Friday, May 29, 2009

First, I have to say a big thank you to every Mama and every friend that responded to my posts about the tough parts of two. It is something that many of you have seen, that some still face in the future, but every comment about you and yours and how we actually can survive, well, it helps immensely. It is so nice to not be alone, to be heard and to be supported. I know when I stumble, when I feel overwhelmed that I can come here and put it out there and feel a community willing to say, "It is normal and it is alright", with a couple of those really nice flattering comments directed towards me and mine. So, thanks.

This end of the week post is inspired by the week. I love scanning through our photos and seeing just what the week held. There is so much to Life, so many moments caught and captured to become reminders of the blessing that is this Life. I like it, in all it's turns and twists and backwards bending, but it is easy to lose the magic amidst endless paperwork and wrangling and late nights and laundry piles. So, for my Friday I am posting a plethora of mosaics made courtesy of BigHugeLabs. Fun site, that place.

We finally found the perfect size Ukulele for the boys and gave them a late birthday present, matching blue ukes. They carry them with utter care and we rescue them from manic hands before damage is done. These are real instruments, ones I hope they will learn to play and cherish as time settles their toddler souls. We found them at the Folk Music Center, owned by Ben Harper's Mama. I always hope we will run into him there. Has not happened since high school. The big boys are the two youngest brothers, one home from college, the other getting ready to go. How we will miss them both next year.
Making music with the uncles

Then there is the garden. Growing. That is what they do, I guess. Our looks like it has finally settled in and taken root, new green coming through everyday. And enough greens to gather daily for me to have my new favorite breakfast, lightly scrambled eggs with wilted greens on whole wheat. With this Tobasco; if you love the chipotle pepper as I do, you cannot live without this condiment. And I spotted the first tomato fruit today as I caged up the thriving plants. Bring it, summer.

Tim's day at home. He remembered to switch to the 50mm lens and caught some great pictures. These remind me life is a little bit better when you let go. Falling hurts less when you are loose. And there is nothing like toddler legs. They are so unbelievably squeezable.

And last but not least. Today, during their two hour peaceful nap I had time to cut. And cut. And cut. (Yes, I said two hour peaceful nap. Thank the gods.) Into my precious Heather Ross stash. I finally have a project that will honor it. These will get pieced into a simple top for a duvet cover for their beds. Their big boy 'we are growing up' beds. I am opting for a duvet cover as they really love the cheap fluffy kid 'duvets' we scored at Ikea. They have their old blankets, but some of their loyalty has transferred to these larger blankets. And some new pillows too. So, they will have special covers featuring some of the sweetest little critters. And Tim and I are getting some Matroyska pillowcases and pillows for the bed to welcome summer.
Sewing plans

It is a good way to look back on the week just past. Time we will never have again. I wanted to share a link to a post from CafeMama. I found it via the impeccable Kate at SweetSalty. And it is such a great post, for Mamas and Daddies and people living. It is a reminder that we want and crave and need love. And moments of clarity.

The lovely Kate also provided the latest chocolate cake recipe for Tim's birthday past. It was found in this book and it was delicious.
birthday Cake
And eaten straight out of the pan as I made it tipsy and buttered but forgot to flour the pan. It was still really good. Considering we are topping out at 78 degrees daily, I think I might go and make it again. Happy weekend to you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Craft Progress?

Oh, how I want this post to be about crafting. Because today was my day off and I had illusions of making and creating and taking pretty pictures and being in that zone. That one of a two hour nap, do the stuff I love and maybe squeeze in my Shred 20 minutes of Hell. You know, the way it was.

Some of that happened. We had some cutting of squares, we had some fun cleaning out the toy room as Mama gleefully discarded tinkering little bits of toys, we had some pictures.

Part of it was because I was willfully ignoring the boys as they gleefully tore their room apart at nap time. Because we moved to big boy toddler type beds last night. On my day off, I had the gleeful time of dealing with what nap time looks like to two boys that learned freedom. Arggg. It entailed not a minute of sleep.

So, let us ignore all that and I will make this post about things I have done in my 'spare' time. And it is meager and undone but I want to see it in pictures here to motivate me and reassure me that though I am deep in throes of behavior that feel like it might never end, it will end and I will still be.

