie to tell her about her chore chart. Elle proudly strutted up to the fridge and said, "Well, if you get dressed, you get a magnet. If you brush teeth, you get a magnet."

"And, what's this soccer ball and plane for?" Bee asked.
"That means that you pick up your toys!" Ellie proudly answered.

"SHE GETS IT!!" I silently screamed. Then I thought, "Was she pretending to not understand for the last 24 hours? Hmm... very mysterious."

This child has officially outsmarted me, but I felt like the winner of that soccer ball on this Monday morning when she got up, got dressed with little pushing from me, brushed teeth, ate breakfast, then went out the door.

Well, she almost made it out the door. She came running to me for one more hug and kiss and to tell me that she was scared to be without me for the day. We've talked about this a lot, and it's led to a lot of conversations about being brave, that it's okay not to be brave (that the day care teacher can call me if she needs me), what the heck we believe God is (easing into the concept of different religions) and how we can meditate and pray to find strength. Maybe that's a lot for a 2-year-old to take in, but I'm trying to make it chore-chart simple.

She's been so clingy with me and even asked me last night if she could "get back in my belly" because she just wanted me to hold her forever. Talk about a heart-melter. I told her I'd miss her smile too much, but the truth is that sometimes I wish she could, too. I'd always know she was with me, safe and happy.

Instead, I sent her out the door with my favorite sweatshirt. I put it over her shoulder, and I told her to hug it any time she missed me, that she could use it as her blanket at rest time. She hugged it all the way down the hallway and went out the door with Mark, off to day care with no tears.

Let Monday begin! Bring on Tuesday!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Report

I finally got my first unofficial, not-so-great report from day care last week (I guess it's officially "preschool" now) and the same report a few times this week -- E is "having trouble listening."

<sarcasm> Oh, really? That's strange, because she listens so well at home. </sarcasm>

Yep, I think we're entering the Horrible-Three stage. Even though she's only two, I'm trying to convince myself that she's advanced enough to already be partway through the Horrible-Threes. I swear I can see the light at the end of the temper-tantrum tunnel.

Long story short, she "wouldn't put her shirt on" and "escaped out the door into the hallway yesterday."

Okay, so, not a big deal in my book, because at home we're dealing with screaming, all-out-throw-herself-on-the-floor-and-scream-as-if-death-is-imminent temper tantrums, hitting, slapping, scratching, and biting.

She only does this to me, and as usual, I read everything I can find about the issues, quiz my friends and family, and try to solve all the problems at once with several different methods.

So I'm trying NOT to do that as much, you know, the solving-all-problems-at-once thing. I'm trying to stay calm and trust that, as everyone else says, this is just a stage. But I'm also sticking to my punishments, trying to make sure the punishment fits the crime, and using a much sterner, unwavering voice when I scold.

I've also come up with an afternoon schedule for her, so that our afternoons are somewhat more predictable for her. Preschool pick up, home for a snack, outside time, dinner, bath, bed. In this way, I'm taking away some of her control in the afternoon. Well, not taking it away as much as organizing it. "What do you want to do for outside play time? We can ride bikes or go to the park." Also, going outside is up to her. If she wants to stay inside and play, she can. If she wants to go outside, she needs to get her shoes on and get ready. Not so surprisingly, she is always capable of getting ready if it means going outside!

This has worked great, and it also breaks up our indoor time, so that she doesn't get bored. It feels like we're doing more, because we go home, out, then home again, but we're actually doing less and conserving our energy, because we're spending more indoor quality time together. She needs this in the afternoon, as she's tired from school.

She gave up naps a long time ago. I can put her in her room, in her bed, and she'll stay in there and play quietly, but she won't sleep. So, I give her that quiet time after snack, even if sleep never comes. That's helped too.

So far, we've had 3 good days on this schedule. I don't know if anything I'm doing is right, but I'm trying, and she seems to know that I'm trying, and she's trying too. That's all we can do for now.


As for the hitting, the preschool teachers say she's never once done that at school. Whew! Glad to hear it! And I've taken my friends' advice which has so far significantly reduced hitting: we've assessed the situation and realized that she hits when she's angry, embarrassed, and/or wants control/attention. We've had her stomp her feet instead of hitting, which helps and cut the time-outs, because she loves the negative attention.

