December 22, 2011

Pyogenic Granuloma

Even though this is a bit out of date, I wanted to post about S's latest health "issue". Kids have a way of helping you find out all about weird things you've never heard of or thought of before!

In August, S developed a little red spot on his right cheek, near his eye. You can just barely see it on the left side in this picture, taken August 6th. That little spot on the apple of his cheek. It was red, round and flat against his skin, not raised.

This was not too long after he began walking and was always running into stuff, falling, etc. Here is another shot, taken one week later, after he had fallen A LOT when we were in Maine, to demonstrate his pitiful state, and show the spot again. All that walking on uneven surfaces didn't work out for him. Poor kid. But you can see that the spot is still pretty small. I just thought that maybe he had spent too much time in the sun. Baby skin is sensitive, and we're pretty white anyway, so it was a definite possibility. So, I thought it best to wait and see if it would fade.









It stayed small for quite a while. By October first, it was a little larger, but not much. Here is another picture, for reference:
Another month went by and it was still growing slowly. People started to ask what was on his face. I was still reluctant to take him to the doctor. I've had far too many experiences at the doctor when other people have freaked out and I've gone down that "what if this is one of those things that is really serious and can only be caught early" thought road, but then when I see the doctor, they tell me it's nothing. So I waste lots of time, go through extra effort (that is usually tough on the kids in some way, because they've been cooped up in an office for over an hour, sometimes in a state of undress, waiting to be told to just go home and wait it out), spend money for the co-pay and get nothing in return. Anyway, I wanted to avoid that.

By November 18th, more than three months after the spot first appeared, it was getting a lot bigger.
You can kind of see it here. The spot was raised from the skin, red and kind of an imperfectly shaped circle. It looked like a red mole. Once it got to this point, I knew we should go in to the doctor. I would touch the spot to see how it felt or if it hurt S at all, but he never had any reaction. The spot was soft and fleshy and didn't seem like it had any fluid in it. But by this point I was ready to see the doctor about it. A growth that keeps getting bigger on the face of my 19-month-old was not a good thing!

Of course, this was the week before Thanksgiving and everything was crazy. We were preparing to leave for Ohio to visit family for a week, so I planned to get an appointment when we got home. I waited too long, however.

While in Ohio, the spot started getting larger and looking strained, like it was growing too fast and filling up. On Thanksgiving Day (naturally) I was cleaning S's face after he ate dessert and saw what looked like chocolate on the spot. I wiped it a little more and it started pouring blood! Not a fun thing to see on your baby! We rushed him to the bathroom, cleaned him up and fashioned a bandage to stop the bleeding and keep it covered. Takes a little finagling to make grown up gauze and tape fit a tiny face without getting in his eyes, covering his nose or getting too close to his mouth. Daddy held him while we opened presents (we do Christmas with my sister-in-law's family then since that's when we're all together) and S was pretty worn out and quiet for a while. He cried about the cleaning and bandaging, but I think it was mostly because he didn't want to be restrained and didn't quite understand.
By that night, the bleeding had already stopped and S had taken off the bandage. He had a scab at the bottom of the spot, where it had opened up, but there was still a pronounced bump remaining.
It was fine all day, but that night when I took his shirt off to change him into pajamas, it started bleeding again. We re-bandaged it with a band-aid and he left it on until the middle of the night. I put a new one on in the morning, to protect it, and all was fine until he woke up from his nap in the afternoon. I came in to get him when he was crying to find S covered in blood! Face, hair, hands, clothes, bed, etc. Another terrible site for a mother's eyes! Cleaned him up and kept him bandaged non-stop after that. It wasn't as easy to stop the bleeding anymore, but it was OK while covered. The bloody nap scene was repeated the next day, but thankfully that was also the day we were going back home.

I called the pediatrician in the car and got an appointment for the next morning. Had to find a baby-sitter for K next, because he freaks out whenever something is happening to his brother. It's very sweet how much he cares about S, actually. The triage nurse thought it was something that was essentially a bundle of veins that break the surface of the skin, but I can't remember the name she gave it.

The pediatrician didn't seem to know what it was when he saw it and referred us to a plastic surgeon. Because it was on S's face, they wanted someone with very specific skills to take care of it. We saw him that night and finally got a diagnosis: pyogenic granuloma. It is caused by some kind of injury, either surface or something that pierced the skin. Then the blood begins to pool in the area and increases. This is his face right after taking the bandage off to show the surgeon (on November 29, if you are keeping track of the timeline):


It had finally stopped bleeding (we had to keep changing the bandage and using a lot of gauze for two days before). You can see it was still raised, but this was honestly about 1/3 the size it was before it broke! The plastic surgeon had to shoot novocaine into S's cheek (definitely the worst part for S) to numb it. I held his body down, the nurse held his head, and the surgeon then cut the bump off with a scalpel and cauterized it with silver nitrate (which comes on a stick that looks like a large, gray tipped match). They put a band-aid on it and we were done!

S did so well with the whole thing! He cried, but didn't try to squirm away or really even fight against our restraint. I was so proud of him! He had also let the doctors and nurses remove and apply the bandages, look at his face and everything else that day with barely a peep. He had even left the bandages alone for most of the time we had them on over the few days. And this is a kid who won't leave a hat on for more than five seconds! God really protected him, and I think S figured out it was helping him to have the bandage. The doctor and nurse were impressed with him too and said he did better than most adults do! As soon as I lifted him up after the procedure, he calmed down and went back to normal. I was so thankful that he didn't seem too affected by the whole thing.

By December 3rd, he looked like this:
He had a little bruise near the area, and half of that redness is from the injection site for the novocaine.

Here is a shot from this past Sunday, when we went to the zoo:
Not a super close shot, but you can see that it is healing very well! We had the first follow up with the plastic surgeon, and the next (and last) one is January 12th. So far, so good.

From what I read online and what the doctor said, it is possible for something like this to happen again. At least now I know what it is and who to call. And, like my mom said, if your kids have to go through something medical, at least it was something pretty minor and fixable like this!

November 1, 2011

A fun little game

I did this little game on Facebook about a year and a half ago with K. I thought it would be fun to do it again now!


Ask your child(ren) to answer the questions and type their answers in.
Tag other moms with older kids who might have fun with this.

1. What is something mom always says to you?
 Be good.

2. What makes mom happy?
Doing nice things.

3. What makes mom sad?
I don't know.

4. How does your mom make you laugh?
 By doing her funny teeth face.

5. What was your mom like as a child?
 She liked unicorns.

6. How old is your mom?
How old are you? I just don’t know.

7. How tall is your mom?
I don’t know. These are hard questions!

8. What is her favorite thing to watch on TV?
 Football.

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?
 Play with Simon and do funny things with Simon.

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
 What does famous mean? I just can’t answer this one.

11. What is your mom really good at?
Taking care of us.

12. What is your mom not very good at?
 Taking very, very long walks.

13. What does your mom do for her job?
 Sending people letters.

14. What is your mom's favorite food
Olives. Candy.

15. What do you like about your mom?
How sweet you are. (Gives me a kiss.) And the soft of your cheeks.

16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
I don’t know. An old man.

17. What do you and your mom do together?
 Play games, play with each other, play with Simon.

18. How are you and your mom the same?
 The soft of our cheeks. We like candy just the same.

19. How are you and your mom different?
It’s because how my hair is and your hair is and how I don’t have glasses and you do and you have holes in your ears and I don’t.

