Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Easter Bonnet

I have MAJOR issues with the art projects done at Dylan's preschool.  MAJOR, as in my husband probably really, really wishes I'd shut up about it.

But when Dylan walked into the pick up room today, (first, no less), wearing this...

I would have paid good money to see my husband's reaction.  I'm pretty sure it would have been worth it.
(By the way, Jim, Dylan couldn't have ripped that thing off his head any faster.  Then, he threw it on the floor, and stepped on it.  I kept it, though.  In case you'd like to try it on).

Monday, March 29, 2010

Well Visits Make Me Sick

I was four months late making Dylan's three year old appointment at the pediatrician, so I knew I'd  have to just take whatever time they could give me.  When the receptionist said 2:30, I thought "This will suck".  That was a fairly accurate prediction.

It was on a school day, so the normal routine was to get home by 12:00, have him watch a video, eat lunch, then take a nap from about 1:40 to 3:40 or so.  He usually naps two hours.  Yes, I realize how lucky I am that he's still napping.  He needs the nap.  If he doesn't get one he is either A:wild or B:cranky.  The normal routine wouldn't work with that appointment.  I told him when I picked him up from school that we couldn't watch a video when we got home because he had a doctor appointment.  Dumb.  That started the water works, and wails of "No!  I don't wanna go to the doctor's!"

He was "down" for a nap early - at 12:45.  One problem - his routine was out of whack and NO way was he sleeping.  All I could do was hope for the best at the appointment.

We arrived ten minutes early and he played nicely with his computer for fifteen minutes, until they called us in.  The nurse took his height and weight, and led us to a room.  Then we waited another ten minutes.  When the door opened, and a woman I'd never seen before entered, I groaned inwardly.  She explained that she is doing her residency, and the doctor would be in after her.  "Great", I thought.  Let me just say, I KNOW they have to get practice.  I KNOW it's a necessary part of their training.  I KNOW I should be patient about it, but I'm not.  I want to get in, see the doctor my son and I like, (who knows his history), and get out.  I don't have the time or patience for anyone else.

Right about at that very second, Dylan became a nutjob.  Hopping around the room, grabbing stuff, and singing loudly.  Resident Girl looked highly annoyed and slightly afraid of him.  "Wrong career path, lady!", I was my head.

She checked her computer, and told me, "He's in the 25th-50th percentile for height, and the 90th percentile for weight".  "Umm..I'm sorry, can you repeat that?", I asked.  She said the same thing, and I told her, "I'm sorry, but that can't be right.  He's one of the tallest kids in his class, and he's not that heavy".  I mean, "Hello?"  If he truly were 25th percentile for height and 90th percentile for weight, I would need to put him on a diet immediately.  Did she even bother to look at him?  Does she have any clue what an average three year old even looks like?  She replied in a very bored tone, "That's what the chart says".  "Well, someone is wrong", I replied back.  At that point, Dylan was hammering the floor with the reflex tester doodad.  We had been there almost an hour.

Another lady came in ,a while later, and said they were going to take his measurements again.  Then, the doctor finally made an appearance.  He laughed, and said, "Well, he's grown quite a bit since he first came in.  Now, he's 90th percentile for weight AND height".  Uh, yea.  If there is anything I learned with the whole torticollis thing, it is to trust your own instincts, and never be afraid to question doctors or to be an advocate for your child.

The doctor quickly (in about five minutes) checked Dylan, and asked if I had any questions.  Dylan was bouncing off the walls at that point, and picking up every germ int he place, so my main question was "Can we get the hell outta here?!"  But, first, I had to hold him still while he got a shot.

He seriously fell asleep before we were even out of the parking lot.  At least I have a whole year before the next well visit.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Zone

My favorite art teacher didn't walk, she glided gracefully through the classroom.  She was a strong, confident woman, but sweet and soft-spoken at the same time.  She never tore people down, but instead made all of us feel special.  She made us want to be better.  She taught us to use the right side of our brains, the creative side, and how to get in "The Zone".  When you're in "The Zone", you are creating freely, without inhibitions, without worry of "doing it right".  You lose track of time and place.  Your body and your mind is peaceful, caught up in the joy of being creative.

I used to be The Queen of "The Zone".  I had an art class right before dinner, and I would meet my roommate, and some of our other friends at the cafeteria.  When someone would talk to me, my roommate would say, "Don't even try to talk to Jen for at least 15 minutes.  She's still in The Zone".

