Friday, February 26, 2016

Big Sky Bound

You won't be hearing from me next week because we leave for Big Sky tomorrow.  It is hard to believe that this will be Ben's 4th visit there and he hasn't yet had his 4th birthday!  Here is a quick flashback to his first trip in 2012 when he was only 3 weeks old! 

This was taken in our rental house.  I am distracted by whatever those strange shorts are that I am wearing...they are a weird length and I have no memory of them.  Interesting.  He looks like Milo! 
We are driving and since childhood I have loved the long and mostly desolate drive across the big state of Montana because I had a change to tear through piles of library books and listen to music on my headphones but now I am kind of dreading it! OK...I am really dreading it.  It could either go very smoothly or be a complete disaster including screaming, vomiting and diaper explosions.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Woe is Lego

I still think about those first years in our old house, the original brick house for which this blog was named when I started blogging to fill everyone in on our projects and progress.  I still think of the somewhat tasteful decorating and I feel a sense of longing when I look at old pictures of clear expanses of floors and tables and couch cushions from those pre-kid days.  Our current house does not stir the same feelings.  We never had time to paint, decorate, or do much of anything before it instantly turned into a complete kid zone and since August of 2013 when we took ownership it has only gone downhill.  If that young childless couple who owned it before could see it now...At least I always had the dining room, which is an unusual luxury in mass produced split level builder grade homes of the post 1980's years.  It still holds my great grandparents' dining room set with the freshly covered chair seats that match my turquoise stained sofa table and my piano and a colorful display of Fiestaware behind glass.  But now it also holds this:

Yeah for real.  After months of legos infiltrating the living room and kitchen and having to move various lego sets off the kitchen table before every meal only to pile them on the kitchen counter I finally lost my patience and searched desperately for a solution to this problem.  Ben's room was not a good option because it is also now Milo's room and the floor space is very limited and I need to be able to walk to the crib without tripping over legos.  We have tried to get Ben to play in the basement but he only wants to be in my proximity and nothing I need to get done is in the basement so that didn't work.  We don't have room for one of those amazing tables with a lego surface and buying more storage boxes and bins seemed like it would only leave more things to trip over around the house and cause more fights about putting things away only to have them dumped out again minutes later.  I was in denial but I couldn't ignore the pristine expanse of rarely used space in the dining room.  So...yeah.  I live in a kid zone. 100%.  I'm already happy with not having legos all over the kitchen and spilling into the living room.  I have to say that I am starting to wonder about this whole "open floor plan" thing.  It seems like it is the only acceptable option anymore but I kind of miss the days of my closed floor plan youth  where me and all of my friends either lived in ancient farmhouses or 1960's era ranch houses.  Cooking messes and piles of dishes and food smells stayed in the kitchen and blaring TVs and snoring men and toys and other crap mostly stayed in the living room.  There were disadvantages to these houses and most people would prefer something newer but there must be a middle ground. 

And yes, I could insist that the legos be put away every day but he is getting really creative and they hold his attention for long periods of time which, in this world where I hear the woes of teachers who deal with kids who are so obsessed with screens and phones that they can barely focus on a regular school lesson and where I read studies about fine motor skills declining due to the lack of real tactile activities, I hesitate to interrupt and discourage.  Also, putting them away is a massive waste of time.

Here are a few of his recent creations which he is so proud of!  They are really crazy so it is hard not to laugh when he presents them with pride.

He called this his "machine".  It includes a tow chain, a barred window and various lego chalices. 

Then there is this little vehicle which is covered with as many yellow "lights" as would fit. 

He is really proud of this one because it has a TV screen in it.  My favorite part of it is the orange juice block on the roof.  He obtained many of these loose and very obscure legos from the huge Rubbermaid box my mom saved from my childhood.  Between my brother and sister and I we had many sets of legos and many loose kits as well.  One of my earliest birthday present memories was receiving a lego ambulance airplane when I was probably five.  I loved airplanes and I wanted to be a nurse at that time (should have stuck with that practical ambition!) so it was a perfect toy for me.  I'm sure the pieces of it are mixed in with the others in that box.  I think the orange juice came from a beach windsurfing set that I had.  It included a snack bar. 
Ok, I'm going to drool over a House Beautiful magazine and then cry in the corner of my eyesore of a dining room.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Valentine's Day

Ben had his first "school" Valentine's Day party last Friday and here it is, already Wednesday, so I thought I better post about it now before it becomes ancient history.  It is hard to believe we are already doing this stuff since I don't remember doing any of it until elementary school and Ben is only three.  It's all fun though, I guess.  He picked out Paw Patrol valentine cards and even signed his own name on them and he (we/Justin) made him a fun box to hold the cards from his classmates. 

