Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Interior Spaces

I've always enjoyed decorating. I'm not that skilled, but I enjoy it. Mostly, I enjoy arranging furniture. I have a sense of balance and symmetry that lends itself to furniture arranging, if nothing else. Beyond that, however, I'm hopeless.

My whole life I've re-arranged my room. Just to shake things up. As a kid I'd spend an afternoon moving my bed to a new place, and then struggling to inch the heavy dresser to it's new spot. And I'd live with the new space for awhile until I decided what changes needed to happen, and then set about re-arranging all over again. I enjoyed it. It made my old stuff seem fresh to see it in a new place or configuration.

I did the same thing when I moved into my first apartment. Only now I had a living room AND a bedroom to play with! My little furniture re-arranging heart was bursting w
ith the thrill of the possibilities! I bought some NEW (cheap) furniture and it was in constant flux as I'd find a new way to place the sofa in the room. Bring out a little rug, change where the chair and bookcase go, and voila! A whole new look. I'd try my bed on one wall, then maybe change it so it was angled in a corner, and then flip it to another wall. It was like sleeping in a new room with each change. Ditto when I bought my first house.

When Mr. Chi
ck and I moved for law school, our living room, although a decent size, didn't lend itself to many furniture configurations given the pieces we had and the fixed elements of the room (fireplace, huge picture window, heavy-ass entertainment center piece I couldn't move by myself and Mr. Chick was unwilling to move for me, location of the cable for TV, etc.) Also, our bedroom was so small that there was really only one place for our bed to go. I could play a little with arranging the kids' rooms, but mostly I was stifled. For almost 4 years.

Then we moved here. And we have space! And multiple rooms to arrange! Oh the possibilities! But the last 4 years of fixed furniture have had an effect and for nearly a whole year, things stayed where we put them when we first moved in. Mostly. I have played around a little in the living room when I bought some chairs at a garage sale and had to work them in. And our bonus room/playroom got re-arranged after I'd mulled over a better use of the space for both kids playing, movie watching, and the foosball table. But our primary living space - the combo dining area and family room - have remain unchanged in their furniture configuration. Until yesterday, that is. But I'm not sure if what I've done is really any better than it was before. Different, yes, but not necessarily a better "look" for the room. The jury is still out and I think I just need to live in it for awhile before deciding if I should move everything back to the way it was before.

The space in question is a long, narrow room with a doorway into the area from the formal living room creating a natural place of separation. The far end has a fireplace with a woodstove insert and is flanked by built-in bookcases/cabinets. It's the "family room" end of the space. The near end, right off the kitchen, is where we have our table for casual eating (we also have a formal dining room right on the other side of a faux window in the interior wall.) There are plenty of windows and a french door, close to the kitchen, which opens onto our side deck.

Previously, I "floated" our couch (a sleeper/sectional) so the long end faced the fireplace/TV and the short end was against the wall with the windows. On the wall opposite the windows was the kids
toybox/bench for storage and additional seating. The dining room table was under the pendant light (centered behind the couch) with the longer sides parallel to the couch. I liked how the room looked with the furniture like this. It worked. But the kids would sit on the short end of the couch, facing the arm of the couch in order to watch TV, and they were doing something to the arm that was creating nasty, crusty sections on the upholstery. Were they sucking on it? I don't know. But saving my couch, the most expensive piece of furniture we've ever bought, was the reason for re-arranging the room.

Here's how it looks now. See? The couch is now on the opposite wall with the short end "floating" to help define the two spaces in the one room. What you can't see is the doorway that is right before the couch.

Another view. No, we don't have a coffee table. Or curtains. Eventually I'd like both, but only after we win the lottery or in a few years when Mr. Chick hopefully earns a bigger paycheck ('m picturing deep red Roman shades to match the carpet with individual panels for each of the 3 panes per window, all hanging from a single rod. Yes? No?). Also, I hate the light fixture on the ceiling, but it came with the house and we haven't bothered changing it yet. It is rarely used but I needed the light for the photo.
Here is the view of the dining table at the other end of the room. I've angled it, which is different for me, because the space is so long and narrow that to have it sit square to the room upset my sense of balance. It was no longer centered to the couch and seemed off-set too much (the light is "swagged" over to the side so it's not hanging in the middle anymore). Having the table angled like this actually draws your eye better. And I moved the toybox/bench under the random interior window (no glass) that looks into the formal dining room. Those are cushions and pillows on the top.

Another view. You can see the doorway to the living room in this shot. This is how the room looks from the kitchen. God, I want curtains. The windows look so naked! Plus, it would really warm up the room. Oh well. Someday.

