Monday, February 25, 2013

Gotta Have A Gimmick

One of the things that I had no clue about before having Arthur was the whole concept of "Mommy Wars." I had briefly heard the term "parenting style," probably in a sociology course once, but it wasn't something I paid much attention to.
Now that I have a kid, it's hard to get away from all the varieties.

Attachement Parenting.
Crunchy Mamas.
Tiger Parents.

On top of all the blogs specifically designed for parents who follow the guidelines of all the different styles out there, I also have a whole lot of friends who have kids. And those friends (who I keep up with through social media) all have different ways of raising their kids. Those ways shine through in their updates, pictures, blog posts etc...

I find I have one of two reactions to almost anything people post about their kids.

Jealousy or Judgement.

Neither of those are emotions I particularly like feeling, and I'm pretty ashamed to admit it. Unfortunately, the truth is the truth. I either see something and think "Oh my gosh, how could she do that, doesn't she KNOW...." or I think "Look at her, she looks like such a perfect mom, how could I not..." My immediate reactions feed right into those "Mommy War" stereotypes we hear so much about. And like the articles I've read have told me, and the blogs I've read have explained to me, and the people I've talked to have sympathized with's because of my own insecurities about motherhood.

I don't feel that I look like a mom.
I can't keep my house clean.
I had a c-section.
Sometimes (a lot of times) I use disposable diapers.

The list could go on and on. I have to constantly remind myself that I don't have to have a "style." That I can agree with Dr. Sears on most things, but not have to agree with all the women on an attachement parenting site. That I can look up to my peers who I seem to think are doing a better job than me, and still recognize that they probably have their own lists. I can feed Arthur an organic orange and processed off-brand cheez-its in the same exact meal.

Yup, he's watching TV. 

Yup, he's wearing an old T-shirt as a Bib and playing while he should be eating. 

Yup, he's wearing daddy's socks, a too big sweater and a hat that still has the tag on it. 
Yup I let him wear that all day. 


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I'm Plucky and Adventurey

I really need to get better about blogging on a regular basis. Some people make schedules for their blogs. Some people post SEVERAL TIMES A DAY. Can you imagine?
Me neither.

We've had a pretty hectic couple of weeks (months?) over in these parts.
Not too long ago, Skyler convinced me that it would be great idea to try out for the local community theatre's production of "Pirates of Penzance." Keep in mind that I haven't done a show since I was in college. It's been...awhile. Let's just say awhile. I was feeling very, very nervous about the prospect of even auditioning. I was concerned about the strain it would put on our schedule. I was worried about the inevitable nights when Skyler would have a meeting and I would have rehearsal and what would we do with the baby? I was afraid that I had lost any talent or training I used to have.The thing is though, I love the theatre. I love it I love it I love it. And I've missed it a whole lot. It sort of used to be my life. Even though my life is now more about dirty diapers and dirty dishes and dirty dogs, I would really like it to still be about the things that made me who I am. I'm also aware, now more than ever, that I am an extrovert married to an introvert. Skyler would be happiest if we stayed in our house 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He wants and needs us and nothing and nobody else. That may be a bit of an overstatement, but not much. You know what? I love my introvert. But I also need interaction with other people. I NEED to get out of the house. As a stay at home mom in a town I don't really know, this isn't the easiest thing to do. We have our church, but that's only Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. Most weeks for the last year that has quite literally been my only adult human interaction other than checkout ladies at the grocery store and the few hours everyday that my husband is home. It's not enough.
So, I auditioned. And then I got a callback. And then I got cast! There aren't a ton of roles in Pirates of Penzance for women. There's Mabel, the ingenue, a part is WAY out of my range. There's Ruth, who is an older woman (usually played by someone in her 40s-60s). Then there are Mabel's sisters, 3 of whom have speaking and singing parts. That's me! I'm playing Kate, who I've decided is the saucy sister. Besides the girl who plays Mabel, all the other girls are being played by high schoolers which has been interesting so far. It makes me feel old and young at the same time, if that makes sense. Many of the other roles are filled by members of our church, all people who are in choir with me, which is fun! It has definitely been a scheduling challenge already so far, however. Tomorrow I have to take Arthur with me to rehearsal for an hour which will be...difficult. Wish me luck!

