Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Deck the Halls-Dec. 23rd

Like literally. Our halls (ahem, house) have been decked. If you haven't caught on our screened in deck is finally finished. Woohoo!

A project we started back in mid October that was supposed to take only three weeks to finish turned into two and a half months. There were many delays. Most of which could not be helped. Things like weather, death in the family, and availability of product. However it is done (completed only days before Christmas and the final inspections and approvals a few days after) and we are extremely grateful to our friend, Ryan, and his company, Brian's Construction, for such a wonderful job they did. Fred designed it beautifully and they executed that design with patience and skill.
What I love about this deck; it is totally maintenance free. The floor and railing tops are Trex, the balusters are iron and the whole deck is wrapped in a pvc type material called Azek. The screen system is such that it allows us to switch them out no problem in case of damage.

Now we will actually be able to go out and enjoy our deck without the bother of bugs and the burn your skin off heat from the direct sunlight that hits the back of our house ALL DAY LONG. Not to mention there is no other deck in the neighborhood that looks like ours. It is totally unique. And seriously, I really WILL NOT be missing the red stained feet and socks from the god awful paint that used to be the floor of our deck.

Oh how I wish it was spring, or just a little bit warmer like 60 degrees, so I could sit outside on my deck with my laptop, a cup of coffee, breathing in the fresh air and relaxing.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Portable North Pole-Dec. 15th

I wrote about this last year, you can read the post here. I thought the Portable North Pole was THE coolest thing I had ever seen. I still have no idea how Fred found it but I am so glad he did. After seeing Mason's reaction to it last year, I knew we had to continue this as a tradition, and just as I was thinking about it, I got an email from someone at the PNP. How cool that they read my blog! Apparently they had great success last year and added some new features for the 2010 season.

I highly suggest you check them out for next year, if you haven't already. Putting a video together was new for me since it was Fred who created it all last year but it was super easy. When you go to the site you choose between toddler, child or grown-up. Next you answer a series of questions as to what you would like your child to work on behaviorally and whether or not they made a reasonable effort, what you expect from them over the holidays, and what part of the North Pole you think they would most like to visit. Then you get to choose a few pictures to upload, such as a family vacation or birthday party and enter a gift the child has been wanting. Seriously, this thing is cool. Though I think I had the most fun watching each of my child's reactions to their custom video from Santa.
Mason, having been through this once before, got to tour the Reindeer Training Center and spent the video answering Santa's questions and talking with him on the video. Though he was still surprised at how Santa knew he was in school, was four years old, and about his awesome vacation to the beach. He agreed he needed to work on being nice to his sister and waved good-bye to Santa when it was all over. However, the best part was his face when he saw what gift Santa knew he'd been asking for.
He turned to me and said, "Mommy, Santa's bringing me a red Camaro with black stripes! YES!" All I could think was, Shit. Now I have to go out to the store and frantically search for a red Camaro with black stripes. All because that was the first photo I found on the internet. Lucky me that I found one within the first few minutes of searching in the car aisle at Target. Christmas Miracle it was, I swear.

Sophia, on the other hand, being her first year experiencing the wonder of the PNP, I was curious to see if she liked it. She was glued to the screen the whole time.
I'm not sure if she really knew what was going on, though I kept pointing out Santa to her. Just enthralled she was and when it came to her special gift, TinkerBell Movie, she sat up, excited and pointed.
And just like Mason, she kept wanting to watch it over and over again. I don't know who came up with this, but it is brilliant. Seriously, brilliant. Friends and family, all fawn over these videos just in awe over the detail that goes into it and how real it feels. I truly think this is going to be our new yearly tradition for the kids. It's Santa in the new age.

Don't get me wrong, I still love the nostalgic letter to Santa and will continue to do this as well, but even Santa has to keep up with the technological boom. And what is more tech than Santa contacting you via the internet, or rather the Portable North Pole as they call it? I hope upon all hopes that this is what keeps my children believing. Even if they don't believe it really is Santa in the suit when we take pictures; maybe, just maybe, they will keep believing in the magic through the PNP.

And you know, they have an option for grown-ups, so I'm thinking next year Santa just might contact me.
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Friday, December 24, 2010

It's Christmas Eve in Washington...

Well the suburbs of Washington anyway, and as we spent the day making our traditional holiday cookies I decided I would share a few more December moments.

Each year we get our pictures taken with Santa. Santa, of course, being my Dad. I really love that he is still able to do this. It is such a wonderful set of memories and photos for my children to be able to have. Them sitting on pop-pop's lap, dressed up as Santa and discussing what they want for Christmas. If I had any question as to whether or not my son was on to us last year, I no longer do. He is four years old and has already got it figured out.

After last year's fiasco with Mason refusing to sit on Santa's lap, I went into this knowing it would be an uphill battle, but was pleasantly surprised when he hopped right up onto his lap and starting pointing out all the cars he wanted from the MatchBox catalog.
Sophia on the other hand was little miss attitude and had to be bribed with the musical hallmark ornament she was playing with earlier, in order to sit on Santa's lap. But once there, she managed to sit still and show off how cute she can really be.

All in all I think the photo shoot went well. I wanted to include a photo with Santa in the card this year and my Dad graciously agreed to take the photos earlier than normal. Successfully, I got a few different shots to choose from.
Mostly I really like seeing the progression of the kids as they grow older. How they interact with Santa and how willing they are to believe. Mason, as I said earlier, was pretty sure he figured it out. He Insisted that Santa was Pop-Pop. Here is how the conversation went:

Mason: You're Pop-Pop turned into Santa.
Mommy: He's Santa.
Mason: No.
Daddy: Who is he normally?
Mason: He's normally Pop-Pop.
Mommy: No, he's Santa.
Mason: No! He's Pop-pop. [A pause as he thinks for a moment] Are you Pop-Pop?
Santa: I'm Santa Clause!
Mason: No, you're Pop-Pop.


By the end of the conversation we gathered that he thinks it was Pop-Pop but he still believes in Santa, and that Pop-Pop knows Santa. So maybe not all is lost. At least he still believes there is a Santa after all. I really wonder what next year will bring, he is getting too smart for his own good. And he better not spill the beans to Sophie either.