20. How do you know your mom loves you?
It’s because I’m your son.

21. What does your mom like most about your dad?
Um, like, because he’s your husband.

22. Where is your mom's favorite place to go? 
 You like to go to your stores you want to go to. Starbucks.

October 26, 2011

Perfection

This is why Charles Dickens is amazing:

"Dombey sat in the corner of the darkened room in the great arm-chair by the bedside, and Son lay tucked up warm in a little basket bedstead, carefully disposed on a low settee immediately in front of the fire and close to it, as if his constitution were analogous to that of a muffin, and it was essential to toast him brown while he was very new.

"Dombey was about eight-and-forty years of age. Son about eight-and-forty minutes. Dombey was rather bald, rather red, and though a handsome well-made man, too stern and pompous in appearance, to be prepossessing. Son was very bald, and very red, an though (of course) an undeniably fine infant, somewhat crushed and spotty in his general effect, as yet. On the brow of Dombey, Time and his bother Care had set some marks, as on a tree that was to come down in good time-remorseless twins they are for striding through their human forests, notching as they go-while the countenance of Son was crossed and recrossed with a thousand little creases, which the same deceitful Time would take delight in smoothing out and wearing away with the flat part of his scythe, as a preparation of the surface for his deeper operations.

"Dombey, exulting in the long-looked-for event, jingled and giggled the heavy gold watch-chain that depended from below his blue trim coat, whereof the buttons sparkled phosphorescently in the feeble rays of the distant fire. Son, with his little fists curled up and clenched, seemed, in his feeble way, to be squaring at existence for having come upon him so unexpectedly."

                                                  ~The first three paragraphs of Dombey & Son

October 18, 2011

The Home School Thing

I mentioned earlier in the year our consideration of home schooling for K this year. A lot went into our decision and it was not an easy one! While I can be a pretty confident person, I also feel very uneasy about mothering (which I know is pretty common, or even universal, for most moms). There is so much to think about and worry about! Vaccinate or not? Protect or let them figure it out? Teach but also show. Give them space and say in life without letting them rule your life and getting entitled. And then there are all the things that you want to add in to give them a well rounded life that also reflects your personal beliefs. So you add sports and church and family events and cultural events and life lessons, etc, infinity. No wonder I always feel overwhelmed!

But to narrow in on one decision: the school thing. I wanted to visit the local public school before making my final choice, just so I knew what the alternative was and what to expect should any special circumstance arise that required K to go to school this year. The parents' open house was very informative. I liked the teachers and the facilities. They did a thorough job of telling and showing us what they were going to do with the kids. It seems like a very strong academic program. I didn't leave with any specific bad feelings and even felt they could do a very good job of teaching my son.

However, I did have some specific problems in terms of how well my child would fit there. First, the school day is eight hours long. For kindergarten. Apparently this is a new normal. It makes sense in a world where most kids have already spent the previous 4-5 years of their lives in daycare and/or preschool. But K has not been away from me for that long before. It sounds appealing, to be honest, to have a long break like that, but it would be VERY tough for him, and for me. Spending most of our time together to spending most days in school would be a major transition, one I wasn't sure he was ready for on multiple levels. Second, the academic aspect is a bit too restrictive. They expect kids to be reading by the time they are done with the year and they have a couple of standardized tests they are required to do for the year. For kindergarten. I'm all for high standards, but not that type of standard for children who, at that age, vary WIDELY in their abilities and readiness. Those were my main technical concerns.

My other motivating factors are social and emotional, and those two go together. K would be described as a social boy. He talks constantly, is always making new friends and wanting new friends. He loves new places and experiences and information. But he's also a bit of a mama's boy. As much as I don't want that, it's true. He's careful and nervous about doing new things, especially if he doesn't understand it and he has to do it without me to explain or ease him into it. His initial reaction to many things is fear and he hates going into things without knowing what is going to happen. He's making progress since he's done two years of swim lessons, junior farmers class, rugrats football, and more recently Tae Kwon Do, but he is very much still in the learning process.

When a kid goes to school, they are exposed to many new people all at once. And while socializing is a good thing in many ways, and a natural part of the maturation process, not all socialization is good. K is a very sensitive and intuitive kid. He has a lot of innocence left, in part because the way we live protects his age appropriate innocence. He doesn't watch adult shows, doesn't know what swearing is (I'm sure he's heard words once or twice, but has yet to repeat or call attention to it), he doesn't see or hear the news very often, and is in the dark on a few issues about people and the world that are better learned later in life. Now, there are many other kids whose parents have protected them as best they can from these kinds of things and who are great friends for him. But I do not feel at all confident that it would be the case with the majority of students in his school. In other words, I think K's innocence would be eroded too quickly by his classmates. Not completely because of willful desire by one child to hurt another kid (but there is always that possibility) but just a very different lifestyle. If we lived in a different place, I might make a different decision. Not sure.

In many ways, I think the decision to home school has very, very little to do with how "smart" the parents are. I have an education and love to learn, but I'm not a teacher. I haven't studied child psychology, teaching methods, etc. But I know my child. And I can learn. I want to teach K to love learning too. By showing him that all of life is learning, that "school" is not restricted to one building or one kind of book or one kind of person, he will hopefully embrace knowledge with open arms in whatever situations he finds himself in.

As for my part, I know that I am capable of teaching him. I do it every day without even trying, because he watches everything I do and asks a lot of questions. I feel confident about teaching the more "specific" stuff for this age because he's only 5. I know my letters, numbers, words, shapes, basic math, basic science. I can read, plan, look up and research. For now, I know that I can teach him all he needs to know and more, with maybe a few differences from what a school would show him, but still a pretty good education. I can help him slowly build more focus and ability to sit still, hopefully without breaking his spirit. At the end of the year, I plan to evaluate how things have gone and whether to continue on next year. It will definitely be a one year at a time situation for us because I go through weekly feelings of inadequacy, wondering whether I'm doing well and whether this is best for him and whether I will make it out of this alive. Those feelings are fleeting because I do know that this is best for us, I just don't always feel it is best.

I'll continue posting about this topic because it is quite multifaceted. And I think a lot about it!

October 9, 2011

Same old, same old

Problems, that is. As in not blogging nearly as much as I mean to/want to. But anyway...

We had a very busy, very fun summer. James went to St. Louis to work one weekend in August, I had a joint garage sale with my family, K took swim lessons and, best of all, we got to take a wonderful family vacation to Maine! The trip was so great. We didn't get to do everything we wanted to do, mostly because of money restrictions, but we have so many memories. I'll have to do a catch up blog about that trip, and add a few of the amazing pictures we took!

Once we got back from Maine, a new whirlwind began. James started a new position as a manager in training, meaning he will get promoted to assistant manager relatively soon. A bit more pressure for him, but he's really doing great with it and ready for the next step whenever it comes. A couple of days after we got back from vacation, I went back to work. I'll be doing three days a week now, one full day and two partial days. It was nice to have the summer off and get so much more done in my week. But, it is good to be back at work and have little breaks from the kids too. After Labor Day, we also started home school with K. That will take up a lot of real estate on my blog now, too, I'm sure! There is so much to do and think about, let alone dealing with everyone and their mother's opinions about my kid and the school system and socializations, etc, etc, etc. Most people are pretty cool about it, though. But there is plenty to talk about!

Oh, and on the writing front, I submitted an essay to Real Simple magazine in September. I don't think it is particularly good, but I actually completed something and turned it in, so that is a step for me! If it isn't chosen, then I'll post it here. :)

So, I hope to resume my blogging now. Always starting somewhere, again.

