Tuesday, March 30, 2010

You likie?

What do you think of the new blog look? A bit more width and breathing room for the text (the typographer in me was dying for bigger margins, more white space!) and a few new spiffy colors. I'm pleased with it, more tweaks to come I'm sure, but a nice facelift just in time for Spring! I like the circles as they are, but I was thinking just this morning that wouldn't they look fabulous with little silhouettes inside them? I'm thinking something in this style:

I found this Best Day Ever print by Erinjane Illustrations in her Etsy shop. Check out the rest of her work, I like! Doing this would mean I would have to fire up Illustrator though, my least favorite of programs. It's a shame Illustrator and I don't get along better, the work I can do in the program appeals to my design esthetic so much!

I want you also to take note of my nifty new gadget below each post, from LinkWithin for all you bloggers. What it does is picks out and lists past posts that are on related topics. I've admired this on a few different blogs I follow and finally picked the brain of a friend over at Birds On a Wire to see how she made this happen. I have been fascinated over the last hour following the links within my own blog. To see reoccuring topics and then to notice a growth or change on my part over the past few years of blogging is pretty amazing.

I did notice my lists of related links are not nearly as pretty as I'd like, since most of my posts have no pictures to use as a thumbnail. For a visual person this realization that my blog is lacking some, well, visuals, is disconcerting and I'm going to make an effort to give you more pictures! All in all, I hope you enjoy the related links as much as I do, I think it's a very interesting addition!


My post on Stuff the other day got me thinking about how I could be smarter when choosing toys to bring into our home in the first place. If you think your house could also use a little 'less is more', here are a few tips I have about the kinds of toys that have been enjoyed over and over at our house.

1. They don't need big sets of things.

I remember Thane was really into Little People toys by Fisher Price at one point. So over the birthdays and holidays we got him over five different sets, a Noah's ark, a farm, a house, the zoo, you name it. They are so cute, but the first one he had was all he needed. We also did this with Rescue Heroes, and then there was a dinosaur phase, and it almost seemed to take the pleasure out of the first few they had and now we have all these extras that we just seem to spend time cleaning up. We call these huge sets 'dump out' toys here, where the whole bin gets dumped out, they find the one they like, and then go play with that one.

My boys seem to use a few animal figurines and a few action guy figurines, and for Seth I'd have to throw a few things with wheels into the mix. I think if they had a basket of their favorite five they'd be happy. And the kind doesn't seem to matter here, random yardsale 10 cent guys have been some of their favorites and they're always so pleased with themselves for the find. But they never use a matching set, and even Seth won't use twenty dumptrucks. My guys do like play areas for their figures to live in, climb on, the current theme seems to be making them into 'levels' (like their action guys are going through a video game). But again, their favorites are a castle they found at a yardsale, Bear in the Big Blue House's house found at another yardsale, and third is the littlest pet shop house. Forget the cute little animals that mommy bought to promote gender equality, but the house is tops on their list.

2. Craft supplies and toys they can build and create with are always a favorite.

And I'm sure, very good for their brain. The more raw the form, the better here. Plastecine, playdough, markers, crayons, paint, and paper. Forget the kit that goes with the playdough to make specific things, or the paper that only works with certain markers. Those either get used up quickly and you're left with one half of a duo, or the novelty wears off quickly and it sits unused (think making hamburgers with playdough; how often is that entertaining, and how often do you want to clean out the machine?), but the plain materials are as limitless as their imaginations.

The same goes for toys they can build with. Here it's lego, megablocks, bendaroos, and pipecleaners. Take those with you and they've got anything they'd like to play, because they can build it!

3. I also think one can never have too many books.

But I think the same rules above apply. They don't need to be new, some of our favorites are yardsale Dr. Seuss's, and old Sesame street and Fraggles and Muppets books. Books that have good rhythm and books that have beautiful pictures are also some of our favorites. Colorful, touchable baby board books are good for that toddler 'let's rip the pages out' stage too. I still think they don't need to have big sets of these either. You know the sets of 20 Scooby-Doo or Diego you can read phonics books? We might have gotten through a handful of them.

