Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween 2010

This year was a different Halloween for us. Usually what happens is that we Trick-or-Treat at Matt's work (and get a ton of candy) and then go Trick-or-Treating at local businesses (again, tons more candy). Matt and I never dress up, mostly because we're too lazy.

But this year? Matt and I found easy costumes to wear, which we donned when we went to a Halloween potluck on Saturday and we also went door-to-door Trick-or-Treating tonight. I must say, I liked this year so much better. There wasn't so much candy that we had to invoke the candy fairy to get rid of it. Which is good, for the candy fairy, because the candy fairy hadn't gotten anything to replace the candy with this year.

Iris scooping out the pumpkin guts.

Working on the pumpkins.


Iris dressed as Junie B. Jones on Saturday. I have no idea what she was doing in this picture, but it is hilarious!
Eloise as batman on Saturday.

This is the only picture of me dressed up. I added a fanny pack and an obnoxious brimmed hat. Also? You can't see my Tevas with black socks. I was an obnoxious tourist. Sadly, this was the only picture of me in semi-costume.
Junie B. Jones and Batman on Halloween.

Junie B. Jones on Halloween.
Junie B. Jones Trick-or-Treating. We decided to go up to the girls' aunt and uncle's neighborhood, which is, if I may, a wealthy area of Seattle full of mansions-- many of which were super decked out for Halloween. It was so much to go check it out this year! Hundreds of kids in the streets. Last said last year they had about 1,000 trick-or-treaters!

The girls' aunt and uncle live in house with several other people. They, and I suspect many other friends, made their house in to "Zombies Inc" this year. They went ALL out! The premise was that they were selling zombies to do different jobs, like maids, groundskeepers, nannies. There were a bunch of zombies lurking around and then the salespeople selling them. And below is the girls' uncle, who was protesting these zombies, because they took jobs away from real humans.
Here is a shot of their house from the outside. When we went up to it the first time there were a few zombies around and some had arranged with families who were there to have the zombies run up and grab their kid and run off with him/her. We witnessed one of these, which was hilarious from my point of view, but it scared Eloise so much she started sobbing. We had to avoid the zombie house after that!
Another house on our trick-or-treating route.
Here we have the infamous "vagina pumpkin". The anatomy in question is the circle at the very bottom. The story behind it is that Eloise asked Matt to carve a butt and a "peachy" (her made-up word for vagina) in to it. Before Matt got to work, he decided to ask Eloise to draw a picture on the pumpkin of the "peachy" so that he could cut it out. She drew a small circle, and voila, it became the vagina pumpkin!
And here is Iris's pumpkin.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pumpkin Patch

Every year I think we should go to a pumpkin patch, it often ends up being fun, but a lot of work. Being that we live in Seattle, going to a pumpkin patch often means a drive of 45 minutes or more. But we loaded up the kids after Iris got done with school and took off. The place we went, which we had never been to before, was pretty mediocre. Not many pumpkins left, but lots of old farm machinery for Eloise to climb on (Iris was terrified).


One of these years we'll find the best one to go to. One that isn't a ton of money but still has a few fun things to do, isn't too far away, and one we can go to during the week when it's not too crowded. Is that too much to ask?


Without further ado, our afternoon in pictures:

What are they looking at?

Oink!

Trying out the wheelbarrows. After struggling with it for a little bit, Eloise declared, "I'm a real farmer!"
Tractors on the farm.

Iris found a keeper.
Eloise the farmer.

Smaller than the wheels.

The fearless climber.


Trying out the machinery just once.

Welcome!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Spoiled

I am getting spoiled this week. My husband is taking the week off of work to just spend time around the house. After all of the travelling he has done this month, it's nice to have him home to take some of the load off of me!