July 26, 2011

We all have one

Everyone has something they don't like about themselves. Whether it's weight, height, size of different body parts, hair type, etc, everyone has something to complain about. It is easy to compare ourselves to others and wish for whatever they have that we don't.

I started at a young age to try to accept certain things about myself. My curly hair for example. Everyone was complaining about their hair when I was a preteen, straight haired girls in particular. Since I have curly hair, I decided it was best to just love it. A lot of people want what I have, I have it already, and it fits my personality (I'm pretty low maintenance and curly hair is easy to just wash and leave alone). So, I embrace my curly hair and try not to complain too much about frizzy days!

But when I think about the number one on my list of complaints about myself, it has to be my skin.

First, how white it is. I got made fun of for it (more as a kid than now, though people still comment on my "glow" at the beach) and I had to spend a lot of time applying sunscreen, remembering to bring a hat and cover up anytime I would be in the sun, searching for shade or bringing tents and umbrellas to the beach, etc. I've learned to love my whiteness for it's good qualities: it's softer than a lot of other people's skin, I don't (and probably won't) have many wrinkles and it makes me look younger. My mom is close to 60 but doesn't look it at all, partially because she took care of her delicate white skin!

Second, and related to the whiteness, is my heightened proclivity for skin cancer. Burns were enough incentive to wear gallons of sunscreen, but skin cancer is an even bigger deal. At 19 my dermatologist found a small freckle on my arm (that had been there for years) and set it up for a biopsy. It was precancerous so the freckle and all the skin around it had to be removed. Two day surgeries, 10 stitches   and a giant scar resulted. Now I have to continue to be on the lookout for any other suspicious freckles.

Third, a host of not life threatening but very annoying and often embarrassing skin ailments. It started with acne when I was a teenager, and that acne has never fully gone away. Why doesn't anyone ever tell you that some kids don't outgrow their acne? Then came dandruff/dry scalp/whatever they want to call it to make it sounds less gross. I've tried plenty of stuff for it, but I still itch and get broken skin and flakes from my scalp. I did just hear that coconut oil can help, so that's the next thing to try. As I  got a little older, I started getting red spots on the back of my arms, then on my legs. They don't go away either but I think they are kind of related to dry skin. Again, nothing seems to be able to get rid of it. In the last few years I've added a new ailment: psoriasis, or eczema, not sure what to call it. It started with peeling on my nose like I had a sunburn, but it never stopped peeling. Now I have dry, itchy, flaky patches on the sides of my nose, my eyebrows and hairline. And they continue to take up more space. I keep thinking, "Why the face?!?!" If I had to have it, why in one of the most visible places on my body?

I haven't reached my acceptance phase for this yet. I do OK at letting it be and not obsessing over it, but it does bother me. Some of it is kind of painful at times and I worry that as it gets worse I may eventually be some kind of leper. I hope not. But, through it all I try to keep in mind that everyone has something about themselves they don't like. Even if they seem perfect. And really these "problem areas" can be a good thing. If we were all perfect, then we'd get way too proud and self absorbed. The people who are physically closest to perfect are usually the ones who are behaviorally closest to devils! And I know that isn't what I want to be! Hopefully I can get to the point of concentrating so much on making my internal qualities stronger, and on doing what is best for others instead of focusing on myself, that I won't even notice my flaws anymore.

June 23, 2011

Gourmet Thursday

It's time for another recipe! Another favorite in our house, and really easy to make! Not many ingredients, colorful, flavorful and pretty quick.

BROWN BUTTER TORTELLINI WITH SPINACH & HAM

1 pkg (20oz) cheese-filled tortellini (I like tri-color)
1pkg (6oz) fresh baby spinach leaves (Trader Joe's has really affordable bagged spinach)
1 8oz piece cooked ham steak
1 large red bell pepper
1/4 cup butter (do not substitute)

Bring salted water to a boil and cook tortellini according to package directions.
As tortellini cook, place spinach in large colander. Dice ham into bite size pieces. Finely dice pepper. 
Drain tortellini over spinach in colander (to wilt it).
Add butter to skillet. Heat over med heat 5-7 minutes, swirling occasionally, until butter is deep brown color. Immediately add pepper. Reduce heat to low; add ham, tortellini and spinach. Gently toss to coat.
Serve with black pepper if desired (and I recommend it).


My side note is that I don't pay too much attention to the size of the tortellini package, ham steak or pepper. I just buy what I can find and don't worry to much about exact proportions of ingredients. You can also easily double this recipe for a larger group. It usually serves about 5 or 6, depending on appetite size. The recipe also says that you can substitute ravioli for the tortellini or chicken for the ham, but I've never tried because we like the original so much!

June 21, 2011

Kid's stuff

We are hardly a cutting edge type of family, but any family with kids ends up trying new and old toys. We've gotten some new stuff lately that has been a big hit.

K really likes Angry Birds, the iPhone game. He's used his allowance money to buy more games, once he finished the first version. He's really good at it, too! They sell plush Angry Birds online and then I saw an add for Build-A-Bear that they now sell them. So, I decided to buy two as K's birthday practice. When we got to the store, though, the toys were a small version and they cost $12. Thankfully we had been to Toys R Us right before that and saw they had Angry Birds also. And they were cheaper! So I got one of the pigs (the "bad" guys) at Build-A-Bear with my coupon but then went back to Toys R Us to buy the birds. The toys are really fun, they even make the same noises from the game! K is quite pleased with them.

Last week, K had saved up enough of his allowance money to buy a new Angry Bird. We went back to Toys R Us only to find out they had run out-the problem with liking something so popular! In a place with so many toys and games, it was inevitable that he would find something else to spend his money on. And what he found ended up being pretty cool. It's called Aqua Sand. It comes in an odd shaped tube and the sand is brightly colored. You squeeze the tube into a bowl (clear so you can see it) and it stacked on itself to make cool shapes. It can even go from the bottom to the top of the water, and looks like a stalagmite.  The fun part is that the sand does not get wet. You scoop it out of the water with a special shovel and you can watch the water bead up on top of the sand. It's really cool! The only downside is that it takes a long time to put the sand back into the bottles. Especially since my kid wanted to empty out both full bottles of sand into the bowl at the same time!

You can buy a sort of playset for the Aqua Sand that wouldn't hold all the sand at the same time, so that might make it easier. And it would be nice to have something like that for K to set up and then play with, instead of seeing pouring out the sand as the only fun part. Maybe he'll save up for that part.

June 11, 2011

Dime in the bag

Jim and I celebrated our 10th anniversary this week. In some ways it's hard to believe we've been married for 10 years. In other ways I feel every moment of it, since it has been so eventful and so much has changed!

Some stats, in no particular order:

  • We've moved 8 times and lived in 3 different states.
  • Jim has had 8 different jobs, two different side/temporary jobs (that I can remember) and done some freelance stuff.
  • I've had 6 different jobs and two temporary jobs.
  • We've had two kids.
  • I went back to school and got my bachelor's degree.
  • We've been to 11 states to visit and gone through a few more on the way to those destinations, mostly by car.
  • We've been to concerts, the symphony, museums, lectures, weddings, graduations, national parks, mountains, lakes, oceans, parties, showers, baseball games (minor and major league), football games (NFL and college), and zoos, and gone horseback riding, site seeing, etc.
We would have loved to go on a nice trip together, preferably alone, but that wasn't in the cards for us. We aren't people who make a really big deal about most holidays-Valentine's Day, birthdays, etc. But we always try to make our anniversary special. Our marriage is very important to us and we want to celebrate it's inception.