In addition to rehearsing, I also had the challenge of preparing for the holidays in December. I made almost all of our gifts this year. I would love to say that was purely because I wanted to, but that would be a lie. I did it because we simply couldn't afford to do Christmas any other way. But you know what? Even with all the cussing, the cut fingers, the broken sewing machine needles, I'm really glad I did it. Between both of our families I ended up making 48 gifts, plus several batches of caramel, fudge and pepper jelly... and I didn't even finish! Some people only got a couple small gifts, and my goddaughter and her family didn't get...anything. I'm playing catch up on them now. Oh man.
Below are some of my favorites. These are links to the tutorials/patterns I used. I was silly and didn't take any pictures of my finished product.

I made three of these pacifier clips. Arthur has never taken a pacifier so I was super excited to do this adorable craft for my nephew and one of Skyler's baby cousins.

I made two of these purses, one for each of my sisters-in-law. I loved this pattern so, so much. I'm afraid that every woman in my life is going to get one of these pretty soon and I might have several!

I made this scarf for my littlest sister in law, in Alton Comet colors! I think (I hope) she liked it and it was one of the few projects that didn't make me want to throw my sewing machine across the room.

I made this for my father in law and one of Skyler's older cousins, both of whom travel for work frequently. The first one I made almost drove me insane, but the second one was a breeze. Next time, I will add a stiff interfacing and a lining or fabric cover cardboard to shore up the structure. It might also be better to use heavier weight fabric than what I used. I just used the manliest fabric I had on hand. 

I also made two of these, for my Mama and my sister. They were fun, but did NOT end up as cute as these. It was also hard to do for someone else's head and no measurements. 

So that was our lead-up into the holidays. Maybe sometime before the 4th of July, I'll tell you about our Christmas adventuring!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Is This The Little Boy At Play?

Most of the moms I know who have a blog do pretty regular posts about their kids.
It makes me feel a little behind the game, because I have not done a single post dedicated just to Arthur. And really, that's a crying shame, because Arthur? He's awesome. And growing and changing FAST.
So today, for no better reason than I am procrastinating cleaning my craft/guest room/dumping ground, here's a little something for my bouncing baby boy.

Arthur, 16 months (and three weeks!)

Arthur, Arthur, Arthur. Where do I begin? You are so, one hundred percent YOU. I thought I knew a lot, was ready to be a Mama, had tons of experience with lots of different kinds of kids. You seem to want to prove me wrong at every turn.

You are strong-willed.
You do not like wearing shoes or socks. You love to climb, and frequently get stuck. You like to do things on your own, but when you want my help you know that there is no substitute (especially when it involves going down the stairs).

You are well behaved.
You spent the entire week leading up to the election at Daddy's office or in the car and you hardly complained. Daddy's co-worker kept saying sarcastically "You guys seriously need to have a happier kid." At church you are friendly to everyone and so happy to be around the big kids and even the little babies. All that being sad, you are capable of throwing one heck of a temper tantrum.

You take after your parents - you like to sleep.
You don't like getting into your crib and often fight and cry when we put you in it, but almost immediately you remember what you get to do there and settle down. And then you sleep. And sleep. And sleep some more. You sleep about 10 hours every night and 2 hours during your afternoon nap. It's one of the reasons your Mama loves you so much.

You talk.
You say: Ball, Hi, Mama, Daddy, Doggy (sort of), "Whadis?,  Night Night, Banana, Light, More, No, Yeah and Uh Oh! I'm sure I've forgetting some. You call books, balls. We're working on that.

You are adorable.

I mean, really, really cute. You have suddenly discovered that you like to read and will bring me book after book to read to you. You like to dance. You love to spin. You like to run and run and run. You love to be outside and you hate that it's too cold for you to play in the yard all the time. You occasionally give us hugs and kisses but you are very careful about when you hand out affection. You have 8 teeth and a big mop of curly hair that gets lots of comments from old ladies at the grocery store. You like to stack things, roll things, throw things and (unfortunately) hit things.

