Tuesday, November 3, 2015

My Thoughts on Kindergarten

I didn't think I would cry, she's been in school after all. Two half-days of Preschool and Pre-K. Two years of dropping her off at our beloved school with teachers that I trust with my whole heart. Out of her small class of 15, I already knew that 13 of them were all friends from Pre-K. And of course I live about 90 seconds from the entrance to the school...

So why would I cry? These crazy emotional moms I hear stories about, crying as they watch their kid walk away from them. I knew I wouldn't cry. Until Harper's teacher handed me a flower and a little poem she had printed out, reminding me that this was a whole new ball game.

School. Every day until she becomes an adult. School. A place where she will start to learn more from others, teachers and peers, than she will from her parents. School. A place where she has to just be who she is becoming, because mom's leg isn't right there to hide behind, and dad's strong arms aren't there to hold her when she's having a hard day.

Oh the tears that rolled down my cheeks on the way to the car, betraying my nonchalant mask of bravery! I was one of those crazy, emotional moms and there was no way to hide it.

It didn't help that when she ran  onto the playground, (the BIG kid playground) she ran straight over to the bench right beside the Pre-K playground, (where her sister would still play) and sat...just looking at all the big kids. The one big fear I had leading up to her first day was the big kid playground. It seemed so intimidating and new, and I worried that an older kid would pick on her or be mean to her. I was afraid she would feel small and alone. So it definitely didn't help to see her run straight to the bench and sit quietly by herself...

Every morning for the next week, that is exactly what she did. On the two days that Kinley went to preschool, she would have someone to talk to at the fence. On the other three days, she would just sit, sometimes staring at the kids playing, sometimes kicking the dirt and looking down. IT KILLED ME!!! I wanted to tell her to go talk to someone, go make a friend, go play on the slide or something. Something!!

And one day it hit me.

She was perfectly happy and content. Every day after we did her morning sign-in routine and walked to the gate of that big playground, she would give me a kiss, wave and yell "bye mom!!" with a huge smile on her face, and RUN to that bench. Not walk with her head down, not cling to my leg in fear... And when it hit me, I was so relieved that I had come to this realization before I put my own fears into her.

As hard as it was inside, on the outside I would smile and wave back and look perfectly happy about the fact that she was sitting alone. I chose not to mention the playground or making friends, and I stopped asking prying questions to discreetly figure out if she ever got off the bench that morning. Because she was happy, and she had no idea that sitting on that bench by herself was a bad thing. (In my mind that is...)

Another week went by of her happily sitting on the bench.

Then one day it was different, and I'll never forget it. We did her sign-in routine, I walked her to the big playground, I gave her a kiss and we smiled and waved bye to each other, and she ran to the bench...and just as she got to the spot where she usually sat, she turned to the left and ran, all the way down to the end of the playground, to where all the other kindergarteners played. She looked so confident, so excited and happy to be there still. And I was SO happy to see it!

It's so crazy and scary to me, that in wanting the best for our kids, sometimes we put our own fears or insecurities onto them. I know I've done it in the past, and I was probably about one more day away from doing it this time before my epiphany hit. Had I 'encouraged' her (pushed her rather) to make friends and get off the bench before she was ready, would she have started to feel wrong and bad? Would she begin to doubt herself and become afraid of the big playground?

She loves kindergarten, she loves school, and she loves that playground!!

Kindergarten is awesome! She's reading like a champ, she can already count by 5's and 10's, she has so many great friends, and she is Harper. She is not me, nor does she have my fears and doubts. And I really hope I remember this important truth, because I know this is only the beginning.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Strawberry Marmalade: The Best Summer Jam

When summer is just around the corner, I start thinking of strawberry marmalade...the perfect gift for teachers at the end of the year, and the best topping for waffles, pancakes, biscuits, you name it.

I'll admit, it's definitely not on my anti-inflammatory diet. But it is delicious, and a summer staple in my cabinet. I'm not a huge fan of plain orange marmalade, but adding the sweetness from fresh strawberries to the kick of citrus from oranges and lemons is pure perfection.

Warning: the aroma in your kitchen is about to be fantastic!

First, peel the oranges and lemons, setting the peel aside.

Remove as much of the white membrane as you can and discard.

Chop peels and place in a large saucepan.

Add water and baking soda. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Section oranges and lemons and remove as many seeds as you can see. Add them to the saucepan. Mash the fruit, releasing the juice, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes. (Breaking the segments in half helps with the mashing and deseeding!)