This year, our festivities are all spread out, mostly due to our work schedules. On Tuesday we used a Groupon we bought a while back to go see a movie. My sister baby-sat the kids and we saw Bridesmaids. Very funny movie! It was our first date in over 5 months and it felt great to be out alone together. After the movie, we went to Baker's Square for an appetizer and some pie. And we relished the chance to talk uninterrupted by children.

Thursday the ninth was our actual anniversary. We both had to work that day. Thankfully, the kids were quieter that morning, so we got to cuddle and chill together before I went to work. When Jim got home that night, I had made some baked goods (Earl Grey Tea Cookies and Butterscotch Blondies, for those who are curious) for us to share and we gave each other our presents.

I had gotten the VHS of our wedding transferred to DVD for him. We watched it while we ate our treats. He got me a really beautiful print on a frame of a girl walking with Big Ben in the background and "London" written on the bottom. I LOVE it! We didn't spend much, but were both very pleased with our gifts.

Part three comes tomorrow. We found another baby-sitter and got another Groupon to go to a Peruvian restaurant downtown, in Wicker Park. We aren't sure what else we'll do, maybe go to the Art Institute for a while, since we've been in the mood to do that lately but haven't had the chance. I'll have to update that part later.

So, 10 years have passed quickly and slowly. I'm so glad I married the man I did, despite the frustrations that sometimes come with life and marriage. He's so good to me and loves me so much. I love him in a myriad of ways that form such a complicated web of connection that I don't think I could ever explain it or even fully understand it. Marriage is a wondrous thing! I hope and pray we have many decades left to perfect our relationship, support and love each other!

June 1, 2011

A pirate birthday

 Three weeks after S's party, it was K's turn! He asked for a pirate theme this year (last year was Cars). Since I had already decided on the nautical theme for S's party, I figured I could reuse a few things, and I did! It also was extremely helpful that pirates are REALLY in right now. I had no trouble finding things for the party. Even the dollar store had a great collection of pirate themed stuff!

This banner is from the Dollar Store.

I started with a treasure hunt, of course! I found paper treasure chests at the Dollar Store. I filled them with chocolate gold coins, ring pops, pirate pops I found at Toys R Us and a few other toys and candies. My mom found a few things at a garage sale (Jolly Roger bouncy balls and handkerchieves, etc) that we added. The Dollar Store also had an oversized pirate coloring book that came in handy. One of the pages was a treasure map, so K and I colored it and I gave it to him, rolled up and tied with ribbon, at the beginning of the party so the kids could "use" it to hunt. I also told them that the treasure hunt was their way to earn their status as pirates.



The boys with their treasure!



 This is what they earned: swords and eye patches (both from Target's pirate party favor collection) and paper hats (from the Dollar Store). K looks pretty pirate-y, right?


Can't have fun without a sword fight!


I reused the tin buckets from the nautical party for a decoration. I filled it with the blue paper strips and put a pirate ship toy that K has in it.

 I forgot to take a picture of the fence near the road, but I hung the red and white striped banner from S's party on the fence, along with a pirate flag banner from Target to show where the party was happening.


 We were able to have this party outside in our backyard. Our landlord has a picnic table and umbrella out there that the four apartments share and it is great! I got a pirate table cloth, cups, plates and napkins from Target. I just bought two of each and then mixed them with red and black plates, cups and napkins from the Dollar Store so I didn't have to spend as much.



K's cake request was very specific: a pirate ship and a pirate's face on the top, half chocolate, half yellow cake inside. I called around to price out the cake and it was $50 or higher! So I made the cake myself (and stayed up until 2am the night before the party because I was so busy and procrastinated so long!) and enlisted my artist husband to frost it. He came up with a great idea and had no trouble executing it, as you can see! We were all very pleased with it!

We played pin the eye patch on the pirate. I colored the picture (from that Dollar Store coloring book) and hung it on K's easel. Double stick tape on the back of the kids' eye patches made them stick to the paper for the "pinning". They enjoyed it so much they each went twice!


Happy birthday to my wonderful 5-year-old! He had a lot of fun at the party, and I think everyone else did, too. I was glad to give this to him, but I'm also really glad there are no more birthday parties for a long time!

May 30, 2011

A Nautical First Birthday Party

I'm over a month behind schedule, but I thought it was time to get some info on here about my boys' birthdays. S's was in April and it was a milestone since he turned one! When K turned one we were living in Colorado and came back to celebrate his birthday with our families. We had the party at my grandma's house and didn't do much planning for it. I just had everyone bring a dish and got a cake with animals on it since that's what he liked. This time around I wanted to put more into it.

We live in our own place now, near family, so I could do more for S. I think I've said before that the domestic stuff doesn't really come naturally to me, but I do see the value in it. I want to show my boys love in this way and create fun memories, even if it is SO much more work. I asked a friend who always does great with parties how she does it and she suggested just figuring out something I like that would go with S's age and personality and then find things to fit into that theme.

So, I started with the invitation. I went to iPhoto (we're Mac users), picked a picture of S that I liked and then clicked on the link that shows all the invitations and cards you can have printed with your picture. I normally wouldn't spend this much on invitations, but I've had a ton of setbacks to getting pictures taken of S, so this way I could give family members something they could keep and it served the party function. The one I liked best was navy blue and red, so that suggested a nautical theme.

My husband has a graphic arts background, so he photoshopped in the cute sailor hat from a photo online. I liked the hat so much, I ended up buying it for S! [You can see it in the following photo, on the toy tugboat.] I came up with the wording on the invite, trying to be nautical, but used the font that came up standard. I was able to find the same font in Word so that's what I used to print out the envelops to send the invitations. (They look a bit blurry because I digitally erased the addresses so that no one can come to my house and steal my kids!) I used my husband again to help me size the anchor art work, which I also found online, to dress up the envelops a bit more, but I did most of this myself. I felt so proud and accomplished that I did all this!

Most of my decorating ideas came from this blog. I'm very grateful I found it, otherwise I wouldn't have done half the stuff I did! Though it did make it a bit more complicated to try to replicate something someone else did instead of just finding my own stuff. But it worked out pretty well.The other ideas I found from googling "nautical birthday party".

This is the dining room set up (it was too cold for us to have an outside party, like the one in the blog).

The red and white flags in the foreground I cut from fabric I found at the thrift store and attached to twine, then hung in the doorway. I spent a lot of time trying to find striped scrapbook paper for the flags, as suggested in the blog. But that stuff is expensive, and then I couldn't even find patterns I liked! The fabric was last minute but ended up being perfect!



Over the window I hung the party favors that doubled as decorations. I made them from red and navy card stock I bought at Target. I made them into cones, stapled them closed and hung them to more twine with clothespins (this idea was directly from the other blog I linked to). The party favors were Swedish Fish, goldfish crackers, goldfish pretzels and mint Lifesavers hard candies, wrapped in clear bags and tied with red and white ribbon.



The centerpiece I found last minute at Cracker Barrel, totally by surprise. They had a lake theme for decorations and I loved this little sailboat! It was only $14.99 and I figured I could use it as a decoration in S's room once the party was done. It was too cute to resist! I put shells, Twizzlers tied into bows (which kept breaking), Lifesavers and some blue shredded paper around the boat. The candle is a seaside scent. :)


I had netting from years ago and hung that on the bookshelf, along with a borrowed lighthouse from my mom.

