Saturday, May 28, 2011

The great toy trade

I am just like so many of my friends who has a house that has exploded with toys.  When I was pregnant with my first child I was living in a 700 sq ft apartment in San Francisco and swore the baby's things would NOT take over my house.  Now, 3 1/2 years later I am in a much larger house and my kids toys HAVE taken over most of it.  The thing is, they only play with very little of them.  Most of the toys have been put in bins.  Once in a while, the girls with dig through the bins to find a long forgotten toy and then play with it for hours.  Otherwise, many of the toys sit, thrown in the bin ... waiting.  

I found a tip in a book, The Household Manager Takes Charge that I love.  Well, the whole book is full of tips that I love.   One of them is to rotate toys.  Take half of the kids toys, put them in a box and then in storage.  About a week, month or whenever later, swap those toys with the toys you had out.  Now, when I did this I didn't do HALF, but about one diaper box full of toys.  Last night I did the swap.  Even I had forgotten about a few of the toys I put up.  I set a few things out on the coffee table and went to bed.

The girls have been up for over two hours.  When they came downstairs you would have thought it was Christmas!!  They ran to the toys and the oldest was shouting I forgot about this toy!  Mommy you found my toy!  They didn't notice anything was missing either.  They are still playing with (and fighting over) their new found toys.  

I have heard that when kids see too many things the toys are just "lost".  Think of looking at a ice cream menu of 30+ flavors ... it is overwhelming!  How do you choose?  Same with kids and toys.  Just too many choices.  

This was also a great opportunity for me to purge.  I spent about an hour and a half going through the toys in our "family / play room" I threw out the doll that was a broken hand-me-down that had these freakish eyes that creeped me out, coloring books that had been colored on every page,  and 
random "junk".  

So many things accomplished during this 90 minutes after the kids went to bed.  Room cleaned, toys purged, organized and stashed.  I even made my kids' day by giving them "new" toys.  Give it a try.  I would love to hear how it works for your family!

Friday, May 27, 2011

week "wasted"

In one of my last posts I talked about all that I needed to get done this week.  Well, here it is, Friday and the number of things checked off of my list?  ZERO.  I got some other things done, but all in all had an unproductive week.  I wasn't doing nothing.  With three kids I can't do nothing.  It is the "extra" stuff that gets pushed to the side.  I did work at my "paying" job, have a fun night with some girl-friends, spent all day in SF for an appointment, and even moved the lawn!

It is weeks like this I really wonder if I have what it takes to run my own business.  On an exciting note, the grapic design part is done.  Files are in my computer ready to be uploaded to ETSY and sent to a printer ... that was fun, but also shadowed by the fact that I am tired (which I have learned is just a fact of life in your late 30s) and behind on other things.

Here's to cutting myself some slack, and just taking one small step at a time moving forward.  As long as I am moving forward ... I will get to my goal.  That is one thing we can all remember.   No matter how small of a step you take, you are closer to your goal than you were before you took that step.  Remember the movie, What about Bob? ... it is all about baby steps.  So, here is to a week that was full of baby steps and to a week starting Tuesday of a few goals being reached!

Monday, May 23, 2011

hello big brother

My intent with this blog is to write about my life ... it is not a political blog.  It is about my life as a mom, part time worker & soon to be small business owner.  This entry though is a little "political" in nature though.

About 3 years ago I read 1984  by James Orwell for the first time.  For those of you who haven't read it, I would suggest it.  It is a good book, no matter your political standing.  A little creepy and a quick read.  Ever since I read it, I think twice any time I hear of or see "government" creeping into my home, or the homes of others.

I was filling out the preschool application for my second daughter.  It is a wonderful French immersion school in Lafayette.  My oldest goes now - we love it.  The school just became certified by the state of California and because of this there are extra papers in the application for the state.  A few of the things I was asked:

  • What time does your child go to bed?
  • How long does your child sleep?
  • Does your child nap? 
  • What are the typical meal times your child eats?
  • What do they typically eat for each meal?
  • Do they have problems with any adults or other children?
  • How well do they get along with their siblings?
Now really, what business is it of the state what my kid eats for dinner?  What if I put Snickers & Oreos?  Would CPS be showing up at my door to check my fridge?  What is this used for?  How many trees were cut down so that the state of CA knows that my kid goes to bed at 8. (was I suppose to put "sometimes like tonight she is still awake & crying, but I am ignoring her so I can write my blog??")