By the way, it is silly to think that just because your boys slept through the night (not in their beds but on the floor mattress set between their beds to cushion falls since it was their first night without cribs but they were happy there and only once did I have to place Mace back on the mattress at 3 a.m, and give Owie his dot at 5 a.m. and I had to wake them up)...that they would nap in their 'not' cribs (on my day off) for the first time. Tim :: tag, you're it.

On to craft scenes that make me feel happy...

Alabama Stitch Skirt
Progess: 'Bama Skirt
Labor of love, this one. I have been on this one since early March, piecing and stitching and cutting and loving. Because you have to have love to invest this much time into a t-shirt skirt. I slipped it on the other day and though it is unfinished I felt fabulous. Pictures to come of it all done.
Progess: 'Bama Skirt

This is a little bit that I have wanted to get my hands knitting forever. Thanks to a good friend and permission, we have Spherey in the works for one of my 42 pregnant friends.
Spherey :: Incomplete
This little buddy is sitting on cellophane as I am planning on stuffing his limb extensions with the crinkly stuff. I recall Owie being obsessed with a snake toy when just little and wee, crunching the texture and listening to the sound as a baby. And I remember my delight at watching the realization dawn that he was hearing something that made him feel...I still wonder what he felt. Good or bad, stimulated for sure. And now I can pass it on.

And then there is this. The simplest of accomplishments. Now.
1st Buttonholes
My first machine buttonholes. I dreamed about it doing it. I swear. There was this piece that came with my machine that said it was a buttonhole attachment. And that it would make buttonholes. But, I made this skirt some time ago and tried it on and ix-nayed it for some reason. Then I found it this week and realized all it needed was edges hemmed and some groovy antiqued buttons.
Maybe my initial reticence was due to the fact that I made a skirt out of shirtings. I don't know. But this week I knew I was ready to tackle the buttonholer issue.

And lo and behold, it took two minutes of booklet reading and half a minute per buttonhole and ta-da. Done.

Truth? The buttonholes are there, but not the buttons or snaps to hold the other side. It will come to pass. Just like the insane antics of toddlers that are kicking my ass. And then I will flaunt my hand stitched skirt or my button-holed beaut as I chase two absolutely off their rocker boys around and try to convince them that it is not appropriate to place pennies in their butt cheeks, walk around and tell Mama "I cook Money". Ah, good times.

But I did cut the majority of pieces for their big boy quilts to go with their big boy beds. Which they were so excited about when I showed them the fabric. Which made me happy. Even if they really had no idea what I was talking about. But I choose to believe they do.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Happiest Birthday on Earth

Friday marked another year passing for Tim, his 31st now done and gone. It seems like just minutes passed since I wrote to him here.

This year he had some great birthday privileges. First he got to do a.m. duty at 6:30 to keep the boys in their cribs until 7. Then he prepared his own birthday breakfast of pancakes with fresh blueberries. Then he got to clean out the family Truckster full of rock like snacks and Mama's discarded work papers. All before 9 a.m. Writing things like this remind me of how very lucky I am that I found a man like him.

He was not assigned all the duties without reason. You see, the grand plan of the day was Disneyland. Yeah, you know, the Disneyland.
Disneyland :: Take One
The one that is giving folks free admission on their birthday through the year of '09. The one that lays only 20 minutes away via freeway system (sand traffic) but that we have not seen for almost a decade. The Happiest Place on Earth. And I do not say this lightly.
Disneyland :: Take One

As a child growing up in the Shadow of the Matterhorn, I recall longing to be one of those kids that casually frequented the Park. This was never to happen, as my parents had too many littles with not enough bucks. The trips I did make usually came about from a school fundraiser, and once for my Grad night senior year of high school. So, maybe 5 total in my lifetime. Despite being so close to home, it has always maintained it's magical status in my mind, not a place to drop in but a place to dream and plan for.

