Saturday, March 31, 2012

So Raise Your Glass: Celebrating One Year of Not-So-SAHM

It's true.  And I can hardly believe it.  Technically this blog is not one year old, but it has been exactly one year since I took a break from practicing law and started to stay home with my kids full time.  In thinking about this milestone, I went back and pulled up the "my departure" email I sent to my law firm practice group one year ago.  Here's part of it:
Next week I will begin to focus my energy on improving a slightly different set of skills than those I’ve developed at A&P -- negotiating with my formidable young son to share (without hitting, screaming, or “sharing” only the broken toys with his sister); to teach my sweet, but overly dramatic daughter to process her feelings (not every little issue could possibly merit a level-10 tantrum); and to impart to both of them that it would be to their advantage to not mouth off and generally refrain from giving me grief.  (I will remain silent as to from whom they have inherited their tendencies and my likelihood of success at curbing them). ...

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with one my favorite pictures of my son (which hung above my computer as a daily reminder). 

I don't know that I've achieved success at any of the skills I identified above.  My kids certainly continue to mouth off and give me grief -- even knowing it's not to their advantage.  But they've also given me much, much more than I anticipated one year ago.  Thanks, loves.

No Monsters in My Bed recently tagged me to play her "11 Questions Game."  And I think this post is an appropriate one in which to answer the questions for two reasons:

  (1) No Monsters in My Bed was literally the first "mommy blog" (although I don't really like that label) I read right after I left my job.  I think I was frantically googling "what the hell do I do with these kids in D.C." and I came across No Monsters and it probably saved all of us.  So, Darcy, thanks a million times over; and

  (2) this is likely the only time the kids will relinquish their pen to me to talk about me.  So here it goes.

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(1) What is your favorite children's book?
  When I was a child (although older than my kids are now), my favorite book was probably The Little Prince.  Or The People Could Fly.  Or Buffalo Woman.  I don't know that I have a favorite book to read my kids.  They tend to like the same ones over and over again.  But my son has recently started to get into Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends and I'm psyched about that.  Even though he frequently only wants to hear the "pirate poems" (oh will this pirate madness ever end?).

(2) If you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go? 
  To London with my husband.  It's not exotic, but it's my favorite international city (not that I've traveled extensively).  Everything there just seems cooler.  We've stood outside a normal office building and watched people working (probably putting covers onto TPS reports) and marveled -- "what could they be working on?  must be something super cool.  and top secret."  I want to move there long enough for my kids to acquire British accents and come back to the states and be the American kids with British accents.

(3) What is the best advice you've ever been given?
  I haven't been given a lot of straight up "advice," which probably explains a lot about me.  But I'd have to say that the best advice I've ever been given is from my husband: "don't get too high with the highs or too low with the lows."  He's much better at following it than I am.  But I'm much better at following the only other piece of advice he dispenses: "don't eat yellow snow."

(4) Name your top 3 favorite POP songs ever.  Yes, I said POP.
  This is hard.  If forced to narrow it to three, I'd say currently I'd go with:
  (1) Red Red Wine (the 1983 UB40 version -- my first tape ever, which was totally inappropriate, but pretty rad in my My First Sony red walkman);
  (2) Pumped Up Kicks (yes, indie pop is still pop.  this was on all last summer and it reminds me of driving in the car with my kids, windows down, whistling and wondering what the F I had just done up and leaving my job when so many people were involuntarily out of work.  and, upon reflection, deciding not to think about it much because I was with my kids in the middle of the day sunshine);
  (3) Tie between Young, Wild & Free and Raise Your Glass (both remind me of much younger days).

But three is so not fair (and I even cheated).  I don't even have any Justin Tinberlake up there.  I already want to change the list.  Except Red Red Wine.  That will always be number one.

(5) Who was your celebrity childhood crush?
  John Stamos as Uncle Jessie.  I was not a fan of Aunt Becky.

(6) What is your least favorite part of your daily routine?  Favorite part?
  The witching hours are probably my least favorite part.  Unless Kane wakes up cranky, then that's my least favorite - he can never quite recover.  But if they wake up happy, and Cami always wakes up happy, my favorite part is going in their rooms first thing in the morning.

(7) What did you always promise yourself you'd never do as a parent?
  Let my kids watch TV.  Ha.

(8) Biggest risk you've taken?
  Dying my hair hot pink.  Well, maybe it wasn't a big risk.  But I think it was pretty ballsy.  Not much hiding in the crowd with hot pink hair.  Even in Seattle.  I loved it.  My parents not so much.  I recently tried to get my hairstylist to put a hot pink strand back in.  He reminded me that I hadn't been in to get a haircut in 8 months, so maintaining a neon color was probably not going to happen.  Damn you sensible D.C.

