I Always Feel Like... Somebody's Watching Me!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Resolutions and Spousonomics... Say What?

One of my hopes or resolutions for next year is to read more books. Among other things like attain financial freedom, perfect skin, a desire to work out three days a week, a full-blown crafting empire and children who don't sob hysterically over the mean Binkie fairy for 45 minutes at bedtime.

Also, don't forget world peace and equality for all!

At least I have control over the number of books I read. I just finished one that I could not stop recommending to my friends. It is Spousonomics. Meaning the combined study of economic principles and how they relate to our irrational and profit-driven decisions in our relationships. And while one may think that a book combining the free market and relationships wouldn't exactly work or have "readability", I challenge you to give this book a chance.

 The authors are funny yet realistic, somehow making the transitions from financial markets to housework make sense. I reawakened that part of my brain that studied economics a decade ago and seriously felt like their marriage advice was stellar. And if think you are in one of those perfectly matched, don't need relationship advice kind of place... they have a chapter just for you! I loved the book. Gregory may feel like he read it too because I simply wouldn't stop relaying every chapter after I finished it. So if you love someone or want to or just want to read a quirky take on married life, pick it up.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas: Sponsored by the Thrift Store, Craigslist and Generous Family

 We have just returned to Buffalo after a prolonged Christmas including three straight days of gift giving and many a delicious dinner at Gregory's parents. Santa arrived here in Buffalo on Christmas Eve with some amazing gifts - more amazing to me because "Santa" found so many of them for about a dollar. I have yet to write a post about the epic thrift stores in this area, but my Christmas finds were fantastic. Although I have to credit Gregory for many an item. Ayla's side of the room is plastered with Princess wall decals (AND GEMSTONES!) and Jackson's Yoda alarm clock is by far the cutest clock ever.

  It was so relaxing and rewarding to have one day here, just our little family. I know the years that all of my kids truly believe in Santa are fleeting and it is such a gift to feel that again! And I know that the years we can get away with "inexpensive" (relatively, when kids are asking for ipads) presents are even more fleeting. So add their true enchantment with the season and the ability to be pleased with toothbrushes: we might have just had our best Christmas yet!

 The Barbie car, horse and neighborhood of Barbies came from Craigslist, the Fisher Price pirate ship from Amvets, Hello Kitty from the dollar store and all of the free toothpaste, toothbrushes and shampoo that I super-couponed from Rite Aid. I splurged on everyone else in the family instead. This is what I love most about this time of year. It's not a consumerist, materialistic drive that takes me Christmas shopping: it really is my chance to buy cool, quirky, necessary or not items for the people around me! Gregory and I are always buying each other what I feel other couples buy on a normal day, only nicer because it is a special occasion. We have had the same set of semi-ugly, chipped plates for the past decade and after years of us both pining away at Ikea dishes, Gregory finally splurged and bought beautiful Corning ware dishes. I couldn't have asked for anything more than a new iron (not a housewife iron, but a sewing business iron), new plates, an organizing system, a case of Ravenswood wine (intact with rebate form... for a super couponing nerd like me) and Archer Farms coffee!

 Only, we got more because we then drove to Pittsburgh on Christmas and spent time with as much family as we could. I am always blown away by the generosity shown for ourselves and our kids. Santa brought the highly coveted Fijit robot for Ayla to Nano and Gramps' house. Santa also made a visit to my mothers' and our kids nearly peed their pants when the gifts were discovered there!

Elliot wearing my new onion goggles. They will definitely be put to use. Good call, Mom!
 I will go on record saying that Christmas is not about the gifts... but it also kind of IS about the gifts. I get so excited giving the presents I have been scheming about for months. I spent a lot of time crafting and sewing and on Snapfish.com thinking of fun presents to give, so for me, that is a huge part of the day. Of course I love receiving presents, mostly because I am blessed with family that is thoughtful, funny, generous and with really great taste!

Is a caption really necessary? YES, they all have matching tutus. Ok wait, yes, please note Baxter eyein' up the cheese on the table...

