Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cleaning House

When I was younger there were a number of families growing up that celebrated Chinese New Year. As part of this celebration the families in our area would always clean their homes thoroughly, organize their houses and make sure they were ready for the year to come. I always was fascinated in these early cleaning rituals, watching an older grandparent sweep out the front door and the piles of things that got thrown in the trash or donated because they no longer were used. This idea of cleaning to welcome the new year sunk in with me somehow and in a lot of ways I strive to do the same things.

Until about six years ago my company furloughed us the week between Christmas and New Years, this furlough became my prep for the New Year. Somehow sitting around the house while the Hubs was at work just didn’t seem fair, kids once they showed up still went to daycare that week. Instead of sitting and watching whatever TV marathon was on for the whole day I started doing deep cleaning and organizing of the open areas in the house. This furlough was a great chance to clean the pantry, which sometimes ends up with thing way to old, clean the bakers rack, where we keep all the paper and little bits. Somehow that childhood experience of preparing for the Chinese New Year, became my prep for the calendar new year change and I really enjoy it.

Breathe now, I know the idea of liking to clean may be disturbing, even crazy, but hang with me for a few minutes. During these furloughs when I would be able to deep clean and organize the entire house image for a minute what it must have felt like to ring in the New Year every year and know there wasn’t anything outstanding I needed to clean or organize, there wasn’t anything that was hanging over me. So you know, it felt GREAT, there was something of a high about having things in order and being able to move into the New Year fresh and organized. Usually I came out of these week long cleaning sprees with a better idea of what house wise we needed to tackle and somehow this process of preparing the household for this made me much for focused going back to work since I knew my house was in order.

Now as great as this was this is no longer my reality, those furloughs are a company of the past and getting a week to sort of float around, watch endless TV and cleaning the pantry is a thing of the past. Along with these changes the kids are older and I can no longer just sneak into their rooms when they are out and that favorite dirty t-shirt that is two sizes too small disappears without them noticing, though I keep trying. Additionally the kids are old enough to start working on some of this deep cleaning themselves. If you walk into our house today you will see a baker’s rack piled high with things that need to be thrown out, organized, cleaned or dealt with in some way, there is a file pile the height of our desk in the office, and the pantry may, just may have spices like could be older than one of the kids. Since I don’t quite have the time of focus to knock this all out within a week anymore I have stretched it out to be about a two month processes every year. This may seem a pain or long, but in the winter Bean has Basketball and Chicken doesn’t always want to go to the games. On days he doesn’t want to go to games or when I get the desire I tackle one piece of the deep cleaning, I take on our closet, the kids rooms, the playroom, the pantry, the baker’s rack and the office one at a time. I no longer have that great rush I used to when it was all done in a big hit, I do tend to enjoy the spring and summer a lot more knowing things are taken care of at home.

Do you have something that you feel a desire to accomplish before the New Year? How do you start of the year fresh and ready to begin 2012?

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Picture Less Christmas

This Christmas I took no pictures. I didn't capture the moment to later admire or remember, I just lived in it.  Instead of capturing the morning breakfast and present opening fun, I just watched. I didn't look for that great shot, I just hung out.

Will I regret my lack of picture taking later? Probably..

Will I miss seeing the joy months later? Who knows...

I know eventually I will get back up to speed on my scrap booking and have nothing to scrap for Christmas 2011.  Maybe instead of pictures, I'll journal it all, if I remember any of it.

How did I spend my day if I wasn't busy with pictures? I started helping Bean set up her crystal growing kit, Hubs will be going to Radio Shack later in the week for more parts. We all played Kinect Sports 2, Chicken is going to drive me crazy playing football with that one.  We built a number of paper monsters, that has been a surprise hit.  Lastly, I hung out on the couch a lot and did nothing.  I find doing nothing quiet useful on occasion, without occasionally doing nothing we forget what doing something looks like.

