"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

DIY Fairies!

Super quick and easy SNOW DAY CRAFT alert!!!!

Molly wanted to make her classmates Fairy Valentines this year, so I've been trying to figure out a way a 4-year old can make fairies for her seven friends relatively painlessly. 

This is it.

I made this one, just to be sure it could be done. Molly's will likely be wearing a scribble dress rather than one with pockets but, whatevs. It'll be adorable. 

So here's what you'll need:

wooden "doll" clothespins
Sharpies to draw face, simple dress design
fabric flowers
coffee filters
washable markers
spray bottle filled with water

First, prepare your wings. Scribble all over a white, circular coffee filter with washable markers (if they're not washable, they won't run together in a tie-dye effect). Spritz with water and let dry (you'll want to lay them on a paper towel...the colors will bleed).

While the coffee filters dry, draw the face and dress on the clothespin with Sharpies. Glue fabric flower (or jewels or other adornments) in place. 

Next, cover the head in a thin layer of glue. I used Elmer's Glue-All. 

Then, dip the head in glitter! Gently tap off on rim of glitter container to remove loose sparkles, then let dry. (I stuck them around the rim of a plastic cup so they could dry upright.)

When the coffee filters are dry, cut them into wing shapes. I folded the coffee filter so the wings would be symmetrical. I was able to fit four sets of wings on each coffee filter, so plan your size and spacing before you cut!

Finally, glue the wings onto the fairy body!

It's SO EASY!!

Thanks to Google Images, and a number of crafty websites, for the inspiration for this craft!

Lesson Learned:

If you're on the east coast, stock up on these simple materials today so you can spend your snowmageddon happily crafting. Stay warm!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

my favorite Resolution ever

I know that I'm not alone, as a parent of more than one, in wanting more one-on-one time with each of my kids. Aside from the hours they're in school, they're with me. They are not currently involved in any after school activities (more about that and why I'm happy about that another time...) and play dates typically require my presence (more about Evan's first ever "drop-off" play date later, too). But after school, it's ALL of us...plus the puppy. It's quality family time, it's just not quality Kid plus Mom or Dad time.

I get plenty of "time" with Molly, and just Molly, as she is only in school two mornings a week. But more often than not, I squander even that time. We run errands. She plays while I clean. I turn on a Magic School Bus episode while I catch up on my latest Real Simple or my inbox (or, let's be honest: Instagram).

One of my New Year's Resolutions was to find a way to spend more time one-on-one with each of the kids. I came up with Parent Date magnets so we could make it a point to fit this time into our monthly calendar. At the beginning of each month, the kids each stick his or her date magnet up on the calendar and it's Official: What The Calendar Says, Let It Be So

Let me just say, we're off to a great start. It's my favorite Resolution ever.

Well, with only one real hiccup:
We gave these magnets to the kids on Christmas Eve. We brainstormed a list of possible activities...we could go out to lunch, or grab a smoothie. We could go on a hike or take an archery lesson. We could...oh, I don't know, go see a movie. A new release that isn't appropriate for the whole family, maybe, but would be perfect for you, my dear First Born. Maybe it's something that you've been obsessed with for over two years and that you have, somehow, gotten me hooked on as well, despite the fact that I was able to avoid its cultish lure my ENTIRE LIFE.

Let me spell it out for you, Evan: You could go see THE NEW STAR WARS MOVIE. With me, your loving and devoted mother, who has learned all of the characters and knows the entire storyline, INCLUDING where and how the Disney animated series, The Clone Wars, fits in with the original six episodes, because it is interesting to you and therefore interesting and worth learning about to me.

Your mother.

Who birthed you.

"I know!" Evan said, wide-eyed. "For my Parent Date, I want to go see the new Star Wars movie!"

Mwah-ha-ha! My master plan worked!!

"...with DADDY!"

Wait, what?

Apparently, it was awesome. I wouldn't know.

But that's okay, because Molly invited me to go with her on HER Parent Date. She picked....the library. Yup. The library. I added lunch out at our favorite local cafe because...the library? Really, Molly?!

Max wanted to go out to brunch. A boy after my own heart. He invited me, mostly because I told him about a wonderful little French bakery in town that I knew he'd love. I knew this because I had been there before ("...and Daddy probably doesn't know where it is, Max, so, oh I don't know...I could take you!"). 

Sometimes being an evil mastermind is worth it because they have mugs of hot chocolate as big as your face and those homemade marshmallows? What can I say? I'm a Brunch Gal.

