Thursday, January 30, 2014

Picture of the Week - 1/30/2014

So...  how's the weather where you are?
For anyone who might have missed the 8 billion facebook posts AND the national news, Atlanta got some snow this week.  And the results, as expected, were pretty crazy!  Around 12:30 or so on Tuesday every school bus, soccer mom, working adult, government employee, and semi truck hit the streets of Atlanta, which are congested on a good day.  At exactly the same time a winter storm started dropping 2-4 inches of snow on the area which happened to be about 50 miles north of what was predicted.  The results...  total gridlock on every street in the entire metro area.  Some of the stories I've heard are crazy!  It took me over 4 hours to get home (a normally 35 minute drive in traffic), and I consider myself very very lucky.  Some of my coworkers were out through Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning. 
This is probably hard for all my northern friends and family to even believe.  Believe it!  And this time around I can't even blame our lack of snow clearing equipment.  The very infrastructure meant to maintain traffic and transportation in this big city failed.  And the terrain also played a very big part.  Atlanta is more hilly than you might expect and a little bit of ice on an incline meant to be used by a bunch of people without snow tires or chains or much experience driving in snow lead to many many issues.  There just weren't enough roads to get every single Atlantan home at exactly the same time.  Good times...
Speaking of good times...  the boys have had a BLAST on their snow days.  They were all sent home early on Tuesday, were home yesterday and again today.  I think they will go back tomorrow - at least the little boys will go back for sure.  They have thoroughly enjoyed playing in the snow.  It's a rare treat down here and we've sent them outside as much as possible.  It's supposed to get to almost 40 today and will be over 60 by the weekend, so this is a short-lived opportunity.
I had planned to send out Quinn's Happy 10th Birthday collage this week, but the snow pictures were an unexpected diversion.  Quinn's birthday is this Sunday.  Hard to believe that he's going to be 10!  More on that next week. 
In the meantime, I'm sure you are all hoping for some good news from the groundhog this weekend!  Now that we've gotten some snow time and lacrosse starts next week (yes...  next week), we are really hoping for SPRING now!
Have a great week everyone - and stay warm!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Picture of the Week - 1/23/2014

Everyone staying warm?  I know it's worse in other places, but it's SOOOOO cold down here.  I hate it!  Come on spring!
One bright point to all the cold weather is that we've been hunkered down in the house much more than normal.  This has lead to homemade soups and trying new recipes.  It means cuddling up on the couch with a blanket.  We have had lots of extra hugs and hang out time with the boys.  It could be worse... 
Maybe it's because we've spent so much more time together lately that we've noticed some big changes in our littlest boy.  Or maybe we would have noticed these things anyway and the extra downtime is just a bonus to get to enjoy them.  The short story is that Beck is quickly transitioning out of the toddler days and flinging himself with abandon into the preschool phase. 
It seems like overnight his vocabulary has exploded.  He has, like the other boys, was an early talker.  He's been able to communicate effectively with us for a long time, but now he's stringing together 6-7-8...12 words at a time.  He's moving away from the typical toddler speech which leaves out all the superfluous words and adopting more "grown up" speech patterns.  It's a fun phase!
He's also using his imagination more and more.  I have to credit Zane with this little skill.  Zane has always done more imaginative play than the big boys did.  He will happily sit with a couple of super heroes and a car and play for long periods of time.  He has a very vivid imagination and it seems his creativity is rubbing off on Beckett.  This is both good and bad.  It is pretty darn awesome to sit and listen to the little boys playing together and making up elaborate storylines about whatever strikes their fancy.  But the imagination can also run wild in scary ways.  Beck is pretty afraid of "monkers" right now - especially that one that he's convinced lives in his closet.  He's had a couple of episodes where his fear is practically tangible...  it's pretty heartbreaking!
One thing that continues to surprise me is the sturdy nature of this little dude.  He's kind of built like a little tank.  He throws himself at anything and everything.  He loves (maybe more than anything in the world) rough housing with his brothers.  How lucky is he to have such ready and willing playmates all the time???  I figure it's only a matter of time before he gets too rough for at least one or two of his big brothers.
Here's a picture of Beck dressed up as either a super hero or a villain...  never can be too sure!
Also - a quick PSA - if you happen to have a nearly 10 year old who happens to have an assignment to write a paragraph explaining a common household item, you might want to ask what item he needs to describe before suggesting he look it up on Google - because you never know when the common household item needing Google research is going to be "screw".  You are welcome...
Sending out some special prayers for a speedy recovery to a good family friend having some surgery today.  Hope you are back up on your feet in no time!
Until next week...  everyone think warm thoughts!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Picture of the Week - 1/16/2014

