Friday, November 30, 2012

My therapy

Rhythm soothes us all.  Babies are calmed by rocking or patting on their bottoms.  Rhythm to our days gives us grounding and stability.  The steady beat of music is soothing. 

My rhythm of choice is running.  Nothing calms my mind more than than a good steady run.  When life becomes more than I can take, the greatest therapy I know is hitting the pavement. 

My irrational thoughts become rationalized.  My impulses are calmed.  My problems find solutions.  Thoughts come into my head and the steady beat of my feet on the ground smoothes them into polished ideas. 

When I don't have enough of the steady beating of my feet on the pavement, the hard things become harder.  Running is my time for meditation.  I need the space of the open road and the quiet of my thoughts - no double jogging stroller, no dog.  I become so wrapped up in my thoughts that the running itself becomes effortless.  Mile after mile passes without much notice.  I just go until everything has been reflected upon and all my thoughts are organized.  Then I stop - no more, no less than needed.

Running is my therapy.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Advent Adventures

It's almost December, which means it's almost time for our family to begin our advent activities for the second year.  Since last year, I have discovered pinterest - meaning I have been gathering ideas all year!  That helped with the initial planning, but now that the time is upon us, I'm realizing if I want this to go smoother than last year, it's time to pull out my teacher's skills and PLAN PLAN PLAN.  There were quite a few days that I threw together at the last minute last year.  I don't like doing activities with the kids that way.  It makes them too stressful.

So, this year I have lists of the activity for each day, complete with all directions and supply lists.  My plan is to organize each day into it's own hanging folder in a file box tomorrow - go ahead and do all the cutting, sorting, etc that goes with some of the crafts.  But, I also have three tier baby shower cake to decorate, a million things to do to get our house ready to sell (yes, we are selling the house - I will blog more about that soon), and two kids to love on.  There's a good chance, this is as far as I will get with the ahead of time planning...but I can always hope.

Several friends and family have asked for ideas and what we're doing.  Here it is, complete with links to pintrest when applicable.
1 - Decorate large paper trees.  Today the kids used green water colors on a large sheet of watercolor paper.  I will cut each sheet into a tree shape and let them go crazy with markers, glitter, sequins, etc.  I think buttons would look better, but I haven't created a large button collection for them to create with at this point.
2 - Salt Dough Ornaments.  I'm using this recipe for the dough, but we're cutting out a variety of shapes and let the kids paint with acrylic paint after they are baked.
3 - Christmas movie and/or hot chocolate
4 - Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments for Christmas Mobile.  Here's the recipe.  I'm not following all of Martha's directions...we're just cutting out Christmas shapes and hanging them on the mobiles we used last year for our gingerbread ornaments.
5 - Angel Tree gift shopping.  Pick up a tag, shop for a kid.
6 - St. Nicholas Celebration.  I picked this idea up from a friend.  Here is a link to what she did last year.  I also found more info here and here.  I also purchased a few books on St. Nicholas that we have begun reading so the kids are familiar with him and his story.  We will make cookies using the recipe in one of the books, read a story, leave letters and gifts for him, and the kids will put their shoes outside (or maybe just in a window).  I'll fill the shoes with something special, but I don't know what it will be yet - maybe something crafty.
7 - Pinecone Christmas Trees.  Easy enough.
8 - Wool Felt Garland.  My ideas came from here.  We might make our own felt balls for the experience of learning felting, but there's a good chance we will just restring a bowl of felt balls I have which used to hang from the reading nook ceiling.
9 - Christmas pancakes.  Add green and red sprinkles to the batter for fun-fetti pancakes and pour into metal cookie cutters (i.e. cheap pancake molds) when cooking. 
10 - Snowflake ornamentsPopsicle sticks, glitter, and decorations.  Should be a huge mess that resembles snowflakes in no way.
11 - Handprint Christmas tree cards.  Cute.
12 - Local Festival of Lights.  I'm assuming teachers still get a free pass.
13 - Waffle cone Christmas Trees.  I'm planning to make a gingerbread house.  They get to make a forest to surround it.  Good and messy.
14 - Handprint hand towels.  Hoping for the best on this one.
15 - Reindeer thumbprint cards.   So cute.
16 - Make soap for gifts.  This was a huge hit with Mannchen last year.  The soap came in the mail the other day and he's asked everyday since to make it.  This year we adding scents and herbs to both goat's milk soap and castile soap.  Link to the article my friend wrote on how and where to get supplies.
17 - Decorate gift bags.  I have stamps, stickers, and markers for the kids to decorate plain white bags with and we will put homemade gifts in them for friends and family.
18 - Write a letter to Santa.  Good time to remind them about the spirit of Christmas and to remind them of St. Nicholas.  I want to set the tone now that you only ask Santa for one thing.  This isn't a time to be greedy.  It's a time to be thankful for all we do have and to share our love and blessings with others. 
19 - Visit Santa at Bass Pro Shop.  There's a ton of activities for the kids to do - games, crafts, and of course see Santa.  This will be our kids' first visit to Santa.  We tried last year, but he was on his dinner break.  It was probably for the better.
20 - Make pinecone birdfeeders.  We collected large pine cones at the Noland trail awhile ago.  We coat them in crisco and roll them in a large pan of birdseed.  You can also use peanut butter, but we don't due to Mannchen's allergies.  Tie a ribbon to them and hang them from an easily visible tree.
21 - Watch a Christmas movie and/or hot chocolate.
22 - Decorate Sugar Cookies.  I make the cookies ahead of time.  The kids get to have a blast with icing and sprinkles.  We may make a few other types of cookies, but time will tell.
23 - Take a night walk to look at lights.  Load the kids up in the double jogger and walk or run the neighborhood after dark.
24 - Open an early gift!  The gift will be special mugs, hot chocolate, Christmas PJs (maybe...if I get the chance to make them), and a new Christmas book (The Polar Express).  Enjoy a quiet family evening together.
 Then it's CHRISTMAS!!!!

