Tuesday, July 22, 2014

No-Sew Fleece Prayer Knot Blanket

A wonderful thing about fleece is that, in most cases, no edges need to be hemmed. Fleece is great for no-sewers who still want to make handmade gifts like blankets.

One of the most popular ways to "finish" a fleece blanket is to make slits around the edges and then tie each resulting strip into a knot. But to make these blankets extra-special, say a separate short prayer for the recipient during the tying of each knot.

It's a simple gift that will clothe someone in prayer. What a meaningful, personal birthday or Christmas gift this would make, as well as for births and baptisms, and even charitable donations such as to the homeless or soldiers. This is also a something children can help with (well, theoretically - mine didn't work out so well). It's a wonderful way to get kids to practice praying for others with a hands-on project.

We are awaiting the births of two very important baby girls in our lives: one is our niece, and the other is our goddaughter. 

I found cute baby girl fleece in the 50% off remnants bin at Jo-Ann Fabrics, enough for two baby blankets, and planned to make these blankets together with my 4 year-old son. Although in the adorable photo below it appears that my son is tying a knot, he, in fact, is not. He tried, and perhaps the strips were too short for his beginning fingers, but he wasn't able to do it, then declared it "boring" and didn't want to keep trying. So I ended up making them alone, and that's okay, too!

The prayers I said were for different parts of the baby's life. For example: 
Toddler years
Preschool years
Elementary School
Middle School
High School
Relationships with parents
Relationships with siblings
Relationships with extended family
Relationships with friends
Relationships with children/grandchildren

I also took prayers from the 31 Biblical Virtues to pray for your children on keepingitpersonal.com.
(I actually have a printout of the color poster on the linked page which I keep next to my calendar, and each day I can pray the matching number prayer to the day of the month.)

Stay prayerful, my friends.

Monday, July 21, 2014

DIY Kids' Place Mats or Art Mats, Inspired by Dot Paint!

A few years ago I needed a mat for my son to play with play-doh, paints and other messy things I don't want directly on the kitchen table. So I took about half of a large poster board and covered both sides of it with plain white contact paper leftover from shelf-papering. Contact paper: the lazy-man's laminator.

Last week my kids were playing with dot paint, and they were sharing that now dingy place mat. (Hello cuteness!)

I realized that my baby is now...a TODDLER! And although it's perfectly fine and wonderful for them to share, I had an idea, inspired by dot paint, for new place mats for the kids. It turns out that I had on-hand two stencils that had come in two packages of small-sized poster board. I also had a large black poster board (I had bought a couple when we needed one to make a solar-system model. You never know when another one will come in handy!)

I cut the large poster board in half, then also cut a bit off the short ends because it was still too long. I took some colored paper and wrote each of my kids' names on it, then had the kids dot paint the stencils before punching out the pieces for the letters and numbers. I helped with my daughter's, and you can see in the third picture where my son was so over changing colors after three colors, and so went with purple for what was left. That's my practical boy. He's the one that, when "coloring", makes a single mark on an area, signifying that the entire section is that color.

Next, my son and I punched out the painted letters & numbers of the stencils and glued them to the poster board.

Then comes the part where I re-ignite my love/hate relationship with contact paper: time to cover each side of the poster board completely with a sheet of it (transparent version this time), get out the bubbles and wrinkles, and trim the edges.
I hate you, contact paper!

I don't hate you, contact paper.

I love you, contact paper!

I know, the letters are out of line and the "S" is wonky, and part of the "$"came apart.
I don't want to talk about it.

Back view - for the stuff that won't wipe clean (like dot paint!)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Back to a Simpler Time, Or Not So Much?

Do you ever wonder what daily life was really like for a circa 1950's housewife with small children?