I put snacks in red and blue sand pails: more goldfish and Swedish Fish, some other candy K got from an amazing parade haul earlier in the day. The blue sign says, "Shape up or Ship out! Violators will be flogged". It's from my dad's large personal collection of nautical/ship decor. I got red, white and blue cups, plates, silverware and napkins from the Dollar Store.I made the cupcakes (from a mix) and put blue food coloring in the (store bought) frosting to make it look like water. The flags I made from scrapbook paper (Have I mentioned how expensive scrapbook paper is? Yeesh!) and toothpicks. I found the little plastic anchors at the thrift store. Believe it or not, they were part of a VERY ugly jewelry making kit from the 90s. For 25 cents I got them and just stuck the part I liked into the cupcakes!


I did an informal Facebook poll to ask if people preferred cupcakes, cookie cake or cake and it was pretty even between the cupcakes and cookie cake, so I did both! I made the cupcakes and ordered the cookie from Jewel.I also got some saltwater taffy, to stick with the theme! And put it in a silver bucket from Michael's.

I didn't get any pictures of the rest of the food, but I kept with the nautical theme. I made fish sticks and fries (fish 'n chips), had salt and vinegar chips, regular chips, and macaroni shells and cheese. We had a fruit plate and vegetables and dip. We were definitely well fed!
For some reason, S wouldn't pick up his cupcake to eat it! He's usually not fussy about food or getting dirty. Thankfully, he has a big brother to feed him! Ha, ha!


 He was a fan of the frosting!

Opening presents. I wore a stripped shirt and shell necklace to go with the theme. I had a few family members who played along and wore stripes and sailor hats, or shirts with boats on them. It was so fun!

This was the best shot I could get of him with the sailor hat on! He's not a fan of hats. What I don't understand is why something that says, "I'm one" on it and is marketed for babies was so big on him. Oh, well. Not everything can work out the way you want it to!

As a side note, this party was planned for late April. Then K got the flu the Friday before the party. He was doing better on Saturday but I was worried that we'd be contagious so I had to cancel it! I was so disappointed! It was a good thing, though, because the rest of us got sick that weekend, too. We reschedule for two weeks later and then everyone was healthy!

[Sorry for the kind of crazy formatting. I'm still learning how to blog with pictures.] 

March 21, 2011

Vacaaaaaation!

In the almost 10 years we've been married, about 97% of our time off and vacation days have been spent visiting family or going to big events for friends and family (weddings, graduations). Sometimes those "vacations" have included a few fun, just-for-us times, but usually not. Obviously, family is very important to us and we want to show everyone how much we care about them by being present for events or just spending time together. Especially when family lives in another state. It's easy for a year to go by without seeing someone when you live hundreds of miles away, which is really hard when those someones are your immediate family!

After living with both my husband's and my families for extended times in the last three years, it became more evident how much we need our own time as a nuclear family. When it was no longer available on even a daily basis, we wanted it much, much more. Add a kid, and then another, and we realized how much we need to preserve and protect our time, allowing for new memories to be made for our kids that illustrate and enforce who and what we are as a unit.

Now that we are finally living in our own home again (and enjoying it immensely) we still were noticing how much of our limited free time was being given (and sometimes taken) by others. We sat down to talk about it and decided it was time to really stake a claim on our autonomy as a family of four. And to make decisions about what we do with our free time that reflect what we love and care about, above and beyond our family members.

August of 2009 marked our first real family vacation. K was 3 and we decided to go camping for two nights in Michigan. It was wonderful! Despite some early pregnancy nausea, caused by a pregnancy I was not yet certain was a reality, we had a great time. K loved the adventure, sleeping outside in a tent and with us, cooking over a fire, playing in the woods and at the beach-all of it. We adults liked the low key pace and unplugged atmosphere of it all.

Our second family vacation happened last week. We made plans to visit an old college friend and her family in Wisconsin, a two hour drive from us. Not wanting to waste too much of our time on driving, and keeping with the spirit of preserving and creating special family time, we decided to stay over one night.

We planned to spend the morning and afternoon with our friends, which we did. We enjoyed a lovely service at their very charmingly decorated and welcoming church, had lunch and did some shopping in Lake Geneva. I've heard a lot about Lake Geneva but had never been there. It was fun to cruise around the shops on main street, exploring some of the more unique wares and eats they had to offer. The three kids we were toting did really well and seemed to enjoy the outing a lot, too!

Right around dinner time we parted ways and headed to our hotel. I found a place called Timber Ridge Lodge and Waterpark in Lake Geneva that we decided to stay at. It was amazing! For a very reasonable rate, we got a one room suite that allowed Jim and I to have our own room, had a full kitchen (fridge, stove, sink, dishwasher, dishes, cabinets), big bathroom with whirlpool tub, balcony, fireplace, pull-out couch for K, dining area, lots of closet space, 2 TVs, DVD player-the works! The place has a huge indoor waterpark, arcade, workout facilities, restaurant, convenience store, and area for special events that are held pretty much every day (movie nights, crafts, etc). Next door is a stable and small petting zoo. Nearby is also a skiing area that you can pay for separately when the weather permits that activity.

When you book the room, you get 4 passes to the waterpark for each day. So, the first night after checking in, we spent a couple of hours in the waterpark. K was SO excited to go that he could barely contain himself to wait while we all got our bathing suits on! Then when we got there, he ended up being scared of doing almost anything by himself. The second day he finally warmed up, and we found out we could use life vests that the park provided. That made him feel more at ease. By a couple of hours before we left, he was sliding down the biggest kid water slide into 4 feet of water (as long as we caught him)!

We got a late check out, but it was still kind of a pain to have to pack up in the middle of our day. Especially with a baby who still takes two naps a day. But, we had lots of fun nonetheless. It was great that we were even allowed to stay all day at the waterpark. Our prayers were answered and the time moved very slowly, so we felt we made the most of it. I can definitely see going back again someday, hopefully for longer!

Our next vacation is Jim's family reunion in Maine this August! We're super excited about that one, too. Partially for the location, and partially because it will be a nice long trip-at least a week. The reunion and family part will be about half of it, then we plan to break off and do some sightseeing and traveling around on our own. Can't wait!

March 11, 2011

Little people

I have to say that age four has been, overall, a very enjoyable age. Might be my favorite, or at least tied with age one ( the first 7 or 8 months of age one, before terrible twos started). K is so interested in everything, gaining so much independence, learning and retaining so much, going through another language boom. He's funny and creative and able to communicate on a deeper level with us. I feel like this year has contained the most change for him in terms of who he is and what he looks like. The first year probably holds the title for most change in a twelve month period, but 4 to 5 seems like it is the most.

K is cracking us up all the time with the stuff he comes up with. The latest ones involve how he "measures" things like sickness, distance, time, etc. Both the boys got bacterial pinkeye this week, which is totally disgusting, by the way. K was talking about being sick and his eyes hurting and we had this gem of a conversation:

"I think I'm, like, 3 guinea pigs sick today," he said.

"Guinea pigs?" I replied.

"What?"

"I said, 'guinea pigs?' You are three guinea pigs sick?"

"Yes. And Daddy's probably 5 guinea pigs sick."

"Well, actually, Daddy's feeling better," I couldn't help but say.

"Oh, then he's 1/2 a guinea pig sick."

"Why guinea pigs?"

"What?" (Kids can be very dense sometimes.)

"Why are you using guinea pigs to explain how sick you are? What do guinea pigs have to do with how you feel?" I said slowly and loudly.

"I don't know. They are kind of small. And I feel like a guinea pig."

That was the best I could get. And it was still hilarious.

The other thing K uses to gauge things is the number 167. "Will it take 167 to get there?" "I want 167 books tonight." "I'm 167 angry." "I think there are a lot of stars, like 167." It seems to be his favorite number, and also the go-to representative for anything big or that takes a lot of time.

