Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Checking in and Two Helpful Concepts for kids at home

I just wanted to pop in and say hi.

So, as I’m sure you know, times are interesting these days with the coronavirus shelter in place. There’s a lot to process for everyone, each setting/person/family being affected in its own way, even as we go through it together, we experience it uniquely.
I’ve come to enjoy the personal processing of life quietly, so I don’t often want to blog much based on that.

But I did think it a good idea to pop in and say we are ok. 
Our family is very lucky, in that we have a lot of normal still. Blake’s job has been transitioned to him teaching the college courses online. (He goes into his empty office and labs, to record content to put online, Monday- Friday.) And of course, we had already been homeschooling our kids. So our day to days look very much the same as before.
Additionally, on some level, we have tasted some components of social distancing before, because of food allergies. (Things like we have spent holidays with just our immediate family at home many times already. So our Easter didn’t feel jarring this year.)
Of course, there are so many things that have changed. And we miss what we miss. Some of this is hard for the kids to process, its emotional. It’s strange and different overall. But we are lucky in that our day to day wasn’t turned upside.

We are still healthy. We are still growing. And on the whole we are happy— still allowing for sad as it comes. And we work towards solutions for what we need.

Two things I feel are currently worth sharing in case it helps anyone else with kids at home now.
They have have helped us in our house as far as how life is affected by having kids at home ALL THE TIME. This works for us, your mileage will vary.

First: Having Official snack time.
Kids love snacks (don’t we all, actually.) And they will literally ask all day long. (I know because I’ve lived it, and now I keep reading about others living it currently and losing their minds.) Years ago I made us an official snack time. (Because I was losing my mind.) I set it at 3:00. (Later I moved it to 2:00. Because we eat early meals and that puts about 3 hours between everything for us.)
Suddenly I told the kids they could only have snacks then. For the first day or two they were furious— so many fits, so much whining and begging and acting as through they would starve to death. But they accepted it. And then for the next bunch of weeks I had to answer the question “What time is it?” an unimaginable amount of times. But my four year old learned how to tell time surprisingly fast. 😆 And after the initial phase, snacks have not been an issue —even for the younger kids because this was already in place before they were born. 
As far as the process— we have special plates we use. (Glass Vintage Snack Trays.) Because I wanted it to feel like a special tradition they can look back on. I’m very lenient with what they eat. We have a cabinet full of snacks, and they can pick what they have.

 I’ve always been very verbal about how they need to pay attention to how they feel after they eat and make choices that help them feel good. And I’m also very clear about how if they eat through the snacks before our next grocery trip there will be none until we shop again. So they are excellent at not over doing it. Sometimes a visitor seems surprised by our level of snacking —the kids usually get themselves a handful of potato chips, a 1/2 tablespoon measuring spoon scoop of (dairy free) chocolate chips (the spoon is the way we ration it fairly over the week), a fruit snack or fruit roll up, and one little Aldi (allergy free) cookie. (Or if we have left over cake/ fancy desserts they choose a slice of cake or normal snack.) So while this seems like a lot of snack food— it keeps them from even seeming to crave any extras during the day. And the rest of the day they eat so healthy— totally unprompted. I let them get their own lunches together and it’s truly mind blowing to me how healthy they are—  I wasn’t for sure at their age. I think we have found our good equilibrium. I also think it may aid in their future eating habits— balancing coming easier perhaps.

(Side note: I also have a snack at snack time too. However, mine is less extravagant.)

Second: Fun (Cleaning) Friday 
This is only about a month old at our house, I benefited from another mom sharing the cleaning component as part of her normal homeschooling routine. And then made it our own. 
So on Fridays now, we basically unschool in the morning — I told the kids to think of anything they want to know more about and I will do my best to find a documentary about. So far we have watched about dinosaurs going extinct, panda bears, parts of an orchestra, dolphins, sea turtles, and deep ocean creatures. 
Before we start the movie we clean up the family room really well, spread out a blanket, for the popcorn I make. 
(Side note: if anyone is looking for a diary free version of cheesy popcorn— look into nutritional yeast. (It’s yellow flaky stuff we buy in the bulk area of fancier/more natural/crunchy grocery stores.) You just sprinkle it over the fresh hot popcorn with some salt and stir it around. It was not immediately yummy to me— because it’s not dairy— but I acquired the taste and now I love it and crave it. And they kids are obsessed.) (Nutritional yeast also goes into many cheesy recipes well.)