This year we thought the boys were at the right place to take it in without freaking out, to be involved without being too overwhelmed.
Disneyland :: Take One
And it seemed like the right timing, despite Friday being the kick off to a holiday weekend. My Mama suggested we take along my youngest brother Jon, an extra pair of hands and an early birthday present for him. Though I am not sure you can consider a day out in a public park with twin toddlers a present.

And you know something. For the four hours we stayed, Disneyland was the Happiest Place on Earth for me and Tim and Jon and them. I am not sure why it worked out so well. It was crowded beyond (for a weekday), there were plenty of lines to wait in, there were completely skipped naps. But it all worked.

We did a little homework the night before, scoping out rides for the boys and planning our approach. We knew any train and car ride should be included, we took our BOB and lots of kid friendly snacks. But I think the reason it went so well is that we really just wanted to have fun.
Disneyland :: Take One

Once in we stayed pretty flexible, scoping out lines, sometimes just watching the rides rather than getting in line.
Disneyland :: Take One

Disneyland :: Take One
They loved watching Dumbo while we waited for the Casey Jr. train, they tolerated the lines we did stand in with surprising ease and they truly seemed to love watching the people crowding about almost as much as the attractions.

My favorite part was becoming familiar with the Magic that is there, going on the gentle little rides and seeing it with new eyes, how special it was to the newcomers. I loved the boat ride that took us through the Storybook land, all miniaturized scenes with completely bonzai'ed garden growth.
Disneyland :: Take One

I could ride that boat all day. Our guide explained that there are some trees in there that are 150 years old, some planted by Walt Disney himself. That ride in particular made me see what he was aiming for all those years ago when he created this space.
Disneyland :: Take One
Disneyland :: Take One

The other huge hit was Autopia, the 'drive yourself' car ride.
Disneyland :: Take One

I think it is hilarious that we went to Disneyland to find magic and one of the forms it has taken is the freeway system that gridlocks our lives.
Disneyland :: Take One

We watched the realization dawn that they would get their own car to drive. Eager does not describe their reaction.
Disneyland :: Take One

The boys loved it beyond all reason, we literally had to tear a screaming Mace out of his car. I found that it is almost impossible to take pictures with one hand and steer the car with the other. And I became a bit fascinated with the now retro fashion of the street lamps.
Disneyland :: Take One
(I have about 14 more shots of these lamps from all kinds of angles).

Anyway, enough of the blow by blow account. I thought I would share some tips for any out there that might take on Disneyland soon with the young ones.

:: Go on the boats, the line flies by because there are so many boats that run. And everything is so little and pretty.
Disneyland :: Take One

Disneyland :: Take One

:: Go on the train that circles the perimeter of the park. It is a great place to rest your feet and the kids love it. And oddly enough, there is a weird section between Tomorrowland and Main Street where you travel back in time to the Land of the Dinosaurs.
Disneyland :: Take One
A little scary and a little hot, but entertaining.

:: Limit your line standing. We nixed going on the Nemo Sub ride because the line was an hour wait and there was no Fast Pass. Autopia has a fast pass and we basically walked into the ride and into a car in minutes.
Disneyland :: Take One

:: Take breaks. We would do a ride, then find a place to sit and listen to a band or some old time singers. The boys loved this and it gave them time to rest in the stroller.
Disneyland :: Take One

:: Get out while it is still fun. We stayed four hours, did what we came to do and left. We saw the boys tipping towards the edge and were able to gracefully exit. Sure, no fireworks, no Main Street parade, but also no tantrums or tears.
Disneyland :: Take One

:: Bring extra hands if you can. The three to two ratio was gold. No struggling to carry one, push stroller, retrieve items, etc. And Jon swears he had a good time just being there with them and seeing their delight.

Speaking of Jon, my amazing brother was given a full ride to San Francisco State, he found out Thursday. So, our baby brother is off to conquer his world, his new adventure. When I was young I remember seeing the fortune teller in the Penny Arcade.
Disneyland :: Take One
Her presence always made me shudder a little and I never had a quarter to get my fortune told. Yesterday Jon fished around a bit and came up with his and got his fortune card.
Disneyland :: Take One

Disneyland :: Take One

Click on the picture to read it. Every word is so very true. I love you, little brother. You have a fineness of heart and spirit that is unparalleled. Except maybe by your brother in law, my husband.
Disneyland :: Take One

So, love and hugs to both Birthday boys. And thank you, Walt, for making place that still has the essence of what you dreamed. When stripped of its commercialized sheen, underneath it still captures your heart and imagination and wonder. See you in October for this Mama's birthday. I can't wait.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Can AUTONOMY kill you?