On Monday, she got mad at me because I gave her the wrong sippy cup(??), and she hauled off and smacked me hard on the arm. It actually hurt. My feelings were hurt, too, so it wasn't difficult to muster up some tears and offer a performance not unworthy of an Academy Award nomination. I'm already preparing my acceptance speech.

I furrowed my eyebrows and twisted my face in shock, awe, sadness. A little tear formed in the corner of my eye and gently ran down my cheek. I cradled my "injured" arm and choked back a little sob. Then I let the quiet, unrestrained weeping seep gently from the depths of my soul...

Not to brag, but it was pretty amazing. I watched Ellie slowly take it all in. Her eyes widened in horror. She backed slowly toward the kitchen cabinet until she bumped into it. She slid down into a sitting position on the floor, staring at me, devastated. Then she began sobbing uncontrollably.

It was both hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time, so I didn't keep it up long. I went to the sink and fashioned a fake bandage for my arm out of paper towel and polka-dotted washi tape. It looked like a scrapbooking project gone horribly wrong.

She calmed down and watched me carefully.

"Mama, why you got that on your arm?" she asked.
"This is where you hit me. It's sore, and I need a bandage," I explained.

"WAHHHH!!" the sobbing started again. Once more, she calmed down and asked me about the bandage. When I told her again, she sobbed... again.

Finally I took it off and threw it away. I was worried about the long-term effects of this experiment. She was just so upset. But I was hurt, too, even if just emotionally, and my feelings are important!

And a miraculous thing happened... the hitting has almost stopped completely, and before she does it, she's stopped to think about how I might react. The few times she has hit, it's been gently (still not okay), but it's more like she's testing than taking her anger out on me -- much easier to deal with. And all I have to do is look the tiniest bit shocked, sad, or hurt, and she stops right away.

And most importantly, I know my good kid is in there, somewhere behind these tantrums. In fact, her level of empathy completely took me off guard. I know now, for certain, that we can work together and bridge this gap between the terrible-twos, the horrible-threes, and whatever comes next!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Team Little Man

Hello, friends!

Today, I want to share this amazingly cool shirt with you! I love the design and can't wait to buy mine tomorrow on payday! There are only 9 days left to get one!

Buy Yours Here!

Also, proceeds benefit my co-worker's grandson who is bravely battling Leukemia.

Go Team Little Man!

I know there are other individuals and families out there battling some life-changing diseases and difficulties. If you'd like me to feature a family or cause in a post or donate cards/prints for an auction, please message me via any of my social media sites or email me at

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Writing Process Tour

My writing process is a lot like waiting for nail polish to dry...
My sister-in-law wrote to me several days ago asking me to participate in a Writing Process Tour. I'm a little behind schedule, but here we go!

What are you working on?
Right now, I'm working on merging my doodling/artsy stuff with the blog and gearing it more toward some fun art projects as well as keeping up with the usual family stories.

Why do you write what you do?
Mark and I were just talking about this over the weekend! The entire YMIS project started as a way to easily document life with my daughter, from the perspective of a goofy mom, whose focus was less about doing things "right" or having a "perfect" household and more about just enjoying New England life with my crazy kid.

As I've had to focus my life more on raising a child and less on my creative career (swapped a stressful, overtime-heavy Senior Designer day job for a more predictable, part-time Production Editor position), I've made parenting my creative outlet, integrating art and exploration, using doodling and zentangling as my own stress-relievers, and taking on freelance work in the evening from some of my favorite clients.

Writing is part of this creative outlet, and I very much do it as a release. It's less about the final product and more about just getting thoughts out of my head. I've tried to create a schedule to better structure the blog, but more likely than not I'll just be writing anything on any given day.

Of course, I'd be lying if I said that I didn't like the attention of writing and having my blog public. There's some thrill in wishing, hoping to have a swarm of readers hanging on my every word. We all want to be popular on some level, right? So, writing for the BVT Moms Blog has been such a fun experience. I get to reach (way) more readers while maintaining my own little artsy corner of the world over here at YMIS, and some of those readers have come over to visit YMIS too!

How does your writing process work?
Oh boy, in school I used to dwell on what to write, plan an outline, write a rough draft, then revise, revise, revise! No time for that nowadays, and it's easier, anyway, writing what you love to write about!

Now I carry my bullet journal with me wherever I go. When something funny happens that I want to write about, or some little family moment pops up that I think is funny or sweet, I jot down a quick note, like: "carseat hatred." I mentally plan a beginning, middle, and end -- from the fine details of what it takes to get my toddler into the carseat to how my parents brought me home from the hospital in a 1980s carseat that was basically no different than a Tupperware bin, propped between them in the front seat of their pickup truck. With enough coffee, the rest usually writes itself!