The Valentine box project was always something I looked forward to in elementary school.  It is still a popular activity from what I gather from social media and it seems like many classes now have the kids make the box at home.  We always made it at school and all we had to bring was a box from home.  I often remember having this kind of box:

If any of you know my dad in person you know that he is healthier now at age 58 than he was in his 30's and 40's and in those years he enjoyed consuming lots of these bags of potato chips which came in boxes with two bags in each box.  Thinking back to when I was in elementary school I realize he was approximately 35/36 when I was in 4th grade so he wasn't much older than I am now.  Holy H3LL let's not think about that too hard...anyway I probably used an Old Dutch box more than once for my Valentine box because they were always on hand.  My most memorable was a radio with heart shaped speakers and the slot for the cards was the tape player. 

How it happened was the hour of decorating, usually in the afternoon when everyone was getting antsy, would arrive and the teacher would wheel this thing into the room. 

A big rolling cart of colored paper was always trolling around the hall of the elementary school.  We were constantly ripping paper off that thing for projects and posters which were usually about saying no to drugs or not smoking or supporting the school sports teams since the school was K-12.  Toast the Tommies!  Crush the Cougars! Flyers Rule Valiants Drool!  I recall making an "ocean" to hang from the rafters outside our room and one of my classmates made a huge stingray that was two rolls wide.  Sometimes the high school cheerleaders would make some sort of gigantic poster for the football or basketball team (never the volleyball team for some reason...haha) to rip through when they came running out of the locker room for a tournament game or a game vs. a big rival.  If I were a big buzzkill I would say "what a waste" but I am not so I will say that it was all in good fun!  Someone must have been refilling those rolls on a weekly basis.  For the Valentine boxes we could take a tear from the rolls and then choose from piles of doilies, glitter and smaller construction paper.  No one ever took pictures and after making the arduous journey home on the bus, being dragged along with snowpants, a backpack and sometimes piano books or an instrument case the boxes were probably not in very good shape by the time my mom had a chance to see them (although she did volunteer to help with the parties sometimes) so there is not proof that these parties even happened but indeed they did.  It was a world so different from the social media oriented world we live in now!

I had some ideas for Ben's box when I read in his teacher's email that the kids should bring a box or a bag that COULD be decorated (we all know what that means) but between the pink eye fiasco and trying to pack for a weekend away from home I found myself running out of time as the week went on and was ready to just wrap a box in white paper and let Ben color it and cover it with stickers.  Fortunately, Justin came through and assembled this box for him...

A lego! Actually, it really would be considered a duplo since duplos have open connectors and legos have closed ones.  It seems kind of outlandish to do all this for a preschooler but hey, you can't expect a three year old to make a box without help and we made sure he wrote his own name and also signed his own cards.  BENA (Ben A.) had a wonderful time at his party and was happy with the Valentines he received from his friends. 

He wasted no time ripping open all the candy and dumping it all over the table and eating it right before lunch.  Oh well, the big candy holidays only happen a few times a year!
At the last minute (Thursday) I decided I wanted to take some Valentine-ish pictures of the kids to send out to the family.  My first idea was to hang a white blanket from the TV stand but I thought it looked kind of off...too wrinkled and almost too bright...

Yeah...that blanket wasn't rumpled up on a bed or I took it down and just let the TV stand be the background.

And of course, the always useful red chairs made an appearance.

Milo wasn't very happy about this at first but I got a few nice pictures of him so I could send them off to Walmart.

