September 30, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Caged Animal

The only way Mama can get some peace...the Pack n' Play!
{And I just noticed the strange off-the-shoulder look...not intending to channel Flashdance here! Ironically, his onesie says "Hot Stuff"...very retro-slang}

For more Wordful Wednesday, visit 7 Clown Circus and for more Wordless Wednesday visit 5 Minutes for Mom

Please Pardon the Interruption

Forgive me if I don't post as regularly as I have been. It's been a rough week or so here for us, nothing major, just a boy cutting teeth and pulling himself up on everything in order to stand, and then falling backwards and hitting his head and screaming. I've had a perpetual headache for the last week and am exhausted from the night wakings at 4am. Despite my efforts of letting SoJo cry-it-out, I just can't in the middle of the night. None of us get any sleep then.

To top it off, the house is a mess and husband is crazed about stocking up on some pantry items that we'll need in the next few months, just in case the economic situation gets really really bad and food prices skyrocket. The armchair economist that he is, he thinks it's better to have some real goods on hand rather than a bit of extra cash in the bank. It's not a bad idea, but the timing is awful. Not only is the house dirty, but there are boxes and cans all over the place, waiting for a home that seems at least a week away.

And please, don't think I'm asking for your pity, as I know this is small potatoes compared to some of the things a lot of you go through, but I just wanted to explain why I haven't been posting any high-quality writing here. It's doubly-awful because I have so many things I want to write about, which is in stark contrast to the bloggers-block that I often get. I do want to thank you for your emails and comments, even when I haven't had a chance to respond.

On a positive note, my dear friends had their baby last night. After a day of labor, they welcomed a little girl into the world. I'm hopefully going to meet Soren's newest girlfriend sometime today. Welcome Liliana Beatriz!

Every child begins the world again~Henry David Thoreau

September 26, 2008

Shoe Fetish

I'm playing along with Mannequin here from Fractured Toy, who posted her top ten pairs of shoes. I confess I'm a shoe freak, probably because I'm don't wear a size 6 dress size and therefore can't be a clothes horse (I've heard that larger women tend to be accessory freaks for that reason...fewer clothes designed to fit them...I suppose that's changing though).

I haven't bought so many shoes lately, since I don't have anywhere to really wear them now that I'm a stay-at-home mom, and also since we're surviving on a tight budget. But here are some of my perennial favorites. {and yes, I have huge size 10 feet. Blame my dad's side...those bigfooted Pollocks}.
Every gal's gotta have a pair of red shoes. These are very comfy...one of my many pairs of Clarks. The Indigo and Artisan lines are my favorite. Here are two more of my Clarks (as well as the ones in the top left photo).
The clogs used to be my favorite, but since I wore them every day during my pregnancy, my swollen feet really busted them out in the end. I wish I could shrink them back!

My boots, cheapie brown ones that are a little too small (great bargain at $10) and...
...my go-to Aldo boots from a few years back. I even had them resoled at a cobbler (it was quite a charming experience). I'm coveting a pair of Frye boots for years, but just can't ever imagine paying over $250 for a pair of shoes.
Dressy sandals and heels

And my Birkenstocks, which have lasted for 10+ years (and were also resoled by the cobbler).

These are just a few of my faves. I have a couple of other Mary-Jane-ish shoes, which are probably my favorite style. I have some unremarkable flip flops that are my round-the-house shoes, as well as my taupe Mary Jane crocs. I suppose I should be embarrassed writing that I wear crocs, but hey, they're comfy and easy to spray garden muck off of.

September 25, 2008

Knitting's in the Air

When the weather turns cool, I pull out my knitting. Although I think of scarecrows, apple cider, crisp leaves, and The Great Pumpkin when I hear the word Autumn, I also think about knitting. It's not that I don't knit in summer, it's just that I don't have much patience for it when it's 90 degrees and you have half of a sheep sitting in your lap in the form of wool yarn. My summer projects tend to be quick and light--baby hats, bamboo yarn, dishcloths.

As a promised gift to another blogger, I've finally started the entrelac headband pattern from Knitty.

