Sunday, December 30, 2012

We were okay. And that is good.

I just went back through my blog looking for this past year's resolutions and realized that I made none - at least not on this blog - since I took November - March off of posting apparently!

Life happens.

So the good news is, no blown resolutions!

The less good news - no accomplished resolutions. And nothing much checked off the bucketlist.

I gave myself half credit for finishing up  the first half of #12: Learn to take great photos and get a “real” camera - I took a photo workshop in April that was really enlightening if only for showing me the power of a low aperture lens, which did drastically improve my portraits. Unfortunately, since then, my toddler's ability to pose (read: stop moving) for portraits has diminished to almost zilch, so I can't say I've actually produced many "great photos" lately.

I may have accomplished #68 Start an Xmas tradition and carry it on forever, but I'm not sure when I actually get to count that as completed?) I'll update on this soon and you can decide.

And that is really about it. Not that I feel unaccomplished this year. I've actually come pretty far. I am starting to feel relaxed more often, which is fairly foreign to me. I am starting to feel okay when people come to my house and it's covered in goldfish crackers or dishes are stacked in the sink - not that I aspire to live in a pit, but I'm working to be less uptight about having company over in general. I'm more comfortable taking The Cupcake out into the world, more confident that we will have fun adventures and less worried about her melting down or making a scene - again, I'm re-setting my tolerance for being imperfect in public. I'm learning to strike out all the other verbs and just "be."

I'm still not sure what I want to do with my life or as a career, and that still scares me. But I'm doing a much better job of living right now, instead of 4 weeks/months/years down the road. Heck, I can't even tell you what I'll be doing next week (or what day it is today, honestly), so I'm learning to live outside of a schedule pretty well.

I think the biggest thing I've learned this year is that the stay at home mom mantra is true: the days are long, but the years are short.

Some days are very, very long. Most of the days of my pregnancy were full of nausea and heartburn. Much of TC's first year was a haze of sleep deprivation. The second was non-stop action and some days I begged for a nap myself (or just some time to sit), but those long days eventually faded into short years - has it been another one already? Will I have a 2-year-old at the end of the week?

Yes. And we will celebrate with a delightful party, one that is small and manageable but also a reason to splurge and try a few crafts and take a lot of photos. A chance to gather the family and our closest friends around an absurdly big bowl of ice cream, dress TC in a special outfit she will probably only wear that once, and listen to her laugh and try to make everyone around her do the same. I will probably stress about it, and run late, and order too much food - but then I will sit down, and relax, and enjoy the evening as I am just now learning to do.

A lot of mommybloggers say that their kids teach them all sorts of lessons, and I suppose mine does too, but what stands out to me more is what I've learned not from my kid, but from being her mom. Being a mom. I've been humbled. I'm continually struck by how difficult it is to parent, mostly in the tiny little decisions or enduring the situations in which we have no decision, let alone the big scary ones we fret over so much. I'm shocked and surprised at my own reaction to things, and how I never could have anticipated the way I'd feel in any of these situations, or how I'd react, or that I'd even face many of them. I'm then shocked and surprised again that I can realize these changes and step back to look at my whole life, and everyone else's around me, differently. 

There have been few tremendous highs this year, and several terrible lows - we lost family members, including our longtime companion Norm. Illness struck our extended family. Cars broke, stuff wore out, money was tight.

But mostly, it was okay.
We were okay.
We had what we needed, we wanted what we had, and there was a wonderful peace in that. 

I think in 2013 I may not resolve to reach as many heights as I sometimes feel I should. I am often guilty of "letting the perfect be the enemy of the good", and that creates a cycle of stress that is self defeating and not fun. So, instead, maybe I'll just live in the middle for a while, and enjoy the peace between extremes. I'll check some things off my bucketlist if it works out, and I'll keep working towards some more organization, surrounding myself with things and people and tasks that make me happy, but I won't push it. I'll just be.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Should I really give Santa Credit for This Anyways?