We are really trying to play on the spirit of Christmas and the true meaning of the holiday and minimize the Santa/gifts part of the season.  Our kids are each getting only one gift from "Santa" this year in addition to their stockings - this is something I intend to keep up for years to come.  We feel that Christmas has become too focused on "getting" and we want this to be a special time of year because of what we do together and with/for others.  I'm sure it's only a matter of time before they start to pick up more from outside influences, but for now that is our hope.

Please let me know if any of the links don't work.  What are some special activities you do to celebrate?  Please share!

Merry Christmas!!! 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sweet Töchterchen

Dear Töchterchen,

You're two now.  And you're fabulous.  Just the way you are.  You are smart, sassy, beautiful, confident, and undeniably headstrong.  While some of those qualities make it a little more difficult to parent you, I pray that they will pay off BIG time for you in the long run.  Each and every one of them makes you you.  And YOU are so easy to love you for who you are, just the way you are.

A year ago I was struggling to deal with you turning one.  I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that I was losing my baby as you transitioned into toddlerhood.  But this past year with you has been so much fun.  You are becoming an independent little lady with strong opinions and great ideas.  Most days, nobody tells you what to do.  Your daddy and I pray you keep that up in your teen years.  You are a smart one - no denying that.  I can't wait to see what the next year with you brings.  I can't wait to start hearing all your thoughts and ideas.  Your language skills are developing with each passing day and it's so exciting to hear more and more of what's going on in that pretty little head of yours.

You love your babies and we constantly refer to you as a "little mommy".  You feed them, tuck them in with you at night, love to have us change their clothes, but I think your favorite is pushing them around in your stroller.  You love tea parties, Cinderella, and playing in your kitchen.  You're starting to love books.  Having you snuggle up in my lap is one of the best parts of being your mama.  You know your colors - your favorites are pink and purple.  Mannchen taught you how to count to three.  Many days it comes out as "Three, two, one, two, one, two, one, three....", but I know you're getting there and I'm amazed that you know all you do.  With each week you become more focused on the details of your life - you like to make decisions and do as much as you can on your own.  You are tough as shit.  Pardon my language, but girl, you are TOUGH.  I feel sorry for anyone that comes up against you in sports.  You love to help me in the kitchen.  The trickiest part about having you help cook is you want to taste as much as possible while we're making it.  Right now one of your chores is to set the table.  I love that you know who gets which plate, fork, etc.  You are loud and you think it's hilarious.  You love to pretend you don't understand just to see how much you can get away with, but your daddy and I have caught on to your tricks.  And now that you're also understanding consequences you've learned that it's better to listen than get in trouble.

I hope that you are always as confident in yourself and your body as you are when you do the "naked dance" to that obnoxious singing dinosaur each night before bathtime. Now, let me be clear - that in NO way means you should flaunt or put your body on display. I just wish for you that you always accept and love yourself. You are beautiful and I hope you never fail to see that in yourself. You aren't beautiful because of what you wear or how your hair is fixed. Even when you're grown you will always be more beautiful to me first thing in the morning with your hair a mess than when you're all fixed up with make-up on. You are beautiful because you are beautiful. You are beautiful because you are confident, smart, and ours. Your daddy and I honestly believe there has never been a more gorgeous Töchterchen. Even when you're going through that awkward puberty stuff, you will still be number one in our eyes. I hope you will always see it too.

