Monday, September 29, 2014

I'm Here. It's Monday.

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

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

We're all tired, but life is good.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Toddler Cleaning Schedule

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 22, 2014

Studio Time

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bathroom Narrative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yep. He is..."

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 15, 2014

What's New!

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

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

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

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

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

What's new with you?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Bedtime Battle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, repeat.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday Funk

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Good Morning, Toad!

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

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

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

Gurgle gurgle... Blah! Aye aye aye!

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

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

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

"Most likely," I giggled.

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

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

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