And speaking of curtains.... these windows are just begging for them! This is my formal living room. Remember when I made the slipcovers for the couch and love seat (with a lot of help from my talented mother)? This is how they look in the room. With the chairs from the garage sale I got for $30/each. Good score. Not wild about the floral upholstery, but will eventually slipcover them as well. I'm think of a yellow/gold color similar to the pillow that's on one of the chairs. The table was a hand-me-down from my mother, Mr. Chick made the end table in the corner in high school, and the lamp is from another garage sale. Oh yes, we're high class around here, and proud of it. I want to paint in there, too. Right now, it's all very neutral, bland and boring as hell. The living room is sunken and carpeted. The entry, formal dining and "hallway" that surround the sunken area are hardwood. It's got tall, vaulted ceilings and the wall on the right is shared by the formal dining room (where I'm standing to take this picture), but I'm not sure what color to paint. I'm thinking of a warm golden yellow - warm and rich, not light and bright. But if I go that way, what color should I go with for curtains? I'm wanting silk panels - 3 of them (one on each side and one in the middle to "bridge" the two windows - and sheers or something between the panels. We have another carpet similar to the one in the family room (look above) that I'd like to put in that room (can't now, clashes terribly with the floral chairs). For some reason I have a block about colors in there. What about an accent wall? Any suggestions?? Is it better to match/blend the curtains to the wall color, or would it be more dramatic to make the windows "pop" with a different, coordinating color, like burgundy (to match the carpet)? That would mean I'd have two rooms with red window dressings - is that too much? Do the chairs in red instead? I'm so confused! All you talented interior decorators - what would YOU do (other than chuck everything in the room and completely start over. Can't do that. Have to work with what we have for the time being. You understand, I'm sure.)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Game Day

Last night was the 1st game ever for Nicholas' T-Ball team and it was just about the most adorable thing I've ever witnessed. Fidgety kids in the outfield, distracted kids on the bench, kids who can't throw and/or catch, and kids not knowing what to do with the ball once they got it. Fast runners, slow runners, big hits and not-so-big hits. We had it all. But one thing we didn't have: a meltdown. Hooray! It was a good day. There was no need to cajole, bribe, threaten, comfort or coddle. Just cheer for our team and watch the kids do their very best and have a great time. And what'dya know? We tied (because every player on both team scored 3 times. Not a single "out". I loved it.)

Here's Nicholas at his first "at bat". He's nervous but ready. Mama bought him a little pitching machine that afternoon so he could practice hitting and catching in the backyard and build his confidence. Let's hope it helps.

Ooooohhh, a swing and a miss. But! He stay
s with it and doesn't give up! You can do it, Nicholas!

YES! A hit! An honest-to-god hit. Off a real pitch and not the T! 'Course it didn't go very far, not even all the way to the coach-pitcher, b
ut hey! It counts! RUN! Atta boy. I'm so proud of you!

This will be my life twice a week for the next 2 months. I'm off to make the banner for the boys to carry in the procession of teams tomorrow during the Opening Day ceremonies. Did I mention I volunteered to be the Team Mom? Yeah... no one else stepped up so I did. I can make a snack schedule like a pro. It's the banner thing I'm unsure of. Thankfully, I volunteered in Nicholas' class today and was able to score a huge sheet of paper off those big rolls they have at schools. Now I just have to spend a few hours designing and actually making the banner. Ug. It's going to be a long afternoon. Thankfully, Nicholas was invited to play at the park this afternoon so I only have to entertain one child while I tackle this project.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, April 19, 2007


I think we're going through a difficult phase with Nicholas right now. No, I KNOW we're going through a difficult phase. In a nutshell, he's making us crazy. He's extra whiny lately, super defensive, demanding, moody as hell and behaving in a way that makes me not like him very much. Hard to say that, but it's true. Like his need to always be first - in line for the bus, in or out of the car, or first to open a door. And if he's not first, it's Grumpy Gus and whiny and sulk. Unpleasant.

His personality has always been tough for me to embrace. He's very sensitive and emotional and doesn't seem to possess much "gumption". He gives up easily. He falls apart if he feels he didn't do something right or can't do it at all. He's sort of a perfectionist that way. Also, he's never been one to take direction from people very well. Like if Mr. Chick tries working with him on how to throw a ball better, he declares "I can do it - I AM doing that!" and then chucks the ball in disgust and stomps off, crying. But in the same breath, he's a sweet boy who willingly helps his sister and loves to cuddle and laughs easily. So I'm left either wanting to scoop him up and hug him, or throttle him. Very little middle ground these days. Just like him: very black and white, linear existence.

