Sunday, October 12, 2014

Superhero Birthday Party!

This little gal turns 3 on Wednesday. I know! I can't believe it either.

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It all started with underpants. Nati picked out a set of superhero underpants when she was potty training and they are her favorites. This year when I asked her what she wanted to be for Halloween, she said a "green superhero girl"!

So, I made her a superhero costume. I didn't use a pattern, just sewed a cape and a silver skirt and bought a green superhero mask. I think I'm going to spray her hair green and put it up in pigtails for Halloween. Anyway, I decided that since she has an October birthday, we'd have a superhero birthday party as well. It was a big hit. I love this kind of stuff, decorating and putting a theme together channels my inner art class nerd. I didn't spend very much on this, unless you count time, and I really only started on this a week ago, working a few evenings here and there.

My favorite part of this was SuperNati's logo.  I was just going to use a lightning bolt with the letter "n" but Vali suggested that we make it a silouette of a girl with pigtails instead. And so, here's how it turned out:

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I love it!

The next thing I did was create a city skyline. I made it out of posterboard and post-it notes cut into smaller squares for the windows. I simply taped it to the wall. The SuperNati beacon light is just the logo printed on yellow paper with the beam added on.

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I then added some cut outs that said "pow" "biff" and "zap" along with some balloons. SuperNati approved:

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This completed the cupcake table's backdrop. Speaking of cupcakes, I just made some lemon and dulce le leche cakes and added bright frosting. I used cardstock to print the toppers on. (SuperNati logo, some speech bubles, and some "pow!" and sunbursts with the number 3.) To place the cupcakes at varying heights, I wrapped a couple of empty boxes in polka dot wrapping paper and set some of the cakes on the boxes.

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I made snacks for the party, but they were on another table. My mother-in-law brought an adorable cheese ball that looked like a pumpkin. The green things in the background are my kryptonite krispie treats.

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My mother-in-law also brought these cute little jack-o-lantern oranges. The kids loved them!

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Parties at our house are very informal. There's food and drinks and the adults hang out. Usually the men go outside and have cigars while the women chat in the kitchen or sun room. The weather was so perfect yesterday that we had a lot of time outside, which was awesome! Vali wanted to add some structure to the party, so we came up with some ideas of 'stations' for the kids. There were six toddlers at this party and a couple of older kids.

First, though, we had to turn the kids into superheroes. So I made these capes out of fleece:

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Here's Vali with hers:

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I used iron-on transfers to put each kid's initials on the back of the cape. As you can tell, I wasn't terribly exacting about it all, but for something like $2 a cape, they were worth it. The kids loved them. Here they are in the sandbox, all superheroed out:

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and the view from the back is even better:

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I didn't expect the kids to keep them on all day, but they did. I think the lightweight fleece was perfect for it! Some more pics of superheroes at play:

Isn't my niece just beautiful?

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And here's Super Simon!

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Here's a fun pic of Super Riley and Super Gracie posing with SuperNati!

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So, back to the stations. We set up tables with play-doh, some superhero coloring pages, and little pumpkins that the kids could decorate. They loved them:

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That about sums it up. It was a beautiful day and we were surrounded by family and our awesome neighbors. After everyone went home, Nati said it was her "best birthday party ever!" Ha. High praise from a soon-to-be three-year-old! This sweet smile says it all:

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Predictable. Boring?

When did I become so predictable? So suburban mom cliche?

I have a facebook friend who posts these fascinating, somewhat bizarre articles and links on facebook. I always read his posts because they are quirky, off the beaten path, and always interesting. 

His posts make me ashamed of my one-dimensional Facebook presence. I post about my kids. Cute things they said, photos of them doing adorable things, frustrations about how exhausting they are sometimes, and so on. I am clearly not ashamed of my kids or of my posting about them. It's my lack of imagination when it comes to interacting on social media that gets to me. I am so predictable. So boring.  

