31 December 2008

Resolutions

It's that time of year again and everybody has New Year's Resolutions on the brain--and in the blog. But do you know the primary definition of resolution? It's not about making promises or setting goals, it's actually the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones. Okay, so it also technically does mean to make firm decisions or declarations, but that's about 5 definitions down and I really like the idea of my resolutions as a simplified breakdown to represent something far greater.

At the very top of my list is to be a better parent. I want to be the mother my kids deserve.

There are a millions ways for me to improve as a parent, but one of those ways is by cutting out the word "no" as much as possible so that I can reserve it for situations where is there is potential danger to self, others, or property. Instead of, "No, you can't take that toy to the sandbox," it will go a little something like this, "Yes, you can play with that toy anywhere you want inside the house," or maybe even, "Yes, you can take any of the toys that are already outside to the sandbox." There! See the difference? It's small, but it's there. I've wasted too much of my life on the negative glass-half-empty side and I really need to align my voice and my emotion with the positive glass-half-full side.

Also, I'm pretty tyrannical around here (What? Don't make that face! I'm an only child. It happens.) so I need to be more consistent and less oppressive, which means I've got to bid an immediate farewell to my dictatorship. I'll start by handing down choices instead of absolute mandates. In lieu of, "Put these clothes on," I can say, "Would you like to wear your red shirt or your blue shirt?" Rather than, "Clean up all your toys," I'll try, "Do you want to clean up your toys before or after your nap?" Choices, baby. It's all about choices. I'm still the parent, so I get to make up the options myself, but the boys will get to select from among those options. Sounds fair, right?

There are a bunch of other changes I will put into effect but the single best way for me to be a better parent is to exercise greater patience. That's right, no more freak out sessions (<-- please note that was REALLY hard for me to throw out into the ether for all to see). So how in the world am I going to build up a reserve of patience? My plan is mindfulness and that old standby of practice, practice, practice.

Mindfulness speaks to the awareness of one's thoughts, actions, and motivations in the present moment. It's my hope that this awareness will naturally foster a greater sense of perspective and deeper gratitude. If I move beyond simply doing things and start being in the moment, I might just come to realize that, in the grand scheme of it all, it's not such a big deal to be a few minutes late to a playdate or if the living room looks a bit disheveled (Yay, Perspective!). And then I might even start to notice all of the amazing people and things around me...and how fortunate I am to be able to be a full time stay-at-home mom (Hip hip hurray, Gratitude!).

On a slightly different, less esoteric note, my last resolution is to lose weight. I know it's on so many people's lists and it's even a bit cliche, but I am now 13.5 pounds heavier than my lowest weight after A2's birth--that's right, I lost the baby weight and then gained it all back! And trust me, when you're only 5'2" tall, you can't hide 13.5 pounds. Case in point: On a trip to my grandmother's last week, she excited asked about all of my weight gain and guessed, with much joy and anticipation I might add, that I might be pregnant. She hoped for a girl this time around. Hmph! Double HMPH!!! I am decidedly not expecting, so it's time to eat less and exercise more. Hopefully all that physical exertion will help with the whole aforementioned anger management issue as well.

Thank you for reading. If you have made it all the way to this point, then you are definitely one of those friends of whom I should be mindful and for whom I should express gratitude. I clearly love the sound of my own voice--um, the typeface of my own words--and that makes hanging in there all the way to the end pretty tough for the average blog reader. So in return, I would love to hear your resolutions--link to your blog or just compose them within the comments section. See? Choices. I'm changing already.

27 December 2008

Dutch babies


I was egged on (Ha!!! Pun INTENDED!) by cousin Michelle's post on her disappointing attempt at Dutch babies. I, too, had had varying degrees of success in the past. Lo and behold, when I actually read the recipe, it mentions that over-mixing prevents rising. So I made my simple batter of 2 eggs, 1/2 c. milk, and 1/2 c. flour--stirring very lightly until just barely combined--and poured it into a preheated, buttered cast iron skillet. After about 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven, it puffed up like magic! The boys' favorite part was getting to sprinkle powdered sugar on top. Mine was the homemade blackberry sauce.