{Aside to Naomi: I am still working on your hat, I just had to pull out some stitches and that always sets me back. But it's so me to be working on like 8 projects at once.}

If you're a knitter and haven't visited Knitty, get thee to the site with haste! They've just put up their fall 2008 issue and there are some delicious patterns to turn into wearable works of art. I'm particularly drooling over the Morgan hat.

I'm hoping to finish this before the weekend, although according to the pattern, this is just a half day project. I've already spent half of today (give or take, when SoJo is napping and playing quietly) and I've only finished about one quarter of the pattern.
I've had to rip some stitches out, since entrelac is a little confusing, and also because we're having a new furnace put in today and the guys have have been banging pipes all day. I can't say I'll miss that 1950s monster and its roar, and the weird stuff that was hidden inside it. Chris once found an empty container of Bryers' ice cream from the 1980s hidden in the furnace jacket. Must have been someone's secret ice cream eating spot.

I'll post some more photos as I get further along with the pattern, or maybe just when I've finished. And please, if you know of any digital camera giveaways or freebies, let me know. My photos are terrible beyond terrible, and not because I can't compose a picture!

Eco-Benefits of a Bad Economy

I've been thinking lately how a recession or at least a sinking national economy can actually be a good thing for the environment. Think back a few years to our booming economy and all of the unnecessary products that were both created and purchased (ie. Big Mouth Billy Bass). I know people still buy stuff like that, but overall, I think that Americans aren't spending money on trivial things that will ultimately (and quickly) end up in landfills. Here are a few other thoughts on the topic:
  • Due to high gas prices, people are driving and flying less, therefore creating fewer CO2 emissions
  • People try to condense their car usage into fewer trips, or simply walk or bicycle to their destinations
  • Families on tight budgets look for free activities, like hiking, playing in parks, and bicycling, instead of leisure shopping or
  • Rather than spending income on new clothes, people mend or repurpose old ones, or just keep wearing older trends
  • Frugality in general thrives in a bad economy as people need to live on less. It encourages creativity in cooking (to stretch their groceries), cleaning (making your own cheaper, eco-friendly cleaning supplies) and recycling of objects that would otherwise be throw in the trash.
  • The tendency to buy disposable products, like plates, pre-packaged convenience meals, and diapers, is often replaced with reusable options like cloth diapers and home-cooked meals.
  • When it comes to heating and cooling your home, people may set their thermostats a little lower and higher, respectively, and save some energy in the process.
I'd love to hear how many of you are coping with the current economic situation. I'm sure I've forgotten some other points, since I'm struggling with sleep deprivation, so please add some more ideas via the comments. And forgive me it this post is not so well written or thought-out.

Happy Half Birthday SoJo!

I can't believe it's been 6 months! Everyone told me that your growing up would happen quickly, and they were right---you've changed so much! You're such a little boy now, full of boundless energy and curiosity. I can't wait to watch your life unfold, especially over the next 6 months.

I love you little guy, through your slobbery smiles and fussy fits!

kisses, kisses, and back of the neck nibbles,
Mama

September 24, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Baby in the Country


Here's my little guy, discovering crunchy fall leaves in his Sunday best. Surprisingly, he was not afraid of the grass....
Or the stand of bamboo that he wanted to get a closer look at.


We live in what I'd call the country, but certainly not as rural as where we were this weekend.

For more Wordful Wednesday, visit 7 Clown Circus, and for more Wordless Wednesday, visit 5 Minutes for Mom.

September 23, 2008

Born Yogi

As I mentioned in a post last week, I've been trying to do some baby yoga with SoJo, but really, is it necessary when he's already doing this?
Yep, that's my baby in Downward Dog. I catch him doing this all the time. One of these times I'm gonna stop blogging and join in. How appropriate that he's wearing a puppy dog shirt doing the pose.

And please, ignore the teething biscuit remnants on his face (it's not a skin condition). Bad mommy!
It's like he's saying "Yes? What can I do for you?"

September 22, 2008

10th Anniversary Celebration at Endless Mountain Zendo

Yesterday Chris, Soren and I trekked out to Endless Mountain Zendo, a Zen meditation center about 2 hours from our house. This was the place where we got married almost 8 years ago. (Wow! Seems like last year).

