Monday, August 31, 2009

in your spare time...

I realize that it has been forever since I have blogged, and I'm going to keep you all waiting even longer because I am swamped, trying to fill orders for my Etsy shop, wishing desperately that Alex was going back to school today instead of tomorrow. Which is a good thing, I suppose, that my shop is doing well, except that one of my most popular items is these train ticket invitations I designed, which are EXTREMELY labor-intensive and take FOREVER to make. They are printed on both sides (and NEVER align correctly so I end up having to print them ten times to get one that works), they have a three part sleeve that has a thousand steps and has to be made by hand, and every time I have tried to fill an order, I've run out of either paper or ink and had to stop what I'm doing to go get some.

It's not that I'm complaining, it's just that...well, yeah, I'm kind of complaining. Thing is, I'd like to make a little money and keep my self busy, but not so much that I start to hate what I'm doing. This whole thing started out as a hobby to keep myself from going crazy, and the last thing I need is for my hobby to make me crazy.

ANYWAY, I've totally digressed because this is not at all why I started this post, which was to mention that my Party Animal tags were featured on a fabulous design blog called Love.Obsess.Inspire today as part of the author's "Free Printable Goodies" series, which means readers can download and print a few of my illustrations and use them for free. If you have a chance, please visit her blog and check them out - the least I can do is get her some traffic since she was nice enough to feature me. Thanks guys!

Monday, August 24, 2009

having a moment

A and I were running errands, and as we were leaving Michael's craft store, a young man stopped us to ask if I might be able to spare 65 cents for him to get on the bus so he could get to work. My first instinct is always to dig in my purse and look for spare change, but my second instinct - the one that starts whispering things like, "Is he really going to use my change to get on the bus, or is he 65 cents short of getting his fix?" and "Is it wise to open your purse and dig through your wallet in front of a strange man, especially while your young, vulnerable child is standing by?" - suggests that I tell the man I didn't have any cash on me, and then race to the safety of my car, "just in case".

I sided with my second instinct, and even as I walked to the car with Alex in tow and watched the man ask other passersby for change, I felt sick with panic that I had made the wrong choice. I threw Alex into the car and quickly rationalized that if I were to hand him change through my car window, I could easily floor the van and take off if I felt threatened.

As I grabbed three quarters from the cup holder and backed the van up to drive off after him, I noticed another man walking beside us. This man had all the telltale signs of a person who was down on his luck - he was thin, his clothing was outdated, mismatched and had that "scavenged" look, and most of all, he just had the demeanor of a person who wasn't all that satisfied with his lot in life.

I saw that he was pushing a tandem baby stroller and thought, surely that stroller is filled with his personal belongings - scavenged items, clothes, keepsakes and such, not with the babies it is intended for. But as he started to catch up with us, I noticed a sippy cup in the cupholder and a pair of brown legs dangling from the front seat, and my heart sank. There were two children asleep in the stroller, and as he pushed them across the parking lot at a harried pace, I tried to invent reasons to talk to them, to find out if he needed help, to ask if the kids needed anything.

I sat at the stop sign for the longest time, watching them and trying to decide what to do. The kids were dressed (albeit shoeless), they were thin but not scrawny, they had pacifiers and sippy cups, and they were being chauffeured in a stroller that was somewhat clean and in decent condition. I started to wonder if I was making assumptions about their care, assuming they were in need or that they were not being properly cared for. Something about the man - their father, I can only assume - gave me the impression that he had sacrificed a lot for the sake of his kids, maybe going hungry on occasion so his kids would have enough to eat, buying them sippy cups and pacifiers instead of updating his own wardrobe, walking instead of paying bus fares.

He wasn't asking anyone for anything, and he had a determined look on his face like he had somewhere important to be. I suddenly stopped worrying about the kids and started to feel for their dad, who was probably doing the best he could for his kids, and I started to wonder how he would feel if I decided that he just didn't seem to be doing a good enough job, if I judged his situation based on thirty seconds of observation.

How would I even approach that sitatuation? Here I am, leaving Michael's, Land Of All Things Frivolous, with two bags full of nonsense that I don't really need, only to approach this man and say, "Excuse me, sir, your clothes look old and your kids are probably hungry. Let me help you." I'd imagine that would be pretty insulting, and the last thing this guy probably needed was to be insulted.