My junior year of college I transferred to the college where my dad taught (where I should have gone all along).  At that college, juniors went to The Art Institute of Pittsburgh for a year, and completed a Visual Communications/Graphics program.  This was a bit of a struggle for me.  Previously my art was very loose, very free, and very messy.  Suddenly the focus was on precision, design, and execution.

These days, when I try to draw, or paint, or do anything creative, I struggle to balance the two sides of myself - the free and the precise.  I probably lean more towards the graphic side.  The free, loose part of myself is harder to reach.  It's hard to get in "The Zone" when your 3 year old is saying, "Are you done NOW?... How about NOW?"  That is why I love what I did last week for the Spring prompt (I'm a week late).

I started out drawing the picture in pencil, then colored it in marker.  Then, I got out the watercolors, and the precise side of myself tried to paint "inside the lines" (I'll discuss that some other day).  But, that's the great thing about watercolors.  They bleed.  They run.  They do what they want.  They force you to be free.  I won't say I reached "The Zone", but I could almost feel it on the horizon.

(If you don't know by now, Simply Feather, is the ringleader of this Paint With Me weekly challenge.  If you are creative, or long to be, head over and find out how to participate.)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

In Their Shoes

Twice a year, I sell Dylan's old clothes and toys in a huge consignment sale. It's a great way to de-clutter the house, make a little extra cash, and score some great deals.

Each time I go to the sale, it is like watching a "What Not To Wear" episode, if it were called, "How Not To Parent". This time was no exception.

When I drop off my sale items, I get a babysitter. When I go to shop at the sale, I get a babysitter. I have been shopping with my active three year old son. I know taking him along would result in chaos. I know his limits, and I know mine. I know that shopping for long periods of time + children = STRESS! Apparently, not everyone has received the memo.

When I first began to shop, I witnessed a mother yank her son's arm, while leaning down inches from his face, to snarl "Shut up! You're really getting on my nerves, do you know that?"

Nearby, a mother was admonishing her daughter, "Do NOT ask me for a toy! I am NOT buying you any toys!" I can't tell you how many parents I heard saying they were not buying their kids a toy, a book, a CD, a DVD. Apparently, they were just there to buy them clothes. They wanted them to sit sweetly in their strollers, or stand silently nearby, while they perused rack after rack of clothing, for hours. Hmmm... strangely the children were not cooperating. I can't imagine why.

I was over looking at the books, when an adorable little guy, maybe 2 or 3, wandered over next to me. He saw that someone had spilled some cards on the floor. He looked up at me, and said, "I keen(clean) dees (these) up!" "Oh, that's nice of you!", I answered, while he got to work.

I cringed as I heard a high pitched shriek. "Michael! Did you take those out? I told you not to touch anything? Didn't I?" Poor Michael just looked up at me, and sighed. I turned to explain that he was actually cleaning them up, but he was already being led away to look at more clothes.

I made my way over to the clothes, where my ears were assaulted by another shrieker.  "JOR-DAN!! Get over here! JOR-DAN!  Did you hear me?!"  Jordan looked to be about 2 years old, and he was a very curious little guy.  He wanted to see what was "Ova here!  Ova dere!  Ova here!"  Every five minutes or so (at first), I would jump when his mother would scream "JOR-DAN!!"  After a while, it got to the point where her voice was like the sound of chalk on a chalkboard.  I was envisioning myself strangling her.  A while after that, though, I noticed something.  I started to successfully tune her voice out.  Jordan had obviously learned the skill himself.

Why am I telling you this story?  Because while I was standing there, I envisioned Jim taking me to Home Depot (his favorite store and NOT mine).  I pictured him telling me "We're going to be here a few hours, looking at this wood.  I want you to stand here with me and look at this wood.  Don't wander away.  Don't go look at something that interests you.  I'm not buying you anything.  Oh, and don't talk, complain, whine, or cry about it, either".  I can tell you that I would not be cooperative.