Today I painted the downstairs hallway and stairwell. Before I painted it was a sort of dirty white from when it was remodelled last summer. I made a big push to get some more important parts of the house painted last fall and never got around to that hallway-- but today, finally, I did it. Or I should say, painted most of it. I seem to have a curse of never having *quite* enough paint to finish a job. I am crossing my fingers that I can get the paint store to mix a close enough match so I can get the rest of the stairwell done soon.

My sights are set on the bathroom, now. I wasn't going to paint the bathroom because we are "going to remodel" it (AKA at some point when finances allow, including never, we plan to add a bathtub to our bathtub-less house) so I didn't want to invest time or money in to it. But now the bathroom is filled with patched up walls and I will have an extra gallon of paint, so why not? Along those lines, what is a good paint color for a bathroom? The only thing we have to go on is our chocolate brown and slate blue towels.
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In other news, there is some potentially VERY good news on the horizon for our family, something that will be extremely good for us all, so cross your fingers. I'm not at liberty to mention it until it happens, but hope to be able to celebrate soon!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Eloise-isms

Eloise has a knack for using the things I say against me.

For example, we'll be at the store and she will be holding something she can't have, like maybe candy. She will look at me and say "can I have one of these or two of these, which is it?" Totally the whole "give your kids a choice" thing biting me in the butt.

Tonight Eloise was working on an art project and really wanted me to get the large roll of paper down for her, but it was nearing bedtime, so I said no. She said "I am going to finish this card and when I look up, I want to see that roll of paper" in TOTAL seriousness. Of course, she added "or I'm going to hit you!" (which I hope goes without saying that I have never and would never say to my girls). I've definitely told the girls that I am going to do X and when I come back, I want to see the playroom cleaned up, or something along those lines.

When Eloise wants something, she asks for it in a way that no isn't one of the answers, which is exactly what I do to her. Have you ever heard the theory that you shouldn't say to your kids "can you please get your shoes on?" because you are giving them the chance to say "no". Instead you need to say something like "please put on either the red shoes or the blue shoes" which gives them a choice to make (kids like choices!), but one of them isn't to not do it at all. So anyways, always turning it against me, that little rascal!

Friday, October 22, 2010

How to parent when you feel like crap?

I am really looking for ideas here, because I'm totally at a loss. I have some random health issues that sometimes surface, leave me feeling physically like I need to curl up in to a ball and hide and mentally like I can't handle even opening my eyes, let alone be super mom.

Today was one of those days. My girls were both home from school, which they are every Friday. I was wanting to be alone. The day turned in to one of A LOT of tv time and the time that we weren't watching tv was spent with Iris being extremely jerky and me being extremely jerky right back. I said things I didn't want to. I sent her to her room because I couldn't deal with her.

I don't have the kind of children who can always "play nice" when they have my undivided attention and it really unravels when I simply need them not fight, and find something to do to occupy their time for even half and hour without needing me. I tell them "I'm not feeling good, I need you to play alone for a little while so I can rest" and it doesn't matter.

It's so frustrating.

I need some more proactive ideas.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How far we've come

The weirdest thing happened to me today. I received a reply to an email I sent 15 months ago. That has to be some sort of record, right?

15 months ago, in July of 2009, I emailed a family therapist who came highly recommended to me by a very close friend who was in a masters program to become a marriage and family therapist herself.

I rattled off a decent length email outlining what our struggles were with our daughters, who were just five and almost three, and asked if she could help us.

This is what I wrote about the girls (which I came to see again from her replying to my email):

Iris seems to be sooo angry alot of the time. It feels like almost anything that someone does or says she can take as an attack against her and she screams, hits, throws things, scratches, calls names. The worst of her rage gets directed at her sister, whom she has already given a black eye, almost knocked out her two front teeth, given numerous scratches and just yesterday she knocked her down in the wading pool and sat on her, keeping her head under the water until her father got her off. That was by far the scariest thing we've seen her do.

Eloise seems to be following in her sister's foot steps. She is already calling names, hitting, throwing things, etc. She is completely fearless and will run away from us and not stop unless we catch up to her.