The Cupcake visited Santa, and can pick him out of a photo (though sometimes she calls him PaPa), and if you ask her what he says, she will give a hearty "Ho ho ho!" But TC doesn't know what Santa "does" yet.
Thank goodness.
Nor does she have any sense of time, or dates, or holidays. Which is very convenient. I decided to put together her big present, purportedly from Santa, on December 23rd, since it was a lazy Sunday afternoon and we had no obligations, and we'd be out late on Christmas Eve for sure. I had no idea what I was in for. I couldn't even lift the box (which could double as a pauper's coffin with no trouble).
Everything was packed nicely, all 7.5 million pieces in one huge brick...

With 400 pages of IKEA-ish sketched directions.

I called in reinforcements - power tools are one of man's best advancements. Though I could have used some elves too (maybe Santa knows what he's doing?)

The pile of foam wrap, cardboard, and styrofoam was bigger than the original box. The physics are baffling.

But somehow, 3 hours + 6 broke nails later, it was done. And adorable. And sturdy (so far). In fact, this thing is WAY nicer than any of our kitchen cabinets. And since our kid has no concept of Santa, or days of the week, or dates on the calendar, we just let her discover it when she got up from her nap instead of trying to hide it for 2 more days (did I mention it weighs as much as a small car?).

It was a hit! The Cupcake loves her "chicken." Especially the "seenk!" It has a ton of storage, the oven and dishwasher open like cabinets (instead of opening vertically, at which point the kid steps on the door and breaks it immediately after assembly), and even that "tile backsplash" is heavy wood, not just cardboard. She won't leave the shelves in the oven or dishwasher, but otherwise she has been loving it for hours, talking and cooking and amusing herself just as I had hoped.

Definitely loves filling everything from the sink, I'm so glad we got this sturdy set with a heavy duty faucet! The phone has to be her second favorite, and she even points out the big numbers on the "base" of the phone.
I'm not sure what we'll do next year when she has a bit more awareness of the world (probably buy pre-assembled gifts?) but there still seemed to be plenty of Christmas magic this season, even if some of it came a few days early.

P.S. This is the KidCraft Urban Espresso kitchen set via Amazon. It was about $180 (I think) and right now I'm super happy with the choice. While it was a bit of a bear to put together (not necessarily hard, I did it myself in about 2-3 hours, and didn't do anything wrong, it was just a lot of steps), it seems really sturdy, everything is smartly designed for real kids (i.e. the oven door thing), there are no noisy buzzers or sound effects or flashing lights (we have enough toys that yell at me), and I can definitely see this lasting for years to come. It's not terribly huge either, we're going to keep it in the living room for now since that is where we spend most of our time. It says 3&up on the box, but there are no small (removable) parts and my almost 2 year old, while pretty tall for her age, is able to interact with everything just fine.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Ornament Tradition - 2012

One of the holiday traditions we are starting is to pick out an ornament for The Cupcake each year. Something that relates to her life during the year we get it, and once she is all grown up and decorating her own tree we can give her the whole set of memories to begin her own collection of holiday decor (in theory...I'm not necessarily convinced I'll be ready to part with them, but for sure she can have them in the will).
Two years ago, when I was pregnant, we started with this one.
Last year, her first Christmas, I picked out a monkey in a ballerina costume which looked almost identical to the little monkey on her first birthday invitations, and suited our little dancing (and running, and climbing, and wiggling) monkey just fine:
This year I was pretty sure we had to find something that represented her FAVORITE guy in the whole world, and no, it's not Daddy or PaPa...
It's Elmo.
The first thing TC asks for in the morning is Elmo. Sometimes it makes me feel like a massive failure that my almost 2-year old knows a TV character so well, but I swear it was love at first sight - Elmo was one of her earliest words, PaPa P got her a stuffed Elmo doll when she was pretty little, and some days a little Elmo is just the lifesaver we both need to make it through another long day (the years are short, but the days are looooooong). This past week we volunteered at a gift wrap booth for 3 hours a day 4 different days. How, I ask you, does one entertain a toddler in an 8' X 8' space for 3 hours? Elmo makes the impossible possible. Instead of beating myself up over it, I'm going to accept, acknowledge, and heck, even celebrate it. Elmo is a big part of our life right now.