Stormy Weather
In the fall of 2012 my mom decided she wanted to get back into quilting and invited me to take a quilting refresher course with her.  At the time, I hadn't picked up a piece of fabric or a rotary cutter in around 10 years, maybe a bit longer.  That invitation came at a time when I should have, realistically, declined due to lack of available time and energy.  Instead I signed up with enthusiasm.  I am SO glad I did!
The idea for this project started shortly after that refresher course.  I decided that I wanted to make a quilt for each of my boys.  This wasn't to be a "use it on the bed right now" quilt, but rather something I would make and then put away until they are older and will, hopefully, treasure a bit more than a tweener boy is capable of doing. 
I started this quilt thinking, probably unconscientiously, that it would be for Spencer.  As I worked on the cutting and pinning and sewing, it became clear that this would be Zane's quilt.  He was the most interested in what I was doing.  He was the boy most likely to sit with me at the dining room table while I sewed strips together.  He loved that I let him pull pins out and help in other little ways.  He lit up when I started referring to the quilt as his.  
Quilting is a funny hobby.  On the surface it's a solitary activity.  Quilting involves long periods of time measuring and cutting fabric.  Then comes careful pinning and machine sewing.  Normally there is more cutting.  More pinning.  Over and over and over again.  It could be called tedious.  And all these jobs are one person activities.  There are little ways to share the work, but for the most part quilting is a one man job. 
The odd part about this hobby is that even given the solitary nature of the work, Quilting has a cult-like following.  There are guilds and bees and groups dedicated to discussing and learning and sharing.  As I got more involved in the hobby of quilting, I wanted to share what I was doing.  Unfortunately, time doesn't allow me to participate (yet) in all these extracurricular activities, so I did the best I could.  I showed Bob, I talked to the folks at work, I shared with the boys as much as they would let me, and (as anyone in today's social media world would do) I posted on Facebook.  It became clear to me that while I was doing the heavy lifting largely unseen, I wanted to share my triumphs with the world.  Sharing the highlights made the whole experience more fun!
My Facebook posts for this quilt started on 1/22/2013.  Wow!  Almost exactly a year ago today.  I don't remember exactly when I cut my first piece of fabric for this quilt, but I'm sure it wasn't much before that first post.  Of course I didn't work on this hobby every day - or every week - or even every month, but it's taken me a long time to finish and I am super proud! 
Spending all of that time over the last year, basically by myself (while still close enough to hear the chaos of my crazy household), gave me lots of time to think.  I decided, maybe because of the goal for this project, that quilting is actually a lot like being a parent.  The similarities are kind of freaky.  (At least to me...)
At the beginning of a new quilt project there is much discussion.  What to do, when to do it.  This is the time for consulting with others and gathering input, but ultimately the decision to start a new quilt (or a new person) is owned by a single person (or couple in the case of a baby).  It doesn't matter much that the grandmother things black and white and green would make a terrible quilt if that's what the quilter wants to do, right?
Then there's the excitement of a new project.  Share the news, show everyone the colors and the pattern and the plans.  What will you call it?  What will it look like?  Why are you making those decisions.  Everything is new and shiny and bright.  Bobbins are wound.  A new blade makes it's way onto your favorite rotary cutter.  A space is cleared out for the new project. 
Those bright shiny exciting moments at the beginning of a new quilt fade pretty quickly as the quantity of work is realized.  And work it is!  Tedious, mundane work.  Measure and cut - over and over and over.  Mess up, it's OK, just cut again.  It's hard and sometimes boring.  It's not glamorous.  It is repetitive to the nth degree.  It feels like the work will never end and the progress is sometimes so slow that it's nearly invisible.  No one is there to oohh and ahhhh over your ability to complete the simple tasks.  No one pats you on the back for continuing to work when you are tired or bored or your shoulders ache.  Kind of like raising a family, no? 
But there are moments along the way that are worthy of celebration.  There are milestones that are reached that a quilt maker wants to share.  And share they should!  These milestones are reason to celebrate.  They are proof that progress is being made.  They are one more step toward the completion of that project.  Finishing the initial sets of cuts is as thrilling as a baby sleeping through the night for the first time.  Finishing the first block is right up there with loading up the kindergarten bus.  Starting to see the project take shape is as exciting as recognizing your kids have a personality of their own - that you quite like. 
And then there is the finishing.  When a quilt top is complete there are 2 things you can do with it.  One is to settle in an hand quilt from start to finish.  While this is, without a doubt, a labor of love, it's also very time consuming.  I chose the other option, which is to ask for some help and hire someone else to do some machine quilting on your quilt top.  This choice is basically asking someone else to take care of this finished quilt top that you have put so much time and energy and love into.  Leaving my quilt top behind was like leaving a piece of myself.  (Anyone else thinking college???)  I had to trust that my machine quilter would take good care of my quilt.  I had to depend on her expertise to help me decide what kind of design would work best.  (Aside - we found a design that is a series of fancy Z shapes that could not be more perfect for Zane's quilt!)  Then I had to hope and pray that the finished project would be what I wanted it to be.  Not having control after owning every decision is pretty darn hard.
I can only hope that my four living, breathing projects turn out as beautifully as this quilt.  I love it.  It is a perfect reminder to me that hard, tedious, boring work can lead to something beautiful.  I hope that Zane reads this someday and cuddles under his quilt with someone he cherishes and realizes that each stich, every decision, was completed with love.  
PS - I named this quilt Stormy Weather because most of the work was done during rainy weekends during our super wet and stormy weather in 2013.   
Onto the next project!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Picture of the Week - 1/9/2014

