Thursday, March 29, 2012

Soaking It In

Shocker to all that know me:  I'm not the most patient person in the world. 

I know this and I've been trying to really work on this part of my personality.  I spent most of Jackson's first year wishing him older - so we could DO things together.  Then all of a sudden he was one, I was two months from his sister's due date, and I realized I will never have those "baby" moments with him back.  I had tried to fast forward through two pregnancies and the less than stellar parts of having an infant.  Just like that, they were gone and I felt a little disappointed with myself for not taking the time to soak in those moments.

Since then I've been trying to remind myself to just savor the moment.  Sure, I'm terrible at it at times - like when Jackson wants to paint, but Summerlin just wants to eat the paint, and no matter what I do someone is going to end up crying.  In those moments, I find myself just wanting her to be a little older - just enough to be past the "everything goes in my mouth" stage.  But in the last few weeks I've been trying to remind myself to pause amidst the chaos and remember the wonderful parts of 16 months - the snuggles, the super enthusiastic "MAMA!" calls, the curiosity, and the endless hugs and kisses she showers us with.  If I keep that in mind, the scene going on around me doesn't rattle my nerves quite as much.

Yesterday was one of those days that I had multiple moments of just wanting to soak it in so deeply that I will NEVER forget the feelings of love and joy I felt.  Several times I honestly felt like my heart was going to burst with all the pure love I felt for my children.  We didn't do anything grand, we just had a "normal" day at home, but I was so "in the moment" with them and I loved it.  Many days I find myself physically present with them, but mentally wrapped up in running through a check list of what needs to be done around the house that day.  I'm rushing back and forth between keeping an eye on them and cleaning/laundry/projects/etc.  But not yesterday. 

Yesterday was all about my babies.  We chose sticks from the yard to decorate as walking sticks.  We went on an "adventure" walk to the train tracks - observing birds, rabbits, rocks, and patches of dandelions along the way.  (Btw, I have a beautiful bouquet of dandelions on the dining room table now thanks to a very sweet, loving two year old.)  We read books.  We made cookies - all three of us and yes, they ate a considerable amount of raw cookie dough, as did I.  We painted dinosaurs and sunshine.  We laughed.  We loved.  We had a blast.  It was so good for our souls.

I'm also trying to let this mindset of patience filter into remembering what I can control and can't control.  I can't control every aspect of my life.  I can't control everything that happens with my children (try as I might).  I can't control other people's thoughts or actions.  I can't control the 30 minute back-up that I experienced at the HRBT this morning, thus making me extra extra late to work/school.  But I can control my reaction to it.  I've learned that there is no need to get upset - just roll down the windows, enjoy the breeze coming off the water, turn on some good music, sip coffee, and savor the extra 30 minutes to work on a small sewing project that happened to be in my bag (note to self - always keep a small project in the car/purse). 

Life is good.  Soak it up.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Finding Morning Calm and Rhythm

I really want to create a more developed and deeply rooted morning rhythm with the kids.  Maybe that's too lofty a goal with a 16 month old and a 2 1/2 yr old...but it's my goal none-the-less.  I was looking online for some ideas, but all I could really find was a woman selling her four secrets to establishing rhythm for over $100.  Maybe it is magical, but I'm not willing to spend that much to find out.  Anyways, it's a work in progress at our house right now...think giant orange construction cones and flashing lights. 

Mornings can get messy around here - trying to get two kids to eat, brush their teeth, and then get dressed is usually enough to send me running for a second (or third, or...) cup of coffee (or wishing it was 5:00 so I could get something stronger).  So, for now, I'm just trying to create at least 15 minutes of calm and stillness when the kids first wake up.  Just 15 minutes of sitting on the couch (or in Mama's bed) drinking juice and reading books.  When this 15 minutes of calm happens first thing in the mornings, the whole day runs smoother.  We are able to wake up slowly and I feel like we connect better.  On the mornings that I'm home, this happens almost everyday (unless someone has an exploding diaper in bed and then everything seems to just erupt into shear chaos from that moment on).  It doesn't guarantee a temper tantrum free day, but it seems like the kids are more agreeable about getting all the morning "must do's" done.  Big breakfasts are eaten and getting dressed doesn't turn into a wrestling match.