Why does this bother me? I don't really care if other people think I'm boring. I am at a stage in my life where I am comfortable with who I am. I think. Wait. Am I?

I used to be interesting. Once, just because I felt like it, I stayed up all night long working on a pen and ink drawing made up of thousands of tiny swirls formed into the shape of a girl walking in a field of poppies. There was a small footbridge that crossed a nearby stream, and the water had "sail on silver girl" and other Simon and Garfunkle song lyrics floating in it that you could only see if you looked at it for a long time.

When I went to college, I decided I wanted to be a physics major. I loved physics but was terrible at it. My high school physics teacher was the nicest man ever and I swear he gave me a decent grade in Physics II just so my feelings wouldn't be hurt. When I got to college and had to take advanced math and actual physics classes, I enjoyed them. (I still like to search for science lectures on iTunes U and YouTube from time to time. Balancing simple algebra equations relaxes me when I'm stressed.) But I didn't understand advanced concepts. I would look around at everyone in the lab or lecture hall and see their faces make that "AHA!" expression while the light bulb above my head remained dim. I needed help from tutors who must have thought I had the IQ of a celery stalk. Physics and the math that went with it sucked out my brain power like a Dyson and left me feeling completely drained. So I switched my major to communications. And that worked out pretty well for me, actually. I never really felt like I was reaching for a concept that was just beyond my reach.

Seriously, though. A physics major? Now that's interesting! It's bad ass. Even if I failed miserably at that goal, I went for it and tried it.

And now? I work at a bank. Seriously! That's, like, the cliche job that authors use in a novel when they want to depict a boring character. How many kids do you know who want to be a banker when they grow up? 

I am good at what I do professionally which is essentially to make sure that my department's websites, email campaigns, and other "digital channels" follow internal and regulatory guidelines. A large part of that means that I explain web accessibility concepts to people. Making sure a  banking website can be navigated by customers with disabilities isn't really the sexiest job. Actually, being in a compliance role among creative marketing types is a bit like being the nerdy kid in school who tells someone they can't chew gum in class and then rats them out to the teacher. But what I do has a purpose. It's important work and there's a technical component to it that feeds my geeky brain. I really enjoy what I do at work every day.

And yet... I don't really think much about it once my work day ends and my mom day begins.  I quickly fall into my routine of making dinner, taxi driving kids everywhere, baking cupcakes, cleaning up messes, and reading twelve Pete the Cat stories before bedtime. I stay up later than I should getting lost in my own book before falling asleep, exhausted. I should do more writing (writing is interesting!) but I can't find the inspiration or motivation most nights after working a full day and doing mom stuff in the evenings.

I don't for a second begrudge my motherhood even though I feel that it has played the largest part in this dimension-flattening of who I am. I love being a mom, it is the largest part of my life right now. And yet, I have a thirst for knowledge or artistic discovery that might make me feel interesting to myself again.

Is there a point to this post? I'm not sure. I know that I will have more time to seek out the things that interest me in some future day, when my calendar isn't full of activities. Knowing that I will be able to discover new interests then will have to do for now. Being good at mothering and finding interest and joy in the daily routine and mundanity of it all is a strength of mine, so perhaps that's my dimension right there. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Holiday Recap 2013 (alternate title: I'm terrible at blogging lately)

I have been meaning to write a blog post for months. Like I was going to write one about our Thanksgiving celebration that turned into Barforama 2013. And then I was going to write about Christmas, and New Year's. But now it's January 8th (my nephew's birthday! Happy birthday, Iz!) and I haven't written anything, so I suppose I'll roll them all into one giant post.

Thanksgiving
We hosted Thanksgiving at our house this year. Dusty likes to have it at our house when the Packers play on Thanksgiving so that he doesn't have to worry about missing any of the game. They got killed by the Lions this year, so meh, but we enjoyed having the family over.

My mom and Bryan live in DC and they drove back just to be here for dinner. What a long drive! But we were so happy to have them there.