I filled out all of the papers, but I wonder ... what would have happened if I hadn't filled it all out.  I really don't think the school would care, but does the state "require" them to have these forms filled out and if they don't pulls the licence?  When are we (or just me!) going to say ENOUGH!!??  I am not filling out all of these questionnaires so that someone somewhere can say if this is the "right" answer.  I am curious ... have any of you refused to fill these out?  Have you run into something similar?  What did you do?  Have you read 1984?  I think Big Brother is watching more than we know ... (that's why we don't have TV.) 

(Ok - that last part is a joke.  We don't have TV but not for that reason ... )

my week's checklist

My business is about to be a full reality.  There are a few things: big, important, must-do things still left.  I am going to get them all done this week, well, that is the plan.  All of you moms out there know what I mean.

The list involves a lot of paperwork, computer time (and I am NOT computer savvy!!), and trips to THREE government offices.  I am also working one night, have my monthly craft night with friends & an appointment in San Francisco ... as well as the normal mom / housewife / chef / gardener etc stuff.  Basically, it is all of the business to-dos I have been putting off because I didn't want to do them.

So, here's to an exciting week of becoming an official small business!  

Saturday, May 21, 2011

a milking we will go!

So those of you who are friends with me on my personal face book page know that since Wednesday, my oldest, Vivienne has been obsessed with wanting to milk a cow.  I have no idea where this came from.  I asked her why, and she replied, because I want to!  Vivienne is a really fun little girl & at times very quirky.  I think part of the fun of being a parent is feeding my childrens' curiosity.  Who knows where it could lead?  I think this philosophy of real world learning is part of Waldorf or maybe Montessori ... but for me the mom, it is just plain fun.

After two days of her talking constantly about wanting to milk a cow I decided I would find a cow for her to milk.  Out here in the San Francisco Bay Area, that is not as easy as it sounds!  There are urban farm programs that have cow milking days, such as Slide Ranch in Muir Beach but all farm days are sold out for the rest of the summer!  There is an urban farm in Lafayette, Sienne Ranch.  They have a farm program where children can milk goats, but you have to sign up for their week long program (which we will probably do in the future).  I told Vivienne I couldn't find a cow, but what about a goat?  She agreed that a goat would be just fine.

After much googling, I found a goat farm in Vacaville, CA that talked about selling kids (baby goats!).  I figured babies = milk.  So, I called them up.  After explaining my situation, the woman said we could show up when they milked their goats at either 8 am or 7 pm.
So ... out the door at 7am Saturday morning!  Headed for the farm!  Of course this is the day all three girls decided to sleep in past 6:30 am (and I had worked until 10:30 the night before ...).

We arrived and first spotted about 20 kids eating breakfast.  They were about 18" high ... so cute!   The girls got to pet them through the fence.  After about 15 minutes, it was time to head into the barn and milk the goat!  We were told about their food and the process of getting 35 goats milked every day twice a day.  They use a machine to milk four goats at a time, but first brought in one for Vivienne.

Here is Vivienne giving it a try.  She listened very well & followed the instructions.  With help, she got the milk out!  And no, we didn't bring one home.  They are a lot of work!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Company Logo!!

Here it is!!  MY company logo.  Small Batch Studio.  I get asked why did I call my company Small Batch Studio.  Here is my reason.  In case you haven't discovered, when it comes to projects I have ADHD.  I have 100 ideas for things to create, make and sell.  No matter what those things may be, it will be done by me (and maybe my husband helping out ... or a friend or two).  It will be done on a small scale ... in small batches.  Made in my craft room (spare bedroom), kitchen or at the dining room table.  My husband asked me why "studio", well because I think of a studio as a place where you create.  So, there it is ... Small Batch Studio.

For the logo design I used a woman, Amber Mabe, who offers her services on Etsy.  I loved her style.  I also figured, if I am going to be selling on Etsy I should use others who do the same.  If you are interested in logo design, here is her shop: 

Push Pack label coming soon!!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Who is incharge?

