A New Day

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Last night’s sunset marked the end of a long, agonizing month for us. Steve’s work schedule and lots of illness dominated January, and I am so eager to start fresh now that it’s February.

This cold winter day feels rather warm. With the end of the football season, our lives return to normal. We’ll have weekends and evenings back together. We can take a little vacation or two. What a relief!

Even though it was painful at times, January was an essential month for me. I had a lot of time to think, to read, to plan. I read Wicked, The Little Way of Ruthie Lemming, and Still Life with Breadcrumbs. I networked with a lot of former colleagues and new associates. I trekked to the pharmacy often. I let the dark evenings shepherd me to bed a little bit earlier. I rested. I wrestled with my stay-at-home-mom plan. I embraced the dark, cold, and slow month.

No matter what the groundhog says tomorrow, this is the end of our winter in many ways. For the next six months, we have flexibility and normalcy. Thank goodness!

Bottling Up This Week

This week my kids have been adorable, fun, adventurous, and a little bit snotty — but that’s thanks to a lingering cold. These are the moments I want to bottle up and savor forever.

Carson Is Batman

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This boy loves his Batman costume from Halloween. With the cape attached, of course! He prefers this costume with the “seat belt” rather than the Batman shirt with the Caped Crusader’s mug on it. (Why would he need a picture of Batman on a shirt when he himself is Batman?) Yesterday he pointed out to me that he does not have a Spiderman shirt. Is that a hint that he’s open to being another superhero?

Or Is Carson a Cat?

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At a birthday party this weekend, Carson requested I tape a pipe cleaner to his rear end so he could fully embody the cat theme. With his ears and tail, he made quite an adorable feline.

Nora Upside Down

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This girl loves her gymnastics class at the YMCA. I couldn’t believe how the kids tried headstands the other day. It really brought me back to my own childhood. Tumbling is such fun when you are miniature-sized. Thank goodness we have a carpeted attic for forward roll practice!

Nora the Adventurous

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This girl has grown out of toddler and preschooler food selectivity, and I am so grateful. At an event this weekend, she ate three different kids of chili, surprising herself by how much she liked the flavors. She helped herself to quite a few chocolate desserts that night too. Gone are her food-snubbing days. Such an awesome development!

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The fun will continue tomorrow, with a foot of snow projected in our area. Looking forward to making snow memories in our new house. We’re lucky to have sledding right out our front door.

January Scrapbooking Mission

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Lest you think all I do is brood about my existence, I am back to show you that I actually do things around the house. One of my big “tackle this already” projects for January has been to sort through the pile of kid artwork underneath the desk in my office. At our house, we display preschool projects for a few weeks on the fridge, and then I remove them, toss them in a box, and vow to sort through them at some point, usually a couple of times a year. A majority of the artwork ends up in the great big bulletin board in the sky. The most treasured pieces get displayed in scrapbooks I compile for the kids.

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Updating these scrapbooks takes some time, mainly because the sorting process agonizes me. I hate to toss things my kids created. However, as a pragmatist and nonhoarder, I know that it’s essential to cull through the giant stack of projects and keep only a few. I tend to save projects that involve kid hands and feet, show great enthusiasm with lots of embellishment and detail, and display developmental skills. I updated Nora’s scrapbook with her first drawings of people and faces. Carson’s scrapbook includes some of his first preschool projects.

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In addition to the project pages, these scrapbooks include progress reports from school, class pictures, professional portraits, and birthday party momentos. I hope the kids can see their development over the years and enjoy flipping the pages of the books throughout their lives. Though it’s sometimes arduous to keep up family memory collecting, I consider it one of my household responsibilities.

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Selfie and Self-Discovery

Last week, I sat with Carson at the pediatrician’s office for almost an hour. During our wait, he snapped a picture of me that I found absolutely depressing (I don’t dare post it here). It showed a tired, middle-aged woman with frazzled hair, bags under her eyes, and little expression. After acknowledging my sad state, I deleted the picture and moved on with the day. In the last few minutes at the office, the doctor confirmed Carson’s pink-eye and also diagnosed him with an ear infection. Thankfully, that’s the first antibiotic-treated illness a child of mine has had for a very long time (we’ve been lucky!).

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A day after that fateful picture, I snapped a selfie after I returned from a small-business networking breakfast that left me energized. (I am a little embarrassed to share it here, but that’s my role as a blogger!) Thankfully, the results of that shot were not nearly as devastating. I hope that I look close to my age (just a mere 32!) and more well-kept. I struggled to dress for the professional event, given that my current work uniform consists of long-sleeved T-shirts, track jackets, and jeans. However, getting out into the world of inspired and determined women was the perfect anecdote to the sickness-laden day I had just experienced.

