Monday, December 08, 2008

Christmastime is here

I finally feel like it's Christmas. I've been trying to get the holiday spirit since Thanksgiving: listening to Christmas music, wrapping gifts, decorating my cube at work, watching Christmas specials on TV, etc. But nothing was working. It felt like any other time of year, only slightly colder (I do live in LA, you know, so it's a brr cold 65 degrees).

But yesterday, Richard braved a trip to the Home Depot tree lot and brought home a super-fresh Noble fir. The smell of the tree automatically transported me into Christmas Town.

We managed to get the tree set up, complete with lights and gold ribbon, while Vivian was taking her afternoon nap. This was great because we didn't have to worry about her getting underfoot while positioning the tree. However, we didn't anticipate Vivian freaking out when she saw the tree in the living room! It is a major change to her living space, so we should have guessed that she would be apprehensive, but oh well.

Rich & I had grand hopes of Vivian actually helping to decorate the tree this year, but we were a bit too optimistic. She loved how pretty the ornaments were, but she didn't understand why we wanted to take them out of her hands to put on the tree. She spent most of our decorating time walking around holding 2-3 different ornaments. She only broke 2—one cheap ball that shattered when she tried to bounce it, and a glass angel whose wing snapped off when she tripped. The angel can be fixed, assuming that I can find the super glue.

After we finished decorating the tree, I looked for our Santa tree topper. I normally pack it separately because it doesn't fit into our ornament storage boxes. Unfortunately, it wasn't in any of my normal hiding/storage spots: Vivian's closet, the space above my wardrobe, the high shelf in my craft closet. It appears to be gone, which makes me sad because it's the topper Richard & I have used since we graduated college.

Well, I may have been sad, but I couldn't have our tree be naked on top. So I flipped through some vintage Christmas craft magazines, hoping to be inspired to make a topper. A 1964 McCall's Christmas Make-It magazine showed a cool and kind of creepy St. Nick on the cover that I really liked. I didn't have the materials to copy it exactly, but it did have the look I wanted.

So I decided to raid my craft supply stash to make a vintage-inspired angel tree topper. I figured an angel has more leeway than a Santa in how it looks, so I was more free to make use of available supplies. (good thing I have a craft supply stash—you just never know when you'll have a crafting emergency like this!)

And here is what we ended up with: a geisha-style, vintage-inspired angel. Made from the inner tube of a paper towel roll, foam, an old pair of nylons, a piece of peach-colored silk, felt, wool roving, wired ribbon, a rubber band, vintage millinery feathers and glue. I am really happy with how she turned out. I think she fits in well with our tree.

No naked tree here!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

New project wander lust

It's starting to get down to the wire, holiday-craft-wise. My first crafts have to be done by next Friday, as we are heading up to the Bay Area to do Christmas with my dad and my girlfriends. And yet I am still finding new project ideas that I have no business starting! So I am going to continue the list I started in my last post of things I can't start until after Christmas.

1. The very cool memory game that I first saw on Apartment Therapy's Ohdeeoh. How cool would it be to have a game made with pictures of things you actually remember! I definitely need to make this for Vivian at some point. She's a bit young to actually appreciate it yet, so maybe it's something I'll file away to do for Christmas next year.

2. This adorable baby poncho that was available on BabySteals (sold out, but still available at 45% off on the Skipping Hippos site). I may decide to make this as a present for one or more toddlers I know. I think I even have the fleece to make at least one; I'd just need the trim (because the trim is really what makes it so cute). I know that ponchos are a no-no for crawlers, but I think they can be a good solution for toddlers that don't like to put their arms in the sleeves of bulky coats.

Why does this happen to me? Why am I suddenly so dissatisfied with all of my Christmas projects? I actually like them all well enough, but I think the pressure of the fact that I need to finish them is overwhelming the fact that I want to finish them.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Yes, I have the attention span of a gnat

I have a serious case of Short Attention Span Theater right now.

As I posted yesterday, I have several projects that I need to finish in less than a month. So why is my brain buzzing with new projects—ones that I patently cannot start until after the holidays?