The way kids' brains work is so interesting. I can't even keep track of all the funny and silly things they say and do. I keep a journal for each of my boys, but it's not nearly as complete as I wish it was. I can't keep up with how fun they are thanks to the busy-ness of life, and the fact that the fun and funny things usually happen right smack in the middle of 167 other things (like how I used that magic number there?).

March 10, 2011

Surface level

Over the weekend, I bought an age-defying moisturizer. On purpose.

I've never been one to care overly much about age. I liked looking older when I was a kid, because I felt older. I've also kind of enjoyed the fact that since turning 18, everyone has thought I look younger than I am. Pale skin comes in handy when in comes to age, because staying out of the sun preserves you better than just about anything else! (Though I don't like feeling like people must think I'm more immature if they think I'm younger.)

When I was at the end of my 20s, I wasn't upset or freaked out by turning thirty, like many people seem to be. And when that milestone birthday actually arrived, I was too busy dealing with terrible morning sickness with my second pregnancy to care about something as paltry as my age!

So, thirty came and went without much notice on my part.

I must say, however, that the year after turning thirty and now the first (roughly) half of thirty-one seem to have taken a visible toll. I probably notice it more than anyone else, I'm sure. In so many ways, I think I look better than ever (and my husband agrees, which is nice). I lost some extra weight after S was born and I feel very comfortable with this weight. As women (in particular) age, they also lose some of the "baby fat" in their faces and I like the way my face looks as a result of that. I'm wearing a smaller size in clothes, and since I'm working again and older now I've also started updating my wardrobe and am very happy with that.

On the downside of this phase in life are all the age-related things I'm noticing. My crows' feet and laugh lines are pronounced, especially in certain pictures and bright light. My hands look drier and more wrinkled. Since having K, I've gotten more and more grey hairs all the time (even though I still mostly cover them with hair dye). When putting on eye shadow, my skin moves around since it isn't as firm anymore. All small things, and pretty insignificant overall. But I do notice them.

I've never been a slave to beauty. The opposite, really. I wear make-up, but not much and I always go for a more natural look. And I won't spend much money on it. I've cleansed and moisturized my face twice a day since my acne started as a teenager (and then never went away, like everyone promised it would!). The last few months, or year, have found me slacking in this practice, though. When you've been trying to keep your face clean for over 15 years, in the hope of reducing or eliminating acne and it doesn't seem to work, it is easy to lose hope! But I know I shouldn't give up on good habits now.

I practice good hygiene, try to eat well and stay hydrated, I don't overly product or style my hair, don't take unnecessary medications, stay active in my regular life (take the stairs, go for walks, play with the kids, etc) and (when I'm on my game) I work out.

However, it appears to be the time to take more premeditated action, or risk the compounding effects of the aging process. The timing couldn't be more frustrating, though. I have a baby and a pre-schooler, and I work part time, and everything else that goes along with life. Sitting through a whole meal is difficult. Showers are usually interrupted. I don't sleep through the night. After all that, it doesn't even seem worth it to THINK about how to keep myself looking good. But, there is no denying the fact that life seems a little brighter when you feel good and feel like you look good.

So, a few new pieces of clothing make me feel more professional and put together (and not like a spit, food, and snot covered mama). And the age-defying moisturizer does make my face feel softer and look more "radiant", as they say on the package. I hope the little things I do can make me feel younger and more confident on a basic level, and that they help my body and skin to look and feel healthy in the long term.

March 4, 2011

A Neighborhood Adventure

The old lady probably woke up early, as usual. She got up slowly, as usual. Thankfully she could still get up and get ready on her own. That might not last much longer, at her age.

(Sparing the details of a long, slow routine), Agnes made it to the front door of her third floor apartment, ready to fight the elements. Long, black, quilted coat: on and buttoned to the top. Knitted mittens, layered over knitted gloves (she was a knitting pro): on. She had mastered the art of closing and locking the door with two bulky layers over her knotted hands, because who wants to put gloves on after you've left your warm house? Toasty black boots: yanked into place despite arthritis and almost total inability to reach her toes. And, the icing on the old lady cake, a clear plastic tie cap, with plain white trim: tied neatly in place to provide ultimate protection from wind, precipitation and being mistaken for a younger woman.

The third floor was a necessary evil at 80. High enough to prevent burglars from invading and causing a heart attack, among other things, but not convenient for the ever slower and more pain-ridden old woman.

Agnes hustled to the bus stop outside her building. Passing cars whizzed by her as she walked to the curb, hunched over and bundled against the bitter cold. She seemed to barely notice any of it. Her mission was foremost on her mind, and hidden from the rest of the world.

She stared across the street, over the cars and past all the sights in front of her. The physical was so secondary at this point; only the mind really mattered. At least her mind still functioned and (usually) followed her directions.

The bus arrived and she boarded. It whisked her away from home and forward to the day's necessities.

It was dark when Agnes' journey ended. She slowly descended from the city bus' open door. The driver and other passengers were probably not too happy about the extra time and care she took. Or, if it was one of those rare sympathetic groups, they smiled as they watched her and wished her a good evening.

There she was again, on the curb outside her apartment building, watching the cars rush by on the six-lane thoroughfare. Suddenly, she darted across the street faster than anyone would have expected she was capable of, her tiny legs a blur under her hunched back and bulky coat! Something only she could see was escaping her capture. Once again, she had overcome any physical obstacle to do what needed to be done. She was still in control of herself and her destiny, and she would stay that way (hopefully).

The adrenaline rush lasted only 20 or 30 seconds. She made it through the urban gauntlet and reached the other side, prize in hand. Clutching that $100 bill, she looked over to her side of the street, seeming to see right through the cars and activity, right into her warm and comfortable apartment. She could almost feel her soft, low chair, her slippered feet up on the ottoman and cup of warm tea by her side: her reward for the toil each day exacted from her, required of her, to maintain her existence.

February 25, 2011

Gourmet Friday

It's been a little while since I posted a recipe and earlier this week we had a WONDERFUL meal, so here it is!

Tuscan White Bean and Sausage Stew

3/4 lb hot Italian sausage links                                       
2C chicken broth
2 medium carrots                                                           
4 garlic cloves, pressed
1 medium bulb fresh fennel                                           
2 cans (15oz or 540ml each) cannellini beans
1 can (14.5oz or 398ml) petite diced                             
1 pkg (18g) fresh basil
tomatoes, undrained

~Remove casings from sausage. Cut in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/2 in nuggets.
~Place sausage in large pot and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.
~As sausage cooks, peel carrots. Chop carrots and fennel; add to pot and cook additional 3-5 minutes or until sausage is no longer pink and vegetables begin to brown.
~Stir tomatoes, broth and garlic into sausage mixture. Drain and rinse beans in small colander; add to pot.
~Simmer stew, uncovered, 10-12 minutes or until vegetables are tender. As stew simmers, chop basil. Remove pot from heat; stir in basil. Serve immediately.


Note: I used mild sausage since I don't like hot spicy things. I also only bought one can of cannellini beans by accident, so I substituted one can of red kidney beans. And finally, I used dried basil instead of fresh since I had that on hand. It turned out very well and we loved this meal. It will probably become a new staple for us. It was fast, flavorful and not expensive. I highly recommend it!