Sometimes we have such unrealistic expectations for our children.  Sometimes we seem to forget that they are people, with wants and needs very similar to ours, (and even shorter attention spans).  Sometimes we scream, and yell, and nag so much that they simply tune out the shrill sound of our voices.  Sometimes we need to put ourselves in their shoes.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

First Day of Spring

Spring did not disappoint me. She arrived with a gorgeous day - sun, and a 70 degree temperature.
Dylan has been asking to go to the playground for about a month, so that was the first order of business.
We went to Eat N Park for dinner, Giant Eagle, Target, and ended our day with a free Rita! You did get your free Rita's today, didn't you?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

If Ever It Were Time To Leave A Comment

As I mentioned last week, many moons ago I was an art major.  Some of the people majoring in other subjects thought that we had it pretty easy.  They thought that while they were reading chapter after chapter, and studying for tests, that we were just painting the days away.  They didn't know about the critiques.

In my art classes, every so often, it was critique day.  On that day, we would each line, or hang our work up on one wall, and then the torture would begin.  When it was time for everyone to critique my work, I would do an inner pep talk to appear confident, but in truth, I was sweating and ready to collapse from the anticipation.  When people would say something critical about my work it was tough.  But, the absolute worst was when the teacher would ask for opinions and the room would fall silent!  I'm telling you, I would rather a person say it was the worst piece of junk they ever saw, than to say nothing.  Saying nothing, to me, said that they didn't care.  The piece had no effect on them.  It didn't make them feel... anything... think...anything.  They didn't care enough to even give me some constructive criticism.  Ouch.

So, when Lisa over at Boondock Ramblings, asked me to show some of the art from my art school days, I cringed.  Did I really want to open myself up to that?  What if I show my work and I only get one or two comments?  I'm not sure my ego can take it, people!  But, this Paint With Me thing IS a challenge, and what's a challenge without...well... challenging yourself a bit?  So, please, say whatever you want to say.  Be brutal.  Be honest.  Just say SOMETHING, okay?  (I'm talking to you people who never comment, too.  If you don't know me, you can be even more honest.  I don't know where you live!  If you don't want to leave a comment, email me.  I'm declaring this National De-Lurking Day).

(Heather, I did do something artistic this week also, but I'll save that until next week. I can only take so much! Didn't want you to think I cheated!)

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Best Things

When Jim saw I was starting to read the Simplicity Parenting book, he commented, "Oh boy.  I sense some changes are on the way".  I answered, "Oh a change is a gonna come!", in my best Baptist preacher voice.

The first change was the decree that Dylan and Jim would now be clearing off the table after dinner.  Why, oh why, haven't I been doing this all along?  Probably because I feared my clumsy 3 year old would spill food onthe floor, or break a dish.  But, I am determined NOT to raise my son to feel that a woman's place is in the kitchen.  If I have anything to do with it, he will NOT feel that cooking and cleaning is women's work.  He will NOT go into the living room to relax after enjoying a holiday feast that the women in the family prepared and are now cleaning up.  That is certainly worth some food on the floor and a few broken dishes.

The second change is that we now have a nightly ritual.  Every week night at dinner, (or later, if Jim isn't home for dinner), we each tell the best and hardest parts of our day.  It took a few nights for the boys (yes, both of them), to catch on.  The first night, Jim said his hardest part was "from the time I got to work until the time I got home".  Men.  They're so descriptive, aren't they?

We are really enjoying Dylan's answers.  Dylan had a playdate Friday, (his first since probably November! groan).  That day, his "best thing" was "Me and Caleb playing up in the air with the balls".  That was a lovely game in which they threw all of Dylan's 25 balls up in the air over and over, laughing hysterically and screaming "UP IN THE AIR!!!", until my friend and I could no longer carry on a conversation.

Doing this exercise has been really helpful for me.  Finding the best thing is usually really easy, but often I have to think a long time to come up with the hardest thing.  When I do, hearing the best thing and the hardest thing together really puts things in perspective.  The hardest things really aren't so bad when you consider how awesome the best things are, (my husband bringing me flowers for no reason, or my son kissing both sides of my face, then my forehead, before saying "I luv you").

Dylan's hardest things really show how easy a 3 year old's life is (at least for him).  One night it was, "when Mommy wouldn't give me any drink or food".  I was making dinner, and told him he couldn't have milk until it was ready.  I know!  Call Child Services.

The funniest was, "when I had a really big poop, and I couldn't get it out, and I tried and tried, and I pushed like this (imitating push and grunting), and it finally came out!"  As Jim said, "Someday, when you're old, that will be the best part of your day!"

