Christmas craftiness

I went a little nuts making ornaments this year. I blame Pinterest, taunting me with all its “easy” tutorials and perfectly composed photographs.

We have boxes full of ornaments for the tree, so it’s not like we need more shiny, dangly things, but I just couldn’t resist. I bought far too many crafting supplies, got hooked on scrapbook paper (so. much. cute), and only burned myself with the glue gun once.

The results speak for themselves:

This year’s binge also gave me ideas for gifts for next year, and gave Ellie and I something fun and creative to do together; definitely worth the money and time spent.

Christmas!

What a perfect day. Quiet time with family, the excitement of opening gifts, fun playing with new toys, yummy cookies and food — we really couldn’t ask for more.

Happy three to my baby

Three years ago at about this time, my water broke after what felt like eons (read: 41 weeks) of pregnancy, and eight hours later I delivered this charming little monkey:

Gwen and Roar

Of course, at the time, she looked more like this…

Minutes old - photo by Evelyn Conrad (yourbirthconnection.com)

The addition of Miss Guinevere made our family complete.

The whole family -- photo by Evelyn Conrad (yourbirthconnection.com)

It also marked the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

My babies

She’s grown too fast, but as I am quick to remind her, she’ll always be my baby girl.

serious cute

Happy birthday, Gwen. Thanks for keeping us on our toes from the beginning. 🙂

Five and Two

I love these photos; they illustrate the girls’ different personalities perfectly.

Ellie is cautious, but still curious, and does everything at her own pace. She refused to touch the frog without pulling her sleeves over her hands, and just look at the reserve-slash-wonder on her face! Priceless.

Gwen is relaxed, not afraid to get her hands dirty, and wild but gentle. Note the mischievous finger-in-the-mouth grin. She was responsible for capturing the frog, and then she kissed it. Twice.

That time of year…

Autumn appears to have arrived in northern Maine a bit earlier than usual. We spent the morning doing yard work. A large branch from one of the apple trees came down, so we salvaged what fruit we could from the ground; most were too tart for good eating, but perfect for baking, so I decided to make a crisp. The house smells like fall.

TBT: Baby Gwen

I never do this, but it’s been a rough day, particularly for the youngest member of the family that isn’t canine. Gwen appears to be having some feels, and some rather intense feels at that, because the last week’s behavior can be summed up in one word: THREE.

She’s approaching that boundary-pushing, limit-testing age that requires infinite patience and consistency. I need a reminder of simpler times to get me through the next epic tantrum-fest.

flowin’ good

Ellie: So Mama, you were talking to Daddy, and Daddy was talking to me, but I was talking to Daddy, not you, but Daddy was talking about me to you—

Me: Hold up. I’m confused. Can you draw me a flow chart?

Ellie: Sure!

*a few minutes later*

Me: How’s that flow chart coming?

Ellie: It’s flowin’ good, Mama.

winter, you are so…winter…

Winters are long, white, and cold up here in Northern Maine. I’m trying to look for the beauty rather than the ugly. Like how brilliant the stars are on a clear night, or how the world looks perfect with a fresh coat of snow. I just have to look past the fact that I’ll end up shoveling said snow eventually.

My folks have the right idea–they turned into snowbirds at the start of the new year and are traveling in warmer climes (you can even read about their adventures!) Our family has grown by two. Their dogs, Dillon and Coco, have temporarily adopted us. Atticus is happy to have regular playmates. He’s also thrilled to have mountains of snow to romp, dig, and roll in…the Husky is strong in that pup.

The kids spend a lot of time inside due to the weather, but we’re armed with Play-Doh, finger paints, baking, LEGOs, puzzle games, movies, and a ridiculous number of toys. They have an entire playroom to themselves, but you can guess how often they use it.

Ellie is making us proud with her reading skills, although now it’s harder to sneak stuff by her by spelling it out loud.

Gwen hangs out at home, and as a result, our family hasn’t been ill all winter. Usually by now I’d have had at least two stomach viruses and a cold, but so far (knock on wood) all I’ve come down with is a case of the sniffles that barely registered on my Radar of Sick. Even elementary school germs can’t compete with daycare germs. That alone has made this winter more tolerable than most.

