Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Great Eugene Snowpocalypse of 2013

Last Friday, we got over six inches of snow in Eugene. Today is Wednesday, and school is still cancelled due to icy roads. We are at the point where we have done all of the fun snow activities, and all of the fun indoor activities we can think of. I took my kids to daycare today so they could play with friends and I could get some work done (lesson planning). But then I thought of my lonely little blog and figured I would share a couple of the pictures I've taken the last few days of our snowy wonderland and cookie baking fun.

Neighbor's house with the lovely sky. It's been so clear!

She runs everywhere, in every condition.

Attaching straps to tow Stella by bike.

Henry thought it was a bad idea.

Stella loved it and didn't want to stop.

Cold little nose and mis-matched mittens.

Just doing some blending with ski hat and glasses. No big deal.

We love cookies! Notice all the sprinkles? Stella's favorite part.
There you have it, folks! Not pictured: marble tube castles, painting, coloring, cars, puzzles, present shopping, movies (Stella love Super Buddies, Henry loves Dinosaur Train), the super fast slide at the park, and the actual towing of the inner tubes. Also, cold fingers and toes, lots of shouting "Mine!" and PILES of clothes to be washed, dried, folded, etc. I better get to work.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Five Rules for Shopping for Clothes

Starting August 26, I will be a full time, grade 7-8 teacher. I am really excited about my new job, and satisfied with our daycare situation. My husband just got a new job as well, so we are going through lots of changes lately!
In the meantime, since school got out and sub jobs ended, I took a very part-time job working at an upscale clothing store. I would want to work there more often if it weren't for the fact that I either pay for childcare, negating most of my profit, or miss out on family time with my husband every time I work. I also have spent most of my paychecks on clothing that I buy with my employee discount, so I'm basically getting paid in clothes, which I do desperately need after the last several years of being pregnant, postpartum, and finally losing all of the baby weight plus some. Overall, the job is mostly fun, often rewarding, and a great learning experience for me in many ways. I keep wanting to share what I've learned with other women so we can all have the best shopping experiences. I've always liked to shop, and I do even more now. So, here it is!

Five rules that I've learned from working with women and clothes:
  1. Always try on. Try on many items, grab two sizes if you're in between, and try on things you're unsure of, but *might like. You will avoid having to return a bunch of stuff. If you're unsure of the correct fit of something, get a second opinion. This brings me to the next thing I've learned.
  2. Utilize the store employees! They know where everything is, or should, they know the sizes and what fits small or runs large. If you are trying to find full-length khaki pants, say so! Let them help you. You will save yourself lots of time. You can always ask for some time alone to try on if you feel too smothered later, and they should happily oblige. They know what is popular, and they sometimes know when sales are coming, They also can be a critical eye and should tell you if something doesn't look right. At the store I work at, we "wardrobe" people and so bring them more items in the dressing room to go with what they already have and build outfits. People often are surprised by what they love on their bodies that they didn't like on the hanger. Some people love having stuff brought to them, others hate it. We will do it until you say stop, and I certainly don't take it personally if someone doesn't want help. But, really, you should want help: we will save you time, help you zip, and should help make shopping fun.
  3. Build complete outfits. If you find a statement piece that you love, but you're not sure you have anything at home that will go with it, find other items to complete the look while you're shopping that day. If you can't find anything that goes, and you get home and you don't find anything in your closet either, you should probably return it. Unless you're the kind of person who is happy to wear stripes with plaids, reds with pinks, etc. Also, mixing patterns is in right now so if it works for you, it works period. Personally, I like to match my socks with my tops so I know I won't wear something unless it has a couple of options to pair with. I used to have skirts that I hadn't worn in years because I didn't have a top that paired well. I am wiser now and shop with complete outfits, including belts, shoes, and jewelry, in mind.
  4. Avoid age discrimination with your clothes. Don't dismiss a look because you think it is "too young" or "too old-lady" for you. I have seen a lot of older women rocking strapless tops, and young women looking great in flowered cardigans. Try something on if you like it even if it's not what you imagine to be the right age for you, get a few opinions, and see how you feel. If you feel good and like something, you should wear it! Of course, if your teenage daughter is going to badger you every time you wear something to the point that you don't want to get it out of the closet, you may want to take that into account. Then, take her shopping with you next time, or have her clear items before you take tags off.
  5. Allow yourself time. Rushed shopping is not usually good shopping. If you have a wedding coming up, start shopping for your outfit when you get the invitation, or before! Choose a day when you can devote several hours, choose a couple of stores, and be prepared to spend time trying on many things.You may find the right thing immediately, and then you can just spend the rest of your time getting frozen yogurt, or a pedicure, or reading a book, or whatever you like to do. But more often, it's going to take time. People get stressed and make bad choices when they only have 30 minutes to find something. You want to find clothes that you're going to love and wear for years to come, so you may need to invest some time into it.
There are actually many more things I've learned about human nature, and about my own strengths and weaknesses, from my clothing store job, but this is a good start in terms of the shopping experience itself.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Spring Cookies