I'm sort of at a loss of what to do to provide him the tools or coping skills to deal better. He's doing very well in school - he seems to want to perform well for his teacher. I suspect it's because he's got a lot of natural ability and hasn't been challenged yet. He's reading way above level and the counting, letters and such that they've been working on this year is stuff he already mostly knew. I dread the day when he's faced with really having to WORK to gain some knowledge. He's got an astounding memory and I suspect he'll get by with a lot of reliance on that.

Here's an example of his duality: he's on a rookie t-ball team. They had practice last Saturday (tonight is the first game) and it was time to practice batting. In this league, it's coach-pitch initially, and if the kids can't get a hit off 4-5 good pitches then they bring out the T and let them hit off that. Well, at practice they didn't bring out the T and just practiced hitting off real pitches. Nicholas has gotten some hits off pitches at past practices, but that day, he tried and tried and swung and swung but never connected. The coach went through his entire big bucket of balls pitching to Nicholas without a single hit. The other kids who had gone before him had all gotten hits. So here is poor Nicholas, swinging again and again and not giving up, until there are no more balls. Then he collapses and starts hysterically crying and running for me. Of course I hug him and comfort him and tell him how proud I was of him for not quitting and not giving up, blah blah blah, but oh boy - that was hard. I was very, very proud of him because I know how hard that was for him. I understood his embarrassment and crying. But he was HYSTERICALLY crying. Loudly and carrying on for a loonnngg time. Over the top crying. I know he's only 5 so I cut him some slack - I'm not MEAN - but then the dialog in my head starts running: my motherly desire to comfort my child warring with the thought that he needs to suck it up a bit. Wanting to be a little tough on him vs. feeling like this is just how he is and I need to work WITH it, not try to change it. Does that make sense? And then I just get sort of privately frustrated and don't know which way to go. I've tried both - first just letting him do his thing and cry and wail and carry on and me just being there for him, using encouragement and positive comments to make him feel better. This doesn't seem to work and never seems to get him to calm down faster. But I do think he likes his ass being kissed like that. I have also gone the other route: letting him be upset for a minute and then telling him he has 1 more minute to cry and be upset and then I expect him to stop and go back to practice/the game/you name it, and start talking tough. Reminding him that he's a big kid now and it's not OK to carry on like this, etc. That if he can't pull it together then we're going home, etc. (this happened last fall with soccer, for those of you who might remember my post about that). The threat of leaving only seems to flame the fire and make him wail harder/longer. It's awful. So I'm just not sure how to deal with him.

These days, he comes home from school and I SEE him being cheerful and happy on the bus, but the minute he gets off the bus and starts walking up the steps to the house, he starts dragging and sulking and whining about something. Then he starts demanding a snack and telling me how hungry he is. And I don't tolerate that shit very well. I expect my children to have respect and make requests nicely. When I remind him of that and tell him I can't hear him when he whines, he gets all indignant and storms off to his room. I swear, it's like he's a hormonal, petulant teenager. This morning he moaned about his breakfast, dragged around getting dressed, and got really pissy when I told him we didn't have time to count the coins from his piggy bank ($10) before school. "Mama!" he yelled, "that's not fair! You said we could count my money today! Hrmph!" "yes, we did, but not before school - we don't have time or you'll miss your bus. Now please go and get dressed like I asked you. Hurry up." And then he goes and throws the bag of coins on the counter because he's pissed off. Nice way to start the morning.

I do my best to keep my cool and model the behavior I expect from him. But he's pushing me. We have a Reward Point system for him in effect and he gets points (plastic poker chips) for things like not sucking his thumb, making his bed, putting his backpack, coat and shoes where they go, not whining, and keeping a good attitude for his activities like t-ball and gymnastics. He loses points for not doing stuff. Each point represents 15 minutes of TV OR computer time. His two most favorite things to do. So he has to EARN that by doing or behaving like he's supposed to. He can earn up to 6 points max per day. Trouble is, he's down to just 1-2 points, which frustrates him, and then I have to find other things for him to do, all while dealing with his pissy attitude. So in a way this system is working, and in another it's not. We're sticking with it since it's the only thing I can think to do short of keeping him in his room all day, but without points, that's about all he can do anyway.

Does anyone else experience these highs and lows with their kindergarteners? How do you deal with it? Any brilliant suggestions?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


What happened at Va Tech is unimaginable and horrific. My heart aches for the victims and their families. I hope they're able to find some peace.

