Monday, November 18, 2013

There Needs to be "Quick Takes" on a Monday!

 I just have some random unrelated things to say.


Our soon-to-be godson was born earlier this month!  Tom and I are flying to Phoenix where his parents now live (unfortunately, because we really miss them) to be at the baptism.  Without the kids.  For FOUR DAYS.  Sly has been away from us for night, when Stella was born.  But Stella has never been away from us before.  I'm not sure which of us this will be harder on!  My in-laws are bravely and generously agreeing to watch the kids for us all that time.

Since this is such a rare opportunity for Tom and I, though, I feel like we really need to try to make the most of it.  Also, we'll be away over Tom's birthday - a great additional reason to celebrate!  I've never really considered taking a "babymoon" - a special get-away for the parents before a new baby comes and makes life even more crazy - but Kendra discussed it recently, and it does sound appealing.  If we can hold this concept in mind while we're away, I think it could make for a really pleasant little trip.


My eyes have been bothering me for several months now.  My contacts just felt really terrible most days, so throughout August and September, I was only wearing them about half the time.  The past couple months, I haven't even attempted to put them in at all.  Various times during the day, my eyes feel irritated (the way they feel when I have a contact in that gets dirty or ripped) or even sting a little. 

I finally saw the eye doctor about it, and he said I have a pretty significant allergic reaction going on.  I won't be able to wear contacts again until we clear it up, which will require medication.  I told him I was pregnant, though, and I think he was actually a little annoyed by that news.  He said he doesn't feel comfortable prescribing anything while I'm pregnant, so I'll just have to wait....four months!  Ugh.  I'm getting sick of my glasses.  The kids are constantly touching the lenses or knocking them around.

I tend to be somewhat skeptical about allergies, since it seems like everyone and their mother is "allergic" to something these days.  Seriously - how did people come this far being allergic to common things like grass and pollen??  But I've suspected for a while that I might be allergic to something.  For instance, every morning when I walk into my kitchen for the first time, I sneeze like crazy for about 10-15 minutes.  I have no idea why.  It doesn't happen for the rest of the day, but there must be something in there that's irritating me. 

The eye doctor said it wouldn't be a bad idea to have allergy testing at some point.  What's that involve, though?  Can they do that while I'm pregnant?

Tom's job

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that Tom and I had to consider the possibility of him totally changing career tracks.  He was given an offer to work for a Catholic radio station.  It would have been a significant boost in salary, as well as a much more pleasant work environment for Tom.  But then there was the hour commute each way to consider, and the fact that we were not willing to move very much closer to the job.  Also, the radio station has a very clear cap on how high (position-wise and salary-wise) Tom could potentially move.  Maybe it wouldn't actually  matter, but since we don't know what the future has in store for us, it was a little concerning.  Anyways, his current employer gave him a counter-offer that was good enough to make Tom decide to stay. 

Ultimately, Tom's decision was the result of prayer.  I won't go into all the personal details, but I really think this was one of the only times Tom has ever felt absolutely certain that he was being given a clear answer to a prayer, and it was a pretty beautiful thing to see how overwhelmed with emotion that made him.

Thank you for everyone who was praying for us.


We're still keeping up with our Etsy shop.  The good news is, we haven't wasted any money on it.  Including the initial cost for all our merchandise as well as various packing supplies we've needed, we've still made a profit overall.  The bad news is, the profit is pretty small when you consider how many hours we've put into it.  This really is much more of a hobby than a business.  We're still enjoying it for now, so we aren't planning to stop.  But we'll see how much it starts to take over our free time (and our free closet space!  That's the one thing I think eBay sales really have on Etsy.  After the auction ends, you get to mail that stuff away!  No storing it for an indefinite period until someone decides to buy it!).


I found out that I can actually get a doula paid for by our insurance this time around.  That's a pretty great deal, because you usually need to pay out-of-pocket, and they run around $500-$700 (at least from the research I've done). 

I had scheduled with a doula from the specific doula group the insurance required me to use.  But I just didn't feel comfortable with it.  We had the same doula, Bethany, at the birth of both Sly and Stella, and we really loved her.  I already knew that she worked well with me and Tom, and I felt nervous taking a chance on someone new to be there at such a crucial and sensitive time as my baby's birth!  I knew Bethany would love to be there for our third birth, and hated to feel as if we were leaving her out (and keeping it a secret from her).  Tom and I discussed it, and decided that with his promised raise at the job, we should allow ourselves the "luxury" of paying to have Bethany again.  She very happily agreed to it, and I'm feeling a lot better about the birth now!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Easy Crafts For Toddlers - Not Necessarily Pinterest-worthy!