Dinner was good - the usual no-frills kinds of events that we enjoy with the family. There was lots of food - my sisters-in-law brought dishes to add to what I'd made, and we all ate like kings. The kids played with each other and we had a nice time.

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I love this one of my mom with some of the grandkids:



So thanksgiving was great! Until..

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Until everyone got sick the next couple of days. A stomach bug spread like wildfire and out of the 22 or so people who ate dinner at our place, only 5 ended up not getting sick.

Oops. I swear it wasn't my cooking. It seems to have been a quick bug for all, but I felt especially bad for Mom and Bryan who were driving home to DC when it hit them.

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Thanksgiving was late this year, and it really threw me off. I didn't get as many decorations up as I had wanted to, and of course I didn't get to all of the crafts and fun homemade gift ideas that I wanted to, but I did get some done. Like this cute yardstick star. Super easy to make - cheap too!

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Holiday Programs
With the holiday season came school programs. Jake and Vali both had great music programs. Jake sang this duet to the song "Hallelujah" with a friend during his concert.



And Vali enjoyed her concert as well, even though it might not look like it:

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Vali also had her first ever dance program. She started taking dance in October, and they did a very short holiday dance routine for the parents after class. It was great. She seems to be picking up dance quite well!

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Holiday Baking
Last year I got together with my local sisters-in-law for some holiday baking. We did it again this year and had a great time. One of these years I'm going to kidnap my SIL who lives in San Francisco and bring her back here so she can join us too.

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Christmas, Christmas, Christmas!
Our first Christmas gathering was held the weekend of December 14th in Lincoln with Dusty's dad and step-mom. Here are some fun pictures from that gathering:

This is one of the Reha boys hanging out with their dad and Uncle Mark:



My father-in-law is scratching his head at their conversation:



There are always tons of kids running around (mine usually have faces full of chocolate!)





It's pretty much chaos:




Our second Christmas get-together was at Dusty's mom's house. Another wonderful time spent with family:



(Natalie gave Vali that scratch on her nose by scratching her with a toenail. Nice.)








Christmas at our house was especially nice this year. I can't put my finger on why, but it didn't seem as stressful or as frenzied as usual. It was peaceful and relaxing and always great to have Brie home. We continued with our old traditions of opening up Christmas pajamas and watching "It's a Wonderful Life" (It makes Dusty cry, so the whole family keeps their eyes on him to see when the tears will flow. Cracks me up.)

(I had to include this photo because the dog insisted that he was in it too!)





We went to mass on Christmas Eve. Jake sang in the church choir and Nati was as terrible in church as usual, but had Grandma to play with, so she was happy. Being surrounded by our friends at church made me feel safe and happy.



Here are some photos of the magic of our small Christmas celebration.

Presents!











And, of course, yummy food:





We had a few days to spend together, and it was great. We spent time reading, playing games and watching movies - like the entire Lord of the Rings series. It took us days, but we finished them!

Our last Christmas gathering was held at my brother's house with my side of the family. My nephew Brannon and I were rocking the candy cane stripes:





As usual, it was pure chaos with all of the kids tearing into their presents and zooming around the house. There were hugs, food, drink, and fun. No better combination in the world. Thinking about it puts a big goofy grin on my face.













New Year's Eve

Here's where I admit that I'm a grump and don't like New Year's Eve. I am not a night owl. I get itchy when I'm up after 10. No, seriously. I start to itch. It's some weird symptom I get when I'm overtired.

Originally the family had talked about spending NYE in Kansas City at my brother's house, but for some reason, those plans fizzled. Nobody wanted to drive with the kids, maybe? I'm not sure. So we ended up with nothing to do. I was in the middle of a good book and had planned on spending a few hours reading it before turning in. But then I saw my sister-in-law had posted a fun activity that she was doing with her boys for the evening. Each hour they got to pop a balloon that had an activity inside for them to do. I thought it sounded like a fun way to bring on the New Year, and I knew Vali especially would love it. I didn't have any balloons, so I just wrote down the items on a notecard and we drew them out of a hat.



