Saturday, April 5, 2014

Embellished Easter Eggs

Maddie and I made these last year because I was convinced that after we finished dying Easter eggs, she's still want to do more.

Years ago, my mom got these silk covered eggs from a student.

They're covered in silk thread and then decorated with sequins and pearl beads. She's had these since I was a little kid, and I always loved them so much she gave them to me.

In my mind, this was an easy project. I should have listened to my mother when she told me she thought it would be hard. I had planned a whole tutorial on covering the eggs, but well, just do it however you can manage it.

Because this part is impossible. Or better yet, but pretty looking styrofoam eggs and dye them or glitter coat them.

You'll also need a package of assorted sequins and sequin pins.

My little OCD child next sorted our sequins.

Then go to town affixing sequins with a pin right into the egg.

Maddie loved doing this. It was easy for her to pin, and even a great textural experience (dipping your finger in a big bowl of sequins is awesome!)

I ended up having to scramble and cover more eggs for her to decorate. Now they reside with my mother's silk covered eggs. Not quite as elegant but a fun activity and a fun decoration!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Oh the Phases We Go Through

This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart and fills many hours of my thinking time -- the phases and stages of childhood. We all know the famous stages-- the terrible twos, the torturous threes. Coming into parenthood, I don't think you're really aware of the distinctness of childhood phases. I know I wasn't it. And I certainly didn't realize that there were so many of them. Sometimes it has seemed like a wall was actually erected in the center of my time. One day, my daughter is a two and the next day, a three with all news skills, habits and challenges.

That's not an exaggeration at all. You would think that you would see a child develop skills but often times it doesn't happen that way. They just wake up and those skills are there. And it happens so frequently too!

I remember a specific day when Maddie was three months old. Actually, it was this day:

It was about midday. I had been with her all day, giving her my full attention. And then I set her down in a bouncy chair. Maybe it was the way the light hit her or the angle I was looking at her, but I thought, 'She's not a newborn anymore. Now she's a baby.' And every so often after that, the same thing would happen.

I always considered myself to be predisposed towards motherhood. It's pretty much all I've ever wanted to do with any constancy. I read all the books when I was pregnant and have always enjoyed parenting books or other sources of learning more. I've never really felt clueless and have always adored playing with kids of all ages.

But the phases have been my one tripping block. The rapidity of change and the stubbornness of it all. (Mine or hers? Maybe a little of both!) There's something in my Type A personality that calls out to be in control and a phase really just juts you right out of that well-worn path and into the rough. It sneaks up on you like it's a problem to fix. I know there have been many a time when I have said to my mother, "We're having a problem with x or y behavior." And then a few months later, I have the epiphany, "That wasn't a problem that Maddie was having. She had changed! She was a bigger kid with different views, different needs, different skills. And I was still treating her like she was younger."

This popped up just a few months ago when I was finding that she was having tantrums for the first time ever. I searched for answers online, looked for parenting books on the subject, asked my mom for advice, puzzled and puzzled to find a solution. I started thinking about "What to Expect When You're Expecting." But what I'd like to see is "What to Expect When You Have a Four-Year-Old." Well, ta-da! They have those -- just by a different publisher. I quickly ordered "Your Four-Year-Old" and as I read the first chapter I discovered my problem was typical behavior of fours and surprise, surprise -- a phase. I was very tempted to order the whole series straight through until Your-Eighteen-Year-Old. But, I stuck with just the one book for now.

Though Maddie really does change phases on the actual day of her birthday (no kidding, I should have noticed this trend sooner and saved myself a lot of frustration), I am going to linger a little bit longer over the four-year-old phase. Somehow as she has gotten older the phases are stretched out more -- or perhaps, I've just gotten used to the idea of change.

I have found myself really struggling with this most recent phase. There's so much frustration involved in being a four-year-old! Everything changes about the way they play. I used to lead the way and plan out activities and experiments. Now Maddie will ask for a project but the truth is, she has her own in mind. (It's a wonderful change to have on my hands!) That's the reason that I have been blogging less and less. I've been flummoxed. I won't deny it, I've been struggling to find my parenting groove and done less educational play than I would like. Because I've been flummoxed (and also maybe mindless as I noted in my previous post!)

But this phase is also a great divide. When babies grow into toddlers and toddlers into preschoolers, there is such a flow to the transition. Because they are still your baby. Alas, preschooler to kindergartener seems to be a chasm. I may not be ready to jump just yet.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Balance, Mindfulness and Other Catch Phrases

Have you heard of the 'new' practice called "Mindfulness"? I had heard about mindful parenting and mindful self-control. Last summer, I was at the playground and heard a mother tell her gymnastics-practicing son to be "mindful" and thought that was lovely.

None of these references really had any depth for me. Meanwhile, I have found myself struggling for balance in my life. There's a great deal of time imbalance that really weighs upon me. A job that is part time but requires a lot of nights and weekends. Extra work that carries over into my off time. Maddie's schedule and needs taking first place in our lives. Struggling to find a date night between Rob's work schedule, my work schedule and working Bingo at Maddie's school. (Sadly, we've had one date night in two maybe three months?) and did you notice what's missing? Time for me. Yeah, I forget about that one, too.