After the movie they are assigned chores which earn them one show on Netflix, after the chore is done. And we try to do a least two, or three time chunks of chores and Netflix. But it depends on what we need to do.
I’ve mainly used this to accomplish stuff that nags me but I can’t get to on my own.
So far in our month of Friday efforts, we have super cleaned the kitchen cabinet faces and appliances  —scrubbing off kitchen grease built up and little splatters that accumulate. Deep cleaned the three bathrooms. Super scrubbed down our painted stairs. And gone around and dusted everything and cleaned the windows.
This works well because it’s usually during nap time for my toddler, or if not one of us can keep her out of the mix. (And I don’t have to dedicate nap time to formal school lessons.)
I have loved Friday’s since starting this. We love the morning. (I love documentaries myself. And they like they popcorn and group time and predictable routine mix up and.) And they are ok with the chores, love the Netflix rewards. And I am thrilled with the overall uptick in cleanliness. Plus I have a goal of them knowing the ropes of keeping up a dwelling by the time they are adults.
This concept has been so great because I have been struggling for a while figuring out how to balance these elements. And this just clicked for us this way.
Right now the chores have to be pretty much narrated by me through the whole thing. But I have faith that after a while this will be stuff I can set them to do alone because they know how.
(They have been cleaning the family room so often they can do that unguided— so I have the proof there.) I’m willing to spend the time upfront for the payoff later.
My oldest two do most the chores, but my 4.5 year old helps as much as he can.

This stuff does take a small amount of forethought for all of us. I let the kids know on Monday to be thinking about their documentary ideas. I spend some time thinking what chores really would be best. And if they tell me soon enough I spend some time looking for the best documentary on the subject. But overall it’s pretty easy to just do.
I hope that as my kids get a little older (and I’m out of that must-always-have-eyes-on-the-toddler phase) I can add a bit more into our Fridays. Something like art or baking lessons. But for now this is all we are ready for.
(As a reference point my kids are currently 9.5, 7.5, 4.5 and 1.5)

Anyway. Those are a few things I’ve been happy about. (And FYI, We aren't this together on every level. And even though we clean like crazy on Friday, by Tuesday our house still looks like a tornado hit it. Zero perfection over here.)  But I’m mentioning it because maybe they can bring you some kind of happiness or help too. Or just prompt something unrelated but somehow related. 
But if not, that’s totally fine. Do what works for you! Best is different for everyone. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Rousing Roses

Hey guys!
It’s been a while!
Hope you are well.

I’m still around and still doing good. (And still not really up for blogging.)

But thought it was a good time to check in.

I’ve started a new thing.
I’m selling made over furniture.

I made a Facebook Page:
Rousing Roses

And I’m just selling each piece as I go.

No shop. Just listing on Marketplace and such.

I’m loving it.
It’s a great fit for my interests and point in life.

Some of my recent sales:

Farmhouse Bench 

Faux Fireplace 

Rope Wrapped Loft Bed

Made over lamp

Just to show a few.

Some of my current items up for sale :

Wall Rack 
Created from an 100+ year old piano board 
Absolutely beautiful tiger oak!

A Hand-painted Bookcase 

A Gorgeous Mendelssohn piano created between 1900-1910 reinvented into a desk.
(Or a Buffet/ Sideboard or Coffee Bar / Dry Bar)

And I have two more items being worked on
With a huge stash to come after 

Its great!

If you wanna follow along, or see more from before, feel free to like my page and see where things go from here

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

It’s not a blogging season for me. I’m sorry to say. I think of the blog, and you guys — especially anyone who reached out to me because of it over the years— often.  You mean a lot.

I’m not saying I’ll never blog again. I’m just saying it’s not a blogging season.