This spate of nothingness won't last long, and I assume next year there will be pictures taken and forced poses in all sorts of positions for the holidays. For now, I will enjoy my total lack of picture taking and my general Zen state of nothingness.

Next post, my New Years Cleaning Jag.....

Have a good down week.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bed Time Routines

We have had an almost militaristic standard bedtime routine since Bean was about 6 months, and yesterday it dawned on me that the time for those very structured bedtime routines was passed. It was so weird to me to look at my two and realize that yet another milestone has passed, I don't miss it, but it is gone.

A bedtime routine was one of those things that initially I wasn't really into, but to keep my sanity I initiated and kept very structured for the last nine years. It isn't like the routine hasn't changed and altered, but it was always loosely the same routine. Our routine when they were little was massage, get on jammies, brush teeth, read a short book, and sing a few songs. The massages usually dropped off around two and as they got older they jammied and brushed on their own and the books got longer, but really it was the same routine. For two kids that seemed to need more sleep than average, they both still sleep about 10 hours minimum a night and really just in the last year stopped doing 12 hour nights, this routine was critical.  For Bean the bedtime routine let her have that snuggle time and transition that she seemed to need.  For Chicken, the routine was almost a trigger that it was time to mellow out and get into sleep mode.  Bean still needs about another thirty minutes or so after the routine to fall asleep, while Chicken rolls over and is out in minutes.  These pieces though are all part of that routine.

There is still a routine, it has just changed and doesn't really include mom and dad anymore.  In the last few months we have been busier in the evening hours and so long stories started to fall by the wayside. We would still read on occasion at night, but mostly it was to catch one or both up on their class reading. Singing songs hasn't been something asked for in weeks, there are other things to distract and transition the kids.

What do we do now?

The kids get ready for bed like always; brush teeth, get on jammies, get water.  Then they settle themselves into bed, preparing their rooms the way they like. No longer are mom and dad required to shut closet doors or turn on the night lights. It isn't that those things don't still need to happen, it is just the kids do it now. Then the kids settle in for a little screen time, the only screen time on week nights.  Mostly Bean messes around to find a pandora channel she likes, or plays chess. Chicken will play a game or flip through some picture fact thing he finds. After screen time we check on them, once and the night is done.

Writing that down surprises me. For so long this routine that has gotten them comfortable and sleepy has been the cornerstone of our nights and now it isn't.  I am sure there will still be nights when extra tuck ins are needed or someone needs a little attention, but never again will we sing to soothe troubled foreheads or read Knuffle Bunny.

Embrace where they are going, celebrate where they have been, and appreciate the moments past.

Happy Holidays

Monday, December 19, 2011

Setting Expectatoins

Enjoying the holidays can be easy or tough. Sometimes it is hard to settle into the parties, kid performances, gift giving and general overhead the holiday can share with us.  One of the things that always seems to bite us is setting expectations. Expectations about what activities we can and cannot attend, what Santa can and cannot provide, and this year how great the snow will be at Mema and Popi's.

We have been spending Christmas up in Garden Valley for a few years now. These Christmas's are usually filled with great food, fun presents, and some seriously fun in the sun snow time. Sadly, there hasn't been a lot of snow this year.  Lets be honest it is colder than crap without a cloud in the sky and has been for weeks.  The  tubing hill started making snow and opened this week, but only three runs and it will not be the same.  There won't be a fort or snowball fights with the dog and sledding won't happen. This doesn't mean we won't have a good time though. With Popi's Christmas Village, Mema's goodies and craft space, the movie room and a big tub to play in things will be fine, they will just be different. Before we take them up there though and they see no snow, we need to let them know what is up and set the expectation.

Expectations help us all be better prepared for life in general but there are days I just don't want to do it. I don't want to be the one that has to help them reset their expectations. Looking at those faces when telling them that there will be no snow, or Santa maybe can't afford that SUCK. The flip side of lowering the expectation is that when something turns out great, like last Christmas, it is super wonderful and fun and resetting the expectations means the kids aren't disappointed if things don't work out. There are a lot of things that even without snow will be fun and I am sure there will be snow in a few weeks time and we can head up and have fun then.