I’ve come to the realization that I am truly oscillating these days. As a stay-at-home mom, I am managing children and their activities, our budget and grocery lists, and the family extracurricular activities. As a work-at-home mom, I am trying to build a successful freelance business that could be a dependable source of income when the kids are elementary-school aged. Though I feel like life has gotten much easier than the years of pregnancy and infants, I am still with at least one child at all times during the day, and I feel pressure to make sure I provide the kids with an interactive, stimulating, and nurturing life.

Related to this, the biggest nugget I have been contemplating this January has to do with where my interests fit into the whole scheme. I purposefully (though with trepidation) left my corporate-focused career behind in May 2013. In the last twenty months, I have basked in my role as mother in a way I was unable to do while I worked full time. I get my hands dirty, wash a lot of dishes, and devise weeks filled with activities, play dates, games, and puzzles. At the moment, I adore my primary gig. However, I know that the days are long and that the years are short. In just a mere eight months, the kids’ schedules will be a little more synchronized, and I’ll have some time to myself (which I’ll probably spend writing and editing without my husband providing child care). In order for me to avoid complete self-erosion until then though, I have to carve out a little time to focus on me.

So how do I do this? I vow to commit more time to embracing my interests, goals, and dreams this year. I want to have more fun and worry less about what I am not doing. In December, I would like to exit 2015 feeling confident that my kids are still my biggest priority but that they are not the only one. How will I get there? I’m not sure, but I am determined to make this year count.

Finding My Footing

January, ah January. It’s a tough month. For us in Pennsylvania, winter has finally set in, so we’ve been trapped in the house for various reasons (bad weather and illness). My hubby’s work schedule is beyond irregular, and it’s often hard to know what day it is (given that he’s been working several evenings and Saturday and Sunday mornings). And my editing work has dried up a bit. I have a few things in the pipeline, but I am questioning the next steps for my paid work.

What’s good? I’ve committed to exercise, sweating on the treadmill at the YMCA. I’ve read two books this year that have given me things to consider. I’ve watched a lot of football, college and pro. I’ve updated my resume to reflect the career of a woman in her early thirties, abandoning the format from my late twenties. I’ve wrangled my budget, rolled over my 401(k), and planned our grocery lists more thoroughly. So it’s not a wasted month, just a slow one.

There are some very happy visuals in my head, too. I’m picturing our vacations for the year, the CSA we want to join, and the school schedule for fall. I am a little hazy when it comes to seeing what my freelance and volunteer work will look like in the coming months, but I am thinking hard about those components of my life.

So it’s not a fun and light update here, but it is reflective of where I am at right now. I am sure many of you are feeling this slow season as well, forecasting what’s to come. I am thankful to have contemplative time so I can shoot out of the gate when I’m ready.

My Guy at 2.5

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I’m having a mommy moment. My little guy is 2.5 today, spreading joy through dinosaurs, Batman, and sword-fighting. He talks at a rapid clip to keep up with his sister, and he’s taken to having quite a few opinions. Though he protests going to preschool, he’s happy once he’s there. He refuses to go to bed earlier that nine on most nights and doesn’t see the point of potty training. And don’t even think about putting a pullover hoodie on the boy! However, he depends on a middle-of-the-night bed transfer to twirl my hair and is never hesitant to offer a hug and an “I love you.”

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Truly the second child, this kid has been watching The Lego Movie on repeat in the last few weeks and has the pleasure of hanging with mostly older kids on a daily basis. He loves his Imaginext toys, especially his Batmobile, and adores all things Frozen, playing with Anna and Kristoff action figures frequently. He is very skilled at operating an iPad and loves to watch the PBS Kids app when I tuck his sister into bed at night, choosing The Cat and the Hat, Odd Squad, and Word Girl. He still loves to read, especially books about animals and dinosaurs.

It’s hard to believe it’s only been thirty months since this guy came on the scene, as he is such an integral part of our family.

Thinking About 2015

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Happy New Year! The calendar has turned into 2015, and now we’ll all struggle to remind ourselves of the new date for the next few months (or is that just me?) as well as compile all of our tax paperwork (I know I’m not alone on that one!).

I could not feel better entering this new year, which gives me a feeling of trepidation. Aren’t we supposed to enter January feeling resolved to conquer new things, rehabilitate ourselves, etc.?

I am finding that my thirties are pretty awesome and well-suited for me. So far in this decade I have figured out how to make better decisions, being mindful of the present rather than obsessing about the future. Obviously, having the opportunity to be home with the kids has made a big difference in my overall mental health, but building a freelance business and balancing extracurricular interests have contributed to my day-to-day happiness too.

I am hopeful that this happy life can continue into 2015. Of course there will be harried weeks and some frustrations along the way, but I’d love to continue living with optimism and hope. It sure makes it easier to get moving each day.