In an effort to catalog them, and get them out of my system (at least for a month), I'm going to list those ideas here.

1. I've been inspired by this Apartment Therapy post to paint my boring Ikea wardrobe a bright yellow. A couple of months ago, I successfully stripped and painted a Victorian-style side table, so I know I can do it. I think it will help bring even more color and design to my bedroom.

2. My sister Jenny bought me a gift certificate to SuperCrafty! for my birthday and I just used to to buy some Malabrigo Merino Worsted yarn in Sapphire Green. It's so beautiful. I am just itching to cast on for a Liesl sweater for me because I think it would be so yummy in this color.

3. I saw this beautiful letter quilt highlighted on the Spoonflower blog, and I want to make one for Vivian.

4. I'd love to make my winter coat before, you know, winter is over.

5. Every knitter I know is making cowls, which seem to be the must-have accessory this winter. I need one. I've got several skeins of sock yarn that will never be made into socks, no matter how many times I say I'm going to make them, so a cowl would be a good use.

Ok, I think that's it, at least those are the projects that I'm obsessing over right now. Gah!

I must finish gifts for others before starting something for myself.
I must finish gifts for others before starting something for myself.
I must finish gifts for others before starting something for myself.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Roller coaster

I have been dragging my feet regarding posting here, and I'm not sure why. Life here at Chez Reeve-Manfredi has been up and down.

Obama won! Yay!
Prop. 8 passed. Boo!
The holidays are coming! Yay!
Richard got laid off! Boo!
Friends Thanksgiving happened up in Seattle! Yay!
Vivian was a bear on the flights (a cute bear, but a bear, nonetheless), and I had a mini-nervous breakdown the first night in Seattle! Boo!
Richard and I had our 6th wedding anniversary! Yay!
And we both completely forgot about it until the next day! Boo!

So, um, yeah.

I am trying to stay focused on the positive. I am trying to be a crafty diva. Just about everyone will be receiving at least one crafted (sewn/knitted/crocheted) gift for Christmas, but of course that means I need to get busy.

I did manage to finish a cute skirt to wear for our Christmas photos, which we took on Saturday. I almost had a heart attack while making it, because it was supposed to be a vintage-inspired dress (made from an awesome vintage cotton that I picked up last year at the Pasadena City College flea market). But when I put the bodice together and had Richard pin it closed on me, it was awful. I'm not 100% sure what went wrong, but it was all wonky. Luckily, the dress had a circle skirt attached, so I just ditched the bodice and made a skirt and petticoat, and bought a sweater at Target.

I also made Vivian a winter (ok, LA-winter) coat out of an adorable vintage pattern. It was a size 2, and knowing that vintage patterns tend to run small, I figured that would be ok for her. Um, no. When I put it on her, she looked like the coroner from The Wizard of Oz. So, it will be coat for next year! Finally a project I'm early for!

I still have to finish two quilts, 1 sweater, 1 bag, 1 hat, 1 doll, 1 apron, placemats, table runners, 2 eye masks and probably more stuff that I can't remember right now. And I officially have 1 month to do it all. It may be a photo finish, but I'm feeling positive. I think I can do this.

Fateful last words, don't you think?

Friday, October 31, 2008

This is Halloween!

Happy Halloween, all you ghosties, ghouls and goblins!

I bring you a photo post...

Boo at the Zoo!

A visit to the pumpkin patch:

I finally got around to carving one of those pumpkins last night:

Stitch n Witch 2008:

Thing 1 and the Fish

A Viking family ready to pillage the Farmer's Market

Spider Granny!

Gnome-mar Garciaparra

Look! It's Bai Ling!

This little cowgirl is ready for some treats now.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ruth Wright Johnston

My grandmother was never an easy person to love. She had an extremely critical eye, especially for members of her family. She was never comfortable giving compliments to her family. She would talk about how great my aunt was, but only to my mom, never directly to my aunt. She seemed to go out of her way to be difficult, as if she was testing the limits or boundaries of your love. She would say horrible, offensive things on purpose, it seemed, as if she wanted to prove to herself that we didn't really love her.