When I read this, it all vividly comes rushing back to me. How awful and hard that all was. But it's truly amazing how different my girls are now. They are by no means perfect, but have grown and matured in countless ways.

I think the biggest struggle we have with Iris still is her hurting her sister-- but it's gotten to be so it's once or twice a week, not five times a day. And it's shoving, hitting, nothing terrifying, but stuff we're working on. Eloise has gone from hitting/pushing/name calling as her primary mode of communication (or at least, so it seemed) to by and large relying more on words to get her message across. Again, not perfect-- just yesterday she hit a child at dance class-- but I couldn't even tell you the last time I saw her do that.

This email was such an amazing reminder. I get terribly bogged down with worry over my children's misbehavior and don't often enough recognize the good, or how hard they have worked or how far they have come.

ETA: D'oh! I completely forgot to mention what was up with the late reply. The therapist basically said her email system was wonky and she didn't discover the lost messages until now. She replied to apologize and to wish us well. It was extremely sweet.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The cost of a garden

I have touched a bit in the past on the vegetable/flower gardens that my friends over at Hobo Mama have spear-headed in our yard. The process of talking about it, deciding where to put it (we literally started with a completely garden bed-free portion of our lawn), buying plants and starting seeds, staking out the garden beds, killing the grass, buying the lumber, building the raised beds, filling the beds with soil, planting in the beds, watering the beds . . . . and then really, all told, not a whole heck of a lot of eating out of the beds. It was a rough year for tomatoes in Seattle, so most of those were a wash. We did get some cucumbers, a few peppers, a nice amount of zucchini, some peas and some gorgeous flowers. There are still some pumpkins out there, too.

It was also a lot of work. I'm exhausted just thinking about it and truth be told, I didn't even do most of it. There was a tremendous amount of labor investment in this garden, but also a financial one. There were some things that were purchased this year that won't need to be again for a while (some by my family, but not most), but some that are recurring every year. Imagine my surprise when I opened our water bill from this month and noticed that it dropped almost $120 from watering the gardens less over the past few weeks. I had no idea how much the cost was of just water for those suckers. Truth be told we probably could have bought an entire fruit stand worth of vegetables for what we all put in to it.

That said, I love the garden beds. They are right outside our kitchen window and every time I am in the kitchen, without fail, I look outside and feel so happy that they are there. They are incredibly beautiful, even as things are dying out for the year.

I know that if my friends want to do the gardens again next year (they'll have a brand new baby after all!) then I am all for it. But if they don't, I'm not sure what we'll do. I enjoy the beauty, and want to enjoy the theoretical bounty, but am not sure that the time and financial investment is worth it.

I am curious if anyone else has struggled with this with regards to their own gardens? Is the pay-out worth the investment?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pictures!

I have seriously slacked in the way of not only posting pictures on the blog, but in taking them, period.

Every year I make a photo calendar for family of pictures of the girls throughout the year. A picture I take in any given month will end up in next year's calendar in the corresponding month. This morning I freaked out, realizing I have not taken NEARLY enough pictures to fill an entire calendar this coming December. Eek! Going to have to improvise, I guess.

Without further ado, here's some pictures from today. We went up to the north end of Seattle to visit an old favorite park of ours.


Iris is clearly happy to be there.
This is the stairs off of the bridge that lead over the railroad tracks. I think today is the first time I've ever walked on them and not felt like I was going to have a panic attack or have one of my children plummet in to the abyss below. If you can't tell, the stairs are a grate.

Iris looks for interesting finds on the beach.
Drawing in the sand with seashells.

I'm a dork. I love seagulls. They remind me of my childhood, growing up sailing each summer and spending time on the shores of Lake Michigan. Here's my artsy-fartsy shot of these three seagulls.

These seagulls were perfectly content to hang out on the beach . . .

Until my kids came along.