25 December 2008

Christmas!

Sometimes, you just have to experience life with your own eyes instead of through your camera lens. As such, I have very few photos of Christmas Day, and none at all of Christmas Eve.

Here are the boys in the sewing room (You know, that forgotten corner of the house where the only thing that's being produced these days are dust bunnies and cobwebs?) when the first woke up. They're dancing on a storage box because they know Christmas had finally arrived. They are exceedingly coordinated. In apparel, that is. Not dance moves. They've inherited their two left feet from both of their parents. Sad, but true.
dancers
That's a pretty blurry photo, but they were moving very quickly!

And here are the boys after all the presents* were opened. A2 is having a great time--mostly because he has no clue that his big brother is scheming to test that foam block on his skull.
thwack!
Don't worry, no little brothers were harmed in the course of this experiment. Startled, but not harmed.


* Hmm...I had intended for this to be an all-handmade Christmas. I failed. Miserably. There was not a single handmade item under that tree! But their birthdays are about half a year away so if I start now, I might get a few projects completely by then.

24 December 2008

Snow day

Thanks to Lenning crew, we had a (fake) snow day in their clubhouse parking lot--equipped with 60+ degree weather and green grass. A1 was excited but A2 was a bit baffled.
snow day 1

Our very own Long Island transplant was in shorts.
snow day 2
snow day 3

It made me wonder if the boys miss too much living in Southern California where it's just different shades of summer all year round.
snow day 4
snow day 5

Or maybe my glimpse into snow has over-glorified what an entire season of it would be like.
snow day 6

23 December 2008

C is for Cookie

I submit that nothing bad could ever come from a round tin, particularly if a scarfed penguin is embossed atop said round tin.
Brett's cookies 1

As further evidence, I offer this compelling view:
Brett's cookies 2

Please don't ask how many of those deliciously evil cookies I swallowed whole before realizing there was an entire bed of spice cookies underneath. How they manage to be simultaneously crispy and chewy, I'll never know. Not for lack of trying, mind you. Because I tried, over and over and over again--one tasty cookie after the next. It was for the sake of science, so it was okay.
Brett's cookies 3



This high calorie post was brought to you by Brett. Brett is totally tubular and way bitchin, which is why I often wish I knew her in high school. She's an awesome mommy who was brave enough to take on a new business AND a new baby. She's also hysterically funny in that dry kinda way that makes me jealous of how her brain works. Oh, and the baking thing. Wowee wowsers, the baking thing.

Thank you, Brett. For the friendship and the cookies. Both are treasured.


22 December 2008

"Mama, take a picture!"

A1 is always asking me to take pictures of objects he finds interesting. Unfortunately for the poor fella, I find him far more fascinating than all of these objects put together. And since my camera goes where my eyes go, the twigs, turtles, and cookies he wants to capture are often out of focus if not completely out of frame, in some cases!

my stick
preschool field trip
my cookie

And just so he doesn't feel left out, here is a picture of A2 holding...um...well...I don't know what he's holding because it's completely out of focus!
my lint

21 December 2008

Photography

Do I take great pictures? No, not yet. Heck, maybe not ever.

Do I take good pictures? Sure--on occasion.

Do I take better pictures than I used to? Most definitely! And you can too.

(1) Look at lots of photographs. They're everywhere! I found them on other people's blogs, Facebook profiles, in coffee table books, and within online photosharing communities like Flickr, Photobucket, and Zooomr. After looking at all these images, I started to get a feel for what I really liked. As it turns out, I'm quite enamored of simple images of people in less than extraordinary circumstances. And I really dug all the ones with shallow depth of field (I know, it's so trendy right now). Once I had a style in mind, it was far easier to replicate it when I looked through my own viewfinder. So now I take lots of photos at f/1.8 of people. And by people, I mean kids. And by kids, I really only mean my kids. But still. You get my point, right?