And it turns out Max is a pretty big fan of the meal, too.

Photo Credit: Max, age 6
Photo Credit: Max, age 6

"Mom. Would you LOOK at that chocolate croissant?! We HAVE to get a picture of this!"

That's my boy.

So, by January 9, our first month of Dates was over. All the better, though, because now we have plenty of time to decide where our February Dates will take us.

Lesson Learned:

My word of the year is Time. I'm going to use it wisely and spend it well. And I'll keep reminding myself of that every day if I have to......

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

You Should Get a Dog. Here's Why.

I was So not a Dog Person.

I actually may still not be one...but I am a Jake Person.

I mean, look at this face!

How could I not be?

I would never try to convince someone who is adamantly opposed to the idea that Getting a Dog is the right thing to do. It is a huge commitment, a lot of work, and costly. But maybe you're on the fence about getting a dog. Maybe you need a reason or 26 to push you in the direction your heart is leading you. 

I'm here to help.

Here's why you should get a dog. 

1. The looks on their faces...

2. You will hear your 8-year old say "I love you." It's to the dog, not you, but it counts. 
3. Dogs make good nurses when you're out with a fever.

4. This...

5. You'll walk. A lot. Sometimes with the kids and the dog, which has its perks, but sometimes it'll just be you, the pup, and Pandora and it will be perfect. It will be cold sometimes and not always convenient, but you'll do it anyway because the dog needs it and you'll realize how much you did, too.

6. Genuine smiles for the camera.

7. Your kids will willingly go out to play in the rain, the cold, and even the dark when the pup is acting crazy and needs outside time. They will run and get the fresh air they needed as much as the dog.

8. This...

9. Puppies make good nap buddies, especially for Uncle Jack, who just came off his night shift as a big city police officer...

10. You'll explore new parts of your neighborhood and your town that you hadn't before you had a dog and a reason to Get Outside More.

Like the dog park!

and fields for off-leash running!

11. Having a dog next to you makes long car rides go faster. (Stinkier, but more fun.)

12. The tenderness that you'll get to witness from your kids.

13. You'll lighten up a bit on your need to have a perfectly clean house (which was hard enough with three kids living here). Yes, you'll be mopping up water slopped out of the water dish and you'll be diligent about wiping his paws as he comes in from the back yard, but you'll realize that it actually isn't Crucial for Survival that the glass on your patio door be spotless. It won't be. Every time he needs to go outside, he'll nose and lick the door as his way of communicating his needs. It's better than pee on the floor, of course, so you'll learn to live with it. Hopefully, you'll have a dog who is as easily house-trained as Jake was and who, like Jake, doesn't shed. You'll recognize this easing of your Standards of Cleanliness as a good, healthy thing.

14. This...

15. Having a dog really is a great way to teach the kids responsibility and putting others' needs before your own. From feeding him, playing with him, cleaning up after him, and attending to him before getting a snack or turning on the computer after school, the kids have really done a great job recognizing and handling this new responsibility.

16. You'll get to see a whole new side of your adult siblings, who come over to play with the dog.


17. It'll remind you of what it was like to have a newborn. The up-all-night parts, yes (but only for one night in Amazing Jake's case), but also in the Look How Fast He's Changing way. It sounds ridiculous, but it really is beautiful to watch his personality develop as he grows. 

18. This...

19. Hikes are more fun with a pup.

20. This...

21. You knowingly married a Dog Person and he knowingly married a Not a Dog Person. After thirteen years, you'll finally have found a way to shock him.

22. Like babies, puppies are great conversation starters. Especially with a highly-recognizable, relatively uncommon breed like a Weimaraner. We have met so many fellow Weimaraner owners/lovers on our walks around town. And everyone, Dog People or not, have to comment on the size of our little monster's paws.

"He sure has a lot of growin' left to do!"
Yes. Thank you for the reminder.

23. This...

24. It's more fun to watch football with a puppy than without one.

25. This...

26. Before you know it--within hours, really--he will feel like a part of the family. You'll forget what it was like before you had him and your heart will feel the happy fullness of completion.

Lesson Learned:
Hooray for Jake! Especially because of the No Shedding. I'm pretty sure this list would have been a lot shorter if I was currently watching tumbleweeds of dog hair waft across my kitchen floor. 