February 11, 2011

Night and Day

It's no secret that nights in our household are not as peaceful or as restful as we adults would like them to be. My first round of sleep training for S helped but was derailed by some other issues that I'm still not ready to let go of yet to start re-training. He wakes up at least three times a night, between bedtime at 6:30-7pm and waking up at 6-7am. And more often he's waking up every 2 to 3 hours wanting to eat or be comforted. K wakes up at least once most nights of the week, sometimes a couple of times and sometimes staying up for a while. Thus, nights are not much fun for me.

However, S is a pretty good napper during the day. He takes two naps, morning and afternoon, and they last at LEAST an hour (unless he's sick or something weird happens). Most of the time he naps 1 1/2 to 2 hours for each nap, and sometimes he'll even give me 2 1/2 to 3 hours!

Now that I have had both a napper and a non-napper I can confidently say that there is ABSOLUTELY NO COMPARISON in quality of life and parenting.

I used to be jealous of people who talked about their sleeping and napping children. I always suspected that the world was a different place for them, and it's true. If a parent has always had children who nap, they literally have no idea how much harder in every possible way life is for the rest of us.

K was not a napper. His "naps" were 20-40 minutes for his whole life. The first few weeks of life, I would get longer stretches of sleep from him, but that quickly disappeared. Then that awful, useless 20-40 minutes. You can't do anything in that amount of time. If I was exhausted from a long, sleepless night it wasn't even enough time for me to fall asleep if I laid down for my own nap. If I decided to get stuff done, it was enough time to take a shower OR make and eat lunch OR get some cleaning done.

There is a tension level as a parent that surrounds your sanity. At certain points in the day or week, the tension is high and you are at a breaking point. You need some time alone, some quiet, a chance to be uninterrupted for a few moments. Nap time provides that. It lets you loosen the slack, take a breath, grab a firmer hold of your sanity and prep for the rest of your day or week with the little person you really do love and cherish.

When your child doesn't take a decent nap, or a nap at all, the tension level stays elevated. The wire around your sanity frays and snaps around. It is hard to be strong, to go toe to toe with a strong-willed or even just high energy child.

Now that I have a baby who naps, my days are so much better. Even though K does not nap (and hasn't napped regularly for over a year now), I can feel the difference. It is much easier to let go of stress when S is sleeping. I can let K watch TV and take a shower and still have time to do a few other things, either with K or while K is occupied. Despite having two kids now, I feel more peaceful than I did when I just had one.

Anyone that gives moms of non-sleepers a hard time for losing their tempers, being negative, complaining, not being as involved or proactive with their kids needs to realize how hard life is for those moms. They need a break, because heaven knows that the kids sure aren't giving them one!

February 2, 2011

Dreams

Last week I got an email inviting me to sign up to win the HGTV Dream Home contest. I went here to look at the house and fell in love! I've looked at the pictures and videos multiple times now and have lots of little daydreams stored up of what it would be like to live there.

Rarely do I see homes that have been recently designed that appeal to my aesthetic so closely. The simple, rustic details mixed with practical luxury are quite appealing! It reminds me of going to camp and the types of buildings that were found there, in the woods of Northern Wisconsin. The exposed wood, high ceilings and natural colors are very inviting. But it doesn't have the over done feel of so many designs that are termed "rustic".

A few years ago I designed (very roughly) the layout of a dream home of the future for my family, nuclear and extended. I love the idea of having a really big place to invite everyone for holidays and vacations. This place isn't nearly as big as the one I imagined, but it still has plenty of space for family ski vacations!

Since Jim loves the mountains so much, I know he'd love this house. The multiple views of the mountain range are breathtaking from the Dream Home's many, many windows. I love that too-the accessibility of the house to the outside via so many windows. Natural light is always a must for me. I can see playing outside with the boys, going in that hot tub, writing on the balcony or inside near a window.

Of course, the practical things are unknowns. Would we ever be able to afford to keep up a place like that? Is there any kind of job that we could find in Stowe, VT? Are there possibilities for friends or a church? None of these things will probably matter in the long run because the odds of winning are slim.

Still, the idea of a home like that. Wow.

In so many ways, Jim and I still don't know where we fit in our own lives. Where we belong or where we'll feel most "at home". We talked last night about his absolute love for Colorado Springs. He came alive and fell in love (with the place) there. Watching that happen to him opened my eyes to the way that certain locales seem to have a pre-carved place in people's souls.  Many, many other residents of Colorado Springs felt the same way. I can't even count how many people told us that they came 20, 25, 35 years ago to the Springs and never wanted to leave. I didn't have the same feeling as any of them. It was beautiful there, and has many great elements to it, but I never fell in love. And the negatives for me were always (and are still) very obvious.

So I wonder where my niche might be. Maybe near an ocean or lake? I love the beach and have always felt more complete there. I grew up spending a lot of time on Lake Michigan, especially in my early years. I love to swim, walk on the beach, hear the ocean, play in the sand, climb dunes, etc. I've never lived all that close to a body of water, though, so maybe that would be my earthy soul mate, if I ever did.

Or maybe it's a city, or somewhere abroad.

I've always wanted to travel. I got to go to Australia and New Zealand when I was in high school and LOVED every SECOND of the traveling and exploring experience. I cried when the plane touched back down in Chicago and it was all over. We take some advantage of traveling within the States, but I still long to see so many other places. Particularly Europe.

When I see photos of other people's trips to England, Italy, France or any other place, it effects me deeply. I literally feel like a piece of me is missing and I won't find it until I go there. I don't know if "there" is any one place IN Europe, but certainly Europe itself has been issuing a siren call to me for a long time. Jim feels it, too, and we both have a sneaking feeling that if we ever go, we might not come back! Maybe that's why God is making us wait.

February 1, 2011

The Prodigal's brother

The parable of the Prodigal Son is very well known. It's used as an example to make all kinds of different points. It's an amazing story of redemption, parental love, forgiveness, etc.

I've always kinda hated it. That loser brother is so annoying. "Dad, give me all MY money. I'm leaving and I don't care about you or anything you've done for me. I'm going to be a huge douche bag, waste all your hard earned cash on frivolity, laze around with my loser friends who barely know me, end up homeless, destitute and depressed in a couple of months, then come back to have you fix all my problems and impose on you again. K?"

Obviously, I don't connect with the Prodigal.

The steadfast son is who I understand. I connect with him. The one who stays faithfully by his family's side, working hard, dealing with all the day-to-day cares of the household. He probably had to watch his dad's heart breaking over and over again while his brother made such terrible choices. He might have wanted to leave and do his own thing, too, but he knew his family needed him and he stayed. Sometimes that is the harder thing-to do what others need and to make sacrifices because you know it really is the better choice for everyone.

When the Prodigal returns, I bet the brother is not too happy about it. I assume that he's glad his brother is alive, and is glad to see his father happy again, but still a bit frustrated at the welcome the Prodigal receives. And wondering how long it will be before he's picking up the slack and watching his brother screw up again.

It is frustrating to see that the Prodigal seemingly gets REWARDED for his bad behavior with a party (more expense), a lot of attention and what seems to be a consequence-free end to his hard living, free spending ways. And after all that the brother has done, his dad seems to brush him off and take him for granted. To be completely petulant, it isn't fair.

I know that the point of the story is the depth of God's love and forgiveness to sinners. And while I also know that I am a sinner (like the Prodigal) it was only more recently that I realized that I AM the Prodigal! I've spent so much time sympathizing with the brother, that I went the opposite direction and got a little self righteous! The brother was probably in the same boat. He might have ended up focused on all the good stuff he'd done and continued to do that he thought he was so much better than his brother. He might not have realized the benefits that he was already getting.