(9) Most irritating thing people commonly say.
  When people learn that I'm currently staying at home with the kids, I frequently get "oh, that must be nice" or "you're so lucky."  In fact, it is so nice.  I am so lucky.  But what is irritating is that their response is usually dripping in "you've got it easy, lady.  why don't you just put your feet up, slap on the reality TV, and have some more ice cream."  I've worked full time.  I've worked part-time while raising kids.  And now I'm home full time.  And the only common thing among all of the scenarios is that none of them are easy.  They are all hard.  I think when you're in what you're in, you're in it.  And it's hard to see past it.  If that makes sense.  So I try to remember that when I curse full-time working parents for getting to go to the bathroom by themselves.

And, p.s., feet up, trashy TV, and sweets is exactly where you'll find me at the end of my day -- AFTER my kids are in bed.  So, haters, put that in your pipe and smoke it.

(10) What are you reading?
  I just finished Tina Fey's Bossypants.  I thought it was hysterical.  It contains some good advice for women in the workplace.  And it wouldn't be a bad idea to make dudes read it either.

(11) Best movie you've seen lately (as I'm nervous everyone will reply with the Hunger Games, maybe list two of the best movies you've seen lately).
  I haven't seen Hunger Games yet, but I loved the books.  In fact, I haven't seen any good movies lately -- the only movies I've seen recently were those shown on our kidless flight to San Francisco, which was fabulous.  The flight.  Not the movie.  The movie, New Year's Eve, was horrendous.

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The picture I included in my departure email has been on our refrigerator since I brought it home one year ago.  Despite my annoyance at the British poster's recent take-off in popularity (and the copycat everything it has spawned), we've sort of embraced it as our family motto.  But much like my husband's advice, I need to work more at following it.  

We are on spring break next week and I'm going to enjoy it with the kiddos.  We've got lots planned, so look for us in a week or so. 

And if you get a chance, raise your glass.  You know I will.  Cheers! 

Friday, March 30, 2012

What a Scene: Color Your Own Playdough Playscape

Earlier this week we posted about our passover playdough and showed how we made it look like matzah by coloring the playdough with a brown marker.  Well once mom said we could color playdough with markers, it was game on.  And it has been since then.  We've seriously asked to color the playdough four or five times since last weekend.  And each time it looks more and more like it's tie dyed.

And it was a great way to put together playscapes or scenes for our pirates.  We rolled it out, drew a deserted island and water and set our ships sailing.  When we were done with that, we balled it up, rolled it back out and started over.  We drew an interactive treasure map and literally buried treasure underneath it.  Then dug it up.  We made playdough cannon balls and shot them out of our cannons.  And on and on.  This has been the best canvas we've ever used for playing pretend.  I've spent hours with this playdough this week.  And even Cami has been more into it than usual.  She's still making "Joe Joe's," but she loves using the markers to do it.

I can't believe we haven't thought of this before, but we certainly plan on having a batch of plain playdough on hand in the future.  What playscape would you come up with?  If you need pirates, we have plenty.  Just saying.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

I'm the Egg Man: (Mostly) Naturally Dyed Eggs

We haven't been able to get ourselves that psyched up for the spring holidays, but once mom started seeing all these beautiful naturally dyed eggs, we started to change our tune.  We are notoriously bad at using up all our groceries each week and the thought of using up some food that was likely otherwise on it's way to the can helped tremendously.  After checking out several good tutorials (here, here, and here), we scoured our fridge/freezer and got together the following:

  - frozen blueberries (that were fresh and then frozen by mom - we like them best that way);
  - yellow onion skins;
  - spinach (frozen and then thawed);
  - edamame (fresh);
  - frozen corn;
  - fresh strawberries (mashed up a bit); AND
  - our leftover COLORED spaghetti (the most non-natural food item we used)

Following the Chocolate Muffin Tree's tutorial, we put each raw egg in a square of cloth with some of the food items (we had a hard time not putting a little bit of everything in), wrapped it up, and placed all the bundles in a pot.  Actually, we started out with the egg in the cloth, but switched to putting the egg in after the other food items -- it was hard not to break them!  We then covered them with cold water (about 2 inches above the bundles), brought the water to a boil, and then let it simmer for 15 minutes.  Once finished, we drained them on a cooling rack and opened them when they were cool to the touch.