Oh well, we got the photos and all is good. And just for fun I sat on Santa's lap too.
I'm really going to miss this when, hopefully many years from now, the kids will have out grown Santa or my Dad can no longer do this.
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Thursday, December 23, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

Even though we put up the tree on Nov. 27th this year, the earliest ever, we still managed to be digging through boxes and struggling to get the house all holly jolly with decorations up until the last minute.
As with the stockings, everything sort of got a shift this year. It's been one of learning and growing. Nothing is in the place it was last year, but I kind of like that. This is our third Christmas in this house and we are still learning how to make it a home. Deciding what works and what doesn't.
Some new things this year are the glass jars, that I absolutely love, filled with ornaments and glass beads. The frame on the dining room table has the free Be Merry and Bright download from Becky Higgins in it. My plan with this frame is to rotate a different digital print each season. The Playmobil Nativity Scene is new and really cute. I thought the kids would love it, as they could arrange the scene and play with the characters however they wanted. It sits on one of end tables in our living room. I moved the wreaths to the french doors leading into the library. It spreads out the holiday decor throughout the main level and keeps me from going insane each time they would fall off the only window we have facing the front of the house.

I added the Joy ornament to the wreath that hangs on our door. I like it a lot more now. Added a little color and pop to it, don't you think? I tried to find a welcome sign but they were all too big. Instead, a Welcome sign hangs around the end stair post as you first walk in. It is a wooden sleigh with a Santa face that reads Believe as well as Welcome.

The stairs are decorated pretty much the same. Lighted garland wraps the top banister. This year, I added wire garland to the bottom, weaving it through the balusters as I worked my way up the stairs. Gold, red and green ribbon bows are attached to each post; made with the wonderful Bowdabra. (Haven't put that thing to use in years. Such a wonderful tool it is.)

Scented pine cones sit in a gold basket next to a ceramic pitcher filled with white poinsettias on the other end table in the living room. The silk blooms came about because we had Zeke and poinsettias are poisonous to cats. Four years since his passing and I still haven't found the heart to buy the real thing. More silk flowers lie in various size vases in the corner of the dining room.

Though quite possibly my favorite decoration was my husband's brilliant idea last year; to wrap the pillars separating the living and dining rooms as candy canes. The tree still sits in the bay window in our dining room. We contemplated moving it into the hallway this year. But left it where it is. I feel it is out of the way here and still the perfect spot to build our village underneath once the kids get older.

Speaking of village. I have been begging Fred to get an electric train for under the tree for 5 years now. He keeps coming up with excuses and putting me off. Mason is a big train fanatic, he owns almost every Thomas train there is, and now with Sophie developing a strong interest, I really wanted one for this year. However it was looking like once again it was not to be. And then a Christmas miracle happened. Fred was installing recessed lights in my parents kitchen on a Grandma Sunday. Mason and my Mom were putting up the village and brought out the train they bought to put around the tree. As luck would have it, the train was huge. Too huge to place under the tree with the village and so Fred no longer had an excuse and I finally got my train. Doesn't it just look awesome?
The kids were over the moon about it. There is a Santa at the engine, it plays Christmas music and, it goes forward and backward. I LOVE IT! Thanks Mom and Dad.

And that is it for the holiday tour of our home. Hope you enjoyed it and maybe got a few ideas for yourselves for next year.
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dear Santa-Dec. 2nd

Today I took the kids to the mall after picking up Mason from school. I NEEDED to find him some waterproof gloves for this year. It was round two after Sophia having a nasty reaction to a cookie she ate a week earlier and me having to rush home to get some Benadryl into her.

First we stopped at Chick Fil A to grab some lunch. I wanted full tummies before attempting the long haul a trip to the mall meant. They both ate well so I let them have some play time before heading out. Sophia did really well managing obstacles and Mason played friendly with the other kids. When it was time to go, they easily got on their shoes without fussing and we headed to the mall.

The day was going well so far. After settling on the first pair of mittens we found at Sears, the last pair in his size, I decided to turn my efforts into finding a Christmas outfit for myself. The kids, understandably getting bored and tired and hungry, were begging for a train ride. Since I do have a tendency to be horrible at making decisions, especially on clothes, I realized the kids needed a break.

Sophia, having developed an interest in trains, was just as excited as Mason for the ride. She was looking out the windows, smiling and giggling. Mason was being his usual friendly self and waiving to all the shoppers as we passed. At the end of the ride I wanted to get a photo of the kids in front of the train. Mason happily posed but Sophie was not so cooperative. I settled for what I got.
But realized that patience were wearing thin. I made Macy's my last store and even though I hadn't intended on writing our letters to Santa so soon, when the whining started I made a beeline for the Believe meter rising above the rows of clothes. There I would find a little red table and chair, and a box of pre-designed letters sitting next to that adorable Santa's mailbox. Mason was super excited having experienced it last year. He quickly sat down and diligently wrote his letter.
I am so proud of him. Since starting school, he has done such an excellent job in not only learning to spell but to write. He is far from perfect. Spelling words backwards when writing them out more often than not, but he tries so hard and has come so far. I love that he wanted to do this all on his own this year. I stepped back and gave him the space and privacy he deserved. When he was done, he quietly walked over to the mailbox and waited for me to get into position for the picture picture before placing it in.
I then handed over my iPhone to Mason as I assisted little Sophia with her letter. My battery for my camera was being charged at home and had forgotten to grab it when I walked out the door, so all I had was my iPhone and ironically my battery was getting dangerously low. Sophia did well, doodling on her letter and really not wanting my help at all. So I mostly observed. She quietly and happily drew away, writing her own letter to Santa.
However, when it came to me having her stop her letter writing and actually put it in the mailbox, the little diva tested my patience to the core. I had to remove her from the chair and lead her to the mailbox but she did not want to let it go. This was the closest she got before proceeding to have an all out screaming meltdown tantrum in the middle of Macy's.
Even after Mason assured her that it was o.k., showing her the opening in which to place her letter, she still ran off into the clothing racks clutching tight to that letter, flailing on the ground and leaving Mason and I just looking at each other and me totally mortified. After what felt like a million minutes of trying to calm her down, my battery died and I knew I wouldn't get the picture I wanted of Sophie so cutely placing her letter in the mailbox to send off to Santa for the very first time. So, defeated, I gave up.