How are babies so cute?  I put together some cards to send and then proceeded to forget to mail them until Monday which was President's Day so if you are my grandma (JK, they don't have computers!) or my siblings you probably still don't have your valentines.  Justin's side of the family received theirs in person because we got together last weekend to celebrate the birthdays of Ben and his cousin who has his birthday on February 15th.  I remember originally thinking Ben would be born around that day too...hahahaha.  I was way off.  He got to go ice fishing with Justin and play outside with his cousins.  I thought maybe I would check out ice fishing because after all these years with Justin I've never been...but my streak continues. 

They really were excited...
Here is the birthday party...they turned 44!  Haha. 


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What's Happening?

Once again, I find myself behind on topics that I might have, in the past, devoted a whole post to.  The mundane nature of these topics makes me wonder what I am thinking!  Oh well, this is my creative outlet...So this is what I have missed due to not having any time to waste for myself like I did in the good old days...

The big ordeal of the last week is that I somehow contracted pink know, the highly contagious eye infection known formally as bacterial conjunctivitis?  This infection can tear through schools and daycares and cause panic for working parents when they see the number for their kids' school or daycare on their caller ID.  It means a perfectly healthy individual who has all the energy and appetite they usually have has to be isolated to stop the spread which means someone has to stay home with them.  It also means eye drops.  Have you tried to put eye drops in a young child or todder's eyes?  I requires two people, torture chamber restraint methods and lots of screaming.  Pink eye is not only an issue for children because most adults that get it catch it from their kids or students.  Imagine my confusion when I realized I had it with no previous known exposure!  On Thursday I felt like my eye was itching all day by Friday morning there was no doubt about it so I dropped Ben off at school with sunglasses on even though it wasn't sunny out and got to the doctor as fast as I could.  I was prescribed some drops which came in a tiny bottle the size of half of one of my fingers and cost $40 with insurance. 

I couldn't recall ever having pink eye before even as a child but I do remember that people who had it were back in the action after a day of drops.  Apparently there is some antibiotic resistance happening because my eye still looked bad on Sunday.  Today, Wednesday, is the first day I look completely normal again.  That took way too long.  Yikes.  However, I am pleased to say that no one else in the house got pink eye!  I have never washed my hands so much in my life.  The fewer bottles of $40 dollar, .2 ounce bottles of medicine we have to buy the better. 

Last week, the movie "Nanny McPhee" came on TV after some other show we were watching so Ben saw the first part of it.  Even though it is a kids movie he seemed kind of scared of it so I turned it off.  The next day he was playing with some silly putty and came up to me like this:

Of course I made a big fuss about how silly he was and he said he was being like the "babysitter from the movie"! 
I must say that was pretty clever!
It was 50 degrees on Saturday.  This is quite a feat for February.  I love this El Nino or whatever weather cycle we are in.  Not to diminish the struggles of those who are having terrible weather because of it...I got the kids outside with 45 minutes of daylight to spare and even dig the bikes out of the garage. 

She's so cute in that hat.  Whenever we go in pubic when she is wearing it she gets fussed over every where we turn. 
Milo is very close to having a tooth!  He was acting very fitful last night when I was trying to get him to sleep.  He was shaking his head from side to side and was having trouble falling asleep.  He was actually happy and I could hear him in his crib cooing and talking to himself but he was quite restless.  Today you can see something white about to come through.  I gave him a dose of baby ibuprofen and he is napping so hopefully it is a long one.  It's sad to think that his cute baby smile will soon have teeth!  As the cliché says, it goes so fast. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

"Baby Guy" at 4 Months

You never can guess what silly nicknames a baby might end up with.  I called Ben "Mr. Goo" because he would say "goo" all the time when he was in his cooing baby talk phase.  Tessa became "Babee" because that is how Ben would say "baby" when she was a baby.  Now Milo has a few.  The kids call him Baby M, Myo (that's Tessa's two year old version of Milo) Big Guy (they always say, "Hiiii big guyyy") and recently they have started calling him Baby Guy.  Well, that one just seems to fit!  Today is the 7th, which means that Baby Guy/Myo/Milo is now four months old!  Well that went fast.  He goes to the doctor on Tuesday so I'm not sure about his current size but he's certainly changing and growing and he talks/babbles constantly.  He is laying on his play mat with the dangly toys right now, batting at toys and saying many variations of goo, gee, gaa and ooo and every once and a while he squeaks.  It's not cute at all...Ha. 

