My original plan for my kiddo challenge was to take my oldest on a date to see a play at our local theatre. Unfortunately, a baby decided to be born on the day of our date, and her parents wanted me to photograph this grand event, so I had to cancel on my five-year-old. I think I was more devastated than she was. She didn’t really seem fazed. I was pretty upset. I had really been looking forward to spending some quality time with my oldest. She is growing up so fast, and often times my youngest takes a lot of my attention, so this month I really wanted to be present for her.
Child’s manicure and pedicure
My five-year-old is a girly girl, a lover of frilly dresses, and often puts her mommy to the challenge of curling hair and painting nails. She is much more stylish than I, and I often fear what lies ahead during her teen years.
So this month, when I had to miss our date, I decided to include my daughter on my pampering date. I always enjoy getting a pedicure, but how fun would it be to include my daughter. I scheduled appointments.
When I told her that we were going to have our nails painted, I could tell she was literally exuding excitement. I think she asked me about 20 times when we were going to get our nails painted. We had to wait for my hubby to pick up her little sister. The girls ran around in front of the salon, my older eager to go inside.
Kid’s pedicure chair
Once my youngest was off with Daddy, we went in. They ushered us in, and to my youngest to the fanciest kid’s pedicure chair I have ever seen.
Enjoying the kid’s pedicure chair!
She was a little unsure of the massaging chair, but once they brought her a pillow, she settled right in. It was so fun to watch her interact with the pedicurist. She is actually quite the social butterfly. I sat across the room listening to her chat about how she is starting school in the fall. She sounded so mature, so much older than five. She had confidence in her voice as she spoke to the lady who was painting her nails. I sat there in awe….where had these five years gone? How did this child come from her shy, nerdy mom and dad?
Fingernails too! I can’t believe how grown up she’s getting!!
I thoroughly enjoyed my date with my daughter. And we both got our nails painted beautifully. What’s nice also was that her pedicure (and manicure with flowers painted adorning all of her nails) cost about the same as my single pedicure, so having a date didn’t completely break the bank.
Pretty Pink Sparkly Toes
I love including my kids in my life, and while it made me just a little sad that she’s no longer my tiny baby, I am going to enjoy having a date to be pampered with, and it was extra special to spend mother daughter one on one time. And I know she loved getting to feel just a little grown up!
Mother and Daughter: a pair of pretty toes!
What fun things do you do with your daughter?
What!! It’s a double-down, y’all. I’m stoked.
Last weekend we ran away. It was lovely. We’ve been having some tough times at our house recently and I was stressed. To the max. My Stori had been asking for a sleepover with Grandma and Grandpa for a while and the weekend before, Grandma told us that last weekend would work.
She called me later in the week and told me the day options that would be good for Stori to come over. We picked one and since Zane wasn’t invited to join, my Jon and I decided that we ought to do something fun with Zane. We didn’t want to have just another night at home, but without Stori, so we both thought a quick overnight camping trip would be nice.
We checked some weather reports and it looked good. So Jon asked some of his friends where to go, utilizing the social tool Facebook. ;-)
He got a couple of promising responses. We wanted to try somewhere new and his brother and his girlfriend are coming to visit for the first bit of June. We want to camp with them ,too, and are looking for a new place. We have a regular spot, but are looking to switch it up a bit. Anyway, we thought we’d try one of them out to become familiar before hosting the camping trip with family.
We’re not super picky, but we aren’t big fans of official camping grounds. We like to let our dogs off leash and we like to avoid drunken, loud parties. I’m a little comforted in the group setting of a campground, because I’m freakin’ terrified of bears, but even though, I still prefer the natural setting of off-road camping.
The suggestions he got met our wishes. Zane invited a friend along for the trip and we got set to go. We decided on the one to visit and headed out.
Oh my gosh, how gorgeous it was!
The road there was incredible once we got off the state highway. INCREDIBLE.
I’ve never been on a road quite this scary (and I mistrust many roads), but I was so in awe of what I was seeing. I was grateful that Jon drove because I was able to look around and really take it all in.
