Saturday, February 27, 2016

Friday, February 26, 2016

the constant balance

A few nights ago I met with an old friend over coffee to catch up. She asked me if my life turned out the way I had expected when we worked together in high school. To be honest, I had never really thought about it. So much of my energy is focused on what's next that I often fail to be retrospective--which is probably not a great thing.

When I was a teenager I had the following plans: marry at 20 with first kid at 22 so that when said child was 18 and graduating high school I would only be 40 and hopefully a MILF. These goals were arguably better than those I made in elementary school to "marry a doctor, have twin babies--a boy and a girl, and to divorce the doctor and keep the kids and his money." (hashtag life goals*)

I also dreamed of having a career in science, while being a stay at home mom until my kids were in school, if my situation allowed it. I'm pretty sure when I took a women's studies class in undergrad I actually made my professor hate me by day 1 because as part of the standard first-day introductions she asked us what we wanted for ourselves... and I said to get married and be a stay at home mom. I digress.

So here we are: a decade, husband, two college degrees in biomedical engineering, a full-time job, and two kids later. I am not the stay at home parent. I was married at 21 and Elden was born when I was 23, so I wasn't too far off from my goals. Overall, I'm content with how my life turned out--this was everything I wanted, after all--but some days I don't feel so content. Those days are usually the ones where work was challenging, the scenery is white and barren and I walk in the door to screaming children who must be physically touching me at all times until they go to sleep.

Some days I want nothing more to stay home with my kids. Some days I am home alone with my kids for two hours and I want nothing more than for Jon to get home asfastaspossible so that he can help me because I am being smothered to death by little limbs and lots of screaming (theirs, not mine... usually). When I'm at work I want to be at home. When I'm at home I want to be at work. Sometimes when I'm at home I want to go on a date and reconnect with Jon, but three seconds after we walk out the door all I can think and talk about is the kids and how I miss them. I have so much guilt for being absent so much. I feel guilty that a lot of the time I do spend with them I am irritable, tired and short. I ask myself what they will think of me when they are older. Was I present enough? Was I invested? Did I show them how much I love them in a way they could understand?

And don't even get me started on my constant internal battle to just put down my freaking cell phone so I can be a better parent... except for those times when taking a break and mindlessly scrolling on my cell phone will make me a better parent. In a culture where we are constantly bombarded with the Mommy Wars (can we please just stop talking about this now?) and Pinterest-perfect mothers who have the perfect house, perfect wardrobe, and perfect children, it is nearly impossible not to measure your abilities with those around you. Half the time I worry I am raising a sociopath. The other half I think I am raising a future Nobel Laureate. Perhaps it's because my natural reaction to essentially every human emotion is to cry, but I find myself in tears more often than I care to admit. Just this morning I heard the song I walked down the aisle to on Pandora and lost it. Last night I cried because Elden deceived me into going against Jon to provide him with a 10 pm banana because "I'm huuuuungry" when three bites later he informed me that "I wasn't hungry, I just didn't want to sleep." I am an engineer. Part of the reason I chose engineering is because I do not like ambiguity. I like there to be correct answers, tolerances, and no grey areas. Parenthood doesn't offer that, and as a result I constantly feel like I'm doing it wrong. Thankfully, I am surrounded by other mothers--some who work outside of the home and some who's job is child rearing--who assure me that they feel the same way. As much as people have tried to rectify the situation, we do not receive an owner's manual when we are handed our child for the first time. So for now I guess I'm just going to have to learn to be okay with that.

*sarcasm font

Thursday, February 25, 2016

clemetzoo

When we lived in Akron we were devoted members of the Akron Zoo. It was a smaller zoo with gorgeous exhibits and lots of hands-on fun for littler kids, and it was also only a 6-minute drive from our house. We went to the zoo probably 10-15 times per year on that membership as a result.

Since we moved, we decided to look into the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. We knew we would likely go at least once this year and when we found out last Friday and Saturday would reach highs in the 50s and 60s, I decided to take Friday off work and take advantage of the unseasonably warm February weather. Knowing we would be going twice in one weekend--not including trips this spring, summer and fall--we went for it and bought a membership.

Friday was really windy and not so sunny, so we elected to do the Rainforest (it's a 3-story building with tons of exhibits and is all enclosed). We only stayed about an hour but the kids still enjoyed themselves. It was a surprisingly quiet day there which was really nice because they were able to roam at their leisure. And we only had one incident where a head nearly got stuck between some bars, so I'll count Friday as a 'win.'