I realized the other day that when Ellie was two and some months, I was already pregnant with Gwen. This is probably why I’m enjoying Gwen’s two-year-old-ness–life on the whole is more enjoyable when you’re not vomiting and/or exhausted! Who knew?

It occurs to me, as Gwen moves away from baby-dom and into full-fledged kid-dom, that we’re rapidly shedding the accoutrements of baby life. She gave up both her binky and diapers in January. Her crib has been retired to the basement. She’s talking more clearly and showing preferences, and her goofy, sweet-hearted personality is making itself known.

I admit, this is a transition I’m feeling great about. They were cute as babies, but now they’re cute and (more) independent! I’m getting the best of both worlds, with the occasional tantrum thrown in for good measure. I can handle that if it means I spend less time wiping other people’s butts.

As for me, I’m in the process of writing/editing my NaNoWriMo novel, and it’s taking for-ev-er because I keep finding ways to distract myself (like, say, writing this post). Meanwhile, I posted the first novel on its own site.

I’m also taking advantage of the indoor time to redesign all my sites that have fallen into a state of neglect over the last year, including this one. I’m using slightly modified versions of my recent theme designs, a process developers know as “dogfooding.” Dogfooding takes on a more literal meaning in this house.

I feel like I’m coming out of a rather uncomfortable phase that’s equal parts hormonal-sleep-deprived-mother-of-two-little-kids-craziness and late-twenty-something-problems and oh-my-god-we-moved-and-adopted-a-puppy-at-the-same-time-last-year-insanity.

In other words, things are finally starting to level out. So while the weather is still brutal and bitter cold, to the point where I have an actual physical craving for spring, I also feel pretty good about life right now. Maybe even great. Yeah, we’ll go with great.

my village

Shopping

We’re in the middle of yet another snowstorm, and the only reason we have food today is because our nanny, E, offered to go grocery shopping for us before the storm hit.

Let that sink in for a moment–our nanny volunteered to take our two-year-old to the grocery store to do our shopping for us. She even made a special trip to Wal-Mart because the valentines I asked her to get for Ellie’s class were too expensive at the grocery store. And then she took Gwen to the candy store to pick out a few treats, just because.

Never mind all those trips to the library, the park, and the quality playtime she’s spent with both kids since we moved here.

It really got me thinking about how lucky we’ve been, not just with E (who is amazing) but with all the people who’ve treated our kids like family instead of charges. We may pay for the care, but you can’t buy the kind of relationship my girls have had with their various caregivers over the years, and for that, we’re incredibly fortunate.

Beyond that, we’re lucky to live with family who do things like mow the lawn and watch the dogs and act as back-up care for the kids (and just being here–sometimes it’s nice to know there’s another adult in the house!) We have a family friend who cleans for us once a week. And I’m personally grateful to have a husband who is an equal parent and does his fair share of juggling All The Things.

Then there’s my job, where I’m lucky enough to have the autonomy to work when I need to, the flexibility to work with my family’s schedule rather than around it, and to have the freedom to stay creative and genuinely love what I do.

A question I keep coming back to, specifically as it relates to work and life and having time for myself, is “How do I do it?”

It came up at dinner with some teammates in Charleston a few weeks ago. I was rambling on about my newly-acquired fanfic writing habit, and a co-worker asked the question.

I said something to the effect of, “My kids watch a lot of TV.” I was joking, of course (though my kids do watch too much TV, sigh), but I keep coming back to this question because people keep asking me–how do I do it? And I would like to be able to give a concrete answer.

So yesterday, when E was standing there with my kid on her hip, saying, “Hey, do you guys need anything at the store before the storm hits? I’m happy to do it, and it would keep Gwen occupied for a bit,” I realized a big part of the answer to that question is, “I have help!”

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and we’re lucky to have a village plus some.

But this got me thinking about a tangentially related issue, which is about recognizing my strengths and admitting my weaknesses and accepting them for what they are. For me, “how do I do it” means giving up unrealistic ideas about the kind of person I “should” be, and not pitting her against the person I actually am. I am not a full-time, stay-at-home mom–why would I expect myself to act like one? Likewise, I can’t stay up ’til the wee hours writing and theming, because: kids!

It’s a constant struggle for balance that no amount of hired help can fix. If nothing else, I’ve learned that I can survive on a little less sleep and a little more coffee.

Maybe a lot more coffee…