Today during Henry's nap, Stella and I baked cookies. I used the recipe on the top of the oatmeal container, modified for ingredients that I like better. It ended up looking like this:

1 stick of butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup Sucanat (sugar cane natural)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 1/2 cups Quaker Oats, uncooked
1/2 cup Craisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped coconut
assorted sprinkles

1. Heat oven to 350. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until creamy
2. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
3. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg; mix well.
4. Add oats, Craisins, pecans, chocolate chips, and coconut; mix well.
5. Scoop with a cookie dough scoop onto parchment paper on your cookie sheets. The dough doesn't stick together super well so you will have to finger shape and smoosh it together (I use less butter than the original recipe). Have your child shake sprinkles as needed.
6. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.
Makes about 4 dozen (a little more).

Thursday, February 28, 2013

To Preschool or Not to Preschool

My Sweet Pea turned four years old this week. Unbelievable!

This year, I quit my job to spend more time at home with my kids. Or, more precisely, I took a leave of absence from my part-time teaching job that I actually worked at nearly full-time because my part-time teaching wages didn't cover full-time daycare for two children and working full-time was stressful for me and my family, even though I loved my job. (Precision is wordy.) I was hoping that I could net more income overall by subbing a few days a week, and I am so far! Last spring, even after I knew I wouldn't be working every day, I was researching preschools for Stella because age three is the year when children generally start preschool. I found some really great-looking schools and situations, but it seemed the more I liked the school, the more it cost (my preference was for Montessori or bilingual, of course). Since I was planning to be home most days, the more I thought about it, the less sense it made to me to pay hundreds of dollars a month to send my daughter somewhere else, since the main reasons I was staying home were to save money (yes - save money by not working: seems crazy doesn't it!), and spend time with my children. Preschool costs money and would mean more time apart... but I wanted to save money and spend time together. I wanted preschool, I thought, or did I?

What I finally decided, along with my husband, was that for this year at least, we did not need preschool. We are providing a positive, social, enriched, loving environment for our kids. Stella already had most of the skills (at a basic level at least) that I thought kids were supposed to learn at preschool, and we really couldn't afford it anyway. After two years going to daycare three or four days a week, she had strong social skills, a sense of independence, could count in English and Spanish, and could recognize letters. We have a group of friends with similar aged children that we play with at least once a week, and we go to library story times, on walks and hikes, to the park, and on lots of errands. So, the value of preschool seemed to diminish when I thought of all of the ways we were already meeting most of the goals of preschool. In addition, on days that I work as a substitute teacher or scoring essays, my kids are cared for by our neighbor who is a former preschool teacher, or by a friend or family member, most of whom also have young children. This Slate article, subtitled "If you are reading this article, your kid probably doesn't need preschool," affirmed my confidence in this choice. It points out research that shows that the more disadvantaged a child is, the more difference preschool can make in their lives, while the more education and resources a family has, the less important preschool becomes.