Iris as a seagull. Convincing, no? I think we have Halloween covered!

I love this picture. Perfectly sums up Eloise.

It should be noted that Eloise is wearing tennis shoes.


If you're in the Seattle area and have never been, you should go check out Carkeek Park. The playground is lovely, my girls adore the "fish slide" (literally a giant cement fish that you slide down through the middle of) and the beach is so fun. If you can go at low-tide, all the better.
Honestly, exploring this beach (not the time today, it should be noted) with my girls is what first gave me the idea that I could home school them. It was the first time I really, I mean really just watched their curiosity go as they explored the world.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I Want.

I was just reading a blog, which lead me to another blog, which lead me to an online store that sold the coolest things for kids. For example:

Blank board books.


And then blank comic books.




And THEN blank puzzles!

I just love stuff like this, though we don't have much of it. Of course, my girls still make piles of books every week simply by stapling paper together, but I like the idea of something a bit more durable.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Taking the Time


Welcome to the October Carnival of Natural Parenting: Staying Centered, Finding Balance



This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they stay centered and find balance. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


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In October, those of us in the Carnival of Natural Parenting were asked to write about how we stay centered and balanced as an attachment parent. I have to admit, I am so glad to be at the spot I am to write this post.

My girls are six and four. They both breastfed until they were just past their third birthday. Until we moved in to our current house a little over a year ago, I had been co-sleeping full-time (and doing all of the night-wakings) with one or both of my children since Iris was born (so that would be five total years if you don't care to do the math yourself). My children were parented to sleep every night of their lives, which is to say, we never shut the door and let them scream. We still parent them to sleep these days, but it's much less work on our end.


I'm also a stay-at-home mom. I have been since just before Eloise's birth (so about 4 1/2 years now). I'm in the trenches day in and day out with my girls. I prefer to think I'm an available, loving, giving, caring, nuturing parent. So let's hope when my girls look back on their childhoods 10-20-50 years from now, they'll also agree. Being an attached parent carries in to our girls' school age years by always having a parent home for them.

In addition to being a stay-at-home mom, my husband often works long hours and travels quite a bit for his job. It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I ever paid someone to help with my girls while he was gone.

So all of this to justify what I'll say next: I get a heck of a lot of "me" time. The largest chunk of me time I get right now is because my children are both in school at the same time 12 hours a week. Admittedly, I use that time to run errands and do other general household management duties, but some of it, certainly enough of it, is time for just me. I swim laps. I have coffee, in a coffee shop, sometimes even with friends. I write. A LOT. I eat lunch in peace. I watch tv.

When my husband gets home at night 99% of the time he jumps right in to play with the girls. More than half of the time he puts them to bed. If I ever have something I need (or, really, want) to do at night, my husband is there to be with the girls so I can go do it.

We didn't get here overnight. Things were rough for a while, I wondered if I would ever see the light of day again. Looking back, the time didn't seem as long as it felt when I was in the middle of it.

My husband and I still very, very rarely get dates alone together, but eventually, when we have a little extra in our budget, we will do that more. For now, he gets his basketball time and time to go out to see live music whenever he wants and I get the time I need. It keeps us happy and helps a great deal with our stress levels.

To be honest, I'm pretty nervous about how I will manage to find as much "me" time once we start homeschooling, but we'll figure it out. Likely the money we save on school tuition will afford us other things, like the ability to hire babysitters a bit more often. We'll see.




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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!


Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


(This list will be updated October 12 with all the carnival links.)


  • Balance — Sheila at A Gift Universe has put her baby first — and has no regrets. (@agiftuniverse)


  • A Moment for Mama — Starr at Earth Mama has learned how to recharge on the run, so she doesn't miss a moment with her children.