4. Battery operated toys are pretty useless.

To begin with they're often too loud, irritating for momma at best and hard on a kids hearing at worst, and then end up with dead batteries that never get switched for new ones. They're costly to keep going, difficult to dispose of, hard on the environment and often replace what the child should be getting out of play, like making their own sound effects to their truck and action guys. If you're going to get something with batteries though, make it the fridge letters by Leappad. My kids have all loved those, and that never happens. They just walk by the fridge and dance to the music and play with learning their letters for a while. It's great. If you happen to have one of those non-sticky stainless steel fridges, or would like to keep the clutter off your fridge or out from under your feet? (Because the letters inevitably end up on the floor around the fridge). Get a magnet board at the office store and hang it at their eye level. The one we have the kids can draw on with grease marker too, a big hit, and sometimes I write things on it that Thane is beginning to roll his eyes at, like 'Mommy loves you'. I maintain that he's secretly pleased though.

Any tips for me? I haven't really gotten into the world of dollies, but Claire seems to have a preference so far for ones with soft heads. I'd also love to hear how anyone avoids stuffed animal purchases (known at our house as 'stuffies'). My tactile kid Seth is so hard to turn down when he asks for a really soft one.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday Love.

Monday's deserve a little love. At least at our house.

My Monday's are wonderful lately. On Monday's I don't work, but Troy is back to the workweek, Thane's off to school, and Seth has no preschool. Some Monday's we go to a playdate, but sometimes we just have nowhere at all that we need to be. I get to hang out with the littlest two of our clan, spend a peaceful day in a quiet house, catching up on what didn't get done over the weekend, or just catching up with a nap. For awhile in the morning Seth gets control of the remote and as I putter around I can hear the sweet and gentle preschool shows that usually get outvoted in favor of the louder Ben10, Bakugon, Spiderman or Scooby-Doo when my big kid Thane is home. When Claire is awake it's nice to see her and Seth beginning to play together, when Thane is home Seth generally opts to mostly ignore Claire. And Seth is also getting good at entertaining himself away from the tv, it used to be that he was at a bit of a loss to fill his time without his big brother directing the entertainment. In the afternoon we have been popping outside to play, and Thane receives happy greetings when he gets off the bus. I have time to plan supper and have it ready a little earlier, and in turn a peaceful evening usually follows.

So here's my hurray to Mondays, not everyone hates you Monday!

Saturday, March 27, 2010


I'm not so good at Spring cleaning. I am, however, excellent at The Spring Purge. I go through the kids clothes, their toys, the linen closet, our closet, the front closet, the kitchen, every corner of the house, editing, cutting, and deleting items from our lives. I'm a good three quarters of the way there this year. Those Spring-like days where it's deceptively sunny, but when you actually go outside you realize that wind is still bitter cold, those are the best days to get me motivated to cull through our house. I love simplifying our lives by getting rid of those things, that 'stuff' that I spend so much time sorting, tidying, and taking care of.

My problem lies in the fact that this is an annual thing, especially since I've had kids. I get a huge 'yardsale pile', sometimes actually have a yardsale, sometimes not, and the remainder goes to the charity bin. It's still good stuff, just unused in our house. But will they actually be able to sell it to someone who will use it? Or is it really just unusable garbage created in our consumerist cycle. (Take twenty minutes here and watch Annie Leonard's Story of Stuff. It's useful food for thought.)

This year I've been brewing on some ideas to put an end to this cycle. Where do we get this stuff? A lot of it is clothes. I'd have to swallow my pride to get over this hurdle. The pile consists of clothes that are a little worn from use (or from washing, it's debatable), I only keep the really nice ones to hand down to the next kid, knowing full well that between birthdays and holidays and my finding deals that they will never have a lack of newer, less worn clothes. The pile also consists of clothes that are just not quite my 'style' or 'in style', both terms created in the 50's to create 'the consumer', to keep us buying and support the economy. An ideology that is killing the environment. We buy much more than we could ever possibly need!