You are wonderful and frustrating and perfect and nothing like we expected and everything we hoped for.


Monday, October 29, 2012

A Book Report On...

One of the items on my 30 before 30 list is proving more difficult than I thought it would be when I set it. 

1. Read all 87 Pulitzer Prize winning novels (7/87)

When I made the list over 2 years ago, I thought this would be one of the easiest to fulfill. I'm a fast reader. Like, lightning fast. Reading a new Harry Potter book in less than half a day fast. 87 books? Pssshh, no problem. What I should have known, is that I really, really should have finished them before Arthur was born. Definitely before he started crawling. And ABSOLUTELY before he began walking. Was I smart and plan ahead for that? Nope, I sure didn't.
Anywho, I have been making some progress. And so I present to you, a book report. Or, rather, reports. I intended to wait until I had all of the winners from the 2000s done before writing this post, but I'm starting to forget my thoughts on the early reads, so I'm just going to get it all down now and then I'm going to try to write a post for each book from now on.

#1 Visits from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan, 2011 Winner
Lordy, I hated this book. It made me so nervous for the rest of the list because I hated it so much. 
The story is a fragmented look at a group of interconnected people. Most of them work in the music industry and much of the novel focuses on the death of music. The rest of the book focuses on how everyone dies, gets old and ends up alone. I think Egan's theory was that everything in life sucks. 
I'm not going to say that I don't appreciate a little artsy-fartsiness every once in awhile, but this was over the top. I felt like she was trying to be deep for deepness' sake and that has always rubbed me the wrong way. 

#2 Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides, 2003 Winner

Thank goodness this was so much better! It restored my faith in the Pulitzer Prize committee. 
The story is that of Cal, an intersex man raised as a girl by his Greek family in Detroit. There are also insights into his family's history, including the relationships that led to Cal's recessive condition. 
The plot was fascinating, the language was beautiful (without trying too hard) and the story was sad and hopeful and heartbreaking all at the same time. If you only read one of the 7 books reviewed here, choose this one. 

#3 Tinkers, Paul Harding, 2010 Winner
After reading this, I decided I was destined to like every other book I read for this project. While I did like slightly more than "Goon Squad", I still was not a huge fan. 
A man on his deathbed narrates his life story, focusing on his relationship with his father. The language is pretty and evocative of senses. While I can appreciate that objectively, I put this book in the "not for me" category. Falling in love with a character, being drawn into an interesting plot, feeling an emotional tie to the story...those things are all more important to me than language. And I know that's a personal preference, but this is a personal blog! Deal with it :)

#4 March, Geraldine Brooks, 2006 Winner

I love companion books more than most things. That is, if they're done well. "March" is the story that was missing from "Little Women", that of the father of our beloved sisters. It was such a lovely read. It felt true to the original characters, without keeping us from finding out new things about them. Seeing Marmee as a fiery young woman was especially intriguing for me. Brooks based much of Mr. March's characterization on the research she did on Louisa May Alcott's father. It is widely known that Alcott based her characters on her own family. 
By the way if you like companion novels, I recommend this one, based on Jane Eyre and this one, based on Beowulf. 

#5 Gilead, Marilynne Robinson, 2005 Winner
Yet another novel written from the perspective of a dying man, but this one slightly more tolerable. This is the story of John Ames, the son and grandson of congregationalist pastors in the Midwest. Since I am the daughter and granddaughter of congregationalist pastors in the Midwest, I felt I should have appreciated this much more. So much of this could have been a family history for me. It's not that I didn't like it. I just wasn't drawn in by it. It took me FOREVER to get through it, despite the fact that it's one of the shortest on the list. 
By the time I finished I didn't even remember to take an instagram picture. Oops. 

#6 The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz, 2008 Winner

This is the story of a poor nerdy little Dominican boy growing up in New York, his mother, and his sister. This was one of those books that took a long time to get me interested/invested but then I couldn't put it down. I think it took me two weeks to get through the first quarter, and then only a couple days to finish it. I finished this only days before my baby sister left to go to the DR for a year long appointment with the UCC Global Ministries. It was a nice little insight into the world she would be stepping into. 