It seems like I only write about parenting now when the hard parts come up. And we are in a HARD part. We have recently entered what I am finding to be my least favorite phase of parenting so far, the world of AUTONOMY. And, oh god, I might not make it through.

I forget sometimes that we are still 'new' parents, that we have never tackled any of these phases before. I become lulled into complacency, almost believing that I actually know what I am doing. The last few months, despite all the changes, have been good ones. Consistent, let's say, all things running according to schedule. Some challenges, but fun and what I came to think of as easy. Then BAM! Hi, AUTONOMY. I think I do not like you very much. Can you go away?

I know I should be happy about their growth, their development, their changes. I have never wished them to be back in diapers (until now) so why would I wish them back to pre-verbal toddlerhood? Well, because this is so damn hard.

What does AUTONOMY look like around here. Let's start with language. The word 'me' 'mine' 'my ____' is a solid and often used word from both boys, leading to the inevitable clash of wills between them and myself. Sharing happens reluctantly, if at all, most times resulting in a total removal of the contested item and the tried but rarely true attempt at distraction and redirection. They have gotten a bit sharp for those tactics.

We can now move onto to AUTONOMY in clothing choices. I have waited for the day when favorite shirts or ensembles develop.

Yes, they love their new "bombits' outfits but what they love even more is getting undressed. Their current specialty is diaper removal. We have invited the boys to use their minimal potty skills when ever possible. Something clicked in the last few weeks and they now want to utilize these skills whenever possible. They are able to tell us when they have to pee, but they prefer to literally take matters into their own hands and remove the offending diaper and pee. They each have their favorite areas...Mace prefers the conventional ones, toilet and potty chair.

Owen is a little more free in his choices, usually removing diaper and peeing in the cracks between the flagstones outside, sometimes utilizing the deep wells in the outdoor mat situated outside the patio door and occasionally just peeing right next to the diaper he just removed. It has served to create a sky-rocketing diaper bill and a lot of work for the parent on duty to monitor and clean up (or direct the cleaning) of spills. Let us not talk about poop. It is too painful to write. I can say, at least they do not play with it. It looks like we will be turning to potty training in earnest earlier than I thought.

The there is AUTONOMY in food. No, not the eating of. That I have just about given up on. I am talking about the preparing of. My children think they can prepare and serve their own meals.

They have an obsession with the fridge, opening it and grabbing this and that, usually raw eggs and pickles (WTF?) and sometimes what they refer to as "mama bottle" aka wine. I am all for independence, but really, not ready for them to make the Mac n' Cheese. Waaaay too messy, oh yeah, and the stove might be a bit too hot. So, we may have to resort to a fridge lock which will just get broken or never latched as 90 million people go in and out of the fridge daily. Including my children. I shudder to think of the electricity usage this is causing.
Dog as dishwasher

The last and latest expression of AUTONOMY is one I know a lot of other twin Mamas are dealing with right now...the ability to escape. The boys still sleep in cribs and though they can scale a full size jungle gym have yet to express a desire to climb out of their cribs. That has all changed drastically. Saturday, it was a rude surprise to be woken up by Owen at the foot of our bed. Because it is not enough to figure out how to get out of the crib in one day, he also had to figure out the way to open the doors. At 6:30 AM. Upon walking him back to their room, I found the cribs pulled together, Mace in Owen's crib, all the bedsheets and linens piled on the floor and two maniacally grinning boys. Who would not go back to sleep.

Next day there were some night time shenanigans, but no escaping. Monday was the real shocker. We put them down and had the all clear signal of quiet in the we began our nightly routine. I was in the laundry room (across the hall from their bedroom) when their door quietly opened and he walked out into the brightly lit hallway, mouth agape. As was mine. Because we have never taken those boys out of their room after bed time since bed time was established. Tim and I think Owen must have come out and thought "You mean they do stuff after we have to go in there and sleep?". My mouth was open because I was thinking "Oh, shit."