Making pomanders.  Poking holes first with a metal olive pick.

Recently, Pax wrote about her frustrations while doing crafts with her toddler.  I have also found toddler crafts to be potentially frustrating.  Pretty much anything that turns out a nice-looking finished product is usually done about 90% by me, and is too often made just for the sake of a cute gift (for an adult relative), or to hang on the fridge (for my own benefit?).  Sly - age 3 -  does enjoy when our crafts turn out looking like something "real", but he's usually just as happy to have the opportunity to use the materials in a "scribbling" fashion - just playing around with art supplies for fun.

I look around for craft ideas online sometimes, and I feel like a lot of them are inspired by the Pinterest-mentality: really cute or beautiful results, but not something that's practical for a quick and easy craft-session with little kids [especially when there are younger and very-grabby siblings to deal with!].  And I don't like crafts that I end up doing all by myself. In my opinion, Sly needs to be able to help with at least some of the major steps.  If he can't, I'm just going to save that one until he's a bit older.

This was cute, but Sly wasn't able to do much of it himself (from Usborne's book: 50 Rainy Day Activities)

Also cute, but the only part Sly did was begrudgingly allow me the use of his hand

I thought I'd share some of the easy things we've done together.  Most days that Sly asks to "do a craft", I set him up at the kitchen table with a few supplies that he can play around with sans constant supervision.  If I'm feeling up to it - or Sly is really begging for it - we'll occasionally do something a bit more involved. 

Everything on the first two lists is mostly just a way for kids to practice using various art and craft materials.  Most of the results of these efforts end up being disassembled or thrown into the trash a day or two after they are done.  The third list is for those more lasting crafts that a parent might actually use as longer-term decorations or even gifts.  These are the sort I do with Sly only when I'm feeling up to it!

All ideas listed below are ones I have used myself.

"Crafts" that Require Very Little Oversight [really just practice with materials]

- Sticking stickers on paper
- Coloring with crayons or colored pencils
- Punching holes into paper with a hole punch
- "Painting" with water on a surface
- Stringing beads on string (pony beads or large wooden ones) or using pop beads
- Tracing with stencils
- Cutting practice with dull "kid" scissors
- Using chalk on a chalkboard/sidewalk or dry erase markers on an appropriate surface

"Crafts" that Could Get Messy or Require Minor Assistance [really just practice with materials]

- Painting with watercolors or washable paints
- Using markers
- Using rubber stamps and ink
- Clay or Play-doh [Sly recently broke the cardinal rule of "NOT ON THE CARPET!", so these things are banned for the time being]

Growing skills: clay cats at age 2

Play-doh fish at age 2.5

EASY Toddler Crafts that Actually Produce a Finished Product [require some parental assistance]

- Halloween: Kleenex ghosts - Ball up one tissue as the head.  Drape another tissue on top.  Tie a string around to create a neck.  Draw on eyes and mouth with marker.  Hang from ceiling.
- Thanksgiving: Hand turkeys - Trace your hands on paper.  Draw or glue on turkey features to turn the thumb into a face and the fingers into tail feathers.  These can be decorated an infinite number of ways (color with crayons, glue on beads or sequins, glitter, etc.)

The big one was my "example" turkey.  Sly's is the little one.  From last year.

- Advent/Christmas: Pomanders (see photo at top of entry) - Take an orange or clementine.  Stick cloves into the skin (it helps if parents poke some pilot holes with a toothpick or skewer first) then coat with cinnamon or nutmeg.  Hang up in the house for a nice spicy scent.
-Easter: Hatching chick - Cut out a large "egg" using a 9x11 sheet of paper.  Allow child to decorate it.  Cut across the middle of the egg in a zig-zag pattern.  Glue bottom of egg onto another sheet of construction paper, and use a brad to add the top of the egg above.  It will now be able to swing open and "crack".  Draw or paste on the top half of a chick inside the egg, which will "hatch" out when the child swings open the top.
- Kleenex flowers - Layer a few open kleenex on top of each other.  Accordian-fold, starting at one side.  Once you have one long rectangle, bend in half, and tape around the folded base.  Carefully pull apart layers of tissue, and fluff into petal shape.
- Straw necklace - Cut drinking straws into approximately 1-inch sections, and let kids string them.
- Bean or macaroni art - glue dried beans or pasta to paper to make a picture.
- Cotton ball sheep - Draw or print out a picture of a sheep.  Let child use glue and cotton balls to add some wool.  Googly eyes are a nice touch.
- Paper bag puppets - Use lunch-size bag.  Decorate with a face on the "bottom" of bag, and make a mouth underneath the flap so you can make it talk.