But I want you to know that I’m happy. Things are going well. I truly love  being a mom to four kids — four is my sweet spot. And every day, even the exhausting ones, I have moments of indescribable gratitude. I’m simultaneously the most proud of myself I’ve ever been, and I’m also the most aware of how much is not up to me and I am therefore humbled by the very things I’m proud of. And that feels like the deepest gratitude I’ve ever known.

And for now Im quietly enjoying my life for all that it’s worth.

I’ll catch up with you guys later.
Until then, so much love and well wishes  to you on your journey.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Update -- Life with 4


I was trying to finish Lily’s birth story this morning, and I took a break to go nurse her, and when I got back the computer had closed out my writing and not saved. I don’t even understand the way it saved what it saved, and the parts it didn’t save. It wasn’t in any expected way -- some of the story is there, some of it isn't.
So I’m bummed, cause it takes a while to write these days, and now I have to rewrite a lot of it. But that’s life.

Anyway, I thought instead I’d do a quick update.

We are doing great.
My hip is better after a few trips to the Chiropractor. Overall my body feels probably the best I’ve ever felt 6 weeks after giving birth. (Although TMI truth be told, I’m still dealing with hemorrhoids and those are less than ideal. But outside of that, I’m feeling really good.)
Lily is a happy, easy going baby. She’s starting to smile -- and it’s delightful.

The big kids all love her and are very good helpers.

We’ve been able to get school done fairly well so far.
I’m just starting to get the hang of adding cleaning back into life -- and that feels really nice.
But I am shocked at how much laundry there is anymore. Which is weird because Lily really doesn’t add much laundry yet. It’s kinda baffling. But I feel like I am ALWAYS doing laundry. (Because I am.)

The downside to life right now is a plumbing issue which lead to us taking the reading room ceiling off again.

And I wasn’t expecting that level of construction to be mixed into baby days. But again, that’s life. I was VERY overwhelmed by it initially. Like just so so disappointed, and down, and stressed, and upset with myself. But a week out from the ceiling coming down and I’m feeling a bit more centered. We get to address the design of this room again.
As well as the bathroom floors upstairs.

Which at first was just a huge part of the stress. But at this point I’m kinda looking forward to the new things to come. (Although still yet to be excited about the process.)

I’ve sold off a bit of stuff since that event -- clearing some more space in the house and trying to really figure out how to use this space for US -- and how we want to use it. I always feel so refreshed when taking out stuff that isn’t a fit anymore.

I added two plants to the house (in the kitchen and my bedroom) by splitting some of my bigger snake plant into new pots. I cannot even express how great that makes me feel. I didn’t know it would bring me so much peace and joy having some more living plants around. I’m also trying to root a few extra leaves in water -- we will see what happens.

I gotta get going back to my crew.

Just wanted to try and let you know I’m doing good and I’ll try to write the birth story again sometime. I hope.


Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Hi guys. I’ve been pretty quiet on here. 
     I think I’ve said this in numerous ways before, but I’m still working through all the hard things from the last few years. (My 3rd pregnancy’s physical and emotional challenges. The death of my grandpa, followed shortly by the death of my brother. And all the ways those events changed my life.)I needed some time to, very quietly, be myself. Some time to assess things. Some time to approve things. And I really, especially, needed to do that without explaining any of it. That’s just what I needed to heal.
     So I’ve not shared much online. And I’ve been very selective about what I share offline as well.     The process of giving myself that level of grace has been transformative. 
     During this quiet time, we’ve tackled a lot of projects. Both inside our house and outside in the yards. As well as in our lives.     And one of these projects definitely stands head over heels above the others. It’s a project I wasn’t sure I’d EVER tackle. And it took months and months to complete. But I’m pleased to reveal the results…

     At the beginning of August we added a very precious new family member. After 41 weeks of pregnancy (that thankfully were not as difficult as my third pregnancy, yet decidedly were more effortful than my first two) we welcomed a new daughter. On the blog I will call her Lily. (I like to keep my kids’ real names off the Blog for their privacy.) She was born 8 lbs 10oz, 21” long, healthy and strong.