On Saturday, we headed to the zoo with Jon's brother and his wife. The sunshine felt amazing and even though the morning started out *quite* rocky (Elden was hangry and Edith fell in a cold puddle), Elden became compliant after consuming a soft pretzel and Edith was content once I changed her into dry pants.
 ^pre-hanger meltdown
 ^post-pant replacement

I'm pretty sure the statue outside of monkey island was the fav of the trip:

We also went into the Sarah Allison Steffee Center for Zoological Medicine for the first time ever. This was really cool - there was an owl outside the kids could look at and also a porcupine--which Elden even got to pet! Inside were tons of interactive exhibits for the kids to play with and I think this was the building that we spent the most time in. I never realized there were interactive exhibits in here so if you are local I highly recommend making sure you stop in this building when you're at the zoo.

Oh, my heart.
On our way up to the wolf exhibit (below), Elden spotted his favorite animal of the entire visit: a squirrel. Not even a fancy squirrel like the ones we saw in the Rainforest. Just your run of the mill Ohio squirrel. At least he's easy to please??
It was a glorious day and we ended up spending around 3 hours here on Saturday. Unfortunately it's cold again so we likely won't visit the zoo before April, but at least we can go to the Rainforest!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

edith's first haircut

Two weekends ago I finally got around to trimming up Edith's mullet. I tried to find tutorials on trimming baby girl hair but came up mostly empty handed. I ultimately just went for it with the help of Jon's suggestions. I didn't even trim the front of her hair because she still just has peach fuzz there--this was focused on the sides around her ears and the back.
Her hair has a few curls in the back so it was even longer than I realized once I got it wet and straightened it out.

Edith was a good sport and I definitely recommend doing this in the sink. That being said, I feel like when her hair was dryer it was a little easier. Jon also recommended I trim around her ears a certain way--which I did--but after the fact I realized that's how we cut Elden's hair and Edith is not a boy, so... sorry about that haircut, kiddo.
Before: the front is all out of sorts and I didn't even know where to begin so I let it be. The sides were way over her ears and the back was definitely mullet-y.
After: Trimmed up the sides so they didn't hang weird over her ears. In retrospect, this was a mistake.
No more rat tail at least??
Live and learn. I will ultimately probably try to figure out something with Edith's bangs (that is, all the hair from her ears forward) but there is just so little of it I don't have a clue. Thoughts??

Thursday, February 11, 2016

ten on ten

A little preview into what a weekday looks like for me.

{1} I try to leave my house for work no later than 6:40 am. Sometimes I am gone by 6:30, most days it's more like 6:45. I typically would listen to Pandora on my way in while sipping my daily coffee, but lately I have been trying to make myself be present for a silent reflection/prayer time on my way into work. I've found that I do consistently better at remembering to pray and spend time with God when I work it into a routine, and the dark quiet drive into work is really conducive to that. 

{2} Every day during the week for breakfast I eat a Greek yogurt. I'm not a huge breakfast person (mostly because I'm not a morning person) so this gets the job done with minimal effort. I'm definitely a creature of habit.

 {3} Usually I pack my lunch and eat it at my desk while doing work. However, I usually do not have a coupon for a free Chipotle burrito bowl at the same time as needing to run to Aldi to buy Elden some Avenger's bedding... and Aldi/Chipotle are within a minute of each other. So on this day I went ahead and treated myself to a steak burrito bowl.

 {4} On the way home I usually rotate between Pvris, Mayday Parade and The Cab radio. Today Pvris won.

 {5} 95% of the time, two excited little faces greet me at the front window when I get home. It's one of my favorite parts of the day.

 {6} We usually eat dinner between 4:15-4:45 because otherwise the kids want to snack and then won't eat dinner. Jon has decided to become a vegetarian so he was prepping some bean tacos. I made myself a turkey BLT and the kids ate a salami sandwich (Elden) and cheese with turkey bacon (Edith).

 {7} During dinner it started to snow pretty heavily. The kids were really excited and kept requesting to go out and play. It served as a good incentive to get them to eat.

 {8} Since we eat dinner early we usually have about an hour and a half to three hours before both kids are down for the night. Sometimes we go to the library or get groceries. Sometimes we play tickle monster or some other random game at home. Since it hardly snowed here this winter we decided to give the people what the wanted: snow play.

{9} Once the kids are down for the night I usually clean after the day. That almost always involves dishes, picking up toys and sweeping the kitchen.