On the other hand, my desires for control mixed with the scary road proved to be a little much, but by the time we got down the road of terror and to a campspot, I was treated with feeling very relaxed.
We pitched the tent, lit the fire, and blew up the air mattress just as the sun was setting.
We had a nice calm night and the boys had fun together.
Hiking in Southern California
The next day we went for a bit of a hike and loved the landscape we were exploring. There was a mining area that’s still used, a rock frame of an extremely old house (or food storage building, but it was a bit bigger than ones I’ve seen before), plenty of elk tracks and bear poop, and a lovely stream that even had a marshy area.
Tearing down went smoothly also, and everyone was pretty pooped. The dogs had a blast and one of the boys fell asleep on the way home.
We stopped to eat at the Hungry Bear, a local favorite.
About the Lover’s Lane? Firstly, let me clarify that we have two tents. ;-) Secondly, this was the first time we’ve used an air mattress for camping. Sleeping AND lovemaking were so much nicer with a little cushion (for the pushin).
Of all my challenges, seeking and asking for help has been by far my hardest challenge to complete. However, it’s also been the area of my life that has grown the most. I have learned so much about myself and learned definitely how to find help when I need it the most. Over the months, I’ve talked about seeking volunteers, learning how to deserve help, hiring help, and seeking help from my own children. Each challenge has had its ups and downs (our Helping Mommy exercise is still a work in progress daily that both my kids and I are trying to get used to). However, this month I decided to share a learning experience about finding help, and that’s learning how to stop something that may interfere with me getting help.
Working with children
If my family dynamics may have been different, this post may have been very different. I would probably be talking about how my friend and I had this great idea of working together to find help for ourselves while our kids enjoyed socialization. And it was a great idea, in theory. My friend and I are both stay at home moms that are dabbling in new business ventures. We were finding that we needed time to focus on some of our work without having interruptions. I had told her about my wonderful experience with my “mother’s helper.” However, I have tried to devote that time to getting my household work done, and I really needed to be able to find some time to sit down and get some computer work done (these posts do not write themselves).
We both had this great idea to hire an older, more experienced mother’s helper to watch all four of our kids at my friend’s house. That way I could focus solely on computer work (no housework to distract me), and my friend could do what she needed to do. If we pooled our money, we could afford to hire a little older, more experienced person to play with our kids. And we would still be close by, to help this 16-year-old out if needed.
Again, this sounded great on paper. Our kids get along, we had found a great, responsible teenager who was looking to earn money for gas, and maybe I could help get my youngest used to being cared by others with me nearby.
Hiring a mother’s helper
We tried this out for a month, and while our kids seemed to enjoy themselves, and my friend seemed to get a lot accomplished, I was not being very productive. And by not productive, I meant I really was not getting anything accomplished. I got to the point where I felt like I could get more done by putting my girls in front of a movie (something I try to only do if I absolutely need a couple hours to get something accomplished), than by paying someone.
My youngest, bless her heart, likes her mommy a lot, and still relies on her mommy a lot, especially when dealing with other children. Her little friend is only 6 months older than she, and while they are both great kids, they are still young, and don’t really have the communication skills to work our arguments and problem solve independently. My friend and I work very hard to problem-solve with our kids, and they get along really well when we are facilitating play. And I still have no doubt that the babysitter could help facilitate our kids’ interactions. However, my friend also has a six-month-old baby, who has his own set of needs, which keeps the babysitters hands full (quite literally).
My youngest is a feisty and intelligent little girl who usually makes sure the scenario is best for herself. And the best scenario in this situation for her was having Mommy as her safe zone when things upset her. Anytime anything happened (and things happen with toddlers), she would run to me to fix it. And while I never fixed it, she felt safe, and didn’t want the babysitter to help.
I tried different scenarios including moving to the other room, trying not to interact, and trying to establish my daughter’s trust with the babysitter. However, given the dynamics, I could tell that the babysitter seemed a little lost as to how to fix this, and I found myself getting more and more frustrated. I started thinking that this was a lot more work than it was worth. My daughter seemed to be getting more clingy rather than less, and I was getting nothing accomplished.
