Sunday, December 29, 2013

Little Names

One of the things I've always wanted to do for my kids is to put their names on their bedroom door(s).

There are MANY people on Etsy and eBay who will make custom door hanging signs for you (google it), and I contemplated it for a while while living at my parents house (since they have nice wooden doors that haven't been white washed and would staunchly object to me getting my craft on) to get one that said "Kristina and Adrianna's Room". 

But somehow in life (and the not overly cheap price tag associated with these custom works of art), it didn't happen. 

And then we moved into our own little condo this past summer, and I almost delayed moving in just so I could paint up their bedrooms. Some gentle encouragement from my parents and a natural impatience to get into my own place finally combined to have the move in occur pre-painting.

(Sorry kids, I know I sorta dropped the ball on making the ultimate pink (and purple) rooms happen here. You can spend your teenage years bemoaning to your therapist about it.)

I was concerned that if I didn't do it before moving in, painting their rooms would be something that just didn't ever happen. And in some ways, as we've now been here for over six months and I finally got around to pinning up the used-to-be-Kristina's-but-are-now-Adrianna's alphabet letters yesterday, I may have been right about my personal level of motivations to get these decorating sorts of things done while living here day to day and having much more pressing concerns of laundry and dishes and oh-my-god-how-do-you-have-so-many-toys-in-your-bedroom-I-almost-died-twice-while-walking-to-your-bed-to-kiss-you-good-night.

But dammit, I wanted their rooms to be personalized. 

I had even gone so far as to buy stencils and sponge brushes and paints back in the middle of the whirlwind of closing and moving, determined to at least get their names painted somewhere.

It didn't happen before move in, but it DID happen today. 

Turns out my children have too many letters in their names for the size stencils I got. Also, eyeballing a nicely arched line is harder than it looks. And reusing the same letters over and over again is kinda a pain once the stencils get covered in paint. And I don't even want to get into what happens when you wash off the sponge brush to change paint colors but don't dry it out all the way.

However the end result was still pretty cute (crooked letters and all). 

And most importantly, the girls LOVED them.

Well, Adrianna loved hers. Kristina promptly asked me to put some flowers and hearts and butterflies on her door in addition to her name, so it looks like I get to have another visit to the craft store.

Just in case you were wondering, their adorable doorway curtains can be bought over at Hearthsong, and were a "congratulations on your new house" present to us from a dear (and sympathetic to the lack of time for a legit paint job and subsequent mommy guilt) friend of mine. And they really do an amazing job of making an ordinary bedroom into something truly special.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Letter Reflections

As a child, I loved getting the annual Christmas cards from relatives. Seeing my cousins grow, reading the letters about the happenings in their lives, it was very exciting to me and something I aspired to do once I became a grown up. 

The first year of "being a grown up" (you know, the one where I graduated college and got married and had a baby and was still motivated to be like, lets do this life!!) I was all about the Christmas cards.

I ended up ordering two batches of picture perfect family holiday cards from the Sears Portrait Studio, because I couldn't decide which color scheme was better. A letter was drafted and redrafted, special paper and matching envelopes procured, and everything was ready to go into the mail as of December First.

The following year involved two cross country moves, a busy-being-soldier husband, a toddler who liked to scream for hours every night at bedtime, and a lonely worn down me. I honestly can't remember if I pulled photo cards (much less a letter) together or not for that year. And I'm sorta ok letting my brain forget some things.

The following year included another cross country move, a deployment, a shit-ton of snow, and oh my god was I super pregnant when December rolled around. I'm pretty sure there weren't any holiday cards or letters this year, since all I wanted to do after I got up the Christmas lights was lie in my bed and drool. But like I said, sometimes it's ok to just let these things go.

Then there was the year we were getting a divorce. Again, not exactly awesome Christmas letter fodder going on here (and we won't even get into my personal motivation on these matters at this point), but I did manage to pull off some online ordered cards of the children sitting by the tree. The baby may or may not have been eating Christmas lights in said picture.

A year at my parents and a less-than-easy divorce that was caught up in the gears, the first time getting family pictures with just me and the girls... I did not want to so much as think about making Christmas cards happen.