  • Take a 30-Minute or 5-Minute Me-Break — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now discusses the merits of taking small daily breaks to maintain balance. (@DebChitwood)

  • Achieving Balance — In a guest post at the new Natural Parents Network, Heather explains how yoga has helped her find balance in her personal and family life. (@NatParNet)


  • A Stitch in (Quiet) Time Saves Momma’s Mind — Joni Rae at Tales of a Kitchen Witch Momma didn't realize she needed "me" time — until she got it and had no idea what to do with herself. (@kitchenwitch)

  • Attachment Parenting and Balance — Michelle at The Parent Vortex believes that the last item on the "attachment parenting" list is both the most important and the most overlooked. (@TheParentVortex)


  • Little Breaks Bring a Little Balance — Jen at Grow with Graces finds balance - some days! (@growwithgraces)

  • Finding Balance — Are you a Type A mama? Dionna at Code Name: Mama is, and she needs your help to find balance. (@CodeNameMama)

  • (high)Centered — Stefanie at Very, Very Fine has had a spa gift certificate sitting on her nightstand since last year, a symbol of her inability to take time for herself.

  • Taking Time for Me — Marita at Stuff With Thing takes refuge in the world of books, with her daughters immersed in reading beside her. (@leechbabe)

  • Writing as a parent: October Carnival of Natural Parenting — Lauren at Hobo Mama didn't let parenting put her passions on hold. (@Hobo_Mama)


  • The Dance of Balance — Balance isn't static. It is dynamic, it is a dance, it is about keeping in touch with you. Read this wonderful bit of wisdom from Seonaid at the Practical Dilettante. (@seonaid_lee)

  • Rest Hour - a Primer — Do you get 15 minutes to yourself each day? How about an hour?! Mrs. H. at Fleeting Moments shares her tips on how to incorporate a "rest hour" for adults and kids.


  • Separation Is Critical — Only through enforced separation with the end of her marriage did Jessica at This is Worthwhile realize she should have taken time apart all along. (@tisworthwhile)

  • Bread, Roses, and a Side of Guilt. — Betsy at Honest 2 Betsy isn't ashamed to admit that she enjoys a pint once in awhile, or that her daughter recreates it during pretend play.

  • The World from Within My Arms — Rachael at The Variegated Life finds balance despite her work and her husband's commitment to art through attachment parenting. (@RachaelNevins)

  • Balancing the Teeter-Totter — Rebecca is rediscovering balance by exploring her interests and passions in several different categories. She shares in this guest post at The Connected Mom. (@theconnectedmom)


  • Balancing this Life — Danielle at born.in.japan is slowly learning the little tricks that make her family life more balanced. (@borninjp)


  • Uninterrupted Parenting — Amy at Innate Wholeness has learned that she does not need to interrupt parenting in order to find balance.


  • Knitting for My Family — Knitting is more than just a hobby for Kellie at Our Mindful Life, it is her creative and mental outlet, it has blessed her with friendships she might not otherwise have had, and it provides her with much-needed balance.

  • Taking the Time — Sybil at Musings of a Milk Maker has all the time she needs, now her girls are just a bit older.


  • Please, Teach Me How — Amy at Anktangle needs your help: please share how you find time for yourself, because she is struggling. (@anktangle)

  • A Pendulum Swings Both Ways — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment found herself snapping with too little time for herself, and then veered toward too much.


  • Finding Balance Amidst Change — It took a season of big changes and added responsibility, but Melodie of Breastfeeding Moms Unite! now feels more balanced and organized as a mama than ever before. (@bfmom)


  • At Home with Three Young Children: The Search for Balance, Staying Sane — With three young kids, Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings knows parents sometimes have to adjust their expectations of how much downtime they can reasonably have. (@sunfrog)

  • Attachment Parenting? And finding some "Me Time" — As a mother who works full time, Momma Jorje wants "me" time that includes her daughter.