So I had to talk to my friend. I felt horrible. I know this was working out for her, and I was afraid about what she would say. I didn’t want her to take it personally, and honestly I just wanted to keep things going the way they were. But that was silly. I was going to pay someone to watch my kids, when essentially I was watching my kids, just to help a friend out? I had to get the courage to talk to her. I wanted to help. I wanted so bad for this to work, but it wasn’t, and I needed to change it.
I seriously was scared to talk to my friend….how would she take it? Would she be mad? Would she still want to hang out with me? Would she think that I was too soft of a mother for not forcing my daughter into this situation? Would she take it personally and feel like I was attacking her kids? I didn’t know how to do this, and this friend and I are really close. We talk often about most topics, but I hated confronting her. I hate all confrontation, and I didn’t want to bring it up, but at the same time, I knew something had to change.
So I facebook messaged her. I told her everything: that I was afraid it wasn’t working, and that my youngest just wasn’t ready for this situation. She was great and really understanding about this. She apologized for her kids’ needs monopolizing the babysitter’s time (which wasn’t really happening but was something I was a little afraid of happening).
We discussed ways to fix this, including her even taking her baby and letting the babysitter just focus on our toddlers. I thought about this, but decided that it would probably be best to wait a few months and try again. I also thought about hiring the babysitter with just my girls to see if this would help establish trust with my youngest.
Child development and education
After talking, I decided that my daughter just needs some more time. She is slowly beginning to trust others, but this is at her own pace, and she really resists this when I push her.
My wonderful friend was helpful, encouraging, and supportive. She helped me see that I was doing what was best for my kids, my family, and myself, something that I often find a hard time doing when it puts out other people. She was able to discuss a way to hire the babysitter for just her boys, and right now I’m using naps, the TV (more than I like) and the girls’ daddy to get my stuff done.
This isn’t ideal, but my kids are my number one priority, and the reason why I have all this extra stuff to do. My daughter will outgrow this stage, and someday I will miss her needing me so much. I keep trying to tell myself that this situation is what’s best for us.
So this month I learned that sometimes finding help involves looking at your situation and advocating for yourself. Sometimes things that seem helpful actually aren’t, and recognizing this helps me even more. I feel better now about my situation from this experience, and I hope to move forward in finding creative ways to help me achieve greatness!
How do you find help when your family dynamics aren’t always conducive to finding help?
I’ve been doing improv for a couple of years. I say that so casually, but the fact is it’s been two years. And it’s awesome. And I love it. And it’s fun. And it stretches me. And it’s exciting.
But as with all things, good or not so good, I’m a little bit burnt out.
I’ve tried to come up with new games, but they haven’t been taken by my director. I’ve tried to come up with twists on our show, but they, too, have been shot down. We’ve gotten a few new people on our team lately because old members are doing things like moving to freakin Vietnam and leaving our team to go blue on a new team.
It’s all good.
But it leads to a little burnout. Doing the same games over and over again while new people learn them gets tiring.
Learning new people’s quirks can sometimes be frustrating.
Thinking about a team not feeling very tight, like a team, is a bit of a bummer.
But none of that takes away my love of the craft.
Nor the dedication I feel toward my team.
So I decided to switch things up.
I enrolled in a long-format class in Denver. I’m really excited to stretch my wings and learn new things. I’m excited to play with some new people. To learn from some impressive people. To still do improv, but do something new.
And it takes an hour and forty-five minutes to drive to class.
So as my first class was approaching, I decided to save this challenge for my drive up. After all, I was full of nerves. Expectations. Excitement. Uncertainty.
And my car CD player sucks. And it doesn’t have an aux input so I can’t plug my phone into it. And the radio sucks, as it does most places.
So, yes, some quiet would be good. Clear my mind. Walk in as centered as possible after driving through traffic and with the big ball of emotions that goes with something so new.
Mindfulness while driving
It was a good time. I felt so quiet and still even flying down the highway. And when I was in traffic, I was still in my body and mind as I wanted to be. There were lots of things that came up and lots of things that cleared out. There were several times I felt a little bored and plenty of times that I tried to talk my way into my own head in preparation for meeting everyone.