By this time, the first guy was long gone, so I drove off in tears, praying that those kids were indeed being cared for, and if so, that the man would have some relief in the form of a windfall, a lucky break, or plain ol' peace of mind.

When situations like this happen, I am suddenly so aware of how lucky I am to be able to provide for my child, how lucky he is to be cared for, and I hope that someday he will pay it forward to others who aren't so lucky.

I have recently joined the Junior League of Dallas, which is a women's volunteer organization in our community, and I am hoping to be able to pay it forward myself by working at some homeless shelters and organizing events for needy children. Of course, I will want to take every impoverished and abused child home with me, so that will be the biggest challenge I will face. I have a really difficult time harnessing my emotions in those situations, and I literally
obsess over what I can do - or more to the point, what I can't do - to provide a better life for kids in need. I guess that the excess compassion one feels after becoming a mom is both a blessing and a curse...right now it is feeling a bit more like the latter.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Toad spit and squirrel attacks

One of the fun things Alex and I did this past month was go to the Arboretum with our friends, Katie and Charlotte. They have a membership, and we don't (yet) so they invited us on a playdate to play in the "Spitting Frog Fountains".

With A and his water issues, I wasn't sure if he'd even get near the fountains. And at first, both of the kids were all, "You want us to do what?"



I even got Alex's "woman, you must be outcha mind" look.



There were a bunch of other kids running around when we first got there, so I think maybe our little ones were even more overwhelmed by all the splashing and screaming. But after a few minutes, the place cleared out, and Alex and Charlotte gradually started to warm up to the water.




Ironically, I think they "warmed up" to the water because the water was cool, and it was flippin' hot that day, even at ten-thirty in the morning. They had the place to themselves for a few minutes, then another onslaught of kids showed up. By that time, A had really gotten into it - he tends to succumb to peer pressure, especially when his peers are slightly older, so he spent about ten minutes walking back and forth between the fountains while the older kids splashed him. He literally just stood there with water shooting directly into his face, like he didn't want to be a sissy in front of the older kids and go crying to his mommy. And of course, I was all, "Hey dude, you scream bloody murder when I pour water over your head to rinse your hair at bathtime, but you're gonna stand there and let strange children pelt you in the face with water?" Maybe I should just have one of those kids come to my house during bathtime to wash Alex's hair...





Once the kids had had enough of the water, the next plan was to let them run around for a while so they could dry off a little before we had lunch. The Arboretum had done this storybook project where different businesses designed these big playhouses that were based on classic stories and built them at different points throughout the Arboretum so the kids could play on/in them. Even cooler than that was that Katie's husband/Charlotte's daddy Josh is an architect who helped design and build the Treasure Island playhouse (built it twice, in fact, after the Arboretum decided it was in the wrong place), so we all got to play in The House That Josh Built. Neither Katie nor I could remember exactly what happened in Treasure Island - I think that the story we came up with was a cross between Peter Pan and Robinson Crusoe - but the kids had a ball playing in the boat and running through the house.






Is she not the cutest thing ever? After a bit, we moved on to another playhouse that had a slide, and the kids took turns clapping for each other as they slid down.






By this time, we were starving, so we found a place to sit down and have a picnic lunch in a spot that overlooks White Rock Lake. What we did not realize was that squirrels also appreciate a nice lake view. That, or as Katie suggested, we set up camp directly on top of their acorn stash because they would not leave us alone. What is it with the squirrels in Texas? In case you have forgotten, I have a long and sordid history with aggressive squirrels (remember this and this?). And these nasty rodents were no exception. We threw things at them, made loud noises, tried to chase them away, and our efforts to get rid of the only got the attention of other squirrels who then came over to find out what all the ruckus was.

We considered moving but decided that a) it probably wasn't the place we picked that attracted them, but rather, the fact that we had a veritable feast of sandwiches and crackers and fruit displayed at their eye level, so moving our feast to another spot probably wouldn't have made a difference, and b) we just didn't feel like packing up the kids and their stuff and all the food and trying to find a picnic table, especially since we were halfway through the meal already. By the time we were done eating, the kids were yelling, "Shoo, squirrels! No-no! Go squirrels!" and clapping their hands with delight as the squirrels got closer and closer. Apparently they weren't as worried about catching The Rabies as we were.