And just to prove that she was the boss, as I got ready to pick her up and put her in the stroller she calmly walked over to the mailbox, smiling now, and dropped that letter right into the slot.
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Monday, December 20, 2010

Rethinking the Holidays

We've had to re think how we are decorating this year for Christmas. With a sassy one year old running around, it has caused some snags we weren't expecting.

Traditionally the stockings are hung by the chimney with care. And I bought these super adorable vintage looking snowman mantel hangers last year. However this year, after hanging everything up and it looking oh so pretty, Sophia walked right up the the fireplace and yanked on the garland causing a cascade of falling holiday decorations. One by one the stockings, their heavy holders, the garland and other nicknacks came tumbling down narrowly missing my daughters head and thankfully causing little to no damage to them as they hit the marble hearth below. Which sustained no damage itself. Phew! That was a close call. Only now I had to come up with a new idea to hang the stockings.

It took me about a day and then I had it. I raided my stash of ribbon and with the assistance of my eager son, we hung the stockings by the stairway with care instead. See picture above. Seeing them there now, I actually really like it. Maybe even better than the mantel, and just might make this their new permanent home for the holidays.

This is the mantel as we have decorated it without the stockings. Except now we don't have those three candle holders in the center because they got in the way of the sensors for the television and cable box. Yes, that is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix we are watching on the television. It was just after having seen The Deathly Hallows in the theatre and decided upon a Harry Potter marathon for the rest of the weekend.

Stay tuned for more holiday decor and December Daily sharing.
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Friday, December 17, 2010

A lesson learned. Hopefully.

The last day of school before winter break. Snow still on the ground from the few inches of snowfall the day before. Two hour delay had carpool starting an hour later than normal and our day a little out of sorts. Luckily we got a phone call for a play date from Mason's best friend. After a quick lunch and a phone call to the doctors (who ironically is the father of our play date friend) we had Sophia dosed up with Benadryl for her stomach rash and headed out the door.

Met with uber excitement the kids threw off their winter gear and ran off to play. As usual they eventually wanted a snack so we made chocolate ice cream from a recipe in High Five magazine. With just some soy milk, ice, sugar, salt and 10 minutes of shaking we had our ice cream. I thought it was pretty cool, but like all new things we try there is a margin of error. And unfortunately the plastic bags broke and our ice cream ended up quite salty. Now we know for next time. Double bag.

A few hours later, kids still playing and Sophia asleep on my shoulder; it was after all about 4:30pm, the boys were upstairs playing and we sat on the couch for some girl talk and downtime. Then it happened.

My son started to scream. Blood curdling screams that let us know something was terribly wrong. He comes running down the stairs and very clearly upset and in pain. The reason? His best friend had bit him.


Yeah, that was our reaction too. Totally in disbelief. But sure enough I lifted up Mason's shirt and there there perfectly aligned teeth marks on his upper back. Seriously, neither of us knew quite how to handle the situation. Mostly we were both stunned and in shock. Totally mortified, my friend went into action with discipline as any Mom would do. She called her husband, a.k.a. my son's doctor, and it was decided we would stick around till he got home to have him take a look. I swear Mason cried for like 45 minutes. My heart was breaking for my poor little boy and I kinda panicked inside, unsure of how to make it better. All I could do was hold him and assure him that his best friend still liked him and that Daddy would not be mad that he got bit. Though I have to say my heart broke the worst when Mason cried, "I don't want to come over here anymore." That's when his best friend erupted into tears and ran into the other room. My friend and I, the Mom's we are, just looked at each other with sad eyes. We knew better but still did not want to see this end their long time friendship of 3 years.

Honestly for me, I understand that these things happen. Boys will be boys. They play rough, they disagree. They are after all only four years old. The biggest issues at this age are sharing and learning to control their emotions. It probably didn't help that neither one had a nap and were clearly at that tired but totally wound up stage. I'm not sure how I would have handled it if our roles were reversed. I thank God that they weren't. I was still in shock. I had never seen my friend's son act out like that. Though inside I was saying to myself, "what a relief her son acts this way too." I know we always think our kids are the only ones that turn into terrors the moment they are alone with us in the house and no one believes they can act so different than the sweet, easy chid they see at school, or gym class. It was a bit of comfort to see evidence that my friends, who I feel are so perfect, go through the same thing. Maybe the one good thing that comes out of all of this will be my son never becoming a biter.

As I am writing this, I am still befuddled about how it all went down. I'm not sure we will ever know. I only know this; Mason calmed down, we had another snack, played a few games of sword fight on Wii. Smiles came back and by the time it was time to head home, we had a prescription of antibiotics, instructions on how to clean the wound, and as I suspected, my son declaring, "I want to come back tomorrow."
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December Daily

Seriously, I had every intent on doing another one this year. However, life had other plans.


I am so tired of being busy. So busy that even my friends are like, "where's Rachel?" Where am I? Up to my eyeballs in Preschool, Holidays, and Motherhood. For real. I have a few things to put on my NOT TO DO list for next year.

However, I've been taking photos, and from time to time, writing things down about each day. But no where near the caliber and detail that I did last year. I don't even have the foundation of album done yet and feeling like this project is totally hopeless with how far behind I have become. Though I am trying to channel Ali Edwards and say to myself, there are no rules. It doesn't have to be perfect. Just get the story down and only tell the stories you want to tell.

