Monday, December 15, 2014

Life lately

Since my post on Thursday, things have looked up considerably.

E, my child who would only sleep in the Ergo, suddenly decided that she prefers to sleep on her bed and have a (somewhat) predictable nap schedule. This change will make it more challenging to be out and about with HP in the mornings, but overall, I love it. Now I can focus more attention on HP while she's napping in the mornings, and then they both (!) nap in the afternoons. Seriously amazing. Fingers crossed it lasts.

Having Neil home over the weekend makes everything easier. With him watching the kids, I can get other stuff done around the house, and vice versa. In addition to normal life, we managed to season all four of our cast iron pans, lanolize two wool covers to go with our new overnight diapers*, and take a load of stuff to Goodwill.**

On a slightly less positive note, we attended Neil's work Christmas party on Friday night. Neil was hesitant for us all to come, thinking it would be more stress than it was worth. I pushed hard to all go (because the other option was for him to go by himself, and I love a good Christmas party and wanted to attend), so we did. And he was right; it was stressful. E didn't want to fall asleep in the carrier like she usually does (see note above), so she was exhausted and crying most of the time. It didn't help that the other baby present, who is exactly one week younger than E, alternated from being alert and happy and dozing in people's arms. Not our child. HP did great--especially considering he stayed up two hours past his bedtime--but a two-and-a-half year old on the loose in a new house needs constant supervision. Confession: at one point in the evening, this happened:
Neil: Where's HP?
Me: I thought you had him.
Neil: Nope.

Neil starts walking through the house looking for him. I scan the crowd from my perch on the couch (I was feeding E at the time) and spot him. Outside. He had opened the door onto the back porch by himself and was pressed up against the glass door looking in on the party. I guess he needed a break from the action...
The thing we love most about Christmas parties is the food--obviously. I can summarize the general feeling of the experience by saying this: it was the first time I have left a party hungry, because there just was not time to eat. The whole time I kept thinking, this is just a season. Next year they'll be older and it will be a different story. Or we'll hire a babysitter. Problem solved.

In Christmas related news, I am inspired by the Girl Next Door podcast to bake Christmas cookies for our neighbors. I think HP will love this project, and I have been wanting to get to know our neighbors better. We'll see if it actually happens since it may feel like one more thing to do, in which case, I will happily abandon the idea in the name of sanity.

How was your weekend?

*We got the diapers for E, but are going to try them on HP, too. He's been in disposables at night for the last year or so because we could not find a cloth solution that he didn't leak through. We have heard good things, so hopefully this is it!

**That's right--I'm still getting rid of stuff. I just. can't. stop.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

When patience is nowhere to be found

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would say my parenting so far today is hovering around a 3. It feels more like -3, but I am giving myself credit for both children being alive and fed. 

Being patient is so hard when I am sleep deprived. Not just hard--impossible. And patience is exactly what you need when you have a toddler who is programmed to test limits.

Children, I hope to be a better parent tomorrow. If not tomorrow, then maybe sometime in the next month or two. And if not then, just know I am doing my very best.

It's just a phase right? It's going to get better? That thought is the only thing that keeps me going these days.

The longest, shortest time indeed.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Home for the holidays

Last year we visited both sides of our family for Christmas--two weeks of vacation split between Missouri and Arkansas.

We read, we ate, we relaxed, and generally enjoyed a low-key holiday. HP was a champ when it comes to traveling and went with the flow. Later nap than usual? Delayed flight? Long trips in the car seat? No problem. The child who normally woke up before 5:30 a.m. regularly slept until 7 at both grandparents' houses. Amazing. All in all, the holidays were lovely.

That said, I am looking forward to staying home this year. Not because we had a bad time, and not because there was anything particularly stressful about our experience, but because I want HP to experience what I had growing up--a simple, beautiful Christmas at home.

I have always been attached to spending Christmas with my family--probably too attached at times. I love all of our traditions (most of which revolve around food, of course) and I wanted HP to be a part of it. But being home last year made me realize that I don't want to recreate memories of my childhood for HP; I want to create new memories and traditions with him.

After having stress-free Thanksgivings in Austin the last few years, the thought of spending Christmas at home is even more appealing. I don't want HP's holidays (or ours!) to be filled travel--no matter how pleasant the experience is once we arrive. Never having to travel for the holidays? Now that is living the dream.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Simplifying toys

It is no secret that I have been purging our belongings since our move to the rental house. With each new sweep through the house, I find even more things we can do without. I started by focusing on my own stuff, then on to communal items, and eventually to HP's toys and belongings.