I took some videos of each one that you can see on Instagram but I can't figure out how to imbed them here. The activities were: to do the chicken dance, to throw confetti (Nati LOVED both of these!), to do a group hug, to scream as loud as you could for 30 seconds (Vali loved that one!) and to go around the room and have each person say what they loved most about 2013. Turned out to be a fun way to celebrate. (Thanks for the idea, Kim!)

So there you have it. 2013 is done and gone. It was a good year for us, and we are hopeful for another like it. There are more blessings in our lives to count, and this luxury isn't lost on us.

Friday, November 1, 2013

You'd think I would have learned this by now...

Learning to adapt to the different personalities of my children is often a struggle for me. I'm just me, and it's natural, when certain situations arise (like when shit isn't getting done that needs to get done!) to react the same way with each child. In my case, I fire off orders like a drill sergeant and expect them to be followed. Surprisingly (sarcasm) this strategy doesn't always go over so well. It may have worked on one child, but it can backfire on another.

On Tuesday night, Jake had a chorus concert. He performed a duet with a friend to the song "Remembering Sunday" by All Time Low. I wish I could describe how it felt to watch him up there. He walked to the front of the auditorium stage with his friend, stood there and belted out this song. Jake's done performances before, he sings sometimes at church, and has performed the Star Spangled Banner with friends before high school events. I've seen the boy sing, and have always enjoyed it. He sings in the shower, and as he does the dishes. The kid has a nice voice. But on Tuesday he was clear, focused, and natural as he sang. He sounded so great, but what struck me was how poised he was up there. No longer the awkward, self-conscious boy, he's truly growing into a young man.

It gave me one of those mom heart attacks. The "I'm so proud, but damnit, why does he have to grow up so fast?" moments.

As I watched this nearly six foot tall kid singing on the stage, I kept having flashbacks to the time he sang "You're a Grand Old Flag" at his preschool graduation. The whole class sang it, but at home he would practice it over and over again in an off-key angelic voice. My little blonde guy singing "You're a grand old flag, you're a high-flying flag and forever in peace may you wave." brought a lump to my throat. Seeing the sixteen-year-old version of him up on stage made me swell with pride (although I had very little to do with his musical success) and that throat lump was there again too.

One of Brie's friends was at the concert and he texted her to tell her that he thought Jake sounded great. She screen-grabbed the text and sent it to her brother, showing him what was being said of his performance. His friends and classmates gave him compliments. I could tell he felt proud of his performance, proud of the practice time and work that went into it.

Tonight I had to pull the mean-mom costume out and tell him he couldn't go hang out with a friend after school because he needs to work on a few classes to get his grades up. The act of telling him he couldn't go wasn't where I messed up. It was my delivery. I rattled off all of the things that need to be worked on and my frustration was obvious. We keep going over these things, but I'm not seeing the improvement he's capable of.

It took some time, and a frustrated exchange between us for me to realize that firing demands at him is not the way to encourage him. It was having the opposite effect, and he was shutting down in front of me, crumpling like a paper in an invisible fist.

I didn't notice this until I could see the desperation in his face, so I stopped hammering him and asked him what was wrong. The thoughts came pouring out of him. It turns out that he feels incredibly stressed out after this week. His success at the concert Tuesday night was a double-edged sword. Nice for the positive feedback, but a stressful event nonetheless. This blew me away, because he looked so completely composed and relaxed up there - it didn't occur to me that it would have stressed him out. In the school play, he is understudy to the lead who has been having some throat issues, and he's having to step up to play that lead role at rehearsals (as well as continue to perfect his own role). He's got a fairly tough academic schedule, and to top it all off, he's in driver's ed this month, where they meet for up to three hours a few nights a week.