Then in recent months, I've been very creatively energized. I'm trying to get some craft inventory built up so I can start selling my "Heart Felt Crafts." I'm driven to write lately, but really haven't been able to. And sadly, it's been about two weeks since I picked up a book. My recent date night to see Monuments Men just reminded me that I've gotten very distant from my love of art and history. Lots of interests fighting for time in my mind...

In writing my New Year's Resolutions, I struggled to find the solution to all of these things in my mind. I ended up writing my resolutions for organization and focus. Time management came in a close runner up.

Then I saw Time magazine.

Reading the cover article on mindfulness was like an aha moment for me. This is what I'm missing! If you've had a conversation with me over the past few years, you know this because I cannot speak without interrupting myself or going off on tangents!

All of a sudden, the mere concept of mindfulness has given me great peace. Mindfulness, or concentrating on being in the moment, seems a noble pursuit to me. Though there are apparently lots of mindfulness professional trainers, I believe I'll be going it on my own. I had previously seen the Headspace app for teaching meditation. Truthfully, I've always stayed away from meditation because I get distracted by my own thoughts. Now I'm also looking at this book:

as a means of really embracing what I hope may be the key to peace of mind. Anybody else delving into the world of mindfulness? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Advent Wrap-up

This is a little overdue, but I wanted to share our traditional Advent countdown. Once again, I tried to keep my daughter crafting throughout the Christmas season. As I mentioned here, I whipped together a quick advent calendar of craft projects, including the elf ornaments above.

With 24 craft projects, I thought I had boredom under control and excitement in store. But this year, some were hits and some were misses! My daughter has moved on from my scheduled craft projects to doing her own thing. She's so quick to say, "Daddy, is that a coffee filter? I'm going to do a project with that!" (He's thrilled!) For the first few days, I was about 0 for 5. 

I started off our craftraganza, by making some decorations for Maddie's room. When we moved, Maddie got to pick out the paint color of her room and surprisingly, she chose Pepto Bismal Pink. It actually does look really cute and she seriously loves it. It looked a little jarring with any of our traditional red and green Christmas decorations, so I figured that she needed something new. I started off with the idea to keep her Christmas decorations whites, muted greens and pinks. The music box above is something that her Grandmother bought for her first Christmas in Germany, and it set our tone for Christmas with nightly rituals of listening and singing along. Surrounding her bed, I plotted out a Christmas tree forest, inspired mostly by the Charlie Brown Christmas tree lot. White trees that I drew on packing paper and we cut out together. Then I gave Maddie a pack of price tag stickers that I found at Target. She decorated in her very typical OCD way (I'm quite sure you can tell which ones I was allowed to do.) When she opened that pack of stickers, she was pretty thrilled with the first day of her Advent calendar. It deteriorated from there.

The stickers were a hit. Decorated the trees was awesome.   Hanging them up was apparently torturous. She did not want anything on her walls because then there would be no room for her valentines. I kid you not. I basically went all Grinch on her and hung them up anyway. She got teary eyed the second night they were up. She has since refused to take them down.

Our next two projects were to give Maddie a Christmas tree for her village. I was planning to make this Christmas tree to keep with the color scheme, but Maddie likes primary colors more. (By the way, that book leaning against the wall is the "bookstore". We also made a wreath out of a feather boa and a wire hanger. Easy peasy and also apparently torturous.

Then we started to fall in love with crafting all over again.
Most of our projects this year were some great Pinterest finds. These were Maddie's favorites -- the ones that she got very excited to do. From left to right, top to bottom:  Maddie coloring an ornament, snowflake ornaments, edible Christmas trees, snowflake window clings, pipecleaner garlands that apparently were better as a necklace, global warming snow globes (Maddie didn't want to put any snow in hers!), a gingerbread house that would last inspired by this large scale version (this is so typically Maddie. She loves decorating any box into a house!), the borax snowflakes up close, and a playmat of the North Pole (it's actually Elf-correct with a Candy Cane forest and a sea of swirly twirly gum drops).

This is one of my favorites: Borax snowflakes. So cool to watch crystalize over the course of the day. 

And fantastic for our mobile. We also made these candy trees (which I'm really hoping that I can somehow save until next year??)

As you can probably tell from the many links throughout this blog, this season I was not at my creative best. My lack of creativity may have been a product of a long hard fall. Or maybe it was the fact that I remembered the whole thing on November 29. But regardless of the amount of time I put into doing craft projects over the season, it just magically makes everything so much more Christmassy. Not just making decorations but the process of counting down, building in more quality time during a normally busy time, and handmaking something that will someday mean a lot more than the Popsicle sticks you made it with. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Christmas Past

A little recap of our favorite Christmas moments!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year!

Everyone knows that I don't blog for long periods of time, right? And everyone knows that I come back with a vengeance and make all kind of promises that I'm turning over a new leaf, right?

Maddie was in full fledged princess mode on New Year's Eve and rounded out her evening by taking a pony ride.
Good thing she's got her Daddy wrapped around her little finger.

Well, it's that time of year again! Topping the resolutions is a the pledge to a) indulge in my creative side and b) blog regularly. We'll see if I can make it through the month, but I have some serious motivation and clarity of thought this month.

Happy 2014!

Be back really soon. I promise. Again.