Posting about other, rather mundane, stuff of life seems somehow inappropriate in light of the tragedy. Besides, not much has been going on lately. And I'll take blandness over tragedy any day! The kids are good, I'm fine, and life is just sort of chugging along. I've been quite diligent about my Weight Watchers diet for the past couple of weeks and have seen about 3 pounds disappear. Encouraging, yes, but slow. Why does it seem that weight goes on overnight but takes eons to come off? Biological mystery, or perhaps just my warped sense of reality. But any loss is good and keeps me going. I'm now remembering what hunger feels like. I'm actually getting hungry before a meal whereas before I'd eat more to the clock than real physical need. I feel tummy rumblings and growls nearly everyday. Which is good because it means I'm using all of the food I'm eating and more and it's not going into "storage". I'm working out 3x/week minimum, doing 35-50 min. of cardio as well as weights. I've always been a consistent exerciser so this is not really new, but pairing it with healthy eating puts it in a new light. I'm working out harder now, it seems. More lunges, more sit-ups, more push-ups (if someone were to come to me and bark, "drop and give me 20!" I totally could. Even "real" push-ups, not just "girlie" ones.). I stand on a stability platform when I do my upper body. It's all good and I'm feeling strong. That's a good feeling.

I'll try to get back into a regular posting schedule this week. Sometimes, you just don't have much to say. And sometimes, that's OK.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter In An Eggshell

Easter is over, thank god. I've never been a huge fan of Easter so I'm happy to have it behind me. And since I'm not a religious sort, the "holiday" really has very little meaning for me other than as a celebration of Spring, which is how I'm now choosing to view it. Re-birth of the flowers and plants and all that versus the Christian story of Jesus rising from the dead.

We did all the culturally-sanctioned activities like decorating eggs and hunting for them. Fun times. At our house, the Easter Bunny hides your basket and you mus
t find it if you want to eat the goodness it contains. I grew up with that tradition and loved it, so it's fun for me to share it with my kids. Except this year I was robbed of the fun of assembling their Easter baskets. My father-in-law's wife did it for me. They've been married as long as Mr. Chick and I have been and she's a very nice lady. She lives in the same city, but we never, ever see her. She never comes over with FIL, who lives several hundred miles away, actually. He'll come up for an Opera or something, see her for the weekend, and then stay a night at our house before heading back home. It's a strange, strange relationship - don't ask me to explain it. So he ends up coming over by himself. She'll send gifts for the kids with him instead of bringing them by herself. And they're usually really nice - I usually really like the things she gets for them.

This year, she sent him with bags of Easter stuff a few weeks ago. I wasn't home when he arrived so I didn't get to see everything at the time. The bag(s) were stashed in the garage and not looked at until the night before Easter. After we got the kids down to bed I went to the garage to get the bags, having seen only that Easter baskets were involved. I grabbed the bag, so two baskets each containing several small toys and a small chocolate bunny. Very appropriate. And very stealing my thunder. The baskets were labeled from "the bunny" and everything! I didn't have to do a single thing for my kids for easter - not one jelly bean or Peep did I have to buy. Nothing. So I was a little miffed, having been thwarted from putting together baskets for my own kids. I could have done it myself anyway, I suppose, and just doubled-up some, but that seemed like waaayyy too much for the kids. So I was denied the privilege beyond hiding the baskets she provided.

The kids found
their baskets and dived into them. They loved them. And they were thankfully short on candy. Lauren enjoyed a chocolate breakfast. Nicholas at least ate a hard-boiled Easter egg. We had a small Easter egg hunt in our house for REAL eggs that the Easter Bunny hid all over. Later, we went to my sisters place for Easter brunch and another egg hunt in her backyard - this time for plastic eggs filled with pennies and small candies. A great time was had by all.

When we got home Nicholas remembered that a few weeks prior his Opa had brought a bag of easter stuff for them (damn his remarkable memory!) I thought I'd already given the kids what
Opa had brought over in the form of baskets from the Easter Bunny, so I was panicky that now Nicholas was determined to go find the bag that Opa had brought over. He was sure it was in the garage. I managed to scope it out - just in case - before he did and was shocked to find 2 MORE BAGS, each with another basket in them, that I'd missed the night before. I didn't realize he'd brought 3 bags (4 baskets). My first thought was one of relief - now Nicholas could "find" the bags from Opa and enjoy another gift, followed quickly by, "crap!" when I saw that the baskets still in the garage were both "girlie" baskets and had many of the same toys contained in the baskets the kids had gotten from the Easter Bunny. How to explain the coincidence??

Turns out, the baskets I'd grabbed the night before were both meant for Nicholas, and the ones I didn't see were for Lauren. But the first baskets I'd grabbed each had a chocolate bunny and one had a pair of Spiderman socks in Lauren's size, so I made an assumption. Bad assumption. Thankfully, the kids are still very gullible and didn't seem to question that their Opa had gotten Lauren the VERY SAME BUBBLE GUM TOY that the Easter Bunny had brought for Nicholas. Amazing!