{10} Once the cleaning is done Jon and I usually watch a little tv while I work my part-time job. The Goldbergs (one of our favorite shows) was new so we watched that. Nothing else really piqued my interest so I mostly ignored the tv once The Goldbergs was over and just focused on work. I usually try to head up around 9:45 to shower and go to sleep by 10:15.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

why elden isn't in preschool

We do not currently have Elden enrolled in preschool. A lot of the time I feel a strange guilt over that. When I browse the net I read all about what the kids his age are doing in their preschool classes and have a mild panic attack. Are we setting him up for failure? Is he way behind? Are we terrible parents?
pretending the snow was soup
We aren't entirely opposed to preschool, but we also aren't in any rush. The main issue we have with preschool is that once he starts he will either be in school or working for a significant portion of the rest of his life. He's 3.5! There is still so much time for learning. Right now he is free to be carefree--just a toddler who freaking loves Power Rangers, pretend play and fighting bad guys. I'm so afraid that if we start throwing numbers and spelling and reading at him that he will lose his joy and creativity. Education is absolutely important, but does he really need to start that now? We read anywhere between 5-10+ books with him per day at his request. We paint, color, play with play-doh, etc. We find ways to discuss colors, numbers, etc. through these experiences rather than having him sit still and talking at him. But most importantly, we let him run and play and be free to do whatever his mind comes up with. He would absolutely benefit from the act of being away from us--for this reason alone we have been looking into preschool. But when we ask about the curriculum we aren't looking for the excitement the director has when she tells us all the goals they have for the kids within a year (reading and writing their own names! Learning a second language! Recognizing the countries! Fast track to a Michelin star!) In fact, it's quite the opposite. I couldn't tell you how happy I would be if we found a preschool where the teacher said, "you know, at 3 years old we just want them to play and use their imagination. We do story time and encourage social skill development but there is very little formal structured learning here." Why can't we seem to find that!? Lev Vygotsky had some really interesting theories relating to the role of play in the mental development of children (with a paper by a similar title) and how imaginative play is a critical part of a child's normal development through a process he referred to as "inner speech." Furthermore, Vygostky believed that children learned just as well from observing parental behavior and conversations as in a traditional educational environment. He is one of the most widely cited developmental psychologists of the 20th centuries so I really recommend reading his work (widely available on the Internet) if any of this seems interesting to you. His theories have made us feel better about our delay in preschool enrollment.
he is in costume 98% of the time
That being said, I'm often conflicted because there is an unspoken pressure for Elden to be hitting all sorts of preschool-related milestones. I try not to give it much headspace, but how can you not? I just want him to play. I want him to be young and free to use his imagination. It's amazing, really, just to sit and listen to him as he discovers the world and incorporates it into his pretend play. I don't ever want him to lose that spark. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

finished vow wooden wall art

Tonight I finally finished the wall art for our bedroom.

I learned some important lessons on these vow boards:
1. Don't pick such a skinny/curvy font.
2. I should have used the extra fine sharpie paint pen.
3. Jon's vows were too long.
4. A lot of the time I don't do a good job of doing what I promised ('slow to anger' isn't exactly my middle name).
5. If I had taken more time to do this they would have turned out better.
6. My hand hurts really bad and I should have broken this apart over several days.

That being said, for about $35 I am really happy with the finished product--especially since the have significance to us. I'd recommend this project to anyone...just don't use such skinny font!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

DIY wedding vow wood panel boards

For Valentine's Day this year Jon and I had agreed not to do anything for each other. However, I quickly had an idea for some wall art for our bedroom that would honestly be a gift for us both and decided to pursue it. Not one to be able to keep exciting ideas from Jon, I quickly updated him what I was going to do to gauge his interest in it: I was going to make 3 separate wooden wall panels to hang on the wall our bed was against (which is currently long and bare). One panel would have his wedding vows, one would have mine, and one for the middle would be more of a decorative way to incorporate our wedding date. He loved the idea as much as I did so I quickly got to work! I had to contact the pastor who married us since I couldn't find a copy of our vows in my gmail anywhere--thankfully he still had a copy of them! Thanks, Pastor Dan!--as well as my friend Cristina, who makes and sells wooden art for pointers.

Before I get into the nitty gritty of how to do this yourself, here is how the decorative panel turned out!

So how do you do this yourself? It was surprisingly easy and just took some time and patience!

First, figure out how big you want your sign(s). I landed on 16"x24" each. After perusing Home Depot's website to see what size boards they offered, I opted to get a single 1"x8"x12' piece of wood. This piece was about $15 and cut down into nine 16" sections--exactly what I needed to make 3 wall signs comprised of 3 sections each. You can ask them to cut it for you, which I did. The first 4 cuts are free and any cut after that is $0.25, although they didn't charge me for the extras. Be warned these cuts are imperfect and I ended up needing to trim 2 boards to match a 3rd random shorter board. In my case it worked out as the shorter sign was what I used for the decorative embellishments.