A LOVES to have wide open spaces where he can run around, and he also loves to run around half naked (or whole naked, when circumstances allow). So to be outside, half naked, and running around, he was in hog heaven.



The kids were mostly dry at that point, so we changed them and got ready to go home for naps. But not before A tried to get his mack on. I'm not sure what his strategy was, but it involved poking at Charlotte with his finger and talking to her in a high-pitched baby voice. Yeah, he's got game.




When that strategy didn't work, he just skipped the small talk and went in for the kill. When his hug was rejected, his changed up his strategy and started playing hard-to-get.





Good girl, Charlotte, I'm sure your folks would like for you to keep that attitude about boys for a very long time.

It's so fun to have A at this age because you start thinking about how the friends he makes now could end up being his "childhood friends", the kids he will have known since he was little and who he grows up with and with whom he reminisces about the "good ol' days" when they used to run around the Arboretum together...hopefully that will be the case with these two.

And to encourage that end, we have another playdate on Tuesday at the zoo, and I think Katie and I are just as excited about that as the kids will be. The next installment in The Adventures of Alex and Charlotte, soon to come!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Spelling A

After that last post, I felt really guilty about not saying enough nice things about Alex, so I've got one more to add to the list.

I forgot to mention that he can recognize his name when we spell it for him or show him the letters. On a few occasions he has even spelled it on his own, but usually we tell him the A, he provides the L, we remind him about the E, and he almost always remembers that it ends with an X. I don't know why, but we think that is the coolest trick ever, that he knows how to spell Alex, especially considering he only started saying it a few months ago.

Then again, he's a bit of a slacker seeing as how he can only spell four of the nine letters in his name...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Faves of the Month

So instead of giving a full blown monthly update like I've done the past 24 months, I decided I'd just list a few of Alex's favorite things from the past month (...and some of our favorite things about Alex from the past month, because I just can't help myself).


Favorite phrases:

-"Come on, Mom!" (usually while pulling my hand in the direction he wants me to go)
-"Wake up, Daddy!" (in the mornings after Tim has worked late and I tell A to go get Daddy for breakfast)
-"Oh Maaan!" (aka "Oh May-in!")
-"NO, Murshy, NO NO!" (along with vigorous finger-wagging)
-"I'm maaad!" (said in a low, gruff voice and accompanied by the evil eye)
-"This way!" (answer to the question, "where are you going?" or "where are we going?" - the latter also involves hand-pulling)
-"Right here!" or "right there!" (the answer to just about any question, accompanied by emphatic pointing to said person or object)


Favorite books:
All Aboard (a book about trains)
The Little Engine That Could (another book about trains)
Friends & Heroes (no trains - it's a look & find book featuring Pixar characters)

Favorite movie: Finding Nemo


Favorite TV show: So You Think You Can Dance (seriously, we haven't watched any children's programming in days - he keeps begging for "mo' dance")

Favorite song: I'm Yours by Jason Mraz (aka the "Doo-doo-doo" song)

Favorite food(s): pancakes and butter, separately or together

Our favorite things about Alex:

When we finish blessing our food at mealtimes, he always says "Amen" and gives God two thumbs up.

When he smells/sees anything gross/messy/stinky/ugly he yells, "Stinky! P.U.! Yucky!!!", always in that order, always with accompanying nose scrunch and wafting hand gesture.


If we are out in public and someone makes a sound that resembles sneezing in any way (a cough, a throat clearing, a belch - all fair game), he will yell "bless you!" and continue to yell it, getting progressively louder each time, until the person who performed the bodily function acknowledges his blessing with a "thank you".

When he is playing quietly in his toyroom, and I sneak a peek to find him studying the plans to his train set, trying to reassemble the track that he has pulled apart for the umpteenth time because it is now more fun to break the track and try to fix it than to just play with it.

How, whenever anyone is looking for anything, he wanders around the house going, "are you??" as in "where are you?". This includes people or things. Like if I say, "I can't find my shoes", Alex will immediately walk around the house going, "Shoooeees, are yoouuuuuu???" until we find them.