A lot of it is also toys. Ones that never seemed to capture the kids attention in the first place, or were annoying so ended up never having the batteries replaced, or ones that they already have eight of. I feel like I can battle this one. I think for the kids birthday parties with their friends I'm going to request no-gifts. And I genuinely think the kids will support me on this one for their birthdays. They get excited for their birthday parties for the chance to have their friends over all at once, do something fun, and eat cake and ice-cream. One of Thane's favorite birthday gifts was a drawing he received from his buddy. They'll still receive a handful of gifts between their grandparents and us, and they'll be more likely to be meaningful gifts that the kids are actually interested in. I know when I shop for another child's birthday that one of mine is attending, I often don't know this birthday child's likes and dislikes at all and buy a generic gift that may or may not even be appreciated. I'm sure I can back off at Christmas, no one needs or can possibly appreciate the copious amount of gifts Christmas often brings. Introducing the concept early to my kids that less is more can't hurt.

And what better way to celebrate Earth Day than to make a few Earth Day resolutions. Any other ideas?

I have more to chat on about the Spring cleaning itself, I'll get back to you!

Friday, March 26, 2010

I should be sleeping.

I should be. Because I know beginning to write a post right now, at quarter to twelve, will bite me in the morning. When I don't want to get up and I'm trying to convince Troy that I got up with Claire yesterday (hehe, the boys are now on their own in the am!). To be fair he's more than generous with letting me sleep in. But I feel guilty when my exhaustion is self-induced. I've said it before, being a creative-type nightowl does not mesh well with motherhood.

But I've had a thought that just has to be blogged, or it will go the way of so many blog topics of mine. Right out the window. I've been meaning to sit and write on a couple things for over a week, and now I can't remember where I was going with those ideas.

What I was thinking, is that I'm wondering how you all feel about a real life tangible journal? I have this beautiful momma journal I've kept for quite a few years now, I started it when Thane was a year and a half. It's a very specific journal. I realized at one point that I would eventually forget the things that seemed huge to me once. The tiny, seemingly trivial daily challenges and delights of raising my babies that encompassed my life at one stage. I wrote in the front, "I want to keep a mother's diary just to remember all the things my life revolves around so much, that I might forget someday. I want to remember all these special new things and the sweet little way of looking at the world."

I'm not a daily journaler, as you probably could have guessed from my random blog post frequency. I would journal sometimes a month apart, sometimes six months. But lately, it's been a VERY long time since I've wrote in my momma journal. Whenever I notice the journal out of the corner of my eye, sitting by it's lonesome on the bookshelf, I feel a twang of guilt. And then it hit me tonight when I was updating my blog profile, I haven't written for as long as I've been blogging! My blog has replaced my journal!

Is this okay? Do I only have enough creative writing juice in me to sustain one outlet? Or is it that I only have enough time to squeeze in that one writing outlet? Either way, I'm not sure I like this idea. It resolves my guilt about Claire being the stereotypical third child who is completely unrecorded. She is very much recorded here, in my post archives. But is this the same? No one will ever stumble upon my blog decades after my death and cuddle up with it and discover the life of their grandmother when she was their age, meeting me and my children through it's pages, or will I reread my own blogs when I am old and my kids are having my grandbabies? Am I completely just romanticizing the qualities of a book?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The list grows more narrow.

Eli, Evan, Ezra, Caleb, Abel.

Meredith, Amelia, Kate, Eden.

What do you think? Or maybe I don't want to know. I can't decide.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Having a not-so-hot moment

So I may have a bit of bi-polar post-itis. I have the happy, all is well, 'I'm a great mom' posts, and then the 'I'm losing my mind' posts. I just noticed I complained on facebook tonight about dealing with my cranky awake 1 year old, when just a few posts ago I was dishing out advice like a pro about taking a deep breath in moments like that. Well I was deep breathing but it wasn't helping her figure out what her tired but upset little self needed! So I apologize now for the know-it-all-ness moments.

In other news, holy thunderstorm little girl this evening! Claire does not know if she's up or down lately. Combine two new teeth (and about four more on the way I suspect), with that one and a half year old 'know what they want but can't articulate it' frustration, learning she can shake her head no, and a discovery that screaming tantrums make mommy move fast. But you know, I think I could take a deep breath and handle it all a little more smoothly if it wasn't for another factor. I just went back to work. In the last few weeks, my kids went from having mommy very literally nearly always close at hand, to me being gone four days a week. And the fact that I'm causing even a little part of Claire's stress makes me sad. And then their upset days make me feel very guilty, and then it's so much harder to take them in stride.