The last few bed times have been rough, with a lot of returning Owen to the room, explaining bed time parameters (like, you do not come out of your room) and going in to take him out of Mace's crib, to take his leg out of the crib slats, to pick him up off the floor, etc. I know, the beds are being converted today or tomorrow. But I am just so tired. In a totally different way then ever before.

Because all this happens as we work, and take shifts, and piecemeal days and dinners together and try to take care of ourselves, and try to decide how to deal with insurrection and ineffective time outs and defiance and the occasional urge to knock my kid out because he is driving me nuts. I know that we have such a profound effect on them with how we respond and what we say and when we yell.

I love parts of AUTONOMY but other parts I hate. I struggle with letting go of the need to dictate, of finding the right way to discipline and of looking for ways to enjoy it, even it is just shreds or bits of the day.

My Dad said an interesting thing the other day, about how throughout our lives we are learning the same lesson over and over. We think it is a new challenge, but it is actually the same foible, the same struggle, the same character 'flaw' in different settings. I know what mine is...learning humility. And I have yet to learn it well. But at least I can try to process it all here.

There are probably some of you reading thinking "just you wait..." or parents with younger kids thinking it cannot be that bad or others with no kids feeling pretty bored right now. It is just that when I end up beleaguered and bewildered I turn here. To get it out, to ask for help or suggestions or just so one or two of you can tell me it will be okay...and that helps immensely. So, bring on any ideas or suggestions or comment love. This Mama could use it. Thanks for the ear (or reading eyes, rather). I needed to get a bit of this off the chest.
Tenting It

And of course I only have sweetly cute photos to go with my bitching seems I also do not tend to turn to the camera during times of screaming tantrums and I cannot post the hilarious photos of O in down dog butt naked. Though that might get my blog traffic up. hmmmmmm.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pizza Love

A summer staple this year is going to be homemade pizza. We have finally convinced the boys it is an edible item and they take great delight in the eating of it. I love the dough recipe given to me by my sister and I find I can prep it early and just let it rise until dinner time, with the occasional punch to keep it in the bowl. Her recipe is simple, especially when I use the Kitchenaid with dough hook attachment to do all the work. And there is no heating house up as I have finally figured out the best way to grill it all outside on the BBQ.

Pizza Night

I thought I would share the recipe and cooking method as I know I have other mama readers with small children that would love to try this out. It is fun too as even messy crazy toddlers can handle tossing cheese on the dough and seeing the veggies be piled onto the top.

I let the boys handle a small ball of dough to learn about the process but we did not cook it up. Grubby toddler fingernails are not the best seasoning for what I like to think is pretty tasty food.

So, dough recipe first

:: Take 1 1/2 tsp dry active yeast, 1 1/2 cup warm water and 1 Tbl sugar and combine in a smallish bowl, let yeast do its job and wait for some bubbling foaming action on top.

:: Add 2 Tbl olive oil and 1 1/2 tsp salt to foamy liquid.

:: Dump 2 cups flour (I use combo whole wheat and white whole wheat) into Kitchenaid bowl, then dump liquid on top. Make sure you have the dough hook attached and let it do all the work. I usually let it stir for a minute, check to make sure a ball is forming and if it looks too loose/wet I add flour (willy nilly) until a ball forms on the hook.

:: Knead it via machine for a few minutes, maybe 4 or 5, until a smooth ball is formed.

:: Oil a large bowl and place your dough in it, cover with a tea towel and leave it to rise for 20 minutes or until dinner time, punch it occasionally (or whenever you remember it is there). That is it. It makes great calzones and rolls too.

Tim discovered a simple 'sauce' for the pizzas. We use straight tomato paste with some added Italian dry herbs and some pepper. It works wonderfully.

Pizza Night

Then you know the rest of the drill. We try to put as much veg on ours as possible and show the boys what we are doing, but I dare not contaminate their designated pizza as it may mean total protest come table time.