I emphasize the with small children part because, in my blissful ignorance, I can imagine that having all the kids in school AND not working would give someone 5 hours or so alone during the day. Perhaps if a person isn't unwittingly trying to break the world record in procrastination, as I am, I can fantasize the "ease" of getting all the things done during the week, including a sparkling clean house and never running out of orange juice. Of course, in the same fantasy there is no stopping for a break, but rather constant motion until the kids and eventually the hubs get home, when the evening whirlwind blows steady until you finally get to collapse into bed at night... and hope to have enough energy left for what's coming next.

Or maybe I am playing in my head the "if only" rationalization game:
A would be possible and inevitable if only B were true. And then once B becomes true, it turns out there is now an if only C. Then D, E, F... (Just ask my parents, whom I've been trying to convince to move to Texas for the past four years.)

Back to the small children part. My house is a wreck, I don't shower even as regularly as I did when the toddler was a newborn, and in only the time it took to get this far in the writing of this post, my 4 year-old son called out for me to come see that my unsupervised 17 month-old daughter was drawing with crayon on the kitchen cabinets.

(Not pictured: Crayon drawing also on the front door and windows, in addition to stickers stuck onto the wood coffee table.)

Currently she is standing next to me crying hysterically because I won't let her stick things in the USB ports on the side of the laptop.

I've read many blog posts, and even written some myself, saying to let it go (♪ ♫) and do the best you can. Focus on the people in your life and vacuum the cobwebs later. But I can't help but wonder how all the Donna Reeds and June Cleavers of the world manage caring for their families and homes so effectively, and why I seem to be incapable of even half of it. Even my children are only clean-ish.

Is it lack of discipline? Lack of energy? My unmoving hatred of cleaning toilets, vacuuming and dusting? Too much Facebook?

While I finished writing this post, my daughter rolled around on me, kicked me repeatedly in the back, cried, and has been continuously trying to launch herself head-first off the bed.

Yet I finished this post.

Maybe the truth is that if there's a will, there's a way, and deep down I don't really have the will. In theory, I'd like to have the will, though.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Dear Diary, Best. Morning. Ever!

Dear Diary,

Today has been the best day! Last night I got eight consecutive hours of sleep for the first time in over a year! After I dropped Mister Man off at school, I set off to finally to run those "quick" errands with the baby toddler in tow. You know, the ones that involve shopping and trying on and decision-making levels of concentration. The kind which are the bane of every young child's existence. The kind that I normally give up on and walk out of the store thinking, "I'll go tonight when the hubs is home," and then once the kids are in bed it's dark out and I'm tired and only want to put on my pajama pants and watch Everybody Loves Raymond reruns on Netflix and so never get around to doing. That kind.

I went to Academy and took forever to find what I was looking for. I asked two people and eventually found it. Then we looked for shoes for Mister Man while we were there.

Not a peep from my little Sugar Plum in her stroller!

1 down, 2 to go...

Next we went to the mall. Yes, THE MALL. For me this is the most dreaded place to take a young child. I still have flashbacks of toddler melt-downs in front of The Children's Place. Gymboree is a fast-track to tantrum town. It's as if Cinnabon was placed there solely for the sakes of frazzled mothers of toddlers and pregnant women.

Before heading into the main mall, though, I first popped into Barnes and Noble "just to walk through" to the main mall. I was able to read, choose, think about, change my mind about, then finally thoughtfully decide on four books to buy. And, Diary, you KNOW I read a hundred and four children's books before picking those four!

Still so far so good!

Then we went to...wait for it...Victoria's Secret. I know, I know, what was I thinking? There isn't even room for a stroller in that store! But I so desperately needed undies without holes in them, and they were having a sale (7 cotton undies for $26.50, if anyone's interested), and for whatever reason, VS seems to have the only underwear in the world that fits me well. Li'l Bit was doing so well there that I took a chance to try on a couple of bras. Goodness knows I really need a non-pregnancy, non-baby, non-push-up, my-boobs-have-found-a-new-normal-and-I-hate-bras bra! But I never braved even trying to shop for one before today!