In the last five years or so, she seemed to mellow. She started to appreciate the people around her, and even learned how to apologize. She wasn't perfect, and she could always be counted on to tell you how fat you looked, but I always assumed that said more about her own issues with weight than it did about my body. My grandmother was:

  • a child of divorce (my great-grandmother ran away from her husband in 1929, and even changed her and my grandma's last name so he couldn't find them)
  • a swim suit model (she had a front cover of Harper's Bazaar and a back cover of Vogue in the 1940s)
  • a mother of three
  • a divorced woman in the 1950s
  • a working woman
  • a mother whose child died (my uncle committed suicide in 1975)
  • a widow (her second husband, my Grandpa Paul, died when I was in high school)
  • a proud, strong, ornery woman

Goodbye, Grandma.

Ruth Wright Johnston
4/29/25 - 10/15/08

Me, Grandma and my mom, with Vivian

Friday, October 03, 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

Taking Stock

taken from Dad Gone Mad:

1. There’s something you’ve always dreamed of doing, but you haven’t done it because you think you lack the time, money, or support to do so. What is that something? And what are the REAL roadblocks keeping you from it?

Hmm. I have a lot of dreams, so it's hard to narrow down which one to write. I guess the most salient one is my dream to own a house. The real roadblocks to that one are: the current economy/tightening of loan standards, lack of a down payment, and the expense of the LA housing market (even with the downturn). We're hoping to make some progress on this front in the next year or so, but for right now, it's on hold.

2. Name something you would eat more of if health, cost, allergy, and caloric intake were of no concern.

Steak. Rare steak. Ooh, and blue cheese. And red wine.

3. What is the one singer/band, book/author, painting/painter or author artist/work of art that “speaks to you” most? Why?

"Persuasion," by Jane Austen. I think it speaks to me because it touches on not only the importance of knowing your own mind, but also the value of listening to others, and not making rash decisions. It explores themes of responsibility and maturity, which I appreciate more as I get older.

4. If your country’s government handed you a check for $10 billion and empowered you use that money to support a single program, cause, or organization, where would you send it?

Comprehensive sex education for middle school children. Giving young women (and men) the opportunity to make educated choices about their sexual and reproductive lives allows them to get higher education, get better jobs, be happier and more productive, which strengthens the economy and provides growth and stability for the country.

5. What really, genuinely pisses you off?

Closed-minded people who believe that their way is the only way. The only way to God, the only way to happiness, the only way to fulfillment, the only way to prosperity.

6. Describe your current level of happiness and contentment in your life. Are you living the life you imagined for yourself when you were younger?

On a scale of 1-10, I'm probably about an 8 1/2. I finally have a good job that I enjoy where I feel valued and challenged. I have a loving family and am financially secure enough to enjoy some of life's pleasures. I don't have a house yet, but it will come eventually. No, I'm not living the exact life I thought I would (in junior high, I thought I would go into politics!), but it's a life that I think my younger self would appreciate.

Feel free to answer all or just few of these questions in the comments. Or, if you prefer, contemplate your answers privately.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hope on a rope

This is the most random thing I've come across all morning. I just had to share.

And here is the second most random thing.

Scattered, smothered, covered and hitched
Couple marries at Waffle House

I love me a good Waffle House story.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A fortune for everyone

After the greasy Chinese food I had at lunch, I needed the palate-cleansing nothingness of the included fortune cookie. Here is what it said:

You are good-natured, practical and firm in your point of view.

Ok, it's not a fortune, but it's nice. I even thought it was pretty on-the-money. I'm an easy-going person, yet I believe I have my feet firmly rooted in reality. So, hey, my fortune cookie got it right?

And then I realized, who the heck doesn't that fortune apply to, at least in their own minds? I mean, who says, "well actually, I'm ill-tempered, impractical and wishy-washy?"

So instead of a real fortune, I got a sham platitude. I feel cheated.