This was the best likeness I could find of the officially licensed ornaments. We wanted to be sure the money went to Sesame Workshop, without whom I could never get dressed or pee during the day. I like the idea of getting a glass ornament each year, while she can't play with them, it will feel like more of an heirloom to hand over eventually.
Here's hoping you're building family traditions of your own today & all year round...

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry = yes, bright = not so much...

I was pretty proud of myself after I cheaply replaced our defective Christmas tree lights a few posts ago:

For a very short time. Then the new lights also bit the dust. There are about a dozen out of the two full strings that are still lit. I give up.

I'm not going to even bother trying to figure it out until I undress the tree, so we'll just pretend they're all still flashing away happily for a couple more days. We went pretty light on the holiday decor this year, just the tree and a little garland:

It actually turned out pretty festive though! We have this great archaway between our living and dining room. A few 3M hooks, some wood bead garland, a red ribbon, and some large plastic Christmas bulbs started us off.

As the holidays drew nearer, I punched a hole in each Christmas card we received, threaded it onto a plastic ornament hook, and added them to the garland.

A few glittery candy canes on each end for good measure too :)

With a toddler on the loose I knew I didn't want to deal with the fish-hook style ornament hangers, I know I pretty much step in one each year and have to extract it from my heel, I definitely didn't want to be pulling them out of The Cupcake's gullet - so I was pleased to find these plastic (and more toddler-friendly, though I'd still her rather not acquire any) hooks.

May your days be Merry & Bright - even if your lights are b!tchy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ink Refills - Failed Experiement

One of the things I miss the most about not working is the access to office equipment. I predicted it would be true, and it is.  I loved my copier. I loved scanning things with ease, including long documents or cards for digital scrapbooking. I miss printing. I miss the endless supply of toner/ink/post it notes that arrived to fill my every whim.

Paying for ink blows. I think we all agree, it's a big  expense  that gets put off until you end up in an emergency and you have no choice.

I thought I'd be a little proactive and try out ink refills now that Costco is offering them through their 1 hour photo. I had done some research online and found a few people that had trouble with their printer recognizing the refilled cartridges, but decided  it was worth the gamble.


I really wish I had only refilled one cartridge to try it out, but no, I refilled an XL black and all 3 color cartridges at once. The color ones were out out out, so I loaded them right back up and was pleased that there was no recognition problem. I printed a poster just fine and did a little celebratory dance at my success.

And then I tried to print another poster. And the colored ink got fainter, and fainter, and eventually stopped.

They don't work. 


I have yet to try the black ink, but for sure the colored ones were not worth the gamble. Even if they had worked it was only a few dollars savings per cartridge over new, definitely not worth the hassle. The black was a bigger savings, but I am doubtful it will work any better - though I'll try to remember to update when I try it out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Cupcake meets Santa

We never made it to Santa last year, I had good intentions but froze up whenever I saw the price list for photos, or didn't like the outfit she was wearing, or the mood she was in, or just in general thought I could do better and so I ended up with nothing. This year could have very well been the same, but we took advantage of several happy coincidences and ended up with a sweet snapshot:
I'm not very happy with the low resolution (we bought the file, for $35 or whatever ridiculous amount I paid I should get a good resolution file) but the pics are cute and made for some adorable holiday cards (cropped a bit). We didn't intend to see Santa that day, we were just wandering the mall and admiring the lights when we came across his cottage with no line. And then we realized The Cupcake was wearing a red plaid tunic, and I had the weekend off to work on Xmas cards if we could get it together, and really wouldn't it just be the perfect opportunity...
And then she freaked out when we tried to send her to the big guy, ugly crying and all.
So maybe not...
We took a detour to the food court, ate some fried rice, and I combed her hair with a fork (where my Little Mermaid fans at? Dinglehopper FTW?) and bought a couple quick hair ties and some bows at a Claires.

And with the help of Santa's special bribes (stuffed animals, cookies, patience) we got a few good memories.
And I ordered my Xmas cards that night.
Mom wins. Claim them when you can.