Also, I've found that it's easy to get supplies for little or no money.  Almost everything in our craft cabinet came from my own childhood (an advantage to being the first one to have kids in the family!), a thrift store, the dollar store, or the clearance bin at Michael's.  I also hang onto promising-looking craft items that I come across: pretty pinecones or rocks for painting, feathers, toilet paper rolls, ribbons or tissue paper from gifts, etc.

Feel free to share some of your own crafty ideas for toddlers!

Friday, November 1, 2013

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 34)


Happy All Saints Day!  Once again, I procrastinated about preparing anything for an important feast day.  It  didn't even really hit me that this feast was coming until I realized with inappropriate glee that we could actually eat MEAT on a FRIDAY this week (our family abstains from meat all Fridays of the year, unless it's a major feast day).  I found this cute idea on Catholic Icing that would be easy to do with little kids.  I don't really have any pictures at the moment that I'm willing to let Sly cut up, but I might let him pick some Saints from our enormous stack of laminated holy cards, and tape some of them onto a paper representation of Heaven...


This morning, I asked Sly what Saints he could name.  He said St. Therese and St. George (every little boy's favorite, especially since Sly is recently into dragons and slaying things - mostly Stella), and he got St. Joseph and St. Sylvester after a bit of prompting.  It's a start!


I finished my Jesse Tree ornaments for the exchange.  I did red felt hearts with the Marian "M" symbol from the back of the miraculous medal.  I think they came out pretty well.  I can't wait to get my whole set back in the mail!  

 Does anyone have a good book or resource suggestion for actually *using* the Jesse Tree during Advent, though?


Dragon and ladybug...and a hairy guy and a cat bum

Trick-or-treating last night was a bit miserable.  It was wet and rainy.  Both Tom and I decided to go out with the kids, since we never get any kids at our door anyways (I left a bowl of candy out in case, but it wasn't touched). 

Every year, the local bureaucrats decide to step in and make Halloween a little less fun for the kids.  Last year, they *moved* Halloween to a Saturday, because they worried about a forecasted storm which never came.  You can't just do that!  It falls on a specific day each year.   This year, the official trick-or-treating hours ran from 5:30-7:30.  So ridiculous!  Most adults (both those with little kids to take out, or those who might want to hand out candy at home) aren't even home from work by 5:30.  And 7:30 is barely even nighttime!  When I was a kid, I don't think we even left the house until 7:30.  Why do they have to take all the fun out of everything? 


There was one event from last night which was pretty memorable, though.  At one candy stop (a.k.a. a house that actually had it's light on, which in our lame city neighborhood is about 1 out of 10), we noticed a praying mantis sitting on the outside of the house.  We talked about how it was an uncommon site for October, the kids got some treats, and then we moved on.  About 20 minutes and a number of houses later, we found ourselves inside a beautiful old funeral home (their door was open and the porch lights on, tricking us into thinking they were offering candy.  They weren't, but the owners were very nice, and invited us inside to gawk over their amazingly ornate and beautiful old building).  Inside, Sly remarked, "there's a praying mantis in my candy!"  And sure enough, there it was, sitting right on top of the pile of candy in his pumpkin bucket!  The poor thing must have had several handfuls of candy thrown on top of him! 

A couple of people have mentioned, though, that praying mantis' bring good luck.  So I guess Sly has some luck coming his way.


I have an update on the ongoing - yet still mostly casual - search for a house of our own: we found one that we loved, and we actually put an offer on it last week.  Our realtor and the seller's realtor both expressed their belief that we should probably get the house, as it was a good offer and we had no competitors.  But sadly, it wasn't to be.  The seller's realtor sat down with them to go over the deal and their closing costs, and they expressed complete shock and surprise.  They didn't have nearly enough money to sell the place!  Their realtor insists that he had explained the finances to them several times, but apparently, they weren't paying attention.  They have to take the house off the market for an indeterminate amount of time.  I don't even know what their reason for selling was in the first place, so there's no reason to expect it to go back on the market soon.  It's pretty disappointing.  The worst part is, Tom and I had finally narrowed down just what we were looking for (in terms of neighborhood, number of bedrooms, price, etc.), and right now there's nothing else on the market that fits all of it.  So I think we'll continue to wait and pray.


Now that I know that our new baby is a boy, I want to get to work on knitting him a baby blanket, which I did for the other two while I was pregnant.  Does anyone have suggestions for a nice - but not too time-consuming - pattern for baby blankets?  (I'm on Ravelry as christinewin, if you want to add me!)

Quick Takes is hosted at Conversion Diary