Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Crinkle Crinkle

Over the weekend I dug out my sad and neglected sewing machine and sewing supplies.  It was not an easy feat.  The machine was shoved in our guest bedroom, which looks like a tornado went through it.  The bed is still piled with wrapping paper from Christmas and every surface in there is cluttered with crap that we don't know what else to do with and papers I need to file.  I think I have mentioned this before, but I hate filing.  I don't care if it only takes a few minutes every few weeks to control papers.  I have never been able to stay on top of it regardless of how often I recommit myself to staying organized.  Also, my law degree is laying haphazardly on the bed in its frame and the closet is nothing but a wall of crap.  My fabric, which lives in two plastic Rubbermaid containers, was on a shelf in the garage in a very inconvenient place that we couldn't reach without disassembling a carefully balanced wall of more crap.  Because of these obstacles, I have avoided sewing since we moved here. 

The reason I wanted to sew was to make Tessa a crinkly ribbon blanket.  She is right at the age where they are the most entertaining and I didn't want her to miss out on the fun.  Since I was already turning the basement into a chaotic fabric party I made several of them since I know a lot of people who are having babies in the next few months. 

I don't know what it is about these that babies like so much.  I wish I had figured it out a long time ago, before the company called Taggies did and patented the concept.  The word on the Internet is that they will put a quick and legal stop to it if they catch anyone else selling baby goods with ribbon loops for a profit.  They are still all over at craft fairs and places like that.  
Tessa, not surprisingly, loved her ribbon  blanket.  I call it a blanket, but it is really a very miniature blanket and not a full sized one to use as a cover. 

"AAAaaahh it crinkles!"

Here are a few extra pictures from the last few days. 

Tessa looking cute in jewel tones!

She drove a tractor onto herself!  How unusual!

Justin took Ben to get a hair cut yesterday and he sat in the chair all by himself for the first time!  Here, we are eating at Buffalo Wild Wings.  He is turning into such a big boy. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

There Is A Void

This morning when I woke up and turned on the TV and looked at my phone something was missing.  The backdrop of the Today Show was a standard TV studio in New York City and not the Olympic Village in Sochi.  My phone was not filled with notifications announcing the medal results from events that happened during the night on Sochi time.  I have to rediscover whatever I watched on TV before the Olympics took over.  Sigh.

It was a good Olympics.  It started out as kind of a joke and a buzzkill because Sochi appeared not to be ready and everyone who was there was complaining about how big of a mess everything was and how people were finding strangers and stray dogs occupying their hotel rooms and taking pictures of all sorts of strange bathroom arrangements.  Then Bob Costas showed up on TV with some sort of crazy eye infection like pink eye.  It couldn't have been that though, because pink eye can be treated in a day with eye drops and this persisted and spread and became the subject of all kinds of jokes on the Internet.  Poor Costas!  #SaveCostasEye!

I have been keeping a list in my head of Olympic highlights and it is hard to think back to the beginning now but I will try.  In no particular order, here are my favorite Olympic moments!

In general, I enjoyed seeing the triumph of several athletes that no one gave a crap about, both from the U.S. and around the world.  By no one giving a crap, I mean that they were unknown names that no one was really giving a chance because some superstar was getting all the attention. There was this guy:
He is the guy who beat Shaun White, also known as Iouri Podladtchikov.  He represented Switzerland, was born in Russia, and sounded like an American surfer in his interview.  He was so happy it was hard not to be excited for him, even though this guy and two Japanese athletes getting "our" medals that all of America was expecting was disappointing.  I could hear everyone saying "OWWW" at the same time when Shaun's tailbone it the edge of the half pipe. 

Then there was figure skating.  Through the whole Olympics no one would shut up about Julia Lipnitskaia, a fifteen year old Russian skating prodigy who was so serious she could barely crack a smile.  It was almost like the pressure was crushing her. 

She was a good, but I really hated her red costume that was supposed to look like a coat.  I know it is a tie in to her music from the movie "Schindler's List" but still...
Then, when it was time for the women's individual competition, this skater showed up:

Her name is Adelina, she is also Russian, and I had not heard her mentioned at all and then all of a sudden she won the gold medal!  I was really happy for her and she sure was radiant at the closing ceremony.  She was definitely having her moment of completely eclipsing the fifteen year old who got all the attention before. 