Then there was the year stuff was sorta ok. Not great, mind you, but the part where it was just me and the girls was ok. So I got some picture cards of that when we did the annual family pictures for my parents to show the world it was ok, and some of them with us for that side of the family as well. But it was still a hard year to reflect back on, many failures about stuff like "move out of my parents basement" and "get a real job".

Which brings us to year seven. This has been a good year. I bought and moved into my own perfect condo. I started dating the very wonderful boyfriend. I... didn't get fired from working at Target? Ok, so work is still a little lacking in the "accomplishments" category, but I'm much more ok with that since managing to make financial independence to a reasonable standard of living happen with the salary I get. The girls are getting older. Adrianna has made leaps and bounds with her speech therapy, and is too smart for her own good most of the time. Kristina adores ballet and has made some very good friends at school, where she is at least marginally passing academically. Sometimes they even manage to play nicely together without immanent concern of physical danger or me referring every 30 seconds.

And I still didn't manage to pull off an actual Christmas letter.

Maybe me and Christmas letters just weren't meant to be. 

However, portrait studio cards were ordered, and I even remembered to get them in the mail before Christmas despite loathing the local post office and loosing the ultimate address list, so all-in-all I'm pretty satisfied without having sent an actual letter detailing said life accomplishments.

Besides, anybody who's anybody knows to just keep tabs on the blog I sometimes remember I have. 

Christmas Morning 2013

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Magic of Target

Many mommy bloggers people like to talk about the magic of Target.

(Clearly these people have never worked in retail during the holidays, as they are describing events like Black Friday without excessive profanity.)

But there is something to be said for the Target Corporation vision.

At Target, they try to have reasonably competitive prices, but they also know that the only way to survive with Amazon and Walmart is to do something different.

That is where I come in. Or rather, the generic Target worker.

(I, of course, am much more awesome and amazing than the truly generic Target worker.)

(I also staunchly avoid wearing red polos on principal.) 

I, as the generic Target worker, am all about guest service. Or as we like to call it, The Vibe.

Not only am I all about showing you where the curtain section is, but I'm also all about explaining the standard size lengths, calculating how many panels you need, praising your selection as a wonderful choice, and amicably listening to a long and mostly irrelevant story about your sister-in-law 20 years ago that has been influencing your home decor style choices ever since.

I am all about making your day happy and your shopping experience at Target as pleasant as possible.

(Sorry I can't do anything about the other 3 or 4 hundred people who also simultaneously decided to experience the magic of shopping at Target a week before Christmas. Believe me, I would if I could.) 

But see, I don't think that's magic. I don't even think it's anything overly special for an employee to do.

I think it's a (possibly futile) appeal to the lost art of humanity.

So many people just want someone to talk to. Someone to brainstorm with. Someone to give some sense of recognition to their actions, however irrelevant said person giving recognition is. 

And all that is ok. That is what is keeping stores like Target in business, and as I greatly enjoying having my job at the moment, please continue to shop and to enjoy the extra awesome service brought to you courtesy of The Vibe.

(Hey, it's not as cheesy as our most recent "Get Appy" push to promote the new coupon app called Cartwheel, which all cheesy Target promotions aside, is actually a pretty cool way to save a little money. Check it out.)

But there is a darker side to this.

You see, there are these people who come through Target just because they like being in Target (no judgement here, that's why I applied to work there when I failed to get a real grown up job), but who haven't yet mastered self-control about not buying stuff just to buy stuff.

These are the people who keep saying "Oh my god I always spend too much money here" or "I can't believe I keep buying more stuff I don't need" when they go through the checkout lane.

And I always wonder if they know that that purchase they didn't need to make totaled more than the cashier made working an 8 hour shift. I've seen people drop more than my entire two week paycheck on stupid crap they are telling me they don't need.

And some days that is hard to smile through. 

But when it comes down to it, their purchasing power is fueling my and many others' employment (and filling landfills, but we don't need to think too much about that right now), so by all means, spend on consumers, spend on. 

But, maybe, try to keep a little perspective about the humanity of the people who work there too?

Monday, December 16, 2013

50 Questions My 6 Year Old Asked at Bedtime

Full disclaimer: All of these things are true without embellishment and recorded exactly how she said it to the best of my memory. Luckily, most of these have come through the question filter at least a couple of times, so I'm pretty good at remembering them by now.