Now I think I need a real cookie.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mash Game: Predict Your Future at eSPIN-the-Bottle

Behold... My Future
I will marry Johnny Depp.
After a wild honeymoon, We will settle down in Rome in our fabulous Apartment.
We will have 2 kid(s) together.
Our family will zoom around in a silver Suburu Outback.
I will spend my days as a lactation consultant, and live happily ever after.
whats your future

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Vocab by Viv

MAO = cat
DOGGIE! = dog
BAA = sheep
GACK = duck
MOO = cow
OUTSIDE = I would like to go outside now
DEWEY = my cat Doyle
DEH! = my cat Deano
BABY = my Teddy Bear
DADA = I'm so happy. Please do _________ with me.
MAMA = I'm so tired, in pain, hungry. Please hold me.
DA-TAH! = Ta-da! Look at me!

Monday, September 08, 2008

I have seen the future

and OMG, I hope it's here to stay.

Last night, my dear friend Julia came over for dinner. We splurged, and had filet mignon wrapped in bacon and wild mushroom risotto. Sooo good. It would have been better if I could have timed things better so that everything was ready at the same time (the risotto was so laborious, I couldn't start the filets until I had finished it, so it was a bit cool by the time we sat down to eat). And for dessert, I made a lemon-ginger pound cake (it was supposed to be a lemon-poppyseed cake, but I didn't know that
poppyseed filling is a seasonal item -- most commonly used for hamantaschen). The ginger worked out well, and everything was lovely. We also broke out our bottle of Fresno State wine from our trip over Labor Day up to Kingsburg to visit the family (yes, Fresno State makes their own wine). My review of the Primativo: a lot of sediment, but still a tasty red.

Vivian had only had one nap yesterday (she refused to take her afternoon nap), so I was a bit worried about how she would handle a guest and relatively late night. I shouldn't have worried. Vivian was her normally charming self -- she was bubbly and happy for most of the night.

Julia left about 9:30, which is about an hour later than Viv normally goes to sleep. She went to sleep easily, and was down for the count until about 12:30, when she woke up with either a nightmare or teething pains (she has a new tooth coming in on the bottom). I was able to nurse her back to sleep, and then I went to sleep.

And then, the miracle.

First, let me say that Vivian normally wakes up at about 4 a.m., wanting to come into bed with us. And that's fine to me -- my basic rule is that if it's after 2 a.m., she can come in.

But this morning, nothing.
Richard woke up about 7 a.m. and went in to Vivian's room to see what was going on. And Vivian was awake, but just sitting up in her crib and playing and reading to herself.

Wow. This is so cool. If this is a sign of things to come, it's awesome.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

as god is my witness, I'll never go sleepless again (until tomorrow)

Being sick, teething, entering the "terrible twos" (at 14 months, a bit early I think) - sometimes it's hard being Vivian. She's been fighting a cold for the last week, and there really is nothing sadder than a baby who just wants to nurse, but can't get more than a suck or two because she can't breathe through her nose. She gets so frustrated (because really, wouldn't you?) and then the tantrums start.

And oh, the tantrums.

Vivian has quite a set of lungs on her. She does not have a high-pitched scream. Oh no. When she gets worked up, she lets loose a throaty, loud and wild wail. Oh my god.

Sunday, Viv developed a fever. Not too high, say 101 degrees, but no one feels good when they have a fever. Fortunately, after she's had a dose of Tylenol, she cools down into her laid-back, happy-go-lucky self. I actually felt kind of bad that I couldn't take her somewhere like the park where she could have fun, because I didn't want to expose other kids to whatever Viv had.

Monday, Viv woke up still warm with a low-grade fever (100 degrees). We probably could have given her Tylenol and sent her to daycare, but if her fever came back after the medicine wore off, we would have had to pick her up and keep her out of daycare today. So instead, I stayed home for the morning while Richard went to work, and then he came home after lunch so I could head in to the office. Vivian seemed to be feeling fine, but the flip side of this feeling good was that she would not nap. She took one 40-minute catnap around 10:45 a.m. and then nothing for the rest of the day. This napless situation did not bode well for me. When I got home a little after 6 p.m., Rich took off for kickball. I hoped that Vivian would fall asleep while nursing, but no suck luck. She just popped up, with eyes that were just a little too bright and had a look that said "OK, now let's go PLAY!"