Today marks the last day of the kids’ winter break from preschool, and once our schedule gets rolling, I am hopeful that we can enjoy January for what it is: dull, dark, and cold. That way we can feel less guilty about watching football on the weekends, staying in our pajamas for long stretches of the morning, and laying in bed reading good books and new blogs (I’ve been on a hunt to add some new ones to my Feedly account). If this month is restorative, it will only mean good things for the rest of the year.

Here’s to a prosperous and peaceful 2015!

Savoring the Season

I admit, I’ll be sad to put the Christmas tree away tomorrow. This season of merriment has been one of the best in my adult life, likely because it’s been filled with family, fun activities, and delicious food. In that same vein, I’ll have trouble saying good-bye to 2014. We had a great year, complete with a move, a family wedding (just got to see the amazing pictures!), and countless adorable kid memories. Many of our friendships with longtime connections and new neighbors flourished, and we got more involved with our local community. I also had great luck in getting my freelance editing business going, and I hope to continue to build my network and grow my income in 2015.

Nevertheless, tomorrow I’ll enjoy the final day of the year celebrating my nine-year wedding anniversary and packing away the Christmas machine. (Though I think I’ll keep a winter mantel for a few more weeks.) I always enter January with reticence, aware of the month’s bleakness. I am hopeful that my husband’s odd work schedule, big football games, and Downton Abbey will be enough to keep January interesting and bopping along with minimal winter blues. Though I have no control over the weather . . .

Before 2014 comes to a close, here are some highlights of this year’s holiday season:

IMG_5590Meeting Santa more times than we could count on our hand. We saw Santa on a firetruck, on a motorcycle, at light shows, at the mall, at preschool, and even at the Philadelphia Flyers family day. The kids enjoyed their Santa encounters, though Nora was curious about why Santa’s outfits kept changing (she’s always quick to notice the different boots). I’m certain next year I’ll have to explain that Santa has many impersonators who help him out during the high-demand season!

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Spending Christmas with my brother and his wife. We enjoyed a five-day visit from my brother and his wife, who arrived Christmas Eve. They were fresh horses for my kids who have been subject to their parents’ holiday fatigue and were wonderful to chat with throughout the at-home days of Christmas. We loved seeing my parents at Thanksgiving as well as Steve’s more local family throughout the season. As I age, these family gatherings mean the most to me at the holidays.

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Enjoying the neighborhood lights. In our new neighborhood, everyone loves to decorate their homes for the holidays (Halloween too!). Here’s a favorite just a few blocks away. We added a few minutes onto many car trips to view the local lights, including ranking our favorite “blowups.”

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Cooking holiday standards as well as new additions. I’d never made this veggie pot pie before, but it was an excellent contribution to Christmas dinner. I can count on Moosewood to deliver a good recipe! I also made our traditional peanut soup and mushroom brioches for Christmas Eve. Steve cooked a ham for Christmas dinner as well.

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Watching the kids open their presents. While I would love to not be materialistic, I love giving presents at the holidays, and seeing my kids open their presents gave me such joy on Christmas morning. My two littles made out between Christmas and Hanukkah this year. Favorite gifts included this blow-up dinosaur, Imaginext figurines, art supplies, Pinkalicious games and books, and new bean bag chairs. I am fully aware that the requests for phones, headphones, and gift cards are only ten years away, so I really love these toy-filled Christmases.

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Decorating for the holidays. I had so much fun with my pounds of cinnamon and star anise this year, and I even made a Christmas centerpiece for the table with these spices. I know I posted frequently about decorating the house, but it gave me such delight to turn my tudor into a cozy and sparkly space for Christmas.

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I could go on, of course, but I’ll edit myself and leave you here. Until 2015, my devoted readers!

Finished: Felt Bird Ornaments

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I am truly thrilled to be closing out 2014 posting about crafts I completed this year. When I began writing here in 2008, my life was much different, and I had so much more time to create things. Though I would never want to go back to that childless, craft-centric life (I LOVE these kiddos!), I am a little jealous of my crafting production at that time. Especially my ability to make so many gifts for the holidays.

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For Christmas this year, I was determined to contribute one handmade ornament to each family household on my gift list (those of whom have Christmas trees!). I showcased my cinnamon ornaments a week ago, and here is my other 2014 production: the Snow Bird ornament by Larissa Holland (I love her blog, MmmCrafts). I created five of these and kept one for my own tree (the purple one, of course!).

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These little birdies sure take a lot of time, but their folk chicness is right up my alley. I used high-quality felt for these avian decorations, which I purchased from Etsy here. Each bird’s construction took about an hour, not including glue-drying time. I worked on them in October, giving myself plenty of time to finish a flock before the gift-giving season. I have learned as a crafter (one with little kids!) that if the project hasn’t been finished by Thanksgiving, it’s better to move on and gift it another time. I hate crafting with pressure. It’s the worst!

I would highly recommend making these as gifts for friends and loved ones. I hope those who received mine enjoy hanging them on their Christmas trees for years to come.