The problem days are Tuesdays and Thursdays when I need to be out the door right after 8:00.  We are still in the process of making the switch to daylight savings time.  The kids have been sleeping later and so have I.  Instead of easily getting up around 6:30, now I'm getting up at 7:30 and FREAKING OUT about all I need to do for myself and the kids before the baby-sitter arrives (I've been very late this week and last).  Then, the kids aren't getting up until close to needless to say that 15 minutes does not happen on those days.  Sadly, those are the days I wish we could have it that much more.  I want time to snuggle and soak up my babies before I have to go sit in a computer lab for six straight hours.  I know, I know, there's a simple solution to this - set the alarm.  And maybe this week is the week that I will, but I've really enjoyed getting to wake up naturally, not from a loud buzzing/beeping clock right by my ear.

Back to the point, I'm hoping that by starting small and trying to deeply establish this short period of quiet in our mornings, eventually our entire morning rhythm will run more smoothly, like our evening/bedtime routine.  Any suggestions?

Here are a few unrelated images just for fun.
 Justin and I took Jackson to the museum of Natural History over St. Patty's Day weekend.  He enjoyed the dinosaurs and other animals, but the highlight for him was getting to right the "choo choo train" (i.e. Metro).
 We love Triceratops around here.

 For St. Patty's Day (actually we did it a day early) I created a treasure hunt for Jackson.  I never did get around to finding a picture of a leprechaun for the first clue/card, but oh well.  I'm excited to do this again with Jackson and I know now that I can make the clues more difficult next time.  He knew these without the slightest hesitation.  

 All three clues.
This was at the end of the hunt, along with a bag of chocolate coins.  Jackson loved his special treat and the rainbow - which he later insisted we hang in the dining room.  

Monday, March 12, 2012

Play silks on a budget!

While at a playgroup this winter, my kids had a blast with a few playsilks.  They are a great toy for imaginative play.  I fell in love with them also, but they are not cheap.  I wasn't sure it was something I could ever justify spending $15 on for each one.  Well, my sweet friend Nicole (the playgroup host) shared her money saving silk secrets with me and you can find them on her blog too - My Rhythm and Rhyme in Motherhood.

Instead of using Kool-aid for dying ours, I used my abundance of food coloring for cake decorating.  

I found directions on this website

They turned out much more vibrant than I expected! I like them that way though. I did mess up on the pink one - first it came out HOTTTTT pink, so I did a quick dip in light purple (a trick for toning down pinks that I've learned from cake icing). However, I messed up and got straight coloring on the silk, so now it has a few dark spots. I may go back and dye it completely purple. I might not. I'm sure the ever observant Jackson will notice, but I doubt he'll care...he'll just point it out and then go on with his business.

We now have a set of playsilks...on a budget!  I really like the playsilks from Sarah's Silks, but for our current budget they are just too pricey.  Besides, these turned out pretty darn perfect!  And we now have six for the price of two! 

The hardest part is now we have to wait until Easter to give them to the kids!  I can't wait to play with them!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The week of crafting comes to an end

I was able to do a lot of crafting/sewing over my spring break - exactly my plan.  Of course, there are still tons of projects I would like to do, but all in all I am happy with what I was able to do.  I learned how to knit, which took me awhile.  I'm enjoying it, but still working on just trying to make it not look like crap.  I have a few ideas of things to make for the kids, which I hope to complete by Easter.  Not sure if I'll have the time though.