My attempts to get him to understand what needed to be done did not go over well. He does not handle multiple concurrent deadlines and activities well, he never has. But what's a mom to do to help him see that he will need to learn this skill in college, his future job, his life in general? I'm not sure.

After explaining to me how stressful this week has been, he laced up his shoes and went for a 30 minute run on the treadmill. I asked what he was doing and he said he had to 'get rid of this stress.' So he's learning his own coping strategies. I personally prefer eating half a package of oreos, but hey - different strokes.

I need to develop a different way of getting his attention when I want him to focus on some tasks at hand. I am not a helicoptery parent and I don't track each and every assignment. 1.) I don't have the time for that, and 2.) It won't help him if I'm coordinating everything for him. But he needs a boost - some reminders to focus on that Financial Literacy class that he hates (now that's my kid!) without feeling threatened or piled upon. I've got some ideas to try, but it's new territory for me.

His run is over and he's now singing songs from the musical in the shower. I have a feeling he's going to be just fine in this life.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Weekend of Celebration, alternate title: My Cup Overflows

You know that Sunday night depression that sets in when you realize that your weekend is over and it's time to think about the work week ahead?

Yeah, that. Normally, I feel a little like Swiper the Fox when Sunday night hits, and I do an internal "Oh, man!" groan to myself and before I know it the week is half gone. But last night I did not want the weekend to end. I dreaded it, and groaned, and groaned again. I stayed up later than normal, flipping through magazines, painting my fingernails. I enjoy my job, and don't hate Mondays. But after such a lovely weekend, I just didn't want it to end.

I'm going to mostly make this a photo journal of the weekend. I think the pictures speak for themselves, but because Nati turns two tomorrow (I know!!!) we had a party on Saturday at our house, followed by a trip to the apple orchard. On Sunday we had a nice gathering at my mother-in-law's house. The weather was beautiful, and on several occasions I stopped and looked around me, thinking about how fortunate we are to have such a close-knit extended family to share in these celebrations.

Brie took the time out of her busy schedule to come home for her baby sister's party, and I'm not sure if she knows how much that means to me, to all of us. Seeing Nati smile and hug her "big, big Sis" is definitely something special. It was great to have her home, even for a short time.

Saturday:

I spent the morning finishing up the food and decorations. We had a "Crayon" theme because Nati loves to color. The kid tries to make everything "pretty!" by coloring it. Thank goodness for Magic Erasers, which get crayon off of the wall and furniture. Still no magic cure for sharpie on a microfiber couch, but that's a story for another day.

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I made these cupcakes, which look awesome, but even though nobody would admit to it, the frosting tasted like crayons. So - if you ever do this in the future, put the crayons on right before serving, not the night before.

Also, I made some crafts out of crayons, like the silverware holders, and the crayon wreath, and then a little garland. I might have a problem with cutesie decorations. But honestly - I didn't go overboard this time! (I ran out of time, or likely I would have.)

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The party at our house was as fun as it always is, with kids running everywhere, and my brothers' off-beat senses of humor. Nati tried to blow out her candles by blowing zurburts at them, and ended up with a puddle of drool on her chin before Brie stepped in to help:

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Here are some fun shots of the rest of the party:

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We are a loud and large crew!

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After the party, we headed to the apple orchard:

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Where we did things like sit on tractors, play in corn, and do all sorts of other country, hick things. (It was awesome.)

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That adorable girl in the photo above with the awesome hair is Vali's BFF who lives next door. We were so glad she could join us.

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My sis-in-law, Molly, with the newest baby of the family, Baby Brannon:

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Dusty taking a nap:

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Messy ice cream cone:

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Frozen apple cider:

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A fun little Alice in Wonderland area:

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And the whole, crazy gang:

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My camera battery was toast by Sunday, but I did take some fun pictures of the kids at their Grandma Judy's house:

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Last night, the great weekend ended with a hearty laugh and a nice walk with my next-door neighbor. I couldn't have ordered up a better one.

I'll leave you with a photo of our favorite little Packers princess:


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