Throughout the week, while at doctor's appointments, or in front of the TV before bed, I doodle in my bullet journal or tackle some art projects with E and drop those on the blog when I can.

Above all, the process is fun, and my amazing kid, as well as dedicated readers, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook followers keep me motivated to write, which is why this blog is the one and only "project" I've kept up now for 2.5 years! Looking forward to another 16 at least. Let's get this kid off to college!

If you'd like to participate in this Writing Process Tour, just post to your blog with your answers to the 3 questions above. Let me know, link back to me, and I'll link to you!

Thanks for following us!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Where Am I?

Excuse me while I hold my eyes open this morning. I drank too much tea before bed and didn't fall asleep until 2am after an extremely busy weekend, heading into a too-early wake up on Monday.

My tummy is angry, my eyes feel heavy, and all the caffeine in the world isn't helping. It's just making my brain work faster while my face falls asleep. I'm sure I could tackle any advanced-level mathematics question you throw at me this morning, but the answer would probably just come out as, "Yes, more watermelon please (yawn)."

Other than that, the sun is shining, and all is bright, cheery, and beautiful! Who cares if I'm too groggy to enjoy it?

We had a great weekend with family, and I loved sharing some super special experiences with my toddler -- like taking her to the drive-in to see the 1985 Goonies movie! She didn't quite make it to the end, but she got to experience the best of it -- like eating popcorn, french fries, and cotton candy in Auntie Bee's car with her cousins.

Halfway through the movie, she started yelling, "Dad!! Hey, Dad!" Mark got out of our car and walked over to Bee's, expecting that Ellie was done with the movie and ready to go home. But instead, she yelled, "I need some more popcorn!" When Mark got back to our car, we had a long talk about how we managed to raise a teenager in only 2 years. What a funny kid!

We also got to ride bikes, play, visit the Montshire museum and waterpark, and sit in Uncle Paul's police car. All around, a great weekend!

And coming up this week/month:
  • On the BVT Moms Blog:
    -I show you how to make a toddler mailbox out of a K-Cup box!
    -E and I will be reviewing a box of toys from Little Pnuts!
    -I'll share some tips for cooking with a toddler for the Growing Up Gourmet series!
  • I have a consultation for my free pin-up photo shoot with Zinfandel Photography today. Can't wait!
  • The Two Potters Vase Giveaway is done, but I've yet to choose a winner -- this week! Please be patient with me, dear friends!
  • I've updated the Mama Doodle page so that all doodle resources are easy to find and in one place. I've also included the doodle-a-day July list from Rhi Creations. It's so perty!
  • For those of you following the design portfolio, I've uploaded the first (official) draft of a new pottery website I'm working on (here).
  • Kim and I are taking a class this coming Saturday about drawing/creating creatures... I think. She signs me up for all kinds of things. I usually just say, "Yep, uh-huh, sure" and know that a good time is guaranteed. Ha!
  • Also, on Saturday, I'm supposed to get my tattoo... maybe. If I like what the artist comes up with.
I think that's it for now besides the normal every-day stuff like trying to raise a little person who doesn't scream, swear, and beat people with pool noodles. I'm assured by friends, family, and licensed professionals that all she needs is consistency, love, and guidance, or was it... consistency, love, and cupcakes? Hmm. *scratches head* Whatever.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Doodle Time!
Hey, everyone! Today is July 1st! Woohoo!! And we're officially celebrating the fine art of doodling and zentangling this month/year/forever -- drawing just for the healing powers of putting pen to paper!

Wanna join us? As with most YMIS projects, you can do whatever you want! You can doodle wherever you want! And if you'd like some resources, I've provided some below.

Also, be sure to share your doodles with us by posting your doodles to Instagram with #ymisdoodle. Don't have an Instagram account yet? Maybe now is the time to grab one!!

All artwork will be featured in this corner of the blog: Mama Doodle (Doo)! (green link at left too!)

Free Doodle Resources!
  • Want a calendar to put your doodles in? You can print the one I'm using (here).
  • Some really great, simple ideas at (here)!
  • How about some pin-spiration? Pinterest has some fantastic doodle ideas (here).
  • Looking for prompts? Rhi at Rhi Creations has a great list (here)!

Any other questions? Email me at!