I was very blessed when my oldest was born to find a pediatrician who was an "expert" on kids & a God-sent for first time moms & dads.  Are you asking, aren't all pediatricians experts on kids?  No, I don't think so.  Let me explain.  He was (as far as I could calculate) 80 years old.  He was confident and very good at helping guide new moms and dads.  He had these "cheat sheets" that he would hand out at each appointment.  They gave you in site into what you would be experiencing during that time frame and advise on how to handle it.  He also gave out his home numbers for you to call in the mornings if you had questions.  These sheets were honest and realistic.  I remember one that said (at 18 mos - 2 yrs) something like ... there are times you may not like your child ... . Or the newborn sheet given at the initial consultation that said your new born may be "ugly" (well, he didn't use THAT word, but did tell you it may not be this beautifully shaped glowing white smooth skinned baby you see in the movies.)  When I  read these sheets I felt as though he had a hidden camera in my apartment and was giving tips just for us.

I also loved the nurse's advise when both my husband & I came for the first newborn appointment.  She told us that moms and dads parent differently.  Different doesn't mean wrong and we need to respect the differences.

Around the 15 - 18 month appointment the Dr asked me if my daughter was doing anything I didn't like.  At the time she was really fighting me while I was changing her diaper.  I told him that.  He asked what did I want?  I said I wanted her to lay still while I changed her.  His advise was that when she would squirm & try to roll I should (in a deep, stern voice) tell her no and hold her still.  She would get the point.  The next check up, same question.  This time I had a good one!  (Little did I know terrible twos starts about 18 months!!) She "refused" to get in her stroller for our walk home from the park.  Now, at this time, I was about 5 months pregnant living in San Francisco in a 4 story walk up, on the top floor.  We were a mile away from the park, and yes, I had to walk up a hill on the way home.  So, this time, I carried her and pushed the stroller.  The Dr's advise.  Buy a bungee cord, put her in the stroller and tell her (in the firm but calm voice) she was going to stay in the stroller until we got home.  The next park visit she threw another tantrum.  A huge one.  I buckled her in & told her she was staying put.  I had drawn my line in the sand.  The rest of the way home she would do everything in her power to get me to budge.  As far as she was concerned. we were at war and she was going to win.  Little did she know, the Dr had warned me of this.  When you pick a battle, he said, you have to win.  If you don't want to win, don't start the battle.  He told me children will make themselves pass out, throw up and just about anything else to get you to give in.

I think that walk home resulted in several conversations among observers about the possibility of never having children.  She screamed like I had never heard.  Tried to throw herself out of the stroller.  Kicked,  and hit ... but I didn't give in.  And ... you know what.  I won.  That battle was over.  I can honestly say we never had a major fit regarding the stroller again.

I had a mom tell me today that she wasn't able to brush her daughter's hair.  Her (3 year old) wouldn't let her.  She said she assumed I never had that problem as she can tell I spend a lot of time on my girls hair in the morning.  I told her, that we have "that" problem about 1 - 2 times a week, but if I don't brush their hair it just gets worse and worse, so I ignore the screams and brush through the falling down and crying. There are days I do give up and say forget it ... but not too often.  It's a battle I pick and win.  The hair gets brushed.

There are battles I choose not to have.  My oldest has picked out her clothes and dressed herself since she was 2.  She has her own unique style and that's OK with me.  I know moms who don't have this option for their child.

The point is, sometimes we as moms need to be reminded, who is in charge?  When we say our child "refuses xyz" are we really thinking about what it will be like at 13 or 14 and they refuse.  I think, that if you start winning battles now, there won't be as many as they get older.  I hope not at lease.  I think we will also have practice saying no and meaning it.  I think children are looking for a parent who is in charge.  They start testing us early on.  If they are out of our control at 2, why do we think they will be easier to handle during those teenage years?  No, I'm starting now.  It isn't fun.  It is HARD, especially emotionally.  In the moment the battle happens I think so many times it would be easier to give in to my daughters ... but in the long run it will be much harder.