(2) Take lots of photographs. I virtually always have my camera at my hip so I'm constantly shooting (hmm...look like Japanese tourist much?). We're no longer in the days of film and the digital medium means there's no excuse not to snap away like a maniac during the random park playdate. Plus, I try very, very hard not to delete a photo even when I think it's a dud because you just never know what's going to turn up when you view it on the computer screen; and, even if it's a true dud, there's still a lot to be garnered about which elements to avoid in the future. After time, I got more comfortable shooting and better anticipated when a good shot would turn up. I also got quicker at changing the dials and maneuvering through the menus of the camera.

(3) Learn the basics of exposure and the rules of composition. I never took any photography courses but these days, there is so much information on the internet just waiting for you to absorb and incorporate into your personal repertoire. The term photography is Greek-derived and means to write with light, so you can imagine that it's essential to read about how shutter speed, aperture, and ISO rating work together to affect exposure. It's also neat to learn about simplicity, the rule of thirds, lines and balance, framing, avoiding mergers, etc. I thought this blog post about photographing children was helpful.

(4) Forget about the basics of exposure and the rules of composition. After spending all that time researching and learning, you can go ahead and throw it out the window. Well, not completely out the window...maybe just set it aside a bit so that it doesn't stifle and constrain you. And when all of this photography ceases to be fun for you and your monkeys, stop. Go work on your sewing or bake a pie instead. Everyone will be happier for it. Especially me--particularly if you bring the pie over to my place to share it with me. I like mine a la mode, thank you very much.

20 December 2008

Orzo salad


I had these guys on hand so I thought I'd whip up Toni's orzo salad. Her recipe goes like this, "Add anything vaguely Greek to the orzo and dress with a vinaigrette." Yes, she's a woman who likes specifics in the kitchen just as much as I do.

After I threw everything but the kitchen sink into the salad, I felt like it needed a little something to brighten it up so the boys and I went to the yard to pick a lemon. Our lemons are monstrously large. Here's the one we got sitting next to some oranges from a neighboring tree.

The salad was very tasty, but it just made me miss Toni. There is a significant void of laughter since she's moved. No one cracks politically incorrect jokes with quite the same punch.

19 December 2008

Feeling a little angsty...

I would never give up the precious time I have with the boys as a stay-at-home mom without fight, but that doesn't mean I don't think about what I (very willingly) left behind.

As with any field, there is evolution--for survival's sake. Psychologists want to creep into the psychiatrists' domain by vying for prescription rights. MFT's and LCSW's call their work psychotherapy, which was once a term exclusively touted by psychologists. Even psychoeducational assessment is now performed by Master's level professionals. It would seem that by the time the family is ready for me to re-enter the workforce, I will be about a million paces behind everyone else and will have an arduous uphill climb to be relevant and viable as a clinician. And that scares me a bit (read: terrifies me).

And when the terror subsides, there is that undeniable yearning.

My doctoral class was comprised of about 20 headstrong, pragmatic individuals who leaned toward research, assessment, corporate consultation, and all areas other than therapy. But not me. While I genuinely enjoy all aspects of the professional role, I really got a thrill from therapy. I love that transition that occurs when all the content work has finally laid the path for process work. I love it when the holding environment affects therapeutic correction in a way that is palpable to both me and the patient (sorry, I'm Old School). And oh how I love feeling so alive and mindful in the therapy room; helping someone else find their center meant I had to center myself. I always appreciated that fringe benefit.

So to my frequent commenters and lurkers too, please tell me I'm not crazy or being a bad mom for having these thoughts. I'd love to hear about your experiences--whether it's as a full- or part-time SAHM or a WOHM.

17 December 2008

Christmas cards

Phew! They're FINALLY in the mail! Every year, the mailing date seems to edge closer to Christmas. I think it's the photo that throws me off. In 2007, I tried to take the boys' Christmas photo during 4 or 5 different shoots. By the end, we were all pretty fed up with the whole experience. So this year, I decided that we would go to the park, snap a few photos and stop there regardless of the result. In case I couldn't get any good ones with the two of them together, I got a few photos of them individually.
Christmas photo 1
Christmas photo 2

It's so hard to get a decent shot of both of them! Sometimes A1 is smiling but A2 looks a bit somber.
Christmas photo 3

Sometimes A2 is smiling but A1 is exuding too much of his inner goofball.
Christmas photo 4