Also in skating, a day that stands out to me is the dramatic day in the men's competition when another Russian favorite, Evgeni Plushenko, the subject of endless swooning an gushing by the commentators, had to drop out because his old rickety body failed him.  At first I had a moment of triumph because I was so tired of hearing about him.  Those goof balls who commentate kept saying things about how other skaters "were honored just to be in the same room as him" even though they "had no chance of medaling" and I thought it was really annoying and unfair.  But then I saw how sad he was when he got injured during his warm up and heard his interview when he said, "I real people like you, I not robot" in his second language English and I suddenly really felt bad for him.  And now I have read that he is thinking about trying to compete in 2018 because he let Russia down.  The dude has had like 20 surgeries.  I hope he just decides to be happy with the career he has had and enjoy life with his family.  Russia will be fine!  They will get over it!

Awww, sad...

Then, after he disqualified himself, that nerd Scott Hamilton was like "Wow, now anyone has a chance!"  Well, duh, they always did.  And there are three medals so at least two other competitors had a chance even with Plushenko in the competition. 

Skiing and snowboarding were a favorite event of mine, as usual.  We are going skiing in Montana in a few weeks and watching skiing made me excited to feel the burn of skiing in my legs.  A highlight was the American medal sweep in men's slopestyle skiing.  Aww, those guys were cute.

Then it got even cuter when Gus Kenworthy, the silver medalist, decided to extend his stay in Sochi to work out details to rescue a bunch of stray puppies he had befriended.  Just when the situation couldn't get any cuter...

Oh no he didn't!

Now this is turning into a rambling stream consciousness.  Another favorite moment of mine was when American Jeremy Abbot, a figure skater, totally blew it and crashed into the wall of the rink during his performance. 

The moment was quickly forgotten since Abbott is kind of forgettable for a figure skater (in other words, he's not Johnny Wier and wears normal looking men's clothes as costumes and not flamboyant costumes with fringe and sparkle).  I was really moved by it though.  He really smashed into the wall hard, and it looked like he was going to give up after laying on the ice for a few seconds.  But then he  got up and everyone cheered that he was not seriously injured and he found his place with the music and finished his routine perfectly and ended with a smile.  USA USA USA!  I guess I like him because I remember when he was at the 2010 Olympics and I said he could be my brother because he looks like me (same color hair and eyes and also a red head with no freckles). 

Also inspiring to me was Stephen Holcomb, the bobsled driver.  He was inspiring, not only because of his story of overcoming obstacles and finding new life after a suicide attempt but also because he looks so normal and he is a parent in his 30s just like my boring self!  He strode around with no shame that his not exactly hard body wasn't made for skin tight body suits and didn't give a crap. 

He talked to the camera so casually as though he was talking to a friend.  It was refreshing.

Now, this will be fun.  Along with Julia's red coat dress higher up, here are some fashion disasters from the Olympics. 

I was really disgusted with this Swedish skier who wore size XXXXL clothes.  Come on dude, it's the OLYMPICS!  Even if you are wearing tights, you look like a fool with your butt showing!  He had a strap of some kind holding his pants up but still...

And of course, we can't leave out Johnny Wier.  He was not competing but was always around during figure skating.  This is actually a more subdued look compared to some of his other outfits during the Olympics but this was the best picture I could find.  I actually kind of like that necklace...

Also, who could forget the opening ceremony look, when all of America said, "Whaaaaat" at the same time as they got a glimpse of the Team USA costume? 

The sweaters had been revealed ahead of time and I guess after some thought I approve even though there were so many other options for a special keepsake outfit for the athletes that they will probably have forever.  Most of the other nations could have had better looking outfits too and I guess that through the years silly hats and wacky patterns are kind of an opening ceremony standard.  However, I don't think they had to look like the thrift shop sweater my brother wore to an ugly sweater party back in 2010. 

OK, enough of this nonsense.  It is time to move on as the memories of that exotic sounding Rosa Khutor ski resort and the bright patchwork graphics that were on all the Sochi 2014 venues and signs fade into the background.  I could talk about the Olympics all day but I have to do something with myself in the afternoon now that I don't have the excuse that "It's only on every four years!" as I waste the afternoon watching cross country skiing and heats of skeleton and luge.  By the way, I have NO interest in cross country skiing.  It looks terrible and the commentator used the phrase "swimming in lactic acid" while talking about cross country skiers during a race.  Yucky.  As a leg cramp sufferer that does not sound pleasant. 

As I read over this post I notice some issues with the pictures being huge and also not showing up.  Blogger has issues with copying and pasting pictures so hopefully they can be seen. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

That Mythical Place

It's hard to believe it's been months since we set foot in a park or smelled green grass.  Summer seems like a different life.  This week there was a few days of relief from the worst of winter where it was in the 40s (the highest I saw was 46 which feels like heaven in February) so on Tuesday I took Ben and Tessa outside for awhile. 