I think we forget that making the right choices doesn't mean we deserve recognition or praise. Making the right choices means we don't have to suffer all the negative consequences that plague those who do follow the wrong path and who make mistakes. The Prodigal had to go through some awful stuff (so hungry that pigs' food looked appetizing?!?!) while his brother remained comfortable, protected and loved. And, of course, our ultimate rewards come in heaven, not on earth. THAT is really easy to forget because the earthly rewards are the tangible ones.


The Prodigal still annoys me. He had the same chances to do what was right, and chose wrong. He had the same loving family and gave up on them. I sympathize more with the brother in most ways, but I'm learning to admit and recognize my prodigal ways. The times and ways that I hurt others, show my selfishness and fall short of the standards that God sets. I know that I want to be welcomed back from my failures with as much love and forgiveness as the Prodigal receives, even if it doesn't feel like I've done anything nearly as extreme. Because it isn't about ranking our shortcomings or pitting them against each other. At the end of the day, we all have things to learn and areas to grow in. It doesn't help me to focus on anyone's issues but my own, or try to do a better/worse comparison.

So, I try to give the real life Prodigals some slack. Try to be as humble in my return to the fold as he was, returning home knowing how bad he must look after his ill-conceived foray into independence. And try to be grateful for the benefits I receive in the times that I chose not to stumble away from truth, even if they don't seem like much at the time.

January 27, 2011

So far, so good

The schedule is working! It's not smooth sailing, by any means, but I've been pleasantly surprised by how well K is responding. The first day I unveiled the schedule, he was really excited and wanted to check it all day long. He still does and is in such a better mood as a result of the greater sense of control and understanding of what to expect from his day.

I still don't have the strength to wake them up every morning if they are still sleeping (which is maybe 1 day in 7). It goes against just about every instinct in me, the product of compounded lack of sleep, I'm sure. And I still have some trouble staying on task when I'm tired or have other things to do. So there's plenty of room for improvement.

The good parts have been wonderful, though. My husband or I are doing at least an hour of homeschool each day with K. He's loving the learning and attention of that time. And I'm finding that I'm much less scared of having him home now that I'm actually doing it. The theory of schooling him got a bit intimidating. Putting it into practice is showing the benefits of this time with him: how much he likes it, getting to watch him learn, being a part of shaping his love of learning, etc. We still haven't made a concrete decision, but I feel more informed already!

Another benefit is that K ends up watching less TV. We're busier and have limits on when he can watch, so even when he CAN he often doesn't WANT to anymore. And that also means less noise in the house. Win, win!

I'm optimistic about the future of this. I'm very happy to see something like this working. Sometimes it seems like nothing will change for the better-at least that's what my pessimistic tendencies tell me. It's good to be proven wrong!

January 9, 2011

A little rant

For all my frustrations with parenting and schedules, I have to say (with a grumble) that I'm really not too bad at either one! That is what really gets me! Our house is not a free-for-all. Meals and bedtimes are relatively normal. I play with my kids and teach them. I work hard to teach manners, lead by example, to discipline and most of all to love and affirm them.

As against the grain as it is to say, since parents (moms in particular) are pretty hard on themselves, I AM a good mom to my boys! I think I'd want to be my kid.

But, there are obvious issues we are facing that have to be dealt with. So, I've broken down (or gotten smart, not sure which) and made a written, semi-detailed schedule for us to follow.

I'm going to do something extreme (for me) and wake my kids up at a certain time each day. I pray, pray, pray, pray that in doing this we can set an internal wake up clock for the kids and have some normalcy to the start of our day. If I can have some guarantee of when they will wake up, I might be able to wake up before them and get myself centered for the day. Maybe that will help them sleep better. And if both of them can have a good idea of what the order of things are each morning, we can try to eliminate some of the whining, boredom and laziness that often creeps in. If K can know when it is play time, when it is time to learn and when it is time to clean or eat, maybe he'll grumble less. If mealtimes are at an enforced time, at the table and all together, maybe I can cut down on K's constant asking for snacks, as well as his tendency to eat while moving around (making a huge mess).

I have big hopes for this. I've often made lists and plans for my own time, but I don't usually try to set things up for other people. I'm praying hard that this will make a difference. That I can stick with it and turn at least a few things in life around for the good.

January 8, 2011

Whirlwind

The last month sure has kicked my butt! Between the holidays and sickness and parenting struggles and traveling, I haven't found the time to write anything. Hopefully it will settle down shortly.

S is growing by leaps and bounds lately. He's been crawling for a month and a half and has just started pulling himself up on things. I'm very curious to see when he starts walking. So far he's been on roughly the same track developmentally as his big brother, which means he might start walking in about 2 months. Only time will tell, though! He's got almost 4 teeth (and doesn't handle the teething process to well). Sleeping got worse again due to teething and sickness. This winter has been brutal in terms of colds and flu! I'm still so thankful that that is the only kind of sickness my kids (and us parents) have to deal with right now. It's a pain, but so much better than being in the hospital for anything, or dealing with a more serious illness!

Two really fun things about S right now are the way he giggles about things and talks to himself, and the way he expresses his love to all of us. He makes lots of little sounds all the time-humming and mumbling to himself when he's sleepy or eating or playing. He also has started doing a little giggle to himself or about the things other people are doing. Sometimes when he notices someone doing something, he just starts giggling. It's very cute! As a lovey-dovey little baby, he loves to get and give kisses. As he gets stronger it's gotten a little more painful, but also more cute. He'll grab the sides of my neck, pull my face to himself and "kiss" my mouth with his slobbery little mouth! Or, if he can't manage to find my mouth, my chin or jaw works, too. It's painful and wet, but still very sweet. He'll do it to other people too.

K is changing on what seems like a day to day basis as well. I'm becoming very aware of the fact that he'll be 5 in a few months! He's such a little boy now. All limbs and attitude, discovery and mischief. He says some of the funniest things and uses new words all the time. When I get frustrated, I usually say "dang it". The other day K got frustrated and said, "This is so dang it!" Gotta love the way they apply things!

The two biggest issues with him now are what to do about school next year and how to continue to mold his attitude (manners, listening, obeying, etc). The school issue I'm extremely split on. I've always planned to homeschool, especially in the beginning. I know boys are often treated unfairly in school since the educational system doesn't leave much room for running around and getting energy out or letting kids be more free with their creativity. K is a strong-willed, very active boy and while I would like to see how a trained teacher would reign him in, I also worry that he would be squelched. I also know my own weaknesses and what greater cause for guilt is there than the idea that you are teaching your child wrong-whether by giving in too much or not knowing what exactly he needs? I plan to visit the local school and get a better idea of what it is like and do some more research into a curriculum for homeschool, then make a decision. These next couple of months are a bit intimidating on that front.

Then there is the discipline issue. I still keep coming back to the routine thing in this area, like so many others. I try very hard to give some structure to our days: meal times, bedtime, time on the computer and in front of the TV, play time, etc, etc. I always feel I come up short. I don't know if it will get better once S is bigger and able to follow a similar routine. But I see so clearly how missing sleep, quiet time, meal time or play time windows end up with K acting out, getting snotty, or having some sort of tantrum. I just keep reminding myself to stay consistent and try again when I fail.

Whew, this parenting thing is just so dang complicated!

But I also try to remember to enjoy the little wonders of children: the cuddles and giggles, the trust and love they show us, watching them grow and learn, seeing the times they put what we've taught them into practice (he DOES listen!), seeing myself and my husband reflected in their personalities and faces. I'm never one to over romanticize things (usually the opposite, actually), but there are some truly amazing moments to be had as a parent!