Whenever we leave the house, he makes sure to say "bye" to everything he passes on his way out - toys, the TV, Murphy...As we were on our way out the other day, we passed a Playdoh stamp with the letter O on it, and he spent the next two minutes waving to the stamp and saying, "Bye, O!! Bye!! Bye-bye, O! Bye!!", and tonight, he bid adieu to his milk when he finished drinking it. "Bye, milk! Bye-bye! Bye-bye, milk!"

How he leads me around by the hand when he wants me to go somewhere.

The way he points to himself when he says his name, just in case we still don't know who he is talking about.

When he yells, "I funny!" and starts fake laughing at himself just to prove his point.



How he always asks, "Hear that?" and cups his ear whenever a truck drives by or a plane flies overhead or a neighborhood dog barks...

The way he gets so excited about EVERYTHING, like he is so happy that he could explode, but instead of exploding, he screams like a banshee and runs around the house like a hyperactive chicken with its head cut off.

How he always wants to help me, whether changing the laundry or handing me dishes to put away or putting things in the basket at the grocery store. He'll say, "Alex help" and then point to himself (again, to make sure there is no confusion about who will be helping).

When we are out and he hears another kid crying, he will do one of two things, depending on his mood. He will either shout, "baby!"(which is sort of embarrassing when the "baby" he's referring to is older than he is) or he will pretend to look sad and cry and sniffle, as if to sympathize with the other kid's plight.




Out of the blue, he will start telling us a story about something random, like about what happens in that awful Thomas the Train movie that we haven't watched in months. He will get super excited and say something like this:

"Thomas! And Pinchy!! And bridge broke! High! And Pinchy fall! Down!! And pttcchhhh!! Water! And Pinchy fall! Pttcchhhhh! And..."

And he does it all with grand hand gestures and bending of the knees and an excited, out-of-breath voice.

Other notes:

He has bumped his head more times this month than in the rest of his life put together. Not from falling off of or out of things, but from running ninety-to-nothing, not looking where he's going, and running into a doorframe or a wall or bashing his head on a table top.

He has really started to use logic to figure things out, which is fascinating to watch. If we are looking at a book and there is a picture of something I know he doesn't know the word for, I can describe the thing to him, and he will point it out. For example, if he sees a picture of a lime and I ask him to point to the "lime", he can't point it out because he is not familiar with the word. If I say, "a lime is a green fruit" and then ask him to point out the lime, he can do it. It's pretty cool.

He loves to talk on the phone, to Grammy or B or his grandpas or whoever else happens to be on the line.

He also loves puzzles, which he used to call "puffles", but now pronounces correctly. He is really good at finding matching pieces and fitting them together.

He is really into numbers - he counts everything and likes to point out how many of something he has. He can count to eighteen or nineteen on his own (depending on his mood), although thirteen to fifteen go like this: "...twelve, fourteen, fourteen, fourteen, sixteen..."

His behavior has been much more manageable this month, to the point where I'm starting to suspect he wasn't feeling well last month, teething or whatever, and that contributed to his frequent outburts. He's only been in time-out a few times lately, and while he does a lot more to test his boundaries (by flagrantly disobeying and whatnot), his meltdowns are few and far between...but they still happen from time to time. For example, here is what happened when Mom poured his milk in the wrong cup:


And here is what happened when he wanted me to stand in the kitchen and eat my lunch instead of sitting at the table with him:



But honestly, those might have been the only two times that he's really freaked out this month, and I happened to catch them both on film (which Alex just loved, by the way). He is SO much fun and so energetic - people who are around him for more than a few minutes usually describe him as "busy".

And to keep his busy-ness from making me bonkers, I do what I can to help him burn off some steam. We've done a lot of fun things this month, including Alex's Last Day of Summer School party, birthday parties, playdates, fun times at home with the sprinkler, making art, and playing in the toyroom.





It's been a good, busy month, but I am more than ready for A to head back to school the first of September. I just can't match a two year old's energy level - at least not all day every day. Can anyone? If so, I'd love to know your long as the secret doesn't involve going to bed early and eating well and exercising...

btw, don't you love how I prefaced this post with something about not wanting to do a "full blown update" like I usually do, and this post is longer than any monthly one I've written? Being succinct is overrated.