It was like a dream! I tried on a couple and, just like in the book store, was able to think clearly (-ish, let's get real here, Mom-brain is here to stay) and make a decision without duress! She was such a fun little shopping buddy that we laughed and "chatted' with each other during the entire checkout line wait (and you know how long that can be).

Okay, Diary, so far this has been the stuff of legends. But you haven't even heard the best part yet. Oh no, you haven't!

In the car, she fell asleep. I slyly turned into the parking lot next to the nail salon. I oh-so-carefully pulled the car seat out and slid it into the stroller frame. I went inside for a pedicure, armed with snacks and a hope-for-a-miracle attitude. SHE SLEPT THROUGH AN ENTIRE SPA PEDICURE! I'm not even kidding (you know I would never lie to you, Diary)! THIS HAPPENED!

I want to remember this morning forever. For once, a public outing with one of my kids was more of a fairy tale and less of a precautionary tale.

When we got home, we had just enough time before picking up Big Brother to eat a quick lunch while writing to you about my amazing morning. And she didn't even poop!

I have to go, because I need to pick up Mister Man from school and then tackle the piles of laundry. But, oh, Diary! What a glorious day today has been!

Wait, scratch the "didn't even poop" part. Gotta run! 'Till next time!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I Got In Trouble for Breastfeeding in a "Public" Child Care Room at the YMCA

Recently I joined my local YMCA, and have enjoyed the group exercise classes there. Each of my two kids has only somewhat warmed up to the child care. This morning I had only my 12 month-old daughter with me. Sometimes she does fine, but last time we were there she cried the entire hour, and this time when I took her into the child care room she clung to me with a death grip and started fussing. None of the three care givers came over to help her or hold her as they sometimes do, so I sat down with her myself just inside the gate and pulled a couple of toys off the shelf to try to engage her with them.

I knew she wasn't hungry because I had made sure to feed her just prior to going, but she was still fussy and scared, so I did what most nursing mothers would do in a similar situation. I took off my jacket to use as a cover, and began to discreetly breastfeed her to comfort her. I thought that if I nursed her for a couple of minutes in the room, she might become more comfortable there. Hey, it's worked before in other places.

One of the care givers immediately told me I couldn't do that in "public", and told me I needed to go into the bathroom to breastfeed. I looked square at her as I continued to breastfeed my baby, and told her I am not going to feed my baby in the bathroom, with a disgusted, that-is-the-grossest-thing-I've-ever-heard look on my face. Because it is.

She continued to tell me it is against the policy, that I couldn't do that in public, and, "Look! Now there's a man over there dropping off his child!" (Oh! The HORROR that he might see my jacket draped over me and perhaps even guess what might be transpiring underneath!)

At this point I was in utter disbelief. If the policy was about modesty, the simple fact is that I couldn't have been more modest and discreet about it. Very likely, the care giver and myself might have been the only people who even knew I was doing it. I am an extremely modest person - a downright "prude", if you will. I have breastfed my children in all kinds of public places (including church!), all over this country and Europe. I'd bet a million dollars that nary a soul has seen anything remotely inappropriate, even by the most modest of standards (you know, as opposed to Victoria's Secret and Abercrombie & Fitch "modesty" standards).

Continuing to feed my daughter (and remember this all transpired in a matter of 2-3 minutes), I looked at the care giver and said, "This is Texas. By law, I can breastfeed in public here."

When my baby was finished, she was calmer and suddenly interested in the toys again. (Duh.) I turned around to leave, and saw the same care giver standing next to an official-looking director, who politely asked if she could speak to me in her office.

Oh brother. Is this for real happening?

She reiterated the policy, this time saying they do not allow parents in the child care room at all, except in the bathroom to help a child or change a diaper. She then, sweet and diplomatic as can be, while making fake chit-chat with me throughout, asked me if I'd seen their "wonderful locker rooms"! The locker room was a bathroom-y, small-ish area with three benches and some lockers opposite the toilets and showers. But wait, there's more! If I go to the far bench between the lockers and the wall, and no one happens to be sitting there, I can have "complete privacy!"