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Once An Artist, Always An Artist?

I work as a nanny on Mondays and Tuesdays.  I've been a nanny for 6 years now, and I've worked for numerous families in that time.  I always do art projects with the kids.  I certainly don't get paid extra to do so, and I don't even get much extra appreciation from the parents, if any.  But, the kids?  LOVE them.

At my current job, we are too busy on Mondays, but every Tuesday morning the little girl greets me with "Did you bring an art project?!"  I'm not sure she'd let me in the door without one.

When Heather, over at Simply Feather started talking about this Paint With Me project she has going on, I knew I could always fall back on my weekly art projects.  I didn't want to, though.  I wanted to create something for me.  Something I wanted to create.  See, years and years ago, I was a college student, majoring in Art.  Yep, that was me, running across the campus with charcoal and paint smeared on my clothes, my face, my hair, late for Spanish class because I got so engrossed in my art class.  Now, X years later, a husband, a kid, and adult responsibilities, I've lost that part of myself.  But, maybe, just maybe this Feather girl is going to bring a bit of it back.  What about you?  Are you missing that artistic part of yourself?  Why don't you join in?

We made crayon resists. If you've never tried it, first you color an entire white paper with crayons (start with a small sheet and put the color on thick). Nothing fancy, just blocks of color covering the page. Next you cover the entire paper in black tempera paint (again, a THICK layer of paint. The little girl didn't really listen when I said "Thick layer of paint" and I hate to harp on someone while they are in the process, so hers didn't really work). Once that dries completely, use a toothpick or chopstick to scratch through the paint, revealing the colors underneath. It's a tricky process, as the paint flakes off in ways you can't always control. Just go with the flow. Don't be upset if it looks a bit like a kid did it. This one is mine, not the little girl's! : ) (Maybe next week I'll do something for myself).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


When you look at this picture, what do you think, and more importantly, how do you feel? Do you feel confused, bored, slightly agitated and restless? Or, do you feel content, peaceful, connected? Now, imagine yourself and your child/children in the scene. How do you think they would feel?

I was reading the book one evening, "Simplicity Parenting", by Kim John Payne, and Lisa M. Ross, and Dylan came over. "What are you reading?", he asked. "Can I see it?" When he looked at the picture, he asked, "What are they doing?" I countered, "What do YOU think they are doing?" "They're going to go swimming!", he answered excitedly. "Well, maybe. Or maybe, they're just sitting there talking, or maybe they are just listening", I told him. "Listening to what?", he asked. "Well, what might they hear? Maybe a bird chirping, or the wind blowing through the trees?" "Or a train going WOOOO!", he shouted. I smiled, pleased that although his first instinct was to assume they needed to do something active (go swimming), he could also entertain the idea of them "just listening".

How often do we get to do that, as adults? Just listen? How often do our children get to "just listen"? To just BE in the moment? So often, we are all scurrying around like frantic little ants, rushing to get from one activity to the next. How many times in our week do we find ourselves in traffic/in line at the grocery store/ waiting at the door for our children - our heart beating, our pulse racing, our hands clenched? Wondering "Why can't they hurry up? I have somewhere I need to be!" How many times a week do we find ourselves admonishing our children to "HURRY UP!"

I find myself longing for more time to "just listen". To just be in the moment, not rushing or anticipating. I long for things to be just a little more... simple. When I passed by this book, on the shelf at a bookstore I could only be in for a few moments because I was in a hurry, the picture spoke to me. I stared at it, transfixed. I imagined the beauty of that moment, shared by a father and his son, whether they talked or not. Then I smiled, thinking of a moment I had like that, years and years ago.

A good friend of mine from college and I were working at a camp. One day, everyone was going to get together and play softball. My friend convinced me to go exploring, instead. We wandered off through the woods, talking and laughing when we suddenly came to a spot that made us both stop. There was a brook, surrounded by trees, with the sunlight flickering off the water, and a waterfall up ahead. Without saying a word to each other, we sat down on a big, flat rock, and that is where we stayed for probably around 40 minutes. Neither of us said a word, but we shared a moment there.. just listening. When we finally left, she turned to me, hugged me, and said "Thank you. I really needed that, and I needed you to be with me".