And so I will.
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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Little Miss Helpful

We've hit the stage where she has discovered the use of tissues and the trash can. While normally I would be delighted that she is wanting to blow her own nose, we are in the midst of coldville in this house and she doesn't always get all of the snot and now I realize it is no wonder I finally came down with it too. And it doesn't always matter if she needs to use the them. Just like her brother did at this age, she finds the nearest tissue box in her reach and pulls them out one by one and then runs off to the trash to throw it in. I find myself torn between praising her for knowing the correct thing to do and scolding her for wasting a precious commodity in this household of colds and allergies. But this is not the worst of it. I remember finding it so cute when Mason was this age, that you could give him a wadded up piece of paper and he'd run to the trash can to throw it away and happily rush back to do it again. She is not so cute. We have so far dug out; two clothespins, the handle to the vintage popcorn popper, the popcorn scoop, a sippy cup and my credit card.

Fred finds that last one real amusing. Something along the lines of my spending habits followed by hysterical laughter.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Chalkboard Paint-oh how I love thee!

I have a new obsession. It is chalkboard paint. I want to put it on everything. Well, not really everything but I'm sure Fred feels that way. He thinks I've gone crazy since the last few projects I've done involve chalkboards in some way. I just really think there are some creative things you can do with it, and after perusing the Internet I've seem some inspiring ideas and am just itching to try them.

But for now I am sharing with you my two most recent chalkboard paint creations.

This project was used for Mason's birthday party. I originally wanted to make a sign digitally but being so busy it just wasn't coming together. On one of my many shopping trips to Target, I came across this mirror in the clearance section. It was bright magenta and just really awful looking, but it was only $2 and I thought, I can just spray paint the pink white and make this a chalkboard. Which is exactly what I did. (After it was all done I thought that I should have gotten some before pictures to show the transformation, but you live and learn). I thought it would take many coats to cover that pink and Fred didn't think it would stick to the plastic but it only took two and worked great. And the chalkboard paint worked perfectly on the glass. I know I have to be careful cause it still is glass and breakable which is why it will have a permanent home in my craft room. The sign worked great for Mason's party and now I can use it for jotting down ideas for scrapbooking and other crafts.

This one came about after some creative Internet searching. I've seen these mini clipboards at A.C. Moore and just thought they were so cute and wanted to buy some but not sure of what to do with them other than use them as mini clipboards (which, yeah that would be cute), but I wanted something a little more creative. So I stumbled upon this post about travel clipboard chalkboards she made her children. While she used regular size clipboards, I immediately thought of the mini ones and ran out to grab one and give it a try.

For both of these projects, I decided to use the chalkboard spray paint as opposed to the regular paint. Seeing as I didn't have much luck with the magnetic paint I tried in my craft room. It doesn't hold anything and is really a worthless brown section on my wall. Most people said the spray paint for these small projects works better and I have to say it worked perfectly. I am impressed with how well it covered and how easily it was to make just about anything a chalkboard.

As always, Mason had a say in the details. He gets so excited over my projects and is so eager to help with anything these days. I love that attitude about him. He picked out this owl paper and it's been sitting in a special place for months. I thought this would be the perfect project to use it, because eventually I know it would make it into his hands and he would be able to draw on it, practice writing on it and keep himself busy in boring situations. Well at least that was my hope. But mostly I intended to use this idea as a memo board to jot down messages, a phone number, etc.

To make this, I unscrewed the metal clip and set it aside. Then I spray painted the entire clipboard. I used two coats and alternated the direction of spray. That is key to making sure you have a smooth, even surface. Then I let it sit for 24 hours. Once dry, I measured and cut the paper and attached it with adhesive. Then Mason helped pick out the ribbon (orange of course). I ran it through my xyron sticker maker and attached it. Then I gave it and the paper a once over with Mod Podge. The felt owl came as a sticker and I added that last. I tied a pieced of chalk to string that was tied to the metal clip I reattached once the board was dry. Mason promptly broke the chalk in half. The directions tell you to condition the paint by covering the surface once over with the chalk and then erasing, which I did, but I think on larger surfaces that would be too difficult and really messy. I think it would work just fine even if you skip this step.

I think it came out rather nice. I just need to find a place to properly hang it where Fred won't look at it and go nuts, that it is just one more thing hanging up in the house. Maybe I should just leave it in the car for Mason to use. Either way I think it came out nice and I totally plan on making some more.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

November Thankful

This year I got so busy, I didn't participate in the daily November Thankful as I did last year. I loved documenting the little things I was thankful for each day, but I feel there is a need to take a different approach. Why do I wait till November to reflect upon the gifts I have been given in this life, to be grateful for who I am and what I have? I recently got the Live Creative eZine from Christine Kane. In it she talks about Gratitude as being a way of life, a practice. This is how I have been feeling lately; a want, a need to live a life of Gratitude. I want to be more aware of what is around me, to really be here in the present moment. Stop worrying about my past or what my future might hold. To be my own validator of my life and stop worrying about what others are doing, or how my life compares. I want to understand that I have a translation of life situations and they are my own choice. And those choices I have made and these changes I have gone through, have all brought me to where and who I am today.

I wanted to share with you just a few of these moments.

At my son's 4th birthday party, my Father told me that his Sister recently sent him a package full of poems that my Grandfather wrote when he was teenager. My Dad thought that I would like them and he was so right. Despite my busy life, I found a snippet of time to sit down and read a few of them. In reading his words, I felt a closeness to my Grandfather I never achieved during his years alive. In fact, I barely knew my Grandfather at all. By the time I remember meeting him, he had already had a stroke (I think maybe even two) and lost all function and feeling to the left side of his face. I was only like nine or ten years old, so young and had never had a full encounter with someone with a disability. I was unable to communicate with him well and I found him a bit scary. That was the last time I saw my Grandfather alive. I often think about how I missed my chance to ask him about his life. But now through these poems (and the letter sent from his sister) I feel I have gotten a second chance and I am grateful. Because, I never knew my Grandfather had aspirations of being an artist and musician. Growing up, I read and wrote many poems. I had dreams of being an artist, though I can't draw very well, but really shine in photography and other crafts. I often wondered where I got my talents and I realize I now know and had so much more in common with one of my Grandparents than I ever thought before. I am so incredibly grateful for my Aunt for sending this to my Father, and for my Father acknowledging how much I value our family history to pass them on to me. And in doing so, giving me a piece of my Grandfather I never had before.