So in the future, she said, if I "don't mind", please breastfeed in the locker room and not in public.

I told her I do mind, but I understand that is the policy, albeit a bad one. As I reiterated to her several times, I purposely wanted to nurse her for a couple of minutes in the room where I would be leaving her in order that she might be comforted there.

Still, I went ahead to yoga class, seething for the next hour, trying to figure out what, if anything, I can or should do.

When I went to pick up my daughter the care giver was cool and seemed to have let the whole thing wash over already. They didn't treat me as that horrible woman or anything, and all parties were polite about the whole thing.

However....I wonder if I should quit my membership altogether (there was no annual fee and no contract). What happens the next time I want to nurse my baby and I'm already inside the building (meaning I ain't going back to the car)? I have to do that in the yucky locker room? SERIOUSLY? I'm not sure it's worth putting up with that in order to continue going there, which stinks because the membership there is affordable, I enjoy the classes, and the child care is easily available.

Perhaps I can find a way to get the policy changed, although they are saying no parents are allowed past the gate in the child care room at all, not just for breastfeeding (although they didn't mind it when I was sitting inside with my daughter and not breastfeeding her).

Still, under that policy and Texas law, I should still be allowed to breastfeed anywhere else in the building that adults are allowed, even though I feel that they would try to send me to the locker room again.

I hate confrontation and escalation. I don't really want to stage a nurse-in or something, lining the halls with breastfeeding mothers, but only letting me breastfeed in a bathroom or locker room is terrible! I am allowed to breastfeed in public under state law!  

And doing that shouldn't have to be an act of defiance.

What would you do?

**UPDATE: I sent an email to the executive director, and she called me to apologize. It took a while to drive home the point that it this morning's issue wasn't the lack of a comfortable private place to breastfeed, but the fact that I was being told to go to a private area. In the end, I think she understood. I also cancelled my membership there and was granted a full refund at my request.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Seven Quick Takes - The One With Zumba: Sweating With the Oldies to Blurred Lines

Tuesday at yoga class I met a woman who is 70 years old. Seventy. Today is my 36th birthday, and I'm coveting the flexibility of a 70 year-old. I told her I would never have guessed 70. She said, "Oh, that's because I dye my hair. You gotta dye your hair when it goes gray."

So there you have the secret to aging: Yoga and Nice 'n Easy.

Since I'm going to yoga at the YMCA now, I also started going to Zumba. I am terrible at Zumba. The truth is, I'm astonishingly uncoordinated, and I look ridiculous. BUT...it's still fun and a fantastic workout. For the most part, I'm better at it than the elderly Chinese man in the corner. Not always, though. He gets pretty funky with the right choreography.

This morning while I was cha-cha-ing and body rolling with the old folks at the YMCA to the lyrics "I know you want it...", a 2014 Word of the Year finally occurred to me: STRONG. This year, I want to become stronger both physically and spiritually. Time to get my tiny arms-of-steel back.

My baby's first birthday is tomorrow. How has it already been a year? Is that really possible? She's walking, eating human food and saying words. It's occurring to me that what I really have now is a toddler. A TODDLER. What the what? She was just born, like, a minute ago!
This is my daughter getting run-by photo-bombed by her brother.

The Bachelor is a terrible show. But I've never, and I mean never ever ever, had more fun watching any TV show than I did watching The Bachelor with my sister the other night. "My shirt is thread-bare, but it has a spunky pocket. It cost $700." We are HIL.AR.I.OUS. Seriously, we should be on TV.

My sister recently brought to my attention a real concern relating to selfie-taking. Hey selfie-takers: Why don't you have friends? Is there really no one else around who can take a proper photograph of you with your new hair cut snuggling with your [child, pet, beer] on the beach? It's a topic I may (or may not) cover in another blog post.