Here are a few pictures from last year and I am sure this years pictures will be great, just without snow.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mom Time...

The last few years have defiantly been spent taking care of the kids, to the detriment of a lot of things. Due to limited household finances and time there have been a lot of time the Hubs and I haven't done things, or have gotten take out or have generally scurried through life without making sure we were taking care of ourselves.

We have decided that time needs to come to an end. We love the kids and want to do right by them, but to do that we need to take care of ourselves. No more excuses, no more missing things we really want to do because we want more time as a family. As a family there is quality and quantity and know that the kids are older we are striving for quality, not quantity.  The kids can partially fend for themselves, a single parent can manage an hour or so daily and no one will be screaming bloody murder when the other gets home. We can give up car pooling so that each of us gets the time we need. We have adjusted and though we continue to adjust things are moving in the right direction.

The last few months we have been making an effort to get  to the gym and have been meal planning more. We have learned we do better if we meal plan dinners for the month and lunches for the week. We also make sure there is always enough of the regular snack and breakfast fair around. Fresh fruits and vegetables are usually bought twice a month and generally we have been following the meal plan. The meal plan has led to less processed foods, more expansion of our food palate, and a lot less fast food.  The gym has been another beast all together, the Hubs and I both are striving to be healthy, but there are days it is tough to find the time. We are making that time creatively. I now get up at 4:30 am daily and get in a really good work out before work, to keep my strength training on track and keep me going regularly to the gym I have gotten a trainer two days a week. The trainer is a new experience and honestly if I can still walk down the stairs at the end of this week I will be really proud of myself. On the other side of the coin the Hubs goes to the gym after work. This leaves me with after school activities and dinner, but I was doing most of that anyways. On the rare night Hubs gets home early he helps with dinner and things are even easier.  The concession that has been the hardest for me is making the choice to let the kids get picked up late if I get stuck at work. Thursdays tend to be a tough day for me to get out on time, but with Hubs dropping off he would miss gym time if he had to pick up. We no longer have an after school activity on Thursdays and honestly there is nothing wrong with leaving the kids there a little longer one day a week, for some reason I just struggle with it. Eventually I am sure we will adjust to the Thursday craziness, but until then, if you see me posting to Twitter or Facebook frantically on a Thursday, just know I am desperately trying to get out of work and on with the second job I prefer, being two peoples moms.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Baking for all and being gluten free

I love to bake. I have been baking since I was young and there isn't much I enjoy more than being able to make goodies from family and friends, especially this time of year.  Needing to change my eating habits to be gluten free has put a crimp it that baking though.  There was a year I cooked nothing with regular flour and made everything gluten free, the kids and husband were miserable. Then the next year I cooked all the old recipes and I didn't get to eat anything, then I was miserable.  Trying to balance the treats that are family traditions with gluten free recipes has become an effort. I have substituted gluten free flour for regular flour, things have tasted off. I have abandoned my old recipes for new ones, changing the traditions that we have come to count on. On top of this I don't want to leave the Christmas season 10 pounds heavier because there are tons of treats for me to gorge on.  
This year I am striving for a balance of gluten free treats and yummy family traditions. The gingerbread got cooked with the old recipe, gluten free flour way didn't work. The gingerbread is really more about the kids getting to decorate with frosting and sprinkles more than anything else.  Nanny's Apple Cake Recipe was split, 3/4 made with regular flour and 1/4 gluten free, this way I still get the treat of Apple Cake, but everyone else gets to enjoy Apple Cake without a texture or taste change.  Honestly the texture and taste change is only picked up by a few people, but I prefer that people get the original, plus gluten free flour is expensive.  For the cookie exchange I made a family favorite, Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies, the cookies weren't gluten free, but are always a big hit.  At the cookies exchange I get to pick up some chocolate that is gluten free and everyone loves these festive tasty cookies. The last cookie recipe I made was a new gluten free Chocolate Peppermint Wafer Cookie Recipe.  The chocolate peppermint cookies were awesome and I feel the glee of cookies during the holiday without feeling like I am going to OD on cookies.  The gluten free cookies are a great treat for me when everyone else is gorging on gingerbread men so layered in frosting that the cookies merely becomes a vehicle to get more frosting in your mouth.  The Chocolate Peppermint Cookies were suppose to be two wafers with frosting in the middle, I did what I called 'open faced chocolate peppermint cookies'.
I think this year we may have found a great mix of holiday traditions and new ideas.  The gluten free chocolate peppermint cookies will defiantly be back next year along with all the other favorites. 
You might be assuming the kids do all this baking with me, they don't.  It isn't that they aren't interested in learning to bake, or that I don't want to teach them. This baking is for others and because of that I am not 100% comfortable that the kids have enough hygiene and cooking knowledge to participate with me quite yet. For now they will continue to bake when we aren't sharing the goodies being cooked. That way when they lick the spoon and put it back in the bowl I can laugh and not be horrified that I am going to give someone a gift my kids have licked already.    
What is your holiday baking looking like? Are you making the old standards or trying something new?
Happy Baking.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The mommy cringe........