I thought about how I wanted to introduce myself, I thought about the possibility of meeting some strong players. I thought of how grateful I am to live near a city that has a theater which offers the level of class that I was going to.
But more than any of that…
I saw the clouds. And in them a bunny driving a car:
Do you see it?
I think I’ve covered this before in a post this month, but it has been a busy time around here. I’ve only barely managed to make two small crafty things.
First, I made some labels for my garden out of rocks you can find, well, anywhere. I like labeling my garden to help my kids learn to recognize the words and also to easily identify what is growing where while the plants are still small.
I got this idea from a blog called Chickettes via Pinterest and then made my own spin on it. I didn’t use smooth, flat rocks, but whatever rocks I had available on my property. I also let my kids paint the rocks before I completed the labeling.
The kids and I painted rocks from our property.
I used permanent paint pens to write the plant names.
This is how the rock labels look in the garden.
I allowed my son to paint whatever he wanted on each flower pot.
My second project was making teacher gifts for my son’s preschool teachers since this is the last week of school. My son goes to a nature education preschool so I wanted to give plants and also something they could reuse.
We picked out simple, small flower pots. Then, I let my son draw whatever he wanted with permanent paint pens. I was careful to choose paint pens that were labeled for outdoor use.
Finally, my son chose flowers to plant in each pot. He is really looking forward to giving them to his teachers.
I printed quotes about nature and children, from people such as Fred Rogers and Rachel Carson, on each flower pot.
Kids art and craft activities
I actually enjoy art and completing art and craft activities, but it is not something I do very often. Completing arts and crafts is another one of the casualties of time as a busy mom. It is another part of me I have forgotten and something I would like to find a place in my life for again. I found great relaxation in painting the rocks and carefully printing out the words with a paint pen. I need more activities like this to slow me down and let my mind settle and calm, if only until the next temper tantrum or war over matchbox cars breaks out.
The completed flower pot project.
Last week was nurses’ week. It seemed appropriate to thank our nurses and my friends for everything they have helped us through. My preemie girl is alive partly because of these wonderful nurses. They still ask about her and keep updated on everything. They send her birthday greetings and the family gets Christmas cards. We talk about our kids and they have become a part of our lives like I could never have imagined before our NICU experience or the home nursing experience.
Nurses do so much. They were the ones who explained many things to me. They were the ones who I talked to on the phone when I just couldn’t sleep and wanted to know how my baby was. They were the ones who first made me laugh again. They helped me stay sane through the days of uncertainty. They let me know that everything I was feeling was normal. God even provided me with a nurse who had lost one twin, as I did, so we could relate.
The good nurses made me feel confident in going back and enjoying time with my other children while they took care of my baby. Babies are supposed to be right by their mothers. I never left my older children when they were babies. I hated leaving my preemie baby. It was made worse by her fragile state.
NICU stay for preemie
I had two night nurses whose schedules rarely overlapped, which left very few nights with different nurses. So sleeping at night was easier after I got to know those two nurses. They were efficient and followed everything. One of them is a bit OCD. She would start her shift at 7. By 8 o’clock she would have cleaned and organized all her beds. Diapers would be in a neat pile with them all facing the same way. Even the alcohol wipes were all right side up in their space. Every supply was filled. The bed was straightened with the wires neatly running down the side and not tangled at all. She wiped down absolutely everything, every surface, that might have been touched, ever. There was no way my child was going to have troubles with her around.
There were two special day nurses, too. They protected my baby and informed me of changes and I learned much about them. One had a daughter exactly my oldest’s age and we’d share stories. They were so much alike. Our girls could have been the same child in some of the stories. We’d laugh and share ideas on parenting.
The other special day nurse was just great. She was the one that made it possible to hold my little girl for the first time. And she did it sneakily, which made it more special. Technically my preemie girl was still too small and still too fragile for the hospital rules to allow me to hold her. But she was 6 weeks old and needed to be held. It was an amazing experience and sharing it with that nurse made it memorable.