So the last thing is the grill. What works here is a sheet of foil (yeah, not a great option, but I am working on getting a good flat cookie pan) on the grill surface. I turn up the burners to high during pre-heat until the temp reads 400 or so, then turn off one whole side and adjust the other to keep the temp around 400. I place the pizza on the foil on the 'off' side and rotate them once during cooking.

Pizza Night

It takes about 12-14 minutes, I usually feel the crust and bottom for doneness. I love cooking them this way as there is relatively no mess, no heat in the house and the pizza tastes so good. Mmmm.

Let me know if you try it.. It took a few tries until I had the feel of the dough prep, but now it is easy as, well, pizza pie. I just wish I could toss the dough as well as that guy in the Mastercard commercial. Now that is a pizza. Cheers and happy 'almost' summer eating.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Return to Making

I mentioned that craft has come back into the picture. Thank god, I was starting to feel unlike my Self without it.

I started a little baby knit some time ago, it was based off of a free pattern from f.pea and it started pleasantly enough. I had a nice soft bamboo blend from our stash exchange and figured I would use my 2 mm Addi needles because that was all I could find. I believe the pattern calls for 3 mm and I think it would have made all the difference.
Slippers and Cardi for Addison

Usually a small knit flies by but this one challenged my attention and tested my perseverance. The needles were just so small. I do like the end result, the yoke has a nice firmish feel and the yarn drapes in a lovely fashion. But, egad, it took a long time to get to the end. I followed the basic pattern idea for a top down yoke and modified a few bits, like a garter edge for the hem and short sleeves as this is going to a California bebe. And it better go soon as she is growing in leaps and bounds.
Slippers and Cardi for Addison

The set is completed by the tiny booties from Ysolda's Whimsical Little Knits booklet. I just love this publication. It has small simple projects that all look so pretty. The pattern for the slippers was fairly easy but did involve i cord and a few techniques that might challenge a new knitter. But in a good way. The slippers knit up in minutes and I see myself cranking out a few more pairs for all those sweet girl babies on their way.

Slippers and Cardi for Addison
I mean, ballet slippers for a can that be beat?

I had a bit of time at the sewing machine too. I have wanted my own sun hat after having success sewing them up for the boys and I had my eye on the pattern in the Simple Sewing book from Lotta Jansdotter.
Sun hat done

This is a nice book, nothing that I found terrible exciting, just clean lines and lots of bags and basics. The best part of the book is the fabric she features in her projects (this may be true of a lot of publications out there right now). I did the standard trace and cut of the paterrn pieces and admit I cast a skeptic eye before sewing. The pieces all seemed very large and prior to sewing the brim I trimmed it back a bit.
Sun hat done

I knew I should have given the crown the same treatment....once sewn up I looked a bit like a Dr Suess Cat in the Hat character. But I really love the fabric (a remnant find) and ripped here and there, chopped off some crown and ended up with a servicable hat that is a little tight but works for now. I think on my next attempt I will give myself a little more in the circumference and a little less in the brim.
Sun hat done

I like that I am starting to develop a sewing 'instinct' but think it would behoove me to actually listen to it, you know?

And one last find...a treat for myself actually. My mild to moderate obsession with all things Heather Ross has been well documented here. Her latest line of fabrics was recently released and I found the whole collection and then developed alien hand syndrome which clicked me all the way through to the Paypal button.
Heather Ross Far and Away

Whoops, that pesky hand. Actually, I read quite a few reviews on the line and could not resist. The fabric is a double cotton gauze, the feel of it is feathery soft. The prints are so sweet, and I have plans, big plans for the stacks sitting on the table.
Heather Ross Far and Away

I saw a great quilt, just my style, lots of blocks and clean lines. So, next up, a summer/early fall quilt for our bed.

Heather Ross Far and Away
I am not sure Tim is terrible jazzed about having unicorns and the princess and the pea heavily featured in our bedroom, but whatever, I live with so many males, I figure I can indulge in 'girly' once in awhile. And it is so soft that I almost want to order more for the backing. For now the alien hand I resisting. For now. But pillowcases....oh yeah, pillowcases for sure.

If I can get it in this week, there are a few more knits, a little bit more sewing and a summer recipe staple coming up.