Last Friday night Bean and Chicken completed their high green belt testing. Though Bean passed, within 15 minutes of the test starting her and I were both in tears. 

I think her tears were because of extreme frustration with herself and the situation and mine were because I had to watch her struggle and could do nothing to help. In the last months we have made great stride with focus and anxiety with Bean.  She is taking a medication to help, but additionally we have talked with her a lot about slowing down, thinking before acting, taking a deep breath. and only focusing on what she needs to get done at the time. Somehow this all went out the window Friday night.  

In my mind Friday night was going to be great, this was the fourth belt test, we knew the drill everything would be fine, it was so not fine. There are a lot of reasons this may have happened and I am trying to sort through which issues we can assist Bean with going forward so this won't be a problem in the future.  One issue was that the test was late for us, the higher the belt the later the test and the test was at 7pm for green belts. All green belts sit for green belt testing, regular green belts first, high green belts second. Bean and Chicken were high green belts and had to sit and watch 10 other kids test before it was there turn.  Having to wait and think about all the tests to come and watching kids go through forms she isn't doing would not be helpful to her. Another issue was that I had been the one taking her to class since the Hubs was sick, there is an outside chance the change shook her and made her jumpy. It was a Friday, usually a down day and that could have impacted her. Lastly, she may just not have been as prepared as we thought.  So with all these possible problems which ones do I try and take on and deal with.  The one I see as easiest to address is making sure Bean is really prepared and preferably not by her brother.  Chicken learns forms pretty easily and frequently ends up helping her, she is much more confident though when she feels confident in class for about a week ahead of testing, and she didn't this time. Another thing we will tackle is making sure Bean knows about the test ahead of time and is mentally prepared, part of that preparedness will be a good nights sleep and making sure she isn't too wound up ahead of time. 

Back to testing night. The students sit through the green belts testing and it is time for high green to test. Bean, Chicken and two other kids were the only high green belt testers, it would just be the four of them.  This was the smallest group to test that Bean and Chicken had ever been in and Bean looked nervous. The Master spoke and the kids started with their forms testing, Bean did ok the first walk through, on the silent walk through she faltered. Suddenly there was panic in her eyes and a shaking in her legs.  The Master asked her to do it again alone, to calm down and try again. She did and she messed it up again, the next time one of the other instructors counted it off for her, she still faltered.  This time when her form turned her back our way I could see she was crying. The other instructor corrected her mistakes and they asked her to sit down. She was in tears though not crying enough to be visible from the back.  The boys next to Bean worked through their sparing, Chicken totally rocked it out, Nan still looked visibly shaken.  This is where I wanted to kiss the Master, he asked that one of the instructors come in to spare with Bean, an instructor she trusted.  Within her first spare Bean was back in into the test and did amazing. She rocked out the sparing and the Korean terms, which she has always struggled with. They passed her and all the other parents were incredibly supportive.