He loves his siblings...he really does although this photo might indicate otherwise.  They both enjoy getting up in his business and laying on him and talking to him right in his face.  It looks like they are being too rough but he laughs and smiles when they do this. It is similar to when Ben used to carry Tessa around when he was two.  I was worried but she sure wasn't.
He's starting to roll out of our various baby holding apparatuses which means we now have to start strapping him in and even then their days are numbered.  He will be mobile before we know it. 

He sure is a cute baby and he was meant to be with us! 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Tessa's First Haircut

I have come across some strange cultural and personal beliefs revolving around little girls' hair.  I'm not picking on anyone who had religious beliefs about it because they probably think mine are strange too but I have known families who designate a certain age for a girl's first haircut because they like the long haired look or whatever.  I don't have any thoughts like that.  Haircuts for kids and babies just happen when they are needed and for Tessa there hasn't been a need...until now.  She still had very baby-ish hair compared to many children the same age as her and she is often mistaken for a younger kid when she is next to girls her age with shoulder length hair and ponytails.  I did cut her hair last spring but it was really just clipping a few very ratty looking strands that were growing in the back and the rest of her head was still just fuzzy with baby hair so that time didn't count.  I didn't even save it for her baby book because the hair was not even cute at all!
This is how her hair has been growing.  Once again it was growing more in the back and every time she woke up the hair in the back was very tangled and looked like a rats nest. 

So pretty...Justin was heading out for his occasional Cost Cutters indulgence and usually he takes Ben with but Ben didn't need a haircut so we decided to take Tessa instead. 

She was quite well behaved for her first time.  She didn't really know what to think since she doesn't usually get her hair styled or combed but we were able to distract her enough to keep her still to get the hair around her ears trimmed and to get a nice "pixie cut" in the back .

Well if I were that cute I would probably have a pixie cut too! more step toward being a big girl! 
What else have we been up too...This morning my YMCA plans were foiled by the child watch being full due to the staff members being sick and another mom in the same position told me they were going to the "Imagination Playground" which is a free indoor event that happens twice a week.  It entails a big pile of foam building blocks that are dumped in a racketball court and kids can play as they wish with them. 
I was hesitant because the event is located in the WWII Memorial Auditorium, which is a big old armory type building downtown which means downtown street parking which is something I avoid at all costs when I have all three kids but I drove by just in case and sure enough there was a parking spot right in front of the entrance! I'm really glad I went for it because it was really fun.  There were only two other families there before me and the other Y mom showed up and there was a boy Ben's age who had a similar play philosophy (WWF style) and his parents approved of letting them play as they wished so they did and had a lot of fun.

Tessa played by herself but she was also very amused by this place. 

As long as I can park close I would definitely do this again!  I loved the Memorial building.  I have often admired it's dignified façade but have never been inside.  The racketball courts were on the second level which looked down on the gyms.  The bleachers were up above too which reminded me of many of the "old gyms" that were used when I was in high school during the bustling weekend basketball and volleyball tournaments and sometimes as the primary gym for the class B schools.  Imagine the movie "Hoosiers" and you will have an idea of what I am describing. The Park District runs the building now, which probably has saved it from becoming an obsolete relic like often happens to such places. Ah, the old gym...even after they were pushed aside for the big and well lit "new gyms" of the 1970's and 1980's they were still so important to the class B schools of my youth.  Middle school girl's sports teams had to have gym time somewhere!  Our old 1930's era gym was also our lunch room. It was sunk into the ground so the big old windows that faced the playground were high above us.  They were also often open during warmer months and I don't know who opened them!  I didn't appreciate the familiar light in that room during the time I was there every day.  Unique places like that are becoming rare. 
Here are a few pictures of Milo.  He is getting so cute.  Babies of all ages are cute but something about the 4-5-6-month stage is just so adorable!  They are so alert and they get stronger and their little faces get so round! 

Ben really loves his baby.  He had to take a picture with him. 

Being a gross baby with drool/spit up sliming everything...awww...

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Colors of Beauty!