Once your wood is cut, sand down any rough edges. If you want to distress it you can hit it with a hammer, scrape it, etc. I didn't do any of this, but I did follow this tutorial. Essentially, you soak steel wool in apple cider vinegar for half an hour and rub it on the boards. I followed that up with balsamic vinegar and steel wool before the apple cider vinegar had dried. Then I left the boards out to dry completely for a few days. Here's the difference in purchased wood vs. vinegar distressed wood:
Once this part was done, I had to play with the layout for the text. Essentially, you determine what you want to have on your board, print it out in the appropriate size (in my case I did the design in PowerPoint where I was able to make the slide size 16"x24" and play with the fonts I liked. Saved the PowerPoint as a pdf and then used Adobe Reader to print the slide out in tile format...this allowed me to cut and tape together my template for tracing). I got the Mr. and Mrs. font from here.
To join the boards together, Cristina uses a jig pocket hole system like this one. This allows you to screw 4 screws--2 on each side--into the boards at an angle. Such a system allows you to hang the panels flush with the wall instead of joining the boards together with another piece of wood or some other mechanism. There are alternatives if you don't want to invest in a pocket hole jig, some simple Googling should help you out.
{source}
Once the boards were screwed together, it was time to start tracing! Once you have the template in the desired position on your board, tape the top of the template down with painter's tape. After you have finished that, you can slide transfer paper behind the template, graphite side facing the wood, and use a pen to trace your design or letters. Once the tracing is complete, remove the transfer paper and stencil and use Sharpie Paint Pens to fill in the design. In the case of this board I used fine point pens although I probably could have used a thicker tip.

This project cost me about $35 total for 3 different signs. It certainly helps that I was able to use Cristina's pocket hole jig, but if this is something you plan on doing a lot of it might be worth investing in one for yourself!

You guys. I am not crafty by nature and I am easily frustrated by art. This was the easiest and most therapeutic craft I have ever encountered. It certainly helped that I had a pro to help me along the way, but the biggest challenge of this project is taking the time to do it. I have to finish the boards with our vows on them still, but I was way too excited about this project to wait on those to share this tutorial. When I finish the vow boards I will make another post with all 3 side by side, the way they will be on our wall!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

elden at 3.5 years and edith at 16 months

I've done a really lousy job of documenting what the kids have been up to--especially Edith--as they get older. Then I realized that today Elden turns 3.5 (!!) and I didn't do any monthly posts for Edith since she turned 1...and here we are.

Elden is 3.5 years old and as hilarious as ever. He is just shy of 3.5' tall (96%) and 39 pounds (90%). A lot of the time he loves Edith and playing with her, but he is definitely developing his independence and solo play as well. Right now Elden is obsessed with all things Power Rangers (he practically lives in his Gold Ranger costume) and Ninja Turtles, but he also loves anything to do with super heroes/pretend play. Elden is very sharp and still has a hard time controlling his anger and frustration, although we have seen a big improvement in his self control even from six months ago. He is a big cuddler when he wants to be and my favorite time with him is first thing in the morning when he crawls into bed with us for snuggles. Elden mostly refuses vegetables but has otherwise been a decent eater lately (at least he has been since we enforced a "you get what you ask for or you go hungry" rule). He definitely exhibits separation anxiety from us and this is a big topic we need to tackle re: preschool. Elden still has both tubes and as we near the 3 year mark of when he had them implanted we have to follow up with the ENT in May to discuss surgically removing them if they haven't fallen out by then.

Edith is 16 months old and can be quite serious. She is 22 lbs. 4.6 oz (66%) and almost 2'8" tall (86%). Edith's vocabulary is expanding by the day and she doesn't really walk anymore. Instead, she is always in a hurry and full-on runs between tasks. She is so stubborn and knows what she wants. A lot of the time, what Edith wants is for me to be holding her. Hands down, Marsala ("Yaya") is Edith's favorite family member. Edith's favorite hobby is looking out the front window and pointing/barking at all the dogs that walk past. She loves to play with a bowl and spoon and will happily sit and mix for a decent chunk of time. Edith has been very difficult in terms of meals lately and it's absolutely hit or miss whether she will eat. Her favorite foods at the moment are probably green beans and cheese. Edith is also a big snuggler--unless there is something new or exciting going on. She had her first ear infection recently and we aren't sure whether the antibiotics actually knocked it out so we will be keeping a close eye on that.