Ultimately though our kids will have rough days and failure is a possibility.  This will not be the first time I watch her struggle so publicly, it will not be the first time I want to save her. I know in my heart though, the times I don't save her and she succeeds will be the best and sweetest successes.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Making Ornaments

There are a lot of holiday fun times around the corner, but it always starts the season off right to do a little crafting the day after Thanksgiving.  Instead of Black Friday, we modge podge Friday.  With some friends in town we ended up at the craft store very early on Friday and picked up a bunch of clear glass ornaments 3 boxes for 10 dollars.  With some other supplies floating around the house, paint modge podge, a sharpie; and a few extras at the store, snow man stickers and fake snow the kids spent most of Friday making ornaments.

I had never decorated glass ornaments and wasn't totally sure what we were doing so there were some successes and failures.  The first issue was that we put too much paint inside the ornaments. We tried to paint the inside of a few ornaments and after hanging them upside down to get the extra paint out a few still cracked because of the amount of paint still in them. Another tip we had to learn was to decoupage any ornaments that we put stickers, paint or shapies on the outside of, then the items stay on and don't get shmeared off. The fake snow was a bitch to get into the ornaments, but ended up really looking amazing.  When working on decoupaging something to the back of an ornament it is a good idea to use like a sealant glue around the edge so that when you paint the background later the paint doesn't bleed into the paper you just stuck on.  Sharpies work better for kids to get on eye balls on faces instead of paint, sharpies are a lot easier to manipulate and manage.  Lastly; glass, glue, glitter, and paint in combo can be a total mess so it's good to use a table clothe you can throw out after. Hubs has temporarily banned glitter and it is understandable, there is glitter everywhere.

The part that I thoroughly enjoyed was having the kids make wish ornaments.  We got the over sized round ornaments and encouraged the kids to decorate these to represent the things they love most. Bean went for a bear, with pom pom ears and a cute bear face. Chicken got bored of the whole activity and I made his, which was in BSU colors with his name. Then all the kids wrote out their Christmas wishes on the computer and put them in their ornaments.  It was all too cute, and me and the other mom present ended up prying out the wishes later that night to make sure we knew what was on their lists. Chicken besides wanting a full size football, wanted his family to be happy and healthy.  Seeing what great people your kids are becoming is just too awesome sometimes.

What crafting are you all up to these days with your family?  We have a few more craft opportunities with out Activity Advent Calendar, thanks Rhonda, so it should be a fun few weeks. Have a wonderful time in this family and friends time of year.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My couch smells really bad....

I have been sitting on the couch trying to write for a bit right now and something is distracting me.  My couch smells NASTY. Not like kid, animal fur, people smell nasty; it smells like a herd of sheep have peed on my couch......

Honestly I am a pretty clean person and try hard to keep my house clean and smelling mostly good. As much as I strive to keep a clean home I somehow struggle more than the standard person with odd animal smells. Lets be honest I just struggle when it comes to cleaning up animals. For years we had Natures Miracle in the house which was amazing to keep the animal smell mostly at bay.  Since we have moved beyond baby animals in the last year the Natures Miracle isn't around, so a friend suggested white vinegar. Now my house smells like a heard of sheep peed with a back smell of vinegar. I have used bleach wipes and carpet animal cleaner stuff on everything, couch, pillows, you name it. It still smells like a sheep vinegar pee puddle with a antiseptic smell.  The couch is old and animal abused, but no new couch till the cat dies, and I am almost positive the smell is in the couch.
This leaves a question.


I know this wasn't any great kid, family, holiday chat. The smell and the grossness associated with the fact I am sitting anywhere near it is total giving me a case of squeamish heebies.