Standing there in that bookstore, I imagined what simplifying my life and my child's life would feel like. I imagined him... one day... hugging me and saying "Thank you. I really needed that". It's so simple, really. Simple.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Spring Dreams/Snow Play

Dylan and I have been very busy these past 3 days.  I am reading an AMAZING book, and it has completely inspired me in the parenting department.  I will definitely be talking more about the book in future posts.  For now, some pictures...

After the ridiculous amount of snow and cold temperatures in Pittsburgh this winter, we are very anxious for Spring to arrive.  We've been filling our minds with thoughts of Spring.  The days ARE getting longer - have you noticed?
The first order of business was changing this...
to this...
The little things make a big difference. I just couldn't look at that snow anymore!
We melted crayons into Spring shapes... (I got the pan at Target for $10 if you want one).
We made "Rain Sticks". (You put rice inside for the sound of rain. Oh, and if you make one of these, wrap a rubber band around the foil on each side, then put tape over the rubber bands. Unless you like rice flying all around your kitchen?)

Even though we are dreaming of Spring, we figured there was no harm in enjoying Winter just a bit longer so we went out in the snow. There was the tiniest spot of mud, and of course, my boy found it...

We enjoyed a snowball feast...

Slid into the snow...
Then, we headed to "The Jungle" (what he calls the trees behind our house)
He played with sticks for about 1/2 an hour...
The author of the book I'm reading says that kids NEED the outdoors. They need sticks and rocks and dirt. It fuels their soul. By the looks of this smile, I would say he is on to something.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My Name Is Jen

I was just thinking yesterday, "The name of my blog is Rants and Raves, but I really don't Rant very much lately". Then today decided to give me my chance.

See, last week I went to my eye doctor's to make an appointment. I was already in the building to have my glasses fixed. (I broke them back in December during a coughing fit incident. Yes, it has taken me this long to get them fixed? AND? I'm in the middle of a rant here. Do you really want to mess with me?) Anyway, the receptionist informed me that I would have to wait until May to get an appointment, because my insurance won't cover it until then. One problem - I am wearing my last pair of contacts and I've been wearing them a lot longer than I'm supposed to already. I needed to pick Dylan up from school, so I just left.

Today, I went back. I walked up to the desk where my eye doctor was standing, along with a different receptionist and explained what happened the last time. The guy stared blankly at me and asked, "Are you a patient here?" "Uh...Yea...I'm a patient of YOURS", I ever so pleasantly told him. I asked if I could just buy a couple pairs until I can get in for an appointment in May. He said he doesn't have the kind I need in stock. There is more to the story than that, (I'm switching eye doctors now), but the point is... WHY DON'T PEOPLE REMEMBER ME?!

Okay, you are thinking I am blowing this out of proportion. Here's the thing.. It has been happening to me A LOT lately! I am getting a complex.

First, I saw a lady in a store, and I smiled and said "Hello". She just stared at me awkwardly. I said, "I talked to you for a while at such and such park, this past summer". She just smiled weakly, "Oh... right", while stepping slowly away from me. Okay, I thought. I do have a crazy memory for faces. I can meet someone for 5 minutes, see them a year later, and remember their face. Not their name, of course, but their face. But, I even remembered where I had met her, and some of our conversation, and she had no memory of it whatsoever.

Next, I went to a Mom's Club event meeting while Dylan was in school. Granted, I don't get a chance to go to many events. BUT! Here's how it went down...
First one person came up to me and said, "Lisa?" "" "Sorry, I thought you were the new member who emailed me".
Then, another person came up with her hand out, "Hi, I'm X. I don't believe we've met". "Yea, actually we have. I met you at Chuck E Cheese's when I was there with my son, and we talked about your son's allergies".

Honestly, I was thinking about standing up and saying "Can I have your attention, please?! My name is JEN. J-E-N. I am NOT a new member. I have been a member for years. I am not Lisa. YOU made a meal for my neighbor at my request, then sent me an email thanking me for allowing you to help. Then, I shared something very personal with you. YOU, I had a lengthy discussion with about allergies. YOU, I gave my pool. Yea, HI! Free Pool? Remember? YOU? My kid goes to school with your kid. HELLO?! J-E-N. Thank you. That is all".

I've been thinking about getting my hair cut shorter, for spring. Maybe I should go with this cut so I stand out a bit more?