We went for a ride in Ben's favorite yellow Fisher Price car which I wheeled around the blocks of our old neighborhood countless times every day last summer.  Ben always seems slow to grow and everyone else's kid is always bigger and heavier than him but now I have concrete evidence that he has indeed grown in the last few months because he barely fit in his car!  It's hard to see with his snow pants on but his knees are almost completely bent and his feet were at the end.  It has a panel that you can remove from the floor so he can power it with his feet so we will have to adapt it when it gets nice out for good this spring. 
I almost regret giving him a glimpse of the "outside" lifestyle because getting him inside that afternoon was a struggle and now he wants to go for a car ride every time we enter the garage.  And, as of this morning, it is regular old winter again.  The temperature dropped about fifteen degrees as we were on the way to the library this morning and the wind started blasting as the front moved in.  When I turned into our cul-de-sac I noticed that several of our circle's dumpsters were strewn about an one had blown almost all the way down the hill.  I started picking them up, not having any idea which one was ours and hoping that the city doesn't have some sort of serial number system to keep track in case I accidentally swapped ours with someone elses (I noticed there were numbers on them so I bet that they do!) but it didn't matter because when I looked in the one that had blown the farthest I saw that there was a used diaper frozen to the bottom!  I think I found which one was ours!  So I dragged it up the icy street.  I have had enough of winter.  With the slant of our driveway and the icy hill that we live on everything we have to do outside is a frightening adventure.  The area around our mailboxes is coated with ice and one night I stupidly walked out there in my slip on sandals and almost impaled my eye on the corner of the metal box.  I keep thinking that February is almost over...almost over...almost over...and March could be really nice. probably won't be. 
Here are a few pictures from the last few weeks that might have deserved their own post but I got to backed up and now it seems like old news. 

Tessa is transitioning from 3 month to six month clothing.  The three month stuff still fits mostly but is getting short and her head is getting too big for some of the three month shirts.  It's fun to start wearing the next size but also sad because I am nostalgic about her cute little outfits!

This is actually from this morning.  Ben jumped in the crib when I was getting them dressed and wanted the "babeeee!" to lay by him so I let him have a moment.  Then he stole her pacifier. 
Here are a few pictures of Ben playing basketball.  He's pretty good and shooting and generally launching the ball where he wants it to go. 

He drags this little table around and uses it as a stool.  It's pretty annoying because he uses it to access places that were formerly safe like the kitchen counters.  If he doesn't use this, he drags the kitchen chairs around and ends up bashing them into the cupboards so I allow it. 

Also, his room had just been straightened.  It rarely looks that pristine. 
Yesterday I took out the "Bumbo" chair to see how Tessa handled it.  Of course, Mr. Skinny took over right away and now sits in it while he has a snack and watches TV. 

Yes, he is wearing Christmas pajamas.  He dug them out of his drawer.  They are size 3T that I bought for him to wear next year.  They look like they fit OK but they are actually way too long and look ridiculous. 

Tessa liked the Bumbo once she had her chance to try it out!  She was still a bit bobbly headed though so maybe we will wait a few weeks!  Just for fun, here is a picture of Ben's first time in the chair.  It was from May 30th, 2012 so he was a week older than she is now. 
I think they look like they might be related!

Here she is getting "fed" some dry cereal by her brother.  Don't worry, I was closely monitoring the situation.  He's so generous!  Except with a pacifier...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The iPad...

Lately, I have been worrying about exposing my kids to too much technology.  If you haven't gathered from reading my views on everything on this blog, I am generally relaxed about some things that other parents stress over (my main things that I don't worry about include TV, processed foods like hot dogs and chicken nuggets, breaking the routine on occasion and germs).  Everyone has there reasons for what they worry about and to each family their own.  But here is something that I am really starting to notice among other kids, and Ben, and I think it might be my "thing".  That thing is technology.  By technology I mean ipads and phones and their non-apple counterparts. 

This weekend, we attended the wedding of a former roommate of Justin's (more about that later) which was a Friday night mass.  That left Saturday open because I had a baby shower to attend on Sunday.  It is class B basketball tournament time.  Specifically, it was boys' districts at Mayville State University, which is an experience and location that has been present in my life since elementary school. My hometown team was playing, as was the child of one of Justin's cousins for a different team.  They didn't play each other, but they played the same night.  It was a fun affair.  My parents were there, as were Justin's and we thought Ben would enjoy it because he likes basketball. 