      Last summer I embraced the idea that I really did want four kids, despite the fear of another pregnancy. Blake and I talked through the “what if’s”, made a few plans, and back up plans. And then chose to go for it.
     Feeling fairly sure this was our last pregnancy, I really wanted to respect it in best way possible for me. I decided I wanted as private a pregnancy as possible. No matter how it went, I didn’t feel like explaining anything to anyone. I didn’t want any opinions, good or bad. I didn’t want any additional concerns, besides my own. And after the last difficult pregnancy, and then the grieving period on the heels of that.... I didn’t have any additional energy to give to anything other than putting my feet where they needed to go. I wanted quiet space to just do that. In the past few years, the additional pressures of others’ feelings were bringing on panic attacks. I wasn’t able to healthily separate myself and I couldn’t figure out how to handle all those feelings at once. I knew that level of anxiety would physically affect my pregnancy and the baby. So we did not announce our pregnancy (online or off.)  And it allowed a healthy space for me and my baby to grow.
     Since the decision to get pregnant again was something we gave some time to, I was able to do some major prep work beforehand. I made doctors appointments to ensure I didn’t have anything underlying that could impact pregnancy for me. (Mainly wondering if there was something wrong last time to cause all that nausea. And also making sure all that nausea didn’t hurt anything. As well as just a general physical checkup after so much stress and grief.) I was given clean bills of health all around. 
     And so while that was in the works, we chose to complete the harder projects for me, in our house while we waited. (Mainly sewing the couch covers, and painting the kitchen cabinets.) And man, am I glad we did that!
     Then in the remaining time before nausea set in, I cooked up tons of meat and froze it in our deep freezer so it would be ready for the family when I wasn’t ready to deal.

     As I said, thankfully this pregnancy wasn’t as hard as my third. I did have extended nausea. I took Unisom throughout the whole thing to deal with it. But thankfully, about half way through my second trimester I started having chunks of time when the nausea paused for a bit of the day. And the difference in unrelentingly nausea vs getting breaks from it, made all the difference in my sanity.
     I also discovered ginger beer — (like root beer -- nonalcoholic) and unlike ginger ale, it’s made with real ginger. How it took till pregnancy number four for that is beyond me. (No idea how it would have been during my #3’s intensity level. My guess is less than impressive? But I’ll never know.)
     Having lived through pregnancy #3, and then being able to see Bronny and his outrageously lovable self walking around and snuggling me, definitely made it easier to keep perspective during hard days.

     But I found not documenting or sharing the pregnancy a huge relief. I didn’t have any additional processing to do besides just being there and doing it. And the pregnancy flowed faster without the constant countdown going.
     Then thankfully, by about halfway through the third trimester, nausea was only an occasional thing, instead of the norm.
     Energy was very hard to come by this time, likely due both to being older myself and having more kids to care for this time. But it all worked out just fine.
Everything kinda just started to blend into what it needed to be. 
      Near the end my nesting was strong! For this pregnancy our house is much more completed than last time. So I was doing the nitty gritty organizing stuff, and decorating details stuff, like a mad woman. And Blake is my hero for helping me whenever I asked. 
     I’ve never felt so at home in any of my adult homes. I was really able to harness my hormones and channel them into crafting just what I was aiming at. (Some of which was found by trail and error.)

     And finally little Lily arrived. I had a lot of Braxton-Hicks this pregnancy. So that last chunk of time was just as confusing as every end-of-my-pregnancies have been. But I was way more at peace with waiting around this time. It helps not being watched by the world and being able to kinda dissociate from the calendar a bit. But the fact that she showed up before 42 weeks (unlike my other three) will forever thrill me! (41+1 day counts as early for me!)

     Since her arrival I’ve been feeling really good. Her delivery was really smooth and I didn’t tear this time. Which is awesome! And I owe that to my midwife, because she very specifically helped during pushing to avoid some stuff that happened last time. 

