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!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

All Settled In!

So, I'm all settled into my official YMIS office tonight...! Woohoo! In other words, I've reclaimed a corner of my bedroom!

The first thing I found out I needed was a To-Do List. Keeping my bullet journal handy is always helpful, but I tend to use that in the morning when I'm planning my day. I needed a little something different for nighttime -- just one big to-do list to keep track of my freelance and blog design tasks.

I had an extra photo frame that I bought at Christmas Tree Shops ($2.99!), so I printed a to-do list for the frame and used a dry-erase marker to write on it! Easy-peasy, as Elle says!

So, this is the first official project coming out of the YMIS Office! CHEAP Dry-Erase Checklist!

You can download the 8" x 10" printable (here) to make your own! Make sure to print it at actual size and trim to the square provided to fit it to your frame.

Now I'm off to eat dinner and work on my Dasha Kalisz Pottery site! It needs some tweaking!

Night all!