Remember moms, you're bigger, stronger and you can do it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Here we are!  Mother's Day is tomorrow.   I have mixed feelings about the actual day, as I have had to work the last 10 out of 11 of them.   I work at a hotel & we do a Mother's Day Brunch.  I have mixed feeling about that too.  I mean, what mom with little kids wants to get everyone out of the house dressed to impressed for a buffet lunch at a 5 star hotel?   Not me!!  Some of the dads are great.  The moms sit & get to enjoy their food while the dads serve a food runner for the kids.  These dads have spa appointments waiting for their wives when the brunch is over.  (I'm assuming these dads also had the nannies get the kids ready in the morning ...)

I always struggle with what to get my mom.  This year, I decided I would make her gift.  There is something unsatisfying about buying something for someone when they could easily buy it for themselves.

My mom was and is my inspiration for things handmade.  I remember the all nighters she would spend on the finishing touches of our matching holiday dresses.  There was one year she made matching nightgowns for my cousins too ... all 7 or 8 of them.  She was also frequently crafting for holiday boutiques everything from cats made of yarn to hand blown painted eggs.   She cooked, canned & baked from scratch too.  All while raising three over committed children.   She found time to serve her church, be school room mom & at times part time employee (my favorite was when she worked at an ice cream & candy store!!)  Now as grandma, my girls have knitted blankets, sweaters and booties.  Handmade clothes and thanks to her my 3 year old can make french toast almost unassisted.

I found the idea for this patchwork tablecloth in a Martha Stewart magazine.  The have an outdoor picnic table that gets used all spring, summer & early fall for family dinners, a Sunday night tradition.  Now, this was very intimidating for me as my mom is also an amazing quilter.  She knows the ins & outs of color coordination & placement.  Her lines are straight & seems are just so.  I think I did a pretty good job.  I won't admit that I made a few mistakes because being a patchwork quilt, you can add a patch & it works ;)

People often comment about the time it takes to do things like this & "finding" time.  Here is my answer, think small blocks of time!  No matter what your project is, it will take a certain number of minutes to complete.  This goes for housework, reading, and crafting projects ... well goes for everything we do in life really.  But for those things if you just work on them for a little bit - even 5 minutes, it brings you closer to the completed project!!  It may take you years to finish, but when you are done it feels really great!  So my thought for you, today is if you have a creative side - FEED IT!!  There is a real satisfaction in creating something.  If it takes you 10 hours to complete, by working on it just 1 hour a week in 10 few weeks, you'll have a completed project.  Time flies ... have fun.  Be creative.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A home without TV

So, today on facebook there was a post about not having cable TV.  I re posted it to my page & loved the comments I got regarding not having cable.  The little glimpse of the blog that you got was that on average, cable runs about $75 / month.  That's $900 a year.  Aside from the money part, there is a lot that TV can add or take away from the home life of the people who have it.

TV has had a very large impact on my life.  Growing up, I had this view of the television.  TV (or the act of watching TV) was at times, the most important thing in the house.  More important than sleep, practicing piano, doing homework ... more important than the people who lived in the home.  If the TV was on & being watched, all other activity had to be done in a way not to disturb the TV viewing.   Now this was even before 1000 channels all in HD with 24 hour news & views ... it was the 70's and the 80's.

One of my friends commented that now that they have no TV they talk to each other.   I love that.  I love that someone put it in words for me.  Not having TV they (and I am taking some liberties here with the interpretation of that statement) have found a deeper relationship as a family.   I remember at times LONGING for attention, but instead it was given to a TV ... this object.   Now that I am a mom, and a person w/ out TV other that DVDs,  I wonder what my daughters views will be on TV when they are older.  Don't get me wrong, when I can (hospital & hotel stays) I LOVE watching HGTV.  I used to be a big fan of Law & Order, the weekend marathons were great ... but now, I have three little ones.  Do I really need to be sitting watching Judge Judy rip some idiot to shreds because he came to court chewing gum and mumbling?   No.  And the programs now!  What "family" is really a family we want our kids to look up to.  Gone are the days of the Cosby Show that kids could watch.  Now, the "kid friendly" shows are full of disrespectful kids (or cartoons) and parents who act like they can't stand each other.  What "vibe" or "energy" is that putting in your house?