Could we be happy without presents? Sure. But in my life, where I don't often splurge, it is fun to go shopping and give myself "permission" to get something nice for the people I love. (I mean, I never would buy a broccoli stuffed toy for myself, but for Erin on Christmas, most definitely! :) )

 I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas like we did. And of course, every other holiday that you may celebrate. (Note: must write blog post about the importance of being polite about that during the holidays.) I know we really appreciated the chance to spend time with family and friends in Pittsburgh - now that we had to actually "return" for Christmas, it's really setting in that we live in Buffalo for real!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Audience Discretion Advised: For Parents

 I have always been a fan of scary stories. UFO's, ghosts, spontaneous combustion, angels, monsters and anything in the "supernatural" realm. I was so excited the one year at Christmas that my mother bought me the entire encyclopedia of the unexplained. I consumed Stephen King novels like candy in junior high (but I no longer read his books, enough is enough.)

 Basically I would read these books under my covers and really freak myself out. I tend to lean towards the conspiracy theories and will listen to any argument about the existence of any "unproven" event or entity. Who am I to say that the Chupacabra or Bigfoot doesn't exist?

 So being scared is obviously something I am comfortable with. Or WAS comfortable with. In our desensitized existence, I can watch movies about death or murder or other horrible acts and not awake screaming in the middle of the night from terrors. (If that isn't a commentary on society, I don't know what is!) But anyways, my point in this post is that my perspective has changed and I am becoming much more sensitive and generally freaked out.

I blame this on being a parent. Not to say that people who don't have children aren't legitimately scared by the same things... but certain "scary" things stick with me much longer now that I worry about the welfare of small little people.

 Below is a list of the most terrifying movies I have watched, some with all new meaning as I define myself as a mother:

(In order of ability to give me nightmares of least to greatest):

1. The Hand That Rocks The Cradle: This is an old one... but damn, if it doesn't freak you out more as a wife and mother.... I feel skeevy all over thinking that another woman would try to breastfeed my child as a means of manipulation! Ewww, ewww, EWWW!

 2. Contagion: Yes, the concept has been done before. World wide epidemic, no cure. But this movie was portrayed very realistically and since I live in a sea of germs, it is horrifying to think how quickly my family would succumb to a virus. This particular virus started with a hacking cough that is eerily familiar to the cold I maintained a few weeks ago. We share drinks; boogers are everywhere: there isn't enough hand sanitizer or Lysol to save a family with three kids.

 3. The Good Son: I thought you were so cute, McCauley Caulkin! But seriously, what is a parent to do when they find that their kid is a psychopath? Because it happens. For real.

4. The Lovely Bones: (this should also be on the Caution! Very Sad Reading Ahead list) This film makes me want to teach my kids to view every adult as a predator until proven innocent. I am not, don't worry, because a paranoid life is not a happy one. But still....

5. Paranormal Activity 2: The other two movies in this trilogy were scary indeed. But they pale in comparison to the trauma of imagining your baby being tormented and then kidnapped by a demon. We watched this movie shortly after moving into this house and I was freaked out for weeks. New house, new noises and my kids wake up at very ominous hours of the night. 3:33... both Elliot and Jackson are awakened at the same time on different floors. And I am supposed to be brave enough to get out of bed and comfort them?

 There could be an entire line of horror movies geared towards parents. I am already there! What seemed scary about ghosts and goblins and aliens from space take on a whole new dimension as a parent. Am I alone here? What movies would you add to the do-not-watch list for parents?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mom vs The Dining Room Table

 Most milestones that babies reach are pretty cute. Smiling, sitting up, rolling over, feeding themselves, babbling and especially learning sign language are all pretty helpful developments. 
Walking can be amazing too, once they get a hang of it. 

Elliot has mastered all of these skills and my heart bursts with pride. My heart also skips many a beat as he masters his latest skill: CLIMBING.

Excessive, ridiculous, repetitive climbing. I now trust him to safely take himself up and down stairs, even the scary basement ones. I can leave him safely to put himself on and off the couch without fearing a major head injury. 