Fuller disclaimer: Bedtime basically always involves me gently telling her to shut up stop talking now so she can go to sleep. Every single night. So you know, there are worlds of gems left unsaid because of my cruel parenting tactics of trying to get her to actually sleep eventually.

  1. Why are boogers green?
  2. Where does snow come from?
  3. Are you going to go to jail?
  4. Do I have to wear a coat forever?
  5. Can we go to the store so I can buy something with my money?
  6. What does the fox say?
  7. Why did you and daddy get divorced?
  8. What does the tooth fairy do with all the teeth she takes?
  9. Can I get a puppy for Christmas?
  10. Am I staying at grandma's house on the weekend? 
  11. Is God a man or a woman?  
  12. Do rattlesnakes really kill people? 
  13. Can you paint my toenails pink again?
  14. What is the atomic bomb?
  15. But HOW are babies made?
  16. Why is my back lumpy?
  17. Can I get a puppy for my birthday?
  18. What do aliens look like?
  19. Why do I always have to wear shoes?
  20. Is TV bad for kids? 
  21. What does [holds up middle finger] mean? 
  22. Will you get me a car when I'm 16?
  23. Can we get a pony for Christmas? 
  24. Why do I have to have a little sister forever?
  25. Are you [and boyfriend] in love?
  26. Why do firetruck sirens go WEEOOWEEEOOWEEOOWEEOOWEEOO?
  27. When will I be a teenager? 
  28. What is gangnam style?
  29. Would you sell me for a thousand dollars? 
  30. Why do people eat sushi? 
  31. Why are dinosaurs extinct? 
  32. How do Santa's Elves make all the toys? 
  33. Can I use your toothpaste tomorrow? 
  34. Why is my head itchy? 
  35. How do spaceships fly? 
  36. Do soldiers really shoot people? 
  37. Can we never cut my hair ever again? 
  38. Do I have to go to college? 
  39. Why is our apartment on the top? 
  40. How do you make a whistle that sounds like a bird? 
  41. Can you get me bubble gum from Target tomorrow? 
  42. When will we go see my cousins again?
  43. Why do people puke when they're sick? 
  44. Can we read the rest of the chapter book tomorrow?
  45. Why do you drink so much soda? 
  46. Why are there stars?
  47. Can we get a new car with a TV in it? 
  48. How long until you die? 
  49. Where is my DS? 
  50. What happens if you poke a slug with a stick? 

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Songs I Sing Myself

Some songs are meant to be sung to someone else. And then some songs I just sing to myself. 

Keep your head up, my love. 

Settle down, it'll all be clear. Don't pay no mind to the demons, they fill you with fear. The trouble, it might drag you down. If you get lost you can always be found. Just know you're not alone, cause I'm gonna make this place your home.

All night awake, in the moonlight I'm with you. In the moonlight I'm with you, brighter than gold.


We ain't got much now, just starting out. I know somehow, paradise is coming. Someday baby, you and I are gonna be the ones that good luck's gonna shine. Someday baby, you and I are gonna be the ones. So hold on, we're headed to a better life. 

I don't know where, where my path will lead, but I'll follow my feet and hopefully they'll keep me on the ground and I'll keep walking to the sound; Follow, follow, follow my feet. 

Only know you love her when you let her go.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Lead Poisoning

I have an acquittance from college and a friend from facebook who has been having all sorts of difficulty with her children testing positive for lead poisoning and the subsequent financial implications as they've tried to renovate their house to remove said lead and then further bureaucratic issues trying to get state funding to help expedite the process.

I've spent my share of time dealing with bureaucratic paperwork and headaches, and fully understand the challenges of tight budgets with small children.

But this particular story [read about it HERE with pictures and more back story and how to donate to help them and everything] hits even a little bit closer to home than all that.

You see, that pretty and afford older house they bought to renovate is very common in the area of Iowa where I was living when Kristina was born. I cruised countless MLS listings of extremely similar places during that time, and had Peter's military service not taken him into the Army (and out of Iowa) when it did, we probably would have ended up buying a house almost identical to theirs eventually.