I was looking through old pictures the other day and discovered something that has been bugging me ever since.  (Aside - looking through old pictures is SO much fun!  It brings back such great memories and reminds me how fast the boys change.)  The thing I discovered is that I don't have any pictures of the little boys sleeping.  In fact, I probably have as many pictures of Spencer sleeping as all the rest of the boys put together.  I guess somewhere along the line I decided the risk of an accidental wake-up outweighed the benefit of a photo of a slumbering child. 
Looking at those sleeping Spencer pictures was a good motivation to try to get some sleeping Zane and Beckett shots.  He was so peaceful and adorable in all those pictures!  Goodness...  how is it possible that he's a giant BOY now.  I decided to get some sleeping pictures ASAP.
It's also good timing because we moved Zane out of the toddler bed and into a twin size "big boy" bed over the holidays.  He was quickly outgrowing the toddler bed, but what pushed us over the edge was all the friends.  He insists on sleeping with ALL his friends on his bed every night.  And with the addition of a big dragon and a big Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, there wasn't much room left for Z.  Another aside - Zane LOVES the TMNT.  We have no idea why...  he hates the shows and refuses to watch them on TV.  But he plays with the toys religiously and that giant TMNT that he got from Berber and Pappy from Christmas has become a quick favorite.  I chalk the weird TMNT fascination up to another Zane personality quirk that we will laugh about someday.  (Also notice the TMNT sheets...  yeah, he won't sleep in there without those...)  In addition to the giant TMNT, Zane's favorite bedtime friends are "My bear", Tigger, and Mike from Monsters Inc.  He always has them within arms reach.
Beckett hasn't really become attached to any friends yet.  He does like to have stuff in his crib with him, but he's not picky just yet.  Probably the two that get the most action are the brown bunny from Easter last year and this super cheap fair prize we call Cheesy - because he's an orange gorilla.  The one thing that Beck IS very particular about is his blankets.  He loves crocheted blankets.  His favorites are the ones that have a relatively wide weave so he can stick his fingers, and toes, through the holes.  He makes us cover him up with one of his favorite blankets every night on his way to dreamland.
So last night (nothing like POTW procrastination), I crept into the little boys rooms one at a time.  I'm very much out of practice on slinking around and taking pictures in the dark!  I was terrified that my footsteps would wake them.  I was terrified that the clicking of the camera would wake them.  I was terrified that the red flashing battery light would win out and I'd run out of flash power before I finished.  I was terrified that the flashes would wake them.  It was a wee bit stressful.
And the results...  kinda suck.  Turns out that both of the boys were facing the wrong way.  So no angelic photos of relaxed, sleeping boys...  only messy heads of hair.  Oh well...  I'll try again soon!  Bright side - no one woke up!
Have a great weekend everyone!  Pretty sure it's going to rain here again this weekend, which is (not even exaggerating) the 6th weekend in a row with rain.  No idea what we're going to do without college football to keep us busy!


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Picture of the Week - 1/2/2014

Happy New Year!
I hope you all have had a simply marvelous holiday break!  We are getting back into our normal routine slowly.  Bob and I are back to work - Boo! - (actually Bob never really stopped...) and the little boys are back to school, but the big boys are off until next Tuesday.  So we won't resume our normal, normal routine until next week.  (And let me just tell you how irritating it is to get ready for work while there are pajama wearing loungers in the house!!)
So this is the time of year when everyone makes New Year's resolutions.  Honestly, I'm not much of a resolution maker.  I believe that self-reflection and self-improvement are too important to schedule only once a year.  I think it's actually much more successful to regularly (as in daily!) look at what's happening and see if there are ways to be better.  (Hint, there are always ways to be better!) 
The thing about not making resolutions is that come New Years Day I feel like I'm missing out on part of the holiday.  So this year I decided to make a resolution.  It is this: 
I will hug more!
Probably not something that is going to show up on most people's list of resolutions, but this is on mine.  It's not random either...  I decided to make an effort to incorporate more physical contact into my daily life because of a couple of things I've read recently.  (Aside, I really love that Facebook lets you share articles and I've found some really great things that my friends have shared.) 
One article talked about how important it is for moms of boys to show their sons affection.  When I think about this, it becomes super important to me.  I want my boys to know that it's OK to share their personal space with the people they love.  I want them to feel safe and know that my arms will always open to them.  Even when they open their arms just to lift me up in a testosterone-induced need to demonstrate their strength.  (Yes, Spencer can and does lift me and carry me around and then laughs maniacally about the fact that he's almost bigger than me.)  Here's the article that I first read about hugging your boys, but there are lots more out there -
The thing I read about hugging pointed out how a simple hug is remarkably effective at reducing stress.  (Here are 2 articles about the subject - and  I don't, in general, feel overly stressed, but why not take advantage of this easy and free stress-reducer???
This year I'll be hugging it out - what about you?