Everything seemed to be actually fine until it was time for bed. Between 8:30 and 9:15 p.m., I made 3 attempts to put her to bed. I was really hoping for no confrontation, but after the 2nd time she slipped out of my arms to run around like a mad woman, I had to put her in her crib crying for Daddy ("Daddadaddadaddadadda!") and wailing loudly enough I had to close the windows so as not to get the cops called on me.

She woke up again at 12:30 a.m. and would not go back to sleep by herself. I had to go back in and nurse her to sleep (and then stand next to the crib until she finally went back down). At 2 a.m., she woke up screaming again, and Richard brought her into our bed. At 3 a.m., she woke up again, and could not be soothed. No fever, but my only guess was teething pain (she's been clutching her mouth a lot). We gave her some Tylenol, but by that time, Vivian was awake, and did not want to go back to sleep. We tried for over an hour to calm her down before I gave up and put her back in her crib as she again cried for Daddy. Richard had never heard her do that before, and it just tore him up inside. She fell asleep (or I fell asleep to her cries - I honestly don't know) and stayed asleep until 8 a.m.

It should then come as no surprise that I look like hell this morning. I don't want to preemptively drug my child with Tylenol just so I can get some shut-eye, but oh god, I need to do something. I know this is just a phase, because we've gone through them before, and come out the other side where she sleeps for 6-8 hours in her crib peacefully, and settles down easily. I can't wait until we get there again.

Until then, excuse me while I catch a nap in my car.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

she's a great pumpkin!

Originally uploaded by Handy Crafts

Vivian has taken to pulling her blankie over her head and walking all over the house, and then bumping into furniture as she shuffles along like a Charlie Brown in his ghost costume. She thinks this is great fun. In this photo, she picked up a button down shirt of mine and pulled it over her head and ran around before collapsing on the ground.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

'cause knowledge is power!

What determines if a child will enjoy reading? Is it exposure to books, genetics, an early attachment to LeVar Burton?

I don't know what it is, but it seems that Richard and I have created a reader. Vivian loves books. Most of the time, she would rather read her books than play with her toys.

One day a week or two ago, Richard went to pick Vivian up from daycare, and when he walked into the playroom, he didn't see her. The rest of the kids were playing with toys, but Vivian was no where to be seen. Until he turned around, and looked in the ground-level book cubbies. Vivian had crawled in, and with her back to the class, had settled down to read a book. When Richard looked at the teacher with a slightly puzzled look on his face, she laughed and said, "Oh Vivian does that all the time!"

Every morning, she brings us a book that we read at least three times before we leave for daycare. In the evening, she bounces back and forth between us, bringing us books, and then crawling in our laps to be read to (absolutely my favorite thing she does -- it just melts my heart). In the average day, we probably read 7-8 books, and each one is read at least 2-3 times.

We did start reading to Vivian early, beginning before she could sit up, when all she wanted to do was eat the books instead of read them. And I think it's important for her to learn by example, by seeing us read our own books for pleasure. Much of the reading I've done in the last year has been done while breastfeeding.

But when she started to show a real interest in books, I was sort of at a loss to find appropriate books for her. Not that there is a shortage of children's books out there, but I wanted to find books that were stimulating and engaging that Viv would love and that I wouldn't hate by the time they were read for the 47th time. Many of the fantastic books I remembered from childhood ("Where the Wild Things Are," Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," "George & Martha," among others) were a bit too long and too involved to hold Vivian's attention. Once we already had the Dr. Seuss and Eric Carle board books, I wasn't sure where to look for other book ideas.

And then I found an awesome guide to books for Vivian's age group, "
Reading with Babies, Toddlers and Twos." I picked it up on a whim at the LA Public Library store 50% off sale. For any parents out there, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. There are lists of recommended books (from actual kids of varying ages). There are also lists for kids with different interests and temperments (i.e., for the child that loves animals, cars, etc.) Here's a blurb from the book that describes what's inside:

Research shows that the number of different words a baby hears each day is the single most important predictor of later intelligence, school success and social competence. But what exactly should you read when?
- What do you buy after you've bought Goodnight Moon?

