Monday, December 29, 2008

The week after Christmas.

T'was four days after Christmas and all through my home,
The guests had packed up...I was actually alone.
From my good friend from high school and her little boy,

To my sis and her husband and Santa and toys,

Our home has been full for a couple of weeks!
Now it's back to just us - the three Conran peeps.
We've packed up the ornaments and lights in a box,
And the bright yellow star Liam made for up top.

We had such a great time with all of our friends,
It's hard to believe that this is the end.
The board games and movies and cookies and wine,

Were just some of the many fun ways we spent time.
We skated and slept late and talked and went shopping,

We hung out together and played some air hockey!

We ignored Liam's nap to see the Grinch made of ice,

He said thanks with a tantrum...it wasn't so nice.

We ate good country food like biscuits and pork,

And Liam ate a pancake! No need for a fork.

At a crafty dinner party we made Christmas tree bling,

Like three wise Chuck Norris' and an angelic King.

Before our guests came we also had fun,
With parties and babysitters and time one-on-one!

But the happiest part of my Christmas vacation,
Was how often my child showed appreciation.
He'd open a gift and then 20 minutes later,
We'd have to convince him to open another.
"I'm happy with what I have," he would say.
And my heart would explode as I'd watch my son play.
Even the littlest things brought him joy,
Like a toothbrush or ruler or polar bear toy.

Christmas is merry when good hearts are around,
And Liam made this year the best I have found!

So that's where I've been for the month of December,
I hope your holiday season was one to remember!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

If you like it then you shoulda put a frame on it.

More Christmas decoration ideas from a mom who can't bring herself to throw cute things away!

Like Liam's school projects from last year:

With bright white mats, matching frames, and a little festive ribbon, these toddler crafts look like proper wall hangings. I guess anything can be art if you frame it right.

Like holiday cards!

Before...

A plain board displays some of my favorite cards from 2007.

After!

Stained & decorated with wrapping paper and cards from 2008!

I thought a bulletin board would be an easy and attractive way to display all the great cards and things we receive throughout the month of December. Much better than taping them to the fridge in an organized fashion only to find them strewn about the house day after day like last year (tape, toddlers and dog hair are a bad combination). I found the bulletin board pictured for $8 at Target, stained the wood frame to match my hallway and covered the cork with wrapping paper. Goodbye depressing cubicle, hello cutesy card display! I can arrange and rearrange on a whim and don't have to worry about Liam stealing his favorite pictures (Auntie Moose and Erick were a big hit last year). The more things we stick to it, the better it will look. And, I can change the background paper and keep it up year round for Liam's artwork if I want! (A seasonal bulletin board? My inner first grade teacher gets an A+ for that one!)

Note: The bulletin board looks pretty cute but if I were to do it again, there are a couple of things I would do differently. First of all, I had no idea that stain is such a pain in the neck. I had to sand the frame to get the stain to stick and in the process of sanding, removed all the "wood grain" from the frame (I guess that's what $8 buys you). No wood grain, no point in using stain. Also, unlike paint which can be cleaned up pretty easily, stain um...stains. I'm too clumsy for something that isn't water soluble. Especially something that takes days and days to dry.

In addition to choosing paint with primer instead of stain, I would also recommend using a paper that is matte instead of shiny. You can't really tell from the pictures (because I only posted the good ones) but when I taped the paper to the board, I accidentally made it a little bumpy and wavy (another reason it will look cuter with more cards stuck to it). This wouldn't matter so much with matte paper but as it is each imperfection catches the light differently and sticks out like a sore thumb. It reminds me of the deadly combination of a satin dress and a muffin top. If you want to go shiny, it's got to be smooth.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Christmas tree.

We're kicking off our fun old fashion family Christmas by heading out into the country in the old front-wheel drive sleigh to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select that most important of Christmas symbols...

- Clark W. Griswold


I'm with Clark. The Christmas tree is of utmost importance. It's the tradition by which all other Christmas traditions pale in comparison. Without a tree, Christmas is just like Thanksgiving with presents. And traffic. No, without a tree, Christmas is not really Christmas at all.

Like Clark, I am wildly delusional about how the holidays should go down. But unlike Clark, I have realized that my ideas of grandeur are sometimes better kept tucked away with the sugar plum fairies that dance in my head. Not all ideas are meant to be executed.

In theory, hiking in the snow as a family to find and chop down a tree (or pull it out by the roots in Clark's case) sounds festive and fun and like the only way to properly carry out such an important tradition. But in reality? Not so much. At least not for us right now. I imagine Bill and I would spend the better part of the day fighting over whose turn it was to carry our half frozen two year old while cursing cold weather and lopsided trees.