One of my "must-do" items was to make cloth napkins.  Jackson is obsessed with napkins and frankly his love for them is getting costly.  A messy two year old can go through 3-5 napkins/meal if you're not careful.  I didn't want to buy cloth ones at the store because I wanted them to be much smaller.  I found these two prints at the fabric store for only $2.50 a yard and bought a yard of each.  I cut each yard into twelve rectangles, stitched them first with right sides together, then flipped them right sides out and did a double stitch around the edge.  It was a super quick project and so far they are well loved.  Only problem is I have realized twelve is probably not going to be enough to last several days - we might need another dozen. 

I think this summer I will make a set or two of placemats for us also!  I just need to find more clearance fabric first!

I thought I'd leave you with a picture of our sweet baby girl - who is growing up WAY too fast.  This is what happens when you grow so quickly and you have a big brother.  Luckily, she loves dinosaurs and was excited to snuggle into bed in her new PJs!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

One Last Post - I saved the best for last

I've had a lot of blogging ideas this week, but haven't taken the time out to actually blog them.  Tonight is a very laid back night at our house, so I'm taking advantage of it to catch up on several of the things I wanted to share.  I mostly blog about our family and the kids, but I don't know if I've ever really taken time out to blog about Justin, or Justin and I, or our marriage.  It's long overdue!

Justin and I undoubtedly had our ups and downs in dating.  We broke up for the better part of a year after I graduated college.  We both said to ourselves that if we ever got back together, it would only be if we knew it was "for real".  We tried dating other people.  We spent time single.  We learned A LOT.  A LOT A LOT.

Most importantly, I learned Justin is my other half.  I don't care how cheesy it is - he completes me in a way that I can't imagine any other person could.  We are similar, but we have differences and our differences compliment each other so well.  He relaxes me when I need it.  I give him a firm kick in the butt when he needs it.  I don't know that I ever envisioned marriage would truly be this much of a cohesive partnership - but it is.  And I love being married, absolutely love it!

If we want your marriage to grow, we have to put in a lot of time together.  This may not be true for everyone, but for us is really really really is.  We took the test in the book "The Five Love Languages" to see what each of our love languages is...and then we kinda read the book (ok, we read the first few pages of the book).  We both scored VERY high in quality time together - followed closely by acts of service for me and the ever obvious physical touch for Justin.  Words of affirmation weren't really strong for either of us and I think we both scored a big fat ZERO on receiving gifts.  It's nice that we speak love the strongest in the same language - makes showing our love for one another pretty stinkin' easy sometimes.

Now granted, we are only coming up on four years of marriage in June, but it's been a very eventful few years and a lot of stressful things have happened, so I'm pretty damn proud of us for all the adjustments we've made and how much stronger we've become as a couple.  I wanted to share one of the biggest ways we've found to help keep our marriage strong and to help it grow - Date Night IN.

Yes, that's right - date night IN.  Once a week too.  We put the kids to bed, cook up a delicious meal at home, watch a movie or play a game, and enjoy each other's company.  Sure, it would be nice to go out on a date once a week (or even once a month), but that's insanely expensive, especially when you have to pay a baby-sitter $10/hour.  Besides, our kids go to bed at 7:30, so the night is still young!  The biggest key to the night is that you really have to put aside all the other distractions (computer, chores, etc) and focus on time together.

If you're married - whether you're newly weds or been at it for 20 years - I recommend it!  It's our favorite night of the week!

If I Could Just Freeze Time

Thursday was one of those days when I wish I could just freeze time.  That I could linger in this phase of our life a little bit longer.  The kids are at such sweet ages (well, now that Jackson has recovered from his latest funk - but more about that later in this post).  They are so curious about the world and so ready to learn, help, and explore. 

Justin had to work an extremely long day on Thursday (conference night followed by two hours of tutoring), so we were on our own all day.  At first I wanted to go somewhere and do something special with the kids.  But as we were making our way through breakfast I realized they are happiest and most peaceful when we stop doing and just are.  They don't need a lot of extra activities or adventures.  They are 1 and 2.  Playing at home and in our yard is adventurous enough!  So, we just were on Thursday.  And what a peaceful day it was.  I wanted time to stop and to capture so many of those moments forever in my memory.  I had to pull out the camera a little more than usual just to make sure I never forget how precious they are at this stage.