- Why should you read to a baby who can't even sit?
- How are you going to read to a baby who just found his feet--and won't stop trying them out?

- How often should you read to your baby to make sure she's ready for preschool?

Through this book, we've discovered Vivian's new favorite author/illustrator, Helen Oxenbury (how weird is it that I can say that a 13-month-old has a favorite author, and not choke on my own pretension?). We started with "
Clap Hands," a simple, 8-page board book that has warm and colorful illustrations of roly-poly babies. She became obsessed. No other books existed for her. Guessing that that was a good sign, we added* "Tickle, Tickle," "All Fall Down," and "Say Goodnight." She loves them all, and often pulls them out of her bookshelf and plops down to "read" all by herself.

Vivian is just now starting to make the transition to longer books, but I think these Oxenbury books will be with us for a long time. A new book that we've added to rotation is "
How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?" While Vivian may not understand the concept of dinsosaurs yet, she does love the beautiful drawings and lyrical rhythmic text. And I just discovered that it's part of a whole "How Do Dinosaurs..." series. We may have found the additions to Vivian's library.

So, do you have recommendations for children's books? Either ones your kids/nieces/nephews/grandkids love or ones you remember from your childhood?

*In this tight economy, I'm really trying to reduce our trips to the bookstore while still making books avilable. While I do hope to instill a healthy love of the public library once she's a bit older, it's not very practical at this stage. Vivian loves the repetition of familiar books, so having to return the books after a couple of weeks wouldn't be too popular. So instead, I'm using my credits on
Paperback Swap (having unloaded several books I didn't need) to pick up these children's books. Free books! (or mostly free, I have to pay for postage for the books I send to others, but it's still a great deal)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Weekend Craftavaganza!

I don't know about you, but I had a very productive weekend. It's not often that I get to write that. Most Mondays, I look back fondly on a weekend where the most active thing I did was order pizza. But not this weekend. Oh no. This weekend, I crafted.

Actually, it was a family weekend of crafting. Richard's kickball team, the Awesome Helicopter Ninjas, is beginning its fall season tonight, and and Richard wanted to do something special. He decided that the Ninjas needed and official mascot, along the lines of the San Diego Chicken or the Phillie Phanatic. So, I give you the Naughty Ninja

It's a paper-mache Ninja head! Richard used a beach ball to build the paper-mache and and I think he did a great job. We glued some black fabric inside the mouth (actually for Richard's eyes so he can see out), and we have foam inside to make sure it fits. I can't wait to see action shots of the Naughty Ninja at tonight's game.

Another craft project on the weekend's to-do list was the create a doormat for our apartment. We haven't had one in more than a year. When we moved in, I wanted a really cool mat, like one of these. But I just couldn't bring myself to spend $40 on a doormat. So we made due with a crappy plastic one until it blew away in a storm last year. I didn't know what I wanted to do until I saw this post on which showed how one member created a river rock doormat, inspired by one at Crate & Barrel (and also now available here). So easy!

Richard bought a black rubber doormat from OSH, and I bought a bag of river rock and some rubber cement from Home Depot. Here is a shot of the work in progress:

The rocks I used are smaller than the ones in the Curbly mat, and it took me a bit longer than expected. But I finally finished on Saturday. And here it is in its place of honor:

I had to move the mat out a bit from the door, as it is too tall to pass under the door if it is too close. But it still looks cool, and cost about a grand total of $12!

My other big project of the weekend was stripping the varnish off of a neo-Victorian occasional table that my dad gave us a while back. The varnish was chipped and had several drink rings, so I'm going to paint it a bright glossy turquoise and place it in our bedroom. I had never stripped furniture before, and while it was messy, it actually wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. I used Citri-stripper, which I had seen recommended on Apartment Therapy. I don't have a photo, but believe me that the table is now stripped. I have to put some primer on it (maybe I'll do that tonight after Vivian goes to sleep), and then I'll start painting next weekend.