Seth and Claire have both been doing it. And we've been through this reaction to this change before, although with Thane and Seth. The unreasonableness when we're home, just more upset for no apparent reasons. Seth's has been coming out in being disagreeable, about things like getting dressed or his boots off or on, and using his whiny voice all the time. The way he asks for juice has been killing me. "I wannnntttt sommmeee juuuuiiccce mommy!" Somehow even with his thumb in his mouth that last part gets really high-pitched. And Claire frowns at the majority of suggestions and flicks between wanting a snuggle to pushing away. They're doing what little humans do, dealing with change is stressful for anyone and they don't even know why they're upset, let alone able to tell me "I'm just a little stressed right now and I don't even know what I want".

I can rationally justify all of it. It's a good job that I enjoy and is very flexible, they'll get used to it, Troy's still here two of the days and they only have to go to a babysitter two days a week and she loves them and them her, and she feeds them well, and cuddles them, and gets them outside a lot, and they get to play with other children there. And I won't always be this tired, the prenancy, as usual, is definitely compounding my ability to be fully present when I am home. But my god this endless career vs. motherhood debate in my head makes me crazy. I can't help but feel that my first job as a mom is to be there for them always.

It will get better once I'm not so preggo exhausted. Then at least when I'm home I could muster up my normal mostly cheerful mothering. That was a big part of tonight's momma meltdown. Yesterday I decided I had to do like Dory and 'just keep swimming' if I was going to get anything done, so today I was extra tired and emotional. Good times in the motherhood.

On a good note, I do LOVE this job. I think it's going to continue to be great. At points I feel like I'm going to be disappointed to go on my own maternity leave. Although I wouldn't go so far as to subject the gallery and the community to my newborn baby brain either!

Monday, March 1, 2010

What's in a name?

I've begun to think about the name of this little one. It's something I put a lot of thought into, I really think someone's name tends to define them a bit. We don't know what it's going to be, so we'll need our boy and girl options. Girls names are always tough for us, is it just me with a feminist chip on my shoulder, or do so many girls names sound very unintelligent? I like the sound of flowery girls names, but how is a future employer supposed to take your resume seriously when you're named after a flower?

Here's my baby name criteria. I want it to be unique and give them some individuality, but not in a way that someone can't spell or read their name correctly. Troy is also reminding me quite frequently that a lot of the unique baby names I suggest just aren't names a caucasean baby can pull off, at least without sounding like we appropriated a name from someone else's culture. We also try to find unique names without crossing the line to trendy, faddy, or just plain made-up names. I appreciate a name carrying heritage and longevity, but I also don't want it to be too common. I really like the names Olivia and Sarah, I think they're solid, pretty names, but when I grew up there were always at least three Sarah's in my classes and this seems to be the case for Olivia's now. I don't mind the baby being named after a deceased relative, as long as the deceased relative had a nice name worth passing on. I'm sure my mother, Gertrude, dearly loved the aunt she was named after, but could have done without the honor of carrying on her name. Although she was 12th of 13 children, I'll give my grandparents some credit in that they were probably running out of ideas. It also has to be a name that will suit this new little person throughout their life, when thinking of name possibilities I try to picture the name on a baby, child, teen, mother/father, grandparent.

I feel like we did really well with Thane, every time I write it down I still love it. Although when I say that people tend to do the quiet, not responding response, that indicator that they differ in opinion but aren't going to mention it. So maybe other people don't like his name as much as we do. I also get this feeling from others with Amelia, the girls name that tops our list, and it was the reason Claire didn't get named Amelia. But although I love Claire's name, it bothers me now that I meet other little Claire's quite often. I think we scored perfectly with Seth, it's a strong old name, a unique but not weird name, and I've only ever met one other little Seth. So we have Thane Jonah, Seth Reid, and Claire Elise, now what? Oh yeah, I'd like to land on a name that is more that one syllable, we seem to be stuck on the short names. :)
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