 We kicked off the day with green shamrock pancakes.
 Mama's helper - enjoying his hot chocolate with marshmallows.
 My other little helper while I had to bake a cake (Jackson was hanging out in the reading nook while we baked.)
 I let Summerlin dump the ingredients into the mixing bowl at one point...and she missed the bowl.  Since we already had a mess to clean up, I figured what's a little more.  I put all the dropped floor in her bowl of cheerios and let her go to town.
 Besides, I knew I had two little helpers that would be more than willing to clean up the mess afterwards.
 Each got a turn with the vacuum.  Let me tell you, they were thorough!  They even wanted to get under the stove and beside the fridge!  Our messy adventure meant I ended up with an even cleaner kitchen than I started with!
 After playing in the yard some, we decided to pack a picnic and walk to the park.
 Summerlin did everything Jackson did - even climbing up these.  I love those two little monkeys!
 We love the slide!
 Practicing our shapes - he's not bad for 2 1/2, but then again his daddy is a geometry teacher. 
They love the swings, but even more they love watching each other while swinging.  They crack each other up!

This past week was my spring break.  We went into the week a little frazzled and out of our rhythm.  We had such a nice, quiet week of mostly staying at home and just enjoying life.  The way we are emerging from the week has confirmed two things for me. 

1.)  Going to school full-time and working as a TA was a wonderful opportunity, but it does not fit our life and our lifestyle right now.  Our family values time together and living a pretty low-key wholesome life - we tend to think that we are living life the way the family who built our house in 1953 lived.  But for us, this way of life takes more time - time to fix, sew, craft, create, grow, make from scratch, and to enjoy each other.

2.)  I will never again second guess what I know to be best for my kids.  My gut told me that Jackson's "funk" was from too much rushing around lately and ultimately being over-stimulated.  Seeing the way he is this weekend verses last weekend really confirms to me that my gut was correct.  He has to be one of the most observant children I've ever met and he is very easily overwhelmed because he has yet to develop filters on the world (to discern what is necessary data and what can fade to the background).  Just take the kid for a walk and see how much he observes that we adults completely miss - this trait of his will become BLARINGLY obvious to you if you at all doubt me.  It is my job as his mama to make sure I keep his 2 1/2 year old life as peaceful and calm as I can.  There will be days that we have to rush and go from here to there, as is life, but those days need to be followed by days of calm, peace, and plenty of play at home.  I don't see this as much in Summerlin, but it may come more with time.  In the meantime, her brother is pointing it ALL out to her. 

It saddens me that I have to go back to school/work on Tuesday.  Even though I withdrew from one class, I am still obligated to work my TA hours for the rest of the semester.  Sure, the money is nice, but now it's even harder knowing that after a few weeks we'll probably be in a bit of a funk again.  However, I do find comfort in knowing that the semester is halfway over and after that I will have all summer to enjoy a slower pace of life.  When I start back up in the fall, I will only take one class and will no longer hold a TA position.  I think a small course load will allow our family to enjoy a little of everything - our way of life and I will still (eventually) earn my master's degree.

The New Hot Spot

I've wanted to create a reading nook for the kids for while - well, ever since I finished the playroom.  I looked for ideas online, especially on Pintrest.  I wanted something cozy, cheery, and whimsical.  Justin and I talked about what would work in our space...and this is what we came up with! 