This year is the first in which most of Fred's family is living on the east coast, and in the Northern Virginia area. It has been an unexpected joy to have everyone so close. My family and my husbands. I think more for Mason and Sophie, that they get a chance to really know their Great Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins. Holidays are sure to get a new twist, which I am actually looking forward to. Mostly I am one who loves tradition. In tradition we find comfort. For the last 18 years my family has kept a tradition for Thanksgiving. It started when my sister, Kerri, and her family moved to Ohio. We would travel each Thanksgiving holiday to visit. Instead of having a cooked dinner, it was a small house, we went to The Old Country Buffet. We liked it so much, it stuck. Even after my Sister moved back to Virginia, even when my other sister and I graduated from college, even when I moved out to live with Fred. We still went to The Old Country Buffet. But now, for the first time in 18 years we will have a sit down, cooked dinner at home. Well, not our home, but Fred's Grandparents new home. There will be 22 of us and I am so looking forward to spending time with everyone. I am not one who handles breaking with tradition and stepping out of my comfort zone all too well. But this year, I have felt more than most, a need to be with family. To spend as much time as possible in the company of those who love us. Who knows, if all goes well, maybe this will become a new Thanksgiving tradition.

Life has been an out of control emotional roller coaster the last few years. Marked with a few dark and desperate moments I wasn't sure we'd make it through. Yet, somehow, I am constantly reminded of the strength of the human spirit and the power of true and honest love. I am shown that we are full of mistakes, each and every one of us, but it is in the simple fact that we chose to work through them that really matters. I think back to my wedding vows and feel a profound thankfulness that I have this man, my husband, with whom I share my life every day. And for our two children who constantly teach me, and help me be a better person.

I truly am lucky in this life I live and I want to remember that, each and every moment of each and every day. I hope to keep some sort of daily gratitude of my life. Whether that be a simple mental note, or a physical one jotted down on a napkin, or even a whole blog post or scrapbook page. Living a life of Gratitude seems so much more fulfilling than not. During this holiday, as you reflect upon the things you are thankful for in your life, think about what that means. To live a life of Gratitude and start living it today.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Productivity with Creativity

I've been up to some creative projects lately. Something I have totally missed doing over the last several months. I absolutely love to make things. Things for myself, and especially things for other people. In fact my holiday gift giving is going to be 90% handmade, or creative gifts this year.

I got the idea for the art display above from The Creative Crate. Very inspiring creative projects over there. Go check it out if you have some time. I originally wanted to cut out the quote using my Cricut machine, like Erin did, but found that to be difficult. I didn't like the font cartridges I had and the vinyl for the machine is expensive. So I searched and searched the Internet and ended up buying the vinyl quote from one of the stores on etsy. I then took fish eye hooks and placed them in the wall and strung picture hanger wire between them. I used small clothespins that I found at A.C. Moore and painted them white. However during that process I decided that spray painting them would have been way easier. Noting that I purchased white spray paint for future use.

I love this idea because now that Mason is in Preschool, he brings home artwork every Friday in his backpack. Since our stupid stainless steel refrigerator is non-magnetic. Who knew stainless steel wold not be magnetic? I don't have a place to display all this wonderful art. Now I do. The best part is that Mason feels so proud to have it all displayed in a special place, in our family room with all the other toys and kids stuff. Each Friday we rush home to open his backpack and see what new art we can display. Already it's been filled up and I am running out of room; twice the capacity you see in the photo and think I need to make yet another row. Mostly though, I really enjoy sitting at the table or on the couch, looking up and seeing all my son's creativity staring back at me.

Speaking of Preschool. In the previous post I mentioned how incredibly busy I am with all the room parents duties, fundraisers, permission slips, parent connection committee, etc. I sort of anticipated this year being a bit crazy, so I figured I needed some sort of organized area for all the school stuff. Enter the SIC.
This is what Fred dubbed it anyway. I call it the School Information Center. It's a small section of countertop in our kitchen that I cleared away for all the important school stuff that comes home. Important dates go on the calendar, such as school closings, field trips, etc. Important notes, such as bring in $2 for grocery store trip and make sure orange shirt is cleaned for picture day, go on the chalkboard. Important papers to be signed or filed, go in the metal file basket (the most important on top with sticky notes). Anything else, like invites to the PCC social or ornament exchange get tacked to the board. It really helps keep things in perspective to be all in one place and in plain view where I spend most of my day.

To make this center I repurposed an old cork board I had down in my craft room. I painted it white, then covered the cork with coordinating scrapbook paper, using Mod Podge, to make it look pretty instead of boring. I then put a layer of Mod Podge over the paper to help with wear and tear. The chalkboard is a vinyl piece I picked up at A.C. Moore but you could do the same with chalkboard paint, and make it any size and shape you want.

For the calendar, which is like a dry erase board, I used a cheap picture frame I picked up at A.C. Moore. I spray painted it black then used the glass as my base. On the inside I used a permanent marker (which wipes off with some alcohol), to make the grid. I then used rub-ons I had in my stash for the word, MONTH, and stickers for the days of the week. Voila! A dry erase homemade calendar, way cheaper and a little more elegant than the ones you get at the store. Once again I got this idea for the calendar over at The Creative Crate.

This project has been in the works for a really, really long time.

I can't remember exactly when I got the idea that I wanted to make a mobile for Sophie, possibly when she broke the hand-me-down airplane mobile that played twinkle, twinkle; the one I so very much adored when Mason was a baby. However, sometime in March I searched for ideas on how to make it and gathered supplies. I know this because the photos I took of the butterfly mobile I saw at Pottery Barn on my camera says it was March. I used that as inspiration, and while Sophie was still a lump laying on the floor, I spread out my supplies, turned on reruns of Cold Case, and assembled my creation. And then it sat in Sophie's room for 7 months until I decided to finally hang it up a few weeks ago. I found some butterflies with alligator clips at Michaels, and the green wreath with pink crystals was on sale. I then used clear jewelry wire to hand the butterflies from the wreath. It turned out rather nice.
This is how it looks in her room, hanging above her crib. She seems to love it. Even saying something that sort of sounds like butterfly, while pointing to it at bed time. I think it looks great in the room. Adding a little more girly to the nursery as we decide how to prepare it, or the guest bedroom, for her big girl makeover.