Well, he enjoyed it for about three minutes and then he wanted to get loose and roam around the "field house", which is a building as familiar to me as my own high school after the many basketball tournaments I attended as a fan and player and pep band member and camps and summer leagues I went to.  I know the weird stuff, like how to get to the old 1920s era gym and dungeon like locker rooms where they would place the lowest seeded teams and where in the hall of trophy cases one could find a funny old picture of their sixth grade teacher from his college star days to make fun of (hehe sorry Mr. S!)  It all came back to me as I took turns with everyone else entertaining Ben throughout the evening. 

What I noticed was that the atmosphere has changed a lot since I was a teenager.  And I think most of the change can be linked to the fact that everyone has some sort of smartphone with them all the time. 

These are the differences I noticed, and they are all things I actually observed at the tournament. 

Pre-smartphone days and back as far as high school games existed:

-Babies and toddlers:  They spent the game being passed around and held and fussed over.  Toddlers would be entertained as long as possible before being taken out to the hallway to run around with other toddlers while annoyed parents or grandparents or older sibling stood around and talked.  Often, some interested elementary school aged girls who liked little kids and babies would take over and entertain them for awhile and make a game of it.

-Elementary school kids:  Would act "big" by sitting with friends instead of parents, and if they got bored (I was often one of those kids) would end up roaming around the hallways and concession room in packs until a school authority figure came along and reminded them that they were there to watch a game, not to play in the hall and if they didn't settle down they would have to sit with their parents.  Then they would go ask our parents for $.50 to buy something to eat so they could hang out in the concession room without getting flack about loitering.  If the team had cheerleaders (usually only in boys basketball) the young girls would sit as close to them as possible and yell the chants with them and copy everything they did. 

-Middle school/high school students:  If it was an exciting game, would get really into it and yell and chant and try to distract the other team.  If there were no cheerleaders, some loud class clown type would instigate some cheering.  If it got really heated there would be bleacher stomping and even off color and unsportsmanlike chants which would lead to the principal or superintendent lumbering over and reminding everyone that it was a school function and if they didn't knock it off and shape up they would have to leave.  If the game was boring people would sit around and gossip and flirt and look at the program to see if any of the players on the opposing teams were attractive. 

What I saw on Saturday night: 

Babies/toddlers:  Still got passed around and fussed over but it was not unusual for a toddler to be distracted by a phone. 

Elementary school kids:  I noticed a lot of kids roaming the hallways and sitting in the concession room together but not together as they all stared at their phones.  They walked around with phones in their hands and usually were staring at them as they walked.  I saw a group of four older elementary girls, perhaps in fifth grade, sitting in the corner next the bleachers, leaning against the wall, absorbed in their phones.  I didn't notice any cheerleader groupies. 

Middle/high school students:  There was some school spirit shown but I know it was not as loud as I remember and there was not much cheering and chanting even with cheerleaders present.  I didn't see all of the student sections (there were fans from six teams present) but what I could see was a lot of people not really watching the games and missing the action in favor of whatever was on the phone screen.  The games were close and exciting and it really was a much more subdued environment than it would have been for close games in a tournament.  I truly believe it has changed because everyone has their mind somewhere else.  A lot of the noise came from the adults and not students. 

I was feeling kind of disappointed by what I was saw when, yesterday, Ben decided to get obsessed with our ipad.  I stupidly added a Thomas app with puzzles and a memory game.  He figured out how to assemble the puzzles (six pieces!  Genius!) and that is all he wanted to do.  I took the ipad away and tried to read him a book and he didn't want to read the book.  I decided I was going to hide it from him as soon as his attention was elsewhere.  Meanwhile, Justin came home and started playing the game they play when he gets home.  Ben hears the garage door and starts saying "Dada!" and then runs to the stairs as Justin creeps up on him to pretend to scare him.  Ben pretends he doesn't see him but is giggling the whole time.  This time, instead of running to the stairs he just stared at the ipad!  That was the end of that.  This morning I made sure it was out of sight before he woke up and he hasn't seen it all day. 

I started researching the subject of toddlers and ipads and I didn't like what I read.  There are lots of discussions and articles out there about this subject.  The consistent findings:

-Toddlers do indeed become very obsessed with screens and there is not much research about the long term implications because ipads and other tablets have only been around for a few years. 