So ... for those of you who have TV, I offer a challenge.  Think of your cable bill.  Take that & plan something with that money 6 months or a year from now as a reward for being TV free.  What would you do?  Could you cancel your cable today?  How do you think your family life would improve?  Is your TV more important than your child who wants to tell you how her day was or ask you about a problem she had in school?  If you can't cancel it, what about turning it off while your kids are awake?   Record what you want to watch & watch it when the kids sleep.

It is late, I am tired and have a long day for the next few days ... but I could go on & on about TV.  Instead I will close and get a few hours of SLEEP!  I look forward to reading your thoughts.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

musings of a belly button

Honestly, I have never really given belly buttons much thought.  Oh, I did think about if I had an inny or an outy and how attractive or unattractive they were.  In my 30's as a celebration of a new found life I got mine pierced.   (It was that or a tattoo ... and I couldn't decided what to get where ...) but other than those thoughts nothing.

Until today.  I am feeling a little emotional today, hormones I guess.  I was changing my youngest's diaper & there it was.  Her belly button.  The place where she & I were attached, literally, for 40 weeks (or in her case 39 1/2).  I almost started to cry as I looked at this little girl and felt a bond to her that I haven't felt since I first held her in my arms.  I was getting the kids ready to take the oldest to school so was dressing and changing them all.  Throughout this time, I saw all of their belly buttons.  They all look different.  They were all attached to ME.  I don't think my girls look like me.  People say they see me in them, but their skin is a beautiful brown that I could only dream of.  Their eyes are dark brown, mine are light green.  Our features are different too.  There are kids who you look at and you say, yeah, that's a mini mom or dad.  I don't have that.  I am asked if they are mine.  I don't mind that, I am in no way offended.  But here it was this morning ... a reminder that no matter what life throws at us, we were connected in a very special way and always will be.

I then looked at my belly button & thought of my mom.  Another tear came to my eye.  The bond is a little stronger after today.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fun in the kitchen.

These last two days have been great. My husband had a day off Sunday. He is a chef, and works in the land of the salaried. (Translation, he works A LOT.) He also commutes into San Francisco, which is about an hour door to door from our house. Oh, how I miss living 2 miles away from work!! Anyway, when he has a day off it is like a gift. This time was no exception. We cleared some weeds that had been bugging the heck out of me in my front yard. It wasn't a project I could really work on with the girls around & no one else watching them. I like having a good looking front yard. It makes me feel like no matter what is going on inside, it looks good from the outside. Also, a kid can't undo a mowed yard (unlike a vacuumed house!)

I also got to do some creative stuff in the kitchen. When I was young, the big treat when I was sick was ginger ale. We would get to drink it when we had an upset stomach. When pregnant, I learned that ginger candy cured morning sickness. So, how thrilled was I to learn that you can MAKE ginger ale and candied ginger. They are a bi product of each other. I've enclosed the blog page that I got the recipe from ... she wrote it better than I could and has great pictures too.

Anyway ... you should try it. It's one of those things that you can do (in multi-steps over a few days) that when you have a party with your nice bottle of ginger & bottle of soda water so people can make their own ginger ale ... well, you have just "bumped it up a notch." in the party world.

The other creative kitchen project was making my own graham crackers. Now I must admit, this sounds cool, and yes, they are so much more yummy that the store bought ones. They are however a pain to make. Well, the mixing is fun & a great thing to do with kids since it involves pulsing the food processor - they love that. It is the rolling out & cutting that is nuts. I've got to look at some other recipes, I think. My husband gave me some tips for next time & saved me this time by doing it for me so I didn't have a complete meltdown in the kitchen. Let's just say, the dough is VERY sticky. So, rolling & cutting then moving to a pan are not easy the way I was doing it. BUT it did make some YUMMY graham crackers, along with the marshmallows my husband made last week & some melted chocolate ... um, yeah. I've eaten a few.

Today was back to the everyday grind. But I am enjoying the fruits of my labor! Here's to a good s'more & a cold glass of ginger ale on a beautiful spring day! Cheers!