But let me ask you this? Would you be annoyed if someone else pre-assembled not just 2, but 4 Easter baskets for your kids, 2
intentionally meant to be from the Easter Bunny and the other 2 meant as gifts from them? ON PURPOSE taking the role of essentially playing Easter Bunny to your kids, in absentia, without you requesting help or offering up that job? Doesn't it seem a bit presumptuous? What's next - playing Santa Claus, too? Sending gifts labeled "To Lauren, From Santa"? Or taking over the Tooth Fairy job? It sort of frustrates me. This lady, FIL's wife, never had kids and may not realize that she's stealing thunder. She might not understand that keeping up the farce, encouraging the magic and wonder of these mythical entities, is some of the biggest fun for the parents. She could easily be thinking that she's being nice and helpful and fun in doing this. I'm sure her intentions are good, which is why I'm keeping my big, fat mouth shut on this and not saying anything.

Would you be thrilled to be free of the obligation, or annoyed that someone else took over? While you mull that over, enjoy some photos from our Easter weekend.

Friday, April 06, 2007

From Concept To Creation

A few days ago I mentioned a knit/crochet project tote bag I had envisioned. An original design (I think!) optimized for functionality the way *I* like to knit and crochet. Since I couldn't find one pre-made and readily available I decided to make my own. So I did, and it's finished.

The first pic
ture shows the front of the finished bag. It's rough (I am SOOOO not a professional seamstress and it shows!) and boring, but I wasn't so much aiming for a polished look as much as a functional bag. I used a navy canvas (duck cloth) thoughout. Since the fabric was so boring and plain I thought I would use a coordinating thread so you could see the stitches and jazz it up. Big mistake - it just shows all my errors and inexperience. Oh well.

The 2nd picture shows the inside of the bag. You can see the pockets for patterns and long needles, etc. and the smaller pockets for crochet hooks, scissors, and the other smaller notions one needs when knitting or crocheting. The middle compartment is for yarn as well as your work-in-progress when you're not actively working on it. The two side compartments are used for the ball(s) of yarn you're currently using. They sit in there and are threaded through to the outside of the bag where you knit/crochet. The ball of yarn is therefore contained inside the bag. I made the hole through which it is threaded on the large side so you could have more than one yarn coming through at the same time. The sides of the bag unhook so you can then switch from having your project actively worked on from the outside of the bag to safely tucked into the bag for transport and holding. Get it?

The 3rd
picture shows a better idea of the functional side of the bag. The flap next to the hole is velcro so you can thread the yarn into the hole and secure it down as well as hook the entire side of the bag into place. I think I need a 2nd pair of clasps/hooks on the side - one doesn't seem sufficient to me. In this position you could set your bag on the floor next to you in swimming lessons and knit while the kids are in the water without your bag being open for the world to see (and possibly help themselves to). Or at the park on the bench next to you as the kids play. When it's time to go you simply unhook/unflap the side, tuck your project back inside the bag, and you're on your way. Easy!

So that's my bag! I'm calling it my Project Knitting Tote On The Go. For people who aren't content to keep their knitting at home. All you knitters/crocheters out there - what do you think? If you can get past the ugliness of the bag, what do you think of the idea? The functionality? The cosmetics could always be addressed/changed/improved - this is but a first prototype for my own personal use. Would welcome all feedback, so speak up!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Paying It Forward

Last summer we were at my parents lake house and drove from the house to the picnic area for a community gathering. My mother parked the car quite close to the one next to her. Nicholas, unaccustomed to being able to open his own door (in our car we have child locks and he can't open the door from the inside), was giddy to get out by himself and start playing in the sand. He flung the door open and BAM!, slammed it into the car next to us, putting a decent-sized ding in their car. Shit!

Being the responsible person I am (and fearful that there were witnesses outside my family), I found some paper and a pencil and wrote down my name and number for the owners of the car, telling them how sorry I was that my son put a ding in the door of their nearly new, beautiful Lexus SUV. I told them to call me when they had an estimate for fixi
ng the dent and we'd be happy to pay for it. They were cool, and despite wincing when they saw the ding, went about being social and fun for the community gathering. We even joked about how I'd take the money from Nicholas's college fund to pay for the damage he caused. Ha ha.

A few weeks go by and I don't hear anything from them. Then, in Michaels craft store, I see the guy. It takes me a minute to recognize him, but he recognized my kids and we exchanged hello's, etc. Turns out he lives quite close to us as well as having a house on the same lake as my parents. Small worl
d, blah blah blah. He never mentions the door ding. I ask my mother if she's heard anything and she tells me she saw them up at the lake and it appeared that the door had been fixed. Hmmm....