I picked up two 99 cent sheets at the thrift store and for a few dollars just boards we wrapped the fabric around to secure it to the wall/ceiling.  I used scrap fabric for the top piece of the tent (it's the same beehive fabric I made curtains and a crib skirt for the nursery with). I used a lot of smaller scraps to patchwork together a cover for the largest of the pillows. It took awhile and it looks a bit loud, but the kids love it. Jackson has pointed out some of the pieces from other things I've made for the kids.  Soon I will make covers for some of the other smaller pillows also.  The lights were in our kitchen, but we hardly ever used them there.  The felt ball garland was something I had in our craft container (it actually only lasted about a day before my curious babes torn it down- now it's on shorter strands hanging down from the top.)  The pillows came from around the house and right now I have an old comforter and family quilt as the padding on the floor.  When Summerlin is moved into a big girl bed this summer I will use her crib mattress as floor padding.  
 With the curtains closed.
 And open!
 A second view - we also keep a large tub of books in the tent at all times.
And of course I have to include one of my favorite little boy - he absolutely loves this space!  Thursday he spent an hour sitting in the tent reading.  Warmed my heart!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Oh Jackson...again

Last week we started to prep the garden for the spring.  Right now it's just a large fenced in area of dirt/mud.  The kids LOVE playing in there.   I'm glad they love it and love being outside, but it sure has made for some extra laundry and muddy shoes.  We spent a solid hour and a half just digging with shovels, filling up the dump trucks, and loading the wheelbarrow with our dumptruck loads of dirt.  I wish I had my camera with me while they were deep in dirt play - it's precious, in a dirt filled kind of way.

Trying to ride in the car together.
 Well, if you get that dirty, you also need to get clean.  Usually coming inside leads to double temper tantrums because neither kid wants to stop playing outside.  Today I knew I couldn't handle one more meltdown or I might have one myself.  So while they finished up playing, I snuck inside to make bathtub finger paints (thank you pintrest - bathtub fingerpaints).  It worked - everybody came inside with only minimal protesting.  Double bonus - now we can skip bathtime after dinner and spend more time reading books.  They played in the tub happily for a solid 30 minutes and came out squeaky clean! 

Of course, that much fun in the tub meant we just traded the temper tantrums about coming inside for tears over having to get out of the tub.  My kids are precious, but they don't handle transitions well at all (sorry kids, that's part of life).

Note - I don't think it's mentioned on the pintrest link, but this definitely left some color behind in our tub.  Good thing was it made me finally get around to cleaning our tub during naptime (it's probably been a solid two months since I did that last).  Bad thing was I didn't really want to clean the tub - I wanted to sit on the couch and eat junk food. 

Playing...Lots of Playing

We have a new first Saturday of each month tradition - the free children's workshop at Home Depot followed by our monthly stock-up trip to Costco and lunch.  Jackson loves the children's workshops (he gets to use a hammer and paint - how can he not love it?!).  I love that Justin goes with me to Costco.  And we all love Costco pizza for lunch!  Of course, this last time Jackson wouldn't stop whining and Summerlin wouldn't stop shreeking - so no lunch out.  We came home for rice and bean burritos (good, but definitely not what I was craving).  This is basically the only meal we "eat out", guess we'll have to wait another month before we can have that "fine dining" experience. 

 Little Miss Sassafrass finally has enough hair for a "ponytail", a small one at least.  
 Playing with the cars and train - I'm so glad both kids are enjoying the train table so much!

 You know, just another peaceful meal at the Loda house.
 No, we don't have wild, silly kids at all.
 Especially not this one.
 I participated in a large consignment sale this past weekend.  I sold a good amount of the kids old summer clothes and found some good deals for this upcoming summer.  I also found a second monkey "backpack".  Now the kids have matching ones and they want to wear them ALL THE TIME.  I took the tails/leash off and let them wear them around the house, around the house, in the store, everywhere.  I also found this adorable (rediculous?) strawberry skirt for Summerlin.  She loves it.  Check out her fashion style.
Side note - this is the third pair of pants I put on her this morning.  The first two were too short.  I also just realized two pairs of shoes are too small.  She was off the charts in height at her 15 month appointment a month ago.  Why is she still growing?!  If she grows much more before summertime, she'll be wearing her brother's old 2T clothes.  I am not putting out anymore money on winter clothing for her.

 These next few images were actually taken by Jackson!  Not bad for a 2 1/2 year old!

Lovin' on her baby.
 Not quite, but still cute.
 Another good one.