When I was a teenager I realized my eyes looked different colors based on what color shirt I was wearing and I thought it was pretty cool.  I also started to be interested in fashion magazines and tabloids that contained pictures of all the gowns the celebrities were wearing and best and worst dressed lists.  This interest in clothing and fashion corresponded with one summer evening where my dad went to an estate auction and came home with a box of grab bag books.  This is a common way for auctioneers to liquidate large book collections so if one book catches your eye you often end up with a box of other books that you might not be interested in but who wants to waste a whole auction selling individual books?  In this box was a fashion book from the early 1980s (not the book my dad was interested in).  I cannot remember what it was called but it was something very similar to this:
The one from the auction had two authors and they were both rather matronly women who I don't think I would have taken fashion advice from but the main idea was the same.  Apparently, women's appearances could be categorized into four seasons based on their hair and eye color and skin tone.  I quickly found myself to be an oddball because the book put all redheads into the "autumn" category but then it said that autumn ladies never had blue eyes.  Well, OK then.  I finally found a one line disclaimer that said that if a red haired woman had blue eyes she was a "spring".  I was a spring and my sister was a winter if I remember right.  Then it had all sorts of color swatches and pictures of women wearing the colors that enhanced their season.  It went even farther in helping different "types" of women make the best fashion and color choices for themselves and it had rather insulting descriptions to help you decide who you were, including a very feminine type who was practically a spoiled child and a "gamin" which was a woman who was very sporty and wore a pixie cut.  Then there were lists of body types and the styles of clothing that flattered them most (as an athletic teenager this hardly meant anything to me but I certainly learned a lot of fashion terminology that was quite impressive to my co-workers in the costume department at my college work study) and lists of clothes that should be included in a wardrobe.  This was very baffling to my sister and I because it said you should own three pair of underwear.  What?  We asked my mom if that was the norm in 1981 that and she didn't agree but said it probably referred to people who only wore expensive underwear that had to be handwashed.  But still...three?  Then there was some quite outdated advice about style choices for various scenarios in life.  Some that stood out to me included never wearing jeans anywhere except to do housework and how to dress for travel (no wrinkly linen on airplanes!  If you are driving a car wear flat shoes but keep heels in the car in case you have to go into a restaurant!)  If those ladies saw the flip flop and t-shirt wearing masses on airplanes and in gas stations these days they would just die.  If they saw me most days they would not be impressed at all.  They would really lose it if they saw my jam packed "unmentionable" drawer that barely closes because it is so full of 7 for $25.00 Victoria's Secret bargains.  Some of us don't have time for handwashing, OK?  I got a kick out of that book, if you can't tell, and also probably learned enough fashion and textile terminology to complete half of the fashion degree that was popular when I was in college.  I think it survived the farm teardown last fall and I wish I had brought it home with me!
So, where am I going with all this, you might ask?  Well, yesterday on Pinterest I saw the following chart:
I think I'm either Soft Summer or Soft Autumn. Image credit:
Well, look at that...this is still a "thing"!

What Colors Look Good On Me? A Guide Based On Skin Hair and Eye:

Here's another one:
What Colors to Wear to Match Your Skin Tone. I think I'm Warm Skin Tone... hope so, 'cause I like all those greens and teals :):
So it looks like I am still a spring and more specifically I think I am a warm spring. I like the colors for the clear spring and cool spring more but whatever.  Red hair really throws these things off.  Based on that last chart I have no idea what I am.  I think maybe a "clear" or "warm"?  Who knows.  It's still fun though.  I wish I had more reasons to wear interesting clothes.  I often got compliments on my clothes at my former job and when I was in law school.  It must have been my knowledge from the color book manifesting itself without me even thinking about it!  Haha. There is truth to this stuff.  If someone were to drape, say, a pastel yellow or beige piece of cloth around my shoulders and take my picture and then put a royal blue or dark green drape on me and took another picture I think it is obvious that the yellow and beige ones would be the least attractive. 
FYI: I don't really know the rules of Pinterest but I should mention that I didn't make these charts and I am not pretending I did.  Most things I see on there have been shared and reused many times, but just in case...if you search "spring color palette" or "color me beautiful" all sorts of these charts come up.