While the citrus is cooking, hull the strawberries and mash them, adding them to the pan after the citrus is done.

Add sugar and pectin and mix well. Boil uncovered for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat. Skim off the foam.

Your delicious marmalade is ready to be canned! (If you've never canned before, it's easier than you think! HERE is a great step-by-step on canning basics.)

Voila! A beautiful, delicious summer treat!

    Sunday, May 31, 2015

    THE Week

    Recital week is my craziest week of the year. Seriously, Christmas doesn't even compare. Throw in working at a summer camp with camp in full swing plus a Pre-K graduation, and let's not forget my ridiculous ability to volunteer for way too many things... well you've got yourself a week in CrazyLand. 

    First there's photo day, where the dance studio is crowded with sequins attached to adorable little wiggle worms with painted faces from their mom's make-up stash, looking up at all the grown-ups, wondering why all of them look frazzled and proud and on the verge of losing it all at the same time. The volunteers inside whose tone threatens a fight if you put one more child in line without that wretched orange paper. (Never mind the poor parent volunteer responsible for handing out said paper, not alphabetized, by herself, to a thousand parents looking at her just as threateningly.) It's a party, let me tell you. 

    Dress rehearsal is better, that is if you're not a show mom. (Yes, of course I volunteered. I have a problem, okay?) I came prepared, with my backpack of snacks and activities, checking kids in downstairs only to find out we should be upstairs. Going upstairs for 20 minutes, then being told that now we should take all the kids downstairs. (Side note: I'm not completely insane. I signed up for Harper's fully potty-trained class of 7, rather than the 11 three-year-olds in Kinley's class. Now that's using your noggin.) And trust me, the stage hands are just as ruthless as the photo day volunteers. They are like drill sergeants, and the show moms are the lazy recruits who have no clue what's going on, even when we really do. Make no mistake...the kids aren't the only ones who rehearse. As a show mom you also get to rehearse your duties for a month in dance class prior to recital week. (Even those of us carrying a 14-month old on our hip who is suffering from separation anxiety and wondering why in the world he can't just be asleep in his crib right in the middle of naptime...every Tuesday.) And looking back on the dress rehearsal, I'm still not sure if we were supposed to have the kids downstairs or upstairs for pick up. We ended up doing a little of both and got in trouble for taking up the next group's row in the auditorium. But all the kids got picked up by the correct parents, so win. Right?

    Now add in...

    ...the crappy bows I made a couple of weeks ago, which were such a mess after being worn even one time (now I know to never use wire ribbon...who knew?) that I really did owe it to the kids to remake them...the night before photo day.

    ...the hole in my foot from my dangerous bookkeeping job.

    ...the amount of work on my desk the 3 days I worked this week. A day in the life of summer camp workers in summer, there's plenty there for a post of its own!

    ...the cake I made for Harper's Pre-K graduation, Thursday night after the morning dress rehearsal and the afternoon on a golf cart, going between both stores on camp solving cash register crises. 

    ...trying to pick up a giant popcorn machine, load it into my car, then unload it at the school all by myself, because every guy I know, including my husband, is working like a dog making summer camp happen. 

    ...and graduation. By far the least stressful and most enjoyable event of the week apart from the recital Saturday night. 

    ...oh, and let's not forget the 5 hours this week I spent on hair. 

    Friday night I'm a show mom. It starts with 4:45 check-in (downstairs). We pass out snacks, we take kids on potty breaks, we fix costumes and hair. One kid asks about 100 times "how much longer?" Another one says, "see that boo boo on my foot? It's ringworm." And at least half of them were very concerned that their lipstick needed to be refreshed after the obscene amount of cheese puffs I fed them to keep them happy. (They're 5-year olds if you're wondering...)

    It's time to take them upstairs. Choo-choo train fashion as we've been instructed, only one of the kids doesn't want her shoulders touched. Then standing in the wings we turn them facing the audience holding hands (we show moms really know our stuff!) but another little one refuses to hold hands, making the girl beside her, aka my daughter, start to cry. They go on stage, all 7 of them, and smile and perform wonderfully! We take them to line up for the finale...more tears from my exhausted, very sensitive Harper. The curtain goes down, lights off, and then a mad dash from us show moms with our flashlights trying to find our 7 dancers in green amidst the sea of about 100 sparkly children. 

    Friday night I slept like a rock. When I got up with Foster Saturday morning, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I'm not kidding. 