Here it is 8-9 months later and they never contacted us to pay for the damage. At this point we must assume they're not going to. So when I left the YMCA yesterday and saw this on my windshield, I was inclined to be generous. (there was also a name and number on the note, which I've cropped out to protect privacy). Mr. Chick and I talked about it, and we've decided to let the guy off the hook. The damage is minimal. We were impressed that he'd actually leave his name and number and take responsibility for what happened. So many people wouldn't have. So I called him today and left a message for him telling him so. I thanked him for leaving his contact information and said that we had benefited from the kindness of someone else in the same situation, so we were going to Pay It Forward and not ask him to fix the minimal damage. We just asked that he remember this and do the same for someone else if ever the opportunity presents itself.

If more people Paid It Forward the world would be a cooler place, don't you think?

Heart Swells

Yesterday was a Love Lauren day. Everything she did just seemed so cool and she made my heart swell many times during the day. First, out of the blue, she shows me the drawing on the left. It's her first drawing of people she's ever done (that I know of). And she's been practicing writing her name and she did a beautiful job of it on this picture. Lauren (age 3) told me that this picture was for Gigi (her great-grandmother, recently widowed) and that Gigi was the one on the left (the egg-head) and Lauren was the person on the right (with hair). I LOVE LOVE LOVE this picture so much! I love the fact that the people have no bodies or arms whatsoever. I love that they are smiling. I love the sweet intention behind the drawing - to send it to Gigi so she would be happy (it's going in the mail today). Seeing this picture just made me want to scoop up my daughter and hug her tight (which I did).

Next up in our day: Gymnastics class. Now that I work at the YMCA I've gotten to know a few people. One of them is the instructor for the "real" gymnastics class, not the preschool version. The one for kids ages 5-7. Lauren has outgrown the Kids Gym class already and is ready for a bigger challenge. So I talked to the teacher about her and she agreed to green-light Lauren into the class as long as I thought she could keep up and listen. So I enrolled both her and Nicholas into the class and yesterday was the first day.

In a word, Lauren kicked ass.

She was by far the smallest person in the room. She was tiny in a room full of much bigger 7 year olds, all leggy and lean. Lauren still has traces of baby on her compact, round little body. Quite a mis-match. Nicholas was one of 2 boys, the other being young at 4 yrs old and completely distracting in his inability to follow directions and pay attention. But Lauren? Rocked it. She stayed in line. She spider-walked/crab-walked like a champ and didn't let the fact that she was the slowest one across the mat deter her (she was determined to keep her butt off the ground!) She did sommersaults across the room like she was born doing them. She did supported back walkovers, landing on her feet, like a pro. When the teacher separated the kids into 1's and 2's, she remembered her number and only went when she was supposed to. She was all about hopping across the mat with her feet together and toes pointed. All the while giving me shy looks of pride, a little smile playing on her lips, seeking my mirroring approval. And sometimes she'd give me discreet little "thumbs up" signs as well.

At one point the teacher had the kids make a human tunnel by standing with your feet on the ground and then bending over and putting your hands on the ground, too. Then one kid would wriggle through the tunnel, stand up on the other side and add themselves to the tunnel so the kid on the far end could take their turn going through. It was hard for the bigger kids to get under Lauren, her being so much smaller than the rest, but I'll be damned if Lauren didn't hold herself in that inverted position for as long as it took until her turn to wriggle though. That's a lot of arm strength, when you think about it. My heart was swelling with pride watching her in this class.

Nicholas did great, too, but he's older and bigger and fit in better. It was Lauren is was worried about, being so young, but she put my fears to rest. And best of all, she kept her good humor throughout the class, smiling and telling other kids, "good job!" as they'd finish whatever they were doing. Nicholas turned everything into a race - who could get across the mat the fastest - even if it wasn't a race (it never was), so he would occasionally get pouty. But not Lauren. Lauren was cheerful and happy the whole time. It's her demeanor and charm that makes her such a likeable kid.

I love her so much!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Wake-Up Call

So, um, yeah. A good friend of mine sent me and another of our friends an email yesterday asking for help. She wants to drop some weight and realizes she can't do it alone. She asked us to hold her feet to the fire, so to speak, by reading her daily food journal she'll send us everyday. The thinking is that if she must be honest and accountable she'll do better. The 3 of us did Weight Watchers together 5 years ago and we were all pretty successful with it as a group.

5 babies collectively and 5 years have taken their toll.