Even before my interest in minimalism, I do not think he had an excessive amount of toys. We have been intentional about not bringing in too much and are fortunate to have relatives who give him thoughtful gifts without going overboard. During my latest effort to minimize, I took about a third of his toys and put them in the closet to be rotated back to the play area at a later time. With Christmas around the corner, I am sure even more will be put away as new ones take their place.

Here's a look at the current setup, starting with the main play area:

HP's room:

And finally, his little table where he likes to draw with markers:

We also have two cabinets in the living room with HP's stuff. One contains board books, the other has extra toys that usually only come out on playdates. He is allowed to get them out any time, he usually chooses another activity.

The reduction in toys has not adversely affected HP. I am not even sure he noticed that there were fewer toys out on the shelf or in his room. We want him to have plenty of things to spark his imagination and keep him engaged, but have learned that it takes very little to meet those goals. In fact, I have observed that having an overwhelming amount of toys out inhibits rather than fosters creative play. Ninety percent of the time, HP wants to do one of three things: (1) read books, (2) build with blocks, or (3) play outside. So all he really needs is a library card, things to stack/build, and access to the outdoors. It doesn't take much (in the way of physical objects) to keep a two-year old happy.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Holiday traditions

It's that time of year again.

This year, more than years past I am being intentional about what traditions we want to create in our family. This is the first year that HP will really "get" Christmas, and it's also the first year we'll be having Christmas in our home.

I am not sure of the right balance to strike in our approach to Christmas. We are not religious, so focusing on that aspect of the holiday--other than as part of our cultural heritage--is not important to us. But we also don't want to make it all about the presents either. Instead, we will try and center our celebration around family, food, and the values we cherish (as vague as that may sound).

I loved that growing up we always had Christmas in our home with specific traditions we did year after year and want to create that for my children. Here are some that I want to either continue or start for our family:
  • The tree. We decorated our pallet tree this past weekend. Maybe eventually we'll have a real tree, but for now, this works for our space.
  • Chex mix. We always had huge tins of homemade chex mix during the holidays growing up and I would have a bowl for breakfast while we were waiting for everyone to get up to start opening the stockings. If I had to choose between chex mix and holidays sweets, I would choose the chex mix every time.
  • Advent calendar. Growing up, we had a giant board my dad made. It was divided into squares and each square had four nails. We'd go to the grocery store and buy bulk candy, then fill little drawstrings bag with the candy. Every night after dinner each child got to take down the bag from that day and eat the candy. I do not want our calendar to be focused on candy, but I would like to find a way to celebrate Advent and mark the days before Christmas. Maybe reading a different Christmas book each day? Something with crafts? An advent wreath? A nativity set? Any ideas (that do not involve candy or food) are welcome!
  • Treats. I will be sure to have cheese ball on Christmas Eve--another staple of my childhood. Growing up, we also had a "treat tray" that would come out after dinner. My mom went all out--fudge, toffee, chocolate covered oreos and pretzels, haystacks, almond crescents, lebkuchen, the list goes on. Making all of that feels like too much to me, but I'd like to pick a few to make myself.
  • Christmas breakfast. I want to make egg casserole and my great-grandmother's cinnamon rolls for breakfast Christmas morning. The rolls are a bit complicated, so I'm not sure I'll actually do that one, but I will try. When we're at my house, my sister makes stollen that is delicious, so maybe I'll go that route. The egg casserole is non-negotiable.
  • Stockings. My great-grandmother (of cinnamon roll fame) knitted every family member a stocking. My mother has taken on that task for the newest generation. In my family, we always wrapped all of the stocking presents. In Neil's, they did not. I think we will not wrap them to help simplify--less wrapping, less trash, more time. Sounds like a win to me.
  • Christmas dinner. I know I do not want to do the traditional feast, as that seems like too much work on Christmas day. I am contemplating making a tradition of having a simpler meal like enchiladas or lasagna that can be prepped ahead of time and popped in the oven. Or maybe a particularly delicious soup with bread and salad. I want to be intentional about not creating too much work for myself or Neil so we can enjoy the holiday.
  • Christmas presents. Neil's family opens one gift at a time with the whole family watching. My family did this on Christmas Eve when we all got to choose one present to open, but not on Christmas day, partly because we often had fifteen people in the house and that would have taken hours and hours. When it's just a small group though, I love doing it more slowly and really focusing on each gift and giver.
This will be the first year that I am the person responsible for creating the memories rather than the recipient. I am excited to make the season special for our children and see how our old traditions evolve and new ones develop throughout the years.