Maybe when Liam's a little older we'll become the tartan-clad jolly bunch of carolers I aspire to be, but for now we'll take the path of least resistance.

Sometimes even that is a little much.

Take our first attempt at getting a Christmas tree for example. We piled into our four-wheel drive sleigh with Christmas music blaring and hot apple cider in to-go cups. But wouldn't you know it, by the time we got to the wilds of Home Depot, it was raining.

I love this sign with the downpour in the background.

"Brrr...it's kinda cold out here!"

"These trees are a little wet."

"I'm thirsty!"

So we gave up on getting a tree and headed inside to wander around.

Meanwhile, all of our Christmas decorations had already been brought out of the basement and strewn about in anticipation of a tree.

Not exactly the Martha Stewart look I was going for.

A week later, the pile of decorations that had taken over our kitchen was about to drive me crazy so I called Bill at work and asked him to grab a tree on his way home. How's that for a fun old fashioned family Christmas? Clark would be so disappointed.

But I think our tree is great! And with no cold toes to spoil it, the idea of us pulling Liam in a wooden sled while sipping hot cocoa and singing fa la la la la is as perfect as it will ever be, safe and sound in my imagination.

All of the jolly, none of the work. Take that, Griswolds!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

I know I've given my in-laws a hard time about their Costco addiction but the truth of the matter is I'm just as bad as they are. I don't buy as much stuff as they do but I would if I could. I love Costco. When we first moved here and I hated my job and didn't have any friends and felt completely lost, I would go there at lunch every day to walk around and feel normal. It was the one place in town I knew my way around.

We generally stick to a pretty specific Costco list (dog food, organic peanut butter, apples, coffee...you know, stuff that won't go bad or require us to build a garage just to store it) but from time to time I like to browse. Occasionally I even buy something.

Like ten pounds of construction paper! I couldn't resist. Colored paper is exactly what my collection of craft supplies was missing. I hauled it into my cart and let my imagination run wild.

Later in the week, I dove into my first construction paper project: making Liam's room Christmassy!

I took down the pictures that are usually displayed on his wire and replaced them with a couple Christmas cards of loved ones and handmade holiday decorations. Like this:

In addition to the construction paper (best $9 I ever spent), I also used a roll of wrapping paper that looks like ribbon (the background of the gingerbread man - $3.99 at Target). It was more economical than using real ribbon or scrap booking paper and added lots of fun pattern and color to my project.

What a fun way for me to combine my love of all things crafty with my deep seated desire to have every room of the house decorated for Christmas!

When I was a kid, there was nothing more magical than laying in bed on the nights leading up to Christmas and staring up at the lights that hung from the snow-covered roof outside my room. I always wondered what it would be like if the lights were actually in my room on my very own little Christmas tree. How cozy and wonderfully festive!

I have supposedly grown up but still find myself drooling over the Pottery Barn Kids holiday catalog. I tear out pictures of kids in matching pajamas and monogrammed sleeping bags laying around the Christmas tree in their room and think, Someday I will have a room like that...

Because that's exactly what every two year old boy needs. A Christmas tree in his room. Wow. I always assumed I would try to live vicariously through my child sooner or later but thought it would be for something a little more victorious than this. Eh, what can you do? I've still got plenty of time to push him; for now, it's all about the decorations.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I love my job, but the paid time off sucks.

Have you ever heard someone say that being a mom is the hardest job in the world? I have. It's not something that gets said very often these days (if you're not getting paid for your job, how can society judge what you're worth?) but Oprah makes a point to mention it from time to time (she knows value has nothing to do with money). I always appreciate the affirmation but sometimes think, "Really? This is the hardest job? But all I do is hang out with Liam. And he's awesome!"

Most of the time, I don't realize it's hard because I have no idea how much I put into it. I may be teaching, loving, disciplining, feeding, holding, laughing, being, playing, planning, and learning all at the same time but at the end of the day, it's only the tangibles I remember. We went to the park and painted a few pictures and picked up some milk at the grocery store and... wait. Is that it? Why am I so tired?