Before you go thinking, What kind of nuttiness is this? Some sort of cult?, let me just say that Zen Buddhism to me is more of a philosophy of living than a religion. Christians, Jews, and Muslims can practice Zen meditation, where you focus on breathing and just being in the moment. We don't worship the Buddha, who is more of a role model and teacher than a god.

To return to my original thought, it was the EMZ's 10th Anniversary celebration, and Chris and I can't believe that we started going out there 10 years ago. Chris actually started meditation instruction when the center was in Philadelphia, under the name Plum Tree Zendo. It really was kismet, the way that we became part of EMZ.
The back of the house

We had lived in Philly for 5 years and were ready to leave the city for rural life again (we both grew up in a rural area). We missed trees, fresh air, and kinder people. About a month before we left the city, Chris contacted Genro, the resident monk/teacher, looking to do more intensive Zen studies, but Genro told him that it wasn't a good time, due to the fact that Plum Tree Zendo would be moving out of the city to the country.

We moved from the city close to our hometown, and after a month or so, Chris contacted Genro again, and in a twist of fate, found that the Zen center bought a property about 15 miles from where we were living. How amazing!
SoJo meeting other sangha (community) members of the front porch

Chris and I helped build the zendo (meditation hall) that you see in the photos. There was already a house on the property, but there wasn't a room large enough for meditation. Genro and some of the other sangha (EMZ community members) began working in the fall, shortly after purchasing the property, which pushed construction into the winter.

Let me just say that it's freezing out there in winter, since EMZ is located in a little valley or hollow. There were days and nights when it was sleeting and we were out there pounding nails and hoping the drywall seams would cure under the portable heater. I helped a little, but Chris and Genro did a lot of the work, mostly because we lived close by, since many of the sangha members live around Philly or New York.
The zendo's shell. That's me on the right hand side of the right side window, and Chris sitting in the doorway on the left

Somehow the zendo got built, and Chris still has the chipped front tooth from a stray hammer as a souvenir. The zendo has been the site of many meditation retreats and other events. Like I said, we got married there, much to the puzzled looks of my parents and siblings, who are Catholic.

Yesteday was really lovely. There was meditation, chanting, some meaningful talks on EMZ, a wonderfully yummy vegetarian buffet prepared by one amazing woman, and a silent auction, which generated lots of money for EMZ. I'm so happy that people bid on my silk scarf, and knitted scarf and hat set. We got to catch up with old friends and feel a part of something again. With SoJo and, prior to him, our jobs, it's been hard to make the 2-hour drive up there very often.
Here are a few photos from the day.
SoJo and his Dada (zendo in the background)

Mama and SoJo

Yayoi (a resident nun), Genro (our teacher) and Soren
{not a great photo, since the light was coming from behind, but in real life it was gorgeous!}

I wish I had taken some photos of the zendo interior, but you can go HERE to see some more. Our wedding picture's in the Sangha Life Gallery.

Happy 10th Anniversary Endless Mountain Zendo! May you have many, many more!

September 19, 2008

I've Become One of those Moms

It's finally happened. I've become one of those moms. No, I haven't gone out to get a mom hairdo, but I've let my child cry-it-out. Husband was laughing that the expression even has its own acronym, CIO. "What doesn't have an acronym these days," he says, this coming from a man who works in IT where everything has letters that stand for something, FTP, PING, MYSQL (I call that my squirrel).

But I digress as usual. Before you judge me regarding the CIO, let me explain. This week has been awful for SoJo and sleep. I think it's because he's on the cusp of full-blown crawling, or maybe teething, but he's been getting up every night at least 2-3 times, screaming his head off. Not just fussing and going back to sleep. I feel so spoiled that he had slept through the night (at least 8-9 hours, sometimes up to 12) from the first month onward.

I know that when it comes to babies and sleep, schedules and patterns don't last. But I guess I just really became attached to sleeping at night, minus the half hour midway for breast pumping. As most of you know, it's disorienting and stressful being roused abruptly by blood-curling screams, so I'd much rather wake slowly to pump than be jolted awake by baby cries.

My husband has a great perspective on it: grist for the mill (his words). We signed on for the baby thing knowing that it would shake up our boring lives and give us a new challenge. Do we ever know that now! And what life is worth living without some grist for the mill? It builds character and proves that we can be strong in the midst of adversity. And hey, it's not like my kid has some life-threatening disease, so buck-up Kathleen!