We ALL 'fessed up to needing to get back on the band wagon with her and pledged to do so. We're not going to WW meetings or anything, but we all dusted off our old materials from our first go-around (POINTS system vs. whatever they're running now - FLEX?) and started keeping track. 3 words: OH MY GAWD!

I knew I wasn't eating as well as I should be to lose weight. I've got the exercise bit down pretty well - I work out 3 times per week on average doing cardio (running 3+ miles) and weights (20-30 min of free weights) each time. Plus just going for walks with the kids/dog, doing housework and the occasional yardwork worked into the mix. I'm happy with my fitness level. But I've really let the food part slide. Big time. Keeping track yesterday really opened my eyes when put into WW context. Yikes.

I should be eating 20-25 points per day. I ended eating 39 points, when all was said and done. That's nearly DOUBLE what I should be taking in. And really, it's not so much the volume I'm eating (although historically my appetite is huge), it's the little yummy accents that caused the most havoc. Like adding 2 measly slices of salami and 2 slices of cheese on my english muffin for breakfast (open-faced - one slice per side). That right there kicked up my point value to 6 for the salami and 4 for the cheese. 10 points!! Before calculating the muffin itself or the egg. Not.good. But of course that's the part of the meal I like the best. Naturally. Sigh - dieting can be demoralizing when you take stock and face the fact that the part of food you like the best is the part that must be eliminated. That sucks. Dinner was better, I thought, when I had a green salad with a handful of baby carrots, a handful of croutons, and a boneless/skinless chicken breast chopped up and mixed in. Blue cheese salad dressing, but really, not that much. I hate too much dressing on a salad, and blue cheese goes a long way. But it's 1 point for the carrots, 3 points for the croutons, 3 points for the chicken breast, and 4 points for the 2 tbsp of dressing. So that's 11 effing points for a salad. A SALAD with barely enough dressing to even taste it! And the dressing and croutons are the part I'd have to leave out if I need to cut down the points (which I clearly do). So yeah, I'm discouraged.

But I'm going to do this anyway. It worked before and I'll get used to eating this way again. WW is heavy on vegetables, fruits and whole grains, which is how everyone should be eating. And I do, but it's the other stuff I add to the good items that turn them into something I shouldn't be eating.

Good-bye to the yummy parts of food, hello size 8 (that's my goal - more than a specific number of pounds I hope to lose, I hope to fit comfortably into an 8 again. I'm a 12 now.) Keeping a daily journal to share with my friends will hopefully make this process more entertaining than discouraging. If you must suffer through something it's better to do it with friends!

I'm off to enjoy my hard-boiled egg sand english muffin and 2nd cup of coffee. 6 points for those of you who are counting.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

First Step: Prototype

I've been mulling over an idea in the dark recesses of my brain. It's been percolating and evolving for quite some time. I'll find myself in the shower, say, thinking about it and go deep into my idea and before I realize it I've been standing in the shower for 15 minutes wasting all that hot water. Or I'll be dwelling on it as I'm in bed trying to fall asleep, and I end up delaying sleep because my brain is churning over ideas instead. My idea? A tote for my yarn projects (full disclosure: all rights to any expressed ideas for design of this bag are reserved by me. Play nice now - it's not nice to steal.)

For awhile now, everytime I take my knitting or crocheting out with me to work on somewhere other than home (or even AT home) it can be a pain. I ball my yarn, so it tends to roll if left unsecured in some manner. Plastic grocery sacks are too flimsy to adequately contain my yarn at the playground, for example, or the school library while I'm waiting for a speech or Spanish class to finish. Plus, knitting needles tend to poke through the plastic. I have a larger canvas tote bag, but it's not designed for knitting and my yarn tends to get all tangled up and I constantly "lose" my notions in the void that is the bottom. And, patterns get crumpled, etc. So I've been designing the perfect knitter/crocheters project tote in my head. Today, I made a newspaper prototype to give my idea a 3-dimension shape.

What I find I really want in a project tote is the ability to contain yarn yet not have it tangle, and have it accessible from the outside of the bag so you don't have to flash all your gear and crap in order to get to your yarn. I'd like to be able to open up my tote, grab my project, and be able to thread my yarn while still keeping it active with the project through some sort of hole and then close up my bag again and just be able to pull my yarn as I need it for my project with my bag sitting nicely and neatly at my feet or on the table or what have you. Then, when I'm finished for the day I can open the flap, unthread my yarn, and tuck everything back inside the bag. I want pockets inside for patterns and scissors and needles/hooks, etc. I want it to look cute and hip. I want a semi-rigid bottom to give it some structure and shape. I want a pocket or two on the outside for items like a cell phone or keys.