#7 The Magnificent Ambersons, Booth Tarkington, 1919 Winner
Obviously this was a little departure from the 2000s. I discovered it as a free download on my Nook and started it before I could get to the library for the book I had waiting for me. 
It's been a long time since I've cared about a story where I hate the main character. I hesitate to call him the protagonist, as I believe Tarkington intended for you to hate young George Amberson. By the end of the tale of the rise and fall of this great family at the turn of the century, although I still didn't like him, I cared about him in an odd way. And that was a great feat. 
Loved, loved, loved it. 
Incidentally, there is apparently a very famous movie version directed by Orson Wells. I think I'll check it out soon. 

#8 The Road, Cormac McCarthy, 2007 Winner

Gosh darn, this book was depressing. A post-apocolyptic story of a man and his young son trying their hardest to survive despite starvation, brigands and the elements. Even though I just finished this yesterday, I'm finding it hard to come up with things to say. It was not my favorite but it was very well done. Do you know the difference between "well done" and "good"? I don't know how to describe it, but I feel it covers quite a few of the books on this list.

So that's it! Whew! On to #9. I just began "Olive Kitteridge", which is constantly reminding me of a certain American Girl doll.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

If We Share This Walk Together

Most people can't name the day, the moment, when they grew up. It happens so gradually over time that one day you realize you've done it, but you don't know when.

In some ways, that's the case for me too. But not completely.

October 9th, 2002. That's the day I grew up.

It feels odd to me that it was ten years ago.
Ten years ago, a new freshman far away from home and eager to make friends, I lent my car to a group of girls I was just beginning to know. I was supposed to drive them to a dance club in the town across the state border, but auditions for the fall play were running late and I wanted to stay.

"Here, you can borrow my car."

I handed the keys to a new friend. Funny, full of energy, music loving Christie.
Just a little bit later she was dead. The lives of the rest of the girls in that car would never be the same, some of them suffering life changing injuries.

In many ways, I was on the periphery of that experience. I wasn't there. I don't know how it felt, how scary it was, how overwhelming.

I do know what it was like to be woken up by the Residence Hall Director in the middle of the night. I do know what it was like to go clean out my car and see the aftermath of the accident in broad daylight. I do know what it was like to mourn the loss of one of our own with the rest of my Cottey family.

And I know what it's like to grow up in one day.

Today, as I do many days, I am remembering Christie. The girl I knew so briefly who changed my life so permanently. I am remembering her family and her friends who feel her loss so much more profoundly than I do. And I am remembering the love of a community that I am so grateful for.

"If we share this walk together, nothing can stand in our way. If we share this walk together, we can share the love and the pain. Life can be a challenge, but in our hearts you'll find, a helping hand, someone to understand, a voice that's always kind. If we share this walk together, nothing can stand in our way, if we share this walk together, we can share the love and the pain."

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I Have Confidence In Me

Our front door has had the same little spring flower bough on it since March. Around the time I thought I could make spring come by decorating for it. Now, we're well into fall and that spring decoration finally came down today!
The best part? I made the replacement! All by myself! During only one nap time and using only a few store bought items! Go Me!
So. Gasp. This (you have been warned) is a craft post.

The cast of characters
Please Excuse the awful lighting and the obvious mess. I have to spend nap times in the basement playroom or I wake up the lightest sleeper in the world.

I started by wrapping the foam ring with strips of a fall-looking fabric I picked up at a garage sale eons ago. I think it used to be a pillowcase. 

Unfortunately, at some point when I was cutting the strips I had a little accident and didn't notice until I was done wrapping. Random stick-thingy to the rescue! I just attached it with floral wire. 

So you wanna see the final product? Do ya?

Ta Da!

Not perfect, but I'm darn happy with it. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Well, it's my favorite! Far off places...