We think these turned out really beautiful -- although the spinach definitely gave all of them an overall green/brown color that we could do without.  Much to our surprise, the colored spaghetti did not ruin the natural look -- the blueberries, onion skins, and edamame gave the best natural color.  And the spaghetti, blueberries, and edamame gave the best texture.  The frozen corn and strawberries appeared not to do much.  If we did anything different next time, it would be to use more onion skin.  And make sure to distribute the food all around the egg -- the color really transfers the best where pressed up against the egg.

Aren't these cool?  Plus, Cami basically ate all kinds of fruit and veggies that she wouldn't eat if you put them on a plate in front of her.  The reason we only had one egg with all blueberries was because Cami ate most of them.  So, you'll have that going for you, too, which is nice.

the orange is from onion skin and the yellow is from edamame

all blueberries in the front

edamame - texture and color

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Dripping Dream: Drip Painted Vases

It's cherry blossom season in D.C.!  Well it was -- those things don't last very long.  We had planned to go blossom watching last weekend, but before going, we wanted to make some new vases to hold any spare blossoms we found (we wouldn't DARE pick them off the trees, but there are usually lots laying around).  This was not complicated, but it held Kane's attention for a LONG time.  Really.  Me not so much.  I did one with mom (sort of), but then I just wanted to paint myself.  You can't blame me.  Blue is my favorite color -- in fact it's the only one I can say, so I say it a lot.  But I do actually know blue when I see it.  And now you can see why we frequently craft almost completely naked.

Mom set old spaghetti sauce jars upside down on the top of paper towel rolls -- her intention was that we could hold the paper towel roll while painting the jars and avoid fingerprints.  It was a good idea, but a little too advanced for us - we kept knocking them over.  So we just set the jars down on the table.  I used a paintbrush, but Kane decided he wanted to squirt the paint directly on to the top of the jar and let it drop down the sides.  Mom was psyched because she had been wanting to do some drip paintings (like these), but was waiting until the weather turned nice so we could do it outside.  She wasn't sure we could control the amount of paint we squeezed onto the top, but Kane surprised her (although, he did use up A LOT of BioColor, which wasn't exactly cheap).  I was happy with using the paintbrush.  Kane made two and then wanted to do some scrape painting, which we've done before and loved.  And it used up a lot of the paint that had dripped down onto the table.

Once these beauties were painted, mom was presented with the problem of moving them.  And thus the hilarity began.  She did put them on top of paper towel rolls while they were still dripping paint -- so her fingerprints from the move were covered up easily.  But once they were up on their stilts, they fell over very easily.  Which meant the dining room table, then the kitchen counter, and then the kitchen stove and floor were completely covered in paint rather quickly.  Kane and I found this hysterical and didn't mind one bit that our jars were getting all kinds of jacked up.  In the end, the one that looked most destined to hold cherry blossoms (it was a pretty mixture of white, pink and red), didn't survive.

But, mishaps notwithstanding, we think that these turned out really amazing.  And even though the weather didn't cooperate with us for blossom touring, we found a new home for our spin painted egg carton flowers (btw, egg carton flowers would be a great way to reuse all those egg cartons left over from easter egg dying).  We will definitely be making some more drip art in the future.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

It's a Beautiful Life: Family Day at the House of Sweden

Given the weather this past weekend and the realization that our family's collective allergies were making it pretty impossible to be outside for long periods of time (damn you, pollen), we were on the lookout for some new indoor activities.  Enter House of Sweden.  Housing both the embassies of Sweden and Iceland, mom and dad had been wanting to get in for a look for quite a while.  Not that it's hard to get into, the House of Sweden holds all kind of different exhibitions.  It's just hard to get free time, they claim.  So the family day seemed like a perfect opportunity -- the Embassy of Sweden was offering story times, science shows, a Swedish fishing pond, and a Swedish photo prop op.  Wouldn't you know that when offered all of that, all Kane and I wanted to do was take over the small Swedish red cottage out front?  Literally - we attempted to bar all others from entry, which wasn't that difficult because the play cottage locked from the inside (who builds a child playhouse that locks from the inside?  those Swedes ....).  If your kids aren't acting like us, this would be a super fun event.  Plus the House of Sweden's architecture is awesome and it;s right on the river at the Georgetown waterfront.  I'm sure we'll try again next year.

we were happy to mess with the props while waiting in line and others were trying to use 
them, but when it came to actually taking the picture, no dice.

look there are some blossoms.  now get back inside before we all break out in hives.

ya can't come in.