Sometimes I like to think about what my grandmother would think of you. You are named in her honor.  She was known to the family as the "Queen". In that regard, you're living up to her in everyway. You certainly try to rule this roost. I think she would admire your spunk and whit - but I also think she would have met her match in you and may have been interesting to see. I wish you could have known her.

I consider myself the luckiest mama in the world because you are my daughter (and your brother is my son).  You are the sweetest baby girl.  Your hugs and kisses make my days brighter.  Your smile makes this world a better place and your laughter brightens the gloomiest days.  When I see you and your brother playing sweetly or snuggling in your new (to you) big girl bed, my heart melts.  I know that what I'm seeing in front of me is what life is all about.  You two may fight like cats and dogs at times, but mostly you're best buds.

When your daddy and I peak in on you sleeping you look like an angel.  To us, you are and will always be our baby girl and one of life's greatest blessings.  We love you so much sweet Töchterchen.

Happy 2nd birthday Töchterchen

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Little bit of catch up

It's been busy around always.

The kids went to my parents' house for a week before Halloween.  I thought I could conquer the world in that week...only to realize that even though I had more time without the kids around, I am still not Superwoman.  So I had to settle for "only" accomplishing having the most immaculately clean house in the world (or at least in the past three years since JB was born - three years of dirt in some of those nooks and crannies, is a lot of dirt); two 60 year old windows stripped of old cracked glazing and prepped for new, fresh glazing (but no time to actually glaze them - btw "glazing" is the stuff that goes around each individual pane of glass that weatherproofs the window on the exterior side); and one wedding cake, one Elmo cake, one Halloween birthday cake, and two regular ol' "Happy Birthday" cake cakes.  We also went to two weddings over the weekend the kids were gone and one was up in Northern VA.  Wow.  I'm tired just thinking back on how much work I put in that week...and crazy me thought I could do even more.  I had hoped to finish the windows, strip and repaint our bottom cabinets, start on Summerlin's quilt, and make a wedding gift for one of the weddings we attended....and maybe, just maybe, tear out our old carpet and refinish the hardwood floors.  Ohh how I make myself laugh. 

The kids got home the Monday before Halloween and I had to rush to get their costumes made on time.  Thankfully they weren't anything elaborate and came together quite easily.  Jackson was a firefighter.  Anyone who knows him shocked about that one?  Summerlin was a fairy princess...or something like that.  Basically she had on a tutu, carried a wand, and wore as much flower/pink/purple/girly stuff as we could put together.  The only answer I could get from her on a costume was that she wanted it to be pink and purple.  We accomplished that for sure. 

The following weekend was CNU's Homecoming football game.  We tailgated and went to the game.  It was a blast.  We were impressed with CNU's tailgating experience.  Justin's best buds since childhood came down and so did his parents.  It was a full house and totally worth it.  Plus, Grandparents = free professional babysitters during the game. 

Last Wednesday evening we left for Blacksburg again for a long weekend, including going to the Tech vs. FSU football game.  After tailgating at Tech, maybe CNU's one small parking lot wasn't so gigantic...  My mom's younger brothers also came into town with their combined six boys for the weekend.  Some of my cousins are far closer in age to my children than me - kinda funny to think about sometimes!  Jackson absolutely loved playing with them and they were incredibly sweet and gentle with our kids.  I was so impressed.  They played with play-doh, Mr. Potato Head, Candy Land, and had a huge wrestling match on the living room floor to conclude the evening.  I hope we can see them more often!

While we were at my parents' Jackson realized he can peddle a bike.  Summerlin realized she can climb out of a crib.  One is awesome.  The other not so much.  Once we got home, Justin put away her crib and moved one of the twin beds from Jackson's room into Summerlin's room.  Our hope is that after the holidays, we can move them into the same room.  We tried it in May and it was way too much party, not enough sleep.  Hopefully, once Summerlin is used to sleeping in a twin bed, she will be able to handle sharing a room.  She was way too young when we tried before and all she did was play and run around for hours.  Just this afternoon I peaked in on her and she had thrown everything off her bed, packed a bag full of PJs to go to "Ruth's house" (that's what the kids call my mom), and added two skirts under her dress and a pair of pants.  It was a lovely outfit.  Finally she did settle down and nap, but it didn't happen as quickly as I had hoped.  It never does.

 Oh crap, forgot to mention.  Summerlin turned two.  Wow, what a fabulous mom I am.  That's a pretty fabulous milestone.  Ironically, since turning two she has become much milder mannered, listens better, and is INCREDIBLY sweet.  I'm starting to think she just likes to buck expectations.  You've gotta watch that one, trust me on that.  She's going to do great things in life, I know it.

There you go.  Our last several weeks in a nutshell.