I'm tired because "painting a few pictures" actually means a heck of a lot more than sticking a brush in Liam's hand and plopping him in front of a piece of paper. I have to encourage him to open the paint all by himself even though it takes forever and makes him so frustrated he cries, remind him to use his words and ask nicely when he needs help with something, praise him for making good choices, show him once again how to mix yellow and blue to make green, teach him Spanish words like rojo (red) and blanco (white), help him experiment with different brushes and painting techniques, squelch the urge to freak out when he gets in touch with his inner Jackson Pollock, let him choose as many pieces of paper as he feels inspired to fill, make sure he cleans up his own mess when he's finished no matter how badly he wants to walk away and watch Wonder Pets (while ignoring the fact that it would be so much easier to just clean it up myself), sing the clean up song, ask him if he can find the paint that matches the lid in my hand, sing the team work song, ask him how many more paints need to be put away, give him positive encouragement for helping, applaud his creativity, and wait until he's out of sight to re-clean everything he just cleaned. All this while channeling the patience of Mahatma Gandhi and the enthusiasm of Richard Simmons from the second he wakes up in the morning until I kiss his sweet head and lay him down at night.

Whew! No wonder Oprah says it's hard. On the surface, being a mom might mean nothing but play dates and pinafores but good moms know that parenting has little to do with with what's on the surface. It's the many, many layers underneath that wear us out and mold our children into the people they will become.

Of course, I normally don't notice the layers. (Imagine how exhausting it would be if I did!) I just get in the zone and the next thing I know I've turned a peanut butter and honey sandwich into a lesson on bees and fractions and negotiation skills. I don't even realize I'm doing it.

In fact, the only reason I noticed this week is because I was sick and totally off my game. I still went through all the motions, of course, but was lacking my usual panache (not to mention my patience and enthusiasm). It wasn't good. In fact, it was so bad, I got ratted out by my own son.

Liam was putting away his paints while I was counting the seconds until Bill walked through the door to relieve me of my duties. I was acutely aware at how LONG it was taking him to clean up and sincerely hoped that he couldn't tell that the more congested I got, the more his high pitched voice made me wince. He was just about to put the last lid on the paint when the tiny container slipped off the table and splattered blue paint all over the walls, the floor, and, just in case I wasn't paying attention, the top of my head.

On a good day, I would have said something like, "Oops! Looks like the paint fell on the floor. No big deal, accidents happen! Would you please grab a towel and help me clean this up? This is a good reminder of why it's so important to be careful when we're using our paints." On a really good day we would have laughed about the (washable) paint in my hair and maybe put some in Liam's hair as well. On a great day, the word gravity would have found its way into the conversation.

But this was not a good day.

Here's Liam reenacting what I said which, incidentally is what he said the moment Bill walked through the door:

video

For the record, I did not emphasize that I was really, really, really mad at him. True, I said, "That's it. I'm done." I even said I was really mad. But not at him. Just, like, in general. If you hadn't noticed he has somewhat of a flair for the dramatic.

The next day, my congestion morphed into an evil migraine and I remained painfully out of the zone. Fortunately Liam had school from 9-2 and I was crossing my fingers that he would take a nice long nap after we got home. I laid him down and started trying on dresses for an upcoming Christmas party to keep from feeling too sorry for myself. Not ten minutes after I laid him down he started calling to me from his room, "Mama! I need a clean diaper!" Since this is something we've been working on (more clear communication from him, less anticipation of his needs from me), I had to respond right away. I hurried into his room in a cocktail dress only to realize I'd been duped. He didn't need a clean diaper, he just didn't want to take a nap.

I was really, really mad at him (just kidding) so I didn't feel too bad continuing to try on dresses while he played in my room. He was writing numbers and letters in his notebook while I took pictures of myself in the mirror. The whole time he was writing he was narrating loudly.

"L...8...H...I! Mama, what's that spell?"

"Huh?"

"O...J...7...P! Mama, what does O-J-7-P spell?"

"Huh?"

After a few more tries, I realized what I was doing (or, more accurately, what I was not doing) and put away my camera. "Buddy, I'm so sorry. Mama's not being a very good listener right now, am I? Now, tell me again what you were saying."

He stood up, walked over to me and said, in a very matter-of-fact voice, "Mama, you need a time out for not listening."

I don't normally let him call the shots but he totally had a point. I asked him where he wanted me to sit and was grateful to spend two uninterrupted minutes on my bed thinking about what I had done. When my time out was over, I apologized for not listening and gave him a big hug. Then I checked the clock to see how much longer until the second shift got home, sucked it up and marched into his room to play. And parent.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Happy accident in photo filing.

WARNING:

If you weren't a big Beavis & Butthead fan back in the day, this post will be no where near as funny to you as it was to me. In fact, it will probably not make any sense at all. I'm sorry.

But, if you're like me and would still watch Beavis and Butthead if it was on, you might agree that this:

Looks like it has something to do with this:

But I can assure you, the two are totally unrelated.