Then there are those times when both are looking very happy but neither is looking at the camera.
Christmas photo 5

Jeez, I don't even know what's going on in this picture. Is A2 showing us his gang sign? Either way, A1 looks unimpressed.
Christmas photo 6

15 December 2008

Lazy seamstress

I had a Secret Santa gift to pull off and instead of making something from scratch, I threw some items together and then machine embroidered a few dishrags.
The Hills

C'mon, look at this beautiful family.
The Hills 1

They deserve better than store-bought items that get quickly run through my machine, don't they?
The Hills 2
The Hills 3

I'm sorry, House of Hill...I will make you something decent in the near future!

12 December 2008

Over-chronicled?

Last week, we went on a really fun-packed playdate that started with some fountain play.
Fashion Island 1

Then we hit the carousel. It was A2's first time so he was a bit apprehensive at the beginning.
Fashion Island 3
Fashion Island 2

Afterward, we fed the koi.
Fashion Island 4
Fashion Island 5

The Santa visit was not so successful. A2 wailed so I held him while trying to snap a photo of a very suspicious looking A1.
Fashion Island 6

We ended the afternoon with a little lunch at another fountain, where A1 reminded me it was way past naptime and A2 did his best impression of a wolf baying at the moon.
Fashion Island 8
Fashion Island 7

And then it occurred to me that it's not quite normal to have every second of their lives recorded.

11 December 2008

Guinea pig correction

guinea pig 3

In an earlier post, I commented about the enormous fecal output of these little critters, but I generalized from my tiny sample of 3 guinea pigs. Since that is a ridiculously small n, I seriously compromised external validity.

Last weekend, we brought home 2 other guinea pigs from A1's classroom. They barely ate at all but I kept having to refill their water bottle every day. Naturally, their solid waste was nearly nonexistent but their urine output was through the roof! Okay, not through the roof, but definitely through the layers and layers of newspaper I laid down in their cage.

I'm still not sure I'd like to have these guys are full-time pets, but it's nice to have them visit one weekend at a time. It just makes A1 so happy to be with them!

guinea pig 2

guinea pig 1

09 December 2008

Butterflies and figs mei tai

I sewed a MT with very padded shoulder straps and a lightly padded waist strap. Pardon these horrible photos. This first one is on the sewing room floor at 1 a.m. last night--there's flash glare and a huge shadow from the lens hood.
Ikea MT 1

And here is the obligatory action shot, taken by James. A2 enjoys it on my back because he can still play with his toys--a mooing flashlight, in this case.
Ikea MT 2

07 December 2008

I'm all cookied out!

In this past week, I've made about 12 dozen cookies. And I think I'm done. Really, really done.

First we made 2 dozen for A1's preschool. Okay, it was technically 3 dozen, but as usual, the first batch was overcooked. I had to sacrifice myself for the sake of others so I ate them. I'm generous like that.
sugar cookies

This weekend, we whipped up an additional 4 dozen sugar cookies, also using our new holiday-themed cookie cutters. At this point, I was looking for something different, so we made gingerbread dough.
gingerbread cookies 1

We had an entire gingerbread army, 4 dozen strong, of men, women, bears, angels, and snowmen.
gingerbread cookies 2

Then James got confused about why there were 8 dozen cookies in the house but he couldn't touch any of them. So we made a batch of his favorite kind by crushing candy canes and sprinkling the dust on top before baking. The A's love the crushing part the best--they get to thwack candy canes in a Ziploc bag.
sugar cookie

I let the boys participate in every step of the baking process except for the parts that involve the oven. It's a little slower and a lot messier than if I were to do it myself, but it's so much more fun!

05 December 2008

Smile for the camera

forced smile 1

Here, I'll show you--do it like this!
forced smile 2

DO IT!!! I said smile for the camera!
forced smile 3


And that, my friends, is what love looks like between brothers.

04 December 2008

A visit with Santa

North Pole crew

Last night we had our first, but undoubtedly not our last, visit with Santa this season. A2 was very apprehensive.
Santa photo

But he did much better than his brother last year.
Santa photo 2