  • A Balancing Act — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes has concrete ways to help keep centered with a little one and a new baby on the way, from exercise to early bedtimes to asking for help. (@sheryljesin)

  • Aspiring Towards Libra — Are your soul-filling activities the first to be pushed aside when life gets hectic? Kelly of KellyNaturally.com aspires to make time for those "non-necessities" this year. (@kellynaturally)


  • SARKisms for Sanity — Erica at ChildOrganics has found renewed inspiration to take baths and laugh often from a book she had on the shelf. (@childorganics)


  • Thursday, October 07, 2010

    Not Joking Around

    I wrote last Spring about the elimination diet that I went through and, eventually, how I discovered a sensitivity to gluten. From that time until now I have gone through many stages of grief over losing gluten from my life-- most of them involved trying to "sneak" gluten back in, just to, you know, see if anybody notices.

    At first I could eat a little here and there, even as much as a small slice of pizza or a triangle of quesadilla or a few crackers. My body wasn't happy, but mostly it just grumbled a little bit. I eventually got serious about things and stayed away from gluten for a few weeks. Then I ate a few noodles and BOOM I was in pain within a couple of hours. The same pain I had always felt when I ate gluten, only times 100. I got the message that time, and backed slooooowly away from the things I so love to eat.

    Then, yesterday, I eyed up the freshly re-heated slice of Papa Murphy's pizza I made for Eloise. I got weak in the knees, and weak in the constitution. I lifted it to my lips, and took a teeny bite. No harm done, I thought, and put it back down. Fast forward two hours and holy dear god in heaven. I had never felt so awful in all my life. The same pain, only times 1000. I ended up dragging the girls to the store, past their bedtime, so that I could stock up on more Pepto-Bismal and ginger tea. Luckily, those things both helped.

    I could barely eat anything the rest of the day yesterday. I could barely eat anything today. The pain subsided for most of the day but came came back with avengence about the same time I picked up the girls from school. I spent the rest of the afternoon curled up in a ball on the couch being a b-i-t-c-h to my girls, who didn't deserve my attitude at all. I definitely turn in to a meany when I'm feeling like death warmed over.

    All over one little bite of gluten. Yikes. You could say I've learned my lesson on this one.

    Sunday, October 03, 2010

    One of THOSE days

    Oh my. What a long, long day. It was just me and the girls, which is normally really fun and lovely and great and we have a good time. Not today, so I'm going to whine about it here.

    Today was a day where my children couldn't remember any of the agreements we have in our house. Where, no matter how times I asked/told/yelled they simply wouldn't (or couldn't) do as I asked. Eating/coloring on the couch. Spilling coffee on the couch. Fighting with each other. Refusing to eat any fruits/vegetables. Doing exactly the opposite of what I asked at the swimming pool (walking feet? How about RUNNING feet? Wait until the coast is clear before jumping in? How about jumping right on top of people? etc etc).

    We went to the park. Here's what I sounded like "Iris, please throw the ball in THIS direction for the dog." She throws it towards the playground. "Iris, I need you to throw the ball away from the playground." She throws it the same way again. I tell her she can't throw the ball if she isn't listening. An eerily similar conversation ensued over about 12 other things this afternoon.

    I kept saying "will you please just STOP?!?!" all day. It was so infuriating and frustrating. Sometimes when things are hard, I get the time to recoup before something else happens. Not today.

    Add to this to the fact that Eloise was on another of her crying jags today. Those are the days when she spends an indecent amount of time just crying. And crying. And crying. And it sounds really sad, right? But after the second or third hour you're just begging for it to stop. I don't doubt that she is genuinely sad, but she's not physically hurting and life truly isn't being that unkind to her. So it's just tiring. The last thing she cried about tonight was over wanting her hair to be shiny. Seriously.

    As I type this, Iris is pointing at the computer screen. I say, "please don't touch the computer screen." She says "okay" and then leans in and runs her finger along it. This, times a million, was my day.

    But tomorrow is a new day. Iris will be at school. Eloise will hopefully be over her issues with shiny hair. The world will be at peace again.