I have a few more projects that I've done, dealing with chalkboard paint. A post on those is in the works so stay tuned for that.

In the meantime I am reveling in the time I have with our family and this holiday of gratitude. Mason is out of school this whole week (ugh!) so I am stocking up on numerous crafts for us to do relating to the season. Keeping a preschooler and a toddler occupied for 24 hours is quite a feet and I imagine that the t.v. will play a big roll this week, as well as some Wii, and a few movie nights might make an appearance.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

I never knew...

When we first signed Mason up for preschool I had a whole different idea of how I figured things would be as opposed to how they have turned out. Here are just a few of the things I never knew before becoming a mother of a preschooler:

I never knew that sending my son to preschool would make me want to go back. What fun, creative things they do each day and how exciting the teacher makes each lesson.

I never knew that three hours is really not enough time to get anything worth while done.

I never knew that I'd be twice as busy.

I never knew that signing on for room parent duties would put me in the role of leader, or that I'd feel so overwhelmed with the work. Taking on more than I could handle once you added on volunteering with the Parent Connection Committee. Note to self: you don't have to be supermom. Your kids will know you love and support them. Next year, room parent is enough.

I never knew I'd be so nervous at picture time and then anxiously awaiting their return, only to be brought to tears at the grown up little man staring back at me.

I never knew I'd look forward to planning, preparing and bringing in snacks for his class.

I never knew that watching little 4 year olds parade in their halloween costumes would be the highlight of my day.

I never knew I'd be so scared of parent-teacher conferences.

I never knew I'd see my son write his name after only two months.

I never knew the excitement of Fridays and a red folder would bring. To see what new art project he brought home and proudly hang it in our family room.

I never knew the extra amount of laundry I'd have on my plate, due to finger paints, play doh and god knows what else coming home all over his shirts.

I never knew that during sharing time, when asked what they are thankful for; my son would say he is thankful for parks, cars and his teacher.

I never knew how much Fred would love this school.

I never knew the joy of going to pick up my son and seeing his smile as he runs into my arms. Or the happiness of my daughter having her big brother back home as she reaches across the car to hold his hand on the way home.

I never knew I'd be so surprised by the explosion of my sons imagination and creative play. Or my new found inspiration in being crafty at home with my kids.

Mostly, I never knew that preschool would be an opportunity for both Mason and I to learn, build confidence and independence and really, truly grow.

So, yeah, that's where I've been this past month. Up to my eyeballs in preschool. Writing and sending emails. Going to meetings, taking notes, checking the yahoo group. Remembering fundraisers, soccer class on wednesdays and classroom events. Dropping off and picking up. Having family visit and preparing for holidays. Having our deck rebuilt and screened in. Coordinating teacher gifts, pot luck feasts, running endless errands and attending birthday party after birthday party.

Phew! I'm tired just reading that. How about you?

Mason hasn't had a proper "grandma sunday" in over two months and we haven't had a weekend to just sit and breathe. Not to mention the state of domesticity. The house is a mess, the laundry impossible to keep up and the fridge looking a bit empty. Getting some "me time" has gotten more difficult and things like my blog, facebook and twitter have gotten neglected. Everyday it is one more thing on the list and one more minute of me trying to hold it all together and not be a raving lunatic. But then, I take a step back and think; it's all just a part of the next step in motherhood.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Like Mother, Like Son

I just caught up on episodes of Bones last night and it was the one with Dr. Bunsen Jude the Science Dude. That name totally makes me laugh. Anyway, his signature phrase was "That's A-MA-ZING!" I totally think I'm going to use this from now on. And say it in just that way too (Uh-Maaaaaay-Zing).

Uh-hem. Anyway. Back to the topic.

As if there wasn't enough evidence that I ended up with a child "just like me," my son decides that orange is his favorite color. This, of course, requires that EVERYTHING be orange. From the floss stick he uses use at night, to the clothes he wears each day.

Recently at school they have been using bean bags and playing games with them. He asked me if we could buy some bean bags and I, being the crafty mom I am, convinced him that I could make him bean bags just as cool as any store bought ones. About 30 minutes into picking out the fabric for these bags I realize I should have kept my mouth shut. Standing there in the store, listening to my son whine, "no! It has to be JUST orange!" about to rip my hair out and lose my mind if he doesn't just PICK ONE ALREADY. I suddenly had a revelation.

I am about 6 or 7 years old. It's 1980 something and we are on our annual family get together at Kings Dominion. My grandmother has just agreed to buy my sister and I any shirt we want. While my sister picked hers out in a few minutes, I want a purple shirt. Why? Purple is my favorite color and everything I get has to be purple. So I drag my poor grandmother to, no lie, EVERY SINGLE STORE in that park until we finally found one. To this day that story is still told at family events, and my grandmother, still a bit bitter about it all.

Now, standing in front of the rows and rows of fabrics, desperate to find an all orange one before my son has a total meltdown and I die of old age; I think to myself, "this is what my parents went through." And once again I am reminded of the fact that I was cursed, oops, I mean, blessed to have a child just like me.

*Note: we eventually found an all orange fabric, tucked away behind some other ones and it was THE LAST ONE. You can bet I grabbed that thing, held on for dear life, and ran to the checkout as fast as Mason could keep up.
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

16 months.

This girl, I am LOVING her. Not that I didn't before. But now, these days, I am REALLY loving this girl.

This girl, who talks very little but understands much more than she can say. Like a sponge, she absorbs everything.

This girl, who is growing so fast.

This girl, who loves the camera.

This girl, who has become such a copy cat. From imitating our noises, facial expressions and actions to wanting to do everything her big brother is doing. Playing with cars and trains, joining in a game of chase or hide and seek, and sitting on the stairs, next to him, to get her shoes put on in the morning.