For the past two years I have done random acts of kindness for my birthday. This year I followed through, although I did it way early. I made 36 face/neck warmers (gators) for the homeless in my city. It's not nearly enough, but it's more than none. All during last year I would look for 50% off remnants of fleece to use at Jo-Ann Fabrics (goodness, I go there often enough). It takes just a little sewing, and they are easy enough to make for military personnel in the field or for the homeless. Here is a site with instructions: http://gatorproject.wordpress.com/gator-neck-warmer-instructions/

Bonus #8!
This morning during Zumba class I kept thinking of the scenes from the Friends episode, The One With the Fake Monica, where they take a tap dance class and Monica can't keep up with the choreography. So in the spirit of Throwback Thursday, I leave you with this clip:

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Thinking Out Loud...On Kid Birthday Party "Thank You Notes" and Opening Gifts During the Party

After two birthday parties my son has attended where gifts were expected, I received "thank you notes" in the style of the one shown below:

Yuck. Have our personal interactions become so non-personal that this is considered an acceptable thank you note? To me it is more of a delivery confirmation. Emily Post would be scratching her eyeballs out.

The first time I received a card like this, I thought, "That's it? Does the kid even know what he received or that it was from my son? Does he care? Did he enjoy the gift? Does he care? Does he at least appreciate it (I handmade it for him with his name on it and everything)? Was it worth going to the trouble at all or was the gift really expected to be more of a dropped off "entrance fee" to the party? Does he care? Do his parents?" Of course, as is increasingly more common to do nowadays, he opened gifts after the party when the guests were gone, so we didn't even get the joy of at least feigned appreciation for the gift.

Seriously, people. This is the worst "thank you note" I have ever received (I can't even bring myself to call it that without the quotes - in person they would be air quotes). It left me with such a feeling of non-caring that for the next party I didn't go to so much trouble.

The second time I received this kind of card, I had taken a gift that was handmade with my son's help. Again, the birthday boy didn't open presents at the party and I received this kind of card again. I have no idea if he thought it was a great gift or a lame gift. I have no idea if he even associates it as being from my son, let alone made for him by my son. We weren't there. I imagine him ripping mindlessly through gifts while his mother wrote down the name on the gift card and the name of the gift on the "thank you note", then stuffed the envelope before they moved on to the next gift without thought. Upon entering the party venue, we set the package on a table at the back with a pile of gifts and my son didn't get to experience the joy of seeing his friend look into his eyes and so much as acknowledge that the gift was thoughtfully chosen and made for him.

What a shame to lose the personal interaction opportunity for both kids. What a shame to lose the opportunity to learn social etiquette.

My children and their friends are too young to read/write notes right now. But if there is no personal interaction in the context of the gift giving, then doesn't it become just about the gifts themselves? At the very least, a thoughtfully written (or drawn!) thank you note is something! We aren't talking a full letter here, just a few lines. Didn't anyone else's mother make them write thank you notes growing up?

The joy of choosing and giving the gift in the first place is completely lost in the removal of all personal interaction. The chance for the recipient to practice polite gratitude and to associate a gift with an actual person either by opening it in the presence of the giver and/or by crafting a written thank you note is lost.

Receiving "thank you notes" like the one above felt almost insulting, at the very least disappointing. I realize it takes more time to craft something more personal, but do we really want to sacrifice even more personal communication at the altar of busyness and digital communication?

"It's just a stupid gift between children. Don't care so much about it. The kids probably don't." Well, I don't want not to care, that's the point. I see a trend of caring less and less about everything, and it doesn't feel good. It doesn't feel right. I do care, and I want my son to care, too. Not about gifts, but rather about people. The gifts are unnecessary. They are things. We always have "no gifts" kid parties. But if gifts are going to be part of the celebration (which is fine, too!), then it makes me sad that the people part is increasingly being removed from the exchange.