    Harper had a play date scheduled, which I cancelled. And gloriously, all 3 kids took a nap in the afternoon at the same time!! The sitter for Foster showed up at 4:30, I took some pictures (just a few...), checked the girls in with the other show moms, sympathy written all over my face, and went into the auditorium to sit. (sigh of relief)

    The recital was excellent! (There's a reason those drill sergeants are back there, let me just say...) Kinley danced some, did a lot of twirls that weren't choreographed, played with the bow on her dress, and decided to make an early exit after her curtsy, staring at the other kids as she walked by as if they were crazy to still be standing there after the music had clearly stopped. It was perfectly adorable. Harper was towards the end, and after an incredibly long wait, she and all her classmates entered the stage with beautiful smiles on their faces. (I applaud you Saturday night show moms, job well done!) She knew all her moves and did such an excellent job! 

    After the show we gave them flowers, took more pictures, were greeted by the awesome Pre-K teachers who had flowers for my girls and the other Primavera school dancers, and then went out for celebratory milkshakes at In-N-Out with Nana and Harper's teacher Miss Brooke, both of whom we simply adore!

    The whole week was worth it. I love seeing my girls doing things they love, and knowing that these moments help shape them. They may not grow up to be dancers, and Kinley probably won't even remember this weekend, but they're constantly learning...learning who they are, what they like and don't like, who they want to be. And we as parents are learning, too. In addition to dance, next year each of them will do an extra activity: Harper wants to be in Daisies and Kinley wants to 'be a soccer star.' I love hearing who they want to be when they grow up, and it's kind of fun not knowing yet who they will actually become. Harper usually says she wants to be a doctor when she grows up. (When I hurt my foot, she burst into tears at the sight of it, but then got the band aids and doctored me up!) But when asked at her graduation what she wanted to be, she said a Rockstar. If only she knew, in my book, she already is. 

    Tuesday, May 26, 2015

    How To Dye Fabric Evenly

    This year I decided to be bold...I bought my girls white Easter dresses. Who buys a 3 year old and a 5 year old anything stark white?? I made them a deal. Wear these pretty white dresses on Easter for some nice pictures together, then they could pick whatever color they wanted the dresses to be. Not surprisingly, Harper chose pink and Kinley chose blue.

    Call me crazy, but they look adorable don't they?!

    One thing I've learned from making my products for LumberJacks and Jills (link at top of blog) is that dying material can turn out splotchy if you don't follow certain steps. So I want to let you in on the secrets I've learned!

    Here is a step-by-step guide to dying fabric on your stovetop without blotches or light spots:

    Make sure your pot is large enough for the fabric to move around, and be sure to clean the pot first. Fill the pot 2/3 full with hot water and the recommended amount of salt per your dye instructions.

    While you wait for the water to heat up, fill a smaller container with hot water and add the dye. Stir well, dissolving the dye in the smaller container, then stir the dye solution into the large pot on the stove.

    Wet your fabric thoroughly. And I do mean thoroughly. This is one reason that splotches can occur. Every ounce of fabric should be wet before being placed in the dye bath to ensure an even color throughout.

    Next, give your baby the box of baby spoons to keep him/her occupied...this fabric needs your undivided attention for the next 5 minutes.

    The first 5 minutes of dye time is the most important. Place the uncrumpled fabric in the dye bath and stir the fabric nonstop for the first five minutes. The fabric should move freely. I use tongs to move the fabric around deliberately. 

    After stirring continually for the first 5 minutes, I set my timer in 5 minute increments, stirring for the entire first minute of every 5 minute segment. For example: let's say I submerge the fabric in the dye at 1:00. I will stir continually until 1:05. Then I will stir for one minute at 1:10, 1:15, 1:20, and so on until the fabric has been in the dye bath for the instructed amount of time. (Different brands of dye require different amounts of soak time...see your dye instructions)

    Rinse and wash according to dye instructions. 

    It sounds a bit tedious, but moving the fabric around frequently is key to an even dye. I usually wait until my kids go to bed, then I start my project. During the wait between every 5 minutes I do my regular cleaning/straightening of the house that I do every night.

    I chose this subtle china blue color to give the blue a very delicate, feminine feel.

    I love dying fabric and recreating a look. Thread often times dyes a different shade than the fabric, which I think makes for an even prettier, less hand-made appearance. Notice above how the threaded flowers are lighter than the fabric in the dress? I have dyed several white onesies for Foster before, and that thread stays perfectly white, which looks so great!

    When one of my crib sheets came out splotchy I searched the web for tips and advice and didn't find much. So I hope this helps!