And the place we DID buy out in New York wasn't exactly much better on the "old house probably filled to the teeth with toxic lead paint" scale.

But we happened to get lucky. 

The owners before us had done some kitchen and bathroom renovations, put in new windows, and painted lots of rooms lots of bold colors.

Did you catch that? 

They renovated, including the clean up of all the probably lead filled dust. They put in new windows, so even if they weren't of the highest quality, they also weren't the lead filled stained glass sort I thought were so pretty when we house hunted. They painted, covering up layers that were almost certainly originally full of peeling lead paint. 

They did things that unintentionally kept my children from being accidentally exposed to a substance this other family is desperately trying to fight in their home.

And I cringe especially hard at the thought of the house I really wanted to get in New York that we didn't, this beautiful old Victorian dollhouse that I had been pining away for since I was a very small child.

I cringe because ultimately it wasn't concerns about something as mundane as lead poisoning that made it a poor option, it was the part where the furnace was wood fed that just made it too... impractical. Not the vast 3500 square feet size, not the gorgeous and extremely heat inefficient stained glass front doors, not the ancient still working knob and tube wiring, not the small outdated kitchen, not the creek running behind the house half and acre away on the edge of the property, not the vintage wallpaper, and not even the probability of lead saturating so much of it... but the wood burning furnace that had to be fed every few hours to keep the heat running.

So through an odd combination of dumb luck and questionable happenstance, my children are lead free while hers are poisoned. Sometimes it's a shitty world out there, full of dangers you don't even know exist until it's too late.

Seasonal Stitches

This year has been very exciting for me with the purchase of my condo..... which immediately harkens into unilateral control over Christmas Decorating by (yay!) me.

And even though there were some naysayers along the way condemning the putting up of Christmas lights before Thanksgiving, I was enthusiastically enjoying my power and my new electrical cord approved staple gun.

But I wanted something bigger than strings of lights.

A search was begun, including all the usual suspects of Amazon and Target, and then I saw it at Home Depot of all places.

A 4 foot tall blue dinosaur, appropriately festive in a jaunty Santa hat.

Now there were some pretty awesome light up pink flamingos as well, and I did briefly deliberate over which to get (the obvious answer was both of them, but after I was so super good on sticking to my present budget for the kids it seemed like a shame to blow my holiday decorating budget on an impulsive indulgence outdoor light up decorations), but the dinosaur was the clear winner with it's classic broad-spectrum appeal.

(Some people just really hate pink flamingos...) 

Needless to say I immediately set about putting it together, cackling gleefully and envisioning my deck looking like something out Christmas Vacation in no time.

When I met the girls at the bus stop that afternoon, I was excited to show them the most awesome Christmas light up dinosaur decoration, and of course immediately told them I had a surprise inside.

Kristina's eyes lit up as she asked, is it a puppy??

Uh, no...

Is it Santa??

Uh, no....

Is it candy???

Lets just go inside now and I'll show you, mkay?

Turns out Kristina probably would have been more excited for a sufficiently large candy bar, but I'm going to hold on to the hope that Adrianna thought "a pet dinosaur" was the most awesome thing ever (at least until she tells me otherwise).

But then there were unforeseen complications. I had been hoping I could just staple gun it to the deck rail for all the world to see and admire, until I attempted this and realized my super awesome dinosaur had a stance wider than the deck rail. After some creative pondering, I went with procuring my parents' old card table with the hopes of attaching the dinosaur to it and then attaching the table to the deck itself.

However, a few weeks had passed during this pondering time and Thanksgiving travels, and I was getting impatient with myself for missing out on all this glorious Christmas light up dinosaur appreciation time that was passing by alarmingly quick.

And this is when the story takes a dark and sordid twist, for it was in my own impatience to rig up the dino that I picked a time when I was already tired and stressed (and therefore not as focused and much more clumsy), and then made the mistake of cutting zip ties without carefully considering the location of all of my limbs.

A trip to urgent care and a few fore-arm stitches later, my dinosaur is still not rigged up and my enthusiasm for Christmas decorations has been seriously subdued.

Ah well, there's always next year. And maybe one of those light/sound systems....

[Note to self: re-read HOA bylaws to see if they specifically prohibit music light shows on decks]