Nurses are heroes
These nurses were sometimes all that seemed to stand between my sanity and a breakdown. They were the protectors of my baby. They were champions for us. They helped us through it all. When it was time to leave I wasn’t sure I could do it without them. But they convinced me I was ready. I was. I handled all emergencies just fine. I had been trained well. Because of those nurses, I want to become one of them when I grow up.
The day she went home, wires and all. Thanks to our nurses, we were prepared.
I got this month’s sewing project idea from something I saw at the store the other day. It was a fabric holder for plastic grocery bags. It seems that whenever I go to the store I end up with a bunch of plastic bags. I do have some reusable fabric bags for shopping, but many times I forget to bring them in with me. Also, for some reason, whenever I shop at Wal-mart they always bag things in way more bags than are really necessary unless you are planning on carrying your bags over several miles (actually, perhaps many of the customers at this particular Wal-mart do have to walk a long way with their bags). They might look at me a bit funny when I take stuff out of one or two bags and load it up into the other bags, but at least I end up using fewer bags. The tendency to place fewer items into a bag than it can really hold is actually why I like shopping at the grocery stores where you bag your own items, plus the prices are lower and I love that.
Regardless, I have accumulated quite the collection of plastic bags under my kitchen sink. I mostly use them instead of trash bags throughout the house or as a way of carrying items that I am giving to someone else. However, the current storage method of shove it in the cabinet under the kitchen sink leaves a lot to be desired. When I saw the holder at the store I thought that it was a fantastic idea. There is a large opening at the top so you can easily add more bags, and a smaller opening at the bottom for dispensing bags as needed. I almost got one, except the pattern of the fabric was not my taste. I kept my eye out for other styles for a while, then it occurred to me that this might actually be something fairly simple to make.
Grocery bag holder
Using Google, I was able to find a site (www.makeit-loveit.com) that had very easy to follow instructions, and pictures, for making a holder out of whatever fabric you want. It turns out that I had purchased way more fabric than I needed for my previous projects, so I just used that fabric. It works out, though, since black goes with everything. I even had the necessary elastic in my sewing kit (that was handed down to me by my mother who used to make us clothing when we were kids). I did not have the ribbon the instructions called for, but I ended up just using a narrow length of the same fabric.
Instructions for making bag holder
The instructions couldn’t be simpler to follow. Cut a rectangle of fabric (or sew narrow strips of multiple fabrics together if you want a multicolored holder), make casings for the elastics at the two short ends, insert and secure the elastics, secure the ribbon that will be used to hang the holder, and sew the long ends together. Check out the website for the detailed instructions, then be prepared to get excited about a bunch of other projects as you look at some of the other tutorials on this site (plus they have a lot of sewing tips which is great for someone like me who isn’t an expert).
My rectangle of fabric with one eleastic casing already sewn
Finished empty bag holder
Filled with plastic bags
Runaway Jury has an all-star cast of Michael McDermott, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, John Cusack, Rachel Weisz, and more. Gene Hackman and Jeremy Piven play jury consultants, professionals whose job it is to advise the legal team regarding which potential jurors might be more sympathetic to their side. Gene Hackman’s character has a full team, and an uncanny ability to read people, just like FBI profilers. Hackman’s character has no conscience, but Hoffman’s does.
In this movie, there are some people with an ax to grind, an agenda. It’s a dangerous cat-and-mouse game, and the movie holds some exciting moments. It has language, of course, and hints at a sex scene. I wouldn’t let young children watch it. It might not be appropriate for older children, either, because they might not understand what’s going on.
The way some of the characters understand human psychology and use it to manipulate other people and get them to do what they want them to do is both amazing and scary. My husband mentioned that we know people who are pretty good at that, although not as good or blatant as the guys in this movie. I said I wouldn’t mind having that kind of skill. He replied, “You can’t. You can’t, and never will. You have a huge heart and you could never do that. The only ones who can are hard, heartless bastards.”
Fighting the gun industry
The plaintiff in the case is suing the gun manufacturers because her husband was killed in a workplace shooting. She holds the gun makers responsible for her husband’s death, and wants to make them pay. She’s suing them for $111 million dollars in a wrongful death suit.