     Unfortunately, I am struggling with some intense hip pain on one side. Lily had one hand on her face in utero (so long that she had her nose smashed to the side for about a week after birth) and it made that hip act up at the end of pregnancy. And then she left that hand there on her way out. So I think the uneven pressure on my pelvis during pushing is to blame for my hip pain. I’m seeing a chiropractor now and trying some stretches to try to work it out. It’s improving. But I have a ways to go to feel normal.
     But no matter what I went through, and continue to go through, I’m soooooo grateful to have this precious person in our family. 

     I’m so happy I chose to allow space for her instead of letting fear keep her out of our lives. It feels really nice to have so many pieces in place right now. We feel whole. We feel ready to grow into ourselves as a family.

     Lily is just the sweetest little person. We are all really enjoying getting to know her.

     And I do plan on writing her birth story when I get a chance.

     (Also sharing our kitchen which is actually finally done now. It just took a long time to get the details in place and now you know why.)

Love to you all.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Your _____ Year Old Books

We are in the midst of our birthday season in our house.
I think in a way, this is like my own personal New Years. I’ve never done much reflecting or planning ahead as the calendar year flips over. It just didn’t seem like I was ever in that mode at that point. I think I used to use the school years' shifting for that type of reflective and planning space. And I guess that having summer babies fit right into that same schematic.

So I’m entering our new year over here.

And one thing I love doing around now is reading these books written by Louise Bates Ames.

I’ve mentioned them at least once on the blog, way back when I first came across them, five years ago. But as I was reserving the right ages for us this year (eight, six and three), at the Library today, I thought, “You know, these deserve their own blog post.” So I’m writing it.

Ames focused on stages in child development and wrote a book for each year of childhood, up until age nine, and then there is a book for 10-14 year olds.

I personally had no experience with children before becoming a mom (outside of my own childhood of course.) So I really wasn’t coming to the table with much. The discovery of these books is something I feel deeply grateful for. Had I not found these I would be SO MUCH more: lost, overwhelmed, worried, and exhausted. And I’d likely be inadvertently hurting my kids emotionally and developmentally, because I would not have had a clue about norms and therefore would have had unrealistic expectations for them.

I first found these when my oldest had somewhat recently turned three. And it was a GAME CHANGER. Oh how I wish I had found them earlier. I regret my lack of knowledge during her infancy (however I did have a few baby books and websites so I kinda felt like I knew what was going on), but I was LOST during her second year. That was a hard year for me I had just added our second daughter to the family, was getting NO sleep between the two of them, I was lacking in social support and I didn’t know what two year olds did. I was muddling through that year -- just blind and struggling. I didn’t know why she did anything she did. I didn’t want her to do a lot of it. And I was just not connecting with her at her level. That year we had some very confusing battles of will in which neither of us were coming out ahead.

I can honestly say that an ENORMOUS weight was lifted off me and our relationship once I just happened upon these books on the library shelf. 
They are written so well. And they give an excellent base to work from to year each. 

In my experience so far, they have been pretty spot on with each of my three kids at each age. Of course each of my kids have their own personalities and temperaments so it plays out uniquely. But what’s absolutely interesting to me is that each age has it’s own personality. (Hence those subtitles, Like “Your Two Year Old: Tender or Terrible” ) And actually, the younger years especially, have two different types of personality per year -- like a three year old will act very differently than a three and a half year old. (Oh man was that helpful knowledge because with my oldest it did change like over night and if I wasn’t expecting it I would have been very concerned.)

The books are set up to explain the ages uniqueness. I don’t have any in front of me right now so I can’t quite remember the layout. But it spells out tons of helpful things, like what they will be learning. How their focus will be either internal or external at that stage. It explains what are normal fears for that age. Normal stresses. Common interests. How they view the parents at that point and why. How they view other children. 
It’s just a ton of helpful information that helps normalize every day. It helped me let go of taking tons of things personally, and just open my hands (metaphorically speaking) and let them develop. It took away some of the mom guilt I was deep inside of. 