But there is one major safety hazard that can't be avoided. The damn dining room table. Most days, Elliot is not happy unless he is standing on top of the table. Gleefully stomping on my papers, spilling drinks, throwing crayons and making Ayla insane with frustration as she tries to draw. 

It takes a minimum of 4 seconds for him to scale a chair and scream with delight as he presses his dirty little hands and face on the window. This all occurs while we attempt impossible tasks like making dinner or washing dishes. Ayla and Jackson have now taken it upon themselves to build barricades and drag Elliot away from the table. Pure family fun! 

We have never been big on "baby-proofing" our house, and honestly, it has never been a problem. My kids manage to hurt themselves on pillows, grass and their own feet instead of dangerous chemicals. And Elliot's obsession with the table proves that no home can be safe! That is, unless you want to live without furniture. 

Enjoy these photos of our daily insanity!

How could I say no to Jackson when Elliot is on the table 5 hours a day?

Maybe Elliot will love drawing like his sister... he breaks into her art stash constantly.

Yep! Gotz to be on the chair.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Father Christmas

 This time a year ago, Gregory was still in Oklahoma and I was preparing to move out of our house. The mood was a little grim, a little bah humbug and I certainly didn't have the inclination to decorate for Christmas after spending most of my days cleaning out closets and taking every unnecessary item to Goodwill.

  Fast forward a year and we have gone Christmas bonkers here in Buffalo!

It took Gregory about five minutes after Thanksgiving to put up icicle lights outside and we were scouting for trees the first available weekend. It makes this "temporary" home feel cozy and loved... although we don't know if we will spend one or several holiday seasons here.

 The spirit is strong, but our available space is not. With three sets of little hands to grab at ornaments, family heirlooms and very breakable lights... most of our decorating has been limited to the living room. Please enjoy the tour...

Hand-knit stockings! I am very lucky that my Aunt Janice has continued the tradition.

Little incense man and my extreme-couponed free pointsetta.

These hecklers have to be kept in a safe place!

How about this sassy bird? Thanks Nano!

A ceramic tree I've had since I was little. Totally unsafe though... the bulb inside is unreasonably hot.
  We had fun visiting the local nursery(s) to shop for a tree. Two stops meant two visits with Santa and double doses of candy canes. The first place was a little too pricey for my taste - although every tree was magnificent. But who buys a 12 foot tree for $160??? The second place, Adams Nursery, had a wee little tree for our wee low ceilings here. Then we got our decorating on.

 (And off, because Elliot promptly removed many of the ornaments. He is worse than a cat!)

Jackson is embracing his weirdness.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Elfabet, You Elfabet

 He has returned for another holiday season of threats, warnings, midnight wandering, secrets and mysterious promises to report to Santa with our family's every move...

 I am talking about our Elf on a Shelf - Elfabet!

 We were given this book and personal "elf" by some of Gregory's most loyal customers at the Outback two years ago, and we have loved his antics. Our Elfabet watches our children for good behavior (beginning the day after Thanksgiving) and travels to the North Pole nightly to give Santa the full report. Then when he returns, he is found in yet another random spot around the house.

 The second most endearing thing to me, of course, is the high value of threatening that Elfabet will give a bad report if there is fighting in the house. I'm pretty sure that is the first reason that this book is a top seller. Several times a day, you will hear me yell, "Stop hitting! Share with Elliot! Or else Elfabet is going to tell Santa!"

 What is the most endearing thing about our Elf on a Shelf?

  The fact that Ayla and Jackson truly believe with their beautiful, innocent hearts that Elfabet gets up, travels to the North Pole and then returns to be with our family. Ayla asks about every five minutes if Elfabet has moved and when he does... man, she and Jackson run from room to room with anticipation. When they find him, they giggle and then discuss how exactly he jumped from the furniture to the mantle to the window and so on. 

 Our house has limited "out of reach" elf hiding spots... so right now, Elfabet is sitting in the gravy boat in a kitchen cabinet. If I were a semi-creepy but really cute plastic elf, that's exactly where I would want to be too.