I agree with a statement Hoffman’s character makes in Runaway Jury, when he tells Hackman’s character that one day he’ll have nothing and no one left, if he keeps up this unconscionable behavior. While I was hoping that the plaintiff wouldn’t win the lawsuit, I didn’t like the lengths the defendants (including Hackman’s character) went to, or how they broke the law in their effort to win.
2nd Amendment rights
The defendants, gun company owners, assert Americans’ 2nd Amendment rights, and insist that they are not responsible for what someone does with the guns they produce. Some of the jury members also mention the right to bear arms as a Constitutionally-defended right. One decries the greed and desire for easy money, because nothing was ever handed to him, and he doesn’t think the plaintiff deserves anything, either. Other jurors indicate that he’s heartless.
When I picked this movie, I didn’t know anything about it other than what the cover said, and that there were some great actors in it. It’s rather timely, though, considering the recent battle over 2nd Amendment rights.
Holding gun manufacturers responsible
I won’t give away the ending of the movie, but I will say that I disagree with the argument made by the plaintiff’s counsel in the movie, that the gun makers and sellers are somehow responsible for what people do with the guns they buy. If we make that statement, then follow the logic to its conclusion: all manufacturers are responsible for what people do with their products. Boat manufacturers would be responsible for creating “weekend widows” because men go boating and fishing with the boats they make and sell. Wal-Mart would be responsible for drunk driving and fashion faux pas, because they sell booze and some immodest clothing.
Reasonable people know that those are ridiculous statements. No maker or seller of any product is responsible for what people do with that product. No person can control what other people do. Just ask a “weekend widow.”
Is there anything more classic Americana than going for long drives in the car? Than going out into the country with a vague destination and only the plan to go north, east, west, or south? We Americans love our cars and our wanderlust runs deep in our collective history. We have a big country and we’ve always liked to move around in it.
I’ll admit I let the month get away from me when it came to exploring my little world. I didn’t plan a trip to a museum or cultural destination. My weekends were jam-packed with no room for a daytrip, the deadline fast approaching. My husband mentioned he wanted to drive up into neighboring Michigan to collect some trees from the property of a friend and the kids and I could ride along. I had never driven up that far into Michigan yet, so an exploration was born. Why not take the opportunity to explore part of Michigan on a beautiful Sunday afternoon?
Daytrip in Michigan
I looked over a map of the area only briefly, noting some names of interesting-sounding lakeside towns and which roads ran into U.S. Route 12, a road I knew would take us along the lake and back toward home. I didn’t write down any specific directions (except to the place where we would pick up trees and visit) and I didn’t think about a specific plan. I just wanted to drive.
So we did. After leaving the home of my husband’s friend, we took off to the next small town and then the next small town. We drove down small town streets of shops, restaurants, and squares, such as Three Oaks and Dowagiac. We drove through small, rolling hills of farms, pastures, and orchards. We wove our way back to the shores of Lake Michigan, through lakeside towns, such as New Buffalo and Union Pier.
Driving for fun
We rolled down the windows and turned up the radio. We passed back snacks to the kids and played “I-Spy.” I remember being a kid and going on drives like that. I don’t even remember the destination, if we even had one, but I remember the drive.
I suppose it is a waste of time and resources, to drive with nowhere to go, but there is something about doing it that feels good. To be honest, we’ve had a lot of stress lately and we’ve been tense and hurried with each other. The kids have had us in a constant state of exhaustion. Everyone has those periods of life when things move too fast and you feel like you are on a hamster wheel, running as fast as you can, in place. Taking a few hours to wander somewhere different and new, where your phone doesn’t get much reception, and your to-do list is left behind miles and miles away… this was a good thing.
Ice cream treat
We stopped for ice cream at Oink’s Ice Cream and Yogurt, a famous local roadside ice cream stand.
The entire family enjoys ice cream after exploring on a Sunday drive.
Sitting out front, at tables along the roadside, we watched other Sunday drivers, motorcycle groups, and out-of-state cars drift in and out of the parking lot.
I’d like to explore more this way, perhaps with a clear plan and destination, or perhaps another afternoon of a vague destination and only the plan to go north, east, west, or south.