-Many families are struggling with this issue and spend a lot of time fighting with their kids over these devices.  It is very common for toddlers to have complete meltdowns when the ipad is taken from them and many parents say that the tantrums are a whole other level of anger, aggression and the kids almost seem desperate and will ask and beg to have it back for days (hmmm...sounds a lot like an episode of Intervention).  One dad wrote in an article that he found his three year old in his room one morning with the ipad that he had quietly removed from its charger next to the parents' bed.  The battery was half drained which meant that he had been playing games for about two hours.  He was lethargic at preschool that day and the teacher expressed her concern.  Many parents, people who considered themselves good parents and good at discipline, admitted that they gave up because it was almost impossible to keep their kids away from technology and they honestly could not stand the fit throwing and whinng. 

-The standard way to get a toddler to stop doing something they shouldn't be or to calm a tantrum is to distract them with something appropriate and redirect their attention.  However, this doesn't work with ipads and phones because they are absolutely the most enticing item a child can have and nothing is more fun than a magical screen.  It supposedly appears in brain scans the way other addictions, like shopping or gambling, do. 

-Many parents defend giving toddlers ipads by saying that there are good educational apps to use and claim that their child is smarter and ahead of other kids because an app taught them colors, the alphabet, etc.  Teachers, however, say otherwise and report that young kids are getting more aggressive, difficult, and have horrible attention spans.  They also want instant gratification and have no patience and can't entertain themselves.

-Along those same lines, almost every parent who exposes their kid to an ipad (pretty much everyone in the developed world including us) says that they are amazed at how smart and talented their kid is because of the way they can learn to use it almost instantly and can use it better than their grandparents.  This is an example of "if everyone is special, no one is".  Really, a two year old using an ipad is not a display of being advanced or a genius.  High functioning primates can use them too. 

-Parents defend giving devices to toddlers because "they have to be ready for a tech filled world". 

-There was one study reported where researchers watched kids playing with ipads behind a mirror and then took them away and had them play with other toys.  When the ipads were removed, some kids started playing "ipad" with other objects.  YIKES. 


I am no sanctimommy but I do not like any of this.  This is way bigger than a few episodes of Sesame Street or some McDonalds chicken nuggets.  The thought of my kids being zoned out on a phone or ipad as they miss out on the experiences of childhood that I remember, like cheering with the cheerleaders or gossiping over a slice of pizza in the concession room, really gets to me.  I have to stop it before it starts.  Also, when it comes to internet commentators, I am going to believe the teachers and not the parents when they say what they see from kids because parents only want to see the good.  Other people can do what they want, but I am going to try to make sure Ben learns shapes from this thing:

And not from an app.  And yes, we might have a shape app on our ipad.  That is not the one he gravitates to!  I do not believe for a minute that a kid that gets to spend hours on an ipad with educational apps will have an advantage over kids who learn shapes and colors from books and toys and blocks.  And as far a the "preparing kids for a technological world", I don't think swiping an ipad is going to give anyone an advantage when they start Kindergarten and on through their school and work life.  As evidenced by 18 month olds learning to use them, it is not that hard and anyone, can use them. 

I think we have been doing OK so far.  We travel a lot, making regular three an four hour drives on weekends and we have never given him a screen to make the trip easier.  He gets some exposure via watching us use it and watching videos of things he is interested in (such as tractors) but it hasn't really seemed problematic until yesterday. 

So, wish me luck!  Its been one half of a day!  And he's awake, so my beloved computer and ipad have to get stashed now!  Sigh...

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Valentine Baby

For the last few days I have been thinking about taking some pictures of Tessa with a Valentine's Day theme to send to our grandmothers and also just to have since I haven't had her pictures taken professionally yet and she is kind of in the awkward stage where she won't do the cute scrunched up newborn poses but also can't really sit up on her own so I probably won't until she is a few months older.  At least these can fill a frame until we can get something better done. 
There was a Valentine's bib in a bag of hand me downs that we received and I used her striped leggings with a tutu attached that came with her Christmas outfit.  It looked pretty cute with that red chair but before I could even get a few pictures taken this happened. 
Spit up. Of course.  I feel like I am constantly cleaning it off of her and myself.  Today I had to change every item of clothing I was wearing except my socks because she evaded the receiving blanket and it ended up all over me.   So the bib came off. 

It was kind of challenging to keep her upright! 

This is one of my favorites!

Happy girl!  I love this one but I wish I had moved the other chair that you can see on the left before I took it!

Too much flash!

While this was going on Allan came in to join the fun and found a pile of blankets to lounge on. 

Ben was sleeping.  Otherwise these pictures would have never happened.  He would have been in her business the whole time.  He will be two soon and also due for some new pictures.  I can't believe it has been almost one year since I had his photos taken last!