I've looked at various existing craft tote bags. Some are cute, but I haven't found one yet that meets all of my needs. I've seen one that lets you thread the yarn from an individual pocket to the inside of the bag, but I want my yarn to thread to the outside. I don't want to have to have the bag open in order to knit. I don't want my stuff open for the world to see. I don't want to risk spilling it, either. My friend and neighbor is also a knitter/quilter. I took my silly little newspaper prototype over to her house earlier this morning to get her thoughts on it. I wanted to pick her brain, fellow crafter that she is. She seemed to really like my idea and offered me the suggestion of having a clear, plastic window/pocket on the outside of the tote for patterns so they could be seen easily. Good idea! I'm not sure how to best attach a clear plastic to a fabric, me being only a very novice seamstress, but I'll do my best to figure it out. Also, she suggested a way to bisect the pocket for the yarn so that you could have two colors being used at the same time without the yarn getting tangled up. Also an excellent idea that I'm going to try to incorporate.

So I'm off! I'm heading out to the fabric store this afternoon to take the next step and buy the materials I'm going to need in order to assemble and sew up this bag. I'm excited about it! I know it's going to be rough-looking, but I'm shooting for functionality first and foremost. Something for ME, not for commercial use, so it doesn't have to be perfect. I can make any modifications and improvements after I get the first one done.

So, does anyone out there need a cool, unique knitter/crocheter project tote? Know someone who does? I'll post some pictures of my creation after I get it done. I hope I stay on this roll I'm on and crank it out quickly...

Monday, April 02, 2007

Back To Normal

Whew! Spring Break is over. Thank God. Not that it meant a huge disruption or change in our everyday lives or anything (how could it when your school-age child is only in school from 8 - 10:50am??). But still, I had both kids home with me all day for a week as we had no plans for a vacation or anything, so finding fun and inexpensive things to do became the mission for the week. And mission accomplished, I think.

I was able to take the kids to a Mommie and Me matinee of Happy Feet one afternoon (God, I LOVE these theaters in Portland!). The kids had seen it before, and I'm not
a big fan of this particular movie, but it was still fun to have an outing. It cost all of $5 for the 3 of us. The weather cooperated a couple of days and we spent quite a few hours playing at a park, always fun. The big treat was a trip to a place called Pump It Up for an open play time. My kids went crazy there, jumping, running, bouncing, climbing, and working up quite a lather. That place was not quite as economical as the movie, ripping us off for $7/kid for 90 minutes of playtime. But hey, it was the Big Treat Of The Week, so whatever - they LOVED it.

Even *I* got a treat this week. This Spring Break represented 15 years that Mr. Chick and I have been together. We met on Spring Break back in the day (1992 for those of you bad at math) when we were in college and both down in Palm Springs for vacation. And by vacation I mean non-stop party, of course. I had no idea that the cute guy I met dancing one night, and then ran into again the next night, went to my school (nor did I know that he was 2 years younger than me and was in the bar with a fake ID, but that's another story). I flirted with him and bought him a beer and actually gave him my real phone number when I learned that we were practically neighbors "in real life". He called me when we were both back home again and we've been together ever since. Awww - romance. So to celebrate this "anniversary" we took my sister up on her offer to babysit the kid (complete with sleep-over!) on Friday night and busted out a gift card we had to a nice local restaurant (which we got a year ago and haven't had the chance to use yet!) and enjoyed a date night together. Mr. Chick even brought me a bouquet of roses to start the evening! We planned dinner and then a movie since my sister gave us movie tickets along with the babysitting at Christmas.

Except we didn't make it to the movie. Mr. Chick petered out and claimed he wouldn't last to see the opening scene. Wuss! Granted, it was a Friday night and a 10:10pm showing and he hadn't slept well the night before, but still - ! We can't party like rockstars anymore like we could 15 years ago, THAT'S for sure. But, despite our inability to stay awake past 10pm, it was a lovely evening just the two of us.

So here it is, Monday morning, and we're back in the groove. Nicholas is off to school and Lauren is watching her morning cartoon so I can get a few minutes on the computer. After this I'll go and get dressed while she takes her turn playing a game on the computer, I'll eat something for breakfast, and then tidy up a bit. Nicholas will come home and we'll do our thing until this afternoon when we'll head to the Y so the kids can play and I can workout. Then we'll rush to Nicholas's t-ball practice.

Ahhh, routine. I missed you. Breaks like Spring Break are really only vacations if you go somewhere other than home. If you stay home, they become Work because they disrupt the routine. I'm all for the occasional disruption - we're not THAT structured - but a weeks' worth of disruption is too much. I'm very happy Spring Break is over. Unless Spring Break can be like the one when I met Mr. Chick, I have very little use for you.

Now, back to normal.

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