We watch quite a bit of television at our house. To be honest, I’m perfectly okay with this. We watch less now that Baby A is around, but still quite a bit. 
The other thing you need to know about us is that we are complete and total nerds. Well...I’m a nerd. And I’ve let my nerdiness spread to Skyler. Like a disease. It’s how I made sure to ruin him for other women. I used to be embarrassed by my nerdiness, but I realize now that it is part of what makes me awesome. 
So why am I telling you all of this anyway? Well, because the Boy and I are going on a little journey, and we would like to take you along. This journey is called: The Final Frontier. That’s right...we’re watching our way through Star Trek. All of it. Unfortunately, I didn’t start writing this blog until after we had started, but don’t worry...we still have 400+ hours to go. 
Buy This Amazing Print Here

The question you may be asking yourself is; why would we do this to ourselves? A little background for you. 
When I was little, I was a Trekkie. Not a Trekker, that term hadn’t been invented yet. At least I don’t think it had been. I watched Star Trek: Next Generation like it was my job. I dressed up to go to see Star Trek: Nemesis at the Mall of America with my friends. Followed up by laser tag. I got really into Deep Space 9 and Voyageur for awhile too. One year, I got a Spock ornament for Christmas. Then, well, I’m not sure what happened. I lost interest. My friend who was into Star Trek with me moved to Colorado. I became aware of the immense social ostracism caused by my obsession with a television show about a star ship captained by an English dude with a thing for tea and piloted by an eleven year old. In any case, besides a few episodes caught on SciFi from time to time, I hadn’t watched anything Star Trek related in almost a decade. 

Me, circa 1993. Sigh. 

Enter the Boy. From quite literally the beginning of our relationship, I have been introducing him to all things nerdy. He was one of those cool kids in school. He had been into...well I’ll be honest I don’t know what the cool things were back then. If I had known, I would have been cool. Eminem and sports maybe? Or Tupac and big parties? I don’t know. In any case, when he met me, let’s just say his mind was opened to new things. Things like Buffy and musicals and Slings and Arrows. He is still not into all of it. He insists he “puts up” with musicals just for me. As if I haven’t heard him humming some Loerner and Lowe under his breath from time to time. I digress. The point is that I had been the initiator of all things nerdy in our lives. 
Little did I know, I had unleashed a monster. 
Or, since this post is about nerds...a dragon. I unleashed a dragon. 
Imagine my surprise when I walked into our room at the HouseofBoys (another story for another day) and found him watching an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. 

Me: “What are you doing?”
He: “I watch this sometimes.”
Me: “It’s Star Trek.”
He: “You’ve ruined me for other women.”

I sat down and watched the episode with him and was reminded of why I loved Star Trek in the first place. So then, I watched it sometimes. Unfortunately, this meant on the rare instances we would try to watch the show together, one of us had invariably seen the episode already, but the other one hadn’t. It also meant I knew exactly what was going to happen at the beginning of the final season but had no idea what was going on in Season 2. We got frustrated and stopped watching. 
Finally, about a year later, JJ Abrams introduced his beautiful masterpiece that is the new and improved I’ve-never-found-Vulcans-so-sexy Star Trek. We went to see it and then we went to see it again. And AGAIN. We’re poor. We don’t see movies in the theatre twice. We certainly don’t see them three times. But we couldn’t help it. We were in love (with the movie, and with each other, although in this instance, the movie is what I was talking about).
At that moment we decided we needed to really experience Star Trek. We decided we wanted to be able to go to a convention someday and actually know what people were talking about. We wanted to not feel like posers if we ever decide to visit Riverside, Iowa, which after all is on our way to visit our a round about sort of way. 
Netflix to the rescue!!!
As of right now, we have finished Enterprise, The Original Series, and all the movies that go with TOS. We also watched the animated series, although that was in a distracted "we'd rather be doing something else" sort of way. The animated series was awful, but blessedly short. We took a break from Star Trek to discover Doctor Who (holy crap, where has THAT been all my life?) and Sherlock. We are now about half way through the first season of Next Generation. My memory of this show is patchy so far. I either remember every.detail.ever of an episode or I feel like I've never seen an episode. Not a lot of in between.  
The next Star Trek post will tell you a little about what we’ve thought so far and what’s next in our voyage with our favorite ship. Well... our second favorite ship. Because obviously, there's another, shiny shiny ship out there in the 'verse that we love just a little bit more. And then there's that darn policebox...Okay, we have a lot of favorite ships. 

We're nerds alright. 
Live long and prosper kids.