I've been working on a long-term knitting project that I'm pretty close to finishing, but I'm a little sick o fit right now, so I needed a quick-fix project that would just be something different. Looking through Ravelry, I found just what I needed: a crocheted slouchy beret. It worked up in just a couple of hours (I finished while watching last night's 2nd season premiere of "Mad Men"), and I'm really happy with it.

There is one good reason to look forward to the end of summer: the opportunity to wear all your fun knitted/crocheted items!

And one final craft projected started over the weekend -- a quilt for Baby Marta, daughter of Allison & Iggy, and little sister to Maggie. She was born earlier this month, and I'm beating myself up for not starting this earlier. Oh well. I am loving the very girly fabric I chose, and I can't wait to complete this.

So, all in all, a very productive weekend. Now, if only I could be as productive every weekend!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Shades of grey

Parenting is hard.  

There.  I've said it.  This news isn't really news to anyone who has taken even a tangential role in raising a child, but it does seem that many people don't want to admit it.  Like somehow, if we talk/write about the things that suck about parenthood, it means we are ungrateful, spoiled and pampered princesses who don't appreciate our good fortune.  Believe me, I know exactly how lucky I am.  And even when I'm complaining about anything in my life as a mother, I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Ok, that's out of the way.

The mommy-blogosphere seems particularly touchy lately when it comes to discussing parenting choices and the normal venting that goes along with raising a child.  It seems to me that many people forget how to have a polite disagreement behind the "veil of anonymity" of the internet.  Can't we all just get along?

I am a firm believer in the tenet that there is no one right way to raise a child.  I've read books and blogs, attended classes and support groups, and have decided that my parenting style, which comes pretty naturally to me, may not work for everyone.  That's fine.  I try not to criticize other parents' decisions just because they are not the ones I would make.  But if I have questions or disagreements, I would hope that, as adults, we could have a worthwhile discussion about our differences.  Unfortunately, the internet doesn't seem to be a venue for moderate and intelligent discussion about parenting.

Maybe it's because parenting is such a personal job.  How we raise our kids reflects so much about us and our values.  Is that why so many of us get defensive when we disagree?  Feeding on-demand vs. schedules, breast-feeding vs. bottles, daycare vs. SAHM, I think as parents, we have so much of our self-worth tied into every decision that when someone questions those decisions, we often interpret that question as a personal attack.

There are a lot of decisions that Richard & I have made about how we parent Vivian that probably wouldn't work for other parents.  At just over a year-old, Vivian is still breast feeding at home.  It works for us.  And I think we'll keep doing it while it works for us.  When she is at daycare, she is taking bottles of formula.  And that works, too (I was pumping at work, but it got to be too tedious, and when I got the new job, I decided it was time to stop).  

Vivian goes to sleep in her crib (although most nights, she actually falls asleep while nursing, and then I transfer her into her crib), and when she wakes up, Richard brings her into our bed, where she'll nurse and then go back to sleep.  I know this situation wouldn't work for many parents.  But we like it.  And Vivian is sleeping longer and longer in her crib all the time (she actually slept in the crib until 6:00 a.m. the other day!), so we know that eventually she will go all night on her own.  

Mostly my parenting philosophy has been "whatever works" (obviously within reason -- for health and safety considerations).  I try to keep an open mind about parenting so that I can learn about other styles and maybe even adopt new techniques.  I don't know that I could be a good stay-at-home-mom, but then maybe I could.  I don't really have the financial option right now, but down the road, who knows?  The same thing goes for home schooling, private schooling, etc.  I'm keeping my options open.

Before I became a parent, I think I had much firmer stances on parenting, and many things were black or white, good or bad, right or wrong.  But now that I'm in the trenches, so to speak, I can see that there is a whole lot of grey out there, and a whole range of acceptable and workable decisions.  To steal a phrase from the Peace Corps., parenting is the toughest job you'll ever love.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Summer Fun at Mother's Beach

On Friday, I decided to take advantage of our recent heat wave and the fact that I didn't have to work (I had a fabulous 3 weekdays between end of old job and beginning of new one) by taking Vivian to the beach.