A couple of weeks ago, however, I started thinking again about preschool. Next year is a new year, and kindergarten comes the year after. Perhaps she would benefit from structured time with other kids, and to having a more routinized week, less dependent on my random days of subbing. Maybe Henry would benefit from some time with just me. Maybe I would benefit from a bit of a break from parenting all day. I sat at the computer and researched days and times, locations and fees for local preschools for a good hour or more. I made a new list. Maybe next year?

What's your opinion? How do you choose whether or not to preschool, and which one?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Not Another Day Stuck at Home!

I was in a terrible mood yesterday morning. Our back fence in being replaced (the neighbor hired a company), so Glen can't go outside to potty or play without us taking him on the leash. Henry has been sick, really sick, for the past six days, and we are just starting to see real improvement, so I am exhausted. Stella has a cough too so I can't really send her to a friend's house to play, but she is not sick enough that she is happy to be just hanging out at home watching movies and playing with toys, so she is asking for a lot of attention, and begging for a friend to play with. My subbing paycheck for the month was tiny, so we are on a very tight budget. All of those things came together and made me a very grouchy mama. I ignored my kids for a few minutes, locked myself in the bathroom, and talked on the phone with my friend. When I came out, I was determined to change my attitude. I would make the best of all this forced togetherness, with no pressure to get anything in particular accomplished today. I would ignore most of the chores, and just enjoy my kids. Stella and I ate Jell-o, we painted our nails, I carried Henry a lot, and read a few stories. Henry is just starting to turn the pages and pay attention. We enjoyed watching the fence go up through our back window, and Stella called out a "Hello" and an "I'm excited for the new fence you're building!!!" to the workers, which made them smile. Me, too. I ignored the kids for a little while more while I took a shower and dried my hair and felt very much more awake. We ate a light lunch, and I got Henry to sleep in the ERGO and gave him his breathing treatment. I got to read some blogs and catch up on my email while Stella watched a show. The little guy woke back up after a nice long nap and we got to take our walk in the sunshine, although it was still quite cold and Henry refused to wear a hat. He rode in the stroller under a blanket and with a scarf of mine trying to keep his ears warm. Stella took her run bike and got some exercise, as did Glen on the leash. We found litter and picked it up, and Stella was proud to help. Joe got home from work late and I had Henry bathed and asleep before he arrived, and Stella pj'ed and toothbrushed. We made it through another day home-bound, and even had fun. And since Henry was no longer so miserable with his cough, we were able to have a nice balance of rest and activity. Sometimes I get so focused on the idea of getting out to do fun and enriching activities, to play with other kids and get adult company for myself, that I forget the pleasures of a simple day at home.

P.S. Henry slept until after midnight and that was his only waking last night. After nearly a week of being up with him crying and coughing 4-8 times per night, it felt pretty amazing. I am a happier mama today

Friday, January 18, 2013

Milestone Alert

Last week, Henry turned 1. Joe made this beautiful banana cake with peanut butter and chocolate frosting. The filling is marshmallow cream. We went with an Elvis theme as Henry shares his birthday.

At age one, Henry crawls very quickly, eats like a champ and loves to feed himself, and giggles if you turn him upside down. He waves bye-bye, claps if you say "yay," and just learned to sign "more" if he wants more food. He will say mama and dada if he really wants us, but mostly just points and says "uh" for what he wants. This is how he often looks at the end of a meal:

Today, he pulled himself to standing, and then let go! Two times!

Stella got her first major hair cut yesterday. She has had it trimmed twice, by her babysitter at my request. The last time was over a year ago. This bob do I did myself, as she sat on a kids' chair in front of me and watched a show. Cutest questions she asked me regarding the haircut: "will it hurt?" and "will it grow long before Ellen gets to see it?" (our neighbor and sometimes babysitter, who she sees at least once a week).
 Before (the day before):

Henry got his first haircut today. Joe did it while Henry sat in his high chair and made it difficult by constantly trying to see/grab the scissors. He only did the back and around the ears.

They are growing and changing quickly and I am not doing a great job at recording it. Goal for next week: update Henry's baby book.