A couple examples of stuff that mattered to me:

I remember specifically in the three year old book it talking about how it can be very helpful for the mother to not be in the room when the three year old is eating. I cannot tell you how much of a blessing that was for me. We had just figured out food allergies so I didn’t know what I was doing in the kitchen, and she is a highly sensitive kid overall so she’s very picky about food and textures. And the food battles we had been having were awful. I felt so much guilt lift with that permission the book gave me, and it brought us so much peace. We had an open kitchen to our living room. So I would set her up with her plate and then go over to the couch with the baby, and she’d eat. It was like magic. And it was relaxing for both of us.

I also remember the book mentioning that three year olds love the word “surprise.” Oh my goodness was that ever true with her. (She actually stayed obsessed with it for about another year or so. Constantly “surprising” me EVERY time I walked by which of course could get on my last nerve, but at least I knew it was a normal kid thing and could remind myself that when I wanted to lose my mind.) But I also was able to use the word “surprise” in my favor - by saying things like "I wonder if you can surprise me by eating up your lunch while I’m not looking?” Oh the joy that would light up her eyes -- she was thrilled. It was so helpful.

So the book doesn’t give a lot of specific parenting techniques -- but it equips with concepts of where the kids are at at that point. Like in those examples above. Those types of examples are about as specific they ever get to giving you something you can do. The rest is just saying things like “At this age nightmares are not uncommon.” or what have you. And then you can adjust your sense of what to do accordingly.

At the end of the books they even have a tiny chapter on what they birthday parties might be planned like. (Things like how many kids they would do well with having come that year. How they might interact with each other. How long to make the party for their attention span. That kinda thing.)

These books were written in the early 80s. So they look dated in the photos. And occasionally read from another era. (But it’s my era -- so it’s an easy translation for me.) But realistically most of it reads timelessly. 

I can usually feel my need to pick one of these books up. It hits me the hardest with my oldest (since I don’t know what’s coming.) I can feel myself getting more and more baffled by what she’s doing and it makes me feel like I need to correct her a ton, I don’t feel in tune with her, and our relationship feels strained. If I don’t catch it, it just spirals down as we each get exhausted by this. When it dawns on me that it’s the fact that I don’t know what’s normal for her (or the other kids, if it’s kinda been lost in the back of my mind) right now, I get one of these books. Some times it’s a new year and I need new info. Sometimes it’s just time for a refresher. And I come out of it so much more equipped to be patient and understanding.

That said, I’m looking forward to these ages’ books getting check back in and reserved for me. I’ve been feeling that shift again.

Anyway, I was thinking how of all the things I’m happy about inside my parenting, these books are right up there at the top of the list. And I always recommend them.

And if you are curious---

Other than these age books, the two most influential books for me for parenting on the whole I wrote about here.
(And the age books mesh SO WELL into those two other books. The combo effect of them all together is just so empowering.)

As well as “The Highly Sensitive Child” (which is really only useful if you or your child is highly sensitive -- but if it applies then it’s REALLY helpful) -- which I wrote a bit about in this post.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Netflix's "Abstract: The Art of Design"

Last night I decided to try watching Netflix's Original "Abstract The Art Of Design." 
And being me, I skipped ahead to episode 8 which had the interior designer.

Have you watched it?

When thinking of anything to tell you about it--
I'm rendered either speechless, or just rambling incesently about how inspiring it is.
Ilse Crawford is....
I'm sitting here silently pondering what to say here...
Do I go over dramatic and say she's my new hero? 
Do I try to sincerely convey how inspiring she is?
 I'm honestly just  dumbstruck.
She spoke both words in my heart, and words my heart needed to hear.

If you have any inclination towards interior design, or if you enjoy hospitality, or if you feel strongly about your home or workplace being a haven....
Turn this on sometime.
You're in for a inspirational treat.

Blake watched it with me and was also very impressed.
He's not particularly into interiors, but he teaches design to his engineering students. So it was applicable in that regard.
Early in the show she says that "Empathy is key in design." I remarked how cool I think that is and Blake told me that's what they teach their students. 

The way she speaks of humanity is just so deep. Which is wonderful in this context  -- because often design is looked at as shallow. But it is anything but.

(I'm looking forward to to the whole series. But this one I'm definitely watching  again!
And I'm definitely looking into her books.)

Let me know if you've seen it...or when you do.
I'm dying to gush with someone over it.

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