This girl, who loves to eat. Grapes, string cheese, gerber sweet potato puffs. Pretty much anything you put in front of her. And who still throws her sippy cup and plate on the floor.

This girl, who is constantly on the move. Running here and there. She never wants to be held for very long. Whose walk is pigeon toed causing her to swing her hips just so, that her skirts twirl.

This girl, whose personality has really burst forth.

This girl, who loves to dance and knows how to be silly.

This girl, who is very much like her brother, rough and tumble. But still enjoys a cute tutu and admiring herself in front of the mirror.

This girl, who gives high fives and cheers. Who pouts and gives you dirty looks.

This girl, who is fearless. Running full steam into waves, and going head first down slides.

This girl, who can throw a tantrum with the best of them. Screaming, hitting, falling on the floor, crying and looking oh so pathetic. Who will actually sit in time out for a full minute. Forty percent of the time.

This girl, who has developed a relationship with her brother. Who gets frustrated when he takes a toy away but who still wants to hold his hand in the car. Who misses him each day he's at school. Who sometimes gives hugs and kisses and is always, ALWAYS willing to play and be goofy with him.

This girl, who likes to have her teeth brushed before bed and enjoys books.

This girl who charms the pants off of strangers while shopping and family who visits. Whose smile melts your heart and whose giggle is infectious.

This girl, who surprises me everyday. When the basement door is left open and I see her heading in that direction I panic. Thinking she is headed for the stairs and going to tumble down them, I jump up only to find she is helpfully closing the door. Then turns to me, nods her head and claps her hands in self acknowledgement of a job well done.

This girl, who has discovered crayons.

This girl. This 100% mama's girl, who has given me the opportunity to know what it feels like to be the preferred parent. I LOVE IT.

This girl, who can follow simple instructions. Like, "bring me your boots."

This girl, who sometimes reminds me of Zeke. When I am in the bathroom and I see these tiny little fingers appear under the door and a little voice call out, "hi."

This girl, who looks good in hats. Which is good because she doesn't have much hair yet. And even though I dress her in pink, people still think she is a boy.

This girl, who still takes two naps a day.

This girl...

Yeah, I love this girl.
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Monday, October 4, 2010

I got a feeling, that tonight's gonna be a good night

Saturday night we went to the the local VillageFest in our neighboring community. It wasn't our first experience at a carnival but to date it was the most memorable.

Entering fall and quite possibly the busiest time of year for us. Between birthdays, holidays, family visits and get together's, school events, NFL and any other local venues/events or happenings we'd like to attend, our weekends book up awfully fast. We barely seem to have time to breathe.

So, it was nice, after a gorgeous day of watching Daddy race at Summit Point, to spend some time with friends being silly, riding rides, getting messy with cotton candy and funnel cake and rocking in out to old school jams.

And can my kids rock it out or what? This scene had me cracking up almost all night.

Yeah, they take after me.
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The gravity of a cavity

It went a little something like this.

Me asking anyone and everyone, when is the right time you are supposed to take your child to the dentist? And like most things, getting a variety of answers. Then inquiring upon my dental hygenist friends about the stains that showed up on Mason's two front teeth. Followed by me pleading with my husband to put our kids back on dental insurance because I was certain Mason was getting to that age. However it wasn't until I was filling out the many forms required for my son's preschool, and the question asking for his dentist being left empty, that I seriously decided that I needed to get on the ball.

So yesterday I did a lot of research, phone call inquires and debating in order to find the right dentist for my child. About an hour later I had an appointment scheduled with Little Pearls Dentistry for Children. I chose them mostly because they are in-network for our insurance but also because they seemed to really have the children's comfort and interests in the forefront.

That night, I prepped Mason for what to expect. To help ease any anxiety that I was sure he might have. This is where I really love the internet. Mason in my lap, I pointed out the picture of the dentist, he is going to count your teeth. And if you have any questions or concerns you can ask him, just like your teacher. O.K.? I also pointed out the pediatric dental assistants to which Mason asked, Do you think the girl in green will clean my teeth? I read him the many testimonials from patients. Yes, the children. Things like: ...they give you a puppet to hold and let you watch your favorite t.v. show! Dude I don't get to watch my favorite t.v. show at my dentist. That is sooooo cool! And off to bed he went with a promise to bring whatever car he wanted, to hold instead of the puppet.

I woke up today having high hopes. Later in the afternoon, I left to pick up Mason from school. Getting my running hug, as always, I asked if he was ready for the dentist. Unfortunately we hadn't grabbed a car before we left and he pleaded to stop at home to get one. Being located just up the road from our neighborhood, always a plus when appointments are close to home, I didn't see a problem. Car now in hand and Mason in high spirits, we were off to the dentist.

We were greeted by a waterfall and fish tank as soon we walked in and were surprised with a Thomas train table around the corner. So while I filled out the necessary paperwork, Mason played with the train table while Sophie watched from the stroller. Once done, Mason got to choose a movie from a long list, he chose Aladdin, and holding on to my hand for comfort we headed to the back.

Holding tight to my hand, I placed Mason into the chair and the dental assistant promptly put on the movie. She was so great with Mason. Showing him the toothbrush she was going to use, how it worked and letting him touch it. Helping him put on sunglasses to shield his eyes from the light she needed to use to see in his mouth. I'm Dana by the way. I don't think I told you that. She worked as I stood in the background. The only issue Mason had was with the flavor we chose for him, raspberry. I don't like that, he said. The feeling? Does it tickle? Or the flavor? The flavor. Second time around he chose orange and liked it much better. I want orange every time o.k. mommy? Duly noted buddy.

He sat there so still, listening to her and following her directions when asked to open wider or chomp on the saliva ejector (yeah, I had to look that one up). I was so very proud of him. Do you mind if I take pictures? Camera at the ready. Go ahead. SWEET! Click. Click. Click. Enter Dr. Mike. He sat down, asked if there were any concerns on our end and started counting Mason's teeth. I turned my attention to Sophie, who was modeling excellent behavior herself. One of the nurses had given her a plush dolphin and she was showing it off, all smiles. So he is missing a tooth on the bottom. My attention shot back to the doctor. What? From what I was told this is not uncommon. Turns out instead of the normal four he only has three, missing an incisor. Sometimes the baby tooth just doesn't erupt. Nothing to do at this point but later on an x-ray will be necessary to see if an adult tooth is there or not.