I am finally letting Soren cry-it-out, not entirely, but just more than I used to. First off, he's getting older and more aware of the world and used to us as parents. So I feel that he's ready to be alone a little more and able to learn to settle himself better. Secondly, I am exhausted from the past few days of constant sleep-interruption. I can also blame blogging too, since I really should be napping instead I'm typing! But this is therapeutic in its own way.

I'll continue more on this theme later hopefully, since my pillow is calling at the moment.

September 18, 2008

Fall Decorating

I'm not one for seasonal decorating except for Christmas and Autumn--my absolute favorite season. I love the Fall for its cooler temperatures, warm colors, and Halloween! While I'll miss my garden, by the end of summer the plants look so tired, and I crave cool nights for sleeping.

When the slightest hint of fall hits the air, I start pulling out the autumn decor. While I enjoy creative Halloween decorations (friends of mine make awesome plywood tombstones for their front yard every year, with clever tributes to celebs who've died each respective year), I tend to go the more natural route. Most of it comes from outside, but over the years I've managed to amass a small collection of fake leaves, wired berries and one ceramic pumpkin. We went looking for acorns over the weekend for a display, but they were still green and tiny and hadn't yet fallen from the oaks in the park.

So come on in through the back door and have a look around!
There's the lone pumpkin from our garden, which was actually grown from last year's cast-off pumpkins that were on our porch.

The back door from the porch/laundry room into the kitchen

The kitchen table with my ceramic pumpkin. That there is some yarrow and sage from my herb garden. Did I ever mention that I won the Best in Show award for herb arranging at the Bloomsburg Fair a few years ago? The herbs were all from my garden too.

The living room. We have a weird shelf surrounding the place where our chimney is. Not sure why it's there, but it's a stand-in for the mantle that we hang stockings from at Christmas. We'll tell SoJo that Santa comes down that chimney into the basement and then comes upstairs.

The sculpture of Shiva is a present my dad brought me when he was working in India 2 years ago. The Buddha sculpture is something we've had a while. Pumpkins are from the local farmers market---4 for $1.50. Pretty good deal!
This wooden bowl will eventually hold acorns...for now it's chocolate. Most of the candy went to work with my husband, but we had to keep a few pieces.
Our front door with gourds, pumpkins, a mum and some purple coleus-thing that was on my front porch all summer.
I made the corn decoration by soaking the husks in hot water and then braiding them together. The ears naturally fanned out like that as a result.
Oscar the cat says "Fare thee well!"

Green Living: Washing Clothes Less Often

Candice of Mom Most Traveled inspired me to write a tip about laundry (a frequent topic of mine). The simple tip is this: wear your clothes multiple times rather than washing them after each use.

Last week she did a guest post for Go Natural Baby about Green Living in the Third World. It was quite enlightening, raising the point about how much of a privilege that green living is here in the states, whereas around the world it's a way of life due to limited resources and often, poverty.

In her post, she wrote about living in Asia and Central America and how difficult it was to wash clothes under the circumstances of environmental conditions and availability of water. Therefore people wore clothes multiple times before washing them.

Now before you say "gross!", consider that in the Western world, we rarely get dirty at work. Many of us work in offices, retail or in the service industry, where you may break a sweat only if you go out for spicy food at lunch. Couple that with our near-obsession with hygiene, and you have an Of course I'm not saying to re-wear that shirt with the pit stains and mustard stain on the front.

In our home, not only do we wear clothes a few times before washing, but we also reuse our towels for multiple showers. Really, when you think about it, you're clean coming out of the shower or bath, so how dirty is your towel getting anyway?

Not only will you save water, but you'll also save wear and tear on your clothes. To help them out a little in between washings, hang them outside for 20 minutes or use this recipe for homemade linen spray.

Natural Linen Spray
Essential oil(s) of your choice (lavender or sweet orange are my faves)
1/2 cup cheap vodka (helps disperse the essential oils) or distilled water
Spray bottle with a fine mist setting

Mix 10 drops of the essential oil(s) with the vodka/distilled water in the spray bottle. Shake and let it sit for a few hours before using for the first time. Shake well before each use.

September 17, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Caught!