I am ashamed to say that, despite living in California all of my life, I very rarely go to the beach. Many years, the only beach trip was when we went to Lake Tahoe. But not this year. I have resolved that I will not spend the summer bitching that it's too hot, and gawd I wish we had a pool. If the water cannot come to me, then I will go to the water!

Having very little experience with LA's beaches, my first stop was the Heal the Bay Beach Report Card. The news is always full of the latest unhealthy report, so I wanted to make sure everything was safe before I put Vivian in the water. And I knew that didn't want to drive very far, because if Vivian wasn't happy, I didn't want to be stuck in traffic for hours trying to get home.

After much web surfing, I decided to try out Mother's Beach in Marina del Rey. The only cost was $6 parking, but you park so close -- no long schleps with baby and gear -- that it was worth it. The beach is protected by the marina, so there are absolutely no waves to worry about. Vivian loved it. I sat her down on the wet sand and she just started crawling out into the water as fast as she could.

We got to the beach at about 11:30 a.m., and stayed until 2:30, which ended up being just about perfect -- she napped in the car both ways, so she was in a good mood for most of the time. The beach also has picnic tables, and even barbeques, so next time, I'll plan to bring a bit more food. Vivian and I made friends with some other parents and kids, and just had a great time hanging out together. It was a great day.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

what's the what?

The what is that, after 8 years at my current employer, I have a new job! Now, because no one wants to get dooced, I'm reluctant to talk too much about work, but suffice it to say that I am very excited! The new job will allow me to focus on writing and publications, which I love. The new employer also offers awesome benefits, including on-site daycare (we're not taking Vivian out of her current situation, but when she graduates out of it in about a year, we hope to take advantage of the on-site situation).

Eight years in one place is a really long time. I know that there was a time when people stayed with the same company for their whole careers, and retired with a gold watch and a fat pension, but those days are very much over. I honestly don't know how I ended up staying so long.

After about 4 years, we started to think about moving up to the Bay Area, so I looked for work up there. I got close on a couple of jobs, but nothing ever materialized. After about a year of looking, we decided to stay in L.A., but then start a family. And who wants to start a new job when you're planning to take maternity leave shortly thereafter? And then we lost Eliza, and grieved. And then I got pregnant again with Vivian, and then needed time to sort out this motherhood thing.

And it's eight years. I feel like this is going to be a good move for me, personally and professionally. The whole interviewing process has been so stressful that I felt like I lost my craft mojo (similar to when I was pregnant -- I didn't realize it then, but it was probably a result of the stress), and couldn't knit, crochet or sew. As soon as I got the offer, my mojo came flowing back!

In just a few days, I had completed this Twinkle cardigan. Yay for my mojo returning! I missed it so.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A Day at the Zoo

I haven't posted in a while, mostly because I have some big news that I can't quite reveal yet (no, Vivian will not have a sibling any time soon).

Today, it was a gorgeous day here in L.A., about 77 degrees and sunny, so we decided to go to the LA Zoo. The zoo has really changed in the last 10 years, and is a really fun place to go. They seem to be constantly upgrading the exhibits. The latest one to open I believe is the new Ape habitat, which is large and lush. There is a lot of construction going on for new Golden Monkey and Elephant habitats. I gave Rich his Father's Day present early - a family membership to the zoo, so that we can now go whenever we want!

Vivian's not sure what all the fuss is about.

Despite what you see in her expression here, the flamingos were one of Vivian's favorite stops. The birds would just be milling around, and then one would decide that he had to be on the other side, RIGHT NOW! So he'd run and all the others would start running. It was amusing watching Vivian following the flamingos with her eyes, back and forth.

Sitting on Mommy's shoulders gives Viv a better view.

The giraffes were another favorite -- large, close and moving. Some of the animals were a bit too far away or too hidden for Vivian to really see, and if an animal was sleeping or not moving, she didn't always notice it. But you can't miss the giraffes.

Sleepy koala.

Sleepy Vivian. After a long day at the zoo, everyone needs a nap. But Vivian is the only one with a stroller.