Still trying to absorb the realization of my son missing a tooth (and the fact that I had no idea) I was hit with the news of a cavity. Crap. Really? No I didn't say that out loud but it's what I thought. And felt. The stain in between his two front teeth on the top, yup it's a cavity. And now I feel like such a failure as mother. While I have not taken very good care of my own teeth I really wanted to do better for my children. Still it is what it is, and I have to just accept it and move on. So I was told that we need to use a fluoride toothpaste and place a dab on the front and back on his teeth before bedtime. They said we could choose to separate the teeth to loosen the space between them to help. Not sure if I am comfortable with that. I'm not sure what it all entails, maybe sedation or numbing with a needle. Both of which would not go over well with Mason and cause him to fear the dentist in the future. So I guess we'll try the fluoride and see in six months how that goes. There was no mention of a filling or anything, so I guess it's not that bad but still it is a cavity. It was mentioned to stay away from foods with carbohydrates like goldfish and I seriously looked at the doctor like he was insane. He wants me to keep carbohydrates away from a three year old? Or he said to make sure to brush after he eats those foods. Realistically, I'm not thinking about brushing his teeth that many times a day and quite honestly he isn't in my presence for a whole three hours where he gets snacks. So honestly I don't see that happening too much.

I'm sure I'll be thought of as a horrible mother now because I don't brush my child's teeth more than just at bedtime but seriously I'm doing the best I can with strong personalities. I barely have enough time to get my son out of bed, fight with him to eat breakfast and then get dressed before heading out the door for carpool. And be on time. So to add tooth brushing on top of it is like, OH MY GOD, adding fuel to the fire. My daughter, I try to brush her teeth with the gum brush thing but, HELLO, she BITES MY FINGER and bites it hard. So bad that I have cried, certain she drew blood. You can bet I think twice before sticking any finger back in that death trap. But still I find myself so distraught over their heath, and now especially their teeth.

I went into this dental visit feeling hopeful that Mason would once again impress me with his coping skills, which in true fashion he did, but I left feeling depressed and concerned and a complete failure as a mother over a simple cavity and non-existent tooth.



just a note: my husband so proudly came up with the title and I just had to give him credit. (Bet you didn't think you'd see me write that did you, babe?)
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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Let's start over

Reading and catching up on my emails this rainy Sunday morning, I came upon the September newsletter from SARK. If you are not familiar with her I suggest you do so. An author and artist she in an inspiration to many. I was first introduced to her in college when a fellow classmate let me borrow the book, The Ultimate Nap Book: Change your life without getting out of bed. I was hooked. 10 years later: I own eleven books, follow her on twitter, read her blog and subscribe to her newsletter. Oh how great it is that technology allows me so many ways to indulge in wondrous inspiration.

As I said, her most recent newsletter caught my attention. A story about creative dreams. How they are not only projects, businesses or great ideas, but ways of living differently. She writes, "my mom was a grudge holder who was very concerned with being 'right.' I've carried on that tradition while having a creative dream of being and living differently...Don't you love how the world gives us new places and ways to practice?" Below is an excerpt of the story from her newsletter.

The story ended on a happy note and she made this statement: I was profoundly reminded that when we can live and behave differently than our reactive patterns we are also untangling other larger dynamics.

It got me thinking. Really thinking. Most recently about our beach trip and my actions or rather reactions to events that unfolded. Here is my story.

It was the second to last night and our big dinner out as a group. Without discussing it with everyone, Fred and I were just informed that we, as a group, were going to go leave for dinner at 6:30pm. Upon thinking about it Fred and I thought that was a bad idea. We made our concerns known. If we don't leave till 6:30pm, by the time we arrive at the restaurant, get seated and order our food it will be close to 7:30pm and the kids bedtime. While we want to eat and have a good time the kids will be losing steam and getting fussy. It made more sense to leave closer to 5:3o or 5:45pm in order to minimize the meltdowns. While one couple agreed with our assessment when mentioned to the other, they were less than agreeable. Their baby had to be fed at 5:30pm, their son was currently napping and they hadn't had showers yet. My solution to that was, get in the shower now, your son will wake up soon and you can feed the baby at the restaurant. Simple right?

Still they did what they wanted instead, which was stick to the not leaving till they wanted plan. So the closer it got to 6pm the more my kids started to get hungry, bored and meltdown. I knew we had to go and go soon. So I suggested that Fred and I head over there, get a table (my kids settled down and fed) and wait there for everyone else to join us when they were ready. This was of course ridiculous, we could just wait here, and I GOT MAD. I mean really PISSED OFF. I just sat there festering about how wrong they were and how much I disliked them, their selfishness and unwillingness to compromise. And I remained this way the rest of the night. Being unsocial at dinner, taking it out on my husband and kids. My anger turning to hurt. Even spending a few moments crying in the bathroom. How disappointed I was with our vacation this year, how I felt disrespected and disliked by my friends. How I so desperately wanted to go home. I left feeling detached from my friends when I should have felt more tight-knit. I was not feeling good about myself or the whole situation.

I've often thought about the whole trip and the events that resulted immediately and shortly thereafter. Mostly about my behavior. What I could have done differently. Like SARK, I too want to go back and say to everyone, "can we start over?" Because seriously, when I look at how I behaved, it was, again like SARK, self-righteous and defensive. While I was so upset over how I was being treated, how disgusted I was with the selfish behavior and uncaring toward other's feelings I too was acting just like them. I was uncaring how my unwillingness to let it go and unsocial behavior was causing uncomfortableness to those around me. And my anger, while maybe justified, was being directed to those who were undeserving of it's wrath.

We cannot change others, how they behave or think or feel. Change comes with a desire to be a better person, with respect for human life. As SARK says, we all have the opportunity to live and behave differently. And I for one have the desire.

So, let's start over shall we.

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