Caught where he shouldn't be, hiding between the couch and the recliner.

September 16, 2008

Baby Bjorn Believer

I recently came across a post on Baby Cheapskate that was compiling comments on what the most useless baby items are. Surprisingly, one of my favorite items was on the list--the Boppy pillow. I couldn't nurse without it!

On similar theme, one of my absolute baby necessities is my Baby Bjorn. We were gifted with what we'd call a "spirited" (read: alert and cranky) baby. From the first days onward, we tried many tricks to sooth little SoJo, from swaddling to rocking to nursing (which always worked). He wasn't what one would call colicky, since he usually could be soothed, however constant soothing can be exhausting! Enter the Baby Bjorn.
From about the first month on, we carried SoJo in that. He'd fall asleep instantly, giving us a few moments of peace. It also allowed me to have two free hands, and to get some things done around the house. I like that it is comfortable and doesn't feel like the baby might tip out like the sling that I have. It also matches a lot of my clothes, since right now I'm a huge chocolate brown fan. The material is very durable and drool and spit-up washes off it easily, and it's easy to get a squirmy baby in and out of too. I can't express enough how much I love this carrier; in fact just last week at the local baby store, I encouraged a man who was buying a carrier to get the Original Baby Bjorn rather than another brand. And he did.

Now that SoJo is a little older, we like to walk with him facing outward. It'll be nice in the cooler months to snuggle him against our chests and go for walks in the nearby park.

For those of you who are Baby Bjorn converts, you may have heard about the Baby Bjorn Believers program where everyday moms and dads like you spread the word about Baby Bjorn products. I've signed up and am now a Baby Bjorn Believer. If you're interested, register and use me, Kathleen Walck, as a contact. I'm eager to try some of their other products, like the potty and some of their mealtime items.

Kitchen Table Crafts: Simple Animation

Since most kids love watching cartoons, why not teach them a little bit about how animations are created? This craft is one of the simplest ways to show kids how cartoons "move" due to the subtle changes in two or more images. It takes thousands of drawings to just make a short cartoon. In an animated cartoon or movie, one second requires about 12-18 drawings! Most animated films today rely on computer generated images (CGI) so the work in some ways is a little easier.

The craft below is a 2-frame animation, where one image "changes" to another in the blink of an eye. This great website has some other paper animation projects that you can try too.

What You Need:
1 piece of stiff paper (no bigger than 4"x6")
2 pieces of white copy paper (same size as stiffer paper)
stapler
pencils/pen
markers/crayons/colored pencils
glue stick

What You'll Do:
1. Draw a simple picture on one of the sheets of copy paper. Too much detail will make it difficult to see the animation. Bouncing balls work well.
You can color it now or wait until you finish the second drawing.

2. For the second "frame" of the animation, you want to keep many of the first drawing's elements the same, but change a few to make it "move." For example, I decided to change the facial expression, the arms and a foot. If you make too many dramatic changes, the animation won't look like it's moving.

You can either freehand your first drawing, or do like I did and trace it while holding it up to a window (and not tracing the parts that will change).
Don't be cheap, I mean, a good recycler, like me and use paper with lines on the back, unless you can still see the drawing amidst those extra lines.

3. Once you've traced all of the parts that aren't going to change, bring the drawing back to the table and draw the parts that will change (ie. move). Color both drawings.
4. Glue the first drawing, the background one, to the stiff paper with a glue stick. This will help keep the first paper flat when you are moving the top paper during the animation. You could start out on the stiff paper, but it's a little harder to trace the other image, since light doesn't shine through stiff paper when you hold it up to the window.

5. Staple the second drawing at the top to the first drawing, which will be underneath.
2-3 staples at the top should work just fine.

6. With a pen or pencil, tightly roll the top drawing up to the top.
Once rolled, you'll move the pencil quickly up and down, repeatedly exposing and hiding the bottom image with the top image. This will trick your eye into thinking that the image is moving. You should keep at least a bit of the top paper curled around the pencil while doing this.

Here's an example from one of my students, who was illustrating a jumping girl (hence the motion lines underneath her feet)
In my experience, these can keep kids entertained for hours once they know how to make them. I love that they use few materials, and ones that are easily available in your home. Have fun!
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