Friday, January 1, 2016

My Word of the Year

I've never really made New Year's Resolutions. It's not that there hasn't been anything about me or my life to change or improve upon: I've often whispered promises to myself that I would cut back on my near-daily beer consumption or Better Control The Volume of My Voice as we're getting ready to leave in the morning...but I make these promises knowing that they'll be broken. Come 5:15 on January 2, I'll be reaching into that fridge for a delicious, locally-brewed IPA. And we all know that on January 4, as the kids head back to school, I'll be back to barking directives.

Why can't kids just put the damn shoes on their feet?

This year is different.

I still have things (both small and Big) in my life that I'd like to change. What's different is that, for the first time in a long time, I have the Time that is required for change to happen. Parents of Young Children, listen to this: There will come a time in the not-too-distant future when showers, once again, become a daily occurrence. You will sleep through most nights and you won't be indispensable at bedtimes. You will make dinner without holding another person on your hip. You will drink a whole cup of coffee, hot to the last drop. I know it sounds made-up, but trust me...you will enjoy glimmers of independence again. 

I'm there.

My baby is nearly four.

It's crazy how endless and at the same time, fast-as-lightning my life as a parent has been...I'm already, yet finally, There. 

And with my new found independence and time, this year I plan to take advantage of just that: Time.

Resolution #1: Dates with the Kids
On Christmas Eve, Sam and I gave the kids Parent Date magnets ("Evan + Mom," "Evan + Dad," etc.). At the beginning of each month, we'll sit down with our calendar and each kid will pick a day for their Parent Date (Sam and I will rotate dates with each kid). We'll stick the magnet on our Holy Grail, the white board calendar in the mudroom and, come hell or high water, we'll make our special Together Time happen. Each kid will get to pick an activity for their one-on-one time with Mom or Dad (we retain veto power, of course)...maybe it'll be going out to dinner or a movie...maybe an archery lesson or a hike...maybe we'll go to the library or a smoothie shop. Who knows. Who cares. It's not the what that matters, it's the Together. 

I. Can't. Wait.

Resolution #2: Family Give Back Days
In addition to our Parent Date magnets, we have a Family Give Back Day magnet. In December, our family participated in a local event called The Big Give. We joined several other families and dedicated a whole day to giving back to our community. I loved the impact it had on our kids. I didn't want to wait until next December to get into the Spirit of Giving again. I want it to become part of our regular routine.

Each month we'll pick a day (or maybe just an afternoon...when schedules get hectic) to Give Back. We'll donate supplies to an animal shelter. We'll pack boxes at the Food Bank. We'll pick up trash in our neighborhood. We'll deliver dinner and dessert to our local volunteer fire fighters. We'll bring cookies to friends or shovel snow for our neighbors. We'll make it a point to dedicate Time each month to others...in little and big ways...as a family.

Resolution #3: Time for Me
I love my family. I really do. They, quite perfectly, complete me. 

But sometimes I need my space from them. I have realized this about myself very clearly this year. I feel guilty about it but, it is what it is. I can't be with them without giving everything of me to them...which can't sustain itself...so sometimes I need a break.

I'm going to take My Time this year. I'll write the stories I want to write, I'll read the stories I want to read....but under no pressure to Accomplish Anything. If I don't sell another article, that's okay. If I don't read every bestseller to hit the shelves, I won't feel pressured to keep up with the literati. I'll do what I can, but I'll make sure I carve out the time I need to read and write what I want to...for the joy of writing and reading...for Me.

Resolution #4: Time with Friends
Another way I plan to take time and Make Time for me is by going back to class...sort of....

I volunteer in the third grade art class each week with a good friend of mine. Recently, we started talking about how we each took an Art History class in college but would have loved to have taken more. "I'd totally sign up for an Art History class," she said. "Me, too!" I agreed, "Let's do it!" We decided that the only thing better than actually attending a college course just for fun would be enjoying a college course at home, with friends, over a glass of wine. I found a great introductory, fairly comprehensive European Art History course on DVD through The Great Courses. I got a great deal on it right before Christmas and I can't WAIT for class to be in session. There are 48 lectures in this course, so we'll watch a lecture or two at a time, a couple of times a month, and wrap up in about a year. Who needs to bitch about the kids or spread gossip at Girls' Night? This year, my Girl Time will be spent getting cultured. Time well spent.

Lesson Learned:

My Word of the Year 2016 is TIME. I will spend it well, with the people I love. I will take it and give it back and make the most of it. I will be present in it and respectful of it. 

It's going so fast, this Time...I think this is my way of trying to control it. 

I can be so Type A.

What's your Word?